Thursday, September 20, 2007

Run, Forrest, Run!


I admit, I've always been more of a Nike/Saucony sneaker girl. (By the way, why do Southerners call them "tennis shoes"? It's not like you only wear them when you're channeling Serena Williams, right???)

So when Ryka partnered with the Parent Bloggers Network, the Nike snob in me was all "Ehh...Ryka? Heard of 'em, but aren't they kinda generic?"

But then the cheapskate frugal, footwear obsessed lovin' gal in me figured, "Sure, why not?"

I was sent these Ryka MC2 running shoes in size 7-1/2--my normal shoe size. (The color--gray, white and almost a fluorescent yellow, has grown on me.) I could tell immediately they were a bit snug. Regardless, I wore them 3 mornings in a row to run, and by the end of that 3rd morning, I had a blister the size of a silver dollar on my instep. Ack--not good! So keep in mind that they run a 1/2 size small.

New Size 8's were sent. Perfect! I've been running in them ever since.

And yes, dorks that we are (evidenced by the picture above), my Sis and I both wore our Rykas (she has the Solace) when we competed in the Ryka Iron Girl 5 mile run in Boston on Labor Day. Her Solaces have much more arch support than the MC2s, so if you need good arch support, I wouldn't recommend the MC2s.

So while they were not normally a brand I would have typically chosen, Ryka has managed to make me a convert (I just won a free pair from the Blog Blast!) Thanks Ryka! I appreciate the chance to feed my shoe fetish try something new!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

School Zone Kindergarten Products


Please pardon me whilst I rave and gush (both at the same time--could get messy, folks!) about these fabulous School Zone products that are part of a Parent Bloggers Network campaign:

The Kindergarten Magnetic Tin and the Start to Read Kit Level 1

First, a little background: Eldest will turn 6 in 3 weeks (crap! 3 weeks?). He just started kindergarten. Unfortunately, the kindergarten program in our school district got cut to only 1/2 a day. As in, his school hours are merely 8:15am-10:45am. Yeah, don't even get me started on that...

So I was feeling a bit of pressure to come up with some tactics in the Trenches to keep Eldest motivated and more importantly, NOT BORED, with learning, as he's been reading (competently) now for awhile and has a memory bordering on photographic.

These School Zone products do just that. Every night before bed (as has become our new routine), Eldest and I retire to my bedroom to work on "homework".

Kindergarten Magnetic Tin:
Eldest was instantly drawn to all the magnets and activity pages included with this kit. The activity pages focus on sequencing, patterns, simple math, phonetics and more. It was interesting to me to note the connection between Eldest's reading abilities and his actual comprehension. Urging him to read the instructions on the page and then follow the commands on his own was very enlightening. And it can be noted that these pages could be used as well for children much younger, if the parent were reading the instructions to the toddler and helping them along. (I just haven't had time to test this out on Middle yet.)

And the math activity pages? Let's just say we're working on them. (Eldest, much like his Momma, doesn't like to do things that he can't instantly master.) So I have been struggling to get him to try these activities. Math hasn't yet "clicked" for him. (I know, I know, he's still only in kindergarten. I realize this and am trying not to push.)

So 5 +2? Eldest knows enough to hold up 5 fingers on one hand and then 2 on the other and then count all the fingers he is holding up; but each and every time, he still counts the 5 fingers. Even though he realizes that there are 5 on that hand. It's interesting to observe. I think the more we practice, though, the easier it will be for him.

Word of caution: The magnets in this kit come in one flat sheet. It takes easily 30 minutes to remove them and place them properly in the tin. Also these magnets are small. Like bite-size, if you have babies and toddlers.

Start to Read Kit Level 1:
Our kit came with the Jog, Frog, Jog story and the I Want a Pet story. Both included an audio CD and activity pages. The story activities are on laminated pages for use with a wipe-off marker. Genius! Can be used over and over again.

A lot of the reading comprehension activities seemed similar to the kindergarten schoolwork that Eldest has been bringing home: "Draw a line from the color word (pink) to the animal that it describes (pig)" and so on.

Eldest's favorite activity is the dot-to-dot. He's done that one page countless times (wipe-off marker!)...and each and every time, lo and behold, he's made A FROG! [Yes, the boy will be receiving a new dot-to-dot book for his birthday.]

CONCLUSION:
I'm impressed with how compact, durable and organized these School Zone products are. They will certainly be utilized in the Trenches for many more years.

And the best part?

No lead paint.