Monday, April 30, 2012

Mom Loves Massages! - Mother's Day Contest and Review

If there’s one thing I love – it’s a good massage.  No, I don’t frequent the local masseuse, but I do love it when I can talk the hubby or boys into a good backrub! This is even more true now that my son and I do taekwondo.  This 40+ body gets sore from all of that working out!

Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  I usually ask my hubby for a massage (by him) for every occasion.  This year, my massage came in the mail! 
Getting to review the Wahl Heated Therapeutic Massager was a real coup for me! 

“Wahl Heat Therapy Heated Therapeutic Massager has 2 heat settings, variable power from gentle to intense massage and comes with 9 Home Physical Therapy Attachments. It has a 9 foot cord for optimal use. The zippered storage case holds everything you need - no more losing attachments. (# 4295)”

I love all of the attachments!  Different massage heads for different parts of the body.  The Deep Tissue Massage is my favorite because it’s great on my shoulders and neck.  That is where I get the most tense – be it exercise or stress, that is where my muscles feel it the most.  The head massager is great for tension headaches as well.  Having a headache at least a couple of times a week, it's nice to have the massager there to offer some comforting relief.

The heated attachment is wonderful for those sore muscles earned while exercising.  It takes about five minutes to heat up, and you have to check to make sure the temperature works for you, but the heat combined with the massage really helps loosen those sore muscles!

The price is just right for this massager as well.  At $45.00 or less, it’s an item moms can have handy to relieve stress and pain for both themselves and their family.  The accompanying carrying case means I can take it with me to tournaments.  If a team member has an injury, muscle strain or cramp, we’re ready to go!

Wahl Mother’s Day Contest
Not only do I get to enjoy the benefits of my own portable massager, but Wahl is having a Mother’s Day Contest and giving away 50 massagers to 50 wonderful mothers for Mother’s Day!

All you have to do is Like Wahl on Facebook and then nominate a deserving mom to win the mom relief package from Wahl.  It can be any mom you know – it doesn't have to be yours.  To enter, you just post a comment about why that mom deserves relief on the Wahl Facebook Wall.  The contest runs from April 26th to May 13th – so drop on by and reward that special mom in our life with a nomination!
I have already nominated a dear friend that I know is most deserving.  Who will you nominate?

Disclaimer:  I received this product free of charge as a member of MamaBuzz in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Handcrafted Guitar - The Finished Product!

A while ago I posted here about a guitar my husband and father-in-law were working on.  They actually built the guitar a few years ago, but hubby decided he didn't like the style and wanted to rework it a bit.

As you can see from the previous post - the guitar started as a black "axe" with pointed edges.  They decided to give it a softer, rounder look.  Here's the final, candy-apple, product.  I think it looks great!

Not bad for homemade!  It sounds great too! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - There's No Understanding My Dog

I guess she thought she needed time on the proverbial "hot-seat".  How much you wanna bet that barrel with legs dented my firepit screen with her ample behind?

Becoming a Man – Shaving!

Shaving is one of those little necessities that creep up on a young man.  They don’t one day simply wake up with a five o’clock shadow, it’s more like a dark milk mustache that just doesn't go away and a few spidery whiskers that appear under the chin.  This is the time to start “shaving” even though there isn’t that much to shave.

I like the idea of passing this one off on the hubby.  Yes, women shave, but we don’t do it on our faces.  Sharp objects and faces just don’t work for me.  Then, I realized, that it didn’t have to be that way!  The electric shaver makes life easy and lets mom feel comfortable with this little milestone.
This Christmas, the hubby bought electric shavers for the two older boys.  They were quite happy.  Then, this spring, I realized that my youngest was due for a mini-mustache removal.  Wasn’t I thrilled when BzzAgent offered to send me a Phillips Norelco PowerTouch with Aquatec electric shaver! 
My youngest was a little more ambivalent, but willing to give it a shot.  It’s supposed to work in water or dry – which is a great concept since post shower is a good time to shave.  Additionally, it’s rechargeable (an 8 hr charge lasts for 17 days of shaving) so that there is no chance of electrocution from being plugged in.  Finally, it has a pop-up trimmer for trimming the uni-brow among other things.

After a quick test drive, he found it very easy to use.  He did note that it took several passes with the shaver to remove the hairs.  However, it didn’t hurt at all.  My older son also wanted to test drive it and made the same comment that it didn’t remove the hair on the first pass, but was very easy to use and painless.

For a young man starting shaving, I think this works perfectly.  It meets the safety requirements of mom, is easy for the young man to use, and gets the job done.  With a two year warranty and heads that only need replacing every twelve months – the $69.99 cost ($59.97 on Amazon) is worth it.
Has your son started shaving?  Did you go with a regular razor or electric? 

Disclaimer:  I received this product free of charge as a BzzAgent in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Homeschooled Kids are Um… Unusual…

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine who also homeschools about a young man we know who is rather “unusual.”  I know – this sounds bad.  It wasn’t gossip, he just came up in a much broader conversation and we made that side note.  Her husband popped up – “Why are homeschooled kids always called unusual?”

You know what – he’s right.  My boys are unusual, her kids are unusual, in fact most homeschooled kids probably fall into that category.

However – this is a good thing.  What in the world is wrong with falling outside the teenage norm?  Having had two public schooled teenagers – I know the pressures they are put under to conform.  You must be cool, you must fit in, you must not be unusual! 
Homeschooled kids don’t have near the peer pressure that these other kids do.  This allows them to be who they are without fear that their peers will criticize or ostracize them for it.  If there’s one thing I really value about homeschooling, this is it. 

My father loves the saying  - “Be who you are and be that perfectly.”  While non-homeschooled peers might think homeschoolers are weird or uncool, I would say they are who they are and that’s a wonderful thing!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Crypto Mind Benders

Crypto Mind Benders – Famous Quotations
The Critical Thinking Company

Age: Grades 3 – 12+
Cost:  $10.99

The Critical Thinking Company has been a staple go-to for me since I started homeschooling.  Being a lover of logic, their books for promoting critical thinking are a personal favorite.
My younger son sometimes struggles with slowing down to think through a process before jumping in.  We’ve been working on computer programming this term, and he loves it.  The one thing that frustrates him is when he gets ahead of himself and the program won’t do what he wants it to do.  He needs to understand that mapping out the process before programming is critical.

In fact, this applies to many things in life.  Writing, for instance, requires a good outline if you are going to complete a well-developed, cohesive piece.  I tell my students online and in the co-op this all of the time, but they want to just jump in without planning.  Those that embrace planning become much better writers.
Crypto Mind Benders teaches the student to discover a pattern in order to get to a solution.  While the focus is math, the understanding gained helps all core subjects.  At first, my son was resistant.  He didn't want one more thing to do during the day.  After getting him to do a few pages, he now asks when he gets to do the workbook. 

Here’s an example from the website:

Looking at the first two steps at the top we get:  I < E and R.
Looking at the next step we get:  S < I < E and R

Looking at the final step we get:  S < I < R < E

The student then fills out the chart putting a plus in the box for the correct order based on the equation he developed.  Minuses are placed in the other boxes.  (This can also be done as the equation is being developed.)

Now the student can determine the letter that corresponds to the number and place it in the margin.  (See above.)

When all of the equations on the page are done, the student will then solve a cryptogram that is a famous quote.  They also have one for jokes, which I know my son would enjoy!

This books has been a lot of fun for us!  It’s helped my son see that he must carefully consider all the variables before he can get to an answer.  He likes it because it’s a puzzle to be solved with a quote as a treat at the end.  I like it because it is building his critical thinking skills that will help him in all his subjects including math, writing and computers.
To see other reviews of Critical Thinking Company products by the TOS Crew – click here.

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Break - Do you do it?

I tend to be a head’s down, do it until it’s done kind of person.  That means that we rarely take breaks during the school year.  My boys complain because the school systems seems to have a break or two each and every month.  We do take a week at Thanksgiving and two at Christmas.

It’s not that I don’t like a break – but we are in a demanding co-op that doesn’t take “teacher work days”, so taking a break simply means doubling up on stuff the next day.  That’s No Fun!

We are finally done with co-op.  We love it, but now is the time to change tempo a bit and relax just a tad.  We’ll be going full steam until June and then slow down to a pace of just finishing up any work that needs to be finished after that. 
Full steam means incorporating field trips now, which is such fun!  I miss fieldtrips that we took when they were younger.

This week is “Spring Break”.  We’ll be doing our mandatory testing Wed-Fri, but all subjects are on hold for the week.  I have to admit – taking time off is a good thing. 
Do you take a spring break?  Do you take breaks during the school year as well?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Persistance and Hard Work Paying Off

Like most parents, I always encourage my children to give their best.  “Persistence and hard work pay off” is one of our mantras.  Small successes can lead to bigger successes.  As Master Singh, our TKD leader, tells us - now that you’ve persisted, you need to taste a win in order to feel the fruits of your labor.  (He says it more eloquently that that, though. )

My son and I have been practicing with the demo team at our dojang since December.  This was a new team assembled of various belts.  Some had been on the demo team before, but many of us had not.  All-in-all we ended up with 29 people. 
The big tournament of the year is held in Raleigh.  That’s been our focus.

Starting the Performance
This year – the team showed up, did their best, and ended up taking 2nd place!   I’m so proud of everyone’s amazing efforts.

Master Singh was right – we were all to the point where we just wanted it to be over.  Lots of practice, lots of stress, and no chance to taste success, yet.  However, winning second made everyone light up.  Hard work paying off! 

Getting the trophy
I’m proud of our team and elated that everyone was able to enjoy recognition for all those hours and hours of practice and hard work.  Who knows – next year, if we keep it up, we may walk out in 1st!

It feels good to watch your children taste success, doesn't it!  How do you teach your children about persistance?  Is losing just as important a lesson as winning?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review - Christian Kids Explore Chemistry

Christian Kids Explore Chemistry
Bright Ideas Press

Price:  $39.95 Text with CD
Age:  Grades 4th to 8th

We are science buffs.  With our co-op season coming to an end, I am always looking for ways to supplement our core subjects until the end of the school year.  B-Man is in 9th grade this year and finished up Biology.  Capone is in 7th and finished General Science. 
I love Bright Ideas Press!  I’ve used several of their products over the years and really enjoy the thought and organization that goes into their curriculum. 

The age range for this Christian Kids Explore Chemistry is 4th to 8th grade.  I knew it would too easy for B-Man, but thought Capone might enjoy it.  Since B-Man is doing chemistry next year – I figured some of the content would be a good precursor for him. 
After spending time with the text, I would have to say that it fits better on the younger end of the spectrum.  Or, would be a good resource for those on the older end who are not science oriented.  The content is strong, but the experiments and work are fairly simple.  I do love the vocabulary!

As stated before, what appeals to me most about Bright Ideas is their organization.  They have mastered the use of Adobe Acrobat as a vessel for providing a cohesive, easy to use platform for using their curriculum.  The Resource CD provides the user with lesson plans, supply lists, printables from the book, and a study guide for the reading book used in the later chapters.

The lesson plans provide clear, daily steps for teaching your student using Christian Kids Explore Chemistry.   You can see how meticulous each plan is showing the parent what to cover, what resources to use, and where answers can be found.  You’ll also note that additional resource suggestions have been provided to make the experience richer.  These resources would be an excellent addition if you are wanting to use this program with older students and seek to enhance the depth of their learning!

The Student Activity Book on the CD includes all of the Review It!, Activity Charts, and Think About It.  These are components included in the lessons. Not all lessons contain all three components, however.
Review It! allows the student to review the chapter by responding to fill-in-the-blank questions.  I like the fill-in format as it requires the student to demonstrate knowledge or seek out the correct answers.

Activity Charts coincide with the activity being completed for that Lesson.  What I do like about the activities is that they can easily be completed with items you have around the house.  You can see the materials listed by unit here.  Emphasis is placed on observation, which I feel is a strong technique for students to learn.  In some cases, because the activities focus on using easily accessible items, the activities seemed a little too rudimentary for upper middle school students.  I would have liked to see some additional emphasis on the scientific method as well.  However, younger students would be able to complete these experiments with adult supervision and gain basic understanding of the concepts being presented.

The Think About It section asks questions to engage the student in thinking about what happened when they completed the activity.  Engaging students in critical thinking is excellent!  So many students want to simply look up the answer without having to really consider why something occurs and how it applies to the world around them.

A Unit is comprised of five or more lessons.  You can see the Table of Contents here.  At the end of each Unit, the student is asked to Show What You Know.  Accumulative quizzes are a good way to refresh the students memory about all concepts covered and to encourage the student to review any ideas that are still unclear.  I like this idea; however, I would have preferred that these also be fill-in-the-blank as the multiple choice format doesn’t force the student to think critically as much as it does allows them to pick the best answer.  This is just a personal preference, however.

I mentioned earlier that each section includes vocabulary.  In the sciences, and especially with younger children, understanding difficult vocabulary is critical to understanding the concepts being covered.  Having students keep vocabulary cards and later cards for each of the elements is a great hand's-on way to involve them in the text and expand their understanding of scientific terms.

Finally, A Piece of the Mountain by Janice McPherson is incorporated into weeks 26 and 27.  I LOVE literature, as you know.  Additionally, using historical literature to teach concepts is a great way for students to understand the lives of the people they learn about - in this case, Pascal.  The accompanying study guide is very thorough.  I haven't had the chance to do with my kids, but the idea is excellent! 
I wish I had known about the Christian Kids Explore series when my boys were younger.  These books are great for upper elementary and lower middle school.  They provide strong content, abstract concepts and application all on a level that kids can understand.  To see more examples of the text – click here.  
To see reviews from other TOS Homeschool Crew members for this and the other Christian Kids Explore Science texts – click here.

Disclaimer:  I received this resource free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sensa Update #2 - Sick + Holiday = Off the Wagon

I’m pretty sure the sore throat had nothing to do with Sensa.  I did spend the week up to Easter with a cold, however.  No fun. Being sick really kills my dieting motivation. 

Easter was a bust.  NO sprinkling and lots of eating.  It happens.  I’m back on the wagon and will begin sprinkling again.  Doh!
The good thing is there is a friend at TKD that has been losing weight and is doing great!  She’s inspired me!

How do you fight your cravings?  I just LOVE food.  I love healthy food, and I love unhealthy food.  The problem is that unhealthy smells SO SO SO good.  It’s hard to pass up when it’s right there in front of you.
Moderation is also an issue for me if something tastes really good.  Do you have that problem?  What is the best way to be moderate if you are going to splurge when there’s nothing stopping you but sheer will?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I'm an American Mutt - What's My Culture?

My middle son and I were talking the other day about who we are.  I know – this could go in many directions.  However, the conversation was spawned by the realization that we are blessed to participate in a very culturally rich community through taekwondo.  The demo team that we participate on alone represents over nine different cultures – Puerto Rican, Hispanic, Dominican, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Greek, English, African-American, and well…  Mutt.

Getting to be around people who are immersed in their culture be it spiritually, linguistically, or even racially forces us to realize our own lack of identity. 
The news is rife with us/them stories of the white American versus the immigrant, versus the people of color, versus non-Christians.  Yet, who are we?  Who am I?

If I look at my own background, I am 12.5% American Indian - and that's divided between two tribes (long story why I know that so precisely), I’m French (my grandmother is a LeBaron), I’m UK (English, Scottish, Wales) on my grandfather’s side with a bit of Russian thrown in for good measure.  I never knew my mother’s father, so – who knows?  Hence, mutt…  Nothing to really grasp onto there and call it an identity.  My kids are even more diluted since they are only half of what I am plus whatever mix my husband is.

I have always found it sad that “Americans” today think they corner the market on this part of the continent, when, in reality, besides those full-blooded American Indians, we’re all just immigrants.  Some of us just happened to land here sooner than others.

My sons see it. They wonder who we are and what makes us special. It's an interesting question to address with teens. They see their friends speaking other languages, embracing different customs and traveling the world to see family and friends. What is their place in this global world?

I love culture.  There’s so much to learn from experiencing and understanding the wide-variety of people around us.   I think that will be next year’s homeschool mission – to experience and understand from a more global perspective.

Do you identify with a particular culture or are you a fellow mutt?  In what ways do you keep your culture strong?  If you’re in the U.S., how do you enjoy the Melting Pot that is the U.S. while keeping your cultural identity?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Review - Write with WORLD

Web Site:

Age:  Middle School

Cost: $95 - Yr 1 or 2 Teacher/Student Text and Online Access, $165 - Yrs 1 & 2

I’m the type of person that gets excited about curriculum.  In fact, there’s nothing like snuggling up with a good curriculum catalog and a hot chai tea to make my evening.  There’s just something about all the options out there for education!  And, as a homeschooling mom, I get the privilege of choosing which options my boys will learn from.  It’s a haughty task, but one I truly relish.
That being said, one thing that rarely excites me are writing curriculum.  I’ve been teaching English and primarily writing for almost a decade now, and very rarely is there a text out there that really meets the needs of students.  Having taught at the college level for most of this time, I’ve seen what happens when students are not taught how to write well.  They are truly unable to adequately communicate their thoughts and beliefs in written form.  This is a life skill that CANNOT be overlooked.

So, how do we, as homeschooling parents, ensure our children get that necessary skill?
That’s where this review comes in.  I’m truly excited to have the opportunity to review Write with WORLD because I see those fundamentals being taught at a level that middle school students can really grasp. 

According to the website, this new curriculum was written because of the following:
  • Persistent poor writing skills among those entering college
  • Other writing courses are often focused on mechanics and remediation
  • Christians need to be heard in this era of conflicting worldviews
  • Profusion of new media in which anyone can be a content creator; Christians should create quality content
  • Today’s sophisticated media and messages demand that students learn to be discerning media consumers
My heart actually fluttered as I thumbed through this text for the first time.  Write with WORLD is a collaborative effort.  Write with WORLD has assembled the expertise and real-world practice of professors, journalists and editors to produce young writers who love writing and can effectively share ideas, beliefs, and their worldview.”  See the list of authors here.

Write with WORLD approaches writing using real-world examples.  Why is this important?  Many of us have children who love to write creatively.  They may not all do it well, but it’s an easy genre because it allows them to just make stuff up and put it on paper.  However, when they get to college, writing focuses on what you are learning and the ability to articulate that well.  Taking real-world examples, like advertisements, and having the student assess and articulate what is happening develops those necessary college-level writing skills. 
Now, that is not to say that Narrative, or story writing, is excluded.  In fact, the last part of the text is devoted to developing strong narrative.  However, the skills they have learned are developed using real-world example allowing them to incorporate writing skills into their imaginary stories.

Additionally, our children’s writing is more visible than ever.  With social media and the Internet, writing has become a day-to-day activity – it’s the way people engage.  How a student presents him/herself online impacts their image.  Understanding this and doing it well can also have long-term implications.  I’m excited to see Write with WORLD acknowledge and address this!
The approach is fantastic.  Written specifically to the student in language he/she can easily follow and understand, each lesson has several “Capsules” that engage the student in evaluation, assessment of writing, vocabulary and mechanics.  The approach takes the student through the process of learning strong sentence construction, then paragraph and finally essay.  This is then reiterated and finally used to write an autobiography and a narrative. 

You can view the Table of Contents for both years - here, and a sample lesson to see just what I'm so excited about - here
The focus for students will be their writer's journal.  Here they will reflect on each lesson using prompts given in the text.  Additionally, they will be charged with maintaining a vocabulary list and completeing grammar exercises that coincide with what they are learning. 
You can pre-order Write with WORLD now.  It will be available this summer.  Beginning in September, the online component will go live.  At that time, students and parents will have access to "updated examples, writing prompts, published student work, and helpful teacher forum."
I wish I could find the words in a short review to really sing the praises of the approach they take to writing.  This is more than just a process; it’s an application of methods that really engage your child in understanding what good writing is and how to become a strong writer.
To see additional reviews by the TOS Homeschool Crew – click Here.

Disclaimer: I received this curriculum free as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Fever - Spring Break?

One expects students to get spring fever, but parents?  I don't know about you, but right now the beautiful weather keeps saying – take some time off! 

My boys are in a tough situation right now.  We are part of a wonderful co-op that has two more weeks to go before we let out for the year.  This week the big school district right next to us is on spring break meaning many of their friends and many at TKD have the week off.  Next week, the school district we are in has the week off.

So, while everyone else is playing, we are still hard at work.  Talk about amplifying spring fever!

I can’t believe we almost to the end of another year.  Time passes by so quickly.  While I don’t want to rush the end, we are ready for a break.  Two more weeks, then will go to Atlanta or something and enjoy a few days of R & R before finishing out another year strong.
Do you take a spring break with your family?  If so, what are you doing this year?  Relaxing, traveling? 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Prayers for Grandma Today

Today would have been my grandparent's 78th Anniversary!

Grandpa went to be with the Lord just before Christmas.
Please pray for Grandma as she goes through this day alone.

April iPad Mania Giveaway - Win an iPad or a Kindle Fire!

Bay Area Mommy has teamed up with some awesome bloggers to bring you this amazing chance to win the a new Apple iPad or a Kindle Fire!

Grand Prize: The New iPad (or $550 cash)
Second Prize: Kindle Fire (or $200 cash)

Entries will be accepted from April 1 at 12:01am EST until April 21 at 11:59pm EST. There are no mandatory entries but there are lots of ways to gain more entries to to the giveaway. The more tasks you complete, the more chances of winning!

Open worldwide. Must be at least 18 years old to be eligible for the prize. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter, Apple or Amazon. Winners will be drawn on April 22 and will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email. Kindly include to your email's whitelist to make sure that in case you are picked as the winner, the notification email would not go to your Spam folder.

I hope you win!  Actually, I hope I win too!  lol  Good luck!