Introducing the Leapfrog Tag Junior




Back in January I wrote a little teaser about Leapfrog's Tag Junior: a younger version of the popular Leapfrog Tag, for toddlers and preschoolers. Well, the wait is over, and Tag Junior is now in stores!

The good folks at Leapfrog sent me a Tag Junior as part of the Ambassadors of Summer Reading Program, so I've been able to take a good look at it. Believe it or not, at the ripe old ages of 8, 5 and 5, my kids have been having a grand old time with the Tag Junior and the Tag Junior books! In fact, since there is no resident baby or toddler in the house, I asked Jammy to demo some of the cool features of the Tag Junior:



(I promise you, as soon as I can rent, beg, borrow or steal a toddler, I'll take some adorable photos of him or her playing with the Tag Junior, but for now consider this as a product demo brought to you by a leading Leapfrog Expert).

The Tag Junior uses the same cool infrared technology that recognizes words, symbols and pictures printed on the special Tag Junior Books. Like the Tag, you can use the Leapfrog Connect software to upload data from the Tag Junior to Leapfrog's Learning Path, and gain insights into what your child has been using the Tag Junior with, how often, what skills he's learning. But Leapfrog has thoughtfully tweaked the design to make it easy and fun for 2-4 year olds to play and learn with. Here are, to my mind, the three biggest differences between Tag and Tag Junior:

1) Instead of the pen-style Tag reader that kids use to point to words on the Tag books, the Tag Junior features a chunkier reader that's easy for chubby little hands to grasp. The "pointer" was changed to a flat bottomed "stamp",just right for developing fine motor skills. And I adore the Tag Junior's beady green eyes: it looks like a cute plastic toy that a baby might want to grab and start gnawing.

2) The Tag Junior books are chunky, sturdy board books with large type and colorful illustrations, just right for the 2-4 age group. Again, the books feature well-loved toddler stories and characters -- Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh and Curious George, to name a few -- that kids would ask their parents to read even if the Tag Junior ran out of battery juice.

3) Instead of teaching literacy skills, the Tag Junior focuses on more basic preschool concepts such as colors, shapes, letters and numbers. Unlike the Tag, you can touch an area on the Tag Junior book multiple times, and you will get a different sound each time. It keeps kids entertained and guessing, even mine.


I've always admired the way Leapfrog merges learning and entertainment, and the Tag Junior is no exception. Your little ones are going to love it -- and even more important, they're going to associate books with fun and enjoyment. Which brings me to the BEST thing about the Tag Junior: even the most reluctant readers will start reaching out for books. And if the Tag Junior can set a child onto a lifelong path of reading, that's a smashing success in my book.
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I want to be SlimPerfect! (for BlogHer, at least)



I totally stole this photo from Muffintopless because I wanted to fantasize about how hot I would look in a SlimPerfect little black dress. I would totally check myself out if I saw me wearing this at BlogHer. Of course, I'm hoping that wearing the dress will shrink my arms and legs and grow my boobs to the size shown on that body. But if that doesn't happen, the SlimPerfect dress is still All Kinds of Awesome.


All you blogging chicks, listen up! BlogHer '09 is less than one month away, and the question on everyone's lips is..... what do I wear? Especially for the all-important BlogHer parties (and oh sweet Jesus, there are so many of them)?

But I haven't bought a little anything in years, and I'm not sadistic enough to try and squeeze into one of my pre-baby little black dresses. And there's no way in hell I'm going to lose the thunder thighs or tummy flab before the big party night. So what does a girl who's a cheapskate, figure conscious, swag ho, lover of bloggy giveaways and contests, do? Why, join the Little Black Dress Model Search contest, of course!

The awesome ladies of Muffintopless and Girlfriendology have partnered with Slimperfect to find four fabulous, fine (but not-too-fit) ladies to become Slimperfect models during the BlogHer '09 conference in Chicago. Don't worry, the winners won't be pushing the bounds of public decency by wearing a few pieces of lycra held together by safety pins. Slimperfect will be providing these 4 ladies with the perfect Slimperfect Little Black Dress that skims over the bulges and holds you in, as well as a $250 Slimperfect giftcard and a makeover for BlogHer party night (July 23). And that's why I'm throwing my name in the hat: I want one of those babies, and I want to live like a rock star for a night!

So without further ado, here are 10 Perfect Reasons why I would be the perfect '10' Slim Perfect BlogHer model:

1) I'm not slim and I'm not perfect.
2) I gave birth to twin sons weighing 6 lbs. 10 oz. and 7 lbs. 5 oz., and I haven't lost the baby weight yet... and that was 5 years ago.
3) I never in my life thought there was such a thing as a saggy belly button.... until I saw my own.
4) My stomach is bigger than my boobs.
5) My thighs are bigger than my husband's.
6) When I suck my tummy way, way in, I think I look hot -- but I would pass out after a couple of seconds, so I need SlimPerfect to suck it in for me.
7) The only jiggling I want to see on me are the tassels on my cone bra when I do a Madonna striptease for my husband (yes, I bet that's more than you wanted to know......)
8) I promise to get my act together and post a possibly humiliating but probably funny YouTube video before July 10.
9) I want to look Slim Perfect for BlogHer... and beyond.
10) I sure could use some help from SlimPerfect to help me find my inner BONGGA mom!


The four most enthusiastic contestants get to be SlimPerfect for BlogHer, so if you want to help 'lil 'ol Bonggamom win this Little Black Dress, just send out this tweet:

@muffintopless @girlfriendology Please make @bonggamom look hot for #blogher by making her SlimPerfect!


Thanks to Slimperfect, Muffintopless and Girlfriendology for the fun contest and the chance to win!
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More Summer Fun with the Swimways Submergency



Now that they can swim, 3Po and Jammy love jumping in and spending time with their big sister in the deep end. We've been making good use of our Swimways Dive Dudes because they love shimmying down to the bottom of the pool to retrieve anything I throw in. So I was quite excited to be notified by Momfluence that I was being sent another Swimways pool toy, the Submergency , to review for the Momfluence Summer Toy Guide. Woohoo, even more diving fun!

Until I received the Submergency.

Granted, it's a wonderful idea -- set the timer, throw the ball into the pool, and have the kids race to find it, retrieve it and deactivate it before it goes off. But geez, the thing weighs a ton! It's like a mini bowling ball -- okay, it weighs more like a Costco-sized shampoo bottle or a couple of bars of soap. But if it falls on your kid's toe, that toebone is going to break. And if it falls on the ground, the toy is going to break. And even though the ball has a tiny warning in raised transparent letters that says No Throwing Into the Pool, who would like to take a bet that in all the excitement, that ball is going to get thrown eventually? It could conk someone on the head!

I showed the Submergency to Alfie when he got home from work, and virtuously listed all of its faults. He looked at the ball. He read the instructions and was fascinated with the sink-float feature (you can adjust the Submergency to sink to the bottom of the pool, float at the top, or suspend somewhere in between). He put the batteries in (the battery case, by the way, is like Fort Knox, so if you're worried about the batteries getting soaked.... don't). He filled up a pail of water and tested it.

video

Okay, even I have to admit that the beeping sound that the Submergency makes as it counts down (you can hear it underwater) is like a drug; I wanted to dive into that bucket and retrieve it myself. And the laser light show when the timer goes off is cooooool.

We took a family vote: who wants to keep playing with the Submergency? It was four to one, in favor of "This is so cool, and I wish it would really explode, and when can we take it to the pool?". I finally switched my vote because they were starting to call me a killjoy and fuddy-duddy.

Traitors.
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Precious Girls Club review and giveaway


Win this book! To find out how, keep reading....

In a world where little girls dresses are getting skimpier and bling-ier, and the characters marketed to them resemble mindless fashion plates (can you say Bratz??) it's great to have a series of characters and books that celebrates girls for the precious beings that they are. We recently received a copy of Operation Kindness, which is the second book in the Precious Girls Club Series, along with an adorable plush pet from the Precious Girls Club store. The Pea already has a copy of the first book, A Little Bit of Faith , which she enjoyed reading, so it was no surprise that she loved the second one as well. I think she likes it because she can really identify with the characters. I like how the series tackles issues that young girls face -- dealing with mean girls, wanting new, cool clothes, finding new friends, and so on --and celebrates some core values like honesty, thankfulness, kindness and helping others.

(Be aware, however, that this is a Christian series, so you'll find lots of references to God , i.e. "God wants us to be thankful for what we have", "God gives people second chances, so, why shouldn't you?", references to prayer and other Christian traditions. So even though the series teaches good morals, families of other faiths may not be comfortable with these books.)


The book has another bonus: it comes with a secret code that girls can use to get a free Premium Membership trial to the Precious Girls Club online, http://www.preciousgirlsclub.com/, a fun site where girls can enter the world of the Precious Girls Club characters by creating their own characters. They can decorate their rooms, explore our town, socialize, play games and even shop "virtually" using the points they earn on the site. PGC games reinforce such virtues as helpfulness, kindness, responsibility, loving and caring. In addition to points, many activities award "virtual" virtue charms. Precious Girls who earn all five virtue charms are awarded a pair of angel wings and the ability to fly - good for a limited-time and only online, of course! Basic membership is free, and Premium Rainbow membership (with lots of added features) is $3.95 per month (or free for a limited time when you enter the special web access code found in an official Precious Girls Club product like a book or plush toy or figurine).



A unique feature of the PGC online site is how they encourage parent involvement. parents can participate in their daughters' online activities by sending email from the "real" world to their daughter's "virtual laptop" in her Precious Girls Club room, or awarding her Precious Points when she does something nice in the real world. It all reinforces the PCG values-based message!



Giveaway time! Thanks to Mom Select and the Precious Girls Club, I've got ten special online web access codes for a trial premium Rainbow membership to the Precious Girls Club online. The first ten people to comment will get a web access code -- just make sure you include your email address so I can email you the code. And one lucky reader will be given a copy of Operation Kindness, the second book in the Precious Girls Club series!



To enter, simply visit the Precious Girls Club online site, then come back here and leave me a comment, telling me what you think of it. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you. For an extra entry, tweet this contest and leave me a separate comment with a link to your tweet. Here's a tweet you can copy and paste:



Precious Girls Club giveaway from @bonggafinds http://www.bonggafinds.com/


This giveaway ends at midnight PST on July 12, 2009.; I will draw a winner at random on July 13 and post the winner's name on the same day. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!
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ActiveIon Pro Review and Giveaway



Okay, I feel like those network news announcers who say, "Coming up after the break... Warren Buffet is giving away a billion dollars.... will you qualify to get some of it? Stay tuned!", and you sit through the ads and wait and wait for the story but it never comes, so you sit through another set of ads and wait, until the story finally come up, 3 commercial breaks later. It has been over 2 weeks ago that I blogged about the Active Ion Pro event that I attended, and teased you all about a giveaway that I'll be running. And you've waited and waited and waited so patiently....

.... until at last, it's here. My ActiveIon Pro review and giveaway post! And it's totally worth the wait, I promise you. I feel so lucky to have been given one to try out, and so excited to give one away that I'm almost peeing in my pants. But that's okay, because I've got the ActiveIon Pro to clean the mess up.


The ActiveIon Pro cleaning system uses ordinary tap water and turns it into a powerful cleaning agent. You charge up their special sprayer (It took me about a week of heavy use before I had to recharge), pour tap water into the sprayer, and use it like a regular cleaning spray. Yup, just water. Pure, eco-friendly, economical water. No chemicals to pollute the environment or your kids' lungs or skin or eyes. It's so safe that my kids like to shock people by spraying it into their mouths:




video

The geek in me loves how it works -- so advanced, and yet so simple. ActiveIon Pro cleaner is the perfect example of how we should be using all the technology we have at our fingertips to solve everyday problems and change the way we do things. Simply put, the bottle introduces a tiny electric charge into the water so that dirt and germs attach themselves to the water in the same way that they would attach themselves to soap or detergent. If you want a better explanation, watch a video of Bill Nye the Science Guy explaining it.

Ah..... now comes the question. So that's how it works, but does it work? Yes, O Doubting Ones, it does! It works like magic on our dirty, grimy, sticky kitchen table. On our fingerprint-studded walls and windows. And it's sooo much fun to use. I like hearing the Bzzzzz when I pull the trigger, and I like seeing the little green light so I know it's working. I feel like Buck Rogers or Judy Jetson (I'm dating myself with that comparison, aren't I?).

Once it sinks in that It's Just Water, but It's Water that Lifts Out Dirt and Disinfects, your mind spins with all the possibilities. I use it everywhere I used to use a spray cleaner, and more. When we're done with a baking dish or casserole, I give it a little spritz with the ActiveIon to make it easier to scrub. Alfie loves using it to spray on his morning bowl of blueberries to rinse them. Once it passes through the ActiveIon Pro, that water doesn't just wash the dirt away, it also kills 99% of bacteria. Sounds like Lysol, doesn't it, except that you can use it on fruit as well as toilet seats (Sound gross? Get over it!). The kids want to use it to wash their faces and brush their teeth, but I'm drawing the line at that because I don't want them sucking the nozzle and damaging my precious new cleaner.

At $299 per unit, the ActiveIon Pro is pricey, but it's an investment -- one that helps you Go Green and Save some Green in the long run. In fact, the state of Hawaii recently ordered 80 of these babies, one for every school. Now that's what I call smart!

And now for the giveaway: One lucky Bonggamom Finds winner will receive their very own ActiveIon Pro. It has a retail value of $299 -- easily the highest-value prize I've ever given away on this blog! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post, telling me what steps you are taking to "go green" in your household. For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following:

1) Follow Active_ion on twitter (leave a separate comment saying you followed, and your twitter id)

2) Follow Finding Bonggamom on Blogger (leave a comment with your Blogger profile name).

3) Leave a comment on any of my blog posts on Finding Bonggamom (leave a separate comment here with the link to the post that you commented on).

4) Join any of the other giveaways currently running on Bonggamom Finds (leave a separate comment here with the name of the other giveaway you joined).

5) Tweet this giveaway (leave a separate comment here with a link to your tweet). Here's a tweet you can copy and paste:



Win an ActiveIon Pro from @Active_ion and @bonggafinds http://tinyurl.com/m7wqjs


This giveaway ends at midnight PST on July 14, 2009.; I will draw a winner at random on July 15 and post the winner's name on the same day. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Oh, and I do check to make sure your entries are valid. And don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you. You don't want that $299 space-age cleaner going to an alternate winner, do you? Good luck!
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Soulful Songs with Diane Birch



About a month ago I blogged about how I'd love to add more Diane Burch songs to my iPod. Well, now her debut album Bible Belt is out, and thanks to the One2One network, I received a review copy of her cd to enjoy and review! After listening to the whole cd, I haven't changed my opinion -- she still reminds me of Norah Jones, and I still enjoy her music and would recommend her to friends.

Bible Belt is a good name for the cd, since it gives listeners a good idea of what they are going to hear even before they press Play. But her music is more than just church music or gospel-inspired. She's got jazz and blues in there, too. One of her songs, Fools, has a kind of free-spirited, Joni Mitchell vibe, and whenever I listen to Choo Choo, for some reason I think of a 1970's disco queen, complete with hoop earrings and 'fro (it doesn't hurt that her photo on the cover album reminds me of Liza Minelli -- it's the eyelashes!). My favorite song is still Rise Up, but the rest of Bible Belt certainly is certainly a match in quality.
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Summer Reading with Leapfrog



Would you like to donate a Leapfrog Tag and Tag Junior to a local preschool or daycare? I'm teaming up with Leapfrog to give one away to the Silicon Valley preschool or daycare of your choice! Go to my Savvysource post to enter.


If everyone in the blogosphere who has been affected by this economic recession raised his or her hand, we'd need a whole lot of underarm deodorant. And now that summer has arrived, that translates into lots of cutbacks in pricey summer activities for the kids and a renewed interest in lower-cost and complimentary programs offered by local libraries and recreation centers.

Another idea is to apply the "staycation" idea to kids' activities: just stay home. Hey, it's practically a rite of passage to be bored senseless during the summer, right? And you can always plan your own activities. My friend Sheila was interviewed by CNN on how the recession has impacted their summer plans; she has swapped out summer camps for neighborhood gatherings around the foosball table. We're doing kind of a similar thing: my sister and I are planning to get our kids together for a few days at each family's house for a Cousin Camp of sorts (the tuition fee is right up our alley!).

I feel so privileged and thrilled to have been invited to join Leapfrog's Ambassadors of Summer Reading Program, because I get to team up with Leapfrog in donating Leapfrog Reading Kits to my local library and community groups. The kits include a Leapfrog Tag, Tag Junior, and books and carry cases for both systems. I'm going to donate one to The Pea's old daycare, and her school library is getting a Library Summer Reading Kit. And I'm giving a third Summer Reading Kit away to a randomly-drawn Silicon Valley-based preschool or daycare (so if you want to donate one to your child's preschool or daycare, make sure you join!!) . Gawd, I already feel like Oprah, and I'm loving it (rhanks, Leapfrog, for giving me the chance to play Lady Bountiful). What a great way to enhance the summer activities these organizations offer to local youth, and what a great way to encourage young children to keep reading throughout the summer!

Last but not least, I was thrilled to receive a Summer Reading Kit to use in our own Cousin Camp; I already have some grand plans to incorporate reading into the Younger Kids' -- namely 3Po, Jammy, and Belliboo's -- activity schedule. They even included a few fun tips for starting up a Summer Reading Program at home! I've posted the full details for each of these tips on my Summer Reading Program post on Being Savvy Silicon Valley, but here's my brief take on them:


1) Make a special reading space. You know, like a reading nook. And to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, What good is a nook without a book? (or a nook cook book, as he says in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, my favorite Dr. Seuss book ever).

2) Make reading a social activity. Grownups have book clubs, so why can't kids have their own reading social?

3) Make your own sounds and songs. Hey, it's your home, not the library, so you can make all the noise you want!


Stay tuned for more blog posts about my family's summer reading adventures with Leapfrog!


And don't forget, if you're from Silicon Valley (or you have a niece or nephew or granchild or godchild who lives in Silicon Valley), you definitely have to read my SavvySource post. Because you can enter to win one Leapfrog Summer Reading Kit to donate to a Silicon Valley preschool or daycare of your choice.
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Tiny Prints Facebook Giveaway


Last Christmas I cheaped out on the holiday cards. And regretted it as soon as my friends' chic Tiny Prints cards started pouring in. Having a kickass photo can only take your holiday cards so far -- you need the oh-so-cute designs and heavy card stock and professional printing that Tiny Prints provides. So for a photo to go with this blog post, I scanned one of my friends' Tiny Prints holiday cards and superimposed 3Po's photo on top. That's what my holiday cards could have looked like if I had gone with Tiny Prints, dammit!

Guess what...... Tiny Prints is on Facebook! They've got 4 spanking new Facebook Pages representing one of their product lines: Eco-Friendly Cards, Business Stationery, Holiday Cards and Wedding Invitations. And to celebrate, they are holding a Facebook Open House and giving away $50 gift certificates -- on each of their 4 Facebook pages, and at over a dozen blogs! For more details and a list of participating blogs, click here.

Aaaaaand..... I'm happy to announce that Bonggamom Finds is one of the blogs participating in Tiny Prints' Facebook Open House! Tiny Prints has generously provided a $50 Tiny Prints gift certificate to one lucky Bonggamom Finds reader. Yup, you'll get $50 to create a one-of-a-kind custom printed stationery. The giveaway is structured a bit differently from my usual giveaway, but then again the prize is worth it.

1) You will need to be a member of Facebook to participate. If you're already on Facebook, see, that part wasn't so hard, was it? If you aren't, well....Gawd! Even otters have Facebook pages these days, so get with times, Grandpa!

2) Join any of Tiny Prints' Facebook Pages. They've got such a diverse product line now that you have 4 Facebook Pages:
Eco-Friendly Cards:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tiny-Prints-Eco-Friendly-Cards/77537791597
Business Stationery:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Business-Stationery-Tiny-Prints/82405989083
Holiday Cards:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Holiday-Photo-Cards-from-Tiny-Prints/104906753905
Wedding Invitations:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wedding-Paper-Divas/20005774861

3) Post a comment on the wall of the Tiny Prints Facebook page that you joined. The comment needs to contain a link to your favorite Tiny Prints or Wedding Paper Divas product. This is the hardest part because there are so many cute designs to choose from. How about some Toile Thankyou Cards? Or eco-friendly holiday cards ? Or mommy cards for playdates? The cuteness is never-ending!

4) Come back to this blog post and leave a comment here, telling me which Tiny Prints Facebook page you are a fan of.

For this giveaway, you can repeat steps 2 thru 4 for each Tiny Prints Facebook page. That means you can leave up to 4 comments here for up to 4 chances to win! And for a 5th entry, tweet about this giveaway and leave a separate comment here with your twitter id and the link to your tweet. Here's a tweet you can copy and paste:

Win a $50 Tiny Prints certificate from @tinyprints and @bonggafinds: http://tinyurl.com/n8knze


This giveaway ends at midnight PST on July 10, 2009. I will randomly draw a winner from all valid entries (and yes, I will check!) and announce the winner on July 11. Good luck!
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A Gem of a Giveaway!



I enjoy beading and making my own beaded jewelry -- but the extent of my talent is limited to THAT (see photo above). I'm happy to stick with making bracelets and necklaces for family and friends, but I know there must be some really talented beaders out there. Have you ever wanted to start your own handmade jewelry store on Etsy or Silkfair, but didn't know where to start? Maybe you already enjoy scrapbooking and knitting and thought beading might be worth a try, but weren't sure about the investment. Now you can win a bracelet making kit plus $75 in product - a $100 value - by entering the "Bejeweled Giveaway" contest. Ten readers across the Momfluence network blogs will be chosen to win!

But there's more! Those ten winners will be able to submit a picture of their completed bracelet to the House of Gems, and one will be chosen to receive a $250 gift certificate, enough product to really jump start your business.

To Enter:
Readers must choose one or more ways to enter.
Option 1 - Subscribe to one or more of the House of Gems feeds found at http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102611822539&s=155&e=0016O8fhdUnW1howiItPCTQeQQrOymjYzDSRfaCzSWT9570PX1eK8tY5ECr7wKKFCRoGtvIue3lz6yQJR1uDDo-LjwzYb3DEPUDjV_bQow0l9uxCgAceJmxVKVau5EHQgiB - each feed subscription counts as a new entry! Once you've subscribed fill out this entry form: http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102611822539&s=155&e=0016O8fhdUnW1jHjvT5DniOiaOR9ePxTMvq5YnLDmDXU3t0OMRRg-GdspQFnsVV3cr46WseUxdNnVytUcL4j8ZxnS3tRZaKw4uBxZiKK6zkNUM=

Option 2 - Blog about the "Bejeweled Giveaway" contest on your own site then fill out this entry from: http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102611822539&s=155&e=0016O8fhdUnW1jHjvT5DniOiaOR9ePxTMvq5YnLDmDXU3t0OMRRg-GdspQFnsVV3cr46WseUxdNnVytUcL4j8ZxnS3tRZaKw4uBxZiKK6zkNUM=

Join us on Twitter Saturday, June 27th at 9:00 p.m. eastern for a #houseofgems SiteWarming party where the 10 winners will be announced!

About the House of Gems: House of Gems, Inc. (www.houseofgems.com) was established to provide quality beads, pearls, findings, pendants, chains and other jewelry making accessories at wholesale prices, directly to the consumer.The people behind Houseofgems.com have been in this business since 1992 and have an extensive network of designers, manufacturers and other direct suppliers to draw upon. Since they have their own factories,craft shops and import directly, they have the best prices on quality products. Now, with the power of e-commerce they have eliminated the 'middle men', bringing their quality products at low wholesale jewelry prices, directly to your doorstep.
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Dive Dudes for Cool Dudes




This is going to be a Fun Summer. I know all summers are fun, but this is going to be a Big One, and the reason I know this is that All. Three. Kids. Can. Swim. Not that this means I can leave them alone, of course. Basically I've traded my fear that they will drown for my fear that they will slip and hit their heads when they're jumping into the pool, and then drown. But this opens up a whole new world of summer play! No more clinging to mama or being afraid of the deep. Now there's lots of jumping and diving and touching the bottom and retreiving stuff that people throw.

We received a pack of Dive Dudes from Swimways to try out a couple of months ago, and yesterday we finally got a chance to try them out. 3Po, Jammy and The Pea loved them! These dive toys have a unique twist -- literally. They have little twirly propellers on one side, so when you throw them into the water, instead of just plain sinking to the bottom, they twirl. And each stick is painted and molded to look like a cool dude, so each of my kids can pick one that they "own". And the sticks have "points" printed on them (25, 50, 75, 100) which give the simple "fetch the stick" game a more challenging twist. The one with the most points wins, so of course everyone swims after the 100-pointer (see how we've snuck in some simple number comparison and addition practice for the boys to prevent their brains from rusting in the water).

Unfortunately I don't have a fancypants waterproof camera, so I can't take a photo of the Dive Dudes underwater, or shoot a video of them twirling to the bottom of the pool. I tried to shoot a video of Jammy imitiating the twirling motion, but he's five years old and not exactly a synchronized swimmer, so the video shows mostly splash and not much twirl. So I'll just post this photo of Jammy with an earsplitting grin (or maybe he's just gasping for breath) after retreiving his Dive Dude.

Seriously, dude, if this photo doesn't convince you that Dive Dudes are a blast, nothing will.
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Sesame Street Live!




Yesterday was the perfect start to our summer. We went to two -- count'em, two! -- pool parties, and in the evening we watched Sesame Street Live! Elmo's Green Thumb. The kids have been looking forward to seeing Elmo and all their Sesame Street pals dancing and singing. No doubt they were remembering the great time they had at last spring's Thomas the Tank show, and were expecting more of the same. It's difficult to say which they enjoyed more, because they are very different shows, and each one is fabulous entertainment for the preschool set.

First, let's get the irritating stuff out of the way. Unfortunately the orchestra section of the Civic Center does not slope downwards towards the stage, so it's difficult for kids to see above the grownups' heads -- and above the heads of the kids who are standing in their parents' laps. And above the huge Elmo balloons that were bobbing up and down. Fortunately the event staff asked people to rein in their balloons, but I wish people would remember this isn't their own private performance. Because it's kind of stressful for neurotic parents like myself to have to ask the people in front of us not to hoist their kids up high and block everyone else's view. That's probably why they have to sell lots of cotton candy and nachos during the perfomance, to fill people's stomachs and get them to chill out.

Now the good stuff: There is no way anyone under 5 could NOT enjoy the show. Maybe even under 10 (The Pea certainly enjoyed it). The story was really cute: while Elmo and his friends look for a place to plant his sunflower Sunny, they get shrunk to bug size, meet all the little critters in Big Bird's garden, and learn a thing or two about playing a part in the ecosystem, facing your fears, and patience. It was a pretty simple production -- they had minimal scenery and props, and the only thing that resembled a special effect was the circular electronic screen above the lefthand side of the stage -- but there was no shortage of The Main Attraction, namely Sesame characters. The kids in the audience would scream in delight every time a new friend came on stage, and they were happy just to see everyone singing and dancing.

What makes it bearable for the grownups in the audience (aside from the joy we get watching our kids so enthralled, of course) is watching these huge, furry, bulky muppets get down and jiggy widdit. I wasn't expecting to see them break out into chacha's and high kicks and pirouettes, but that's just what they did. Not quite So You Think You can Dance material, but then they're doing it in a huge, bulky muppet suit, so props to them. The mood was infectuous, and kids were bouncing up and down in their seats and dancing in the aisles (Jammy included).



The music was certainly a big crowd-pleaser. I got to hear my favorite Sesame Street song, "Ladybug picnic", and my second-favorite song, "Inch by Inch" (I always tear up thinking of John Denver singing it to Kermit the Frog on the Muppet Show). Other songs are actually a clever remix of popular songs like Patti Labelle's New Attitude, so even adults who aren't overgrown kids like me will appreciate the music. As for the kids, they like it all!

If you're in the Bay Area, your kids can still get their Elmo fix -- Elmo's Green Thumb will be at the San Jose Civic Auditorium today and tomorrow, and at Oakland's ORACLE arena next weekend. And if you don't live around these parts, don't worry -- Sesame Street Live! will be touring the US all the way until October this year! There are 4 shows playing in over 25 cities, so chances are there will be a show near you.
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Win a Mean, Green Cleaning Machine



I recently posted about the fun afternoon we had at the Tech Museum of Innovation, courtesy of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and ActiveIon, where Bill Nye the Science Guy did some fun science experiments and showed us the science behind the super-cool cleaning product, Activeion Pro.

I haven't put up my review yet because I'm still in the midst of testing out the Activeion Pro. Oh, hell, I'm lying -- I've used it for long enough to know that Activeion Pro is a GREAT, cutting-edge product -- I just haven't gotten my thoughts together and figured out a way to review it without sounding too much like an Activeion fanatic. So for now I'll direct you to Jill's Bill Nye post on SV Moms to learn a bit more about the Activeion Pro -- and get a chance to win one of your own. It's worth $299, people! Just leave a comment on the post for a chance to win!

Oh, yeah, I'll be giving away an Activeion Pro here on Bonggamom Finds, too. So stay tuned for my Activeion review and giveaway post!

By the way, sometimes it's better to apologize for something naughty you've done, than to ask permission for something naughty you want to do. So..... apologies, thanks and props to my blogging galpal Kim for her catchy post title -- which I am shamelessly plagiarizing, as you can plainly see. Kim, you rock!
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Win a box of crickets.... To Eat!



Today's giveaway is.... well.... to put it bluntly, Bizarre. But then again, we're celebrating the penultimate episode of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. Tomorrow he's traveling to Puerto Rico, which is not only the home to merengue -- the dance, not the whipped eggwhite concoction -- and chorizo, it's also the home of some pretty bizarre foods. Then for the season ender, Andrew is going to be dropped in the jungles of Mexico where he lives off the land, Survivor-style. Sounds like a delicious way to end the season!


Hmm... I wonder if those Mexican jungles are going to be crawling with bugs like these. See, for brave souls like Andrew, these crickets aren't just things you swat with your hand and brush away. They're something to dunk into your morning coffee (or blood smoothie, or whatever).

For those of you who don't have a plane ticket to GMJ (code for Godforsaken Mexican Jungle), these crickets actually come in a nice convenient box, perfect to pack in your purse for when you get the munchies.

Yes, today we're giving away a box of edible crickets, courtesy of Bizarre Foods, to a lucky Bonggamom Finds reader! See the , um, joy and, er, excitement on my face as I prepare to enjoy this delicacy? You can experience that too!

Seriously, take your cue from Andrew Zimmern and live a little! It's a bit like bungee-jumping off a culinary cliff, and once you've tried it, you'll be proud of yourself. And they don't taste too bad, either. See, here's finicky old Bonggamom taking the plunge. My kids tried the crickets as well -- click here to see more photos of them enjoying their crunchy snack. And if you think it's all staged, watch the video:



Sounds yummy? To enter, simply leave a comment and tell me which bizarre food you'd like to see Andrew eat for the next season of Bizarre Foods. Use your imagination, go wild! I'll bet you Andrew will try it. Don't forget to leave your email address so we can contact you.

For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following:
1) Go to the Bizarre Foods episode guide and tell me which countries Andrew has visited this season. NO DUPLICATES -- once someone has listed a country, no-one else can use it. There are only 10 countries, so only the first 10 unique comments get this extra entry!
2) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Blogger(leave a comment with your Blogger profile name).
3) Follow Bizarre Foods on Twitter (leave a comment with your twitter id).
4) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Twitter AND tweet about this giveaway (leave a comment with the link to your tweet). Here's a tweet you can copy and paste:

Win edible crickets from @bonggafinds and @bizarrefoods! http://tinyurl.com/lsy6hj

Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry (don't list down all your extra entries in 1 comment!) . This giveaway ends at midnight PST on June 22, 2009.; I will draw a winner at random on June 23 and post their names on the same day. For additional giveaway rules, click here.

Good luck! And to the winner, before you pop these crickets into your mouth, I recommend watching one of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods episodes. After you watch him eat llama brain, teriyaki cockroaches and live worms, a little old cricket will taste just like Cheetos.
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Go around the world with Little Passports




I love to travel. I love everything about it: the planning, the packing, the anticipation, the actual adventure; yes, I even love waiting at the airport and the actual plane trip! At last count I've been to 118 cities in 17 countries, which in my mind is not nearly enough. I think Alfie's tally is almost twice mine, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

The kids are way behind at just 4 countries (US, UK, Philippines and Ireland), but we're just not in the financial position to do much traveling right now. Our family has global roots, so we'd love to instill in them a love of travel and discovery and acceptance of a variety of cultures. For now, their global education consists of exposing them to foods, music, videos, festivals and films from different countries. We recently discovered another great addition to our set of global education tools: Little Passports.

Little Passports is a monthly subscription service that follows the adventures of characters Sam and Sofia as they travel to a new country each month. Each month children get their own package in the mail containing games, toys and activities, all related to the country that Sam and Sofia are visiting. We recently received the First Month Explorer kit, which includes an introductory letter from Sam and Sofia, a "passport" activity booklet, stickers, activity sheets, and a map, all packed up in a cute cardboard suitcase. There's also a travel tag with an access code to online games and activities on Little Passport's Boarding Zone.

The First Month Explorer kit rocks, especially the map! We have atlases and travel books in our library, but this is the first foldout map that the kids have owned. I'm kicking myself -- putting a map up on the wall really should have been the first step, and I'm grateful to Little Passports for including it. We're already having a lot of fun identifying countries that we have personal connections to ("Here's where your nana lives", "Here's where your Aunty Lyn works", "This is how far we flew when we went to Dublin last year").

The map also serves as a reference for the activity sheets included in the Explorer kit (which, to my disappointment, did not match the quality of all the other things included -- they are just plain photocopied black-and-white papers instead of colored printed sheets like the rest). The Pea quickly commandeered the activity sheets for herself and wasted no time in filling them out. She really enjoyed decoding the country that Sam and Sofia are traveling to next month. It's a great way to teach her to read maps and keep her mind sharp, just as school is ending. We can't wait for Sam and Sofia to mail us next month's package!

At $10.95 per month, Little Passports is a bit more pricey than a magazine subscription. But since there are no contracts, you can stop your subscription at any time, and keep it going for as long or short as your child's interest holds. It's the perfect way to keep kids educated and entertained this summer -- and beyond.
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BIC Soleil Bella review and giveaway


Hurrah, summer break starts next week! We're planning a lot of trips to the pool this year. 3Po and Jammy can finally swim on their own, so they can splash and play without Alfie or me having to be within arm's reach. I'm looking forward to relaxing by the poolside and showing off my hot bod.

Okay, the hot bod part was an exaggeration, but it's all in the attitude -- with the right swimsuit, bright-red toenails and a pair of silky-smooth legs, any woman can be a hot babe. The silky-smooth legs can be a drag, but fortunately BzzAgent.com recently sent me a great new product to try -- the BIC Soleil Bella razor. It's the latest razor in BIC's Soleil line , with four flexible blades, advanced pivoting head, moisturizing strip, and convenience of a disposable.

After trying out the BIC Soleil Bella razor, I'm happy to say it's a great product! With the 4 blades, it didn't take long to get my legs to feel as smooth as a baby's bottom. I didn't think the Flex-and-Pivot technology seemed any different from my old razor, but I will say the razor was really easy to rinse off. Also, at $6 for a pack of 3, this is one razor that won't cut into your budget -- and with the coupon I'm offering, you can try BIC Soleil Bella for 50% off. That's right, I have 5 coupons for $3.00 off a BIC Soleil Bella 3-pack, and I'll mail them to the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post.

And now, a giveaway! Would you like the chance to win one of 25 $100 Amazon gift certificates or the grand prize of $1,000 Amazon.com gift certificate? Or if personal gain isn't your style, how about the opportunity to donate to a worthy charity? All you have to do is fill out a short survey about the BIC Soleil Bella review post you read here on Finding Bonggamom. Here's how to enter:

1) Visit http://www.chatthreads.com/ and enter this conversation ID:

101 - 242 - 499873

2) Answer some easy survey questions. Then choose either a donation to charity, or the chance to win Amazon.com gift certificates worth $100 or $1,000. It's that simple!

Click here to see the sweepstakes rules, and click here to read more about the charity organizations you could be helping.
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Play-Doh Spaghetti Factory -- Oodles (and noodles) of fun!



In my opinion, Play-Doh is both a blessing and a curse. Here's my lame poetic attempt to explain why....

Play-Doh can be a real Godsend.
It keeps kids busy for hours on end.
It's not a video game.
But kids love it just the same!

It develops fine motor skills
And a good imagination
It even smells great
It's a squishy sensation!

But I must confess --
I hate the mess.
Bits everywhere.
On your clothes. In your hair.

But the kids love their Play-Doh!
What's a mom to do?
Listen well
I have two tips for you:

Let the Play-Doh dry.
Then take a vacuum.
And suck those suckers out of your room.
Or take the Play-Doh outside
So the bits have nowhere to hide.

You can keep your house clean
All summer long.
Play-Doh's the best
Millions of kids can't be wrong.

Yes, I know, I'm not holding my breath for that Poet Laureate nomination. Besides, I can't think of any more rhyming words. So I'll have to wax poetic about Play-Doh's latest set -- the Play-Doh Spaghetti factory -- in prose.

We were so happy to receive this latest playset from Play-Doh to review. With a fun pasta extruder, two ravioli molds and over 25 molds, kids can make all kinds of yummy Play-Doh pasta dishes to serve to their parents. Kids can finally release their inner chef! And it goes perfectly with the Play-Doh Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe playset that I reviewed last year!

There's a lot to like about the new Play-Doh Spagetti Factory. 3Po and Jammy liked the pasta extruder and the plastic playmat with pictures of food that they could copy. And they were so proud of the pasta dishes they made:





I liked 2 things about this playset in particular:

* The play pieces in the Play-Doh Spaghetti Factory have multiple uses. For example, the spoon and fork have holes in the handle so if more than one child is playing, the child who's not having a turn with the pasta maker can still make his own pasta by pushing some Play-Doh through the spoon or fork holes. Also, the 2 pasta molds serve as a bowl and plate to hold any finished creations.

* When playtime is over, the Spaghetti Factory can be disassembled for easy cleaning and easy, compact storage. This was one of my main complaints about past Play-Doh equipment, so I'm really psyched that Play-Doh got it right this time.

This Play-Doh set is definitely more of a blessing than a curse, and now that I've realized cleanup is a breeze when you take it outside, I'm so happy we have it in our summer toy box!
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Have a Blast with the Super Soaker


I am solidly anti-guns. I won't get into all the arguments, all the links between gun ownership and accidents, comparisons of crime rates in countries where guns are illegal versus countries where guns are legal. We don't own a gun and don't plan to own a gun, not even toy ones like air pistols or foam shooters.

Okay, you got me. I lied. I do make one exception -- water shooters. After all, what's summer without a water fight? And what better way to soak your pesky brother or sister than with a stream of water? We have lots of little water pistols lying around, remnants of impulse buys at Target and party goody bags. But frankly, they break too easily and never hold enough water to really get into a serious waterfight!

Enter the Hasbro Super Soaker, the air pressure watergun that changed the world of water fights forever when it was first introduced in 1989. Can you believe it's been 20 years?? To commemorate the occasion, Hasbro has re-released the original Super Soaker 50, just in time for summer! My sons were delighted when we were sent a sample of the Super Soaker and quickly got to work drenching each other. It's so much better than your average water pistol, yet easy enough for young kids to operate -- so it's easy to see why the Super Soakers gets a prime spot on my Must Have List of Toys for Summer 2009. In case the photo above doesn't convince you, here are 3 reasons why:

* Huge water tank -- so your water warriors don't have to fill up every 5 seconds.
* Powerful blasts of water -- it shoots up to 35 feet, so enemies can't run away!
* Easy to use -- even young kids can work the pump that pressurizes the water stream.

Here's a video of Jammy demonstrating the capabilities of this mighty weapon:



Just make sure you screw the cap on tight enough; in order to get good pressure and a nice, steady stream of water, no air should escape (you'll know it isn't tight enough if you can hear hissing noises when you are pumping). Oh, and make sure you spell out the Three Waterfight Commandments before you let your kid loose with his Super Soaker:

* Do Not Shoot Faces.
* Do Not Shoot Inside the House.
* Do Not Shoot Mama.

Once you drum those rules into their heads, feel free to let them loose in your back yard for some Super Soaking Fun!
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Bonggamom's Summer Toys for Summer Fun


It's the first of June and summer is almost here! The kids have just two weeks of school left, our patio umbrella is up, I've stocked up on sunblock. But with the economy being what it is, we've only signed up for a couple of summer camps, and we won't be making many (or any) visits to the pricey amusement parks.

So I'm keeping my eyes open for things to do during all the Staycations and Camp Casa sessions we'll be having for the next 3 months. If you're in the same boat, you're also on the lookout for fun, educational toys that will keep kids occupied and entertained throughout the summer. With that goal in mind, here is are some of my Must Have Summer Toys for 2009:


1) What's summer without some backyard water play? And what's water play without a Super Soaker? This classic toy has been reintroduced in a 20th Anniversary edition, which features the original retro look but keeps up with 21st-century models in terms of soaking power and kid-friendly summer fun.



2) It's Back to Pool, so don't forget to stock up on pool toys. Most city pools around here don't allow floaty toys or personal floatation devices, but diving weights and hoops are more than welcome, and they offer lots of opportunities for fun and games. With cute faces and twirly sinking action, Swimways Dive Dudes are a cute, fun way to put some Pow! into your pool play.


3) Little girls love to play with dolls all year round, but summertime calls for some serious watergirl action. These Water Girlz Fairy Tales dolls are the perfect combination of summer doll and pool toy. Their fluttering wings and moveable tails are perfect for water play, and their seahorse friend and seashell comb add to the fun when it's time to dry out.



4) For imaginative summer play, nothing beats a Play-Doh playset. And since the weather is so nice, you can take it all outside -- it keeps the mess out of the house, and cleanup is a breeze! Their latest playset, the Play-Doh Spaghetti Factory, allows young kids to squish out all kinds of pasta creations and fulfill their culinary yearnings without having to heat up the oven.



5) School's out, but you can still give your child's brain a workout by giving him a reading list. Join your local library's summer reading program and set a goal number of books to read by summer's end. If you child doesn't read yet, give his reading program a fun twist by adding Leapfrog TAG books to his summer reading list. He'll get a sense of self-achievement as the TAG helps reach his goal without asking for mom's help every time! And now, even younger toddlers can get in on the fun with the relase of the new TAG Jr.!



6) Summer school goes global! But don't worry, your school-age kids won't even have to board an airplane to see the world. With a subscription to Little Passports they'll follow the globetrotting adventures of best friends Sam and Sofia, and get activities and souvenirs mailed to them from a different country each month. It's a fun way to learn about the geography, history and culture of different countries.



7) For arts and crafts time, I'm treating each of my kids to an art kit. We've had a lot of success with Creativity For Kids -- the kids enjoy making it, and the end product actually gets kept, not thrown away. I'll bet they'd love to create a solar system mobile or a scrapbook of their summer adventures.




8) Structured arts and crafts are great ways to pass the time, but summer is the time to let kids roam free -- and that includes their artistic impulses. I like to stock up on Crayola crayons, markers, chalk, paint and other art supplies so the kids can let their imaginations soar all summer long.

Stay tuned for more detailed reviews on select summer toys throughout this week. Now it's your turn. What's on your must-have list? I'd love to find out!
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