cool things I like (and a giveaway)

Okay, so it isn’t “Oprah’s Favorite Things,” exactly, but here are three cool things I have recently discovered that I want to pass along to all of you– because when a mom tells me something she loves, I tend to listen.

Carnival Day,” Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys
Vanessa heads up a Boston-based band that I have never seen in person, but her CD is an absolute fave in our house. If you’re looking for insanely catchy songs that you won’t mind hearing in the minivan a few hundred times, look no further. Vanessa’s got a great voice, and her songs manage to be fun without trafficking in the wise-assed or the potty-based humor.

“Animal MASTERMIND Towers” game
I bought MASTERMIND for the boys because Dr. Toy named it one of the best toys of the year. While they did enjoy it, it was a tad too challenging for them to play (at 5 and barely 7) without me sitting there and supervising (which lessened its appeal considerably, at least in this busy mother’s eyes). Now Pressman has put out this new version of its code breaking game, and it’s much easier for younger kids to play on their own. Each player stacks up six animal tiles in random order; their opponents then have to guess the order of the animals in their tower, without being able to see them. It’s Battleship meets Memory. The boys tell me this game is “awesome,” and I’ve noticed that they enjoy playing their own made-up games with the not-too-cutesy animal cards as well. (This is crucial: if the animals were too sweet-looking, Connor would say the game was for babies.) Pressman Toys has recently put out Looney Tunes and SpongeBob versions of MASTERMIND Towers as well; when the boys heard that, they decided we would also need each of those versions in order for our board game options to be complete.
At its very reasonable price point, I’m going to get a few to keep on hand for birthday presents.

–the “Time Timer
At Connor’s curriculum night last week, his second grade teacher extolled the virtues of this nifty little device. It’s a timer with a red disk, giving the viewer a visual understanding of time elapsing. When time runs out, you can choose to have an alarm go off, or not. “I just got it, and I don’t know what I ever did without it,” Connor’s teacher raved, and I must concur. This morning at 7 a.m., I pulled it out (for the first time) and set it. “If you guys get completely ready for school before the red runs out,” I said, “you can watch a show.” Off my three kids were like shots out of a cannon. All three of them got at least 20 minutes of beloved programming in, and I didn’t yell, wheedle, threaten, or throw anything. 6 year old Seamus, the pokiest of children, was particularly taken with the timer- and I think the visible time remaining really helped him stay on track. I’m going to use it for homework, Wii, and probably for myself, to help stay on task while the kids are at school. (If you want to save money on the desktop version, and have an iPhone, there is also a $4.99  Time Timer app).

There you have it: three of my cool new things (new to me, at least). Vanessa’s album was a gift from a family member; I bought my own Time Timer; and Animal MASTERMIND Towers was given to me by Pressman Toys, with the request that I review it for this blog (little FTC disclosure there). Here’s the good news: Pressman has offered another copy of the game for me to give away to a lucky reader, so I’m going to do a giveaway! That is something exciting and new on this blog… hope you enjoy. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below, telling us all *your* cool thing you think other moms might want to know about. The giveaway will include all comments this week. Good luck!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

wenmei October 12, 2010 at 4:41 pm

This is for babies, but my favorite thing was my patemm pad. I got it as a gift when my first was born and had no idea what it was, but after I figured it out, it was the most useful gift I received.

It's a diaper changing pad, but it's so much more. It's round, which is great for keeping a squirmy baby contained. It's big enough that I can put it on a changing table in a public restroom and fold the side up to cover the wall (b/c babies are grabby). It's completely waterproof (including the seams) so that it can be cleaned thoroughly. It's lightly padded so I can use it on the ground, even on gravel. It has pockets to hold extra diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes. It folds up nicely (and stays closed) so that I can either toss it in my bag or carry it on its own with one of the handles.

My favorite thing about it is that it's so convenient. We never had to struggle to fit a baby and a diaper bag in an airplane bathroom — we just grabbed the patemm, which contained everything we needed for a change. And once my babies were old enough to be pretty consistent about diaper changes, I stopped carrying a diaper bag entirely. I just toss the patemm in the car or the bottom of the stroller and I'm on my way.

Thanks for your recommendations too! I am going to look up that timer right now. I'm using a normal kitchen timer stuck to the fridge right now, but it would be great for my son to be able to visually see how much time he has left.


tracy October 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm

My new favorite product is the nose frida. While it looks totally disgusting, it works miracles. Forget those big, blue, bulb aspirators. This thing is a life saver. The nose frida helped my daughter to sleep peacefully last night snot free. It is the best nasal aspirator EVER. I feel like I should get paid to discuss it because I can't shut up about how great it is!


Emily October 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I have no great nifty new thing. How sad. My only common piece of can't live without has been a boppy. My three have used them and love them and my baby won't sleep without it. It's her pillow and lovey and everything. I just need to figure out how to make it small now!

So I would love to have one of your new treasures! All three would be incredibly useful in my house!


Amy Wilson October 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Tracy that is hilarious because I have previously posted on the Nosefrida and why I think it's the torture device of all time. maybe I just wasn't using it correctly!

Wenmei, I've never heard of the patemm pad. Definitely going to check it out…

Emily, I think the boppy is a classic and totally acceptable as a cool thing.


Mandy Shoults October 12, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I can not believe how many new and wonderful things have come out between the birth of my son three years ago to the birth of my daugther this year. Definitely my new favorite item is the Wubbanub. It the the Soothie soother with a small stuffed animal attached. This thing is so great and because of the stuffed animal, my daughter can easily find it in the crib at night and pop it back into her mouth. No more getting up at 3 am just to put a soother back in her mouth!! I love it!


Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Let's see, these days we're loving the Rotten School book series by R.L. Stine (7 y.o. DS) and these skirts by GocksFrocks for 4 y.o. DD:

Also these Usborne sticker books:



tracy October 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm

i would LOVE to read your post about the nosefrida! you are always so funny!


Erin G. October 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Hmmmm… cool thing I like… does sleep count? 🙂

We do like the Tag reader and Tag Jr from Leap Frog.


kathtysse October 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm

At $0-1.99 each, the toddler apps on my iphone are an absolute lifesaver. I don't know what I did without them. I always have my phone with me, so when the waiting room at the doctor's office is taking forever, or the house is finally clean and I need it to stay that way for 15 more minutes before our guests arrive, I fire up the trusty apps on my phone that have taught my two-year old that a triangle has three angles and that "q is for quince". Now the only problem is my one-year old is already wanting to play the apps, too, and I only have one phone!


indywriter October 13, 2010 at 1:49 am

I received the Tiny Diner as a gift. It's a rubber mat that uses suction cups to cling to a table surface and provide protection for/from the table. I cringed when my little ones would put their mouth on the table when we ate out or would put their finger food on that table (Have you seen the old rags they wipe tables with? Assuming the table has been wiped at all…). This mat also has a crumb catching pocket to keep things even tidier, then the mat rolls up and into this pocket for storage.


Lynnelle October 13, 2010 at 3:08 am

I love the site

They have awesome books online for kids to read and for every book you read a book is donated to a child who can't afford one. My kids love this site!!

Sad to say it, but I love that my kids has iTouch so that I can use my iPhone. 🙂 She loved to steal my phone to play her apps.


Karen October 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

My favorite mommy thing is truely for the mommy and indirectly for the kids. I couldn't live without my Keurig one cup brewer. When I'm up at 7am to get the boys ready for school after having worked until 1am the night before, being able to have a nice hot cup o' joe inside of 30 seconds is invaluable! Plus, I can use it for hot chocolate or cup o' soup or anything else that calls for hot water. Love it!

And thanks for your list. I definitely plan to grab a Time Timer. Just this morning that would've come in handy allowed for a morning with much less little boy silliness and my loud mouth. LOL


Kristen October 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm

oh wow! thanks anonymous/erin for the gock's frocks shout out! a fellow mom at school spotted your comment and forwarded me a link to the blog! wow! I would love to offer free shipping to anyone from this blog who spots something they like in my shop on etsy!

just leave me the comment MOTHER LOAD at checkout and I will refund your shipping!

gock's frocks


Anonymous October 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Completely agree with you on Vanessa's CD (full disclosure, we're the ones that gave them the CD). She's great in person too-her shows sell out quick around here so we always feel lucky when we get to see her!

My favorite baby item are those fur lined Robeez booties. How I made through baby #1, 2, and 3 without them, I'll never know (cold toes, I guess). I was given them as a gift for #4 and thought they were a bit over the top, but the giver told me she too got them as a gift and thought they were a bit much but then loved them-that's two once skeptical, now converted devotees. And thanks to you, Amy, we have a second pair that will fit C this year. Yeah!


Ellie October 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm

My favorite is a Natural Waldorf Style Doll. They are created by an amazing woman out of Canadad. These aren't for the faint of heart. These handmade, natural babies are created specifically for others to love and cherish. The website is These dolls are one of a kind and hard to get. I spent over 10 months trying to procure one for each of my children for this coming Christmas, and you know what? They are all amazingly perfect!


Whitney Isetta October 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Our absolute favorite thing for our now almost 2 year old was the Chicco Hook on Hippo Chair.
It is completely portable high chair. We used this thing while camping and while out and about. The best thing was using it at a table in a restaurant. We would hook the chair onto the table above the bench of a booth. This was great because it kept Keegan in the booth with us, rather than at the end of the table in the way of the server. The chair holds up to 37lbs, so it is still getting quite a bit of use. We also found it is very useful to keep around for friends that are visiting with little ones. We just pop it on the kitchen table. I seriously LOVE this chair. And, it is totally washable. The whole fabric part comes right off.

-whitney isetta-


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