Review and Giveaway: Mom Connection

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you have pre-schoolers you need to get in a MOPS group.


I’ve just been sent another one of their books to review and again I just have to say it was a wonderful experience.  The last book I reviewed, MOMsense, was all about finding who you are as a Mom, what makes you tick, and how to be the best Mom.


Mom Connection looks to something else we all are starved for.  How to grow and develop friendships.  I’m not a big extrovert, so developing friendships for me is always a dangerous river.  I enjoy people, but I have a quirky personality, that doesn’t always click well with people in real life, it’s not that they dislike me, but I’m not sought out as a friend.


And I’ve struggled with that at times, but I’ve found some great friends over the years, both online and offline.


This book talks about how to grow relationships, and how to make sure you’re becoming the person you want to be.


Things I’m taking away from it:



1.  I think we’re ready to find some volunteer work outside of our family.  There’s a chapter on making a difference in your community, and thinking about when is the right time.  If you’ve got 3 pre-schoolers and everyone’s in diapers, that might not be the time to “make a difference in the world.”  But, I was realizing my kids are now all old enough we can probably volunteer somewhere.


2.  I think God must really be hitting me over the head with this one, but we need to clear out and clean up our home.  It’s a big struggle for me, but one of the chapters talked about having the home everyone wants to hang out at.  I want that home, so I need to take steps to have that.  One is my continued drive to clean and purge and organize.  The other, figuring out snack foods to have available for kids to eat and drink.  I don’t tend to have lots of them, and I need to find a good balance on that.


0033.  Establish who we are as a family.  I think we already have a momentum started on that, but I want to firm it up and make sure it’s clear.  One thing that’s clear, we’re a little silly at times.


What will you find in this book:


1.  Each chapter ends with 5 suggestions for implementing it, and they’re five different suggestions, it’s not all “go out and do,” some are stop and think or evaluate.


2.  Each chapter ends with a here’s more section.  What I liked about that is it’s not all go buy this book.  Some of it is articles on the internet or videos or things to listen to.  I’m a big fan of listening to things while cleaning.  I learn a lot that way.


Who do I recommend this book for: Any Mom who is looking to form a connection with another person or better themselves.




I’m keeping it super simple, only two entries, you can do either one or both:


1.  Again look up your nearest MOPS group and tell me when and where it meets.


2.  Tell me what you’re doing to encourage strong relationships in your family or with friends.


Technical stuff:


1.  INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS, I can’t send it to you if I can’t contact you.  Very important.


2.  It’s open to international, and it’s open for 1 week.


3.  I wasn’t paid.  I really like MOPS, I think everyone should join it.  I joined it willingly and enjoyed it a lot.  GO JOIN NOW.  Okay, enough threatening, they did give me a review copy, but since I’m giving one away and will probably loan the other out, that doesn’t really count as payment.


And now I’m going to go investigate the thud coming from my supposedly sleeping child.

Review: Lead, For God’s Sake!

Soooooo……..  I kind of accidentally clicked on this book to review it.  I was trying to click on a new parenting book, but accidentally clicked on this one because I was being impatient and the screen wasn’t loading fast enough for me, so I started clicking…………


I say that because I’m not the intended audience of this book.  It’s written about a sports coach who is having a hard time teaching his high school basketball players how to work together as a team and how to lead their teammates.


I could have been good with that, but the first 70 pages of the book are devoted to his life spiraling out of control as everything is going badly.  That’s a hard section to get through.  Very hard.  It’s compellingly written, and you want to read the next chapter if you’re sitting there reading it, but if I set it down I wasn’t eager to start it up again.


That being said if you can survive the first third of the book, the last part start giving the advice you’ve come for.  How to incorporate a leadership style that isn’t just carrot and stick.  But, I really struggled to get to this point.  Really struggled.


To be honest, I still haven’t been able to finish it and I have several other books I want to read that I think I will be able to  apply to my life better.


Would I recommend this?  Conditionally yes.  I know people who would enjoy this and with the caveat of skimming the first part there’s some good stuff in the last part.  It’s just not for me.  I’m not the intended audience.


DISCLOSURE: I received this book free in exchange for my honest opinion.  I was not paid in any way for my review.

Book review: Rhythm of Family

I was very intrigued when I was asked to review “The Rhythm of Family.”  (sigh there are just some times that Amazon widgets are more trouble than they’re worth, and tonight is one of those) I like the idea of slowing down and enjoying our families and nature.

And then I got the book, and I saw it was broken down month by month and there were snow pictures.  Immediately I thought (before reading it), “Oh no, here’s another book that I can’t use for 6 months of the year because I’ve never heard of snow.”

And then I actually read the book.

And yes, there are pictures of snow, but instead it’s suggestions of things you can do inside when you’re trapped by bad weather.  Immediately I thought, “oh I can do this in July when it’s hotter than heck and nobody in their right mind goes outside.”

I really enjoyed the author’s layout and look forward to rereading the chapters as I come up to each month. First there’s a segment from Mom’s point of view, then the Dad’s, and then a few nature-inspired craft projects that are seasonal (but not necessarily snow related) but not limited to that season, and then a recipe to try for that month

For us the rhythm of our family as it nears October is to become insanely obsessed with Halloween and costumes. Okay, maybe that’s just my boys and somewhat the girl.  They’ve been talking about it coming for MONTHS!

So, we started setting up for it this week.


Some of you may remember this from last year, we slowly added projects to our Halloween mural as we made them.  We’ve gotten started already and made our first one yesterday.
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These are the Halloween books we plan to make projects for (with links to previous projects).

Spookley the Square Pumpkin– super cute book about how we all are helpful no matter how different we are.

Skeleton Meets Mummy- how two Halloween monsters get scared when they meet

Ten Timid Ghosts– a countdown book where the witch scares the ghosts out

Clifford’s Halloween– Clifford needs to decide on a costume.

Going on a Ghost Hunt– Kids go through the “spooky” woods to find a ghost.

Skeleton Hiccups- we read this last year, but no project.  Skeleton is trying to get rid of his hiccups and tries all of the usual cures.

The Little Old Lady who was not Afraid of Anything- I lost our copy last year, and hope to find it again this year………

Whoooo’s Haunting Tiny Ghost- Tiny Ghost learns how to be brave at school and then has to remember what he learns when he goes home to a scary house

Halloween Hats- library book about Halloween costumes, I haven’t read it yet…….

Old Devil Wind- I loved this one for choral reading as a teacher great repetition, rather like “The House that Jack built.”

So, that’s the rhythm of our family this month.  We’re going to be planning lots of fun Halloween activities.

If anyone is interested and still reading at this point, here’s my pinterest board for Halloween.

Favorite Resource This Week

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of Rhythm of Family for review, I was not paid for my review and other legal mumbo jumbo for me to write which I’m not remembering at this time of night.

Singing in the Kitchen

I’m going to link this up to What My Children Are Reading because we’ve been getting some music books recently.
<a href=””> Widgets</a> <a href=””> Widgets</a> Ever since reading this book, I’ve added something new into our homeschool day, and it’s made a huge difference. We start off the morning with singing. I tend to stick to fold songs, which you’ll notice are the books I’ve linked to up there. They’re the songs I remember singing as a kid, and songs that have a lot of movement in them, and a lot of fun silly songs. If you saw my post over on ABC & 123 then  you know I’ve also been using songs for working on phonemic awareness.  From what I’ve found the best song to book come from Raffi and Mary Ann Hoberman.  I’ve had great luck with both of those.

The kids and I have been singing all of the songs from the CD included with “Singing in the Kitchen,” and I plan on making an instrument basket.  So far I’ve got some dowel rods that we’ve been using as drum sticks and just banging together or on the floor.  My next one I think is going to be some shaker eggs using Easter eggs.

As you can tell, I’m really enjoying this book, and I almost think the CD alone is worth the price of the book, but I’m a fan of folk music and am likely to be singing songs like that anyways.  If you’re not a fan of folk music, but you’re wanting to incorporate more music then you’ll probably like the great suggestions of the book itself more.

I’m kinda tempted to learn to play the guitar.  I think it would be so much fun to sit upstairs with a guitar and sing with the kids.  A girl can dream.

But, I would recommend the book, it’s a lot of fun, and a nice quick read.

Favorite Resource This Week

DISCLOSURE:  I did receive a copy of this book in exchange for a review, I was not paid for my opinion, and given that the songs are now rather stuck in my head, I sincerely doubt I’m making up my opinion.

Book Review and Author Interview: Playful Learning

When I was asked about reviewing Playful Learning, I thought “cool, I’m all about that,” and then I was given the chance to be on the blog tour and interview her, I was even more excited!  I’ve always wanted the chance to interview an author and get to know more about their thoughts about their books and ideas.  Now here was the chance!
First, a quick recap of the book and why I like it.  Playful Learning is about integrating learning and play (DUH!), but the author does a really good job of going through each content area and give you ideas and suggestions of how to set up the area for it, books and activities that work really well.  I love the fact that this book isn’t geared for any one set.  She firmly believes that everyone should learn this way regardless of where they go to school (home, public, private, charter) and that every parent is a teacher.  I highly recommend this book for every parent who wants to invest in their child’s education.  Read on after the interview for your chanced to WIN THE BOOK!

1.  I always struggle with keeping my learning areas clean.  Any suggestions for my readers and me?  Your pictures in the book are so inviting, and I want to have an area like that, but how do I maintain that?
I have found that the areas I organize and have created clearly marked places for everything, are the places in our home that stay well maintained. If children are exposed to these types of environments and are taught how to access the materials and how to put them away, they more often than not rise to the occasion. Children love to feel that they can have a positive impact on their environment, yet often do not know where to put things when cleaning up. Although it takes effort up front to create the space and teach your children where everything goes, the result can be happy independent children and clean organized spaces.
Please don’t get me wrong—we have plenty of cluttered, unorganized spots in our home! But, the spaces we have created that are clearly labeled and organized are the ones that stay the neatest, because my daughters are actually better at maintaining their spaces (with a sense of pride), then I am at keeping up mine.
2.  What is your favorite area to integrate playful learning into?  What area do you find most difficult to integrate playful learning into?
I find myself gravitating towards science-based learning experiences with my daughters, because the natural world holds so much to wonder about, observe, and learn from. I also feel that writing and effective self-expression are very important skills, so a lot of our projects are focused on developing those abilities.
On the other hand, math is not one my stronger points, so I usually keep those activities focused on specific skills that I see need to be practiced by one or both of my daughters.
I think it is important for parents to choose areas that they feel passionate about and find ways to share them with their children. I feel that if we can share and nurture passion within the kids in our life, we are modeling what we hope they develop for themselves. Enthusiasm is contagious!
3.  For families with multiple ages how do you suggest doing this across the different ages groups?
A lot of the activities in Playful Learning can be enjoyed by children of all ages. It is for this reason that I give a developmental overview for each subject I discuss in the book. The developmental overviews helps parents to identify which stage of development their child is at, and offers tips on how they can best support their growth. For example, with the heart map, younger children can color pictures of their favorite things and parents can take dictation to record their ideas, while older children can draw and write more detailed and poetic images and descriptions.
It is also helpful to allow for different lengths of attention spans. During many of the projects in the book, one of my daughters would want to take a break from an activity while the other was still completely engaged. Always remember to keep your experiences with your children light and fun—allowing them to move freely in and out of experiences or projects. You will be surprised at how often they will want to come back and pick-up right where they left off.
4.  How do you integrate playful learning with older kids?  It seems like that would become more difficult as they get older.
As my daughters get older and their social lives become such an important part of their worlds, I have started inviting their friends to participate in our playful learning experiences. That is one way to quench their desire to connect with friends while keeping them engaged in interesting projects and endeavors.
I have also found that if I really tune into their current interests and passions, I can come up with projects that still interest them. My seven-year-old daughter really loves to draw, so recently I surprised both of my girls with drawing journals (a grown-up version). All three of us had our own notebooks and we went into our back yard to try them out. At any age they love to feel like they are doing the same work as adults. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon!
Older children still have a huge desire to connect with their parents. As parents we just need to respect their desire to be treated as the older, more independent people that they are. It takes a bit more thought, but I have found that engaging in playful learning with my older daughters is more important than ever. It is this connection, mutual respect, and lines of communication that will serve us well as they venture into their teenage years.
5.  What is your favorite book for Playful Learning?  I love “Me on the Map,” and have used it so many times.
Picture books are such a wonderful way to get children excited about a project! It is so hard to choose just one book as a favorite. My Map Book by Sara Fanelli is one that we come back to time and again. It is the one that we use to inspire our heart maps and is also a great introduction to geography and mapping in general. Although, as I said before, I have so many favorites and as a family we have thoroughly enjoyed every book that I recommend in Playful Learning.
6.  Do you have a website we can visit?
Yes, I have a blog (also called Playful Learning) that is full of learning experiences, videos, and resources for families. I hope you all come by and visit! I would love to continue to conversation…

As a side note from me.  I’d accidentally stumbled onto her site once about a year or so ago (give or take a few months) long before I knew about her book and drooled over her pictures of her learning areas.  I finally made the connection when I was looking through her site thanks to the promotional materials I was given.
Now for my favorite part, the giveaway!  You can win the book!  To enter leave me a comment telling me how you like to MAKE LEARNING FUN!

Bonus entry if you follow or subscribe in some way.


LEGAL MUMBO JUMBO:  I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I did not receive any other compensation, and genuinely believe in the concepts espoused in this book.  Blah, blah, other legal terms ipso facto, poste haste, e pluribis unum (and yes I know it’s misspelled).

What My Child is Reading: Audio Books Widgets


We’ve been doing a bunch of traveling recently and we love to listen to books on CD when we’re on the road.  I thought I’d highlight our favorites.


The kids’ hands down favorite is “Hank the Cowdog,” this is a series that each adventure runs about 3 CDs long.  It’s got some fun characters, the voices are well done, and great characterization, though very formulaic.


Thor’s Wedding Day- I’m a HUGE fan of Bruce Coville, he writes some great children’s fantasy books, and this was a huge hit with all of us, and had the added bonus of being about Viking mythology.  A big plus for Jeff.  I do NOT recommend the audio book of “Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher,” but I do love to read the book.


Spiderwick Chronicles- I love this series, the audio is okay, but there was mixed results in listening to this. 


Igraine the Brave- love this book, and the audio didn’t disappoint either.


And as always we love Adventures in Odyssey.


For actual books in print people are reading head on over to Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Picks of the week


Sigh, it feels like I rarely link up here anymore, and it’s not for lack of reading, it just feels like all of our books end up being part of geography units.  Sigh, and double sigh……… Widgets


My favorites:


The Very Ugly Dinosaur- I had planned on doing an activity with this book, but someone, say about 4 feet high, has absconded with my book.  That’s my best theory.  Either way it’s a cute retelling of the Ugly Duckling.

Pennies for Elephants- super cute true story about the children of Boston working to get 3 elephants for the zoo


Non favorite:

Shivers in the Fridge- it was just weird.   It might work for someone else, but it was odd for me.


My brain is not working right now, so maybe it’ll suddenly kick start on and I’ll have a memory of the other books we read.  We’ll see……..  I’d ask where my brain cells went, but I know where they went.  They’re between 3 and 4 feet high, and they suck brain cells.  That’s how they get smarter.

The Last Martin


Synopsis: Martin Boyle is in Junior High, and he has weird parents.  His Dad is constantly going to historical reenactments and is never home.  His Mom is convinced that he will died from some strange disease in nature if she lets him go outside.  On top of that he’s pretty sure he’s going to die in 3 months when his cousin is born.  You see there’s a family curse, “There can be only one Martin Boyle,” and his cousin is going to be named ‘Martin Boyle,’ how can he break this curse?


That’s a brief synopsis.  I really enjoyed this novel.  It reminded me a bit of one of my favorite authors, Dyanna Wynne Jones, and by a bit I mean a lot.  There’s a delightful bit of absurdity to be found as you read through the book, and I like a little bit of absurd. 


All in all, out of the box of books I got from Zonderkidz this is MY favorite.  The boys are still regularly rereading “Berenstain Bears and the Gossip Gang,” and Princess has kept “Princess Grace and the Lost Kitten” in her bed for at least a month.  I’d say if you’re looking for a young adult book, or have a kid who’s reading at about a 5th grade reading level (and is mature enough to handle something aimed at that age range), totally get this one!


Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by Zonderkidz.  That did not influence my opinion in any way.  I just like the book.

What My Kiddos are Reading: Playful Learning edition

Favorite Resource This Week
So, a couple of months ago I was asked to read and review a book called “Playful Learning,” and I thought, “SCORE!  I’m all for play combined with learning.”  If you haven’t figured that out yet, than I need to change my blog to make that more obvious.  I’m also all for book learning, but my kids definitely learn best with hands on learning (side note I was reading a book that talked about learning styles, Princess definitely auditory, boys totally hands on).  The only reason my review took so long is it’s a digital edition and I have to steal Jeff’s Nook to read it more quickly, and well Jeff guards that thing with his life.  Note to self, start saving for my own Nook so I can read more books like these.

I started reading it, and like with “The Write Start,” I thought, “Oh those pictures, I wish my house looked like that.”  Note to self, work on cleaning and organizing more.  Check.

And then I thought, “I need to try this, and this, and this, and there are a lot of good common sense ideas I knew but needed to be reminded of.”

So, it’s divided into different chapters, and here’s some of the chapters: The Joy of Reading, Mathematicians at Work, Scientific Investigations, Exploration of Art and Artists, Growing Globally.  And there’s several more chapters, so you can see why I like this book, every chapter is something I want to do and work on.

Now, throughout each chapter they had suggestions of books to read and do activities with, many of which I own and have used before (a nice pat on the back for me), many of which I have seen recommended elsewhere.  So, I thought for my review to write about some of the books recommended, and add a few suggestions of my own.
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I’ll highlight a few of these, and throw in some that didn’t make it into this list.  Actually, I only made it through about 2 chapters before I ran out of room in my carousel, but I love all of these books.

Wilfrid Partridge- This is a delightful Mem Fox book, that is great for storytelling, and I just love how it flows

Jolly Postman, Dear Mr. Blueberry, and Yours Truly Goldilocks- There are all letter books.  Jolly Postman isn’t told through letters, it’s got envelopes and you read the letters the postman delivers.  The cool part about it is you get to see different styles of letters.  Dear Mr. Blueberry is also a good one for a science unit, that’s how we used it when I taught second grade.  I love “Your Truly Goldilocks” as a fractured fairy tales type of book, and seeing “behind the fairy tale,” so to speak.

Other favorites that didn’t make it into the carousel, but I TOTALLY recommend

Math Start books by Stuart J. Murphy– almost every math topic you teach in the first few grades is covered in one of these books.  My kids in particular like Monster Musical Chairs, subtraction by one.  I buy these books every time I see them at used book stores.

Me on the Map– As you can see from the link, I’ve used this book A LOT!  I also love all of Joan Sweeney’s books in this series, “Me and My Place in Space,” “Me Counting Time,” “Me and My Amazing Body……” you get the idea.  All of these books could be used for activities inspired by this book.

Authors that always work for playful learning: Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Karma Wilson (LOVE HER).

How about you guys?  How are you a playful teacher or a playful learner?  What’s your favorite activities?

Bible Alive: Deeper Into the Word!


So, this isn’t an activity I did with my kids, but it’s actually a Bible study tool to help with my Bible study.  And it’s a really neat concept.


If you’ve done any number of adult Bible studies you’ve seen them talk about “word studies,” which is where you look at a word and you (depending on the study):


1.  look up it’s dictionary definition in English (this is the most common).

2.  look up what it’s Greek/Hebrew word is and other ways it can be translated

3.  look up the context behind that word.  For instance there are a lot of words in English that have meaning beyond what it says in the dictionary, Holocaust would be one of those words (or at least the closest thing I thought of as an example).

4.  look up other verses that word is used in and read those verses.


Now, that’s a lot of work.  It’s work I really enjoy, and yes I am a nerd, thank you very much, my nerd credentials are well-verified.


This book synthesizes all of that work for you with 100 of the most common/misused words.  I could see this being a really great tool for someone who hasn’t had much training in how to study the Bible, but is interested in starting to learn more.


I’m probably going to look at some of these a little more in depth and then pass it on to a few friends of mine who have expressed interest in learning more about the Bible.


I’m still reading another book I got called “If There is God, Why is There Evil?” (or something along those lines), and it’s one I’d love to get an opposing viewpoint on because all the arguments make perfect logical sense to me.