Sunday, January 31, 2016

Thinking About Math

It’s the end of January, and that means it’s time for me to think about what homeschool curricula to choose for each of the kids.  I immediately hit a snag when I realized that I’m going to need to change up math for Holden next year.

You see, he’s always done Saxon Math, and he’s finishing up Saxon Math 3 in May (and we start again in June).  I own all of the levels through Algebra II, but I know that Saxon Math 5/4 switches to the self-study format.  In addition, there are no longer pre-printed worksheets starting with that level, which means the student has to copy the problems down onto graph paper.  Those two factors alone will mean it will not be a good fit for Holden at this point. 

The first issue is that he definitely has issues with hyperactivity.  He needs interaction to help him focus on what he’s doing.  The second issue is that he is left-handed and lacks fine motor skills as of yet.  His writing is still too large, and he fusses a lot about writing much at all.  So expecting him to copy problems down in a legible, orderly fashion in a limited space will simply not work.

So this realization got me thinking this weekend about what math program might be a good alternative for him for 3rd grade.  In considering my options, I began leaning towards Teaching Textbooks.  I played around with sample lessons on their website, and I think he would enjoy the interactive video lessons.  The optional workbook would have the problems printed out for him already with ample room to work them, and he could enter his answers in the program on the computer.  That’s perfect for him!  I think he could handle it on his own, and that would also free up some time for me to fit in my workout now that I’m back to daily exercise again. 

My only concern is that it seems like the levels run a bit behind.  Since Holden would have been starting Saxon Math 5/4, I looked at the placement test for Teaching Textbooks 4, and it seems a bit simple.  In addition, the sample lessons I looked at were for concepts that we’ve already covered in Saxon 3.  So I’m wondering if I should start with level 4 or level 5.  This is where I could use some advice from someone who has used it before. 

If you are familiar with Saxon and Teaching Textbooks and perhaps have used both of them, please share some feedback with me on placement in this case.  I don’t want to make things too easy for him…he is pretty sharp with math concepts in general.  And I don’t want to lose ground on the pace we’re used to with Saxon.  I like my kids to be ahead a bit with their math learning so that the standardized testing we’re required to do at the end of the year is pretty easy for them.  That way, if they hit a bump in the road, they have extra time to master the concepts before feeling the pressure of needing to know them for that test.

I’ll be posting more on this topic in the coming weeks as my thoughts and plans come together for each of the kids.

Where are you with your school planning?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Losing Weight, Getting Fit, and a Little Snow!

Last weekend, I got on the scales, only to discover that I was 139.2 pounds.  I was disgusted with myself.  I decided right then and there that it was time to get myself back on P.I.N.K. Method.  I followed this awesome nutrition and exercise plan starting back in December 2011, just before I turned 40, and I kept it up for 20 months straight without missing a beat! 


Lots of things in my life happened at that time, one right after another, and all of them sabotaged my lifestyle.  As a result, I got away from following the plan and quit exercising altogether.  Also during that time, I severely injured my Achilles tendon in my left foot, and I found everyday walking very difficult, much less exercising.  It took a year and a half for it to not give me chronic pain.  So here I am, 44 and totally out of shape again, and 16 pounds heavier than my maintenance weight on P.I.N.K.  It’s time for a change!

I started putting myself in the right frame of mind this week, cutting portion sizes and mindfully eating only when I was hungry, laying off the sweets, etc., and I managed to lose 3 lbs. even before starting P.I.N.K. on Friday.  That was a great way to start!  The first part of P.I.N.K. has you do a Reset period, a type of detox, to jumpstart your weight loss and get you ready to begin the workouts.  For me, I’m doing 10 days of Reset this time because I have more weight to lose than the last time around.  I started on Friday, and I lost about a pound the first day and again the second day!  No carbs, no dairy, and limited caffeine…but I’m making it!  I know I can do it, because I’ve done it before.  So now I’m down about 5 lbs. since last weekend.


If you’d like to try P.I.N.K. Method, you can get the online program for just $20 right now.  And I saw the physical kit with an instruction book/journal and DVD’s is being offered for $15.36 at OpenSky for about another week.  That’s a whole lot cheaper than it was when I bought it in 2011 for $60!  And once you’re a member, you can follow the plan for life.  It’s not costing me anything extra to restart my plan and pick up right where I left off.

I love that there are daily suggested menus.  There’s also a blueprint you can follow to determine what you should eat if you want to create your own meals.  But I usually follow the suggest meal plan, because I enjoy the variety that it offers. 


P.I.N.K. Drink #1 for breakfast
(unsweetened cashew milk, a scoop of vanilla whey protein powder, and frozen strawberries)


P.I.N.K. Reset Day 1 – Lunch
(4 oz. lean beef patty, stewed tomatoes, rainbow salad w/low-cal dressing)


P.I.N.K. Reset Day 1 – Dinner
(4 oz. grilled salmon, steamed broccoli and cauliflower)

Even though there are no carbs during the Reset phase, you can see that there’s plenty of food to eat, and it’s really yummy, too!

I will start Phase 1 with workouts on February 1st.  Hopefully, my injured foot and my bum knees will hold out okay.  I’m looking forward to losing inches and getting fit again!


I just wanted to make quick mention of the crazy weather we’re having.  There was a huge blizzard that struck a large corridor of the East Coast this weekend.  It got most of my state, but it basically missed my little coastal area of VA, bringing us mostly rain.  It started out sleeting and snowing late Friday morning, prompting the school system to send kids home 3 hours early so the buses wouldn’t be on the road once it got slippery.  Even hubby got sent home super early!  The kids had a great time making a tiny snowman on the trunk of my car. 


Then it all changed over to rain, washing away the snow we’d gotten at first.  It rained and rained a whole lot, all night long, and the wind picked up considerably overnight.  Then at some point on Saturday, it switched from rain to sleet to snow again, creating a slushy mess, even on the highway!  We went out in the early evening to pick up a couple of things at the grocery store, and the parking lots were already deep with slush, and the roads were already getting slippery.  The snow just kept on coming, blowing sideways with gusty winds up to 49 mph in my coastal city.  Before we knew it, the streets of my neighborhood were covered, and everything was white again.  Now it’s not a lot of snow by any means, but it’s more than we got on the front side of the storm that supposedly missed us, and it didn’t stop until about 10 PM! 

It was in the 20’s last night, so everything is definitely frozen, and Sunday is supposed to be a high of only 33, so there’s going to be little to no melting going on throughout the day.  Then Sunday’s low is supposed to be 22, so my guess is that the neighborhoods, at least will be very icy and will probably affect schools for Monday morning.  I am guessing there will be a 2-hour delay or something like that.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Birthday Freebies for Adults

With so many birthdays in my family recently, a friend whose birthday is coming up soon asked me to share a list of all the places that adults can get free birthday treats through various restaurants and stores that have birthday clubs.

That got me thinking that many of my readers might enjoy seeing that list comprised in one place, too!  So here are my favorites for you.Image result for birthday schlotzskys

Schlotzky’s:  Sign up and load the Lotz4Me app on your smartphone.  The coupon will be shown under your rewards when your birthday rolls around.  You activate the coupon in-store and get about an hour and a half to use it.  A code comes up for the cashier to enter so you can get a FREE small sandwich of your choice, no purchase required.  Personally, I love the smoked turkey reuben on rye…my favorite!

Honeybaked Ham:  Sign up, and this coupon will be emailed to you to print at home, and you get about a week to use it.  It’s for a FREE original ham sandwich, no purchase required.

Ruby Tuesday:  Sign up for their So Connected emails, and you’ll get an email coupon for a FREE burger about a week before your birthday.  I never received my birthday email this year, even though I get tons of other emails from them, so I contacted customer service.  They were really apologetic and sent me a $10 gift certificate instead!  Now that’s service!

Moe’s Southwest Grill:  Sign up for their eClub, and you’ll not only get a coupon for a free cup of queso right away, but you’ll also get a birthday email with Image result for birthday moesa coupon for a free entree of your choice with the purchase of a drink!  My teenage son gets a coupon for a free burrito, but mine and my husband’s is always for an entree (and my kids get one for a free kids’ meal).  I like that mine is for an entree, because with hubby’s and my birthdays so close together, we can take both birthday coupons and order two Billy Barou’s, and it’s enough food to comfortably feed my family of 5 for just the cost of two drinks, which is about $4!  Plus, you get free refills on the drinks with one of those cool Coke machines where you can mix the flavors yourself.  You can’t beat that!

Red Robin:  Join the Red Robin Royalty program, and you’ll receive a coupon on your account (there’s also an app) on your birthday for a FREE burger of your choice!  And what’s more, it comes with bottomless fries or a salad, no purchase required!  This year, we had my free burger, hubby’s free burger, and my 8-year old’s free kids’ meal coupons, and we only had to order for my teenager and myImage result for birthday red robin 11-year old!  It was a lovely dinner out.  They allow you to use multiple birthday coupons at the same table, which is cool.  Now you can only put yourself and 2 kids on your account, so your spouse will need an account, too, if you have more in your family like we do, and you’ll need to link them to different phone numbers since that’s how they look up your account.  We just split the check so he could use his account to pay for one bill and my account to pay for the other one.  You can pull up your account right on the mobile device on the table and pay right there so you don’t even have to bug the server!  Very convenient.

Olive Garden:  Sign up for their eNewsletter, and you’ll get an email coupon for a free dessert on your birthday, no purchase required!

Fazoli’s:  Join the Fazoli’s efamily, and you will not only get a gift just for joining, but you’ll also receive an email birthday coupon for a FREE dessert with any purchase!

Baskin Robbins:  Sign up for their email club, and you’ll receive a birthday coupon for a FREE scoop or soft serve cone on your birthday, no purchase required!

Coldstone Creamery:  Join the My Cold Stone Club, and you’ll get a birthday coupon for B1G1F any Creation!  It’s not as good as it used to be, though.  You used to get a free Creation on your birthday without having to make a purchase.  But I’m not complaining!

Dairy Queen:  Join the Blizzard Fan Club, and you’ll get a B1G1F Blizzard coupon just for signing up, plus one on your birthday and your anniversary of joining!  Plus, you get other coupons regularly, like B1G1F any smoothie or Julius.  I love Orange Julius!  And the chocolate-dipped strawberry Blizzard will forever be my favorite!  I can’t seem to make myself order any other flavor. 

IHOP:  Join IHOP Rewards, and you’ll get a birthday coupon for FREE RoImage result for ihopoty Tooty Fresh ‘n’ Fruity Pancakes!  This one isn’t as good as it used to be, because you used to get a free Rooty Tooty meal, and now it’s only pancakes.  So I often don’t even bother with this one any more.  If I go with my whole family, I’d rather order a whole meal than just pancakes.  Especially because I love the Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper & Cheese Griddle Melt sandwich at any time of day!  They took it off the menu, but they still have the ingredients on hand, so they’ll still make it for you if you request it, and I always do!  It’s amazing, and it’s so big that I can make two meals out of it.  Delicious!

Auntie Anne’s:  Get the My Pretzel Perks app on your smartphone, and you’ll be glad you did.  Not only do you get a FREE pretzel for your birthday, but you get freebies and big discounts all year long! 

Sonic Drive-In:  Sign up for offers, and you’ll receive a birthday coupon for a FREE item on your birthday.  It used to be a Cream Slush, which is my favorite, but this year, it was a free medium tots with any purchase.  Again, not nearly as good as it used to be.  You only get one chance to view your coupon, so be sure you’re ready to print it when you open it.  It’s stored on your account, so you just log in to access it and print it.  While you’re at it, be sure to sign up for text offers, too.  I get great text offers all year long…nearly something new every week…like 79-cent junior deluxe cheeseburgers or half price full-size burgers.  It usually says limit 5, but my Sonic does not adhere to the limit.  The other day, I ordered 10 and fed us for lunch that day and dinner the next for $10.  Nice!

Starbucks:  To join My Starbucks Rewars, make sure you register a Starbucks gift card so you can get a FREE birthday drink every year in the month of your birthday.  The reward comes up on their register when they scan your registered Image result for birthday starbucksgift card, and you just mention that you want to redeem your free birthday drink.  You can just buy the initial gift card with $5 on it and then turn around and use it to pay for a drink you were buying anyway, and then register the card and keep it.  It doesn’t matter if you keep reloading it or not, but I always transfer any balances receive on other cards (that I receive as gifts or that I purchase on Groupon deals, etc.) to that one registered card.  Using it to pay for your purchases also accrues rewards every so many drinks.

Sears:  Join the Shop Your Way program, and you’ll get $5 in points to spend for your birthday!  In addition, they give you surprise points all the time.  Over the holidays, I kept getting $10 in points to spend on clothing or $10 in points to spend on $15 worth of kids’ clothing and other offers like that.  It was like free money!  If you order online and pick up in-store, there’s no shipping charge, even if they have to ship it to the store.  They also have a 5-minute pickup guarantee.  If they take longer than 5 minutes when you pick up your order, you get a $5 coupon for the wait.  If you do their free trial of Shop Your Way MAX, then you also get free shipping to home on qualifying items.  I took advantage of that over the holidays.  I had a new backpack style purse in my cart and left it there.  They kept sending me reminders not to abandon the item in my cart.  Eventually, when I clicked on the reminder, they offered me $10 in surprise points, so I got a great discount on a purse that was already deeply on sale, plus free shipping to home with the MAX trial.  I was so happy!  They do send you a lot of emails, but most of them offer you some kind of coupon or free surprise points, so it’s worth weeding through them for special offers and potential freebies.  You can also get their Shop Your Way app on your phone, and it not only stores your points and coupons, but it also allows you to pick up your items at the store while still in your car!  Now that’s truly curbside service!

Kohls:  Join Yes2You Rewards, and you’ll get a $5 coupon to spend for your birthday!  I have the app on my smartphone, and it even stores all of my Kohl’s coupons, Kohl’s Cash, and Yes2You Rewards right on there so I don’t have to carry them around.  And when you find online coupon codes that stack at Kohl’s, you can enter the promo codes right into the app, and it will store the coupon there for you with all the terms and conditions and the expiration date so you can keep them all straight!  Then you just show the barcodes on your phone at the register for a truly convenient experience!

Best Buy:  Join the My Best Buy Rewards program and get a $5 coupon to spend for your birthday!  You also accumulate rewards points towards cash coupons to spend in the store.  The app for your smartphone will store your coupons, offers, and points conveniently on your mobile device.

That’s all I can think of for now!  There are other smaller offers like bonus reward points at ACMoore and other stores, but these are the best ones that I always try to remember to use.  It amounts to a lot of free food!

If you know of others at national chains, please share in the comments, and I’ll be sure to come back and update my list if I find others in the future.

Have a happy birthday when the time comes to get all of your freebies!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Party Time!!!

On Saturday, we had Holden’s 8th birthday party with all of our close family friends.  It was so much fun, and as I looked around the room, I began to realize two things:  one, what a wonderful group of people we’re blessed to have in our lives, and two, how long all of these people have been a part of our lives!  Some of these friends, I’ve known for 24 years…some from church even longer!  My kids have such wonderful memories with all of them, and it was delightful to see how much each of our friends felt joy in seeing each other again, as well!  It really made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Holden had such a wonderful time…as he got ready for bed, he told me he’d had such a fun party day and thanked me.  I’m really glad.  It was 6:30 before the last of our company left, and it was really a pleasure to see everyone gathered together in one place. 

I drew BB8 on the cake from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie that we all saw recently.  Holden thought it was really cool.  And Haylee and I spent all day Friday baking and decorating 77 cake pops for the party.  They were so good!  I didn’t do any cooking for this party…just baking…so it was a really easy event for me to host compared to Hayden’s and Haylee’s summer party.

Here are photos to summarize the day.  In some ways, it’s so hard to believe my baby is 8!









Many thanks to everyone for coming and making Holden’s day so special, and thank you for the blessing of your friendship.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Let the Birthdays Begin!!!

Immediately following Christmas, we have a string of birthdays in our house…three of them, in fact, in a 10-day period. 

Monday, December 28th, was Holden’s 8th birthday.  It’s hard to believe 8 years have flown by since I gave birth to my beloved last child!  He chose his birthday dinner of homemade calzones and house bacon cheddar salad.


Then he got to have his birthday chip cake with vanilla marshmallow frosting.  It was delicious!


On New Year’s Eve, I actually managed to keep myself awake long enough to ring in the New Year, and with it, my 44th birthday!  I barely made it…I kept myself awake by reading a book while soaking in a hot bath and then folding laundry, of all things!  Steve ended up being the only one to fall asleep.  Go figure!

I actually had a wonderful and relaxing birthday.  Initally, I wasn’t too happy about being in my mid-40’s, but in the end, it turned out to be a really special day!  In the morning, Steve and I went out for breakfast at Denny’s.  I had my free Grand Slam, which was delicious!  We were pretty much stuffed after that, so we didn’t eat again until evening.

Haylee got out my Perfect Bake and baked me some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies all by herself!  I was really proud of her, and they were delicious!  Then she and Steve slipped out for a bit, and upon their return, they surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of mixed flowers and a huge tin of Belgian chocolate covered cookies!  That was completely unexpected.  I also got cards from Steve and the kids, and Haylee had made me a couple of cards, as well.

After a while, my dearest friend, Micka Carden, stopped by and surprised me with another beautiful bouquet of carnations, a box of chocolate covered nuts from Trader Joe’s (yum!), a card, and a lovely fabric-covered message board she’s made for me in my favorite colors for posting prayer cards, notes, or photos.  So pretty!

In the evening, Haylee and Steve warmed up a bunch of appetizers I’d bought, and we chowed down on those and a shrimp cocktail ring for dinner.  It was a real junk-fest, and it was delicious!  Then after my hot bath, they sang to me, and then we enjoyed my favorite Uncle Harry’s Ice Cream Cake! 


My $27 ice cream cake ended up being free this year.  The company had sent me a voucher for a free small Sweet Moments cake earlier in the year when I alerted them to a problem with their email system.  When I went to pick it up from Harris Teeter, they didn’t carry the small ones…only the much bigger ones.  But the manager of that department decided to let me get the bigger one with the voucher anyway, so that was awesome!  It must have been my lucky day. Smile

It was so big that we cut it in half, and we’ll use half for my birthday and half for Steve’s birthday this Thursday coming up. 

On Saturday, they had planned to make my birthday dinner since we were all stuffed the night before.  But instead, we all saved up our hunger and only ate once at about 4 PM when we went out to Red Robin to enjoy our free birthday burgers.  I had three coupons…a free kid’s meal for Holden’s birthday, and a free burger each for Steve and me for our birthdays.  That was my first time having a burger and fries there, and I must say that it was delicious!  I went for the Chophouse Burger.  It was really flavorful, and they cooked it well done, just the way I like it.  I don’t usually order burgers in restaurants because they are always undercooked, but this was just right.  I was very pleased!  We had a great time with the whole family eating out together, which is a rare treat for us, and we were all super stuffed.

Since my homemade birthday dinner keeps getting bumped, I’m supposed to get it today after church.  I asked for my favorite…rosemary-crusted lamb chops and steamed and buttered baby potatoes with mint sauce and any kind of vegetable.  Yum!  I’m looking forward to it.

It’s been a really relaxing and wonderful holiday weekend!  It was a great way to finish off our holiday break.  Now it’s time to get back to the routine and be ready for school tomorrow!

I hope you all have a blessed and happy 2016!