Monday, October 31, 2011

Ooka Island - Review

Have you ever wanted to experience a tropical island adventure? Sun, beach, ocean? My son has had the opportunity to do just that the past few weeks. He climbed Alphabet Mountain, explored the Cave of Sounds, took a submarine expedition, and made friends with the natives.

Where has he been you ask?  Why, Ooka Island, of course. I'm surprised he came home long enough to let me write this review.
Ooka Island is "an online, independent, reading curriculum that blends print concepts, phonemic awareness, phonics and language based reading." Pretty much, it's a really fun game that teaches kids PreK - 2nd grade how to read well.

The game is a downloadable hero mission, taking the player through a series of games. Each game in a level builds on the last. The ultimate prize at the end of each level? Finding a new book to read on the bottom of the ocean! Jake (5) told me after playing a little while, "I can't wait to find another book to read!" This statement shocked me. My son can read, but does not enjoy it. At all. He asked over and over again to play Ooka Island though! This is the first online "learning" game that we have tried that he loves. That make me one happy momma. 

Altogether, there are 85 leveled and sequenced Ooka books to find and read. They are broken into groups by color. Jake likes to keep a running total of how many he has left in his current section. I could have taken him through an evaluation placement test, since I knew that the beginning books were too simple for him. Really though, he never gave any indication that he wanted to. He was simply enjoying the experience of playing.

And there's nothing better than having fun while learning.

See the chart below for info and pricing:
Currently you can use promo code LAUNCHSPECIAL30 to save 30% on a month subscription! As they say on the game, "Ookarific!"

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go. My son is trying to get back to the island.

While I'm gone, you can read other reviews of Ooka Island here.

* I was given a subscription in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pantry Surprise 10/29/11

I guess someone was sneaking a midnight snack . . .

And that would explain why we're all out of honey!

Want to catch up on all Pantry Surprises? You can find them here.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 10/28/11

1. Jake: "Daddy's not going to have a baby."
Me: "Well, this baby (pointing to my belly) is still his baby."
Jake: "Yeah, but he's not going to lay it like you are."

2. Alyssa: "Are we taking the wagon?"
Me: "No, just the stroller."
Alyssa: "The two-headed one?" (double stroller)

3. Family time at the cider mill.

4. Alyssa was reeeaaaching her foot under the table to touch Leighton. She asked, "Daddy, do you want to play toe-sies with me?"

5. Whenever Zac gets hurt, he asks for a kiss. If he gets really hurt, he says, "kiss more" until he's satisfied.

6. Jake's soccer season ended this week. He played so well! He scored at least 2 goals each game (one game he scored 7!) If I caught his attention after a goal, I would give him a "thumbs up." Every time, he would respond by winking at me.

7. Zac started saying "I lub you much."

9. The kids were showing me something that was supposed to make you "laugh your head off." I laughed, but apparently not to their liking. Alyssa told me, "You'll have to try harder, Mommy."

10. Jake said, "I'm so tired I would fall right asleep in a fight with Frankenstein."  
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Zac's Second Birthday Party

We celebrated Zac's birthday a little early before my grandparents head down to Florida for the winter. It's been a year since I wrote this post describing his birth story. (What an amazing story it is! And I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm the mom.) I look back on that day, and I'm still in awe how God orchestrated so many events to fall perfectly in place. It still humbles me.

This little boy is the sweetest little thing. He loves to cuddle. He doesn't even complain when I kiss and smooch on his cheeks over and over again! He's very compassionate. Just an all-around sweetheart.

On the other hand, he loves to play rough with his siblings. He can take either of them down at any given moment. He loves to laugh and play. He especially likes to eat. He's a fantastic sleeper and asks to go to bed. He's rarely ever crabby.

We've had the privilege of knowing him for 2 years and look forward to many, many more.

Let the celebration begin!

 Waiting so patiently to open his presents. Oh, the anticipation!

 Here we go . . .

I don't know. Did he like his gifts?

 What do you think? Excited?

 How about now?

Yeah, pretty sure he loved them all.

 He also loved his Blue's Clues cake that his auntie made for him.

Then, he moved on to lick, er, eat the candle. He got a waxy biteful, made a face, and opened his mouth for more. Silly boy.

 He soon set his sights on something better though. (I love the look on Alyssa's face.)

Charlie Chaplin?

 It's like one big, personal cupcake.

Yep, I think the birthday boy had a pretty good time.

Happy Second Birthday, Zachy!
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 10/26/11

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Tasty Tuesday: Stained Glass Sugar Cookie Leaves

Fall is the prettiest time of year with the leaves changing and falling, the pumpkins all around, and the muted earth tones of the decorations. My mom bought me a set of leaf cookie cutters and I knew this was the perfect recipe for them.

Whip up a batch of sugar cookie dough. We used a pouch mix. (Hey, sometimes it's better to use a free mix than to take the time to make them from scratch. At least we didn't have a repeat of this!) Feel free to use your favorite recipe (or our favorite recipe).

Realize you're running late, stick the dough covered in the fridge, feed the kids dinner, rush everyone out to the van, go to your son's soccer game. (This step may be skipped if need be.)

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a floured surface. The more "help" the better.

Cut out your shapes. Of course, we used leaves, but you could use any shape. Flowers for spring, eggs for Easter, tree or star for Christmas, teddy bear or bottle for a baby shower, crown or cake for a birthday. The possibilities are endless.

Cut out the center of each cookie. We used the smaller version of the same shape, but you could make it with just a simple circle center. 

Transfer the cookies to foil-lined cookie sheets.

Break up some hard candy. Suckers, lollipops, Lifesavers, Jolly Ranchers, butterscotch, peppermint, candy canes. You got it, smash it. 

The kids LOVED using the wooden meat tenderizer to bang the candy. I think they get the demolition genes from their father.

Fill the centers of the cookies with the broken pieces of candy. We chose the multicolored route in celebration of the fall colors, but you could use a solid color if you wish.

Once the cookies are filled and ready, pop them in the oven to bake. When the cookies are done and the candy is melted, transfer the foil liner to a cookie sheet to cool completely. The cookies will pull off easily once the candy is cool.

The hard part is trying to keep the kids patient while they're cooling! Thankfully we kept those little leaf centers to appease them for a little bit.

They are fun to make and the kids just love them! Cookie and candy in one? What's not to love?

They're pretty too! Make a batch of these next time you have a get-together.  And be ready to hear lots of oohs and aahs!

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies
one batch sugar cookie dough
hard candy

1. Roll out dough on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Cut out centers. Transfer cookies to foil-lined cookie sheets.
2. Break up the hard candies. Fill centers of cookies with the broken candy.
3. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes, until edges begin to brown and candy is melted through.
4. Transfer foil to cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Linked to
Whatcha Making Wednesdays
The Sunday Showcase 
 Show-and-Share Saturday Link-Up 
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Make It Monday: Tissue Ghosts

Zac is in a big monster kick lately. He loves running up to someone, yelling "Monster! Roar!" and chasing the victim through the house. The more he does it, the more we laugh; the more we laugh, the more he does it. It's a vicious cycle. 

Jacob has always liked scary things. He picked out a Scooby-Doo movie at the video store yesterday for that very reason. He's obsessed with snakes, wants a spider-shaped cake for his next birthday, and is constantly teasing his sister with anything "scary." 

I knew the boys would  love this craft. I was pleasantly surprised that Alyssa had just as much fun as they did.

 Gather your supplies: facial tissue, cotton balls, marker, rubber bands, and a couple crazy kids.

 Grab a tissue . . .

 And a cotton ball.

 Cover the cotton ball with the middle of the tissue.

 Wrap a rubber band at the base of the cotton ball.

 Draw on a face.

If you're feeling especially brave, allow the almost-2-year-old to wield the permanent marker.

Or decide to not be lazy and go to the basement to get the washable markers. To each his own.

 Oooh, isn't it scary???

But why stop with just the typical ghost? Add a few embellishments and make a princess, a pirate, or anything else you can imagine!

I lost count how many ghosts the kids made. They had so much fun making different characters. They even drew story scenes on pieces of paper to play with them. I love how such a simple craft created meaningful dramatic play!

Who knew a few tissues and cotton balls could be so much fun?

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pantry Surprise 10/23/11

I really have no explanation this time. I still don't understand it myself.

Why was there a sock in my pantry???

Is one of my children a sock-clepto and I never knew it? Does one have only a single foot and has been trying to hide it? Is one of them the reason why we have a shoe box full of socks missing their mates? Was someone attempting to fold the laundry but got a little hungry?

Whatever the reason, I'm glad for one thing . . . at least it was a clean sock.
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Educating the WholeHearted Child - Review

I recently had the opportunity to review the third edition of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. Let me say, this is not a read-it-once-over type of book. It is one that I will reference through the years as we continue our homeschooling journey. 

I was surprised when I retrieved this book from my mailbox. It looks more like an actual textbook than a "how-to" book. And in a way, I suppose it is. Educating the WholeHearted Child is a fantastic resource for any homeschool parent.  This 370+ page book is chock full of wisdom, instruction, and practical ideas. 

Will this book tell you the best curriculum to use? No.

Does it give you an exact schedule to live by? No.

Can you find a list of book reports and science projects every student should complete? No.

What is the purpose of this book then??? 
"To help you discover the fully dynamic of wholehearted learning so you can see how your home, by God's design, will actually work for you in nurturing, discipling, and educating your children. . . Wholehearted learning will radically change the way you view your home, your children, and how God meant for you the live and learn."

All throughout the margins of the book are Bible verses, quotes, various information and room for notes.  Also, there are "In Our Home" sections scattered about where the Clarkson's honestly explain things they tried, what worked (or didn't work) for them, and a little about their lives. This is not a "stuffy" informational book, but rather a heart-based method pointing you and your family to Christ.

Educating the WholeHearted Child is the second book I've had the honor to review from Apologia Educational Ministeries. With this being only our second year homeschooling, I had never heard of this company before. But let me tell ya, I am thoroughly impressed and in love with them!

They've listed the Table of Contents here for your convenience. You'll find chapters on the home, learning, and methods. Still not convinced? You can read the entire first chapter here.

For $22 you will get a treasure of a book that's worth it's weight in gold.

You can see other reviews of Educating the WholeHearted Child here.

* I received s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 10/21/11

1. Jake asked, "Was it in the 1950's when there were pirates?  . . . Or was it when Jesus was born?"

2. Alyssa: "What's in my ear?"
Me: "Your finger?"
Alyssa: "No."
Me: "Earwax?"
Alyssa: "No. Seeds. But they don't grow into lots of ears. They just grow into one ear."

3. Jake said, "I can't wait for my adult teeth to grow up."

4. Our pet hamster, QT died this week. Alyssa was devastated. It was slightly humorous since they never played with it. I asked her, "When was the last time you talked to her?" She said, in a very sad weepy voice, "When she was running around in her ball . . . when she was alive." Then she didn't want to sleep by herself. I told she could sleep with a stuffed animal. "But I want someone to sleep with me . . . who's alive." She was very dramatic the rest of the night. Jake, on the other hand, who kept the hamster in his room, asked, "Can we flush it?!?" 

5. Jake said, "Band-aids don't taste good even with cinnamon on them."

6. Dancing with Zac in the living room and seeing his faced filled with laughter and joy.

7. Zac has become addicted to play dough. Every day this week, first thing in the morning, he went to the cabinet where the play dough things are kept and pulled them out. He has sat at our kitchen table for hours this week mashing and exploring and rolling. The other two have joined in. I love watching the three of them playing together and giggling. Play dough is so beneficial in aiding creative play and for building fine motor skills. It makes a mess of the table and floor, but it cleans up easily. Their smiles and enjoyment far outlast the mess.

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