Sunday, November 25, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 11/23/12

Happy Weekend! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! This week was so full and eventful that I didn't even remember until Friday evening that I needed to share my smiles. We've been busy decorating the house for Christmas, spending extra time with family, and baking and cooking galore. I made 3 pies (apple butter pumpkin, traditional pumpkin & double-crust apple) in 3 days and washed more dishes than I'd like to remember.  On the way home from church this afternoon, I listed everything that is scheduled for next Saturday. As we were trying to figure out how we were going to work everything in, Leighton said, "Welcome to December." On top of it all, Jake turns 7 Saturday as well. I'm sure you are equally as busy. Let's all make sure in the hustle and bustle of the season that we still find joy in the little things and take time to smile.

1. Me: "Do you know how much I love you?"
Zac: "Big."
Me: "That's right, big. How much do you love me?"
Zac: "Bigger!"

2. I went to put Tyler down for a nap. As soon as he saw his crib, he turned to me with his mouth wide open and leaned in for a kiss.  

3. After I helped Zac in the bathroom, I was kneeling next to him. He looked in the mirror, put his arm around my shoulders, and squeezed me tight. With a big cheesy smile he proclaimed, "Best friends forever!"

4. Jake got his very own library card. 

5. Alyssa: "Baby talk for saying yes is gla."

6. I heard Jake yell, "Mom! Help!"  and found him folded in half, stuck behind the couch.

7. Jake: "I don't think Tyler's much impressed with my marble."

8. Me: "Go get dressed so we can go to the library."
Alyssa: "I better not wear squeaky shoes 'cause you have to be quiet in the library."

9. Jake: "He's called the Mad Scientist because he gets mad every time someone comes over."

10. Alyssa: "This is California. We all live in California." {puts her hand to the side of her mouth and whispers} "I'm just pretending. This is just a game. I know, we actually live in Earth, but I'm pretending it's California."

11. I walked out of the bathroom with a cleansing mask on my face. Zac looked at me and said, "You look like a skeleton!"

There is so much to be thankful for! What made you smile this week?

Pin It

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

50% Off Melissa & Doug Toys (today only)

Today only, select Melissa & Doug toys are 50% off on Amazon! Plus, when you purchase $25 or more, you get FREE shipping! These make perfect Christmas presents. I got some last year when they had this sale and the kids loved them!

Here are a few of our favorites listed below, but you can find the whole list of deals here.

Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Classic Peg Puzzle Bundle

Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks

Don't forget to check out all the great Melissa & Doug deals!

Pin It

Friday, November 16, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 11/16/12

Happy Friday! I keep forgetting to say something and since this is the last day . . . We were nominated for the 8th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards! It is such an honor to be nominated in any category, and we were chosen for three! If you would like to help us, you can vote for Raising Leafs for 1) Best Homeschool Mom Blog, 2) Best Crafts, Plans, & Projects Blog, and 3) Best Homemaking or Recipes Blog. It's so simple and takes 3 clicks and only a couple seconds. We appreciate it!    

1. Jake, about Tyler: "He's 100% cute."

2. Alyssa picked up a piece of foam pretend wood and said, "This is so arbitrary." 

3. Jake, to Tyler: "You're my favorite boy. For now at least."

4. Jake: "I know why Jesus likes people being right-handed, because you're supposed to do the right things." (Sorry, my left-handed husband. Ha!)

5. Leighton: "Give Mommy a hug and kiss. It's time for bed."
Jake: "I already did. I'll give her another one though. {gives me hug} I could do this all day. That's how much I love you."

6. Zac: "Mommy, Lyssa called me Zac. That's not my name?"
Me: "Oh, no?"
Zac: "No, my name is Zachy!"

7. Tyler took his first big boy bath in the big tub.

8. I was making chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and was talking to Leighton and not paying attention to what I was doing. I ended up grating my knuckle along with the nutmeg. As I was laughing about it, Alyssa dashed off. She returned a few minutes later with a coy smile and a band-aid. She said, "I just want to take care of you so you'll love me forever and ever." I explained that I'll love her forever no matter what. Then she said about the Strawberry Shortcake band-aid, I got you Blueberry instead of Lemon Meringue because I love Lemon and didn't want to waste them all."

9. Me: "I need to sweep again. I already swept once, but baby Tyler made a mess everywhere."
Alyssa, looking around, finally pointing: "He didn't make a mess there."

10. Zac walked into the kitchen asking for a chewable Vitamin C. As he was coughing repeatedly, heavily exaggerated, he was bobbing his head he smacked it right into the table. Leighton and I could not help but laugh. 

11. The kids and I were watching a performance of the Thousand-Hand Guanyin. Zac said, "Wow, her has lotta hands. Her has power."

12. Me: "I'm glad you like reading books."
Alyssa: "Yeah, it's like almost my favorite thing to do."

What made you smile this week? Share a memory!

Pin It

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Growing Up Wild

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:15

Though we've all been given the commission to "preach the gospel to every creature," not all of us have been called to serve on a foreign mission field. We want our children to be mission-minded though. Our church has a missions conference every year. We're involved in faith promise mission giving. We graduated from a Bible college and have many missionary friends. But none of that truly shows our kids what it's like to be a missionary or live in another country.

The Wilds family remedied that with their Growing Up Wild series. This collection of 5 DVDs welcomes you into the lives of the 4 Wilds brothers and their parents in the remote jungles of Indonesia. Each 15-minutes episode highlights a different aspect of missionary life in Wano. The videos are shot and produced completely by the family. These are not the typical home-movies though. The quality is great and the content even better.    

When I pulled out volume 1, the kids (6, 4, 3) were so excited. Any time we can watch TV for school is a plus for them. Instantly, they were drawn into the video itself. The first episode, Home Sweet Hut, walks you through their home in the jungle. You see how different their hut is from our houses here in the States - round, all wood, open ceiling, hammocks. You'll also see how they are the same - bunk beds, bathroom, Legos, schoolroom.

The second episode, Supply Trip, shows how they get their necessary things in the middle of the jungle. You'll see how they use Sun & Water in episode three to power every-day things.  

There is also a great activity guide that accompanies each volume to help you further the learning. They can even be used as a unit study since you cover so many subjects - Bible reading and discussion, geography, math, science, vocab, worldview, art. My kids really love hands-on activities. They were thrilled when I told them that we were going to make a Wano hut. We watched episode 1 again - for probably the 5th time - and wrote down everything we wanted to add to our hut (or the yurt as Alyssa keeps calling it since it's round and we stayed in one this past September.) Then, they ran around finding the absolute perfect supplies. It was neat watching the hut take form. When their daddy cut the oatmeal container so it would swing open to play inside, their faces lit up. Of course, we had to have an opening for the cat to come and go and a Lego loft, just like the Wilds. They've been having fun letting their mini figs play inside their "AWANA" hut, aka Wano hut.

We were also given volume 4 which includes these episodes: Amazing World Around Us, Adventures in Culture, and Tribal Calling. Jake, my 6-year-old, really likes the first episode since they show some pretty creepy creatures that are commonly found in and around their house. The snakes and spiders produces big smiles from him and grimaces from me.  I have no desire to open my eyes in the morning and stare into glowing spider eyes. No thank you.

On this disc, you'll also see how differently the people of Wano live. We paused the videos many, many times to talk about the differences - the clothing, the simple life, the food, the behavior, the priorities. It was so strange for my kids to see a world so different from their own. We discussed how the people make everything they need, how they can't run to the store to purchase whatever they want, how they don't own frivolous things. One thing that really impressed me about the Wild family and their partner family that is working with them in Wano, is that there was no written language when they first moved there. They had to learn the language just from living with the people. It took them 3 years to master the language. Then, they worked on writing that language down. From there, they began translating the Scriptures into the language. How amazing to be used to bring God's Word to these people! Also on this video is a native who gives his salvation testimony. The Wilds are truly living the lives of missionaries.

Each video costs $18.99 and is good for the whole family. They captivated my family from the 2-year-old on up. I think these are a great teaching tool for children and a good starting point for further discussions. It's one thing to tell our kids that we support missionaries by sending money, but it makes it so much more real when they can see what that money is used for - furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you'd like to see how other families used Growing Up Wild, you can find more reviews on the School Review Crew blog.

* Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Pin It

Monday, November 12, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 11/9/12

Happy . . . Monday? Where did the weekend go? I opened this post 4 or 5 times with good intentions of getting it done. Oh well, everyone needs a few smiles on Mondays, right?

We had quite the week here last week. Zac turned the big 3 and Leighton turned the big 3-0. Two birthdays means two cakes. (Technically, 3 cakes since my SIL makes the kids fancy cakes for their parties.) I made Zac a funfetti cake covered in sprinkles. The recipe is super easy, yet looks and tastes better than any boxed funfetti cake. Leighton's cake was a little more complicated. I made him a 5-layer Neapolitan cake - chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla cakes sandwiched with our homemade strawberry-raspberry jam and covered in a strawberry buttercream frosting. In a word, yum. It truly tastes like Neapolitan ice cream. When I get back to posting recipes again, you can be sure both these recipes will be included.

You can also be sure that I won't be making another cake any time soon . . . at least 3 weeks anyway when we have another birthday to celebrate.
Now, since we've waited much too long, let's smile!

1. Zac received a birthday card in the mail. When he opened it up, two bills fell out. He immediately handed one to Alyssa (the larger denomination at that.) When I explained that the money was for him, he said, "But I have two. One for me and one for Lyssa."

2. Me: "Would you like sprinkles in your pancakes"
Alyssa: "I would appreciate that."

3. Jake, to Zac: "You turn 3 today!"
Alyssa, confused: "He doesn't look any taller."

4. We stood in line to vote for 45 minutes. The kids grew a little bored, but behaved perfectly. When we got home, Alyssa said, "When can we do that again? I really like the sticker!" 

5. I heard "Mom! Help!" and found this:

6. Alyssa was helping me do laundry when she slammed my thumb in the dryer door, hard enough to make my vision black and everything blurry. I got a bag of ice and headed to the couch to lie down. Jacob and Alyssa jumped into care-taker mode. They got me 3 pillows, 2 blankets, tons of stuffed animals, ice water, crackers, vitamin C, and a band-aid. They read me stories, turned on music, and acted silly. Alyssa even gently placed her hand on my forehead to check for a fever. They asked every 2 seconds if I needed or wanted anything. This happened a week ago today. My thumb still hurts, but my heart is happy. These little ones of mine are so sweet and loving. I certainly didn't need everything they brought me, but I'm thankful for their servant's hearts.

7. Jake: "How do you say taco in Spanish?"

8. Jake: "How do you draw an eggnog tree?"
Me: "What's an eggnog tree?"
Jake: {thinking} . . . Oak tree! How do you draw an oak tree?"

9. Alyssa, out of the blue: "Isn't Daddy sweet?"

10. Zac, wearing Leighton's shoes: "Look, I'm Mr. Daddy."

11. Alyssa: "I want Tyler to be a girl when he grows up."

What's something that made you smile last week?
Pin It

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Institute for Excellence in Writing

I have been blessed greatly by being a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I have been introduced to so many wonderful companies and have received some fantastic products. This product is easily one of the very best.

We received the entire PAL, Primary Arts of Language program by Institute for Excellence in Writing. The program is based on the award-winning work by Anna Ingham. The PAL system has two main parts: reading and writing. The two components work together to provide the student a solid reading and writing foundation in K-2 grades.

The reading portion teaches phonics and whole words through poetry. The student is introduced to letters through fun little stories that are easy to remember. The complete package costs $69 and includes everything you need to teach your student to read:

  • Teacher's Manual
  • DVD-ROM (instructional video, multiple mp3 audios, student e-book)
  • Phonetic Games
  • Phonetic Farm Folder with Stickers 

The writing portion is divided into three parts: printing, copy work, and composition. Spelling is also included throughout. This package costs $89 and contains the following:
  • Teacher's Manual
  • DVD-ROM (instructional video, multiple mp3 audios, student e-book)
  • All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit
  • All About Spelling Level 1 (teacher manual & student material packet)
  • Bonus e-audio downloads

It's a lot of information. It's a lot of curriculum. It's a lot of overwhelming-ness. That's why you have to start with the instructional video. Jill Pike, creator of the program, beautifully explains how to use it. When I opened my box containing all the goodies, I was immediately giddy. There are so many wonderful resources as part of the PAL system. What initially excited me, soon overwhelmed me. How was I going to figure this thing out? Would I be able to implement all of this into our day? Could I do this? Then I sat down and watched the video. Within minutes I thought Wow, I can do this. This makes sense. Jill has a way of simplifying the program and giving you the confidence you need to teach your children.

The curriculum is spelled out for you. There's no guessing. There's no struggling to find supporting materials. Everything you need is clearly included.

While there's no independent research you must do, there is plenty of set-up in the beginning. For instance, there are many file folder games that need to be cut, possibly colored, glued, and laminated if desired. You can make the games as you need them, but I found that it disrupted the flow if I stopped to add to a game. It works better for us to have the games all set to go before we need them.

A typical lesson looks like this and can take 1-2 hours:

Poetry - a brief rhyme to be enjoyed and discussed
Class Journal - models how to properly write words and the date, includes a few sentences as a diary
Printing / Copy Work - letters introduced and practiced on a white board
Story Time - short story that engages and teaches sequence and summary 
Foundation & Reader Words - simple games that reinforce what was taught
Agenda or Work Period - independent work time, might include a worksheet, coloring page, completing a chore, playing a game, etc.
Phonetic Farm - farm setting picture that makes phonics fun
Read Words / Sentences - practice for what was learned
Informal Spelling Test- review the letters learned that day
So, what do we think? 
Honestly, I love it! I've been focusing on using the program with Alyssa (4), but Jake (6) and Zac (3) have been included in portions of the it as well. Things like the journal, poetry, and the story we always do as a family, and all of them love playing the file folder games. While Alyssa and I practice the copy work and such, the boys are sitting right there, working on other things, listening by default. I know that Zac is already picking up some of the info because he'll point out letters and say, "Look, it's the kicking letter!" Alyssa asks every day, "Can we do my letters now?" There's no better sound to a homeschooling mother's ear than to hear her child ask to learn. That right there is reason enough to purchase this system. 

I will definitely continue to use this program with my children. I am thrilled that everything is reusable and the student book printable so I will be able to use this for Zac and baby Tyler as they get older as well.  Better than just a thorough program, it's a program that works.

If you really want a good feel for the program and how it all work, I suggest you watch the introductory webinar. It will answer any questions you have and truly make you feel that you too can use this program.

If you want to see how PAL worked for other homeschooling families, you can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

* Disclaimer: I was given this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Pin It

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway


Can you believe it's already November? Thanksgiving is just 2 weeks away and Christmas is less than 7! Have you started your shopping yet?

We love Melissa & Doug's products Everything we own is high-quality. They've recently come out with their Terrific Twenty Holiday Gifts for 2012. There are gifts for kids of all ages. With things like arts and crafts, pretend play, and games, you're sure to find something for everyone. Plus, they're giving away a gift from the list every day on their Facebook page! Make sure to head over and like them so you don't miss a thing.

Magic Mine Wooden Train Tunnel Set

My little guy adores trains. I know he's going to love this Magic Mine Wooden Train Tunnel set! The cars triggers sound effects, the tunnel door flips open, and treasure magically appears. Fun, huh?

Would you like to win one of these trains, too???


* Simply leave me a comment letting me know which of the twenty gifts from the list is your favorite.

* For another entry, share this post about the giveaway and leave me another comment telling me how you shared.

* For additional entries, follow Raising Leafs and leave a comment(s) letting me know how you follow (email, Facebook, Google Friend Connect, Linky Followers.)

Giveaway ends Saturday, November 17 at 10:00 pm EST. USA only. Make sure to leave your email address so I have a way to contact you. Winner must respond within 48 hours to claim prize provided by Melissa & Doug. 

Don't forget to head over to the Melissa & Doug Facebook page for more chances of winning.

Check out these other blogs, also participating in the Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway!

* Disclaimer: Melissa & Doug has offered to provide a gift from the list in exchange for this review as well as one to offer in a giveaway.

Pin It

Monday, November 5, 2012

Activity Bags

One of the biggest questions I had when I started homeschooling my oldest child 2 years ago was "How am I going to keep the other kids busy?" My kids are by my side almost constantly all day long. To think that my littles were going to play quietly by themselves the entire time would be silly. Alyssa (4 yrs) has always enjoyed doing school. She will sit and fill out worksheets and coloring pages for an hour. Zac (2 yrs) though? He might color 1 page and be done in 2.79 seconds. I started to search the internet for activities that would be fun, education, and keep him busy. I even started compiling a bunch of busy bag activities before we went on vacation this past summer. 

When I was given the opportunity to review Activity Bags, I was thrilled! This was exactly what I needed. Each e-book comes filled with self-guided activities that can be kept in a gallon-size zipper bag.  All the books were created by 2 homeschooling moms. The books include all the instructions, supply lists, and printable pages you need for each activity. They are designed to be used in a swap and contain all the necessary info to help you in that process. I personally have been wanting to participate in an activity bag swap for a long time. The concept is very simple - get X number of people with kids, each person makes X number of bags of the same activity, and everyone swaps bags. So, if you have a group of twenty people, in the end, you'll have 20 different activities. It's an easy and inexpensive way to quickly increase your number of independent activities for your little one.

There are currently 8 books with more in the works. We received the Preschool Bundle which consists of 2 books. Each book has 33-34 activities that prepare children ages 3-6 for kindergarten. They work on skills for counting, letters, colors, fine-motor, and more. The cost is very economical at only about $1 a bag and many of the supplies can be found around the house. Each e-book costs $15 individually or the set can be purchased for $27.

I first tried doing these activities with Alyssa and Zac while Jake (6 yrs) was doing other work. The only problem was that they were having so much fun that he wanted to play, too! From then on, we all did the activities together. Most of them worked just fine for all three ages. Some were a little too simple for Jake, and others were a bit too difficult for Zac. Every one was perfect for Alyssa though. During one activity from Book 1, I was explaining that a collage could be pictures placed all in one big pile instead of straight and organized. I told them that it's a different way to organize. Jake replied, "It doesn't sound organized to me. It sounds like messy." That's my boy!

We were also blessed to receive the Science Bundle containing 3 books. Again, each book cost $15 individually, $27 for two, or $39 for all three. Each one comes with 25 different simple science experiments that your child can see, touch, manipulate, modify, investigate, and solve. Each book focuses on different branches of science. Book 1 includes experiments in biology, general science, and nature. Book 2 has experiments dealing with chemistry, the human body, and general science. Book 3 is filled with all chemistry experiments.They are all geared towards kids in K-8th grades. Again, they can be used in a swap or simply at home by yourself.

As you may know, my kids love science and conducting experiments. I plan experiments for every Thursday, but the kids are always performing their own throughout the week. These books have made it so easy for me to have an experiment ready to go on Thursdays or just any time they're in a scientific mood. The lists are simple to gather, the instructions are easy to understand, and the activities are fun and engaging. Some of them include Secret Messages, Green Copper, and Floating Egg. The books also include log sheets, notes, and observation questions. With a total of 75 experiments, I won't have to do any research to find experiments for a while.

We have loved using these books! There are also books for Reading Games in a Bag, Math Games in a Bag, and Travel Activities in a Binder. They are even currently creating 3 Craft Kits in a Bag. I personally am very excited to buy more books. They are very thorough and offer many activities that are great for the kids. I definitely plan to host a swap in the future. If you're local and would like to participate, let me know.

If you'd like to get a feel for the activities and all they offer, you can fill out a brief survey and get some samples for FREE!  Trust me, your kids will thank you.

If you're interested in some of the other books offered or if you'd like to see more reviews of the preschool and science books, head over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog

* Disclaimer - I was given these e-books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Pin It

Friday, November 2, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 11/2/12

Happy Friday! We have a long list this week, so I won't babble much. I will say that we had a great week - a big praise at work for Leighton, good learning activities for school, and all-around good attitudes from the kids. I hope you had a great week, too. Don't forget to share a memory from this week so we can smile with you!

1. Zac, to Tyler: "Didn't I tell you not to eat my Legos?"

2. Jake: "Green is my third favorite color."

3. Me: "Who loves you so, so much?"
Zac: "Mommy!"
Me: "That's right."
Zac: "Who loves you very so much?"
Me: "Zachy?"
Zac: "No. Daddy!"
Me: "How much does Zachy love me?"
Zac: "Four six."
Me: "Four six? That's a lot."
Zac: "Yeah!" 

4. Zac, after I handed him a sandwich: "Aww, you gave me triangles. How nice!" 

5. Zac: "You're my best friend, Mommy."

6. Alyssa, coming in from outside: "Can you get me some water for Daddy?"
Me: "Did Daddy ask you to get some water or did you think of that all on your own?"
Alyssa: "I thought of it all by myself. He needs water 'cause raking is hard work. I love my daddy."

7. Zac: "Mommy, you have green eyes!"
Me: "I do? I thought I had blue eyes."
Zac: "Yeah, you have one blue eye and one green eye! Sometimes I have one green eye."

8. Alyssa, depressed: "My life changed."
Me: "Your life changed?" How?"
Alyssa: "I don't know. It just changed."
Me: "Well, what's different about it."
Alyssa: "Something's wrong. It's just that now I'm coloring like a 3-year-old or maybe a 2-year-old. It's weird."

9. Jake, while eating a pack of Whoppers: "There are 3 in this one. Hey, it's like Jesus, 3-in-1!"

10. Me: "When was the last time you had it?"
Alyssa: "Well, I didn't have it the day after yesterday."

11. Alyssa: "Do mommy cats lay eggs?"
Me: "No."
Alyssa: "Oh, they just lay babies?"

12. Zac: "I don't like water. It's fake."

13. Zac was sitting on my lap while I was looking at things on the computer. As I closed one tab to go to another, he said, "Hey! I was 'bout to read dat!"

14. Alyssa: "I am the queen of dumping toys out."
Zac: "No, I am the queen."

15. Zac, during breakfast: "You ate yours all?"
Me: "Yes."
Zac: "Goody goody!"

16. Alyssa was helping me give Tyler a bath in his tub in the sink when he started peeing. It shot up in the air and across the room like a fountain. Alyssa's eyes got big and she said, "Whoa! That was awesome!"

What's something that made you smile this week???
Pin It