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How to move forward with my blog?

10658941_1556441061252843_568117218963233238_oI used to blog every day. I used to dream up posts in the middle of the night that I was dying to share. I still do. The difference between now and four years ago is that my kids are older. At ten and six year olds, I don’t feel comfortable revealing details about their education with the wild world of the Internet. I already share enough general information in my weekly newspaper column.

However, the former K-4 teacher in me is dying to post about all of the new things I’m learning about Afterschooling, specifically about helping kids with dyslexia. Now that I’m also an author with a book coming out in fall of 2016, I have access to advanced review copies of middle grade and young adult books that I’d love to talk about too. So I’ve decided to keep blogging, but no longer mention my kids. Bruce and Jenna weren’t their real names anyway. 😉

Stay tuned for the next chapter of Teaching My Baby to Read. I still have some tricks up my sleeves!

Taking your homekeeping to the next level

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Erica Strauss has the goal of helping men and women everywhere turn their homes into centers of production instead of places of consumption. That’s a big challenge to wrestle with, but her new book The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping shows you how.

Instead of dousing our bathrooms in chemicals, Erica gives step-by-step instructions for making “potty powder” and “acidic bathroom cleaner.” Instead of buying sugary jam from the grocery store, she teachers readers to can their own preserves without using pectin.

Well, Erica would have to pry the pectin box away from my cold, dead hands, but I’m willing to give her other ideas a try. So are her legions of fans who adore her well-known site: Northwest Edible Life.

Sasquatch Books in Seattle sent me a free, advanced copy of The Hands-On Home this summer in exchange for my honest opinions and review. For me as a homemaker, it was love at first sight. The construction of the book is everything I expect from Sasquatch: fine quality pages, beautiful illustrations, and a style that walks the fine line between folksy and hip. The Hands-On Home is also enormous. It’s almost 400 pages long and feels like Joy of Cooking’s younger, prettier sister.

But don’t let the girth put you off, because The Hands-On Home is divided into easy-to-manage sections by season. It’s really like five books in one. First comes the part about basic, year-round instructions. Next comes spring, summer, fall and winter. In each of the seasonal sections there are edible recipes as well as ideas for home and personal care.

Northwest Edible Life fans might be asking themselves, “Do I really need to buy this book? Can’t I find these recipes on Erica’s website?” For me the answer is yes, because the blog–wonderful as it is–only offers a fraction of what Erica has crafted in the book. Plus, this book would make a lovely holiday present or engagement gift.

As a gardener, I was a wee bit disappointed that there wasn’t a gardening section to The Hands-On Home. I’ve given up on the idea of ever getting chickens, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like reading plans about coop construction. Erica writing a follow-up book about gardening seems like a no-brainer to me. The Hands-On Garden perhaps?

I began reading The Hands-On Home in summer when tomatoes were abundant. I *might* have made myself sick by overindulging in oven-roasted herb confit one August afternoon. But, I’m pretty darn proud of the multiple mason jars of lacto-fermented pico de gallo in my refrigerator. Now that it’s fall, I’m eager to try the sauerkraut with apples and caraway. I’ve made homemade sauerkraut before, but have totally forgotten how. Now all I have to do is open up the book, and the instructions are right there at my fingertips.

The Hands-On Home is so rich with ideas that it will take me several years to try them all. How lovely it is to have a guidebook to aspire to.

A Modern Day Fairy Tale Set in Norway

Are you in the mood for an old fashioned magical jaunt? Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett is a classic “perilous adventure” book for middle grade readers. Set in Norway, Zaria Fierce includes trolls, winter-wyvern, ellefolken and more. It also has a modern timeframe, so don’t be surprised if you see iPads or mobile phones pop up.

The plot centers around a girl named Zaria, who has recently moved to Norway because of her father’s role in the military. On her way to school one day she crosses a bridge and accidentally encounters the attention of a horrible troll named Olaf. He demands Zaira pay a price that will take all of her courage and ingenuity to pay.

There were times I found the dialogue to be a bit unusual. Most kids don’t say things like “We are fickle are we not?” or “I met the criteria of your demands.” But there were many other parts of the book that were quite clever like the appearance of dry-ice grenades and the plot twist at the end. I especially enjoyed the illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan. Somebody please give this man a picture book contract!

I received a free copy of Zaria Fierce from the author in exchange for my honest opinions and review. You can find out more, by checking out the beautiful book trailer.

“Redo Your Room” review

Redo Your Room: 50 Bedroom DIYs You Can Do in a Weekend is a how-to book for jazzing up a tween girl’s bedroom. It’s full of bright pictures, easy projects, and good advice. At only 5 and a half years old, my daughter is not the target age for Redo Your Room, yet she was enthralled by the photography and studied every picture closely. We will definitely be holding onto this book for the future.

For me as a mom, what I really liked was that the projects were doable and not too expensive. One trip to the craft store and $100 later, you’d probably have everything you need to do at least five projects. I hate decorating books that build unrealistic expectations. Redo Your Room is not one of them. (Btw, this book would be a really cool present grandmas could give combined with a generous gift card to Michael’s.)

Ideally, *ahem*, I would have loved to see an entire chapter devoted to the art of cleaning your room and keeping it that way. But that’s the mother in me talking, not the twelve-year-old girl!

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

Review: Walt Disney World’s Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

My family went to Walt Disney World in December of 2014 and stayed at the Beach Club Resort. We booked through AAA which gave us an upgrade to a waterside view.

The absolute best part of The Beach Club was it’s close proximity to EPCOT. It was only a 5-10 minute walk away from The International Gateway entering the World Showcase between France and England.

The second best part of The Beach Club is the pool, Stormalong Bay. In addition to a lazy river, two water slides, multiple hot-tubs and a real sand beach, it also had lifeguards. The pool is designed in such a way that mom and dad can kick back and still watch their kids play at a variety of locations. It’s the only pool I’ve ever seen with a sand bottom, which was super cool.

Since we visited WDW in December, we got to see The Beach Club decorated for Christmas. The had some sort of scent piped in that made the whole lobby smell like gingerbread. There was also a huge gingerbread carousel that was motorized.

One amenity not pictured is The Sandcastle Club, which is the onsite childcare service. On the last night of our trip my husband and I dropped our kids off at the Sandcastle Club and walked over to Epcot for dinner. We used a AAA discount, and the total cost of almost 5 hours of childcare was $105. The kids had a blast, and my husband and I did the wine tasting walk through EPCOT.

The second closest park to The Beach Club is Hollywood Studios, which is about a one mile walk or a fifteen minute boat ride. The Magic Kingdom was about a twenty minute bus ride away, and the Animal Kingdom was slightly shorter.

This is the third Walt Disney World resort I’ve stayed in, and is by far my favorite. When I was a kid I stayed at The Polynesian and The Swan.

Drawbacks to The Beach Club are the price. Also, some of the interior decorating shows wear and tear. There was a small rip in our sofa. One of the beds had clearly been jumped on and the springs were shot.

But all in all, I would definitely stay at The Beach Club again, or perhaps its sister hotel, The Yacht Club.

Wine tasting without needing to drive home. Perfect!

Wine tasting without needing to drive home. Perfect!

The Beach Club lobby's most famous Christmas decoration.

The Beach Club lobby’s most famous Christmas decoration.

Our room

Our room

Our view

Our view

Fake Canada

Fake Canada in EPCOT

The ginormous pool with real sand

The ginormous pool with real sand

The Beach Club at night

The Beach Club at night

Is Walt Disney World worth the money?

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Hello friends! It’s been quiet here on Teaching My Baby to Read because my family took off for Walt Disney World the first week of December. I’m channeling all of my thoughts into a future “I Brake for Moms” column.

Was a trip to Walt Disney World worth the money? YES! Last week goes down in my top three vacations of all time.

Here are some pictures so you can arm-chair travel with us.

P.S. I owe a special thanks to Kristen from Teaching Stars because I texted her a bunch of pictures of Florida birds that she ID’d for us on the spot! Sweet!

 

The Jungle Boat

The Jungle Boat

Elsa freezes Cinderella's castle.

Elsa freezes Cinderella’s castle.

 

The Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest--My five-year-old loved it.

Expedition Everest–My five-year-old loved it.

Behind the Seeds tour in the Land pavilion at Epcot.

Behind the Seeds tour in the Land pavilion at Epcot.

Dessert at Cinderella's Royal Table

Dessert at Cinderella’s Royal Table

 

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Dare U 2 Open This Book


Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It is a 90 day religious devotional for boys by Carol McAdams Moore. It’s extremely visual-spatial and only a little bit verbal. By this I mean Moore asks kids to draw pictures, doodle and mess around with crayons and pencils in order to journal their thoughts, instead of write a bunch of paragraphs. I think this format works great. We should give boys the opportunity to do visual-spatial activities as much as possible.

Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It is a devotional, so it’s heavy on religion. Each section starts with a Bible verse and then asks boys to think about it. But unlike so many other religious books for kids, Moore doesn’t tell boys how to think. She doesn’t cram a particular dogma down kids’ throats. I appreciate that tremendously.

Now for the harshest critic of all. I gave this book to my nine-year-old son and he thought it was pretty cool. I asked him if it was something that he thought he would use and he said “Not right now, but if it’s laying around the house I’ll eventually read it.”

Good enough for me.

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

I review for BookSneeze®

 

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!

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

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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 to immerse ourselves in the Corps of Discovery experience we should have been eating preserved meat.

At least we geeked out in the car. On our way down to Oregon we listened to chapter 32 of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times. Narrator Jim Weiss gave a delightful introduction to what we would find at Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark’s winter camp has been faithfully reconstructed.

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The actual fort was a lot smaller than I had imagined–and darker. My five-year-old daughter objected to its “earthy” smell. I have a cute picture of her holding her nose, but I don’t share my children’s photos online. So take a look at the mens’ quarters and imagine the aroma of animal hide.

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A cool part of the park is that they have rangers dressed up in period costumes giving demonstrations, like this one, where they actually fired a rifle.

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As you might expect, Sacajawea has a major presence at the camp. I don’t know if the scale is accurate, but this statue of her and her baby “Pompey” is about 5 feet, 5 inches.

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In the fort itself, Sacajawea’s family had their own room.

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The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park is a fun place to spend between 2-4 hours with kids, but it’s not on the same scale as Plimoth Plantation. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think we would visit again unless we were camping at Cape Disappointment.

 

Put Outlaw Words in their place

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Lovely and Unique Journals for Children

Cherish the moments and record the memories with two special journals for kids.

Cherish the moments and record the memories with two special journals for kids.

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 full of pictures, captions and blank space. There are about 23 pages for each age. When children are younger, parents can document favorite foods, books read and new words and capabilities. Once kids get older, they can use newfound literacy skills to take ownership of the remaining pages and to read what Mom or Dad has already written.

My own self-portrait from 1982.

My own self-portrait from 1982.

Capturing a child’s emerging handwriting is so much fun and The Next 1000 Days is a great way to do it. There are also special places for self portraits.

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This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal is for preteens and up. It has a wide variety of prompts too. This is excellent because blank pages can be really intimidating, especially to emergent writers. Some kids do fine with traditional diaries, but often times a question, checklist, or space to draw a picture can really garner a better response. This journal has the perfect balance between open-ended and closed-ended responses. It is also colorful and pretty; important attributes for a girl audience.

Unlike a lot of diaries you see for kids these days–diaries based on popular characters– there’s nothing gimmicky about This Is Me: A Girl’s Journal and it won’t turn your children into products of advertising. I definitely appreciate that.

My niece is heading off to Girl Scout Camp next week and I’m going to mail This Is Me off to her just in time. This is a journal begging for a young girl’s heart!

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

 

Adventure Bible for Early Readers, review

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There are several things I like about the Adventure Bible for Early Readers, published by ZonderKidz. (The publishers sent me a free copy in exchange for my honest opinions and review.)

The 3D cover is really cool. I’m not sure if you can tell from the picture, but it’s a hologram of two kids heading off for an adventure. That immediately captured my kids’ attention.

I also really like the NIrV translation. In Romans 16:1 it translates “diakonos” as “deacon” for Phoebe. That’s awesome.

The maps and dictionary that go with this Bible are also nice.

But will I give this Bible to my kids? No!

There are a lot of “explanations” in this Bible that shove a very particular understanding of Christianity on young children. Adam was absolutely 100% the first human. (p 4) The gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were 100% for sure written by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. (pp 1,163, 1,207, 1,235, 1,281)  People who don’t believe in Jesus will be thrown in lake of fire forever. (p 1,536)

I kept waiting to find a “Did you Know” section saying the Earth was 7,000 years old, but thankfully that wasn’t included!

Looking for a kids' Bible? Deep Blue is a better choice.

Looking for a kids’ Bible? Deep Blue is a better choice.

I was very disappointed with the Adventure Bible because it targets a narrow audience. If they had just removed some of the dogma, it would have opened up the readership to a wider section of Christians.

By comparison the Deep Blue Kids Bible is amazing. It encourages kids to think and isn’t afraid of tough questions.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day!

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Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column from today’s Daily Herald:  On Father’s Day ask dads and grandpas for their boyhood stories.

P.S. The picture is from Watson Lakes.

King Rules by Alveda King

King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper by Alveda King was not what I expected it to be at all.

I don’t want to be disrespectful of Dr. Alveda King or any of her family members. So I’ve had to think carefully about how to word this review.

Alveda King and I are both Christian women but we are coming from two different generations, two different sides of the country and two radically different points of view. Our opinions differ on everything from corporal punishment to vouchers and the role of religion in schools.

There are many things I could talk about, but I’ll stick with the big one, my strong disagreement with Dr. Alveda King’s opinion that homosexuality is a sin. I do not believe that homosexuality is in the same category as “fornication” and “sexual perversion”. (p 80) I do not believe that LGBT people can rid themselves of their sexual nature by turning to Jesus. (again, from page 80.) I believe that God made people exactly as He or She wanted them made.

I am a Untied Methodist, and while it’s true that our national congregation is divided on this issue, I believe our church motto “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors,” will prevail.

I have no idea how a modern day Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. would feel about gay marriage. Dr. Alveda King has more rights than most to hypothesize his view.

But I want to go to a church where everyone is welcome, no matter what their family looks like. Does that sound familiar?

Also, not to be judgmental, but I found it very difficult to stomach the passages where Dr. Alveda King used her extended family as examples of paragons of sexual purity. Really?

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

I review for BookLook Bloggers