Browsing Category "Reviews"
25 May

UrbanSitter Brings Child Care (and Me) into the 21st Century (sponsored + freebie for you!)

Captain Obvious here with some life-changing news! Did you know you could pay someone money to feed your kids dinner and put them to bed while you, yourself, are not even on the premises? While your dear little ones are brushing their teeth and negotiating for an extra bedtime story (or three), you could be halfway across town eating organic beet and farro salad with shaved Parmigiano and enjoying the dulcet tones of no one whining directly into your ear holes. I’ll drink to that.

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When I heard about the Clever Girls campaign with UrbanSitter, I pitched myself as the mother of two kids who had never (NEV-ERRR), in six and a half years, hired a stranger to watch my children in my own home. I can’t say whether they felt sorry for me or just wanted to test out their system on a complete newbie, but whichever it was, I’m glad I got the chance to see how the other half lives (or, rather, the other 95 percent) because it was GLORIOUS.

Since I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the concept of *air quotes* babysitting in general, I’ll focus on how UrbanSitter made it super-easy and low-stress, even for a first-timer like me.

The feature I love most is being able to do absolutely everything online. I reviewed profiles, booked the job, communicated with my sitter, and even paid her through my UrbanSitter account. If you’re the type who needs to do face-to-face research, or at least chat on the phone with a prospective child care provider, that’s definitely an option, but for me the digital-everything aspect was downright revelatory. Doing things on my phone without actually having to talk on the phone is my favorite.


The second best thing was that having access to however many dozens or hundreds (or thousands?) of sitters (vetted sitters) meant it wasn’t impossible to find someone on 36-hour’s notice. For a Saturday-night job, I took twenty minutes out of my Friday afternoon to look at a handful of profiles and then sent out one booking request. As soon as I clicked “send,” I got a popup that suggested for a short-notice job like mine was, I might have better luck posting on the job board, and after I did that—it made the basic details of the job visible to all sitters in my area—I was sent email links to the profiles of everyone who was interested and available. Each profile includes personal details, experience/certifications, and rates (everyone’s is different), and it also featured—the most helpful bit for me—a video message. If, in choosing a babysitter, you list “overall vibe” right up there with “clean background check,” the video message is key to finding your perfect match, whether you’re looking for a Kristy, Stacy, Dawn, Mary Anne, Claudia, Jessie, or Mallory. (I haven’t delved deep enough to know if there are any Logans.)

With one click, I chose someone who was about my age, who lives five minutes away (I loved “Hey, we’re neighbors” aspect), and who came across as a smart, competent, nice person my kids would dig. Wombat had veto power, and our sitter, Carolyn, passed his very discerning “must have kind eyes” test, so we were all set. She showed up on time, gave off the just-right vibe we’d hoped for, and immediately got down on the floor with the kids to play.


Depending on your level of neurosis about this sort of thing, you can conduct more in-depth interviews with specific people (I didn’t) and/or connect your account to Facebook (I did) and/or even load your profile with info about your kids’ schools and activities so you can see which sitters have been used by other parents in your community (I will). You can see how many repeat families a sitter has, and you can find a sitter for a full range of needs, from straight-up occasional in-home babysitters to long-term nanny types you can hire to drive your kids around or take them to the park or help you with errands or whatever. (Would it be weird to book someone for an hour to bathe my kids while I go read a book?) You can also rate sitters you’ve used, and of course look at the ratings others have left; if you’ve ever wanted to Yelp a person, here’s your chance.

We had such a good experience, I hope you don’t count on criticism for proof that a reviewer wasn’t paid to say only positive things because (1) I would never sign up for something like that and (2) I have nothing negative to say about our UrbanSitter experience, and that’s the whole truth. We left our kids without a worry, and when we came home, the toys were picked up and put away, the dinner dishes were washed, and the house was calm and quiet, which is more than I can say for the state of things when Simon and I are in charge of the homestead. The kids gave us an enthusiastic report the next morning and asked when Carolyn was coming back. We all hope she liked us as much as we liked her.

Thanks, UrbanSitter and Clever Girls Collective, for getting us out of the house but also bringing us together–the two of us but also the five of us.


To get a free month of membership to UrbanSitter in your area, use code FORFREETRIAL. You won’t be disappointed.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

2 Feb

Goodness on the Go with GoGo squeez (sponsored + sweepstakes)

Never do I feel like a more competent mother than when I can produce from my purse just the right thing at just the right moment. Got a boo-boo? I have a selection of whimsical bandages at your disposal. Need to jot down a note? Take your pick of regular pencil, red pencil, pen (colors vary), marker, and random crayon of the month. Thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty!

As for snacks, I fancy myself a one-woman traveling smorgasbord of healthy, kid-friendly nibbles, and when I’m on my game, it’s a truly glorious thing. I suppose Mary Poppins could pull a full-fledged apple orchard from her carpetbag the moment she senses a child’s tummy is about to rumble, but no one likes a show-off, and besides, I’ve tried carrying apples in my purse, and the result, to put it in one word, is supercalifragilisticexpialigross

With two working parents, a kid in school, and another in daycare (plus swimming lessons and playdates and last-minute trips to the grocery store), we’re always on the go, and that means sometimes eating in locales so exclusive you’ll never see them written up in the guidebooks (because the world is not invited to stop in for a bite in the back seat of my car as I chauffeur my children all about the town). I never (literally never) leave home without healthy snacks in my purse, even if I’m just going out for a quick errand. Ever the consummate worst-case scenarist, I’d hate to risk any of us having low blood sugar when the zombie apocalypse begins.

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Among our favorite go-to on-the-go snacks are “pouches,” a.k.a. GoGo squeeZ re-sealable applesauce pouches, a.k.a. one of the greatest achievements of our time.

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They’re healthy, delicious, good for every single member of the family, and you can throw a handful of them in your purse and they never get squashed or crumpled or forgotten. They’re 100 percent fresh fruit without the risk of bruised bananas, accidentally-juiced oranges, or apples that rolled to freedom, magnificent freedom! only to be found a month later, shriveled and petrified, under the passenger seat of my car. Not that that’s ever happened.

The kids love them because they’re kids, and all kids like applesauce–it’s written right there in the rulebook. When I asked Wombat if he had anything to say about pouches, he said, “They’re tasty and yummy” (italics indicate he flashed me the Crazy Eyes™), and then he added, “Mom, do a lot of exclamations. A LOT.” Then he got up and came across the room to make sure I did it, so here: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He says that will suffice.

There’s really nothing not to love. They’re delicious, they’re all-natural, and they’re gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free. Buy them in bulk (we like the variety pack with four different fruit flavors, including AppleStrawberry) and use them for lunches, picnics, post-workout snacks, and between-meal lifesavers. They’re the practically perfect product to keep stashed in your car, your purse, and your magic carpetbag.


Now, for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, leave a comment answering this question: What on-the-go activities are you and/or your kids looking forward to this year? (I’m thinking Fox might be the kind of kid who needs to start soccer lessons as soon as possible. Aiee.)

For more information you can go to the GoGo squeeZ website!

Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “”#gogogiveaway” and #SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 2/2/2015 to 3/31/2015.

Be sure to visit the GoGo squeeZ brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

27 Jan

Weight Watchers: Friday Night Fever Edition (sponsored + sweepstakes!)

Minus the withering look from Blossom’s stepmother at the beginning, this is an accurate dramatization of my first week using the Weight Watchers app:

I was measuring, I was tracking, I was meeting all my goals, I was king of the disco floor. I was so confident of my inevitable success that I spent some time reimagining my wardrobe made entirely of spandex.

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At the end of that first week, I was strutting into the weekend with 15 extra points to spare and feelin’ pret-ty groovy. Aaaaand, then I woke up on Friday morning and realized my counter had reset for the week (surprise, my Weight Watchers week is Friday to Friday, not Sunday to Sunday), meaning I wasn’t doing as well as I’d thought, given that those 49 “extra” points in my weekly allowance had yet to encounter their arch nemesis: the Weekend.

So. Yeah. About Friday night. I went to a party and exceeded my daily points goal by almost double (DUH-BULL) to the tune of a taco bar, other people’s wine, and homemade blueberry streusel muffins made of MAGIC. It was awesome and I regret nothing, but it was also a major reality check, and I basically spent the next six days like this:

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The thing is, even if you’re aware you’re overeating when you’re mid-bite, it’s incredibly hard to bridge the mental gap between that one moment of immediate gratification and its long-term consequences, especially when you keep thinking of that one moment of indulgence as an isolated incident, instead of taking a step back and acknowledging that aaalllll those isolated moments have joined up to form a giant conga line that stretches down the block.

What Weight Watchers does is shine a spotlight on the conga line so you can’t keep pretending it’s not there, snaking off into the distance, maracas a-shake. Weight Watchers turns the conga music up to 11 so you can’t pretend you don’t hear it.

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In just this short time using the PointsPlus system, the most important thing I’ve learned is how life-changing it is to be able to quantify my interaction with food. I don’t know about you, but saying, “I ate kinda bad on Friday night so I need to eat kinda better on Saturday morning” does not pave a smooth path toward success but instead a creates a dead-end street cobbled with cop-outs.

In contrast, I’ve found I can actually change my eating habits when I can say, “I have this many points per day/week, and this thing I’m considering eating right now will cost me X number of those points, so I need to make a choice.” And it’s in that moment–that balanced-on-the-roof-ridge-of-decision moment–that Weight Watchers is empowering and has the potential to inspire real change. Because the program isn’t about following rules, it’s about making choices. Yes, there are guidelines in place to help you make good choices instead of bad ones, and yes, there are personal coaches and a 24/7 chat line to point you in the right direction, but in the end, in the program as in life, the choice is up to you. That’s the good news and the bad news, but mostly the good news.

When my personal coach, Betsy, asked me during our first session what I thought would be my biggest obstacle, I told her it was likely to be my stubbornness; I’m used to talking my way into and out of things, I’m used to no one being the boss of me, and I’m used to having my cake and eating it too, so trying to follow a program while being ultimately beholden to no one but myself, well…that would be interesting. I predicted my Weight Watchers experience would be more of a mental game than a physical game, and so far that’s turned out to be true. I’m never hungry on the program (huge sigh of relief), but I do find myself grumping over the points values of this versus that, and whimpering while everyone else is having another cocktail. But it’s not because the system feels unfair or cruelly restrictive but because I’m simply not used to it. But I’m getting used to it. And I think it’s working.

This is my last post for the campaign (unless enough of you follow Kathleen’s lead and clamor for more?), but I’ll be staying on the program through at least the end of March, and I’m feeling really good about it. When I first mentioned I was doing this on Twitter, a handful of people said the program absolutely works for those who take it seriously and make a consistent effort to follow the plan, and I really took that to heart. I’ve been religiously tracking points (nary a single nibble of pb&j while I’m making kindergarten lunch goes unrecorded), and I’m paying close attention to all the physical and emotional ups and downs of the experience too. This week, Personal Coach Betsy (I’m down with PCB, yeah, you know me) helped me set a goal to get regular exercise back into my life (props to Whitney for recommending a 7-minute workout app), and I’m looking forward to having her support (and yours) through that process.

Although this blog series is ending, I feel like my journey (dammit!) is just beginning. Thanks for letting me share, and I wish you all luck in your lose-weight/eat-better/exercise-more/feel-awesome endeavors.


Have you used Weight Watchers? How do you deal with challenges when it comes to eating better? Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a one month Weight Watchers membership and a Weight Watchers prize pack!

Sweepstakes Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including a disclosure that your Tweet is a sweepstakes entry and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

No purchase necessary to enter or win.  A purchase will not improve your chances of winning. Void where prohibited by law. Open to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and D.C. (“Territory”) who are 18 years of age or older.  Void outside the Territory.  Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Twitter makes no endorsement of this promotion nor is involved with the promotion in any way.  Sponsor:  BlogHer, Inc., 1301 Shoreway Road, Suite 340, Belmont, CA 94002.  Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

For complete information, the Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 1/27/15 to 1/31/15.

Be sure to visit the Weight Watchers brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

This post was created as part of a relationship in which I was sponsored by Weight Watchers and given a free three month subscription to try their new Personal Coaching product and write about my experience. Though I was compensated for my time and commitment, all views, positive and negative, are my own.