Friday, July 31, 2009

Potty Pony Pals


· The cost of disposable diapers can range to well over $100 a month.

· It’s healthier for a child’s skin to be free of a diaper.

· Girls generally start and complete potty training before boys do.

· Most children have finished potty training by 3 ½ years of age.

Let’s face it, potty training is time-consuming and tiring—taking the endless trips back and forth to the potty, not to mention trying to time when your little one is most likely to need to go only to have to make an emergency trip at the most inconvenient time.

Well, now there’s a revolutionary new product called Potty Pony Pals that’s sure to make your child’s potty lessons fun and more productive. Potty Pony Pals dotted underwear is made from 100 percent organic cotton. But that’s not all: the truly fantastic part is that having the “positive graphics on the inside of the garment gives the child the opportunity to ‘watch over’ their new potty underwear and keep them dry!”

To help your little tyke out, Potty Pony Pals also comes with a 10-minute DVD that teaches and reinforces the idea of your child’s new “Pal.” “The story line is carefully created to create a bond between your child and Potty Pony. After learning that Potty Pony does not like getting wet, your child will know exactly what is expected of them when they get their new potty pants.” So simple, yet ingenious!

For more information on Potty Pony Pals or to order your Potty Pony Pal kit, visit the website at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who will you BEE today?

BEE kind? BEE happy? BEE good? Who will you BEE today? Bee-Tees can help you decide!

These bright, inspirational T-shirts were started by Melissa Patton, a mom who wants to give her daughter a positive character and teach her how to treat others. With all the media kids are exposed to today, that may not always be easy. However, with Bee-Tees, opening the lines of communication now becomes as simple as popping on one of these colourful tees with the cute, friendly cartoon bee delivering the opening message.

Melissa said, “Dressing Lena in a Bee-Tee gave us a teachable moment in the morning to explain that ‘beeing kind’ means showing kindness to everyone. We would take 60 seconds to tell her that ‘beeing fair’ meant sharing her toys with her friends and that ‘beeing friendly’ meant inviting everyone to play. On the back left shoulder we put an additional message: ‘back your bee’. This little message we hoped would inspire others to read the bee message on the front and hold Lena responsible for her daily actions.”

Bee-Tees have become so popular that they are now available in adult sizes for Mom with sayings like Bee-Inspired, Bee-Happy, and Let-It-Bee. You can also buy Bee hats, visors, and bags.

So why not “spend some moments inspiring yourself and your child to BEE the best they can BEE?”

For more information or to order your very own Bee-Tee, visit the website at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Ahh, babies. There’s nothing else like them—sweet as sunshine with their fresh, baby- powdered scent. Who can resist them?

Everyone can when nature calls, turning that little sweetie into a little stinker.

Even though disposable diapers have made changing baby easy, they still leave that awful odour behind. What’s a mom to do? Air fresheners only mask the smell, and leaving a window open may not always be viable.

Well, put those clothespins away. Now there’s a new, all-natural solution.

From the makers of Poo-Pourri (Royal Flush and Pooch-Pourri) comes Poo-Pourri Jr. Made from antibacterial essential oils, such as bergamot, lemongrass and grapefruit, this spray eliminates the source of odour causing bacteria. Simply spray the cloth or disposable diaper before you throw it in the laundry or trash bin, and Poo-Pourri Jr. will safely and effectively trap and diffuse the offending smell. This “secret formula” also contains a neutralizer that attaches to harsh odours and dissolves them completely, leaving only a light, fresh scent behind.

Poo-Pourri Jr. is available in a handy 4-oz bottle ($12.95) for bringing on trips to the mall, on road trips, or to a friend’s house, or the 8-oz bottle ($19.95) to keep on hand at home. Plus, each Poo-Pourri product comes with a 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee.

To get more information on Poo-Pourri Jr. and other Poo-Pourri products, to find a retailer near you, or to purchase products online, visit their website at

And remember: “before you throw the diaper in the pail, give it a spritz so it won’t leave a trail.”

Bibs N Burps by Wow Baby

As a mother, do you sometimes feel like all you do is laundry? And if you have a baby, does the task never seem to end? Well, let me introduce you to a product that will at least keep some of those messy, spilled-on clothes from piling up.

Bibs N Burps by Wow Baby are stylish and functional bibs. Made from a unique blend of organic bamboo fibres, these bibs are very gentle and soft on your baby’s skin. Plus, every bib comes with a reusable liner that protects clothing from those blobs, drops, dribbles, and spills.

In addition, DriBaby Disposable Bib Liners are also available. Simply take a disposable DriBaby Liner, peel off the backing, and stick it behind your favourite bib. This liner now acts as a waterproof barrier between the bib and your baby, protecting the clothing underneath from those nasty stains. And because DriBaby Liners will work on ANY soft bib, they’re perfect for taking baby out to lunch or to a friend’s home. You’ll always have peace of mind knowing that your little one is clean, dry, and presentable.

To learn more about Wow Baby and its products, please visit the website at

Monday, July 27, 2009

FuzziBunz diapers

Since there is so much negativity about disposable diapers these days, I decided to do a little research of my own. I was shocked at my findings.

Did you know:

· 5,000–7,000 diapers are used in the first two years of a child’s life?

· Over 4 million disposable diapers are thrown away per day?

· Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feed-stocks, and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce enough disposable diapers for just one baby? And that’s only for one year!

· Disposable diapers contain traces of dioxin? This is a carcinogenic chemical by-product that is considered to be the most toxic of all cancer-related chemicals. That’s scary!

I know disposable diapers are convenient and keep the mess well-contained, but the above facts speak for themselves: disposable diapers are not only detrimental to our planet but also potentially unhealthy to baby. So what’s a busy mom to do?

FuzziBunz: No leaks. No Rash. No Waste.

· Adjustable: Fit babies from 7–35 pounds with a button/elastic adjustment system. You get more than eight customized sizes and over four waist settings.

· Durable: Built to last for years and years, FuzziBunz come with a “replace for pennies” elastic system on their diapers. No re-sewing, no seam-ripping, and it can be done in less than 10 minutes.

· Diaper rash–reducing: Patented fleece layer keeps your baby dry and rash-free.

· Waterproof: Soft outer layer is waterproof yet still soft and comfortable.

· Stylish: FuzziBunz diapers come in a number of colours and patterns, so on a warm day, baby can still look fashionable in just a top and a FuzziBunz.

· Easy to Care For: Simply separate and wash in your washing machine and tumble dry on low or hang to dry.

So what are you waiting for? FuzziBunz cloth diapers are simple to use, gentle on baby’s delicate bottom, and are completely adjustable. Try them today, and you’ll wonder why you ever used those disposable diapers.

For more information on FuzziBunz or to find a store near you, check out their website at

Sunday, July 26, 2009

PaciPlushies Hush the Fussies

It’s the middle of the night, and suddenly you’re awakened by the squalling cry of your toddler. You stumble bleary-eyed to her room to find that she’s lost her pacifier. You mumble some soothing words as you frantically try and locate the missing object. Finally after five agonizing, scream-filled minutes, you find it under the crib. Great! Now it has to be rinsed. So off you go as the crying grows louder.

Sound familiar? If you’ve had more than your share of these late-night “serenades” over the loss of a pacifier, I have good news for you.

It’s called the PaciPlushie. Created by Stacy Dallman, this ingenious solution for the “disappearing pacifiers” came about when she and her husband, NHL Defensemen Kevin Dallman of the Los Angeles Kings, found themselves at wits’ end over constantly searching for their toddler daughter’s missing pacifiers.

What’s the secret? It’s really quite simple. PaciPlushie comes with a soft plush toy that keeps the soother securely fastened yet is big enough to see on the floor or amid the bedding. The plush toy attaches directly to over 200 styles of pacifiers and is natural for babies to grasp onto and bring up to their mouths. The attachment of a silicone Hug Ring™ allows pacifiers to be removed from the toy for sanitation or replacement and enables picky pacifier users to continue using their preferred brand of pacifier.

PaciPlushies also come in eight adorable designs, including “Milo the Monkey” and “Pixie the Puppy,” and are accompanied by a clear-colored orthodontic pacifier and cap. At a retail price of only $13.99 plus shipping (worldwide), they would make a great baby shower gift.

To check out PaciPlushies, visit their website at

Remember, “PaciPlushies hush the fussies.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kernel Season's Popcorn Poetry Winners

While tripping over empty popcorn boxes that litter the floor of the darkened theater and munching on Kernel Season’s yummy popcorn, we three judges have reached our decision on who will win the delicious prizes.

It’s been quite an adventure! We have encountered and almost battled aliens, couldn’t make our decision until we put on our PJs, and had to take cover from mountains of exploding kernels both inside and outside our microwave. Fortunately, no obstacle thrown at us judges could have prevented us from choosing our very lucky popcorn poetry winners!

We were pleased to see so many poems entered and felt all of you are winners for the time and effort you put into your delightfully delicious poems. A big thank you to all of Sandie’s blog readers who entered our Popcorn Poetry Contest – we hope you had a great time and enjoyed this as much as we did. A special thanks to Kernel Season’s for not only co-sponsoring the contest and supplying the prizes, but also for making such a delicious product for all of us to enjoy.

Our three winners should email Editor-In-Chief VS Grenier with their snail mail addresses so that the prizes can be shipped as soon as possible. Her email is:

Okay, without further ado, here are the three winners of our Families Matter Popcorn Poetry Contest:

First Place – “A Light Drizzle” – Author: Diana Murray

Second Place – “Butterfingers Strikes Again” – Author: Walter Ancarrow

Third Place – “One Small Kernel For Mankind” – Author: Christi Atherton

Some Editorial Comments:

1st Place – Diana, your poem read very smoothly and we loved the intimacy of that popcorn moment you created, PJs and all. GREAT JOB, DIANA!

2nd Place – Walter, you are obviously a man of few words – VERY few words! We loved the six marvelous words you strung together and the clever portrait it created along with your title. It made all three of us roar with laughter so loudly that we were almost thrown out of the movie theater! WAY TO GO, WALTER!

3rd Place - As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of humankind on the moon, your idea of aliens coming to earth and smelling popcorn and wanting it so badly, combined with your awesome title, made your poem very funny and a kid-pleaser, Christi. WOHOOOOO FOR YOU, CHRISTI!

Just for fun, we decided to have three Honorable Mentions. No prizes or anything like that, but we will mention your poem honorably! Blog readers submitted so many great poems, we had a tough time picking just three honorable mentions. We wanted to mention your work and tell you our thoughts.

Honorable Mentions for the Popcorn Poetry Contest:

1st Honorable Mention – “The Popcorn Box” – Author: Adrian Croft
Adrian, you did an awesome job on your entry. Your poem was very well written and all three of us felt it was very visual as well – a mini-story in a poem. YAY, YOU!

2nd Honorable Mention – “Authority” – Author: Julie Stoner
Julie, we loved your portrayal of the parent as being “so ignorant” and the kid being “so smart.” We laughed and laughed at the incorrect grammar that worked! Your last line was the clincher – it truly made us giggle. YOU GO, GIRL!

3rd Honorable Mention – “Perfection” – Author: Bob Schechter
Bob, your poem was very well written, and if Kernel Season’s is looking for a great marketing tool, the company could definitely use this poem! Your comparison of all the different treats and how popcorn stands above the rest was very clever indeed. COWABUNGA!

A big special THANK YOU to our Mystery Judge, HOLLY BOKER of Massachusetts, for helping Gisele and me pick the best of the best.

“I really enjoyed all the poems,” said Holly. “I thought they were right on point and clever. I hope the poets continue writing!”

Thank you to ALL who entered and who “popped” on over to Sandie’s blog to share your work!

Our Mystery Judge, Holly Boker is a writer of humorous picture books and children's poetry with a love of rhyme and word-play. Her poetry has been published in Stories for Children Magazine (January and May, 2008 issues) and Meanderings, a poetry anthology by Diversion Press (June, 2009). The SCBWI will soon publish her poem titled “Young Poet” in the bulletin (forthcoming, 2009). Her professional affiliations include the SCBWI, Children’s Writers and Illustrators Message Boards, Jacketflap, the Prose Shop Critique Group, and Cliff House Writers Group.

by Gayle Jacobson-Huset

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Interview with Daphne Durham, Senior Manager of Books

You vowed at the beginning of your summer holidays to catch up on some reading, but with so many great books to choose from, where do you start? If you’re like me, you find an author you love and voraciously read everything they’ve ever written. Unfortunately, these authors can’t write fast enough to keep up with their avid readers. So the only thing to do is broaden your horizons and look elsewhere. But where do you begin?

To make things easy for us, has compiled its list of the Top Ten Best Books of the Year . . . So Far. These books are hand-picked by Books editors and represent their top ten favorite titles in five categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Young Readers, Hidden Gems, and an overall Top Ten.

“At, we indulge in this mid-year ‘Best of’ list because we’re obsessive about the books we love and want to share them,” said Daphne Durham, Senior Manager of Books. “With this selection of the best new books and up-and-coming authors, our customers can get ahead of the curve and read the books that everyone will be talking about at the end of the year.”

With so many books, how on earth do they pick just ten? Ms. Durham shared this with me: “We have very spirited meetings in which we hash out what makes the list each month. Best of the Year So Far was a marathon meeting in which every editor has the opportunity to make a case for their favorites, and other editors chime in. Based on our lively discussion for the first half of the year, our meeting to decide the Best of the Year is sure to be a doozy. The beauty is that we have a diverse team with eclectic taste, so each meeting ends with editors adding to their ‘must read’ lists.”

So what are Ms. Durham’s favourite reads? She kidded, “How much time do you have? My ‘must read’ list goes on and on.” She added, “I was a huge fan of Brooklyn, Colm Toibin’s lovely, spare story about an Irish girl who moves to New York in the ’50s. Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin—even Frank McCourt, who wrote a Guest Review for us on that one. I am in love with any picture book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, especially the latest addition to her hilarious and sweet “Little” series, “Little Oink.” For the fall, Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose really surprised me. A funny memoir that is also a story about a man in love with a country. Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City is brilliant. Just brilliant. As is Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains—a great pick for Ishmael Beah fans.”

So what are you waiting for? has done the hard part already. Now all you have to do is pop on over there and pick out one of these fantastic books. Still nervous about shopping online? Ms. Durham finishes by telling us, “We’re focused on offering our customers the best possible experience—we work hard to make the shopping experience easy and seamless for our both our long-term customers and those new to online shopping. We are excited to help all of our customers discover new books and other products through customer reviews and ratings, editorial picks, personalized recommendations, search inside the book and many other tools.”

Visit at

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: The Best Books of the Year . . . So Far listed alphabetically by author:

· Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey: This outstanding, unprecedented biography of American writer John Cheever clocks in at nearly 800 pages, but don’t let that dissuade you: Senior Books Editor Brad Thomas Parsons read it in one sitting.

· Fordlandia by Greg Grandin: Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction. This absorbing narrative history reveals the little-known story of Henry Ford’s ill-fated utopia (complete with rubber roads) in the middle of a Brazilian rainforest.

· Lost City of Z by David Grann: Follow New York writer David Grann as he retraces the steps of renowned British explorer Percy Fawcett in his 1925 quest to discover the legendary kingdom of El Dorado in the heart of the Amazon. In an exclusive review for, John Grisham calls it “a riveting, exciting and thoroughly compelling tale of adventure.”

· Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann: According to Frank McCourt, “this is fiction that gets the heart thumping.” Set in mid-70s New York City, against the backdrop of Philippe Pettit’s Twin Tower tightrope crossing, it’s also a must-read for anyone who loves Don DeLillo, Jonathan Lethem, or E. L. Doctorow.

· The City and the City by China Mieville: Fans of hardboiled mysteries and literary suspense will love The City and the City, China Mieville’s ingenious breakout novel that imagines two cities coexisting on the eastern edge of Europe: one dying, one thriving, and both home to a host of mysterious secrets.

· The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: Paying homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic, The Secret Garden, Kate Morton’s second novel is an epic page-turner that follows an orphaned girl as she journeys from Australia to Cornwall. The Forgotten Garden is at once haunting and enchanting.

· Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad: Norman Ollestad has written a memoir that will last. Just the story itself can take your breath away: as an 11-year-old boy, Ollestad was the only survivor of a small-plane crash and made his way to safety down an icy mountain face in a blizzard, using the skills and determination he had learned from his father (who perished in the crash).

· The Gamble by Thomas Ricks: If you only read one author writing about Iraq, read Thomas Ricks. The Gamble tells the remarkable story of how a few people in and outside of the Pentagon pushed new strategies through and put a difficult plan into action to sharply reduce the chaotic violence in Iraq.

· Brooklyn by Colm Toibin: Colm Toibin’s story of an industrious young girl in 1950s Ireland who reluctantly finds herself on a boat to New York City is elegantly told and full of beautiful, bittersweet moments.

· Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead: Colson Whitehead’s pop culture tour-de-force is made for beach reading. The year is 1985, and 15-year-old Benji Cooper—a Converse-wearing, Smiths-loving, Dungeons & Dragons-playing nerd—leaves the city to spend three largely unsupervised months living with his younger brother Reggie in an enclave of Long Island’s Sag Harbor.

To see more of the book team’s picks for Fiction, Nonfiction, Young Readers, and Hidden Gems, go to

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Interview with Author, Dr. Preetham Grandhi

The quiet town of Newbury, Connecticut, is suddenly shaken by the brutal murder of a little girl. Her body, dismembered limb by limb and carefully laid out, is reminiscent of a past murder. Could this be a sign of a serial killer? With the local authorities perplexed and with no sign of a lead, FBI agent Leia Bines, an expert in children’s cases, is called in.

Soon after the murder, seven-year-old Naya Hastings begins having vivid nightmares in which she carries on extensive conversations and sometimes exhibits dangerous behaviour. Fearing that Naya may inadvertently harm herself, her parents turn to a bright, dedicated young physician, Dr. Peter Gram, who is a psychiatrist at Newbury’s hospital and their only hope for their daughter.

When Naya is admitted to the hospital for extensive testing, Peter’s soft, gentle presence gives her reassurance amid the unknown. In the hospital Naya continues her nighttime dramas, but now upon awakening she begins drawing the chilling images of the murder. Could these be clues?

Without any other leads and against her better judgment, Leia explores the clues in Naya’s crude drawings, setting off an alarming chain of events.

A Circle of Souls is fast-paced and cleverly written. Just when you think you have the killer figured out, Grandhi throws a curveball and takes you on another thrilling ride.

I caught up with the author of A Circle of Souls, Preetham Grandhi, to find out about the man behind the thriller. Grandhi came to writing as a second career; he’s also a graduate of Yale, a child psychiatrist with his own private practice, and the chief of service for House 5 at Bronx Children’s Psychiatric Center. He says, “When I was in college I wrote songs and poetry, but mostly for myself.”

So why a novel and why now? Dr. Grandhi says, “It was a few months post 9/11, and I was looking at the biographies of the people who had lost their lives. I began to wonder if there was a larger meaning to their lives. All of a sudden, a story flashed into my mind, and I quickly wrote it on a piece of paper. I knew then that I needed to write a story that was larger than life. It needed to communicate the essence that there is a bigger purpose and meaning to our passage on earth.

“I knew that in order to capture and convey such a message, the book needed to be captivating, interesting, and thrilling. I realized that a story based on the work I do would be the right place to begin. I am a child psychiatrist and had just started a new job. During my fellowship, I worked with children with numerous psychosocial issues and had many life stories to tell. It was at that moment that I decided I could write a book that would capture all these thoughts. That was how A Circle of Souls was born.”

Dr. Grandhi admits, “It took me a year and a half to write the first version and another three years for the next fifteen or more versions. Then a long, difficult road through the publishing industry, and I had to learn a whole new field.” He also has a higher goal for A Circle of Souls: “The entire time the book presented itself in my mind like a movie. Now I have to get it onto the big screen.”

Dr. Grandhi finishes by adding, “I want to thank all the readers who have [read] and those future readers who might read this book. In the end of the day, sharing my experiences with you all is very satisfying. It has been a pleasure to share the larger message of the book, that is, in the end we are all held accountable for our actions, and we can’t escape our destinies.”

If you want to check out Dr. Preetham Grandhi’s A Circle of Souls, visit his website at:

Or to purchase a copy online, go to

Or visit Barnes and Noble’s website:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Purely Water - Summit Spring

Have you noticed that most bottled water comes with a nutrition label? But if it’s just water, why does it need one? If it has a nutrition label, it means it has undergone processing, additives, or worse, tainting the purity and quality of your drinking water.

On the other hand, pure spring water doesn’t need a label. But where can you find such a product?

Answer: Summit Spring.

Since the 1800s, this natural spring has been providing clean, chemical-free water. Located in Cumberland County, Maine, at 750 feet above sea level (near the highest point in Cumberland County and almost 350 feet higher than the surrounding terrain), this spring produces some of the purest natural water on the planet. It’s free-flowing, bubbling from the earth with a natural purity only found with Mother Nature’s processing.

Bryan Pullen, President of Summit Spring, gives us some clear facts on bottled water: “Some bottled water comes from natural spring sources, and some bottled water comes from municipal sources like tap water. Some may also come from wells; artesian or non-artesian. It is therefore very important to carefully read the label of the bottle to determine its source.”

So what exactly are the labels indicating on bottled water? If you’re like me, you may have thought the additives signify purification. But Bryan says different: “Usually the additives are to give the water some flavour because the water has been heavily treated and everything has been removed, including beneficial minerals, which also give water its flavour. Without adding back things like calcium, magnesium, sodium, etc., no one would drink the water because it would taste terrible.”

When you try Summit Spring bottled water, you’ll notice there are no nutrition labels present. Bryan tells us the reason for this is that “when you bottle a natural product like water in its natural form without treatment and without adding anything to it, it doesn’t require a nutrition label. There are very narrow exemption criteria set by the FDA labelling standards which allow us to not attach a nutrition label. We qualify for this exemption.”

Summit Spring water is purely natural. How? Bryan tells us, “Our water is different because it is from a single age-old natural spring source, bubbles to the surface naturally, and is gravity-fed to a bottling facility right next door. It is bottled as it comes from the ground without treatment and is therefore blessed with a perfect balance of nutrients and purified by Mother Nature. We do not treat the water or add anything to it, and this is the primary reason our water is not required to have a nutrition label on the bottle (one of a precious few). Bryan goes on to say, “Almost all natural ground water is pure as it exits the ground. Surface water supplies (lakes, rivers and streams) are prone to contamination by man’s influence on this earth. We continually test our water to provide assurance of quality.”

Bryan finishes by reminding us, “Especially in children, during the developmental years, it is imperative for them to consume and ingest healthy products. Even small amounts of modern contaminants can have very bad results. Water is the most essential ingredient to human existence, after air. You drink water in one form or another all day, every day. The water you drink becomes your blood in a very short period of time. Anything in that water goes along for the ride as well. Pure, natural spring water will go a long ways towards maintaining good health and well-being. The younger you realize the benefits of proper hydration, the better off you will be. One of the most difficult things to deal with in pre-teen years is acne. Proper hydration will minimize or eliminate these issues. Beautiful skin and a healthy body start from the inside.”

So the next time you reach for a bottle of water remember, “Just because there is a mountain on the label does not mean it comes from a spring.” Make the healthier choice—make it a Summit Spring.

For more information on Summit Spring, check out their website at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Groovy Music City

Groovy Music City not only helps children learn to love music, but it also inspires them with different sounds, rhythms, pitches, and compositions by using pictures and animation for hours of creative fun. A MIDI record keyboard is available, and a physical keyboard can be connected to the computer to record notes and melodies.

Seth Grenier, age 13, tested Groovy Music City for us. Here is what Seth had to say: “I think it’s a good program. It’s a great way for kids my age to learn how to mix music and understand the basics of music. I think Groovy Music City covers a broader age range. My sister who is four years old after watching me for about a half hour was able to put her own music loop together with very little help from me. It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoyed testing the program out. My only suggestion is if Groovy Music City makes another program like this one . . . to add some mini games.”

Seth wants to grow up to become a video game designer and plays lots of action-packed video games. This is the type of market Groovy Music City is trying to reach.

From a parent’s point-of-view, VS Grenier found the program very fun and engaging. She was very surprised at how fast her four-year-old daughter, Ashley, who is under the age range Groovy Music City is targeting (7–12), was able to figure out the program.

“Ashley didn’t want to get off the program when it was time for bed. She was having too much fun. The best part about Groovy Music City is . . . the tempos, sounds, rhythms, pitch, and compositions my children were coming up with weren’t hard on my old ears. I found the loops they were making fun,” said VS Grenier, founder of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC.

So what is is a safe, free, kid-friendly website where children can upload, share, and get reactions to the music they have created using the Groovy Music range of products from Sibelius Software. It helps children find inspiration for writing music and get feedback on their compositions from other children.

Computer Requirements:

• Windows XP/Vista, or Mac OS X 10.4 or later
• 1.2GHz processor (2GHz recommended)
• 512MB + RAM, 95MB free hard disk space
• 16-bit sound card • CD-ROM drive (for installation)
• Internet connection

As we all know, the music curriculum in schools today is modestly funded at best, so it’s more important than ever for children to have access to music education tools like Groovy Music City. No music experience is needed, and there’s no learning curve for parents or children.

by VS Grenier

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Soon the start of another school year will be upon us, and as stressful as that can be, it’s even more so if you’re looking at prospective colleges or universities.

Freshmen and their parents have many factors to take into account when choosing the right school, such as location, tuition costs, campus life, and dormitory availability, just to name a few. And this process is not only time-consuming—it’s costly. has taken the hassle and the cost factor out of looking for the right post-secondary education facility. This free web site provides clients with expert advice, helpful information, and easy-to-use tools that make finding the right college stress-free.

Jerry Slavonia, CEO of Campus Explorer, explains, “Our web site contains detailed information on more than 6,000 schools throughout the United States, and growing. Visitors input what they’re looking for in a school, and our site displays a complete list of schools that match their specific interests.”

This user-friendly site not only lists schools in alphabetical order for easy access but also the most popular programs and their length. Plus, once you know the school you’re interested in, simply type in the name, and the school will pop up with its description, quick facts, student & campus life (even listing whether they have an athletics program), expenses, area of study, start date, and other schools nearby. is a one-stop-college-shop.

Mr. Slavonia reminds us that “any means you have to assist you is worthwhile in our opinion whether on the web, in a book or via a counsellor. Unfortunately for many students across the United States the availability of certified guidance counsellors is diminishing. In California, the student to counsellor ratio is 750 to 1. So the web is a great platform for search related needs. On our site you can save your educational profile, which enhances the way the site produces search results for you, compare schools side by side, request additional information from the schools directly in a streamlined fashion, and more. Try doing that in a book.”
Mr Slavonia also tells us that they “are working on integrations with multiple universal application platforms. At some point in the not too distant future, visitors to our site will be able to build their application on our site and submit to any 4-year institution within the country with a couple clicks.”
So take some of the stress out of finding that perfect school by letting do the work for you. Mr Slavonia ends by saying, “Campus Explorer believes everyone deserves a fulfilling education, no matter the name or place. We think that given the proper tools, anyone shopping for college or continuing education can find the perfect fit. That’s what we believe is the key to success. You need to find the school that’s right for you, not necessarily what’s right for your parents or peers.”

To see more of what Campus Explorer has to offer, check out their web site at

Sunday, July 12, 2009

ThinkFirst Safety Tips

The Kessler Foundation is one of the largest non-profit organizations for people with physical disabilities. By researching related issues in cutting-edge research facilities, awarding grants, and creating programs, the Kessler Foundation is improving the quality of life for people living with physical disabilities. In addition, the Kessler Foundation works to rehabilitate individuals that have suffered a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and other musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.

The Kessler Foundation’s ThinkFirst organization is a community-based program for children from kindergarten to grade twelve. The program goes into the classroom and teaches students in an open, honest, and age-appropriate manner. Taught by a nurse educator specializing in spinal cord injury and a VIP guest speaker living with the challenges of a disability, ThinkFirst brings to light what one moment of carelessness may lead to and ways to prevent such accidents.

Here are a few tips from the ThinkFirst program to help keep our kids safe this summer:
· Check all outdoor toys that have been stored during the winter to ensure that no wheels are loose, no pieces are missing, and there is no other wear that would make them unsafe for children.
· Children should wear a helmet every time they ride their bike, skateboard, or rollerblades. Studies have shown that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by as much as 85 percent.
· When purchasing a helmet, make sure that it fits properly and meets or exceeds the safety standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and/or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
· It is recommended that young children do not dive. Older children should do so in at least eight feet of water with arms extended out in front.
· Always require children to wear a seatbelt while riding in a car and check to ensure the belt is snug across their hips.
To learn more about the work of the Kessler Foundation and the ThinkFirst program, visit

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Enter Today! Popcorn Poetry Contest


What was discovered in a bat cave in New Mexico that dates back 5,500 years? What do Americans consume 17 billion quarts each year of? What food is so versatile it can be used in pudding, candy, soup, salad, and as an entrée?

The answer to all these questions is the same: popcorn!

With everyone health- and diet-conscious these days, popcorn is one of the few indulgences left that actually tastes good and is good for you. Popcorn is a whole grain that’s high in fibre and low in fat. And since it’s only 24 calories per cup, you can have five cups of air-popped popcorn for under 130 calories.

I know what you’re thinking: unless you add butter, popcorn tends to be a bit bland. Not anymore. With Kernel Season’s you can jazz up that ordinary popcorn into a tantalizing, tasty treat. Made from all natural ingredients and real cheese, Kernel Season’s popcorn comes in a variety of flavours like White Cheddar, Butter, Nacho Cheddar, Parmesan and Garlic, Ranch, Sour Cream and Onion, Salt, Caramel, Kettle Corn, and Jalapeno. Plus, Kernel Season’s also has a new all-natural, butter-flavoured popcorn spritzer. This zero- calorie topping is made from a blend of canola, sunflower, and corn oils. The only difference between this and the movie theatre topping is with Kernel Season’s Spritzer there’s zero fat and zero guilt.

In addition, Kernel Season’s is so good that over 20,000 movie theatres in the United States are offering it. And if you want to get movie night at home really “popping,” you can find Kernel Season’s products at more than 18,000 grocery stores across America, as well as at Walmart, Target, Kmart, and Blockbuster Video.

"Now here's your assignment if you choose to accept it..."
SFC: Families Matter Popcorn Poetry Contest -
If we say salty, buttery, crunchy, and melts in your mouth, what "pops" into your mind? Popcorn, of course! In honor of this well-loved snack, Stories for Children Publishing has teamed up with Kernel Season's to announce the SFC: Families Matter Popcorn Poetry Contest. This contest and its prizes are sponsored by Kernel Season's.
Submissions will be accepted July 8-22, 2009.

Who may enter? Anyone

Contest Fees: FREE

Contest Prizes:
1st place : 1 pk of Kernel Season's All Natural Popping Corn, KS Movie Theatre Butter Topping, KS Popcorn Spritzer Butter, 3 KS Popcorn Seasoning (Flavors: White Cheddar, Kettle Corn, and Ranch), and 1pk of KS Premium Quality Microwave Popcorn.
2nd place : 1 pk of Kernel Season's All Natural Popping Corn, 1pk of KS Premium Quality Microwave Popcorn, and 2 KS Popcorn Seasoning (Flavors: Butter and Nacho Cheddar).
3rd place : 4 packages of Kernel Season's Premium Quality Microwave Popcorn.
Contest Rules:

The Rules: Post your popcorn-themed poem in the comments section of this blog post.
Length should not exceed 16 lines and should use simple beats and short lines. We prefer simple, fun, rhyming poetry. Poems should be family friendly. Winners will be selected based on quality and appeal. No mail-in or email entries will be accepted. Note: All judges, the SFC Team, and their families are ineligible to enter.
The Judges:

Gayle Jacobson-Huset, SFC's Fiction and Poetry Editor, has been "judging" the poetry entries that come into the magazine for the past 2 1/2 years. She loves popcorn and is very anxious to see what our reading audience comes up with for this "delectable delight".

Gisele LeBlanc, SFC Magazine's Assistant Poetry Editor, has been writing poetry for several years. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in several publications for children. She loves going to the movies and eating popcorn and looks forward to reading everyone's poetic oaths to this savory snack.

Our mystery judge, is a writer of humorous picture books and children's poetry with a love of rhyme and word-play. Her poetry has been published in Stories for Children Magazine and Meanderings, a poetry anthology by Diversion Press (June 2009). The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators will soon publish her poem titled "Young Poet" in The Bulletin (forthcoming, 2009). Her professional affliations include the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Jacketflap, the Prose Shop Critique Group, and Cliff House Writers Group.


**Please also note***
1. Many editors may consider poems published online on a public blog such as this "previously published," thus . . resulting in authors possibly losing their First Rights.

2. ALL POEMS entered in the SFC: Families Matter Popcorn Poetry Contest remain the property of the author. Reproduction or retransmission of any poem, in whole or in part, in any manner, without the prior written consent of the author (copyright holder) is a violation of copyright law.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Between the Lions Tour

Those lovable lions are at it again! Between the Lions characters Theo, Cleo, and their clever cubs, Lionel and Leona, not only have an Emmy Award–winning series on PBS KIDS: now they’re hitting the road. This summer, these literacy-loving lions are traveling to five cities across the United States to entertain and educate fans with their live interactive shows. Bringing all the aspects of the TV show to life with stories, songs, sounds of letters, and clever wordplay, it’s guaranteed to have your little ones roaring with laughter.

Between the Lions will visit local libraries, museums, zoos, and other family-friendly venues. “The Lions love meeting their fans and can’t wait to have a blast reading and learning together,” says Judy Stoia, Executive Producer of Between the Lions at WGBH Boston. “And don’t be surprised if another character or two from the series pops up during the show,” adds Chris Cerf, Executive Producer for Sirius Thinking, a co-producer of the series. “They all cherish the opportunity to meet kids from around the country.”

Portland and Seattle Tour, July 15–19, 2009
Cleo and Lionel can hardly wait to hop on a plane to the West Coast for the first leg of the Roadshow. From July 15–19, the mother-son duo visits Portland for appearances at the Oregon Zoo (July 15), Midland Library (July 15), and Lake Oswego Public Library (July 16). While in Portland, they will also take time to visit Self Enhancement, Inc., to perform for the children of The Salvation Army's West Women’s and Children’s Center and surrounding communities (July 16, by invitation only). Then they pack their bags for Seattle, where they will perform at the Bellevue Regional Library (July 17), Woodland Park Zoo (July 18), KCTS 9 Studios (July 19), and Imagine Children’s Museum (July 19).

Want to join in the fun? No tickets are necessary for the Roadshow, and the shows are free. However, it is first-come, first-served, so get there early. Also, please keep in mind that even though the performance is free, there will be an admission fee when the show is at a museum, a zoo, or any location that normally charges admission. More details are available online at

Can’t make the show but still want to have some fun? Check out the Between the Lions website at This is one of the most entertaining, interactive sites on the net. Kids will have hours of fun hearing, seeing, and reading stories, watching video clips like “Dance Smarty Pants” (which actually teaches the children to do a funky dance), playing games like “Monkey Match” (which builds memory skills), solving puzzles, colouring pages, and so much more. Learning has never been so much fun! Even though Between the Lions was created to help children ages three through seven, it’s so lively that parents will want to join in on the excitement, too.

So what are you still lion around for? Go see all the fun they’re having over at Between the Lions today.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bird-Watching Vacations

Did you know:

· According to a survey done by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 51.3 million Americans watch birds?

· Bird-watching is the number one sport in the world, beating out baseball, basketball, football, and hockey?

· North America alone has over 800 species of birds and at least 100 species in any given area?

Now’s the perfect time to gather up the family and take a peek at what nature has to offer. Bird-watching or “birding” has been gaining popularity and is an inexpensive, educational, and fun way to spend some quality time with the kids. But before you grab your sneakers and some snacks, here are a few tips to help get the most out of your bird-watching vacation.


Like any sport, bird-watching requires some tools. First you’ll need a good pair of binoculars. These can range in price and quality. Binoculars are identified by two numbers. The first number is the power of magnification level, and the second number is the lens size, which determines how much light is let in. Example: a 7x25 set means the object will appear seven times closer, and the field of vision is 25 millimeters. For more specific information on binoculars visit ( This website is designed with specific information for all your binocular needs.

A bird guide book for the area you plan on visiting is a definite “must have.” This will help you locate and identify the species of birds you come across. Depending on the guide, these books can have either actual photographs of the birds or an artist’s rendition of them. They will also offer more detailed specifications of features in each species, such as size, beak shapes, color/markings, tail feathers, etc., as well as areas where the birds are most commonly found, common calls they make, and what they like to eat. National Geographic: A Guide to Birding Hot Spots of the United States is highly recommended.

Lastly, pack your comfy clothing and good, durable running or hiking shoes. Also be sure to take along sunblock, insect repellent, and plenty of water and snacks.


Okay, now that you have your equipment ready, all you need is a destination. Depending on where you live, you may not need to go any farther than your local park or wildlife preserve. However, if you’re after more exotic birds to watch, is your ticket ( This website is your complete guide to planning any birding vacation. Whether you’re looking for the Red-lored Whistler in Australia or the Wreathed Hornbill in Thailand, gives you information on specific locations, accommodations, upcoming tours, and even guides for hire once you get there. Of course, as with most vacations, if you make your travel arrangements in advance, there’s a good chance you’ll get a discount.

Other good places to stay are bed-and-breakfasts. In fact, lists B&Bs that are located in prime “birding” areas.

National Wildlife Refuges ( boasts 150 million acres dedicated to 550 national wildlife refuges. To find one near you, simply visit their website and type in your zip code.

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Chesapeake,Virginia, is any birdwatcher’s dream. Located in southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina, this forested wetland has over 200 species of birds in and among its 112,000 acres.

Deloras Freeman, Visitor Specialist with the Refuge, tells us, “Spring is the best time to view songbirds. They are their most vocal when establishing territories and attracting mates.” However, she says, “Woodpeckers are entertaining all year, as are owls.” And the “waterfowl migrate in large numbers in the spring and fall.” She recommends that you “move slowly and quietly. If you are in a big group, stay relatively close together so you can move slowly as one. Be mindful of the noise your clothing may make and never disturb nesting birds.”

So whether you plan a vacation to watch birds or just start out in your own backyard, Ms. Freeman reminds us, “Be patient with young birders and make it fun. Help them first be able to recognize and name the birds they see most often in their neighbourhood.” This could lead to birding becoming a “lifetime hobby.”

For more information on The Great Dismal Swamp, check out their website at

Friday, July 3, 2009

Success as a Foster Parent

Have you ever thought of becoming a Foster parent? With an estimated 500,000 children and teens in the Foster Care system today, the need is greater than ever.

But becoming a “professional parent” is a daunting task. You might have questions like: Do I have what it takes? Will I be a good role model? How will this new person affect our family as a whole? These are only a few of the valid and understandable concerns you might face when deciding whether to Foster a child.

Success as a Foster Parent by the National Foster Parent Association or NFPA is your complete guide to being a Foster Parent. This book leaves no area untouched and starts out with open, honest advice on “Is Becoming a Foster Parent Right for Me?” and “The Financials of Fostering.” This book gives you all the necessary information on what to expect as you start the Fostering process, including training, legal aspects, and interviews. The book is broken up into individual chapters relating to certain age groups and specifics of your potential Foster child:

· Ages 0–3
· Ages 4–12
· Teenagers
· Fostering Siblings
· Children with Special Needs
· Collaborating with Birth Parents
· Adoption

In addition, each chapter ends with a wrap-up of the Key Concepts for easy reference.

Success as a Foster Parent also takes testimonies and success stories from Shirley Hedges, a Foster Care parent for the last 32 years, features a question/answer discussion with Bette Hoxie, a longtime professional parent, and includes Foster mom Amy Hardin’s thoughts about raising Foster children and the difficulties of saying goodbye to them. Plus, there’s even an interview with an experienced Foster Home Certifier, Judi K. Martin, who tells us what to expect from the home inspection process.

So whether you’re still in the “Would I make a good Foster parent?” stage or have decided to start the process, Success as a Foster Parent is the one “must have” resource.

Success as a Foster Parent is available at Alpha Books on (ISBN: 9781592577477).

Book Review - Moving Through All Seven Days by Kathy Stemke

Title: Moving Through All Seven Days

Written by: Kathy Ann Stemke

Illustrated by: Tony Glisson

Ages: 3-7

Publisher: Action Alley Education

ISBN: To Be Released by

Published: 2009

E-book: 32 pages

Price: $5.00

Move and groove along with the whimsical characters of Moving Through All Seven Days as they slip, twirl, and glide you through the days of the week. Accompanied with an activities resource to help reinforce the learning process of spelling the days of the week is a welcome bonus. It provides an ingenious way of getting the children up from behind their desks to experience learning through movement.

Children’s author, Kathy Ann Stemke brilliantly blends lyrical rhyme and the learning process in a fun and educational twist. Along with the vibrant illustrations created by Tony Glisson, Moving Through All Seven Days is a must have for preschool and kindergarten classrooms and no home library would be complete without it.

To learn more about Kathy visit her at: and

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

VBT - Writers on the Move - Guest Author, Kathy Stemke

We are pleased to have Kathy Stemke as our guest author today. Kathy has a passion for writing, the arts and all things creative. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Connecticut State University and Covenant Life Seminary, as well as graduate coursework from New York Institute of Technology and Columbia University. Hanging her hat in the North Georgia mountains she has been a dancer, choreographer, teacher, tutor, writer and an antiques dealer for many years.

Choosing a tutor can be one of the most daunting tasks a parent needs to tackle when insuring a positive experience in their child’s academic life. Where does one start? Look no further as Kathy shares with us her valuable expertise and article on “Characteristics and Credentials to Consider in Choosing a Tutor.”

Characteristics and Credentials to Consider in Choosing a Tutor
By Kathy Stemke

If your child is reluctant to talk about their progress in school, or "they're hiding their report card," it may be time to look for a tutor. You may think that you do not have the time or resources to hire a tutor, but it will require more time and be much more expensive if you wait. One of the biggest mistakes that parents make is waiting too long to intervene.

For instance, in most subjects, especially math, the student must have the beginning concepts mastered in order to understand and succeed in the next. By waiting too long, the student develops learning gaps, which cause the entire learning structure to collapse.

There are several ways to find a tutor.

1. The very best source for finding a good tutor is the referral of a friend, someone that is a satisfied customer already.

2. School guidance counselors may be able to provide you with the names and phone numbers of some local instructors.

3. Homeschool organizations have many resources, including e-mail chains that may locate a tutor for you.

4. Bulletin boards at large churches may have business cards of local tutors, or you can write your own notice asking for tutor referrals from church members.

5. The Internet is increasingly becoming a source for local tutoring businesses that have a large teacher pool from which to choose.

When you find tutors that seem to fit your needs, there are several questions to ask that will help you pick the best one for your child. An interview with each tutor will help you decide if they communicate well, and can speak to the teacher on the child's behalf. You can also discern if your child will have fun with this instructor. If your child cannot relate to this tutor, the process will not succeed. Don't be intimidated by their teaching degree. It is best to come with a list of questions in hand.

1. A teaching degree is a must! Ask for a resume and discuss whether they have ever worked with children your child's age.

2. Three referrals from previous students will help you feel confident about their experience and competence.

3. Ask them to supply a background check or conduct one on your own.

4. Their payment policy should be discussed to guarantee a good business relationship with no surprises. For instance, ask about their cancellation policies, including possible charges you may incur.

5. Ask how many and how long the sessions should be each week. Depending on the age of the student, I recommend two, ninety minute sessions per week. Younger children do better with sixty minute sessions.

6. An assessment procedure is necessary to identify your child's learning gaps, and ensure that the tutor will be effective in helping them to succeed. They should be able to furnish this information readily.

7. Reward systems help to motivate students. Quite often the lack of motivation may be the very reason your child needs a tutor, so it is important that they provide some sort of incentive.
Because some parents object to the sugar in a candy reward, I use a star system with a prize bag.

8. Most importantly, ask what is required from you, the parent, for your child to succeed. It might be as simple as checking that assignments are completed between visits. It's a small price to pay to assure that the tutoring you're paying for will be productive.
If your child is locked in a downward spiral of frustration and failure in school, it is probably time to hire a tutor. Use the above guidelines to find a good tutor who can break the spiral by analyzing the problem, building basic skills to erase learning gaps, restoring motivation, and inspiring a love for learning. This will help your child reach their fullest potential and develop the self-confidence they will need to succeed in life.

Be sure to stop back on July 3rd when our review of Kathy's book, Moving Through All Seven Days," will be posted.

On July 1st and 3rd, be sure to ask Kathy any questions you may have. She will be checking-in periodically to field your comments and questions.

To learn more about Kathy Stemke visit her at:


*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.