Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mom Bloggers and Product Endorsements

I’ve read several articles and commentaries lately on whether it’s ethical for mom bloggers to receive payment for product endorsements. There are a couple of ways to look at this issue.

From the Reader’s Point of View

Of course, a blogger’s review of a product is more likely to be positive if she’s getting compensated to write it. She’s not going to write negative things about a product or service if the company is paying her to promote it. Therefore, is a blogger’s review really an accurate reflection of how she feels about a product? Or is it more of a reflection on how much she’s getting paid?

From the Blogger’s Point of View

A mom blogger often functions as a copywriter, who just happens to work from home. If a company is going to pay a “professional” to write positive things about their products, why should a blogger not be compensated when she’s working just as hard to get the news out? Her time is just as valuable as that of someone working for an ad agency or PR firm. Mom bloggers spend an enormous amount of time writing and posting articles, and very few of them make a decent living from it. They’re helping companies by spreading the word about their products. And they’re helping consumers to make informed choices by recommending products that will benefit or entertain them.

The bottom line, for me, is that I see all sides of the issue. I’m both a mom blogger and a reader of blogs, a promoter and a consumer. I may be skeptical if I know a blogger is getting paid, and yet I understand why it’s desirable to accept compensation for work. And I do think that most mom bloggers are very ethical and are not going to accept money to promote something they think is terrible or dangerous. With that noted, however, here’s my policy so you’ll know that my reviews are impartial and honest.

I accept product samples because that’s the only way I can evaluate something. I’m not going to recommend a book or a toy or a bike helmet or a brand of soap unless I’ve been given the opportunity to try it out. And if I’m not pleased with the product, I won’t write about it. PERIOD. Occasionally, a company will offer me a small gift card in exchange for my time in evaluating a product and writing about it. If that's the case, I will disclose it on the review. If I try a product and don't like it, I'll turn down the review and the compensation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Freakatars! A Fun and Freaky Web Site for Kids


My five-year-old twins and I recently visited the Freakatars web site, a place where kids can create their own monster-like creatures! They had great fun going through the thousands of creepy body part choices to create a Freakatar from their own imagination. They picked various bodies, heads, arms, feet, noses, eyes, ears, and even tails and wings! They rotated and flipped the body parts and made them different sizes. Two of their final creations are posted on this page.

Once a child builds a Freakatar, it gets saved into his or her own Freakatars gallery. The creature is given a birthday (the date it’s made) and a name (created by the child from a collection of pre-selected names). The more Freakatars a child builds, the bigger his or her collection! Freakatars can also be printed out in color and cut into collector’s cards.

When kids invite their friends to join the site, they earn “Freakies,” which is currency that can be used to buy food (such as slime and smelly socks) to feed to their creatures. There’s also a “Break the Bank” game that can be played daily to earn more Freakies. Kids can view other children’s creations in the Freakatars community and rate them or select their favorites.

The Freakatars site is safe for children. Members under the age of 13 are only asked for their birthday according to COPPA guidelines. Members select a username and a password, and provide a parent’s email address so they’ll know an account has been created by their child.

The Freakatars site is currently in beta, so everything’s free for now. More features, services and merchandise will be added in the future. If you’re looking for something fun to do on a rainy day, log on to www.freakatars.com with your kids to help them create their own fun or freaky monster!




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Monday, April 27, 2009

I Love the Music of Sunflow!


When Nancy Falkow of the singing duo Sunflow asked me to listen to some of their music, she told me that it was “lullaby-esque.” Frankly, I was prepared to snooze. After all, aren’t lullabies designed to put kids to sleep? And while their songs often have a “sleep theme” with titles like “Dreamboat,” “Now Sleep” and “Goodnight,” their music is anything but dull. In fact, it’s downright gorgeous! Nancy’s voice is absolutely beautiful, and the songs performed by she and her singing partner Fran King are more like folk songs than lullabies. Think Carole King or Sheryl Crow. I liked them so much that I’m going to put them on my own MP3 player! But don’t just take my word for it. Click on the links below to hear some of Sunflow’s music on YouTube:

I Wish You Love - http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=zbhQWP9AZzs
Dreamboat - http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=f-ir0qusdXU
Goodnight - http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=KLlADSyE6u0
Now Sleep - http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=FCoiwfR7w-M

You can also hear Sunflow’s songs and learn more about them on their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/sunflowmusic. Nancy Falkow is American and had already recorded several CDs as a solo artist when she happened to meet Fran King (also an established recording artist) at a Dublin train station. (Fran is a guy, by the way.) Both were new parents and decided to collaborate on an album of music that would charm both children and adults. The result is Under the Stars, published by Head Space Records.

I really love this music, and I know that you and your kids will, too. Go to www.ItsAboutMusic.com/sunflow.html to order the CD or download it. It’s always exciting to discover new music that warms the heart and gets the fingers tapping. Sunflow is now one of my favorite groups. Please check them out!





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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Back 2 Bollywood: A Fun and Fabulous Workout Based on Indian Dance


I’m one of those people who hates to work out. It’s boring! But, even though my weight is under control, I know I’m out of shape. I gasp for breath just running to answer the phone! So anytime I find a product that makes exercise fun, I get excited. The Back 2 Bollywood DVD by Sarina Jain is one of those products!

Indian culture and dance are “hot” right now thanks to the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. And Indian fitness expert Sarina Jain has developed an exercise routine called the Masala Bhangra Workout that will, as Redbook magazine recently pointed out, “get you grooving like the stars of Slumdog Millionaire.” “Masala” means “spicy” in Hindi, and “Bhangra” is a traditional folk dance from the northern state of Punjab, India. And when I started doing this routine, I could see why it is called “spicy”! It’s definitely NOT your typical exercise video. It’s an amazing dance routine that will get your blood pumping and every part of your body moving.

But not only is this workout fun, it’s effective. Sarina Jain has been in the fitness industry for the past eighteen years, and she is known as the Jane Fonda of fitness in India. She decided to devote her life to helping people get healthy after losing her father to a heart attack when she was young. Since then, she has helped thousands of people worldwide lose weight and get in better shape. She has a one-hour show on Discovery Channel’s Fit TV and a show on Exercise TV. The Masala Bhangra Workout is certified by American fitness boards, including the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Celebrity model Paulina Porizkova keeps her gorgeous body fit by attending Sarina’s classes!

The Back 2 Bollywood DVD will definitely “spice” up your exercise routine. And Sarina has several other DVDs available, including one for kids! You can order them on her website at www.masaladance.com or through Barnes and Noble. Whether you’re bored with your current exercise routine, have quit altogether, or have never worked out before, give the Masala Bhangra Workout a try. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or middle-aged, fit or out of shape -- you can do it!



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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Terrasoles: Comfortable and Stylish Shoes for Active Adults


I am a comfortable shoe fanatic. I refuse to wear shoes that give me blisters or aren’t comfortable on my feet just to be fashionable. On the other hand, I hate to sacrifice style just to be comfortable. That’s why I love my two pairs of Terrasoles shoes. They look great, and they feel even better!

Terrasoles are what the company likes to call “post-performance” or “transition” shoes. You can put them on after you’ve done your exercise and want to get out of your athletic shoes to take the kids to school or run errands. Or you can just wear them anytime that you know you’ll be on your feet and want them to be pampered. This “feel good footwear” is available for men and women. For women, styles range from ballet flats to slippers, from sandals to yoga shoes. And they’re available in a wide range of beautiful colors.

If being “green” is important to you, you’ll be happy to know that Terrasoles utilize environmentally friendly elements whenever they can. Their packaging is made from recycled material and printed with soy inks, and they also use a high-quality fleece made from recycled materials in some of their travel and cold weather styles.

And Terrasoles are super affordable, with prices ranging from $30 to $60. They’re sold at department stores, as well as independent shoe and specialty shops nationwide. They’re also available through many catalogs and E-tailers. Go to their website at http://www.terrasoles.com/ to purchase Terrasoles or locate a retailer near you. If you order online, you’ll get $5 flat rate shipping within the United States, along with free returns and exchanges. Spend $70 or more, and your shipping is free!

I love my Terrasoles, and I know you will, too. You’ll get tons of compliments on your beautiful shoes, and your happy feet will thank you!




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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dr. Seuss and The Lorax: An Early Conservation Message


The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and that event has grown into a whole week dedicated to issues related to the Earth’s conservation. I’ve always found it interesting that Dr. Seuss (real name: Theodor Seuss Geisel), better known for books like The Cat in the Hat and Hop on Pop, was an early environmentalist. In fact, he sparked great controversy, particularly in the logging industry, when he published his book, The Lorax, in 1971.

The Lorax tells the story of a beautiful place filled with bright-colored Truffula Trees! Then someone known only as the “Once-ler” gets the idea to begin making garments called “Thneeds” from the “softer than silk” tufts of the Truffula Trees. So he starts to chop down trees. Then, out of the stump of one of the chopped-down trees, arises a funny-looking creature! He tells the Once-ler, “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” He predicts that no one will buy the Thneeds, but when someone comes up and buys the first one, the Once-ler kicks into high gear to build a whole factory devoted to making Thneeds out of Truffula Trees. As he chops down trees week after week, the Lorax keeps reappearing to tell him of the damage he is doing. For instance, the Brown Bar-ba-loots (little bearlike creatures) have to leave the area because Truffula Fruits from Truffula Trees are getting scarce, and they can no longer play in the shade of the trees. Meanwhile, the Once-ler is making lots of money and continues to expand his business. The Lorax complains about the smoke from the factory and how it’s choking the “Swomee-Swans,” who can no longer sing. They leave, too. The Lorax also points out the dangers of industrial waste (which he calls “leftover goo”) that is being dumped into the environment. The Humming-Fish can no longer swim in the pond! But his pleas fall on deaf ears. Finally, of course, Thneed-making can’t go on forever as the Truffula Trees eventually disappear since they were never replaced. The factory closes down and the Lorax goes away, too, leaving behind only a small pile of rocks with the word “UNLESS” on it. The Once-ler finally figures out what it means. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” He now encourages anyone who will listen to his story to plant Truffula Seeds and try to grow a new forest so that “the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”

The Lorax is a terrific story that will spark discussions with kids about environmental issues and conservation. Video and DVD versions of the animated musical television special of The Lorax, which first aired in 1972, are also available. The Lorax’s Save the Trees Game can be played by kids online at http://www.seussville.com/games/lorax/.

The lessons of The Lorax are timeless. During Earth Week, discuss the Earth’s problems and future with your children, and brainstorm on ways in which your family can have less of a negative impact on the environment and conserve resources.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Win a Free Professional Music Lesson from TakeLessons.com!


Do you ever watch American Idol and wish you could sing like some of the finalists on the show? Have you ever had the urge to learn to play an instrument but just never had the opportunity? Do you want your children to reap the benefits of music lessons? Studies have shown that studying voice or an instrument can help kids to improve their memorization and small motor skills, as well as their self-confidence! This can spill over into other areas of their life, such as school and sports. Kids who are involved in music are less likely to drop out of school and do better in math, science and reading. And you don’t have to be a musical prodigy to experience these benefits. You just need to have a love for music and a desire to make it part of your life!

A 2006 US Gallup poll found that:

• More than half of U.S. households (52%) has at least one person, age 5 or older, who currently plays a musical instrument
• 85% of Americans believe that music is a very important part of their life
• 82% of Americans wish they had learned to play a musical instrument, and 67% expressed an interest in learning to play
• 94% of respondents believe music is part of a well-rounded education, and that schools should offer instrument music instruction as part of the regular curriculum
• 85% believe participation in school music corresponds with better grades and higher test scores

So, how do you find a qualified and affordable music instructor for you or your child? The best place to start is with TakeLessons.com. They are the leading online source for finding local private music and voice lessons. They operate in more than 400 US cities and have hundreds of qualified instructors. Lessons are affordable and cater to all ages, experience levels, and interests. They include singing, guitar, piano, drums, violin and more. Each lesson is taught by certified instructors in the comfort of your home or in the teachers’ private studios.

Best of all, you can feel comfortable knowing that TakeLessons Certified Instructors have gone through a rigorous screening process. In fact, less than 15% of teachers who apply actually become certified as a TakeLessons instructor. TakeLessons’ founder and CEO, Steven Cox, has developed a short checklist to help people identify safe and trustworthy music and voice instructors. When looking for a teacher, the candidate should:

1. Have passed a criminal background check
2. Have positive feedback from other students
3. Have earned a degree in music, have several years of experience in music, or working on a degree
4. Be a good listener; i.e., be more focused on you, and less on themselves
5. Be clear on what is expected of you each week, hold you accountable for practicing and continued growth, and provide you with timely and specific feedback
6. Use technology to help keep track of lessons and monitor your growth
7. Offer the option for you to perform at a local concert or recital
8. Help you get excited about learning and staying involved with lessons

All of TakeLessons’ instructors meet the above criteria. I went to TakeLessons.com and searched for a piano and guitar teacher in my area. To my delight, I found an instructor who teaches both piano and guitar, and is located less than a mile from my house! (You can also find an instructor by calling 877-231-8505.)

So, now’s your chance to win a free music lesson from TakeLessons.com! Here’s how to enter:

Go to www.TakeLessons.com and do a search to find an instructor in your area. (I encourage you to look around the site to learn more about how the service works and all of its benefits.) If you find an instructor within driving range of your home, come back here and leave a comment telling what kind of lessons you’d like to take!

For optional additional entries:

- Join the TakeLessons fan page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/TakeLessonscom/30927591933. (Note: You must be a member of Facebook.) Click on “Become a Fan” and then leave a comment here about it.

- Follow TakeLessons on Twitter at http://twitter.com/take_lessons and tweet about this giveaway. Leave a comment with the URL of your tweet.

- Blog about this giveaway with a link to this page and www.TakeLessons.com. Leave a comment with a direct URL to the post.

- Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog or website. (Code is in the upper right-hand corner of this page.) Leave a comment with your URL.

- Subscribe to this blog via email, RSS Feed or as a Blogger Follower. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

Two winners (yes, two!) will be randomly selected from the qualified entries received by midnight on Sunday, May 3, 2009. Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 72 hours. This is a fantastic opportunity to receive a free music lesson from a highly qualified instructor. Who knows … it could be the start of a fabulous music career or a spot on American Idol!



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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Review and Giveaway: “Be Empowered! Eat Chocolate with Breakfast”


When Jan Bethancourt’s daughter, Sarah, went off to college, Jan struggled to find ways to encourage and comfort her daughter, who was dealing not only with the challenges of college life, but also with a degenerative disc disease. Then Jan remembered how her mother never let her eat her chocolate Easter bunny until after breakfast. When Jan got older, she realized that her mother was right, of course. One should never have chocolate before breakfast, but having chocolate with breakfast could be … empowering! Soon, Jan was developing all kinds of sayings for her daughter that emphasized starting each day with metaphorical chocolate (attitude, courage, confidence, and compassion) to empower her to achieve great things. Soon, Jan had written a whole book -- Be Empowered! Eat Chocolate with Breakfast -- filled with her chocolate wisdom, as well as her beautiful watercolor artwork. For more than two years, Jan has also been speaking to women’s groups on the benefits of “chocolate with breakfast,” which can encourage women of all ages. Here are some of my favorite pieces of “chocolate wisdom”:

• An occasional “pity party” is okay, as long as you invite lots of friends and have plenty of chocolate.
• When the red wash accidentally gets tossed in with the whites, decide pink is your new favorite color. Accessorize accordingly!
• “What if?” won’t change your past. “What now?” will shape your future.
• Change is inevitable. Accept the old and embrace the new. Blend the two and that is you.
• Shout your dreams to the heavens, then work like hell to make them come true!
• Smile at the girl in the mirror; she is your closest friend.
• The smile you give someone may be the only one they get all day. Give generously!
• Give others a chance to succeed before you correct the mistakes they may not make.

Visit Jan Bethancourt’s website at http://janbethdesigns.com/ to learn more about this lovely book and order, as well as to schedule Jan as a speaker at your next event.

Would you like to win a copy of Be Empowered! Eat Chocolate with Breakfast? This beautiful and inspirational book would make a great gift for an upcoming graduate or a deserving mother for Mother’s Day! To enter, just leave a comment below with your favorite motivational saying … something that really empowers you!

For optional additional entries:

- Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. (The code is in the upper right-hand column of this site.) Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

- Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

- Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

One winner will be selected from the qualified entries received by midnight on Thursday, April 30, 2009.

CONTEST CLOSED.
Congratulations to liane66, who won a copy of Be Empowered!



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Friday, April 17, 2009

A Mother’s Day Gift You Can Give Yourself: The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal


In honor of Mother’s Day, author Renée Trudeau, a nationally recognized career and life balance coach, is giving away free electronic copies of her book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. I haven’t read Renée’s book yet, but I could definitely use some ideas for how to renew, reclaim, rejuvenate and rebalance my own life! And, if you’re a mother, I’m betting that you could use some help, too.

Renée wrote this book as a result of what she learned in conducting women’s self-renewal circles—called Personal Renewal Groups—for five years after the birth of her son Jonah in 2002. Bestselling author Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., says of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: “Of all the books on balance, this is the very best one. Practical, clear and true, it invites you to engage deeply with your own experience. Only then can the superb guidance that Renée provides find its way out of your mind and into your life.”

So, why not give yourself a Mother’s Day gift you’ll really enjoy? Go to http://www.reneetrudeau.com/contact/mothersday.html to sign up for your free copy of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life, and it will show up in your email box on Mother’s Day weekend (between May 8th-May 10th). This offer won’t be available after that date, so sign up now so you won’t forget and miss out. Or email the book to a mom in your life who could use a shot of self-renewal! You can also visit Renée’s blog, The Journey, at http://www.mothersguide.blogspot.com/. I can't wait to read this book!



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Thursday, April 16, 2009

25 Simple Mantras for Every Parent to Remember

In their e-newsletter, Children’s Writing Update, Children’s Book Insider recently reprinted an article written by Kathryn Vercillo on her blog, Real Words from a Real Writer entitled “25 Simple Mantras for Every Writer to Remember.” It was a terrific list of 25 simple mantras that can inspire writers to keep writing when the going gets tough. This wonderful post inspired me to write the following list of mantras for parents to inspire you when you’re having a tough day in raising kids.

1. My children are a gift, and I am blessed to have them.
2. I deserve time to myself to refresh and rejuvenate.
3. Whatever I accomplish today is good.
4. If my children know they’re loved, I’m doing well.
5. Perfection is overrated.
6. It’s okay to make mistakes.
7. My needs are important, too.
8. I am not in competition for the “Best Parent Award.”
9. Giving my time is more important for my kids than giving them things.
10. Making rules and enforcing them help my children feel secure.
11. I have good instincts on what is best for my child.
12. My kids don’t need to be overscheduled; unstructured playtime is healthy.
13. I will relish the simple moments with my kids.
14. Hugs and kisses can heal a lot of ailments.
15. I don’t have to raise my kids the same way my parents did.
16. I am not a martyr. It’s okay to ask for help.
17. When my kids are grown, I’ll miss the toys on the floor.
18. My children’s faults (stubbornness, etc.) may be assets one day.
19. It’s okay to say “no” when someone asks me to do something.
20. Fresh air is good for everyone.
21. I won’t feel guilty about taking a nap.
22. The next time I’m at the store, I’ll buy something for me, not the kids.
23. I will love myself just as much as I love my kids.
24. I will praise my child for what he does right.
25. I am a terrific parent!

As Kathryn reminds us, “The world is tough enough; don’t make it harder by being unkind to yourself.” When you’re having a difficult parenting day, rather than beating yourself up, read through the mantras above. Find one that resonates with you, or let them inspire you to write your own. Better yet, keep a list of mantras that you can refer to over and over again when needed. Mantras are a powerful and effective way to get you over the potholes of parenting and back on a steady course.



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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bad Parenting Confessions

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the trend for parents to admit to acts of “imperfect parenting” on their blogs or websites. For instance, the article said, one mom admitted to giving her daughter Benadryl just to get her to sleep. Another mom used paper towels and tape on her child when she ran out of diapers because she didn’t feel like going to the store.

I really have mixed emotions about this propensity to “tell all.” On the pro side, none of us are perfect, so why not admit it? Most parents have let their kids consume too much candy, skipped giving them a bath or popped a pacifier that had fallen on the floor back into their baby’s mouth. Knowing that other parents do the same things helps us to feel better about our own “bad parenting.”

There’s also the relief we feel in confessing that we’re not perfect. It’s very hard to keep up the act that we’re always patient, remarkable cooks and housekeepers, and are raising the best-behaved children. It takes the pressure off when we admit that we’re just a regular, normal family with the usual crises, fights and meltdowns.

On the other hand, this “confess all” trend disturbs me. For one, the Internet is permanent. Whatever gets posted will be there forever. So, whatever we feel “in the moment” looks like how we feel all the time. For example, I certainly have moments when I wish I could run away and live a life free of responsibilities! Of course, I have these thoughts when the kids are being especially monstrous and I’ve reached the end of my rope. However, an hour later, things have calmed down, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to be apart from my children. But if I had posted my thoughts in the heat of a tense moment, it would have come across as my permanent state of mind instead of just a passing fancy.

Another negative of confessing to our “bad parenting” moments is that our kids will Google us when they get older. Do you really want your daughter to know that you read her diary? Or that you listen in on your son’s telephone conversations? And our kids aren’t the only ones who are Googling us. Perhaps you’re applying for a job or a committee position. Will the odds be in your favor if the interviewer reads that you don’t always buckle your child in the car or that you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your bathtub?

I still remember, as a child, overhearing my mother tell her friends on the phone some of the things that I thought had been private between the two of us. As an impressionable preteen, I considered it a serious breach of trust! But, at least with a phone call, it’s spoken to one person and often forgotten. With the Internet, it is broadcast to the world, and it never goes away!

That’s why, while I’m the first to admit that I’m far from a perfect parent, you won’t be getting every detail on this blog. Sure, it would be more interesting to tell you about my teenage boys’ interactions with girls or the moments when I really “lose it” with my twins. I certainly don’t want to give the appearance that I’m a better mom than anyone else. But, with these “true confessions,” it’s not all about me. My children are involved, and I respect their privacy and want their trust. By respecting my children, they’re more likely to respect me later. And that’s more important to me as a mother than airing my dirty laundry. What do you think?



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Monday, April 13, 2009

Ecostore USA: Eco-Friendly Products with No Nasty Chemicals! (Giveaway)


April is Earth Month, and what better way to celebrate than to get rid of all those products in your house that contain nasty chemicals and replace them with products from Ecostore USA. All of their products are made from plant- and mineral-based ingredients, and are free of toxic chemicals. Their products bring people closer to nature with environmentally safe solutions that also help to reduce our carbon footprint. Some people think that eco-friendly products are much more expensive, but Ecostore USA has figured out how to “super-concentrate” their formulations so that a little bit of product goes a long way, which helps to save you money. Best of all, Ecostore USA has a large product line so you can replace many of your harmful products right now. They include:

Baby Care: Body Wash, Massage Oil, Moisturizer, Nappy Balm, Shampoo, Sleepytime Bath, and Soap

Soaps: Coconut, Lemongrass, Vanilla, Baby, and Manuka Honey & Kelp

Shampoos and Conditioners: Aloe Vera, Vanilla, Manuka Sandalwood, Rosemary Orange

Household: Auto Dish Powder, Citrus Spray Cleaner, Cream Cleanser, Dishwash Liquid, Laundry Powder (Regular and Front Loader), Laundry Liquid, Rinse Aid (Regular and Lemon), Pure Oxygen Whitener, Toilet Cleaner, Wool Wash

Pet Care: Ear Wash, Herbal Fresh Shampoo, Hypoallergenic Shampoo, Leave-In Conditioner


I tested out the Spray Cleaner, the Toilet Cleaner and the Vanilla Soap, and found all of them to be terrific! The Spray Cleaner is citrus-based and naturally antibacterial. It has a nice fruity smell, instead of the bleachy smell you get with most traditional cleaning products. Best of all, it works great and cleaned up every mess I tried it on! The Toilet Cleaner, which is plant-based, also cleaned beautifully. You can even use it to clean stainless steel! And the Vanilla Soap not only smelled good, but it didn’t irritate our family’s sensitive skin.

I strongly encourage you to head over to www.ecostoreusa.com and try out some of their products. In honor of Earth Month, they are offering free shipping when you spend only $25 or more. This is a great time to order some of their products and give them a trial run in your home.

If you live in the Midwest near a Meijer store, you can also find Ecostore USA products in all 189 stores. Co-founder Malcolm Rands is doing an “Ecoman Tour” during the month of April and will be available at the following Meijer stores to answer any questions about eco-friendly products. The first 25 people who ask him a question at each store get an organic Ecostore t-shirt! There’s also entertainment for the kids.

Tour dates:

4/13/09: Chicago – McHenry (5-7 PM)
4/18/09: Detroit – Wixon (5-7 PM)
4/20/09: Fort Wayne – Illinois Road (5-7 PM)
4/21/09: Indianapolis – Carmel (5-7 PM)
4/22/09: Cincinnati – Harrison Road (4-6 PM)
4/23/09: Grand Rapids – Cascade (2-4 PM)

Finally, Ecostore USA is offering one lucky reader of this blog a $25 gift certificate to spend on Ecostore USA products at www.ecostoreusa.com. To enter, visit their website and leave a comment here with the names of the products on which you would spend your gift certificate.

For optional additional entries:

- Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. (The code is in the upper right-hand column of this site.) Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

- Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

- Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

One winner will be selected from the qualified entries received on Friday, April 24, 2009. Celebrate Earth Month now by treating your family to some eco-friendly Ecostore USA products!

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to Brooke, winner of the Ecostore USA gift certificate!



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Friday, April 10, 2009

Thanks to Pottery Barn Kids and MomTrends for the Dr. Seuss Sheets!


I don’t usually consider myself a lucky person when it comes to contests and raffles. I rarely win anything! So, I was thrilled when I learned that I had won a Dr. Seuss Sheet Set from Pottery Barn Kids on MomTrends!

The sheet set arrived on my doorstep within days, and my son, Caleb, is absolutely enamored with them. He gave them a big hug! The sheets and pillowcase are covered in Dr. Seuss characters, such as Yertle the Turtle, Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Fox in Sox. And I like the fact that they’re made with 100% organic cotton fibers. They’re also prewashed for softness.

If you’d like to get your own set of Dr. Seuss sheets, head over to Pottery Barn Kids. They also carry matching Dr. Seuss quilted bedding, duvet covers, pillow shams and artwork! If you’re redecorating your child’s room, they have everything you need. Or pick up a set of sheets just for a cute addition to your child’s current room. These sheets are a big hit in our house!





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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Book Review: Janey Junkfood’s Fresh Adventure!


A recent study conducted by the National Center on Educational Statistics found that one in five American four-year-olds—more than half a million—is considered obese! Another recent study noted that this could be the first generation of children who actually have a shorter life span than their parents. They’re developing deadlier conditions at a much earlier age, such as diabetes. The culprit? Their diet. The average American child consumes more than 150 pounds of sugar each year. About a third of that comes from soft drinks. Clearly, we need some solutions for getting our kids off the junk food track. However, we also know that simply putting kids on a strict diet just doesn’t work. They’ll get the sweets they crave from their friends and at school. Instead, we need to start educating our children about how to make healthy food choices and develop good eating habits.

Barbara Storper, MS, RD, is an Emmy Award-winning nutritionist and national leader in children’s nutrition who created a nutrition theater and media company called FoodPlay Productions. Her company produces a national touring nutrition show that goes to schools and special events to help children improve their eating and exercise habits through live theater and juggling! One spinoff from this highly effective program is a new book called Janey Junkfood’s Fresh Adventure!

I am so impressed by this book’s creativity! The story is told by “Tobe Fit,” a young girl and self-dubbed “Ace Food Detective,” who tries to figure out why her friend Janey’s juggling act just isn’t going well. It turns out that Janey’s junk food diet is keeping her from having the stamina and energy she needs to excel. Illustrator Frances E. Schneid engages readers with a scrapbook-like format to accompany Tobe and Janey’s adventures. Together, the girls discover why a poor diet is so damaging, which ingredients aren’t healthy, and how to find good foods that taste terrific! This book even includes kid-friendly recipe cards, called Tickets to Fresh Adventures, for dishes like yogurt parfait, salsa sticks, veggie confetti and apple smiles. There’s a pocket in the back of the book to hold the cards, as well as other cards they can download from the Internet at www.foodplaykids.com. (There’s even a video on how to juggle!)

Janey Junkfood’s Fresh Adventure is highly entertaining and engages children in learning without being threatening to them. In focus group testing, parents, nutritionists, educators and children agreed overwhelmingly that Janey Junkfood’s Fresh Adventure made nutrition easily digestible and fun. Whether you’re a parent or grandparent, a teacher or other professional who works with children, I highly recommend this book for the children in your life. It’s more important than ever that we teach our kids to eat right from an early age so they can live long and healthy lives. Visit www.foodplay.com/janeybook/.



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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Give Your Children Music Lessons with Music Ace Deluxe


Numerous studies have shown the benefits of music education for children. Exposure to music can help kids develop critical thinking and learning skills. Students who are exposed to music often perform better academically. Best of all, learning about music is fun and enjoyable if children aren’t stressed out by the methods through which it is taught. Harmonic Vision has come up with a series of software programs that teach kids about rhythm, pitch, reading notes, music theory and more through fun and engaging games and lessons.

My five-year-old twins have been playing Harmonic Vision’s Music Ace Deluxe program, which contains 36 lessons for beginning learners. The lessons are taught by a fun, animated instructor called Maestro Max. My boys have really enjoyed the lessons and tracking their progress. The program can keep track of up to 10 people, so my twins can compete against each other! And I’ve been amazed by how much they’re learning about music. They love to impress me with their knowledge of musical notes.

No matter what instrument your child is interested in, Music Ace lessons are invaluable in giving them the knowledge about music that everyone should know. Music Ace programs are also a great accompaniment to traditional music lessons by reinforcing what kids are learning in a way that’s enjoyable for them! And the programs can be used on either Windows or Macintosh computers. Best of all, they’re much less expensive than music lessons, so if you’re not sure if your child will be interested in music, you can have him or her try the programs first to spark their interest. Then you can think about the music lessons and continue to support them with Music Ace.

I encourage you to visit www.harmonicvision.com to learn more about the award-winning Music Ace programs. You’ll find out why they’ve become the most popular music education programs in schools throughout the US and Canada. You can also order the programs through their site, Amazon and other online retailers.



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Monday, April 06, 2009

Prepare Your Heart and Be a Great Mom (Book Review)


Mother’s Day is coming up soon (hint, hint … it’s May 10th!), so it’s time to start thinking about what to get Mom for the big day. Besides breakfast in bed, some flowers and chocolate, consider picking up a copy of the book, Prepare Your Heart and Be a Great Mom, by Maria Rodgers O’Rourke. This beautiful journal/devotional book helps mothers get recharged, take time to reflect and, of course, be a great mom!

Prepare Your Heart and Be a Great Mom is a gift-sized hardcover book with a ribbon bookmark. Each day of this four-week journal starts out with a Bible verse and a story or words of wisdom from the author, Maria Rodgers O’Rourke, a popular speaker and columnist with more than 20 years of experience in communications as a writer, facilitator and radio host. She is currently president of MRO Communications, a marketing communications firm, and she and her husband of 15 years have two daughters.

Following Maria’s words, moms can journal on what they are grateful for, their intentions for the day, and their to-do list. At the end of each week is a “mini-retreat,” where readers are guided to reflect on a series of questions. Additional journal pages are also available at the end of the book.

Prepare Your Heart and Be a Great Mom will inspire your mom (or any mom you know) to be her best and take time to reflect on her blessings. Please visit www.GreatMomBook.com for more information and to order.



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