Friday, December 16, 2011

TOS Review - "Vintage Remedies for Kids"

I live with one very reluctant person when it comes to trying new foods (Especially when they resemble anything remotely close to a fruit or vegetable or is not chicken nugget shaped.) and it's not my husband.  I blame all the baby books that I followed after having Julianna.  I wish I could go back and do things differently in regards to her eating, but alas I cannot.  Therefore, I have created a selective eater.  One night after finishing a Daniel fast,  my husband and I were discussing adding a vegetarian meal into our weekly menu and Julianna asked what that meant.  After being told the definition she thought for a minute and then said, "Well, I'm a sweetenarian.  I only eat sweets."  That is where we are.   

Vintage Remedies for Kids is a curriculum designed for kids 2-6 years that teaches about healthy living.
Here is a little snippet of what the book is about from their website:
This curriculum helps you teach little ones how to choose healthy foods, how to prepare some fun and delicious snacks, how to establish prevention based habits, and how they can participate in your family's natural lifestyle. The workbook is flexible and can be used for playgroups or as a fun family project. Children at this age learn best with active lessons, so this isn't a sit and read style picture book! It's a guide for parents that is packed with hands on activities that are perfect for little hands, but fun for all ages. 
Each chapter in the book is laid out the same:  overview of the chapter, read aloud section, additional information about the material presented, and a hands on activity/recipe. 

My musings:  
I am not well versed on all things natural - unless it's near the time for our annual Daniel Fast (don't say the phrase out loud and maybe it will not come back around in January).  I would just like to open Julianna's mind to the fact that fruits and vegetables are not of the Devil.  When going through some of the chapters (especially on healthy eating and staying healthy), I would get the "Is that true?" asked from time to time.  I'm not a exemplary role model when it comes to eating healthy (I am typing this as I am popping a pretzel turtle in my mouth.  Have you tried them?  Pretzels, rolos and pecans.  Mercy sakes, that recipe is fab!  Let me know if you want it.), but this book has opened the doors for discussion and hopefully exploration into this new area for our whole family.  

Julianna's musings:
"You should eat fruits and vegetables to stay healthy.  Fruits and vegetables are icky." We still have some work to do.  

Vintage Remedies also offer books for older kids:  Vintage Remedies for Tweens (due out in February 2012), Vintage Remedies for Guys and Vintage Remedies for Girls.  Check em out.  

* Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of Vintage Remedies for Kids in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given.*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

TOS Review - Artistic Pursuits

I first discovered the Artistic Pursuits art curriculum at a homeschool convention last Spring.  I almost bought it to use this school year, but I had already gotten a few other things (read: spent my allotted budget), so I hesitated and then didn't end up ordering it. When I found out that they would be one of the vendors on the list to review, I was bananas excited! I could have possibly done some shameless begging to be on the list, but we won't talk about that.  Bygones.  Regardless, I am glad I was chosen because I was not disappointed.

Artistic Pursuits offer 10 different curriculum levels spanning from PreK to High School and they also offer a corresponding art pack available for each one except the PreK level.  We were chosen to review the K-3 Book 2.  Here is a description of it from the Artistic Pursuits website:
This book is sure to delight young children as they make connections with artists from the past. It focuses on the lives of artists who left the world with a vision that has awed and inspired others for generations. Using colorful illustrations and works by the artists, this book tells the stories of artists from the 13th century late Gothic period to the academy artists of the 18th century. Children explore painting in watercolor, tempera, oil pastels, printmaking, sculpture with paper mache, and mixed media.

My musings:
Watercolor painting of our house
I have given birth to quite a little artist.  I try to do a lot of art projects within our week because 1. it is a definite strength for her,  2. there is much less resistance to completing the task and 3. she loves to do it.   Artistic Pursuits is proving to be a great match for us.  Each lesson has the same layout:  information about the artist of the particular period you are learning about (our book goes from the Gothic period into the 18th century) told in story format and then an activity that demonstrates a technique or materials that are similar to what the artist used.  According to their site, " A complete study of art should include the subject matter shown on each shelf in this illustration. The K-3 program covers the elements of art and compositional ideas suited to the age within the context of art history. Techniques are shown as new materials are introduced. In this way even the youngest students experience a complete study of art. Grades 4-12 get a complete, in-depth study of the elements of art and composition based on a variety of applications. Each application offers a different way of thinking about the topic, helping to expand awareness of the visual world." Here is a link to their philosophy and approach for teaching art.

While there is very little teacher preparation required for the program, unless you buy the art pack that corresponds to your book, you have to get your art supplies ready for the activity.  We are pretty well stocked in art supplies, so we had everything needed to complete the projects (or close enough) that we did.  If I invest in other books, however, I would make it easier on myself (I am a selfish being.) definitely purchase the art pack.  I have a feeling that their supplies might be a higher quality than some of what we have and higher quality art supplies produce nicer products.  Just a fact.  Plus, you get a tote bag.  I love tote bags.

Julianna's musings:
**This is a new feature of my reviews.  I thought it might be interesting to get a 6 year old's perspective on the products since she is the one also using it.  I will, however, maintain my editing rights.**

"I think that the program was fun!  I think it was awesome! Today my Mom twisted out my top tooth."
Short and sweet...and completely off topic at the end.  See?  Editing will be needed.  

If you are considering an art program for your homeschool, give Artistic Pursuits a look.  Each book is $42.95 and the art packs range from $45 - $92.  You can order from their site, by phone or by mail and they offer a 30 day money back (minus shipping) guarantee.     

*Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of Artistic Pursuits K-3 Book 2 in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TOS Review - The Reading Game

The Reading Game was created by Kenneth Hodkinson, author of the vocabulary curriculum, Wordly Wise.  Here is a description of the game from the website:

The Reading Game is a fast-action memory card game.  It includes a series of six beautifully illustrated storybooks. The Cards & Books work together to make learning to read exciting and enjoyable. Game sessions are fun-filled with a winner every few seconds.  After completing the first memory card game, the student has thirty words “hardwired” into memory. The Skunk story, Book One in the series, is told using only those thirty words. On completing the series, the student has a reading vocabulary of 180 words. Almost half of them are among the one hundred most commonly used words in the English language.

My musings: 
I love educational games and I especially love them when they are quick to play, but teach a bunch.  The Reading Game is a fast moving memory game.  There are six levels of 30 words and a book at the end that uses the words they learned in the round.  To advance to the next round, the child must read a sentence that shows mastery.   You start with a few words in round one and work your way up to 30 words by the end of the first level.  After the words of a level are mastered (and that is determined by reading a specific sentence in the level's book), you go to the next round.  Julianna and I enjoyed playing the game and I think it would be successful (we didn't make it all the way through yet), but she quickly got bored with playing.  The process is consistent throughout the game (memory games building a word base, read book, mastery) and that is great...and a bit monotonous, but repetition, repetition, repetition...that is always a good thing.  

Nitty Gritty Details:  
You can order a copy of The Reading Game here.  The game is $24.95.

*Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of The Reading Game in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given.*

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A RACKing we will go

Every year we do some type of countdown to Christmas - paper rings we tear off, cotton balls glued on Santa's beard (I believe!), placing a new daily piece in our Playmobil nativity set, but I read a blog post last night when I was perusing for some Thanksgiving activities to do in school that I love, love, love and I cannot get the idea out of my head...25 Days of RACK - Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. 

From First Grade Parade
From First Grade Parade
 In a nutshell, you perform a RACK every day leading up to Christmas.  They can be as little as leaving a quarter on a gumball machine or paying for the person behind you in the Dunkin Donuts drive through (I am a coffee lover, but not a Starbucks drinker.  Don't hate.)  You also leave a card like the one on the side to explain what you've done.

You can get an idea of some things that other people are doing by going here or here.   I don't have everything planned out yet - still formulating what I'd like to do in my head, but I'm very excited at the prospect.  I am going to try to work on my day plans over the next few days, so I will keep you updated.  If you have any cool ideas, let me know!

Monday, November 7, 2011

TOS Review - "The Person I Marry"

Julianna is only 6 years old, but she has already started talking about and planning her wedding.  She has even drawn pictures of her wedding dress and of she and her dad walking down the aisle (complete with Dad weeping).  I'm not ready to think about any of that.

At all.

To ease me into what we'll inevitability have to face, I had the privilege to read a copy of the book "The Person I Marry" written and illustrated by Gary and Jan Bower of Bower Family Books.

You can watch a trailer of the book here.

My musings:  This is really a sweet book.  The illustrations and the message are both beautiful.  However, it didn't seem to hold Julianna's attention very well.  I think part of the reason was because the book we were asked to review was an ebook version(Not complaining. Just stating the format we had to use. ;-) ) and she is a "book in hand" kinda girl, like her Momma.  And, at the time, she was wanting to perform a gymnastics routine in the living room (and did begin the warm ups while I was reading the ending). "The Person I Marry"  would be a nice heirloom book to have in your family library or to be given as a gift.  It is written from a non-gendered point of view, so it would be appropriate for either your daughter or son.

** Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received an e-book copy of "The Person I Marry" in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given. **

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TOS Review - Ooka Island Books

I first saw Ooka Island advertised in a teaching resource magazine this summer and couldn't wait to try it.  (It met two very important criteria for me:  1.  teaches reading in a very systematic and fun way and 2.  It's set on an island with peppy, Caribbean music as a theme.  My standards are shockingly low.)  When I was chosen to be a reviewer for the program, I was over the moon.  I'll take any help that is offered to teach Julianna to read.  I know, I know.  She WILL learn to read.  Regardless, it haunts this homeschool mama, I'm afraid.  I'm also starting to freak out about her writing, but I will leave that for another day.  Back to the review.

Ooka Island is an interactive literacy program designed for emerging readers Pre-K through 2nd grade.  Their website describes it this way:
The Ooka Island Adventure is a downloadable hero-mission in 3D designed to teach young children how to read fluently and well. The Ooka Island Adventure combines the highly engaging components of a state-of-the-art virtual world with the scientifically proven OokaMethod that builds literacy skills.

Carefully embedded within the Ooka Island Adventure are dozens of interactive instructional activities that captivate the child and motivate them as they learn essential pre-reading, reading, spelling, and writing skills. After completing the Ooka Island Adventure, children will be on their way to reading fluently and well for life.

And it has cool music.

My musings:
I love Ooka Island.  It captures Julianna's attention with it's colorful, interactive games and music. Plus, she loves any game that she can change her person's appearance multiple times per session. The "goal" of the program is to help free the Ooka Elves from the Fliggs (Fliggs = Flying Pigs) that have taken over the island.  Auntie Kay is the one leading the expedition, but your guide through it all is a robot named Zobot.  Zobot is Julianna's arch nemesis.  For some reason she thinks he is working against her instead of helping her through the adventure.  I think it's because for a memory game, you play against him and he won a few hands in the beginning.  That was Zobot's fatal error in judgement.  It might be better if you would play against the Fliggs.  Just a suggestion.  As you work your way through the levels, you unlock new items to use (like clothing, etc.) and new games.  You earn points to buy items in the Mist Mart as well.  For each level, you begin by playing phonological games, then you unlock a new book that is then read to you and comprehension is determined through a question game at the end of the story. 

The only downsides I see are, sometimes the accent of the voice over narrating during some games is a little difficult to understand. I know I have had to listen twice to figure out what he is saying (especially in the Wacky Moving Company game) and the addition of new games within the levels is slow.  In the beginning, Julianna loved the games, but now she is getting tired of them because they are the same ones she started with.  I'm hoping some new ones pop up soon as she is progressing through.

If you have emerging readers or have little ones that need just some added reinforcement, give Ooka Island a try.  They are offering a special launch discount on a monthly subscription.  Yippee! 

Oh, and tell Zobot to watch his back.

**Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a subscription to Ooka Island in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given.**

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TOS Review - NorthStar Games - Wits & Wagers Family

Description:  (from Target's website):

Challenge your kids to a game of Wits & Wagers in this family-friendly edition featuring 300 new questions. Simplified rules and scoring work to combine laughter and learning as you move your Meeple character to select what is hopefully the correct answer.
  • Wits & Wagers Family Edition has 300 new family-friendly questions and simplified rules and scoring
  • Every player writes down a guess to a fun question, and then everyone tries to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer
  • Combines laughter and learning in a game that all ages can enjoy together
  • Also includes Meeples (fun, cute, human-shaped wooden pieces) that the players use to select which answers they think are correct
  • Meeples have been a hallmark in European-style strategy games for years, but this is the first time they have made an appearance in a party game
How to play:
Each player chooses a color (you get two Meeples of same color and a small dry erase answer board and pen), a scorekeeper is chosen and the youngest player goes first.  Meeples are colorful, painted wood game markers shaped like humans.  Once a Question Card is read, players write their answer on their board (all answers are numbers) and the boards are sorted from smallest to largest.  Players then place one or both of their Meeples on the answer they feel is correct. The winning guess is the number answer closest to the real number without going over.  Points are scored based on correct answer written, guessed, size of Meeple used, etc.  First player to reach 15 points wins.  Easy peasy!  Here is an example question for you, "How many different colors of Froot Loops are there?"  Our answers ranged from 5 to 1000 (I'll give you three chances to guess who said 1000. Ha!) The correct answer is 6.  Each answer is also either given with an explanation (it listed the 6 colors used) or another fact related to the question.  How about this one: "How many times does a honey bee flap it's wings in one second?" Our answers ranged from 1 to 60.  None of us were right.  So, what is the answer? Leave me a comment with what you think. And no cheating! :-)

My musings:
Wits & Wagers Family is a neat game. The 150 Question Cards (two levels of questions on each card, so 300 questions total) are an interesting, wide range of topics and are interesting and the Meeples are just fun to play with. Much cooler than the regular plastic markers in other games. Apparently they are a pretty popular game mascot in Europe, but this is the first time that they have made their way across the Atlantic. It's an easy game to get the hang of and one that I can see playing repeatedly...when Julianna is older.  The game is listed for age 8+ and I think that is definitely an accurate age range (she is only 6).  While it gave her good math practice in writing and identifying numbers, sorting them in order and adding of points, she just didn't get the concept of estimation.  She got frustrated if she didn't get the "right" answer even if her answer was the closest without going over...which wasn't very often with answers usually written in the thousands. Most of the Question Cards we went through (obviously we didn't get through all 150 of them) were interesting, though a few dealt with pop culture tween TV shows that we knew nothing about.  I just skipped those.  All in all, if you are a game playing family, I would recommend giving it a try.

Details:  Wit & Wagers Family
Publisher:  NorthStar Games
Players: 3-10 players, ages 8+
Buy:  Amazon, or at Target, Barnes and Noble, Kohls

**Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free copy of Wits & Wagers Family in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.**

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    TOS Review - E-mealz

    Meal planning is one of my weakest areas of running my household...that and completing laundry...or decluttering...okay, and housecleaning in general, but why dwell on the negative? If you also have trouble figuring out how to feed your family without blowing your grocery budget envelope (I'm still trying, Uncle Dave Ramsey) for just a few meals, then the cavalry may be coming to your rescue.  Enter E-mealz.
     E-mealz is an online service that, for a minimal monthly fee, allows you to choose a grocery store (five specific stores listed (Kroger, Publix, Ralphs, Aldi, and Walmart) and an "any store" option) and then they provide a weekly meal plan and organized grocery list.  On a diet?  No problem.  They have low fat, low carb and portion control plans available.  Have special diet restrictions?  Got it covered.  Gluten free and vegetarian plans are also offered.  Don't need to feed an army?  Problem solved.  There are also plans for feeding 1-2 people in all the categories previously listed.  Easy peasy!

    My musings:
    E-mealz is a great program that I would recommend anyone giving a try.  It's affordable and takes all the guess work out of the dreaded duty of meal planning.  It really tries to cover all the bases by offering a wide variety of plans. What is not to like?  Nothing, but for some reason it just doesn't work for me.  :-(  I don't know why.  The recipe ideas were great.  Meals were tasty.  I think one reason is it doesn't have the grocery stores I typically visit as an option (my subscription is for the "any store" plan, so I need to check out another one to see if it works better. You can switch plans, as a courtesy, one time during a three month subscription period).  I think the other main reason is I have a hard time planning by the week because I may not "feel" like eating what is planned.  Silly reasons.  Maybe I have deep seeded control issues.  Lol  Like I said, I think it's a great program with lots of variety that I would recommend using - I just can't justify spending the monthly fee for MY FAMILY.  Give it a try.  It might just be what you've been looking for.  

    **Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free membership to E-mealz in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.**

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    TOS Review - Always IceCream

    My girl loves to play games online, so what could be better than a site with safe, educational games created JUST FOR GIRLS?  Not much. (Well, not much to a little girl.  For this big girl, a fresh cup of coffee first thing in the morning beats it by a mile, which is probably why it's not targeted for the 40 something crowd.) I digress.

    Always IceCream  is a pretty (all fluffy and pastel-y ice cream colored), fun site chock full of a variety of girly games. Their tag line is "A Scoop of Laughter. A Scoop of Learning."  The target age for the majority of the games is 7-12 years. They have a large selection of educational games (that progress in difficulty) in the following academic areas:  Language Arts, Math, Science, Geography and History, Music and Arts, Religious Education (Christian), Computer Skills and Foreign Language.  They are very proactive with their safety measures, offering, among other features, moderated communication between friends (there is a social connection side where your daughter can link to other friends online), and tons of parental reporting and control.  A couple other features are MiniWorld (when they first sign on, they create a MiniMe avatar.  MiniWorld is where they set up a house, art studio, etc.) and Pet World (hatch and raise a pet). 

    My musings:  Julianna and I have both really enjoy this site.  She is younger than the recommended age, so many (okay, most) of the games we need to play together. (I won't say how woefully pitiful one of us is at identifying the states west of the Mississippi...barring Texas and California.  The ones in the middle all run together. :-)  ) There are some games (dress up, cake decorating, etc.) that can be done independently, but she is still an early reader and needs help for everything else.  That's okay.  I like having something available that she can grow into.  My favorite thing?  NO ADS!  Ugh, ads on kid's sites drive me bananas. There is a very popular preschool site that used to really annoy me with their ads. I'm sorry, but my preschool daughter does not need to know about adult hair coloring products! Nuff' said. I also love the extra measures implemented for safety and parental controls.  I expect us to get loads of use out of our membership over the upcoming years. 

    Nitty gritty details: Always IceCream
    Target audience:  girls, 7-12 years
    Membership:  4.99 per month (first month .99)
                           29.99 annual
                           99.99 lifetime
    (Always IceCream offers a money back guarantee if you aren't satisfied.)

    **Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free membership to Always IceCream in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.**

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    I'm quirky

    I was thinking the other day that I have some quirky ways about me.  (Quirky -'s a fine line. Don't judge.)  I know some of you all are quirky, too.  Embrace your quirkiness!

    Quirk 1:  I am a germaphobe.  
    ("Hello, my name is Kelly and I'm a germaphobe.  Hello, Kelly."  Not sure exactly why, but I am. (This is where the neuroses line gets blurred)  People poke fun, but I am the first person that others will come to when they need antibacterial wipes.  I buy them from a janitorial supply site online by the 1000 packet box. What? Is that strange?)

    Quirk 2:  I will not buy the first magazine on the newsstand.
    (You know that everyone looks at the first magazine on the rack while waiting in line and sticks it back when it's time to unload the cart.  I choose carefully from the remaining issues behind.  See Quirk 1. Don't you all now stick the magazines that you have flipped through with your grubby hands into the back to throw off my routine. Hmm, I did just take a stack of free Country Living magazines at a yard sale.  Does something being free supersede my germaphobia?  I will have to ponder that thought.)

    Quirk 3:  I read cookbooks like others read novels.
    (I read novels too, but I do love to read cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking blogs, etc. You get the picture.)

    Quirk 4:  I love print catalogs.
    (I do look at a lot of stuff online, but I love the feel of the beautiful, slick pages in my hands. I blame my cousin.  She used to get all of these really cool catalogs in the mail and she'd pass them on to me. I have taken up the cause on my own, now. I think I talked about this before.  Feels like deja vu.)

    Quirk 5:  I eat some strange food combinations.
    (Macaroni and cheese and ketchup.  Potato chips and A1 steak sauce.  Don't crinkle your noses.  I know you all eat some weird food concoctions, too.  Right?  Right???)

    Quirk 6:  I can think of a song to go with most situations.
    (We celebrated our 15th Anniversary last week by going to see Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center.  This was my third time seeing it and it was still just as powerful as the first.  If you have never seen it, GO!  (Just don't take the kids.  Les Mis NOT a kids show.  French Revolution was a rough time.  Jus' sayin'.) Anyway, it's been a week now and I still sing songs from the show in my head (and sometimes out loud) whenever the occasion arises.  For example, someone will say rain is in the forecast and I will break out in "A Little Fall of Rain"  "And you will keep me safe, and you will keep me close, and rain will make the flowers grow." (It is the first scene of the second act that the tears start flowing.  It's when Eponine dies.  *sob*)  Say something about things happening tomorrow and "One Day More" pops out  "Tomorrow we'll discover what God in Heaven has in store.  One more dawn.  One more day.  One daaaay mooooooore." You get the picture.  I'm sure this will subside some...though it never fully goes away.

    So, what are your quirks?  I know you gotcha some.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    The Lawn Ranger

    Daddy let Julianna take the wheel yesterday when it was time to mow the lawn.

    I think she might have enjoyed it. (She is screaming, "This is Julianna's Show of Mowing" among other screeching.)

    Of course, my lawn now looks like we have crop circles. Don't be surprised if you see us giving interviews to the media.

    She's available for hire.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Back in the Saddle Again

    Hello, neglected bloggy friends.  Miss me?

    Well, our new school year has begun.  Julianna wanted to start early, so we ended up beginning a week before than I had planned to.  I had believed her enthusiasm to start and proclamations of "missing school" as proof positive answers to my prayers of desperation for a student with willful I see they were just a ploy to get the First Day of School prizes.  Silly Mom.  ;-)

    First week went well.  Last couple weeks, not so much (Ashamedly I admit that it also included a drive through our neighborhood school's parking lot with visions of enrolling her in my head.  The only reason I didn't stop was there were no parking spaces.  True story. Divine intervention?  Lol!).  Homeschooling moves just like life, huh?  Ups, downs, bumps, smooth sailing...hardest part is staying consistent through the ever changing tides.  We shall continue on...or at least grip tightly to the rope and drag on until March when the homeschool conventions begin with their encouraging workshops.  And the exhibit hall.  Freebies make all things right in the world.

    On to our year so far.  I can already see some changes in the curriculum that need to be made.  I just cannot seem to find our groove in the area of phonics/language arts.  We are using Institute of Excellence in Writing's new LA program, Primary Arts of Language.  It's okay, but it is WAAAAY labor intensive (printing off materials, preparing games, etc.) for the amount of time it actually takes her to complete the task.  Still pondering what direction to go with it. Math seems to be going okay.  We're using Right Start Math and while it is very hands on, it's kinda dry.  We'll see how it goes.  She's doing well using the abacus, though, so we're making progress. Science ( is her favorite subject so far.  I like the way it's laid out - nothing overwhelming to complete daily and the experiments have been simple.  For social studies, we are using History Pockets from Evan-Moor (  Love them.  We started with Ancient Civilizations.  Last week we did an overview of "what is history?" and this week we are starting Ancient Mesopotamia (followed by Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and Aztecs).  I will do a separate post about it when we are done.  The activities are great.  Next unit we will do is Colonial Times which I hope moves us through November. 

    My school room is still not giving me a groovy feeling, but I'm working at it.  Not sure what I want it to look like, which is one of the problems.  Our calendar area is slowly coming together.  I love the date on wall rings that I did (I got the idea here:  By May, everything should be hunky dory!

    Hope your new year is going swimmingly.  :-)

    Here are some pics:

    We made tie dyed shirts.  They turned out awesome!  Colors faded only slightly. 

    Pencil cake made for my "adopted" kiddos.  ;-) (Excuse the pan.  Shameful condition, really.)

    My "flying WV" brownie.  Gotta represent!  Go Mounties!!  2-0

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    TOS Review - Flea Circus - R&R Games

    Game: Reiner Knizia's Flea Circus
    Publisher:  R & R Games
    Where to buy:
    For 2-6 players, ages 6 and up
    Price:  $15.95

    Overview (from the RnR Games website):
    STEP RIGHT UP! Calling all Cats and Dogs! The Flea Circus is about to begin!
    It's a wild time under the Big Top as dogs and cats race from one show to the next. Players use their best Flea Circus acts to attract the most cats and dogs. Play your cards right and you can steal the audience away from your neighbor! But watch out for the Animal Catcher... He'll snatch your cats and dogs away!
    With all this excitement, how's a Flea Ring Circus supposed to keep up? When all the cats and dogs are gone, whoever ends up with the most animals at their show wins the game!

    My Musings:
    Oh, my, do we enjoy this game...and we have played it more times than I can count since receiving it just a few weeks ago.  The object of the game is to collect as many dogs and cats to come to your flea circus while avoiding the Animal Catcher and your opponent's sneaky fingers when they get a "ticket" card.  (Maybe that may just be MY opponent's sneaky fingers...and card hiding under the leg skills.  Little worried about her natural cheating abilities.  Guess "thou shalt not cheat" needs to be added to our character studies, but I digress.) This is not only a fun game to play, but it covers multiple math concepts:  addition, subtraction, one to one counting, and skip counting and the kiddos don't even realize it.  Fun and, win!  We have another product from RnR (the Hide and Seek Safari - awesome!), so I knew the great quality of their items.  This game did not disappoint.  

    Special offer: 
    For being my loyal blog buddy, RnR Games is offering 20% off your purchase through the end of the year.    Just use the code:  CREW20 at checkout.  Super cool!

    If you would like to read other reviews (for this product and many more) from the TOS Crew Members, click here.  

    **Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I was given a free copy of Flea Circus in exchange for my honest opinions.  No other compensation was received.**

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    TOS Review - How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids


    Author:  Rachael Carman
    Publisher:  Apologia Educational Ministries
    Copyright:  2011

    Overview (from the Apologia website):  
    How well do you really know your kids? What has God shown you about who they are and who they will become? He has sent these children into your home at this specific time for His glorious purposes. Indeed, you have been invited on the adventure of a lifetime, a journey on which you will see walls fall, seas parted, and giants slain. You don't need special skills or training for this journey—you need only to seek God and hold tight to His mighty hand! As with so many things, the first step to having a heart for your children is knowing your heavenly Father. As you seek daily to share His heart for your children, keep this inspirational book close at hand.

    My Musings:
    I loved this book. 
    Loved it.  
    Love, loved it.

    "H.E.A.R.T"  is an acrostic for:
    H - Have A Heart for the Things of God
    (This means YOU.  "If you want to direct your kids on a course of seeking and desiring God above all else, if you want them to worship Him alone, if you want them to obey His call on their lives, then you must set a clear example of seeking, desiring, worshiping, and obeying Him. It starts with the parents.  You cannot pass on what you do not have." Ouch.)
    E - Enriching Your Marriage
    (Poor hubby's always get left out, don't they?  I seriously have to work on this area. I spend my day with a 6 year old chatter box and by the time Dad walks in the door, I tag him "it" and then tend to turn my ears off.  I cannot even tell you the last "date night" we had. *sigh*)
    A - Accept Your Kids (They're hardwired to be what God wants them to be. Oh man.  Rachael (May I call you Rachael?    I will refer to her as Rachael, but not out of disrespect. I feel like we are friends...or I wish she would just call me up, so we could have a chat about things and become friends.  I hate that my phone never rings.  Hug, friends?). Anyhoo, Rachael talks about prayers that you commonly pray:  cures for horrible diseases, future government leaders, missionaries to reach the lost and then she asks, "Are you having breakfast or teaching math to the answer of one of those prayers? Someone did."  Whoa. It's so hard for me to look past the present time (and the attitudes and power struggles of the moment) into what she may become.  God open my heart to accept the beauty of (warts and all) what you have given me.
    R - Release Them to God
    (They don't belong to you anyway. This chapter had one of my favorite quotes. Rachael would tell her kids, "You know, God loves you.  He has big plans for you.  Huge plans. World-changing plans.  I can hardly wait to see what he has planned. I am praying for you."  I love that. (I am stealing it too.) Speaking huge dreams into little minds.  How far can they go just knowing that you believe they will change the world?)
    T - Teach Them the Truth
    (Our kids are being taught many different things from many different places.  Their foundation in the Truth needs to come from us.  Lead us, Jesus.)

    I read a sample chapter of the book on the Apologia website before I actually got it and was hooked from the beginning.  I identified with so much of what she was writing about (okay, I can't identify with homeschooling seven kids, but still).  She had been a public school teacher.  So had I. She was raising a strong willed child.  Waving my hand here. She dreamed of the time her first born would head off to Kindergarten and she'd "get her life back".  Me too. I always assumed that I would be home with Julianna until she was school age and then I'd go back to teaching.  I miss being a Special Education teacher.  I miss my co-workers.  I miss contributing financially to our household.  I still question our decision to homeschool weekly - sometimes daily depending on how things are going.  I told a friend recently that we are starting our new school year on the 22nd, so that if I am ready to wave the white flag by Friday, she can start public school with the rest of the kids on the 29th and not be behind.  Only somewhat kidding. Shame on me. This is one of the reasons that this book was a Godsend for me. It is helping me refocus what is important in my family...our homeschool... and as a parent.  I read the majority of the book through teary eyes...tears of conviction and inspiration. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to every homeschooling Momma. It was a great encouragement for me. 

    Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free copy of the book How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    There's a whole lotta shakin' going on!

    I don't like earthquakes.  Don't like them whatsoever.  Some friends of mine are afraid of tornadoes.  Me, not so much.  You at least get somewhat of a warning with a tornado.  Predictable weather patterns can give you an indicator, etc, but with an earthquake, no warning.  Your house just starts shaking.  And moving.  The Earth isn't supposed to move.  It's supposed to stay completely still.  That keeps my world in place, literally.  In other words, EARTHQUAKES FREAK ME OUT, MAN!  I mean, the Earth can open up, people.  Open. Up.  Me no likey.

    I'm sure you are aware of the quake that hit on the East Coast today.  Yeah, guess what coast I'm on? Bingo. When it happened, my mind went into hyper-drive:  what is that?  A strong wind? The house was making sounds like it was in a heavy wind storm - and moving some.  Nope, the trees aren't moving. The dryer? Nope, not the dryer. Low flying plane?  Nope, the windows aren't shaking - the house and floors are.  FREEEAK OUT!  I didn't lose it (for Julianna's sake), but I was rattled, pun intended.  What do you do in an earthquake?  Go upstairs?  Into the basement?  Bathroom?  By the time I would have decided, it was over.  It lasted less than a minute, but it seemed like time definitely slowed down.  Then it was a flurry of texts, emails, phone calls to family and friends to check well beings and try to calm down.  Yeah, right.  The calming down took hours.  I'm actually still a little jittery while posting this.  This is the second quake that has hit our area.  The first one shook me awake at 5am on a Friday morning about a year ago.  This one was much further away and much stronger.  Me no likey.

    Oh, and now Hurricane Irene is headed our way this weekend.  Batten down those hatches!  The hits just keep on coming.


    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    The Pajama Chef, Episode 3

    Today's Theme:  Breakfast (French Toast)
    Starring: Julianna, The Pajama Chef

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Posting Slump

    I am in a posting slump.  Nothing comes to mind that I want to blog about.  I think I'm in the post-vacation funk.  Oh, well.  I have one weekend getaway planned at the end of summer, so I will look forward to that.

    In the meantime, my exciting week/weekend consisted of:
    • Finished painting our living room and school room (taupe-ish and lt. blue, respectively - Both look great!), but my school room is still not organized and ready to go.  Thinking of painting the kitchen this week.
    • Got the new 2012 IKEA catalog in the mail.  (Sad, but this is a great highlight of my week.)  
    • Got to puppy sit the sweetest dog in the universe for a couple days, sweet Lizzie (She lives with Monique and family (, but she really belongs to me.)
    • Sitting here with a fresh cup of coffee, waiting for my pan of brownies to come out of the oven.  
    That is all.

    I do have a couple reviews coming up at the end of the month.  Hopefully I can get a life before then.  lol

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    There's no place like home.

    That is, unless you are on vacation.

    We just returned from a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This is the third year we've rented this particular vacation home and we just love it. Anytime you go can get away as a family it's nice, but this year, it just seemed like our time was extra special.  Not sure why it felt any different, but we live in a very hectic area of the country (and since we are so close to the central political arena, it can be volatile at times, as well), so going somewhere that is totally peaceful...with the exception of the cows and the other sounds of a welcomed respite. The private pool isn't too shabby either. I have more pictures, but I have to upload them from my phone.  :-) 

    Swimming in the deep end.  She's quite the little fish.

    Star and Sweet Pea (two of the four miniature horses that live on this side of the farm.) When you go near the fence, they come running. It's nice to think they want to see you, but it's all about the carrots! 

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    You are so beautiful to me....

    You are so beautiful to me

    Can't you seeeeeeeee

    You're everything I hoped for.  You're everything I need.

    You are so beautiful to meeeeeee


     Meet my first garden tomato.  The Lord created it and it was good.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Thanks, Martha

    I got an email this week from Martha Stewart (yes, THE Martha Stewart.  She and I are like peas and carrots, didn't you know?) Actually, I have no clue how I got on her mailing list, but the message was about summer activities to keep your kid busy.  Most of them I skimmed over, but one idea did jump out at me:  sponge balls.

    Julianna loves water balloons - what kid doesn't - however, I hate filling water balloons.  There I said it.  Confessions of a bad mommy.  The filler thingy they give you never fits our faucets.  I usually have to stretch it over my laundry room utility tub faucet, inevitably having most burst while filling, which ends up in only a few successes.  (Generally because I'm wet from said busted balloons and in a foul mood, so the number of attempts is greatly reduced.) Then, you go out for the battle and what happens?  The balloon bounces off of her and breaks on the ground. Grrrrr!

    Hence, Martha to the rescue.

    In a nutshell, you take the rectangular sponges, cut them into strips, stack them on top of each other, tie with a string, fluff and voila, the sponge ball is born. They soak better and can be reused!  Win, win!

    Here is my pictorial of the creation of the sponge ball!
    Cut up sponge strips
    Stack the strips
    Tie with a string (or yarn)
    Fluff the sponges
    Don't fluff too hard.  Oopsie!
    A happy little sponge balls

    Yes, friends, that is a shattered touchscreen.  Weep with me.  I'm not ready to talk about it.  It's still usable.

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Come to Mama!

    Oh my, do I love this newly discovered blog.  Of course, I have been stuck home since Sunday with a sick kid, eating out of my slowly becoming bare pantry, so everything on here looks AMAZING! 

    Be warned.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    How Does Your Garden Grow? Part 4

    First harvest. 

    1 zucchini
    4 cucumbers (2 are missing - blame my hubby)
    1 sweet pepper (I think I should have left it on to get yellow.  Live and learn.)
    1 cherry tomato (burp)

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    The Pajama Chef, Episode 2

    Today's Theme:  Dinner (Pizza)
    Starring:  Julianna, The Pajama Chef (who's NOT in jammies - a technicality)
     I think we might stick to breakfast - she seems a little more sedate in the morning.  :) 

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Wherefore art thou, Mr Darcy?

    Friends, this past weekend I stepped into a Jane Austin novel.  Right out of Northern Virginia and into England.
    We went to visit Morven Park Mansion and Grounds in Leesburg, VA ( It is the former home of the Govenor of Virginia (two of them, actually): Thomas Swann in the 19th century (the previous house was called Swann's Castle - artistic rendering on the site) and Westmoreland Davis in the early 1900s.  It was so beautiful.  We weren't able to go until later in the day, so we missed the tours, but it was lovely just walking around the property.  We had the grounds completely to ourselves.  There is the residence to tour, along with a carriage museum and civil war encampment.
    My favorite place was the boxwood gardens.  Oh, my.  The paths were lined by these beautiful boxwood bushes.  I totally expected to see Mr Darcy come moseying out from behind one of them (yes, I did look around the corners a couple times to see if he was hiding from me. I could totally take Lizzie out...but I like her, so I hope he's with Caroline Bingley.  She's going down!  Sorry, I also love Pride and Prejudice.)
    Oh, and the magnolia trees!  I . WANT . ONE!  I knew their flowers were huge (and beautiful), but I never knew how intoxicating their scent was.  I . WANT . ONE . ! Seriously, like fully matured and blooming in my yard RIGHT NOW.  I am in love and not patient.

    My homeschool momma friends, I'm planning a field trip here for next year.  :)