My dream is to spark a national conversation

My dream is to spark a national conversation about how massive parental involvement is the key to high quality education.

My “I Brake for Moms” Column

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Rocky Reach Dam

On our way back from a camping trip in Lake Chelan my husband suggested stopping at Rocky Reach Dam along the Columbia River. “No way,” I said. “That sounds boring.” “Twenty minutes, my husband promised. “Tops.” It turns out we stayed for two hours because the dam was so much fun. First we checked out the fish … Continue reading

Instant Homemade Books

Homemade books are one of the best examples of how parents can help kids learn to read. In a classroom setting, personalized books are difficult to manage. But at home, Mom and child can whip out a book in fifteen minutes. The whole point is to create leveled readers with meaningful content that is sure to engage your … Continue reading

Boulder River Waterfall

Joan Burton’s fabulous book Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades has served us well again! Last weekend my family took a trip to Boulder River Falls. Our drive along the Mountain Loop Highway offered us a sobering look at the devastating mud slide in Oso, as well as the tremendous reconstruction work in progress. … Continue reading

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

The adventures continue! My “I Brake for Moms” column today was called Pirates weren’t part of the plan for this camping trip and was about Twin Harbors Beach State Park.  Here are some pictures, including shots of the massive die-off of velleas.       For more information about Twin Harbors Beach State Park, please visit … Continue reading

Zumba Exhilarate vs. Zumba Incredible Results

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I wrote an I Brake for Moms column a while ago about my journey back from breaking my wrist and how Zumba had helped. (Please see: What burns more calories, Zumba or kids’ aerobics?)

This post is a specific review of the two versions of Zumba I own, Zumba Fitness Exhilarate and Zumba Fitness Incredible Results. Plus I’m offering a confession: Sometimes I let my kids watch TV downstairs while I’m doing Zumba upstairs. Otherwise, how would I find time to exercise during the summer when they aren’t in school? Yeah, it would be better if they were reading books or cleaning their rooms, but sometimes you have to make compromises. ;)

 

Why I like Zumba DVDs in general:

  • ALL of the instructors are really great. Nice, upbeat, encouraging, and they give clear directions.
  • Usually you have the option of turning the instructions off and just following the music.
  • The sets come with enough variety to keep things interesting.
  • The music is really awesome, even though I’ve never heard it before.
  • Zumba is FUN.

Random Thoughts and Unanswered Questions about Zumba:

  • Is Beto really as nice as he seems? Because he seems really nice.
  • Do you think Beto and Tony Horton from P90x know each other? Because Tony seems really nice too.
  • How does Kass Martin look so different with and without bangs? I think she looks pretty either way.
  • The lighting on Loretta Bates in the Zumba Step video is really pale. At first I didn’t realize she was the same person who was in Rush. Also, how did she get so good a belly dancing?
  • What’s with the wrist bands? Do people really wear random wrist bands when they exercise? What’s the point?
  • Doesn’t it hurt to exercise with big earrings. Wouldn’t they bang around and hurt your earlobes?
  • Was Marcie Gill a former cheerleader? She seems to have a cheerleader’s spirit.
  • Am I the only person who thinks Jessica Mellet looks a little bit like Heidi Klum? Especially in Zumba Step.

But I digress… Now for the reviews.

 

Zumba Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD (Multi, Small)
What you get:

  • Step by Step (an introduction to the steps)
  • Activate (40 minute easy routine)
  • Exhilarate (60 minutes difficult routine both in terms of dance steps and intensity)
  • Rush (22 minute routine that is intense but short)
  • Ripped and Mix (30 minutes of cardio toning with the sticks, plus a 60 minute cardio routine)
  • two, one pound rhythm sticks

Thoughts about Exhilarate:

  • Rush and Ripped are my favorite. Usually I do them together.
  • The sticks are too easy for me now, but were really helpful when I was rehabbing my broken wrist.
  • Exhilarate is really hard for me to do on the carpet. I think it would be easier on wood floors.
  • The costumes are wild. I could imagine conservative people having a hard time with so much skin.

Zumba Fitness Incredible Results DVD with Zumba Max DVD

 

What you get:

  • Quick Start (an introduction to the steps)
  • Step (40 minute step routine)
  • Zumba riser (step)
  • Super Cardio Dance Party (60 minutes difficult routine in terms of intensity but with easy to follow steps)
  • 20 Minute Express (short and fairly easy)
  • 30 Minute Burn (easy to follow steps but no directions)
  • Amazing Abs (17 minute chair workout that is really hard

Thoughts about Incredible Results:

  • I love pretty much all of it, except I rarely do the 20 Minute Express and have never done the Quick Start
  • Steve Boedt in the Super Cardio Dance Party is really funny.
  • The Step workout is my FAVORITE!
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.

 

Final thoughts about Zumba?

Zumba is super fun. Exhilarate is slightly easier I think, but beginners would like Incredible Results too. If you’re going to go for it, I would suggest getting the shoes as well. Otherwise you can’t slide properly on the carpet. The first few times I did Zumba I had my ordinary gym shoes on and I kept tripping. Zumba shoes have a smooth sole and that really helps.

Party on!

Mary Engelbreit’s new book about Friendship

Need a go-to gift book? Mary Engelbreit’s new book “The Blessings of Friendship Treasury” is a fun find for kids and adults alike. It’s a beautifully illustrated collection of poems, sayings and Bible verses about friendship. As you would expect with any Engelbreit product, the illustrations are too precious for word.

My five-year-old daughter loves this book, and it’s an enjoyable bedtime read aloud. She also likes to look at the pictures on her own. The high quality detail really holds her attention.

One thing I noticed about the pictures is Engelbreit’s efforts to include diversity. On the whole, I think the ratio of white kids is still a bit too high, but kudos to Engelbreit for trying. She even portrays a little girl in a wheelchair.

All in all, this is a happy book to have in our collection. Thank you to BookLook for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

I still feel a bit guilty. Last weekend my family went to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon and we didn’t eat any beef jerky. Or smoked salmon. Or dog. Yuck! Okay, dog and horsemeat were never on the table but I did have some teriyaki jerky in the cooler. If we were truly going … Continue reading

Put Outlaw Words in their place

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Kids, Veggies and the Food Mover

If you’ve ever wondered “Have my kids eaten any vegetables today?” then this post is for you. Like many moms I’m engaged in a never-ending battle to get my kids to eat more vegetables. With my son it’s easy. He’ll try anything from kale to artichokes. My daughter on the other hand prefers “crunchy lettuce, … Continue reading

Put a window on it

Get out your scissors, moms and dads. Here’s a trick straight from the classroom that will make it easier for you to teach your child to read. Give your young reader a special bookmark called a word window. My daughter Jenna has just turned five-years old and is chugging along at a first grade reading … Continue reading

Lovely and Unique Journals for Children

What a happy delight! Seattle based Sasquatch Books sent me two beautiful journals for children: The Next 1000 Days: A Journal of Ages Two to Six by Nikki McClure and This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal by Julie Metzger. I was really impressed by each book, both as a parent and a former teacher. The Next 1000 Days is … Continue reading

Helping Kids Understand Afghanistan

What’s behind the veil? Washington author Trent Reedy has crafted a powerful book that gives middle grade readers an inside look into the daily life of Afghan girls. I don’t want to give any secrets away, but Zulaikha, the main character in Reedy’s book Words in the Dust uses her chador to hide a clef palate, a birth … Continue reading

Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel


Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel is like a Ladies Home Journal “Can this Marriage be Saved?” article in novel form. It tells the story of a Washington DC power couple rocked by separation and shady decisions. Two other storylines interweave the plot including a 28 year-old with a big decision to make and a trust fund playboy looking for direction.

All of this made for a very compelling read, even though I had difficulty connecting to the characters. The main protagonist, Melanie, came across as extremely unlikable. To me she seemed like the type of sanctimonious Christian women who give Christians a bad name. Luckily that was tempered out by a secondary character from Seattle, who seemed much more in line with what I think and believe.

An interesting part of the story was a homeschooling mom’s attempts to practically shrink-wrap her daughter in order to protect her “purity”. Shannon Ethridge, if you’re reading this, I would really hope that you are following the Bill Gothard/ATI homeschooling scandal. You can read firsthand accounts of what happened on the website Recovering Grace or find out more at Homeschoolers Anonymous. The parallels with your book are chilling.  :(

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 

Giving “blood sugar” new meaning

The kids and I had a lot of fun with this one. Be warned, it’s sticky! Thanks to Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses for the idea.

The sweetest science book ever!

What’s so great about doing science experiments at home with your kids? Watching them fall in love with science. What’s even better than that? Sitting on the couch reading a book while your spouse leads the activity. ;) For the past few weeks my husband and kids have been obsessed with a book called Candy … Continue reading

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