Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Super Star Speech - Review

My seven year old is very bright. He excels in all areas of education. His speech skills were overall very good, but he had a little trouble with his TH sound. It did not offer me enough concern to pay for expensive speech therapy, but I did want to do something about it. Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple! offers parents the tools to help their children improve their speech skills at home. It is available in a convenient 3 ring binder for $22.95, spiral bound for $18.95, or in an e-book for up to 40% off.

I was given the opportunity to review the all new Super Star Ch, J, and Th: Speech Therapy Made Simple. This was the perfect tool for what we needed. I skipped over the CH and J sounds, and went straight to TH. This is an e-book, that I was able to print off pages and work with him one on one at home. He thought it was great, because he didn't have to do "language arts" on the days we worked on this. He also had fun doing the short little lessons. I think really his problem was that he had gotten into a lazy habit saying the F sound rather than the TH sound. It took about 3 weeks of lessons to get him to slow down and think about the sound. I now notice a huge difference in his daily speech. He still has to slow down and think about it a bit, but he really is. He even makes up excuses to "practice". I will hear him playing and counting in ordinal numbers: fourth, fifth, sixth just so he can say them all. It is really cute. Super Star Ch, J, and Th is $12.95 and only available at Curr-Click. Also available are Super Star R & L, and Super Star S, Z, and Sh. These can all be used to supplement the core speech therapy system or on their own as we did.

Also available are Super Star Games. These are fun, printable games to supplement your language, social studies, or science lessons. Here are some of the topics: Explorers, The Solar System, Egypt, Insects, Parts of Speech, and more. Warning: These really are not for black and white printing. You need to print them in full color to get the most out of them. At only $3.50 each, using color ink is not a huge deal.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy, Healthy Update

This morning I stepped on the scale to discover that I have passed the thirty pound mark. I am in shock. When I started this journey 4 months ago, I really didn't think I would be able to do it. I have pretty much carried these extra pounds with me for the past 12 years. I gained about 30 lbs my first pregnancy, gave birth to an almost 10 pound baby, and still weighed 30 lbs extra. I am very good at math, but that just doesn't quite add up for me. I have continued to exercise off and on through the last 12 years, sometimes more than others. I lost about 15 pounds just before I got pregnant the second time. I was pretty careful, and only gained about 20 pounds during that. When that 9+ pound baby was born, I weighed less than when I got pregnant that time. Again, not getting the math there. When little one was around three, I got really serious about exercise for about a year. I was really in shape, and felt good but still didn't really lose any weight. Then, we moved. I no longer had access to a great gym to spend an hour or two every day at. Over the next 3 years, I slowly gained back about 20 lbs. Enough was enough.

Through the help of Lynette Pate at Breath of Green and her book "Lose Weight the Pate Way", I have now dropped 32 lbs. The thing is, I have not really added a ton of exercise. I try to walk as much as possible, and I am doing a lot more physical yard work. If I were to add in more exercise, I can't imagine what would happen. Even more exciting was going to buy new shorts today. I have not worn this size since before children. I finally have the strength to resist food temptation. In fact, the thought of eating some things almost grosses me out.

Pork is not on my recommended eating list. That is not a huge problem for me. I have never been a big fan of bacon. However, I had a rack of ribs in my freezer that I had gotten a while back buy 2 get 1 free, how do you resist that? Since moderation is really the key to every good eating plan, I thought it would be ok to cook them up to get them out of the freezer. I lathered them up with BBQ sauce and threw them on the grill. I took one bite and could not eat them. They were literally disgusting to me. I'm sure my hubby will be thrilled when he gets home to discover a nearly full rack of ribs for his dining pleasure. The garlic and onion potatoes cooked in coconut oil were absolutely fabulous though. I could've eaten them all, but was good and saved some for my sweetie. I may have to make some popcorn to help resist eating the rest of them before he gets home.

I have four pounds to go to get to my pre-child weight, but that is not my final goal. I would like to go about another 10 lbs below that. If my ice cream/sugar addicted self can make this change, so can you. It really is not as hard as you think. All you have to do is decide you are ready. It also helps to have great, supportive friends.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Homemade "Granola" Bars

OK, it's not really granola, but that's the easiest way I can think to describe these. I don't know if you know this, but boys love to eat. Even more than that, they love to snack. Well, you probably know that. The problem is finding stuff to keep them satisfied, but still be healthy. I have one that loves to eat fruits and veggies, but the other one doesn't. He would prefer things like cookies and candy. Granola bars are a simple snack, but most of them that are in the store are loaded with high fructose corn syrup or other not so good for you ingredients. It is easy to find recipes online, but a lot of those don't have the best ingredients either. After some research, here is my adaptation.

Begin by "greasing" a 9x13 pan. I would probably use coconut oil, but because I was almost out, I used butter.

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine:
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter (I made my own)
  • 2 Tbsp. Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (again since I was almost out of coconut oil, I used grapeseed oil)
  • 1/4 c. Sucanat
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat until mixture just begins to bubble. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp vanilla.

In a large bowl combine:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 2 cups crisp brown rice cereal
  • 1/4 milled flax seed
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Pour peanut butter mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir. Press into baking dish, cover with parchment paper and press firmly into dish. Cool in fridge.

Warning, it did not get very sticky, and does fall apart a bit. They taste great, though. I will be doing some experimenting with ingredients like sunflower seeds, hemp seed, almonds, and other dried fruits. I will post the ones that work. If you have any suggestions for other ingredients, I will try that too.

What Am I?

Did I make you really wonder what this post was going to be about? I love it. "What Am I?" is the latest book in the new All About Reading series. This series can stand alone, or it follows along perfectly with the All About Spelling series that I reviewed here. "What Am I?" is level two and follows the Beehive Reader 1 that I reviewed here. I know, when I wrote that review I said that was the only book. I had no idea that they were going to introduce more. I love the All About Spelling program, and this is no exception. It is a great addition to the program.
Here are some sample pages of this really cute collection of stories:
The "What Am I?" reader will soon be available on the All About Spelling website for $19.95. You can also visit the TOS crew blog to find out what others had to say about this book.

Disclaimer: I received "What Am I?" free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other payment was received.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Terrestria Chronicles - A Book Report

I never liked doing book reports when I was in school. However, it probably had to do with the kind of books I was reporting. I have been looking forward to this book report since I first opened "The Sword, The Ring, and The Parchment", book one of the Terrestria Chronicles by Ed Dunlop. As part of the TOS Crew, I received this and book 2 "The Quest for Seven Castles" in exchange for my honest review.

The Terrestria Chronicles are about a boy, Josiah Everyman. In book 1, follow Josiah's journey from slave to Argamor, the evil one, to Prince Josiah son of King Emmanuel, King of all Terrestria. Learn with Josiah what it means to be a child of the King. With castles, knights, and a dark enemy, this book does not lack excitement. What could be better than an exciting book to keep kids' attention? One that really illustrates and helps them understand the salvation message. The book includes a glossary of terms. That was helpful even for me. The words in the book were not difficult, but they used a lot of terminology that referred to knights and parts of castles that I was not familiar with. The readers learn about salvation AND learn vocabulary, all while having fun. Do you see yet why I loved these books?

Book 2 starts one year after Josiah was rescued. Up to now, Josiah has been living and learning at the Castle of Faith. King Emmanuel has decided that it is time for Josiah to go on a quest. He must journey to 7 castles: The Castle of Virtue, The Castle of Knowledge, The Castle of Temperance, The Castle of Patience, The Castle of Godliness, The Castle of Brotherly Kindness, and The Castle of Charity. Josiah will face many dangers and trials on his journey, but in the process learns many important lessons. The names of the castles kind of give away the lessons, so I won't bore you by listing them again.

In all, there are seven books in the series. The books are written for ages 10 and up. We chose to read them together as a family read aloud for reviewing purposes. That way, I could really know the content of the story and see my boys' reactions. I can definitely see a difference in how they responded to the book. My 7yo enjoyed the stories, but didn't really "get the point". My 11yo, however, really seemed to grasp the concepts. It was always fun when we would get introduced to a new character. All the characters have very significant names, Sir Faithful for example. Every time we got to a new name, my 11yo would pause and try to figure out if it was a good name or a bad name. This was another source of good vocabulary for him.

The Terrestria Chronicles are available as a complete series for $47.99, or you can buy the books individually for $7.99 each. There is also a companion study guide available (that I think I'll be ordering) for $5.99. The one study guide covers all seven books. You can also print some free coloring pages here. It is important to note that this series is best when the books are read in order.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World

The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks is an online virtual world for 7-14 year olds. It is based on a series of children's books by John Bittleston. It gives kids a way to really interact with history, geography, landmarks, inventions, nature, and more. They get to travel around the world and meet historical figures like Galileo, Albert Einstien, Beethoven, etc. The basic account is FREE to sign up, or you can upgrade to an Elite Quest Traveler for $5.99/month. I received a one month free upgrade in order to review the program.

My kids, and many of their friends love games like this. There are a few virtual world type games that are very popular in the local homeschool group. In our house, it was actually starting to be a problem, so I cut way back on the amount of time my children were allowed to play. Of course, if they are going to play anyway, why not make it an educational game. The problem is, my kids did not really enjoy this one. They played it for a few minutes, but then got bored. That's not to say it is not a great game, and there are probably a lot of kids who would enjoy it. I just can't really say much more about it, because the boys would not play it. There are a couple of videos you can watch here to find out more about the program to see if it will work for you. You can also read some more TOS reviews to get some other opinions.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Making the Most of your Solar Dryer

When I start talking about the solar dryer, aka clothes line, I hear a few common questions.

1. I have an HOA, they won't let me have a clothes line.
A. From what I hear, HOA's cannot restrict you from putting out a clothes line. I guess global warming politics are good for something.

2. What about fading? Here is what I do, and I have not had an issue with fading yet.

  • Shirts: I have a pole in the laundry room. I hang all the shirts on hangers (even on days I use the electric dryer). When they are dry, all I have to do is hang them in their respective closets. This procedure has seriously cut down on the endless pile of laundry that needs to get put away.
  • I do not hang my pants or undergarments outside. I have an over the door drying rack behind the master bathroom door where I hang the bottoms and a hook in my private bath for the tops. My pants I hang over doors. They don't get quite as stiff as when they are out in the sun.
  • For the rest of the clothes, pjs, kid's and hubby's shorts, pants, and underwear, etc. I turn them inside out. I do this for two reasons. First, to prevent fading. When I take them off I make sure to shake them well and then turn them right side in. There is nothing worse than putting on a pair of pants with a bug inside.

3. The towels get so stiff and rough. Yes they do. Pretend it's a loofah. It matters not if you use the most expensive fabric softener. I use white vinegar as a fabric softener (which is also very good for color retention). If you wish, you can always throw them in the dryer on fluff for a bit to soften them up.

I'm not sure how much money using the solar dryer saves, but it really saves putting away time. Everything gets folded as it comes off the line. As I'm hanging them, I group like items together. Taking them off the line, I put my husband's clothes in first because that is my last stop when putting away. Then, I put in the kids clothes by child. On top, I put the towels. That way they don't get all smushed in the bottom of the basket. It maybe takes 10 extra minutes to hang them on the line as opposed to throwing them in the dryer. I have to hang mine out around 9 or 10. My line is on the east side of the house, so if I wait too late the sun moves and the clothes take longer to dry. That also gives me time to get them in before the Florida afternoon storms. If I put them out too early, it is still dewy. Depending how warm it is, the clothes will dry within 2 to 3 hours.