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Monday, October 31, 2011

New Hair

I forgot to show you pictures from our new, recently acquired hair cuts from our trip back to Minnesota.

Although, somehow I missed pictures of L-girl's...not sure where I was or what I was doing....but it did turn out cute.  I will just get "old" picture for hers....


This is a really bad shot - but shows you how long her hair was and that she had let the bangs I had cut for her grow up because she wasn't sure if she still wanted them.

Here she is with her new her After shot....

Don't her eyes look huge and lovely?

S-girl's cut was the most dramatic and I love it!


The back of her hair had never been cut before and it was that thin, sort of crunchy baby hair.

The After:

The only thing I don't like is that it makes her look older!

A-man went from this...

To this......which he adores....

(We could all sort of see in to the future after this cut of A-man with muscles and tattoos somewhere down the road.  Yikes!)

A-girl got the ends of her trimmed as little as possible and she is shooting for hair down to her rear end.  She is thinking she may donate it at that point to Locks of Love...but we will see.

I also got a new cut while I was in Iowa visiting my best friend....but that picture is on her I will see if I can get one of those to show you too.  I really did feel like a new woman...that day.  As suspected would happen, I have not been able to get my hair to look or feel (Rainman was practically petting me because my hair felt so soft) like the stylist did when I walked out of the salon...oh, well....that is the life of a mother.

Friday, October 28, 2011

George Washington Carver

We got a chance to review a  DVD that was all about George Washington Carver.  It was a pretty short video (30 minutes) that packed in a lot of interesting information.

The video is from Marshall Publishing, which has a lot of award winning DVD's, CD and books.  They have won awards for their DVD series on Lots and Lots on Trains and Lots and Lots of Trucks.   These would be perfect if you have little one's in your house that love trucks, or trains.

Click here for a sample from the video on Trains.

They also have a full line on Educational/Historical  Documentary DVDs  which includes ones on Lincoln, The Pony Express, Lewis and Clark the History of Bridges and others.

We took a look at the George Washington Carver DVD on our recent road trip back to Minnesota.  We have a DVD player/TV in our van that is only used when we are on road trips.  When I brought this video along and told the kids we were going to watch it in the van....I will admit that they were NOT all.  I guess they aren't the big, nerdy, homeschool kids that I dream they are!  But, since we are the kind of parents we are, we said, "Too bad.  We are watching it."  Captive audience thing, you know.  Plus, we were paying for the McDonald's Happy Meals!  (Those only happen on road trips too).

Rainman and I listened in from up front.....I actually laid my seat down, so I could sort of watch until my neck got sore from looking up.  Unbeknownst to the kids, we had decided to quiz them after they watched the movie and their reward, if they did well, was that we were going to stop at Culver's for "real" food including some frozen custard.  Believe me, Rainman and I were rooting for them to do well, because, quite frankly, we were getting sick of McDonald's ("McRib is back" and all)!

The video is sort of a narrative put to beautiful, still pictures....with occasional voice overs portraying some of the characters.  It did sort of remind of old slide show type things I watched in school, but the information that was portrayed was really interesting.  Rainman and I said quite a few times...."hmmmm, I didn't know that, did you?"

George Washington Carver was really an interesting guy, and pretty inspirational.  He is probably most remembered for the over 300 uses for peanuts or their by products.  He really accomplished a lot in his life, especially considering what outside forces he was up against because of his race.  He really didn't let anything stop him.  This is a DVD that will come out again whenever we study this time period.

This particular movie is recommended for ages 4th grade and up, but, all of our kids watched it.  I am pretty sure much of it went over their heads, but during quiz time, they did answer some of the questions!  There are discussion questions available on the website to go along with the DVD, in case you don't want to come up with them on your own.  It can be purchased through Marshall Publishing for $19.95, but, you can get a 15% discount by using the code TOSC1 at checkout.  But, really, go take a look at the other things available on their site, because there is a little bit of everything for everyone.

Oh, and where did we end up eating????   Culver's!!!  Yay, nerdy, homeschool kids!

We got the copy of this DVD for free, in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Good Sunday

We had a really good Sunday.  I actually just mispelled good and put "We had a really God Sunday".....that would definitely work too. 

I have been missing my dad....and his passing has made me take a new look at how I am spending my time.....and what my kids will remember about Rainman and I.

Anyway, we had a great morning at church, came home....looked through, and decided on, Halloween costumes.

Then, I got the kids started on getting their pumpkins cleaned out and asked them to finalize their designs....

S-Girl is thinking really hard about how she wants hers decorated...

I think it is funny that S-Girl is mimicing L-Girl's expression.

V-girl very excited about her "punka"

I got them started and, since Rainman wasn't at work, I went off to....take a nap!  

Apparently, I wasn't the only one with that great idea.....

This is our basement steps.  Now, just so you know, I had asked her to come lay down with me.  I read her 4 or 5 books and when we were done, she said she wanted to go see Daddy.  So, I said, okay and off she went.  She closed my door....popped her head back in to say, "Bye, mom....I wub you!"

I heard her go down to Rainman and then I fell asleep.  When I got up, he said, look at this and showed me this picture on the camera.  He said she told him she was going down in the basement to see L-Girl....and a little bit later L-Girl came up and said that there was a lump on the stairs and brought him to see her....

 I know Kandi....which is better though....a kid who actually goes to her bed and sleeps....or one who will sleep, literally, anywhere......except her bed???

While I was sleeping, lots got done....

I finished up V-girl's "punka" when I got up, and, here they are....

Harry Potter

And, Voldemort.

Notice, he is making bunny ears with both hands....

S-Girl's pumpking is throwing up....

We also had a rousing game of wiffle ball in the front yard.  I was cheerleader and V-girl was the drink deliverer....

S-Girl was designated runner.

We came inside and had a serious game of Monopoly.  The funny thing (to me anyway) was that early in the game, Rainman was heavily criticizing L-Girl's strategy....

Any guesses who the big winner was?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

E-Mealz = Easy Meals = Happy Mom

I got a chance to get some help planning our meals courtesy of E-mealz and The Old Schoolhouse (TOS).

E-Mealz is a meal planning service that describes itself as "easy dinner menus for busy and frugal people."  That describes me.  I am busy and I am definitely frugal.  I mean, I don't shop at the Frugal Hoosier or anything,(that was for all you The Middle fans out there!) but, I have been known to be interested in pinching a penny or two....or three.....or four hundred!

You can customize the meal plan for the size of your family, the store you shop in, and even if you have certain dietary needs (low fat, gluten free, low carb, vegetarian).

For me, I chose the Kroger meal plan.  It was a tough choice between Kroger and Aldi, but the Kroger is closer to our house, so I picked that one.   Honestly, I sort of thought I would try the Kroger plan for a while and then switch to the Aldi plan and try that one....but, if I did make that change, it would be permanent,
which I wasn't ready to commit to. 

I also chose the "feeds 4-6 people" option.  Now, there are actually 8 people in my, I was curious to see if the plan would actually feed us all.  I hoped it would, since three of them are 6 and under. 

It did. 

We didn't have a lot of leftovers....but it did feed us.  Although, at almost every meal......there would be a  chorus around the table of things like:

 "Is that it?" 

"How is that going to be enough for all of us?" 

Then, almost every time, at the end of the meal everyone would be full.....and sometimes there would actually be a little leftover....not very often....but sometimes!  So, I think it is probably also helping all of us a bit with portion control.

I had every intention of showing you beautifully photographed meals.....but we were always so excited to eat them....that I didn't remember to take any pictures.  Not any.  Ooops. 

What I Liked:  Really and truly, I liked everything.  They give you a weekly meal plan with meals....but, they also give you a grocery list based on the sales flyers for your store.  The grocery list is organized by section and lists what meal it is for as well as its price. 

The prices I found were not always 100% accurate....some were higher and some were, it probably balanced out in the end.  My meals for each week averaged around $80 or so. 

E-mealz gave me 7 meals for the week.  I think there was only one week that I made all 7 meals.  I usually take Sundays off and we have popcorn or cereal for dinner.  I know, I can just write my name on the Supermom ballot right is spelled K-a-y-l-a!

There were other times that because we had other things going on,  I just didn't cook, but most weeks, I still bought the ingredients for meals that I knew we would like....then I knew I would have everything I needed when I got around to cooking them.  Although I learned quickly that I had to label the food I needed....or threaten the people in my household with bodily harm if they ate stuff that was slated to be used in an upcoming E-mealz recipe!  It took a bit of training, but now they will ask me if they can have "insert food here" or if it is for a meal.

The meal plans also tell you what "staples" you should have on hand.  Honestly, some of the things they considered staples, I didn' I learned to check the list carefully and make sure that I circled it or made note of it somewhere else so I wouldn't forget to pick it up.  Things like flour, salt, pepper and vegetable oil I consider staples.  But, Julia Child that I am, I do not have on hand things like balsamic vinegar, olive oil, creole seasoning (not a spice that you see a lot in my Minnesota blood, hotdish makin' Scandinavian cooking repertoire), and something called Old Bay seasoning.    Well, I take that back....I now have these things on hand, so I guess you can call me "Julia"...that is spelled J-u-l-i-a.

The meal plans had me trying new things.  For some reason, I have always been afraid to cook fish....but Tilapia has been on the menu a few times now, and I am no longer afraid! 

The meals also include side dish plans.  I used most of their recommendations, but if I already had something on hand, fresh vegies or a bag of frozen vegies, lots of times I just substituted what I had.  But, it was nice to have the recommendations.

What I Didn't Like:  The only thing I didn't like was having the self realization that even though planning meals and making grocery lists is something that a competent, grown up should be able to do on their own.....I haven't been able to successfully do it on my own without E-mealz.  Grrr....but, God bless sisters Jane and Jenny for coming up with this idea for grown ups that lack that skill....or are just too busy to do it on their own!

Honestly, I think one of the best aspects of E-mealz is that I didn't have to think. 

I didn't have to think....unless I wanted to.  Rainman could call me from work and I knew what was for dinner.  I didn't have to get annoyed with him for asking.  I didn't have to rummage through the freezer in the middle of our school day, hoping that we had something besides frozen pizza to feed everyone.

All I had to do was check my list....sometimes the night before....but usually with my morning coffee, so if I had to thaw anything, I just pulled it out before school started.

The kids liked helping me too.  We all liked voting on our favorites (there were a lot).  We sat down together and lit candles.  Yes, candles.  The meals felt that special.  None of the meals were hard to make - all 7 recipes and their instructions  fit on one they have to be easy.

This super program costs $15 for 3 months of meal plans. 

Go ahead and take a look for yourself at E-mealz Frequently Asked Questions, in case I have left you with more questions than answers. 

If you want to take a look at an example of a weekly meal plan and grocery list, just click here.  Choose what plan you want to take a look at and click.

If you want to see what other TOS crew members had to say about E-mealz, go take a look.

I received 3 months of meal plans free from E-mealz in exchange for an honest review of their product.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Isn't It Always Time For Ice Cream???

The answer, as the evidence on my hips clearly shows,  is a resounding, yes!

In this case though, the ice cream will not be adding inches and unsightly bumps to my hips and thighs....but, instead, a way for my bigger girls to have fun, on-line.

Always Ice Cream is a website devoted to learning games for girls ages 7 to 12. 

Girls only. 

No boys allowed.

This site is everything a girl could want.  Happy.  Pink.  Pretty.  Did I mention that there was pink?

It actually combines the good stuff that parents want for their stuff,

...with the stuff that girls want (whether it is politically correct...or not)

My big girls, A-Girl and L-Girl got the chance to use this site, for two months, as part of a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (TOS).

They played games like typing, multiplication, synonyms, identifying countries in Europe, anatomy, dog breeds, babysitting, waitressing, dress the bride and many, many, more. 

They could have even practiced their Spanish or German....or worked on fractions!

For me, as a somewhat modern mom, I thought that there was just the right balance between the fun, fluffy, girlie stuff and the not so stereotypically girlie stuff. 

There are games that I had to request that my girls adding fractions and identifying the countries in Africa.....but, they did end up having fun with them....they just didn't necessarily appeal to them over the ones that designed their wedding dress or their own Victorian outfit!

See?  Can you see all the choices on display along the sides?
The site has a MiniWorld where they can design and decorate their own homes...or castles.  They use the "scoops" (of ice cream) that they earn from playing the games to buy things like furniture or even a  bigger house.

It also has a video section that has lots of videos to choose from....all the way from silly ones- a panda bear the more practical - to how you repair a flat bike to decorate a gold is made....and even how to multiply fractions.

Always Ice Cream also has a parent summary page that lists basically everything that your daughter has done on their site in the last 90 days.  What games they have been playing, what levels they have mastered and what medals they have been awarded.

There is a chat function capability on this site too.  We didn't use it as I don't think my girls need to be chatting (even safely) with other strangers around the world.  But, their site has earned the Privo Kids Privacy and Safety certification., so, I believe that it would have been safe for them.....however, I still didn't think that it was necessary for them to chat with girls, yet.

When I first heard about this site that was made just for girls....I sort of didn't see the point...but, after seeing how much fun my girls had on this site, I changed my mind.  The creators of Always Ice Cream really seem to know what girls like.....


You can try a Free Trial of Always Ice Cream or you can subscribe for $4.99 a month....but you get the first month for only $0.99!  You can go month by month, get an annual membership for $29.99, or, get a lifetime membership for $99.99.  You can click here for more detailed information on the various membership options. 

So, the question I asked at the start begs to be asked again.....Isn't it always time for ice cream?

I already said yes.....but, now,   L-Girl and A-Girl also say, yes!  Although we are talking about 2 different kinds of ice cream.....the fact remains, that, is Always time for Ice Cream!

The girls and I received 2 months of free access to Always Ice Cream, in exchange for an honest review of the website and its features.

To read what other TOS crew members thought about Always Ice Cream, click here

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Do You Do It All?

I hear that phrase quite a bit.  I heard it a lot more in Minnesota when I worked outside of the home....but I sill hear it in Georgia.

Because I have 6 kids.

Because I homeschool.

Because I cook for the family most nights.

Because I am involved in my church.

Because my kids are involved in lots of "stuff".

But, I have a confession to make.

I don't get it all done.

I do a pretty good job of keeping my kids and Rainman loved.

I do a pretty good job of keeping my kids and Rainman fed.

I do a pretty good job of getting the kids educated.

We are almost always on time for any appointment or commitment.

But, my house is a mess.

My stairs almost always hold enough clothes for all the neighborhood kids, as well my kids.

There are no words to describe this countertop.

Like my classy wine rack....full of stuff???

This is actually pretty contained and neat and pretty for us.  You would think about 20 people lived here based on the amount of shoes we have scattered near this shoe basket in our entryway.

I cannot remember the last time I actually truly mopped my floor.  I do spot cleaning when the kids spill stuff....but I haven't done a full all out mop in quite a while.

Gross, I know.

There are always crumbs on the matter how much we sweep or vacuum....some little person will come behind us and spill some cereal or crackers....and then, we are back at square one.

My mom really taught me better.

I have tried to follow Fly Lady.

I have gotten my sink all shiny.

I have tried to take care of my "hot spots".....but, to no avail....still a messy house.

I have tried having a container for mail and things that I don't know what to do with when they immediately come into the house.

I know.  It is a granola bar box....but still I had hoped it would contain you can didn't.  My laundry room is in the background....that is the place where people toss stuff that they don't know what to do with either....makes it hard to get in there and actually wash all those clothes that were left on the stairs!

I will try to do better.

I want to make my mother proud.

I want to have a peaceful, relaxing house for all of us to live in.

Maybe I will give Fly Lady another try.

I will keep you posted on my progress.

Are you somebody who does do it all?  Any advice for me on how to manage this?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Scruble? Or Inscrutable?

We got a new game to review at our house,  called Scruble.

Scruble....makes me think of the word inscrutable.  They sort of sound alike, don't they?

Maybe it is just me....thinking about my dad.  He always used to say that women were inscrutable. 

The actual definition from Websters of inscrutable is...."not easily understood, enigmatic".

The word inscrutable may (or may not) describe women ....but it does not describe Scruble....which is.....


See it?  Far left?  T on the top...H-I-S facing you?  7 points

Scruble is actually....Scruble Cube, a 3D word game and, unlike women (according to my Dad anyway),  it is easily understood.  This game is touted as sort of a combination of Scrabble and Rubik's cube (which, by the way, I had, like, totally mastered in the 80's - thank you very much!).

The simple explanation of the game is it is a big cube with letters on it that you move around to make words.  But, it is....

"MORE" than that.  
Do you see it?  Far right side?  M-O-R on the top and E in red?  6 points  

You can play this by yourself, or with up to 4 players.  Although, I think you could play it with as many people as you like....just keep passing the cube around, but, you would probably have to have something to do while you waited for others to take their.... 

See it?  Far left.....4 points.

If you aren't playing alone, the first player takes a turn and forms a word, then adds up the letter score - just like in scrabble - but, unlike Scrabble, the next player can form a totally different word and not connect it to the first word....or, they can get bonus points if they do attach it. 

There are other ways of getting bonus points, like if you have an 8 letter or more word, you get 10 bonus points, or if you are able to get your word to spread over 3 sides of the cube.  There are also extra bonus pegs spread out on the 3x letter.....or 2x word scores.

Here is A-man with one of his spelling words this week.  READ...but he matched it up with a 2x letter he got 6 points.

The game comes with cute little score cards and a little hourglass timer.  We actually didn't use the timer much because it seemed like too much work to keep turning it over. 

I sounds lame to me that I type it.....but, it is....

"TRUE".  4 points

This game is one of those that keeps growing on you.  We were sort of intimidated by it at first, but really, if you can spell CAT, you can play this game.  We now love it...although A-girl and I probably love it .....

"BEST" of all.  5 points

The Scruble Cube website has a section on Education that was really cool.  It gives ways to incorporate the game into your schooling (classroom style or homeschool style)....and not just as a spelling game, but math, logic and science.....

"TOO" 3 points
(How do you like my dirty countertop with the little pink brain eraser on it?)

One of these more advanced ways of playing the game is to "spell" the abbreviations for the Periodic Table of Elements.

Quick!  Go back in time to 10th grade chemistry....

Which one do you see on this???? (Answer below)

There are lots of math game options too  - because you do actually add up the scores for your words.  There are lots of ideas on how to use this in a classroom setting to have teams competing against each other starting with giving them one minute to spell 3 letter words, and moving up each round in both time and number of letters.  Or, even one where you target a specific vowel each round and they come up with the best word they can using that vowel....with bonus points if they get a double vowel moon.

One version of the "educational" game we used was the one where you had to make a word, add up its points and then look up the definition of the word in the dictionary. 

Honestly, though, we used this game a lot when we were alone and just needed to fill some time....sort of like people do with Solitaire.

This will definitely be coming with us on upcoming road trips - because it can be used by individual kids (and me) or we can start a competition among them ( just in case there isn't enough sibling fighting already happening in the van)!

We had a lot of fun with this game.  This one is going into our game night rotation and I am pretty sure it will stick around.

Go check out their site and check out some of the fun you can have with the Scruble Cube.

You can get Scruble Cube directly from their site for $24.95.  If you really use your cube a lot, you can even get replacement letters for your cube for $4.95.

Check out what other TOS reviewers thought of Scruble Cube here
We received a free Scruble Cube in exchange for a honest review of the game.

Answer:  The symbol CL is the abbreviation for the element.....Chlorine!