Friday, October 29, 2010

Fit Mommy Friday 10 Week Challenge Week 1

Accountability. That is what this is all about. So here I am sharing what I did (and did not do) towards my weekly goal.

I did walk 2 miles on Thursday and I am headed to exercise with my Personal Trainer this morning. But I missed my Tuesday walk and did not do even 10 extra minutes of exercise. I knew I needed to, but I didn't push myself to do it. No excuse - I just didn't do it.

During our Thursday walk my friend and I decided to bring handweights next week and add some muscle building to the end of our walk. We will also be announcing the walking times on our homeschool group board to invite others to walk and exercise with us. (A little more accountability!)

How was your week? Did you make an effort to be a Fit Mommy? I'm headed to Got Chai to see how the other Fit Mommy participants did. Maybe someone else needs a bit of encouragement or a pat on the back!


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Yuck!! A Review

I will just start this review by saying that I LOVED this product! I received a sample package of Yuck from Buckets-O-Fun. The package contained Chunky Yuck, Saucy Yuck, Sticky Yuck, and Snowy Yuck. With the samples I got some information pages with Yuck games and instructions and a Science pamphlet. All six of us gathered at the kitchen table to try out the science experiments.

First I should tell you what Yuck is. Well, honestly I don't really know. I know it is a polymer and I now know the definition of a polymer, but Yuck is still hard to explain. Yuck comes in different textures and each hydrates to a different consistency that is described by its name - 'Snowy' Yuck looks like snow when it is hydrated, Chunky is chunks, etc.

iSecond, you may wonder what you do with Yuck. Well, it is definitely an interesting way to study polymers. There are several fun games you can play with it. Some of my crewmates mentioned sprouting seeds it in - read some of the reviews to see if that was a success. Oh, and my sister and I...
...wait -  First maybe I'll tell you about our experimentation with Yuck.

We started with Chunky Yuck. Chunky has the largest particles and therefore takes the most time to fully absorb the water.


Adding water to Chunky Yuck

Chunky Yuck in water


Fully hydrated Chunky Yuck

The chunky yuck takes the longest to hydrate. We did the other three very quickly:

Saucy Yuck:

Saucy Yuck as it absorbs our water

It was similar in texture to applesauce
 
Snowy Yuck:

The fine white powder absorbs the water so quickly!

Really looks like snow! It isn't cold and won't pack into snowballs.

Add salt to a little Snowy Yuck - watch what happens!

Sticky Yuck:

We learned instantly that we should have stirred AS we added the water to Sticky!



Dad stirred and stirred the Sticky Yuck and success! - a consistency similar to snot. (Hmmm... should I really call that success??) 

You can even blow bubbles in it. We didn't let MT try this - be careful to blow not suck!
We had a wonderful time playing with the Yuck. We checked it over the course of several days and added additional water and froze some.

The science part was fun, but the Sticky Yuck just begged to be used in a practical joke! So...I asked my sweet sister to help me out.

We asked Rich (our brother) and Unk (might as well be our brother) to pose for a little family photo with their dear sisters (Jill & I) then as Maggie snapped the photo, Jill & I pretended to sneeze and 'slimed' them with Sticky Yuck!  Hee Hee! Ahem, I mean,um, all in the name of Science and product reviews!


BOF20logo20white20border1.jpg Buckets-O-Fun image by homeschoolcrewBack to the serious stuff: You can purchase Yuck products at the Buckets-O-Fun website and while you are there take a look at their other products. They have YuckZookas and X-Force Eliminator and tints for Yuck!

Oh, and please note the warning not to wash it down the drain! We used it inside and just wiped our hands with paper napkins. You may also want to use it outside for easier clean up.

Click here to read reviews by other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew.


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**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo!


I may be crazy, but I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2010. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and it is held each November. From November 1st to November 30th the goal is to write 50,000 (yep fifty thousand!) words in 30 days.

There is a Young Writers NaNoWriMo as well and Kirk, Maggie, and FRitW are all participating. There are workbooks for students that lead you to work out your plot, settings, and characters. We did not follow them exactly, but have been discussing and writing down our story ideas, developing our characters, and generally preparing to succeed!

The kids get to set their own word counts, but there are suggested guidelines on the website. Kirk chose 5000 words, Maggie 2000 words, and FRitW 150 words. I think everyone chose reasonable goals. 

I plan to work on a story that has been in my head for a few years now. I have begun to write it several times, but this month is it!! 

Do you have a story floating around your head? Why don't you join us? Adults sign up at http://www.nanowrimo.org/and students at http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ .
If you join - send me an email and we can be writing buddies!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key

PG Key is a device that plugs into your USB port and offers parental controls for your computer. It is a very simple device but offers a lot of customizable protections. It is a $49 one time purchase with no annual fees.

 
The PG Key:

  
  • Blocks use of the computer when the Key is removed.

  • Enforces time limits on usage.

  • Blocks or allows specific websites.

  • Notifies the parent when searches are made for specific keywords.

Records everything done on the computer for the past 60 hours.

 
PG Key comes with a quick install guide and it really is very easy to install. Plug it in – create a password and you are done! The set up however takes a little more time and effort. There is nothing in the package to explain how to set up the PG Key. There is a tutorial online, but it really just explained the features not how to use them or set them up.

 
I chose to set up a kid’s user account and not use the PG Key on my administrator account. After creating the user account and registering my PG Key, I began to customize my PG Key.

 
First I set a time limit. I set it at 5 minutes per day (I just wanted to see how it would work!). Then, I allowed two websites that Kirk and Maggie like to access and also blocked one of Kirk’s favorite football sites. I set up to have a notification sent everytime a search was made for words they commonly type, like truck and football.

 
Then I turned the computer over to Kirk. Imagine my glee (and his disappointment) when, just as he found the classic cars section on autotrader.com the computer “locked” him out! (Hee hee – Moms should get the fun sometimes too!). His 5 minute time was up! I was able to use my password to allow him 5 more minutes. I had him attempt to enter sixmanfootball.com and it was not allowed (that was my blocked website).

 
Later I checked my notifications – which can be sent by email or text – and was notified that “football” and “truck” were typed . I also reviewed the recorded computer usage and was impressed. It was similar to a power point presentation with screen shots of each site visited, including my set up efforts!

 
Overall I think this could be an effective program. I used a very quick setup that I could test, but plan to take more time setting this up for actual effective usage.

 
Pros:

 
  • It must be physically present – the bright red key is clearly visible and a good deterrent. The obvious presence of the key is a visual reminder that someone may be seeing what you are doing on the computer.
  • The settings can be modified – sites can be added or removed from the blocked/allowed list as needed.
  • Unless you give your children the password they cannot override the features.
  • The record feature is unique and helpful from a school standpoint as well as a safety standpoint.

 
Cons:

 
  • I did not like the time feature* (except for the fun it afforded me!) and this is why: The time limit is per day and with four kids that eventually will use the computer I would have two choices: 
      • 1. Set a combined time limit – then manually be sure each child does not go over their portion of that time. (This I already do without the PG Key!
      • 2. Set an individual time limit and use my password to override it each time a new child needs to use the computer.
*(The time limit is optional – you do not have to use it when you install the PG Key)
  • There is so little instruction. My issue with this is that I am exactly the person this product was designed for: a parent with limited computer knowledge with children that are much more computer savvy. I would like to see more detailed instructions on the set-up and some suggestions for keywords to block. The tutorial did reference websites with information for parents about protecting their kids. But a quick list of keywords would have been nice so I didn’t have to start by searching other websites for warnings on what my kids might try looking for.
  • If there was really a problem, there is no way to know which child is the offender – unless you have a separate user for each child and each child protects his user password and never lets another child use his account. Since I only created one extra account for all of the kids, I don’t know if the screenshots recording would differentiate between users either.

 
Final thought: The best online safety feature comes from parental presence. But, since the day will come when they will have to control their own behavior online – the PG Key is a good training tool for online independence.

 
Read the reviews from other TOS Homeschool Crews here.

 
  
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**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where Did I Put My Pen?

As a homeschooling family, we buy lots of writing utensils. Why, then, do I never have a pen? Hmm...

Pieces and parts of a pen...

A couple of boys sitting in the doorway...


shooting toothpicks with a toothpick cannon formerly known as my pen.



I guess my grocery list can be written in crayon.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

The County Fair

Sharing a funnel cake
September and October bring Fairs! We attended our county fair and the State Fair of Texas. Today, I'll share a little of our trip to the East Texas State Fair (our county/area fair).

The fair is always more fun with family, so we met Papa, Mimi, my uncle, sister, and niece at the fair. The kids loved this new exhibition:
Sea Lions! Yep, sea lions in 100 degree, humid, sticky September Texas heat more than 300 miles from any salt water. They looked miserable! We never saw a trainer or anyone checking on these poor guys. They were interesting though. They would swim in their little pools for a while then get on stage looking for some shade. It was fascinating, but so hard to believe that it was good for the sea lions.

Favorite Fair activity #2 - The Petting Zoo

This was another new event for our fair and since we went on a weekday morning it was not crowded at all. The kids (and adults) petted and fed several unusual animals. 
This camel was so hungry. He kept blocking the walkway by sticking his head over the gate trying to grab the cups of food from people and finally decided to crouch down and eat all of the spilled food on the ground. Jill didn't have any food, but the camel loved a little attention too.

Mimi got to pet a Watusi. Huge heavy horns made him look mean, but he seemed pretty sweet - oops, sorry - I mean she seemed sweet. I guess a boy wouldn't be named May Belle.

Oh, and the kids petted some animals too! Llamas, alpacas, buffalo, four horned goats and more.

Finally - this photo shows Maggie and her Irish Step Dance troupe in their new skirts and sashes, performing for the Senior Adult Day at the fair. Most of my photos were absolutely too blurry to view, those girls just couldn't keep still ;) - this one is the clearest I could find.
The girls did a great job and the senior adults loved their performance!

Coming soon: a peek at our visit to the State Fair of Texas

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