Saturday, September 29, 2018

Today is National Coffee Day!!!

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To celebrate, stop by your local Krispy Kreme donut shop and enjoy a free small hot or iced coffee!  And while you’re there, you may as well treat yourself to the NEW Original Glazed Coffee doughnut. Smile

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If Dunkin’ Donuts is more your speed, then stop by for B1G1F any size coffee.

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Or if you’re in the mood for Cinnabon, stop in for a free 12 oz. coffee!

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If donuts aren’t on your cup of tea, then swing by 7-Eleven for a free any-size coffee with your 7Rewards app!

Happy National Coffee Day!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Awesome Deals This Week!

Tuesday, September 18th, is officially National Cheeseburger Day!  Stop by your Red Robin and enjoy a $5 Gourmet Cheeseburger and Bottomless Fries with the purchase of an adult-sized beverage!  Valid at participating locations, dine-in only.

National Cheeseburger Day.

Wednesday, September 19th, is officially Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Visit your Long John Silver’s restaurant and “talk like a pirate” in order to receive one FREE deep-fried Twinkie, or “dress like a pirate” in order to receive one free Fish & Fry!  No purchase necessary.  Ahoy, Matey!

Image result for long john silvers talk like a pirate day 2018Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Freebie in the Chick-Fil-A App

If you have the Chick-Fil-A app, check it now, and if you don’t, go get it before September 29th!  You’ll get a reward for a FREE 8-ct. original or grilled chicken nuggets, good through September 30th.  No purchase required!  Get yours now!

CFA freebie


Saturday, September 8, 2018

September Specials

Image result for septemberThere are lots of special deals happening in the month of September around the country.  Be sure to search for those that are local to you.  Here are the ones that apply in my area:

September 20:  National Pepperoni Cheese Pizza Day

  • Stop by Pizza Hut and any large menu-priced pizza and get one medium pepperoni pizza for just $1 with code PEPPERONI2018.

September 20:  FREE Queso Day

  • Stop by Moe’s Southwest Grill to get a cup of FREE queso, no purchase required.  You can also enter to win free queso for life!

September 22:  Museum Day

  • Smithsonian hosts this annual event in which folks can get a ticket for about 1,400 museums nationwide for FREE.  Get the details and register.

September 29:  National Coffee Day

  • Stop by Barnes & Noble Cafe and get a FREE tall cup of hot or iced coffee.
  • Stop by Corner Bakery & Cafe and get a FREE hand-roasted coffee or cold brew (where available) with any purchase on September 28-29.

Enjoy your freebies and deals!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

REVIEW: GrammarPlanet by GrammarPlanet

We are using Junior Analytical Grammar for English this year and really love it.  So when we heard that the same company was making a similar online version of the program called GrammarPlanet, we were excited to review it!


GrammarPlanet is made by the same people as the Analytical Grammar programs.  Since we’re currently using Junior Analytical Grammar for school, I can tell you that I would best describe GrammarPlanet as an online version of that program! 

The best part is that you can sign up for FREE!  The free version of GrammarPlanet does contain ads.  If you’d like to use the ad-free version, then you can pay a one-time fee of $39 per ad-free user.  Your membership never expires, so each student can spend as long on the program as they need to!  And if they don’t do as well as they’d like, you can log into the parent dashboard and reset any unit at any time so it can be repeated by that student.  In fact, if they don’t exhibit mastery, then you’ll receive an email letting you know that the student’s progress has been locked until you either unlock it so they can continue to the next unit or reset that unit so it can be repeated. 

This program is intended for users ages 10 and up.  There are currently 13 units available for practice, and new content is being added regularly.


Holden really enjoys using the paper version of Junior Analytical Grammar with the accompanying DVD with video instruction.  But since he has ADHD and was late learning to write, he still struggles with writing small enough to squeeze in a lot of information in a small space.  So when he is parsing sentences in his workbook, it can be difficult for me to read his responses when they are all scrunched together.  So when I learned that GrammarPlanet was a similar program by the same people but online only, I thought it might just be a solution to his writing issues!

Teacher Dashboard Overview

I was really pleased with how it worked!  As he goes through parsing the sentences, he is able to click on each word of the sentence and pull up a drop-box of choices for the appropriate part of speech, make his selection from the box, and the program adds the selected label to each word.  That is so much easier than having him write them down in a small space!  So right from the start, we both loved it!  The video instruction for each unit is built right into the program, and as he watches it, it periodically pauses to ask comprehension questions at intervals so he can assess whether or not he is comprehending key points in the new material.  Before the video starts, he prints out the lesson notes sheet to go with it.  That contains the notes that would normally be in the Jr. Analytical Grammar workbook.  This allows him to refer back to the notes as needed when he’s completing the practice exercises.  Then he begins the practice session. 

Practice Mid-Video Quiz

Notes Page - Pronouns Notes Page - Pronouns 2

The program is able to determine if the child needs more practice as they work through each unit and will automatically add additional practice questions if it seems like the student might be struggling.  GrammarPlanet recommends that each student spend just 15 minutes a day working through the program so that they have time to absorb and process new material before continuing.  The daily practice and reinforcement will solidify their learning as they move through the program.  As a result, some practice sessions may be longer or shorter than others, depending on the child’s progress.  Grading of each sentence is instantaneous, and on unit quizzes, the grade analysis is given at the end of the test showing what the student did wrong.  Parents can track their progress in the parent dashboard.

Post-Test Results Teacher Dashboard Overview

During the review period, Holden made it through the units for Common Nouns, Proper Nouns, Pronouns, and Articles and Adjectives.  I had him repeat two of the units because he sped through and missed some important learning opportunities, and when the program emailed me twice that his account was locked because he didn’t master the material, I easily logged in and reset those units so he could repeat them.  I gave him a goal of completing a unit per week, but you really should limit practice to 15 minutes per day, as recommended in the program.  Holden is farther along in the actual Junior Analytical Grammar program, so I loved that he could use this program for extra practice on topics we’ve already covered.  Clearly, he could use it!  Winking smile 

Unit 1 Progress Report

And I want to mention that GrammarPlanet is definitely not just a very minimal, basic grammar program.  It’s actually quite challenging, even for me, and I was known in high school as the class grammarian!  It includes even less common words for each part of speech…words that you can’t identify immediately.  They require some analysis and extra thought to get them correct.  That’s why it is important to slow down and take your time with this program.  Honestly, I think it’s even great for adults to brush up on their grammar skills!  And when you get to Unit 6 and beyond, the program adds printable sentences for the student to diagram on paper.  Answer keys are provided in the program. 

I really like the “process steps” provided in the unit notes.  They really help the student tackle each sentence systematically, aiding them in correctly parsing the sentence.  And there’s a button on the screen to allow the student to refer back to the instructional video at any point during a unit.  I honestly just cannot believe all the features that are included with this program absolutely free…you get the online program, the printable notes, and the online instructional videos built in.  It’s a perfect combination to really understand grammar…maybe for the first time for many students.

Crew members were the first ones to try out this program, and through our ongoing feedback, the creators were able to work out some bugs and make improvements based on our comments.  It’s truly a lovely program, and after investing so much on Junior Analytical Grammar, I’m impressed that this program is available for FREE!  There’s really no reason not to try it out.  I just can’t say enough good things about it. 

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

REVIEW: 200 Essential Reading Skills for Fifth Grade by Reading Eggs

When Holden was little and first learning to read, he loved the Reading Eggs website, so when we heard they had a new line of printed workbooks, we were excited to try out 200 Essential Reading Skills for Fifth Grade.


Reading Eggs is a wonderful website for young children who are learning to read, but also for helping kids to reinforce and strengthen their reading skills as they get older.  It has 4 levels of activities that teach and entertain children ages 2-4, 4-5, 6-7, and 7-13.  Watch a short video to learn more about the website, or try out some sample lessons.

The latest product from Reading Eggs is a wonderful line of new full-color printed workbooks to enhance the reading skills of kids in K-5th grade.  (There are also math workbooks for grades K-2, which some of the other Crew members received.)  I received 200 Essential Reading Skills for Fifth Grade, which has over 200 pages and is available for just $19.95!


The Reading Eggs website for ages 7-13 is called Reading Eggspress.  Holden is 10 now, so this is where I set him up.  Your child can take a placementHome Screen test initially to start them off at their appropriate skill level, or through the parent dashboard, you can just skip the assessment and simply assign them to the grade level you feel is appropriate and have them start there.  Holden played on Reading Eggs when he was little and was first learning to read, and he enjoyed it very much.  But he took 4 years of formal phonics instruction as a young child, and his reading skills are above grade level, so I just went ahead and started him at the 5th grade level without doing the placement test. 

The website has a number of areas that offer a variety of types of instruction and play.  In the Library section, there are age-appropriate digital book selections to read.  After reading the book of your choice, you answer comprehension questionsThe Stadium in order to earn points or “eggs.”  There’s also a Stadium section that has competitive games to play in grammar, usage, spelling, and vocabulary.  Points are also received based on how you score in the games, and you can choose from 2 levels of difficulty in each game.  I have to admit that I found myself playing the games just for fun!  The “difficult” level is fast-paced and is a great way to brush up on things like grammar skills!   In the English Skills section, there is a series of lessons in spelling.  Each lLessonesson has a colorful instructional video, 20 interactive questions in a variety of formats with little mini-games built in, and a 10-question spelling test.  This section offers so much variety and high-interest learning activities that it almost doesn’t feel like learning!  The Targets section shows a variety of goals your children can attempt to achieve.  The My Lessons section takes your children through the daily lessons.  They will practice a variety of reading skills in thisEnglish Skills area such as reading comprehension, grammar, spelling, grammar, dictionary skills, alphabetizing, etc.  There are additional sections such as the Mall, the Trophy Room, the Apartment, and the Arcade.  These sections give your children a chance to play fun and rewarding games and activities by spending the points they’ve accrued in the learning sections.  At any time, your children can review their progress in the My Progress dashboard. 

I think this is one of the most fun and engaging learning websites my kids have ever used!  You can give it a try with a free trial before purchasing to see if it’s a good fit for your children.  The best part is that it also coordinates with the series of printed workbooks!  So as your children make their way through the lessons on the website, they can also be reinforcing their skills with the daily worksheets. 

In 200 Essential Reading Skills for Fifth Grade, there are 36 weeks’ worth of colorful daily worksheets as well as quarterly comprehensive review pages to keep your child’s reading skills sharp.  Each week, days 1 and 2 focus on reading comprehension.  Your child will have a short reading passage followed by a few comprehension questions.  They will also be asked to mark various parts of speech and context clues. 

Comprehension 1 Comprehension 2 Comprehension 3

On days 3 and 4, your child will focus on spelling activities.  Each week has a different spelling theme, and activities include writing a word list, sorting them by common spellings, proofreading spelling errors, exploring challenge words, finding hidden words, matching vocabulary terms, and completing sentences with the appropriate word from the spelling list. 

Spelling 1 Spelling 2 Spelling 3

On day 5, your child will do a grammar worksheet that covers a different topic each week such as various parts of speech, punctuation, and complete sentence formation.  Sometimes, there’s even a little grammar crossword puzzle! 

Grammar 1 Grammar 2

The pages for each week offer lots of variations in the activities for each category of reading skills, so the way in which your children engage with the material changes all the time. They might, circle or underline the answer, highlight a word or phrase, fill in the blank, fill in missing letters, catch errors and correct them, rearrange syllables, complete a puzzle, unscramble a word, add punctuation marks, select words to match pictures or meanings, etc.  And with thorough review pages built in every 9 weeks, this workbook is sure to keep your children on their toes!

There’s also a nice Year Planner printed in the front of the workbook that schedules out the assignments for you.  It gives you a good overview so you can see the “big picture” of what you’ll be covering.  In addition, there’s also a nice table of contents that shows the daily topics, as well as a complete answer key in the back of the book.

Year Planner Table of Contents

For my kids, black and white workbook pages are usually a snooze-fest, but this workbook has such fun, colorful pages that they kept Holden’s attention a lot better.  In addition, we really liked the way the pages are laid out into small sections of work that are separated into little boxes.  It makes it seem less overwhelming.  We just tackled one section at a time, and it kept the pages from feeling like they were too much work or would take too much time.  Each page is intended to last about 15 minutes, and that’s not a lot of time to add to your schedule, yet the daily practice is so important to improving children’s overall reading skills.  Honestly, this is one of the nicest workbooks we’ve used, and plan to continue using it this year to keep Holden’s skills sharp!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about this line of workbooks by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

An Unexpected Diagnosis

Both of my parents had glaucoma…the kind requiring eye drops several times a day to lower eye pressures.  So because of the hereditary nature of this condition, my optometrist screens me regularly.  In 2017 and 2018 at my annual eye exams, I actually paid extra for a laser scan of my optic nerves to keep a close check on any abnormalities. 

A couple of months ago when I had this year’s scan done, the optometrist noted changes from last year’s exam and showed me some “red” areas of abnormality that were concerning.  So to investigate further, he referred me to a Glaucoma Center to see an ophthalmologist for additional glaucoma-specific testing.  I couldn’t get an appointment right away, thus the long wait until the end of August to get this checked out.

So I went this week, and it turned out to be quite stressful!  I had no idea they would be putting so many pieces of equipment directly on my corneas!  They used numbing drops repeatedly, but it was hard to stop flinching whenever they would touch the surface of my eye with something and rest it there!  The first technician probably poked me in the eyes 20 times without successfully completing the tests.  I was about ready to leave when the specialist came in with her assistant.  They added more numbing drops and tried again, getting it right the very first time with each eye.  Go figure!  She was very kind and gentle, and I appreciated her understanding for my very sensitive eyes!  This is why I’ve never been a good candidate for contacts. 

Anyway, she informed me that I appear to have Narrow Angle Glaucoma.  Now I’d never heard of that, as it was different from what my parents had, so she had to explain it to me.  Basically, the iris (the colored part of the eye) rests too close to the opening of the canal that drains fluid from the front of the eye, causing the opening to narrow…she likened it to putting a stopper in a sink.  When it narrows or closes off, it causes increased pressure in the eye until it opens up again.  She said my canal openings were narrow, but when she placed gentle pressure on the cornea, they opened up fully.  My eye pressure was normal at about 16.

My appointment was in the morning, so she is having me return in October for an afternoon appointment to repeat the tests and compare.  If it’s as she expects, then I will need to consider laser surgery to make a hole in my irises that will allow an extra place for fluid to drain.  This is called a laser iridotomy.  In the meantime, I’m not supposed to allow my eyes to dilate…like watching tv or reading in a dark room (like a movie theater).  Allowing dilation could further restrict the canal openings, causing an acute glaucoma attack that can cause permanent blindness!  I told her I strongly dislike having my eyes dilated…my old optometrist in VA did it every year…because it hurts my eyes and makes them very uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  She said if in fact I do have narrow angle glaucoma, then that would make perfect sense.  I’ve also been having periodic fuzzy vision that comes and goes, particularly in my right eye, which I’ve been complaining about for about a year and a half.  That’s another symptom of the condition. 

A diagram of the eye showing the process of peripheral laser iridotomy.
So it’s a lot to think about.  I wish I could just hurry up and get it over with!  The surgery leaves a black dot in each iris, which they try to conceal by putting it near the top so that it hides underneath your upper eyelid most of the time.  I definitely don’t want to lose my vision, which is already bad enough.  But there’s no way to know how much of a risk I have for an acute attack.  She said it could just be the structure of my eye.  I guess I’ll just have to wait to hear more after the next exam in October.

You can read all about this condition and the surgery on this helpful website, if you’re interested.