Mom Review: Castle Bounce House

bouncehouseI am writing this while listening to my children hop, jump and squeal.  It's a little distracting...but I can't complain.

I recently purchased a Castle Inflatable Bounce House w/ Slide (12' x 9') from and thought I would share my thoughts with you about this product.

We used it for the first time during our Father's Day BBQ.  My kids (5 & 6 and my *almost* seven year old nephew) played in it for at least an hour.  I used it again at my daughter's birthday party one week later.  All of the children (ages 3-7) had a great time.  The only downfall...they had to take turns because it is only large enough to hold 3-4 children at a time safely.

While I was afraid I would only use the bounce house for big events - my children have been using it at least twice per week.  On rainy days - we bring it indoors and on warmer days they pull it under the shade trees.

Set up for the bounce house is simple. In fact, my 6 year old daughter is able to drag it out of our backyard shed, plug it in and start it up.  It is also fairly light and easy to maneuver.  Just the other day I set it up in our basement when I wanted the kids to get some rainy-day exercise.

What I love most about this particular bounce house is that my children also use it as a playhouse.  They've draped blankets over the top to turn it into a "movie theater" and have loaded it full of stuffed animals to create an "animal hospital".

Overall, I am thrilled with this purchase.  I bought it for $249 at and have since seen lower prices on the internet.  It has been well worth the cost during the summer months and I expect that during the cold winter months it will be a great addition to the basement play area!

Note to Fellow Soccer Moms…the Coolest Blackberry / Iphone App…ever!

Let me start my saying that I am a complete computer geek.  I love technology.  I would not be able to survive without my laptop.  I shop, schedule playdates, plan my meals, search for.....(well...everything), work, & teach my kids with the help of my simple & somewhat vintage (two year old) Toshiba laptop.

I took a step forward in the technology department today by purchasing my very first Blackberry (or "crackberry") cell phone.  Within moments of ripping open the box I started searching for applications (shopping lists, calendars, to-do lists) etc.

Carrying around a cute little phone (mine is cherry red) cvlingoertainly beats lugging around a 17 inch dinosaur laptop.

One of the first "apps" I downloaded (thanks to a variety of positive online reviews) was "Vlingo" which allows you to add tasks, send e-mails, & search the web using voice prompts.

Okay...where do I start with the coolness?  A moment ago (when I was feeling sarcastic) I held the side key of my Blackberry and said, "note to self...get it together".  Later, I held the key and said, "tasks".  Whaddya list of "to-do's" popped up.

(get it together)  (tee hee...) 😉

(send a retirement card to mom)

(send invites to Jenna's birthday party) can also search the web using simple voice prompts like....

(coffee shops in Billings Montana) and "wa-la" a list (via Google or Yahoo) of coffee shops. cool is that?

Oh..and if you are a facebooker...or twitter'er - you can update your status by pushing a button and telling people what you are my case "rambling via blog".  🙂

....anyway - needed to share since my blog is all about "simplicity" and I probably saved 30 minutes of tap-tap-tapping texts, searches, etc...using the application vs. my teeny-weeny phone keyboard (and fat fingers). 🙂

Mom Review: Too Cold to Play Outside? Try Wii Outdoor Challenge

I live in Montana and we are smack-dab in the middle of the coldest winter I've ever experienced here normally Montana is fairly mild...(mind you, I grew up in Minnesota so my definition of mild may be a bit skewed).

We had a weeklong stretch where the kids literally could not go outside due to frigid temps.  They were getting stir-crazy...and so was I.

That's what motivated me to purchase a Wii and Active Life Outdoor Challenge for Christmas - and since the weather didn't break...we opened it up early.

It was an instant hit with my kids (a four year old boy...and five year old girl).  The loved the jump-roping, log-jumping, outdoor trampoline & mine cart race.  I was literally giddy as I watched them run in place, jump and swing their arms & sweat!

We love the game so much that we spend each afternoon doing a family workout.  I do a 20 minute running, hurdle & jumping routine while the kids run in place & jump beside me.  After that, they challenge one another in a variety of games while I clean the house.

Pinch me.  I have a clean house...I am getting a quick workout...and I have exhausted kids at the end of the day.

Here is a promotional video for the game.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the game if you have it (comments section)...and if not - give it a try!  Trust me, it is well worth the $59.00 price tag!

New T-Shirt & Profile Card Designs Available at My Zazzle Store

I just finished creating a bunch of brand new t-shirt designs for babies & big kids.  Check them out at my Zazzle store

My Mom Rocks (or uncle, aunt, big brother, etc..) shirt
My Mom Rocks (or uncle, aunt, big brother, etc..) by traci_designs
Design Custom Tee Shirts On Zazzle
See other Youth School Academics T-Shirts


Loving This! Safety Tats – Adorable Identification Tattoos for your Child

I literally found this website a few hours after scraping a Fourth of July flag tattoo off of my daughter's arm.  The darn thing stayed on for three days!

Now, I am having one of those...slap the forehead - why didn't I think of that?  - moments.  (I think I have a permanent forehead bruised from all of the brilliant things *other* moms have thought of).

Anyway - this one is one of the brilliant-ist by far.   =)

I used to be a social worker and spent much of my summer retrieving young children who wandered from home or who got lost at a park or carnival.

It never failed...even the children who probably rehearsed their name and phone numbers with a parent over...and cases of stage fright.

What's your name?  "um - I don't know".

What's your mommy's name?  "um - mommy".

Where do you live?  "In a blue house".

We always found the rightful owners to the wayward children...however, it is nice not to spare a moment (or a trip to the police station) while looking for a parent.

I am buying a few "tats" as we speak.  They are stinkin' cute, plus - they last over a week.  (If they are anything like the flag tattoo - they'd probably last until the child hits jr. high).

Check it out!

Fresh, Modern & Fun – Skinny Mini Playdate, Business or Mommy Calling Cards

I spent Memorial Day hanging out with adults. Yes - *just* adults. It was wonderful. We ate a little, drank a little...and of course, we talked about our kids. =)

I was especially excited to meet a fellow artist....I am a graphic designer - and she paints.  "Ooohhh you are a *real* artist, I squealed...teach me!"

So - we exchanged numbers. She gave me a beautiful business card complete with her website, contact information and a lovely painting on the front whereas I scrambled to find a piece of napkin that wasn't soaked in BBQ sauce to write my number on.

As a result of my embarrassing first playdate impression...I decided to create my own "mommy card" if you will.

These are small enough to fit in your pocket (about the size of a lipstick)...and large enough to add all of the pertinent information. The come with a cute little dispenser too. I am going to use the first one...but I thought I'd create a few others just for fun. These have a fun backside too....


 Skinny Mini Modern Dots Profile / Calling Card profilecard – Safe and Fun Website Browsing for Kids


I am not sure if this is a good thing or not, but my kiddos like the computer as much as I do.  My four year old daughter loves online drawing sites and coloring pages and my son is a big fan of "Handy Manny".

While I love to let them play educational and creative games on the internet, I am always afraid that they will run into a site that I don't want them to see.  Not to mention all of the annoying little pop-up ads that seem to be strategically placed for accidental clicks.

I found this site a few months ago and was reminded of it the other day when my son was having a hard time navigating between two sites he loves to play on.   It is a Firefox add-on (meaning you can only use it if you also use the Firefox browser...which I also highly recommend).  Once you install it you create "tabs" for each of your children and small icons called "glubbles" with many of the most popular children's educational and game websites.

What I love most about the site is that it keeps my children from exploring elsewhere on the internet because everything else is password protected by the parent. 

You can also customize the homepage for each of your children.  I filled my daughter's site with Polly Pockets, Girl Scouts  and American Girl type sites while my son gets Bob the Builder and Lego games.  You can also choose age-appropriate sites.

I almost purchased the Fisher Price Easy Link Launchpad for my kids but I wasn't anxious to have yet another toy piled on top of my laptop, desktop, printer, and drawing software.  This has been a much better option for so many reasons.  (Did I mention that it is free too)?

Free Downloadable Stationery & Invitations from

I was just visiting the online gift store to look for a few last-minute holiday gifts and ended up getting a little gift of my own!

Check out these fantastic stationery pages and invitations.  Would you believe that they are totally free?  You simply download the template from and print them out on your home computer. 

Here are just a few samples.  They have dozens of great kids birthday invitations, adult birthday invitations, initial notecards, greeting cards and more.



Mix & Match Initial Notes TemplateDisney Princesses Template Festive Party Cocktails Border Blue and Brown Polka Dots Batman Begins Template 

Simple Educational Games for Kids:



I never thought I would sign up for a subscription game service for kids.  With all of the wonderful (and free) sites like, and why would anyone want to spend money on a website subscription?

Well, it suddenly made sense to me yesterday.  I allow my daughter to use the computer for about an hour or so in the mornings and again in the afternoon. The other day, she was wrapped up in a wonderful drawing program on "".  I thought it would be the perfect time for me to get some housework done.

Within moments I hear her yelling from the kitchen..."Mommy, I clicked on the wrong button".

Whaddaya know...she was suddenly watching a toy advertisement (as if she doesn't get enough of those on Saturday mornings).  It happened again at least three times.

I was reminded of a conversation with my cousin who told me about  She said that her son loves the educational games and has been excelling as a result.  She also told me about the parent section where you can track your child's progress.

I gave it a try and was hooked immediately.   There are no ads and the website is so simple to navigate that even my three year old doesn't struggle.  I also love that you can customize the games based upon your child's age.  For instance, I logged my four year old daughter in as a Kindergartner and my three year old as a preschooler.  They both are adequately challenged by the games, but they are not too difficult either.

The subscriptions are very reasonable.  Plus, you get a free 7 day trial. 

Here are the rates...
$9.95 per month monthly (no commitment)
$7.95 per month with a 6-month commitment
$5.95 per month with a 12-month commitment

The site is appropriate for kids from preschool through age six and you can enter as many children per household as necessary.

Product Review: Smart Cycle by Fisher Price

If you haven't finished your holiday shopping yet (or if you like to procrastinate like me) I have another hot toy you'll want to add to Santa's wishlist.  My three year old son received the Fisher Price Smart Cycle on his third birthday from his grandparents.

I love this toy as much as he does for many reasons.

First, I am finally getting my household chores done.  Whenever I have a pile of laundry to tackle or a bathroom to clean I remind him that he needs to work on his racing skills.   "Jakey...did you beat 48 seconds yet?"  He gets his competitive streak from his mother. =)

I live in Montana where the winters can be brutal.  My kids usually only play outside once or twice per week when winter sets in.   Prior to the Smart Cycle my kids' winter fitness plan involved jumping on beds and tackling one another.  While I've never encouraged my kids to sit in front of the tv while playing video games...I am absolutely thrilled when they "cycle" in front of the tv and play video games.

Finally, the games are simple, inexpensive and educational.   I hate purchasing a product only to realize that I constantly  have to buy additional books, software, etc.. to upgrade it.   My son has had the Smart Cycle for two months now and he has yet to grow tired of the basic cartridge that the product comes with.  Initially I was concerned that the Smart Cycle was more of a racing program than an educational program.   Thankfully, it is both.  I love watching him pedal as fast as he can while he screams out letters of the alphabet.   "I need a C"...."I need a D"...etc.  His letter-recognition skills have improved dramatically since he started playing with this toy. 

My only problem with this product is that they didn't make one for grownups. 

If you want to learn more about the Smart Cycle features, check out this clip from You Tube.  If you have any specific questions about the product feel free to post it in the comments section and I will do my best to answer it. 

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,,,