Monday, December 29, 2014

Pin Trading at Disneyland

I had wanted to write this post weeks ago, but time just got away from me.

It is doing that a lot lately.

Anyways, I did lots of research before our trip to Disneyland. And one of the fun things I read about was Pin Trading.

Basically, a few cast members at Disney are pin traders and will trade pins with people who have the Disney pins. These pins range from ANYTHING Disney so the options are endless.

There are some rules....

You can only have 12 pins on your lanyard at a time
Never touch anyone else's pins until they hand it to you
Only one pin trade per person
Only trade with Cast Members (my rule)


Cast members with green lanyards will trade with only kids, and in my opinion, had the best pins.

The first thing we did before we left was order a group of 50 pins from Amazon. We ended up paying about 50 cents per pin. I didn't price individual pins before we left but this turned out to be a really good thing....we saw some of our pins in stores for $4-8 each.

We also got the kids fun lanyards to pin them to. The girls' lanyards came with a little purse at the end, which actually came in very handy. (More on that later.)

In the car on the way down I let the kids divvy them up.

The kids were a bit shy in the beginning, but the cast members were super friendly about it. When we were making our first trade the man we were trading with realized that we were new at this, so he explained that most people collect either sets (you can tell by looking at the back of the pin if it is in a set) or themes. (Themes are could do all princesses, or Star Wars, or frontier land ones, or Donald Duck pins.....)

We were on the lookout for pins for most of the time we were was a good balance because probably only one in fifteen Cast Members were pin traders.

And for some reason we saw lots more pin trading Cast Members in Disneyland. In California Adventure there were a few, but they did not have them on a lanyard but on their vests.

One problem we ran into....the back of our pins kept coming off. We did lose a couple and finally started using the little bags at the bottom of the lanyards to keep our pins in.

When someone got a really special one (Dasher was going for all birds) they put it in My Sweetie's fanny pack.

We also never had a cast member turn us down....when the kids would walk up to one with a lanyard, they would interrupt what they were doing to trade.

Here you can Bookworm and her pins....

 This Cast Member below had a a twist to his pin trading.

See the dark space on the right side of his lanyard? He had some pins that were pinned backwards. You could blindly trade for that one......he hinted to Nutsy that those were usually a great deal so she took the bait.....

....and got a very cool Storm Trooper pin! She later traded it with her brother (who was collecting Star Wars, of course) but we did see that same pin at a pin store kiosk for $12!

In most of the stores in Disneyland there was at least one trader too.

This was a SUPER fun activity....the kids loved interacting with the Cast Members and got some very cool pins. Dasher actually traded enough to get a complete set, and all the kids got some very nice pins from their trading.

We all agreed that if we ever get to go back, the kids would definitely do the pin trading again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Week In Images

My Week....

This pretty song....

because I am hearing over and over, as Bookworm practices for the Certificate of Merit.

This meat.....

because it will be nice to have a freezer full of home-grown pork.

This little Nut and what I let her do.......

 because you are only young once.

These food bank helpers.......

because it makes us so thankful for what we have.

These treat boxes.....

because I love baking and giving it away.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014


2014 has been a year of growth, joys, learning, and adventures. We can see God's hand, through the good and the bad, as He leads us in Providence and grace.

We are still involved in 4H; this year all four kids are officers. Mr. Lego is our Club President, Bookworm is the Secretary, Dasher is the Attendance Secretary, and Nutsy is a Sergeant at Arms. This year we are doing the market goat project, sheep project, and record book project and the younger three are doing judged presentations.

We are in our 6th year of our homeschooling co-op. There are three families involved with 15 kids total, from ages 8 to 18. We study biology (older kids) anatomy (younger kids), Medieval history, and writing. We also do monthly geography and art projects. Plus, one of the older girls is directing a play that they will all perform this coming summer.

Mr. Lego (J) is now a senior in high school. And we are seriously pinching ourselves when we think that he will be old enough to vote in our next election. He has had a year of changes which started out when he got a job this last summer being a meal server in a retirement community. He likes interacting with the residents and has realized he enjoys food service. He was able to buy a used car in the fall and has enjoyed having his own set of wheels. He was also able to take a class at our community college this last semester and plans to take another next semester. And this is his last year in 4H and he is going out with a bang; he'll be showing a lamb at our county fair in May.

Bookworm (K) is growing up too. She is now 15 and has a small job cleaning an office space. She also babysits and cleans houses and saves just about all her money for her 4H projects. She is saving up to buy her market goat for this next season and go to the fair. She is also planning on purchasing a breeding doe next year, which will lead her to start breeding her own market goats. In school she has found that she really loves writing, and is doing extra credit writing assignments.

Dasher (A) is doing great. She just had her birthday and is now a big 14. She loves doing extra jobs around the house for mom. Her favorite subject in school is grammar and anatomy. She has really shown some progress in her reading and math this year, and is enjoying picking out books to read at the library. She did great in 4H last year, winning the Junior 4H Goat Showmanship competition. She is looking forward to improving in showmanship this year and getting her market goat next month.

Nutsy (E) is 9. She is now in her first year of 4H and is going to show goats this year for the first time. This year she is also doing her first 4H judged presentation and is a little nervous, but is working hard on it. In school she enjoys math and history. I like it that the math really 'clicks' in her brain. She likes collecting little cars, doing art projects, and participating in our homeschooling co op.

This was mostly about the kids; My Sweetie and I are doing good and had an enjoyable year. As a family we enjoy game nights, fun talks, camping trips, and our annual family reunion.

Each and every day, may we be reminded of Christ. Of His saving work on the cross, and how much we need Him.


The Joyful Hearts Family

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That our 4H goat season is coming.....early next month we will head out to the goat farm to check out the stock, and then plan on getting some of the goats by February. I love what this whole season teaches my kids, but it can be a busy one.

What I'm listening to: Lee Brice is playing right now on Pandora.....

What we're learning: This week the younger two are learning about the respiratory system in anatomy, and then in history we are learning about medieval history in Germany. Also, the last couple of weeks of schooling, Dasher has really improved in her math learning. She really struggles and I am so thankful for some of the breakthroughs she is having.

What I'm watching: Some unsettled weather coming the week. Actually a whopper of a storm is headed our way, according to the news. But our area has the tendency to overdo the weather forecast (last week it made the news that the wind knocked down some Christmas trees at a tree lot) so we'll see what happens.....

What's cooking: This week I am making Chinese Hot Pot, A pot roast, and my slow cooker meal is Mozzarella Chicken with sweet potatoes. My fermented apple chutney is done fermenting so I am excited to sample that later this week.

What I'm thankful for: I am very thankful for my kids. They are growing up, and I am so thankful that the Lord blessed me with all four of them.

What I'm creating: I want to start thinking about my Christmas Cookies. Every year, the kids and I make lots of yummy things and take them to our neighbors. Salted caramels are definitely happening, but I need to figure out some other ideas. Pinterest, here I come.....

What I'm praying: I am praying for myself and my family. In church this last Sunday we were challenged to think how we should act in our relationships, knowing that we are saved by grace and have the Holy Spirit. What does that look like? How do I live? The amazing news that we are saved should impact how I treat others and what my actions are.

What we did this last weekend: Saturday we went out with the tri-pod to a pretty area near our house for our annual family photo shoot. It was successful and now I need to order our Christmas cards. Sunday we were at church, then to the service at the assisted living center. Home again with friends for a lively card game.

What I'm looking forward to: Counting this week and next, only 2 more weeks of school before we take our winter break!

Pictures to share:

Out takes from our photo shoot......

Friday, December 5, 2014

My Week In Images

This Christmas tree....

 because it is a hodge-podge of ornaments but I love it because the kids decorate it all.

These persimmons and pears......

 because the pears will be good eating and the persimmons will make a lovely bread.

These students.......

who had fun making their own coat-of-arms in co-op this week.

This delicious lunch....

kale, roasted vegetables and chicken.

And this heart.....

left on my nicely made bed to let me know that my Secret Servant was at work.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I can't believe it is the last week of November. And I can't believe that we remembered to take our turkey out of the freezer yesterday. Most years we think about it sometime on Wednesday and then frantically yank it out and put it to thaw in a cooler filled with water. Does that mean that I am finally getting it all together? Probably not.....

What I'm reading: I just finished a very interesting book by Lily Koppel called The Astronaut Wives Club. It is the wives side of the story about the race to the moon and life as an astronaut's wife. Exciting and sad at the same time.....most of them ended up divorcing.

What I'm listening to: Right now? One Republic is playing on my playlist. We are also babysitting some parakeets and they are squawking away in the school room.

What we're learning: We are only doing one day of school this week and then we are on break. The older ones have been learning about viruses and bacteria in biology, and the younger ones are finishing up a chapter about nutrition in anatomy. The girls are all doing 4H presentations this year so we need to also get working on those.

What's cooking: This week I am making Broccoli Chicken Pasta, Donburi, a pot roast in my slow cooker, and like millions of others in America, turkey on Thursday.

What I'm buying: I was going to wait until Wednesday to go out to get my fresh veggies for Thursday, but what am I thinking? That is one of the crazy shopping days, so I think I'll do it tomorrow. On my beans for the green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, spinach for a yummy dip, and salad stuff.

What I'm thankful for: I am so thankful for what God has given me. Today we helped out at a food bank with our 4H group and we are very blessed. I need to be reminded of that often.

What I'm creating: I finally did my project I had been trying to get around too; the kids made a keepsake frame for their Disneyland souvenirs. I am hoping to make it into a blog post soon...

What I'm planning: To get into the kitchen. I still have lots of apples that I need to do some stuff with, and then the fun baking and cooking will begin for Thanksgiving.

What we did this last weekend: We had a quiet weekend at home. We did lots of little things around the house, some puttering outside, ate yummy chicken spring rolls one night, and took a couple of evening walks.

What I'm looking forward to: I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, and the school break is a needed one. Then it is crazy, but it is December. Time flies.

Pictures to share:

~Bookworm and Dasher at the food bank.....they helped with passing out clothes.

~Nutsy with a friend at the food bank.....she helped to pass out supplies for pumpkin pie.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Week In Images

 These precious kiddos in my Sunday School Class.....

because I love teaching them about Christ.

These leaves.....

because even though they are everywhere, they are beautiful.

These friends.....

because I love seeing them play together.

Theses cookies......

because I love having a daughter who loves to bake.

This car.....

because Mr. Lego just bought it, and now my car is mine again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The 2014 Blue Ribbon Awards

So every year The Crew, that lovely company that I write reviews for, polls all of us bloggers and we vote on our favorites.

And some of these I was very blessed to review.

Favorite Language Arts Program and Middles School Resource: 

Moving Beyond the Page

Greek Myths was a great short course for my older two to take.

And my younger ones loved Human Body. We are actually re-using lots from this kit as we learn Anatomy in co-op this year.

Favorite Language Art Supplement:


Not only does this online site have language art sections, it also has math questions, with levels all they way up to Algebra. Online learning is super fun for my younger girls.

Favorite Grammar Program:  

IEW Fix It! Grammar

LOVED this one. I am only required to use any products I review for 6 weeks, but we are still going through this great resource for grammar. 


I love that it includes vocabulary and copywork, and that they are going through such a fascinating story.

Favorite Math Supplement: 

Learning Wrap Ups

This is another one that we are still using. The wrap ups, which include both math and language arts, are super fun and so easy to hand a child to use to review math facts. I rarely hear complaints when I get them out.

And the Learning Palettes have gone over so well in our schooling too; they really cater to the more kinetic learners and those who like learning in a more tangible way.

Favorite Elementary Resource: 

Logic of English

Another one I LOVE. Both Dasher and Nutsy are doing LOE; Dasher is in Essentials and Nutsy is doing Foundations. I love their approach, and how I use so many ways to teach reading/phonics/grammar/spelling/vocabulary.

Through games, dictation, flashcards, copywork, and fun books to read; this course is complete and helps even those who have learning disabilities or are ESL. 

Best Digital Resource and All Around Crew Favorite: 

Veritas Press

This is another one that I have not stopped using; I am planning on having the older two use this history and literature curriculum through to the end of the school year. And I am very seriously thinking about having Bookworm continue on to year two of Omnibus.

So there are some of the awards. I loved these products and hope that you can read more about them and perhaps use them in your schooling!

You can see the entire list of Blue Ribbon Awards at the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

{Crew Review} IXL

Once again, I was offered the opportunity to use and review an online product. This one covers the basics of all learning: math and grammar.

What It Is:

IXL, an online learning program, has two sections that they shared with me: IXL Math and IXL Language Arts. 

Christmas Book Review

 IXL Math:

This online math program covers all math skills from Pre-K through eighth grade. Plus there are higher levels as well....Algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and pre-calculus.

The website is very easy to navigate; you can see at a glance what each level offers. And if you hover over one of the skills, a sample question comes up, so that you know exactly what to expect.

When you begin to do a set of problems, on the right side there is a clock, giving the time elapsed. The number of problems attempted is listed, plus your SmartScore. This score begins at 0 and goes all the way up to 100 as the questions are answered. If you answer some of the problems incorrectly, it does add to the number of questions that you are asked and your SmartScore goes down by a few points. The skill is not considered mastered until your SmartScore reaches 100.

 The math skills are listed by topic; your child does not have to complete one skill to move on to another; this makes it easy to use as a supplemental math program. IXL is not meant to teach your children math, but if they do get a question wrong, the solution is explained in detail.

At the top of your child's home page are different tabs:

They can click on Reports, which show how long they practiced, on which days, and how many questions they answered.

The Awards tab shows the awards they have received. These are earned in a variety of ways, such as mastering a certain number of skills in a category, getting a certain number of problems right, or practicing for a set amount of time.

IXL Language Arts:

Language Arts have grade levels for 2-8th grade. These include parts of speech, word analysis, vocabulary, reference skills, and much more.

The format is exactly the same, and when you begin a skill set, there is a clock counting on the right side. The SmartScore is listed with the number of problems as well. As with the math section, your child can move around from skill to skill.

You also have the same identical tabs at the top to see your Awards and Reports.

What You Get:

This online program is available as an annual subscription. One child for math is $79; for both math and language arts it is $129. They also have a special deal if you have two children that would benefit from this program; for two children it is $99 for math, and $149 a year for both math and language arts. Each additional child would be $2 a month or $20 a year.

You can also purchase a family subscription which is perfect for homeschoolers. 

As the parent you will also get a parent account. Here, you can see the same reports that are on your student's account. You can see their performance by skill, trouble spots, progress, and usage. You can even see a report card of sorts, that shows their cumulative score on all the skills they have worked on.

How We Used This:

I had both Dasher and Nutsy do this program. In the beginning I was going to have Nutsy doing Language Arts and Dasher doing math, but they both wanted to try out the entire program so they went between the subjects.

Nutsy was in the third grade math. Some of the topics are Numbers and Comparing, Mixed Operations, Geometry, Understanding Fractions, and Logical Reasoning to name a few. All together there are 24 topics with 277 skills total! That is a lot of skills to choose from.

Since I went into this knowing that it was not a course that would teach my kids, I told them right from the start that I would be choosing the skills that they would complete. For her, we started with some of the areas where she does need some extra help, like graphing, money, number sentences, and mixed operations. I had her put the timer on for 20 minutes each day that I wanted her to do IXL, which worked out to at least three days a week.

She liked the way that the questions were asked; sometimes there were colorful items and things that pertained to the problem. She isn't the best reader so she did have a harder time with some of the wording of the questions, so I stuck near her to help her out when she came across words she didn't know.

For the Language Arts section I had her do skills also in third grade. In that grade there are 116 skills that pertain to parts of speech, synonyms and antonyms, prefixes and suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots.

I was excited to have Dasher use this; she struggles in school and likes using different forms of media to learn. She does really struggle with math and so instead of going by grade, we looked at it topically. IXL makes this easy; at the top of the screen you can choose to view the skills by grade or by topic.

I had Dasher work a lot on the multiplication problems. One of the skills we really worked on were multiplication word problems. She is an extremely visual learner, so having a problem like this:

Clay bought 2 bunches of carrots. There were 8 carrots in a bunch. How many did he buy?

was very tangible for her.

In the Language Arts section I had her working in the 5th and 6th grade levels. I was impressed with the depth of exercises; for example she had to choose between adverbs and adjectives, recognize subordination conjunctions, and determine the meaning of idioms. These were all excellent things for her to practice. She does struggle with the skill being timed; I know this pressures her too much so we would just tape a paper over the side of the screen. But then she wasn't able to see how close she was to completing the skill set; I do wish there was an option to hide the timer.

What We Thought:

I really liked this and used it in conjunction with our current math program. Doing it three days a week was an excellent pace; I would see what they had missed in their daily math, and then give them skills to do in IXL Math. I wish as the parent I could have assigned them work, but I just wrote down a list of the skills I wanted them to do.

We also continued on with our language arts curriculum and used this to add to that subject. The girls especially loved earning awards and seeing their page fill up with the different ones. As the parent I also appreciated how easy it was to get on and see how much work they had done. I do wish as I said above, that I could have actually assigned work for the girls, since they can pretty much go into any grade level and practice skills. But there were a few days when, after their 20 minutes were up, that they explored around, and found other skills to do.

I would recommend this as a great way to review math and language arts. The format is simple and easy to use, and the questions and skill sets are very age appropriate.

Other members of The Crew reviewed this great product; check out what they thought by clicking below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Friday, November 7, 2014

My Week In Images

 My Week in images.....

This applesauce......

 because I love the aroma that fills the kitchen when I make it.

These kiddos, who trick or treated for only the second time in their lives......

 because there is grace, and we are all at different points on the journey heavenward.

These roasted tomatillos.....

 because once you start roasting them yourself, you will never open a can of them up again.

This opportunity.......

because it reminds me to be thankful that I live in a country where I can vote.

This clean room......

because even though the two downstairs closets are still a mess, this is not.

This girl......

because she makes me smile.