Friday, December 30, 2011

TOS Crew Review: R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish

PhotobucketWe've been dabbling at learning Spanish for about 2 years now. This all came about at the girls' request however, they tend to get frustrated with it and not want to put effort into it. I don't feel the need to drag them kicking and screaming through an elective of their own choosing so we keep trying different things looking for a good fit. . . for the past year we've basically just added a new vocabulary word every couple of days, continuing to review the old words and that has worked relatively well for learning vocabulary, as long as we keep with it BUT they weren't at all getting the concept of putting that vocabulary to use. They could go through the vocabulary flash cards flawlessly but then if I gave them a sentence using those same words they couldn't translate it without breaking it into the individual words, sigh . . . so a couple months ago I began searching for a new option to move them into more useage . . . and as happens so often, the Crew came through with perfect timing!

R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish (R.E.A.L. stands for Relax, Enjoy, Aspire and Learn), is designed for homeschoolers to integrate Spanish into homeschooling. It is designed to be used with multiple ages of children in a homeschool or co-op setting.

We received it right before the holidays, so have gotten a slow start with it, but so far, it's working well for us. As with so many products, whether designed for classrooms or homeschools, we end up adapting it for our more relaxed type of schooling. The activity book is too workbookish for us, though we use some of the pages together orally.

Even Little Bit is loving the suggested puppet shows. By far the hit so far has been the suggestion to make their OWN board game. They had a BLAST making it and as I write they are voluntarily clearing all the other school clutter off the table so they can play their game!

The book is divided into units. With each unit divided into smaller sections. The introductory information indicated that you can either spend however many weeks on one unit, or go through each unit, learning some of the words, then go back through all. I thought that approach would work better for my girls, spending one week on each section, but found that the activities and puppet dialogues build on themselves too much for that to actually work, so we went back to the first unit and are finishing it up this week then we'll move forward again, learning all words in each unit as we go.

So, we've fallen into a pattern (that I think we'll continue), where we begin the week with a puppet show to introduce the new vocabulary. The next day the girls make their own flash cards. The rest of the week, depending on time we do suggested activities for that unit or the girls review their flash cards on their own.

This program is available as an instant download (what we received) for $49.95 or hardcopy for $89.95. The age of your children will affect how quickly you will move through this book. The book suggests that high school students might use it for a single school year, but that younger children will likely take longer. I think this will take us 2-3 years, schooling year round, so that breaks down to a very reasonable price per year.

In addition to the main teacher's book, which includes vocabulary, the dialogue/phrases that we use for our puppet shows, and tips/suggestions for each unit, we also received the Activity Book (workbook type activities) and audio files to go with each of these so we can hear how things are supposed to be pronounced. There is also a Daily Curriculum Guide available for an additional $9.95. This gives suggested daily lesson plans and teach prep work at the beginning of each week. Someone taking a more structured approach might find this very helpful.

Don't forget to check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about this product on the TOS Crew blog.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - The Holiday Edition

This past week was pretty much all about cleaning and Christmas and Hanukkah (in a perfect world, our first year celebrating Hanukkah would have been a year when it falls at the BEGINNING of December instead of overlapping Christmas, but oh well . . .).

So, the cleaning's boring but the fun stuff:


  • We definitely enjoyed using Jotham's Journey for our Advent reading this year. I think we'll use Bartholomew's Passage next year.
  • Our other Advent "thing" this year was I used an advent calendar that has a little drawer for each day and put 2 slips of paper in each drawer (starting once we got back from my parents' house so it wasn't the full 25 days). One slip of paper had a family member or friend to pray for that day and the other had an activity to do that day. They included little things like "Let's have hot chocolate and marshmallows" and silly things like "Let's have an indoor snowball fight" (we used big marshmallows, they LOVED it! Little Bit especially thought it was the best thing EVER!!!), "giving" things like hiding dollar bills in the toy section at the dollar store for other children to find (they LOVED LOVED LOVED this one!) and putting money in the Salvation army bucket . . . it was a big hit! We've decided we'll make a jar (or something) of similar slips of paper and each Sunday we'll draw one slip of paper that is something we'll try to do sometime that week. We talked about the fact that sometimes we might have to "re-draw" (if we choose "let's go wade in the creek" in Feb. it's not gonna happen!) and there might be some weeks when other things are going on that I just have to say "not this week", but overall I think it will be a good way to "force" me to make time for fun stuff that I always think sounds great, but never remember to actually DO it.
  • Wednesday was cookie-making day. Rodney ended up needing to work, so it was just "us girls" so we scaled back the original plans, but we did make 3 kinds of cookies and had fun doing it.
  • Christmas eve continues to be a favorite tradition-filled evening at our house. We open a few, very specific, presents: Mama makes Christmas nightgowns for all 3 girls each year and sends them home with me ahead of time so we have them for Christmas eve (originally, when the big girls were little, I'd just buy them Christmas pajamas, but a few . . .3, I think?. . . years ago I asked Mom if she wanted to make them nightgowns that year (it's impossible to BUY children's nightgowns that aren't made of icky synthetic fabrics and soaked in nasty chemicals, I wanted nice, comfy, non-chemical-soaked, flannel, so that meant handmade) the girls LOVED LOVED LOVED having nightgowns, so that piece of the tradition has continued as well. I also get them some Christmas- themed DVDs, books, or games that they open on Christmas eve. So we had a nice evening watching movies, and reading books.
This is our first year celebrating Hanukkah. I was excited to find a menorah AND candles for it and also a dreidel at Goodwill, so we were all set. Hanukkah started at sundown on Tuesday, so starting Tuesday evening we lit the menorah. Biblical Holidays includes suggested readings for each night that include a few Bible verses and then commentary on those verses. In the interest of short attention spans, especially from Little Bit, and general busyness, We opted to just read the Bible verses this year. We also read the Hanukkah story (about the Macabees) a couple times during the week. We weren't able to do as much with traditional foods as the girls would have liked, when I'm madly cleaning for Christmas and making way too many cookies and such,  I don't have time to attempt latkes from scratch for the first time LOL. But we did try to have some-what traditional foods. I decided perogies were a good option since we like to make them with sauteed onions in the frying pan rather than boiling them. And we got frozen latkes and made them one night. We also had jelly donuts (store-bought, I didn't try making them) a couple times. Now that Christmas is over, I think we might try the latkes from scratch since we have tonight and tomorrow night still.

The game of Dreidel has been a big hit. Even Little Bit is enjoying it. The first night we used a small bag of chocolate coins we have, but then we decided on Hershey Kisses instead, they're more fun to eat later LOL. Especially since we got the cherry ones and dark chocolate mint ones. So we've played Dreidel for at least a  little while most evenings.

So those were some highlights from our week. I'll do a separate post about Christmas, I think dh has the pictures on his computer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up - December 18

Look, I'm actually writing the wrap-up on Sunday like I'm supposed to (or starting it anyway, I make no promises that I'll FINISH it tonight!).

Highlights this past week include:

Enjoying a nice lunch and celebrating Christmas with our neighbor and adopted grandma, Miss Judy. We celebrated early before she left for Hawaii for a month (yes, we're all jealous!). I have to brag on my kids for just a minute, it's my blog, I'm allowed! We got there at lunch time so ate lunch first. The older girls were chomping at the bit to get to presents (nothing unusual there) BUT they were most anxious to give Miss Judy the things they/we made for her, not to get things.  They were, however, very happy with the gifts they received. Now they keep begging me to help them put together the weather station, and are pouring over their herb book planning the herb garden they want to plant next spring :)

Little Bit spends a part of each day being a butterfly with the butterfly/fairy wings dress-up she received :) I'd take pictures, but she's generally a nakey butterfly LOL.

We also enjoyed playing with our friends E & J a couple times this week. We stopped by their house one evening to drop something else and stayed a little while so the big girls could play a game with E and Little Bit and J could chase balloons around the house. Another day, E & J came and played at our house while their mom had a doctor's appointment. It was tooo cute, Little Bit was still taking her nap when they got here, but it was time she could wake up whenever. J (just passed 2) kept asking to "me go wake [Little Bit] up" so finally I let him go upstairs, and sent MiniMe along to make sure things went ok. A few minutes later they all came back down and Little Bit was laughing and told me "J woke me up from my nap, that's SOOO SILLY!!"

We wrapped up our week by enjoying a nice evening with friends Sat. afternoon/evening. We enjoyed a yummy Indian meal picnic style and then the kids all had a blast building and decorating gingerbread houses, and eating their weight (and then some) in candy, in the process. The pictures of that are on dh's phone, I'll have to bug him to send them to me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TOS Crew Review: The World's Greatest Stories

I have to admit, I'd never even heard of The World's Greatest Stories when the review came up, but it only took about 30 seconds of reading what it was for me to say SIGN ME UP!!! This is the greatest concept I've heard in a long time!! Actor, George W. Sarris reads stories directly from the Bible (available in either KJV or NIV, we chose KJV), but does it with so much expression, and some sound effects in the background, that it is a fun story that keeps children's (and adults') attention. 

We were sent Volume 1: The Prophets, to review. I didn't tell the girls anything about it beyond, "Here's a CD of Bible stories for us to review". After we'd listened to it, I told them it was word-for-word from the Bible and they REFUSED to believe me!! We had to re-listen to it with the Bible in front of them, for them to see that it really WAS word for word! (I have to admit, I wanted to "check it" myself, it's amazingly well done!). Another bit of "trivia" that I found fascinating, is that Mr. Sarris MEMORIZIES the Bible passages he performs!

When I asked the girls what they thought of it, after they'd confirmed that the website wasn't "lying" and it really was straight from the Bible, they said they liked it, but would rather hear their favorite Bible stories. So I think a couple other volumes will be on our shopping list in the near future (really, when my child asks to hear the Bible, and the CDs are only $7.95 each, how can I refuse?!?!).

While obviously this can be used as a part of Bible class in homeschooling, this is a great product for all families!!! We have been listening to it in the car as we do errands and such. It would also be a great choice for family worship or for a younger, non-reading child to use for their personal Bible time (for that matter, an older child could use it that way as well, just because a child CAN read doesn't mean s/he has to every time).

The website suggests these stories are for children age 4 and up. I would argue that they are most definitely NOT just for children! I have to admit that, since we have been in the car alot and having an audiobook of some sort on helps to keep the big girls quietly entertained while Little Bit naps, we listened to this CD during her naps, so I can't say for sure what a 2 year old would think of them. But I do think that, one story at a time (to not exceed her attention span), she would enjoy these stories too. So, while perhaps not something I'd purchase for a 2 year old, I do think it's something the whole family, including the littles, can enjoy together.

Be sure to check out the website, where you can listen to audioclips for yourself.

Also check out the TOS Crew blog for other reviews of these products! 


Jam Surprise Muffins

I adapted this recipe from this site.

(Makes 12 muffins)

1 egg
3/4 c milk
1/2 c butter or coconut oil, melted
2 c ww flour
1/3 c sucanat
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Juice sweetened preserves for filling

Preheat oven to 400F and grease muffin pans. Combine flour, sucanat, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl beat egg slightly and add milk and melted butter/oil.  Add to dry ingredients. Stir until just moist (do NOT overmix).

Spoon batter into muffin pan, filling each cup about 1/2 full. Add a spoonful of preserves to each muffin, then top with additional muffin mix.

Bake until golden, about 15-20 min.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - December 13

I'm a couple days late, but close enough . . . last week was a BUSY week!!! The big girls were at Mama & Papa's all week, Mama & Papa picked them up on Friday and took them home with them. So Little Bit and I were on our own while Daddy was at work the first part of the week.  We enjoyed more relaxed mornings without school for the big girls, though I greatly missed being able to say "watch Little Bit while I go put the laundry in" since I don't like taking Little Bit down our steep concrete basement steps. And afternoons getting some shopping done that I wanted to do without the big girls around.

Meanwhile the big girls

  • Got their C&O Canal Junior Ranger
  • Did a bunch of biking
  • Went to the Baltimore B&O Railroad Museum and saw their Christmas Hobby Train display
  • Went to our favorite Chinese restaurant
  • Went to Ford Theatre and did that Jr. Ranger program
  • Went to their favorite frozen yogurt place (I think, I know they were planning to) 
  • Saw the National Christmas Tree and state trees
  • Helped Papa on the playhouse
  • Did Christmas crafts
  • Probably other things I'm forgetting, or didn't hear about
Wednesday Little Bit and I headed to Mama and Papa's to join the big girls for more fun. 

While we were all there we:

Went to Mt Vernon. In addition to the normal mansion tour and viewing the grounds we got to:
  • Met Aladdin the Christmas camel (apparently one year Washington rented a camel for the entertainment of his guests)
  • Saw how 18th century chocolate was made, and tasted 18th century drinking chocolate (since the girls had it in Williamsburg last year and have learned my love of very dark chocolate, they disappointed the people handing it out, by loving it instead of making funny faces like most kids do)
  • Toured the 3rd floor of the mansion, only open for tours at Christmas time
  • Met with an "in character" gentleman who talked about Christmas in the 1700s as if he lived in the 1700s, he gave the girls a hard time about how silly it sounded to cut down a tree and drag it in the house LOL.
  • Went on an "Adventure Map" tour of the grounds, answering the questions.
  • Enjoyed the new Education Center/Museum, including a video about the war, but we didn't have NEARLY long enough there to see it all.
We also enjoyed the blacksmith apprentice who was more than happy to answer the girls' countless questions and seemed to be truly enjoying himself in doing it. As we left he proclaimed them "the most inquisitive guests I've met today" hee hee.

Drove through the Seneca Creek Park light display. The big girls didn't remember it (we went every year when we lived closer, but it's been a couple years) and Little Bit had never been, so they all enjoyed that.

Went to Monocacy Battlefield and the girls did the Junior Ranger program there and we enjoyed that museum. The girls were able to try on a soldier's coat and hat, and try to lift his pack, although it didn't have any kind of a strap, not sure if it would have been a backpack or what, but I'm pretty sure they didn't just carry them in their arms, so that frustrated the girls abit. There's also an interactive map of the battle, which was a great visual way to understand what happened there (kind of like what they used to have at Gettysburg (I haven't been to Gettysburg since all the renovations, so not sure if it's still there) only smaller.

While we were at the battlefield, the girls also got the "Civil War trading cards" that the civil war related national parks are giving out right now in honor of the 150th anniversary of the war. The park volunteer who gave them to the girls was great and discussed each card with them in detail, they got a pretty good summary of the civil war from him, and he was good with their many questions as well.

Visited a C&O Lockhouse that has been renovated to be like it was during the Civil War, and is currently decorated for Christmas. The girls met a 19th Century Santa and Mrs. Claus, played with period toys, decorated Christmas cookies, played checkers, and tested out a rope bed, and a trundle bed.

Went to the Museum of Civil War Medicine. While there, in addition to the normal exhibits, we met a Civil War era Santa, played with period toys, made cards for (current) wounded soldiers, talked to a lovely lady who had her collection of Civil War era nursing supplies there and was dressed in period dress. She patiently answered the girls' questions, not only about each and every thing she had on display, but her clothes, and many other aspects of life in that era. The girls LOVED it, and she seemed to enjoy answering their questions.

So, needless to say, it was a BUSY week. I'm going to try to get the pictures I took into a Picaso album soon, and will post when I do. I forgot to get dad's off his camera so those will have to wait until I see him again at Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Vintage Remedies For Kids


Long term readers of my blog might remember that we were using Vintage Remedies for Girls to learn about nutrition last spring. We LOVED it (and I keep wanting to continue with it, we stopped when another review product overlapped it, and haven't gotten back into it, we need to). So when I saw that Vintage Remedies was a potential review product on the TOS Crew I was thrilled!! I was hoping that since their book for younger children is a new offering, it would be the review product, but figured it was more likely they'd be reviewing the "for girls" book we already have. 

But guess what, they gave us OPTIONS!! We were able to choose between "for Girls", "for Guys" (which I'm sure is lovely, but we're abit short on "guys" (of school-age) in this house, hee hee), and the one I was hoping for, Vintage Remedies for Kids, woo-hoo!!! I was so excited!!! 

PhotobucketVintage Remedies for Kids teaches about healthy living for younger children, the recommended age range is 2-6, so since Little Bit is almost 3, and loves to do things like her big sisters, I figured this would be fun.  I was right!! Just this weekend she was proudly telling my mom that "I made pizza and ice cream" (the 2 projects we've done so far).  The text is still over her head, and too long for her attention span, but I think would be great for 4-6 year olds. With her, I skim/summarize and then we move on to the fun part, COOKING!! The first lesson talked about healthy food choices and then the project was to make individual pizzas. I set the older girls to work making the dough (a nice healthy, easy recipe that we'll be using regularly now!) and prepping the toppings and then once that was ready I spread the sauce on and let Little Bit put on the rest of the toppings. She was sooo excited to ask each of us what we wanted, and make each of our pizzas accordingly.  Another thing I LOVED about this recipe is that it only bakes for 10 minutes. My normal pizza recipe bakes longer, which is fine normally, but I think it was BRILLIANT of them to have such a short bake time on a recipe for little kids!! I tried to take pictures, but since she still thinks that clothes are only for when we leave the house, she was, as usually au naturale when we were ready to cook, and somehow telling her to put clothes ON for a potentially messy project seemed counter productive, nice as pictures would have been.

I did manage some so-so pictures of her making "ice cream" (I'd call it a berry smoothie, but the book called it ice cream, and she was all about that LOL). So, the review. For an oldest child, I would say hold off until they're 4+ (I can see my friend's 4 yr old really enjoying this), however if, like me, you have a younger preschooler who desperately wants to "do school" like the big kids, then I'd agree that 2+ works. The projects are easy enough for them to feel like they are doing them (I had to giggle at Little Bit though, she has a hatred of anything "noisy" so "she" made the "ice cream" by putting the berries, etc. in the blender, but then she ran to the family room to be "safe" from the noise while I ran the blender LOL.

This curriculum, like the "for Girls" curriculum (and I assume the "for Guys" is similar, but haven't seen it), focuses on real whole foods, avoiding chemicals and processed foods. Later in the book it also talks about health & wellness, with chapters on herbal medicines, natural care of scrapes and bruises, etc.  As well staying clean, avoiding germs, and things like that..

I would recommend this to anyone looking to help their children learn to make good choices about health and wellness. While the "for Girls" book is much more in depth, and I'm glad we have it for the older girls, and for Little Bit when she's older, I do think that children in the 7-10 range could still enjoy the "for Kids" book, especially if you have younger children as well and want them to all be able to learn together. One thing to note is that the "for Kids" book is a much smaller book, so not only is it written in simpler terms, with less detail, but it also doesn't have nearly as much in it. This would make it a great option if you're wanting to do a quick summer unit or if your children are in school but you'd like them to learn real nutrition at home, this book is short enough that you could do a lesson per week or work through it in a couple weeks in the summer.  This book is also very reasonably priced, at $25.

Be sure to check out the TOS Crew blog for more reviews on all three of these curriculum options. Also check out the Vintage Remedies site for classes and books on herbal medicines for grown-ups as well as kits to make your own herbal medicines and such.  


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quick Black Bean Soup

Quick Black Bean Soup

Tonight I needed a soup recipe that I could make in, oh . . . 10 minutes! A google for "quick soup recipes" brought lots of recipes from people who have a very different definition of "quick" (80 minutes is NOT quick in my book, thankyouverymuch, much less crockpot recipes! but I digress . . .). One thing that jumped out at me was black bean soup recipes. With canned beans (which I had) they could be quick. But all the recipes I read (2 or 3) had ingredients that someone in my family wouldn't eat. So I used those recipes as a rough guide for proportions and "winged it". . . here's what I came up with:
2-3 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic (should have done 3-4, I ended up adding some garlic powder since there wasn't enough garlic, but real garlic is better)
2 c water or chicken stock
3 tsp vegetable broth (eliminate if using chicken stock)
3 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
a "shake" of cumin
a tiny pinch of red pepper
salt to taste
a couple large spoonfuls your favorite salsa

Saute onion and garlic in butter. Add water, chicken seasoning, 2 cans black beans, and seasonings.  Heat through. Use immersion blender to mostly blend the soup. Add last can of beans & salsa, adjust seasonings as needed, heat through. Serve. I would guess sour cream would make a nice garnish on this (I'm not a fan of sour cream on soup, and didn't think to suggest it to dh until he was done).

Sassy & MiniMe both declared it DELICIOUS! If time isn't a factor, cooking dry beans would make it cheaper. Hubby's review was "I can eat it" but he tends to not be a big soup person OR bean person, so that's about all I can ask for from him LOL.

Pasta and White Beans

Someone on a message board awhile back mentioned this as a quick, cheap meal, so we tried it tonight. Yummy, healthy, and cheap, what more can one ask for?!?!

Cook 6-8 oz whole wheat pasta of your choice (we used the corkscrews)
Meanwhile, saute some chopped onion and chopped celery (I used one small onion and 3 stalks (is a stalk the whole thing or one "spear"? 3 spears is what I used . . .) of celery) in some butter or olive oil. Add 2 cans great northern beans, drained (make it cheaper, and healthier, by cooking dry beans), and heat through. While it's all heating, go through your spice cabinet and add whatever herbs & spices sound good. I used some adobe seasoning, another seasoning blend that someone gave me, not sure what all is in it, some sage, and some sea salt. When the pasta's done, stir it into the bean mixture and serve, topped with parmesan if you like.

Kids are chowing down on it, so I call it a success :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

(Almost) Monthly Wrap-Up

Wow, my last weekly wrap-up was on November 12, I've been slacking . . . let's see, what have we been up to?

A never-ending cold. I had the longest-lasting cold I have EVER had! It took forever to get back on top of things, and I had to make sure to not push too hard or I'd get to coughing and not be able to stop, and then get a headache. So, we slowed down on things like read-alouds for school, and non-"essential" chores.

Thanksgiving - we had a lovely, quiet (as quiet as it can be with our 3 chatter-boxes daughters) Thanksgiving that was "just us". The big girls were on the schedule to tell children's story at church that week and we decided it made more sense to just enjoy our immediate family than have a rushed trip to visit extended family and rush back for church. The big girls asked to be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, and made us a lovely meal of angel hair pasta with red sauce and alfredo, raw veggies and dip, sweet potato fries, probably something else I'm forgetting . . . and homemade chocolate orange ice cream for dessert. It was a nice day. I got an inexpensive tablecloth and had it on the table that day and after we ate I passed out Sharpies and we each wrote something we're thankful for, and the date, I plan to use it every year (if not ON Thanksgiving, near Thanksgiving, for those years when we do travel to visit family on Thanksgiving) and keep adding to it.

Decorating for Christmas - when we lived in MD, I always used the weekend after Thanksgiving to do my Christmas decorating, but it's been abit more sporatic since moving to PA, since we sometimes are gone for Thanksgiving (in MD all the relatives lived close enough that we just went to whoever's house for Thanksgiving dinner, not the whole weekend). But this year since we stayed home, we got to decorate on the weekend after Thanksgiving again. The girls had decided that this year they wanted a small, simple tree with just lights and I found a nice inexpensive live potted plant/tree that I can hopefully keep alive as a plant after xmas, we shall see . . . I like how it looks though. I gave the girls the choice of Advent wreath or Jesse tree and they chose Advent wreath this year. They inherited my love of candles, I think I'll have to figure out a way to incorporate candles into a Jesse Tree display to convince them to do that again another year LOL.  We're reading Jotham's Journey, and loving it!

School - we're reviewing a Spanish program, Little Bit and I are reviewing a preschool nutrition program, our slowness going through history so far worked out nicely to have us studying the Pilgrims near Thanksgiving, so that, combined with me not feeling good, meant I slowed things down abit more and spread the Pilgrims out over 2-3 weeks to take us right up to Thanksgiving. We thoroughly enjoyed an audiobook about the Pilgrims that gave alot more detail into their lives than I ever remember hearing. It conveniently gave us a great children's story for the girls to tell on the Sabbath after Thanksgiving too :) Now we're moving on into Benjamin Franklin and such.

We've had some lovely warm weather for lots of outdoor play, this time of year I try to make sure they soak up any good outdoor time we get to store up for when it's cold and icky!

Dh's office Christmas Party.  The big girls were quite proud of themselves. They chose to participate in the $5 gift-exchange game (everyone brings a wrapped, unmarked $5 gift, they put them all in the middle, everyone gets a number, and when your number is called you can either choose a gift from the middle and open it or steal someone's already-opened gift. If someone takes your gift, you get to steal from someone else or get one from the middle).  Sassy happened to choose a box of chocolates from the middle, and when someone took MiniMe's original gift, she stole another box of chocolates (both were Witman's samplers) from someone else. So they were now both happily sitting there with "twin" boxes of chocolate. But then someone took MiniMe's from her. There's a rule you can't re-steal the gift that was just taken from you but it took the 2 of them about a split-second (and slight nudge from Daddy) to get around that rule. MiniMe took Sassy's box of chocolates, which left Sassy free to legally steal "MiniMe's" chocolates from the guy who had taken them from MiniMe. Everyone thought it was hillarious, and the girls were quite proud of themselves.

This past weekend dh and I celebrated our 14th (!!!!) anniversary! As usual, the big girls got to spend the weekend (plus . . .) at Mama and Papa's. I tried to convince my parents that in the interest of "fairness" they had to take Little Bit too, since the first year they took the big girls was when they were the age that Little Bit is now (nevermind that she still nurses to sleep (they didn't), she still sleeps with us (they didn't), and she often wakes up during the night (they didn't). AND mom & dad just kept them for one night that year, whereas now they keep the big girls for a weekend or beyond, so it wouldn't work well to keep Little Bit one night. It was still fun to give them a hard time about it LOL). So we've had Little Bit with us, but our neighbors/adopted grandparents did babysit her one evening so we could go out to dinner on our own. It's been a nice weekend. My "anniversary present" was that dh finally replaced the LCD screen on the coffee maker, so now I can actually read what the machine is telling me instead of guessing what the random lines mean LOL.

Meanwhile, the big girls have been riding bikes and doing junior ranger programs and I don't know what all else at Mama and Papa's. Little Bit & I will go down later this week to join in the fun and then bring the big girls home.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the fun stuff we've been doing, but in the interest of actually getting this posted, I'm going to leave it at that for now.