Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dive Into Your Imagination

I am fascinated by the ocean. The fish, the animals, the colors, the variety - God's creation is amazing! My hubby got his scuba certification when he was a teenager and loved the experience. Since there are no oceans to scuba dive in Michigan, we have to settle for the next best thing - videos. We've had the privilege to watch What Makes A Fish A Fish? which showcases God's creation beautifully.

Annie Crawley, aka "Ocean Annie,"  is the founder of the Dive Into Your Imagination company and the producer of the video. Annie is an underwater cinematographer, educator, motivational speaker, scuba diving instructor, and boat captain. She's traveled all around the world and has created award-winning books, DVDs, and motivational art based on her findings. Annie created Dive Into Your Imagination to change the way the next generation views the ocean. She wants children and their parents to fall in love with all the animals of the sea "because we protect what we love."

What Makes A Fish A Fish? teaches children about fish from all over the world. The footage and quality are beautiful! It's very informative and fun to watch. My kids (6, 4, 2) had fun pointing out the things they recognized and loved learning about new things, too. The 37-minute video is divided into 8 chapters:

          1. What Make A Fish A Fish
          2. Sea Anemones and Their Friends
          3. Hide and Seek on the Reef
          4. Frogfish Are Funny Looking Fish
          5. Bath Time for Fishes
          6. Don't Be Afraid of Sharks
          7. Dinner Time for Fish
          8. Fishes, Fishes, More and More Fishes

Along with the DVD, we received the teacher guide. (We used the prek-k version, but there is also one for grades 1-3.) It's nearly 300 pages and is very extensive! It is written for the classroom setting, but can easily be adapted to use at home. It's not just work pages, coloring pages, and facts. The guide includes activities like painting a pillowcase to camouflage into the scene in the video, play acting like frogfish, and working together as a team like the sea anemone and clownfish.     

What Makes A Fish A Fish? is the first video in Dive Into Your Imagination. The series also includes Who Lives in the Sea? and Dive Into Diversity. Each DVD costs $19.95. The teacher guides are available for $299 as a printed version of the entire set or $69.95 for an individual PDF. Also, shipping is FREE until the end of June, and as a bonus if you purchase a DVD and mention that you are a homeschool parent, Ocean Annie will gift you a set of the PDFs for FREE as well! 

I recommend taking advantage of these deals now and experience the awesomeness of Dive Into You Imagination.

You can find more reviews of What Makes A Fish A Fish and the other 2 videos on the TOS Crew blog.  

* Disclaimer - I was sent this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 5/30/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Caramel Brownie Cupcakes

I asked Zac what he wanted to make for his half-birthday. Of course, he said, "Pupcakes! Blue ones with princess on top." Apparently he was pretty impressed with Alyssa's last birthday cake (pic toward the bottom of the post.)  I suggested these cupcakes instead. And though they're neither blue nor princessy, he was very excited. He's so laid-back and easy-going, just like his daddy.

Since it was his special day, Zac got to do most of the prep for the cupcakes.

 He did all the dumping.

 All the pouring.

 And all the stirring.

He even did all the cracking.

Kidding. Though he begged to crack the eggs, I figured he wasn't quite ready yet.

Besides, we had a big enough mess with one that Alyssa smashed.

This beauty was one of my Mother's Day presents. I had complained mentioned many times how my old mixer's lowest speed was not slow. Every time I used it for something like whipping cream, it splattered liquid all over my kitchen. Leighton took the kids shopping and narrowed down the choices. This is the mixer they chose. It's pretty, has its own storage case and 3 types of beaters. Best of all, it has 7 speeds with the lowest setting actually being slow. No more splattered kitchen!

Who am I kidding? I bake with 3 little kids. I should say, 'not as much splattered kitchen.'

As soon as Zac saw the mixer, he said, "Dat loud. I go sit on couch?" So he climbed down off the counter, and Alyssa took over.

 He made sure to come back to lick the beaters though. And he actually got both of them!

 Alyssa used our large cookie scoop to fill the liners with the cake batter.

Then, I used my Dessert Decorator Pro to add the brownie batter. I used a #199 star tip, but any one with a large opening will work to dispense the chilled batter. If you don't have a decorator or pastry bag, you could just scoop both batters in with a spoon, but the 2 layers will be very distinct. 

Yum! Chilling the brownie batter helped keep the centers fudgy, while still allowing the cake to fully cook. We didn't even add frosting to them since they're already pretty rich. 

The recipe is super simple to adapt. You can try it with red velvet cake with buttercream frosting or white cake with peanut butter frosting or pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. Experiment and have fun!

Caramel Brownie Cupcakes
1 package brownie mix (prepared according to package directions)
1 package caramel cake mix (prepared according to package directions)

1. Preheat an oven to 350° F (175° C.) Line muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Place in refrigerator.
3. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. 
4. Spoon the cake batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup 1/3 full. 
5. Fill a dessert decorator or pastry bag with chilled brownie batter. Insert tip of decorator in the center of the cake batter and fill each liner until 2/3 full.
6. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes.
Recipe adapted from

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Two-And-A-Half and Twenty-Six Days

Zac turned 2½ years old . . . 26 days ago. I'd like to say that I'm just really late in getting this posted, but honestly, we were just really late in celebrating. Somehow, amidst all the hustle and bustle of life, I completely forgot about it. Maybe subconsciously I thought if I just ignored it, he wouldn't actually get older. Maybe time would stand still, and my babies wouldn't grow up so fast. Wishful thinking? Definitely. 

It was my mom that pointed out that Zac's half birthday had passed a few days prior. Since Jake keeps pretty good tabs on everyone's special days, we couldn't just skip the celebration. So, celebrate we did. And no one even seemed to mind that we were 26 days late. 

The kids always get to pick breakfast on their real and half birthdays. And they always pick pancakes. 


Corn on the cob??? Yep, Zac could not be convinced that he wanted pancakes or even waffles for breakfast. Trust me, Jake tried.

There's an educational site that we're currently reviewing. The youngest level is for preschoolers, but I've been working on the activities with Zac. He's doing so well and has fun doing it. After sitting on my lap for a few minutes, he told me, "I do it myself." 

We played, read a bunch of books, went to Jake's soccer game, and of course, made cupcakes. Caramel brownie cupcakes, to be exact.

The half-birthday-er always gets one present.

Do you know how long it took me to wrap that crazy package? Much longer than it took him to unwrap it.

His Stick-A-Doodle was a big hit. He loves to draw, especially on the dry erase board. This pack came with 10 reusable, re-stickable sheets and 4 markers. The kids had fun sticking (like static cling) the sheets around the house and creating masterpieces.

Happy Half-Birthday, little Zachy! You are constant energy, always happy, very loving, a little brute, and so silly. We love you bunches!

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Bucket List

Happy Memorial Day! Today is a day to remember all those that served our country to give us our freedoms.  It is because of them and God's blessings that America is the great country that she is. 

Today is also the unofficial beginning of summer! Just like last year, we're not taking a break from school (you never really stop learning), but we will be slowing down a bit. We'll be cutting back on the work aspect, and upping the fun! Of course, we'll continue with our crafts, cooking, and experiments, too. 

Here is our summer bucket list or list of fun things we want to do. The list is in no particular order. Trust me, I wanted to alphabetize it and I wanted to make each entry start with a verb so the list was consistent. Leighton insisted neither was necessary. I'm trying not to be so picky, but for the record, it's driving me bonkers! I guess I should add that to the list. {snicker}

make puppets
zoo with friends
water balloon fight
go to a new park
go for a walk
play in sprinkler
feed the ducks
spend the night at Uncle Gary's
make popsicles
bike ride
get Slurpees
look at clouds
play in the pool
pick strawberries and/or cherries
blow bubbles
fire department
nature scavenger hunt
fly kite
finger paint
make sock puppets
wash the van
play baseball on a diamond
ice cream shop
finding gold in a gold mine 

What are your plans for this summer? Is there anything special you're planning to do?

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pantry Surprise 5/26/12

I know you're totally going to be jealous.

After all, not everyone finds . . . 

dirty socks in their pantry!

This is not the first time I've found laundry in my pantry, like the time I couldn't even post a picture or the time I had no explanation. At least this time it makes sense. See, our pantry is over our basement stairs, so the one side is sloped. Jake told me he took off his socks because he kept slipping as he tried to climb the wall to reach something on the top shelf.  Just like the other pantry surprises, he forgot about them and shut the door. There they remained until I entered the pantry a little white later.

I suppose there could be worse things to stumble upon, as long as they don't expect me to cook up some dirty socks for dinner!

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 5/25/12

This was a very smile-worthy week. Happy Friday!

1. The kids had asked if they could go next door to their friend's house. I told them they had to ask his mom if it was ok. When they returned home a couple minutes later, I asked why. Alyssa told me, "They said we could stay, but we don't want to stay-stay. We just want to play for a little while." She thought they meant stay as in stay there forever.

2. Zac: "The water makes me thirsty."

3. Alyssa (4 years old): "I know how to swim."
Me; "You do? When did you learn?"
Alyssa: "When I was little."

4. When Zac prays by himself, he always says, "Dear Jesus, amen." He wanted to pray for breakfast, so I helped him. When we were done, Jake said, "Wouldn't it be funny if he prayed all by himself, 'Help me keep the pancakes all to myself'?"

5. Jake: "God can't flood the earth again. He can flood a state or something, but not the whole earth. He promised."
Alyssa: "Did He cross His heart?"

6. Zac asked for cake for breakfast as soon as he woke up. When I told him no, he said, "Mommy, be nice. You be nice to me."

7. Jake: "Who's the strongest man that still lives? Is it Dad?"

8. Zac: "Mommy, I wanna tell you someding."
Me: "What's that?"
Zac: "Jesus wuvs me!"

9. Alyssa: "I can't wait until I'm a real princess."

10. I heard a frantic "Mommy! Help me!!!" I ran into the bathroom and froze. I debated if I had time to run back out and grab my camera, but the look on Zac's face made me help him instead. He was hanging upside down in the air. His shorts caught on the drawer knob as he was climbing down off the counter. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

11. Alyssa: "I love Papa forever because he loves me."

12. Jake: "How come you're 30, but you don't look like you're 30?"
Me: How old do I look?"
Jake: "Seventeen. But taller."

What made you smile this week?

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Theory Thursday: Oobleck

This is one of our favorite experiments. Anything that is goopy, gooey, messy, gluey, slimy, grimy, hands-on fun is always a favored activity in our house. Even my 2 year old has started to ask daily, "We do science?"

So what concoction has taken the number one spot?


It gets it's name from Seuss' Bartholomew and the Oobleck, but isn't nearly as invasive. It's actually a non-newtonian fluid whose flow properties differ from other liquids. In other words, it can be both a liquid and a solid. 

Not only is it really fun to play with, but it's also super simple to make. And I bet you already have the ingredients in your kitchen.

You'll need 1 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup water, food coloring (optional), a bowl, and a spoon.

Dump the ingredients into the bowl and stir.

Or try to stir. 

The mixture instantly takes on the solid form and makes it difficult to combine thoroughly. Jake told Alyssa, "Here, let me do it. I have muscles." Even he struggled though, and I took over. 

 Then came the fun! They all tried touching it and were surprised how firm it was.

 But once they had a handful of it, it slurped out of their fingers as it changed back to a liquid.

 They rolled it into balls and said it was like play dough.

 Once they released the pressure, it change back into a slimy glob.

They loved this stuff! Jake even sang an oobleck song as they experimented. It's gotta be pretty special stuff to deserve its own song. They played forever with it, scooping it up and watching it drip back down. They've already asked when they can play again.

That is, if I let them play again. I just might keep this stuff to myself! 

Yeah, it's that fun.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reading to Learn

It's no secret around here that I love reading. (Remember World Read Aloud Day and Mother Goose Day and this happy day?) And books! Oh, how I love books. The weight of the book in your hand, the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper . . . aah, I could buy books all the time. 

Wait a minute. I do buy books all the time. At Salvation Army, garage sales, mom-to-mom sales, anywhere I can get a precious reading treasure for cheap.

There's just one problem with that: we have hundreds (thousands?) of books in our house. My husband just rolls  his eyes when I stop to look at yet another one. He would much rather get e-books. They take up no room on a shelf and the whole library can go with you anywhere. I had no desire for paperless books . . . until the last few months when I realized just how convenient they are, especially for homeschooling.

That's one reason why I love Heritage History. They offer 5 libraries: Young Readers, Ancient Greece,  Ancient Rome, British Middle Ages, and British Empire. Since my kids are all 6 and younger, we chose the Young Readers CD. This introductory unit of the Heritage Classical Curriculum contains the complete illustrated texts of 86 books, recommendations, timelines, short biographies, historical images, and teacher's guide. Did you catch that? Eight-six books! I received 86 books in the mail and didn't even have to sell our kitchen table to make room for them in the house.

Not only is each CD packed full of useful aids, but the website itself is also very useful. If you're studying a certain civilization, go here. If you want to learn about a specific person, go here. If you interested in battles and wars, go here.  Just about any way you can think of to narrow down a search, you can find it there.

Another great thing about the curriculum is that it includes 3 copies of each book. I can choose to read the books to my kids from our Kindle, iPad, the computer, or print them out.  

I just told you what it is, but why is the Heritage History Curriculum a superior way of learning history? Because it -
  • Takes a Living Books rather than a textbook approach to history—students read a variety of engaging biographies and historical sketches rather than one comprehensive text.
  • Is based on national histories rather than epochal histories—students study one civilization at a time, rather than contrasting contemporaneous civilizations.
  • Is narrative rather than analytical—students are introduced to the great characters and events of history without being required to make comparisons or draw conclusions.
  • Focuses on studying the most important periods of Western Civilization in depth, rather than touching lightly upon dozens of unrelated cultures.
  • Explicitly encourages students to pursue historical topics of personal interest in addition to making selections from directed reading lists. 

You still need another reason why you should buy this? Each CD costs only $24.99 plus shipping. For the Young Readers set, each book (not even including all the extra resources) ends up costing about 30¢. That's cheap enough even for me! And better yet, you can get the entire 5 CD curriculum set for $99.99 plus shipping. That's 289 books at about 35¢ a piece! And you won't even have to build a separate room on to your house to store them all.

Using good literature to learn history has been our plan from the beginning of our homeschooling journey. I love the simplicity and thoroughness of this program. I know that we will use this curriculum for years to come.

Still not convinced? Head over to the Crew blog to read more reviews of Heritage History.

* Disclaimer: I was given this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 5/23/12

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Taking the Plunge

Have you heard of Thirty-One? It seems to be one of the hottest trends lately. The company sells purses, storage totes, organizational products, baskets and much more. Most items can even be monogrammed. The company started 9 years ago in the founder's basement and now have consultants all across the country. How have they flourished? I believe it's partly because of quality products. I also believe that God has blessed them for their focus on Him. The company's name Thirty-One is derived from Proverbs 31 which describes a virtuous woman who displays hard work, wisdom, encouragement, and care for others. That's what this company is all about. 

So why am I telling you this? Because I've finally given in. I'm taking the plunge. I'm placing an order.

If you know me, you'll understand that it's a pretty big deal. See, I'm cheap. I like to get things for as little money as possible. I coupon. I clearance shop. I won't pay more than $20 for a pair for tennis shoes. A little part of me dies every time I have to pay full price for anything.

Ok, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.

Why have I decided to buy something that I felt was far too much for me to spend? Because of  a sale, of course! I have been eyeing the All-In-One Organizer for a while, but didn't want to spend the $20. Sure, it's not a lot of money, but I already have tons of tote bags, backpacks, and whatnot. Then I saw one in person and fell in love. And come to find out, for every $31 you spend during the month of May, you get the All-In-One for only $5! Five dollars! That's a 75% savings. (Yeah, I'm good at math.) I do understand that I still have to spend $31 on something that is not on sale, but I can handle that. I already have plans for my purchases. I love, love, love all the pockets in the Organizing Utility Tote and I think the Square Utility Tote will be great for long trips in the van for holding games, books, activities, and toys. Or snacks. Or movies and music. The Mini Organizer would work well to corral some of our most used craft supplies like markers, scissors, ribbon, glue, and paint. I've heard only good things about their products. Maybe if I can get a few really good bags, I can get rid of the dozens of cheap ones that I own. 

Since I'm definitely placing an order, I figured I see if anyone else wanted to join me in taking the plunge. Or maybe you already have and realize there's something else you just can't live without. You can head over to my friends website and place an order. Hurry though, my party closes on May 29, 2012. Gotta make sure you get that $5 bag!

Have you been bitten by the Thirty-One bug (not 31 bugs)? What's your favorite product?

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WriteShop Primary

We've had the opportunity to review WriteShop Primary, a teacher-guided writing curriculum for kindergarten-third grade. (WriteShop also offers curriculum through the high school level.) We received WriteShop Primary level B (geared toward first and second grade) teacher's guide and activity pack. Level B introduces the steps of the writing process through activities, crafts, and picture books. The program accommodates pre-writers as well as beginning and developing writers.

The curriculum is easy to follow, giving you step-by-step instructions. It is very teacher involved both during the lessons and preparing some work beforehand. The lessons last about 15 minutes, so the student does not feel overwhelmed. If an activity page seems too simple for your child, the curriculum  suggests just letting him have fun with it because "the more ways your child can feel successful in the writing environment, the more confidence he will gain as a writer." Also, the backs of many of the worksheets are blank, allowing the student to write freely as he wishes.

By the end of Book B, your child will have learned to plan, create, and publish simple stories with parent help. He will be able to do the following:
  • Use graphic organizers to plan a story.
  • Include a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Identify the main character in a story.
  • Learn to add story details.
  • Organize a story to include a problem and its solution.
  • Write a friendly letter.
  • Write a personal narrative.
  • Retell nursery rhymes and fairy tales in their own words.
  • “Publish” stories through projects or crafts.

Jake (6 yrs) really liked this. He loves making up stories with me and his sister. Using the provided activity sheets, I encouraged him to create stories all on his own. He especially like the one-on-one attention he got as I asked questions to keep his creative juices flowing. During one lesson, he said, "This is kinda hard, but fun!" I love that it was challenging, yet enjoyable. That's exactly what learning should be!

Level B is sold as a spiral-bound print version for $29.95 and as a PDF for $26.95. The activity worksheet pack costs $4.95 for the print version and $4.50 for the PDF.  Currently, you can save 15% off any WriteShop Primary and Junior products in the WriteShop store (including e-books) using coupon code CREW15 at checkout. Hurry, this offer is only valid through June 15, 2012.

Also, on their website, you can find help choosing a starting level and view sample lessons

Make sure to read more reviews of WriteShop Primary on the Crew blog here.

* Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 5/18/12

It's the second week of posting my Smiles on Monday. Things have been so busy around here. I'm completely convinced that with each child you have, you lose an hour of the day. Maybe two. It seems like I'm always saying "It's {insert time here} already?" and "It's {insert day here} already?" Does life ever slow down? No, probably not for a long while. So, in the meantime, let's smile!

1. I was singing to Zac and he replied, "I don't want dat song. I want my Jesus Loves Me."

2. Jake: "Can you really pay 20¢ on a down-payment for a hotdog?"

3. Zac: "Those doggies are ruffing at us."

4. Jake learned to ride his bike!  


6. Jake, talking about Tyler: "He doesn't do much, but he sure is cute."

7. Jake and Alyssa were using an app on the iPad that records what you say. They were having so much fun and laughing a lot. Jake recorded himself goo-goo gaga-ing like a baby and played it back for Tyler. Then he said, "I don't think he understood."

8. Jake was singing the books of the New Testament and made up some new ones: First and Second Balognians (from the land of Balogna, of course.) Then followed the book of Accordions. He thought he was so funny.

9. Zac: "Mommy, Grandma's here!"
Me: "Oh, good. Why don't you go play with her?"
Zac: "Ok, Mommy, after I give her a kiss."
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

$10 Vitacost Credit

I am a big bargain shopper.

I am a couponer.

I am very frugal.

Pretty much, I just love to save money any which way I can! That's why I was so happy to save $10 from Vitacost! I had been wanting to purchase tea tree oil for cleaning and just kept putting it off. When I heard about the $10 credit for new members, I knew exactly what I'd buy with it!

Vitacost sells nearly 2,000 of the top, most-trusted natural brands, diet foods, healthy living essentials, the very best nutritional supplements, whole foods and sports nutrition up. They offer over 3,000 products that help you care for yourself, your family, your pets and your home. Everything is discounted up to 50% off the retail price! Shipping is FREE on orders totaling $49 or more and just a small, flat-rate fee of $4.99 for lesser ones.

My order came quickly and was well-packaged. I love having my tea tree oil and the kids love the gummy vitamins I bought for them. I definitely want to get some lavender oil with my next order and some of the many baby items. There is just so much! And when you click on my link and save $10, I save $10 too. How cool is that?
So, head over to Vitacost and look around. I guarantee you'll find something you want!
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 5/16/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

We celebrated another wonderful holiday -- National Chocolate Chip Day! (I'm starting to wonder why we never celebrated these special days before.) The tasty morsels definitely deserve a day devoted to their honor! And who am I to deprive them of it???

We've made chocolate chip cookies, giant chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream - all desserts that allow the chips to shine in all their tastiness. Here's a list of recipes in which the chocolate chips compliment the recipe as a whole.

chocolate chai bread
chocolate fudge
Girl Scout peanut butter patties
indoor s'mores
Jake's special cake (recipe created entirely by my 6 year old)
peanut butter bars
peanut butter brownie torte
peanut butter cream pie
s'mores ice cream
snack mix

So, after all those desserts with chocolate chips, what were we going to make on the day in which we celebrate its existence? Chocolate chip cookie bars! I hadn't made these in years, and this was the perfect time to make them again.







I'll skip all the boring stuff and jump right to the guest of honor.

The chocolate chips! We used a combo of milk, semi-sweet, and white. After all, we wouldn't want to show favoritism to a single kind.

Mmm, these bars are so yummy! A slightly crispy outside and ooey-chewy inside. Perfection.

These are phenomenal by themselves, but what do you add to really make a dessert shine???

Why, ice cream, of course! Warm cookie fresh out of the oven, cool sweet ice cream, and rich melted chocolate.

There's only one thing that could be better.

A second bar on top!

Please show the mighty chocolate chip some love and whip up a batch of these delicious bars. You will not be disappointed!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
2 1/8 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Pour cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake cookie bars for 25-30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut bars into squares and serve.
Recipe adapted from two peas & their pod
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Make It Monday: Painted Flower Pots

My mom faithfully reads my blog (love you, Mom!), so I couldn't share our Mother's Day craft before the gifts were given. This year, Jake and Alyssa painted flower pots to give to their grandma and great-grandma. What woman doesn't love flowers? Add a personalized pot, and you have a special gift to cherish forever.

We chose terracotta pots and acrylic paint, but you can use any sort of pot (ceramic, plastic, glass) and any paint (tempera, enamel, oil.) If you choose a washable paint, you might want to coat it with varnish or a clear acrylic spray to protect the artwork, especially if you plan to keep the pot outdoors.
 Once the paint dried, I hot-glued a strip of ribbon around the top.

The pots turned out so pretty! I wish I took pictures of all the sides. (Do cylinder pots have sides???) The kids put so much thought and effort into painting different things all around. They were so meticulous that they spent nearly an hour trying to make them special.

 Now I'm sad that I don't have any one-of-a-kind pots at my house! I'm definitely picking up some more next time I'm at the store. These unique pots will be the perfect compliment to my flowers.

What did you do for Mother's Day this year? Do you craft up something special? 

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Judah Bible Curriculum

I don't know how many times in Bible college I heard, "You don't need a textbook to study the Book." All you need to learn about the Bible is the Bible itself. That's also the thinking behind the Judah Bible Curriculum. The Bible is the source and center of education.

The Judah Bible Curriculum (K-12) is a "Principle Approach" Bible curriculum whose distinctives are as follows:
  • The Bible is the textbook. The student studies and learns the Bible.
  • The student learns God's purpose in history, studying the hand of God in the lives of men and nations through the Bible.
  • The student develops his reasoning ability, helping him to apply Biblical principles personally.
  • The curriculum helps you shift from rote learning to Biblical reasoning.
  • The student learns the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the personal responsibility of the individual.
  • The student learns the relationship between individual character and national liberty.

For the study, the Bible is divided into 5 themes and describe what is happening governmentally. Each year, you study the Old Testament during first semester and the New Testament during the second. You will learn key individuals, events, instructions, and documents for each time period. The themes are as follows:
  1. Creation
  2. The Plan of Redemption Begins
  3. The Kingdom of Israel
  4. The Kingdom of God
  5. The Early Church

You can order the Judah Bible Curriculum Pack ($44 digital; $74 CD), which includes the Judah Bible Curriculum Manual of instructions and resources, with the K-12 Weekly Theme Guide. You also get a Notebook Ideas book for elementary to help you start your notebooks.  You also receive over 8 hours of teacher training audio seminars. One statement that really stuck out to me during the first lecture was "The quality of society is dependent on the individual character of the people in that society." So very true.

I do like the philosophy behind the program. I like that the Bible is the textbook. I like that's it's designed to help you develop a comprehensive knowledge of God's Word. I like that its purpose is to teach your children Biblical principles to guide their lives. I like so many things about the Judah Bible Curriculum.

But . . . (you knew there was a but, didn't you?) It's overwhelming. There is so much information to take in. I haven't had the opportunity to listen to all of the lectures, which is a vital part of teaching the program. On one hand, I think this type of learning would be better when my children are a little older (I have 4 kids, ages 6 years and younger), but on the other hand, it might be easier to implement this style sooner rather than later. I definitely plan to study and research this curriculum more myself. Like I said, I really do like the idea of it. It's just an awful lot of leg work for the teacher. While it does provide key sheets to accompany the lesson, there is no clear direction in which to go. I would have to study the Bible passages, take notes, and compile notebook or coloring pages all before ever sitting down with my children. Unfortunately, I just don't have that amount of time on a daily basis.   

The methods, according to their website are
". . .intended to help you teach your student to research the text and categorize his findings, reason cause to effect to valid conclusions, and apply Biblical principles to his own life. They include producing a personal Bible notebook, researching the Bible Keys, writing exercises, essay testing, and utilizing various other resources to extend the study. The class activities are more verbal in the lowest grades and more written in the upper grades."

Maybe one day we can utilize this curriculum for learning and studying the Bible.

What works for one doesn't always work for another. Stop by the Crew blog to read more reviews and see if Judah Bible Curriculum is for you!

*Disclaimer: I was given a downloadable copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 5/12/12

What? It's Monday and I'm just now sharing Friday's post? In the words of my 2 year old, said with a southern accent, "Dat not bery niiiice."

Without further ado, on to the smiles!

1. Tyler was making unhappy faces. Jake told him, "Don't cry." Tyler instantly started crying. Jake responded, "Hey, I said 'don't cry.'"

2. Jake was digging up a small, young Rose of Sharon. When he was almost through the root and was wiggling the tree around, he said, "It feels like a loose tooth."

3. Leighton dug up the remaining root of the tree so it wouldn't grow back. Jake asked, "Why can't we leave some? I want to do that again. That was fun!"

4. We were preparing to leave church when Alyssa started to panic. "Where's my purse? Where's my purse??? Where's my purse?!?" My mom calmly answered, "It's on your shoulder."

5. Jake, talking about our homemade Butterfingers: "It's the best thing I ever put on my taste buds."

6. A girl in our church wore her hair up in a bun. Alyssa said, "She looks like a grandma. Donald Duck's grandma."

7. Jake: "I wonder how far away the moon is. I think it's higher than 100 feet."

8. Jake loves making up his own jokes. His newest one is quite clever.
Jake: "Why was the house on the stove?"
Me: "I don't know. Why?"
Jake: "Because 'Home, Home on the Range.' You know, since range is another word for 'stove."

What made you smile?

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CapJaxMathFax (Say that 10 times fast!) is a math facts review program. The program was created by Jack Fretwell, a man with a degree in Educational Technology. It implements a rating system that uses reinforcement and feedback data to create a game-like feeling. 

Why choose CapJaxMathFax?
  • Uses a computer to provide drill and practice so that practice time is not limited by teacher availability.
  • Automatically generates exercises. Teachers don't prepare quizzes. They merely provide the parameters for them.
  • Builds exercises for any of the four math tables (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) or any combination of tables.
  • Guarantees student success by taking small steps through levels of
  • Can focus practice at a single level of difficulty or may review earlier levels.
  • Randomly generates problems without repetition.
  • Allows variable numbers of problems in an exercise.
  • Reduces learner stress by timing facts individually.
  • Provides immediate positive feedback for correct answers.
  • Provides extra reinforcement for fast, correct answers.
  • Displays an overall performance report at the conclusion of each exercise.
  • Prints reports for teacher review and for use as certificates of achievement.
  • Displays and prints item diagnostic details.
  • Uses a rating system that allows students to keep personal scores and
    set goals.
  • Charts student rating progress graphically.
  • Maintains a database of student activity over time.
You can purchase the downloadable license for $29.95 or a CD for $35.90 (+ S&H.)

I like that the parents can easily customize the facts that the child will practice at each sitting. It's also a nice alternative to flashcards and written work. It does, however, require the child to be familiar with the keyboard. While, Jake (6 yrs) can use the computer, he's much more competent with a mouse. Trying to answer to the equation and then find the number on the keyboard was slowing him down. We tried him audibly answering the fact and me typing it for him. This strategy seemed to work a little better. He still struggled though. We dropped the level down to pretty simple equations, yet he still took much too long to answer. Problems that he normally answers without any hesitation were taking 7-10 seconds. The urgency of answering as fast as he could was actually slowing him way down.

Just because this wasn't a good fit for my child, doesn't mean that it won't be for yours either. Head over to the website for a free evalutaion or to the Crew blog to read what others thought of CapJaxMathFax

*Disclaimer: I was given access to the program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Go Science!

We just can't get enough science around here! This time, we had the opportunity to review 2 DVDs from Library & Educational services. They are a small family company located right here in Michigan.  As a wholesale distributor for the past 35 years, they offer 30% - 70% off all items every day. (That's my kind of place to shop!) The products they sell are "carefully selected to ensure they are in harmony with Christian values and morals."  Of course, these DVDs are no exception as they are part of their evolution-free science resources.

The Go Science DVDs are filled with the high-energy demonstrations of Ben Roy. Their website says "Ben captivates, motivates, and inspires students to be excited about science, while providing effective instruction based on science phenomena. Each spectacular demonstration of physical or chemical science has a spiritual application and points to our Creator!" And I couldn't agree more! 

The 6 DVD set shows a total of 67 demonstrations, each demo being 3-6 minutes long. The videos are fast-paced and fun and  kept the attention of my children (ages 6, 4, 2.) These episodes originally were recorded for a religious television show and were taped in front of a live audience of children.

We received volume 2: Simple Machines, Sound, & Weather. It includes the following demonstrations:

  • 1st Class Lever
  • 2nd Class Lever
  • 3rd Class Lever
  • Incline Plane
  • Pulleys
  • Trebuchet
  • Singing Glasses
  • Singing Rods
  • Sound Waves
  • Singing Pipes
  • Making A Cloud
  • Weather Balloon
  • Tornado Tube
  • Air Pressure

"Every time we learn something about science, we learn
something about our Creator God!"

We also watched volume 3: Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, & Design. It shows these demonstrations:

                                      ●  Monster Magnets
                                      ●  A/C Electromagnet    
                                      ●  D/C Elecromagnet
                                      ●  Making a Compass
                                      ●  Static Electricity
                                      ●  Light Bulb
                                      ●  Jacob's Ladder
                                      ●  Solar Energy 
                                      ●  Tesla Coil 
                                      ●  Color 
                                      ●  Cut Paper Halves 
                                      ●  Heat Engine
                                      ●  Plastic Pre Forms

These were a lot of fun to watch! They're geared toward kids 6-14, but I definitely think they're more fitting for the younger crowd. The demos were a little too short, not including enough "whys" for my science-loving 6 year old, but were perfect for my I-just-want-to-be-wowed 4 year old. Each DVD individually is $8.97 (retail $14.95) and the 6 DVD set is $47.95 (retail $79.95.)

To read more reviews of Go Science and Library & Educational Services, head over the the Crew blog.

*Disclaimer: I was given these dvds in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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