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Ghost in the House
Ghost in the House
by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.02
87 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of re-reading, January 19, 2014
This review is from: Ghost in the House (Hardcover)
This is an excellent kids book, and our pre-schooler asks us to read it six or seven times in a row, every day. Some things that make it great:

-It has a nice rhythm read aloud and the stanzas rhyme. It's very enjoyable to read and hear read.
-The story repeats a simple structure, with a twist on the very last repetition. Kids love that.
-Whenever the story introduces a new monster, you get the monster's sound first, then turn the page to see the monster. It's a mini surprise, and it's fun for our kid to shout out her "guess" about what's waiting on the next page.
-Counting! Works that educational component in without being obvious about it.
-The monsters are very cute and not too scary for kids.


Lego Duplo 10505 Legoville Family House
Lego Duplo 10505 Legoville Family House
Offered by Shep's Stuff
Price: $86.72
48 used & new from $78.46

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly perfect, December 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Pros:

-Very clever furnishings, like a stove, a kitchen sink, a bathtub with a shower curtain, a table and chairs, little drawers, etc. It's just plain neat.

-A little slotted window that can be used as an oven to cook the bread that comes with the set, or as a mailbox for the Duplo postman to use.

-Huge, huge hit with a 2.5 year old. This was our big purchase and it has been the rockstar toy of the Christmas season.

-Lets you build houses for your Duplo people. Without the roof pieces and base plates, it's really hard to build a house that the Duplo people can actually use.

-You can make different floor plans and integrate this set with your other Duplo blocks to build fancier (or more fanciful) buildings.

Cons:

-I really, really wish it were gender neutral. There's no reason at all this needs to be pink.

-Bought this in part for the "click and change wallpaper feature." Well, there are three walls and three single-sided cardboard wallpaper pieces, so you can't actually change anything. The box and the product description claim that you can get more wallpaper from the Lego website, but two days of googling and searching have turned up nothing. Had I known, I probably would have gone with the yellow Duplo playhouse, since the wallpaper feature was one of the two main reasons I went with the pink dollhouse instead. (The other reason was a huge, temporary, possibly accidental price reduction that lasted only two days. I managed to snag this at a substantial discount.)

Pro/Con?

-This is not very sturdy, as most of the walls are one Lego dot wide and not braced at all. If you have a younger child, be warned that you will be putting this back together a lot. I don't consider this a con, necessarily, since you are meant to change and build with Legos, but it could prove frustrating for some toddlers.


LEGO Education DUPLO Community Vehicles Set 4562972 (56 Pieces)
LEGO Education DUPLO Community Vehicles Set 4562972 (56 Pieces)
Price: $66.02
2 used & new from $61.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent deal, December 28, 2013
I probably shouldn't say this too loudly, because I think Lego might be ready to stop giving us all great deals via the Education sets, but this one is a super buy for anyone who wants to get Duplo vehicles.

Today, as I write this, the Community Vehicle set is going for $78.13. For that you get:

1) Everything in the Legoville Duplo Bus set (5636) MINUS the old man, the red suitcase, and the blue chair, PLUS an extra three-piece bus stop sign and the green "grass" piece to stand it on. This is currently going for $47.47 on Amazon.

2) Everything in the Lego Duplo Legoville Garbage Truck set (5637), MINUS the shovel, the roof lights for the truck, and three of the five 2x2 square "garbage" pieces. ($74.99)

3) The Duplo My First Plane set (5592). You get the plane, the propeller, the letter, and the female minifig. This set has been discontinued, but I found one on eBay for $133.

4) The tow truck, hook, driver, and roof lights ONLY from the Lego Duplo Tow Truck set (6146). ($32.00)

5) The Lego Duplo Legoville Postman PLUS a base piece for the mailbox, MINUS the flower and 2x2 "grass" piece. ($23.48)

6) A blue Duplo SUV with a minifig driver that can be towed behind the tow truck. It is extremely similar to the car from that tows the camper in the Lego Duplo Legoville Caravan (5655), but I don't know if it is identical. ($63.99)

7) Five road signs with bases.

So basically, you would spend over $240.00 buying these things individually, and you still wouldn't have the plane and most of the road signs. Plus, many of the individual vehicles have been or about to be discontinued, which means prices will only go up.

These are also a blast to play with and will even suck in adults and older kids. The garbage truck is particularly cool. It can back up to the garbage can, hook on to the handles, empty the can into the truck, and lower it back down. The toys also integrate beautifully with other Duplo sets, if you have them The postman can deliver his letters to the mail slot at the Duplo dollhouses, and the tow truck can tow other Duplo vehicles. The bus can ferry little Duplo people back and forth between the two bus stops.

More generally, there are kind of two main ways to play with Duplo Legos: You can build with the blocks, or you can play "imagination" scenarios with the little dolls/action figures. This set is definitely the second kind of play. There's really nothing to build. It's more like Playmobil in that way. Personally, I prefer Duplo to Playmobil because most sets allow for some building as well, the pieces are less fiddly and easy to lose, there is more versatility, and it works better for smaller kids. However, if your kids are aging out of Duplo soon or if you like the detail of Playmobil, this might not be a good investment.


Craft & Hobby Fun Pack Simply Brushes for Arts & Crafts on Any Surface 25PC
Craft & Hobby Fun Pack Simply Brushes for Arts & Crafts on Any Surface 25PC
Offered by Wholesale Craft Outlet
Price: $11.95
2 used & new from $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good buy, November 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This contains lots and lots of brushes for the price. The picture gives a pretty good idea of what you get. The quality is decent, and better than I expected. The foam brushes have stood up to several washes, and there have only been a couple of stray bristles so far on the smaller brushes. I did not buy this for crafting, so I can't speak to how well these would work for specialized projects. Instead I'm letting a couple of preschoolers experiment with different ways to paint with washable tempera.


To Train Up a Child
To Train Up a Child
by Debi Pearl
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.95
150 used & new from $0.01

1,261 of 1,483 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's long, but please read., November 9, 2013
This review is from: To Train Up a Child (Paperback)
I originally wrote a completely different review of this book. It was a bitterly, scathingly sarcastic "positive" review that I wrote in the grip of white-hot anger. I've known about the Pearls and their book for years now, but I had just found out that it was being sold on Amazon. I am going to copy and paste my old review in the comments section below, so people can still see it, but I want to come back and write something different. I'm changing my review for two reasons:

First, satire and mockery are what I'm good at. But I am not going to convince anyone this way, just harden them in their own belief that there's a "war" on Christians in the USA and that they need to double-down on the most extreme views and practices. I'm instead going to try and explain where I am coming from, as honestly as I can. The people who already agree with me will up-vote this and listen, but I'm hoping someone else might listen too.

Second, I see that most of the debates here are hung up on the details: Is it ever okay to hit your child? With objects, or only with your hand? Which objects? How young can you hit them? Before age one? Before six months? How much? One or two blows? Ten? Fifteen? Until they "submit"? Is it okay to make them skip a meal? A day of meals? Two days? To put them outside in the cold? Outside without a jacket?

It turns into a debate about just exactly where to draw the line between spanking and abuse, and then a debate about whether that line even exists. For those of us who come from a regional culture where corporal punishment is okay (and I'm one), it can sometimes feel like an attack on our values and the values of our parents from people who live far away and live very different lifestyles. A lot of us got "whupped" as kids, and you won't win any points calling our parents abusers.

I want to explain why someone who is not necessarily a hardliner about anti-spanking (though we don't spank, and I can explain why later on) can still find the Pearls disturbing. Because I believe that abuse isn't in the details of this book. I believe it's at the heart of it.

I'm not going to talk anymore about switching babies or Lydia Schatz or plastic tubing. Instead I want to talk about the Pearls and their view of this world. This comes from reading their book and their blog, and from knowing a bit about the world they live in:

....1.....
First, Michael and Debi look at a child and see evil. You can read this on their blog and in their book. They talk constantly about children manipulating people, trying to get the better of you, lying, crying in an effort to "control" their parents. This is not some crazy reading of their philosophy. You can find this on any page of anything they ever wrote.

I know what I'm going to hear in the comments, which is, "Toddlers and children are completely capable of manipulating and lying!" Of course they are. Anyone knows this. Part of your job as a parent is to teach them honesty and respect. But the Pearls see something different: they see an adversary in a child. They see an opponent. They see an enemy that has to be absolutely defeated and subdued.

Can you understand the difference between guiding a child and defeating them? All the Pearls ever seem to talk about is "breaking" a child, "breaking" their will, proving you are stronger, "defeating" the child, being stronger. Who isn't stronger than a child?

....2....
Second, the Pearls claim to know what babies and toddlers are thinking, but what they see in children is just a reflection of themselves. Psychologists use the word "projection" for this. It's like when Jim knows that he stole credit for Joe's idea at work. When Joe says "good morning," even though it's an honest hello and he has no inkling of what Jim did, Jim's own guilty conscience makes him see sarcasm or anger.

Instead of looking at what children actually can think and know and understand at a given age, the Pearls project cunning intelligence and evil motives. They look at a baby too young to recognize himself in the mirror, and see a master manipulator who cries not because he's uncomfortable or lonely or can't sleep, but because he wants to get the better of his parents. They look at a tiny toddler who can't yet even understand that different people know different things, and they think that the child is using her mother's fear of embarrassment to manipulate her into a hug.

....3.....
Third, Michael and Debi don't just think you have to defeat a child, they think that control over children has to be total. A lot of people here have quoted the part of the book where Debi hands a toy to a fifteen-month-old she is babysitting (that's about the age most kids are just walking). The baby doesn't want to play with the toy. Debi hits him with a switch again and again until the baby "plays" with the toy she wants him to play with. (The Pearls describe the baby as doing this "begrudgingly" - which again, shows how they project evil intentions onto children and babies with no understanding of how a child's mind grows and develops in stages.)

Pearl wants parents to keep switches highly visible in every room of the house, in every car. The intimidation and the threat of violence, for him, has to be constant. Pearl and his acolytes talk so much about having a home that is "peaceful" and "joyful." "Peace" is not the silence of a battlefield where all the enemies have been killed. "Joy" is not the smile of a hostage who smiles to keep the blows from falling.

This isn't a minor quibble about how strict or how permissive to be. People will always disagree about this. This is about thinking that complete control is possible and desirable.

The Pearls are right about one thing: The only way to make sure your child never, ever, ever does something you don't explicitly will them to do is to break them utterly. Is this what you want? A broken doll you can pose in the way you like?

....4....
Love.

The Pearls talk about love. They talk about Christ. They have a lot to say on the subject.

I used to work with abuse survivors. One woman I remember so vividly, her husband cut her face because she was "flirting" with their seventy-seven year old next-door neighbor. He said he was doing it because he loved her so much, he had to teach her. In fact, most every abuse survivor I met heard how she made him do it, and he loved her so much.

Talking about love gets you nothing, in my book. It's words. Too many evil people in history have quoted the Bible.

So let me instead ask the mothers reading this something: Did becoming a mother change you? I was blessed to be raised in a loving home with a large and loving family and true friends and to have a marriage that has been based on true and lasting love. I was blessed with faith as well. I knew love before I had a child. Nonetheless, the intensity and selflessness of the love I felt as a mother was new, and it is extraordinary. I feel more pity and patience and empathy now for other people than I had ever felt before in my life. Motherhood made me softer AND it made me stronger. Those things are NOT a contradiction.

For most of us, a mother's love is the first and purest love we experience. It is the earthly model we have for God's mercy.

Yet the Pearls mock mothers. They mock and cruelly shame and belittle. A mother's love, for them, is soft. It is weak. It's pathetic.

Everybody has been in the store at one time or another, seen the mother caving to the bratty, screaming kid and felt disgusted. The Pearls take this embarrassment and fear of shame, and tell mothers to doubt everything their eyes and ears and heart tell them about their child. They tell you your instincts and common sense can't be trusted. They tell you to push down the horrible way that your child's cries make you feel. They tell you to avoid your doctor and your neighbor and your relatives who are not "saved." They tell you to listen only to them. They shame you and control you with the fear of being "that mother."

I ask: Does Christ speak to us by changing our hearts with selfless love? Or does he speak through a book written by a dogmatic, prideful, and cruel man?

I read so many things in these reviews and comments from mothers who feel this mix of pride and shame about their children's behavior. Women who describe doubting the Pearl's teachings "at first," or saying that they don't take the teachings "too far." Women who bend over backwards and try to hard to justify the teachings in this book, despite clear and serious doubts. It makes my heart hurt. This book doesn't just do violence to children; it does violence to the good and decency in a parent's heart.

.......
I have not been a victim of abuse myself, but I know a lot about abusers and what they leave behind when they've ripped through a person. It's part of what fuels my anger at the Pearls. You can say that I'm blinded by anger, but believe me that I know whereof I speak. I can see these people for what they are. I've heard it and seen it too many times to be fooled. This is the philosophy of an abuser - not a strict parent, or Christian parent, or a spanking parent - an abuser. The projection of evil motives onto someone you're hurting. The need for complete and total control. The fetishization of domination and pain. The inability to empathize or understand what another person is feeling. Filling up your lack of understanding and empathy with a mirror image of your own evil thoughts. Turning sacred words like "love" into a lie and a disguise. Using the language of loving family to hide a heart that can't love another freely, just force their dolls act out a fantasy of what they think a loving child should look like.

Abusers. Not because of the things they tell you to do, but because of how they frame the entire relationship between parents and children.
Comment Comments (80) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2014 10:45 PM PDT


Pedia-Lax Children's Liquid Docusate Sodium Stool Softener, 4-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 3)
Pedia-Lax Children's Liquid Docusate Sodium Stool Softener, 4-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 3)
Offered by AmericaRx
Price: $14.52
12 used & new from $14.52

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good luck getting the kid to take it, August 27, 2013
The dosage on this is 1-3 Tablespoons for a child, and you are supposed to mix it in with juice, water, or milk. Good luck with that. The taste is beyond foul. It smells disgusting - like kerosene and melted lifesavers. There was no way at all - we tried everything - to get our kid to take it. Not mixed in any drink. Not given with a spoon. I really can't blame her. I tried a sip of the (very diluted) juice mix we made with this stuff, and *I* had to spit it out. No way could I have gotten down an entire glass, and I'm an old person with all my taste-buds dead.


Betty Bears Birthday
Betty Bears Birthday
by Gyo Fujikawa
Edition: Board book
26 used & new from $8.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Two generations, August 24, 2013
This review is from: Betty Bears Birthday (Board book)
Apparently, I made my parents read this book to me every single night when I was a toddler. Now, my two year old has us read it to her every single night as well. I can't possibly overstate how much she adores Betty Bear's Birthday. It really is a charming book. I love the illustrations.


A Cook's Journey to Japan: Fish Tales and Rice Paddies 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens
A Cook's Journey to Japan: Fish Tales and Rice Paddies 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens
by Sarah Marx Feldner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.12
38 used & new from $1.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerhouse Cookbook, August 24, 2013
I bought this book after meeting the author at a demo. It was a great demo, and she was so incredibly charming, funny, and self-deprecating that I bought the book to support the author and the store where she did the demo. Then it sat on my shelf for years because I was too intimidated by the idea of jumping into a whole new cuisine full of unfamiliar ingredients and techniques.

Boy, am I glad I finally cracked the cover. I've made at least a dozen recipes out of this cookbook so far, and every one of them has turned out great on the first try. The recipe for sesame fried chicken is a huge, huge hit with my family, and it's now part of our regular, weeknight rotation. Sadly, we have no access to good seafood where we live, so I have not tried the seafood recipes (about 15% of the book, maybe?), but the soups, meat dishes, veggies, and noodle dishes we've tried have all been stellar. I bring one of the cold noodle salads to work for lunch almost every week. I even pack onigiri to bring to the zoo for toddler snacks. It's one of those cookbooks that has food stains on the pages because it spends a lot of time in the kitchen, instead of on the coffee table.

One commenter said that the recipes are bland and not the best of Japanese food. Bland I don't agree with. I'm a bit of a food snob, and I thought they were very tasty. Not big, bold flavors, perhaps, but definitely well-balanced, delicious, and somehow wonderfully "homey". I think the cookbook is very much geared towards the Western home cook who wants to try out some everyday Japanese dishes. A lot of the book is "weeknight food," and all of it can be made with ingredients readily available in the US. There's nothing you can't find in a well-stocked grocery store. If you are already well-versed in Japanese cooking, though, or if you are looking for elaborate dishes to wow a dinner party, you might want to try the other cookbooks that the other commenter suggests.

Oh, and I loved the little stories that went with the recipes. The impression I got was not of someone who wanted to brag, but of someone overflowing with gratitude and recognition for her teachers and hosts in Japan. I thought it painted a picture of someone who fell in love with Japanese cuisine and with the people she met in Japan. Still, there's no reason you have to read the stories to make the dishes. There are also helpful notes with each recipe on finding good ingredients and on possible variations.


Haba Fantasy Blocks
Haba Fantasy Blocks
Offered by JustKidsStore
Price: $36.89
13 used & new from $36.89

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty, but kids don't play with them, June 7, 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Haba Fantasy Blocks (Toy)
These blocks are gorgeous, but they just aren't that much fun. I know I'm going to get some downvotes for saying that, but it's sadly true. Listen, I wanted to like them too. I spent a fortune getting the Fantasy blocks, the Sevilla set, the Cordoba set, the First Blocks, and another set of Haba. I wanted something made by workers who enjoy first-world wages and working conditions. I wanted something non-toxic, and I wanted something durable from a respected brand. These blocks delivered on all three. Plus, they are just beautiful. Each one is like a neat little treasure. The colors are gorgeous and the different sets look stunning together. They are beautifully made of solid, heavy beech-wood.

BUT

BUT

BUT.....

My daughter never played with them. Not at nine months, or twelve, or fifteen, or eighteen months. Not at two or two-and-a-half. Her cousin, who's almost four now, spends time with us every day for the last two years, and he never played with these either, nor do visiting playdate friends.

It's not that the kids don't like blocks. They play every day with our Wonderworld blocks, our Holz blocks, the Duplo Legos, and my old unit blocks from kindergarten. They just don't play with the Haba blocks, and I think I've figured out why.

Most of this set is decorated cubes and decorative "tower topper" blocks that can't be stacked. There are a couple of arch pieces and columns, but no triangular blocks. For the most part, all you can do is stack up straight towers, not too high, and make pretty color patterns. That's fun, but the kids have much more fun with sets that let them make cantilevered towers and explore proportions with multiple different size blocks. Those more diverse sets are also more educational, since the tots are exploring all kinds of spatial and engineering principles.

There's a limit to how much of that you can do with the Haba colored blocks. You can still build cantilevered towers with the arches, of course, but the plainer block sets with more rectangles and long pieces just offer more possibility and fun.

So to sum up: These are the prettiest, highest-quality blocks on the market, but they are more fun to look at than to play with.


Plan Toys Activity Assorted Vegetable Playset
Plan Toys Activity Assorted Vegetable Playset
Price: $19.99
49 used & new from $19.00

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small, wood composite? - but fun!, March 24, 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Uh oh. Is Plan Toys running out of rubberwood? All of our other Plan Toys (and that's a lot, since we love them) are made of solid rubberwood, from tapped out rubber plantations in Thailand, I guess. All of the pieces in this set except the knife and the base of the mushroom are made out of some kind of composite material of wood chips held together with... glue? Maybe? Glue and dye? They look like they were molded into shape, not cut or carved. They feel heavy, though - at least as heavy as solid wood. I assume the wood chips are still rubberwood, but it's a pretty big change from other Plan Toys products.

If you look around Plan Toys website, it seems like all of the sudden a lot of their toys are made of this same wood chip material. Even the junction pieces of the new Plan City road and railway sets look like they might be made of this stuff. I guess it makes sense. There are a finite number of used-up rubber trees in the world, and they have to be running out fast with Wonderworld and big box stores like Target getting in on the used rubber tree toy game. Maybe they are almost down to sawdust and shavings, or maybe they're just trying to make the sawdust useful too. However, the company doesn't seem to be saying a word about this new material on their website, on their packaging, or in their catalog. I have no idea what kind of glue has been used to make the new toy or what safety and environmental standards were used as guidelines. I can't tell which toys are made the old way, from solid wood, and which ones are made the new way. I wish that Plan Toys would be up front. While my experiences with Plan have been great, I've seen other companies build a strong reputation for quality and then start cutting corners left and right while keeping prices the same (*cough* Melissa and Doug *cough*) I hope that doesn't happen here. (For one thing, we wanted to flesh out our Plan City setup over the next few years. We don't really have the money to buy up a bunch of old style backstock before the quality tanks...)

At any rate, it's a cool toy. It's small, though. Much smaller than the Melissa and Doug Melissa and Doug Cutting Food Box Play Set. It's a good size for our 24 month old, but might be too little for a four or five year old. The scale matches the Deluxe Cookware Set Kidcraft cookware set we have.

The zucchini is the same size as the mushroom and the onion, which are all the same size as the tomato and the bell pepper. I'm fine with this. The baby really loves it, and imagination is a good thing. The mushroom is especially cool.

All of the vegetables chop in half. None chop into multiple slices or more than two pieces. The velcro is good and strong, but not too much for a tiny toddler to manage. There are molded textures inside the cut foods such tomato seeds inside the tomato or gills underneath the mushroom cap, but all of the pieces are one solid color, with no painted-on details.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 29, 2013 11:18 PM PST


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