>Fiber Choice

>Long ago, Chuck’s doctor tried unsuccessfully to convince him that a fiber regimen would help ease his, er, um, stomach discomfort. I tried, too, as shown in a post one Saturday morning. The dialogue went something like this.

“Here, dear, I found a jar of Metamucil for you.”
“I’m not ready.”
“Not ready?”
“I like my Saturn. I don’t want to drive a Buick yet.”
“I took it years ago when I was pregnant with Amigo.”
“And look what you drive now!”

My minivan — he’d dissed my minivan! The minivan that took us on more than a few vacations, moved La Petite to and from college, brings big batches of yard waste to the brush dump every summer, took my carpool to graduate classes for two years, and more!

Well, now that we’re both 50, fiber isn’t such a taboo topic. Whether Chuck knows it or not, I sneak wheat germ or flaxseed into a lot of the food I serve. Both of us eat vegetables regularly, but I’m the only one that nibbles on fruit. MomCentral offered a chance to try Fiber Choice, I decided to participate, whether Chuck does or not.
Here are a few basic facts about Fiber Choice products.
  • Fiber Choice supplements are prebiotics, which nourish the probiotics, or “good bacteria” that live naturally in the digestive system.
  • Probiotics help maintain the balance between the good bacteria and the bad, keeping the body systems functioning well.
  • Fiber Choice comes in packages of 10, 90, and 220 with prices ranging from $2.49 to $19.99.
  • Available flavors include orange, pomegranate, assorted berries, and a sugar free assorted fruit mix. Chuck likes pomegranate: maybe he’ll try it.
  • I like the assorted berries flavor.
  • Fiber Choice is available at local pharmacies and many times in the health aisles of the grocery stores.
  • You can follow @FiberChoice on Twitter.
Fiber Choice is an easy and even tasty way to work more fiber into a diet. And that minivan? It’s still in the garage, still my main vehicle. So there.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of FiberChoice and received a coupon to facilitate my review and a gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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>Money Management and Teens

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My “kids” are growing up and handling their own money, when they have it. The recession and its credit bust, especially the sub-prime mortgage crisis, made me think again about the importance of growing up money-smart.

La Petite had to manage her budget as soon as she moved into a college apartment. We paid the rent, she split the utilities with her roommate, and she and her roommate handled the daily expenses such as food, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. Oh, yes, I almost forgot – and bunny food and litter box refills.

La Petite had a summer job when she was in high school, babysitting a young girl during the parents’ workday. She worked at a big box store’s garden center when she was home from college. These jobs provided a chance to develop a work ethic and a chance to handle a bank account. Her checking account is held jointly with me – mainly so I could handle deposits and withdrawals while she was gone to college in a different city.

Amigo’s situation is a little different. Teens on the autism spectrum sometimes have a hard time understanding the value of money. He has a bank account (again, jointly held with me, the mom-type person), and uses his own money for a few things. He doesn’t have rent or food expenses because he lives in a dorm weekdays, so we parents have to give serious thought to finding ways to help him learn to handle money.

Money management practice needs to be authentic. Playing games, holding discussions, and teaching him scripted money lessons are not very useful. He needs to plan the shopping trip, load his wallet, and go. Last weekend he took his girlfriend to McDonald’s. Simple, yes, but a perfect way to find out how much a fast food meal costs and decide if it’s a worthwhile use of his dollars.

Debit cards and especially credit cards can strike fear into the hearts of parents of teens. American Express PASS program can help. A PASS card is a reloadable prepaid card that parents can obtain for their teens. It looks like a credit or debit card, so teens won’t stick out socially by having a “different” card in their wallet. Since it’s prepaid, there is no danger of overspending. The Amex PASS card is accepted anywhere that takes American Express. Parents have control over loading funds, monitoring spending, and even disabling/ enabling the use of ATMs if necessary. Gradually weaning teens from the parental control, letting them make small but correctable mistakes, can be part of the learning process.

My teen is 18 going on 19, older than the target age, but this kind of card would be a useful tool for him. He could learn to keep track of his money online, a more accessible option than a print statement (he’s blind). He couldn’t overspend, so we’d need to talk over budgets and priorities before hitting the stores. Timing is good right now, too; Amigo loves Christmas and everything involved, including gift shopping.

American Express PASS card has made me think. And when it comes to teaching money management, thinking is an important first step.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of American Express and received a gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate. I did not receive an American Express PASS card as part of the review process; they provided the information and the link to their web site. Check out the site; it’s easy to navigate and full of useful information.

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>Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee

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Me and my big mouth. I mentioned the latest product review for my blog and the lovely package (pictured below) that had just arrived in the mail.

Minutes later, I was surrounded by fellow coffee-loving teachers suggesting that I really needed to expand the pool of taste-testers. They offered the art teacher’s coffeepot.

I gave in.
The vanilla nut flavor made a home in the school office with our incredibly more-than-competent secretarial staff. They’re wonderful people, and they’ve helped me out so much this year that there’s not enough coffee in the world to say thanks. After I made a couple of pots of vanilla nut at home (I had to try it out myself, of course, or where’s the integrity?) I delivered the rest of this delicious blend to the divine Ms. M and superior Ms. K.
The mocha mint flavor tastes like Christmas. The first time I made it, I kept looking outside and expecting snow, not leaves awaiting my rake. I felt like wrapping presents and decorating the tree. I shared about half of the package with my teacher friends, but I’m setting the rest aside for December. They had a similar reaction, invoking statements like “I think I’ll go home and find my Christmas music!”
Pumpkin Spice is perfect for November. Harvest-style flavor, just sweet enough, and an aroma that brings Thanksgiving into my home – what more could I want? Well, someone to clean up after the turkey is carved, maybe, but I’ll settle for Pumpkin Spice Coffee for now. The P.E. teacher was especially excited to try this flavor because she had seen it in the grocery store, but didn’t want to buy a full bag until she knew it was good. Well, now she knows.
My professional colleagues understand the role of a good cup of coffee in maintaining teacher sanity. I predict more of these lovely blends will find their way into our school building’s coffeepots.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Smuckers and received necessary products to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. All that and a chance to share with my friends, too – now that’s the holiday spirit. Thanks, Dunkin. Thanks, MomCentral. I hope your holidays are delicious and enjoyable.

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>Bing "Our School Needs" – Phase Two

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Many schools entered Phase One of Bing’s “Our School Needs,” but only 15 are finalists. You can register and vote for them here. They’re all worthy projects, and there is one in my home state of Wisconsin. Aquinas High School in LaCrosse, WI is seeking funding for a new auditorium. If you read their story, you’ll see why they’re asking for help.
Aquinas is not the only school suffering from budget cuts. When the economy is bad and local taxpayers are suffering financially, the average Joe or Josie on the street sees schools as money pits. The same average Joe or Josie might not know that central administration has been cut drastically, combining two positions into one in several cases. Joe and Josie also don’t know that energy costs have been cut by not turning on the heat until students arrive, disregarding the teachers who’ve been working in their cold and drafty rooms for an hour already. Josie and Joe might collect box tops and soup labels and think they’re helping, but fail to realize that each UPC code earns only 10 cents – not even enough to buy a #2 pencil.
Bing will divide a quarter-million dollars between four winners. The top vote-getter will receive $100,000, and the next three will get $50,000 each. Voting started yesterday and continues through Sunday, November 7, with winners announced on Tuesday, November 9.
PTA and booster club fundraisers can only go so far. Supporting Bing’s donation project will help a lot. Supporting DonorsChoose.org is another way to fund a specific project that will make a direct impact on students and their learning.
Josie and Joe may not understand the need for stronger funding, but Josh does – Josh Groban, that is. Here he is signing autographs as he dropped off instruments and sang in a chorus class at a middle school in Queens, NY. This is a great way to call attention to the project and support the arts in schools. Thanks, Josh! Now would you have a talk with Joe and Josie about school funding?
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Bing and received a gift card and DonorsChoose.org giving code to thank me for taking the time to participate. I plan to apply my DonorsChoose.org code to my own project here. Please consider passing the word; it’s another very direct way you can help students learn.

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>Filtrete Water Pitcher; can it break the bottle habit?

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I volunteered to test the Filtrete Water Pitcher in the hopes that it might break or at least reduce our family’s bottled water habit. I understand that Chuck grabs a water bottle for the convenience of it on the road. But do La Petite and I really need to drink water from these ridiculous bottles around the house? I have a new BPA-free water bottle and an extra that La Petite can claim as her own, and now that I have a Filtrete pitcher we can simply refill the good quality water bottles with filtered tap water.

The big question: will we do it?

The first thing we noticed was the awkward shape and size of the pitcher. It’s a little top heavy, making it tough to fit on the refrigerator shelf without moving several items. It doesn’t fit in the door. Chuck (yes, he’s giving it a good try!) mentioned the top-heavy shape made it a little uncomfortable for pouring.

The filtered

pitcher is definitely more economical than buying bottles. I can replace the filter every three months (there’s a little button on the top that will remind me when it’s getting old), and the pitcher itself will last for years. I wish I had tried this out in the summertime when I was weeding and pruning outside, a water bottle by my side. But wishes aside, I really like the concept that I can get cold, tasty water without spending a bundle and using piles of plastic with limited recycling capabilities.


So, you ask, is it working? So far, so good. Chuck still grabs a plastic bottle or two on his way to work, but I have a new BPA-free bottle on my bedside table filled with filtered water. If I don’t drink it all, I water the plants. I’m actually drinking more water now that it’s so convenient; reaching for a glass and filling it takes no time at all. The downside is still the size and shape of the pitcher; only time will tell if the convenience, pennywise nature, and the eco-consciousness of it will overrule the refrigerator space issue.


Need more information? You can follow Filtrete on Twitter (@FiltreteWater) or “like” them on Facebook. Filtrete also has an email newsletter to which you can subscribe. Just check out their web site.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Filtrete and received the water pitcher to facilitate my candid review. The review is up today, but the pitcher will stay in my refrigerator for a long, long time.

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>Bing "Our School Needs" – Phase One

>I’ve already used up my classroom budget for the year. We’re only six weeks into the school year, and anything else I buy will have to come out of my own personal funding source — my pocketbook.

Yes, school budgets are tight and getting tighter, and teachers pay for more and more out of their own pockets. I’m providing kids with pencils, folders, crayons, and more. I make my own posters. I’m looking for grant money to buy books for my struggling readers.
My school is not alone. Luckily, there are companies who believe in philanthropy: believe in giving back to the communities, giving to the schools that educate their future workforce. Bing asked bloggers to publicize phase one of its “Our School Needs” program. To get started, go to the Our School Needs home page and familiarize yourself with the program. Schools looking for technology — computers, Smartboards, projectors — can enter their requests to help teach their students 21st Century skills. Schools might be looking for gyms, climbing walls, walking & running tracks to encourage activity and fight obesity. Many projects are already posted; your school’s project can join them.
My school always needs strategically spent moneys to support good quality instruction and creative teaching. Doesn’t your local school need this, too? An essay (500-800 words), a few photos, perhaps a video, and the entry is ready. More details on the entry process are on this page. If you’re a multi-media style learner, here’s a video explaining the same.
Entry deadline is October 22. Round one voting (in categories of K-6, 7-9, and 10-12) closes on October 24. The first round winners receive $50,000 and then move on to the finals. I’m enjoying reading the current entries as I brainstorm ideas to help my own school enter — and win.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Bing and received a DonorsChoose.org giving code and gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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>Walk to School

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It’s a typical fall morning. Leaves cover the ground, there’s a crisp breeze, a little overnight condensation remains, and the school buses criss-cross the city streets.

In some neighborhoods, there are fewer buses. These are the places where walking to school is the norm, not the exception. I’m lucky to live and teach in neighborhoods like these. Walking to school brings people together; parents, children, friends, families. When I’m arriving at school in the morning, I see my former students shouldering their backpacks and climbing on their bikes or gathering together to walk to the nearby middle school. An hour later, I’ll see the sidewalks crowded again with groups of kids and adults headed to the elementary school where I teach.

Clorox Green Works is a sponsor of this month’s Walk to School Challenge. They have a Facebook group devoted to the cause, and they’re offering $5000 grants to schools with the highest participation in the Challenge. Walking to school helps connect people, build community, and fights sedentary lifestyles. Wow, all that with a short walk! Biking counts, too, as does riding a skateboard or scooter. Getting up and active energizes bodies and brains for a full day of learning.

I love looking out my classroom window just before the bell rings and seeing all the families gathering, saying good bye to their children for the day, and then walking on home again. I wish more schools could be as lucky as ours; situated in a neighborhood suitable for easy walking. If your school would like to participate in Clorox Green Works Walk to School Challenge, you can sign up and recruit others from your school to log miles – and win grant money in the process!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Clorox Green Works and received a thank-you gift certificate for my time.

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>Healthy Choice steamed meals

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I’m all about fresh foods whenever possible, cooking them from scratch whenever we have time. When Mom Central offered a blog tour sponsored by Healthy Choice, it took a little thought before I signed up. I’m glad I did. In their new steamed meals, Healthy Choice worked hard to minimize the ingredient list and keep those ingredients identifiable to ordinary people like you and me. They created packaging to steam cook each meal, maintaining the quality of the frozen-fresh vegetables. No mushy cafeteria beans!

Many of my teaching colleagues stock up on microwave meals for their school lunches. They’ll pick out five at the store on Sunday, drop them in the lounge freezer on Monday, and continue on with their teaching week with no worries about lunches. These are really handy, and not just for teachers, I’m sure.

Healthy Choice sent me two of their new Steamed meals to try: Rosemary Chicken and Sweet Potatoes & Garlic Shrimp. Here’s a snatch from the back of the Rosemary Chicken box:

“Steaming is one of the freshest ways to prepare food… it locks in fresh taste and unlocks the vibrant flavors and colors of quality ingredients.” Agreed. The vegetables looked delicious and colorful; the “Eat the Rainbow” crowd would have approved. Cooked in the microwave under their special steam film, the meat and vegetables were cooked well, but not overdone. I followed the directions precisely (are you proud of me?) and even checked the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure my slightly weaker microwave had cooked the meat through. The meal wasn’t burn-your-tongue hot, though. That’s a serious consideration when you have a lunch period like mine, with limited time to “cook” and eat before meetings and prep times begin.

The back of the package also has nutrition information in a form that requires little thought. That’s okay, folks; if you’re calculating calories, exchanges, or Weight Watchers points, it’s all there for you.
My impression? Overwhelmingly positive. Microwave meals usually leave me unsatisfied, wanting to make a PBJ on the side. This one was delicious and satisfying. I could eat it for a school lunch and not worry about my stomach growling before the dismissal bell.

I usually cook Rosemary Chicken by reaching outside the door for my herbs. But in the middle of winter when I’m hunting for good and easy lunch options, I’ll look to Healthy Choice and steam it up for lunch. Before that happens, though, I’m going to try the shrimp option. It looks simply delicious, too.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Healthy Choice and received samples of their new steaming entrĂ©es to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central also sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. Healthy Choice has a Facebook page if you’re interested in more information.

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>Mad Science and Me

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I often tell my students that my favorite scientists are Bill Nye and Ms. Frizzle. They remind me that Ms. Frizzle isn’t real, and I concede the point. If I try to tell them I want to be Ms. Frizzle when I grow up, they remind me that I AM grown up. Darn. But I do enjoy teaching science, and I hope my students absorb that enthusiasm.


Mom Central began a blog tour reviewing Mad Science KNOW Magazine, and I said “Wow! This sounds like fun! Maybe they’ll let me do it!” Mom Central said yes and will send a 6 month subscription, which includes 3 issues of this bi-monthly magazine. Readers, you know me. As soon as I browse each issue myself, it’ll go straight to school, where the issue will probably live on a shelf for a few minutes before a student says, “Cool!” and brings it over to her desk for silent reading time.

If you’re interested in browsing, Mad Science KNOW Magazine has a free online issue. KNOW is geared toward ages 6-9, which fits my class nicely. My students are 9 and 10, but many are still struggling readers. A magazine like this, very graphic, with a slightly easier reading level than they’re used to, will appeal to many in my class. Features include Know-It-All, a Q&A column; Experiments – this month features math and science in string art; and this month’s title feature on Patterns and Shapes. I predict my students will enjoy the patterns and shapes articles and pictures, including photos. I’m happy to see patterns introduced in a unique way; students who recognize and understand patterns have an easier time learning and memorizing math facts and concepts.

I’m going to set up the web site so that my students can browse it when we’re in the lab. There are some fascinating videos that connect well to our curriculum and increase their motivation and enjoyment of science. When I’m in my role of Ms. Fourth Grade Science Teacher, that’s what it’s all about: science learning is so much stronger when it’s fun.

There is a companion magazine for older kids. It’s called YES Mag, and it’s aimed at ages 10-15. KNOW Magazine is just right for my students right now.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Mad Science and received the products necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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>Health and HPV screenings

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Regular readers know that I’ve had health issues earlier this summer. I was lucky; thanks to a good team of physicians, I’m doing very well now. I’m also the type of patient who asks questions and insists on answers. In short, I’m a self-advocate.

The HPV vaccine is one tool in protecting our daughters from future problems. Adult women can also protect themselves – by requesting an HPV test at the same time as our pap smears. Not all doctors use both tests, so self-advocacy is important.

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are about 100 types of HPV, with 15 “high risk” types likely to lead to cervical cancer. Makers of t

he digene HPV Test have set up a comprehensive web site with information about this test, the risks of HPV, and more. For example, I found out that t

he HPV vaccine is only good for teens and young women who have never been exposed, and 80% of women will be exposed to some form of HPV in their lives. For women ages 30+, too “old” for the vaccine, testing is recommended.


Adult women, especially working mothers, are notorious for putting others first. Readers, your daughters are probably up to date on their vaccines. Are you up to date on your own routine medical care? Taking care of yourself is important.

With that in mind, I think I’ll take a nap. Right after I get these zucchini cookies out of the oven….

I wrote this post while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of the QIAGEN digene HPV test. Mom Central also sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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