Dream Journal 7/16/16 | Murder At A Concert

I was waiting backstage, holding my clarinet, getting ready to go out on stage to perform with people from my childhood and high school years. I recognized several people from high school, some from middle school, and some from district music festivals, even though we were all adults, and I hadn’t seen any of them in eight or more years. Continue reading Dream Journal 7/16/16 | Murder At A Concert

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Toy Review: LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set

Hello, friends! Today, I wanted to tell you guys about a newer toy that Liam got for his birthday from his grandmother, that has quickly become one of our favorites of all time, for several reasons. It is seriously such a great toy, and Liam has found that it has multiple uses.

I present to you, the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set. It is a mouthful, I know, but it is totally worth it.

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The toy is pretty self-explanatory. The bus and the letters are magnets, which you just stick on your fridge, and have a fun time. When you put a letter into the slot on the bus, you get to hear two cute jingles about the specific letter.

Example:
“H says [H sound], H says [H sound]. Every letter makes a sound, H says [H sound].” 
Also:
“H – Horn! Honk the horn! [Honking sound].”

If a letter has more than one sound, like any of the vowels, and a few other consonants, it will tie in both letter sounds into the jingle, which is a great learning tool. There is also a little music button, which plays the ABC’s, as well as The Wheels On the Bus! This is Liam’s favorite button, and he presses it every time he runs by the fridge.

We have an older fridge, which is not stainless steel, complete with a long, deep indent on the side, but I haven’t had any problems with getting the bus or the letters to stick. The magnets are strong, and don’t slide around too much, or fall off, yet are easy enough for tiny, toddler hands to pick up. I have seen one review complaining about the toy leaving scratches on her fridge, which I assume was stainless steel or something similar, but I haven’t had any issues with scratches.

At the start, Liam had a hard time putting the magnetic letters into the slot on the bus, but he mastered that skill in about a month, and is now a total pro.

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The first day we got our LeapFrog Letter Set!

Like I mentioned before, Liam uses this toy for more than just its intended learning purpose. He uses it to let me know when he wants to go to his room to get a toy, or when I’m taking too long in the bathroom, both of which are on the other side of his baby gate. He will wiggle his gate, making all sorts of noise, then will repeatedly press the music button on the bus until I come out. He’s a brilliantly impatient little boy. We’ve had this toy since January, and it gets use every single day, which is more than I can say for the majority of his other toys!

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Taken today! He loves his letters!

I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set. It also boasts a volume control button, which is huge for mommys like me, who are sensitive to overly loud toys. I hope this persuaded some of you to run out and buy this awesome (and inexpensive!) learning toy. It is seriously awesome.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Jan

[You can check out some of my other baby stuff reviews by clicking here, here, here, here, or here!]

Take A Walk With Jan #6

Hello, friends! I haven’t written one of these in a while, despite having gone on dozens of walks in the last couple of months, so I figured I would tell you all about our walk today!

iPod Sampling:
Skyscraper ~ Demi Lovato
Cold ~ Evans Blue
Take It Away ~ The Used
Try ~ P!nk
Second Chance ~ Shinedown

It was absolutely beautiful outside, both today and yesterday. Despite it being February in Illinois, it was 60 degrees and sunny outside today. Liam took his first nap around 10:oo this morning, woke up at 11:45, ate his lunch (mac ‘n cheese, bananas, and apple pieces), and then we took off. This was the first walk that we didn’t need to use our weather protector on our stroller, and it wasn’t windy at all. It was seriously beautiful! I was warm wearing just a long-sleeve t-shirt and jeans!

We took off around 12:20, and our first stop was Subway, so that mama could eat lunch. I got there at the same time as a large family, and the mother smiled at me, and told her son to hold the door open for me, which I appreciated! I said thank you, and got in line behind them. The woman then gestured for me to go in front of them. I thanked her and told her we were in no rush, and that they were there first, but she insisted. I thanked her again and ordered my sandwich: Six inch veggie on Italian bread, no cheese, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, olives, banana peppers, jalapenos, and oregano. Complete with a half iced tea, half lemonade. So. Good. I decided that I would eat at the park, and turned to leave, only to see that the line was now backed up out the door. A nice woman held the door open for us, and off we went!

At the park, I was forced to eat on a bench, as opposed to under one of the five gazebos, because there were gangs of pre-pre-teens running around, wreaking havoc, and being obnoxious. I sat down on the bench closest to the playground, and put Liam on the ground so that he could walk around. He immediately tried climbing onto the bench, so I decided to relocate to the bottom of the smallest slide, so that we could sit together. The playground was empty anyway.

Halfway through my sandwich, which I was picking apart to share with my tiny human, a group of 3 boys crossed the street, and met up with 3 other boys, who had been jumping around in the nearest gazebo to us. All the boys were around 6-9 years old, and were completely unsupervised. Whatever, they’re not my kids. Not my problem. Moments later, the whole group walked over to the tiny playground, and began running around and messing with each other. Two of the boys grabbed another boy, and tried to push him down the slide that we were sitting on. On purpose. This was the smallest slide, meant for tiny toddlers, and we were very much in plain sight. They were just being jerks. I ignored them, and they eventually stopped. The two boys walked away, but the third sat at the top of the slide, dangling his feet down by us, mere inches behind my back. I could feel him staring at us, but kept ignoring him. His friends called for him, as they were walking to the other end of the park, and he shouted back, “I’m waiting for this lady to move so I can slide!” Sassy.

At that point, I turned to him and said, “There are four other slides in this park. Leave us alone.

His eyes widened, and he took off.

We finished our sandwich, and went down the slide a few times. I could hear the group of boys coming back, and kept ignoring them. Liam was sitting at the bottom of the same toddler slide, trying to climb up, when another one of the boys sat down at the top, and started banging his heels against the slide. I looked right at him and said, “Seriously? Stop.” And he did.

I could hear them bitching about me, and using language that would (hopefully) make their mothers slap them silly, when suddenly, an SUV pulled up by the park. The woman driving rolled down her window, and shouted to a boy named Spencer, who happened to be the boy I just scolded. She asked him if he was behaving, then looked at me, and asked if he was leaving me alone. He protested loudly, and I just smiled. I should have ratted the little punk out, but she drove away, and he was embarrassed, and that was good enough for me.

We picked up our stuff, and walked to Dollar General after that, where I encountered a man walking around with two unbelievably cute chihuahua puppies in his arms, a sweet 2-year old girl named Emily who was absolutely in love with my son, as well as a very old woman, who asked me literally 100 questions about my schedule, and what I was doing that day. I grabbed a few things from there, checked out, and crossed the street to the grocery store to pick up some pineapple, one of Liam’s favorite foods.

As I was checking out, I smiled at the young woman who was at the register, who couldn’t be bothered to look up from her phone to notice. She did not greet me, or say a single word to me, the entire time. She didn’t ask me if I wanted paper or plastic (yes, this place still does that). Not only was she texting in plain sight, but there was another young woman behind her talking to her about something that was definitely not work related. I’m not sure if she even worked there, because they won’t wear uniforms of any kind, just street clothes. She made eye contact with me and gave me my total, and I swiped my card. They also have to ask you if you want cash back at this place, that’s how old school they are, but she didn’t, and just hit NO on the screen. I didn’t need cash back, and she did give me a plastic bag, which I prefer, but she was seriously rude. I almost went to look for a manager, but decided against it, and just left.

Then, we went home. Liam got sleepy on the walk back, and my feet were killing me, because I decided to wear my boots, instead of my sneakers, because my sneakers look weird when I wear jeggings, which were the only clean pants I had left. First world problems, right? We got home, and I thought he would take a good nap, so that I could nap, but it never happened. So we ended up playing with our Mega Bloks (I ordered a second set off of Amazon, along with a nice baby gate, which should get here this week) for a while until dinner.

The rest of the week is supposed to dip back down into the chilly temperatures, so we’ll see if walks will be possible. I really need to get back into walking, and eventually back into Zumba. I’ve already gained 4-5 pounds back, and my new clothes are starting to feel tight. Ugh. I can not wait for spring!

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Dream Journal 2/18/16

Present day (?).

I was walking around on a large university campus, and the path the I was walking on turned suddenly into a 90 degree, vertical  wall in front of me. I was wearing red flats, and jeans, and tried climbing the wall, but there was nothing to grab on. There was grass on both sides of the path, and I tried to grab onto the large weeds to try and pull myself up, but kept falling down.

A group of young men walked up behind me, and started pulling all kinds of equipment out of their bags. One of the guys turned to me, smiled, and asked why I didn’t just take a different path. I shrugged and asked him if they could help me. They showed me how to properly scale the wall, and I got to the top.

I walked into a large building, which opened into a concert hall, and sat down among a group of other people my age, all holding various instruments. I pulled a clarinet from my backpack, and we all started practicing. A group of young children was being ushered into the hall by a few adults, and they all sat in the first few rows of seats, and looked at us excitedly. We played an upbeat, marching band type song, bowed, and departed.

Then, it was dark outside, and I was back at the vertical wall path again. I put my backpack on the ground, and tried to climb the wall again, despite having no help. As I was struggling, a young woman walked by, laughing, and asked me why I didn’t just go around. I looked over at her, and watched as she disappeared around the side of the wall. Embarrassed and confused, I followed her, and found another path, with a much gentler slope upward. I started walking behind her, frustrated that it had taken me so long, and could hear the band playing from inside a nearby building. I started walking toward a very large, columned building, where there was some kind of protest happening.

And then I woke up.

Baby’s First Birthday Toy Haul Review

Hello, friends! As some of you may know, I wrote a 3 part series of reviews for all of the toys that Liam got for his first Christmas (if interested, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Well, his first birthday was less than a month later, on January 23rd, and he got some great toys! About a week has passed, and we have had time to thoroughly explore and play with all the new toys, and I thought it would be fun to do another toy haul review! Unlike my Christmas toy haul, I’ll be doing just one post for these reviews, as I am only doing 6 toys.

As with the previous posts, I will post the name and link for each toy, as well as an image. Beneath these, I will be using a 4-star system, rating each toy on their:
Attractiveness: Colors, shapes, detail, and how well it captured and kept my son’s attention.
Interactivity: Age settings, movement, how much can he do with it, etc.
Noise: (If applicable) Music, sounds, volume control, sound quality.
Quality: Flimsy plastic, not baby-proof, etc.
Overall Score: A mix of my opinion and my son’s opinions.
I will also list Pros and Cons.

Here we go!

1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Amazing learning toy! Very interactive. Power and volume control, as well as four ways to play (learning time, Spanish, music time, and play time with real sounds). Very colorful and eye-catching. My son attacked it and wanted to play before I had even put it together. The piano keys are our favorite!
Cons: None!

2. Bizzy Square – The Buckle Toy
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟✰✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros
Colorful, soft material. The back has several numbered tabs that baby can lift to reveal animals. Clips are very easy to clip and un-clip, great for babies who like to play with and chew on clips, with little risk of pinching their fingers. Comes in several colors/characters.
Cons
Toy is smaller than it appears in pictures, has a cheap feel for the price.

3. Fisher-Price Little People See n’ Say
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: 🌟✰✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros: 
Colorful. Features a variety of animals, a song option, and a little game.
Cons: 
Lever is a bit difficult for my 12-month old to pull, and can be awkward. So power or volume control, and volume is VERY loud. Animal noises are unrealistic and sound a bit weird.

4. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Speedsters, Monkey & Sis


Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: 
We have the full set of 3, and they make excellent learning tools, that double as great, cheap toys, and my son loves them. Colorful and eye-catching. Move very smoothly.
Cons:
No power or volume control. The volume on the Monkey car is much higher than the other two, and his voice is very shrill. I actually get headaches from that little green car.

5. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros:
Great learning tool, features power and volume control, as well as 3 stages of learning. Each button has the option of saying the letter, character/object, and the sound it makes. Plays several different songs, different on each learning setting. Lights on top and sides light up in several, bright colors.
Cons: 
NOT a touch screen, which is fine, but baby does need to press a bit on the buttons, which seemed to put my kiddo off a bit. When you are playing with the alphabet buttons, it randomly cuts you off and plays music, which is a bit annoying.

6. Mega Bloks Jeep Lil’ Off Roader Building Set
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros:
Instantly caught my son’s attention in the store. Great size for toddlers. Looks like a realistic, tiny Jeep! Comes with 7 pieces, which includes a little removable character, and 6 Mega Bloks blocks. Blocks can be played with on their own, or can be arranged on the roof of the Jeep.
Cons:
Very basic, limited interactivity. A bit expensive for what little it does.

There you have it! I have to say that my favorite toy is definitely the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table. I love how many settings it has, and I actually really enjoy composing short piano pieces with the 4 colorful piano keys. Liam loves the piano keys, too, and plays with me! I’d say his favorite toy is probably the Learning Table as well, but he is definitely a fan of his Mega Bloks Jeep, as well as his Fisher-Price Tablet (but only if I’m using it with him), and his Fisher-Price train that he got for Christmas, of course!

We are really loving all of the Fisher-Price learning toys! I love toys that have multiple learning stages, and look like “real” items that mommy and daddy use, and these are all just fantastic! I hope this helped out a few folks out there who are hunting for gifts for little ones!

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Daily Prompt 1/16/2016 | B+

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt 1/16/2016 | B+

“Write about what you did last weekend as though you’re a music critic reviewing a new album.”

Today, I want to talk to you guys about an album I picked up on Friday called Lazy Weekend. The entire album became the soundtrack to my weekend, which was actually no different than any other weekend of my life… meaning that this album is basically the soundtrack to my life.

The first song off this album is called Crying Baby, and it was the first single released by this group. While this song seems to be the most overplayed track on the album, it was definitely the worst as well. It certainly elicited an emotional response from me, but not a positive one. I thought about just turning off the album, and lying in bed all day, but decided to give the rest of the album the benefit of the doubt, and continued listening.

A few other not-so-great tracks on the album include:
Don’t Steal My Phone
Don’t Steal My PS4 Controller
Don’t Steal My Remote
I Don’t Want To Eat This
Poopy Time Blues
Leaky Diapers and Wet Jeans
Cheerio Hurricane
Rip Your Hair Out By the Root
Do You Want To Eat My Drool?

And one that is sure to be a classic… I Was Going To Take A Nap But My Neighbor’s 4 Kidz Are Demons From Hell.

But this extremely long, multi-faceted album boasts a collection of phenomenal songs as well, including:
Your Sweet Smile
Pancake Party
Choo-Choo Chasin’
A Walk In the Park
Baby Rockin’
Zumba Fever

YouTube and Snuggle
The Grimm Adventures of Kyle and Jan
Waving Goodbye

And my all-time favorite, which redeemed this album, and solidified its place on my list of favorite albums ever… Kisses For Mommy.

While there are several songs on the album that I could certainly live without hearing, I feel like they make you appreciate the good songs a whole lot more. And boy, there are some really good songs on this album. Because of this, I had to give this album a solid B+, and highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Daily Prompt 1/11/2016 | Idols

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt 1/11/2016 | Teen Age Idol

“Who did you idolize as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?”

Before I start in on this prompt, I think that it is appropriate to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a great man, Mr. David Bowie, who left us this weekend after an 18 month long battle with cancer. He was an unparalleled talent, a member and advocate for the LGBTQ community, and a phenomenal human being, who touched the lives of millions, and inspired many. He will always be the Goblin King in my heart, and I will be watching Labyrinth today with my son, as it has always been a favorite of mine. I am glad that he is no longer suffering, but many hearts have been shattered today. You will be missed, Major Tom.
————————————-

I was a teenager between 2003 and 2009, and I can honestly say that I did not idolize any one artist or group in particular during that time. I grew up in a time where the world was transitioning from the good music of the late 80’s and early 90’s, to the… well… stuff that influenced the weirdness that you hear on the radio today.

I grew up listening to my mom’s varied collection, which included the likes of David Bowie, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Elton John, ACDC, Madonna, Savage Garden, Led Zeppelin, Goo Goo Dolls, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Guns ‘N Roses, Hootie and the Blowfish, The Rolling Stones and whole lot more (she had a pretty killer taste in music, if we’re being honest here). Being so young at the time, it was hard to for me to relate to any of the lyrics, and I hardly remember any of the songs today, but it definitely shaped my taste in music in the future.

Sure, I was guilty of singing along to catchy pop songs on the radio, and bought a few J-14 magazines with Britney Spears, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, or Christina Aguilera on the cover… but I never related or looked up to them either.

My mom’s preference for electric guitar and loud, in-your-face lyrics caught back up to me into high school, where I started listening to bands like Breaking Benjamin, Anberlin, Red, Blue October, Evans Blue… and then later I got into Atreyu, Bullet For My Valentine, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Muse. You get the idea. I was one of those kids. I went to a few concerts, got a few posters and CDs signed, and that was that.

I wouldn’t say any of these artists were really the type you’d want to idolize, and I never really believed in idols much anyway. I’ve always been perfectly capable of enjoying an individual or group’s music without becoming a crazed fan girl… or a stalker.

And you know what… I don’t really listen to music much these days. When I do, it is the same stuff I listened to growing up. If I turned on the radio right now, and put it on a Top 100 station, I guarantee you that I would not know 85% of the songs. Or the artists. I think I migh be a boring person…

Thanks for reading!

Jan