9.01.2014

Our Week

I've spent the past couple of days falling in love hard and fast for houses online then falling equally hard and fast out of love once I see them in person.

Turns out I have a few opinions about where I want to live.  Who would've thunk it?

But instead of hovering over our squatter status, I'll share some pictures from our past week.  It's been another fun one.

Bikes.

Lots and lots of bikes.  My view most nights is some variation of this:

y'all!  my baby is on two wheels!  like a pro!



Birds.

We just wrapped up our bird unit in Biology.  We went to the park to observe and sketch some ducks.  However, I neglected to remember that Gabe is Gabe and the poor ducks weren't able to be still long enough for us to really do any natural observations.

We did learn they can be fast when a 4 year old is in the vicinity.


While he was of zero help at the park, he was a huge help in making our milk jug bird house.  This was more fun than I expected it would be.  Gabe is anxiously awaiting a "bwird" to move in.



School.

Second week done.  We got in our September Mother Goose Time box and started a little early.  Our days are flowing very smoothly now that he feels more included.  I'll share more soon, but they redid their boxes and display material and it's really, really good.

Second grade is awesome.  That's the only word I can think of to describe it.  It's like lights are switching on in her head constantly.  Things we majorly struggled with last year are coming to her very easily this year.  I'm hearing all the voices of those who have been in the game longer than I have saying, "I told you to just give her time."  


No words.

Just a little girl winning all the tickets at Dave and Buster's.  Which is ten minutes from our house now.  We learned Josie will not be allowed in any casinos anytime soon.  She had a little too much fun on the slot machines.


Boats.

I thought lakes and boats were a thing of the past after we moved to the desert.  But I think I've done more water sports in the past month than I did all of last year.  Andrew found a sweet deal on a boat rental in Tempe so we went out for a little while.  It was fun, but it's still way too hot to be out on a lake during the day.  Thinking we will redo this Family Fun Day in November.



It's official.

I'm a resident.


My Little Man.

Josie goes to school on Tuesday's and Thursday's now so Gabe and I get some quality one on one time.  He requests Subway and Target Popcorn most days.


Coffee.

Starbucks is a block from the house we are staying at.  A block.  I went so much the first two weeks we were here that I actually quit liking the way it tastes.  Kinda like smoking the whole pack of cigarettes to prove to your kids how disgusting they are.  Kinda.  Anyways, I found this cold brew concentrate at a local store and it's Heaven.

Second photo displays my sick addiction.  However, only one is an actual Starbucks.  The other is my homemade cold brew and the big one is water.


Reading.

I haven't picked up a book to read for pleasure in months.  I'm ready so give me some suggestions.

Josie and I just finished Pippi in the South Seas.  We watched the movie tonight and it's so cute.  I like those older kid movies.  And my heart smiled when she said she liked the book better.  We've come a long ways since reading was akin to pulling teeth last year.


How was that all in one week?

No wonder I'm sleeping so hard out here!  I ended the week still homeless, but with a happy heart and this as my view so life is very, very good.


 Time to rest up for another fun week!

8.28.2014

Who Are We?

Last night I walked over to the dry cleaners to pick up Andrew's shirts and had to laugh.

Dry cleaning?  What on Earth is going on?


We haven't even been here a month and already there aren't many parts of our day to day life that look like they did back in Georgia.  I guess that's what big moves are good for.  Fresh starts and new perspectives.

For one, we bike everywhere.

Like, as soon as Andrew pulls in the driveway, we all hop on our bikes (or the kids hop in the bike trailer) and we zoom around for a while.  When the kids and I got here, Andrew surprised me with this new beauty.  He found it on sale and knew I'd love it.

He was right.


I haven't had a new bike since I was, like, 11.  I'm on the hunt for a good wicker basket.  And I need a bell.

We have been having the greatest time exploring our new city on bikes.  Well, except for last week when Andrew's 5 mile trail turned into a good 12 mile trail.  I felt that one for a few days.

I had no idea that biking was this much fun.  Our nightly rides even inspired Josie to finally get the hang of riding without training wheels.  Which is a good thing, because it was getting a bit crowded in the trailer.


Long bike rides = long naps.

Happiness all around.



It's crazy to me how a decision that we'd had enough of Andrew's crazy job in Atlanta landed us here.

I haven't quite wrapped my mind around all that has happened this year.  It blows my mind that 5 months ago Gabe had just had open heart surgery.  I'm for sure in a season of reflection and often get taken back by huge waves of thankfulness.

Someone pinch me.


Of course, we've had a few growing pains.

We all miss our friends and are feeling ready to have our things out of storage, but overall, we've all adjusted really quickly.  We found a great church and the kids both start AWANAS next week.  I'm doing a women's study a couple times a month there too.  Between that and Gabe's new t-ball team, I think our days of not having friends here are limited.

As far as house hunting, we are looking, but aren't really in a huge hurry.

We check out the listing sites everyday just in case something awesome pops us, but we can stay at my Mom's until the end of October so we don't have to rush.  We almost rented out a house last week, but we both decided at the last minute that we weren't in love enough to move on it.  Staying at my Mom's is working out so well.  I can't imagine making a move like this without the option of staying here.


Y'all, this is our new library.

I die every time we walk in.  Which is a lot since it's 8 billion degrees outside and the library has AC.  They also have a cafe and a children's section that is in a separate wing, meaning I can sit and drink coffee and don't have to tell them to be quiet the whole time we are there.  They offer some excellent programs.  Josie is starting guitar lessons here soon and I'm planning to take her to a few STEM classes as well. 



This picture is a new favorite.

It's about a week old and I'm glad I shot it when I did because a few days later she didn't need Andrew's help at all.  Girlfriend got seriously mad that she wasn't getting the whole no training wheels thing and just took off this weekend!  It was kind of amazing to watch.  An hour later she was cruising right along side me to dinner.  Pretty proud of her.



That's all that's going on around here.

Off to go ride bikes again!


8.26.2014

TOS Review - Essential Skills Advantage

What Is It:
Essential Skills Advantage Review
Essentials Skills Advantage is online reading program for kids that works hard to make learning to read fun.  By focusing on phonics and sight words mixed together these games, songs, and animations, ESA is ready to boost your child to the next level with reading.  This program is very interactive.  Kids will do crossword puzzles, word scrambles, and a ton of other fun activities.  There are also sections on grammar and reading comprehension as well as spelling.  This really is a complete language arts program.

For this review, we were given a one year subscription to all levels of the online program.  There is a ton of material available on this site.  Most parts of the program are geared towards students in kindergarten through 6th grade.  It could also be used with older children that need some extra practice or, as in our case, with a child slightly younger if you're willing to do some teaching with it.

How We Used It:

We got this review right before we moved from Georgia to Arizona.

A move like that puts a big ole damper on my Type A personality's need for school to run on schedule.  I had been somewhat on edge about keeping the kids busy with educational things while I wouldn't be able to do much hands on with them.  I had a feeling that this would be a good solution and I was right!


Now here's my disclaimer:  Josie is not a fan of computer programs.  She kind of likes to play on the iPad, but she'd much rather watch a show on TV than have some gaming time.  I knew from the get go that she wouldn't be super excited to try this program out.  Gabe on the other hand would live on the iPad or computer if we let him.  Bless it, I think he's going to be a gamer.

So my intention for this was to have Josie try it for a couple weeks and continue if she enjoyed it, but mostly to use it with Gabe.  Toss some education in with all the Subway Surfer he's been logging.

Obviously, I started Gabe at the lowest level which is kindergarten.

I knew that most the activities would be too difficult for him, so I sat with him and used it as a teaching tool.  However, he did great.  This was a perfect reading readiness program.  We started with the audio activities and he flew through them.  These were pretty simple things but really made him see he had to listen.  They would do things like show a picture and then say an incorrect animal name and he would have to decide if it was correct or not.  After that, we went to the visual activities that included memory games, what doesn't belong pictures, color and shape matching, and what comes next games.  From there, it moved to more letter activities such as what letters match, what letter comes next, and word matching.

Each section got progressively harder for him.  While you don't have to start at the beginning with the audio section, I'm glad we did.  This section was pretty much all "yes" or "no" type questions.  He thought it was so silly that they would show a picture of a shirt and say it was a pair of socks. 

Visual Skills were harder for him.  This one asked if two pictures were the same, which doesn't belong, things like that.  He took a few tries to understand that he had to really look instead of answering right away.  Again, a skill I would've assumed he just had.


I didn't hit the phonics section yet, but Gabe doesn't know any letter sounds yet, so I'm assuming this will be more challenging for him.  We did do the basic skills section.  Things like order, size, shapes, and colors are covered here.  This was excellent for telling what we need to go over at the start of our real school year.

This program was like a workbook done digitally.  He learned a ton and absolutely loved it.  It was super fun for me to watch him understand, not only how to play, but actually learn the material.

The little dancing animations at the end of each game made him giggle and kept him wanting to move forward.

Josie just doesn't like computer games.

I had her try it out, but didn't push it with her.  This had nothing to do with the content, just her personal preference.

She had a difficult time picking up reading this year, but in the past few months has totally taken off.  She isn't quite at chapter books yet, but is finally reading longer books.  Her main issue is low confidence and lack of motivation.  I was hopeful that this program would give her a more solid base and help build her confidence.  In the beginning, I stayed close in case she didn't understand, but she got it just fine the first day.

She was able to choose games from four different areas; phonics, sight words, grammar, and reading.  there were a ton of activities in each category so she never got bored.  The games also progress quickly so she didn't have to sit and do the same thing for a ton of time.  This was a big change from most of the computer games we've tried.

The grammar and reading comprehension sections were a fabulous help for her.  These are areas I haven't really done much with in the past year.  It was good for me to get a glimpse as to what she knows and doesn't know before starting second grade.  The phonics and sight word section was too easy for her so I had her bump up to 2nd grade for those.  These were more of a challenge.

There is a teacher interface where you can track their progress as well.  I didn't really use this since I was pretty present as they played.  I already knew how they were doing.  However, if you have older students that can work on their own, this is a cool feature.  It was simple to read the progress.

My Opinion:

It's not often that I can honestly say a computer program is a great fit for us, but this one is.

Gabe learned a ton in the short time we have used it.  I already have it in the planner as an activity for him.  The skills were age appropriate and fun.  He loved the animation and sounds.

For Josie, this was a great way to really get in some practice and for me to see where she is.  I was impressed that she did very well on a few of the things I didn't think she understood.  I think the extra practice really helped her.  She wasn't as big of a fan simply because she doesn't like computer games, but she did enjoy the activities.

I didn't use this feature, but you can also customize which games your child plays.  This would be a huge benefit if your child only needs practice in a certain area.  Mine needed work in all of them and enjoyed the games, so I just had them select games from the complete lesson plan.

If you have kids that enjoy computer programs, this is a great way to get in some language arts!

Product Details:

Website:  http://buyesa.com/
Premium Monthly Online Membership: $9.99
** Use code  TOS50 and get 50% off every month!  That makes it just $4.99!

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8.25.2014

Might As Well

Before we moved, we talked a lot with the kids about what would be different when we lived in the desert.

One of those things was the lack of rain.

"Enjoy this rain kids.  When we get to Arizona, you won't be seeing any."

Then we got here and, what do ya know, it's monsoon season.  Good play, Arizona.






* please note: this wasn't a "What A Laid Back Mom" moment.  He was supposed to be getting his bike out of the puddle.  By the time I went to see what was taking him so long, he was beyond redemption.  He thought he won the lottery when I told him to keep going.  Might as well, right?