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Soccer Mom Case Study Flow Chart

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Buddy Biscuits from Cloud Star

Dante-puppy loves his Cloud Star biscuits, so we jumped at the chance to try out their holiday Buddy Biscuits.  This time, they are gingerbread flavored, and smell just like real gingerbread!  Seriously, these are one of the best smelling dog treats I've come across.  (Yes, I know the dogs don't care, but as the person who has to hand them out, smelling good is a plus!)  The Holiday Buddy Biscuits come in three sizes--minis, regular and cookie sized.  Dante has sampled all three and approves, with my favorite being the minis for ease of use.

Why else do we love them?  As always, Buddy Biscuits are made with natural ingredients and are corn-free, along with no soy, artificial colors, artificial flavors, byproducts, and preservatives, very important for Dante.  Cloud Star also donates $1 for each proof of purchase sent back by their customers to charities benefitting animals, women and children.

Want to try your own?  We have a special Black Friday weekend only coupon for 50% off Buddy Biscuits on Cloud Star's website!  Enter code HOLIDAY-13-MOM at check out for your discount!  (Offer valid from Friday, November 29, 2013 through Monday, December 2, 2013.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our #TurboFastFun Challenge

We received a second #TurboFastFun package from Fox Home Entertainment last week.  This time, instead of the movie, we received some great goodies to play with and take a little family challenge to do things Turbo Fast!

With our package, I decided to adapt the challenge to fit our family.  Racing for chores or other household tasks would be a great idea, but I realized that it worked well for our homeschooling needs too!

We added work assignments to the chart (handwriting, spelling, grammar, literature, math, history, science and "extras") and the kids used it to check off what they did each day.  Ben especially loves checklists.  The timer was a bit more fun, challenging them for their math facts and to complete certain assignments in the allotted time, especially some of their least favorites.

And since we've already watched Turbo (more than once), I had to promise the boy a different movie night for completing his goals.  I suppose there are worse deals I could make.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Royal Gorge Santa Express Train Review {Colorado Outings}

Last weekend, the kids and I got the chance to check out the Santa Express Train at the Royal Gorge.  We had the perfect weather for it, just a light dusting of snow to make it even more festive.  After previewing the main website, F&B decided jammies were a must for this trip too.

We boarded our train around 6pm and opted to order a light dinner.  Our food arrived within 10 minutes, well before our train departed, so we were able to enjoy our dinner and relax before the ride actually started.

Our ride began and we were provided with sugar cookies and hot cocoa to enjoy.  The sweet staff told holiday jokes to the children and helped them sing Christmas carols.  The Royal Gorge scenery is amazing to begin with, even more with the snow falling.

As we ascended the hill, a small village appeared, we found the North Pole!  Not only were there decorated houses and trees, but there were elves and Santa himself!  Our train stopped and Santa boarded, then began passing through the cabins.  While waiting for Santa, some of his elves visited to talk with the children, tell jokes and read stories.

Then finally, partially through our journey home, Santa himself arrived in our car.  The children were able to take a picture with him, give him their letters, and received a special gift from him.  What gift?  Well, you'll need to take the ride yourself to find out!

The Santa Express Train is open to ALL from November 22 – December 26 with departures at 12 noon and/or 6 p.m. Visit royalgorgeroute.com for details and a complete schedule.

As well, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad also runs a Holiday Train from Dec. 26 - Jan 4 (12:30 lunch train) to accommodate folks on holiday break, and a New Year's Eve train on Dec. 31 at 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., which is a romantic, fine dining occasion.

Disclosure: We received tickets to check out the Santa Express as part of my affiliation with USFamilyGuide.com.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

And Eight More Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

While looking for one of last year's Elf on the Shelf posts for a friend, I discovered I never blogged our final 8 Elf on the Shelf ideas. We didn't just leave David the Elf hanging after December 16th. He had quite a few more adventures!  (For a quick reference, the first 8 Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas, and 8 More Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas, from last Christmas.)

David the Elf played hide and seek in our Christmas tree, but didn't realize that he had to hide himself, not hide his eyes!

One morning, we woke up and discovered David had gone dragon wrangling overnight, and tamed three different dragons!

Another game of hide and seek with David the Elf, he tried to see how well clean Army laundry acts as camouflage.

David went fishing for Alpha the Betta fish.  Alpha was not highly impressed.  (Alpha has since gone on to the big fishbowl in the sky.  He was succeeded by the very short lived Gamma the Betta fish, and now lives on through Delta the Betta fish.)

David loved the Christmas cookies, especially the elf shaped sugar cookies.  He claimed one for himself.

David the Elf overheard that we were going to be headed out to Canada shortly.  He put on Ben's hat in case it was cold, slipped on Ben's shoes and confiscated the car key.  He didn't want to be left behind.

Success!  David the Elf did manage to sneak along to Canada and was waiting for the kids in Nana's fireplace wreath on the very first morning there.

Christmas Eve, David brought the kids a special present before heading back to the North Pole for the year, special new Christmas jammies!

We've missed David all year, so we are hoping he'll be back soon with new adventures for F&B!

GenZ Online Read Together Review & Coupon Code

GenZ Read Together (www.genZreadtogether.com) emails wonderful real-life stories and activities each day to parents’ smartphones, tablets or computers. Whether it's at breakfast, bus stop, or bedtime -- GenZ makes it convenient to read about amazing people, places and things.

Created by educators and award-winning children's writers, stories are written at two levels, for children in grades K-2 and 3-5. Titles include:

  • The Atocha (world's greatest treasure hunter)
  • Captain Sully Saves the Day
  • The Chilean Miners' Rescue
  • Wilt Scores 100 Points!
  • Owen and Mzee - an Unusual Friendship
  • The Invention of Velcro
  • And hundreds more!

What does Ben think?  He is loving it!  Like most third grade boys, he loves non-fiction stories.  He's very into biographies lately and has especially loves the Inspiring People and Around the World categories.  From a homeschooling perspective, it's nice to have something new for him to read and learn each day that is properly vetted for his age and interest level.

Sounds awesome?  We think so! Right now, my readers receive a FREE Trial Subscription (no credit card required) to GenZ Read Together! Click here and use Promo Code: A167

Disclosure: We received a subscription to GenZ as part of my affiliation with USFamilyGuide.com. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Royal Gorge Santa Express Train Ride {Colorado Outings}

The kids and I are quite excited to get a chance to preview the Santa Express Train at the Royal Gorge this weekend.  With the snow we just had, Colorado is already starting to feel quite a bit Christmas-y, so we can't wait for our special ride!

This year, the spectacular 1.5 hour ride through Colorado’s Royal Gorge to the North Pole is full of holiday cheer.  Children wear their PJs, listen to Christmas stories, sing Christmas carols and enjoy homemade cookies and cocoa. Guests of all ages enjoy unobstructed views of the Royal Gorge on the way to the North Pole, which is fittingly decorated like a true Christmas town, decorated with nearly 20,000 holiday lights for its most famous resident – Santa Claus.

Once Santa boards the train at the North Pole, children await their turn to share their holiday wish list and receive their very special Santa Express Train gift – from Kris Kringle himself.

This year, the Santa Express Train will kick off its run to the North Pole by hosting 700 children and adults from Starlight Children’s Foundation, Fremont County Department of Human Services and Starpoint in Canon City, for a special sneak preview event Thursday, November 21!

The Santa Express Train is open to ALL from November 22 – December 26 with departures at 12 noon and/or 6 p.m. Visit royalgorgeroute.com for details and a complete schedule.

The Santa Express Train will also be collecting for Toys for Tots on the 6pm ride on November 30th.

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad also runs a Holiday Train from Dec. 26 - Jan 4 (12:30 lunch train) to accommodate folks on holiday break, and a New Year's Eve train on Dec. 31 at 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., which is a romantic, fine dining occasion.

Disclosure: We received tickets to check out the Santa Express as part of my affiliation with USFamilyGuide.com.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain Novel Study {Homeschool}

One of my plans this year, with Ben (third grade) is to start some simple novel studies.  I can remember doing them as early as 4th grade, and I wanted to start one with him.

We chose The Bears on Hemlock Mountain for our first one.  Bears is below his actual reading level, but because I wanted to focus on the elements of a novel, I did not want to choose something that was also a reading challenge.  He read the book the first day, in about 30 minutes, which was perfect as he was going to need to reread parts for our study.

We looked at several different elements of a novel this time--characters, setting (both place and time), and plot.  Next time, we will add more elements to it.


We started with characters, since the story only has one main character to work with.  Ben and I talked about "known characteristics" and "implied characteristics" to help him understand how we learn about a character.  I explained how the author tells us some things about a character for sure and other things that make us discover who the character is without saying a specific word.

I told him a quick story: Ben is an 8 year old boy.  He has brown hair and brown eyes.  He likes to tell jokes and make people laugh.  Then we made a list.  We know Ben is 8 and has brown hair and eyes.  We think Ben is probably funny because of the jokes and laughing, even though we didn't specifically use the words "Ben is funny."

From there, Ben made a T chart about the character of Jonathan with a column for known characteristics and implied characteristics.


We moved on to setting, and how to discover the wheres and the whens in a book.

This was Ben's favorite part.  For place, he wrote out a short description of the places in the book--Jonathan's house, the mountain, Jonathan's aunt's house.  Then for time, we looked through the book and pictures to see if we could figure out when the story took place. The clothes helped, and then we realized Jonathan's mom did have a phone to call his aunt, so that helped us even more.  Ben finally decided that it had to be during the time of Abraham Lincoln.  I'm not 100% sure how he picked that time period, but it seemed reasonable to me!

After that, he spent some time drawing a map of Jonathan's journey, which is why this was his favorite part.  The map is still hanging on my fridge because I was amazed at the details he put in.


Finally we ended with the plot.  Ben could easily narrate the story back to me, so I wanted to focus on the main points of the story.  I printed this 7 box plot flow chart for him and showed him the best way to figure out the flow (first and last, then second and second last, till we got to the middle).  He was very excited to realize we could summarize the story in just seven boxes as his narration was quite a bit longer.


For this novel, we stopped at this point.  We will likely do at least one more novel with an in-depth look at character, setting and plot, before we move on to other elements of the story.  However, it went really well and we're both excited of the possibilities of novel studies in the future!

Linking up to:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Bible Character Night

The girl is Pharaoh's daughter, with Moses in the basket.
The boy is Daniel in the lion's den.
I think it was rather inspired for last minute notice.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

This one is my favorite soldier.

Menu Planning, Week of 11/11

We've come to a realization--when the husband is away for a couple of days, restaurants or easy meals are a nice respite.  However, it may not be possible, for financial and health reasons, to spend 9 months eating restaurant food, mac and cheese or sandwiches.  So menu planning it is.

Thankfully, I'm feeding an 8 year old and 11 year old, so I can at least justify cooking a fair amount of food.  Add in homeschooling and the leftovers can easily be repurposed for lunches.  And, since they are 8 and 11, they are forced to participate in the planning part of the meals.  I'll cook for them, just don't make me think of all of the meals!

Friday - Beefy queso and chips (I double the beef so we can use this as an entree)

Saturday - Tomato garlic basil chicken (already marinated in the freezer), stuffing, peas

Sunday - Taco stuffed baked potatoes

Monday - leftovers (besides all the chicken, there is fried rice from last week)

Tuesday - Jambalaya

Wednesday - Lasagna with garlic bread

Thursday - Pork chops with cream sauce, rice, maple carrots

Friday - Pizza night

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday on OrgJunkie!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Dreamwork's Turbo Review & Giveaway

Coming November 12th, TURBO, DreamWorks' adorable movie about a racing snail, hits the shelves. And just in time for the holidays!  How can you go wrong when an underdog snail gets turbo-charged speed and enters the Indy 500?  With the help of his snail pit crew, Turbo puts his heart and shell on the line to prove that no dream is too big.

Directed by David Soren and from the team behind family favorite franchises MADAGASCAR and KUNG FU PANDA, TURBO is “a movie both kids AND adults will adore!” (Deidre Behar, Clevver News) and features laugh-out-loud performances from an incredible voice cast of today’s biggest stars: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolf, Michelle Rodriguez and Samuel L. Jackson.

Experience big dreams and even bigger laughs when TURBO arrives on Digital HD™ on October 22 and on Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray™ and DVD on November 12. Taking the fun-filled spirited adventure of the film, the Blu-ray™ and DVD are packaged with a TURBO pullback toy racer, while supplies last, making it a great gift for the holidays!

Are your kids excited for Turbo too?  F&B really are and our review copy came in today, so I sense a family movie night brewing.  Until then, check out some great printables from Turbo--including mazes, coloring sheets, alphabet cards and more:

Want to win a BluRay copy of Turbo of your very own?  I get to give one away to one lucky reader.  Just follow the Rafflecopter below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was given the opportunity to receive an advance copy of Turbo for myself and one to giveaway as part of my relationship with Fox Home Entertainment Insiders.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Home Alone: Holiday Heist Review

Last year, when we were at my parents' house for Christmas, F&B discovered the Home Alone movies and watched a marathon of them on one snowy day.  I had long since forgotten them, so had to snuggle up with the kids and watch them too.  Needless to say, we are quite thrilled that the franchise is making new movies and were excited to check out Home Alone: Holiday Heist.

In the latest installment of the Home Alone franchise, Finn Baxter and his family move from California to Maine to their new house. Finn is terrified and believes the house is haunted. While he sets up traps to catch the "ghost", his parents get stranded across town and Finn is home alone with his sister. Their house is targeted by 3 thieves!

With the holidays fast approaching, it's a great choice for a family movie night, something that the kids and I have decided we need to make a regular part of our schedules.  There's nothing better than snuggling up on the couch with popcorn and a good movie.

I received my copy of Home Alone: Holiday Heist as part of my association with Fox Home Entertainment Insiders.  No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Taylor Swift; an icon, a legend, a story-teller and now a happy, care-free woman.

After Swift released her album reputation in November, there was a lot of hype about track number five, titled "Delicate." We all knew that this song was one of the biggest anticipations off of the record but what we didn't know was the meaning behind the song and after Swift released the music video for it at the iHeart Music Awards show, we now can all go to bed knowing that Ms. Swift is happy with life.

The video starts out with Taylor on the red carpet with a beautiful gown and of course, red lipstick. Her facial expressions at the beginning make it seem like she doesn't want to be there, same old same old things that she is sick and tired of. Being interviewed by hundreds of press people and paparazzi on her every move. Knowing Taylor, she is not a fan of all the press being on her all the time.

After she gets through all of the paparazzi and press, she is handed a note (Hold on tight! The note becomes important later on). Taylor is then seen walking through the hotel with hotel body guards surrounding her, almost like they are keeping her away from her fans and all of the other things around her. The next part of this video is a big shoutout to her fans, as she is shown taking a selfie with a group of girls, Taylor's face is lit up and happy as ever but is then ruined by the body guards who take her away from that. We all know that Taylor adores her fans more than anything in the world and they are the ones who keep her sane.

Taylor just wants to be able to connect with the people that keep her going and the media won't let her do that, because one wrong move and Taylor's reputation could be ruined, again. After being torn away from her fans, she's shown in a dressing room in front of mirror looking at herself wondering what she's doing wrong and why people need to treat her in ways she doesn't want to be treated. Now, for the part that made every Swiftie's heart explode with happiness, Taylor decides to be herself for once and makes goofy faces into the mirror but when other people walk into the room and she waves at them and they don't see her she finally realizes something. Looking into the mirror once again, she doesn't see her reflection and becomes invisible to the world.

After she realizes that she's become invisible to the world and everyone around her she starts to become herself and dances around the hotel like nobody is watching, with her facial expressions becoming happy once again.

After her dancing moments in the hotel, Taylor gets into the elevator with a woman and they are face-to-face with each other and the woman smiles at Taylor and this is the moment when Taylor think somebody finally notices her for being herself but in the end the woman was smiling at the mirror in the elevator fixing her lipstick and once again Taylor realizes that she's still invisible to everyone.

Taylor then gets caught up in the moment and finds herself in a subway station, still dancing around however she wants and without a care in the world, she gets on the subway, gets off and finds herself in an alley way dancing in the rain.


Taylor is dancing in the rain. Now we all know how much Taylor enjoys dancing in the rain, ever since her first album she's had a thing for water. Now, this scene specifically screams out the Fearless era because of the line in the song "Fearless" that goes, "in a storm in my best dress, fearless." Swifties immediately got emotional, because that same dream that 12 year old Taylor had about dancing in the rain and being herself still exists 16 years later.

Going back to the video, you'll notice that Taylor looks the happiest in this part. She doesn't give a care in the world and doesn't care what anybody thinks of her because she has come to the point where she just wants to be herself and not succumb to what the media makes her out to be. The video ends with Taylor going to a dive bar (possibly on the East side?) This is where the note comes back into play, she goes into the bar looking for the guy who gave her the note. She gets into the bar, everyone is looking at her, but she ignores all of them looking for the one who likes her for her.

Once she sees who she's looking for (Joe?!) she realizes that she can just be herself with him and can let the rest of the world just pass her by.

Taylor's message in this video is truly beautiful. Something that no one has ever done in the music world, taking a song and making the meaning of it something that nobody expected out of her. She is truly done with what the media perceives her to be and has officially "cleaned" (1989 ERA!!) her reputation and can be herself once again.

Watch the official music video here:

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