December 15, 2010

Fisher Price Fun With Friends Musical Table

A few weeks ago, I received the Fisher Price Fun with Friends Musical Table from CSN Stores. Emmy needed something to distract her while the rest of the family got ready in the morning, and I thought this might be the perfect toy. So far, it's working great!

I have always been a fan of Fisher Price toys, and this one lives up to the others. I love that there are the different learning modes, so each part of the toy does something different in each mode. That's a lot of options ... and we're still discovering new songs on this toy! Always something to explore!

My daughter's favorite part is the telephone. She loves picking it up and pushing the buttons.

One of the modes is a Spanish mode. That one's not my favorite, and I try to keep that one off as much as possible. Instead of being purely in Spanish, it translates from English to Spanish. As a language teacher, I know that is not the way to learn a language, so it bugs me.

My other complaint is that the toy does not seem as sturdy as other Fisher Price toys. When Emmy leans on it to play, it actually moves. It's difficult for her to stay in one place and play with this. She is getting better and learning not to lean too much, but since I got this toy BECAUSE she could stand to play with it, it's sort of disappointing it isn't more stable for her.

But despite those minor flaws I do recommend this toy. It has great (catchy!) songs, lots of buttons to push (to keep baby entertained while developing dexterity), and a lot of options for long-term learning.

November 15, 2010


Emmy is home! We arrived at O'Hare 2 days ago to a very happy big sister and lots of hugs. She's doing well, although we are all beyond exhausted. Jet lag alone is terrible, but jet lag with an 8 month old still on Ethiopian time is a whole new level!

October 26, 2010

My new daughter!

She's officially our daughter! Our first trip to Ethiopia was wonderful, and now it's less than 2 more weeks until we can go back and get her forever! Annie is REALLY looking forward to being a big sister.

August 16, 2010

LeapFrog ClickStart review

Annie has been playing with her new LeapFrog ClickStart computer ever since it arrived in the mail. It's a great learning tool ... and it's fun, too! CSN Stores sent it to me to review:

The ClickStart is easy to use. Just plug it into your TV, turn it on, and it's ready to go. There are other games that you can buy, but it comes pre-loaded with 5 games that help develop keyboard and mouse skills. They are supposed to help develop some alphabet skills, too, but these are pretty easy for Annie. She's sort of above the level of the pre-loaded games. She has not spent much time with a mouse, though, and although she loves to type on my computer, she doesn't get as much access to the keyboard as she would like. Within just a few hours of her using the ClickStart, I saw huge improvements in her ability to use a mouse and her typing confidence!

The games are really fun for her. She asks to play them all the time. She hasn't gotten bored with the toy, yet, and I don't think she will for a while. There is a lot of variety in just the pre-loaded games, and if I add in some extra games, she will have a lot to choose from.

I also love that Annie can actually set up the game herself. She has learned how to plug it into the TV, turn it on, and start it. Extra bonus!

There are a few drawbacks to the system. First, the mouse pad area is quite small. She does sometimes get frustrated that the mouse is too difficult to maneuver on such a small space. Second, the game does tend to freeze up quite frequently and we need to restart it to fix it. Luckily, Annie has learned how to do that on her own so she doesn't get TOO frustrated with it, but it may be an issue if it continues to freeze.

Overall, I am very glad we own this new machine. It has all the fun of a video game, but actually teaches useful computer skills. She will be able to grow into it, as well, as we buy more advanced games for her to practice her reading and math skills.

July 8, 2010

Little Tikes basketball set review

I recently received the Little Tikes Easy Score Basketball set from CSN stores. Annie is an AMAZING athlete (especially considering she is only 3 years old), so I knew she would love it. And I was not at all wrong. Annie ADORES her new basketball set.

I'll get the negatives out of the way first. When we opened up the box, we noticed right away that it was actually missing the rim! Aagh! After quite a long cry (by Annie, and almost by me as well!!), I decided to call Little Tikes. I decided that since the box was sealed, it was probably their fault it wasn't included - not CSN Stores. Luckily, they agreed to send a new rim out, and a week later, we were ready to go.

Set-up was super easy. It only took a few minutes and Annie was ready to play.

I love that the set is adjustable - she can use it perfectly now at 3 1/2 years old and she will still be able to grow into it since we don't even have it at its highest setting. Even better, her younger sister will also be able to use it with her (once she arrives ... hopefully soon! .... from Ethiopia). I even have a great time, myself, trying to stand as far back as I can to make a baskets ... which I rarely actually make. Nevertheless, it's great for all ages.

The set is well-made and very durable. We added sand to the bottom so it will even stand up to storms and wind.

The basketball set is super fun and I highly recommend it! We will have fun all summer playing with it, and for many summers to come.

June 16, 2010

Baby Girl!

We received the referral for our new baby girl from Ethiopia a few weeks ago! She is 3 months old and so, so beautiful! Annie's very excited to be the big sister. Here she is looking at her new sister's photo:

May 2, 2010

Featured in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel!

Today I was featured in an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Click here to read the article online. It was pretty exciting to see our picture so large (it's huge in the actual paper!) and fun to get recognized a few times when we went out today!

April 20, 2010

Toy camping set review

One of Annie's new favorite pastimes is camping. She's actually never been camping, but she LOVES to pretend she is camping. So a few weeks ago when I was offered the chance to review a toy camping set, I jumped at the chance - I knew Annie would have a blast! She could camp inside all she wants (and I don't actually have to sleep in a tent outside - extra bonus!!)

The set is the Learning Resources Camp Set available here from I've shopped with a few times before, and as always, I was impressed with their huge selection and fast shipping.

The first thing I noticed about the set is that it seems to be very high quality. I am often afraid when ordering plastic toys that they will be cheap and flimsy, but this set is made with very sturdy, heavy plastic.

The set comes with a canteen, a mini stove, a pot, a lantern, a utensil set, a camp shovel, a compass, and a first aid kit. I love that so many areas of camping are included - Annie has been cooking, playing first aid, digging a fire pit, and using her compass - she is getting the full camping experience (without me actually having to go camping - yay!)

Annie's favorite piece (and mine, too) is the lantern. It actually lights up (with 2 AA batteries), and it works great! Just tonight, Annie asked us not to turn on any lights so we could use the lantern and pretend we were camping while she changed into her PJs and got ready for bed.
One of my favorite features of the set is that it truly encourages imagination. Besides the light on the lantern and camp stove, there are no loud sounds or other gimmicks to these toys. Annie needs to use her mind to create a camp site in her head and uses the toys to enhance her scene. She stills need to create an imaginary fire pit, cook with imaginary food, and use imaginary band-aids to treat her imaginary owies. She can have fun with this set and still explore on her own.

One of the only complaints I have about the set is the compass - Annie loves the idea of using a compass, and this is one of the main reasons I was excited about this set. Unfortunately, the compass doesn't actually work. The needle does move, but it doesn't point North. To me, I would think this would be a great learning tool for our kids, and I think it is a shame that details was overlooked.
Annie has been enjoying her new set for the last several days - unlike some toys that kids play with for a few minutes and then forget, this set has so many different pieces that I know it will keep her interest now, and I know she will be able to grow into it as well. I actually look forward to many more days of camping with Annie! (as long as the bugs stay away!)