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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Here We Are....In All Our Blue Glory!

Rainman attends a different church than the kids and I do.

The upside of that is that we get 2 family pictures taken for the church directories.

Our last family picture was taken shortly after we moved to Georgia at my church.  I will not post that one here.....I had a migraine on picture was not a good shot.

But, this year the time came for directory pictures at Rainman's church.  I like this one.  (Mom....we have a copy for you......don't worry.)

Here we are......

(Sorry....I took a picture of a picture...hanging on my wall.....and I couldn't figure out how to crop out all the wall and wasted space!)

L-girl had broken one of the arms off her glasses, so her glasses were always askew on her face....and her new ones hadn't arrived yet.  We told her she didn't have to wear them for the picture, which lead to A-girl asking if she had to wear her glasses.  So, that just left the triangle of glasses wearers as Rainman, D-man, and I!  I am sort of wishing that I took mine off too.....but, now I can remember my cool aqua glasses I had back in 2014, right?!?!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mango Language Review

This is a review.

Oh, what a fun, fun, product to review for Mango Languages.

We got a change to pick from over 60 languages to start learning, here at home through Mango Languages Homeschool Edition! The programs are recommended for ages 6 and up.  (I could have even taken a class)

I just let the kids pick....I didn't do any mother-like nudging either!

Four of my students were able to use Mango Languages.

A-girl picked Irish
L-girl picked Irish
A-man picked German
S-girl picked German

I was actually happy that they ended up pairing off in their choices, so they could practice with each other.

Now, would you like to know their reasons for picking what they picked?

Here is A-girl and L-girl's reason:

See the guy on the far right?  The blond.  Yup, he is Irish.

What a noble reason for choosing a language, right?

Here is A-man and S-girl's reason:

She is a special friend of.....D-man's.

We will call her J-girl.  J-girls' mother is actually from Germany.  J-girl has dual citizenship and speaks German.  J-girl and her mom speak German to each other in public sometimes.  It is cool, but there is a little piece of me that is afraid they are talking about front of know?  Emoji  Edit:  Upon reading this blog post, they have assured me that they don't talk about me, so I feel much better.  Whew!!!

Obviously, D-man isn't the only one who likes J-girl!

We got to try the beta version of Mango Languages Homeschool Edition.  The homeschool product is still pretty new and they were still adding aspects of the program as we were trying it out.  But, in general, here are the things that are available when you get a subscription to Mango Languages.

You have a choice of over 60 different languages
Progress Assessments

Built-in journals, discussions and wikis
Collaborative learning spaces
eNote messaging
/chat rooms

Access to embedded/downloadable content

Support from other community members

Calendars to schedule meetings or study groups

The thing that I think is one of the most unique aspects to this program is the sense of community.  You can find other people, all over the world, that are working on or know the language you are learning.  You can practice with each other.  You can ask questions about translations or when to use a certain form of a word.

Within the different language spaces, there are forum or discussion groups.  In the Irish one, a few links for pronunciation helps was added.  We currently have a small group learning Irish, so there isn't much happening in our discussion group, but I can see where this would be an awesome feature for one of the more common languages.

I heard of an example of one of the students who was learning Russian had trouble with the Russian word for the word "you".  She put a question on the forum and her question was answered by another student who speaks numerous languages, including Russian, on the forum.  It is sort of like homework help or having a tutor available when you get stuck.

Mango Languages is on top of any safety concerns you may have if this type of "chat" situation, so things like anonymity aren't allowed.  You can also set up your parent account to be sent every communication through your child's page.

The whole idea behind Mango Languages is that it is a conversational approach to learning a language - so it isn't like my old years of Spanish, where I learned how to conjugate verbs, but not how to speak to anyone.

This program teaches you how to talk and communicate in a different language.  It doesn't really focus on writing or the nitty gritty of conjugating verbs.  But, if you ever find yourself in another country, you will have learned the way to ask for directions, to use the bathroom, find out their names, what is the best restaurant to eat at, how you use the subway/train.  You know....the real stuff you need to know when you travel!

Honestly, it didn't bother me at all that there wasn't really a written/spelling portion to Mango Languages. Although A-girl said that she sort of missed having that component because she thinks she gets the words more solidly in her head if she knows and has to practice how to spell them.  Out of my 4 students, she was the only one that missed writing/spelling.  I think my other 3 students felt less pressure that they didn't have to know how to spell the words.  They were happy just to know how to say them!

Like I said, Mango Languages is still adding things to their program and these are just a few of the things coming up on the horizon:

Enhanced Tracking and Progress Monitoring - including seat time (for students and parents)
Goals and Personal Lesson Plans (both stand-alone and tied into Mango courses)

Resume and Portfolio Builder

I thought the program was great without the enhanced tracking and progress monitoring, but I can see where knowing how much time your student had put in would be helpful.  I had a chance to attend a webinar by the creators/forces behind Mango Languages to explain in a little more detail of what is coming for Mango Languages and their excitement was contagious.  They definitely have a passion for people to be able to learn another language.

For the purpose of this review, I will show you some of the basics of how Mango Languages works.  We will pretend you want to learn Pirate.  Yes, I said, Pirate!

That is one of the 60+ options.  At first I thought it was a joke, but then I decided it was actually sort of brilliant.  What better way to get a reluctant boy-child to learn a language?  Then, once he masters Pirate, he can move onto, shall we say, a more useful language, like Spanish or German?

When you pick a language, you will end up on a page that looks like this that says, "You are not a member of this Space."  At this point, you could read the information included in the Mango Passport section about what is included.  If you decide it will suit you, you just click on the Join This Space button near the top of the page.

Then you will get a Login to Mango button that pops up...pick that and it will take you to your specific language page, where you can get started.

Here is the first page of Lesson 1: Chapter 1 - Captain's Orders.  (Call Someone Names; Express Surprise; Give Sailing Commands; Great and Friend and a Supervisor; Pay a Compliment-------Emoji)

The Grammar Goals also  cracked me up!

"Use Me as a Possessive"   Emoji

After these first few cards, it jumps into the actual conversation lesson.  The conversation is first given in English, then in your language of choice.  You can have it repeat the whole conversation or just pieces of it. You love through the lesson repeated phrases and translating from English into "your" language. Here is an example page from Latin, not Pirate.

I will note that a voice comparison tool is available, but since we don't have a good microphone, we didn't use this tool.  The kids just talked out loud to the computer.  From what I could tell, they sounded pretty good.

This turned into one of those subjects that I do not have to ever force them to do.  Well, that is not entirely true.  There was like a week and a half where S-girl didn't go on.  I would remind her/ask her and she would tell me she just forgot.

Upon further investigation, I found out she lost her German notebook that had all her notes and pronunciations in it and she didn't think she could do the lessons without it.  Creating their own notebook was something the kids came up with themselves.  They all created one and took notes on pronunciation/usage on their own to refer back to when they needed it.  Luckily, we found her notebook and she is back at it!  (I would like to see a way to print flashcards for the languages as another way of solidifying the words.  It would have been a nice way for me to be more involved in their lessons too)

They fight for computer time.  Some people, who shall remain nameless, (L-girl) ...oops.....I mean, I guess, officially, she is still nameless, right?  I didn't actually name her L-girl when she was born! Anyway, a certain someone gets competitive and completes more than one lesson a day, when she can.

I love hearing them speaking their German and Irish back to the computer.  Like I said, they have all started keeping notebooks to keep track of the phrases and rules of the language.

The beauty of this program is that if they pick one language, they are not just limited to that language.  They can pick other ones.  They can learn more than one at a time, if they want to.  All for the same price.

Did that make sense?

If they wanted to, they could work on Biblical Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Pirate all at the same time.  Or, they could try out a new language every week if they wanted.  Once you are a member of Mango Languages, you have free reign to learn as many different languages as you want, in whatever time frame you want.

There is a component to Mango Languages that we didn't get to try, but I find intriguing for future use, it is called Mango Premiere, which is centered around learning languages via foreign films.  Most of the films currently  in Mango Premiere aren't quite suitable for the under 18 crowd, but they are working on finding more family friendly foreign films to add to their repertoire.  I will definitely be checking back on this one.  (If nothing else, my picks on my Oscar ballot may be more knowledgeable in the foreign film categories!)

If you want, you can give Mango Language a try, for free.  Once you decide you love it, like we have, the current price is: 

1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total 
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total                     
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total                   
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total               
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total

(more than 6 has special pricing)

The price will be tough for us, but if they keep on using it/loving like they are right now, it would be worth it for the language training they can get....especially because they aren't locked into just one language.  You know how kids change their minds.  This time I won't have to force them to stick with their first choice because I already paid the money, you know?

We really liked this one and I think it has great possibilities for us for years to come! A-girl and L-girl are convinced it will help them get a husband. Emoji

Slaan!  (Goodbye in Irish!)

Take a look at what the other TOS Reviewers thought about Mango Languages.  Or check out some of the links here:


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Egglo Entertainment - Review

This is a review for Egglo Entertainment.

This is a fantastic time to try a new this cool Easter activity/book/story.

We were sent a hard copy of the book, The Egg-Cellent Easter Adventure, written by Darcie  Cobos, AND we also got the Egglo Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs and a few other goodies.

If you are looking for a new way to do an Easter Egg hunt, or looking for a way to tie in the true Easter story along with a traditional egg hunt, Egglo Entertainment is a company you will want to know about.

This was a super fun way for us to jump into the Easter season a little earlier than normal.

We started on Ash Wednesday, when we got home with our ashes on our foreheads and I started reading the Egg-Cellent Easter Adventure book.  I say "started" because it is sort of a long book.  It is 40 pages...a little long for a quick kids read.  It is a little more chapter book, than storybook.

That would be my only (sort of) criticism of this book.  It has the look of a storybook, great illustrations, great storyline, but it is long and has big pages of reading.  Even though it was a great book, it was a little bit hard to keep the kids attention for a prolonged period of time.

I was actually sort of surprised by that because to me, it was a really interesting story.  Full of mysteries and there were opportunities for the characters in the book to learn to be better people....with real life examples I thought the kids would relate to.  (Like the oldest child always wanting to be in charge of everything!!!)

We also got a downloaded Adventure Audio version of the book, complete with "dings" when it is time to turn the page.  That made it a little easier for them to sit and listen to the book.  This way worked best when they were listening alone, so they could hold the book themselves.  The narrator was very professional and it sounded very radio theatre-like.  For just $2.99, this is a really great addition for you to have....especially if you are the type of parent that doesn't want to read the same book over and over and over.  Good option for parent and child!

Since, I wanted to read to all the littles at the same time, I read it aloud, but broke it up into 2 sessions.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, since this product is ideally for ages 4-13, I recruited D-man to be in charge of charging/hiding my eggs for our big egg hunt.

 (He made it pretty easy, because neither one of us was sure how the kids would do in  the dark and we didn't want anyone getting hurt.  This picture makes it look SUPER easy....but they were a little harder to spot in the dark.)

We did the egg hunt on a Sunday night.

I used the little scripture scrolls that I also received to fill the eggs.  They were like the scrolls the kids found in the story.  One would have a clue for their next egg and the other would be a scripture verse.

You can fill them with candy and other treats too, just like a traditional egg hunt.But these were really fun and teeny, tiny.

Okay, here is the truth.   Loved this product.  The kids loved the Egglo eggs.  I wish they would hold their glow for a little bit longer.  We wanted them to hold their charge, but then we had to wait for it to get completely dark, which meant that they lost a bit of their charge before being hidden.

I will be honest, I have always had a little trouble explaining the Easter Bunny and egg hunts to the kids as part of the real celebration of Easter.

Yes, I have heard the explanation that the egg itself is like the Trinity - Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the Egg - shell, white, yolk.  But, that didn't really sit well with me and I am sure that the kids could tell my lack of conviction in what I was talking about.  So, yes we did Easter egg hunts, but they were just a fun part of the springtime/Easter celebration.

With The Egg-Cellent Adventure and the Egglo glow in the dark eggs, I have a way to tie egg hunts into the true and wonderful Easter story.

Jesus is the light of the world.

Jesus lights our way in the darkness.

They opened and read every single scripture scroll too....V-girl obviously needed help reading hers.

Will all of our Easter egg hunts be down in the dark from now on?


But you can bet that this is the start of a family tradition and I can tell you it was a memorable one for all of the kids....big and little. (They have organized and had their own Egglo Easter egg hunt every night since our first one!  They have also had good luck letting the eggs charge in the sunshine during the day and bringing them in and putting them under a lamp while they wait for it to get completely dark....then they recruit one of us older people to hide the eggs and off they go!  They have even taken them to bed with them for a little temporary night light. )

The kids want to put together an Egglo Easter egg hunt for our neighbors....and we are going to.  I just downloaded the sample scavenger hunt available on their website in the Egglo All Year Round section to use for that one.

This would be a fantastic family tradition to start, like we have.  But, it would also be a fantastic program to start at your church too.  It may take a little shift in mindset to get on board for a nighttime egg hunt with flashlights, but once you get the first one under your belt, you won't want to go back to the old way.

Seriously, there is something about the way they gleefully run around the yard looking for the little glowing eggs that is amazing....not in the, "I can't wait and see how much candy I can get kind of way", but in the joy of discovery, "Look!  I found it!" kind of way.

An, I see the light of Jesus....kind of way.....

It is just such an easy and fantastic visual message of Jesus and his love for us on the cross and it really solidifies the message that Jesus is the best light we can have.

You can get a dozen Egglo glow in the dark eggs for $9.99.  The Egg-Cellent Adventure book is also $9.99.  The Scripture Scrolls are $4.29 for a pack.  There is a program guide  that takes all of the thinking work out of putting on your Egglo hunt.  It costs $14.99 and has 60 pages of step by step guidance/instruction, activity, snack, and decoration ideas and printables to make for a super memorable event.

Take a look and see how other TOS crew members handled their Egglo egg hunt.  This is a really cool product.  Really.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A-man is 9

You know how all those older moms will tell younger moms to pay attention....because time moves so quickly?

Consider me another one of those older moms.

It really moves quickly.....and you don't even notice it.  You have to pay attention.

A-man turned the big 9 a few weeks ago.

Following in his big brother's tradition of a not so fantastic celebration on the actual day of his birthday....A-man didn't have a lot on his special day.  It was sort of spread out over 4 days.

A-girl was on a youth retreat on his actual birthday, so we wanted to waited to celebrate, as a family, until she was back.

So, on his actual birthday, I made him pancakes.....

Which he realized flipped over would be a "P".

He chose Rainman to go out to lunch with McDonald's.  This year it wasn't actually because he was excited about the was because they had Lego movie cups as their "toy" for Happy Meals!

That is all that happened on his big day.

The next day, Rainman took him golfing for a full 18 holes, as a special treat.  In A-man's words, "It was sort of boring, but then Dad let me drive the golf cart....then it got fun."

When A-girl got back in town 3 days after his birthday, we had our family party. 

A-man is VERY into superheroes....but especially Captain America.  So, I did my best at his cake.  He told me that the colors weren't exactly right, and I needed some blue by the star, but it was a really good try.  :)

(Isn't his face changing?  He doesn't have that little boy look anymore....)

Then we proceeded to open presents.  My kids get so excited to give each other presents that it is loud, and extra chaotic come gift opening time....but love abounds.  Like here, where A-man is thanking V-girl for her gift....with a little tackle hugging.

Here is one where they are a little more calmed down....

And thanking S-girl....with a little smushed face loving.

Now, before we move on, let me share this little insight into our family dynamics.

Out of all my kids, the ones who fight the most are A-man and L-girl.  Hands down.  They are always up in each other's business and trying to push those buttons to get the other one mad, which leads to them doing something bad, which ultimately leads to someone getting in trouble.  Ideally the one who didn't start the whole thing.  Any parents out there know what I am talking about?

But, the thing is, they know each other.  What I am about to show you, gives me a little hope that they will someday be the best of friends....once their little power struggle....or whatever it is, is over.

Here is what L-girl got for  A-man.  She spent time researching on-line,  asked me to order it for her, then she gave me money to pay for it..

I have to put this next one in just to show a little creepy D-man.....and A-man looking like a cool, floating head, kind of dude with his hat turned backwards.  D-man gave A-man his old baseball hat from his high school team.

A-girl shopped on her retreat at Fort Sumter.  She brought him back a Civil War bullet and a shiny belt buckle.

Rainman and I got A-man a pair of walkie-talkies.....which he is totally in love with.

Funny thing is, he and his mortal enemy, L-girl, have been quite the buddies with them.  They each take one to bed at night and I hear the crackle of them telling each other they are signing off for the night.

There is most definitely hope.

It makes a mother's heart sing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Have a Really Good Husband

I really do.

He is not romantic.

He is not the most well groomed/stylish man around.

He sometimes smells funny.

He wipes his hands on his clothes during meals.....frequently.....even if he has a napkin.

Despite these less than stellar qualities, there are things that I wish I could tell all the young women looking for love...including my own daughters.

I wish I could tell them things like.......

Looks really don't matter.

Romantic gestures don't really matter.

Wearing the latest styles don't matter.

Having good looking feet doesn't matter.  (Sorry, honey, but you know they aren't pretty.)

Having to do a lot of spot cleaning whilst doing your laundry is not a big deal.

I wish I could tell them.....

What matters is that you have a husband who never leaves home without kissing every single one of matter what time of day or night it is.

What matters is that you have a husband who does 95% of the grocery shopping, just because he knows you don't like to.

What matters is that you have a husband that doesn't think anything of flying across the country, with 5 of his 6 children.

What matters is that this trip is because his mother fell in a snowy parking lot in Chicago and broke her hip.

What matters is that he wanted to be with his mom. 

He wanted to help his mom. 

He wanted his kids to come cheer up his mom, who was feeling embarrassed and old, because she has become one of those little old ladies that fell in a parking lot.

What matters is that he didn't care that he could only be there this time, for 2 days, or about the cost of renting a mini-van and that all of the meals would be eaten out.....because none of that matters, when your mom is hurt.

(I had to show this picture, because, even when you have a broken hip and have just been released from the hospital...if your grandchildren come to visit, you must give them money!)

This last minute trip meant a few things for me.

It meant that D-man and I were left at home because now that he isn't homeschooled, he isn't as free to travel about the country, as his siblings are.

It meant that V-girl was going to take her first flight without me.

It meant that my house stayed really clean for 2 days.

It meant that my house was WAY too quiet for 2 days.

It meant that I remembered how much a person can get done in the day if they are alone.  (Really....I was amazed at the projects  - and On Demand T.V. that I was able to pack in!).

I learned that I really, really miss my kids when they aren't here. 

I got weepy during church because I was all alone in the pew.  D-man works the sound board, so I am used to seeing him from afar.  But, the other kids smile at me while I am up front singing, they try to hide from my silent admonitions that I send them - mid song, when they are acting up.  When I am done singing, they surround me in our pew....the little ones fight over my lap....they snuggle with me....they hold my hand....they play with my hair.  They whisper irrelevant questions to me during the sermon.  Honestly, it was a very lonely feeling sitting there untouched and alone.

I re-learned that I would much rather have a houseful of children than a clean, quiet house.

Before Rainman's mom fell, my weekend plans were very different.  I was supposed to fly up to Minnesota to watch the Oscars with my sisters.  But, priorities are priorities and Rainman needed to be with his mom. 

Cue D-man...that whatever he had been planning for the weekend had now changed also.

D-man took pity on me and played along with the Oscar Bingo and the Oscar Trivia that my sister, Karen, had sent (she is fun that way....she had games and prizes and even swag bags all ready for our sisters weekend!). 

He filled out a ballot....and even  tried really hard to have opinions on dresses, hairstyles and jewelry....just for me. 

I am fairly sure that if I were to fall and break my hip 40 years from now....he will fly across the country to come be with me too.

I wish I could tell all those dear young ladies.......

That is what you want in a husband. 


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Motivated Moms

This is a review for Motivated Moms.....specifically, Motivated Moms Ebooks.

If you are a mom, do you consider yourself "motivated"?

If you are anything like me, the answer is a resounding....


I really am fantastically organized and motivated to get things done....sometimes.

I am a list maker, except when I am not. Emoji

I love my lists!

But, they end up written on whatever I have laying around at the time.

They look like this.

and this....

And, if I don't keep close track of them, I lose them....or a helpful soul ends up throwing it away because it looks like garbage.....because they are usually written on the back side of something.

Remember the movie Jerry McGuire and the line Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise..."You had me at Hello"? 

Well, Motivated Moms had me at, "The system is designed to help you complete chores and tasks throughout the year so that you don’t spend your entire day doing housework."  (Italics emphasis from me   Emoji)

When I was selected for the review, I got to choose the format that I would prefer.  You know, like half-page or full page....with Bible readings or and white.

I chose full page, black and white, with Bible readings.  Like this:

(See?  I still made a few of my own, I apparently spilled something on this....but, it is still better than my lists, right?)

Here are a few of the other layout options:

I downloaded the full year to my computer, but I only printed a month at a time.  That works well for me because it didn't seem so daunting.  Plus, Rainman and I  sit down monthly and work on our budgets, so it was helpful to have this in case there were cleaning supplies, furnace filters, or something we would need during the upcoming month.

Did I like my Motivated Mom planner?


Did I follow it perfectly?

No, I did not.

Some of the tasks on the lists made me smile, like "Pamper yourself"....because you know we moms need approval/permission to do something nice for ourselves. 

Sometimes, they made me smile because it was so obvious that the things needed to be done, but I wouldn't have necessarily thought of until it was too late.

Things like:

Pull dead leaves off plants.  (something I don't usually do until there is a whole pile of crunchy leaves on the floor)

Replenish stock of toilet paper in bathrooms (something that doesn't happen until we are caught yelling for someone to bring us a be answered with....we are all out!)

Clean out vehicle (something that doesn't happen until the total embarrassment of the avalanche of falling papers, crayons, books, socks, shoes and jackets reaches epic proportions!)

Clean out purse/wallet (something that doesn't happen until between the kids and I, so much stuff has been shoved in that it won't close anymore!)

Clip the kids fingernails (something that now that I have so many kids usually doesn't happen until I spot their long, dirty, fingernails when we are out in public somewhere and they are pointing something out to strangers.)

The Motivated Moms Planner has the specific daily chores listed, but on the left side of the paper, there is also a list of basic daily chores that probably need to be done.....things that if they were actually done daily.....would alleviate a lot of stress in my life.

  • Make beds
  • Load/Run/Empty dishwasher
  • Sweep Kitchen
  • Wipe out kitchen sink
  • Plan dinner
  • Quiet time
Even though I didn't follow this life planner perfectly, the beauty of it is that it takes the thinking work out of planning.  Yes, I still had to add a few of my own personal things onto my lists, like paying sports fees, or work projects, but, for the most did the "pre-thinking" for me.

I was really looking forward to having the Bible readings all picked out for me.  I had dreams of getting back in the habit of daily Bible time, quiet time, and prayer time. 

The unfortunate part for me was that I happened to join the Motivated Moms planner during the slightly "boring" Bible verse time.  You know, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.  I know it makes me sound like a bad Christian, and I know that God included these in the Bible for a really good reason.  I am just not "motivated" by most of these passages. 

But, what it did do for me was get my Bible in my hand.  So, I would read (or skim  Emoji) the assigned reading and then flip somewhere else with the hope that I would get some new inspiration for the day. 

No matter what, it is better than what I was doing before.  Nothing.

There are a total of 16 choices for Motivated Moms ebook planners, as well as "app" choices.  I don't "app" an actual word?  Could I just use it without the quotation marks? 

Even if you don't end up using one of their planners, the Motivated Moms website has a lot of good information.  Head over to the Additional Resources tab and you will see recommended readings (most are clutter/organization related with some financial planning thrown in too), homeschool products the creators like, baby,children and cloth diapering resources, and lots of miscellaneous stuff that doesn't fall into a neat category.

But, even if you aren't a natural list maker like me, give the Motivated Moms planners a try.  You can go take a look at sample pages from all the different formats.  There might be one that is just right for you.

You can try out one of Motivated Moms Planners for $8.  Or, if you are hi-tech, the apps for iPhone are $1.99 and the apps for Android are $7.99.

Take a look at how other people on the TOS Crew used their Motivated Moms planners.