Sunday, August 28, 2016

Summer Fun with Family

I have been a bit disappointed this summer at how little I’ve been able to really get out and do special things with my kids.  Between Hayden’s cross-country practices and summer camp sessions at his school, plus our homeschooling schedule, our opportunities have been limited. Making it worse has been the weather.  I swear, every time we planned to go to the water park after we’d finished school, thunder would roll in and blow our plans.  Mind you, it never seemed to amount to any actual rain (which my garden certainly could have used), but it was enough to spoil our plans.  And early summer was too cool to go.  Once it finally heated up, it seemed to thunder every afternoon without fail.  Ugh!

And since this is Hayden’s last summer before graduation, I’ve really been feeling bad at how little we’ve gotten to do with all of us together.

Then came this week.  Once again, he had both summer camp and cross-country to contend with.  And we all went with him on Tuesday to chaperone his tour of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  That was nice.

But on Thursday, he was able to skip summer camp since they were doing something he’d already done in class this year, and we were finally able to make some plans!  We decided to meet my niece, Katie, and her two kids at the Virginia Zoo.  We spent more time there than we’ve ever spent before!  We took our time, and it worked out great that all of the animals were actually out where we could see them, so we got to observe more than we’d ever seen before! 

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It was mid-afternoon by the time we wrapped things up there, so we stopped at Rally’s for lunch.  Yum!  Everybody knows I’ve been eating whole foods since January, so the necessity of having to eat out, and to eat a burger and loaded fries at that, was quite a treat for me!  It was scorching hot, so then we all got swirl cones and headed out for Hunt Club Farm.

The kids loved catching the chickens and spent a lot of time with their feed sticks in the aviary full of parakeets.  We got some great pictures of them in there!  We only had an hour to enjoy the petting zoo before they closed for the day, but we had put in a full day out in the sun.  We had such a lovely time with Katie and her kids.  Our kids paired off nicely and really hit it off, and we had a chance to catch up, which was great.  I hadn’t seen them for just over a year!

We had such a great time that we decided to get together again if we could work it out before my kids had homeschooling next week.  As it turned out, I got an email from Ocean Breeze Water Park that you could bring friends starting Saturday for half price all day if you have passes, which we do.  So we worked it out to go together with Katie and the kids on Saturday afternoon.  They met us at my house and visited while my kids finished lunch, and then we headed out.

Oh, my gosh, we had SO much fun!  The kids played and played. It was really busy, but we ended up staying so long that it started emptying out, and we mostly had the Adventure River to ourselves.  The kids had a blast racing each other through the river, and we played games we made up with the kids and had such a great time.  We agreed they’d stay for dinner until we got in the van and pulled out our watches and realized the time was 8 PM!  We had no clue whatsoever that we’d been there for 6 hours already! 

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So we got back and called it a night since Katie’s kids were supposed to be in bed. My kids were so worn out from the sun that they started dropping like flies!  They were all asleep by about 10:00.  Holden was a zombie, and I had to wake him to brush his teeth.  I was worn out, too, but I had to stay up and finish my bible study for church.  I slept so hard and so late this morning that I barely had time to gather stuff for the potluck after church before we had to leave for services this morning! 

I can’t remember the last time me and my kids had so much fun!  I remarked to my husband that my niece is 14 years younger than me, just as my brother is 14 years older than me, so it sort of feels more like she should be a sibling than a niece.  And her son is only a year younger than my youngest son, so it feels like I should be their aunt instead of their great aunt!  We’re finally at a point in our lives, now that she is a bit older and has two kids, that we actually have some things in common and stuff we can talk about, and that’s super cool.  I’ve never lived in a place where I had family around to do things with, so it’s really been a fun experience for me and my kids.  We definitely have to make it a regular thing.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and I found out she and her fiancĂ© will be transferring out of the area in the spring.  Figures!  But we can enjoy it while it lasts.  Her kids are adorable, and we had so much fun with them.  I know my kids will be talking about it for a while, and I’m so glad we got to have some memorably good times before summer is over.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cheap Breakfast on Tuesday This Week!

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To benefit the No Kid Hungry campaign, IHOP is offering a short stack of pancakes for only $1 this Tuesday, August 23rd! 

Stop in between 7 AM - 7 PM to take advantage of this offer.  No other purchase is required.

Enjoy your breakfast!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

REVIEW: Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle by Enlivenze LLC

I’m definitely a puzzle kind of girl, so I was really looking forward to reviewing this unique Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle by Enlivenze LLC.



FlipStir Puzzles are a highly unique hand-held puzzle where all ten of the pieces are neatly contained inside a clear tube.  You simply give the cylinder a good shake before you begin, and then you manipulate the pieces using the permanently attached rod with a small tool on the end for pushing and pulling the pieces into place.  No more lost pieces!

These puzzles are intended for ages 7 and up, and there are currently two levels of difficulty available.  Level one includes Rainbow Pencils, which I received, and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Level two includes Solar System, Statue of Liberty, and Periodic Table.  The major difference between the two levels is that the pieces in level one have flat edges, whereas the pieces in level two have wavy edges.  They can be purchased for just $24.95 each.



When I received the level one Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle, I was so excited to try it out that I sat down right where I opened the box and began working on it right away.  Now I have to say that I’m really into puzzles of all kinds, be they jigsaw or pencil puzzles, so this was right up my alley.  I’m always looking for something new and fun to test my skills.

For me, I probably solved it in about 5 minutes or less.  Once I got the hang of it, I realized there were a couple of “tricks” to making it easier to solve.  One trick was to get the first couple of pieces in place at the end of the puzzle, and then store unused pieces on top of those so I could slide them off as I needed them.  This kept them out of the way so I had some space to work.  That got easier as I got more and and more pieces into place.  Another “trick” was to use the paddle tool to hold the completed pieces in place as I tilted the cylinder to move unused pieces around.  Gravity helped in this way.

After I finished it, I gave it a good shake and gave it to my 8-year old son to try next.  I should mention that he has ADHD and does not have a lot of patience and concentration for things that don’t start falling into place right away.  He got frustrated pretty fast and gave up.  I’ll try him again another day.  He’s actually the one I had in mind when I got the puzzle, because I think it will benefit him to keep trying until he solves it.  It really has the potential to help him focus better.  I need to catch him atDSCF4699 a time when he is calm and undistracted by others around him.

Next up was my 11-year old daughter.  I shared my best tips with her, and then she kept at it until she got the hang of it.  She solved it in about 10-15 minutes.  I had no doubt that she would!  She’s really good at jigsaw puzzles.  In fact, she has such a good eye that she can start putting together pieces in the center a puzzle without working from the outer edges inward!  So it was no surprise that she got this puzzle solved pretty quickly.  I think she and I would be well served to try a level two puzzle next time around!

Then my 16-year old son shook it up and took his turn with it.  He also has ADHD, though he’s much calmer and better at focusing now that he is older than he was when he was my youngest son’s age.  He was a bit frustrated right from the start!  His reaction was similar to my younger son’s, where he thought it just seems so impossible at the beginning.  I don’t know if it is a difference between the way boys’ minds work vs. girls’, or if it’s the lack of focus they both share.  But I encouraged him to keep at it and shared my best tips with him, too.  I left him alone for a little while, and after about 20-30 minutes, he finally had it solved.  I think he kept at it because he didn’t want to be defeated by a 10-piece puzzle! 

My husband wouldn’t try it.  He’s not a puzzle kind of guy, and perhaps he didn’t want the shame of taking a long time to solve it like the boys!  Smile  I’ll probably convince him to try it some time when we are bored and waiting in a lobby somewhere! 

Actually, I think this puzzle is ideal for things like waiting rooms, car trips, and plane rides.  It’s a quiet, self-contained puzzle that is easily shared and easily stored, making it a no-brainer to pack this activity for trips to anywhere.  I had a lot of fun with this, and I can’t wait to pass it around at my kids’ upcoming birthday party!  We’ll have guests of all ages, and it will be a cool game to pass it around and challenge each person to solve it.  I hope to own more of them in the future, and I hope they keep increasing the difficulty levels and adding more puzzles to the selections in the future!

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this and other FlipStir Puzzles from Enlivenze LLC by clicking the banner below.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

REVIEW: Starter Set 1 by Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

My 8-year old son, Holden, was really looking forward to practicing his Spanish with the Starter Set 1 by Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.



Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids offers a complete Spanish language course for students from preschool through adults.  It combines immersion with visuals in the form of entertaining videos, flashcards, workbooks, and stickers to engage all types of learners.  The videos make you laugh, and laughing makes the content more memorable.  The program is available online via subscription, but it’s also available as a physical kit called Starter Set 1, which is what I received. 

It includes:

  • Complete 20-week curriculum guide with games and activities
  • DVD 1 containing the first three videos in the series
  • Three workbooks that coordinate with the three videos
  • Sticker set that accompanies the first video
  • Flashcard set with graphics and vocabulary from the first three videos
  • Go Squish! Card Game (included as a bonus for a limited time)

The starter set is regularly $165.00, but it’s on sale now through August 31st for just $140.25!  That’s a savings of 15%!

You can watch a brief sample video to get a feel for the immersion involved.  You can also try out some of the student workbook activities from Level 1 in the online format, which is identical to the contents of the printed workbook.



Holden really enjoys a good interactive Spanish program.  We’ve tried a number of different formats, but he generally enjoys a combination of visuals and hands-on activities.  This beginner Spanish program definitely fit the bill!

I was excited when I opened the box to find so many elements included!  It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but then I realized there were several sets of workbooks and teacher’s guides…one to accompany each of the included videos.  So after pairing up the materials in the order we’d be using them, I sat down with the first teacher’s guide and read the very helpful introduction called “How to Get Started.”  This gives a basic overview, goals, and methodology for the program.  The basic premise is that by having students hear the conversational language spoken in everyday situations repeatedly over time, they will be able to discern the meaning of the words based on their use in the context of conversation.  Repetition is key here.  Students will watch the videos over and over again in segments and as a whole. 

This section also explains the layout of the guides, which are broken down by lessons.  If you choose to use the suggested lesson plans, it really makes it super easy to follow!  It even includes an estimate of time needed for each lesson (including the activities), which really helps in planning purposes.  It might also help you to know that the format of the videos is such that it’s meant to feel like you are on an airplane taking a trip to the designated Latin American country, and you are watching these videos as in-flight entertainment.  My son got a big kick out of that!  It made him giggle.  Our first “trip” was from Washington, D.C. to Lima, Peru.

The first video is called Basketballs Aren’t for Breakfast.  In this show, three brothers are iScreen Shot from Video #1ntroduced as they arrive downstairs for breakfast.  One brother loves to eat, one loves to read, and one loves to play basketball.  You also meet the family dogs, and you learn of their personalities by observing their dreams…one wants to eat the family’s breakfast off the table, and the other one just wants to sleep! 

Throughout the film, you get to hear and observe the characters interacting in everyday activities like getting up, eating a meal, looking for missing items, going to a party and giving a gift, playing, etc.  Students get to learn a host of vocabulary words naturally, to include basic greetings, words of courtesy, family members, names for foods, household items, as well as other common words to describe things like big/little, sleep, I like/do not like, where is, here is, there is, etc. 

There are eleven lesson plans in the Level 1 teacher’s guide, and we got to do a variety of activities after each viewing of all or part of that first video.  Some of those activities included:

  • doing workbook pages together (the workbooks are recommended for 3rd grade and up)
  • learning about the geography of Lima, Peru
  • choosing some of the stickers from the sticker pack and placing them around the house to label appropriate items with Spanish words.  WDSCF4689e had fun sticking “la pelota” on his ball bin and “huevos” on the egg bin in the refrigerator!
  • matching Spanish words or phrases with photos in the card decks
  • playing the Rapid Review game.  At the end of the video, Holden tried to call out the Spanish words for items that appeared on the screen before I could…that was a fun game and a great way to review!  It really challenged him to have quick recall of words.
  • discussing interesting facts from the student workbook
  • learning grammar applications in the final lesson

There are also additional suggested activities at the back of the teacher’s guide for extended learning.  We haven’t quite finished Level 1, but pretty soon, I definitely plan to use some of those extended activities like drawing the Peruvian flag and cooking some Peruvian food.  Those are the kinds of hands-on things that really excite my sDSCF4690on!  When we get to the end of the teacher’s guide, there’s also a lovely completion certificate that I can tear out and present to Holden for completing the first part of the course.

In the student workbook, Holden got to match images with Spanish words, do a simple word search, label things he likes or doesn’t like with “me gusta” or “no me gusta,” answer yes or no questions that reviewed events from the video, unscramble Spanish words, and circle appropriate images to match words.  He also got to do some grammar activities like determining if a noun is feminine or masculine and using el/la or las/los before the nouns.  We learned about the geography and culture of Peru.  There was also a crossword puzzle, some fill-in-the blanks, a secret message, some more grammar and idioms, and a cartoon activity.

In peeking ahead to the Level 2 and Level 3 student workbooks, it looks as though there are a variety of written activities in those, and each workbook has different types of assignments in it with progressing difficulty. 

There’s also a Go Squish card game that is similar to Go Fish, only the players speak only in Spanish!  It has two levels of play using either simple phrases or complete sentences.  Fun!

In speaking with the vendor, I learned that hopefully in the fall, they plan to give access to online quizzes for purchasers of the physical Starter Set 1.  Currently, the quizzes are only available to online subscribers.  I’m looking forward to assessing Holden’s learning with those online quizzes!

Overall, I’m very impressed with this program.  The vocabulary is extensive, and learning the language is fun!  We found ourselves using the vocabuDSCF4684lary words throughout our day, reinforcing what we’d learned.  I love the suggested lesson plans, which provide me with an open-and-go curriculum.  I also love that the videos are funny, and since we have been doing the recommended two lessons per week, the repetition of the videos does not become too monotonous.  Also, the amount of time that Holden is required to sit is relatively short, which is important for him.  The activities get him moving around from place to place, watching a video, placing stickers around the room, moving to the table to do a workbook page, or spreading out on the floor with a fun card game.

If you’re looking for a fun, interactive Spanish curriculum that doesn’t feel too heavy, then give this a try and see for yourself how well it works!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about this awesome program by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hayden’s 17th Birthday

Friday was Hayden’s 17th birthday.  Man, that was a bitter pill to swallow!  It dawned on me that this was his final birthday as a youth.  The next time I celebrate his birthday with him, he will be an adult!  Sigh.DSCF4698

That realization was very emotional for me!  I can sympathize with how my mom must have felt when *I* left home…I was her youngest of 6 children and much younger than the others.  After all the years she spent parenting all of us, it must have been very difficult for her to face the closing of that season of life.  When I left home later that year, she was a bit bitter and resentful, and she wasn’t very nice to me that day, whereas my dad kind of switched roles with her and was warm and encouraging and just as helpful as he could be.  I know he was proud of me for forging out on my own.  I now know that my mom was, too, but she was struggling with those feelings of separation for the last time, and I can only imagine how hard that must have been for her.

Hayden is my first-born.  He was always a ball of energy and a great big handful, but he kept me on my toes for all these years.  I wouldn’t trade them for a thing!  I can hardly believe he’s almost a man.  He’s my son, but he’s also a great companion, my buddy, if you will.  I enjoy spending time with him, and it will be hard to see him go when the time comes…like a dear friend who suddenly moves away, and you keep feeling the stab of missing them year after year…only worse!

Anyway, he’ll always have my heart, and I love him so dearly!

The day before his birthday, we took a little trip out to Colonial Williamsburg.  We mostly just w20160811_144823alked around…it was so hot that we weren’t up for doing a whole lot while we were there.  We did get to see the armament, which we had missed last year, and that presentation was pretty interesting.  But the best part was when we stopped in at the colonial bakery.  We each picked our own treat and sat outside in the shade on a park bench and enjoyed a few moments of rest.  I had an apple crumb cake, Hayden and Haylee both had brownies, and Holden had a chocolate chip cookie.  Everything’s baked fresh every day, and it was all SO good!

We made a pit stop in Hampton to pick up some great deals at the Goodwill Outlet (always fun) and had lunch at Rally’s (all of ours have closed in Va. Beach).  Then just before we finally got home, we stopped for a Slurpee.  The kids had a great time!  We were all so exhausted from the heat that we started collapsing one by one.  We had no trouble sleeping that night!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Burgess Birthday Bash 2016


Every year, we have one really big themed birthday party for Hayden and Haylee, because their birthdays are only 12 days apart.  Yesterday was the big day!  The kids like to pick a different country each year, and I plan a menu of authentic foods from that country, and we hold the party at lunch time. 

So with French cafĂ© music in the background, we feasted on dishes like Beef Au Jus (French dip), two kinds of croissant sandwiches, Tartiflette (a potato/onion/bacon/wine dish), Charcuterie (with 3 kinds of French soft cheese, 3 kinds of meats, and 3 fruits, and 3 kinds of pickled treats with 3 kinds of crackers and breads for spreading), Classic Celery Remoulade, and mini cream cheese croissants.  Then we had delicious party punch that one of my friends made (thank you, Bonnie) and strawberry cake with strawberry marshmallow fluffy frosting.  It was delicious!

We had all kinds of indoor crafts for the girls to do, and all kinds of outdoor activities for the boys to do.

It was a lot of fun!  It’s always great to hang out with good friends.

It’s hard to believe that Haylee is now 12, and Hayden will be 17 this Friday.  The years have just disappeared before my eyes!

I’ll leave you with a photo diary of the event.

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