Friday, December 22, 2017

Magic Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc. REVIEW

I am so excited to have the chance to work with The Pencil Grip, Inc. again! Last time I was able to review their excellent Thin Stix. They have since become an art staple in our house. It was a no brainier to try their new markers, Magic Stix.

I was most impressed by their claim that you can leave the cap off of these for seven days before these dry out. I feel like cap loss is pretty much inevitable in my house, so we will be testing that claim someday I'm sure. These marker are completely odorless, totally washable and perfect for a variety of projects.

My kids used them to make special Christmas presents. They made bookmarks for our pastor, friends and grandparents. I laminated the bookmarks when they finished and the colors are still super vibrant. The sweet pictures they drew really pop.

I even joined in the fun and colored! I am picky about the markers I use and I loved these. They aren't too dry, you don't feel like they scrape along the paper. They are wet, but not so wet that the leave holes in the paper after a few passes. You can build up the color and they even blend a bit. I really like the sturdy plastic case that they come in. It is not a throw away case, but really does help keep them organized.

Having quality art supplies in the house seems to boost creativity almost instantly. When the products work like they should and are a delight to use my kids keep coming back to them. We might need to upgrade from the 12 pack to 24 pack soon.

If your family could use a little creative fun, give these markers a try!

 Thanks to The Pencil Grip, Inc. for providing these in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Strictly Briks

My son is a lego building fanatic. Since he was old enough to snap those little pieces together, he has been unstoppable. Strictly Briks offers hundreds of unique building materials that you simply cannot find elsewhere.
Having trouble finding baseplates? No problem, they carry every color and shape and size you can imagine- they even have stackable plates! They have silicone briks that bend and flex, Creatorz briks, that let you snap together on any side. Basically, they carry anything you might need to jump start your creativity and imagination. Instead of just providing what you need to make a specific set, Strictly Briks provides the pieces to make anything you can dream up. 

We recently got to try some of the pieces out thanks to Tryazon. One of the highlights was this Brik Buster game. It was a blast and had the kids laughing hysterically. Think Jenga with legos. First the kids build the tower, then each person knocks out a brick. The goal is to keep the tower standing. I think half the fun for the kids though, was watching it fall.

If you have a lego lover in your family, I recommend checking out Strictly Briks!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Peaceable Kingdom Games

This weekend we had a really fun time trying out Peaceable Kingdoms games, thanks to Tryazon. Have you heard of cooperative games?  Cooperative games focus on bringing kids together to solve or complete a common goal. They encourage teamwork and problem solving. We love games in our house. We tend to be a competitive family, which is fun-- until it's not. These Peaceable Kingdom games are such a great change of pace!
My favorite game of the three we tried was Sunny and Stormy Day. This game and book encourages families to share how they are feeling. The book follows Max as he has good and bad parts of his day. In the end it shows families how they can start a tradition of sharing their emotions with the heart bag. Inside the heart bag are three tokens, sunny- to share something good in your day, stormy- to share something that made you sad and rainbow- to share something you are looking forward to. The book says "Identifying, naming and talking about feelings builds emotional intelligence. The Sunny-Stormy sharing activity helps kids learn empathy, compassion, resilience and courage." 

After you read the book, there is a fun game for the kids to play. There are three ways to play the game, each with its own level of difficulty. The first way to play is a face-up matching game. This would be perfect for younger kids, a great fit for 3 year-olds! The next way is a face-down matching game. My four-year old loves playing this with her brother. The third level uses the same tiles, but has four moon tiles in the mix. If you reveal a moon tile you must put one piece of the puzzle together. The goal is to find all the matches before the puzzle gets put together. Again, because this is a cooperative game, they are working together towards the same goal. I love that younger siblings can be involved and play the easier versions with older kids. At the same time, there is a genuine challenge in the harder games that makes older kids think and work together.

I think this would be an awesome gift for any family with young kids. It's not just a game, but a launching point for family traditions. This is a game that works with a variety of ages and skill levels. All the pieces are well made, sturdy material. They are not flimsy cards, but made to be played with. The book has a soft cover that might not hold up well with frequent reading, but the colors are bright and bold and the illustrations are fun.

 The other two games that we enjoyed were Hoot Owl Hoot! and Race to the Treasure! The owl game has the kids working together to get back to the nest before the sun comes up. I enjoyed making strategies with the kids to get the owls back. You can change up the difficulty by adding more owls to get back to the nest. As the game gets harder you really do need to work together to get all the owls back. This is an engaging game for many ages!

Race to the Treasure is the final game we tested. This game is intended for ages 5+, but with a little guidance my younger child caught on too. In this game kids are working as a team to beat the ogre to the treasure. They create a path from the start to the finish. You must pick up three keys along the way.
 I love hearing kids work out which way the path should go to pick up the keys and make it to the treasure! My older child liked this game the best and it definitely resonated with his mathematical mind. 

All three games are excellent quality, with clear, easy to understand instructions. I was really impressed with the reasonable prices for the games. I am sure I will be grabbing a few more of these games for other families on my Christmas list! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks - My First Letters *REVIEW*

Channie's My First Letter for Pre-K - 1st

My daughter began preschool a few weeks ago, and she takes it very seriously. she loves sitting down and working on her letters and numbers. I knew these workbooks from Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks, would be great. The My First Letters book has been wonderful practice for her.

The book goes through the alphabet, A to Z. Each letter has three pages of work. One page for tracing the capital, one for tracing lowercase and the third is a practice for both capital and lowercase. The first two pages have a picture to color, A is apple, B is boat and so forth. There is an instructional example at the start of the page showing how to form the letter. At the very end of the book there is practice for numbers 1-9 as well. There are 80 pages in entirety.

I appreciated that the spaces for tracing and writing were very generous and wide. The large areas to write make it easy for her to see what she is doing. She also really enjoyed the coloring aspect and had fun putting her own flair on each picture. In the photo above, she is coloring a worm in the apple. I thought it was also helpful that the same picture is used for both the upper and lowercase. It just helps solidify that even though they look different, they are the same letter. The paper is sturdy, the lines easily seen and instructions clear.

This is a pretty basic workbook, but sometimes that's really just what you need. It is straight forward, effective practice that helps kids neatly write their letters. When she gets a little older, Channie's also makes a cursive book, some other handwriting books and even a math book.

To find out how other families feel about this workbook or other products from Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks - click the banner below.

Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks {Reviews}

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Around our House Week 35

The fireplace is going, the leaves are in the lawn, it is definitely feeling like fall!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls from WorthyKids/Ideals - REVIEW

Spending time reading together is such a treat for our family. We love discovering new books and recently I read them The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls  by M.J Thomas from WorthyKids/Ideals. Have your children ever wondered what it would be like to be at creation, or what the times of Noah were like? These books follow two kids as they travel back to Bible times and discover those things for themselves.

In the first book we are introduced to our main characters, Peter and Mary. These siblings have come to stay with their Great-Uncle Solomon for a month. 9 year-old Peter is sure that nothing but boredom is in store for them. A month without television, fun or friends.

They soon find that their uncle's home offers some pretty interesting mysteries. Solomon is positive that he has discovered evidence that will prove that the Bible is true. He has uncovered sealed scrolls and a secret legend,

"The scrolls contain the truth you seek. Break the Seal. Unlock the scroll. And you will see the past unfold. Amazing adventures are in store for those who follow the lions roar!"

Unfortunately, Solomon cannot open the scrolls, only the chosen one can. Peter and Mary are very intrigued by this mystery. One night, they are awoken by a lion's roar and find themselves and their dog, opening a scroll.

They are transported back to the very beginning of creation. Peter and Mary float in a black, formless void. It isn't long before they hear a voice command light into darkness. The next day the voice separates the sky and water. Peter and Mary find themselves swimming for their lives, but are saved by the angel Michael. Michael tell them that they must follow three rules while they are there, 1. They must solve the secret of the scroll in seven days or be stuck there, 2. They cannot tell anyone they are from the future, 3. They cannot change the past.

They have little time to worry about translating the scroll, because God commands the earth to have dry ground. The children realize how hungry they are, luckily God commands the earth to produce vegetation next. Before long he sets the sun and stars in the sky as well. He makes the animals and eventually Adam and Eve themselves. All the while, Peter and Mary swim with dolphins, ride rhinos and try to decipher the scroll. They even encounter Satan himself, who comes to tell them lies. Finally, on the last day they solve the scroll, "God created everything!" and they go home. There is more adventure in store for them though, they have only opened the first scroll.

In the next book Peter and Mary find themselves going back to the times of Noah. They quickly discover that this is not a friendly land, when a mean boy and wolf confront them. In fact, it seems everywhere they look, people are unkind and unhappy. Over all the city there is a Dark Ruler who is in control.

Luckily, Michael and God come to their aid. Michael reminds them of the rules and tells them to solve the scroll. They follow some animal footprints to the ark and meet the first kind people, Noah's family. Noah and his whole family are working to put the final touches on the ark before the rains come. Peter and Mary get to help with chores and planning where the animals should go. Even while exploring the ark, they are trying to solve the scroll so they can go home.

Just before the rains hit, they realize they need a hinge for the boat. Peter and Mary head to town to buy one. After purchasing the hinge, they find themselves face to face with the Dark Ruler. He turns out to be Satan himself, still trying to ruin God's plan. Satan locks them in a dungeon and goes to tell his lies to Noah's family. Michael saves the kids and they all head back to the ark.

As the rains begin to fall, they thwart Satan's plans and solve the scroll. Soaking wet, the kids return to Great-Uncle Solomon's library and read in the Bible what happens to Noah.

I read these books to my almost 7 and 5 year-old. I first spent some time explaining that these are fiction and just a fun way to use our imagination to think about what the real-life Bible times were like. We are actually reading through creation right now, and the last thing I wanted was for them to get confused about what was true and what was fictional.  Even though the books don't necessarily have anything unbiblical in them, they are very much fantasy. I thought the second book took more liberty with the story of Noah, making the Dark Ruler (Satan) someone who lives in pyramid and rules the town. We talked about how while Satan probably didn't wear a black cloak and live in a pyramid, the Bible does talk about him as the ruler of the world.

My kids thought the books were interesting and pretty fun. It sparked a lot of good conversation about what they thought those times were like. We had a really great talk about a part of the second book, where the characters ask Michael why God isn't helping them, and Michael explains how he actually had been, they just hadn't noticed. It was a great picture of how we sometimes don't see the hand of God in a situation, but he has it under control. I also really liked how many of the questions Peter and Mary asked different characters, were questions I knew my kids were wondering. My kids favorite character was the dog! Peter and Mary have a dog who is also a part of the story, and my kids loved him.

I think these books are a fun way for parents to engage with their children in some Biblical conversation. Older children can read them independently, but I really enjoyed reading them as a family. These are a great way to go on an adventure together, solidify their Bible knowledge and have some quality family time.

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The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. {WorthyKids/Ideals Reviews}

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Heirloom Audio Productions - Captain Bayley's Heir - REVIEW!

Heirloom Audio Productions

Our family has become obsessed with audio books this year. In the car, in the evenings, when my kids ask to watch a show, it's audio book time. When we discovered Heirloom Audio Productions, it was love at first listen. This is audio theater! This is not a one-dimensional audio experience, these stories come alive. Listening to Captain Bayley's Heir has been such a treat.

Our story starts in England, where we meet 18 year-old Frank. Frank lives with his uncle Captain Bayley, and cousin (though not actual relative) Alice. Frank has another cousin Fred, and the two of them, along with Alice make the acquaintance of a crippled boy named Harry. Frank rescues Harry's dog from drowning in ice and they become friends. We also learn that Captain Bayley has a missing daughter with whom he has lost touch.

We quickly learn that Frank is kind, brave and considerate of others. He is also a young man who loves adventure and finds himself in trouble for fighting. Through some bad circumstances, Frank is accused of much worse, theft and bribery. Facing expulsion from school he decides to head for America.

Adventure seems to follow Frank, and in America his exciting story unfolds. He is in a massive storm on the Mississippi, joins a wagon train, fights Indians and so much more. Frank does eventually reach California to partake in the gold rush, and has a great deal of luck! Frank is even reunited with the family he left behind in England. Captain Bayley's heir is discovered and all the missing pieces of the story come together. All through the story God's grace upon Frank is evident to him and those around him. It really is an awesome story filled with hope and interwoven with Biblical teaching. And, of course, lots and lots of adventure.
I listened to this with my almost 7 and 5 year-old. They were definitely on the younger side for this story. It really helped having the enhanced audio experience. When they are on a ship, it sounds like a ship. You hear chains rattling and waves lapping, sails whipping and sailors chatting. All of this helped them immensely. They could visualize and follow along with the story much easier. It really feels like you are at a play, they just do a tremendous job.

There is also a study guide that goes with the book, which you can access online at Live Adventure Club. The guide is intended to spark good conversation about the story. For younger children it helps clarify the events and their significance. For older children it can be used as  writing assignments.
Each section is comprised of three parts- Listening Well, Thinking Further and Defining Words. Listening Well has a series of questions about that section of the story. Some of the questions are really easy while others take a moment to remember. Thinking Further requires the child to draw some conclusions and think about characters intentions and feelings. The final section is Defining Words, which gives your kids a chance to learn some of the words they may not know in the story. This is a great way to enhance their vocabulary. This guide is a great way to incorporate these stories into school time. Even if you listen to this in the car or on the go, you can still ask a few of these questions. It is a really helpful way to get educational value out of the story.

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Captain Bayley's Heir {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Around Our House Week 34

We took a little break from school last week as the boys went hunting. It was so nice to have some time with my little ladies! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Around Our House Week 33

We are really starting to get the swing of back to school. I started a lot of new to me curriculum this year, and it has been a learning curve. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Around our House Week 32

We are officially back to school and finding out groove! It has been a good week but definitely had some challenges. I knew the kids would be coming down from summer mode, but I didn't realize how much I would be too! Working on getting those habits back.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Around Our House 31

We watched the eclipse this morning! The fog was so heavy we could barely make out the sun through the clouds. It was still fun to sit in the lawn with the kids and my morning coffee though.

I think next week we will start school- but this week we are squeezing every last drop out of summer!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Around Our House

This busy little girl loves Beatrix Potter!

I am starting to get a the new school year planned. It just about that time. We just spent a relaxing weekend camping with out church family.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

I have almost all of Sally Clarkson's books over the years. Her book Different, is well, a little different for her. This book is co-authored with her son, Nathan Clarkson. Nathan struggles with anxiety, OCD and learning issues. This book focuses on both of their experiences, as mother and son, navigating those tough waters.

Sally encourages us to see our children as God made them, gifts! She explores how trying to "fix" or mold your different child into something they are not, simply doesn't help. You don't need to have a child with mental illness to gain insight from this book. There is a ton of great wisdom for any weary mom. Sally has a way of speaking to the heart and adding Nathan's perspective is so insightful. Full of practice advice as well as inspiration for your parenting journey, Different is a book worth reading.

I received a copy for free in exchange for review from Tyndale Publishing 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bible Sleuth- New Testament Review

The days have been so hot we have been spending more afternoons inside looking through books. This fun kids book, Bible Sleuth, Illustrated by Jose Perez Montero, keeps my kids attention. Bible Sleuth is a Bible inspired "Where's Waldo" like challenge.

Through 14 challenging, full spread pages, kids will have to search for various figures. It's just as fun to see the various scenes and details hidden on the page as it is to find the characters! I love that each page has a passage of scripture that corresponds to the picture. This book has a nice hard cover and large pages. This is a fun and interesting book that kids 4-7 and even older could enjoy!

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Around Our House Week 29

It is so HOT here! We are just trying to keep cool and survive the week. It's getting close to a new school year and I'm starting all the scheduling fun!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Around Our House Week 27

Everyone around our house is finally better, summer sickness is the worst. I have been planning and ordering all our materials for next years school! So exciting!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Around Our House Week 26

My little wild man in the grapes. He was really feeling sick yesterday and spent the day resting. It was so unusual because he spends a majority of his time outside. I usually only see him when he gets tired of eating wild plums and wants food!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Around Our House Week 25

It's been a rough week around our house. We have all been sick. I am looking forward to all of us being well and enjoying some sunshine together.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Around Our House Week 24

Last weekend we had a blast exploring the beach for father's day! The weather was fantastic with no wind. The kids waded in the ocean and played in the sand. It was exactly what we needed!

Harvest by Stefanie Bittner & Althea Harampolis

Summer is finally here on the Oregon Coast. My garden is drying out, my plants are coming back to life in earnest. We had a long, wet winter. Honestly, it's hard for me to feel inspired to plan a garden when everything is muddy and soaked outside. On stormy days, this wonderful book by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis, was a great motivator.

Harvest is full of practical, but unexpected ways to use different plants from the garden. Featuring 47 different plants from early, mid and late season in the garden. The projects and recipes really are unique and creative. I found myself learning new uses for plants I already grow and adding a few new plants to my wish-list. I never would have thought of pickling rhubarb or turning apricots into a facial mask.

The instructions for each project are simple and easy to follow. The ingredients needed are clearly listed and each step thoroughly explained. I made the calendula-infused oil and rosewater facial toner, both with great results. I also really appreciated the list of alternative ingredients at the back of the book. The instructions in the Terms and Technique page were helpful as well.

I know sometimes it can be overwhelming when you start actually harvesting from the garden. In late August it feels like I have an abundance of everything and am running our of ides for how to use it. This book provides ample inspiration and is a delight to look at and read. Harvest helps new and long time gardeners find new uses for their harvest.