Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Caterpillar Chronicles

It all started with a cup of caterpillars. 
They arrived as tiny eggs, and over the course of about two weeks transformed before our eyes-at our table side even- into beautiful Painted Lady butterflies.

The process is really amazing to see up close and personal. Four out of the five eggs we received turned into butterflies. What happened to "Tiny," we will never know(of course, many a story has been told). On that note, we affectionately named them all. "Ronald" was by far the most popular in the group, and by the end of it all we were calling every caterpillar in that cup Ronald.
Day by day we observed mother nature in action, with little to no help from us. It's a small sort of miracle to see one thing completely change and become a whole new creation. 
These guys grew FAST! Basically, the cup comes with all the food they need to grow. And grow they do. It was so interesting to see these guys move and roll around up close!
Once they're ready, the wiggle on up to the top of the cup and hang in an "J" shape. I'm sure Bennett will always picture his "j's" like this. It's there that they form their chrysalides, and begin the metamorphosis into butterflies.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17
After the outer shell of each chrysalis had hardened, we(Chris) carefully transported the cocoons to the butterfly house. We furnished their new home with flowers and apple slices, and then waited. The kit we bought from Insect Lore also comes with a pipette to feed your butterflies. You can make homemade nectar easily enough with sugar and water, but we mostly let the butterflies dip their long proboscis' in left over banana slices.

It was very exciting to come downstairs every morning to see the progress with each passing day. Try as we might, we missed the magical moment they emerged from their chrysalides-I think they were waiting till our backs were turned! One by one the came out of their chrysalides as new butterflies. Their wings were paper thin, beautiful and full of wrinkles to start. We watched them grow in strength, size and even color over the next few days before we released them into the wild world outside. It was pretty amazing.

To watch them grow in each stage, both as butterflies and caterpillars, was so interesting to the littles AND the bigs in this house. I am not a buggy person by any bend or stretch of the word, and will admit I was full of the heebie jeebies when these crawly critters arrived on our doorstep. But when it was time to let this new creatures fly, even I was a little sad to see them go. I took a few videos below, it was a fun and special moment!
Butterfly release! from Rebecca Scott on Vimeo.
Letting the butterflies fly #2 from Rebecca Scott on Vimeo.

I remember reading somewhere that experiencing things hands on, outside of a textbook, moves information from  the left brain to the right. Or rather, from short term to long term memory. I'm so thankful for the flexibility that homeschooling offers us and the many opportunities we have to take learning outside of our textbooks or four walls. While you can't always make that happen, this one is a winner and an A+ learning experience. Alongside our fun family project, we also visited the butterfly observatory at the Durham Museum of Life and Science. Interestingly, Evan is still skittish in the big butterfly house(he comes by it honestly) but was very hands on and comfortable with our own butterflies. He took many pictures of them on top of our yellow cabinet, read to them, drew them, fed them, and was all around a very brave friend and protector while they underwent their transformation. As for Bennett, we are thankful the butterflies survived him hehe.

Every now and then we catch sight of a new "Ronald" around the neighborhood, and always wave a friendly hello to our fluttering friends.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nine months

Our sweet smooshy Asher smElliot is already 9 months old. As far as I'm concerned, he is growing much too quickly and I agree wholeheartedly with my big boys who think their baby Asher should stay a baby forever. None of this crawling and pulling up and getting into the dog bowls business.
At 9 months this boy is on the go and ready to roll. He pulls himself up on just about everything, and is seen mostly standing in his crib these days. Sleeping is for the birds he says.

This third boy of mine may be my most difficult sleeper, but he is for sure turning into an awesome eater. His appetite does not quit and he's using his two teethe well to chomp down on just about the same table food we have. Like his mama and brothers, he favors fruits over the veggies but enjoys everyone in the squash family. I would say his top favorite foods are blueberries, chicken, and rainbow sherbert ice cream. Say what? I meant peas and spinach...
His nicknames include: Smoosh, Smash, Smish, Ashey and...Butter Biggens. :-) When he's not eating, this little one loves the fresh air. We go outside quite a bit and he is always happy in the sun. I tried to take these pictures above this afternoon and he was just too captivated by his older brothers to cheese for me. 
I was worried this third boy of ours would feel like a third wheel to the dynamic duo that is my bigger boys, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Asher is the adored up and down and all around. Evan and Bennett love their little brother so much-they often tell me from the backseat how glad they are that we got Asher for a baby brother, and just as often fight over who gets to play with or sit next to him. They are proud of him and eagerly tell strangers in the grocery store all about their little brother, and the way this baby smiles up at them something tells me the feeling is mutual. A random aside-just yesterday Evan was giving Asher a hug and Asher pulled his hair pretty good, enough to make Evan cry(it doesn't take much lol). When I was explaining to him that Asher was a baby and still learning not to pull hair, he told me that it wasn't because he pulled his hair that he was crying, but rather he was worried that he wouldn't be able to hug him anymore. Sweet! In any case, brothers are the best.
When your big brother crashes your walker jam,
and the other one sits on your car...
In other 9 months news, we were once again thankful to get a great report from his pediatrician at his well check. Weighing in at 20 pounds and meeting all of his milestones, we've got ourselves a healthy, happy boy-praise God! These are precious times.
Happy 9 months stud muffin!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Low sugar challenge low down

It's been a week since I've sipped on a sweet treat like this-I made it!!! By my calculation, I've spared myself a pound or two of sticky sucrose this week alone. I can feel my arteries thanking me...
Shocking! I'm guessing my beloved Target icees aren't much better...
Really though, how do I feel? I have to admit I am just now, at the very end of these 7 days, feeling a notable change for the better. The greater half of the time has been somewhat rough, being that the majority of my sugar was tied to caffeine. Eeek! All things considered, I'm happy to say that I do feel like I've turned a tiny corner. For starters my husband would be the first one to tell you that I am NOT a morning person. That said, I feel much less sluggish in the morning lately and have slowly but surely reclaimed some energy throughout the day without the aid of coffee and sweet tea. It's also nice to ditch the food guilt for a change-chewy Chips Ahoy you will not get the best of me today! I'm proud of myself for sticking to it-I turned down Baskin Robbins AND a cupcake this week! As for the scale, I lost a whopping one pound. Now I wasn't in it for weight loss primarily, but I'll happily claim my little loss.

Over the course of this little experiment, I learned that cutting added sugars out of your diet really isn't that difficult at all-unless you live in America and love a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks that is.

Cue the broken record-what it all comes down to is eating healthy whole foods. Tadaaa! It's the not so secret truth and we all know it. You can still eat fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy, protein like nuts and whole grains too-does'nt sound incredibly restrictive right? If only it were that easy.
Oh USA, you win the gold. 
Going without over this past week has been a steep learning curve for me because sugar is just too familiar a friend in this day and age-and parting is such "sweet" sorrow. At this point, I don't plan to dive off the whole 30 edge just yet, and yes I do see a Baskin Robbins rainbow sherbet ice cream cone in my future. It will be glorious.
Can we rewind the clock 300 years on the processed food front please?
The name of the game is moderation, and that's my take home. I don't need to make special occasion sweets an everyday event. I do plan on consuming less sugar, and will continue to work towards incorporating more whole foods and less of crazy processed ones. I've already cut my coffee sugar in half, and am considering switching from french vanilla creamer to milk. Also, I've learned so much more about reading labels and have already started making better choices at the grocery store. Hopefully this will be a small diving board to bigger changes in the long run. And now, I think I'll help myself to a sweet something to celebrate. :-) All things in moderation!

Friday, August 19, 2016

FlipStir Puzzles-A Review

Up for a challenge? Try your hand at FlipStir puzzles from Enlivens LLC. Since we love puzzles, we were excited to receive the Level 1 Tyrannosaurus Rex puzzle to review. These fun FlipStir puzzles are self contained in a plastic tube and come with a wand used to manipulate the pieces in place. Simply stir, shake, and solve! Except that, it wasn't so simple for this mama!
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
To be honest, this puzzle is incredibly challenging and unfortunately my kids were more frustrated with than engaged in it. While my husband was able to solve the puzzle, he also struggled. To be fair, it is possible! Determined to make it work, I tried a last time just before writing this review and was able to line up all the pieces correctly. Sweet victory!
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
On the pro side, you can't deny the "cool" factor of these innovative puzzles. I was immediately intrigued just looking at the product from the website, and excited for a new spin on the traditional puzzle. Plus, you can't loose any pieces. I repeat, no lost pieces! Is there anything as frustrating as coming to the completion of a puzzle to discover those last two pieces aren't there? Problem solved!

As for the negatives, I can't deny the difficulty here-especially for children. Though, I imagine it to be excellent hand-eye coordination practice after messing with it for hours! And, young or old, we can all use a lesson in patience and persistence. :-)
FlipStir puzzles come in two levels of difficulty with a variety of colorful designs. They are:
  • Level 1-Tyrannasouras Rex
  • Level 1-Rainbow Pencils
  • Level 2-Statue of Liberty
  • Level 2-Solar System
For more information, make sure to check out Enlivens LLC on social media:
Product Accounts:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/flipstirpuzzle
Twitter: www.twitter.com/flipstir

Company Accounts:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/enlivenze
Twitter: www.twitter.com/enlivenze

And to see what the rest of the crew thought, click on the banner below:
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids-a Review

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
Hola amigos! Over the past month we have had the opportunity to explore Spanish with Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids. This immersive and multi-sensory program was developed by homeschooling mom and lawyer Kit Strauss. Part of our homeschooling goals include raising global citizens with a wide awareness of the world we live in. Naturally, we were excited to take our first dive into the Spanish language with this award winning program. We received the Starter Set 1 to review, which includes:
Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
  • DVD with videos for levels 1-3
  • Three parent-teacher guides 
  • Flashcards and card games for levels 1-3
  • Workbooks for levels 1-3
  • Stickers for all 3 levels
The three levels mentioned above are Basketballs aren't for Breakfast, and The Little Magic House(parts 1 & 2). Each DVD is creatively presented as an in flight video to watch as you "travel" to a Spanish speaking country. What I really like about this curriculum is that the DVDs are actually entertaining and fun to watch. Both of my boys laughed several times throughout the videos-it's always nice to hear laughter and learning go hand in hand!

Something that I think that sets FLKBK apart from other foreign language curriculums is that it teaches by method of immersion. There is no "repeat after me" type of instruction, and you will not find translators or many subtitles in the videos. Instead, students naturally pick up the language as they see it spoken by other kids in a real life setting. This is much like the way they have learned their first language-simply by listening and watching. For example, there is a short "hide and seek" skit where the girl counts "Uno, dos, tres..." behind a tree. While this may present a bit of a learning curve up front, the video introduces it like riding a bike-it gets easier to understand over time. As an English speaking parent teacher, I would also note that it's incredible helpful to have that DVD component to hear how the words are correctly pronounced. 
My boys also really enjoyed the stickers and workbooks. The workbooks are engaging, colorful and sturdy. Also, the flash cards are a great addition but I will admit the "Go Squish" card game was difficult for my littles to understand. While I would'nt neccesarily recommend that game for younger kids, you can still have plenty of learning fun with the flash cards and even adapt the game as you like. 
The parent teacher guides included in this starter set are extremely helpful. Not only do they lay out detailed lesson plans, but also suggest supplemental hands on activities to reinforce the material taught, leaving plenty of room for flexibility. 

For more information, you can connect with Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids on Facebook:

And, click on the link below for more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew.
Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

Monday, August 15, 2016

Low Sugar Challenge Day 4-cupcakes for breakfast?

Last night I ate a banana for a snack. I barely like bananas for breakfast so choosing one for my nighttime sweet treat was a big deal, considering this is usually the time- when the kids are tucked in bed-that my inner cookie monster gets her snack on. Tonight, I'm crunching on apple slices. While these are no doubt good decisions, I'd much rather be chewing on some dark chocolate raisenettes right now!

Day four of the low sugar challenge finds me with a headache, which I suspect is from the lack of caffeine from my faithful sweet teas and absence of my morning coffee. If I'm being honest I've also felt tired and sluggish all day, which may or may not be due to staying up past midnight last night reading a good book and then waking up several times afterwards with Asher the teething machine. In any case, I'm sort of hoping this is the proverbial "hump day" in this sugar bust. I digress...

I've had a good amount of interest in what snacks qualify as low sugar. Again, I'm no expert, but here are some of my favorite low sugar snacks and meals so far. Pretzels and saltines not pictured, because I ate them already, several times over, there is nothing left to show of them...

Naturally sweet plantain chips from Trader Joes-yummy!! I have a nostalgic spot for plantains, and these do not disappoint.  I need to get more ASAP. Note to self, just buy 5 bags next time. 
Okay so not NO sugar, but LOW sugar-these are a delicious savory option, especially with cheese cubes!
And then there's popcorn. If you don't have a popcorn maker, you must get one. There's nothing like homemade popcorn, and there are so many variations of recipes to try out. An old neighbor of mine put honey and cinnamon in hers, and we've loving taken on the recipe in our house. It's a great way to make your popcorn sweet and healthy while stopping short of kettle corn.
Cashews are my fave! 
Meals really haven't been a struggle(though of course I'd like to pair mine with something other than water). Over the past few days we've had steak, chicken, broccoli, rice, tacos and so on. I was even pleased to find out my favorite cobb salad from Chic Fil A only has 5 grams of sugar.
Get in my belly!!!
I will note though, to beware the breakfast foods! I can't tell you how surprised I've been to read the nutrition labels on the back of my kids yogurts, cereals and breakfast bars. And then you've got the breakfast cupcakes(ahem, muffins), donuts(cake for breakfast?), pancakes, and dare I mention pop tarts-ahhhh!!! Sugar is sneaky sneaky in the morning-the price of all these quick, convenient options I'm sure. 

Going back to the more savory, home cooked breakfast foods, I actually feel kind of like a pioneer woman, or Paula Dean when her hair was "jacked to Jesus." I've been cracking eggs and boiling grits, and have plans to sizzle up some yummy sausage and bacon soon. Over the weekend I'm going to whip up some homemade granola bars-it's amazing how much healthier you can make things on your own. Yes, it takes more time and dirties more dishes, but it tastes so much better too! I used to make these more frequently but have long since fell off the wagon. This little experiment has been a nice reminder to get back to basics. Happy snacking!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Low Sugar Day 2-On Artificial and Natural Sugars

Day 2:
I started off today with an omelet and side of strawberries for breakfast. Since I enjoy eggs, this was no hurdle for me; it was delicious. To be clear here, I'm giving strawberries the stamp of approval because, like all fruits, they are what you call "natural sugars." That is, whole foods found in nature and providing good nutrition for your body.  Over this next week I plan to eat a lot of fruits to get my sweet fix the healthy way. 
What you won't catch me eating is anything made with artificial sugars. These go by the names of aspartame,  sucralose and so on, and are the trademark of most anything prefixed by "diet". While the jury may still be out here, I'm of the strong opinion that these artificial sugars are much more damaging than the real thing, and that it is much better to consume good ol' refined sugar in moderation over regularly putting those artificial sugars in your body. In this department I've done a "splendid"(hehe) job over the past few years because I've always preferred the real thing over that diet-y taste.

In summary: Natural sugars=fruit/whole foods=good for you. Artificial sugars=thumbs down.

That said, there are a host of sugar "substitutes" that are natural. I found this helpful chart online:
Did you know Blue Agave nectar comes from the same plant Tequila is made from?
It's come to my attention that I drink most of my sugars. As an alternative, I'm trying to get my tastebuds around healthy teas, sweetened with agave nectar and milk instead of sugar and cream.

It's actually really good, and at this point I'll take anything over more water! Side effect #1-I'm may or may not be a little cranky about the H2O. I knew going into this that drinking water almost exclusively could be my biggest hurdle-ding ding. I'm guilty of spreading coffee, juice, sweet tea and the occasional soda over my everyday, and have long known that a good piece of my calorie pie can be contributed to the liquid drinks. That said, I'm open to any ideas that would spice up my boring drink game(and yes, I do put lemon in my water to flavor it). Please, fire away!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Low Sugar Challenge-Day 1

Alternately titled "Confessions of a snack-aholic," "When picky gets pickier" or "Sugar-it hurts so good."

I recently read an article about the dangerous poison we all love called sugar. I believe that being healthy and fit is about more than how you look, it's about how you feel. And while I don't necessarily appear to be unhealthy, I could write a different story on how I feel. Tired during the day, restless at night, often "bloaty" and no stranger to headaches. And let's not even talk about the dentist...the not so secret culprit I suspect is SUGAR.

"By now, you've probably heard that sugar is killing you sweetly. It's been linked to breast cancer, damage to the cardiovascular system, obesity and more. If you're not paying attention to the sugar content in the foods you eat, you should probably start"

Today I am beginning a "low sugar" challenge, wish me luck!! The reason I'm going "low sugar" over "no sugar" is because I like to be realistic about my expectations. Knowing myself and my ferocious love of sweet tea, to start with a "no sugar" diet would be a recipe for failure. And so, cheers to making small but meaningful changes. With moderation in mind, I decided I would let myself have one cheat treat everyday-my morning coffee.
To give me the push I needed, I conveniently ran out of sugar last week. It's currently sits at the top of my grocery list in progress, but I will not buy it this week! I struggle enough with self control when it comes to food, and I do not need that sweet bag of sugar calling my name from the pantry.

Lastly, a disclaimer...
I don't claim to be a nutritionist or foodie expert, and yes I know that sugar is not the only problem plaguing in my pantry. My goal is to go low sugar for an entire 7 day week, and let the results speak for themselves. I want to come away more aware of the nutritional value in the food I consume, and I'd be lying if I said I'm not curious to see if there will be any felt effect on my tummy area. I can tell you right now it won't be Pinterest perfect-I may post a picture of a roast beef sandwich with a side of strawberries as a "low sugar" lunch. Comparatively, that's pretty low sugar for me-and I'd be super proud of myself to consistently eat that way. We've also recently joined the local YMCA, so I'm riding a good wave here. And I'm sharing with you dear readers because I need the encouragement!! Without further adieu, here goes something!

Day 1:
A quick reference to google and Pinterest taught me that the recommended daily dose of added sugars to a woman's diet is 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons. New lesson learned: there are 4 grams of sugar to 1 teaspoon. Now let's talk about that coffee...

I like my coffee to resemble a milkshake. After my two teaspoons of sugar and generous helping of french vanilla creamer a la Coffee Mate, I estimated my sugar level to be at 18 grams of sugar. Wait what?! As in, already busted my sugar limit FOR THE DAY before 8am??? True story. This may be harder than I thought...

Let's hope I don't turn into this girl tomorrow. ;-)

Monday, August 1, 2016

CTCMath Homeschool Membership, a Review

Since Math is one of Evan's favorite subjects, we were both excited for the opportunity to review the Homeschool Membership from CTCMath. CTCMath is an online math curriculum offering over 1400 tutorials to learn from. This program provides a full math curriculum for grades k-8 and is designed to be an additional supplement for high school. The material, created by seasoned math teacher Patrick Murray, is solid and very clearly communicated; this is the type of math I wish I had learned from myself! 
CTCMath Review
Based on the assessments offered, we primarily worked in first grade math with the exception of a few topics I wanted to explore further. 
The short 4-9 minute video tutorials have been an especially helpful teaching tool for us. Because Evan really benefits from that type of multi-sensory learning, CTCMath is right up our ally. The neat thing about video tutorials is that you can pause, rewind, or watch them as many times as you need to fully understand the topic. If only all of our math teachers could be so patient! 

Here is a screenshot of a first grade level lesson on place value. In the picture below you see the video is selected to play first. 
After watching the video, you click over to the interactive "Questions" tab to gauge your understanding of the topic. You can also print worksheets there for further practice. I think it's important to have that pen to paper relationship with math so being able to print out worksheets to go along with the lessons is a great feature.
As you can see below there is quite a comprehensive scope of lessons covered. Pictured below is an outline of the first grade curriculum. 
As the parent teacher, regular reports are provided for you as your student progresses through the material. You can also set up their individual tasks so that when your student logs in, he/she can go to their assigned tasks for the day. 
For the combination of its video tutorials, interactive questions and printable worksheets, I believe CTCMath to be a superior program and would readily recommend it to friends looking for an online math curriculum. You can purchase as subscription to CTCMath online for either 1 or 2 or more students with payment plans monthly, every six months or for one year. The one year access plan offers the best value. Also, membership allows access to all grades and levels so your student can have the freedom to explore topics either above or below their specific grade level. 
For more reviews on this product, be sure to check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew post below...
CTCMath Review
And, check out CTCMath on social media at the following links...

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ctcmath?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ctcmathofficial
Periscope: https://www.periscope.tv/ctcmathofficial
Pinterest: https://au.pinterest.com/ctcmath/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWn5e6974bpIEAe46VnovZw

Maths Online (Australia Only)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mathsonline.com.au
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MathsOnlineAU