Monday, May 21, 2007

Google Without The Spam

As an Internet-age parent, I rely on Google far too often to help me when I need advice. After all, I'd rather have the advice of someone going through the same things I am than ask my mom, who hasn't had a newborn in over 30 years.

But Google, with its wide net, will find anything with the search terms you put in. So if you enter anything containing the words breast, diaper, bad mom, spanking, or other parenting-related terms, you are likely to get at least a quarter of your returns pointing you to spam sites, or porn or fetish site by accident. What's a mom to do when she just wants the information without sloshing through the slime of the Internet to find it?

I was excited when Parent Bloggers told me about Light Iris. It's a search engine for moms that is powered by Google, but unlike Google, only seeks out the relevant results for your search. Light Iris was launched on Mother's Day, and searches blogs as well as other web sites. I've already used it more than once, and can attest that it can quickly find the information I need quickly and easily. It's nice to search for information on storing breast milk without clicking past links to lactating women porn.

The Light Iris site is still new, so there will be more features coming soon, including a Popular section to read about what's new and popular in the Internet. The database will continue to grow, too, thanks in part to user submissions - you can submit your own site to be included in the search engine. To make it even cooler, they also support the charity Global Fund for Women.

Right now, if you join Light Iris (free to join) you can be entered to win over $3000 in gift cards. Who couldn't use free stuff?

Speaking of free stuff, do you want to win a free 2-day pass to BlogHer '07? If so, join Parent Bloggers and Light Iris for the June 8 Blog Blast. Details can be found here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Que? Habla Espanol?

In our area, it's useful to know a little Spanish. There are a lot of Mexican immigrants in this neighborhood, some of which speak very little English. All of the research shows that the earlier you start a second language, the easier it is to pick up, so I've been making a serious effort to teach Cordy what little rusty Spanish I remember from high school.

Luckily, Cordy is a huge fan of Dora and Diego, and she's picking up Spanish words quickly. She can count to ten, knows a few phrases, etc. We'll forget the fact that it also can work against me, like when we're in the post office and she's having a tantrum and shouting "Ayudame!" (help me)

As many parents know, Dora can be a little...shall we say...grating on the nerves. I have been looking for other ways to introduce Spanish to Cordy that don't involve that little football head girl with no volume control. Thankfully, Parent Bloggers came to the rescue with a copy of Boca Beth's DVD "I Like Animals/Me Gustan los Animals" as well as a Boca Beth puppet, mini-maraca, CD and coloring book.

The Boca Beth DVD is a well-produced program (not a fancy production, but expensive production values weren't needed) that introduces each animal in English, then in Spanish, and then uses the name of the animal in an English and Spanish sentence. So while a child is learning animal names, they're also picking up some other basic words and grammar at the same time.

Cordy enjoyed watching the animals, and I think she liked that they were real animals and not animated ones. She would often shout out the English names of the animals, even before the DVD said them in English, and then once she heard the Spanish names, repeat those as well. She also enjoyed the songs, many of which are familiar tunes with some changes to the words.

I appreciated the fact that the program was slow paced, without flashy animation or quick cuts that so often distract toddlers. And I was happy to get a refresher course in Spanish as well.

Also included on the DVD is an interactive class session. Cordy wasn't as excited about this, and eventually lost interest. Then again, she really has never been interested in structured group sessions, so even seeing it on TV is apparently a no-go for her.

The CD is also a nice reinforcement that works well with the DVD, although it's not as easy to sing along with the Spanish unless you know the words. The puppet was also a big hit, often sending Cordy into fits of laughter and exclamations of, "That's silly!"

Overall, Boca Beth is a well-designed system, involving several different tools that work together to introduce Spanish to young children. I really like that it is not just a passive DVD, but an interactive system with puppets, coloring books, CDs, and musical instruments. If you've ever found yourself muttering insults at Dora while your toddler is enraptured, give Boca Beth a try.

Win it! Leave a comment over at Parent Bloggers to win your own copy of Boca Beth!

A Rockin' Mother's Day

Traditional Mother's Day gifts usually aren't my thing. I'm allergic to most flowers. I don't wear a lot of jewelry, and when I do wear it, I already have a good stash to choose from. I certainly don't want anything for the house, since I'm not a domestic goddess by any means.

However, I am a geek, and I love music. Which is why I was so impressed when my promotions pal Nichole sent me the Best Buy Mother's Day gift set of the iPod Nano to try out. First, it is a 4GB iPod Nano in either hot pink or silver. That alone is awesome, but Best Buy was smart: they added chocolates and packaged it in a polka dot gift box. An iPod and chocolates? It's like they were thinking of me when they put this gift set together.

I've had an iPod before, but mine is ancient. When I say ancient, I mean it was purchased when you had no color choice other than white, the screen was black and white, and it was a lot weightier than the ones made today. It also was full of technical problems. While it would sync with a Mac without issue, it didn't get along with my Windows computer, and it refused to connect with my computer about 75% of the time. It was a great music player - it was just a pain trying to get music onto it.

When I received my hot pink iPod Nano, I was excited to see how things have changed. First off, this thing is tiny! It fits in my palm, and is about as thick as three credit cards. For those of you lucky enough to be past diaper bags and back to itty-bitty purses, this iPod will easily fit into your purse. For the rest of us, it's nice to not add weight to my already full diaper bag.

The screen is small also, but brilliantly clear and bright. It's in full color, too, so you can view album covers for the songs you're playing. I worried that I might not be able to read the menus well on such a small screen, however the text is clean and easy to read. The click wheel is also smaller, but still just as easy to use as the larger models.

I've had no issues with connecting the iPod to my computer and downloading music. Long gone are the install CDs - now you need only have iTunes on your computer, and it automatically takes care of the setup for you. This iPod is a 4GB model, meaning it will hold about 1,000 songs. Fully charged, it has about 24 hours of battery life.

My only complaint is I wish it came with a cable to recharge the iPod by plugging it into an outlet, instead of recharging via the USB cable and the computer. I have a laptop, which cuts off power when I close it, meaning I can't charge the iPod with it closed. This can be fixed by buying the extra cable - I just wish it would have been included.

And finally, the music quality is as good as it has ever been. I appreciated the clear digital quality of music from my old iPod, and it seems Apple has been successful at keeping this high level of quality, even while making the iPod smaller and smaller.

If you're still looking for a gift for that music-loving or tech-savvy mom in your life, consider this iPod Nano gift set from Best Buy. It's a great MP3 player, and with the addition of the chocolates and the cute gift packaging, she'll think you didn't just grab something off the shelf as you were looking for that new computer game for yourself.

Oh, and the chocolates? They're not Godiva, but they're pretty good! (It's hard for a pregnant woman to ever criticize chocolate.)

Win one! Two other sites are giving these away. You can either go here or here (or both, really) to enter the contests and win your own iPod. Sorry, I'm keeping mine - it's coming with me to the hospital when I go into labor, loaded up with my best relaxation and distraction music.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Go Potty Go!

Some people I know have kids who potty trained, by their own desire, right around two years old. No begging, no cajoling, no reward charts. For the other 99% of us, however, potty training just isn't that easy. In fact, some of us ( are starting to worry that preschool may have to be postponed because of a lack of interest in potty training.

Cordy got a potty seat shortly after she was two years old. Since then, it has served as a TV watching chair, a step-stool, a place to hide her toys, and a crayon canvas. The idea of sitting her bare bottom on that seat with the draft underneath is laughable to her. She knows when she's "yucky", but seems reluctant to give up her diapers.

I was asked to review the DVD, Go Potty Go, for the Parent Bloggers Network. Sure thing, bring in the reinforcements, I thought. Cute panda bear twins and their animal friends teaching about the potty sounded like fun to me.

My first fear was that Cordy wouldn't even want to watch. She has a very refined toddler taste in entertainment, and only the "best" programs will hold her interest. However, I was pleasantly surprised that she sat on my lap the entire time with her eyes fixed on the screen. Later she brought me the DVD case, handed it to me, and said "Go Potty Go?" I was stunned that she knew the title after only one viewing and requested to watch it again. She has since learned the "Go Potty Go" song and sings it to request repeat viewings.

As for the program itself? It's cute, and filled with catchy songs about all aspects of becoming a "big kid" and using the potty. They cover everything from choosing fun underwear, to washing your hands afterwards.

To introduce the actual practice of using a potty chair, they play a game, asking the child to identify potty seats (with wrong answers including a bicycle and a wagon), identify activities that can be done while sitting on the potty, etc. The DVD does advocate reading while on the potty, further insuring that Cordy will follow in her daddy's footsteps and I will never be able to get into the bathroom ever again.

Thankfully, the songs aren't annoying to adult ears, and the subject is handled tastefully. My only complaint is that I got tired of all of the rhyming during the spoken dialogue, but this didn't seem to bother Cordy.

While I can't say Cordy is suddenly wanting to use the potty after viewing Go Potty Go, she is more interested in her potty chair and now knows what it is used for. She also requests to watch the DVD, so perhaps with more viewings she will take more of an interest as she internalizes the message that it's fun to be more independent and give up diapers. It may still take awhile for her to give up diapers, but I think Go Potty Go will be a useful supplement in Cordy's potty training.

Win a copy! Go to the Parent Bloggers Network and leave a comment on this post to win a copy of this DVD for your toddler!

Friday, May 04, 2007

An Enthusiastic Endorsement

Getting Cordy to hold still for a picture is difficult. Having her hold still for a picture while holding a product I'm reviewing is next to impossible.

Unless it's these: which case, she's more than happy to pose with the box, as long as she can keep eating.

Check out my full review over at