Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Jump Start

So, I was given a super cool opportunity!  I was contacted by Jump Start to try out their game: Jump Start, it’s an online multiplayer game.  And my boys love it.
Here’s the lowdown, to start you download a brief application, and then from there you make a character.  From there you can go to different parts of the world to play games.
Petz One of my boy’s favorite features is the ability to buy pets.  How do you get the money to buy pets?  You play different games.  I like that you get more money from playing educational games then you do from playing the random run around type of games.  So far, I think Batman has bought a robot and…..
A ride.  He bought a tricycle.  Which means he’s played enough games to get a couple hundred coins.
So, what do my kids think?
Batman’s take: I like sliding with that game.  Now can I play that game?     I love getting the flying suit that has wings.  And one other one is I like getting to ride and having a flying suit on.  Don’t get a ride when you’re wearing a flying suit.  That’s the three things I like.  I like the one that has a dragon.  The dragon game. (the picture is of Batman playing it for the first time while sitting on my lap)Slide
Superman’s take:  My person has a flying suit and flys.  I want my guy to fly.  That’s all I like (my comment: That’s such a lie, I couldn’t get the silly boy off it, for so long).
My take:  I love it.  My boys love it, and it’s got a good interface, I much prefer them to be playing this than trying to play my characters on World of Warcraft, on that they always need my help to do things, because it’s not a game for 5 year olds.  Okay, it’s a little weird to realize my boys are 5.  They like it so much that we had to set up our old computer so they had a place they could play without taking over mine or Jeff’s computer.
This is a fun way for them to learn mouse skills, keyboard skills, and it’s a game that is appropriate for them to play that lets them feel like they have a game like Mommy and Daddy do.
Let’s see what else should I tell you about it?  Oh, there are two different versions of it, there is the paid and free versions.  If you’re not up to paying for it there is still A LOT to do, but there is so much more if you get the subscription version.  Also it scales with their skill level.  There are areas geared for 3 year olds, and areas geared for 8 year olds.  There are so many different areas that in the two weeks of playing with it, I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Downsides: because, it’s not a good review if it’s all glowing, I think.  I felt like some of the beginning quests were somewhat frustrating in AdventureWorld.  You had to go to different boxes in a set order, but you were able to open them out of order and get credit, but you still were told to do it again.  I thought that was a little weird.
Only other one I could think of was I’d like to be able to adjust camera angle, but I don’t think most kids would think of wanting to do that.  It took me some thinking to think of these two things.
And, I almost forgot to mention, they have a super cool blog, if you’re wanting some great ideas of things to do they put some up from time to time.  Of course, there’s also a lot of news and tips and tricks for the game, but it also has cool random facts and other things, so check it out.

Now, we come to the part that is exciting for you.  I get to giveaway a 3 month subscription to one of you.
Here’s how to enter.  Go to the Jump start blog and tell me one thing going on behind the scenes.
Extra entries:
1.  Become a follower, or if you’re already one, tell me.  This counts for two entries, so put in two comments.  Say: Following entry one, following entry two.
2.  Give me a suggestion of another great computer game for little guys.  I’ve had horrible luck with buying games, so I’d like suggestions.  This is truly the first game my kids have been interested in playing.
3.  Go back to their blog again, look around, and tell me what your favorite learning tip is.
Check it out, seriously you won’t regret it.

And finally, one last thing:
OPEN INTERNATIONALLY, since it's not something mailed, there's no problems there.
And this closes on Friday, April 9

I almost forgot: LEGAL MUMBO JUMBO: DisclosureI was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The cost of creativity


You probably can’t tell from looking at this, but that’s my kitchen table pad.  It’s covered in stains from the different projects we’ve done.  Once upon a time this was brand new and sparkling white.  It was so white it blinded you on a bright day.


Now, it’s stained.  You can see the remains of blue from our blue bonnet project or some other project we did.  You can see some brown stains that are from a muddy shoe left too long.  You can see the outlines of the papers they painted on.  I smile when I look at this because I see happy memories.

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I don’t have the cleanest house, not by a long shot.  Instead what I have is happy kids, who know this is their house too.  We have things we need to work on.  I do need to work on cleaning more, but everytime I do I remember the phrase my Mom had hung in our kitchen growing up “Cleaning your house while your children are growing, is like shoveling your walk while it’s still snowing.”  It’s an exercise in futility. 


Instead, they delight in doing things like this.  It’s a huge mess, and we’ve created a lot of fun with this, but it did take a while to clean up.


Now, I’m not saying I should just leave my house like this disaster area you see here (don’t you like how Batman is trying so hard to wake his sleeping sister).  But, I do need to remember that they are only little for so long, and then they will all grow up, and what will I be left with?  A clean house?  Clean houses are not fun.  So, I need to find a balance, right now we’re tipped a little too far in the direction of messes.  It’s a constant struggle to get it clean and picked up.  Why does every toy have so many little pieces?  And it so quickly looks like a mess, but it’s still good to clean it.  Which is probably the boring stuff I’m going to be doing today, despite, that I’m being called outside by this:


All right, now off to feed my kids, who actually slept past 8 today!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Science Sunday: bird watching

002This week we had a playdate with our MOPS group from church at the park.  Wow, that sentence seems like quite the mouthful.  Well, after everyone had left and my kids were busying trying to stuff the ducks, we started to notice there were different ducks.



009Sorry, that’s the best picture of them that I could find.  This led to a lot of questions.  What do ducks eat, where do ducks live, on and on and on…….  I had just found this cool set of books at Half Price Books called “Birds of America, Red book,” there was a whole series of different colored bird books, and each different color covered a different type of bird.  Woodland, water…….  you get the idea. 

So, I set each kid up with a book, and set them looking through to find the ducks.  I knew that only one of them would be successful, but it gave them all a chance to look.  They happily looked through their books and discovered there are a lot of different types of birds.  There was also a lot of excited exclamations as they found birds they were familiar with.  Sigh, I thought I had some cute pictures taken with my phone of this, but no…….  I do have pictures of my flower ring.  What else am I to do with the 20 million “flowers” they gave me?


Their Nana, the bird watcher would be so proud.

Does anyone have fun things they do for nature walks?  I know Julie, over at Just Playin’ Around came up with some great ideas she posted last week.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Preschool Week in Review

I’m so glad Jolanthe decided to include 5k as well, because I have to admit a lot of what we’ve been doing is 5k stuff, or at least according to Texas law………
Slowly, but surely we’ve been working on our reading.  We’ve got a couple of books that the boys can read pretty fluently now.  We’re slowly but surely working through the decodable books on Reading A to Z.  I’ve been loving it and had got the subscription last year, and totally recommend it.  If you’re thinking about it, I think they have a free two week trial subscription you can do.  Sadly, I haven’t been paid for this, I paid the full subscription price.  But, it’s been so worth it.
Oh, and we went to the library a lot recently.  I think in the last few weeks we’ve checked out over 100 books.

So, we started on 2 digit numbers in our Primer Math-U-See, and in the lessons he talks all about Decimal Street.  It was a great visual, that he hand drew out on the dry erase board.  I tried having them make their numbers for a while without this, but they’d get their tens and units all mixed up and would get confused and frustrated.  So, I made this:
Decimal Street
It would be so much better on a legal size paper, but as I went to print it I figured out that I’d donated all of our legal paper to the church because we weren’t using it, and why keep it around……….  Why is it you never need something until you give it away?
Oh, for a more thorough discussion of Math-U-See click on the link.
Social Studies
We’ve been slowly, but surely working our way through the states, very slowly.  I think in a month and a half we’ve covered two states, a continent, and our part of the way through our second continent.  My summary post about Texas is right here, it explains in more detail the different projects we did.  I’d share about the others, but truthfully, they’re not done yet.  At all, I’ve been busy making a new costume for a Ren Fest here.  Actually, it’s been more like two costumes, because the first one that was almost done I decided I didn’t like.  It’ll make a great summer dress……  I hope.
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031We’ve done a little bit of everything in science lately, and I haven’t always posted about it.   The kids made leprechaun traps.  It was really hilarious to hear their reasoning on why the trap would work.  Of course, traps plural isn’t correct, they actually only made one trap, mostly with Batman telling everyone what to do.
We tried to make ice cream, but it didn’t end well, not at all…….  I plan on trying again soon.
Oh, and  I should link to these.  As part of our continent studies, okay the main thing in our continent studies, we’ve been studying the animals that live there.  To give them a way to organize that information I created some printables to go with it.  If you want to see them go here and here.
We’ve been slowly working our way through the book of Daniel in our Bible study, and I’ve actually got all of the illustrations done for it except Daniel 1.  So expect to see the rest of Daniel posted next week.  I just have to scan in the last picture for Daniel 5 and then all of 6.  So, if you want to see the first one I posted go here.

Life Skills
This is where it’s really all been going on this past month, there’s been so much to deal with.  First there was the boy’s birthday and all of the preparation for that
And then we had friend’s stay the night, I should say the kids had friend’s stay the night.
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We had our tree trimmed.  Random facts about live oak, what can appear to be about 10 different trees is in reality one big super tree because the roots are all grown together and part of the way it reproduces is by sending shoots/roots up out of the ground.  The kids really enjoyed watching the tree trimmer and looking at all of the stuff.  It’s really quite fascinating.
006They got an easel, which has led to…… problems……. and other problems (at the bottom of the post)
Well, that’s been our last several weeks.  Head on over to Homeschool Creations for more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

stART: Deer in the Woods

Hey, it finally quit being a link when I typed!  Good.

As you may have figured out from my posts we’ve been reading the books in the “My First Little House” series.  They’ve been a lot more popular than I expected, and it’s been fun to see.  I wanted a way to expand on what we’d done so far, and then I saw a post over at Inspiration Surrounds, Creativity Abounds about their fairy houses, and I so wanted to do it!  The only problem I had is all the boxes I’d been saving I' had recently thrown away.  I was going to solve this by going by our local recycling center, but I was put off by their website making it sound a lot more official than it probably is, but still……..

So, I rummaged all through my house and finally found 3 shoe boxes.  BINGO!

I set them off with shoe boxes, glue, and popsicle sticks of various sizes.  They happily sat there and glued sticks on and requested doors and windows cut into them.  All in all it was a happy time for them while I went through the drudgery of cleaning.
Yes, I did not have as much fun as them.

You’ll have to wait to see the finished products because I’m using pictures of them for our Wisconsin lapbook.  I’m going to make it into a card and have them tell me as much as they can remember about the girls who lived in the woods.  Which, I’m guessing will be mainly about their Dad who went hunting.
I leave you hanging on what the final products looked like.  Partially I’m leaving you hanging because I want them do more with it.  So far the boys have glued a few popsicle sticks on, and then left it that way.  I want them to paint it or color it more, but Superman’s banned from anything related to coloring until Monday (he wrote his name on the door in marker, then he tried to lie about it, ummm…… that’s your name and your handwriting, I don’t think you can get away with saying it’s not yours).
So, for more great book inspired artwork go over to A Mommy’s Adventures

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yummy mustard thing, and I don’t like mustard


  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) boneless pork loin (maybe that’s why we had so much extra sauce, I don’t think ours was that big)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon leaves (I had to search forever to find tarragon, I was out and there was none at Wal-Mart, can you believe it?)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mustard and herbs together. Reserve mustard sauce for pork. I doubled this because I was making two of them, one for us and one for friends that had just adopted a baby.  We had way too much sauce, even spreading it on REALLY liberally, I think we still had the equivalent of  a whole recipe’s worth of sauce left.

In a large ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Sear pork loin on all sides. Brush with mustard sauce and roast in the preheated oven until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

You know, there’s just not a lot of sarcastic comments you can make about this recipe, it’s fairly straight forward, and there was nothing remarkable about how I put it together.  Other than I think the kids were trying to kill themselves outside while I cooked it……….  I served it with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli (I got a new thing to steam veggies in the microwave, and I’m figuring out how to best play with it).

So, my comments?  I liked this, I’m not a big fan of mustard sauces and I liked the flavor this gave the pork.  I did push off the extra mustard from the top, but it had cooked nicely into it, so it tasted really good.  And it was amazingly tender.  All in all, it was surprisingly good.


For more great recipes head over to I Thank My Mother and see what everyone else cooked. Whew, it’s a rare post I can get written in less than five minutes…..

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Geography: Wisconsin and CHEESE!


It's CHEESE Grommit!  Cheese!

So, did you know Wisconsin makes cheese?  My kids are very aware of this and somewhat obsessed with cheese, so as one of our final activities for Wisconsin we made a pizza.
more cheese please

This book goes through step by step how the milk goes from being milk to cheese, and even includes some fun scientific facts (which is going to be a science experiment soon enough). (click on the picture to order the book).

At the back of the book is a recipe for making your own homemade pizza.  The kids were very excited about this, and they were also excited they had friends coming to spend the night, so we made this for our friends.


Superman was quite kind enough to roll it out for me.  I would finish it off.  I never quite figured out how to roll it quite circular or rectangular.  I also had it crust up a little while it was rising, so I have a few kinks to work out.

But, we doubled the recipe in the back of the book, and ended up with enough to make two meals for us.  The first meal fed my family plus three more kids.  The second meal was me, the kids, and Aunt Tara.

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And look, you get to see a rare picture of me on the blog.  It’s a rare Ticia sighting!

In about a week or so, I’ll be posting the picture of the lapbook I’ll put together for them.  It seems to take me about a week or two after we’ve finished studying to put it together.  So, you’ll have to wait and see what it ends up looking like.  So will I because I really have no clue.

For more great geography ideas go check out Debbie’s blog over at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Science Sunday: leprechaun traps

So, this is a bit of an unusual thing to say is science, and I realize that.  But, I was having them defend each and every step of their trap.  Part of being a scientist is being able to defend what you’re doing and why, and I wanted to introduce this in a way that was fun for them.
I gave them the challenge of trapping a leprechaun because then you could get their gold.  I had a couple of stipulations for trapping them: it had to be a live trap (they were all set to kill the leprechauns and rob their dead bodies), but I explained that they could only get the gold if the leprechaun was alive.  I know, I’m such a kill joy.  The second was they had to do it by themselves.
Now, I had very carefully been saving some boxes and milk cartons and some other things for making these traps.  But, that’s not how they were thinking.
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First they drew up very complicated plans that I didn’t understand at all.  They were going to use Legos, and they set up a very complex battlefield wherein the Legos were surely going to win.  But, they decided that the leprechauns are best caught outside.
So, outside we went.  Batman promptly took over, and the other two assisted him with his trap.  Superman was all set to use their soccer net to catch the leprechauns by chasing them into it, but he figured out they would be able to get out of the holes, so that wasn’t going to work.
Finally they came down to bricks.  Bricks would work because they wouldn’t be able to get out, and they couldn’t move them.  Next they had to solve the problem of how to get the leprechaun into the trap.
This was solved by putting out the leprechauns favorite drink, green water (snigger away, but do you really want me to give my preschoolers whiskey?).  So, now they had figured out the leprechaun was going to climb up on top of the trap using the thread they had draped over the side.  Then they would drink the green water and then they’d fall into the trap, and they wouldn’t be able to get back out (this part I was a little weak on why, but they were very insistent on it).

Now, there is another video of Batman deciding they need to take all the grass out because we don’t want to kill the leprechauns, but I don’t want to take forever on all these posts, because I’ve given myself a one hour time limit this week.  Too much to do…..  Clean house, make a costume for me and Princess for tomorrow, clean out the car.  Way too much to do, oh and try out the surprise I have for later in the week……


Here’s the essentially finished trap:

It’s a circle of bricks with two bricks on top.  A piece of string is going over the side for the leprechaun to be able to climb up.  On top is the green water for it to drink.  They were quite sure this trap would work.  They also weren’t too clear on the whole leave the trap along, because they spent the rest of the afternoon watching the trap.  They obviously haven’t heard a watched trap is never sprung……..

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Well, the next morning we went to check, and obviously we hadn’t caught all of them because those pesky guys had turned out french toast green.  We look in there, and he was kind enough to explain he got out using the provided rope, but that the green drink tasted really good.  So, he left us chocolate coins, and the kids were happy.

Admittedly, it’s a bit of a non-traditional science experiment, but the kids loved it, and I had a lot of fun asking them “why?” for once.

Oh, and just to give you a hint.  I have a giveaway coming that will have you jumping for joy.  Or, at least it has my boys jumping.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

What we read this week, a bit of a surprise to me

Well, usually I’d do a carousel here, but it looks like most of the books I want to spotlight aren’t there.  So, I’ll just do the ones that caught me by surprise because I had to read them each about 10 times, and I only exaggerate a little.


Happy as a Tapir-This is a strange little zoo where the animals at night take off their animals suits and talk with their friends, twice  a year they trade suits.  The little guy who is the tapir isn't allowed to trade yet.  And, therein lies the problem, and he comes up with a solution, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.  I swear this week I’ve read this book to them 10 times.  3 times in a row the first time we read it.  I am rather tired of this book, and I think the other “animals” were kind of mean to him, and I thought it was odd, but my kids LOVE this book.  Seriously, I’ve read it to them more times than I can count.


Up and Down the Andes- Is a story about the Festival of the Sun God in Peru and how everyone is gathering for it.  I loved the pictures, and I’m trying to think of how we could do a cool project to go with it.  I”m thinking some kind of crayon resist.  Again, we read this one two times in a row.


Deer in the Woods- I randomly had Batman insist I had to read this one to them again, and then he wanted to take it to bed with him.  This is unusual because he usually wants Scooby Doo for his bedtime book.  So, I was pleasantly surprised by that one.


Cassio’s Day-  The day in the life of a Brazilian kid.  Okay, so I have this dilemma, and I’m trying to figure it out.  In the book they would put in lots of words in Portuguese (I’m remembering correctly, that Brazil speaks Portuguese right?), and I was kind of frustrated by it because they weren’t always translating what it was so I was having to guess what it was, and all in all it just felt awkward.  So, does anyone know of some good day in the life books for different countries?  Honestly my kids had very little interest in this, but they’re more into animals.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The dangers of paint

or, how my daughter turned my bath tub black.


So, the boys got easels for their birthday and have been busily creating masterpieces.  If masterpieces can be mass-produced.

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Why do I bring this up, as you can see Princess really enjoys her painting.  But, the first day I let them actually free paint whatever they wanted this is what I discovered her doing:


In case you can’t tell that is her painting her arm.  Her entire arm.  Well I sent her off to wash her hands and she reappeared a minute later naked, with more paint on her.  I think the paint started multiplying, or something.  So I gave in and gave her the much requested bath while the boys took a shower.  After her bath the tub was rather dirty.

070This does not reveal the true extent of the filthiness.  That is after I tried washing it down with a wet wash cloth, foolishly thinking it would just come off easily.  This is after it has been sitting with soap on it for about five minutes before I scrubbed it down.  Actually, after the soaking it came off fairly easily, but still.  Gross much?

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