Tuesday, October 30, 2012

17 Miracles - Deseret Book Review

I can't believe we are getting so close to Christmas already!  I am excited to have a chance to share some exciting products with my readers that will make incredible Christmas gifts from Deseret Book!!  The first of which is the movie 17 Miracles and the book More Than Miracles:  Extraordinary Stories From 17 Miracles.  Let me tell you about them...

As part of the Willie Handcart Company, Levi Savage (Jasen Wade) feared that leaving late in the season would lead to despair and death. What he came to find out is that for every tragedy, there is a multitude of miracles.
Based on unbelievable actual events, and brought to you by filmmaker T.C. Christensen (Praise to the Man, The Work and the Glory), 17 Miracles will open your eyes to the stories of the Mormon Pioneers as you have never seen them before. Something extraordinary is about to happen.

17 Miracles tells the story of returning missionary, Levi Savage, and the perilous journey of the Willie Handcart Company. A large group of Latter-day Saints, anxious to reach the Salt Lake Valley leave a little too late in the year in the hopes that they can hurry their way to Zion. Unfortunately for the ill-fated company they are quickly faced with grave danger as the snows came early and food ran out. So many people perished in their righteous desire to reach Zion but as they traveled the stalwart pioneers were blessed with miracle after miracle.

This movie is incredibly breath taking. The struggle and determination of the Saints coupled with their intense faith is awe-inspiring. The movie leaves you speechless and humbled. Its powerful message gives you a feeling of intense gratitude for the early Saints sacrifice. 

Running Time:  102 Minutes
Rating: PG

17 Miracles DVD currently retails for 19.98 or on Blu-ray for $29.98.

To acompany the movie please consider the book More Than Miracles by T.C. Christensen and Jolene S. Allphin!  It is a wonderful companion book to the movie.

Were two little girls truly spared from harm while running a gauntlet of agitated rattlesnakes?
Did a mysterious man really reveal a cave and a stash of dried meat?
Was a beloved daughter, left for dead in a shallow grave, actually brought back to life?
As you will discover here, these and other miracles depicted in the film are based on the testimonies of those who witnessed them or learned of them from those who were there.
T.C. Christensen wrote, produced, and directed the landmark film 17 Miracles. In this book, he and Jolene S. Allphin, principal historical adviser on the film, answer questions viewers frequently ask.

This book is incredibly fun!  I read the book then watched the movie.  Which, to be honest, drove my husband absolutely crazy!  As we watched the movie I kept pausing it and saying "did you know?!"  Or I would stop the movie and begin flipping through the book to see more information about what happened. This book details all the miracles that you see in the movie including the eyewitness accounts, journal excerpts and so forth.  It also includes snippets of interviews with the actors/actresses and some of the miracles they experienced during filming.  The best part, the book tells you what happened to each person once they reached the Salt Lake Valley.  It was a fabulous companion to the movie I'd highy recommend it.

More Than Miracles currently retails for $10.99 in softcover.

These 2 items together would make a great Christmas gift!  ;)  Hint hint!!

Disclaimer:  I received 17 Miracles free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  THANK YOU DESERET BOOK!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pingo - Deseret Book Review & {GIVEAWAY!}

Who has the best imaginary friend? Is it Gary, who protects the galaxy with Sparky the robot? Or Tiffany, who helps save the day with Awesome Girl? Or Dustin, who can hide Mr. Bob in his pocket? During recess, Chad and Pingo are invited to participate in the contest to see which imaginary friend is the smartest or the strongest or the sneakiest. But when Jeremy, the schoolyard bully, and his imaginary friend, Grunt, barge into the contest, demanding to be included, no one expects what happens next—or how Pingo saves the day.

Pingo and the Playground Bully is a new book from the author of the Fablehaven series and The Candy Shop Wars!   Brandon Mull brings us a cute story about Chad and and his imaginary friend Pingo.  While playing at school Chad and his friends and their respective imaginary friends hold a contest to see whose imaginary friend is the best of all.  When Pingo consistently comes in second both Chad and Pingo are disappointed until the Playground Bully, Jeremy, with his mean imaginary friend, Grunt, corner the group!  Pingo saves the day using his amazing imagination showing everyone that "We're all good at different things.  And that is what makes friendship fun!"

A fun story with wonderful artwork by Brandon Dorman!  My girls have enjoyed this book and have had a great time inventing their very own imaginary friends!

Pingo and the Playground Bully currently retails for $16.19 hardcover at Deseret Book.

Would you like a chance to win a copy of your own?  
Enter using Rafflecopter below...

Winner picked at random on Friday, November 2nd at 11:59pm CST. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received Pingo free of charge in exchange for an honest review.    
 All opinions expressed here are my own.  Thank you Deseret Book!

Titanic Museum - Branson Missouri

This year marks 100 years since the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic.  In April 1914 the White Star Line offered passengers a chance to travel in luxury aboard the largest, unsinkable ship in the world.  Deemed as the safest way to travel, Titanic was host to some of the richest people of the time.  Also on board were hundreds of poor immigrants anxious to start a new life in America.   When in the dark night of April 14, 1914 Titanic strikes an iceberg, the unthinkable happens...  The safest ship, the unsinkable Titanic begins her slow decent to the bottom of the freezing ocean.  A tragic tale familiar to everyone...

We were so interested in learning about the Titanic and I was completely thrilled when we were given the opportunity to learn first hand about the Titanic at the Titanic Museum in Branson, MO.  Before we went we had a great time reading about the ship, its crew, passengers, and artifacts so we would be prepared for our visit.  I'm excited to share our voyage with you!

Before you go:
Get to know the Titanic...especially if you have smaller children who may lose interest in a big museum.  I'd highly recommend the book Inside the Titanic by Brewster and Marschall.  It had enormous cut-away pictures of the Titanic!  Very cool!

We also enjoyed an interactive book called Explore Titanic by Chrisp.   This book includes an amazing CD that lets you take a virtual tour of the ship via computer!

To get a feel for the story of Titanic in a kid-friendly way we read the Magic Treehouse Tonight on the Titanic and its accompanying Fact Tracker Guide as well as a great book called Titanic Lost & Found by Kohler that shares information about the sunken ships discovery and recovery. 

We also took advantage of the TONS of information Titanic Museum offers on their website for educators!  Check out all the goodies - Quizzes, Teachers Guides, and scavenger hunts!

We read and studied Titanic for a little over a week before heading to the Titanic Museum in Branson!  I'm really glad we did!  I'm even more excited to walk you through our adventures at the museum.

The Experience:
We arrived at the Titanic museum about an hour after they opened.  I was grateful that there were no long lines to wait in! 

Upon arrival we were given a Boarding Pass.  This boarding pass shares a bio of a man or a woman who really sailed on the Titanic.  As you voyage through the museum you learn about what life was like on the ship.  Between the 4 of us we made up all 3 classes of people.  Maggie traveled on a 1st class ticket, Kayley and I on a 2nd, and James in 3rd Class.   We also brought our Scavenger Hunt quiz.  We entered the Titanic museum with excitement knowing we would find out at the end if we were survivors or if we perished.

The museum itself is beyond incredible.  Through careful research the museum has been re-created to look exactly as the Titanic did before she sunk.  We were able to look in staterooms, walk the hallways, and when we rounded the corner where we could walk up the grand staircase Kayley started squealing "Mom!  MOM!  Its the grand staircase!!!!" 

There are to-scale re-creations of a lifeboat, the bridge (yes you can turn the wheel!), the Marconi room (you can learn to tap out an SOS), you could "shovel" coal into one of Titanic's boilers, try to climb Titanic's sloping decks, touch a "real" iceberg and if you dare you can try putting your hand down into 28 degree water (it hurts!).   We were overwhelmed by the artifacts, over 4 million dollars worth of real Titanic artifacts are on display... 

We were also interested to see the Titanic tribute to dogs.  We had fun seeing Molly & Carter.  You can sneak a peek at Molly & Carter too by visiting their webcam!

As we neared the end of our visit we were able to determine our fate.  All of us ladies survived but we were sorry to see that our 3rd class passenger, perished in the freezing waters.  Not surprising since it was "women and children" first...

Leaving the Titanic we were awe-struck.  Kayley discussed repeatedly how cold the water was.  Survivors described their plunge into the water as being stabbed by a 1,000 knives.  I'd believe it.  We were encouraged to put our hand in the water past our wrist and count to 10.  It was so painful.  It is hard to imagine how people must've felt in that freezing water.

The museum was amazing.  I couldn't have imagined a better way to culminate our studies of Titanic other than to "see" the ship first hand.  It had something to offer for all ages and even my 2 year old was excited to push buttons, look under flaps, rotate the trivia drums and try to climb up the slanting deck!

Ticket Information:
Reservations are recommended.  I have seen some impressively long lines to get into this museum!  Most weekend tickets sell out quickly so be sure to purchase in advance.

(Ticket Prices include audio players that coordinate with numbered displays throughout the museum.  Audio voices include stories as told by actual Titanic Survivors.)

Advance Reservation - Adult $20.68 + tax
Advance Reservation - Child (5-12) $10.77 + tax
Advance Reservation - Family Pass (2 adults, 4 children)* $60.56 + tax
Advance Reservation - Child (0-4)Free

To make your reservation, click HERE.

Titanic is open daily with tours departing starting at 9am.

We had a fabulous time and I think you will too!  Bon Voyage!

Disclaimer:  We received tickets to the Titanic Museum free of charge through the Titanic Mom Blogger program in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to give positive remarks.  All opinions expressed here are my own.  Thank YOU Titanic - Branson!!

Activity Bags - Schoolhouse Crew Review

I think many homeschoolers run into this problem:  what do you do with your toddlers and preschoolers while you are homeschooling your older children?  At my house, if I am not watchful my (almost) three year old ends up emptying bookshelves, torturing the cats, or helping herself to a snack!  This year has been the first year that I started homeschooling both girls.  Maggie is what I would consider pre-preschool, but she is capable of getting items from the workbox, completing activities, putting them away and putting them in the "turn-in" box.  I knew that the opportunity to review Activity Bags through the Schoolhouse Crew was going to be a perfect fit for us!

What are Activity Bags?
Activity Bags are, quite simply, self-guided activities in a bag that your young child can complete independently.  Designed with little hands in mind each activity is self-sufficient, can stand alone and requires no instructions from a parent.  They are self-correcting and motivating!  Children flourish when they have an opportunity to "do school" like older siblings and activity bags provides a way to encourage learning while keeping those little ones occupied.

Activity Bags is the result of a brainstorm by Paula Reetz and Sherry MacLean.  Activity Bags answer to the question, "what do I do with my preschooler?" during the homeschool day.  You can learn more about Paula and Sherry and the Activity Bags story by reading their bios!

Activity Bags are also unique in that they are designed with the idea of holding a swap in mind.  With a swap the Mom with the activity bag kit invites about 20 other like-minded moms to divide up the activities, each Mom making 20 bags to trade with other Moms.  In the end each Mom ends up with 20 different activities for their child, not to mention a FUN moms-day-out while swapping!

We received three amazing products to review from Activity Bags!  They include:  Preschool Activities in a Bag eBook 1 and 2 plus Travel Activities in a Bag eBook 1.

Preschool Activities In A Bag:
What a perfect way to keep my toddler busy.  Preschool Activities in a Bag are downloadable eBooks full of ideas to entertain and educate your little ones.  Book 1 has 34 activities, book 2 has 33.  Wow!  Together a whopping 67 activities!  The activities vary based on age and skill level but there is, by far, several activities for any child of any age.  I planned these activities with my almost 3-year-old in mind and I was not disappointed!

How we used Preschool Activities in a Bag -
I was so excited to sift through the activities to see which ones would be a good fit for Maggie.  She is still very young but she already knows colors, shapes, letters and their sounds, numbers and so forth.  I picked out 10 activities to try out first, then within 3 days ended up making about a dozen more to keep up with my the demand!  She whipped through the activities, loving every minute of it!  I was caught completely by surprise when she kept asking for another activity, and then another...and then "just one more" and then "just one more" after that!  I now keep a running list on my refrigerator of a few items to pick up next time I'm at the store so I can create another activity bag!

How I made Preschool Activities in a Bag -
You might be wondering how much work goes into making the bags...  I'm thrilled to tell you that it is incredibly simple.  Most items are things you already have around the house.  Stickers, paper, poof-balls, magnets, buttons, beads, pipe cleaners and so on.  It is recommended you store your items in a gallon-size zip lock bag with the easy-open zippers.  This increases your childs ability to open and close the bag by themselves allowing them to get out their activity and clean up with no assistance needed.  Once I assembled about 20 bags I stored them conveniently in a small crate next to the homeschool shelf.   I pulled the activities for the day an placed them in Maggie's workbox.  Using this system she worked independently for nearly an hour!

Both eBooks include instructions on how to assemble your bags and how to host a swap!  Preschool Activities in a Bag eBook 1 and eBook 2 retail independently for $15.00 each for a .pdf download.

For a great deal you can purchase both as an eBook bundle for only $27.00!

You can also download samples of eBook 1 and eBook 2.

Travel Activities In a Bag - eBook 1
We were so fortunate to get a 3rd product to review called Travel Activities in a Bag!  Jumping away from actual zip lock bags, Travel Activities in a Bag offers 14 mixed activities (of several pages each) that are slipped into page protectors and assembled into a binder.  Using dry erase markers the activities can be used over and over again!  Recommended for elementary age children the binder is full of fun mazes, cloud drawing, vehicle bingo, cow-counting and more!   Travel Activities in a Bag is also designed so that you can host a swap with other like-minded moms!

How we used Travel Activities in a Bag -
We drive over 30 minutes to church on Sundays and we have had fun using this binder in the car on those morning drives.  Unfortunately we live on a rather twisty road so I hear a lot of grumbling when we hit a bump and have had some instances of car-sickness.  With that aside --  we are driving 18 hours to Disneyworld in 3 weeks.  Guarantee that this binder will be going with us!  Straight highway driving will make this binder much easier to use.  I am so excited to have some entertaining options for Kayley in the backseat that doesn't leave her staring at her mini-dvd for 18 hours straight.

I highly recommend dry-erase markers that are WASHABLE.  Crayola makes them, I found a pack at Staples.  They cost more but will wash out of clothing, carpet and booster seats if they get dropped.  Don't forget an eraser, you can always use a lonely sock...  I put the dry erase markers and eraser into a zipper pencil pouch in the front of the binder.

Travel Activities in a Bag retails for $15.00 as a .pfd download.

You can download a sample HERE.

Feel free to fill out a survey to receive a sampler of Activity Bags! 

What we thought of Activity Bags:
The pictures will do a lot of speaking for me, but we LOVED them!  I want to try out several more.  Activity Bags offers Science Experiments, Math, Reading and Journals with more items coming soon!  I wish I could give you feedback on hosting a swap but it is good to note that swapping is not essential to loving these bags.  They are a wonderful product standing-alone so do not feel like you have to swap to fully enjoy the bags.

We are sure enjoying our Activity Bags and I bet you will too!  I know a lot of my fellow crew mates reviewed different types of activity bags, to read their reviews follow the linky below!  Have fun!


Disclaimer:  We received Activity Bags free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Silver Dollar City Homeschooler's Weekend!

Some of you may remember last year was our first year to attend Silver Dollar City's Homeschool Weekend.  It was SO fun and we are so glad we went!  This year I signed up both girls for Wagon Train Dolls and Candle Dipping.  Here are some pictures that I snapped.  It was chilly but we had a great time.

Maggie making her Wagon Train Doll...
 They turned out pretty cute!
 Riding the carousel...
 Of course we HAVE to look in this hole every single time...  LOL.
 Candle dipping...
 and cow milking...  ewww.

 Kayley and Daddy rode the Hi-Lo Silo...

We were also able to take a peek through the gate 
and see the new wooden roller coaster, Outlaw Run!

The temperature kept on dropping and we headed out pretty quickly after we ate lunch.  I totally recommend Homeschool Weekend if you get an opportunity!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Week (or Two) in Review

We've been staying pretty busy here.  
I thought I would do a little Week-in-Review 
to share some of our busy-ness with you!

1.  Kayley lost another tooth.  So, that makes two missing teeth, front-bottom-center.  Her big-girl teeth are already poking through and she is pretty thrilled.

2.  We are doing really well with Classical Conversations.  We have completed 4 weeks so far and we have learned a literal TON.  Kayley and Maggie both enjoy it a lot.  Me?  Well, I'm a little disatisfied with a few things of non-academic nature.  The general housekeeping and lack of self-control among the kids sends me home on Wednesdays exhausted and frazzled.  

We devote about 30-45 minutes during our school day to work on CC stuff.  It is fun.  Most of it is put to music or rhyme and we draw/color a lot of pictures to help us with our memory work.
even Maggie gets in on our CC time.  Here she is "labeling" a map too!

3.  Kayley finished reading her first chapter book called "Riding the Pony Express."  It was 95 pages and a 3rd grade reading level.  I'm so glad for her!  I love that she loves reading!  

4.  Maggie had "the fever" again last week.  We ended up back at the pediatrician where they, unfortunately, had to do another blood draw.  Maggie was really brave though and to celebrate her braveness we went to Andys and had a custard-cone.  We have been referred to St. Louis Children's Hospital where we will be meeting with a Pediatric-Rheumatologist on Thursday this week.  We've been told to anticipate another blood draw (poor Maggie).  I'm assuming that this will be the chance to determine if she does or doesn't have PFAPA...  I'm tired and ready to score a diagnosis on this poor girl so we can move forward.  As it is, we get the fever ever 24-ish days knocking us flat for 3-6 days. 

5.  We started the Manner-Candle.  James talked about how his family did this when they were young.  The idea is:  Light the candle at dinner...the first major manner-mishap causes the candle to be blown out.  When the candle is all the way down we will celebrate.  Our choice for this candle is to go to "choppy-choppy" (aka. Hinode Japanese Steakhouse -where they cook on the "table").

 6.  We missed Saturday morning session of General Conference this weekend because it coincided with the annual Silver Dollar City Homeschool Weekend.  We had great fun going again this year and boy was it COLD!  I have several pictures that I need to upload and share....  General Conference was great, we watched on Sunday using our laptop hooked up to the TV.  Worked like a charm!

I think that is it for the last few weeks!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What's On The Other Side? - Deseret Book Review

The Prophet Joseph Smith observed that death and the spirit world are subjects "we ought to study more than any other. . . . If we have claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject."
Brent Top, a professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, highlights the wealth of information the scriptures and latter-day prophets and apostles have provided to us about death and the spirit world—its location and conditions, the nature of departed spirits, and the work performed for and by those there. Removing much of the mystery and fear associated with dying, this book demonstrates that knowing what life will be like after death can help inspire us to live better lives here and now.
Life after death has been a popular topic on the store shelves over the last couple of years.  Books about children returning from the dead with amazing and detailed stories of who and what they saw while on the other side of the veil are intriguing.  Are they true?  Or fanciful dreams?

Brent Top has spent much of his adult life researching what happens on the other side.  This book serves as a compilation of several talks, papers and requests.  Gathering information from scripture, words of the prophets and near-death experiences from others, Top sheds light on dying, death and what may happen after this mortal life is over.

This book was a welcome read.  I don't really like to think about death.  When I do I immediately feel insecure and worried.  I think it is this insecurity that has always kept me from reading or pondering life after this life.  This compilation of talks and thoughts by Top has saved me from struggling to find answers on my own and has brought me a measure of peace when I learn what the gospel teaches us about what happens in the Spirit World.  I highly recommend this book!

What's on the Other Side currently retails in hardcover for $14.39.

It is also available in mp3 download, Audio CD or Bookshelf eBook.  You can download a sample chapter or listen to an excerpt by clicking HERE.

Disclaimer:  I received What's on the Other Side free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.  THANK YOU DESERET BOOK!!!

Zoo Whiz - Schoolhouse Crew Review

Kayley has told me a dozen times that when she grows up she wants to be an "animal rescuer and zoo doctor." So, she was beyond thrilled when we were given a chance to review a great program through the Schoolhouse Review Crew called Zoo Whiz!

Zoo Whiz is an online curriculum-based gaming sight geared towards children ages 5-15 that offers Math, Reading, Word-Skills, Punctuation and Grammar learning in a fun, intuitive and effective approach.  Learning is simple when disguised as a game and Zoo Whiz takes your child on an unforgettable learning adventure.

Zoo Whiz is cleverly designed to motivate the kids to want to learn through a system of reward and reinforcement by connecting with children through a love of animals and the joy of collecting.  Each child assumes the role of Zoo Keeper and through learning and earning activities they can save enough coins to create their own menagerie!

Here's how Zoo Whiz Works:

After the initial login, the kids are given the opportunity to choose their avatar.  (Kayley chose the cute little blonde with piggy-tails.) 

At the main screen (seen below) you can choose from several places to visit.  The Arcade, Milestones, the Biodome or the Learn n' Earn building.   Notice the toolbar at the bottom?  The coins show Kayley how much money she has while the other three show lessons, levels and milestones. 

In the Learn n' Earn, Kayley has the opportunity to complete educational activities to earn coins. The activities are fun but challenging.  The activities are punctuated with hilarious little sketches of zoo animals applauding her efforts!  While playing she is constantly giggling and shouting, "Mom!  Come watch this!!"

By controlling the "age floor," Zoo Whiz allows you to restrict access to activities that are too easy for your child while tailoring the curriculum to ensure your child is challenged but not overwhelmed.  If your child is struggling (or if it is too easy) you can change the age floor in your parent controls.

As she completes activities she can see at a glance how she did.  Oops, it looks like she missed one!

In the Biodome Kayley can either use the coins she earned in the Learn n' Earn to buy animals for her zoo or visit the animals in the menagerie to learn fascinating details and facts about each one.

In the shop she can choose from all types of animals.  Not just your typical zoo animals either...dinosaurs, dragons, insects, domestic, wild....if you can name it, you can buy it!  The animals that are marked with a "p" can be purchased by Premium Members only.

Below is Kayley's impressive Zoo Collection.  It's funny.  I never would've guessed that collecting virtual animals would be so appealing but I often have Kayley shouting "Mom!  Come look at what I just added to my zoo!" or "You won't believe how many animals I have now!" 

By clicking on the animals Kayley can learn all of the scientific facts about each one!

In the Arcade Kayley can play games!  But--It costs you coins...  Another reason to continuously learn and earn!  You earn a LOT of coins in the Learn n' Earn so Kayley spent a lot more time doing the Learn n' Earn activities.  It helped her meet her goals of adding to her collection!

In the Milestones building I can check in and see what activities Kayley has accomplished.

What do you think?  Do you like what you see so far and want to take a closer look?  Take an introductory tour of Zoo Whiz to learn more!  Remember, you can also try out basic Zoo Whiz content for free!

What we thought of Zoo Whiz:
We loved it!  This was a game that Kayley asks to play -- even on weekends!  I felt great knowing she was learning and just not playing mind-numbing computer games.

A bonus?  Zoo Whiz can be changed to fit any country/currency.  Check out the curriculum correlation page to see all the current country options!

A computer learning program at 19.95 per year it is a great deal!  Wow!

How to purchase:
While you can play a limited amount of Zoo Whiz for free, a Premium Membership offers so much more!  Unlimited access to Zoo Whiz content (you can purchase even more animals in the BioDome), Progress Feedback, Progress Reports in your email and more!  Zoo Whiz is currently in early-release phase 2 with new content still being added.

Zoo Whiz Premium Membership is only $14.95 per year - purchase HERE.

We had a great time reviewing Zoo Whiz and I know that we will continue to use it.  Try it out!  I bet you will like it too!
Many of my fellow crew mates reviewed Zoo Whiz as well...if you would like to read their thoughts, click the link below...
Disclaimer:  We received Zoo Whiz free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All the opinions expressed here are my own.

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