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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stocking Stuffer Idea: Powerocks Magicstick Portable Charger Review



At the risk of sounding all Scrooge-ish, I'm just gonna say it: I don't love Christmas shopping.  OK...I don't love any kind of shopping, actually.  OK...I mostly hate shopping when I have very little money to shop with.  If I do have money, then shopping becomes slightly more tolerable.  But even when I do have money, shopping isn't my most favorite activity.  Especially when I have to figure out what to get other people.  I don't know why.  I think I am just too worried about getting something the receiver won't like.  Which is why I like little gems like this Powerocks Magicstick Portable Battery.  Because honestly?  There is only one person I know who would not like this and she is 75 years old and does not own one single electronic device that would need to be charged.  No cellphone, no laptop, no tablet, no e-reader...nothing.  Other than my friend Darlene?  Everyone else I know would use one of these!


I am seriously psyched about this little piece of awesomeness!  I use my smartphone constantly throughout the day for both personal and professional tasks, which include internet searches, social media updates and taking photos for blogs, reviews and marketing purposes.  Consequently, the phone battery gets drained quickly and if I have forgotten my car charger or I am in a meeting when my phone decides to die, then I am without my communication device until I get back home.  And that is bad.  Because I depend on that device.  OK, I am addicted to that device. It's my crack. Don't judge me.  

The Powerocks Magicstick solves that problem for those of us who are slaves to our electronic devices.  Inside the sleek exterior is a rechargeable 2800mAh lithium ion battery that will charge any device that can be powered by an USB connection, such as iPhone 4/4S & 5, e-Readers, Android Phones, Blue Tooth Devices, Cameras, Gaming controllers, MP3 players, GPS. That's a pretty long list of devices, people!




You know what else is great about it?  It's size.  It fits easily in a purse, a pocket, a backpack pocket or a carry-on bag.  Honestly? I could fit this bad boy, along with the USB charging cord, in my bra in an emergency! Sorry, no pics on that one, but I can assure you, I tried it.  Just to see.  Because sometimes a girl finds herself with no pockets or hand bag and she needs her hands free to climb a tree or something!  It happens! 


The Magicstick is incredibly easy to use: just plug the USB cord into the device, then plug it into your phone.  That's it.  And to recharge the Magicstick when it's dead?  Use the same USB cord in reverse by plugging the device into the USB cord and then plugging the USB cord into a computer.  Rocket science, right?


The only negative thing I can say about this portable power source is that I can't tell how much of a charge it holds once the power indicator turns red. There is a button on the bottom that will shine green when the Magicstick is fully charged and red when it is not fully charged.  But I can't tell when the light is red just how low the Magicstick is.  It could be 3/4 full or almost empty.  But seriously?  There's nothing else to pick apart.  

So to recap:

  • Powerocks Magicstick is an awesome portable charger for many electronic devices.
  • Powerocks Magicstick is easy to use and easy to carry.
  • Powerocks Magicstick is a great gift for males and females of varying ages who use electronic devices.
  • Powerocks Magicstick makes an excellent gift for your boss or other high powered executives who travel with their smartphones.  Your sophisticated and thoughtful gift might prompt them to thank you with a raise or a promotion. Just sayin.'  
  • Powerocks Magicstick fits into Christmas Stockings or really cute, small gift bags.
  • Powerocks is offering a 20% discount for I Am Boymom Readers who use this code: Powerblog20 

The Magicstick retails for about $50 and you can find it at the Powerocks website.  You can also find a list of retail locations in your area on the website.     

Admit it.  I just helped you cross like 3 or 8 people off of your Christmas shopping list, right?  No need to thank me.  It's what I do. But maybe you can thank Powerocks Magicstick by visiting their website and Facebook page.  

**Disclosure:  Powerocks provided me with a Magicstick Portable Charger to help me facilitate this review.  My honest opinions about the product are my own.**

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tek Recon Advanced Battle Systems Review

My boys have had every kind of toy blaster a kid can have, from Nerf Blasters, to Paintball Blasters to stupid little cap guns. they love them all to some degree. I thought we had pretty much run the gamut of blasters. Just when I was thinking there was no kind of kid's blaster that we hadn't seen, Tek Recon comes along and proves us wrong. Tek Recon takes blaster battle strategy play to another level by incorporating smartphone apps into the action so players get a real time experience.

Installing the smartphone holder onto the gun takes seconds and downloading the app from Google Play is just as easy.  What we have not found easy though is navigating the app and actually playing a game with it. The app wasn't very intuitive and it would often freeze during game play. For a bunch of impatient boys, this was frustrating.  We'll need to go through a tutorial to get more familiar with the Tek Recon app.


Regardless of the app situation, they were happy to get started with their new blasters.  The older they get, the more discerning they are about their blasters. They pay attention to the little things now that make game play fun and winning their battle a possibility. They immediately commented on the the various features of the shooters, such a the sturdiness and realistic features like the adjustable stock and the pump action firing systems. They also loved the idea of the quick change cartridges.


The NRG ammo was looked upon with skepticism as the boys opened the packages. THe NRG ammo is different than what they have used before in other blasters. It looks like a small, thick, orange rubber band. The boys found it a bit hard to load the cartridges until they got used to the smaller pieces. The ammo goes pretty far when shot, it doesn't hurt when you get hit and the blasters are fairly accurate, but we found we had trouble getting the Hammerhead to shoot consistently without the ammo getting lodged in the chamber. And forget about trying to find all of the pieces! Their small size makes it difficult to locate, especially since the rubber component they are made of make them bounce when hitting anything super solid, like a wall or the side of the house

We received a Tek Recon Hammerhead set, which consists of 2 handheld blasters for players who like dual wielding.  The Havoc is a little larger and comes with an adjustable stock.


My boys love playing strategy and battle games with all the kids in the neighborhood.  I love that they have the option now of having the video part of the fun incorporated into their physical game play!  More incentive for them to get outside and run around!

Check out Tek Recon's website and Facebook page for more information about where to get these fun toys, just in time for Christmas!

*Disclosure:  As part of House Party's Chatterbox team, we received Tek Recon Advanced Battle Systems products to facilitate this review.  I received no other compensation for this post.  As always, my opinions about the product are my own, honest opinions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Hope He Meets John Wayne


I went to Arizona over Thanksgiving to see my step-dad.  If you read my last post, you know he had bone cancer.  Yeah.  I said had.  He passed away the morning after I arrived in Arizona.  Unfortunately, I did not get to say goodbye, because I had stopped overnight in Phoenix and had not yet made the 3 hour trip to the mountain top where he and mom lived. 

When I received the call I was both grateful and devastated.  He was in so much pain, the life he was living as a cancer victim was horrible and hard and humiliating to him.  How could I not want him to be free from that situation?  At the same time, I was sad.  I didn't get to tell him how much I appreciated him.  Or how much I loved his ridiculously funny stories.  Or how grateful I was that he gave us a safe place to live and gave me employment when I needed it.  Or how his love of all things John Wayne has become my love of all things John Wayne.  There are all these unsaid things just hanging out there.  I hate leaving things unsaid.  


My step-father was a lover of really cool muscle cars.  I wish I would have shown more of an interest for them when he was collecting them and fixing them up.  At different times in his life he bought and restored a GTO, an old Chevy something that looked kind of like the original Batmobile that he called the Ghetto Sled (because of where he bought it), an old Buick Riviera with that weird back window, and several others that I don't recall the makes and models.  But they were all cool.  But part of the reason that they were cool was because he was cool.  He didn't have to try to be cool, he just was. Kind of like the cowboy version of The Fonz.

He was one of those guys that knew what the trends would be 6 months before anyone else did.  He came home with black Reeboks one day and we all laughed about how weird they were.  Six months later EVERYONE was wearing them!  

John was one of the original "preppers" and a MacGyver kind of guy that would make MacGyver jealous! He could figure out how to make just about anything out of stuff he found laying around.  

He loved food and music and guns, all equally.  He got me hooked on these:


And he taught me how to use these:


And he made me download hundreds of these to his Ipod:


 He was a master story teller who had many, many stories to tell about traveling with his dad, who rode and trained race horses.  He talked about the things he would do as an 8 year old kid wandering around the fair while his dad was busy. Watching the monkeys dressed like jockeys riding greyhounds was high on his list of favorites.  He talked about how his mom would take him to church and give him money for the bus ride home and he would wait for her to drive off, then go to the ice cream shop and buy a cone with the bus money and walk home.  His mom could never figure out why his suit was so dusty all of the time. His stories about fighting and drag racing and his overnight stint in jail when his dad got mad enough not to bail him out were hilarious and filled with real life details that no one could make up.  I'm sad that we didn't take the time to record him telling those stories. 

John had a wickedly, sarcastic sense of humor.  He was the kind of person who could totally slam you and it was so funny and accurate that event though the joke was on you?  You had to laugh!  When he was in a good mood, there was not a funnier, more fun guy to be around. His grin and his laugh were so indicative of who he really was when he was happy.  His laugh was not a laugh that fit a man of his character, reputation or build.  He was a big, tough guy.  His laugh was not at all tough.  When he really got going, his laugh got very high pitched and when you heard him laugh that hard, you had to laugh too!


He had nicknames for everyone.  Hammerhead, Numbnuts and Honyock were among his favorites.  My boys were never Tanner and Eli when they were with him.  The were Big One and Little One.  My sister was Bird when she was a kid, because she was all knees and elbows.  He called me Thumper for a while when I wore my Nike Canvas or Converse sneakers because he said my big feet looked like rabbit feet. They did look like rabbit feet when I wore the shoes with what is now called skinny jeans.  


John loved Old Westerns and John Wayne and Gene Autry.  He would watch reruns of Gunsmoke and Bonanza for hours.  I'm pretty sure he has watched every single John Wayne movie ever made.  Watch the movie "The Cowboys" sometime.  John Wayne in that movie?  That was my step-dad. His humor, his tough exterior, his truly soft heart, his work ethic, his intolerance of bullies...all my step-dad.  

There were downsides to living with John, to be sure.  He hated holidays.  He would get grumpy and hide in his room all day.  We kind of laughed this year during Thanksgiving dinner that his grumpiness had become part of the tradition.  Because of his upbringing, he didn't let a lot of people get close to him.  Not even us.  He put up a lot of walls and it's too bad that he waited so long to let the the walls start to come down.  He missed out on a lot of great relationships with his family and friends.  And we missed out too.

Last visit with Grandpa John in June 2013
I'm sad cancer took him just when he was figuring out that family was important and that he needed to spend more time getting to know his grand kids. He had a lot of hard-earned advice and wisdom to share with them.  He had so many stories to make them giggle and laugh.  He had so many skills that he could have passed on to them.  And they would have loved almost every minute of their time with him. 

There is so much more I could write, but it wouldn't sum up who he was.  And nothing I could write right now could ever convey my appreciation for him, as a step-father or as a person.  So I will just finish by saying this:  John, thanks for giving me a safe place to live, for teaching me how to change a tire and defend myself and for hiring me back every time you fired me for speaking my mind.  I hope where you are now that you get to meet and talk with John Wayne.  I bet you'll be good friends.

And this, which only a few of you will get:  That whole thing about you going to hell with a bad back?  We win.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Achy Breaky Heart

I have a billion and one things to do today.  I have a review to write about chocolate.  I know.  I am so lucky to get to taste chocolate and then write what I think about it... and get paid to do it!  But there are no words in my brain about chocolate right now.  I need to write a post to promote our Holiday Craft Expo coming up in two weeks.  And promote it on Facebook and Twitter and every other social media platform that I can think of.  But I have no words for that either.  My heart is full.  Achy breaky full.  So much sadness seeping out of it that I cannot stop the flow.  And my brain is paralyzed.  Having to arrange words into anything that makes sense right now seems so impossible.  But I need to write.  It's the only way to wash away my hurt.

 

Someone will probably think this post is selfish.  That's okay...it is. I am acutely aware that I am not the only one hurting tonight.  My entire family hurts.  My mother hurts as she cares for her husband in what has become the most unimaginable circumstance.  He lays in his bed, dying of cancer.  My step-dad hurts.  He's the one who is dying.  To say I can't fathom what he must be feeling and thinking is an understatement..  A month or two ago he was diagnosed with bone cancer and told he had about 6 months to live.  It was shocking and sad and we were not prepared for the news.  I guess no one is ever prepared for that kind of news. But we thought we had more time to say our goodbyes and get our relationship affairs in order with him.  To say the things we needed to say to a man who welcomed us into his home, even though we were not his children.  To hug this John Wayne-esque, giant of a man who was never big on showing emotion or public displays of affection.  All of the sudden, his health deteriorated and now we are, along with him, staring his death in the face.

I am not ready for this.  I am not ready to lose another person with whom I did not get the chance to develop the kind of deep, meaningful relationship I wanted to have.  I am not ready for my boys to lose the only grandfather they have had who was willing to spend time with them, JUST when he decided to quit being a hermit and start paying attention to them!  They were just starting to get to know him!  They were just starting to hear his hilarious stories and see his face light up when he talked about all of his life adventures.  They were just starting to earn nicknames from him, because he rarely calls anyone by their real name...he has a nickname for everyone. 

My grief over his passing is way more profound than I feel like I can handle.  And I have had to stop and figure out why his passing is affecting me to the point that I want to shut down.  I can't shut down.  People are counting on me to take care of them and help them.  My mom doesn't have the luxury of just shutting down and she truly needs and deserves to shutdown over this.  Why am I not able to be stronger this time around?  It's not like my step-dad and I are super close.  I love him very much, but we haven't had a typical father-daughter relationship (more on that later).  So why do I feel like I am losing more than I can stand to lose?  That sounds bad.  Like I'm saying I shouldn't be AS SAD that he is passing away because he isn't my real dad and we weren't as close as we could have been.  That's not what I mean by saying I shouldn't be so very, very depressed about this. I'm saying that the level of sadness and grief I feel is debilitating and it feels like there is more to it than my step dad's untimely and pending death.

I have to believe that this is less about his rapidly approaching crossover to heaven, which is truly a blessing given the extreme amount of pain he is enduring, and more about my feeling that one more time I am being left alone to deal with life.  I feel like my whole life has revolved around people leaving me.  I won't go into details. But it's happened a lot. And the hurt has caused has started to become unbearable.  I thought my real dad dying tragically and unexpectedly was pretty painful to sort through.  But now I am losing my other dad - the only one I have left and have struggled to develop a relationship with - and it almost feels worse than the first loss.  

Clearly I need to get over my own abandonment issues and focus on the good times that I had with my step-father.  I have some good memories of him.  He is a good man who had issues of his own due to his upbringing.  His walls were so high.  It took him until just recently to finally decide to let them down and start to let us in a little more and now he's leaving us. It doesn't feel fair.  I know...we all have our issues.  I just wish my family's issues would have been less detrimental to our having a rich and full "normal" life. The whole thing just really, really sucks and I'm not ready to say goodbye to one more person who means something to me. Oh my gosh, I can't tell you how NOT ready for this I am. 

And yes...I feel like a self-absorbed, whiny ass, drama queen for posting this.  Because my dad's cancer and death should not be all about me.  But the truth is, it is about me.  And about him.  And about my mom and my sister and my aunt and my sons and whoever else is affected by his disease.  Every single one of our lives is changing because my step-dad has cancer and is dying. And it hurts.  So I sit and write to process and heal and then I have to choose whether or not to share what I feel with everyone else or hide it away somewhere.  Who will I hurt by posting this?  I don't know, but I'm pretty sure there will be someone. Who will feel like I am seeking out attention?  I don't know that either, but I know sometimes I have a problem with that.  Who will just read the post with an open heart and identify with it and walk away with a greater desire to spend more time with their kids and grand kids so they don't have to feel like they missed out on one of life's greatest joys?  I hope many.  

Will sharing this do any good?  I don't know.  I just know it helps me.  And I choose to think I am not the only one in the world who has these kinds of thoughts and struggles.  So I guess I hope that when I make my personal issues public, it helps someone, somewhere, deal with a difficult situation because they know they are not alone.  So for now, this post will go live.  Because it's what I need to do to cope and to find some peace in my out of control life.      

Monday, September 23, 2013

Disney on Ice presents Rockin’ Ever After in Boise - Giveaway

If your kids have never seen a Disney on Ice show, then it's definitely something to add to your "to do" list. And the good news is you won't have to wait very long to cross it off the bucket list.  Disney on Ice presents Rockin’ Ever After is making its way to Boise on October 17 – 20, 2013 at Taco Bell Arena!

The musical showcase, which features some of the hottest tunes and talent from across the Disney kingdom, will have you and your kids rocking out while a cast of world-class skaters bring favorite moments from Disney•Pixar’s BRAVE, Tangled, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to life!
  • Jam to a Scottish jig as a group of royal contenders from the Academy Award-winning Disney•Pixar film, BRAVE, competes to win the heart of adventurous, sharp-shooting Merida, making her on-ice debut! 
http://www.feldentertainment.com/uploadedImages/FeldEntertainmentcom/HRP/Ice/DOI-33/D33_20120906_01037-Edit.jpg
  • Experience a show-stopping performance as Sebastian breaks out of his shell for one night only to make waves with Ariel. 
  • A chorus of harmless hooligans from Tangled unleashes musical mayhem when they get a visit from the sassy and spirited Rapunzel and her charming ally Flynn. 
http://www.feldentertainment.com/uploadedImages/FeldEntertainmentcom/HRP/Ice/DOI-33/D33_20120906_00627-Edit.jpg
  • And, get your feet moving as the Beast and his castle’s enchanted entourage take center stage in a spectacular show for Belle. 

Sounds like a rockin' fun way to spend an evening together as a family!  Want the deets?  Here they are:

WHEN: October 17 – 20, 2013
Thursday, October 17th – 7:00 PM
Friday, October 18th – 7:00 PM
Saturday, October 19th – 10:30 AM & 2:00 PM
Sunday, October 20th – 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM


WHERE: Taco Bell Arena – 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725


TICKETS: Ticket price levels are $20, $25, $45 (VIP) and $60 (Front Row)
Opening Night tickets discounted priced at only $12 (not valid on premium seating)
Tickets available for purchase online at TacoBellArena.com, charge by phone at 208-426-1766 or at the Taco Bell Arena Box Office.

And as a bonus, I Am Boymom readers can get a $5 Off discount by using the code: MOM.  (The discount applies to $20 & $25 sections only and there are no double discounts.  Valid on select performances - Friday 7 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. and Sunday 5 p.m.).

GIVEAWAY!!!  
Feld Entertainment is graciously giving one I Am Boymom reader the chance to win a Family 4 Pack to attend the Opening Night performance of Disney on Ice presents Rockin' Ever After!  Wanna win?  Just follow the steps on Rafflecopter below to enter!  Terms and conditions of giveaway listed on Rafflecopter. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment sometimes  provides me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

First School Dance and Funny Dance Moments in Movies

My son hit a major life crossroad this weekend.  He went to his first dance.  I had posted about it on Facebook, because I was a little worried about this pivotal teenage moment that he didn't seem to be taking very seriously.  Dude!  This is your first dance!  This will set the tone for all future dance experiences!  You need to be ready!  But he thought my concern was unfounded.  He refused to listen.  He actually told me I was making too big a deal of the whole thing.  Obviously he has no clue about the ramifications of a bad dance on his social life.  Whatevs, son.  He wouldn't practice his dance moves with me or dress up in something other than his "good shorts" and a clean t-shirt. Even his little brother told him he at least needed to wear a button up shirt.  See!?  Not just me!!  

Anyway...I drove him to the dance and I watched him get out of the car and walk toward the gym, knowing full well that I would get a call a few minutes later telling me to come get him because he was under dressed and didn't know how to dance.

But that didn't happen.  There was no worried call, there was no text saying "this dance sucks."  There was nothing.  And then 2 hours later, there was my son., getting in the car.

Me: "How was it?"
Son: "Fine."
Me: "Did you dance?"
Son: "Yeah, a few times."
Me: "Did you ask them or did they ask you?"
Son: "They asked me."
Me: "Slow or fast?"
Son: "One slow, one I don't know what it was. everybody just kind of danced together."
Me: "Cool.  Did you have a good time?"
Son: "Yeah."

That was it!  All that worry and stress and that was it! Shorts were fine, dance was fine, friends and girls he danced with?  All fine.  Ok, then.  Guess we're good to go on the dance thing.

To honor this rite of passage in my son's life, here are a few of my favorite funny dance scenes:
 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Remembrance on 9-11

911
















May we never forget the Fallen and the Heroes of 9-11-01. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Riding in Cars with Boys


I know.  I KNOW!  It's been forever since I wrote a post that wasn't a product review.  But I'm gonna make it up to y'all and get back on the family life blogging horse.  I'll explain later why I haven't been big on writing about everyday stuff.  It's a lnog story and maybe not as fun as the one I'm gonna tell you about now.  So we'll save that one for another day.  In the meantime, just know I am recommitting myself to making I Am Boymom a more upbeat place to hang out.  So on that note...

I did something this summer that taught me a lot about teenage boys.  I took a road trip with my two sons and my nephew.  It was...interesting.  And stinky.  And LOOOOOOONG.

We traveled over 2500 miles in 10 days in a rented Chevy Impala. Which by the way, was an amazing car! Like I would totally take one and drive it everywhere while loudly and proudly singing its praises if Chevy were to see this post and ask me to be their brand ambassador.  Yeah...it's that awesome.  We were 350 miles into the trip before one of the boys pointed out that we had a sun roof (how did we not see that earlier!?).  Then he asked if he could stand up with his head sticking out of it while we were going 85 mph through Nevada.  If I am honest, I actually had to think about it a minute before I said no.  The possibility of having a giant bug splat across my kid's forehead and seeing his subsequent reaction was really, really hard to pass up, but in the end, my mommy sense took over and my child remained belted into his seat.  I have to admit though, we were all momentarily disappointed.

Chevy Stock Photo - forgot to take pics of my rented Impala!

So here's the trip in a nutshell: 

We bought fireworks.  The boys farted.  We got pulled over for speeding.  The boys farted.  We sang Thrift Shop, Can't Hold Us, Radioactive, Cruise, Brave, Locked Out of Heaven, We Own the Night. Love Somebody and lots of other current hits.  And the boys farted.  I went old school and sang ABBA, B52's, Aretha Franklin and ZZ Top.  The boys freaked out and begged me to switch back to their new music.  Then they farted.  We drove, we stopped for gas and food, we took road trip pictures, we hunted for garnets and we talked more than any of us have talked since they were all born.  We talked about Idaho, we talked about Arizona.  The boys talked about all the things they wanted to say, but didn't, to the cop when he gave me the speeding ticket.  We talked about school, we talked about politics, we talked about the civil war and we talked about...farts.  We laughed at a thousand different comedians (praise be to Sirius XM Radio for providing me with some fantastic entertainment options!  Best car radio experience EVER!) while the boys memorized every single G-rated stand-up routine I let them listen to, then repeated them over and over and over again.  We visited friends and went swimming, we visited grandparents and did some target practice and celebrated birthdays and lost new shoes.  And then?  They farted.  OH. MY. HECK. How they farted!  And just when I thought their tanks were on empty and I might have a reprieve from the poot wars?  The shoes started to come off.  FREAK how do feet get that stinky!?  Had we not had the sun roof to keep the air circulation at maximum capacity?  I might have died, people.  Okay.  Maybe not died, but I could have passed out.  Okay, fine.  Maybe not passed out, but I might have gagged once or twice.  And who wants to gag while they are driving?  I mean seriously, how is that even fun?

Looking for Garnets in Ely, Nevada

Stretching the legs in AZ 

Hangin' out with Grandpa John

So am I exaggerating about the smell and the volume of odor that was emitted from three teenage boys?  Maybe just a tiny bit about the volume.  But the smell?  Nope.  No way.  Nuh-uh.  Not even.  It was foul, my friends.  I'm sorry, Budget car guy, if the cloth seats absorbed that stench.  I hope you weren't hit in the face by a wall of stink when you opened the door to start cleaning after the Impala sat in the sun for a few hours.  

Despite all the miles, the flatulence and the toe cheese, we had a great trip.  I got to know my boys and my nephew on a whole different level.  I got to hear them sing at the top of their lungs and laugh hysterically at ridiculous things. I watched them bond over shared interests and ideas.  I listened to their plans for the future as they talked to each other about school and sports and Scout Camp.  And I finally started to see them, all of them, as capable people who have aspirations and hopes and dreams of their own instead of little boys who need to be watched over and cared for every single minute of the day.  It was a pretty revealing look at who my sons and my nephew have become over the last 11-14 years.  And can I just say how happy I am with what I saw? I have been blessed with such good boys.  And it only took me 2500 miles and some singed nose hairs to remember that.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Zact Mobile Lets Parents Set the Rules on Smartphone Usage

Disclosure:  I participated in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Zact. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

I recently had a discussion with my neighbor about kids and smartphones.  She has three teenagers who all have smartphones.  I haven't pulled the trigger on the smartphone thing yet, but both my kids have basic cellphones.  

One of the reasons I hesitate to jump into the smartphone arena with my kids is that I am concerned about how much time my boys will spend on the devices and what they will be looking at.  Turns out there are lots of parents with the same concerns that I have.  The team at Zact, a family friendly mobile provider, conducted a survey and found that 73% of U.S. parents are concerned about the lack of parental control of a child’s activities on mobile devices.
 

 So what are your biggest concerns when it comes to kids and smartphones? I'm not afraid to talk to my kids about the concerns I have when it comes to their safety and the expectations I have for them to make good choices when I'm not around.  But I would love to know how others have approached the smartphone subject so that when it's time for me to have that talk, I'll be prepared!  How do you talk to your kids about smartphone safety and responsibility?   

 For more information on how Zact can help keep your kids safe and save your family money on your cellphone plan, click here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Courtyard Hounds "Amelita" CD Review #CYHAmelita



*DisclaimerI participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the CD to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.


I always forget how much I love listening to music until I get the chance to do a review on a new CD.  So I was super excited to get a chance to review the new Courtyard Hounds album Amelita - the second album by sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of Dixie Chicks fame. 


After weathering the Dixie Chick controversy, the sister duo are building a following of their own by showcasing their unique songwriting, vocal and instrumental abilities.  

Amelita is definitely different than what you've heard from these sisters in the past.  This album is a clear statement of who the girls are as artists, defining their sound as a band with songs that are personal, yet familiar and widely relatable.  Amelita takes a different perspective than Robison and Maguire took with their debut album in 2010.  Emily credits the time that has passed since her divorce for the difference in moods between their first album and Amelita
I’ve been freed of all of those time-heals-everything kind of things,” says Robison. “Now, I’ve opened up to other ideas and ways of looking at life and the world. I think it’s not only a more hopeful album, but it’s more… well fun.
There are definitely some fun tracks on this new album, but a few too many ballads for me.  After a while the ballads all started to sound similar and kind of melt together, so none of them really stood out as stellar.  Part of that I think is due to the fact that neither Emily or Martie have really powerful or dynamic voices.  Not that they can't sing, they definitely hold their own!  Their sound is a softer, more earthy, folk sound, reminiscent of Sheryl Crow.  Their harmonies blend beautifully, but it would be nice to hear one of them bust out and really wail once in a while, just to change things up.

 

The tracks I did like tended to be a little more upbeat, like "Sunshine" and "The World Smiles". Both are catchy tunes with a nice beat that left me feeling a little brighter as I went through my day and every song on the album features some amazing instrumentals.  I love the little hint of mandolin in "Sunshine".  But my favorite song from this album is "Phoebe".  Musically, "Phoebe" delivered the ride I kept waiting for from some of the other songs.  It was edgy and fast and really showcased the sisters country/bluegrass flair with twangy harmonies and raucous riffs coming off of banjos and fiddles, guitars and whatever else the girls know how to play!  They really put it all out there on this track and I wanted more of that.  Sadly, the song was written as a tribute to Phoebe Prince, a western Massachusetts teen who committed suicide in the wake of bullying.  So while I love the arrangement, the song definitely has a darker side.

All in all, Amelita is a nice album.  It showcases the range of talent Emily and Martie possess, both lyrically and as musicians.  I think their sound definitely sets them apart from who they were as part of the Dixie Chicks.  And it seems like the sisters are in it for the long haul, according to Emily Robison:
"We’re a band, not a side project. We like our sound, and we’re going to continue to do this, and share something new this time around." 
 I look forward to hearing more from them as they continue to develop their sound and identity as the Court Yard Hounds.  

You can follow Courtyard Hounds on Twitter and Facebook and if you want to learn more about the sisters, you can follow Emily Robison and Martie McGuire on Twitter.

Amelita Track Listing
Sunshine
Amelita
The World Smiles
Aimless Upward
Guy Like You
Rock All Night
Phoebe
Divided
Gets You Down
Watch Your Step
The Road You Take

The Courtyard Dogs started touring on August 1st, so you can catch them on the road or you can buy Amelita on iTunes or at Amazon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NERF SUPER SOAKER /Simply CHEETOS® House Party Review


So I spent my birthday this year watching the boys and their friends soak each other with Nerf Super Soakers and eating Simply Cheetos Natural Cheese Puffs, courtesy of House Party! Actually, it was a great way to take my mind off of the fact that I am one year away from being middle aged. I cannot believe I am almost eligible for an AARP membership! I don't wanna talk about it anymore.

Sooooo...back to topic of the party. Which is way more fun to talk about than my age!  Our weekend looked like this:

Party pack from House Party!
 
The Water Warriors (minus two, who arrived late and missed the photos!)


Spray the shaving cream off your teammate's shower cap!

Ready for some serious spray action!


Drew the short straws and wondering how to escape


video


The boys were all very happy with the new Nerf Super Soaker models, which have one pump action and good distance.  They like the Shotwave Blaster model the best, because it has a removable water cartridge, which makes refilling easier and faster. Less time at the water trough means less chance of getting sprayed while reloading and a faster return to the front lines to soak opponents!

BTW...there are some really good sales going on right now on the Super Soakers!  Toys R Us, Walmart and Target all had some pretty low prices on all of their new Nerf Super Soaker models!  Worth the price to get the family outside and moving! 


Between games and water wars we enjoyed snacking on various veggies and fruits, as well as Simply Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Cheese Puffs. OK...I won't lie.  I love Cheetos.  I hardly ever buy them because they are basically just orange colored, cheesy corn flavored chemical air,  but I love how they melt/crunch in my mouth.  I was skeptical that a "natural" Cheeto could even be manufactured, let alone made to taste good.  Well, I'm here to tell you that the natural, white cheddar version of Cheetos is a worthy substitute for the orange version.  The taste is not as strong, but the texture is pretty much the same and I absolutely LOVE that the new version is truly all natural.  No dyes, no preservatives.  Not all the kids liked the White Cheddar flavor, but most loved the new Cheetos and gobbled them right up.

I can honestly say this Nerf Gun Super Soaker party was the greatest way to spend a birthday!  It did my Mommy Heart good to see my boys running and laughing and playing in the summer sun and I felt younger just being out there with them!  Can't wait to get everyone together to do this again!

**Disclosure:  I was not compensated for this review.  I won a Nerf Super Soaker/Simpy Cheetos Party form House Party and received Nerf water guns and Cheetos to facilitate the event and review.  As always, the thoughts and opinions in this review are mine and are always my honest views.** 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cascade Platinum Pacs Review and Instagram Contest #MyPlatinum


Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating. 

Some people love to clean.  I am not one of those people.  While I like the results that come from cleaning the house, I find tasks like laundry, dishes and cleaning bathrooms mundane and boring and worst of all...ENDLESS!!  I can clean the whole kitchen, walk away for 3 minutes and come back to a plate, a knife with jelly on it and a half a glass of milk sitting in the sink that I just emptied!  AAUUGGHHH!!   Thank freaking GOSH for dishwashers!

When I moved into this rental house, the dishwasher that was here looked like one of the first models ever made and sounded like a Mack Truck was driving around our kitchen every night.  I would load it with dirty plates and start it up, then cross my fingers that it would actually clean them.  The results were a crap shoot.  Some days I won, some days I lost. 

Then one day that beastly dishwasher died and I rejoiced aloud about the new replacement that arrived a week later!  It was shiny and new and I was sure I would never see a dirty dish come out of that dishwasher after running a clean cycle again. 

I was wrong.  On more than one occasion I have opened my new dishwasher after a two hour cycle to find my plates covered with "washed food particles or my drinking glasses covered with a hazy residue.  So...I concluded it must be a detergent problem and not an appliance problem and started experimenting with dish washing soaps and tabs. 

The Review
As luck would have it, I was asked to review new Cascade Platinum Pacs this month!  I know!  The timing could not have been better.  Now that my kids are taking more responsibility with the dishes, I sometimes find that in their desire to speed through the chore of loading the dishwasher,  the rinsing of dirty dishes doesn't always happen like it should.  Ok, fine.  I never rinse the dishes either.  But at least I knock off the big chunks.  Cascade Platinum Pacs are our new best friend, as they are specially formulated with an increased enzyme power that eats through food particles better than anything I have tried so far.  There was not one speck of food left on anything in that dishwasher when we emptied it after using the Platinum Pacs.  Not. One. Yay!! 

The other thing we noticed immediately after using the Cascade Platinum Pacs is that our dishes come out sparkling and shiny!  Platinum Pacs contain surfectants and chelant/polymer systems that  prevent hard water spots or hazy film on glasses or silverware.   My dishes look almost new again! I love not having to apologize to my guests while I wipe the spots off the drinkware before serving them a beverage!  How unappetizing is that?!

Gail Simmons, Top Chef judge and editor of Food-Wine Magazine, agrees that perfect presentation is an important part of entertaining and she has partnered with Cascade to share her thoughts and ideas on how to beautifully present your culinary creations.


  

I love Gail's comment about impressing with a Platinum Presentation, because it's something I kind of struggle with:
“The easiest recipes pop with unexpected, gourmet presentations. Drizzle bright sauces on sparkling white plates or layer desserts in crystal-clean glassware. Keep your presentation sparkling with Cascade Platinum, which keeps dishes perfect for anytime entertaining and impromptu guests.”

Cascade "My Platinum" Contest

With the advent of social media, everyone can post great photos of their best kitchen efforts these days.  Food photography is everywhere! To celebrate the launch of their newest product, Cascade is holding a 4 week Instagram contest encouraging fans to upload photos related to the weekly contest themes listed below for a chance to win a $10,000 Kitchenaid Kitchen Makeover! I know, right?  $10,000 could do a lot for my poor little kitchen! 
Week 1: (Week 1 is over) My Platinum Plate (Entry Period: 6/3-6/9) - Show us your best dish styled from the sparkling plate up!
Week 2: My Platinum Bite (Entry Period: 6/10-6/16) – Show us your best bite and most creative use of sparkling silverware!
Week 3: My Platinum Clink (Entry: 6/17-6/23) – Show us how you serve up creative concoctions in sparkling glasses. Cheers!
Week 4: My Platinum Table (Entry Period: 6/24-6/30) – Show us your sparkling tablescape for your most special celebrations!
You do need to register before you enter, but it just takes a few minutes to that.  And you will need to upload the photos to Instgram and use the hashtag #MyPlatinum” as well as tag @MyCascade.  More information about the contest can be found on the contest’s official page.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Life Well Lived and Some Other Stuff about Life and Death.


This is a post about death and dying and life and living.  I know.  I'm sorry.  It's where I'm at right now.  It's what is happening in my world.  So I am using my blog to process.  Because I can't afford therapy.  I will not be offended if you stop reading right now.  Maybe you don't feel like crying.  But if you do need a good cry, this might be a good post to read.  It's making me cry.  But I tend to do that a lot these days.  So now that you have been warned, stick around or don't.  Either way, it's all good.

I think I mentioned in a previous post how ironic I think it is that I am dealing with end of life issues at the very same time that I am trying to create a rebirth for myself and my family.  As I contemplate the marks left on communities by those who are leaving us, I am still struggling to find my place in the world. As I feel sadness for the loss of people close to me, I feel joy and gratitude for those who have been sent for me to raise and nurture.  One day finds me holding a dying man's hand, 
 

while the next finds me helping very much alive and overly-excited boys make a lemonade stand to earn money. 


The emotional toll this juxtaposition has taken on me is exhausting, mentally and physically.  My brain keeps trying to process deep life and death concepts that make me think about my own mortality and my own happiness (or lack of) and other complicated stuff that causes me pain to think about.  Not liking it at all.  At. All.  I keep trying to shut it all out by just focusing on living in the moment and enjoying each moment for what it is.  Except some moments are kind of painful.  Like watching someone you love pass away. 

For a few weeks now I have been watching my step-grandfather deteriorate and face the end of his life. Because he is 100% coherent and aware, it has been tough on him to deal with a body that refuses to give up the fight to live, even while it is shutting down and cannot support him any longer.  It has been tough on his family too, to watch him struggle to die with some kind of peace and dignity.  We were hoping it would be an easier passing for him.  It would have been nice for him to go to sleep one night and not wake up.  The phone call I got tonight indicated the further breakdown of his bodily systems and I was told that he may not make it through the night. Even now though, during these last hours, he is experiencing much discomfort and frustration.  I hate that this is how he has to experience death.  

I have been blessed over the last month to spend some days sitting with him as he winds up his time here on earth.  He is an amazing man.  He has some incredible stories about growing up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years, about working for the Civilian Conservation Corp during the Depression and about surviving D-Day on Omaha beach during World War II.  He lived through some of the worst times this country has seen.  

Despite struggling to endure and survive some really tough and sad situations, my grandfather never dwells on the negative aspects of his experiences.  If he mentions the pain or negativity at all, it's kind of in passing and then he quickly moves on to the valuable lessons he learned from what he went through. He is seriously one of the most positive, upbeat people I have ever known.  The last few weeks of visits haven't brought much conversation from him.  It's painful for him to talk because he can't breathe well.  But I talk to his nurses and others who stop by to see him.  In spite of his weakened state, he offers them a smile or a quick hello.  They offer hugs in return.  Even the cook came out of the kitchen to see if her "favorite guy" wanted anything special for dinner.  There is never an unkind or impatient word about him from anyone in the facility, or for that matter, in his life. They talk about his humor, his enthusiastic attitude, his positive outlook and his ability to remember names.  He leaves a lasting impression of all that is good about humanity on everyone he meets.  
 
When he married my grandmother after she left her horribly abusive first  husband, he changed not only her life, but ours as well.  He opened his heart and his home to her and her family without hesitation.  It was his idea to invite my grandmother's mother to live with them instead of living by herself halfway across the country as she started to suffer from the effects of a stroke.  And even though he loves Idaho, he was happy to relocate every winter to Phoenix after they retired so my grandmother could be closer to us.  Her life was so much better because he understood the give and take required to have a happy marriage and he understood that her family (no matter how messed up he thought we might be) was part of the package.  He never judged us.  He accepted us and did his best to love us. I am going to miss him an awful lot when he's gone.  Strength of character, a positive outlook, a kind heart and resilience will be his legacies.  I hope I have learned enough from him to emulate him even just a little as I continue my own earthly journey. 

There's so much more I want to say about Grandpa Russ, but I don't have the words tonight.  I just know that I'm a better person for having known him.  And I know when he is reunited with my grandmother in Heaven, he will have nothing but great things to say about his life here on earth.  Even the dying part.  I know he will find a lesson in all that suffering.  I hope I can say the same thing about my struggles some day.  

Until then, I will say thank you to a great man who served his family, his country and his God well.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chuck Norris Bonding Time

My boys are struggling to get along lately.  They seem really impatient with one another.  The constant bickering is WEARING ON MY LAST NERVE!!  So it was kind of nice to hear laughter coming from the bedroom area last night.  I stood quietly outside the door to my youngest son's room so I could eavesdrop.  They were singing this:

Baby, you are Chuck Norris
Show us all your awesome fists
Make the bad guys fly fly fly
Roundhouse kick them to the sky sky sky

Bam Bam Bam
Chuck can swim right through dry land land land
He can shoot down any plane
by pointing and just saying bang

Cause baby he is Chuck Norris
Behind his beard there is a fist
Makes a cyclops cry cry cry
By punching him between the eye

Then the laughter took over.  They were laughing so hard they couldn't sing anymore.  And my heart was instantly lifted.  My sons were bonding. Over Chuck Norris jokes.  Which I find hilarious.  Because I am actually kind of fascinated by the man and the myth that is Chuck Norris (I think it comes from the fact that my Grandma used to make me watch Walker Texas Ranger with her all the time).  


I'm not obsessed with the guy, mind you.  I just think he's one interesting and bad ass dude.  I have on occasion talked about my affinity for Chuck when the boys wondered why I was watching Lone Wolf McQuaid on TV one Saturday afternoon.  My fondness for the Chuckster must have rubbed off on my children.  Glad to know my influence is being felt in this house.  Otherwise I might have had to break out some roundhouse kicks.  For a fat girl, I am very flexible.  

By the way...feel free to use my boys awesome song lyrics next time you sing karaoke to Katy Perry's Fireworks.  It'll be like a musical roundhouse kick to the face of your audience.  You're welcome. 


P.S. - Little known Chuck Norris fact:  Chuck Norris can roundhouse kick you in the head so hard that 30 years from now your descendant will suddenly sustain a concussion while walking down the street. 




Friday, March 15, 2013

Firebird Raceway FINAL EVENT SPECTACULAR Giveaway!!

WINNER UPDATE

Here is the random winner of the giveaway for a family 4 pack, as chosen by random.org:


Congrats Sports Mama!!  Check your email for details on your tickets!  



I have some good news and bad news to share today.  Don't worry, it's not tragic, crying kind of news.  But let's do the bad news first so we can get to the good stuff (trust me, it's really good stuff!). 

I am sad to report that after 30 years of hosting all kinds of car racing events and monster truck shows, Firebird Raceway is going out of business! Raceway officials have chosen not to renew their lease.  There was no word on whether it's an issue with the economy or whether the parties involved could not agree during negotiations. Either way, another source of entertainment in the Valley of the Sun is disappearing.  

So what's the good news?  Firebird Raceway wants to go out with a bang, so they are focusing on making their last events really amazing and affordable!  They have generously offered a $10 discount per ticket to the FINAL (Final, final, final) EVENT (Event, event, event) SPECTACULAR (Spectacular, spectacular, spectacular)!  Did you get that awesome, booming announcer voice echo thing I just did right there?  I know...I'm pretty creative. 




The Final Event Spectacular is an auto enthusiast extravaganza filled with legendary monster trucks like Bigfoot and a 30-ton fire-breathing, transforming T-Rex that eats cars and airplanes - ROBOSAURUS!  The event will also showcase Funny Cars and Jet Dragsters speeding down the raceway at 300 miles per hour.  Kids will love the Kids Zone, which will be full of interactive games and inflatables to keep them busy. This event has something for the entire family!  My husband took the boys a few years ago to one of these show and they had the BEST.TIME. EVER!  Robosaurus was a huge hit, the funny cars and dragsters made a big impression as well.  They talked about the show for days!  




Just follow these instructions to get the discount: 
  • Step 1: Select your tickets through this link, you may choose either pit side or spectator side, general admission or reserved. 
  •  Step 2: Click "Apply Discount" to your tickets in your shopping cart and enter "MOMMYSAURUS" in the discount box Step 3: Select "$10 off Ticket" from the drop down menu and click "change discount". 
Remember to apply the discount for EACH of your Adult tickets!

Want more good news? Win a Family 4 Pack to the Final Event Spectacular at Firebird Raceway!!  Since the show is just a few weeks away, this will be a fast contest, so I have time to get the winner's info to the event coordinator so you can get your tickets!

Here are the contest details:

Leave a comment below telling me what you think your favorite part of the show will be: Monster Trucks, Robosaurus or Race Cars.  Winner will be chosen at random.  Contest is open to Phoenix Metro Valley residents only (and surrounding cities) and will end on Saturday March 23rd at 12 midnight MST. 

For extra entries you can:
  • Follow I Am Boymom on this BlogTwitter and Facebook
  • Tweet about the giveaway
  • Share this post on Facebook
Be sure to leave a separate comment for each item you do so I can give you an entry credit for each effort you make!  Good luck and thanks for stopping by!