Follow our family as we journey through life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Princess Party

We hosted our very first Princess-themed birthday party for the girl who will turn three later this week. It was a smaller gathering than we usually have, which was good since we didn't want to overwhelm the birthday princess.Compliments to my neighbor Allison who supplied most of the party decorations, except the purple hanging thing. Michael found that at the thrift store a few hours before the party and decided to drill it into the ceiling in the living room so Margaret could have a princess throne.

Yes, this is a birthday cake made by my friend Danielle. If you are local and would like to hire her to make one for your party, I can pass her number to you. Doesn't it look amazing!

Margaret really liked it!

The brothers were really patient with all the pink and princesses and even dressed up as knights for the party theme.

Here she is on her birthday throne with two other beautiful princesses.

The whole royal gathering.

Time for the pinata. It was a pull-string so that we didn't actually have to bash the princess castle.

On her throne for presents.

She received lots of neat girly gifts.

Blowing out her candles.

She is the most beautiful princess that ever existed!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Our Week in Review

Drum Roll Please.....


This is the first time this has EVER happened. Ever. Of course I think it had something to do with our day yesterday...

I volunteered to teach a sewing class for a Hearts at Home Girls group. There were six girls ages five to ten. The arrived at 10:00am to sew a cute and very forgiving purse. Each girl did awesome and went home with their own purse to show off. I didn't have to make to make lunch or supper because in addition to the girls I was teaching, the moms and and siblings came as well loaded down with food for every one's lunch and dinner for my family. So from 10am until 4pm (the girls finished sewng around 1:00pm) my house was filled with five moms, six sewing girls, and 13 additional children. It was the most fun we have had all winter!

So the day tired Margaret out, and she fell asleep shortly after everyone had left until 7pm when we woke her up for dinner, She was asleep again by 9pm until Michael got her up for breakfast.

That was our Thursday.

On Wednesday I had my weekly sewing day and it snowed a great deal and gymnastics was cancelled (again) for the boys. They don't offer make-up classes for weather related cancellations and this was the second one since Christmas. Sigh. Not exactly a cheap class to have multiple cancellations. Times two for two kids.

Tuesday was quiet with only Blue Knights and no scouts. Monday was just working hard on weekly school assignments. As much as I love co-op weeks, I also adore weeks that we spend time at home just being together.

On a final note for the week, it is currently 28 degrees outside and my daughter is dressed in a swimsuit. It's so cute I am not insisting she put something else on.

Product Review: Ten Marks Math Program

Are you looking at the title of this post and deciding to skip reading this entry? If you have a child in third grade math or higher, you may want to take five minutes and learn about this unique on-line math program.

What is TenMarks?

TenMarks is the only online math program that helps students refresh, learn, and master math concepts - in their own time, at their own pace. Each child receives a personalized curriculum to help them master the concepts quickly. TenMarks offers lessons and specialized programs to cover the breadth of the core math skills your child will cover in school. The program covers mathematics in grades 3 through high school, and is mapped to state standards in each area.

How it works:

Your student gets assigned four worksheets each week. Each worksheet contains ten practice problems and focuses on a skill or area to be mastered. The program only allows the student to complete the assigned worksheets for the week, and to practice skills learned on previous worksheets. There is a "Fast Track" option where your student can choose to receive four more worksheets for the week if they are really into completing the program or they are about to earn rewards or unlock games.

Each worksheet offers a video tutorial with a real person narrating the lesson. You student is also offered 'hints' that will help them solve a problem. Although they are allowed to skip a problem and return to it later in the worksheet, the worksheet will not be considered completed until all the problems assigned are completed and correct.

Reward Zone

The program has it's own "Reward Zone" where students unlock short computer games to play after successful completion of work and skills learned. These games are really short and on average the play would last two to five minutes. As a parent, you can also set up larger non-computer rewards for the student. For example, I set up that James earns a small LEGO set after every 16 successfully completed worksheets (one per month). Then I went to Target and stocked up on those little $3.99 LEGO sets in the bags by the check-out (the ones in the Christmas aisle were 50% off after the holidays). Every month he earns one of these and this helps keep him motivated.


Pricing for this program is extremely reasonable when you consider those benefits. The program costs just $10 per month, with discounts for buying a six month subscription ($49) or a year subscription ($89). This prices are the "per student" rate. If you shop around at all for a similar program, you will definitely see the 'price advantage' of Ten Marks.

Why we thought it was so great:

*You, as the parent, get weekly emails reminding you of worksheets that need to be completed. You get additional emails about unfinished worksheets as the due date nears. Your student's user name and password are listed as a reminder in each email. This was such a help to me because it is very difficult to for me to keep track of and remember multiple user names and passwords.

*The parent sets up a reward program for the student.

*You can decide to "fast track" your child, meaning they receive more than four worksheets for the current week. Your student also has the option to do this while they are working on the program if they complete the assigned work for the week but desire to do more.

*Every couple of completed worksheets "unlocks" a fun game on the site that the student can play. This motivation worked extremely well for James, especially because a sidebar told him how much more work needed to be done before the new game would be available in the reward center.

*An on-line math program that won't break my budget! This is definitely something we will continue to pursue in addition to our regular math curriculum.

The only real complaint I have about the program is that although the video tutorials are extremely helpful, sometimes the person narrating can be extremely annoying. In one video, I counted the tutor saying the word, "Okay?" at least 15 times before I had to leave the room. Taken into account that the video lasts about 5 minutes, that is a lot of repetition- almost as annoying as listening to a speaker say the words "Ummmm," and "Errrrr." It may sound like a minor complaint, but it makes a difference when your student hears it over and over and then picks up on this awful habit in their own language patterns.

We have had a great time using this on-line math program. I wish they offered a level providing practice in basic math skills for Isaac (first grade). As stated above, we will continue using this program past the review period for extra reinforcement of skill learning.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Home School review group, I received a free subscription to the TenMarks math program in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Review of Gourmet Hanging Bar Pot Rack w/ Optional Additional Pot Rack Hooks

Originally submitted at CSN Stores

Gourmet Hanging Bar Pot Rack
This rack is perfect over a kitchen island or above the sink. It is strong, durable, and puts cookware and utensils right at hand. Special design ensures that pot rack hooks won't slide off of the bar.


The Perfect Addition to Our Kitchen!

By Modest Mama from Western, PA on 1/25/2011

5out of 5

We have been talking about getting one of these racks for years, but with our kitchen in a constant state of remodel we never got around to it. Now that we have it, I don't know how we got by without one!

It is very sturdy and we hang all our cast iron pans from the bar. The heavy silver chains make adjusting the height super easy. The bar itself is simple and attractive for any decor. The hooks are solid and we haven't had any trouble reaching up to hang or grab the pans. We aren't tall (under 5' 8") but we hung the bar tall enough so that people don't bonk their heads. Instead of over an island or sink we chose to hang it a couple feet from the doorway next to a wall of exposed brink. It looks amazing and no one has had any trouble with the height we chose.

I highly recommend this for anyone who is tired of reaching into cupboards to retrieve heavy cast iron pots and pans.

Disclaimer: As a member of the CSN review group I was compensated with this product in exchange for an honest review on my blog and on the CSN site. I received no other compensation and all views expressed here are my own.




Monday, January 24, 2011

Product review: Saint Andre Bessett

I had the opportunity to review a children's book from The Catholic Company. Saint Andre Bessette: Miracles of Montreal, is one of many Saints books in the 'Encounter the Saints Series.' These books strive to give a lively retelling of the heroism and holiness of the saints.

I have always enjoyed this series of Saints books for children. We were given some from a friend and I appreciate how they aren't childish and 'watered down' like so many you find nowadays. The illustrations aren't dated and are easier for the reader to identify with. This particular title starts with the birth of Saint Andre and details the events of his life leading up to his death in 1937 and his canonization in 2010.

This book is appropriate for all ages if used as a family read-a-loud. Due to the longer text and higher level vocabulary used (a glossary can be found in the back), I would suggest that a child be in at least third or fourth grade before reading this on their own.

James enjoyed reading about Saint Andre and the miracles he performed. He especially liked it when the little girl was cured and when Saint Andre walked through a closed door.

This entire series is an excellent and inexpensive way to add to your child's saint library. The copy we received retails for only $7.95. It is so rare today to find a quality children's book that is affordable. Click here to find other books in this series from The Catholic Company.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on
Saint Andre Bessette - Miracles in Montreal . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Disclaimer: As a member of The Catholic Company review program, I received a free copy of Saint Andre Bessette: Miracles in Montreal in exchange for my honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ice skating

Since there is another week until our Friday classes start, a local mom organized ice skating for all the kids this past Friday afternoon. It was the first time my kids have been on the ice.
They had these neat walkers to help the kids get started.

Isaac didn't need one for long!

All the kids had fun, but Isaac is the only one who wants to go again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pinewood Derby 2011

Product Review: Maestro Classics

My kids love, and I mean LOVE, audio books and stories. We have at least a hundred. So it was with great pleasure that I learned that I would be reviewing Peter and the Wolf by Maestro Classics.

We already own a copy of Peter and the Wolf, but it was on record. When I say record, I mean an actual black round LP. Perfect for a snowy day at home, but not ideal for a road trip to Georgia or to carry on an airplane to Oregon.
Maestro Classics produces award-winning new classical music CD's for children and families. Combining literature, classical music, education and entertainment, these CDs for parents and children are perfect for all ages. They offer many selections to choose from including: The Story of Swan Lake, The Tortoise and the Hare, and even Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Each CD comes with a program book that your child can use while listening.

The Maestro Classics website is filled with resources to help parents build on the music their children are listening to. There are
lesson plans*, articles, access to program book answers, and a list of awards and reviews*.
*These resources may not be available for each title.
The CD that we received was just perfect! Since my kids are already big audio lovers, it was like receiving a late Christmas present. They all settled down together in the living room to listen. Even Margaret (age 2) made it through the entire store. As soon as it ended, Isaac (age 7) and Henry (age 5) restarted the CD for another full listening of the story. Pretty impressive since the story lasts about 30 minutes.

Our CD had lots of extras on it such as the life of the composer and talks with the conductor, but my kids weren't really that interested in those parts. They enjoyed the full narrated version of the actual story (a shorter un-narrated version is also on the CD).

I am absolutely thrilled with the quality and educational value of the product. The only thing holding me back from ordering more from Maestro Classics is the price. Individual titles are marked at $16.98, and they have a special where you can get three titles for $45. I understand that is pretty standard CD pricing, but it is hard for me to spend $17 on a disc that I am going to find without it's case behind a bookshelf. I have seen how my kids treat their audio books and stories. Again, this is unique to my family, and as the kids get older they will gain more respect for their items. If it wasn't for that, we would have already ordered at least two more of the titles. I encourage anyone looking to expand their listening library to check out the selections at Maestro Classics.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS homeschool review group I received a free copy of Peter and the Wolf from Maestro Classics in exchange for a review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dinner with LEGO lovers

When you have dinner with kids who love Legos... you may have a Lego-themed centerpiece!

Friday January 14

A quiet end to a busy week.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Newest Addiction

Someone left a bunch of this stuff at our house and now I am completely addicted. I think this was part of a secret conspiracy and the person has stock in this company and, knowing my love of bubbly beverages, thought they could improve the stock value. Definitely better for you than Diet Coke, but oh so much more expensive. I need to find an alternative. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Product Review: Listening to God with Mother Teresa

I have always been intrigued by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her simple life seems so extraordinary compared to the busy and complex lives we lead today. This little book, Listening to God with Mother Teresa, compiled by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, offers small glimpses into her life. Each little glimpse is represented by a saying that is followed by the biblical reference that inspired her way of life.

This book is not intended to be read from start to finish in one sitting. Instead, the reader should take time to ponder and reflect on each of the thoughts. The text is divided into one hundred small sections, each section is so powerful and thought provoking that to read them all at once would only diminish their meaning.

As a busy mother, I found this book especially helpful. It only took a few moments of my time to read one page, and yet I reflected on what I read several times a day. For example one of the sayings states, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them (page 48)." How many times a day do I judge others or let my past experiences reflect how I view or treat them? A man came to my door looking for work. He had a snow shovel and wanted to remove the snow in front of my house. I quickly took in his missing teeth, messy appearance, darting eyes and turned him away. I had made my decision before I even opened the door. There was no room in my heart for love, only judgement. This man is some mother's son, could be a father, and is searching for a honest wage. Although I have never had any experience with him personally, I immediately took in his disheveled appearance and judged him.

I highly recommend this text for anyone who wants to explore aspects of Mother Teresa and anyone who is looking to deepen their spiritual understanding but believes they lack the time and ability to do so. The book is published by Our Sunday Visitor and is available at The Catholic Company for only $14.95.

Disclaimer: This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Listening to God with Mother Teresa . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Product Review: Easy Classical

Are you looking for an easy way to organize your Classical homeschool? Easy Classical has the system to help you get organized and maintain your sanity!

How does it work?

Easy Classical uses a system of daily schedules structured around the curriculum outlined in Susan Wise Bauer's book The Well Trained Mind. These day-by-day instruction sheets list subjects in bold, and include recommended books for each subject. After each recommendation, there are general instructions for each topic. The schedules even include a material lists to make your shopping easier.

There are four types of schedules available for purchase (complete, main, history, and science). I received the schedule for Early Modern History (found in the history section), and it is intended for Kindergarten to six grade. Each history topic schedule is available in notebook version for $35.95 or as a digital download for $29.95. Click here for complete listing of history schedules and pricing.

Easy Classical Early Modern History Schedule includes 36 week-long schedules plus 45+ pages of charts, sheets, and helps that will enhance your child's learning. Each week's lesson has review questions with answers, and quizzes included with each lesson. This schedule detailed instructions on how to use it, as well as the wonderful shopping lists for the materials (as was mentioned above).

How did I use this schedule in my homeschool?

This program was like a dream come true for me! Each week is divided into days and each day lists the work that need to be completed. Do what the list says and you are done! It is really that simple. The review questions and quizzes give you peace of mind that your student is learning and retaining essential knowledge. The materials are adaptable to any learning style. This is one program that I know we will be able to reuse for each child!

The best bonus of this program are the little extras. I know I have already mentioned the shopping lists, but I really can't get over how great they are. I can not stand reading through a program looking for items we need, only to find out later that I missed one and now the kids have to wait to finish constructing some elaborate project. I will NEVER have that problem with this program because it is already all laid out for me! Here is an example:
Materials Shopping List
General Supplies
-pencil box to hold:
1 Binder: 3” 3 ring binders
5 Dividers (if not already purchased)
-OT and Ancient Egypt
-NT Greece and Rome
-Middle Ages, Ren. and Reformation
-Explorers to 1815
-1815 to Present
History Pockets
-About 40 sheets of 12” x 18” colored
construction paper, string, ribbon or twine, stapler, and
-Other supplies are noted on the schedule the week

Another bonus that was a big hit around here were the drawing instruction sheets. Step-by-Step instructions on how to draw items from the past such as canons or old-style sailboats. The simplicity of the instructions was perfect for my "drawing challenged" boys.

My only regret about this program is that we didn't find out about it sooner. It would have saved me a ton of time in terms of lesson planning and organizing the school year. I am currently researching programs for James for next year and this is definitely one of the programs I will be looking more into. The
complete schedules for Kindergarten to six grade include every subject from math to Latin and are only $89.95 for the notebook version. Very affordable for everything that you get!

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Group, I received a free copy of Easy Classical's Early Modern History Schedule in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Some photos from the last week or so

Well, I got a little behind posting photos. Here are a few from the past week or so.Since we no longer open a present a day for the 12 days of Christmas, we try to do a family project or adventure each day. Here the kids are enjoying making those stained glass window hanging things. Isaac purchased one for each brother and sister using his birthday money.

Decorating our little Christmas tree. Something about trying to buy a Christmas tree almost a week after Christmas really limits your options.

New Year's Eve Party.

It's a little like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.