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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Timberdoodle for Your Toddler, a review


Sometimes we spend so much time putting together our books and schedules for the school-aged kiddos that we forget about the little ones in our lives. Timberdoodle has put together an impressive core curriculum just for toddlers (ages 1-3), full of colorful hands-on doodads that will make them smile. And giggle. And say “Look, Mama!”

We received the PeekaBoo Animal Puzzles by Infantino for review, one of the many quality activities that Timberdoodle has hand-selected to engage your preschooler in early learning. Each puzzle encourages your little one to match the animal with its home and reveal a cute baby animal surprise.


The puzzles come in a sturdy bucket, easy for little ones to open.

And dump. :0)014

015These colorful, chunky pieces will stand up to a beating.

Or a chewing.027


Emma (age 2) just adores puzzles. Unfortunately, she tends to get hold of the 24-piece variety we have on our shelves.

Not exactly a confidence builder for a little one.

Each of these puzzles is only 2 pieces. They are perfect!


And each has a sweet surprise.031

She loves these!026

Look what I can do, Mama!


So what did we think?

The chunky, oversized pieces make these a great fit for little fingers. Fitting the pieces together and pulling the tabs encourages practice in manual dexterity. Matching the Mamas with their babies helps toddlers make connections.

I love the uniquely cut pieces (each piece can only fit one other piece) and the fact that all the pieces fit easily into the bucket without having to be put in “just so.”

Emma loves the baby animals, the peekaboo surprise, the bright colors, and that she can do these puzzles herself!

I would recommend only giving your child a few pairs of pieces at a time to start, the whole stack together was a little overwhelming for Em.

I also found that it was easier for Emma to have the baby animals revealed so she could match them up with the Mama animals. The idea of finding the animals’ “homes” was just a wee bit too abstract for her.

After looking over the other bits and pieces of Timberdoodle’s Toddler Curriculum, I’m drooling a little. If money were no object, I’d love to have all these goodies to keep Emma busy during those times when the rest of us have our noses stuck in our books. This is a nice assortment of books and hands-on activities, plus a few resources for Mama.

The emphasis is on encouraging little ones to learn through exploration, and the materials appear to be quality choices. There’s also an option to customize your core, because we know one-size doesn’t fit all. I like that.

But even if you already have bins full of toys, I’d recommend taking a look. You might find a few choice items to purchase separately to add to your “keep the toddler busy” arsenal. Every toddler can use a few surprise extras for special learning time while you teach her older sibs---there are so many cool things here that I didn’t even know existed! And it might inspire you to give one of Timberdoodle’s other Core Curricula a go for your older kids. There’s a video on their site that will give you a better idea of what their cores are like.

PeekaBoo Animal Puzzles is available from Timberdoodle for $13.

The Timberdoodle Toddler Core sells for $385.

Disclosure: As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team, I received PeekaBoo Animal Puzzles for free to keep from Timberdoodle in order to review it. I received no other compensation and the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meet Fred!


Fred is a False Potato Beetle Larva.  He’s a creature that’s known for what he is not (poor Fred).


Fred is one of nature’s wonders we discovered in our own backyard.  Some close observation (and Mama’s Google Fu) taught us what he is and we’ll spend some time getting to know him better.  Turns out that some of Fred’s favorite food grows in our backyard and that he’s not technically a pest (he eats weeds that nobody’s trying to cultivate).  Want to learn about False Potato Beetles? 

Close up pic

See what a full-grown beetle looks like.

False Potato Beetles on Wikipedia

Morning Glory

Every morning a spend a few quiet moments in the garden.

It’s not much of a garden.  It’s more like a jungle!  But there’s always something there to make me smile.


Baby Cucumbers


Future Tomatoes


Bright Flowers, Lush Green Leaves

Little promises of good things to come, little reminders of the glory of God’s creation, what better way to start the day?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Blessings of Small Town Life

Yesterday was our town’s Community Day, sponsored by the local Lions.



The kiddos got to try a Hammered Dulcimer.

They had chicken BBQ, played games, and enjoyed the music.

David was on the winning Tug o’ War team.


He also tried to catch the greased pig that busted out of the pen.

And carried a flag for the Scouts in the parade.


It was a great parade, with gun salutes,






baton twirlers,030

and classic cars.




And the kiddos were thrilled to stay up late for the fireworks (they were truly spectacular).

Be Their Cheerleader

If you are visiting from Legacy of Home’s The Christian Home, welcome!

Our children are very loved, but it can be easy for that love message to get lost in the day-to-day correcting we tend to think of as “parenting.”

A child spills some milk and we ask him to not be so careless.  He tries to clean it up and we say “No, no, not like that.”  He puts a dish in the sink and forgets to rinse it and we show him how.  He goofs up on his math work and we correct that, too.  We don’t mean to be so negative, do we?

But suddenly he starts to feel like even walking across the room without tripping is unlikely. 

Have you ever noticed how you can go blithely through life not ever noticing something like…oh, I don’t know, say kefir?  Then you happen to read a nuts and bolts article on someone’s blog about kefir and suddenly you start noticing kefir articles in every corner of the internet, not to mention at your supermarket.  You just needed someone to draw your attention to it.

If we never point out our children’s mistakes, they may not notice them and learn to recognize them as mistakes, but the thing about always correcting someone is that it can draw undue attention to what they are doing wrong.  And it can leave them with the impression that they aren’t doing anything right.

We all goof up from time to time, it’s part of the human condition.  Sometimes those goofs are truly character flaws, but rarely.  Many times they are just dumb little accidents.  And the goofs are just a tiny bit of what goes on.  The 5-year-old doesn’t spill milk at every meal (not most days, anyway), several times a meal, after all.  Do we notice when he doesn’t spill his milk?  Of course not, we expect him to not spill his milk, am I right? 

We can all use a little “bucking up” from time to time.  Training our kiddos is a big part of parenting, but training isn’t just about just noticing when they goof and correcting them.  It’s about noticing what they are doing right and showing genuine appreciation.  And it’s about loving our kiddos and being on their side.  We want them to succeed because we love them.  It’s about being their cheerleader, really. 

How can your cheer for your kiddos?  By making “corrections” a positive experience, so it’s not about being wrong, but about learning to do it better.  And by not focusing on corrections, but on appreciating every aspect of your lives together.  Build them up, don’t tear them down.  Support them in their dreams and aspirations and don’t be too quick to point out flaws in their designs.

You might also like:

On nurturing dreams

On enjoying their imperfections

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free Hammerhead Sharks Unit Study

Looking for a little something to do on a rainy (or 100+ degree) day? We just finished a mini unit on Hammerhead Sharks I put together for the kiddos and I’ve uploaded it to Google Docs to share with you.;0)

This is similar to my unit study on Flying Fish. I’ve provided a 5-page pdf of “Teacher’s Notes” which consists of links to web resources and printables, and notes on how we used them. There is no schedule provided, you may use these resources as you wish. This one has plenty of links to videos, photos, coloring pages, great for any age, whether you homeschool or not.

Here’s the link to Hammerhead Sharks Teacher’s Notes for the unit study.

Here’s the link to the whole Hammerhead Sharks unit study folder which also contains several printables (created by me) suitable for lapbooking or notebooking.


Looking for more FREE homeschool resources? Be sure to check out my tabs for:
Free Unit Studies and Planner Pages
Homeschool for FREE Archive

Monster Lessons





Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The 5-year-old Artist

Deliberate without deliberation,






that is how I would describe Peter’s art.

He puts down bold strokes without hesitation, no lightly penciling in and then tracing over. He lays down the law with his lines and seldom erases.

Sometimes I wish I were as decisive in my daily life. Winking smile

$10 Off My Memories Suite v.2


Last fall I reviewed My Memories Suite v2, a powerful digi-scrapping program that will make you look like a pro.  My blog header was made in My Memories Suite, and if I can do it, anyone can do it ;0).

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing it, I’ve got a $10 off coupon code for you:  STMMMS52587

Note:  this code is only good on My Memories Suite v2, it cannot be used on digi-scrap kits or other products sold at My Memories.  But, your software will come with a $10 off coupon good for downloadable scrap kits.

Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate code.  I will receive compensation from the vendor for purchases made using this code. 

SodaStream’s Sparkling Naturals Now Available!

Woohoo!  Remember my review of the SodaStream Fountain Jet a little while ago, when I lamented the lack of Splenda-free Sodamixes?  SodaStream’s Sparkling Naturals are now available and they contain not a drop of artificial sweetener or high-fructose corn syrup.  Yes! 

Here’s the ingredients on the Sparkling Natural Ginger Ale:


Love this and can’t wait to try it out for myself.

Psst…I’m a bzzagent and I’m spreading the word about SodaStream, because they asked me to and because I love it!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Remember What It’s Like to Be a Kid?

If you are visiting from Legacy of Home’s The Christian Home, welcome!

Lately, my oldest (age 11) has turned into a bit of an insomniac.  He lies there in bed, not falling asleep, first counting sheep, then getting up for a drink of water, then thinks about a Lego model to build, then a trip to the potty, then a plea to Mama or Daddy to hit him over the head with a rubber mallet…

It seems he has inherited his Mama’s over-active brain and it keeps him up nights.

Then there’s my 7-year-old princess who’s terrified of natural disasters.  The news about earthquakes, floods, tornados, and our own sojourn to the basement during a tornado warning a little while back has simply got her on edge.  The fact that our little town tests its tornado siren every single week and that we have an unobstructed view of said siren (it is quite loud) doesn’t help much…note to self:  if ever you buy another house, make sure that you are more than a block away from the firehouse siren and the tornado siren, although being across the street from the community pool and less than a block from the park has it’s advantages…but I digress.  Ahem!

I’m not even going to talk about the monsters in the closet.

As adults, there are some things we’ve probably made our peace with.  We might be afraid of a tornado, for example, but we know with dead certainty that there’s no amount of worrying that will keep one at bay.  We appreciate having a siren to warn us of the danger and generally go about our lives knowing that when the danger comes, we’ll have some time to prepare ourselves.

And when we can’t sleep at night, we get up and balance the checkbook or read a book or decide what color to paint the living room or puzzle over next year’s history curriculum.  We know that this is one night out of many and that sleep will come eventually.

And monsters, there’s no such thing as monsters, right?

Do you find yourself getting a little frustrated?  Are those kids ever going to sleep so Mama and Daddy can have some alone time?  And when are they going to just get over it?

Have we forgotten what it’s like to be a kid? 

I remember lying awake nights as a child, unable to sleep because my mind was too busy, yet pretending to be asleep when my parents checked on me because I just didn’t want to deal with being upbraided for not being asleep!

I remember being convinced that there was a monster that lived under my bed that would grab my toes and pull me under if I happened to hang a leg over the edge.  It was very important to keep all parts of my body firmly on the top of the mattress, and there was no way you would convince me that it wasn’t so.

I also remember swearing to myself that when I had kids of my own that I would remember these things.  And that I would never trivialize their experiences. 

But I did forget.  For a while, anyway.

I turned into an adult, put away childish things, and got lost in the world of adultish worries, like how will we pay for a new furnace?  And, how can little kids possibly eat that much food?  And, how can they all outgrow their shoes at the same time?

Come to think of it, my adultish worries that keep me up nights are not terribly different from their childish fears that keep them awake.  It’s all a matter of perspective, really.  I rather think that fear of tornados is actually a bigger deal than worrying over money, don’t you?  Or that being eaten by a monster is more horrifying than the kiddos going shoeless?

Perhaps some of the frustration stems from not being able to fix it.  The fear of the unknown is big.  No matter how many rational arguments I present, I’ll never assuage my daughter’s fear of tornados.  And no matter how many suggestions I make, ultimately I can’t make my son go to sleep.  I can gently remind them to pray to our Holy Father for peace, to pray for their guardian angels’ intercession, to pray even for sleep, but the fact is, as much as I want to take away their anxiety, it’s not up to me.  It’s simply beyond my control.  Kinda makes me want to throw a tantrum.

It’s easy to forget that, as a parent, my job is not to be a fixer.  I can’t always make things different from what they are.  And life is full challenges, whether they be tiny or huge.   When I can’t fix it, the temptation is to ignore it or minimize it.  I want to close the door on their fears and pretend they don’t exist.  This is a mistake.

None of us can see into the future.  That doesn’t mean that I have to throw my hands up in resignation.  Part of living is learning to know when you can’t fix things.  And part of raising a kids is knowing when what they need is your love and understanding. 

Maybe I can’t see that monster in the closet or feel the fear it embodies.  Maybe it doesn’t seem important to me, but it is important to my child.  It can be hard to see anything from someone else’s perspective, even someone we know as well as our own child, but we can try.  There’s a connection to be made.  Being able to empathize with our fellow man is about human kindness.  Being able to empathize with our own children is about parenting from the heart.

What do you do to try to see things from your child’s perspective?

You might also like:

Raising Kids:  Enjoy the Ride

On Parenting

Raising Kids:  It’s Habit-Forming

Friday, June 17, 2011

Look At Me (Emma Pics)









$10 Rebate from SodaStream

We are still loving our SodaStream we received to review a couple of months ago from SodaStream. Right now, SodaStream is offering a $10 rebate in honor of Father's Day, what a great gift for Dad! Valid on purchases made between 6/1/11 and 6/30/11. Must be postmarked by 7/31/11.

Sharing the buzz as a bzzagent, I received no monetary compensation or product for this post.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2 FREE Resources for Your Kindle, 1 for Your Nook

Resource # 1

When my hubby presented me with a brand-spanking-new Kindle last fall, the first thing I did was crack open the onboard manual.

I’m not normally a manual girl.  I much prefer to just check new technology out and blunder into discover features by instinct, tempered by experience. 

But an e-reader was a new animal to me.  Not a pda.  Not a mini pc.  Not a digital organizer.  A remarkable, different animal.

So I cracked open the manual and proceeded to read the first few dozen pages/locations.  And after the manual repeated itself for the umpteenth time and I hadn’t even scratched the surface, I called it quits and reverted back to my instinct, tempered by experience.

While the manual is helpful, it’s certainly not succinct.

So, understandably, I’m stumbling over new (to me) features all the time.   Translation:  Forgive me if you already know about this one, but I was so excited to find out about it, I had to share.Open-mouthed smile

While you can read pdfs on the Kindle, you can also easily convert those pdfs to Kindle format in one easy step:

  1. Email your pdf to your Kindle as an attachment (the addy is usually something like and put the word CONVERT in the subject line.

Assuming you have Wi-Fi (or 3G) access, the file will soon arrive to your Kindle, gloriously formatted to display so you can adjust the font size, etc, instead of a 8.5”x11” pdf shrunk down to a little screen!  The file I tested this on even had illustrations, and all but one of them displayed perfectly.

I stumbled onto this tip totally by accident on a comment thread somewhere (I think it was Simply Charlotte Mason).

Resource #2 (this one’s for other e-readers, including the Nook!)

You probably already know about all the great FREE e-books you can download from Project Gutenberg, but did you know that you can download The Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-books to your Kindle and use it to gain instant access to any of those e-books?  It’ll save you the trouble of downloading to your computer and transferring to your e-reader.

Download the Magic Catalog and send it to your Kindle (you want the Mobi version, ePub is also available for the Nook and other e-readers). Open it on your Kindle, click on a title in the file, and (as long as you have Wi-Fi or 3G access) the Magic Catalog will send that book to your Kindle via Whispernet.  Totally FREE. 

The only drawback:  the books don’t seem to be organized by title or author.  I suspect they are by order in which the books were added to the catalog.  But, if you are looking for something specific, just use the search function on your e-reader.  Or enjoy browsing the catalog, you never know what you might find.

Have you found any neat ways to better use your e-reader? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Currclick Summer Sale and FREEBIES!

Head on over to Currclick and check out their 40% off Back-to-the-Beach Sale on oodles of downloadable curricula! And while you are there, go on their online Nature Scavenger Hunt and pick up 8 FREEBIES! Includes a great 117-page workbook to help you study the states and other goodies. Ends June 30th.

Psst...having trouble finding the freebies? Check out their FB page.

K-NEX Mario Kart Wii GIVEAWAY!


Just got word that K’NEX is having an awesome giveaway.

Between now and July 15th, they will be giving away 300 FREE Mario Kart Wii K’NEX figures a day. That’s 10,000, folks! And 5 of those 10,000 toys will have a golden ticket that will entitle the winner to a Grand Prize Package, including:

Here’s the contest page, with complete rules:

You can also “like” K’NEX on FB to find out about new and upcoming products: