Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I've Moved!
I'm not here anymore, I'm over there!

I just got my new review site up and running. Come join me!
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I'm not here anymore.

Come see me HERE!
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Kinzin Photo Service
If you're anything like me 99% of your photos are on your computer or on an Internet website.

Before I got my first digital camera I always got 2 sets of every roll of film I had developed. 1 for us and 1 to give away. I also got my photos on CD so I could put them on our website or email them, but I faithfully put my paper photos in albums and my albums on my bookshelf.

Raise your hand if you still do that? Anyone?

Bueler? Bueler?

When H&H were born I was pretty good about ordering photos for my grandparents and sending them off for them to view. My parents and the in-laws were on their own. They know how to email and download as well as the rest of us. But then we'd visit the in-laws and we'd see the snapshots printed out on regular printer paper. Cute. But not exactly a lasting keepsake.

Enter Kinzin, a new photo web site that I had the chance to review for PBN.

Kinzin is a social media site, but with a lot more control. You can create a page for your kids, or each of them, share updates and photos with your family. Or, if you have relatives who like to have a nice photo to put in a frame, Kinzin can do that for you too. You can also share your photos on a more public site like Facebook and Kinzin is free.

Sure, you can do a lot of that stuff on many different sites. But what makes Kinzin unique is its photo mailing service. For $2.99 a month, Kinzin will send 10 photos to the address of your choice. For every 2 subscriptions you purchase, the third is free. That's really not much more than you pay for digital prints you do yourself at your local store and Kinzin eliminates the hassle of printing out the photos and then remembering to actually mail them instead of leaving them on the floor of your car for 5 months. (Oh, wait. You mean I'm the only one who does that?)

Yes, you can do this yourself. But how many of you actually do it? On a regular basis? C'mon, be honest now! OK, if you're organized to do that yourself, I hate you.

Kinzin gave me 3 free year long subscriptions to their photo mailing service. I selected my parents, the in-laws, and myself to get the photos. Every month Kinzin will take the last 10 photos uploaded to my site, print them out, and mail them to the people on my subscription list. How cool is that???

There are a few things I would change about the Kinzin site. For some reason, I can never find my way directly to the area for uploading prints for the photo mailing service. I kept uploading them to my kids' individual photo streams.

Don't get me wrong, the photo streams are nice. You can type in some notes or an update with every photo so the family can keep track of what your kids are doing daily. But I would like the photos uploaded to my kids' individual pages to automatically be in my outbox for the print mailings. That doesn't seem to be how it works now. I'd also like to be able to upload more than one photo at a time. I tend to upload photos in batches and not 1 or 2 a day.

There have also been a few kinks in getting the photos out, but I think that's just because Kinzin was trying to rush photos out for their reviewers. I have no reason to think there's any problem with their photo mailings on a regular basis.

My dad received the first batch of photos late last week. He said they look great and he and my mom are both laughing over the photo of Holden with the crayon up his nose. (See above.) I haven't gotten my photos yet, so I'll let you know what I think about the photo quality as soon as mine arrive.

Overall, I'm really liking Kinzin. For only $2.99 a month it takes away a lot of my hassle and makes the grandparents happy. It's worth it! Barring any problems over the next year, I'll definitely be paying for my subscriptions next year.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Were You Raised by Wolves?
Shortly after having Hollis I discovered The Three Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor. It was a breath of snarky fresh air after the What to Expect books and Dr. Sears. I was in baby advice overload and overwhelmed by a major shift in personal identity. Reading Ms. Mellor's book, tongue in cheek though it was, sort of made me remember that I am an individual with wants and needs that I can't neglect.

Even T loved the book and would annoyingly read parts to me out loud in bed. You know, the book that I had already read and laughed my way through? Yeah, a bit annoying.

But when PBN gave me the opportunity to review Ms. Mellor's latest book, Were You Raised by Wolves, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on some snarky hilarity.

After reading the book, I can tell you that my answer to the question "Were you raised by wolves" is, "Why yes, it seems that I was."

Ms. Mellor did not disappoint me. This book is advice for the new grown up. Or, the grown up who never really grew up but is still making mom and dad pay off the credit card and bringing home laundry every weekend. (C'mon, we all know at least one of those!)

Need to know how to stock a bar? Well, if you ever want me to visit you do! Ms. Mellor has it covered. How to have a real conversation that doesn't just consist of you blathering on about yourself until your listener passes out from boredom or begins to bleed from the ears? Got it covered. Boil an egg? Yup. Do laundry? Uh huh. Become fiscally responsible? It's there.

The section of the book that told me I'm a slovenly juvenile destined to die in a pile of filth, newspapers and empty pizza boxes, surrounded by cats, was the section titled "Make your bed!" Ms. Mellor is a big advocate of making your bed every. single. morning. See, I never do unless company is coming over. I don't see the point when I'm just going to get in it & toss off all the throw pillows all over again at night. My husband? Couldn't be bothered either.

Here's what Ms. Mellor says:
[T]here is an idea used in law enforcement called the "broken window" theory that holds that if there is a broken window on a building, and if it is not immediately fixed, then it sends a signal to the neighborhood that nobody really cares. Vermin move into the building, graffiti springs up overnight, and garbage is dumped on the doorstep. More windows are broken. So, along those lines, I am suggesting that if you leave your bed constantly unmade, it sends a signal (to you) that it's also okay to leave your stinky socks on the floor, your dirty sweatpants slung over the chair, and a moldy crust of pizza sitting on top of a stack of magazines. You may think you're the sort that would never dream of leaving food lying around, but these things creep up on you, just like that broken window. You leave the bed unmade for too long, and pretty soon you find yourself sitting in a pool of your own waste, eating out of a takeout container in front of reality show reruns.
Um, ouch. I never watch reality show reruns.

This book is the perfect graduation gift. In fact, having received 2 graduation announcements already, I know I'll be buying a few copies of this book. Maybe I'll even make my bed.

But I won't like it. (She says with an adolescent pout on her face.)

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Thursday, March 6, 2008
The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting
Before Hollis was born, I think I bought every pregnancy and baby book published in the free world. I could have started my own resource library. Most of them, frankly, sucked. Everyone has conflicting advice: Dr. Sears says you shouldn't let your child cry and wear them whenever possible; Dr. Ferber says you should let them cry it out (as did my mom!). This conflicting advice continued in the hospital with the nurses and lactation consultants. Once we were out of the hospital and discovered Hollis had some health problems, we got conflicting advice from doctors.

Only when Hollis was about 16 months old (and Holden was about 2 weeks) did I really learn to trust my gut. In the hospital, everyone let me do what I wanted because it was my second child. The assumption was that I knew what I was doing. I still needed some advice, but I tossed all of those parenting books because their preachy manner and unreasonable advice just pissed me off. (Seriously, who has time to feed a baby with a dropper, pump for 30 minutes, store the milk, and sleep before starting all over again? A bottle with breast milk in it for a day or so is not the end of the world!)

Even now, I could still use some advice on how to handle Hollis's nightmare 3 year old tantrums and how to get Holden to stop head butting everyone he meets. (Damn Finding Nemo! He thinks knocking heads and saying "noggin" is a sign of affection.) I refuse to go back to useless parenting guides, so I basically rely on the advice of my friends and family.

Enter the Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting. The author, Brett Berk, was a pre-school teacher and director and is now a research consultant for "producers of kids' media, toys and consumer products." I'll forgive him for his transgressions in marketing crap to my kids because his book is so funny. Seriously, go read this guy's blog. The book is just as funny.

More than entertaining, the G.U.G. is chock full of actual concrete, real life examples regarding toilet training, discipline, food issues, sibling rivalry, etc.... And Brett (can I call you Brett, G.U.?) actually tackles the hard cases rather than simply making general statements about what we "should" do. This is practical advice for handling the preschool set and it's wonderful.

The book will be a bestseller, right up there with the Girlfriend's Guides. Or at least it should be in my opinion. And we all know that my opinion is the only one that counts, right? Right?

Anyway, I'm giving this book out as gifts to my friends with toddlers.

In a Lawyer Mama Review FIRST, I like this book so much I'm going to give away the extra copy the publisher sent me on my blog. I usually pass on my extra copies (if I get any) to a local friend for a second opinion, because I'm too lazy to mail out stuff. But I like this book so much, I'm going to give one away.

In the comments, tell me what burning toddler question you wish advice books actually answered and I'll draw a person at random to get the book. I'll leave the drawing open until next Friday, March 14th.

This review is brought to you by Mother Talk.

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Highlights High Five Magazine Gets a High Five From Me
In elementary school, I always looked forward to the day we got our Highlights magazines. I eagerly read every story, tried out the crafts, and solved all the puzzles. I loved, loved, LOVED the hidden picture puzzles. Highlights day was always a great day at school.

Highlights has been around for 60 years now. You know that anything with the sort of staying power that can interest so many generations of children has to be special. So when PBN offered me the chance to review High Five, a new Highlights magazine for children ages 2 to 6, I jumped at the chance. I couldn't wait to see if High Five was as wonderful as the Highlights magazine I remember from my childhood.

High Five didn't disappoint me. I received the first 3 issues from 2008. Each issue contains four sections: (1) Let's Read Together, with short stories, poems, and wonderful illustrations; (2) Let's Puzzle It Out, with fun games and age appropriate hidden picture puzzles; (3) Let's Do it, with crafts, recipes for kids, and fun activities; and (4) Bonus Pull-out Pages.

Hollis, my 3 year old, and Holden, my just-turned-2 year old, loved the magazines. The Bonus Pages were a huge hit. The January 2008 magazine Pull-out Pages featured numbered egg puzzle pieces that you cut out and put together as you read one of the short stories in the magazine, Little Round Hen. H & H are currently obsessed with puzzles and wanted to repeat Little Round Hen over and over again. I even sucked it up and helped because I love that it helps them understand what they're hearing.

The stories were also a huge hit. One issue contains a short story with Hollis's favorite topic of all time: construction equipment. He's been bringing the magazine to bed for 2 weeks now so he can page through it before he falls asleep and when he wakes up in the morning.

I can't say enough about High Five. At just under $30 a year, a subscription to this magazine is definitely on my gift list for the boys. It will make a wonderful Easter present. Anything that gets them this excited about reading is worth every penny.

PBN is also having a Blog Blast tomorrow where you can win a free year's subscription to High Five or Highlights. Go check out how you can play!

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Friday, February 29, 2008
The Liar's Diary
As a blogger, I regularly put it all out there on the internet. Maybe I don't say quite as much as I would in a diary or journal, but I think that my readers know almost as much of me as any journal reader would.

So when Mother Talk offered me the chance to review a new book by Patry Francis, called The Liar's Diary, I couldn't wait. The book definitely kept me reading.

The main character, a high school secretary, mother to a 16-year old with problems, and wife to a cold and withholding surgeon, wasn't someone I could relate to. She seemed to let life happen to her rather than directing it herself. But what I could related to was Jean's sense of isolation and feeling of numbness, classic signs of depression, that lead her to befriend Ali, her polar opposite.

Ali is a woman who embraces life and lives it on the move. She's a musician and new teacher at Jean's school, who flaunts her affairs and her emotional life. The relationship between Ali and Jean has something to offer both of them, and leads each of them to a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationships.

Tragedy strikes, as it often does in books and real life, and Ms. Patry has us wondering were dysfunction ends and psychosis begins.

My usual test of a really good book is whether or not I would read it again. I rarely reread books. Those that I do, I reread constantly. Ms. Patry's book is not Jane Austen, but as a psychological profile of family and relationships, I found it intriguing and probably will read this one again. Maybe I can find some clues I missed along the way.

You can read interviews with Ms. Francis here and here. But what I really found interesting was Ms. Patry's blog, Simply Wait. You see, Ms. Patry is living with cancer. Of course, that isn't the defining piece of her. She's an amazing writer and blogger. Her observations about people and life amaze me. I've read her entire blog.

Check out this post, The Woman Who Said No. It will tell you an awful lot about who Ms. Patry is, who she wants to be, and how her illness has changed her. Then go buy her book. You won't be sorry.

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