Light Up Links – Great New Building Toy

light up links

My kids recently got to test out a super cool new building toy: Light Up Links! They are made with flexible little tubes, connectors, and bubbly modules that light up in different colors when you shake them. The basic kit comes with a whole set of parts to make cool toys and an instruction booklet that shows you just how to make them. But it’s easy to go beyond the book and make toys that come from your imagination.

My older son immediately set to work making a sphere. And then he made a sphere-within-a-sphere. He had a blast shaking it around and making it light up.

Meanwhile, the younger boy took the parts and had them battle each other in an imaginary war. So, there’s that.


You can only get Light Up Links by ordering them online for now, and there’s a special offer for two sets for only $19.99 plus shipping and handling. So get on it, parents! What a great gift for kids to get their brains working!

GIVEAWAY: I am giving away one set here: leave a comment on this post by 12/12/13 at 11:59 to enter. You don’t have to be creative about it, just say “I want to win” or surprise me. Winner will be chosen at random and notified directly, and the Light Up Links will be sent directly to the winner (US only). [IT SHOULD arrive by Christmas.]

Christmas Day Our Way

When I was growing up, Christmas Day went like this:

-wake up, really excited about opening presents, but also nursing sugar hangover from sweets-filled Christmas Eve party
-open presents, then be hurried off to get dressed
-visit first set of grandparents
-visit second set of grandparents
-return home exhausted and cranky

And I’m sure it didn’t even go that well for my parents, who had to shepherd three kids through this day.  I’m willing to bet that with sets of divorced and remarried parents and extended family multiplying all the time, other families get even more hectic on the holiday.

So I decided that even though I live far away from all of my kids’ grandparents and that makes me very sad and homesick, the bright side is that we have no place to go on Christmas day.  No obligations.  No rituals that we MUST execute.  It’s all up to us.  We can keep the things we like from our childhoods and toss what doesn’t work for us.  Christmas dinner can be a trip to the drive through if we want that.  We haven’t resorted to it yet, but the option is there.

So far in our children’s young lives we’ve been lucky to have both sets of grandparents with us during the holiday, but this year we have one grandmother visiting only and she’s easy to please.  So here is our loose plan:

Wake up.  Enjoy the day.  Eat something delicious.  Play with our new presents.  Go to church.  Enjoy each other.  After all, that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Last Minute Gift Guide: Books

For the LEGO enthusiast(s) in your house

Now that you are a parent, your love of LEGO has been rekindled.  You watch your kids play with the little plastic bricks, you marvel at their creations, you curse them each time you step on one with bare feet.  When you were a kid, you probably wondered where they came from and had questions, but did anyone answer you?  Did they even know?  LEGO’s just…were.  Now that you are a grownup, The Cult of LEGO by John Baichtal and Joe Meno (hardcover, $39.95) will delight you and your kids alike with trivia and information about the toy.  It’s a coffee-table book that explains how they were invented and some of the outrageous things people do with them.  But if you want to keep it as a nice coffee-table book, you might want to keep it out of the reach of children.  They are bound to read it a little bit too enthusiastically, if you know what I mean.

A sobering read

Ben Behind His Voices (hardcover, $26.95) is a stirring memoir by Randye Kaye, who was a radio personality in Connecticut when her oldest child started showing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia as he entered his teens.  Her story is one of maternal sacrifice and heartbreak, and a redefinition of her own family.  I was afraid of this book.  As a mother, I knew it would tear my heart out.  But I am a glutton for punishment, so of course I read it cover to cover.    The book is well-written and Kaye communicates her pain and frustration very effectively.  When you read something like this you think maybe it will help you recognize warning signs and therefore avoid the same problems with your own children.  But with something as complex as schizophrenia and the various challenges the family encountered as Ben grew up, Kaye provides something I suspect is even more valuable to other people dealing with the same thing:  hope.

New Year’s clutter clean-up

I have been a big fan of Peter Walsh since I saw him on Oprah helping the hoarder from Long Island whose house was so full of stuff that her grown children and her grandchildren never visited anymore.  I watched him coach her through a complete turnaround of her home environment and hopefully her whole life.  His latest book Lighten Up:  Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier With Less (hardcover, trade paperback, digital) is less of a practical guide to removing clutter from your life and more of an emphasis on the psychological reasons that one accumulates too much stuff.  Walsh urges you to examine all aspects of your life:  emotional, financial, relationships, work life – and basically clean out the clutter from all of those areas.  I found the worksheets included a little bit too simplistic – they did not inspire me to get a pencil and do the actual work.  But then again, my life is perfect, so why bother?  This would be a great gift for that friend or relative who always has so much drama about money and housework going on.

For kids

Sarah Sue Smith (paperback, $22.49):  In this first of a planned series of Crooked Wharf Adventures, an orange-haired octopus named Sarah Sue Smith makes meals for her undersea friends.  I give this book the award for Most Comprehensive Use of Fonts Found in Microsoft Word, because every page uses a different one.  Your kids won’t care, however.  The story is engaging and the artwork is bright and cheerful.  Plus, they learn stuff about math without even realizing it.  The book was written by Tara Rebal and designed by Frank Sercia, two former co-workers of my Aunt Kathy.  Kudos to them for doing what they really wanted to do when they grew up.

I received all of the above books as review copies or gifts.  All opinions are my own.  Obviously.