Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Always October - A Fun Review

When my 10 year old son becomes engrossed in a book, ANY book, I take notice. I take notice and read alongside and encourage and silently clap my hands and do the happy dance when he isn’t paying attention.

Harper Collins Publishing sent me a pile of Halloween themed books for the kids to peruse and review. The first book that grabbed Evan’s attention was “Always October” by Bruce Coville. Evan became so entranced with this spooky pre-teen novel that we felt we absolutely MUST share it with you all!

Mom: So Evan, you kinda like Always October, eh?

Evan: Yes. KIND OF?!? (sarcasm)

Mom: You mean a lot?

Evan: Mm hmm.

Mom: Elaborate.

Evan: What does that mean?

Mom: "Elaborate" means to describe using more words.

Evan: Ohhhh. Ok. Best. Book. EVER.

Mom: So it’s the best book ever? Why?

Evan: I like the storyline. It’s really detailed. 

Mom: Gimme more.

Evan: These are not the kinds of questions I thought you’d ask. Ask me different questions.

Mom: Like what? What questions should I ask you?

Evan: Ask me what my favorite characters are.

Mom: Oookay. Who are your favorite characters?

Evan: Mrs. McSweeney! She has cool weapons. She has a glowing sewing needle that shoots beams of energy.

Mom: That is cool.

Evan: I know, RIGHT? Read me what you’ve written so far, Mama.

(I read it all)

Evan: Why did you write it like that? Let me see!! Heeeeyy!!

Mom: Get your hands off of my computer!!

(We calm down)

(He sighs….) I like all of the monsters because they’re cool. 

Mom: Ok. “cool.” Again. 

Evan: Mommy, these are not good questions.

Mom: Don’t touch my computer! Stop it!

Evan: No! Gaarrrrggghh!!!!

(a scuffle ensues)
Mom: Ok. Forget it. This interview is over.

Evan: No! Ask me different questions!

Mom: FINE. Ummmm….. Do you think other kids would like this book?

Evan: YES! It’s a REALLY good book! It’s exciting.

Mom: Do you wish there was another book in the series?


Mom: Should we send this interview to the publishers and hope they send your request to Mr. Coville?

Evan: YESSSSS!!!!

Mom: You only have a few chapters left. How do you think it will end?

Evan: I think a couple important characters will die but that they will get the baby back.

Mom: Ah! You’re giving away the story! Spoiler alert!

Evan: You asked me, Mama!!

Mom: Good point... All right. Interview’s over. I love you.

Evan: Love you too.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

2012 Chicago Toy and Game Fair - giveaway and discount!

Every year it's the same thing. Well, not really. In fact, every year it's something NEW and exciting when it comes to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (ChiTag for the uninformed!). 

Never been? IT'S A BLAST. All of the newest and most innovative toys and games of the year (and dozens of classics that you may have missed) are presented in the enormous exhibition hall at Chicago's Navy Pier. My family has attended for 3 years now and it has become a much-looked-forward-to fall tradition.
Patrick and Evan playing Stratego in 2011

“We’re so excited about this year’s Fair,” said Mary Couzin, founder and CEO of the Chicago Toy & Game Group which hosts the Fair as the culmination of an entire week of industry conferences and playful events. “For our 10th anniversary we’re pulling out all of the stops with more toys, giant-sized games, awesome tournaments and contests, specialty programming and much, much more. It’s like a giant interactive and bottomless toy box!”

The Chicago Toy & Game Fair will be held at Navy Pier in Festival Hall A on Saturday, November 17th and Sunday, November 18th. Highlights include:
- Giant-sized games such as: Bananagrams, Perplexus, Doggie Doo, Word on the Street, Pajaggle, and more
- Settlers of Catan North American Catan Championship
- Meet the Moshi Monsters
- Autographs from renowned toy and game inventors
- Free contests and game tournaments
- Speed Stacks sport stacking demonstrations and tournaments


Stars Wars Lunch (12 Noon – 1PM): Kids and adults alike can dress up as their favorite characters for an interactive lunch and playtime that features a Star Wars-themed Top Trumps tournament. $30/$36 kids under 12/adults. Tickets will sell out, but are available for purchase now at

Official Illinois State Yo-Yo Contest (10AM-4PM): A dynamic performance competition (featuring ladder climbs) that will be judged by former Illinois and World Champions as well as a quarter-finalist from the hit TV shot “America’s Got Talent.” Hands-on tips for all skill levels; online and day-of registration available. Sponsored by Cat ‘n Mouse Toy Store.

Top Trumps Guinness Book of World Records Attempt (3PM): Girl Scouts from all across the Midwest will join together in an attempt to break the world record for the most people playing a single card game at one time.

Young Inventor Challenge (10AM-2PM): Nearly 200 young inventors in two age groups (6-11, 12-18) will display their original inventions of toys and games to be voted on by the public as well as professionals from the United Inventors Association of America. Previous participants have had their inventions licensed by major toy companies. Sponsored by PlaSmart.


Stage Performances from Radio Disney, Blues Clues LIVE! presented by Naperville’s Center Stage Players, Elan Dance Company, Music from 4 A.M., as seen on Fox-TV’s The X-Factor, Ben’s Bubble Show, Lil’ Buds Theater and more.
Boy Scouts Top Trump Tournament (9AM): Boy Scouts are admitted into the Fair an hour early.

FREE ADMISSION FOR: Teachers, librarians, members of the military, Boy/Girl Scouts in uniform, children under 3 years of age. On Sunday, grandparents accompanied by kids admitted free of charge.
$10: ages 14+
$5: ages 3-13

Click here for ticket info and a $2 off coupon

You can win a 4 pack of tickets for your family to attend! In fact, FIVE FAMILIES will win as I have 5 sets to give away! I KNOW, RIGHT? All you have to do is enter a comment below stating who you would like to take with you to the ChiTag and you will have 5 chances to win a set of 4 tickets. (One winner per family, please).

Drawing dates are every Friday from 10/12 to 11/9. I must have an email address to contact you with as that will be my only form of communication with you!!

Good luck and hope to see you at the Fair!

10/12/12 - #1, Newhere 
10/19/12 - #3, Journeytowardelysium 
10/26/12 - #2, Tony G. I DO NOT HAVE YOUR EMAIL.I'm sorry. I  will have to pass your tickets onto someone else. 

NEW winner for week 10/26 is Meg39 Mommy
11/6/12 #5 Stephanie Kush is winner! YAY.

StraightTalk and Make A Wish

My 13 year has been deprived. He has no cell phone.

I KNOW! First world problems run rampant in my household.

So when I was contacted by the Make-a-Wish Foundation to participate in their cell phone collaboration with WalMart and Straight Talk to raise money for Make-A-Wish.

If you don't already know, the Make A Wish Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of children with life-threatening conditions. They literally make wishes come true for little ones who have medical issues which severely hinder their ability to live "normal lives".

From now until October 13, Straight Talk will donate $1 for every demonstration completed at select WalMart locations with a minimum of $500,000 to a maximum of $1,000,000 donated to Make a Wish.

ONE MILLION DOLLARS. All it takes to help contribute to that amount is to stop by a participating WalMart's cell phone area and ask for a demo. It takes ONE minute to help contribute one dollar. Think of all of the suffering children that will benefit from this!

I stopped by our WalMart this past week. A short and simple demo from the friendly staff and I was done. I really didn't need much information because we received a Straight Talk phone and 3 months of pre-paid cards for a review. And now my teenaged son? LOVES ME. I have made this phone the "kid phone" so that all 3 of my children can help me review it. There were some problems getting it turned on and getting in touch with customer service, but once we got them on the line, the Straight Talk rep talked me through all of my technology ignorance. The phone came to life and I was instantly in love. It's a GREAT phone. We are reviewing the LG Optimus Zip. For $45 a month (pay as you go), we get unlimited phone/text/data on our Android phone.

So far? So good. No connectivity issues and the battery life seems decent. My 6 year old came to me yesterday, bopping to a song on YouTube that she found on the phone while showing me the new wallpaper she installed on it. So it's obviously child-friendly, too. :)

I will definitely update more once we've had more time to adequately test this phone out, but for now, please go visit your WalMart and share the word about this awesome collaboration so that Make a Wish can receive the $1,000,000!

Help on Twitter by using the hashtag: #straightalkwish

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus giveaway in Chicago

~Updated with winner at bottom of post~

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents DRAGONS is a once in a millennium event that honors The Year of the Dragon. Circus performers from the farthest reaches of the earth have assembled for Ringling Bros.® Presents Dragons to showcase their astounding acts of bravery and astonishing athleticism. Ringling Bros. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson presides over this fantastical celebratory tournament of circus champions that brings together mystic dragon lore with authentic circus feats. Dragons is a never-before-seen blend of renowned spiritual and real life legends that can be found only at The Greatest Show On Earth®!

 FREE PARKING in all official Allstate Arena and United Center parking lots.  Visit arena website for more information.

Circus Celebrity seats sell out fast, as they include more than 20 minutes where you and your family become a part of the show on the Arena floor.  Get these tickets EARLY if you're interested!
The shows on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 5 pm and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 5 pm include post show Hispanic concerts.  Ticket prices for these shows are $5 more for each price level.

Opening night tickets on Thurs., Nov. 1 at 7 pm at Allstate Arena and Weds., Nov. 14 at 7 pm at United Center are just $12!

You can use the code MOM at the Ticketmaster checkout to save 40% on all weekday shows and 20% on all weekend shows. (Weekday is defined as any show Monday through Thursday or Friday matinee, not including holidays such as the day after Thanksgiving.  Discount does not apply to Circus Celebrity, Front Row, or VIP seats.  No double discounts.  Service charges, handling, and facility fees may apply.)

Your family can win a 4 pack of tickets to see the circus on either Nov 1, 2(10:30 show) or 14. Just enter a comment below telling me what your favorite part of the circus is! I'll pick the winner on 10/21/12 via

Good Luck and enjoy the circus!!
Edited to Add Winner:
Congratulations to Garima! I hope you enjoy the circus! You will be contacted via email by a rep for Ringling with instructions on how to select and enjoy your tickets.

Thanks to everyone for entering and don't forget about the discount code to save BIG money on purchasing tickets for this year's show.