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This blog is currently undergoing some updates. Please pardon me as I do some long overdue housekeeping!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Ever-Durable Corelle

I love my Corelle many plates can stand up to being dropped on the floor, smacked against a stainless steel sink, or even thrown across the room (by little hands, not mine) for almost 10 years? I think we've only ever had one shatter in all that time. And guess what? CSN Stores carries Corelle! I've got a product review coming up from them, maybe I'll add something to my set. Or maybe I'll try out this yogurt maker:

Or something totally different. What would you like to see me review?

Disclosure: I will be reviewing a product provided by CSN Stores in an upcoming post. I have received no other compensation.

Our Week in Review

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Day in Our Homeschool

Not Back to School Blog Hop

I could have given you a list of academics for a day...but that wouldn't really be the whole story, would it?

Please pardon any literary license I take here..I didn't take notes at the time and sometimes my memory is a little more (or less) vivid than actual events. Memory is funny that way. It's not really what happened at a particular moment in time or place, but part of the grand picture of who we are.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our day started at 10 am. That's about 1 hour after is was supposed to start, but definitely an improvement over the 1st day back to school.

Our day also started with a prayer. We all need our Lord's guidance, so we ask for it together.

As it's our first week back (we took the summer off this year...I'm never doing that again, but that's a topic for another post), we are working on a gentle transition back into the swing of things. Our days will be a bit less in intense than usual for the first week or so.

First, I worked with Mary on her math (RightStart B, Lesson 2), while Peter practiced his cutting with a Kumon workbook (I love these) and David worked on his first assignment from Ignite Your Writing (word replacement to use more interesting language...he had a ball with it). Emma busied herself by looking coy every time I took a pair of scissors, pencil or book away from her or scolded her.

Number of times I smirked and had to contain myself while trying to recite the rhymes from Mary's math lesson: 1

But only because my dear hubby had not left yet and reminded me of the importance of not undermining the curriculum by laughing at it, ahem. I'm so grown-up.

Hubby left to prepare for his first day of school the next day, so I had to be on my best behavior after that.

Number of times Mary declared, "I hate this math?": 1

David finished his writing assignment before we finished math, so I handed him his handwriting (Getty-Dubay, book E).

Number of groans: 1

We finished up and switched, Mary doing her handwriting (Getty-Dubay, book C: "I hate this handwriting, uhhg! I liked the A & B books better!"---today she was loving it: "I don't like writing really big, this is better than the old books"), and me doing math with David (RightStart Transitions, Lesson 2). Peter, believe it or not, was still cutting. And pasting.

And Emma was still not interested in blocks or dollies. Biting erasers off of pencils is much more fun.

Number of mouth sweeps performed so far: 0

But only because she had already spit the eraser out.

Mama: "Ok, everybody, let's take a break and have a snack."

Mary: "Mama, I wish I could have some hummus. Oh! I know! You could make some hummus."
After checking my pantry: "Sure, why not."

One can of drained garbanzos, 1/4 cup water, 2 T olive oil, 1/2 t granulated garlic and 1 T lemon juice (all whizzed together in the food processor for about a minute) later, we had not exactly hummus, but an excellent bean dip.

Mary: "Mama, this is the best hummus EVER!"

This from the girl who hates beans or legumes of any kind (I don't think she even likes peanuts). I think I'll try kidney beans with cumin and lime next.

They ate it all, every last smidge, with tortilla chips. Emma gave it a taste, but she really doesn't get dip yet.

So the kiddos took a short play break while Mama cleaned up the debris of living, learning and eating.

After the break it was on to New World Explorers (a Time Travelers unit study from Homeschool in the Woods). We had a somewhat lively discussion about how sailors didn't really think the world was flat and that they were going to sail off the edge into the mouths of sea monsters. (The flat earth myth is one flaw in the curriculum, but easy to work around and I'm using it as a teaching moment---how misconceptions are perpetuated over time...David is very passionate about it, which is a good thing). Peter started drawing ships and sea monsters. And more monsters. And wouldn't stop. He's filling a binder. Fast.

We reviewed the continents and oceans and also learned about some of the reasons explorers explored. We made our first mini books for the accompanying lapbook.

Time for lunch.

David: "But, I'm not hungry!"

Mama: "Well, it is 1 o'clock, if you don't eat now, you won't eat until dinner after soccer practice (7:30!)."

We have a rule in our house: if you skip a meal, no snacks til the next meal.

David: "All right! I'll have a snack. Hrmph!"

When did he turn 13?

After lunch, the little ones colored maps labeled with the continents and oceans. Mary read the labels to Peter. David identified the continents and oceans on a blank map and labeled them. Emma "colored" a map, one crayon in each hand. She also munched on a crayon.

Number of mouth sweeps so far: still 0

But only because the crayon was already reduced to smithereens. Nothing like having purple wax caught in your teeth to give you a gruesomely cute grin.

It was at about this time that Mary first asked me how long til soccer practice (3 hours).

Time to make the Spice Cookies (to go with the explorers exploring for a better spice/silk route).

Now, I was intent on everyone helping with this, and they all did mix, but David was more intent on teaching Peter how to draw faces.

"That's too round, it should be an oval. Like this." Erases Peter's circle and draws an upside down egg-shape on his paper.

"That's too BIG! You won't have room for the iris." Erases and redraws a pupil.

It's amazing how much alike Peter's and David's finished drawings were. {wink}

Restraining ourselves from "fixing it" is hard for us adults---imagine how hard it is for a 10-year-old. But I know that Peter benefits from the attention.

Mary: "How much longer til soccer? Should we start getting ready, now?"

Mama: "It's still a couple of hours, why don't you all go and read your books."

David and Mary scuttled off to do their independent reading. Peter continued on his mission to fill the binder, including notes for the inner pockets explaining that this book has sea monsters and monsters and pirate ships in it, but no dinos. Em, well Em tried to help by pulling DVDs and books off the shelves.

Mary: "Is it time, yet?"

Mama: "Not yet, but let's be sure we have all your gear together."

We got together shin guards, socks and cleats, and unwrapped the new soccer balls, one size 3 and one size 4.

Emma grabbed one of the balls, dropping it in front of her and kicking it across the room, squealing in delight. Everyone joined in. My kitchen is not made for this. Ack!

David: "Hey, why don't we go play soccer out back."

Mary and Peter: "Yeah!"

Mama, smiles: "Good idea!"

So, they grabbed their crocs and headed out back.

About 10 minutes later: "Is it time, yet?"

Mama: "Soon, go play."

Another 5 minutes.

"Is it time, yet?"

Mama sighs: "Ok, let's get your gear on."

I got David and Mary guarded, socked and cleated just as Daddy walked up the back walk. At this point Peter declared: "I'm going, too!"

Mama: "Um, sure, ok."

And I sent them all off with Daddy. Except the sleepy baby, who better to keep me company when I checked my email.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Review and GIVEAWAY: Tropical Traditions Moisturing Lotion CLOSED

If you are looking for a lighter version of TT's Moisturizing Cream I reviewed earlier, the lotion is a great, all natural alternative. (Read on to find out how you can win both!)

Tropical Traditions Moisturizing Lotion 100% Pure for Hand, Face, and Body
purified water, Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, organic jojoba, emulsifying wax (plant-based, no soy), grapefruit seed extract, and Organic Virgin Palm Oil.

The lotion has the same yummy looking buttery color and a slightly more subtle coconut smell. It rubbed into my face pretty easily, leaving a slight sheen which disappeared after several minutes. This would work great under a mineral makeup, especially if you have slightly dry, slightly mature skin (hmmm, how would I know that).

It comes in one of those bottles with the top you push down on one edge to open. A little messy to use...I would love to see this in a pump.

Buy It: Right now they are having a Buy One Get One Free Sale (expires Aug. 22)! You get two 8 oz. bottles for $21-22 (depending on the "scent").

Or buy the Moisturizing Lotion and the Cream together in a set for $20.78-23.33 (depending on the scent).

Win it!

Tropical Traditions has agreed to give one Moisturizing Skin Care package (including a 4 oz. unscented Moisturizing Cream and an 8 oz. unscented Moisturizing Lotion) to one of my readers!

Deadline: August 27, 2010 (midnight, EST)

Ok, here's what you need to do:

Mandatory to enter: Go visit Tropical Traditions and tell me about another product you'd like to try. (1 entry).

Note: If your profile is private or your email is not visible in it, you must leave your email in your comment to enter.

Optional additional entries:
Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for free product.

Happy Birthday to Homeschooling Hearts & Minds!

Would you believe that tomorrow will be the 2nd anniversary of my very first blog post?!

Next week, I'm celebrating with...

a week of curriculum giveaways!

After 2 years of curriculum reviews plus my own book addiction (I really need a 12-step program, really), our bookshelves are simply full to overflowing...I need to purge.

I've got some great things to giveaway. Some are gently used. But there's a brand new set of...oops, almost gave it away. Come see me on Monday!

Here's my button for the event, feel free to add it your sidebar (just link it to'll give you a headstart on entering the giveaways:

Review: Tropical Traditions Moisturizing Cream

Tropical Traditions has an all natural line of skin care products containing their fabulous coconut oil, including their 100% Pure Moisturizing Cream for Hand, Face, and Body. Natural skin care always gets my attention.

When your 4-year-old has a genetic skin disorder that affects over 50% of his body, you spend of lot of time applying skin care products to his skin. And wondering how healthy and safe those skin care products are. The skin is our largest organ and it absorbs enough harmful pollutants from our environment without us coating our bodies in things like petroleum (you know, Vaseline, Aquaphor, mineral oil).

But Peter's skin requires a heavy-duty moisturizer and keeping his skin constantly "creamed." Every cream we've had any success with (including the medicated ones compounded by a pharmacy) uses petroleum as a base. It has plenty of staying power...almost too much (it's impossible to totally wash out of clothes---I can't tell you the number of garments I've had ruined by hugging my little boy---busy prints are my friends). Finding a natural product that won't expose my child to harmful chemicals and will wash out of his clothes would be a dream come true, if it had enough staying power...can you imagine creaming up over half of a wiggly little boy every couple of hours...every day?

So, I was very eager to try Tropical Traditions Moisturizing Cream and see how it stacked up against less natural alternatives and other natural products I've tried.

Purified Water, organic Virgin Coconut Oil, plant based emulsifying wax, palm stearic, grapefruit seed extract, beeswax, organic Virgin Palm Oil.

The cream is very thick and about the consistency of softened butter. It feels like butter butter going on, too. A little dab will do ya, really. Get too much on and it won't soak into your skin. And it smells like coconuts! We received the unscented variety, which simply means that no essential oils have been added for scent.

TT's Moisturizing Cream rubs in easily, leaving a slight waxy sheen that disappears over time. In terms of staying power: it'll hold up to about 2 hand washings if I use it on my hands (and I'm not real thorough washing my hands). After applying it to Peter's forehead---it didn't last long. His forehead was as dry as it was with no product at all about an hour after applying the cream. Subsequent applications had the same effect. But Peter's a special case, his skin soaks up cream like a sponge.

At $12.99 for 4 oz., this wouldn't be a very economical choice for his skin. It would have to be reapplied constantly and a jar wouldn't last long. It is a nice hand cream, though, and he loves the smell. I can see using it just for his hands.

The cream does not make a lasting impact on the texture of the skin itself...once it rubs or washes off, there's no lasting benefit, even when used over time. I didn't expect any, though, this acts more as a barrier cream, trapping in moisture, rather than something that will sloth off dead skin (no fruit acids or other alpha hydroxies).

Buy it: 100% Pure Moisturizing Cream is available from Tropical Traditions (with or without essential oils) in a 4 oz jar for $12.99-14.50.

Stay tuned to find out how you could win some!

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for free product.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Beautiful Blogger Award

My good friend Sister Tipster over at Tellin' It has given me the Beautiful Blogger Award! I'm honored, thank you so much sweetie:-) Head on over there for some great money saving tips and insightful homeschool reviews.

Now I'm, ahem, supposed to tell you something about me. Hmmm...

7 things you might not want to know about me:
  1. I'm a major pack rat. OK, I'm getting better. But will someone please tell me what I'm supposed to do with that Memories book I've carted around for over half of my life. You know the one I'm talking's got colored tassels pictured on the cover and my dead pressed prom corsage glued into it and signatures from a bunch of people I couldn't bring myself to name except under hypnosis.
  2. I have a BA degree in English and Philosophy.
  3. My least favorite household chore is washing the dishes. No, it's cleaning the bathroom. No, it's picking up folding laundry. Ok, it's a toss-up.
  4. I can't drive a stick-shift.
  5. My favorite ice cream flavor is coffee, though I'd prefer it with hot fudge and pecans (but I could really go for Stone Creamery's Mudpie Mojo right now).
  6. 3 of my 4 kids were delivered by VBAC and 2 of them without pain meds of any kind...and if you think child-birth doesn't hurt...well, let's just say you'd be wrong.
  7. I've been known to cry during movies.
And now 7 bloggers I'd like to share with y'all (in no particular order):
  1. Confessions of a Redeemed Diva
  2. Linda's Lunacy
  3. Janette's Sage
  4. Hearthside Homeschool Reviews...and more!
  5. Blog, She Wrote
  6. Learning to Be Thrifty
  7. Farm Girl in My Heart

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Students 2010-2011

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Here's the can just tell they are going to be trouble, can't you?

David (age 10, grade 5)/ Emma (age 16 1/2 months)

David's special interests: engineering, architecture, computers and generally how stuff works. He's an avid reader, Lego builder, and Nerf Combatant.

Emma's nickname: "Squeaky."
She doesn't talk yet, but has no trouble getting what she wants
with clicks, whistles, squeaks and gestures.
Is she part dolphin?
And, if that fails, her amazing spaghetti arms come in handy.

Mary (age 6, 1st grade)

Mary's special interests: dance, music and reading.
Mary is most interested in proving that she can do anything her 10-year-old brother can do.
We love her single-mindedness highly motivated attitude.

Peter (almost 5, Kindergarten)

Peter loves loves loves to draw
and to start theological discussions while on the potty.
Keeping him engaged will be a challenge.

Good thing I have plenty of drawing and toilet paper.

It should be fun.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil (CLOSED)

An oil that's naturally solid at room temperature (well, ok, not when it's 100 degrees outside)? That's, right, coconut oil firms up at about 76 degrees F, making it a possible alternative to partially hydrogenated oils like shortening and margarine. It's also dairy-free, a good fit if you are on a CF diet or can't use butter.

And it smells and tastes like fresh coconuts, yum!

I've been reading a lot lately about different fats and oils and their relative healthiness. Our family stopped using margarine and canola oil a years ago...and I'm always looking for possible natural alternatives.

Tropical Traditions sent me a quart of their certified organic Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. You can read all about their wonderful oil here.

We've been having fun baking some of our favorite foods with coconut oil. It adds a little hint of flavor to chocolate chip cookies, a sweet complexity to whole-grain cornbread and even an interesting twist to pie crust...

Pie crust? Am I weird? Maybe, but the kiddos loved it when I made a Quiche Lorraine and used coconut oil in my pie dough instead of butter or shortening. The crust was tender, flakey, and tasty. A little less brown and crisp than usual, but my 6-year-old actually preferred it that way...and no trouble with burnt crust!

We haven't even tried any of the free recipes from Tropical Traditions, yet...but, I see someone has already posted a recipe for pie crust. (And I thought I was being so original {grin}.

I will share my Whole-Grain Cornbread invention (inspired by Betty Crocker's Cornbread recipe)---this is definitely not southern cornbread, but it's good for those of us with a sweet-tooth:

A note on the cornmeal: I use Brinser's Best Yellow Cornmeal, which is regional for us. It is roasted, so the color is a little less "bright yellow" and has a slight sweetness to it. It is not de-germinated.

1 cup milk
1/4 coconut oil (liquified)
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal (preferably not de-germinated, if you want whole grain)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur's White Whole Wheat)
1/4 cup sugar (you can use more or less if you like)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
a little solid coconut oil to grease the pan

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" round pan or 8" square pan with some solid coconut oil.
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Add milk and oil and beat until smooth. Add all the other ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon just until mixed.
  • Pour in the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it starts to brown and a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Serve right away with butter or jam.
Is your mouth watering yet?

While you can buy Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions (they even have a 100% money back guarantee on the 16 oz trial size!), one of my readers will win a free quart of coconut oil!

Deadline to enter: August 15, 2010 ( midnight EST)

This giveaway is open to anyone in the U.S. or Canada (note, Tropical Traditions is not responsible for customs or duties to Canada)!

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

Mandatory to enter: Leave a comment telling me about a favorite recipe you'd like to re-imagine using coconut oil. (1 entry)

Note: Please be sure to leave your email in your comment if it is not in your profile.

Optional additional entries:
Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for free product.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hip Homeschool Hop


Welcome, fellow Hip Homeschool Hoppers.

Thank you for visiting. Some recent posts you might enjoy:

This Year's Curriculum
Sibling Envy
The Science of Stuffed Animals

Do You See What I See?

Or hear what I hear?

Probably not.

When we studied the eye last year, we learned about all the parts of the eye and how they make it work. But, we also learned about how the optic nerve carries that raw information to the brain. It's the brain that tells us what we are seeing.

How do my experiences, prior knowledge, beliefs and feelings (or lack of any of the above) affect how I interpret the world around me?

Optical illusions work, not because the eye can be fooled, but because the brain can be fooled.

Think about color.

It's nearly impossible to share a color with someone without showing it to them. And how do we even know that they are "seeing" the same color we are, even if we call it by the same name?

The other day, the kiddos were painting some wooden snakes (the kind that slither when you flick your wrist), and Mary asked me to mix some "turquoise" paint. Turquoise. So, I took some blue, added a little yellow and some white and got what I thought was a pretty, dark turquoise color.

Mary: "That's not turquoise enough."
Mama: ?
Mary: "I wish we had that color." (points to the green painted head of David's snake).
Mama: "But that's GREEN." (note: our green paint had dried out, so David mixed just enough to use on the head of his snake.)
Mary: "Yes! That's the color!"
Mama: "Well, that's easy. I can mix that color." {grin}

I see a bright green, a little on the bluish side, she sees turquoise. Now I know how my hubby feels when I say the washcloth is "coral" when he insists it's red.

If I can't hope to even see what you are seeing, how can I expect to truly know what you are experiencing?

Each of us has a completely unique experience of life, and no one truly knows another's experience. Not even twins, raised in the same household. A thicker umbilical cord, having the first breath of air, having a strawberry birthmark over the eye...did any of these things make a difference to who these individuals are and how they perceive the world around them?

Compound that with the thousands of different possibilities in each day of our lives. God has truly created us as completely unique individuals---it is impossible for any 2 of us to be truly identical, even if we share the same chromosomes.

If I can't truly know the life experience of someone near and dear to me, how can I hope to know and understand the stranger walking down the street? Or sitting in the next pew?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Having a Hard Time Finalizing This Year's Curriculum?

Not Back to School Blog Hop

I'm raising my hand sheepishly, from behind a pile (ok, several piles) of books.

Yes, I am a curriculum junkie.

And I'm a little (ok, a lot) OCD when it comes to deciding what we will study each year.

But, I think we finally have it in hand. This is not so much a curriculum list, as a list of what we will be studying and some of the curriculum we will use for that. The blanks will be filled in with the library, field-trips and real life.

Here, in the state of Maryland, we are required to cover the following subjects (in no particular order): Math, Social Studies, English, Science, Health, PE, Art, and Music. While the law says that the areas covered should be comparable to the local schools, it does not dictate curriculum or particular topics of study. I will also note what we will be using for Computer/Typing, and Religion. And, of course, we will also be learning about life skills and chararcter, but these are simply things that we do:-).

We have 4 children. This year, David (age 10) is entering "5th grade." Mary (age 6) is entering "1st grade." Peter, who will be 5 by the end of September, will be entering "kindergarten." Emma will be following along for the ride. I use the quotes simply because the grade designations are for state monitoring purposes only. My kiddos' abilities vary widely from subject to subject. Part of the reason we homeschool is so that they can soar with their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

Family Studies

Social Studies:
  • History: Time Travelers New World Explorers and Colonial Life Studies from Homeschool in the Woods
  • Geography: We will be studying maps and basic world geography using primarily hands-on activities. We'll make salt maps, create our own globes and so on. We'll also be studying the 50 states plus Washington, DC through notebooking and library resources.
  • Anna Comstock's Big Handbook of Nature Study
  • Last year we did a very basic study of the human body. We will probably go a little more in-depth this year and also focus on exercise and making healthy food choices. We'll probably do some cooking.
Art (appreciation): We'll probably visit some museums but also learn about a couple of the Masters through library books and online resources.

Music (appreciation): Emphasis on listening to classical music. What we don't have, we will borrow from the library. We will also be using using resources from Practical Pages (she has art appreciation resources, too).

  • St. Ignatius Press' Faith and Life Series
  • Faith Folders on The Sacraments and The Rosary. Possibly The Holy Mass as well (it's new!).
  • The Baltimore Catechism
David (grade 5)

Math: RightStart Math C. David lacks a strong math foundation, so we are stepping back a bit, hoping to give him that.

Science/Social Studies (this is in addition to the above): I'm putting together a unit on Architecture (David asked to study this topic). It will include studies on structural engineering, the history of architecture and the artistic aspects of architecture. I hope to share the unit here.

  • Plenty of independent reading with an emphasis on the books written before he was born (possibly some Jules Verne? He is reading LoTR now).
  • Getty-Dubay Italic Book E
  • copywork
  • Either Ignite Your Writing or Write with the Best Vol. 1 or ? for writing.
PE: soccer and informal activities

Art: Artistic Pursuits gr 4-6, Book 1

Music: Music Ace Deluxe and harmonica

Computer: Snake Wrangling for Kids (teaches computer programming using Python).

Typing: Our goal is that he learn to touch type. We will use a typing manual (Keyboarding for Christian Schools) instead of software.

Mary (grade 1)
Math: RightStart B
  • plenty of independent reading. Mary is reading at about a 2nd-3rd grade level easily, but is currently working slowly through The Hobbit.
  • Gett-Dubay Italic Book C
  • copywork
  • All About Spelling Level 1
PE: soccer and possibly dance (we may wait and pick up dance in the winter or spring, depends on scheduling and how soccer goes).

Art: Art Adventures at Home, Level 1

Music: guitar, using Worship Guitar Class for Kids

Peter (kindergarten)
Peter will join in with us for the family activities, but the rest of his kindergarten curriculum will be pretty informal.

He will be doing Art Adventures with Mary. He may also join in with AAS. We will be focusing primarily on beginning reading, proper letter formation, beginning math concepts, etc. We will probably use the LeapPad a good bit and a number of online resources. Mostly he will be having fun doing stuff, because that's how little boys learn best.

Now, head over to Heart of the Matter to see everybody else's Fall Curriculum Choices.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Not Back-to-School Blog Hop

Not Back to School Blog Hop

It starts to tomorrow! (Yikes, is it that time again, already?) I'm busily working on my post for the first week (the topic is Curriculum), and am anxious to read about what everybody else is planning. Join us for some tips and encouragement to make this year a special success.

Check out the schedule: