Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zoobean: Handpicked Books and Apps for Kids

Yippee!  New books!  We received a 3 mo. Hardcover Membership, worth $49 from Zoobean via Sverve campaign for review.  Zoobean is a new service that provides books, or book and/or app suggestions, based on your child's information.

Sign up was super easy, as I was led through a few quick screens to select my child's age, gender, and interests.  I selected Hannah to be the recipient of the books, since the curating service is for kids 0-8 years.  After that, I received 2 emails, a welcome email, and a thank you for your purchase email.

While awaiting our first selection, I started poking around the site, wondering what we'd get, and I discovered they have a whole section of adoption books!  I contacted Zoobean to see if we could request certain books or catagories of books, and on the flip side of the same token, if we could exclude certain books or kinds of books.  Not every book is a good fit for every family, right?

The response I got from Zoobean was quick and personal.  No, the curated books don't come from the adoption section.  They are from more general interest areas, such as "Not So Pink Girls."  So be sure to check out the library area, in addition to the curating service, for hidden treasures such as these.

Hannah's first book to arrive was The Monster Princess, which Daddy read to the girls.

Hannah is a beginning reader, and she took the book to bed with her that night.  I could hear her practicing reading it to herself.

The second book Hannah received was Silly Lilly, which she also enjoyed.  The Vampire was funny, but Hannah and I agreed, Candy Taster would be the best job.

The husband and wife duo that run Zoobean are parents of two children.  They met while teaching 7th grade.  The curators at Zoobean are all parents and educators/librarians, so you can be assured the people at Zoobean understand what appeals to kids.

There are two features I want to emphasize in talking about Zoobean.  The Smartlist, which is a web-based option for parents looking to get personalized resources without guess work.  They send weekly, personalized recommendations for books and apps, along with the literacy guides.  Here is an example book literacy guide and an example app literacy guide so you can see for yourself how comprehensive a service Zoobean is.  There is a 60 day free trial of this service!  With the Smartlist, you can either order the books from Amazon or another online retailer, or request them from your local library.

The other option is the home delivery option, like we received.  This is available in either paperback or hardcover versions.  The books show up on your doorstep with literacy guides.  So convenient!  My readers can use the promo code:  SmartyTwoShoes to save $5 off any premium purchase.

You can connect with Zoobean on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, for literacy ideas, specials, articles, and more!  Wishing you many happy storytimes with the children in your life.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Win a NEW Spring Wardrobe from Quilts of Love “Maybelle in Stitches” Giveaway!

I love to sew.  I don't get as much opportunity to do so as I would like to, but when I get the chance, it's very rewarding to create something unique and useful.  Something that won't immediately get un-done by the children.  I've been sewing for years now, but I still remember some of my bumbling early (and not so early!) mistakes.  Maybelle of Maybelle in Stitches makes such an error in a high school home ec class and decides that she "can't" sew.

Fortunately, she has Doris.  Every woman needs a Doris.  Doris is Maybelle's best friend, and stands strong for Maybelle during some really hard times.  Doris, and some of the ladies they work with at the shipyard, help Maybelle finish a quilt that Maybelle's mother started before she died.

One thing this book impressed upon me was how easy we have life today, compared to the women of World War 2.  In this everything-at-your-fingertips era, how many of us would be able to bear not knowing what has happened to a missing loved one overseas?  In a society where our pets eat better than many of the world's poor, how many of us would be able to endure ration coupons and the unavailability of many of the things we take for granted?

My grandmother worked at the telephone office during the war.  Her co-workers gifted her and my grandfather gas ration coupons when they married, so they could take a honeymoon.  She's gone now, but I think she would have liked this book.

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Maybelle in Stitches, by Joyce Magnin.  Maybelle can’t sew. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother’s house, she gets the crazy idea to complete it.

Joyce is celebrating the release with a $200 Modcloth giveaway.  Enter today for a chance to spruce up your spring wardrobe!


  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 gift card
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare
  • Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below.  But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 19th. Winner will be announced on April 21st on the Quilts of Love blog!

Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Our Disneyland Trip

I had a great time taking 2 of the kids to Disneyland this week.  Why 2?  Read on to find out.

Paul graciously allowed me to get away for a few days over his vacation time.

I took Eli and Josiah to Disneyland.  It was Eli's first time on an airplane, and he was very excited!  Eli loves aircraft.

After the flight, we had a bus ride to our hotel.

Then, finally, Disneyland!

This was Josiah and Eli's first time at Disney, so we stopped and got them First Visit buttons, then we went and redeemed the free lanyard coupon that was part of our travel package.  Brianna's knitting teacher from our old homeschool co op is also a Disney Travel Agent, and even though she's moved states away, she was able to handle everything for us.  Gotta love being able to make plans via Facebook!

This was just the break we needed.  You don't realize the toll that constant screaming takes on you until you get away from it.

The 3 of us had a wonderful time hanging out together, even when I surprised them with the camera at breakfast.

I was really looking forward to Cars Land, because last time I was at Disneyland, they were still working on it.

They did an awesome job.  So many things from right out of the movie.  And the Radiator Springs Racers were so cool!  The first morning we were there, we got in line for them as soon as the park opened, and the second morning, we got a fast pass for later in the day.  Just so happens that there are 2 "versions" of the ride, and we did each one once.  (I liked the tire change side better, personally.)

We had dessert at Flo's V8 Cafe one day.  The boys had milkshakes, and I had mud pie.

Our second morning, we were the very first ones on Pirates of the Caribbean, and there was no line at all, so we went around and got right back on.  There were a few rides that we didn't get to go on because they were closed, which was disappointing.  I wanted to take the boys on Indiana Jones, and *I* wanted to go on It's A Small World.  Didn't seem like a Disney trip without It's A Small World.  The boys weren't too concerned with missing out on Ariel or Alice in Wonderland, which were also closed.

I wasn't feeling great when we were in line for the swings, so I decided to sit that one out at the last minute.

You can see both boys in this one.  Why these two kids?  Well, they hadn't been yet.  Zachary went to Disneyland in high school with his graphic design class.  My mom and I took Annaliese and Brianna several years ago.  I took Annaliese, her friend Naomi, and Jack 2 years ago.  Sam was in school, or he could have gone.  Josiah was the oldest one who hadn't been yet, and Eli and Josiah get along really well together.

I may think it would be fun to do Disney as a family trip, but the reality is, 1) it would be too expensive, and 2) it wouldn't be as much fun as a crowd.  This way, we can be sure to hit what each person really wants to see and do.  Not to mention, Paul is not an amusement park person.

The Lego Store is always a hit, of course.  Eli got a Lego set, which kept him entertained during one of our down times.

Waiting for the Monorail.  We decided the Cast Member at the gate looked bored, so we gave him something to do.

In the Star Tours gift shop.  --I hate that ride, but I knew the boys would love it, and they wouldn't go without me, so I just closed my eyes behind my 3D glasses and waited for it to be over.  When we got off, Josiah said, "You really didn't enjoy that, did you?"  Dude.  I tried to tell you.

The helmet Mickey ears were hilarious.  Josiah really wanted to do the Build Your Own Light Saber, but he'd already spent his money.

Food in Disneyland is SO expensive.  Before the trip, I ordered a $100 Disney Gift Card through our school's scrip program (using a CC with points that we pay off every month).  My theory was 1) we earned a kickback on our tuition account at the school, 2) we got points (which I use at Amazon), and 3) I wouldn't have to carry as much cash.  Card was used up in like 3 meals.  I think next time I'll pack more snacks.

I love how kids are entertained by the simplest things.  Eli loved that there were real ducks wandering free all over Disneyland.

When Ms. Cathy, our travel agent, asked how the trip went, I told her, "We about funned ourselves to death."  Josiah and I are pretty sedentary, and I think we should have started a fitness program before the trip to build our endurance up a bit.  This was taken on the shuttle bus back to the hotel one day when we decided we needed a little siesta from all the excitement (and all the walking!).

We had the whole shuttle to ourselves, fortunately.

The fountain in front of our hotel.  Rested and refreshed and ready to go back for more.

There you have it.  Our whirlwind Disneyland trip in a nutshell!  I hope to be posting a Disney related project, as well as a travel journal review in the next few days.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Curiosity Quest DVDs

These were so cool!  As you know, we were not thrilled with the science book that came with our curriculum package this year, so I've been looking to supplement fun science enrichments as often as I can.  Because of this, I was delighted to be chosen to review the Curiosity Quest DVDs.

We received the Produce Combo Pack, which had the episodes Mushrooms, Cranberries, and Oranges, and the Swimmers of the Sea Combo Pack, which had the episodes Penguins, Salmon, and Sea Turtles.  Each 3 episode disc retails for $24.95.

I was very excited to share these with the kids, and the kids, of course, thought watching a video was better than "doing schoolwork" (shh!  Don't spoil it for me!).  For the mushroom episode, we did a coloring page that labelled the parts of a mushroom, and then we purchased fresh mushrooms to dissect.

We even learned the Spanish word for mushroom, hongos, when Brianna ran across it doing her Mango lesson.

For the cranberry episode, we did another coloring sheet, and a fact page on where cranberries are grown in the US.  This was a fascinating episode.  I had no idea how cranberries were harvested!

I also found a New Jersey site that had additional information about cranberries, as well.  In honor of what we learned, Brianna baked us cranberry scones.

In Oranges, we were surprised to learn that growers use a black light to find bad spots.  The better ones become juice, and the not so great ones get fed to animals or used as compost.  Eli whipped up a batch of orange juice from concentrate in honor of this episode.

Last year, I won a Sea Turtles Unit Study from Super Mommy to the Rescue.  Watching the Sea Turtle episode on the Curiosity Quest DVD inspired me to pull it up, read some additional information to the kids, and print out some worksheets for them to do.

One of the other Crew bloggers made a printables pack that goes along with the sea life disc.  Even Katie got in on the action, coloring pages to go along with the episodes as we watched.  The older kids used the partially lined pages to take notes/write about what they learned, and then colored the pictures afterwards.

Eli's favorite episode was the Sea Turtles.  He learned that sea turtles can swim much faster than he thought they could!

Although the suggested ages for the videos are 7-14, they appealed to Hannah, who is 6, and even Katie, who is 3.  Brianna, who is 14, found them to be a little juvenile.  The content was good, but the parts where they showed clips asking kids questions bugged her.

The Salmon episode taught us that salmon have an amazing sense of smell, which they use to find their way "home" to where they hatched to lay their eggs.  The fish ladder was fun to see, as we've been to the local hatchery and seen one up close.  Salmon have short life spans, living only 3-7 years.

Jack's favorite episode was Penguins.  He learned that they have light bellies to be hard to spot by underwater predators, and dark backs to be difficult to spot from above the water.

One of my readers recently shared a link to an Etsy store with me, and while I was shopping, I found wooden penguins!  Knowing we had the episode about Magellanic penguins coming up, I surprised the kids with a set, and we painted them after we watched it.

Each video tells viewers that they can submit their own questions to send Joel, the host, on a quest, so we brainstormed some ideas together to send in through their website.  We received a pleasant form email in return, thanking us for the suggestions.

In summary, these were nicely done videos that would be interesting and entertaining all on their own, but were also a great springboard for additional learning in a homeschool setting.  Curiosity Quest offers an extensive variety of videos, and they also have a DVD club, where you can get 2 episodes each month for $19.95.  Homeschoolers can get 2 episodes, plus curriculum to go with them, including projects and activities, for $24.95/month.  All episodes are available a la carte, as well.

You can connect with Curiosity Quest on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Click the box below to read what other families thought of Curiosity Quest DVDs!
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Navigating The Explosion - book review

If you've ever wondered what adoption is like, this is the book for you.  Allison Schumm, mom of 14, brings us a compilation of stories from adoptive families that takes you through the process from thinking about adopting, all the way to finding your new normal after your child is home, and letters written to others from adoptive moms.

Navigating the Explosion - You are not Alone normalizes the wide variety of feelings moms experience on this unique adventure.

One of my favorite quotes is:  "So it is with your story today.  This part of your story is critical, albeit possibly painful.  It is the way God has written it, and you and I don't have to understand why it contains the chapters it does."  Powerful words for where I'm at right now.  If it were up to me, I'd rip this chapter of my life out and stomp on it.  I don't know what the rest of my story holds, but Navigating the Explosion helped me feel less alone.

This 62 page ebook, chock full of a variety of personal stories relating to adoption, sells for $4.99 at the author's Etsy site.

You can connect with author Allison Schumm on your favorite form of social media:  BlogFacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle +.

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