Saturday, April 30, 2011

Links for Your Enjoyment :: April 30, 2011

Links I thought you might find useful or fun:

  • I'm not the only one who loves Apologia's Exploring Science curriculum.  Grateful for Grace wrote a detailed review of Apologia AND is hosting a giveaway for your pick of books.  Better hurry, giveaway ends May 1. 
  •  Like Chili's Grill and Bar Restaurant on Facebook and sign up for their email newsletter.  On most Tuesdays over the last few months they have been posting/emailing a Kids Eat Free coupon.  I just wish I could use the coupon every week.  :)
  • In the last month, FOUR women I know have given birth.  I'm tempted to make gifts for them using the tutorial for homemade nursing covers from Tip Junkie.
  • Public, private, charter or home, there are a lot of choices for schooling these days.  The most successful students are those that are home schooled.  Before you throw rocks, follow the link and see what the author has to say.  I think you'll end up agreeing with her.  :)
  • Paper Coterie is officially launching their new site on May 4 with an open house.  Join in the fun and receive $40 to spend on photo books, photo calendars, home decor and other photo products during the open house.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Big Apple Circus Coupon

    My family LOVES attending the circus but we've never had the pleasure of attending the Big Apple Circus, which is appearing in Boston until May 15, 2011.  Unfortunately, our calendar is already packed with events so we can't attend but maybe you CAN!

    To purchase your discounted tickets (up to $15 off each) to the Big Apple Circus*:

    • Online:  Big Apple Circus and submit the code POP11 in the Promotional Codes box in the lower left of the page.
    • In Person: Big Top Box Office opens on March 19.    Hours of Operation: 3/19 – 4/1: 10am-6pm daily.    4/2 – 5/15: Tues-Fri 10am-8pm; Sat-Mon 10am-6p.

    Credit: Bertrand Guay/Big Apple Circus
    *Offer good on select seat locations and performances. Must present a copy of this blog post to receive discount at the box office. Performance schedule subject to change. Offer is subject to availability; not valid on prior purchases; cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. This offer can be revoked at any time. Discount amount varies. Limit 8 tickets per order. No refunds or exchanges. Telephone and Internet orders are subject to standard service fees.

    Thanks to American Pop for sharing this discount code with us!

    Disclosure:  I have not received any incentives or compensation for this blog post other than being able to use the discount code for my own purchases.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Remodel a Half Bathroom - Part 2

    Tip Junkie handmade projectsLast summer we worked hard to remodel a half bathroom (link to Part 1 of the story) in our home.  We ripped off very ugly paneling, pulled up 2 layers of vinyl flooring, painted the walls, laid new vinyl flooring and replaced the vanity and toilet.

    We completed the major parts of the remodel within a couple of weeks, the finer parts of the decorating took me awhile though.  Thankfully I have a good friend who's great at decorating!  She gave me a few ideas and I slowly found pieces to that matched her recommendations.  The finishing touches went in place just last month.

    Now we have a totally different bathroom!  I'm so not exaggerating and here's the photographic proof.

    Ugly Bathroom before

    Beautiful Bathroom After

    The mason jars are filled with Q-Tips, cotton balls, and a green shower pouf.

    I finished the bench, bought the basket at Ann & Hope, and had everything else.

    All together I think the new bathroom cost us about $600 (I didn't add it all up in the end).  Not bad for such dramatic results!!  I still like to just admire how pretty the room is.

    Have you ever remodeled a bathroom?  How did it turn out?

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Introducing Mom 411

    "I don't know how you do it!"

    I hear that statement A LOT when women learn I am a home school mom with four children.  You might even be saying it to yourself right now.

    Last week the idea popped into my head that I should write a weekly post about how I run a household, care for 4 children and home school 3 of them.  With that Mom 411 was born.

    I know, it's cute right?  Mom because, well, this is a blog by a mom, about moms, and for moms.  The 411 because these posts will be information (does anyone actually dial 411 for information anymore?), the how-to of motherhood.

    So come by every Wednesday to learn "how does she do it?" 

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Toddlers LOVE Mama's Makeup :: Mom2Mom

    All moms have one, and if you don't already you eventually will.

    We all have a "my child got into my lipstick/makeup/perfume" story. 

    Amazingly enough my story took place after being a mom for 7.5 years.  I walked into the bathroom to discover Samuel in there playing.  I didn't even realize he was in there until I saw him!  And then, I saw him.

    Actually, I saw the pile of toilet paper on the floor first.  And then I saw the light tan patches all down the front of Sam's pajamas.  And black smudges all over his hands.  And more light tan patches on the throw rug.

    Really it was my own fault.  I left my makeup bag on the bathroom counter within easy reach of a certain 2 year old when standing on the toilet.  It was a newbie mistake.  You'd think by child #4 I would know better.

    See the guilt on that face and the hidden hand?
    The pictures don't do justice to the damage he caused.  Compact blush and powder broken into bits.  Foundation poured all over the place.  Eye shadow gouged into chunks. 

    Sweet little hand covered with foundation and mascara.
    As I cleaned him up I realized mascara coated Sam's hand and that the tube lay partially opened.  So I pulled the wand out of the tube to check it for damage.   I found an eyeshadow sponge SKEWERED to the end of it!  SKEWERED like a marshmallow waiting to be roasted!  (Sadly I didn't take a picture of it.)

    The boy ruined every single piece of makeup I owned.  I had to throw it all out and start over new. 

    I'll be honest, I wavered between anger/frustration and laughter.  I felt frustration over cleaning up a huge mess at bedtime and at the expense of all new makeup.  But, the little rascal looked so guilty and cute that I found it hard not to laugh at the whole situation.

    In the end, laughter won (although Sam didn't laugh at his discipline) and photos were taken.  Today I have a funny 'Mom story' and all new Mary Kay makeup so all's well that ends well.

    Do you have a "my child got into my lipstick/makeup/perfume" story?  Please share it with us!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Menu Plan April 26 - May 1

    It's been a while since I posted a menu plan.  Truth be told, it's been a while since I planned a menu!  But we are in a VERY busy season right now:  2 baseball practices, 2-3 baseball games, Cub Scouts, and home school co-op per week.  Not to mention actually doing school.  So, I need a menu plan to survive the next 6 weeks!

    Here's the plan for this week:

    • Tuesday:  Roasted Chicken with carrots, potatoes and onions.
    • Wednesday:  Barley Soup with mushrooms and chicken.
    • Thursday:  Roast Beef with carrots, potatoes, onions, gravy and biscuits.
    • Friday:  Homemade Pepperoni Pizza.
    • Saturday:  Leftovers.
    • Sunday:  Chocolate Chip Pancakes with sausage.
     What's on your menu plan this week?

    For more menu plan ideas visit OrgJunkie's weekly meme.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Kid Quotes :: Glittering

    "Mama!  I just saw a plastic bag fly into our yard and then fly into our neighbor's yard!!  That's bad!  That's glittering!!"  - Ellie, 4.5 years.

    Hmm.. I don't remember reading anything about 'glittering' in that book about the environment we read aloud a few weeks ago.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    A Guy from Africa, A Girl from Arkansas and a Miracle :: Hearts at Home

    "Have you experienced any miracles in your life?" is today's Third Thursday Thought.

    Have I experienced any miracles?  Well, it all depends on your definitions.

    Merriam-Webster defines 'miracle' as "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs."  Calling my experience 'miraculous' all depends on if you believe they were extraordinary events or that God intervened.  I'll tell you the story and let you decide.

    In the spring of 1993 there was an eighteen-year old guy living in Zimbabwe, Africa.  Though an American, he grew up in Asia and Africa and only visited the States when his missionary parents came 'home' on furlough.

    That spring the young man discussed college choices for the fall with his parents.  Other American missionaries who lived nearby strongly recommended a small Southern Baptist university in rural Arkansas.  After learning the university offered more scholarship money for missionary kids than any other school, the young man decided to enroll there.

    His first visit to the university's campus came in the fall of 1993 when his parents settled him in his dorm room before freshman orientation.

    In that same spring an eighteen-year old girl living in northeast Arkansas discussed college choices for the fall with her parents.  Her options seemed limitless:  a local community college, at least 5 different state universities (with full scholarships), a Christian university in Florida, or a small Southern Baptist university about three hours from her home in Arkansas.

    The young lady eventually decided to attend the small rural Southern Baptist school.  When her parents dropped her off for freshman orientation she felt like she had returned home.  As a young child the girl had lived in an apartment on the same campus while her parents earned their degrees.  She had visited classes with them during school vacations, attended student movie nights, and listened for the chapel bells to know when her parents were coming home. 

    Sometime during those first couple of chaotic weeks as freshmen the boy from Africa and the girl from Arkansas met.  Neither one knew their meeting would change their lives.  Neither one would even remember the meeting!

    Fortunately they fell into the same group of friends and 'hung out' together.  But were just friends.

    Friends that is until the summer of 1996 when both stayed for summer school while most of their friends went home.  I'll spare you the sappy details and just say that by the end of the summer our young man and young lady were dating and, a week after graduating from the small university, they married.

    That's my story, but was it a miracle?

    Was it a miracle that the other American missionaries just happened to have attended and sent their children to the Arkansas university?

    Was it a miracle that the Arkansas university offered the best scholarships to missionary kids of all the other Southern Baptist schools that year?

    Was it a miracle that the girl chose to return to the Southern Baptist school instead of attending a free state school?

    Was it a miracle that they both decided to attend summer school?

    The Boy and the Girl now with their 3 boys and 1 girl!

    By Merriam-Webster's definition there was no 'extraordinary event' but there were a lot of little nudges from God as he divinely intervened to cause a boy from Africa and a girl from Arkansas to meet, fall in love and get married.

    So, yes, I've experienced a miracle.  Have you?

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Mom Central Blogging Grants Program FINALIST!!!

    On Monday Mom Central announced the 45 finalists in the Blogging Grants Contest.  Guess who was on it!  ME!! 

    I am super excited, and more than a little nervous, about the final judging stage.  The contestants were divided into three categories based on their blog's Alexa ranking.  The 15 applicants in each category that received the most votes have advanced to the finalist round which is judged by the Mom Central committee.

    That's what makes me nervous!  The voting part wasn't too bad.  I finished #8 overall, thanks to all my wonderful readers!  But I'm #2 in the 3rd category and there is only one grant available for that category.

    According to the Mom Central Grant official rules
    Eligible Submissions will be judged on the following weighted basis (the “Judging Criteria”):
    (i) Blog Need - 40%
    (ii) Blog Vision and Aspiration – 60%
    So, here's hoping that the Mom Central committee believes in my vision for a blog that supports, equips and encourages moms and sees a need for another blog that will help parents make the most of family time!

    Regardless of Mom Central's decision I appreciate your support and encouragement!!  Thank you to everyone who voted, especially to those who voted every. single. day. for two months!  My readers are the best ever!!

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Playtime with Mom :: Mom2Mom

    My husband is an expert at playing with our children.  He spends hours on the floor driving cars, building Lincoln Log forts, and connecting Thomas the Tank Engine tracks.  He reads books aloud with our children and often changes his voice for each character.  And he actually thinks an afternoon playing Star Wars Wii is fun!

    Me?  Not so much.  Entering my children's play world is difficult for me.

    I'm too literal minded during imaginative play. 

    I know I played as a child but I don't remember tea parties with my dolls or imaginary friends.  However, I do recall organizing accessories and clothes for my Barbies. (Good practice for organizing hair accessories for my daughter!)

    Even when I convinced my brother that we should spread mud all over our faces, arms and legs it wasn't for PRETEND facials.  I thought our south Arkansas red clay mud would work just as good as a spa's "mud."  Too bad my mom didn't appreciate my efforts at skin care!

    I'm too focused on being productive.

    One of my mottos is "Do what you have to do.  Then do what you want to do."  By this I mean do your work first and play with the leftover time.  Children don't want to wait until all of my housework is completed (is it really ever?!).  They want to play immediately, not three hours later.

    I have a hard time sitting on the floor to play with Thomas trains when my sink is full of dirty dishes, my laundry baskets overflow with dirty clothes, and lesson plans need writing.  Ten minutes constructing a barn from Lincoln Logs feels like forever when my spot on the floor gives me a view of the dust bunny collection under my son's bed.  Not that I want to do laundry, dishes and dusting, they just call my name from my To Do list.

    The Girlie got tired so Daddy pulled the bike and she rode in the cart.

    I want to do fun-to-me things.

    Honestly, playing Star Wars Wii will never be high on my list of fun things to do.  Not that I don't enjoy Star Wars or Wii.  It's just not my preferred method of relaxation or fun.

    I would much rather be blogging or reading a book than most of the play activities my children invite me to join.  Blogging excites me.  Reading historical fiction is fun for me.

    Through the 7 years I've been a mom I've tried to deny my natural inclinations and play with my children.  Sometimes I do a good job of playing.  Sometimes I don't.

    Is entering the imaginative world your children create difficult for you?  Or are you a natural at it like my husband?  Let's talk about it in the comments!

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Passover Children's Book Recommendations

    Passover plays a major part in the Christian holiday, Easter.  Several years ago a member of our church, who was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity as an adult, led a service in which he explained all the parts of Passover and the significance to the Easter story.  My oldest son STILL talks about that night.

    In an effort to better educate myself and my children I brought home a stack of Jewish Passover books from my library.  Let me be clear.  These books are written from a Jewish viewpoint.  Christians are NOT their intended readers. 

    Here are my favorites from the stack:

    My First Passover by Tomie dePaola.  Published by Putnam's Sons, 1990.

    This sweet board book has simple illustrations and wording to help a toddler understand a few of the basics of Passover.  An adult won't learn much but it will familiarize your little guy and help him feel included in the holiday.


    Hooray! It's Passover! by Leslie Kimmelman.  Illustrated by John Himmelman.  Published by HarperCollins, 1996.

    A young girl describes the night her "relatives come from far and near to share our Sedar dinner."  Her mom lights the holiday candles.  The large extended family eats traditional Passover foods.  And her grampa tells the story of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt.

    This picture book provides information about Passover but doesn't overwhelm young readers with details.  The illustrations invite readers more as you look at the prayer books, foods, and special clothing.

    A fun book for 3-8 year olds!


    On Passover by Cathy Goldberg Fishman.  Illustrated by Melanie W. Hall.  Published by Atheneum Books an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 1997.

    A child describes the Passover preparations of his (or her, we aren't told which) family.  Each time the child asks a question about the preparations he is told to use one of his 5 senses to figure out the answer.  This clever presentation teaches us about the foods, story and games of Passover.

    An enjoyable book for 4-8 year olds.


    The Passover Journey: A Seder Companion by Barbara Diamond Goldin.  Illustrated by Neil Waldman.  Published by Viking, a division of Penguin, 1994.

    I'm not sure if this book is intended to be a Passover Haggadah or not.  It is divided into two sections.  The first section contains the story of Moses leading the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt.  The second section breaks the Sedar (or Passover dinner) into 14 sections and gives a short description of each one.  

    Though this is probably not an authentic Haggadah it would be helpful to Christian families wanting to learn more about Passover and how to observe the holiday with their children.  I think it would make a valuable resource in your personal library.


    Why on this Night?: A Passover Haggadah for Family Celebration by Rahel Musleah.  Illustrated by Louise August.  Published by Simon & Schuster, 2000.

    This book is a detailed guide to celebrate Passover with your children.  It contains songs (in English and Hebrew), recipes and games.  This guide lays everything out for you and give several options for each of the parts of the Sedar.

    I like the details and the choices but, because I'm new to celebrating Passover, I'm a little overwhelmed by this book.  It's a valuable resource and I'm sure as I grow more familiar and comfortable with the vocabulary I'll find it easier to use.

    Has your family celebrated Passover?  If so, what resources do you use?  If not, would you consider it?

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Home School Curriculum for Kindergarten and 2nd Grade

    During a conversation this morning on my personal Facebook account I was asked about the changes I'm making in our curriculum and what I recommend for visual learners.  Facebook does NOT give me enough space to share my thoughts on the topic so I looked for a post about our curriculum this year.  Imagine my surprise that I never shared that information!

    So for my Facebook friends, homeschooling readers, those considering home schooling, and the just plain curious I give you the SMB home schooling curriculum 2010-11.

    This year I have a 2 year old, 4 year old, kindergartener, and 2nd grader.  I'll group everything by ages, sort of.

    2 Year Old:

    I use ... nothing.  He's only 2!  I don't intentionally work with him on shapes, colors, letters, numbers.  Nothing.  Poor child.

    However, we do count a lot as we clean up, we sing the Alphabet song as we go about our business.  We talk about colors as he gets dressed.  School for him is just part of our daily life.  It must be working because the boy can count to 10, knows random letters, and can tell you the correct color of a crayon about half the time.

    It helps that he's #4 and listens to the other 3 all day long.

    4 Year Old:

    Ellie is ... well, my girlie.  She's only 18 months younger than Ben and likes to keep up with him.  So once school started in the fall she needed her own school books to use while "The Brothers" (as we call them) did their school.

    My goals for Ellie are very low:  learn letters and their sounds, develop eye/hand coordination for writing, be able to write her name.

    My friend, Stephanie, blogged about using Get Ready for the Code, Get Set for the Code and Go for the Code with her daughter.  It sounded like a great fit for us this year.

    I bought all 3 for Ellie and she LOVES them.  In all honestly, I only spend about 5 or 10 minutes working with her.  But she faithfully pulls our her "Fish Book" and now "Dinosaur Book" and works her pages until The Brothers are done or playing with Sam sounds like more fun.  It keeps her occupied and she's gradually learning the sounds letters make.  I'll share more about the Code books in a minute.

    I also bought Ellie a couple of general preschool workbooks from Wal-mart.  They are only $10 and have everything a child needs at this stage.  We're using Big Preschool Workbook Ages 3-5 published by School Zone.  It's colorful and fun for her to use.

    Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:

    Yes, most of what my boys do is exactly the same, except for language arts.  I just require more effort from Will (2nd grade) than I do Ben (K).

    Science:  Apologia's Exploring Creation Flying Creatures.

    We LOVE this series!  We studied Swimming Creatures last year and will use Land Animals this fall.  The textbook is professionally written, edited and bound.  It contains lots of diagrams and COLOR photographs (which is rare for HS materials). 

    The material is written from a creationist world view so you don't have to deal with the theory of evolution, which I like at this early stage.

    This year we bought the notebooking journal that goes with the textbook but I don't think we will for the fall.  After a few chapters it started to feel like busy work instead of reinforcement.  I hate busy work.  If you are into lapbooks I've seen companion lapbooks for sale as well.

    You may be wondering how I do this with both boys.  Actually, all 4 children participate in science.  We all sit on the living room floor or couch while Will and I read the chapter aloud to everyone.  We talk about what we are learning and looking at the pictures.  The reading level is just a little challenging for my 2nd grader which is good for him.

    I also supplement the textbook with picture books and non-fiction children's books from our library that relate to our current chapter.  This aren't a formal part of our school.  They are just available for my kids to pick up and read for fun.

    Math:  Saxon Math. 1st Grade.  

    I realize Will is in the 2nd grade but we just can't seem to get through the 1st grade textbook.  Saxon is VERY hands on and basically I don't like it.  It doesn't work for me.

    We'll be throwing it out and trying something new this fall.  I'm open to suggestions that are mastery focused and NOT hands on or requires tons of help from mom.

    History:  Early American History (Primary) published by Beautiful Feet Books.

    This literature based history course uses a teacher guide book and over a dozen children's picture and chapter books.  I love the approach.  Not loving the guide book. 

    According to the website this guide is intended for K-3rd grades.  After about a week of making me crazy I threw out the guide book (well, not literally.  I did spend good money on it!).  I felt like the concepts we're too high level for my children and the activities of journaling and writing were too involved.

    So, we read the books that came in our jumbo pack.  I also found tons more children's books on the same topics at our local library.  We watched Liberty's Kids on NetFlixs.  And took field trips, after all, we live in NEW ENGLAND!

    If you look at the intermediate level package it uses many of the same books from the primary level.  I'm holding onto the guide and I think we'll revisit early American history in a couple of years.

    Phonics:  Explode the Code

    Both boys have been going through these workbooks.  Will's ready level is way above grade level but I felt he needed to reinforce the phonics rules.  He whizzes through the pages.  Ben WORKS through his.

    Ben started the year knowing letters and sounds.  He's now on book 4 (in April) and reading simple readers.  The switch hasn't flipped yet where reading is like breathing for him but he's close!

    I highly recommend Explode the Code.  The black and white illustrations are VERY engaging and fun, especially for boys.  Each lesson is 10 pages long but you can take that as fast or as slow as you want.  It's phonics based but also includes some sight words.  There are 8 workbooks with 6 workbooks that are 1/2 books, meaning if your child needs more help with the concepts in book 4 then you move to book 4 1/2 instead of book 5.  The boys will finish this series next year.

    Handwriting:  Draw. Write. Now

    I highly recommend Draw. Write. Now.  These are drawing and handwriting non-consumable books that come in a set of 8.  You can buy them individually but if I love having the whole set.

    The premise of Draw. Write. Now. is that children dislike practicing the same letter over and over on a worksheet.  So instead, give them a picture to draw with 4 sentences to copy that describe the picture.  The motor skills are still being developed but it's a lot more fun!

    I recommend buying the notebooks that go with the series.  On one page is a blank box for the drawing and on the facing page are manuscript lines for their writing.  It's fun to have all the pictures together and see the development from the beginning of the year to now.

    Also, we didn't work our way through the books chronologically.  I chose the day's picture based on what we were studying in history and science.  This only worked because I have the whole set.  I've also found similar how-to drawing books and made up my own sentences when our lessons didn't have a good example in D.W.N.

    Language Arts:  Alpha Omega LifePacs Grade 2.

    Will is using this set of 10 workbooks.  He just started book 4 (in April) so he'll be finishing it up this fall.  Will is an independent learner.  He doesn't need, or like!, a lot of direction from me so these workbooks have been great for him this year.  The workbooks include spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, and handwriting.  An all in one if you will.

    LifePaks worked great for us this year as I adjusted to teaching 2 (sort of 3) kids, running a household and blogging.  If you need a language arts that doesn't require a lot of time and attention from mom then I recommend LifePaks.

    For my non-homeschooling friends that have made it this far, I recommend Draw. Write. Now for children who enjoy drawing or need a little help developing their fine motor skills over the summer.  I also recommend the Code books for preschoolers learning to read and elementary students that need a little extra help over the summer.

    What curriculum have you used, loved or hated this year?

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Geography Lessons with Evan-Moor

    As you probably know we are a home school family.  But this is not a home school blog.  I know that many (most?) of my readers aren't homeschoolers BUT I also know that many of you are teachers or parents concerned about your child's education.  So from time to time I review products and curriculum that we use for school.

    Today is one of those times.  A few weeks ago I received an email from Timberdoodle Company asking if I would be interested in reviewing their Geography curriculum by Evan-Moor.  Well, since I plan to teach geography this fall I hopped on the opportunity!!


    Beginning Geography (Grades K-2), published by Evan-Moor.

    Beginning Geography is exactly what it says - basic concepts for map skills, landforms & bodies of water, and continents & oceans. 

    My kindergartner and second grader had no trouble completing the worksheets for the map skills.  Both boys love pouring over maps and finding airports, cities and other special sites so these worksheets provided reinforcement for skills they are already developing.

    I am most excited about the third section - continents and oceans. There are reproducible maps of each continent as well as all seven continents together.  I think my boys will enjoy using these worksheets as we learn about world geography.


    Daily Geography Practice Grade 3, published by Evan-Moor.

    Daily Geography Practice workbooks are based on National Geography Standards.  The book is broken down into 36 weeks of instruction with each week focused on a different standard.  A mini-lesson plan and answer key is given for each week.  Students are expected to answer 2 questions each day for a week as part of the lesson.

    Honestly, national standards don't concern me.  Our state does not require testing.  At this early stage of their education, I'm more focused on growing my children's interest in the world around them than I am that they be able to keep up with other children in their grades.  However, I realize that some find the national standards reassuring and an easy guideline for what to teach and when.

    I do believe Daily Geography is useful but I don't see me using it the way it's intended.  Answering just 2 questions each day would frustrate my children.  Also, I don't see us using this as our sole geography curriculum but instead as reinforcement with other products.

    Daily Geography covers 2 basic elements - map skills and the United States.  I am most excited about the United States segment.  Not all of the States are included but those that are show interesting maps and information.  Like Beginning Geography this book is also reproducible and contains transparencies for all of the maps (not a feature that I need but would be useful for classroom teachers).

    My one major criticism of these books is kind of nit-picky. All of the pages tear out but they don't have holes punched in them for a binder.  This means once I've pulled them out I'll have to put them in file folders or punch holes myself.  I hate file folders.  Like I said, it's nit-picky and totally a personal preference.

    Overall I recommend this curriculum for home schoolers looking to supplement their other curriculum with worksheets and maps

    I also recommend it for public school teachers looking for supplements for their classrooms and for parents of public school kids looking for fun and educational activities at home.

    Disclosure:  Thank you to Timberdoodle Company for the free copies of these two books to aid in my review.  The opinions expressed are my own and not of Timberdoodle Co. or anyone else.

    Cooking with Children :: Mom2Mom

    While pregnant with Will, I dreamed of baking cookies, mixing cakes, and rolling out pizza crusts with my children.  In my vision they would wait patiently for their turn to help and we would show Daddy our delicious creations when he came home.

    Mom and child cooking sessions fit into my ideal of a mom.

    Speaking of ideals, television commercials show mom and child laughing and smiling as they mix cookie batter together.  Print ads imply that mom and child worked as a team to make the beautiful cake in front of them.  There are even magazines that show you step-by-step how to make amazingly elaborate animals from vegetables with your 3 year old.  (OK.  Maybe I exaggerate.  It's really your 4 year old.)

    You can't see the 2 year old dipping his hand in the PB jar!

    My cooking with children reality looks nothing like the magazines.

    I have four pairs of hands eager to grab any spoon and stir.  My children crowd around the bowl making it difficult to measure and pour.  They whine and nag while waiting their turn to help.  And the finished product never looks like the picture in the magazine!

    Cooking sessions with my children often leave me frustrated and annoyed.  I underestimate how long it will take.  I constantly tell my 2 year old to put items down.  And in the end I have a huge mess to clean up - with NO dishwasher to help.

    Do you also dread cooking with your children?  Or have you learned to involve them in the kitchen without losing your mind?  Let's talk about it in the comments!

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    J.Lynne Quilts and Crafts Giveaway

    Welcome Ultimate Blog Party-ers!

    I started off this week sharing about Stephanie's Mommy Brain and offering a giveaway for a $25 gift card to Hair Cuttery (see link to enter).  Today I'm ending the week sharing about a friend's brand new business and another giveaway.

    Jessica, of J.Lynne Quilts and Crafts, sells handmade traditional quilts and modern crafts.  Customized quilts, pillows and table runners are just a few of her products.  She also offers a J.Lynne Littles line with bibs and diaper bags.

    Jessica's grandmother taught her to hand piece and sew.  She admits that as a 9 year old she didn't fully appreciate the time and love that goes into quilting but now she is grateful for all the hours that her grandmother invested teaching her a valuable skill.

    I am giving away a set of handmade bibs from the J.Lynne Littles line.  These bibs are reversible, vinyl front and back for easy cleaning and closed with velcro.

    To enter this giveway:
    1. Leave a comment on this post.  Be sure to include your email address.
    2. Subscribe to J.Lynne's blog and leave a 2nd comment for an additional entry.
    3. Subscribe to Stephanie's Mommy Brain and leave a 3rd comment for an additional entry.
    Winner will be selected April 15, 2011 and notified by email.  Winner will have 48 hours to respond and or a 2nd winner will be selected. 
    Congratulations to all 3 commenters!  Jessica has decided to send you each a set of bibs!

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Bag in the Wind :: Book Recommendation

    Last month my son, William, needed to read 3 books about the environment or recycling to earn a badge in Cub Scouts.  I discovered Bag in the Wind on the shelves of our local library and decided it would meet our needs.

    The story begins at a landfill at the moment that a strong gust of wind blows a yellow plastic bag out the landfill gates.  We then follow the bag as it is caught in a tree, reused by a little girl, discovered by a homeless man and eventually makes it's way to a thrift store.

    I see so many plastic bags caught on tree branches, whirled in the air by the wind and crumpled on the side of the rode that the premise of this story caught my imagination.  Now I find myself wondering how DID that plastic bag come to be wrapped around a branch at the park?  And, better yet, my son is inspired to recycle.

    Bag in the Wind makes for a nice read aloud and starting point to discuss recycling and caring for the environment.

    What do you think about when you see a plastic bag blowing on the wind?  Or are they so common now that you barely notice them?

    Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser.  Illustrated by Barry Root.  Published by Candlewick Press, 2010.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Flush the Toilet! :: Mom2Mom

    Sooner or later every conversation between moms of young children turns to poop and pee.  We just can't help ourselves!

    We discuss toilet training, diaper blow outs, and our favorite solutions for constipation.  Even moms with older or grown children frequently join this bizarre ritual.

    Given this strange obsession, it only seems fitting that I add poop and pee to the list of Mom2Mom topics.

    I'm currently in the process of potty training my 4th child.  The end of diapers is (hopefully!) in sight.  But once diapers are no longer part of my child's daily routine another problem develops - they don't flush.

    Why can't my children remember to flush the toilet?!

    We have 1.5 bathrooms for 6 people.  Neither of them is a master bathroom.  That means I share my bathrooms with 3 little BOYS and 1 little girl.  Little people who can't seem to remember to flush!

    It's not like I didn't teach them during the training process.  "Do your business.  Flush the potty.  Clean your hands." was my mantra.  But the first part is the only one that took.

    NOW I hear myself saying, "Did you flush the toilet?  Clean your hands?"  "Really? I didn't hear the water running."

    At any given time during the day I can walk into the bathroom and find this (or worse!):

    I'm definitely hitting an all time blogging low with that picture!

    Seriously, do you have this problem at your house?  If not, what did you do to encourage flushing and hand cleaning? 

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Blog Party with Giveaway from Hair Cuttery

    Welcome to Stephanie's Mommy Brain!!

    I'm so glad you are visiting me today.  Whether you came by rss feed, Facebook or the Ultimate Blog Party, I hope you enjoy visiting my little corner of bloggy world.

    A party today is just the thing to celebrate all the exciting things that have happened at Stephanie's Mommy Brain this year!

    In January I participated in a blog tour for Made to Crave (linked to my review) by Lysa TerKeurst.  If you haven't read the book yet, I highly recommend it.  Made to Crave helped me look at food differently, and that's a good thing!

    Then Shari Braendel featured my mom and I on her blog.  Mom and I read Shari's book, Good Girls Don't have to Dress Bad (linked to my review), and gave ourselves makeovers.  We had fun and now we each are working to maintain our new looks.

    In March I applied for a $2,000 blogging grant from Mom Central.  Each woman asks (begs?!) her friends, family and readers to help her gain enough votes to advance to the next round.

    I'd love it if you clicked on the button and voted for 'Growing Stephanie's Mommy Brain.'  I hope to use the money to attend She Speaks Conference, pay for a professional blog design, and launch a second blog that focuses on making the most of family time.

    Those are some of the big things going on here at SMB.  But, just like family life, most days are filled with ordinary ups and downs.  Things like organizing pantry shelves (up!), realizing I'm overcommitted and overbalanced (down!), Maple sugaring with my family (up!), and potty training my 2 year old son (down!!).  Life's full of the ordinary, isn't it?

    So now that you are all caught up on the goings on here at Stephanie's Mommy Brain, let's move on to the fun part!

    A couple of months ago I participated in a bloggers girls night out at Hair Cuttery (linked to my review).  I had so much fun!  Manicures, massages, and hair cuts, what's not fun about that?!

    One of the items I found in my goody bag was a $25 gift card for Hair Cuttery.  There are 800 Hair Cutterys on the East Coast, in New England and the Chicago areas.

    I'm giving the $25 Hair Cuttery gift card to one of you!

    Here's what you need to do to enter the giveaway:
    1. Leave a comment on this post.
    2. For an extra entry:  Subscribe to Stephanie's Mommy Brain and leave another comment saying you subscribed.
    3. For an extra entry:  'Like' the Stephanie's Mommy Brain Facebook page and leave another comment saying you 'liked' on Facebook.
    Giveaway will remain open until April 11.  Winner will be notified by EMAIL so be sure to leave that in your comment.  Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Congratulations Alissa: Adventurer for winning the Hair Cuttery gift card!!

    Good luck and happy blog party!!!

    Disclosure:  Hair Cuttery is NOT sponsoring this post.  I received the gift card when I participated in the girls night out and decided to give it away rather than use it myself.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Life in Six Words

    Preschooler son.  Frustrated mom.  Yellow puddle.


    She Reads is hosting a contest for a She Speaks scholarship.  The contest is to tell a story using 6 words.  The idea comes from Ernest Hemingway who wrote “FOR SALE. BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN.”

    Once I got started writing 6 word stories I couldn't stop!  Here's a few others I thought of:

    • Inflamed joints.  Incurable disease. God's plan.
    • Red cape.  Adventurous boys.  Broken arm.
    • Dirty dishes.  Sink overnight.  They breed?!
    • Floral skirt.  Striped blouse.  Preschooler Fashionista!
    • Baking chicken.  Screaming alarm.  Calling Domino's.

    Join the fun and share your 6 word story!

      Searching for RA Answers

      My tenth anniversary came and went last summer with little fanfare.  No cake cut.  No balloons blown up.  No congratulatory cards.  I doubt that anyone even realized the importance of June 2000.

      Why was it important?  Because that's when I received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

      Rheumatoid arthritis isn't your grandma's arthritis.  You know, when she says it's going to rain in the morning because her knee hurts?  Nope, not RA.  That's probably osteoarthritis and is caused by a joint wearing out from constant use.

      RA is different.  It's an incurable disease in which the body's immune system attacks the lining in most of my joints.  My immune system literally eats away at the lining which causes swelling, pain, and eventually deformity.

      Chronic.  Incurable.  Pain.  Frightening words even for the bravest among us.  When the words come before babies do, they strike fear deep within a woman's heart.

      In 2009 I wrote a series of blog posts sharing my rheumatoid arthritis story in detail.  I wrote to make sense of my story.  I wrote to help other women.  And I wrote so God can use my story.

      I receive 5-10 visitors a WEEK who are searching for information about RA, pregnancy, breastfeeding and Enbrel (my medication).  That's a lot of women who are scared and searching for answers.

      Sometimes they leave comments or email me and I encourage them.  But most of my visitors never contact me so I have no way of connecting with them further.  Even though they don't contact me I feel the fear and pain in their search engine keywords. 

      Like the woman who found me by searching "is Enbrel safe during pregnancy."

      What she's really saying is "Enbrel helps me function like a normal woman.  I don't want to give that up.  But I desperately want to have a baby.  I'm scared of the RA pain.  But I'm also scared to damage my baby.  Someone give me answers so I can make a choice and not be afraid of the consequences!" 

      Oh, Friend, how I wish I could say "yes, Enbrel is safe for pregnancy."  But I can't because studies haven't been done.  I can only share the choices I made.  Which feels less than satisfactory in the face of such an important decision.

      Then there's the woman who found me by searching "will I ever get off Enbrel."

      What she's really saying is "I'm tired of giving myself a shot every week.  I'm tired of remembering to order my medication from the specialty pharmacy.  I'm tired of dealing with doctors, insurance companies and pharmacies.  Will I ever be normal again?"

      Oh, Friend, how I wish I could say, "Yes, a cure is available!  You can throw away all the medicines and not think about doses and co-payments."  But I can't because most women never go completely inactive without medication.  I can only share how great the drug works for me.

      Finally, there's the woman who found me by searching "my husband is taking methotrexate and I had a miscarriage is that why."

      What's she's really saying is "I lost my baby.  I need answers.  I need to know what caused it so I can prevent it from happening again.  I need to know if it's our fault this happened!"

      Oh, Friend, how I wish I could hug you and tell you it wasn't the Methotrexate (another RA medication)!!  But I don't know.  I've never taken Methotrexate.  I can only share that I've also experienced a miscarriage.  The loss is real and is always there, though the pain lessens with time.

      The one search I've not received visitors from is "why did God give me RA."  This is a question I have wrestled with personally. 

      What I really meant was "why did you let this happen?  Why did you give me a life filled with physical pain?  Did I do something wrong?  Was I not good enough?  Is there something I can do so you will heal me?"

      Today I don't believe God gave me the disease but I do believe he has allowed it.  RA is not a punishment because I sinned nor is it because I failed.  God is able to heal me, if and when he chooses. 

      This year I took 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 as my theme:  "when I am weak, then I am strong."  When I can go no further, then God steps in.  By sharing my story God can use it to encourage other women.  That gives a purpose to all my shots, aches and fatigue.

      I'd love to celebrate my 20th RA Anniversary with a cake, balloons, and the women who've been encouraged by my story.  What do say?  Can you make it June 2020?


      This post was entered in a contest at A Holy Experience in the hopes of winning a scholarship to She Speaks.  The She Speaks Conference is about women connecting the hearts of women to the heart of our Father God and that your heart is to serve Him and His daughters, as He leads.
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