Sunday, October 22, 2017

Movie Review: Captain Underpants

We went to see Captain Underpants at the free showing last weekend. It's really not a very engaging film. In fact, the only thing holding it together is flatulence, because the jokes are so weak and self-serving that a fart is funnier.

Ever sat in a crowded place next to two preteen boys who won't stop talking and snickering to themselves? That's how this movie feels. It felt like we were partial to a conversation we weren't supposed to be hearing. The two characters constantly talking to themselves and not to the audience, but for the benefit of the audience, in order to show us how "cool" they were.

The film starts that way and it pretty much keeps up that pace right through to the end when the boys are the heroes cleaning up the entire disaster they created. My 2 year old put it best. "Captain Underpants? Yes and No."

I'm not sure we could sit through it again.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Jurassic Quest in Mason, MI

Our daughter is now 20 months old and she has been dino-obsessed for 6 months now. She knows the names of over 10 dinosaurs and she talks about dino eggs, dino bones, and dinosaurs endlessly. You can imagine our excitement when we found out an event called Jurassic Quest would be coming to Michigan. It was a dream come true! We immediately bought tickets to the exhibit on the weekend of February 10th, 2017, in Mason, MI.

We had originally intended to attend the event on February 11th, a Saturday, but after reading the Facebook posts from the Jurassic Quest page, we decided to go on Friday, February 10th, instead. The reason was that the expected lines and wait times was purported to be significantly larger on Saturdays than on Fridays. I contacted the Jurassic Quest page in order to see if my daughter would be tall enough to ride the rides and if it would be warm enough for her to attend. The first response I received was "We'll give you a refund," and the second was that she was plenty tall enough for the rides.

We drove 2.5 hours, and then we stopped and had lunch at the Mason McDonald's. It was very sweet. The locals were friendly and excited about the dinosaurs arriving at their fairgrounds. This was the Ingham County Fairgrounds. It was a very nice facility, but they were nowhere near large enough for the event, it turns out.

We arrived at 3:07pm and immediately noticed that the line was already several hundred people long and growing by the second. We had purchased the tickets in advance, so we skipped the queue and went straight in through and empty doorway intended for advanced ticket holders. I noticed a lot of parents with toddlers and babies in the line and felt very anxious about them waiting in the cold. It really made me upset. The average temperature that day was 26F, and the high was 36F and low 15F. Since the event didn't open until the afternoon, the temperature was cold and continued to drop the longer we were there.




Once we passed through the advanced ticket holders door, we were issued stamps and found that though we were there within 7 minutes of the event opening, the place was jam-packed with people. The first thing we saw was a small tent of dinosaurs. There were two large dinosaurs on one side and several smaller ones on the other. There were so many people and strollers that we could hardly get our daughter through to see them. It was also noticeably cold. It was not hot enough for her to remove her coat at any time in this tent.






We noticed was that the "heated tents" were not very warm. They were the size of party tents, very big, and the dinosaurs fit inside them, well, some of them did.















The bigger dinosaurs we were desperate to see were all outside in the cold, and it was simply too cold to keep our daughter out there for very long. We stopped long enough for a selfie, but had to move inside.

















We fully intended to purchase tickets for the rides, and the ticket stand was a further two areas away. As we approached it, my husband decided that she might want to do more than 4 rides, which were $5 each, and bought her a wrist band for unlimited riding. The person manning the ticket tent argued with him about why she didn't already have one. Two and under did not need them to get in. He finally did get her a $20 wristband. Unfortunately, by the time he got the band, the lines were growing, and my daughter was only able to ride once. The patience of a 20 month old child can wear thin after they've just spent 2.5 hours in a vehicle.



The one ride she did ride was the walking dinosaurs. We waited 25 minutes in line, and when we got to the front, the line had more than doubled in length from when we waited. There were three attendants inside making the dinosaurs walk, and 3 more dinosaur rides plugged in and charging. One dinosaur was missing its leg from the shin down. It was just a metal post with a wheel attached. It was also dirty. I began to have second thoughts about my child riding the rides, but there was no way out of the line with our stroller, so there we were.



Once our daughter got onto the ride, it lasted approximately 3-5 minutes, walked across the area, and then it was over. The attendant was lovely, and my daughter enjoyed this ride.


We then went to the gift shop, where DVDs, toys, and merchandise were set up. We declined to buy anything from this area as the prices were a bit higher than we would have liked. I'm a couponer, so it's tough for me to spend the extra bucks when I know we can get the same stuff at home cheaper.




Next, we decided to check out the bounce house. It was one just for Tots called Tri-cera-tots. The age limit was 2. No one over that age was allowed in, and the funny thing is, for a bounce house for ages 2 and under, no parents were allowed in either. My child sat, scared, while a little boy tried to mule kick her in the face. There was no attendant inside. We pulled her out.





We went to the fossil area to look at the fossils, and that line took up another 15 minutes of waiting. The man in line behind us had just come from the Tricera-Tots area as well and expressed his disappointment in the event. His son was 2, and he had another child stepping on his neck in the bounce house. The bounce house had only one entrance, and you could not see all of the areas from outside as it had tall walls. He had no way to get inside and get his son, so he ran around and had the attendant help him. He was very concerned about the safety of kids at the event.




When it was our turn to dig, we got approximately 3-5 minutes to do that. Just enough for my daughter to become very interested in the large sandboxes, and the have a howling fit as we were forced to pull her away. The attendant watched her phone, looking at the timer. She blew a whistle to let everyone digging know that it was not our turn any longer.








We went to see the baby dinosaurs, and had hopes of seeing the walking dinos. This was back in the second tent and it was freezing cold. We had to keep gloves, hat, and coat on in this area. The baby dinosaur stopped for approximately 15 seconds, long enough for my child to touch its head. Then, the person holding it was gone. We never did see the walking dinosaurs. It was simply too cold to stay any longer, so we headed back to the car to make the 2.5 hour journey home.




All in all, I'd give Jurassic Quest 3 out of 10 stars. It was a good concept, but it was executed very poorly. It was comparable to the quality of a traveling carnival, not a big children's event. It was very dirty, the lines were long as they had obviously oversold themselves, and the thing was crammed into tents outdoors in freezing weather. Often there was no rhyme, reason, or signage in event areas. You just had to guess where you were headed. The folks working the door were nice, and the lady that held our daughter on the ride was wonderful, but the rest of the people working seemed like they were tired and unenthusiastic. I can imagine I would be too, if I had to do that job day in and day out. It seemed like a lot of work.

I would not recommend this event for any friends or family that I know, and I will definitely not be returning to the event. When I expressed my concerns, to the Facebook page, I was given an apology and they told me it was their first time in Michigan, and that they would work on bettering the event. I guess they must get a lot of complaints because in days since I have seen them mounting on Facebook during each subsequent event, with the same problems we experienced. The actual event looked nothing like the photographs they use to tout it. I'd avoid it if you've got a toddler or younger child. There are better dino events out there. We'll find them.

Edited to Add: After I told others about our less-than-stellar experience in the comments, Jurassic Quest banned me from commenting on their Facebook page. Also, I heard from T-Rex Planet that Jurassic Quest is a cheap rip-off of their show and is causing issues for their branding. 



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Toys, Toys, and More Toys



As you can see by my living room, we have a lot of toys downstairs right now. Toys go on rotation, because we have a big Toy Box full of them, too. We try to keep them different every week so that she stays entertained when she's learning and exploring. She loves to empty the little toy bin.

We also have a big playroom full of toys upstairs and a lot of toys in storage. Early on, we read that within the first year, the more new and different objects a baby encounters, the more their brain will develop. Who knows if this is true, but we wanted to give her the best chance.

So, which are her favourites? The vtech toys, hands down. She loves them! They talk and sing, and have lots of buttons to press. She has the Spin Around Learning Town, Sit To Stand Learning Walker and Sig To Stand Learn & Discover Table. She plays with these the most.

 Second is the Little Tikes piano. We all know the one, and she plays with it ALL of the time. If it's not in her toy rotation, she looks for it.



She also loves her classic Fisher Price stacking rings. She likes to examine each ring until she finds a favourite for the day.



Almost all of the toys E has were purchased for $1 or $2 at thrift stores. Some, her daddy had to take apart and fix. He's a whiz when it comes to electronics and motors. Most of the toys just needed a good scrub and fresh batteries. I would really suggest thrifting for toys before your little one arrives. Look up each toy and find out the recomemended age for use. Store them by age and open up a new box when your child advances. It's such fun!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Art Of Buying Bibs

If you're anything like me, you bought everything you needed for your baby years before it was born. My husband and I had been married for almost six years before E came along, and my condition for having children was that I would get to decorate a nursery and a playroom before we got pregnant. Of course, this was a blast! We spent our weekends at thrift stores and I picked up some of the best items out there. This kid has 5 ride-on toys, 20 different kinds of blocks and about umpteen-bajillion baby toys. No, seriously, we had two of everything, including change tables, swings, bouncers, jumpers and bassinets. We just wanted everything to be perfect before our little one got here.



One thing we didn't count on was that we'd end up buying the wrong kind of bibs. I mean, a bib's a bib, right? Some of them have snaps and some have ties, and some are fluffier than others, but they all serve the same purpose - they catch spit up.

We got lucky from the very first day we brought E home. She has never spit up. Not once! She does have another fault, however. She doesn't latch. Not to a nipple, not to a bottle, and not to a sippy cup. She just drinks and the fluids come right down the side of her mouth. Our pediatrician laughed when we thought this was an issue. Our solution has been to use receiving blankets to catch the mess, and as E gets older, the mess becomes less. I wish we would have known how handy they are. We never use the little fabric bibs anymore, and only use receiving blankets for feeding. We would not have bought any newborn bibs at all had we known she'd never spit up!



She's 7 months old now and has been feeding herself since she turned 5 months old. She wants table food now and no baby purees, though she'll still eat a few Beech Nut products. Try to give her anything else, without disguising it in oatmeal, and she won't eat. That means that she's eating diced vegetables, fruit, bread, pasta, eggs and meat now. We're constantly making something new. 

Our nursery was finished in a Dr. Seuss theme and we had a Dr. Seuss baby shower with over 100 guests. We got everything we needed, and in that set we had two Dr. Seuss Bumkins bibs. I had no idea what they were except that they felt kind of like plastic and I wasn't sure how to wash them. 



Wash them we did, and now we KNOW what they're for! They're amazing at catching E's meals! She gets a little over eager about her favourite items, like broccoli, and she tends to spill a lot. We can easily refill her bowl 4-5 times per feeding by using the little pocket on her Bumkins bib. I wish I would have known about these when we first started buying. I'd have bought less of those little fabric bibs and a lot more of these! 



What are your thoughts on bibs? Is your kid a messy bottle taker? Do you have a lot of problems with spills and solid foods? What do you wish you had bought more?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Finished Kitchen


What a kitchen nightmare! With the baby here and getting ready to crawl, we decided to remove the old ceramic tile floors that had been badly damaged. Well, now we know why! They were laid overtop of uneven subflooring, on top of 6 other layers of floor! 


The guys pryed them up and found a ghastly mess near the island - water had been leaking for many years. Behind the paneling, the cupboard backs were rotten, the floor was rotten, and the 5 layers below were rotten, too. 

What started as a few hundred dollar, save yourself some money, DIY project had now turned into a cash disaster. We had to replace the entire island, all of the subflooring, the countertops (because we couldn't save the island counter and who wants a mismatched mess?), and the cupboards in the center.

The guys got to work cutting and patching the floors (which will never be level by the eay, because the room is comprised of an addition and another room where the old barn used to be).







We put in vinyl floors with the click and lay kind of panels. They look like wood but are waterproof and flexible to fit an uneven floor like ours.

Note to the wise: do not use staples on your subfloor. They pop thru the vinyl and make a mess. 


The sink also had to be replaced, so we opted for Delta products as they carry replacement parts here in town and are very sturdy. 


After the sink came the tiling of the island, and finally the other countertops. We went with tile with redgard under it, because quartz would have put us back a pretty penny. 


All told, this entire project (including the new sink and range) ran us about $3,500.









Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Parenting For Newbies: Blog One

Here I am, that person who told you I didn't want your unsolicited parenting advice. It's true. I don't. What I do want, though, is your attention. I want to share some advice with you.

You see, we went into this with a LOT of research. We went in with me being afraid to bond with a baby and my husband being incredibly over-eager. We had the baby, a nice, big girl, and then the fun began.

Everything I read was conflicted. I had no idea, even after the lactation specialist left, that I needed to use the breast pump every 2 hours. I had no idea how to even use one!

So, in the spirit of being a total moron and learning everything as we went, I'd like to start a slow progression of Parenting For Newbies blogs. Perhaps this will help my cousin and my niece, who are both each expecting a new arrival in 2016. 

I'll tag the blogs as Parenting for Newbies as I go. I hope they help someone out there because there is so much left to be learned.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kitchen Update and Spring has Sprung!

Spring is in the air, so once all of the cupboards had been sanded and given a new coat of poly, we turned our attentions to the great outdoors. We'll come back to the kitchen later with new floors and countertops, but it could be years before we get those and a backsplash put in.

For now, here's our yard projects!

Let's begin with the patio. It's a big project. Basically, our yard consists of two lots and those two lots are "separated" by a small hill (1-3 foot at most). The pool runs along the edge of this hill. The issue we have with the yard is that our huskies LOVE to dig along this hill as well. The hill is directly out our back door and is trampled, so it's a great spot to get right into the dirt.


As you can see, it's a bit of a muddy mess. This is only a shot of one of the 5 giant holes that had been dug there. It was impossible to keep the girls out of this area, so we decided to add a retaining wall and build it up, covering it with patio stones.

First, we used the cinderblocks my Dad had purchased at a yard sale, and hubby had been toting in his truck for ages, to build the base of the wall. Then, we went to The Home Depot and picked out more cinder blocks. While we were there, some lovely ladies needed a truck load of pavers hauled to their home 6 miles away and gave us $25 to do the job. Hubby lifted and hauled, as I'm incapable at the moment, and we walked away with just enough cash to pay for the cinderblocks.

Funnily enough, that morning, hubby had hauled some other items for a friend and had been paid $30, so this was put into the paver glue and a larger paver for the end ($20). We still had the worry of what to put on top, but I called the local salvage store and they held some long pavers for us until we could get to them. This was a further $11. We ended up spending only $1 out of pocket on the wall.



Dad kindly invested in some lumber for the stairs and also purchased a paver cutting blade for the saw, so we were able to make a nice angle on the paver and cut extra pieces to fit where needed. This has come in extremely handy for the pavers on the actual floor of the patio. So, next the boys dug out the upper side of the yard to be able to match the lower side of the hill. This took a bit of doing but in the end it looked brill! I asked for the steps to span across the yard and be "inviting" into the upper area.


Next, in went the wood. I gathered 12 pavers I had in my garden and we used those as the preliminary look, then went to buy more pavers to match them once we were sure they were what we wanted. The pavers were $0.98 each at The Home Depot. They weren't great quality and I don't recommend them. Tamping them made some of them break. They just weren't made for this kind of thing, I don't think, but they were affordable and that's what counts.


See the big terra-cotta pot? FREE! Our neighbor is sadly moving away but she gave it to us. Dad picked up a magnolia for it, and we will leave it there until it's big enough to move into the ground. It smells wonderful.

Currently, we have an entire low patio section to fill, a triangle between the pavers and brick, and a triangle between the upper and lower levels. We're debating over more pavers, pea gravel or cement. I'll keep the blog posted.