Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Buck Denver asks…Why Do We Call It Christmas? (DVD Giveaway!)

clip_image001

This is my first experience with VeggieTales-creator Phil Vischer’s new Buck Denver series.  In a full 60 minute video, Phil uses a comical group of puppets in to explain where some common Christmas-time traditions and terms come from, such as

  • -Where do we get the word Christmas?
  • -When was Jesus born?
  • -What do Christmas trees have to do with Jesus?
  • -Who is St. Nicholas?
  • -What is Hanukkah?
  • -Who is Emmanuel?
  • -Luke 2 Story

One of my favorite things about Veggie Tales videos, apart from how much my kids loved them, has always been the many one-liners aimed at adults in the room. 

Why Do We Call It Christmas has some of the same snicker-producing moments.  When a puppet mentions the Maccabees, the little girl promptly interrupts with, “Once my dad was stung by a pack-of-bees!”  Cracked me up.  Another was when a puppet’s pick-up truck broke down leaving them stranded.  He said he felt like writing a Country Song (snicker). 

Here’s a trailer:

This DVD really is a fun way to help older kids (and their parents) understand the origins of our Christmas traditions as well as the significance of the Christmas story itself.  It would be a wonderful addition to any family’s Christmas video collection.  I plan to share mine with my son’s 4th and 5th grade Sunday school class as well as offer it up during my teens’ Christmas party. I’m pretty sure they will all be cracking up!

In all honesty, I tend to prefer the cartoon veggies over puppets.  But, my ten year old said he liked the puppets way better.  ;) In any case, we each enjoyed the video and learned some things in the process!

If you would like the chance to win your own DVD copy just in time for Christmas, please leave a comment below!  A winner will be chosen from among the comments on Friday.   As always, please make sure I have a way to contact you!

* * *

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Growing Up Social: raising relational kids in a screen-driven world (Book Review and Giveaway)

“WHAT is THAT?” my 17 year old son asked, as he paused to look at the new book on our coffee table.  He read the title out loud.  “Growing Up Social…”clip_image001

“OH man.”  His eyebrows went up and his voice dripped with disapproval.  “…Raising relational kids in a screen-driven world…?  Yikes, Mom.  This book looks highly questionable.”  He put down the book and continued walking, shaking his head and texting as he went.

No doubt he sensed an impending threat to his electronic apple cart.

I giggled, reminded of how my kids beg me not to go out with my girlfriends.  They think the sole purpose of our outings is to collaborate on fantastic new discipline tactics.  I’m sure he pictured this book inspiring fabulous round-table-discussions at next outing.  I love it.

Like many of my mom-friends, I have worried about how much of our family time is being sucked into the black hole of electronics. 

Screens are everywhere.  They’re at home, in the schools, in the stores, along the streets, and even in our pockets.   

It’s not uncommon for my teenagers to sit in front of the TV, with their homework spread out in their lap, a pencil in one hand, a phone in the other and a set of ear buds hanging from one ear.  They text, listen to music, watch Sports Center, AND… according to them…are “doing their best work” on a school project.

Last night, I caught my 15 year old doing all of the above, only his pencil was in his mouth so he could hold his phone and his IPod. 

He was the poster child for electronic intervention.

Even in the car, I find myself talking to the kids and waiting for an answer----only to realize that not a single child can hear me.  Each one of them is absorbed in his screen while an ear bud plugs up every single ear.

It’s tempting to hold an ear-bud-burning. 

As a mother of two teenagers (as well as a ten year old), I know how hard it is to establish unpopular limits on screen time.  Today’s kids do everything electronically. 

Yet, adult electronic-dependency is growing as well.  Eye-contact is fast becoming a rarity.  Screens are given priority over real life. 

When you have to practice defensive driving while pushing a cart in Wal-Mart, there might be a problem, yes?

*  *  *

So I jumped at the chance to read this book!  It could not have come at a better time for me as a mom.  If you would like to see a trailer of the book, you can click here.

In Growing Up Social, Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane lay out eye-popping statistics that will have parents sitting up and taking notice of how their kids spend their time.  I found myself inspired to take back our “minivan”, our home, and our family time. 

I’m sure my guys will be delighted, lol!

Gary and Arlene have written this book to help us evaluate how and when our family uses screen time, and offer practical suggestions on ways we can set healthy limits.

They challenge us to help our children develop healthy social habits, which of course need to be modeled in our own lives.  Be prepared to be convicted.  I know I was.  Just saying.  ;)

They also encourage parents to consider the love languages of their children in order to make sure each of their love tanks are being filled.  When screens babysit a child, valuable opportunities for the parent to connect with that child are missed.

To be sure, there are wonderful things to be gained from advances in technology. But there are also tangible costs and real dangers that parents need to consider.  A screen will never replace a person’s need for relationship. 

I highly recommend this book!!!

If you live in the US or Canada, and would like the chance to win your own copy, (and thrill your own teenager, lol!) leave a comment below by Monday, November 17, 2014.  Please be sure there is a way I can contact you should you win.  The winner will be notified on Tuesday the 18th.

Good luck!!  This is truly a book worth reading!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Full-Fledged Denial

I didn’t announce it on Face Book.

I didn’t text my friends or tweet a tweet.

I didn’t even take a picture to put in a scrapbook.

The only person we called was my mom.  And sadly, she let me down with a totally inappropriate response.  I let my son do the calling, but I could hear her excited voice just as plain as day.

My oldest son got his learner’s permit last night.  He passed his test, they took a picture, and I paid the fee.  End of story.

Most of me wants to relegate it as a nonevent.  Because if it’s no big deal, I can go on thinking my first baby boy isn’t changing as fast as he is. 

He’s not growing facial hair and texting girls non-stop.

He’s not getting serious about what college to attend.

And most importantly, he’s not going to be sitting in a seat surrounded by 2000 pounds of certain death if he doesn’t pay attention.

I’ll be ok.  I know I can’t stop the clock.  And I’m as proud as can be of the young man he is becoming.  I just need a moment (or ten) to dig my way out of this pile of denial.

Sigh.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Grasshopper 4'x6' Soccer Goal by Rukket

Anybody for some back yard soccer?  Well, come on over! The fall soccer season may be over, but soccer never ends in our back yard!HS test

To that end, Rukket has developed another soccer goal and has graciously allowed my family to share it with our club (and you!) and to put it to the test! 

As with the first Rukket net we reviewed, the Grasshopper 4’x6’ Goal appears to be well-made.

It arrived disassembled in a tall skinny box.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to put together.  It definitely helped to have one person feed the poles through the sleeves, and one on the floor guiding the ends into the elbow fittings.  Thankfully, you only have to do that for the initial set up.  After that, you simply fold and store, or unfold and play.

Our U10 team was the first to try it out and they loved it!shots They learned very quickly, however, that Rukket provides stakes for a reason.  :)stakesAlthough the net stayed in place better when pinned down, they still needed to reposition it frequently and push the stakes back down (soft ground, maybe?).  But that’s pretty much expected with any portable net.  Plus, the sign of a great shot is how far the net moves, right?  Lol!shot on goal My high school players also put it to the test.  Since they have used all kinds of nets, I asked them for some honest feedback.  If there is one thing I’ve come to expect, it’s brutal honesty from teenagers. Here are the pros and cons they listed:

Pros…

  1. Really light weight
  2. Well made
  3. Easy to setup/fold down
  4. Material seems nice
  5. Good size
  6. Perfect for subdivisions that don’t have huge yards, or where a permanent net might not be permitted
  7. Could be used indoors.
  8. Has two side pockets in which water bottles or other things can be placed to weight the net down (for indoor use or where you can’t use stakes)
  9. Comes with 4 stakes.

Cons…

  1. A pain to initially put together.  But no more than with any other net that has sleeves and poles—and you only have to do it once.
  2. Stakes don’t hold well if a player blasts the ball.  We found it works best though when we put the front two stakes on the strap across the goal at each corner. 
  3. Still fairly large when all folded up. 

folded up measurements

I agree that it’s still pretty big when folded up.  Note the measurements above. It just  barely fit in the back of my Subaru Outback with the top of the net resting on the back head rest.  However, it easily fit in the back of my Expedition.  I share that so you will have a realistic expectation about how you will use it and whether or not it will fit in your vehicle for a game at the park.

Because of it’s size--both set up and folded--we think this goal is best suited for back yard soccer.  I love that it’s fairly big, yet easily folds flat for storage when it’s not in use!  Mowing around big heavy nets is highly overrated, lol!

I would definitely recommend this net to friends.  Keep up the good work Rukket!  And thank you for making a product that encourages kids to go out back and practice what is fast becoming a major sport in America!

Rukket was kind enough to send us a net to review.  But as always, the opinions expressed here are totally our own.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Easy and Delicious Crock Pot Apple Crisp…That You Can Make While You Camp!

preparing apples

What could be better than savoring a spoonful of warm apple crisp as you sit around the campfire with friends and family?? 

This was the first time I tried this and I will definitely be making it again!  

Crock Pot Apple Crisp (Great for Fall Camping!!)

  • 6-8 medium baking apples,
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (to toss the prepared apples in to keep them fresh),

…Crumb Topping

  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats,
  • 2/3 cup flour,
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon,
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg,
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (not melted)

And if you like your apple crisp sweet…

  • a container of sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on the apples before you add the topping, or on each serving once it’s cooked to suit your taste. 

Before you leave home, use a pastry blender to combine the butter and dry ingredients, then toss the mixture into a zip lock bag and put it into the cooler to take with you. 

At the campsite, peel and slice 6-8 apples right into the crock pot. (If you use a liner, you won’t even have to clean the crock pot afterwards!)  We skipped the lemon juice since our cooler space was limited. Sprinkle the apple slices with sugar and cinnamon and stir them up if you like your crisp a little sweeter.

Dump the crumb mixture on top of the apples, place a double paper towel between the lid and the crock to absorb moisture, and cook on high for 2 hours, or until apples are tender. 

Scoop, sprinkle with more sugar and cinnamon to taste, and enjoy! 

Yep, I have a pretty major sweet tooth, lol!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Picture Journal of Our Camping Trip to Hardy Lake State Park

Last week was fall break, and we spent it camping with friends at Hardy Lake State Park.  It was absolutely beautiful!  

The guys hung out fishing on our friends’ pontoon boat and giving their electronics a break.  Um… B and C on boatWell, they fished, at least.  :)  My little guy caught the most.  Might be because he wasn’t texting every other minute.  ;)

A and fish

These were out campsites.  Our little Jayco Pop up is the one on the right.  The trees were just beautiful!

two campsites

Directly behind our camper there was a short path that lead down to the lake where we could tie the boat. I took this after the guys pushed off for one of their fishing trips.Pontoon boat

My oldest son and a friend slept on the boat one night.  It was all good until about 4 in the morning when a cold front brought wind and rain sending them back to the campers.   

I took this on a walk between the lake and our camp site.hike

Greta, as usual, enjoyed being a part of everything.  She loves camping as much as we do!

B and Greta

There were several UNO games…

uno

as well as our annual pumpkin carvings. 

pumpkins

We took our bikes and enjoyed riding around the park.  We also used them to ride to the comfort station, which was a good ways away.

The only bathroom close to us was a vault/pit style restroom.  NOT something I wanted to brave in the middle of the night.  Once in the daylight confirmed that.  I was not about to slice through those cobwebs in the middle of the night.  Nope. NOT HAPPENING.

siteBut I had looked at the campground map before we left and knew we were staying in a more remote area.  So, I bought a pop up hunting blind from Rural King to take along.

In spite of the boys’ objections that the blind was too cool to pee in, I plunked my little porta-pot inside, strung some lights,and hung a roll of toilet paper.  I must say, it made a happy little potty hut!  I think it was much nicer than those stand alone outdoor shower shelters I saw on line.potty space

I have NO idea why I didn’t do this LOOOONG ago.  Seriously.  It stayed nice and dry inside and as an added bonus, I could change in it when the boys beat me to the camper.  Greta even napped there from time to time.  It was worth every penny.

Here’s a picture of my boys chill’in in the camper. I applied my phone’s water color effect just for fun.  :)

water color chilling inside

One day, my hubby and I made some crock pot apple crisp.  It was SOOOO good!  And easy, too!  Tomorrow, I’ll share the recipe, so be sure to stop back!

It was a fun time, for sure! 

What have you been doing to enjoy your fall?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What My Middle Son Did to Make Me Cry

Mom made it home safe and sound last week.  Which is good!  She was getting homesick.  But it’s also bad.  I miss her!  It was really nice having another female in the house.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked down the hall ready to laugh with her about something only to stop short at the sight of her empty chair or room.  This was taken right before she left.

one more pic 3

That said, I was already feeling a tiny bit emotional when I heard arguing and slamming-of-doors at the other end of the house. 

Middle Man was determined to boot his little brother out of his space into Grandmom’s newly emptied bedroom.  And Little Guy was making it perfectly clear that he did NOT want to go. 

There were tears.

There was drama.

And there was no reasoning with either son.

Little Guy went and hid himself in the sunroom. 

Middle Man looked at me, dropped his shoulders, and sighed.   

That’s when my up-to-now-unreasonable middle son did something that made me super proud of him.  He told me he was going to work non-stop till he had made his little brother’s new space SO cool that he, himself, would be jealous.

And he did.BBB

He hung soccer jerseys, Chelsea flags, and Colts gear.   He hung posters of Lamborghinis, and tucked well-loved stuffed animals around the room.  He put water guns in the shower,  a beach ball on the bookshelf, and a battle ax by the toilet.  He created a drawing nook and hung Christmas lights.  He even thought to download Little Guy’s favorite music to his tablet and set it to play.  And as a final touch, he built a tunnel-fort under the table. 

It was a little boy’s dream room.

I wish you could have seen my little guy’s face when we finally got him to come and see.  Because it was priceless. 

And it brought tears to my eyes.  :) 

He absolutely loved it!!!

And later, all by himself, my Little Guy did his big brother’s chores.

Those, friends, are the kind of things that Mamas tuck away to smile over when no one is looking.

So, where did I find my Little Guy this morning? not enemies after all In Big Brother’s room, of course. 

It made me smile.  They’ve been hanging out in each other’s rooms most of the day.

My little guy has a pretty awesome big brother! 

However, I’m not allowed to post this without clarifying that Little Guy still thinks his big brother is annoying. 

Of course he does. 

And I’m sure the feeling is mutual. 

I love my guys. ;)