4 months old!

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Our Life

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My “newborn” turned 4 months yesterday. She is no longer skinny and has absolutely no feeding issues anymore. I’d even say she is approaching CHUBBY! At 4 months she is 13lbs (siblings were between 16-19). Jillian is just prefect right now, she is happy and EASY and just completely lovable. She prefers me at this point more than her siblings did and I love it honestly (but she doesn’t have stranger anxiety either). She makes adorable goo noises and is very smiley. She has been chewing her hands quite a bit and I see the early signs of teething. I would love it if she could just stay the way she is for awhile, this is the best stage!

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My Fruit Roll Up Valentines! Win your own case to design!

February 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Past Contests

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I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love Fruit Roll Ups so I’d imagine most would go nuts over being able to design their own. Ethan gave these out to his kindergarten class on Valentine’s Day a few weeks ago. We had already designed a box of Fruit Roll Ups some months back but they have made some major improvements since then. The website is redone and more user-friendly but the biggest change is that you can now upload your own images to put on the snack! I added my favorite picture of Ethan from up at the lake. On the actual snacks (the image above is the preview we got when making them) you can’t tell that he is smiling over holding a frog he just caught but you can tell its Ethan and thats good enough for me. I probably could have found a picture that would have worked a bit better but oh well. Adding the picture couldn’t have been easier and you can zoom in and crop it and adjust the contrast right on the Fruit Roll Up site. There are of course lots of images to choose from if you don’t want to upload your own or if you want both like we picked. Its definitely fun to create and of course fun to eat. I have found both times that when they arrive they are a bit hard to unroll and I think thats just because they are freshly made. Our first box we just let sit a week or so and then they came off the wrapper easily but with the new box I needed to send them off as Valentines so I did some experimenting and found that freezing and then thawing them seemed to do the trick.

I liked my Valentines idea but you can make these for any occasion and one lucky winner will get to design their own box for free!

To enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post with who you’d like these for
  • US mailing addresses only
  • Contest ends Friday March 13th

*I don’t know how long it will last but they also have free shipping on purchases right now with code “freeshipping”.

Lego releases for 2009

February 23, 2009 by  
Filed under In the News

Geekdad posted about the upcoming Lego releases for the new year on display at the 2009 Toy Fair.  Lots of fun stuff on the way, but my favorite is the Space Police series which will come with alien minifigures.  As much as I love Lego, it is about time for some unique guys to go along with the kits.

Based on the concept of intergalactic cops and robbers, these sets add a lot of new heads, faces, and colors for the minifigs.  Available in August with 5 sets under $20 these should be easy on the pocket book.

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Sledding AGAIN!

February 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Family Activities

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Yes we went sledding again today and we had the place to ourselves the entire time! Jillian went to grandma’s house so I got to do a little sledding this time. Jamie got to go solo a few times since we didn’t have to worry about other people crashing into her. I think we’ll be frequenting this hill for many years to come!

Sledding brothers!

February 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Art Projects, Family Activities

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John took the boys to 6:45 AM hockey this morning, then to the bagel place, then to get chicken food and then to the SLEDDING HILL! I am so happy he took the camera so I could see how much fun they had. I can’t believe how much they did so early today and now the 3 of them are vegging in front of the TV watching cartoons. I don’t like missing out on all the fun so we’re planning on going sledding tomorrow morning too!

Dreambox – Online Learning that Works

February 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Ever since we switched to a Mac last year I wanted to find a few educational games for the kids. I tried looking in the online stores, but all the games were several years old, pre-dating the Mac switch to Intel processors. With that as a dead end I looked online, but all I found were simple flash games or pay sites that did not interest me.

When ParentBloggers offered a free trial of Dreambox, I was very skeptical at first, but we decided to try it out. Here’s what we found:

Dreambox is a rich environment with numerous games around the lessons. When your child starts they take a math assessment. Once Dreambox has a profile your child picks a theme, either pirates, pixies, dinosaurs, or pets and they pick a character to represent themselves in the game. They then proceed to follow the stories for their theme and take the lessons. Each lessons is customized based on the assessment and the games adapt as they learn.

We setup both Ethan (6 in Kindergarten) and Ben (4 in preschool) on Dreambox. They each picked a different character and different themes. One of our concerns was that the Dreambox, which teaches math skills for K-2nd grade, would have too much text based content and be difficult for the kids. That was not the case at all. I was extremely impressed with the quality and depth of the games. The website runs extremely smooth and load times are quick. The instructions are all audio and very clear and easy for the kids to understand.

I often tell people that the sign of a well designed product is that you don’t need to read any instructions to use it. This is the case with Dreambox. Our boys dove right into the games. We would monitor their play and give them guidance on the math, but never on how to use the games or navigate the stories which was easy and obvious for them to figure out on their own.

I use the word ‘game’ to describe the lessons, but they are really a perfect balance between fun puzzles and great lessons. The games themselves involve manipulation so the boys move things around into the right combination instead of a simple question/answer like a lot of other educational games. As games are successfully completed, the boys earned collectible rewards: tokens to play carnival games, certificates, and Adventure friends.

Another concern with any game is the kids getting addicted. What I have found interesting with Dreambox is the boys will ask to play, do several lessons over 20-30 minutes, and then have no trouble walking away. They always ask to come back a day or two later, but we’ve never had any problems with them overextending their screen time. I think it is just the nature of the games. They are short lessons and after the kids accomplish something it is a good stopping point.

Making a game that kids love to play is obviously the easy part. The real question is “Are they learning anything?” I can answer that with an emphatic yes. We had been working on Ethan’s counting on and off for months. He had no problem with single digits and could do some simple math, but was inconsistent with larger numbers. As he’s played Dreambox his counting and math has steadily approved.

Another part of Dreambox we really like is the email updates on Ethan and Ben’s progress. These emails tell us how long they played, what math principles they worked on, and how they are progressing. We can also log into the site and view their progress.

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Overall, we couldn’t be happier with Dreambox. The kids love playing the games and we love seeing them improve their math skills. A problem that sometimes occurs when you review products is that you like them so much you buy more. That will be the case with Dreambox. We plan to keep our subscription so the boys can continue their progress with math and we look forward to see what Dreambox adds next. If you are looking for educational software for your children, I encourage you to take their free trial for a test drive.

Feeding and petting the birds

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Chickens

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We love our chickens! I got 6 eggs this morning. Jamie and I went out to feed them and she was excited to do it herself and to pet them. We are running low on their food so they also got an old box of granola, a 1/2 eaten banana and the remains of Jamie’s apple.

*update on the day:  boys were out playing in the new snow we got late morning and Ben found 2 more new eggs. Ethan built a snowman and Jamie is now in a new set of penguin pajamas because this potty thing is tough to master! She is singing “pajama day” for me now!

PJ day!

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Pictures

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I had bought these matching pajamas on sale cheap from the Childrens Place way before Jillian was born, I thought they’d be cute for a Christmas card photo but I ended up not using them since Jillian was too small for them then. So we’re staying home today and having PJ day today. The kids were surprisingly excited to have their pictures taken in them.

Wordless Wednesday: Must buy more socks!

February 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Misc

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Chicken Video

February 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Chickens, Pictures

I’m playing around with the Youtube upload feature of iMovie 09. Worked well, very easy. Our digital camera, however, has tons of dust on the lens causing those dark spots.

If you listen carefully, you can hear pirates in the background.

Heather also got some great photos of the chickens out in the snow.

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