Monday, November 29, 2010

Homeschool Review: Nanuq (My Animal Family)

I LOVE books!! And all three of my kids LOVE animals!! So I was excited to hear I'd get to review an animal book! What more could I ask for? We were sent Nanuq from the My Animal Family (MAF) series.

We received the book, and I was immediately impressed with the look of the book. It's full of beautiful pictures and bright colors, to catch children's attention right away.  And tucked inside the front cover is a DVD and access code for the MAF website.  You receive all of this for $12.99.

We all snuggled down to enjoy our new book. It's an adorable story "told by" one baby polar bear (Nanuq) about him and his brother Suka. We all enjoyed the story, it's cute and entertaining while still teaching us about polar bears. After we read the story, we popped in the DVD and enjoyed another story about Nanuq and Suka on the DVD. Also on the DVD is more information about polar bears, and a song.

These books are geared toward children, age 3-8 and this seems accurate. My 7 year olds enjoyed the book and the DVD. While this seems like a good target age, this book works well as a read-aloud the whole family can enjoy, Little Bit (1 1/2) liked the pictures, and while an older "tween" probably wouldn't choose the book for themselves, I don't think they would object to hearing it in a family setting, or reading it to younger siblings. 

When I asked the girls what they thought of the book and DVD, they both said they liked the book, and that the story was the best part of the DVD, but they watched the whole DVD without complaint, so didn't dislike the "educational" part too much, just liked the story better.

The third "piece" of this product is the secret code to give access to the MAF website "habitat".  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get our code to work and before I had a chance to contact customer service to see what the problem was, I stepped away from my computer and, I assume, Little Bit walked off with the card that had the code on it. So, we haven't been able to try out this part of the product. Since this is a TOS Crew review item, I'd recommend going to the TOS Crew blog to see everyone else's reviews of this product, including their use of the online program. 

Even without getting to try out the habitat, I think these are great books for anyone with kids who love animals. These would make great Christmas presents for any children age 3-8 on your list too.

In addition to the polar bear book that we received to review, My Animal Family includes stories about an elephant, lion, dolphin or chimpanzee.

Disclaimer:  I was sent a free book, including DVD and online code, in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream

I adapted this from this recipe.

1 can full fat coconut milk + enough raw milk to equal a total of 3 cups (if you don't want coconut flavor, use all raw milk)
2/3 c cocoa powder
6 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together, pour into ice cream maker and follow the directions on your ice cream maker.

Bi-Weekly Wrap-Up - November 14 & 21

So obviously I never got a Weekly-Wrap Up written last week. Life just got too busy, or something. And really it's all good, this was a pretty quiet week so doubling up isn't a big deal.

The big news for the 2 weeks is, the big girls went on their first big solo trip!  (Solo, in the sense of, without Mommy or Daddy, that is. Obviously they don't drive and such yet, hee hee).  They went with Grandmom (Rodney's mom) & Aunt Lynette (Rodney's sister) to Indiana to visit their great grandparents and other assorted relatives.

But now, back to chronological order because, it's how I think . . .

We drove back from Florida on Sun-Tues. It was uneventful. Little Bit was less thrilled with long periods of car-time at the end of the trip than she had been on the way down, but she survived AND as long as we didn't try to go TOO long at a time, she even kept her diaper dry, woo-hoo!!

Got to my parents' house on Tuesday, and just kind of hung out there the rest of the day. Visited with my grandparents, and such.

The girls and I came the rest of the way home on Wednesday. Ahhhh . . . good to be home! But of course, we had to jump right into preparation for the big girls' Indiana trip. So we had a fun few days of laundry, and grocery shopping, and generally trying to get back to normal. Just in time to get the big girls all packed and send them off to Grandmom's on Monday. They spent the night at Grandmom's Monday night and then headed to Indiana on Tuesday.

I guess they're doing great, when they call, the main thing they want to know is "How's Little Bit", so apparently she's the only one they miss LOL.  They also try to talk to her on the phone most evenings. She's still abit confused by it all. Doesn't get that she's supposed to actually TALK, but likes to listen to them talk and also is fascinated by the green "android" picture that shows on my phone when I'm on the phone.

The Indiana trip included 2 days at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, a day visiting with the Great Grandparents, and a day visiting with a bunch of family (the only one they told me about was their second cousin, Mia, so I'm not sure who all was there, I know most of Rodney's aunts and uncles on his mom's side were planning to be there, not sure how many of the cousins were there.

The girls apparently thought that I should just stop "living" without them around, they were most annoyed to hear that Little Bit and I still did things like going to visit our neighbor, Miss Judy without them LOL.  They were also less then thrilled to hear that they missed book club. I wasn't going to mention it, but they happened to call while I was there, so I told them where I was. They were quite certain that Pastor Mike must be very lonely without them there (our bookclub is at the pastor's house, the big girls generally spend the time talking Pastor Mike's ear off and generally torturing him upstairs while we have our book club downstairs.

Little Bit and I had a quiet week of just us.  I tried to use at least part of each nap to get some cleaning and decluttering done. Didn't get as much done as I'd have liked (of course I COULD be doing that now instead of writing this blog post, but I'm pretty happy sitting here right now), but got a good start on things. I was concerned that she would miss the big girls too much, and keep looking for them, but she really hasn't. She did ask about them the first time we got in the car, pointed to their seats and made her "questioning" sound (I don't know how to describe it, it's a little grunt that she uses when she has a question LOL), but I just said "sister's aren't here" and she was fine with it. Here at home, she never really asked where they were.

This week has confirmed what I've always felt, that it's not "easier" to have the big kids gone . . .that whole idea of "how can you get anything done if you don't send your kids off to school?". Now obviously if ALL the children were in school it would be different, but for this season, when I have a little one at home, it's actually easier to have the big girls around too. In addition to their chores, that I have to do when they're not here, the main thing is the ability to leave them with Little Bit for short periods of time, or send them to do things that it's difficult to do WITH Little Bit. Laundry was a challenge this week without them here to either stay with her while I went to the basement, or go to the basement for me. Typically, they stay with Little Bit in the family room while I start the laundry each day, and then they get the laundry out of the washer and carry the basket up to the clothes line, then they watch Little Bit outside while I hang the laundry.  With them gone, I tried to get the laundry started in the morning before Rodney left for work (so he could stay with Little Bit upstairs), but then I had to take her down to the basement with me while I got the laundry out of the washer and have her walk up the hill next to me while I carried the laundry basket. She did fine playing outside on her own while I hung the clothes, she likes to love on the cats, who are, thankfully pretty tolerant.

Thankfully, we had less laundry than usual this week because Little Bit is SO close to being potty trained!! So, whereas I generally do 2-3 loads of diapers/towels per week, I did a load on Monday before the girls left, and haven't had to do one since.  When we're home, I leave her nakey butt full time, and I don't think she's had any misses at home this week.  When we're out, it's still hit or miss. The car can be a challenge, because she will tell me, and hold it briefly, but if I'm somewhere that I can't quickly get stopped to potty her, she'll go ahead & go in her diaper (this is my fault, since I haven't ever focused on stopping when we're driving, so I don't think she's confident that I WILL stop).  The other on-going issue is that she likes to "drive" the car & at this point, the only place I have to set her potty in the car is on the driver seat, so she gets distracted with "driving" and forgets to actually go potty, if she doesn't need to go badly). I need to either make it a priority to keep the passenger seat cleared off, or see if I can arrange things such that I can set the potty on the floor behind my seat to help with that. Still, she did pretty well. At Miss Judy's house, she gets busy playing or whatever and doesn't want to take time to potty,  so we sometimes end up with a wet diaper there, other times she tells me, and goes on the potty.  For the most part, when shopping, she stayed dry, though she had one accident when she was wanting to walk and was busy looking at the shoes and didn't tell me she needed to potty. . . so we're not to the point where I'm willing to put her in panties yet, when we're out, but that's ok.

In bigger (potty training) news, she's now diaper-free at night. A couple nights ago, when I was getting ready for bed, after she went potty I got out her diaper to put on her and she said "no" and took the diaper back to the diaper basket. So, I took a chance, and left her diaper free that night. She did fine, BUT I knew that she's not been consistently keeping her diaper dry overnight, so, the next day I set up the bed for diaper-free sleeping. There's already a wool blanket under the sheet to protect the mattress, but I wanted things set up such that, if she peed, I didn't have to either change the bed in the middle of the night, or have her &/or me sleep on wet sheets. So I laid a fleece throw blanket down, on top of the sheet, in the area where she sleeps, and then laid a beach towel, folded in half, on top of that, and let her sleep on the towel. I put an extra beach towel at the foot of the bed, in reach, so that if she did pee, I could just switch out the beach towels. I also used a lightweight fleece blanket over her, and then the comforter over that, so that the comforter wouldn't absorb any pee if she peed and I didn't notice right away. And that's how she's slept the last 2 nights!! Both nights, she's ended up getting REALLY wiggly in teh early morning hours, and so I've taken her to the potty. She doesn't like it, but she DOES pee, and then after she's peed, she sleeps much better the rest of the night. So, as I've suspected, alot of the wiggling and disruption to our nights has been because she needed to pee. I'm hoping that as she gets used to this new routine, she won't fuss about being taken to the potty during the night, but for now, the little bit of fussing seems like the better alternative to an hour or more of wiggling and keeping us both awake. So that's another step toward Little Bit being fully diaper free :)

And now, the big girls are on their way home, and then we'll be jumping into Thanksgiving preparations this week!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homeschool Review: KBTeachers

This week's review for the TOS Homeschool Crew is We received a subscription to their Premum (members only) site.   This would be an amazing resource for anyone who loves worksheets! We're not much on worksheets around here, and we've been traveling so much, that I haven't been able to explore the site to find many things that fit with our homeschool style, but there is a LOT here if you use worksheets.  One feature I like is the e-mails they sent that link specifically to upcoming holidays (major ones & just small "moments in history" . . . on a famous person's birthday they might link to a worksheet about that person's life/accomplishments, things like that). So even if you're in a hurry, you can quickly check to see if there's anything you can use RIGHT now. 

I wanted to have the girls try SOMETHING from this site before the review was due (and between our Florida trip & their Indiana trip, we didn't have much time at home), and in the Autumn section I found a cute acrostic poem form. They had fun with that, and it was something different from what we usually do. There are also some mazes in the Thanksgiving section that I've printed and am going to use next week.

The site is laid out by topics, so if you want worksheets about anatomy, or winter or dinosaurs or . . . pretty much anything you can think of, you just go to that section. One thing I would like to see is either a search feature (their FAQs say they feel the site is designed such, that it isn't necessary), or to also have things categorized by type of worksheet. For example, since the girls enjoyed the Autumn acrostic poem, I'd like to see what other acrostic poem worksheets are available, without having to look through all the various subjects, and I haven't found a way to do that. But for normal people, who start with a topic, instead of a type of worksheet, it IS very easy to find what you want. I also really like that many of the subjects list the worksheets by grade level, so that I know which might work well for my children without having to look at them all.  I've seen worksheets ranging from pre-K and K (simple matching type things) to 7th grade and I believe I saw some that were high school level, but I'm not finding them now (being able to search by grade level across the site would be another nice feature).

All in all, I would highly recommend this site to anyone who uses worksheets/workbooks extensively. There is a TON of content on this site. At $29/year, that's less than $2.50/month or $0.56/week!!!! (and even LESS if you get the 2 year membership for $49), you really can't beat that.

Disclaimer: I received a free 2 year subscription to KBTeachers Premium in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions stated are my own.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review & GIVEAWAY!!! - Homestead Blessings The Art of Crafting

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners, #4 Lisa E. and #11 TNQuiltbug. Both have been notified, if I do not hear back by Wed, Dec 1.  alternate winner(s) will be chosen. An alternate winner was chosen due to not hearing back from one of the original winners. Congratulations to #5, Guiding Light.
Franklin Springs Family Media has sent me another awesome Homestead Blessings DVD to review and GIVE AWAY!!! This time we got to review Homestead Blessings: The Art of Crafting.  Anyone who knows my girls know that was an INSTANT HIT at our house!! They LOVE anything related to crafts! So we were all excited to watch this video and learn some fun new craft projects!!!  

And of course, the West Ladies did not disappoint! I was hoping to have "action photos" for you all, but this video was waiting for us when we got home from Florida and had less than a week before the girls left on their trip with Grandmom & Aunt Lynette, so fitting craft projects into that time didn't happen. AND I really wanted to tell you about this right away so you can get the video (or win the video) in time to make Christmas presents from the ideas if you so desire. So I'm not going to wait for the girls to come home so we can get the action shots.  PLUS some of those action shots just might be of Christmas presents WE are making. So . . . I'll write my review now, and do the giveaway, and then AFTER Christmas (if I remember, we must be realistic here), I'll post some action shots of us having fun with the ideas in this video. Fair enough?

Ok, so for now, I'll just post a picture of one of the West ladies' crafts. Isn't their fall potpourri pretty? And I'm sure it smells lovely too! Because they used some of my favorite essential oils for this particular one!  And not only would this make a great gift (or just a great addition to your own home), it's an easy craft that kids can help with too! That was one of my concerns about this video, that all the crafts would be beyond the ability of my seven-year-olds, and then I would have sad, frustrated little girls who wanted to make the things we'd heard about. But, really these were all things that kids could enjoy helping with. We might even get Little Bit involved in some of these! 

As with all of the Homestead Blessings DVDs, the West ladies are just delightful! They make you feel like you're a close friend, visiting their home, and their love of homesteading skills is contagious!  I have to admit, as I watch these 3 young women working side by side with their mother I can't help hoping that my girls and I will have as much fun and be as good of friends when they grow up! 

Ok, so now for the part you've been waiting for.  Franklin Springs Family Media is giving away 2 copies of Homestead Blessings The Art of Crafting to my wonderful readers! (That's you!).  To enter, go to Franklin Springs Family Media and look around, then come back and leave a comment telling me one product you'd love to own! (mandatory entry)

For additional entries do any (or all) of the following, and leave a separate comment for each:

  • Follow my blog with Google Friend Connect (if you already do, just leave a comment letting me know)
  • Follow my blog using Networked Blogs, or tell me if you already do (below the Google Friend Connect on my side bar)
  • "Like" Franklin Springs Family Media on Facebook (or tell me if you already do)
  • Follow me on Twitter (or tell me if you already do)
  • Post about this giveaway on Facebook
  • Post about this giveaway on your blog (including a direct link to your blog post)
  • "Tweet" about this giveaway
And now for the rules:
  • This giveaway will close on November 28, 2010
  • Winners will be picked on November 29, 2010
  • Please make sure I have an easy way to contact you. If I can't easily find your e-mail address or post to your blog, I will have to choose a different winner.
  • You will have 2 days to reply to me with your address or another winner will be chosen.
  • This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Homestead Blessings The Art of Crafting in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. Giveaway items are provided by Franklin Springs Family Media.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homeschool Myths

Today's TOS Blog Cruise is about debunking homeschool myths. . . all those things we wish people understood about homeschooling . . . I'm jumping in at the list minute, but just had to add my 2 cents to this one, even though I should be doing about 100 other things with my computer time right now LOL.

So let's see  . . .

Myth:  Homeschooling is (always) some type of correspondence school thing where everything you teach must be reported to & signed off on by, some authority.  I just ran into this one recently, and it really threw me. I had someone ask me if I could "count" a trip to the science museum as school. I seriously just gave them this blank look and said "count it how?" . . . when they elaborated, I discovered that they thought I had to get everything we did "ok'ed" by the school district and the school district would say whether or not it counted as school (or something like that).

Truth: Every state's reporting requirements are different, but even in the most strict states, homeschoolers can choose what, how, and when to teach their children. Some states require a minimum number of hours or days, but it is generally up to the parent to determine what to include as school (and yes, if I had to record hours/days, which I don't yet, but will have to record days starting next year, a trip to a science museum most definitely WOULD count). Some states require certain subjects be taught, but again, what specifically within that subject is up to the parent.

Myth:  All school, including homeschool, must have a "grade level".  This is probably the one that annoys me the most right now. It seems like every time I turn around someone's asking me "what grade" the girls are in.

Truth:  Grade levels are used in a school setting to keep track of large numbers of children who must be taught at approximately the same level to keep the teachers sane and to provide accountability and reportability to parents and authorities.  Homeschool doesn't require that. Yes, some people use grade levels in homeschooling, and yes, starting next year, we will have to report an arbitrary "grade level" that the girls are at, though it's my understanding that the state doesn't actually check to see if the work they are doing is at the stated grade level. We have the freedom to do each subject at the child's own speed. If that means we're studying history that's typically studied in 5th grade and math that's at Kindergarten level and reading at a 3rd grade level, that's all good. AND we don't have to KNOW (or care) what grade level we're at. My girls have taken off with reading this year. I have no idea what "level" they're reading at (another question I  get with some regularity). As long as they're enjoying reading and reading things that interest them I couldn't care less what "level" it or they are at. So, if you must ask homeschoolers what "grade" they are, please don't be offended if they shrug and say "I don't know".

Myth: I, as a homeschooling parent, must know everything there is to know (or at least more than my kids) about everything we study.

Truth: One of the things I LOVE about homeschooling is how much *I* get to learn!! Things that I completely missed, ignored, or forgot when I was in school, I get a second chance at.  I've learned more about the scientific evidence for creation in the past month (from listening to Jonathan Park CDs with the kids) than I EVER learned in school.  Anything we study, I can learn right along with the girls, and in the process it helps them to learn that learning is a lifelong endeavor, AND if we all sit down at the computer together to look things up (or they see me working through the directions in a book or game), it helps them learn to hunt for answers themselves. One of the main "lessons" I'd like my children to learn from homeschooling is how to read directions and look things up and figure things out for themselves, once they can do that, they can learn ANYTHING regardless of whether there's a "teacher" available.

Myth: All homeschoolers operate on a "school at home" model in which they are "doing school" from 8-3:30 every day.  I've lost count of how many people have seen my kids playing outside during hte day and asked them or me if it is "recess time" umm no, it's play outside time.

Truth: Some homeschoolers DO use a "school at home" approach and that's fine. We're pretty relaxed homeschoolers. We spend at most a couple hours in the morning doing "school" that's the time when we currently learn about church history, do copywork, have a quick spanish lesson, do any current TOS Crew  review products, and usually have a history read aloud. Other learning happens throughout the day. The girls don't get "recess" but they do generally have outside time every day. It's not a specific "scheduled" time, it's just a time when they are done with chores, etc. for the moment and ask "can we play outside". Yup, go have fun! They are also learning throughout the day when they help me cook, or watch a video, or we listen to books on CD in the car while running errands or I have them help me find things, or price compare at the store, or they sit down to read a book when they're "bored".  Everything we do isn't fit into the terminology of "real school", and quite frankly, I find it annoying when people assume it is.

Myth: You have to be super organized to homeschool

Truth: Bwwwaaaaahhhhaaaahhhhaaaahhhhaaaa . . . have you MET me?!?! Have you SEEN my HOUSE? Organized is NOT a word that's used to describe me . . . EVER!! Honestly, while certainly not THE reason we homeschool, ONE of the benefits of homeschooling, as far as I'm concerned, is NOT having to be organized enough to get everyone up and dressed and fed and out of the house at a specific time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And plan EVERYTHING else I/we do around picking kids up from school at a specific time!!! We have a rough schedule for our "normal" days. The girls have chores they know they need to do. During various seasons of our lives we have to schedule different things . . . last year the big girls were feeling the lack of "Mommy time" so we started scheduling specific fun things that were difficult to do with Little Bit's "help" for during her naptime.  We still have to take her nap needs into account in planning errands and such. Once we have to report to the state we'll have to keep a certain amount of records for that, and I'm trying to start us in that habit this year, with varying success, given how much we've been traveling. But no, super-human organizational prowess is NOT required for homeschooling!!! Certainly nowhere near as much organization as is needed by moms who work outside the home and have to fit all the "house" stuff AND parenting stuff into their nights and weekends. Now THAT would require major organizational skills that I do NOT possess!

And those are just a few of the Homeschool Myths that are out there . . .

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Too Cool Not to Share!!!

I just had to pass this on, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has a Digital Holiday Supplement, and here's what's really cool, it's FREE!!! I can't begin to list everything that's in this supplement, recipes, crafts, you name it for BOTH Thanksgiving AND Christmas!!!

Check it out here!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up - November 7

We've had a BUSY week, and I was all set to include a bunch of pictures in this post, but for some reason my computer isn't "seeing" my phone/camera, so if I'm bored in the car tomorrow I'll e-mail them to myself & add them in later).

Meanwhile . . .  Since I wrote last week's post a day early, we'll start with last Sabbath:

My Dad's cousin & family had been vacationing about an hour from where we were in Tampa, and were heading home that day, so we were able to spend a few minutes visiting with Dad's cousin & his wife at our hotel before we left it, and then a few minutes visiting with his daughter (my second cousin, for those who keep track of such things) and her family, at the beach that afternoon. It was great to see them again! I don't think we'd seen them since the big girls were babies or toddlers.

Little Bit got her first beach experience and the big girls hadn't been to a beach since they were 3 or 4, so all were excited.  When we first got there Little Bit wanted NOTHING to do with it. She didn't want to touch teh sand or water, but after sitting on Daddy's lap for a few minutes watching big sisters & I play in the shallow water, she got over it and then had a BLAST running down teh sand and into the water then back up the sand. She also ventured out to where her sisters were in the water several times, which meant she was walking out into chest-high (on her) water. Being knocked down by the waves didn't seem to phase her, silly kid.

I teased A1 that she was turning into a mermaid, she spent the whole time we were there (more or less) in waist  to chest deep water, just splashing and swimming around. A2 wasn't quite so thrilled, she was happily gathering shells until she picked one up and something (I'm guessing a hermit crab) stuck it's head out at her, she dropped it too fast for us to know FOR SURE what it was LOL. And then a few minutes later she claimed that a crab pinched her, but that might have been her imagination (and a sharp shell tumbling by in the tide). She was much more "brave" than when she was 3, and was terrified to even get near the water LOL).

After our fun at the beach we headed to Orlando and the time share we rented for the week.

I think it's easier to summarize by park, rather than by day (we spent 2 days at each park):

Acquatica (Busch Garden's water park in Orlando). On Sunday it wasn't at ALL crowded (I was nervous about it being busy on a weekend) and was great weather for it.  The girls LOVED the wave pool, they wore life jackets and spent as long as we'd let them out in the 5 ft water just floating & paddling around. Little Bit nursed to sleep so I sat on a beach chair under an umbrella and held her and read a Kindle book on my phone while Mom & Rodney (Dad had a cold, so opted to stay home that day) took the girls on various water slides & such.  After Little Bit woke up we took her to a wading pool & she found a slide that was her size. She LOVED it!! Then the girls really wanted me to go with them on a rapids ride they'd been on while Little Bit had been sleeping. We read the "rules" and it didn't say we couldn't take Little Bit, and Rodney said he thought it would be fine, so we took her. Basically it was a "lazy river" type ride, with the water flowing around a circular "river" but instead of riding inner tubes you just swim/float/walk straight in the water, and the "current" is stronger than most river rides. Kids have to wear life jackets, adult can (we all did). Little Bit LOVED LOVED LOVED it! As soon as we got out in that moving water she got this big grin on her face and kept it there until we got out (except, for some reason, she would NOT let my mom or Rodney hold her, only me, which is weird, because out of the water she generally prefers my mom to me unless she wants to nurse), so the few times I tried to give her to one of them, she cried, and when we got out she wasn't too happy.

When we went back to Acquatica on Thursday, it was rainy, BUT we figured if you're wet, who cares about rain & was supposed to be cooler temperatures on Friday. It was great, NOBODY was there! The water was heated so teh cool breeze that came with the rain wasn't a problem & while it rained off & on, it never POURED and never stormed. As soon as we got there & started to walk past the Rapids ride, Little Bit recognized it & started pointing to it & making her "grunts" that mean "I want that", so we did that first thing, she loved it just as much as the first day LOL. Then she nursed to sleep while Mom & Dad did stuff with the big girls (Rodney flew home on Thursday, that pesky thing called work . . .). That afternoon we got the girls on some of the bigger slides, including one where you lay on your back (in the water, no tube or mat) and slide through a "tube", looked claustrophobic to me, but they loved it. Then just before closing time, they saw one that you lay head first on your stomach on a mat and go down though a tube for awhile & then down a STEEP slide at the end & wanted to try it, they LOVED it! I told them they officially were NOT allowed to say any of the water rides at Sesame Place are "too scary" (so far they have never been willing to try a couple of the water slides there) because nothing there is ANYTHING like that one, so we'll see what happens next time we're there.

Sea World - was crowded both days we were there, but since it's mostly shows, that's not too horrible, especially since our Sesame Place passes gave us "Premier Seating" at some of the shows.. The girls had been looking forward to the "Shamu roller coaster" (kids roller coaster) but after one time on it declared it "boring". The first day we went, Mom's ribs were bothering her so she decided she better go to a doctor, so she & Dad spent most of their day doing that instead of coming with us (the diagnosis was muscle pain & the "cure" was not to lift Little Bit so much LOL), I wanted to go on the log flume type ride (I've wanted to every year but the other times the girls have been afraid to go, now that they'd rode the log flumes at Busch Gardens, that wasn't an issue anymore). So Rodney was going to stay with Little Bit while I took them, but then we realized that the seating was 2 people per seat & A2 wasn't willing to sit with A1 (and me in teh seat behind them), and A1 wasn't willing to risk sitting with a "stranger", so A2 opted to stay with Daddy & Little Bit instead. A1 & I had a BLAST! And they seemed to be letting single riders sit alone, so A1 said if we went again, with A2, she'd ride alone, but something happened and whereas we'd pretty much walked right one when A1 & I went, by the time we went and found the rest of them and the 3 of us went back there was a 40 min wait, so we didn't take time to go again.

Disney - so funny what a couple years does . . . the girls now declared the mine train "too slow". So Rodney & I took them on Space Mtn. Even it was "slow in spots" according to them, silly girls. They also decided it wasn't worth wasting time waiting in line to get pictures with characters (something we spent a LOT of time doing last time we were down here). When we got off Space Mtn. they saw the race cars (where you drive the car) and wanted to do that. When I asked A2 (who I rode with) if she was going to keep from jerking around she was very confident . . . "I've seen you drive LOTS of times Mommy, it's EASY" once we were in the car, she conceded that "it's not as easy as it looks" LOL.

Before we even came on this trip, A1 had decided she wanted to collect pins from our travels, so each of the girls got one at Busch Gardens, Acquatica, and Sea World. Then at Disney, we went to a pin shop and I explained about the whole "trading pins" thing that Disney encourages & they were very excited about that. When they chose their initial pins, we got a couple "trading pins" as well, and they were able to trade those for Ariel & Belle pins, which they were excited about. Then when we were at Epcot (our second Disney day), we were going to go on the Mexico ride, but it was temporarily closed, so the girls decided to ask the lady who was standing there telling people the ride was closed, if they could see her pins, to possibly trade (A2 had one that she was still wanting to trade), and lo & behold, she had a PURPLE ARMADILLO pin!!! A2 was SOO excited!!! Later, I was in a shop & noticed that the purple armadillo pin is part of a set of Toy Story pins. Since the girls have never seen Toy Story, the rest of the pins in that set wouldn't have meant anything to them, so trading was the only way A2 would have been able to get the purple armadilllo (unless we bought the whole set just for that one pin & traded the rest away).  It made her day LOL.  In general, Epcot was a hit with the girls.

And that was our week in Orlando. Yesterday (Sabbath) on our way out of town, we went to the Holy Land Experience (the girls had seen it advertised on TBN and thought it looked interesting). It was VERY interesting, and the big girls enjoyed it, however, the map gives NO information about any of the shows/attractions, and most of them were not only not interesting to toddlers (that was to be expected), but were designed such that toddlers couldn't be a part of things at all! There's a "museum" sort of that has lots of artifacts of the "'Bible" (starting with clay fragments from thousands of years ago) through the ages, it's pretty cool because you "move through history" and each room has a recording that tells about the stuff in that room, BUT there's no leaving or joining in the middle, so when Little Bit needed to go potty part way through, I had to find my way through a maze of rooms (and I suspect, I messed up the recording for a couple other groups along the route, but what else could I do? There wasn't anyone to ask how to best get out & I was pretty sure they didn't want her leaving a "puddle" in their museum (she was wearing training pants but had just woken up from a nap & training pants don't hold a full post-nap pee).

So anyway, VERY cool park! Highly recommend it for older kids & adults, however, if your group includes anyone under 5, I'd recommend an adult just stay at the hotel with them, it's not worth the adult's admission price to have ot try to keep them entertained in the park IMO.

And now we're working our way home.  . .

In other news, Little Bit is "growing" by leaps & bounds right now. She's finally started talking. Has probably added 20 words to her vocabulary on this trip! The moving water of the rapids ride &/or the life jacket she had to wear for that ride, at Acquatica apparently "taught" her to balance in the water, because when I took her to the pool at the time share on Thurs evening, she was able to stay afloat with just the arm floaties (at the hotel in Tampa she still "tipped over" when we tried just the arm floaties, though I'd gotten a "swim ring" on end of season clearance & that PLUS the arm floaties worked to give her abit more "freedom" since she doesn't like being held in the water.), and was SOO excited about that.

AND the potty training continues . . . she had some misses when shows & ride lines meant I was pushing my luck, and for some reason, one day after her nap I asked her if she wanted to go potty & she said no and proceeded, no more than 2 minutes later, to pee all over the ground (again, training pants don't hold a full post-nap pee . . .). But overall she did well. . . she DID hold it long enough for me to wend my way out of the maze of a museum I mentioned above, and THEN when we got out & I tracked down the nearest bathroom there was a LINE!! only 2-3 people waiting but I figured it would REALLY be pushing my luck (and I really didn't want to get peed on) to stand in the line, so I tried holding her over the sink, but we haven't done that since she was pretty young and she loves to wash her hands, so she didn't pee, just asked to wash her hands, so we did, and by then the line was gone (thankfully) so I took her in the stall and she peed on the potty, woo-hoo!!!

Today, even with driving all day she stayed dry!! I had no hope of THAT, but we stopped once mid-late morning at a rest area and she peed there, then again at our lunch stop and then fell asleep and napped until we stopped for gas, so I took her to potty there, and then not again until the hotel (granted, we only drove about 5 hrs today, but still . . .) not holding my breath that it will happen consistently on driving days, but I'll take it LOL).

And that was our week . . . now I better get some sleep while Little Bit's sleeping since her sleep has been pretty hit or miss on this trip . . . I think all the "strange beds" give her fits, instead of waking up enough to ask to nurse, she wakes up, sits up, looks around . . . and by then she's AWAKE so it takes forever for her to nurse back to sleep, sigh . . .

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Collectorz Book Collector

Today's review for the TOS Homeschool Crew is for Collectorz Book Collector software. Collectorz is a software package for keeping track of your collection of books (the version we reviewed), video games, music, photos, etc.

After playing with this for a month or so, I feel like I really haven't even brushed the surface of what this software can do. Most books are already in their system, so all you have to do is enter the ISBN number (either type it in, or use a scanner, purchased separately, to scan the barcode) and it pulls the book up. I had one, older book that either didn't have an ISBN number or it couldn't find it (I don't remember which now), and in that case, I was able to search by title & author and found the book that way. You can also manually enter a book if it's not in the system at all, but I haven't had to do that yet (I'm sure it's only a matter of time considering how many old, used books I have). The books show their genre & subject, and you can edit those fields if you don't like the way they system classifies them.  There's also a filter feature that is another way of classifying them (but I haven't played with it yet).

There's also a way to enter things into a wish list to keep track of books you WANT but don't have yet. At this point, I haven't used it, but once the android app is available I'll be looking into it more, on my computer itself, I find it convenient to keep my "wishlist" on the main sites where I buy books, however if I could have a comprehensive wish list WITH ME and especially if I can add to it from my phone (don't know if that will be possible or not), that would be great!

If you're like me and often loan books to friends, you'll also appreciate the ability to keep track of loaned books with this software!

Another field that I like in theory, is the ability to enter a location for the books within your house. The reality right now is, that our books float between our various book cases, so I haven't used it. If I were to get to the point of entering the books that are stored away, this would be very useful!

This is a great product for homeschoolers. What homeschool family doesn't have TONS of books? But, isn't one used directly by the kids so much. That said, once my girls get a little better at typing, I might have them practice their typing of numbers by entering books for me LOL. And we will ALL benefit from having the books better organized . . . though given how many books we have, and how little time I have for such things, it is definitely a work in process.

I think this software would benefit all learning styles. I don't think there's any learning approach that can't benefit from a user friendly way of keeping track of their books and other materials (I'm thinking the mp3 and photo versions would also be great for us!

We received the Pro version, which retails for $49.95.  There's also a standard version for $24.95 (there's a link on the right side of this page, that compares the 2 versions). Also available is an online version called Connect, for $19.95 per year. You can try Colllectorz or Collectorz Connect free on their website to determine if it meets your needs.

One of the main improvements I would NEED for this to be something I would purchase is an Android App. And that is "in the works".  Apps for Iphone and Itouch are already available, the Android  and iPad apps are listed as coming soon. Without the ability to use this on the go, I don't see it as being a good fit for my lifestyle.  Even with that app (or if that wasn't something I wanted), I'm not sure if, for me, the extra features of this software over some of the other, less expensive or free, options for cataloging books would make it cost effective.

The price makes me hesitate to recommend this product. I think it's a great product, but that there are less expensive options that would do the basics that I see myself, as a parent/ bookaholic/ homeschooler using.  But I don't know, I haven't ever managed to get all our books entered into the other options I've tried either, so perhaps, over time I would find these less expensive or free options fell short of my needs in ways that I'm not foreseeing at this point.

But that could be just me, I'm cheap, and while I love the concept of organization, I generally fall short in the long-term execution, I think it's definitely worth considering, and trying the free trial to decide for yourself if this meets your needs!  Finding a method to catalog books is a huge time and even money saver, if you've ever purchased a book only to realize you already had it on your shelf at home (yes, I've done that, sigh . . . )

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Collectorz for books Pro in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.