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Monday, March 31, 2014

Product Review: Media Talk 101

Captivated Movie Review
Media is all around us. It's not only the television, radio, and billboards that we see every day, it is also the smart phones, Kindles, and iPads that are constantly in use. In a society where even the youngest of children now own and operate iPods and iPads, it is important to consider how exposure to these types of devices and visual stimulation is shaping our society. Working to help people understand how media exposure effects their lives, a company called Media Talk 101 has created a DVD movie titled Captivated. I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy of this DVD in exchange for an honest review on this blog.
Folks find it weird that we don't watch any television. Most want to know why and are expecting a "deeper" answer than "We just don't have time." Michael and I never made it a habit in our relationship to watch television. As a result, those time slots filled up with other activities. Even when we want to sit down and watch a show, it is almost impossible for us to devote the time to it.
That's where our weirdness ends. We have definitely become a "plugged-in" family. We don't own any video game consoles, but all the boys have kindles, two of the boys have iPods, we own an iPad and I have a smart phone. Do we like to play on these devices? Heck yeah!
Captivated Movie Review
Having had this personal experience with these types of devices, what I viewed on the Captivated DVD only further confirmed my beliefs. These types of electronic experiences can have educational and spiritual value, but quickly become abused and damaging. A friend told me about a study in which 33% of people who gave up something for Lent this year, gave up electronics. 33% !!!
We haven't owned these devices very long, but the change is apparent. The kids crave the time they get to spend on them. They sometimes cry when they are denied a turn. They are addicted. And it is not just them. All their friends have various devices. They are at every gathering and seem to be in every home.And as I stated above, it is not just about the electronics. Media is everywhere in our world, encouraging us to endorse a certain product and believe a certain thought. Now even non-electronic toys come with endorsements!
In graduate school I wrote my thesis on the effects of television viewing in children under 3 years of age. Many of the same things I studied back then are presented in this video, but the results are much more staggering, and the age range a lot wider. But the video is much more than research facts. Although you have researchers from top universities presenting data from about how electronics can slow brain development, you also have parents are talking about how their own children were effected by addicting electronics. Children with behavior issues that were reversed when their electronic stimulation was cut off. Marriages and relationships that were restored. Meaning and a sense of peace returned to the lives of many people.
There is something simple and appealing about a life without electronics. But that is not the way our society is headed. We are a "plugged in" culture and if you choose to not conform, you could soon feel left behind. Captivated doesn't suggest you to quit cold turkey and never look back. But it does give very convincing reasons to examine your relationship with your electronics and your media exposure and decide who is the boss of those relationships.
I was recently at a conference with several friends and the "media culture" topic came up on our nine-hour long car ride. I was very pleased to be able to share much of the data I learned from the Captivated DVD with my friends. They all now plan to borrow or purchase the DVD for personal viewing.
Captivated is intended for an adult audience, although I would say that teenage children could watch it as well. James (age 11) was in the room while I viewed the video, and although he didn't sit and watch it with me, he heard parts of it and we were able to discuss themes based on his electronic usage. I was so grateful to be able to have an informed discussion with him on this, instead of just saying, "Get off that thing because I am the mom and I know it's bad!" Captivated gave me the 'keys' to talk with others (including my own children) about something I already knew should be limited in use. 
The Captivated DVD is available through the Media Talk 101 website for $16.95 for one DVD or $21.95 for 2 DVD's! That's only $5.00 for the second DVD! What a great gift to get and share with friends and family.
Still undecided if this DVD is right for you? Other members of The Schoolhouse Review Crew got to enjoy this DVD as well and wrote about it on The Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. Head over to The Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog here or by clicking the image below:
Click to read Crew Reviews
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Malcolm !!!!

From this:
To this:


You light up our world every day with your smile.
Happy Birthday Sweet Malcolm.
We love you!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Great Homeschool Convention 2014

Great Homeschool Conventions
Two years ago I went to my first Great Homeschool Convention and had an absolute blast. The speakers were inspirational, there were vendors galore, and I spent the fours days laughing and making memories with some really great friends.
This year we decided to spice things up a bit and drive to South Carolina for the convention there. The one closer to us was at Easter and that time didn't work for several of us. So we made the arrangements and drove to where the sun was.
The convention itself was a big disappointment. The speakers were mediocre at best and there were distracting kids and crying babies in almost every talk. I love kids, but this was ridiculous! It was such a letdown because I learned so much from the last convention and this time I felt like all I was hearing were sales pitches for products I didn't want. That was when I could hear at all over kids whining about being bored or babies crying to be nursed. There were about 100 less vendors than usual, but I did find a couple new products that I am excited to try out at home and at LMCA. Sometimes limited selection is good, but there were products I already knew I needed that weren't available.
Greenville was a fun town. There were tons of great places to eat, grab a beer, and just people watch. We went out at night and the town was bursting with activity. And the glorious sun was shining almost the entire time! Oh the joy! Not only that, but it was in the 70s! Happy Day! Happy Day!
Overall, I still recommend the GHC, but be sure that  the speakers you want to hear go to the one you're attending. It's hard because the lists aren't finalized in time for the Early Bird Discount, which is what we wanted to get. We won't be returning to South Carolina, but we'll probably hit the one in Ohio again next year. April 9-11, 2015, if I am not mistaken.
Here's a little treat to end the post. Taken from the spot we stopped for in Virginia for lunch:

Friday, March 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes & 5 Random Thoughts

Things are settling back to normal now that I have returned from South Carolina. If, of course, your idea of normal is extremely busy. Which for us, it is.
A little virus seems to be going around. I think I brought something home with me and passed it onto Isaac and then to James. Thank goodness it is not the "everything comes up" variety. Just the stuffy nose, cough, and tired variety.
Know what is in short supply around here? Moments like this:
Yes, that little man walked three city blocks and back like this to pick up big brother from school. That is his dog in his stroller. 
Malcolm turns three on Sunday. I can hardly believe how fast the time has gone.
Please keep my family in your prayers as we deal with something I am not ready to blog about yet. 
I almost feel selfish asking for that as I know that other families are dealing with so much more. One friend lost a parent last week and another friend got the most unexpected news. And here I am having a little pity party for myself. Ahh, Lent. Next year I will give up self pity parties.
Check out more Quick Takes and Random 5 Thoughts.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Homeschool Science Fair 2014

Almost two months ago now, two of the kids participated in the Fifth Annual Homeschool Science Fair. We held it at LMCA this year, and I kept it small- around 30 kids participated. Quite a few less than the 60+ registered students last year.
Henry tried to sink a marshmallow for his experiment. It's harder than you think!

Margaret melted M&Ms in the microwave to see which color would melt faster. We assumed the darker colors would melt first, but our results surprised us!

The night of the Science Fair the kids did really great! I was really proud about how well they presented their experiments to the judges.

And of course, no Science Fair post would be complete without our John Paul & Malcolm photos:


Now, for all you local homeschoolers who are sad you missed out on such an amazing event, I've got great news for you! Saint Vincent College has agreed to take over the Homeschool Science Fair from now on!!!
Let me tell you what a relief this is for me. I had a good run of five years, but these last two years have really left me wondering if I could survive this event much longer. It had become more of an obligation to run the science fair, and the fun had gone out of it for me. Now I can just sign up my kids and not have to worry about registration, advertising, awards, judges, building issues, tables, clean-up, etc.
Hooray for the new wave of Latrobe-Area Homeschool Science Fair! See you in 2015!

Throwback Thursday


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


J&J Snack Foods Corp has a new pretzel snack that your family is sure to enjoy. These bite-sized pretzel snacks are stuffed with cheese and come in three different flavors: Buffalo, Cheddar, and Nacho. I was given these three kinds to enjoy for free in exchange for an honest review on this blog.
We have reviewed pretzel products from J&J Snack Foods before and really enjoyed their baked goods. Since the pretzels are prebaked, they are easy to heat in the microwave or the oven. In both cases the snacks come out quickly and are ready to eat. The prebaking helps to keep them looking nice as well. This is especially important at my house where the visual appearance is almost as important as the taste. If the item doesn't look good, my kids won't be willing to try it.
What makes the Softstix different from other soft pretzels is that the cheese is baked inside. Remember those large pretzels that you get at fairs and roller rinks? Imagine a mini-version of those, but with the cheese inside instead of in a cup for dipping.
The bite-size portion of this treat makes it the perfect snack for parties, movie nights, after-school eats, and sports games. The fact that the cheese is inside makes it a non-messy alternative for an "on-the-go" treat.
My kids definitely enjoyed these snacks. The Buffalo had a little bit of a kick to it, so it wasn't as popular with the younger kids as the other flavors. Overall I would say Cheddar Cheese was the favorite, probably because it is a flavor they are most impressed with.
Henry has a dairy-sensitivity and I was cautious about him eating these since we never know what can cause him a reaction. I am happy to say that he enjoyed a snack on the Cheddar flavor and had no ill-effects! It's always great to find a quick snack that his tummy can handle.
Oh, yeah, I thought these were pretty good. Probably the best pretzels we've reviewed.

I thought these were pretty good!

Margaret: I liked the ones that aren't spicy.
Malcolm: I like pretzels!
You can follow J&J Snack Foods on Facebook to hear about new products and deals. Click here to follow on Facebook.
April is National Pretzel Month! In honor of this I will be giving one reader a coupon for a free box of SUPERPRETZEL. Simply leave a comment telling me what kind you would get with your free coupon. Remember to look in the frozen food section to find SUPERPRETZEL products.
Disclaimer: I received the above-named products free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Friday, March 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes and 5 Random Thoughts

It is actually only Tuesday as I write this. I am writing this in advance because I am attending the GHC in South Carolina where I am hoping to solidify curriculum and class options for LMCA.
Which leads me to remind everyone about the Open House at LMCA on Monday March 31 from 6:00 to 7:30pm. Come on by and meet the teachers, view curriculum, tour the facility, and meet new friends.
Remember how we are doing the guest room bathroom?
Before photos:


What a difference a little paint makes!
My next project? convert this $5.00 thrift store find into a Lego Table.
Check out more weekly thoughts at Conversion Diary and The Pebble Pond.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kids Museum

We had never been and decided to check it out last weekend

Friday, March 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes and 5 Random Thoughts

This time next week I will be in South Carolina at the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville. Anyone else heading that way?
I definitely have an agenda of talks to attend and curriculum to purchase, but my main objective is to have a wonderful time with three great friends.
I have a love hate relationship with pinterest. I think most people to some extent do. I go on there to get ideas and most of the time I end up feeling completely inadequate with my level of creativity. Most recently I found a LEGO mini-figure display that I thought was within my skill level and I decided to give it a try.
I don't know how it is at your house, but the LEGO mini-figures around here outnumber us by 100 to 1. The kids love those little people. I find them, or their pieces, everywhere. But I don't really mind because there are worse things to collect and I have started collecting them right alongside the kids. I only have a handful, but you have to start somewhere.
So each of the kids have bins of these little plastic people, but that wasn't that much fun, so when I saw an idea on pinterest, I just had to give it a try. And know what? It worked out pretty well. I used a side to an old crib and glued flat pieces on it for the figures to attach to. Each of the kids has there own color and instead of mounting it on the wall, I got some over the door hooks for it to hang from. That way we can remove it during parties so the people don't get lost.
So far, so good. Not only does it look awesome, but it is serving it's intended purpose and holding up pretty well.
Hey! This time next week it'll be Spring! Let's hope this silly weather starts acting like it.
Check out more interesting thoughts over at Conversion Diary or The Pebble Pond.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting Through the Busyness

Like many things in life, there seems to be a season for my blog. A time frame where I am often able to share little bits and pieces of my life with five children and hubby. A time where I am aware of friends and family who look to this blog to keep in touch or remain close to us when we are far away.
I write blog posts in my head all the time. An experience I want to share, a thought from a friend, a photo here and there. When I sit down to post about them, either my mind goes blank or I am forced to spend my time answering emails about a million different things. My mind swims and by the time I am finished I want to leave the computer. Funny how I can't remember the topic of a single email I just spent an hour answering. Hmm.
LMCA is changing hands and that increases my workload a bit. It is also time to start advertising and registering families for next year. We got a fancy new sign outside of the building. I'll have to post a photo of it.
The weather is now starting to brighten which has improved every one's mood around here except Malcolm's; he is more grumpy than ever. It's almost his birthday and so we are giving him another couple weeks to be a complete nightmare before we have a big talk with him that enough is enough! Time to quit acting like a jerk and start communicating in a voice that isn't a scream. Every since we saw the LEGO movie he'll say, "Yeah. That's AWESOME!" to things he likes. 75% of the time he is upset about something and will say, "That's not awesome!"
Margaret is the most delightful six year old I have ever known. She recently received her first real ring, which she wears to remind herself not to suck her thumb. It's a big job, but she's up to the challenge. She's also reading now, which is pretty cool. I hear her reading to her LEGO mini figures and it just make me so happy. Man, she's a knockout!
Henry almost has full front teeth which means we can get back on the waiting list to work on his lisp. It's cute when he's eight, but not when he's twelve. He's the most agreeable kid and is always up for an adventure. His hair is so long right now you can't even see his eyes. Good thing Mema comes next week because these kids are all due for a haircut!
Isaac is still loving school and always has fun things to share. I love how much he is willing to help cook or create something or help his younger siblings. School has really matured him. He is no longer "the middle boy." He is just independent awesome Isaac. Who just so happens to play a mean trombone.
James finally got the horrid mouth piece out and can talk like a regular person again and eat normally. I am so happy we got it out before soccer started (which is two weeks from tomorrow). James and I stay up later than the other people around here to read and watch Duck Dynasty. I love that show. Did I mention that James goes to dances now? When did this happen?!? Every month this ballroom hosts a dance on Saturday night and he goes with about a dozen friends. Without mom or dad there!!! He has a good time and does indeed dance with girls. He also comes home with his pockets filled with candy, so I know I haven't completely lost my little guy yet.
Michael and I just finished the fourth season of Downton. Not a moment too soon as it is no longer free on after today. I adore that show, and I am sad that this season turned out to be too mature to watch with James. It was something the three of us did together, but the themes in season 4 were a little too mature. Still an amazing show.
Speaking of shows, Michael and I went to a concert with friends last weekend in Pittsburgh. We saw Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers. It was a great show, even though I was sick. I think two things about concerts now: #1 I will never be too old to attend a good concert. #2 You never know when the concert you are at will be your last concert, so you better get up and DANCE!
I like blogging. I'll have to remember that next time I am feeling like my blog is neglected.