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Monday, August 31, 2009

Web Design For Kids Review



My husband makes a living as a Computer Engineer. He can create websites, write software, and slave a hard drive with the best of them. I, on the other hand, just have to walk into a room for a computer to break down. God knew what He was doing when He put the two of us together!
My kids fall along the same lines. My boys love all things technical. The oldest has helped his daddy load software or wipe hard drives clean on computers that people are getting rid of, etc. Both boys are masters of the Wii and know it's ins and outs way better than I ever will. But my oldest daughter? Technology is NOT her thing. Give her a pen and paper over an Ipod anyday.

I'm telling you all this so you will understand how FLOORED I was when the Web Design for Kids DVD was delivered to my house and SHE was the one who wanted to watch it. REALLY. She has a vision of creating a website for her to sell her artwork on, and so she is driven to learn how to create her own website. She begged to watch it, and she sat down that first day and did just that. That's so amazing in and of itself that it is worth the price of the DVD :-).

Web Design for Kids (...and curious Grown-Ups) is a DVD that offers step by step instruction in how to design a website using basic HTML code. Now if even that sentence makes your heart beat faster, and not in a good way, let me assure you that it really, truly is step by step. My 9 year old did 90% of the work herself. And she understood it well enough to tell others about it. More impressive still? I did it too. And I didn't break the computer or get it stuck or need to call my husband to bail me out! All you do is pop the DVD into your DVD player and begin watching. You will need your computer and your TV remote handy. The instructor and driving force behind Click Drag Solutions-the company that puts out Web Design for Kids-is Brian Richardson. He is easy to understand, pleasant to watch, and passionate about teaching the kids in a way that they will really understand. Each section build on the previous one, and by the end, the kids (and adults) have a real basic knowledge of how to design a web page.

The "pros" are that even a totally computer illiterate person like me, or a child like my daughter, can learn basic HTML in a way that makes sense. The DVD lays a foundation that you can easily build on once you understand the core skills involved. It's easy to use. And most importantly, it's really inexpensive relative to what you learn. The DVD is on sale right now for $19.99 plus $3.99 shipping. My husband bills out at FOUR times that amount per hour, and while he understands it extremely well himself, I am certain Mr. Richardson explains it better than my husband would do. And, lastly, I think it's great that he has you intentionally "mess up" so you can learn what happens when you do it right, what it looks like when you do it wrong, and how to fix it.

There are only two "cons" that I would mention. First is that the DVD moved faster than my daughter, whose typing skills are poor, and so she needed my help to pause the DVD frequently while she hunted and pecked out the required text. It was too hard for her to manage the remote and keep up with what she needed to be doing next on the DVD, so I was a captive audience through the process (which is how I learned to do it too, so maybe that's not all bad, :-) The second is that the DVD is a bit, well, cheesy in some parts. The kids on the DVD are a little over-the-top happy, which my sister noted too when she happened to be at our house while my daughter was watching it. My daughter never noticed a thing though, so it's probably only an adult's perspective.

The bottom line is that if you have any interest in learning HTML or in designing your own website, this is the perfect resource for you. To order your copy of the DVD, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.
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Grapevine Studies


Whose curiosity wouldn't be peaked by a company whose tagline is "Stick Figuring Through the Bible"? I know mine definitely was! I had never heard of Grapevine Studies before we were asked to review their products. My kids and I do Precept studies at a local church during the school year and they've each worked through Leading Little Ones to God with me and have their own devotional books, but I have to admit, I was really excited to take a look at Grapevine Studies to see what this stick-figuring thing was all about!
Grapevine Studies offers many different Bible Studies you can chose from. They have overviews of the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as a study on the book of Esther, the Birth of Jesus, and Biblical Feasts and Holy Days. There are also separate Old and New Testament Timeline studies available. Depending on the study, it is either multi-level in one book or available specifically geared toward a certain age group from Beginner to Adult. Most of the books they offer are available in your choice of either print or e-book. I chose the Old Testament Level Three printed book ($28.95) and teacher's book ($48.95). The Teacher's book is actually usable for Levels 3 AND 4, and can also be used for lower levels if you simplify the work and drawing for them.


Our Old Testament Study began with an overview of the entire Old Testament drawn out in stick figures on a timeline. Now before you get too overwhelmed, know that you don't do this all in one day! The Teacher's book offers short blurbs of information about each person/event you draw, and a guide for how to represent it in stick figures. They recommend that YOU, the teacher, draw the figures on a white erase board as a guide for your students to use as they draw it on paper. My kids enjoyed embellishing their drawings. (Yes,the idea behind stick figures is that they are simple, but kids will be kids, and they each had to add their own personality into their drawings.) I actually enjoyed seeing the little things they felt they needed to add (Eve has red lips because she's a girl :-) and seeing how different each child's drawing was even though they received the same instruction. The basic supplies you need are the student pages and colored pencils for them, and the Teacher Book and white board with colored dry erase markers for you.

Once the timeline overview is done, you then go back and revisit each event in more detail. There is more stick-figuring to do, character/event cards to make, Bible verses to learn, and review questions to go over. Each lesson starts though with a review of the timeline up to the place you are studying. While it is fun and engaging, this curriculum is no feather-weight. It's a deeper study that fits the inductive style my kids are used to from Precepts. I like too that some of the symbols used in the stick figuring are the same of similar to what they were already familiar with from Precepts, so it was very natural for them.
There are many pros to the Grapevine Study we are doing. I love that it starts with a timeline of the WHOLE Old Testament, and then goes back and fills in the detail. That way, they have the big picture, and you can go back and fill in the details from a place having a general understanding of what happens around this time in history. I love that the stick-figuring gives them an interactive way to understand what they are studying. Each figure is drawn intentional so that the symbols you draw and words you write all serve to reinforce retention of the story. The kids have been enjoying it and I know it will complement the study of Daniel they are doing in Precept this fall.
The only "con" in my opinion is that while the e-book Teacher's Book is significantly cheaper than the print one, the Student Books are the same price in either format. That's not a problem for me, since I prefer the print version, but I know many people opt for the e-book because they typically offer a savings.
The bottom line to me is that this is a unique approach to Bible study that offers an approach that seems easy and light, but actually offers a good amount of depth and an approach that promotes retention. I have to say, I'm impressed with Grapevine Studies. I had personally been seeking to start a Biblical chronological study with my kids, so this came at a perfect time for us. And the fact that it offers a frame work for the Bible that the kids create themselves by drawing out their time-lines and stories gives them ownership of our history as Christians on a personal level. I do want to note that some curriculums that offer a Teacher's Book really don't have enough information in the teacher's edition that is different from the student book to justify buying both. That's not the case here. You will need the Teacher's Book to make sense of the Student Book, so be prepared to get both.
For more information about Grapevine Studies, go HERE. To see what other TOS Crew members have to say (many of them reviewed the other studies Grapevine offers), go HERE.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Quarter Mile Math Review



One thing that constantly amazes me about being on the TOS Crew is that I get to use products I never have heard about, or maybe would never have tried, but they end up a staple in our homeschooling. The Quarter Mile Math is one of those products.

I had vaguely heard of The Quarter Mile Math before, but to be honest, I NEVER would have tried it on my own. We love our math curriculum, and it has a very different scope and sequence from most other math curriculums, so typically other math products, no matter how great, just don't meet my kids where they are at, so they end up not being useful at all. I also have to admit that hearing the Quarter Mile Math is used in Sylvan Learning Centers would NOT typically be a selling point for me since we do not use the "recreate school at home" approach in our homeschooling.

With all that said, let me tell you why we've fallen head over heels in love with The Quarter Mile Math.


The Quarter Mile Math is math software that offers a fun and fast paced review of math/keyboarding skills from kindergarten through pre-algebra. Over the entire product line, 323 math topics are covered with over 70,000 math problems. The premise is that your child is racing a quarter mile (hence the name) in a race car OR with a horse galloping in a field. Initially, they race against "Fast Eddie", who it turns out is really not so fast at all. (But the kids don't know that-they are guaranteed to win against Fast Eddie, but in all their playing, my kids have yet to figure that out). As they race more and more times, their 5 Fast Eddie competitors are replaced by your children's previous race speeds, so that they compete against their own best times to get faster at solving the math problems at hand. My kids LOVE to do this. They beg to playThe Quarter Mile Math!

The Quarter Mile Math comes in two versions: Standard and Deluxe. The Standard Version is available on CD's in three different levels or in bundles of different combinations of those levels. The Standard Version is a one time purchase, and while you can install it on multiple computers in your home so that your children can "race against" each other by racing the same topics and comparing scores, only one child can use the software at a time. The Standard Version is $39.95 for Level One (K-3), Level Two (4-6), or Level Three (7-9), and then, as I mentioned, you can buy bundles of the different level combinations for a discounted price. No internet connection is needed with the Standard Version, and your children's scores are stored on your computer.



The Deluxe Version is download-able, and is "pay-as-you-go". $2.95 a month covers access for the entire family to ALL the levels available. They have also just added a yearly price of $19.95 per family or a 2 year price of $34.95 per family. The Deluxe Version allows multiple children in each household to play at the same time and really race against each other. Even parents can race against kids-or an out of state relative...it opens the fun factor WAY up. Also, with the Deluxe Version upgrades are free. Internet connection is required, but the students themselves are never online or even aware of the internet connection. Through this connection, your student(s) progress is tracked in much more detail than the Standard Version allows for.

Honestly, I can't think of a con for this product, at least not one we've encountered. I do think claiming that it is an entire "core curriculum" is perhaps a bit misleading given that most students would need some instruction in HOW to work the problems before this format would really help them. You couldn't, in my opinion, count on ONLY using The Quarter Mile Math for your only math instruction. But for review of any and all math topics in an easy to use format that allows your student to review different topics as they learn them in their regular math curriculum, Quarter Mile Math can't be beat.

The pros are numerous. Because you/your student chooses what topic each race will cover, you can ensure that your child only encounters concepts that they are familiar with, so there is no frustration involved. And no matter HOW long it takes you child to solve the problem, their horse or car is always the leading vehicle, so they aren't discouraged by feeling like they are getting beaten by the game. And it's great, in my opinion, that there is an option to race a car or a horse-clearly appealing to both genders and the potential for diverse interests within those genders. The company that puts out The Quarter Mile Math, Barnum Software, is very conscientious and knew that some people don't approve of horse racing, so that is why the horse is riderless and is running through an open field. Wow! I never would have even thought of that.


The bottom line is that while I never would have thought we needed or would want to use The Quarter Mile Math, it is the ONE product my kids beg to use everyday. Crazy? Yes! Worth every penny because they actually WANT to review math facts? Absolutely! And while you have to look at what works best for your family, I'd recommend the Deluxe Version for its enhanced student progress reports and the multi-player benefits.

Go check out The Quarter Mile Math today. Demos are available on their website as are detailed lists of the topics covered. There's even a special area on their website for homeschoolers with tips and a homeschoolers forum to glean information from other homeschoolers about how they use The Quarter Mile Math in their daily lessons. And as a special bonus for TOS Crew blog readers, you get a discount no one else gets! Enter the code "7X7M7" and you will save $5 off any product- Standard OR Deluxe. Hurry though, this code is only good until September 30th.

To order The Quarter Mile Math, or check out their website, go HERE. If you want to see what other TOS Crew members had to say, go HERE.

In the interest of full disclosure, while no TOS Crew member receives payment for our reviews, we were given the product to try for FREE, and we are allowed to keep it.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sense and Sensibility Patterns Review


When I was little, my mother sewed our clothes. Really! Not all our clothes, of course, but several items each season. We even have a family picture where all of us are wearing clothes she made-her and my dad included. Despite that, I never learned to sew. In fact, my mother gave me a sewing machine for a wedding gift, and it never saw the light of day until about 3 years ago when a group of moms in my homeschooling circle decided to learn how to quilt and start a quilt block swap and, despite the fact that I didn't even know how to thread my machine, I joined in.

I'm telling you all that so you know I am NO great seamstress. I have learned to hold my own with basic sewing, and have fully completed two quilts of my own and helped a friend layout and quilt several more. But even with that, I have never done a binding the "right" way, let alone made my own bias tape, or even followed a pattern from start to finish for an article of clothing.

Enter Sense and Sensibility Patterns. When I saw they were an upcoming vendor for review this year, I visited their website and I loved what I saw. As the name implies, they have many "period" patterns for dresses and other accessories, and they speak to the place in my soul that would love to see my girls dressed daily like Laura Ingalls Wilder in their cute dresses and aprons instead of our normal "uniform" of shorts and a T-shirt. I admit it, there's an old fashioned, modest, feminine dress lover locked inside this modern girl.

Sense and Sensibility Patterns sent us their Girls' Edwardian Apron e-pattern and e-class to try out, and I was VERY excited. I envisioned my oldest daughter and I making this beautiful apron together with her learning from my the skills I never learned from my mom to be productive with her hands. I quickly took her shopping to pick fabric for her apron after showing her pictures on the website of what the final product would look like. The fact that the ONLY fabric she would even consider was a black denim with pink threads running through it should have been my first clue that this was not going to go like I planned! Luckily my littlest girl was not with me, so I picked out a beautiful floral on a black background for her.

I decided to print the pattern one afternoon when my oldest daughter was not around. That was a smart move. The pattern was 25 PAGES LONG!!! Oh, and the pages are not numbered. That might not have been a big deal, but my helpful 12 year old son brought me the pages in small groups as they printed, so they were not even remotely in order. That was the first CON of the whole experience. Making sense of the pattern, putting it together properly, and then cutting it out required almost an hour and more than a little frustration. The pieces did not line up perfectly even when I was sure they went together, and I having never done the "follow a pattern" thing, that through me for a loop. But I pressed on, and after all the work to put it together, there was NO WAY I was going to cut it to one size, so I traced it on some muslin fabric I had and made cloth pattern pieces to use instead. At that point, I decided that I would make the first apron for my youngest child WITHOUT my oldest daughter. I was new to many of the things this pattern required (making bias tape and actually following a pattern for example) and I wanted to figure it out first and then be able to walk her through making hers.

Once I made this a solo project and had the pattern ready to go, it got WAY easier. The e-class is a wonderful thing, and worth every penny if you are as (in)experienced as I am in sewing and reading patterns. It literally walks you through it step by step in photo slides AND has an accompanying audio track that explains each step in detail. It's great, and again, if you are not an experienced seamstress, I'd recommend it.

After watching the e-class and having the pattern in hand, I cut out the pieces, which was very easy to do, as the pattern has a suggested layout for you. Then I went on to the part I was most concerned about-making my own bias tape. It was SO EASY. A little time consuming, but SOOOO easy. I'm so glad I did it. And I can carry that skill on to quilt making and other sewing projects too, so it was worth learning how to do. After seeing a picture on the Sense and Sensibility site with the apron bound with a contrasting bias tape, I decided to do that too, and the only hard part was that I wasn't sure how much fabric it would take since I was not using the main fabric of the apron nor was I using purchased bias tape. But I had plenty of the contrasting fabric, so I just cut what looked like enough and ended up needing to add about 12 inches at the end, and it was perfect.

The actual assembly of the apron was quite easy. It sewed together quickly and even with the places where the pattern didn't match exactly, the apron turns out fine because the hems you fold and the binding on the edges that covers any small uneven parts. In the end, the apron turned out so pretty that I won't even consider letting my daughter use it as an apron, :-). This one will be for wearing over a pretty white dress for church and dress-up occasions. And I plan to go back to Sense and Sensibility for the white dress pattern-they have one that will be perfect (see below).

I'm ready now to help my oldest daughter make her apron too. I think her interesting fabric choice will make a great apron to actually wear in the kitchen, and with apron being so lovely, just owning it makes you want to go make something in the kitchen so you have an excuse to put it on.

There are many pros to me for this pattern and others offered my Sense and Sensibility. First, they are correct to the period, but much easier than you may think to make. Second, the e-pattern format means you can purchase it and star making it right away, all from the comfort of your house. Third, the e-class makes it almost impossible to be unsuccessful at making your garment, and it will teach you many things that you will use over and over again in sewing-the skills are not just pattern specific. It's a great way to be tutored in new sewing skills while actually making a really cool item too. And lastly, with an e-pattern, you can print it out over and over if you need to so there are no worries if you lose a pattern piece or it rips, etc. And it was easy to modify (I combined the width of the sz 6 with a length between the sizes 4 and 6 for my apron).

The cons would be that putting the pattern pages together so they made the actual apron pattern was very time consuming and NOT easy since the pages weren't numbered. All told, it took probably an entire day to print the pattern, watch the class, assemble the pattern, cut out the pieces, cut out the fabric, make the bias tape, and then sew the actual garments. It is a labor of love, NOT a quick and easy project. Also, It surprised me that the bask straps/ties are not lined with like fabric. I tried it on my daughter about half way through it being finished, and when I tied the straps I noticed that I could see the "unfinished" fabric back, and it was quite a color difference from the front and made a beautiful apron much less attractive. I quickly cut matching strap pieces for the back of the existing straps and sewed them to the back of the existing straps-all of which was hidden in by the bias binding in the finished project. The end result is much more finished looking, and it surprised me that that is not the way it is intended to be done. Below show you what the back side of my fabric looks like compared to the front.

The bottom line is despite the pattern assembly learning curve, I would definitely buy from Sense and Sensibility again. I personally LOVE this apron, but I want to try some other patterns too. And while the e-class really bumps up the price, it is worth it if you want to learn new skills. It's like having a sewing class that you take from the comfort of your own home. The patterns are reasonable-$7.95 for the e-pattern or $12.95 plus shipping for a real pattern that they send to you. If you want the e-class, it is $19.95 without the pattern, or $24.95 bundled with the pattern. The Girls' Apron includes sizes 2-14 in one pattern and because the criss-cross straps in the back makes it so adjustable, the same apron I made for my 4 year old fits my 10 year old too...and my daughter's 12 year old friend. Pretty amazing!

Sari loves her new apron (please ignore the buckets of wheat on either side of her). The pockets are nice and deep, and I think the contrasting binding really pops off the black background.
Here's the back of the apron on Sari.

This is the exact same apron on my 10 year old.

Here you can see how the criss-crossing straps allow it to adjust for years of wear.
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Sorry to disappoint

Wow, I had really planned to blog daily this month, but OBVIOUSLY that hasn't happened! I did want to give a quick update to say I have alternately bombed and done great at the 31 Day of Nothing thing. If I stay home, I do great...if I leave the house, I bomb...guess I'll need to stay home more, LOL.
I have done really well with some deals lately. I went to Office Depot and got $14 worth of stuff for .81. Yep, you read that right. They are literally giving away 3 protractors and 5 folders per household this week-no strings attached or coupons required. I got 3 2-packs of scissors for .25 each, which is how I spent the .81.
Tonight, I went to Kohls. I had a $5 coupon good for $5 free on any purchase. They had a crazy sale on their clearence stuff-80% off mostly. I got a skirt, a pair of jean shorts, a nice casual top, and a white top/jacket for $22 (no, you are right, that's not "nothing"-that's the danger in leaving the house) BUT I saved $105. Of course, I never would have bought them full price, but they were good purchases at great prices.

More tomorrow. I have a product review to post on an online pattern company (ooo, my apron is SOOOO cute), so I'll have that posted tomorrow.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

I ♥ Faces contest-Nostalgia



Wow, this challenge at I Heart Faces was hard. I LOVE nostalgic photo effects, but it seems like what they were really looking for was a photo that evoked nostalgic memories. I settled on this photo of Mimi. It is nostalgic to me for many reasons.

First, I have a picture of ME with my front teeth out, but the circumstances were some what different. Instead of being at the state fair, which is where the picture above is taken, I was in California for the first time in my life. We had driven from BUFFALO, NY to California to visit friends who had moved out there. It was my first ever trip to Disney (ironic since I later ended up working for Disney in FL for over 10 years). It is a vacation loaded with memories-polyester clothes, bell bottom pants, and going to school for the day with my friend who had moved out there. Boy! Times have changed!

Second, what kid doesn't covet candy apples. I remember what a treat something like that was. As a child, candy was a rare treat, not the readily available food staple it seems to be for kids these days. But I'd like to think that even now a candy apple is still a big deal. And it looks so red and tempting in this picture. The focus is on the apple, my daughter's a little soft focused. that's just what it was like for my daughter that day. The focus was on that apple. It took her probably 30 minutes to eat it, and she was wearing a fair amount of it on her face, but she enjoyed every minute.

Third, this picture was taken at our state fair. There's just something intrinsically nostalgic about fairs. Sure, today we have Disney, and Universal, and Six Flags, and the list goes on and on, but there is just something about a midway and funnel cake and candy apples and 4-H exhibits that can't be beat. My kids have grown up with Disney, Sea World, and Universal in their backyard, but they still love the fair, and we go every year.

Lastly, I can't believe it's been years since this photo was taken-it seems like only yesterday. Now my son is the age his sister was in this photo, but his front teeth are still hanging in there.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

31 Days of Nothing Days 13-15

So day 13 was pretty good. I cancelled a back ordered book on CBD (I ordered it in APRIL!) and got it off Amazon for $5 less. So it doesn't really count since that was money I actually spent in April and in the end I saved money anyway.

Day 14 was a bomb. See, we live in the Sunshine state. It's like 900 degrees year round (okay, I exaggerate a bit). And I have one bathing suit. One. And it's gone missing. Now personally, I could NEVER wear a bathing suit and be fine, but since going nude is socially unacceptable (and even more mortifying than a bathing suit) and never going in the water when you live in FL is dooming your children to cruel and unusual punishment, it's kind of necessary attire. And did I mention mine is missing? Not such a big deal, but I owe my littlest a trip to Aquatica since she stopped sucking her thumb, and bathing suits are required attire. I need to take her sometime in the next week because she starts Pre-K after that. I'm running out of time. So I needed another suit. And they are on sale for 60-70% off right now, but when you wear a size HUGE, that still translates into $40 for a suit that covers me the way I like. Mimi also needed a suit that didn't gape at the butt so much that you can see through from one side to the other. And Scott needs a few since he will be sailing year round, and bathing suits are only available during summer. And they were all on sale. So I splurged and got Sari one too since she was with me. That was another $20. And then since we were out and it was lunch time, and we had a place to be after lunch, I spent $5 at Arby's for the three of us to eat. Nope, not a good day.
It spiraled from there. I wasn't home to make our usual pizza/cinnamon rolls for our Friday night/Saturday morning tradition so the hubs had to stop by the store for frozen pizza and some Sister Shubert's Orange Rolls (YUM). Not a good day financially at ALL.

Today I had to go to the store, and my coupons aren't organized yet, and I haven't looked over the deals yet, but I was out of lunch meat and stuff for the hubs to smoke along with the pork from the other day. So I went to Albertson's and stuck to the sale produce/meat, and stuff we really really needed. I had NO coupons except the $5 off $50 in the paper. I did pretty good anyway. I spent $77.66 and saved $38.90. I bought 3 lbs of lunch meat, 1 1/2 lbs of sliced cheese, 2 1/2 lbs of bananas, 2 lbs of grapes, 1.5 lbs of peaches, 3 lbs of Tilapia, and about 9 lbs of chicken. I did buy a very small amount of things that I *might* have been able to dig up a coupon for, but they were either BOGO, or on sale, or a real need so it was justified.
Not too bad, but not as good as it could have been. I'm still learning.
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I'm not a Doctor...

But I play one on my daughter's dolls.

I know, that sounds just plain WRONG, doesn't it?

I have two girls, and about 100 dolls. Really. It's like people think, "What should I get for ....-oh, I know, a DOLL". For Sari, that's a match made in heaven. She LOVES dolls. But Mimi, well, she's never really been into them. Except one type, and that I am sure is due to the peer pressure of all her friends being into this doll. That would be the American Girl dolls. Now for those of you who don't know, American Girl dolls are dolls based on specific time periods and each doll has a series of books about the girl they represent and what it was like to live then. And they are CRAZY expensive. Like $100 a doll. Made even more ridiculous by the fact that although the girls on the book covers all have a unique look, the dolls all have the SAME FACE. At least $100 My Twinn dolls actually have several different faces so your dolls can really look like what they are meant to look like. But I digress...


The maker of American Girl Dolls was smart. They have huge stores where you can go to tea with your doll and buy matching outfits, etc. They also recognize that well loved dolls don't last forever (although for $100 they ought to have parts made of titanium). So they have the American Girl Doll Hospital. Yes, you can send your ailing doll back to then, for a not-so-nominal fee, and have it repaired and returned to you good-as-new...at least for a few months until she becomes "well-loved" again.

Mimi has a Kirsten doll. She got it from her Nana and PopPop when she was THREE-because what 3 year old shouldn't have their own $100 doll? And although it sat fairly neglected for a LONG time, once her friends started getting into them and getting their own American Girl dolls, Kirsten saw a small amount of play (Mimi just really isn't that into dolls unless friends are around). Then one day about 2 years ago, Kirsten's leg FELL OFF. Really. Now I'm thinking that shouldn't be able to happen on a $100 doll, but alas it did. And since our local library had an American Girl Doll Club every month, Mimi had a constant reminder of her doll's injured status (for me, it was under a pile of dryer lint and assorted other goodies rescued from the washer and so it was out of mind) and she BEGGED me to send it to the AGD Hospital. But the cost on that is $24 for limb reattachment AND $6.95 for shipping you back the doll-not to mention the cost of shipping the doll to THEM.

NOT. Happening.

Even with the perks, as explained on the website:
Within two weeks, you can welcome her home:
  • 18” American Girl dolls return with a hospital gown, an ID bracelet, a Certificate of Good Health, a “get well” balloon, and a band-aid sticker
Band-aids don't cost that much...

So there she sat, getting more and more lint covered :-(. Until the other day Mimi again BEGGED me to send her in. I explained that the cost really didn't fit in with the 31 days of nothing, not to mention that it wasn't likely to happen while I was still drawing breath...But what do you do with a one legged $100 doll? You make a song about it! Marie's kids and mine made up a song about Mimi's one legged one hundred dollar doll...and maybe that was what chipped away at my resolve enough to look into more economically feasible solutions.

SO I did what I do for everything these days...I search the internet. And found THIS site. It laid everything out for us. I got all the parts that night (using a bungee cord in place of the elastic cord they suggested since I couldn't find anything else and the bungee cord was the exact same size).

For 30 minutes the next morning, we did "surgery" on Kirsten. We took off her head, took out all her fluff, fixed the broken limb, put her back together, and magic erased some of the dirt off her body, and voila! A brand new Kirsten for $5 instead of $50. Mimi could not be more thrilled and has actually set up a whole house for Kirsten in her room (read that as TOTALLY destroyed her room that I spent a day cleaning) and has actually been playing with her.

Who knew?
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Freebie Fridays

I LOVE Molly! Molly of Econobusters that is. Go HERE for her Freebie Friday post. Lots of good stuff! I've already gotten mine :-)
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Crazy Homeschool Mom's Reality Check


I'm hearing...five children make as much noise as they possibly can, bowling pins hitting the floor (Wii Bowling), and my pastor singing "We wish you a Merry Christmas." I bet no one else in the world can say that.

I'm thinking...what would happen if I took a sledge hammer to the TV? I mean, my husband has promised to be married to me "til death do us part"...would I be hastening that if I destroyed the TV? Because things would be A LOT quieter around here without the TV.

I'm also thinking...of all the BAZILLIONS of things on my "to-do" list, typing this rebellious version of the Daybook has got to be very last on the list, but here I sit doing it...guess that says a lot about my priorities.

I'm planning...NOTHING. I should be planning my upcoming school year, but instead I'm wasting time on my computer.

I'm dreaming...of sneaking off to the kitchen to eat some of the chocolate chip cookie dough that is chilling in the fridge.

Here's a picture I'm sharing-just in case you need a laugh as much as I do:


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

31 Days of Nothing-Days 10-12

I ended up going Monday evening to Lowes in a quest for a few supplies that I'll explain more in another post-that resulted in $5 spent on what I went there for...and $30 spent on a shelving unit that I wasn't so much planning on buying...although I had mentioned it to my husband since it was $20 off its normal price. We need storage downstairs if we are to reclaim that space and use it for our school area. The sale ended that day. That spending comes out of the "home improvement" fund, so it doesn't really count in terms of our monthly budget.

I went from Lowes to Walmart where I spent $100. I needed two different sets of supplies.
1) I needed some things to organize my coupons. If I really am to start trying to save my family serious money with coupons (I've been doing pretty good, but I want to kick it up a notch), then I need to have a system in place that will work for me and that I will use, so that required buying a few items.
2) I also needed some basic groceries. Things like apples, cereal, brown sugar, etc. It was a random list, but I was out, I was at Walmart, they had what I needed, so I bought it.

From Walmart, I went to Target looking for a few supplies for my coupon binder that Walmart didn't have. I spent about $12.

I was exhausted when I got home!

Tuesday, Presley and I went to Publix and she walked me through one incredible deal that involved a bazillion coupons, but ended in me getting 3 pork tenderloins, 2 KC Masterpiece sauces, and two 13.5 lb bags of charcoal for...are you ready for this...$3.25. Of course, I needed a few other things which were on sale OR which I had a coupon for OR were items I don't compromise on (like organic milk), so all totalled I spent $22 and saved $65.50.

Today I stayed home. It's hard to spend if you don't leave the house, LOL. Well, actually I did go tonight to pick up 4 prescriptions (they were free because I filled them on July 31st before our insurance changed) and I did end up spending $5. CVS had tubes of 1oz. solid cocoa butter on clearance for .29 each. That's an amazing deal, and I can use it for soap and lotion making, so I bought them out of what they had at the store I was at. I need to make soap, so the need was real and I would have had to buy some anyway-but now I saved a TON on it too.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

31 Days of Nothing Days 7-9

I've was doing pretty good until yesterday. We saw another redbox movie Saturday night via a free code. LOVE THAT! Yesterday though we had a Coupon class after church and it was BYOL...but I forgot my "L" (that would be lunch) because we were scrambling to get out the door that morning to go pick up our old neighbor RM who spent the day with us. We took her to church with us, and so in all the haste I forgot my lunch. So I spent $5 on a yummy sub from Subway. But I learned some money saving tips I didn't know from the coupon class, so that should justify it, right? Except that I also chose to go out after the class with two friends I haven't seen much of lately. We went to this cute little coffee place right near my house that I had never been to. I got Ginger Peach iced tea and a too-die-for slice of cheesecake so there was another $6 out of pocket (including tip). That is the kind of spending that I am meant to NOT be doing this month...the mind is willing, but the flesh is soooo weak.
I figured I'd keep it honest though and confess to you guys.
I did do great on Saturday with a real deal on Sharpie markers-9 markers for a total of 9 CENTS. Really! I got some cool unusual colors too. I was excited about that! I have a few more loss leader school things to pick up this week, but not too much. I really need to organize and actually start school someday really soon, LOL.
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Update on "Following"

For all my friends who complained that they couldn't follow my blog-look to your right-I added the cute little followers box. Hope that helps! But the problem is, now I look really lame with just 7 followers, so sign up or I will feel unloved :-).
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

31 Days of Nothing-Days 5&6

Yesterday was great-no money spent! Today? Well, today I got what hopefully is "the rest" of the supplies I needed for my workboxes. $30 spent at Lowes, and I am hoping that's it. The boxes slid off the shelves every times someone went by, and it was making me NUTS, so I got some textured shelf liner to hopefully put an end to that. That, and I got $5 bins for the kids to put their finished boxes into. They even came with folding lids in their colors. But multiply anything out by 3-4 kids, and even $5 stuff adds up...
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

31 Days of Nothing-Day 4

Okay, so today's total is $46. I went to Albertson's to take last minute advantage of this week's sales (.97/lb for grapes-I bought $6.50 worth). They had whole chickens for .59/lb, so I bought the two biggest ones. Every single thing I bought was on sale-except the bananas which were .69/lb, so not too bad anyway. None of what I bought, except pancake syrup, would even have been something there would have been a coupon for. (We use real maple syrup mostly, but the kids like the cheap stuff, and sometimes that's all the budget allows for-like now-so Log Cabin without High Fructose Corn Syrup won out.)
As it was, I saved $21.40. I did splurge and spend $1 at the Redbox (it's included in the $46 above) because my code was invalid for some reason, but I had already told the kids I'd get Race to Witch Mountain (which was actually pretty good) and I hated to disappoint them.
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31 Days of Nothing-Day 3

Warning-this post contains what constitutes "strong language" in our house.

Yesterday would have been a good day...except for one thing. "Stupid tax". "Stupid tax" is money that you pay (or lose) because of something totally avoidable a.k.a. "stupid" that you did, or in some cases didn't do.
Stupid tax is paying a $99 fine on .01 of intangible tax that wasn't paid on time (true story). Stupid tax is finding an expired check you never cashed for over $100 that can't be reissued (also a true story).
Stupid tax is generally the type thing that makes you feel sick to your stomach when you realize what your lack of attentiveness has cost you.
Yesterday's stupid tax was a double whammy. See, our city library is not part of the county system, so they have their own rules and fees. In the County, when you check out a movie, you check it out for free and if you return it late it is .10 a day. In the city, if you check out a movie it costs you .25, and if you return it late it is $2 PER DAY PER MOVIE. We found that out the very first time we checked out movies there and returned them AFTER the library closed on the day they were due. The next time I went in to check something out, they said I owed $8. I thought I must have lost a book, but they said it was for 4 movies that had been returned late. I said they were returned on the date due, but they said it has to be before the library closes on that day to count (in the county, as long as they are in by the time the library opens the next day, you are safe from fines). ARGH! $8 for ridiculous children's movies-I vowed we would NEVER do that again.
Fast forward a few years to 2 weeks ago. We had gotten books and books on CD for our trip, and I needed to go into the city library to get the next book in a series I was reading. The kids went with me and BEGGED to get a movie. I said okay, since they are older now and I figured we could be sure to get it back on time. We did, and the next week when I went in to get another book in the series, I again let them pick out two movies. And then on that Friday, when I was in the library getting the last two books in the series, I let them get one more movie. Well, the hubs has this way of cleaning up the movies that involves putting anything he can't immediately put away up on a high shelf where it's out of sight...can you see where this is going???
The movie we had gotten on the Friday wasn't put up because it was in the DVD player. But it was returned at 8 PM that night, after the library closed, so there was $2 in stupid tax right there. I had totally forgotten about the other movies.
Yesterday I went to renew the last book on CD we have from that library, and I couldn't because I had a fine. I looked at my account, even though I thought I knew what the fine was. Sure enough, there was the $2...but also two other movies that each said, "as of now, you owe $10".
You know that sick-to-your-stomach feeling? Yep, I had it. $22 in library fines. And for what? What were the two movies that were up to a fine of $10 each? Air Buddies and Once Upon a Mattress (the princess and the pea story). Really. I mean, those are the type movie you can find in the Dollar Store. And I owed $10 on EACH ONE.
STUPID TAX is what that is.
I talked them down to half price...but my total for yesterday was $11 spent on STUPID TAX.
Remind me NEVER to check out movies from that library again!!!!!
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

End of the month plans

Consider this a warning if you are our friends of ours in NC/VA-we'll be up at the end of the month. My mom, sister, and I are taking Marie's time share week and having a "girls and kids" week. I just discovered a big SNAFU in my plan though...I will have a child in school at that point.
Sari is going to Pre-K this year. It's free in our state (well, actually my tax dollars pay for it) and TJ did it and loved it. Sari's been having separation issues and she also is begging to do school with us (not her own work-what the big kids are doing), so I am hoping this will help on both fronts and give the older 3 another year without a 4th learner at the table, which is critical for Scott this year because I am trying to bring him closer to grade level in some areas this year.
So back to my dilemma-Sari would literally be in school a week and then we'd be gone a week. Not good. Especially since you can miss a certain number of days in the year and then your child is booted out of the program. I hate to start out with 5 off the bat. But I've also already paid for this. So, what to do???
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm planning on leaving her home with her daddy. His parents will be in town, and they are willing to pick her up and keep her every afternoon if he takes her every morning. They are willing to do this because they are THRILLED with the idea of any of my kids going to a "real" school, but I'll take any motivation I can get-the point is they are willing. I feel really weird about it-I've never done anything like this before-but it makes sense and will work. The hubs may be calling on some of my most loyal friends to help out if he finds her incessant chatter to be more than he can handle and be productive around here.
So with that said, my sister is in the same boat with Bam-Bam, but the in-laws were less willing to commit to keeping HIM and Sari all week. They like my sister better than they like me, so I can't believe they won't say "yes", but I think it all comes down to the real blood relation.
I'm sorry-I don't mean for that to sound nasty at all-it's really just the truth-it's the filter my m-i-l sees the world through. But they do love Sari, and she'll enjoy their company and the one on one attention.
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31 Days of Nothing-Day 2

Today was much better. No money spent :-). Actually, Scott and the hubs both spent money, but they were gift cards, so that doesn't count in my book. I made dinner from stuff we already had, BUT I forgot to mention that I did NOT stock up at all, so this will be interesting. I want to plow through some of what is in my freezer AND my pantry, but I know I will end up buying groceries soon.
My school supply purchase plan this week is pencil sharpeners. Office Depot has nice hand sharpeners for .10 each, and I want the kids to each have their own for their work boxes since they break their pencil leads ALL the time and they have not taken to mechanical pencils. I am hoping that using better quality pencils will help. We have a MILLION free pencils, but they seem to come with leads pre-broken into a billion pieces so that no matter how well you sharpen them, they break immediately afterward. I am keeping my eyes on good quality pencils (Dixon Ticonderoga) at Office Depot and I'm holding out for them to go on sale at some point-maybe after school starts, which is the beauty of homeschooling-I can buy my supplies whenever I want.
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31 Days of Nothing

The Old Schoolhouse has a "writer"(as I understand multiple people really contribute) named Molly who shares tips on fiscally responsible homemaking. Her website is http://www.econobusters.com/ and one of the tips I picked up that really struck me was her idea of Thirty Days of Nothing. I decided we would give it a try and declared August 1st our starting day (since August has 31 days, we are doing 31 days of nothing). In the interest of keeping me accountable, I am going for (mostly) full disclosure about how we do on my blog. The idea is to buy ONLY what is absolutely necessary-groceries, stuff, it doesn't matter-ONLY what is necessary.
Yesterday was the first day. I didn't do so well. See, we found out that Sari's webkinz expires on August 6th about 9PM on July 31st. Webkinz has come out with Webkinz Jr. for ages 3-6. It is an educational site with full parental feedback and some parental control. I was impressed based on the short video we watched. Instead of a regular webkinz (which I could have given her for FREE, since I have some lil' kinz downstairs to give as gifts), I decided I'd get her a Webkinz Jr. and then she could actually do it on her own and it could be a "school" activity for her while the other kids are working. The problem? They are $25-30 depending on where you get them. The other problem? The only local store that Webkinz says carries them DID NOT actually have them. ARGH! So we ordered the one she chose via their in store ordering system, and because it was over $20 it will ship to our house for free. Oh, and it was on sale for $25 instead of $30, but still, that's expensive. So why did I splurge?
We did a lot of homeschool product testing last year, and I can tell you that online educational websites are about $20 a month. This one ends up being $25 for the year-so comparatively, it's not bad. And I'm not pawning off her education on available technology instead of ME, but the reality is that I have 4 kids, and each one will have some sort of work this year on the computer (Grammar Key for Scott, a Design your own Website DVD we are testing that Mimi wants to do, etc.) and this will be hers. And, I decided that I WOULD spend money on the school stuff I either a)needed or b) was cheaper right now than it would be in a month.
Okay, so with tax, that brought my "nothing" total to $27 before 10 am. Not the best start. I then spent $7 at Office Depot (laminating for our workboxes AND .40 worth of glue sticks) and $1.07 at Walmart (5 wire bound notebooks and a 24 pack of crayola crayons). As school supplies go, I am sticking with the "loss leaders". Those are things that the store sells as ridiculously low prices and they actually lose money on them. They count on you buying more stuff once they have you in the store to make up for the loss. I am trying to NOT do that. For example, Office Depot had 4 packs of glue sticks on sale for .20 a pack. I grabbed 5 of them this week (two yesterday). That makes 20 glue sticks for $1. I'm set for the year. Crayola 24 pack crayons for ,25 and wire notebooks for .15 each are loss leaders too, and that's ALL I bought at Walmart.
Still, to be fair, my total for yesterday was $35. I'm hoping to do much better today!
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