Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TOS Crew - Beloved Books/Sugar Creek Gang

Up for review from Beloved Books was Sugar Creek Gang Audio Stories. Oh were my boys ever excited to hear this! We have heard the stories periodically on the radio (although not often as the station does not come in at home) and so we knew it would be good.


If you haven't heard of the Sugar Creek Gang it began as a series of wholesome Christian adventure books for boys and girls written by Paul Hutchens in 1939. The books are about a group of boys around the age of 10 that call themselves the "Sugar Creek Gang". They go on many adventures together and learn a lot of life lessons and about Christ along the way. Several years ago it became an Audio Adventure as it was dramatically read from the books.


Audio Adventure

We listen to a lot of radio dramas while traveling back and forth to town. When we first began the Sugar Creek Gang I wasn't sure if the kids would like it. This series is dramatically read from the book and does not have any sound effects or any other voices other than the narrator changing the tone of his voice. But as we began to listen we were immediately caught up in the story as "Bill Collins", one of the gang tells stories from his youth. It reminds me of my Dad and his brothers sitting down and telling us stories of growing up and all the mischief they got into. This series is so well done and even without additional characters the narrator's voice changes and little pauses make is seem so real.

What I love about the Sugar Creek Gang is how well it teaches values and clearly presents the gospel in a matter-of-fact sort of way. Through the stories your children learn how to respect their parents, how to work hard, how to be a good friend, to not be ashamed to be a Christian, and so much more. But I found there are life lessons for adults to glean from as well.

We now listen to the Sugar Creek Gang whenever we are in the van and we all look forward to what will happen next in the lives of Bill, Poetry, Circus, Little Jim, and the rest of the gang. And while each story builds upon the next each story can stand alone.

We reviewed Volume 1 which contains the following stories each about two hours long.
  • The Swamp Robber
  • The Killer Bear
  • The Winter Rescue
  • The Lost Campers
  • Chicago Adventure
  • The Secret Hideout
And if you want additional information about the Sugar Creek Gang you can see drawings from the books of what the boys might look like and see Sugar Creek in Indiana. And while there is now a video series my boys found they liked the audios so much better!

Enjoy the Sugar Creek Gang in Your home!

Beloved Books is a resource for life-affirming, wholesome literature and audio stories. There are 6 volumes of the Sugar Creek Gang Audio Adventure available from them for $54.95 each. I know my kids don't want the series to end and in a day when it is hard to find entertainment that promotes godly values it is well worth it! And it would make great gifts for birthdays or the Christmas season quickly approaching.

If you would like to hear a sample before purchasing an entire volume you can buy the complete first story of "Swamp Robber" for only $4.95 and FREE First Class postage!

Beloved Books is offering a 20% discount off your order if you use the coupon code -- SUGARCREEKGANG-20

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary Sugar Creek Gang Audio Adventure Volume 1 to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our 4H Cornfield Comedy Skit

Last weekend our children (minus Seppy and Zippy) performed a 3 minute skit along with a number of other kids from our 4H club. They presented it during the "Enchanted Forest" a fun time for kids to dress up, play games, walk through the woods listening to skits, and get candy. This was our first time being involved but the kids had so much fun! Their good friends were also in the skit which is part of why it was so fun.

Cowboy Seppy enjoyed watching over and over again and still found it funny!

When tossing around ideas my friend Barb came up with doing a cornfield comedy similar to what they did in the show Hee Haw. Do you remember that show? Well, in viewing them online now we realize many are not appropriate for children to watch. But the idea was fun. And so here is our presentation of a "Cornfield Comedy". Keep in mind that by this time the kids had been performing this over and over again for almost 2 hours, so they may lag a bit. And there is a bit of background noise of children in the audience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Less Orphan!

I have mentioned my cousin and his wife a number of times on my blog and most recently about their adoption adventure. Well, Jason and Heather are in China right now and little Miss Nora is officially their daughter. I am so excited for how God is working in their family!

Heather posted yesterday about the "stork bite" on the back of Nora's neck and how she almost lost it when she saw it as each of her children has had the same thing. All I could think was how awesome it is that God created Nora with that mark before Heather and Jason knew anything about her. He planned for them to be together all along. Simply amazing!

If you would like to follow their adventure -- go to Fullness-of-Grace and meet the newest addition to their family -- precious Nora.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Little Girl is 7!

Where does the time go? I think that is the key phrase at every birthday milestone we come to. But this is the time when we really look back and reflect on the changes. Here is my little Miss at 1 years old. Hard to remember her without her long hair when she sat still and didn't move very much!


Well, my little Miss was very excited this morning to wake up to her birthday. She reminds me of her oldest brother George in that yesterday she had things all planned out. She wondered if I had the streamers ready for her doorway and of course she was planning for her special breakfast. It took me a little while to understand what she wanted as the description was "that thing you make that looks like a flower". Thankfully we figured out it was caramel rolls she wanted. (Made in a bundt pan -- hence the flower?)

Pete was quite amused with how she wants to spend her day. He said to me, "What is happening to Missy? First she wants to play a Star Wars board game and now she wants to play a football game". Yes, what indeed is happening? I suppose if she really wanted to play with her kitchen set or dolls she might not have many takers. But I know she does enjoy a lot of things that her brothers do. I am okay with that because she seems to be quite balanced and does enjoy a lot of girly things too!

Miss Kate 9-07
Camping at the races when she was 2 and very girly indeed!

Missy is still pondering where she wants to go when John and I take her out to eat tonight. She just LOVES noodles and would eat them at every meal if she could so she thought of an Italian restaurant that Tank likes. But she also likes ice cream so she thought of a custard place. But she always comes back to the place that serves "my favorite bread, it is so good!" -- Texas Roadhouse. If we go there I don't know that we need to order her anything other than a basket of rolls. :)

The big celebration will be in a week or so as always with Mr. Seppy. I wonder what cake she will choose, or if she will even choose one. I asked her why she wanted cake since she doesn't eat it anyway and she said, "because everyone else likes it". I have been noticing lately that she does think of others quite often and I am very thankful for that and pray that character quality continues to develop in her.
Katie flower 1829
Love that squinty smile!

We are so thankful for our sweet sweet girl! Happy 7th Birthday Missy Blue Eyes!


TOS Crew -- Dayspring Christian Academy

When I first showed the boys a preview of Dayspring Christian Academy's Pilgrim Story they immediately wanted to try this out. Although one of them said that all we ever learn about are the pilgrims. And sometimes it does seem that way because we go over portions of it each year in preparation for Thanksgiving. But this program looked fun.


What is Dayspring?

Dayspring Christian Academy is located in Pennsylvania and uses the Principle Approach which "draws from the classical Christian tradition by providing formal instruction in logic, rhetoric, Latin, and New Testament Greek. Classical literature at every grade level provides an enriched and highly developed vocabulary. The Principle Approach is reflective by nature, challenging students to reason from the principles of God’s Word to everyday life and to articulate them soundly in writing and speech. Through the Principle Approach, children are educated to impact their world for Christ in a dynamic and meaningful way." I like this approach to learning and recently they have begun to offer a few online courses both live and self-paced. We were able to review a Pilgrim Story.


What is The Pilgrim Story?

The Pilgrim Story is an interactive online video program for grades 3 - 6 written by Mary Stauffer, a teacher at Dayspring. Once you purchase the program you have access to it for 6 months. The program is self-paced so you can access it at any time of the day when your schedule allows. Using the Principle Approach it teaches the child about an important time in our nations history -- the foundation of America. It consists of 5 units with a total of 17 lessons which include:
  • King Henry
  • Geneva Bible
  • Life in Scrooby
  • Liberty of Conscience
  • Leaving England
  • The Second Escape Attempt
  • Leiden
  • Preparing to Go
  • Leaving Leiden
  • Conditions on the Mayflower
  • Building Christian Character
  • The Mayflower Compact
  • Explorations
  • The First Winter
  • Spring, 1621
  • The Wampanoag People
  • The Rest of the Story
Each unit is followed by a test and there is a choice to take an essay test (of about 5 questions) which you download from the resources tab. Or you can choose a multiple choice test (of about 21 questions). As an example one question from the first unit on the essay was:

Why was the Geneva Bible an important part of history?

The multiple choice test had questions covering the 3 or 4 lessons from the unit along with definitions of the vocabulary words they learned.

Which would you choose? 

Our Experience

Our family enjoys history and I have always enjoyed studying the pilgrims simply because I love Thanksgiving and like to know the meaning behind our celebrations. Going through the Pilgrim Story was a whole new way to learn more. I had in mind for the four older boys to work through the lessons. Pete and Re-Pete were excited to get going and they were able to sit and work together. We found that because they were gathering around our laptop it was easier for only two to work on this at a time. And even then they prefer to do this on their own when the time is available as then they can pause the video and take as much time as needed to write out their answers. Each lesson took about 30 - 45 minutes to complete.


They began each lesson by downloading and printing out the worksheets they need as they are instructed to do. They then watch the video lesson which is very informative and interactive. They fill out their note sheets based on what they are learning and pause to write out the answers.  Tank (3rd grade) wasn't thrilled with the note sheets as he doesn't care for the writing but the other boys didn't have a problem with that.


The boys really enjoy working at their own pace and taking responsibility for printing out their own activity sheets and organizing their work. They can do it at any time during the day or night and it is fun too. This is something the children can do on their own. I do look over their work but the answers are taken right from the video presentation. But if your child prefers the essay test (which mine do not) you would need to be familiar with the information so you can grade their test. In taking the multiple choice test the grade is tabulated and stored for your review.

Some lessons include mapping activities and crafts if you choose to do them. And when all of the units are complete you can take a virtual tour of Plymouth, MA. Since we are saving that until the end I peaked ahead and it is similar to the rest of the program in that it is a narrated slide show. This is a very well done program and I enjoyed listening along as the boys watched.

The only thing I wish was included would be additional historical fiction reading to correlate with each lesson as in a way this seems like a narrated textbook.

Comments from Pete

"I like to learn things that I didn't know before and it is very interesting. I like that it is on the computer but there is only one problem... everyone else is on the computer before me."


You can purchase The Pilgrim Story for $99 which gives you access for 6 months. This includes all of the video presentations and downloadable activity sheets and tests. 


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary 6-month subscription to The Pilgrim Story to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Not a Review!

Well family and friends, you may be wondering what is happening to my blog. All you see are reviews lately. What has happened to life with the Masons? Well, I signed up to review products and we are having fun with them. It just takes up a bit of my blogging time researching each item and putting it all together. This years reviews are coming to a close next month although you'll find a another hopefully today from me. I will get back to my regularly scheduled blog soon.

In the meantime -- we are all doing well. Zippy has started walking (and yes, I know I have yet to thoroughly blog about turning one). He started taking steps last week and today especially he is taking off. Last week was a hectic one as he was cutting a molar and had a cold on top of it. Such a crabby, clingy baby, which for the most part I don't mind. Afterall, who doesn't want to cuddle with a baby? But I had a lot of party preparation to get done.

This past weekend we hosted a 50th Wedding Anniversary surprise party for our Associate Pastor and his wife, who also happen to be my Great-Aunt and Uncle. At the suggestion a few months back of using our house I thought it would be a good way to get our house clean and maybe get a few projects done too. Well, that is a really dumb reason because I have found that just because you desire to get a project done doesn't mean you suddenly have additional time. Needless to say, I only got my kitchen painted and that was okay. Instead we concentrated on majorly cleaning. Didn't get to all of the bedrooms but they have doors. I had fun and "relief" from the cleaning with my new chalkboard!


All in all the party was wonderful! Unfortunately, it was a rainy day and the boys directed cars to park and were soaked by the end of that. And everyone had to pack inside so we were cozy with at least 100 people. But we pulled off a surprise and I think everyone enjoyed it. Now, to keep the house clean that is the challenge!


 We've been going on a couple of field trips. Soaking in the beauty of the season although it has passed much too quickly, and now getting ready to celebrate two birthdays.

I am also am so excited that my cousin and his wife are headed to China this week to bring their precious little girl home! I have been following blogs Heather recommended of people who have gone before them and getting familiar with all they will experience and am emotional just pondering it all. I almost wish I could tag along it all amazes me. Looking forward to meeting Nora in a couple of weeks!

Monday, October 15, 2012

TOS Crew -- Kinderbach

How many of you played the piano when you were little? Did you become frustrated with lessons and give up? I have heard quite a few stories with that scenario. I did keep up with lessons taking them for about 15 years. I have always wanted to teach my children to play as well and have bought lesson books and started them but never do get too far. I find some things are harder to teach your own children and that seems to be one of them. But yet, I don't have time nor the resources to have everyone taking lessons and running them from place to place.

We received a complimentary subscription to Kinderbach and I was very curious to see if this might work for us.


What is Kinderbach?

Kinderbach is online piano lessons for children. It is geared for ages 3-7 and teaches note reading, rhythm, singing, and composition using fun characters.

If you have children, you know that each one learns in a different way and that varies from child to child. Some learn by seeing, some learn by hearing and others by doing. And some, learn in a combination of the three. Kinderbach knows that and incorporates the varying approaches so that each child can learn to play the piano.

While the piano keyboard is obviously the basis, it becomes a neighborhood with homes for a cast of characters used to play games, tell stories, and sing songs with your child.

"The KinderBach curriculum is a proven teaching method which gives children a solid music foundation, aligned with the MENC National Standards for Pre-K, that can translate to any instrument. Basics are basics and KinderBach covers them using language children understand. Youngsters will learn music vocabulary, note reading, rhythm, physical technique, ‘do, re mi’ singing, listening skills and music composition plus the joy in making music."

Our Experience

Three of our children ages 4 - 8 used Kinderbach and each one of them really enjoyed it! Keep in mind that this program is geared to the younger child as to an adult or older child the videos may come across as "kind of weird" as one of my older boys said. But that is the thing that the younger children seem to enjoy and it really draws them in. And while Tank, my 8-year old is past the "recommended" age, he didn't mind the characters and had fun along with his siblings.

Kinderbach-watch-video Kinderbach-Missy-n-Seppy

In comparing using this program to going through a beginner piano lesson book Kinderbach is so much more engaging. It really draws the child in. With a lesson book we can read together and we can find two black keys and play them on the piano but so what. Do they really care or remember? But when they find out that Dodi the donkey lives in a house between the two black notes that makes it something they can relate to and remember and with a catchy tune to help them.


And while often times when watching a video my children will sit with their mouths hanging open taking it all in, Kinderbach provides activity sheets that you can print for the child to work on along with the instructor, Miss Karri. This helps to keep the their attention.


The concepts taught may be advanced but the lessons are simple so that the child can work at their own pace. There are four lessons per week but since you have access to them all at once my three would go through lesson after lesson in one sitting if I didn't stop them.




You can try Kinderbach out with Two Free Online Sessions.  And if you decide this program works for your family a year online membership is $7.99 a month which is billed in a one time annual payment of $95.88 -- a great deal! Or billed once a month for $19.99. That price covers each child in your family and includes

  • Access to all web lessons (over 240 sessions) by computer, iPad, Android Tablet, Kindle Fire or Nook.
  • Accompanying downloaded PDF activity pages

When you consider the cost lessons would be including transportation that is a big savings!

And new to Kinderbach is an app for the iPad/iPhone to make it more portable. Some of the crew reviewed the app. Check out what they have to say by clicking on the logo below.

Special Deal

As a special deal for my readers Kinderbach is offering 30% off any order - homeschool, classroom, online or DVDs.
Coupon Code:  TOS_crew2012

Expires: 12/31/2012

Also the KinderBach App is on sale This Friday, Oct. 19th, 2012 ONLY.  The app will be discounted over 50%, down to $12.99! No code needed just go to the Classroom KinderBach app in the App store

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary 6-month membership of Kinderbach to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

TOS Crew - ZooWhiz

I never realized there were so many online learning programs available but I suppose I wasn't really looking either. For the past couple of months we have had the opportunity to use ZooWhiz an online learning program. The hard part about reviewing programs like this is that I often let the kids go to it while I listen in the background observing things here and there. And ZooWhiz is a quick and easy program to learn that they rarely need my help.


What is ZooWhiz?

ZooWhiz is an online learning system that motivates kids to learn through fun. It is one of the world’s most capable, comprehensive, online learning systems. And they continue to add new features to make it even better. It includes math, punctuation, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, word skills, phonics, and reading. ZooWhiz is designed for kids aged 5 to 15 with learning activities for each level. The child earns coins by playing a learning lesson and can then spend them by playing games or by purchasing animals for their zoo.


Our Experience

The nice thing about programs like ZooWhiz is that the children are always learning. This program is for ages 5 - 15, only Seppy (almost 5), Missy (almost 7), and Tank (8) used it. I gave the option to the older boys but they weren't interested. Although, in hindsight I probably should have had them try it out.

The three youngest used ZooWhiz a few times each week. They each started out with a free account and I upgraded only Tank's to premium as I wanted to clearly see the differences. And while the free account was fun, many times Seppy and Missy would ask to "do what Tank" was doing. This was an really fun program for them and they didn't want to miss a minute so I'd often see them clustered around the person at work.

With the Free Keeper Account Missy and Seppy were limited to only two or three lessons a day where if I'd let him Tank would continue on. The thing I liked was that I could control the difficulty of the lessons to match the ability of the child in each area of learning. So if Tank was not as good at math I could lower the level, but if he is better at reading, I could increase that. It recognizes that each child learns differently regardless of age.


One thing we occasionally found confusing was the Australian accent of the person speaking. Now I love that accent but there were words from time to time that were not pronounced quite as we say them and Tank would need my help understanding. And while the program is very encouraging to the student I personally am not crazy about "trendy terms" like so often saying "Awesome!" But those are petty things compared to how good the program is.

Tank's Thoughts

Why do you like it?
"Because I get to do math and reading, and words (spelling). And I get to buy animals. But it would be nice if I could see the animals in the zoo. The games are really good."

What is better about premium?
"You get every animal and you get to learn about the animals. I could do as many lessons as I want. They could only do two or three a day."

Should other kids use this?
"Yes, because it is fun. Really fun."


Free or Premium?

You can sign up for a Free Keeper Account today! It is a comprehensive program with plenty of options and my Seppy and Missy enjoyed it!

If you upgrade to premium -- For the child there are more options of games they can spend their coins on. They also have a larger selection of animals to choose from to add to their zoo. And with the premium account I especially like that they can click on the animal to learn more about it's habitat, what they eat and other information. 

ZooWhiz is upgrading and along with that will be a more detailed progress chart for the parent with the premium account rather than just a brief overview with the free account.

And the best part is that right now the cost of a premium account for a year is only $14.95! You can't go wrong with that price! They also offer discounts for three or more accounts just contact ZooWhiz for more information. If you want to see more of how ZooWhiz works view the Introductory Tour.

Check out what the rest of the Review Crew thought of ZooWhiz...

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary premium ZooWhiz account to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

TOS Crew - Beeyoutiful Mineral Make-up

As a nice change of pace I was able to review a fun product for myself -- Beeyoutiful Mineral Makeup. How exciting to receive a package in the mail and get to "play".

What is it?

There are many brands of mineral makeup on the market but not all are created equal. Beeyoutiful Mineral Make-up is all natural, 100% pure, gluten-free and is free of chemicals, fillers and preservatives. What more can you ask for?

And the selection of colors is great offering over 20 shades of foundation to fit any skin tone, more than 45 eye colors, along with blushes and bronzers. 

What I received

I was able to review a make-up kit containing:
  • 1 sample foundation
  • Foundation brush
  • Combo brush with two edges used for both eyes and lips
  • Two sample shades of eyeshadow (one a three-time use sample)


My Experience

Make-up is so much fun to play with. I love to draw and paint and so putting make-up on my face is just another form of that. I never used to leave the house without make-up on but it is funny how children can change a person, or lack of time but now I can run to the store without any thought of make-up. I have tried mineral eye shadow before but never the foundation. But I thought this would be a nice change of pace for me so was excited to review these products.


I selected the color Genevieve, which is a light foundation, for my face based on the online color chart and found it to be a good match. The foundation is a powder but can be used in a couple of ways. For a lighter coverage you simply mist your face and they recommend their Laveshmint toner and the foundation brush then buff your face with the powder. For a bit heavier of a coverage you can mix a bit of powder with your moisturizer and a little really goes a long way here but again buff with your brush. It had a really nice coverage and without a heavy feel to it and my face felt quite smooth as well. Lovely before with foundation on half of my face --


Missy Blue especially enjoyed the foundation brush. As soon as we opened the package she was right there inspecting everything and kept rubbing the brush on her face as it was the "smoothest brush I've ever felt".

Eye Shadow/Lip Color

The eye shadow and lip color are interchangeable and can also be used as a blush. Now most likely you won't be putting blue on your lips or cheeks but there are quite a few colors that you might use. The hardest part for me was choosing between all of the wonderful colors available. In the end I went with "safe" colors -- Sea Sand and a small sample of Raspberry Shimmer.

I had a lot of fun with the eye shadow and learned a new technique called "foiling" in which you slightly wet your brush, dip it in the eye shadow powder and put it on your eyelids. It makes the color much more intense and if the color has a shimmer will really bring that out. You can also use that technique to line your eyes. I went very light and natural on the picture below. I'd use the foiling overall if I was going out. You can also use the foiling method on your lips for a more vibrant look but here I just brushed the powder on over lip gloss.


In looking at this picture I thought I might start wearing make-up a little more often. It didn't take much time at all to apply and it is a nice natural look. And I really like how good it is for your skin without any harsh chemicals and an ingredient list you can understand.


Foundation is available in a 20 g size for $25 and also sample sizes for $1 each. And again a little goes a long way. My sample lasted a month but I typically only wear it maybe three times a week.
Eye Shadow is available in .45 g for $10 and also in sample sizes.
Package deals are also available.

The rest of the Review Crew tried out various skin care and health products from Beeyoutiful. Check them out by clicking the banner below.

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary sample make-up kit to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Monday, October 1, 2012

View From My Porch

The first day of October and we are two weeks ahead of schedule for fall color and seem to be at peak (based on comparison of past pictures). From what I have heard it is due to the warmer winter and dry summer we have had. Well, it makes sense since the trees leafed out much earlier too.


The view from my porch is simply amazing! I could sit there all day reveling in the wondrous site so very grateful to God who has painted autumn with such glorious colors. I know in not too many weeks this will all end. Oh, how I wish these beautiful colors could stay longer!

This picture gives a hint to our Christmas card picture. See the grassy hill in front. That is where I hope we will be sitting tonight. If all goes as planned that is. 


"Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow."

Author Unknown
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