Category Archives: Product Reviews

ID Bracelet Giveaway

CONTEST CLOSED. “Kel” (Comment #4) was the winner. Waiting for her contact information to send out her prize. Wish I had one to give to all of you! Thanks for entering.

We recently purchased a MY-MED ID bracelet for Jenna. It’s similar to the one shown above and features a USB storage device enclosed in water resistant silicone. The storage device includes already installed software that allows you to simply fill in the blanks with important information for your child. Programming the information was as easy as plugging in the USB device and filling in the blanks!

Before we ordered Jenna’s, I accidentally ordered the MY-ID bracelet (the one pictured above). It’s the same idea, but doesn’t include as many pre-programmed spaces for medical information. This is good news for you, because you get to benefit from my mistake! That’s right! I’m giving away the above pictured MY-ID bracelet to one lucky reader!

I think these bracelets are priceless for kiddos who are prone to wander, especially if they’re non-verbal. I can even see advantages for “typical” kids when visiting theme parks, festivals, malls, or other places where there might be a higher likelihood of being separated. Even though the MY-ID bracelet doesn’t include multiple spaces specifically for medical information, there’s a “Notes” section where medical conditions or medications could be included. From the MY-BANDS website:

“Each band comes with instructions for loading numerous emergency contacts onto the USB device, so emergency personnel have easy access to this critical information so they can reunite you with your child. There is also enough space to upload a current photo and scanned fingerprint.

MY-ID is unique as it holds the emergency contact information of whom to call when a child is lost, or missing, NOT the childs name and personal information.”

Jenna usually doesn’t like wearing jewelry of any kind, but this band is light and comfortable and she never complains. In fact, she loves wearing it, and frequently prompts me to remember that she needs to put it on!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment! Simple as that! Make sure you include an email address so we can contact you if you win.

Contest details:

  • Only 1 entry per person
  • Winner will be selected at random using a random number generator
  • Contest ends at midnight on August 5
  • A winner will be selected and announced on August 6 during the chat/blog hop for BlogHer at Home
  • Winner will be contacted via email

For more fabulous prizes and fun over the next week, be sure to check out the BlogHer at Home website!

Disclaimer: I didn’t receive any payment or products for writing this post. The opinions expressed here are completely my own.


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Green Art, Office & School Supplies

I recently had the opportunity to review art supplies from O’Bon. O’Bon carries a variety of eco-friendly art, office and school supplies, and when they asked me what I’d like to review, I decided on the colored pencils pictured above since Jenna loves art so much. They generously included the notebook pictured above as well. That photo doesn’t do it justice, either, because those kiwis look incredibly like the real thing when you see the notebook in person.

At O’Bon’s website they explain their goals:

“To give the consumer a a better choice. A selection of products that look better than what you find on any shelf. A collection of lines that are environmentally-friendly so you can make this world a better place through purchasing for your needs. A standard of quality that is top-notch and ideally suited for your high expectations.”

I have to say that I was immediately impressed with the quality of the products we received. The paper in the notebook contains bright white pages made from white sugarcane paper, that comes from recycled sugarcane pulp. It doesn’t look at all like the typical brown textured look of the recycled paper I’m used to. With a touch of humor, the back of the journal states: Trans fats (0%), Cholesterol (0%), Carbohydrates (0%), Rainforest fiber (0%). Hehe! The cover is recycled cardstock that is printed with soy inks, and, as I mentioned, the colors are absolutely vibrant.

The pencils are made from recycled newspapers that they claim last 2-3 times longer than standard wood pencils. They’re non-toxic and well protected so the colored wax core doesn’t break as easily, and they sharpen easily. We received the Wildlife Series set, that includes 12 colored pencils printed with animal patterns. Jenna was fascinated by this feature, and we even talked a little bit about each animal represented. The set includes: Turtle (light green), Zebra (black), Parrot (red), Alligator (dark green), Leopard (yellow), Tiger (orange), Snake (light brown), Bear (dark brown), Kingfisher (dark blue), Starfish (pink), Hummingbird (light blue), Marine Fish (purple). Jenna’s favorites were Kingfisher Blue and Tiger Orange. The pencils were smooth to write and color with and Jenna didn’t have any trouble sharpening them. Here’s a photo journal or our test session:


“Wow! Look at that! It worked!” She was fascinated by the newspaper print that you could see once you sharpened them.


Kingfisher Blue in motion! (Psssst! Check out that pincher grip! We’re working on it….)

All in all, we were thrilled with the products and their quality, and I’m pretty happy about their reasonable pricing and the fact that they plant a tree with every purchase! Besides the products we reviewed here, O’Bon also carries art (graphite) pencils, pocket journals, binders, folders, and “regular” pencils. Perfect for keeping the kiddos on summer vacation occupied and marvelous for stocking up for back-to-school in the fall, which will be here again before you know it!

This was not a paid review. I was sent the notebook and the pencils at no charge to review & keep, but the opinions expressed are honest & solely my own.


Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Going Green, Jenna, Product Reviews


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Choosing a Booster Seat for the Car

Like many parents, we did a lot of research before we purchased a booster seat. We narrowed our choices down to the Britax Frontier 85, and the Clek Oobr largely based on safety ratings and the fact that we wanted a booster with a back and headrest. We realized that this would be significantly more costly, but given the fact that Jenna will probably be in one for the next 3-5 years (depending on her growth) we felt like the seat would be “safety insurance,” and the assurance of safety is key and basically priceless.

We decided to go look at both models and have Jenna sit in them to make our final decision, only to learn that (where we live) neither model is available in stores. Both were listed as “online purchase only” everywhere we looked. So, we decided to order both from Amazon and return the one that didn’t work. We ended up choosing the Britax (pictured above), but I always love hearing pros and cons from people who’ve actually compared products, so I thought I’d share our thoughts & observations.

* Even if you have no interest in either of these seats, please take a moment to review the safety ratings for all booster seats here and the basic information for fitting a booster seat (if you haven’t already)!*

Pros For Both:

  • Excellent safety rating
  • Very easy to install via the LATCH system
  • Easy to adjust headrest
  • Easy to thread seat belt guides (the Britax uses the car’s belt when shoulder height excedes 20″)
  • Rated for use to 100 lbs (Clek) & 120 lbs (Britax)
  • Arm Rests
  • Cup Holder (2 built in for Britax – 1 clipped on for Clek)
  • Excellent padding on sides of headrest for side impact protection

Pros Specific to Clek (pictured directly above):

  • Super-clear instruction manual. Very easy to read with great illustrations. Well done, Clek!
  • Easy to remove fabric covers
  • Contemporary look (according to Jenna: it looks grownup instead of like a “baby” carseat)
  • Option to recline seat (easily) for more comfortable sleeping/riding
  • Storage compartment for instructions built-in *under the seat* BRILLIANT, Clek!
  • More fun/funky fabrics to choose from, including this & this from Paul Frank
  • Some might consider it a “pro” that the back can be removed to create a standard booster (we didn’t because no side impact protection for the head)

Clek Cons:

  • Not as much seat padding as the Britax Frontier (or maybe just firmer? It didn’t feel as cushioned)
  • Clip-on cup holder
  • No 5-point harness
  • Within 2 minutes of sitting in the car with the seat belt fastened, Jenna slid her arm our of the shoulder strap. Without a doubt, this would be a common occurrence & an ongoing battle w/her. No shoulder belt = SERIOUSLY decreased safety (obviously)

Granted, the shoulder belt escape move is somewhat of a “discipline” issue, but it won’t be accomplished overnight, and as easy as it was for her to slide out of it, I have to wonder if it would sometimes happen accidentally. (Jenna’s  44″ and 43 lbs, for the record) Regardless of whether the action would be purposeful or accidental, it’s one more thing to worry about, and when it’s just one of us driving in the car with her, it would be difficult to constantly monitor.

The 5-pt harness on the Britax Frontier was the main selling point for us. For a comparable price, it seemed like a fairly large safety difference. Even though it means a little more time for fastening, we feel like it’s worth it for the safety factor. Not only does the 5-pt harness keep her secure and avoid the shoulder-escape-maneuver, it also prevents “submarining,” which is common in safety tests with standard boosters (when the child slides out of the shoulder belt and under the lap harness).

Jenna declared that SHE liked the Britax better because the 5-pt harness felt more comfortable (she said the shoulder belt felt tight and rubbed her “funny” with the Clek), it was more “cushy,” and it had two cup holders (versus only one on the Clek). She apparently has plans to hold snacks or toys in the second holder. 🙂

The Britax featured all of the same “pros” as the Clek, with the exceptions of:

  • A more complicated instruction manual, even though installation and adjustments are just as simple
  • More complicated removal of covers for washing (although I’ve done it w/a Britax carseat & it’s doable)
  • No option to recline the seat
  • The arm rests don’t seem as long (might be a “pro” when getting in & out, though)

One of the features that drew us to the Clek was the recline feature because we frequently have LONG car trips to grandparents’ and medical specialists. We thought reclining might make it easier and more comfortable for Jenna to sleep. However, the recline feature was simply not enough to win out over the outstanding safety of the 5-pt harness system of the Britax. I also have some questions about whether the safety of the Clek is compromised in any way when placed in the recline position, but I didn’t find any data on this.

Both look to be excellent, well designed/constructed seats with many positive features and excellent safety ratings. In a nutshell, the 5-point harness and excellent safety rating of the Britax wins out for us.

Disclaimer: This is not an ad! I received no compensation for this review, although I gladly will if someone would like to offer it.


Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Jenna, Product Reviews, Travel


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My New Favorite Coffee

Found this coffee at our local co-op and I love it!  It’s a blend of light and dark roasted fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee from Bolivia & Mexico, and, like the label says, it’s rich, smooth and chocolatey.  The artwork on the bag cracks me up.  If you can’t see it, there’s a quote from Mark Twain that says:

Get a bicycle; You will not regret it if you live.

Ha!  The coffee is perfect in my french press (coarse ground) and tastes absolutely heavenly.  If this roast doesn’t sound like your style, you can find many different blends and roasts at the company’s website.

One of the things I love most is the fact that their coffees are not only organic, but also fair trade and shade grown.  That combination isn’t easy to find.  I love the transparency the company offers to see their contracts with the growers, how they work, and where every cent of the dollars you spend actually goes (this part is printed on the bag!).

What fair trade coffee means:

  • It comes from democratically controlled grower cooperatives, not single owner estates
  • Contract information, including price paid to growers, is made available to anyone
  • Growers commit to sustainable agricultural practices and roasters commit to minimizing their impact on the world
  • Growers and roasters commit to long term relationships
  • Growers have a voice in determining the price per pound and this price never drops below a certain level

If you’re not buying this coffee, I encourage you to consider looking for other fair trade, organic coffees.  Just this one choice can make a difference in the world.

Just Coffee is located in Madison, WI.  If you live there, the bag says it’s “bike delivered in Madison.”  I’m not sure if that’s to all local buyers or just stores and cafes, but it’s pretty cool, no matter what.

*Disclaimer: Again, no reimbursement of any kind for this review (although I’m willing to work something out if Just Coffee’s reading…).  Just another one of my favorite things that I wanted to share with you.


Kumon First Steps Workbooks as Therapy

I think I found these workbooks at Target and thought they looked cute and appealing, so I picked them up in the hope that they could help Jenna and maybe keep her occupied on rainy days. Little did I know how much I’d come to love them!

From their website:

The Kumon First Steps series is designed for young children, aged 2 and up, who have never used a workbook before. The colorful and easy exercises in each First Steps workbook provide toddlers with the opportunity to become comfortable with the tools that are essential in every school – scissors, glue, pencils and crayons. These workbooks also teach the motor skills and problem-solving abilities that are a child’s First Steps towards success.

Jenna is four, but due to her cerebral palsy and developmental delays, she still struggles with many fine motor skills.  I have found these workbooks to be excellent at encouraging her to practice and teaching her in the process.

Today, we used the Let’s Cut Paper! workbook, and Jenna was thrilled.  We’re almost finished with this one, and her skills have increased to the point where she’s actually beyond the skill level presented, but it’s still excellent practice.  The book includes instructions for parents that are clear and easy to follow.  The stated goals are:

Develop fine motor skills: Your child will improve finger strength and dexterity.  This will help your child hold and use a pencil correctly, which is an important skill for more advanced learning.

Improve Scissor Control:  The exercises in the book are designed to teach children scissor control skills in order of difficulty.  Cutting by opening and closing scissors once (one stroke), cutting along a line by opening and closing scissors repeatedly, and cutting easily along straight lines, curves and zig zags.

Enhance children’s sense of shape:  As children cut along straight lines and curves or cut out circles and animals, they will associate words such as “straight” and “curved” with the shapes they represent.

The artwork and project ideas are colorful, enchanting and, most of all, engaging and fun.  It’s definitely a good sign that Jenna asks me to get the workbook out so she can practice!  Here’s an example from the artwork inside:

The dark gray lines indicate where to cut, and the white arrows indicate the direction.  Zig zag lines that require a change of scissor direction mark the point to change direction with a white star on the gray line.  Brilliant!

Other workbooks in the series that we’ve tried and love include Let’s Color! and Let’s Sticker & Paste!  I’ve seen all of these at Target, Barnes & Noble and at Amazon online.  Kumon also offers workbooks for older kids to promote additional skills.  I’m sure we’ll be trying those out as well.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or reimbursed in any way for this product review.  This is simply a personal endorsement for a product that we love and have found to work well, in the hope that maybe it can also help others.


Homemade Blenderized Formula for G-Tube

*Update: I just got a call from our dietician from the GI team telling me she reviewed my recipe and Jenna’s stats over the last month and was thoroughly impressed.  She said my nutritional content almost EXACTLY matches what she was getting with Boost 1.5 and that Jenna’s doing great.  I swear the GI team totally thought I wouldn’t be able to do this, that Jenna would lose weight and that we’d be back on formula within a month.  I love surprising them. 🙂

We decided to make a big switch in Jenna’s feeding routine.  We’re moving toward all organic, homemade blenderized feeds instead of pre-packaged formula.  We did NOT make this decision lightly.  I did a ton of reading and researching, and we, of course, talked to our GI specialist and nutritional team.  There is no doubt that this change requires much more time, attention and diligence on my part.  I would have loved to do this long ago, but, quite frankly, I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to manage it well earlier in Jenna’s care.  Her weight issues were very serious, and added to her other medical concerns and requirements, I don’t think I would have had enough time or energy to focus on this as required.  I’m telling you this to make sure that you understand that I’m not in ANY WAY saying that this is what everyone should do.  Every situation is different, and only you and your medical team can determine what’s best for your family and your kiddo at this point in your journey.

Our main reasons for deciding to make the switch were based on health and environmental concerns.  We’re hoping it also equates into some financial savings.  Health wise, we wanted to get away from her pre-packaged formulas that were primarily corn and soy based, due to our concerns with heavy pesticide use and genetically modified crops.  (Watching the movie King Corn served as somewhat of a catalyst here).  Additionally, the health benefits of whole, organic foods over pre-packaged, processed foods are pretty much undisputed.  There are some theories supporting the idea that using whole, “real” foods also encourages eating behavior and helps the child transition from tube feeds to oral.  As the food is prepared, the child smells and sees the food and can even help with the preparation.  As the child digests the whole, blended foods, they burp and experience the tastes and flavors of the foods, increasing curiosity in a variety of foods (a little gross – I know – but that’s the way it is).  We’re willing to give it a try!

Our environmental concerns largely centered on the phenomenal amount of waste we were producing daily with formula boxes and feeding bags.  Once we make a complete switch, we will only require a few 60 mL syringes and extension tubes for bolus feedings and administering medicine.  We’re fairly certain that even with buying all organic ingredients, we’ll see significant cost savings by eliminating these costly supplies.  Formula and feeding bags alone cost approximately $2400/month!!  Eeeep!  Finally, making this switch will enable us to move away from reliance on a feeding pump (and the electricity it uses) and the need to take it with us everywhere along with its backpack.

In preparing for this change, two of the first things I did were to purchase a book called Homemade Blended Formula Handbook (HBFH), and a Vitamix blender (pictured above).  The cookbook is an invaluable resource full of nutritional information/requirements & recipes, and I cannot say enough good things about my Vitamix blender!!  I did a LOT of searching, and that book is the only one like it that I could find out there.  If you know of any others, please let me know!  Our GI specialist didn’t even know of any others available.

Through the Oley Foundation, I learned that special pricing is sometimes available for those requiring a Vitamix blender for medical reasons such as primary feeding.  I contacted Frank at the Vitamix corporation, and he was a joy to work with.  As soon as we provided a doctor”s statement of medical necessity to him, he got the ball rolling.  His service was quick and professional.  We received a significant discount on a refurbished unit that includes a full 7-year warranty and a wonderful book of recipes and usage tips.

Once we were set up for action and our GI team approved our switch, I started putting together a base recipe using existing ideas in the HBFH and organic ingredients that I knew I would have access to.  Here’s the base recipe that I came up with: *

2 cups chicken broth (I use free range/low sodium)

1 cup sprouted quinoa

1 T olive oil



1/2 cup applesauce

4 T almond butter

1/2 cup powdered goat’s milk

1 cup goat’s milk kefir (see link for benefits)

1 T hemp butter (see link for benefits)

1 large egg hard boiled (Again – free range)

1 large banana

1 T Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil (Click here for benefits/why)

1.5 cups water (or more – depending on desired thickness)

Cook quinoa according to package directions with chicken broth (instead of water), olive oil, ginger, and cinnamon.  Ginger aids and soothes the digestive track and decreases inflammation (see the highlighted link for more information).  I use fresh when I have it, and dried/ground if not.  Cinnamon is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium, boosts the immune system, may help decrease inflammation & joint pain, and has antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic and antiseptic properties (see the highlighted link above, or try this one for more information)!!  Wow!  I’m generous with both the ginger and cinnamon- add what you’d like.

While the quinoa is cooking, I add all the other ingredients to the VitaMix.

When the quinoa is done cooking, I simply pour it into the VitaMix with all the other ingredients and blend!  Start to finish, the entire process takes me about 20 minutes.

This recipe yields approximately nine 150mL servings.  Each serving has:

206 calories

11 g fat

7.3 g protein

I find all of the ingredients at our local co-op.  If you don’t have this wonderful luxury, try health food stores or online shopping.  Many of them can probably be found at a standard grocery store.

We flush her extension tube with 30mL water before starting and 30-60mL when finished.  We also supplement with Poly-Vi-Sol and D-Vi-Sol daily, and recently added Miralax to help with bowel regularity.

When I first made this, I used cow’s milk (powdered and whole) and Jenna complained of a tummy ache after every feed.  I switched to goat’s milk and she hasn’t complained since.  If your kiddo tolerates cow’s milk, that would obviously be easier to find.  Now that I’ve determined that Jenna tolerates this formula with no problems, I plan to use it as a “base” and tweak it by adding other ingredients or flavors.  I’ve already tried adding blueberries to the mix, and the possibilities are endless.  I’m thinking spinach, kale, pears, strawberries, beans, broccoli, etc.

You could substitute the water with fortified soy milk, almond milk, etc. to add more calories/protein/fat, but you need to make sure that your child is getting enough additional water throughout the day to meet their hydration requirements.

When we started this switchover process, Jenna was receiving three pump feedings – one in the morning, one during her nap, and one (the largest) overnight.  Our first step was to replace just the morning feeding.  We carefully watched for any signs of discomfort or allergic reaction.  Due the timing of the holiday season when we started, we ended up prolonging this stage for almost a month.  We then switched both of her daytime feedings to homemade, blended foods.  We’ve been doing this for almost two weeks now.  During this process, Jenna maintained her weight with no vomiting.  She hasn’t gained weight yet, but that always takes her some time.  It’s also notable that for two and a half weeks, she had a respiratory virus, and she’s previously always LOST weight when she is sick in any way.  Maintaining her weight throughout her sickness is a wonderful sign.

For the formula feeds that we’re still giving her (now, only overnight), we switched to an organic formula option, called PediaSmart.  PediaSmart is free of lactose, gluten and corn and contains no genetically modified ingredients.  Jenna made this transition with no problems.  Once we’ve made the transition to all homemade, blended foods (hopefully with no overnight feedings), we still plan to keep some of the organic formula on hand for times when homemade, blended feeds are inconvenient or impossible, such as when we travel and refrigeration isn’t available, or in case of power outage.

I’ll keep you posted with our progress, any new recipes I find that work, and hopefully, more precise calculations of our cost savings.

Please let me know in the comments if you have additional ideas, experiences, or your own recipes or sources!  I always love hearing from you.

Other resources for blenderized formula, tube feeding, and pediatric nutrition:

Ainsley Rae

Praying for Parker

Gaining & Growing

Lucy’s Real Food for the Tube

Oley Foundation Discussion Forum

Contemporary Nutrition Support Practice: A Clinical Guide

Handbook of Pediatric Nutrition

*As always, this information is not intended to replace you doctor’s recommendations.  I’m simply sharing our own experiences.  Always check with your doctor before making any changes with diet or scheduled feedings.


DuoSpoon Review

We recently bought the DuoSpoon from Mealtime Notions.  Jenna  has lots of oral-motor issues since she’s never really eaten (much) by mouth.  Add in her sensory processing issues, and it’s not a good scenario for encouraging eating.  She has definite aversions to certain textures in her mouth, has a hard time coordinating chewing and swallowing, and is VERY stubborn about trying new things.  The PLUS side to her sensory issues is that she seems to love chewing on things.  She’s always sniffed things that were new in her environment, but, through our occupational therapist, we also learned that when she’s “sensory seeking,” she enjoys chewing things.  We learned that we need to encourage this in order to also encourage eating behaviors. Typically developing kids will mouth almost everything in an effort to learn about the world around them.  Jenna never did.  We thought we were lucky to have one less thing to worry about at the time.  Little did we know.

So, in an effort to encourage oral exploration, we brought the infant teethers back out.  Jenna calls them “chewies” and sometimes even requests them.  More often, we prompt her to use them, especially when we notice she’s chewing her fingers or putting a toy in her mouth.  We keep some in the freezer and some at room temperature.

When I came across the DuoSpoon, I was thrilled.  Mostly, because I thought it was a textured spoon.  I think it’s important to note from the start that it’s not.  Neither end is curved or deep enough to actually scoop food.  It’s also SO flexible (latex-free silicone), that nothing weighty could be scooped efficiently.  That being said, it IS an excellent dipper.  Dipping is really more where Jenna’s at with food exploration anyway, so it’s working out well for us.  She thinks it’s fun to dip it into honey, purees, soups, sauces and peanut butter, and even enjoys chewing on it without food.

Here’s what the product insert states that came with the DuoSpoon:

Both ends of the DuoSpoon provide sensory variation during mouth exploration and as food is taken from the bowl.  The sensation bumps provide a bridge to texture acceptance.  Once the child likes mouthing this end, food tastes can be introduced.  The sensation bumps can turn a simple puree into a texture experience…The speedbump end provides a gentle wake up as the upper lip moves across the spoon bowl.  This additional sensory input can alert the lip to increase central lip activity during oral motor treatment.

All in all, we like the DuoSpoon.  My only request would be that it would be more spoon-like, and perhaps a little less flexible.  DuoDipper might be a better, more accurately descriptive name, but, overall, I think it’s an excellent sensory tool to encourage oral motor development and to encourage proper eating behaviors as well as  food curiosity.