Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love by Manning and Blase

Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love, by Brennan Manning and John Blase is a cute children's story about Willie Juan and Ana, who couldn't have children of their own, but are favorites with the neighborhood's children. As they pass out sopapillas and hugs, they also teach the children about God's love.

My children and I enjoyed this book, it uses colorful pictures, and a fun story to remind children everywhere just how much God loves each and every one of them.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishing, through in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Review and GIVEAWAY: The Shunning DVD

This giveaway is now closed! Congratulations to Sarah, our winner! Sarah graciously asked that we choose another winner since she has already won a blog giveaway for this DVD, so Congratulations to our NEW Winner, Lisa!!!

While I don't have much time for reading these days, and rarely choose to use that reading time on fiction, I've been a fan of Beverly Lewis's novels, set in Amish country, for years. So when I was given the opportunity to review a Hallmark DVD based on Beverly Lewis's book The Shunning, I jumped at the chance.

In a nutshell, this is a story of a young Amish woman searching to discover who she really is, complicated by the fact that she learns that she was adopted from a "fancy" (not Amish) woman, as a baby.

You can learn more about the movie here. And view the trailer here.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, perhaps my biggest complaint was that it "left me hanging" it does not end at "the end of the story" but then I realized that this movie is based on a book that is the first in the series "The Heritage of Lancaster County". So now I've requested book 2 in the trilogy from my library, and am anxious to find out "what happens next". If you're a fan of Beverly Lewis's books, or the Amish genre of fiction in general, I'd recommend this as a great movie (and, I assume, book).

And now the fun part, the marketing company that sent me this movie to review has another copy of it to give to one of my readers.

Mandatory entry: Leave a comment telling me what your favorite movie is.

Additional entries Please leave a separate comment for each entry:

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This giveaway will close a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27, 2011 and the winner will be chosen on Wednesday, September 28, 2011. Please make sure I have a way to contact you. If I do not hear back from you within 2 days, a new winner will be chosen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - September 18

I realized I never did a weekly wrap-up last week because I was busy doing the specific posts from our "field trips".

So, last week we were at my parents' house. I already told you about going to Assateague and our busy day visiting national parks. Those were the highlights of our week but here are a few other things:

As usual, we took many walks to Grandma's house and back. And the girls helped pick tomatoes, corn, and blackberries in the the garden.

One day all 3 girls were playing together and decided to play "family", complete with costumes. Sassy was the "daddy" (apparently he works construction . . . or something . . . hence, the hardhat), MiniMe was the mommy, and Little Bit was the "baby". She wanted a costume too, so they used a newborn drawstring gown that they found in the doll clothes (conveniently it was from long enough ago that it had an actual drawstring rather than the elastic that current ones have) and put it on her. It was a kind of mini-dress thing on her, but she was happy LOL.
 The big girls continued to help Papa on the playhouse. In this picture Papa is standing on the floor of the 2nd story and MiniMe is on the roof of the one-story part.

 We did fit in a little bit of the "school" we do at home. We did a fun art project using chalk pastels and paint on black cardstock as a part of our Inuit study for history.  We also did soap carving but I didn't get any pictures of that.

While the big girls were doing the pastel chalk painting, Mama found a paint with water book for Little Bit so she wouldn't feel left out.

And Little Bit's accomplishment of the trip was to master climbing the wall at Mama & Papa's house. They have a clear story in their dining room with a carpeted wall with climbing holes in it to access the platform. The big girls were probably 4, maybe 5 before they were brave enough to even attempt climbing the wall. But of course Little Bit sees sisters doing it and wants to join in. Until this trip she could only manage to get hands and feet on the lowest holes but couldn't figure out how to move UP the wall. I was pretty happy with that arrangement but this trip, with some guidance from a sister or two (I think), she figured out the actual going-up part, sigh . . . she hasn't figured out the going DOWN part, however, so she climbs up and then yells for someone to come get her.  (like my high-tech way of making the "nakey baby on the wall" picture not quite so . . . nakey LOL).

So that was last week. We came home on Sunday. This past week has, of course, been filled with laundry, and generally settling back into our home routines (if I could figure out a way to not need to transition back into those home routines after every trip, it would sure make all our traveling easier). I had several reviews to write, as you, no doubt, noticed LOL.

We slipped back into our normal at-home school routines, and finally wrapped up the "Native American" part of our history curriculum, and began reading about Leif the Lucky (love this series!) as the beginning of the explorers.

It seems like we had a busy week, but I'm drawing a blank on anything noteworthy that we did.

Perhaps my favorite thing this week was the weather finally cooling down, ahhhh . . . I'm loving having the windows open and snuggling under blankets at night and am anticipating pulling out the long-sleeved clothes . . . I'm never satisfied, in the winter I'm chomping at the bit for it to warm up, but by August I'm counting the days till cool weather LOL.  And on that note, I think I'll go unpack some sweaters or something.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homeschool Review: Math Solve It!


PhotobucketOne of the subjects that we are very "unschoolish" about is math. I feel like we learn lots of basic math skills through life, and that learning practical math makes it "stick" better than just memorizing drills. But when I had an option to review one of several math or science products from AIMS Educational Foundation, I decided the Solve It! 3rd math book sounded like a good hands-on way to introduce a little formal math into the girls' curriculum, at least once in awhile.

I actually chose it, figuring that 3rd grade level math problem solving would be a challenge for the girls (who are "officially" considered 2nd graders this year, though we don't pay a whole lot of attention to grade level around here), and I wanted to see if they could step up to that challenge.

We received the Solve It! 3rd Problem Solving Strategies book, including a CD-ROM of printables. As a parent of multiple children I love that this is a resource to be used with multiple children, not a single-use workbook. The book is essentially a "teacher's edition" with teaching tips, etc. And then the "workbook" pages for the students can either be photocopied out of the book or printed from the included CD-ROM. The book gives permission for making up to 200 copies of each page within the same school, which should be plenty for our homeschool LOL. When you consider that it can be used for all of your children, the price of $24.95 is a great value!

This book is not intended to be a complete math curriculum, rather, it is a "supplement" to teach problem solving skills in a more hands-on way. It includes 3-4 activities in each of the following categories:
  • Use Manipulatives
  • Write a Number Sentence
  • Draw Out the Problem
  • Guess and Check
  • Organize the Information
  • Look for Patterns
  • Use Logical Thinking
  • Work Backwards
  • Wish for an Easier Problem
We have jumped around to get a feel for several of these strategies, and all that we've tried have been well within my children's ability, and in most cases they have declared them "easy". Since we don't try to follow "grade levels" per se, I can't evaluate how accurate the 3rd grade recommendation is, some activities could be adapted up or down to some extent, but in general, this is a product that you're going to want to use for the recommended skill-level. That said, if you have a younger child who wants to be involved, in many cases you could probably come up with a related activity using the same manipulatives. 

One thing to note is that, because this book was designed for classroom use, many of the activities are designed to be done in small groups and such. We found it easy enough to adapt for our use, usually doing it individually, sometimes forming our own "group" of 3 (Sassy, MiniMe and me). It should also be noted that the book assumes basic math classroom equipment. In some cases a paper alternative is provided in the printables, or described (for example, pattern blocks), but in some cases, additional equipment is needed. An example of that would be a balance scale. If you look near the bottom of the page for purchasing the book, you can see the "Related Products" to get an idea of what other items you might need to purchase.

I would consider this more "school-like" than most of what we choose to do, but it's hands-on enough that the girls have been enjoying it. The amount of writing required is less than ideal for kinesthetic and auditory learners, but can be easily adapted by discussing rather than having them write out their answers.  The hands-on approach is ideal for kinesthetics, but can be beneficial for all learning styles.

While we've enjoyed the activities, I think this product would be more beneficial for someone with a more "school at home" approach, who is looking to add something more interactive to supplement their math curriculum. In my experience, unschoolers and others toward that end of the spectrum, have generally figured out the whole "problem solving" thing on their own so probably wouldn't feel the need for this product as much.

In addition to the book we reviewed, AIMS Educational Foundation offers a wide variety of math and science products. Check out the TOS Crew Blog to see other reviews of this and other products that AIMS Educational Foundation offers.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TOS Crew Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop

Crew Blog Hop

The TOS Crew is doing a blog hop, and the topic is "Not-back-to-school". Because, you know, everyone's talking about going back to school but us homeschoolers aren't sending our kids back to school . . . so, in honor of the not-back-to-school theme, I thought I'd share a few things that we get to enjoy doing this time of year that would be hard to do if the children were in school:

  • Going to the beach
  • Spending a gorgeous, not too hot, not too cold day at the playground with friends
  • Helping Papa build the playhouse
  • Picking tomatoes in Grandma's garden
  • Time to read for the fun of reading . . . right now they are both reading Louisa May Alcott (ok, to be fair, I have to confess that I found TONS of time to read when I was at school, but still . . .) 
  • Junior Ranger programs
  • Apple picking is on the agenda if it ever stops raining
  • Teaching Little Bit to swing on the big kid swing
  • Vacations when everyone else is stuck in school, none in the works this year (except the above mentioned beach trip), but if we go to Williamsburg or Disney or wherever else sounds fun, we tend to do it late fall or early spring. Less crowds, nice weather, it's lovely!
  • Traveling with Daddy, and otherwise adapting to his schedule - this is a HUGE one IMO, dh loves his job but it requires lots of travel and lots of working evenings and weekends. If our children were in school, there would be days, weeks, sometimes it seems like MONTHS when they'd barely see him. Since we homeschool we can go with him when he travels, and we can spend time with him on a weekday morning if that works better for his schedule. 
  • Selfishly, I love that *I* get to do all the fun stuff with them, instead of a teacher getting all the fun.
  • We can work WITH their natural learning styles instead of them having to learn to work around them.
And that's just what I can come up with off the top of my head. We love homeschooling, we love getting to learn together as a family, and we love that this time of year is not "back to school" time for our family!

Be sture to go here, to see what others have to say about not-back-to-school! And if you'd like to join in on the fun, here are the rules of this blog hop.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homeschool Review: Before Five In a Row


We've reviewed lots of great products over the past year (plus a little more) for the TOS Crew, and almost all of them have been for Sassy and MiniMe. Which, of course, makes sense, since they are the ones who are "school age".  So, when the opportunity came up to review a product for 2-4 year olds, and one I'd heard lots of great things about, at that, I decided it would be fun to let Little Bit have a turn.

PhotobucketBefore Five in a Row is a $35 book that provides ideas for  23 mini-units based on outstanding children's books. For each unit, there is the recommended book and a variety of activities to do with the child as you re-read the book to the child or in conjunction with reading the book. Be aware that you will need to buy or borrow the children's books recommended. I was able to find most of the books at our county's library.

Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) is a member of the Five in a Row family. In addition to BFIAR, for the 2-4 year olds, Five in a Row also has 4 volumes of Five in a Row for age 5 and 6, Beyond Five in a Row, which uses chapter books, and will take 2-3 years to complete, and Above and Beyond Five in a Row for ages 12 and up.

Those who've read my blog for awhile probably realize I don't necessarily advocate "school" for toddlers and preschoolers. HOWEVER, I'm finding when there are older children doing school, the little ones like to be a part of things, and this is a way to have "school" for Little Bit too. I have been doing one "unit" per week, and we do "Little Bit's school" while the big girls are doing independent work. The only problem with this approach is that the big girls tend to stop what they're doing and listen to the story LOL.

As I mentioned most of the books used in this curriculum are available from our library. There are a couple books that our library doesn't have. When I looked to purchase them used, I couldn't find any in my price range, so we'll just skip those books. The activities listed for each book can generally be done in any order, so that it's easy to pick and choose what I think Little Bit will enjoy, and understand (since she's only 2, some things are still beyond her).  She's enjoyed having the scheduled reading time with Mommy, and doing things like playing with paper dolls, playing ball, etc. Though to date her favorite activity has been one not specifically mentioned in BFIAR, but that I found online to go along with the book. It was a printable that just let her glue stuff on paper and she LOVED it! I have since found various other gluing activities for her, she loves them all. I can see re-visiting these units several times while a child is in the 2-4 year old range, using different activities depending on where they are developmentally.

I've been happy to see that the recommended activities are varied enough to appeal to all learning styles, including active things for the kinesthetic learners that most little ones are, even if they settle into other learning styles as they get older. In most cases, the advanced prep has been minimal. At the beginning of each week I read through the ideas for that week's book, and choose which ones I think Little Bit is ready for, and pull together any supplies we need. Once I've done that, my prep is done.

While I understand that they don't want to assign "ages" to the activities since different children develop at different paces, I wish there was some sort of "rating" that would let me know which the "youngest" activities were. Perhaps some sort of "star" system to indicate which are the easiest and hardest?

I would mainly recommend this to those who are wanting to have some structured time for their little ones, and are struggling to come up with things to do with little ones. While we've enjoyed the books and activities suggested in this book, we could do the same thing using books we already have or books from the library that friends recommend or whatever. It just comes down to whether you need some recommendations of good picture books, and/or recommendations of early learning activities to use with books. If you're struggling with this, and need the extra help of having it all laid out for you, this is a great option! And I think, in addition to providing you with a "curriculum" that you could probably just keep rotating through for the whole age 2-4 range, it will also help you to see how you can expand your own favorite picture books (or you child's) into a similar mini-unit, or just add extra bits of learning to their bedtime stories, etc.  If you're like us and own tons of great picture books already, and can come up with supplemental activities on the fly, or don't mind hunting online for suggestions on blogs, etc. Then this probably isn't a book that you need.

Be sure to check out the Crew blog to see what other Crew members thought of this product!


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Theo Presents DVD

Giveaway is closed! Congratulations to our winners are #24 - HillaryM and #13-Heather !!!!

I'm always on the lookout for great Christian children's videos, so when I was contacted about reviewing a new DVD series of Christian cartoons, I was thrilled. We were sent a sampler DVD with 2 episodes of the new Theo Presents series.

These are cute videos that teach Bible truths through short Bible stories. When I asked my girls what they thought of it their only complaint was that they were "too short", and asked if there were more available. I'd say that's a pretty good sign.

You can view clips from the videos on their website, and decide for yourself what you think. There's also a free iPhone and iPad app, available on the website (or, I assume, the app store). I don't have an iPhone or iPad, so I'm not sure what the app does, but hey, free apps are always fun to check out right?

If you work with children's ministries or a children's outreach at your church, you might also want to look into their church curriculum.

Something I think is really awesome, is the dedication taking the message to the world. For every Theo Presents DVD purchased, Whitestone Media and Child Evangelism Fellowship® will send a child in need their own copy of Theo. After you purchase the DVD you can log in at the website and select the region of the world you'd like the donated copy to be sent. So, while you're getting a quality Christian video for your child, or as a gift for a grandchild or friend, you are also helping to take the message to the whole world.
Buy it:

Win it:
In addition to sending me the DVD to review, I've also been authorized to give away 2 more copies of this DVD. This giveaway is open for one week to people in the United States.

Mandatory Entry:  Visit the Theo website and tell me which episode you'd most like to buy.

Additional Entries, please leave a separate comment for each entry:

  • Follow Broad Horizons on Google Friend Connect (see side bar), or tell me if you already do
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  • Promote this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog (one entry for each of the ways you promote the giveaway)
  • Like Theo Presents on facebook here.
  • Follow Theo Presents on Twitter.
Giveaway will close at midnight EDT on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Winner will be contacted and announced on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, and will have 2 days to reply with their information or I will choose another winner. Please make sure I have an easily identifiable way to contact you or I will have to choose a different winner.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:
"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Day of Houses and Carousels

After getting back from the beach, and before heading home, the girls and I spent a fun day "National Parking" with my parents.  First on the agenda was to visit the C&O Canal, Lock House #10.  The National Park Service is working on restoring/renovating the lock houses along the C&O Canal, so people can rent them and stay in them. The newly renovated one is at Lock #10.  In honor of getting it finished, the park service did an "open house" where people could go through it and see what it's like, so we went to see that. This particular lock house has been decorated in a depression era style, complete with reproduction kitchen appliances, CCC logos, etc. It was very nicely done and the girls enjoyed seeing things "like when Kit lived". You can see more pictures from the canal, and lock house (and the rest of our day, and the rest of this month), here.

After we left the canal, we went to the Clara Barton House. We were lucky enough to be the only ones there for the tour that hour, so we got our own personal tour. The ranger who gave the tour was excellent! She was easy to understand, and encouraged the girls' to ask questions, but didn't "dumb it down" for them like some people do for children. After the tour, the girls did the Junior Ranger book for the Clara Barton House (picture is of them being "sworn in" as Junior Rangers). 

Glen Echo Park is right next to the Clara Barton House, and it's Junior Ranger requirements are in the same book as the Clara Barton ones, so when we finished at the Clara Barton House, we headed on over to Glen Echo Park to do that Junior Ranger book. When the girls were done with it, we went to the ranger station to get their badges, and the rangers there gave them HATS too! They even gave  Little Bit her own, she was very excited, though she insists is a cowboy hat LOL.

After they finished their junior ranger requirements, we went for a ride on the vintage carousel that's there. The rangers said that the carousel goes about 7 mph now, and that was, IMO, PLENTY fast! I was standing beside Little Bit's horse and between going around and her, and all the other animals around me, going up and down, and the mirrors, it about made me dizzy, and I generally don't have a problem with motion, or spinning. BUT the rangers also said when the carousel was first made, in the 1920s, I think, it went 15 mph!! That would have been a FAST carousel!

When we left Glen Echo park we stopped at Baja Fresh for a late lunch/early supper, and then headed on home. It was a busy day, but we had fun, and had perfect weather for it, despite the predictions of rain.

Camping With the Horses

Last Tuesday, the girls and I piled into my parents' motorhome with them in the pouring rain and headed to Assateague Island. We drove through rain all day and just as we were getting into Berlin, the town closest to the Maryland end of the island, it stopped raining. It rained during the night at least one of the nights, but didn't rain during the day the whole time we were there. Then soon after we'd left the islands to head toward home it started raining again, and rained most of the way home. Once we got back to my parents' house we found out that during all of that there had been significant flooding near our house and in the Maryland/DC area. We were so blessed with beautiful weather for our beach trip!

We stopped at the visitor center and picked up Junior Ranger books for the big girls. There was a touch tank with horseshoe crabs, and some other fish tanks to look at. And there was a cool wall with an "ocean" scene painted on it. We tried to get a picture of the girls in front of the wall but it didn't work quite as planned . . .
We DID just ask her to sit with her sisters, we didn't specifically SAY to sit facing FORWARD!

Peek! Here me are!!!!

We headed on over to the island, got parked in our camping spot, and headed to the beach.

You can see more beach pictures here.

The mosquitoes were HORRIBLE and I hadn't thought to bring bug spray. They weren't so bad right ON the ocean where it was windy, but as soon as we went back over the dunes to our campsite, they were out with a vengeance. As we were going into the motorhome I saw on on Little Bit's cheek!! It sat there long enough for me to kill it (gently, so I wasn't smacking her across the face LOL) and I knew she was going to have a HUGE bug bite there, sigh . . . it was a SMALL bug bite on her cheek a few months  ago that ended up being a huge deal because she scratched it open and then kept picking at it and the bandaids, even latex free ones, irritated her skin so the skin AROUND the bug bite became inflamed . . . it was horrible! So, I was NOT happy to see that we were going to be dealing with a bug bite on her face again. As soon as possible I pulled out my Naturokit and dosed all of us with the homeopathics for bug bites. As long as I repeated dosing for each new bug bite, they did a great job of keeping the itching away AND the one on Little Bit's face (and the rest, but that's the one that I was most concerned about, and one that would have been a big, nasty one if left alone), dried right up and is already gone! I'm so thrilled with my Naturokit, even the "big" kit is small enough that I carry it in my purse and I have turned to it SO many times!! (no, they didn't pay me to say that LOL). I DID mix up some bug spray that evening, with the essential oils that I always carry when we travel (another thing I highly recommend doing!).

Wednesday we pretty much spent all day at the beach. It was sunny and not too hot or too cold and perfect!!!

Thursday morning we packed up and left the Maryland Assateague beach where we'd camped. We stopped by the visitor center to finish up the girls' Junior Ranger stuff and get their badges. They had a "mini junior ranger" program for Little Bit too, she got a temporary tattoo. Then we drove down the mainland to Chincoteague Island and the Virginia end of Assateague. The touch tank at that visitor center had hermit crabs and welks, which the girls found less intimidating than the horseshoe crabs, so they had great fun with that while Papa got his passport stamp. While we were at that visitor center, the rangers said a storm was coming in, so we decided not to go out to that beach (they said the mosquitoes were really bad there too, which was another deterrent), but headed toward home.

It was a great trip! Perfect weather. Little Bit did really well travelling in the motorhome and the big girls thought it was great to be able to sit at the table and play games and things while we drove (there are seatbelts on the table benches but we hadn't traveled in the motorhome since they were out of carseats.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fearlessly Feminine Week

I had great intentions about doing at least quick picture posts each week for the Fearlessly Feminine Challenge over at Swinging on Small Hinges. But between being at my parents' and then going camping on Assateage Island (we had a FABULOUS time, I'll post about that soon!), it didn't happen . . . so here's a wrap-up of sorts now that the week is almost over.

First of all I should mention that I wear skirts/dresses (but mostly skirts since Little Bit still nurses and I'm too cheap  frugal to spend lots of money on nursing dresses) all the time, so this wasn't really a "challenge" for me, but I thought I'd join in and share a few pictures and such.

 I wore one of my favorite denim skirts and a green t-shirt. The skirt is a little bit flared and has pockets like a pair of jeans would have. Pockets were the thing I missed the most when I switched from jeans to skirts/dresses, so that was a huge selling point for me on this skirt. As you can see, I didn't remember to have someone take a picture of me, but DID remember, as I was getting ready for bed, so snapped a quick picture of the clothes at least.

My girls are all skirts/dresses only as well. I don't "require" it of my older girls, but did have them wear skirts/dresses when they were younger, and now they choose to as well. We've talked about modesty and such, and they are aware of being modest (a year or so ago, they played in a creek and got wet/muddy, so needed something dry to wear on the ride home. I didn't have 2 complete outfits in the trunk, but did have one of my wrap skirts I fashioned it into a long "halter" dress for Sassy and even just to drive home in it, she was uncomfortable with the "immodest" top of the dress. It was a huge lesson for ME on the importance of starting modest dress while children are young, and it will carry over effortlessly as they get older. Which isn't to say we'll never have disagreements on dress as they are older, but I think it at least helps.  On Sunday, Sassy was wearing a pink flowered dress, MiniMe is wearing a striped 3/4 length sleeve shirt and a long skirt, probably purple, but I don't remember. And Little Bit is wearing a little cotton "patchwork" pull-over dress.

I don't think I got any pictures on Monday. I wore a green button-down shirt and plain denim A-line skirt. I don't remember what the girls were wearing.

Tuesday we left for Assateague Island. We got there and headed straight for the beach. I was wearing a plain denim skirt and purple t-shirt. Little Bit's wearing one of her favorite dresses this summer, her "sunshine dress" (there's the outline of a sunshine stitched onto the front of the dress).MiniMe is wearing a purple shirt and a dark pink "floaty" skirt. Sassy's wearing a Gymboree playdress. All 3 girls proceeded to play in the edge of the ocean and the dig in the sand. Their clothes got wet and sandy, but dresses work great for such things. Bonus, quick and easy to pull off at the door of the motorhome.

Wednesday we were at the beach pretty much all day, so we just dressed the children in their swimsuits. All 3 girls have "rash guard" type shirts. Last fall I found a skirt on clearance at Walmart in Little Bit's size that is a "sports mesh" type material with built in shorts made out of a swimsuit type material. So it cost a couple dollars and is a great swim skirt for her. The big girls had rash guard type capri-length pants but asked to have a swim skirt like me (I have a wonderful swimsuit from Sewn By Di that I LOVE!!!), so my mom got some black (that's faded to gray) swimsuit fabric and stitched skirts onto the waistbands of their capri pants. An easy, inexpensive way to make swim skirts! So that's what the girls wore all day. I didn't get a picture taken of me. Since I wasn't planning to "swim" per se, I just wore an older broomstick skirt with a t-shirt. Comfortable and dries quickly if it DOES get wet, which it did, when I took Little Bit wading into the ocean and then a bigger wave came along and soaked me to my knees and her to her chest LOL.

Thursday we were heading home, but we had Papa snap a quick picture of the girls and I at the visitor center before we left. I was wearing another t-shirt and denim skirt, great camping clothes! Little Bit and MiniMe were my "twins" also wearing tshirts and denim a-line skirts. Sassy is my "dress girl" so she's wearing another Gymboree play dress (play dresses were easy to find up through size 6x, but are less common now that she's wearing an 8 or 10, we hit a good end of season sale at the Gymboree outlet last fall and got her a couple play dresses that she has worn constantly this summer).

Today we've been back at Mama and Papa's house. I didn't get around to taking pictures of the girls, but you get the idea of the types of clothes they wear. Although Little Bit has spent a good part of the day "dressed up" as a "baby", wearing a newborn drawstring bottom gown from the doll clothes bin (old enough to still have an actual drawstring, or it wouldn't work at all. It makes a sort of "minidress" on her LOL. I had MiniMe snap a quick picture of me, and it came out a tad blurry, but you get the idea. A purple cowl neck top and a denim tiered skirt.

Since I probably won't remember to take another picture and do another post tomorrow, I'll be wearing either the same tiered skirt I wore today or the flared denim skirt from the beginning of the week with an aqua ribbed t-shirt type shirt.

So, as you can see, denim skirts are my standby. I do sometimes wear broomstick skirts and in the winter time I have a "sweat shirt" fabric skirt that I like to wear because it's cozy and warm. I have a couple of dressier skirts and dresses for church as well. If you'd told me 10 years ago that I'd be wearing skirts every day I would have thought you were insane. But once I started to wear skirts for everyday I fell in love with it. They're cooler than pants in the summer, but somehow trap the body-heat and are warmer than pants in the winter. They're comfortable and I like the way they look. I'm surprised at how often when we're out shopping, older ladies will compliment me on dressing my girls "like little girls", it's nice to know someone notices and appreciates our modest, feminine style.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - September 4

We had a nice week this week. We were continuing to dodge painters, but at least we could get in and out of our house at will most of the time, so we survived.

Tuesday was my birthday. The "tables have turned", now instead of Daddy having to try to give the girls ideas of things to get me, the girls tell him in no uncertain terms what they are getting me AND what he should get me LOL. This year that was chocolate from Daddy and Little Bit (that Sassy chose, she's figured out the secret . . . look at the percentage on the dark chocolate and get me the HIGHEST percentage you can find, YUM!!) and the new Duggar book, A Love that Multiplies from Sassy and MiniMe (I think they had an ulterior motive in all of this though, Little Bit has definitely "helped" me eat the chocolate, and the big girls are chomping at the bit for me to finish the book so THEY can read it LOL. We also went to visit our neighbor, Judy, on Tuesday and she had a small cake for me. It was DELICIOUS!!! Equal parts cake and frosting which is just how I like it, hee hee.

My parents came up at the end of the week and in addition to taking our recycling in for us (thanks Dad!), we were able to get some bulky items moved out of here and thrown into the dumpster that the landlord has on the property right now (and said we could put stuff in). So I have at least a few extra square feet of uncluttered space in my house now, woo-hoo! Mom had made a cake to bring up and the girls helped her decorate it once she got it here. Since they couldn't find the candles, they took Little Bit's little wood caterpillar toy and then folded a piece of paper to look like a book. They wrote "Happy Birthday" on one side and "book worm" on the other, and it was my book worm cake. Isn't that cute? And original!!! I love seeing what my children come up with!!! :)

Our other fun this week was going to Steamtown. Amtrak had their 40th anniversary train there, so we saw that, as well as going on a caboose ride, and another train ride, looking through the museum there. AND there was a Lego exhibit there, so that was fun to see too.

So that was our week. It was a good week, and a good birthday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homeschool Review: Nature Nuts


It seems like I was just writing my last review for the TOS Crew for last year, but then I blinked and now it's time to write my first review for this year's crew. And it's shaping up to be such a fun year on the crew! Our first review product this year was a fun nature game from Griddly Games. We received the Nature Nuts Travel Game and Extension Pack

This is such a versatile nature trivia game. It can be used on it's own, either at home or on the go. There's no game board to make it more compact to take along. In addition, if you have the Wise Alec Family Trivia Game, the Nature Nuts game can be used as to add more questions to that game.  The Nature Nuts game says it's for 2-4 players, but when used on it's own, it really could be used with as many players as you want. There are no game pieces or anything, just the question cards and a die. Each player keeps track of points to determine the winner.  We don't own the main Wise Alec game, so that may be where the limit of 4 players comes in? The stated age range is 8+.  My 8 year olds definitely find it challenging, and even dh and I don't always know the answers. There are a LOT of cards too, and 2 questions per card, so it would take a long time to memorize all the answers. I think, while Little Bit may end up playing with us when she's younger than 8, so far we've played it during her nap or when she's otherwise occupied, I wouldn't purchase it specifically for anyone younger than 8. It does suggest, when playing with a wide age range to set different "winner" levels for different ages, so families with younger children who want to play with their older siblings, that would be an option.  Wise Alec, Nature Nuts retails for around $14.99. You can view a list of retailers here (note that this is a list of retailers for Griddly Games products in general, of the online retailers I checked (not all of them) amazon was the only retailer that carried Nature Nuts specifically.


I already mentioned that the Nature Nuts game can be used as an extension pack for the Wise Alec Family Trivia Game. There is also a history extension, and a sports extension. You can see some of my fellow crew mates' reviews of the history extension on the TOS Crew blog Linky. Griddly Games also provides a variety of other games for the family.

We have really enjoyed this game, and I forsee us pulling it out to play often, though, as mentioned, Little Bit is too young, so we tend to reach for it when she has something else to keep her occupied. We all learn more about nature when we play it, and it's easy to take with us when we travel. My girls most enjoy the "Wise Alec" cards, that can be anything from a (generally) easier nature question (name 3 breeds of dogs), to lose a turn (boo!), to fun things like "stand on one leg for 30 seconds" or "make your silliest face". I would highly recommend this game to families that enjoy trivia-type games, whether they homeschool or just want something fun to do on the weekends.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an unbiased review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

31 Days of Clean Challenge

Homemakers Challenge

A couple months ago I purchased the 31 Days to Clean Kindle book, and glanced through it. I loved (and still love) the idea of combining building better habits of time with God right along with building better cleaning habits. The problem I had with it was that the daily challenges seemed to assume my house was already clean and ummmm . . . it's not! Doing deep cleaning in a kitchen where I can't find the countertops seemed . . . overwhelming. So I set it aside for maybe another month. . .

Apparently I wasn't the only one who had that problem, because the author has since added a second set of challenges, available on a "member only" type part of her site, for those who own the book. These challenges focus on building routines of daily home maintenance that I can actually wrap my mind around where I'm at now.

So, fast forward to a new month. And The 31 Days of Clean site is having a September challenge! Now, on the one hand, it's a silly time for me to join, because I'm going to be gone for a week or more this month, BUT the reality of my life is, we travel, often. So, I decided to go ahead & join the challenge anyway. I won't be able to do the cleaning part of the challenge when I'm gone, and looking through the list of daily challenges, there are some days when what is asked is ummm . . . unreasonable, given the state of my house, so some days' "next thing" will have to spread out over multiple days, but it's all good. It's laid out in a way that I can tweak it as needed, I likely won't complete the "31 days" in . . . 31 days, but that's ok too.