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    Who’s afraid of the dark?


    2009 - 03.09

    My two boys share a room.  They are 9 years old and 2 years old.  And they both like to sleep with all the lights blazing.  All night long.  We will turn out the lights after they’ve fallen asleep only to find all the lights back on in the morning.  This can’t be good for our electric bill, for one thing.  But a mere night light has never done the trick in the past (and believe me, we’ve tried).

    Enter the SYLVANIA PalPODzzz Portable Nightlights.  It’s a mouthful, but the gist is it’s a cute little light to chase away the boogeymen and monsters at night.  PalPODzzz come in two different designs, the ladybug for that little girl in your life, and a rocket ship, which is what we got.  These cute little lights plug into an outlet but also have a rechargable flashlight (in our case, the rocketship detaches from the base for use as a flashlight).  This is GENIUS, because if there’s one thing my 9 year old loves, it’s a flashlight at night when he’s in bed.  And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s when my 9 year old wastes a couple of batteries from leaving a flashlight on all night.  This here is a win-win situation.

    Another side-benefit of this cute little light is that it matches my boys’ room decor PERFECTLY.  Their room is done up in full outer-space motif with dark blue ceiling with glow in the dark stars, rocketship painted on the wall… the works!  This light is perfect and both the boys love how it looks like a toy.

    There are still some nights when we find the lights on after bedtime, but with this wonderful nightlight, those nights are becoming few and far between.  Hopefully, those energy wasting days will soon be a thing of the past.

    Many thanks to SYLVANNIA and to the Parent Bloggers Network for letting me try this out.  It is a perfect fit in our home and if you have some little ones who have a healthy fear of the dark, chances are it will be perfect for your home too.

    Video Games and Pets – my child is in heaven!


    2008 - 11.20

    When PBN gave me the opportunity to review a Wii game, I literally JUMPED at the chance.  It almost didn’t matter what the game was.  Lucky for me and my Wii-addicted 9 year old son, it was “Littlest Pet Shop“, by EA Games.  Now, I will admit, I was a little concerned that my son would think this game was too “girly” for his tastes.  He’s majorly into all things superhero and action-packed.  But he also seriously loves animals (he watches Animal Planet all the time) and his pet dog, Pup and is a video game addict-in-training (he takes after his father), so I thought it was worth a shot.

    Boy, am I ever glad I took that shot.  I didn’t know much about the “Littlest Pet Shop” franchise before getting this game, since my daughter is only 8 months old and we try to stay away from too much marketing around here.  Apparently, there is a big line of “Littlest Pet Shop” games on the Nintendo DS too.  This is not to mention the abundance of toys at the local department store.  The notion with the game is you adopt and name (and accesorize!) various pets (everything from a hampster to a frog, which was my personal favorite) and then you can play with these pets in various “lands”.  You make sure that each pet is getting enough affection and food, and then purchase different playground equipment with “kibble” that you earn by playing on other playground equipment.  It’s oddly addictive, brightly colored, cheerful and engaging.

    My son, in a word, LOVES it.  I tried to get him to think of some constructive criticism and he couldn’t think of one thing.  He told me that it was one of his most favorite games ever.  Considering how this boy feels about Rock Band, that’s high praise indeed.  I even had fun, helping him play a game with one of the pets one afternoon.  We laughed and shouted at the television and had a great time together.  The games are fun and there is literally SO MUCH to do in this game, that it could seriously be months before your child gets bored with it.

    I honestly think this is a game that could be great for the whole family.  Small children could easily understand it and older children and even adults can have fun exploring the worlds and playing the games.  The genius is in the simplicity.  So if you’re looking for a great game for the Wii fans on your Christmas list, look no further than “Littlest Pet Shop“.

    Sears Portrait Studio redeems themselves


    2008 - 11.19

    When Harry was a wee, pudgy, adorable baby, we had his picture taken ALL THE TIME.  I can remember more than one occasion where I would take him down to the mall by MYSELF just to get pictures snapped at Sears.  And they always turned out adorable.  And I always used one of those cheapo coupons where you get a bazillion photos for $5 or whatever.  It was perfect.  This carried on from when he was about 6 months old (the first time I sorta realized I could actually get pictures done… what can I say?  I was a first time mom!) until he was about two or three.  I would get pictures done almost every month.

    But then we started getting frustrated with the wait time.  We would make an appointment well enough in advance, but it never failed that we would spend 30 minutes (or more!) waiting in the little waiting area with the germ infested bead coaster and watching a movie on the tiny television.  Waiting with a toddler sucks, if you weren’t already aware.  We were there for Christmas portraits and finally had HAD IT.  We never felt like the photographer took enough time trying to get good pictures.  Once they saw we had the $5 coupon, they would take a picture until we were relatively sure we got the shot we wanted and that was it.  There was little to no personal attention.  It was very disappointing.

    It was around this time that Picture People was getting going in our local mall so we started going there.  It was a bit pricier, but the customer service, quick turn-around and attractive prints made it worth our while.  And, over the years, we’ve gotten less professional portraits taken.  Harry gets school pictures done and since Liam and now Evie came into our lives, there just hasn’t been the time for it.  And, of course, Picture People packed up and left town.

    I decided to bite the bullet and made an appointment at Sears Portrait Studio, hoping that enough time had passed that their practices had improved over the years.  We found out within 5 minutes of arriving that no, they had not.   At least, that’s what I believed when we were told that they were very busy, several appointments had run over and that our appointment had been “bumped”.  She meant to call us, honest!  She could see about fitting us in later.  Let’s see, it was 1pm… how would 7pm work?  We’d only have to kill six hours at the mall with a surly third grader and two wee children.  SURE, WHY NOT?  We told her we’d think about it and made ourselves scarce faster than you can say, “Not on your life, sister!”

    But my story doesn’t end there.  After mentioning on my blog about my less-than-satisfactory experience, I was contacted by someone at Sears Portrait Studio.  They wanted to make it right for us and would we consider giving Sears Portrait Studio another shot?  They didn’t even ask for details on what went wrong with our experience, just that they would ensure we were treated well.  What did I have to lose?  Our local studio contacted us (the manager called me on her cell-phone to set up the appointment and assured me she would be there to photograph us as well) and we made an appointment.  I started to get jazzed, hoping that FINALLY I would have a picture of all three of my children.

    The studio manager called again a day before our photo appointment to go over the details with us.  She asked what the children would be wearing, what sort of portraits we were hoping to get and other details.  Before we even stepped foot in the studio, I felt like a very important customer.  And when we arrived, that feeling only deepened.  We never had to sit in the waiting area, as we were whisked back for our session right away.  The manager and another photographer were there on hand to help us capture our children (no mean feat when you factor in Liam).  I was still doubtful that we’d be able to get many quality pictures of Liam, at least, but I was game.

    In short, we were taken VERY well care of.  Liam wasn’t good for more than about two photos in a row, but the women were more than happy to go at his speed and let him take breaks as often as he wanted.  Though I was stressed about Liam’s behavior, the women never made me feel like I had anything to be nervous about.  The mood was very calm and relaxed and I appreciated that more than I can say.  After the session, the manager went over the photos with us, helping us make our selections and giving advice where she saw fit.  Of course they tried to sell us their most expensive packages, I would have been suspicious if they hadn’t, but I never felt like I was put on the spot either.  The ball was entirely in our court.

    We ordered our pictures and were on our way.  Two weeks later when the pictures came in at the store, we were given a phone call.  A few days later, a framed portrait we were given as an incentive came in and again we were given a call by the manager.  We picked the pictures up and they are GORGEOUS.  They turned out even better than I had hoped and I am so glad that I decided to give Sears Portrait Studio another chance.  If you’ve felt burned by them in the past, like I had, I urge you to give them another shot.  While we were treated like VIPs, I could tell that a lot had changed about their practices in general and I will be happy to return there in the future for more pictures (I’m thinking Evie will need some 1 Year pictures!).  And check out this beautiful framed picture we got:

    Our three cherubs
    Not just a gorgeous photo but HUGE.

    Framed Portrait
    To give you some idea of scale… sorry it’s so blurry!

    Edit 12/9/2009: I’m going ahead and closing comments on this post.  This post is well over a year old now, after all.  The discussion has been very interesting and I’ve definitely understood everyone’s issues.  While Sears made it right for me and my family, it would appear that they have quite a ways to go to improve customer satisfaction overall.  I believe it can be done!