Posts Tagged ‘review’

Exactly two years ago our family began our homeschooling adventure. My daughter just finished kindergarten and the nagging feeling I’d been having about homeschooling for years finally won. I un-enrolled her from pubic school and began homeschooling her over the summer.

Beginning when school was out gave me time to get comfortable with the process so that come fall I wasn’t panicking about “doing it right.” Though the thing is, I soon realized there isn’t really a right or wrong way to homeschool. There are dozens of curriculums and methods of teaching. From Classical to Unschooling to STEM-based learning… Options are endless.

I’ve shared a bit about our homeschool experience already:

Working out the kinks of our homeschooling strategy

What I learned after our first year

a day in our homeschool life

What you Don’t need to homeschool your kids

The truth about homeschooling

and First Day of Homeschool Tradition Ideas

homeschool curriculum

Getting started with homeschooling and choosing a  curriculum (if you decide you want to follow one) can be overwhelming. These last two years we’ve tried out several different homeschool curriculums and methods and there are pros and cons to each. A lot of people have asked what we use for homeschooling so I thought it would be fun to share some of what we’ve tried.

Over the next several weeks I’ll break down what we’ve tried and review different homeschool curriculums to hopefully help those of you who are considering some of these.

Requirements vary by state. Luckily getting started homeschooling  in Texas is pretty much a piece of cake.

Here’s a quick rundown of the homeschool curriculums we’re tried. I’ll come back and add links to this master post as I publish each review.:

All-in-one Curriculum

Ambleside Online (free)

Heart of Dakota

Power Homeschool (formerly known as Acellus)


Acellus Math

Math U See

Math Mammoth

Reading and Writing

All About Reading

Handwriting Without Tears

Explode the Code

A homeschool day in the life. Our homeschool routine.


Magic School Bus Science Kits


Unit Studies – Greek Mythology, Black History, A Wrinkle in Time

Adapted Mind


Kahn Academy (free)

Charlotte Mason Co-Op

Wild and Free Conference

Wild Explorers Club

I’ve bounced around a lot because our needs have changed over time. But that’s the great thing about homeschooling–How flexible and perfectly tailored it can be for your child.

We’ve truly enjoyed our time homeschooling so far and I hope there are many more years ahead for us. With a new baby coming in a month we’re still deciding our plan for this fall. It breaks my heart to think we may need to take a break, but I know it’s always something we can come back to. Hopefully this list will be helpful for those of you looking for some more homeschooling curriculum resources and reviews.

If you have other budding questions about homeschooling let me know, I’ll keep coming back adding to this post!

Alright, I have been writing a lot about my experience at the premiere and interviewing cast from the movie, but I know THIS is the post you have been waiting for. A Wrinkle in Time review.

Full disclosure. I always try my very best to give my full honest review despite being a huge Disney fan. Naturally I want to go on and on raving about this movie because of how connected I feel to the cast but I’m still going to give it to you straight (but spoiler-free).

I’ve now seen the movie three times. Once in a screening before interviewing the cast, once at the Red Carpet Premiere, and last night at another screening with my 7-year-old daughter. Hands down, the best experience was seeing it with her, because I got to watch her light up and really see it more from a child’s perspective. It’s not my favorite Disney movie, but right now, it’s hers. Actually, and I quote “It’s the best best best BEST movie EVER!” according to her, and it’ll forever have a special place in our home.

As adults we can be so cynical and harsh with judgements, but seeing it this time took me back to being a kid watching classic films like The Goonies, E.T. or The Neverending Story. I watch these now like “Was I high?” but as a kid. WOW! That was some magical stuff.

I absolutely believe A Wrinkle in Time will go down as a beautiful classic kids love like those–Except, maybe without the weird feeling of being on something.

Disney's A Wrinkle in Time Review, a 6-year-old would love this. 7-year old review


Movies based on books, especially classic books, are always up for steep criticism. As an adult, if you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time, or haven’t read it in a long time I would suggest you check it out from the library or listen to it on audiobook to get up to speed. When it comes to kids and the book, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal if they aren’t familiar with the story because kids have big imaginations and can just go with it. But if your child likes to understand everything that’s going on and tends to ask a lot of questions during the movie (this is my daughter), he or she may enjoy it better knowing more about the story.

I was excited to read it with my kids so we could create venn diagrams and compare similarities and differences. We finished the book about three weeks ago and surprisingly she didn’t notice nearly as many differences as I did, but I’ll go into that later. First let me break down the film.


Meg Murry is a middle school student who just wants to fit in. She is the brilliant daughter of two world-renowned physicists. Four years ago, her father, Mr. Murry disappeared, which has left Meg devastated and her mother broken-hearted. Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin to three celestial beings (Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who) who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father. Together they embark on their quest across the universe to try to save him. Like the book, it takes you on an adventure through time and space and carries a thoughtful message of light vs dark, good versus evil and the hope that love can triumph.

Disney's A Wrinkle in Time Review, a 6-year-old would love this. 7-year old review


Ava DuVernay brought this books to life in a visually stunning adaptation I really enjoyed and my daughter LOVED. Even watching it through a third time I heard new things I’d missed before, noticed details I overlooked, and messages sunk in even deeper. I asked my daughter if she’ll want to buy this movie and she corrected me saying she wants to see it at the movies at least a few more times first, then yes, of course we’ll add it to our collection.

Oh, and the soundtrack is off the chain. I’ll be buying that too.

Important Messages and Morals

You guys, aside from watching her laugh and smile through the movie, my absolute favorite part were the conversations we had about the movie after. We had a conversation about bullies and how they sometimes treat people mean because of their own insecurities. From friendships, how to handle bullies, self worth, and good vs evil. She pulled things out of the movie and asked questions that made me realize how much she’s growing up.

The book and the movie are both excellent conversation starters about all of these things.

Book vs Movie

wrinkle in time homeschool unit study

Look, I always think the books are better. My daughter really enjoyed the book but she says she likes the movie more. I missed one particular character on a particular planet that was my personal favorite part of the book. But when I asked my daughter to compare the two she didn’t mention missing that. The story is brought to life in such a colorful way that makes me wonder what kid wouldn’t love it. Not to mention that Meg was rockin some curls and beautiful brown skin that had my daughter seeing herself up on the big screen.That fact alone was priceless to our family.

The Mrs. weren’t the old witch-looking ladies we imagined while reading the book, but beautiful beings each with their own personality, look and style.

Some of our favorite lines from the book were still in the movie, some parts I loved were missing, but the most important thing–The message, remained the same.

Is Wrinkle in Time Scary?

When a new Disney movie comes out a lot of parents want to know if it’s appropriate for their child’s age. Like most movies I’d say it’s not an age thing as much as a maturity thing, and what your children are already exposed to.

Like in the book there are a couple of scenes that may be a little frightening to kids. A couple characters with red eyes, a tornado storm, and there are a few scenes that are dark and loud, particularly when they reach IT at Central Central Intelligence. That could be scary for small children. My 4, almost 5-year-old son wouldn’t have been scared during that part but he likely would have been bored long before then not understanding the conversations or what was going on.

My daughter and I both think content wise, it’s best for kids 6 and up, but if you’ve got a kid who just loves movies by all means, bring them too!

Ok now let me get to my 7-year-old’s review.

Wrinkle in Time Review from a 7-year-old

I liked Wrinkle in Time a lot because it was magical and exciting. I think it’s the best movie ever because there are a lot of smart kids like Meg and Calvin and Charles Wallace. It made me feel like “woah, that’s cool!”

My favorite part was when they were flying. And there was a lot of cool dresses with the Mrs. Mrs. Whatsit was really fully. I don’t want to spoil it but besides Meg, she’s my favorite character because she’s really funny. The whole movie isn’t funny like The Lion King or something, there are a few funny parts, but it’s also serious and has some magical stuff and adventures.

The movie is about light fighting darkness.

It reminds me of Martin Luther King Jr. because he said hate can’t defeat hate, only love can do that. And that’s the same as darkness can’t defeat darkness, only light can do that. I think that was the moral of the story and also that you are fine however you are. And even though somebody looks different it doesn’t mean that they have a better life, it juts changes how you look. You might have it even worse than you used to.

Disney's A Wrinkle in Time Review, a 6-year-old would love this. 7-year old review

The first thing I noticed that was different than the book was that Calvin’s dad was the one yelling at him in the movie but in the book it was his mom. Oh yea, the twins weren’t in it, but they weren’t really in the book that much anyway. Sometimes movies are different than the books so that’s why I wasn’t expecting I knew what was going to happen. I was paying attention so I could notice the details that were different.

It wasn’t scary, it didn’t seem scary, some little kids may be scared by the storm because it’s loud. IT was more scary in the movie than the book, but it wasn’t too scary. I was really excited to see what was going to happen next.

6 to anything is a good age to see it. Cause they said 8 to anything and I thought I couldn’t watch it, and I don’t want others to think they can’t watch it, so I wanted to say younger but I also want them to understand it. I don’t think my brother would understand it because he’s half dinosaur. If you just love Disney movies and you think you’ll understand them, you should come to this movie.


Take your mature kids and enjoy watching this beautiful film through their eyes. Be ready for important conversations about brining goodness and light to the world, how our pain can make us stronger and that we should love ourselves the way we are.

Hope you found our review helpful. After you see it come back and let us know what you think!

A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters everywhere Friday March 9th.

Last week Lil’ J and I went to see Disney Pixar’s Inside Out at a press screening. She’s my little review sidekick and now that it’s out we’re finally sharing our thoughts!

I won’t be posting any spoilers so don’t worry about that. She had been counting down for over a week to see it. The commercials just draw kids in I tell ya. It had her wanting some of the Inside Out merchandise that’s been on the shelves for months.

We had some of the magnets on our fridge and yesterday her grandma got her this Disney Inside Out Inside Out 5 In 1 Puzzle at the Disney Store outlet. I interviewed Lil’ J about the movie while she worked on it to give you her perspective.


There was an adorable short film before the movie called Lava. I loved it but Lil’ J wasn’t impressed “because volcanoes scare me,” she said.

Here’s what she said about the main feature:

Mom: What was the movie about?

Lil’ J: They’re creature things, and they make a kid a kid, and her name is Riley. So one feeling that’s like ‘eew yuck’ and one’s joy, she’s happy, and ones scared and ones sad. Want to hear about grumpy? He’s the one that when he gets angry he gets fire on top of his head. Oh, and there’s an elephant one and he sings. Ok?

(The elephant actually isn’t an emotion but an imaginary friend)

Mom: What was your favorite part?

Lil’ J: When they were singing Who’s the friend you like to see? Bing Bong Bing Bong!’

Mom: What didn’t you like about the movie?

Lil’ J: I didn’t like the parts where everyone was laughing and I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand parts of it but I did laugh at some parts.

Mom: Do you think it’s a movie for grownups, that little kids should see it too?

Lil’ J: I think little kids too, because I’m a little kid, and I saw it, and I think little kids would like it too.

Mom: How old?

Lil’ J: Three, or maybe four or five, ok? But no one [year-olds], no babies. Two is ok if he’s not a squiggly worm or anything.–I mean if they are hyper and don’t sit still–If they aren’t like a squiggly worm, that’s ok with me.

Lil’ J ranks Inside Out over Cars, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and even Brave. She however still likes Cinderella, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen and Frozen Fever (she wanted to be sure I put that in there) more.

inside out characters

I should preface and say that I’m super critical of Disney Animated Movies because I always set the bar SO HIGH. When I expect too much I’m often let down. I’d heard so many high-praise reviews that I was expecting my mind to be blown by this movie. Kinda like that red guy in the middle, but in a happy way.

Since I’ve been keeping up with the trailers for so long, many of the funny scenes I had already seen, however there was still a lot of humor I didn’t expect that had me and the rest of the audience laughing hysterically. A lot of the jokes were geared for an older audience. I’d say maybe 7 and up.

I had an idea of the storyline from the previews but the movie ended up being even better and way more complex than I had imagined. Lil’ J was able to follow along for the most part, but like any other movie we see together, it sometimes takes a couple viewings to catch things she missed before.

We plan to see it again in theaters next week during the day, and of course we’ll be buying it on DVD.

One thing I really thought was awesome about the movie–Like many movies Disney Pixar produces, this film has a deeper meaning within the storyline. It’s been fun to use the characters from the movie to talk about our emotions when we’re working through them. Others have said it’s a great movie to bring awareness to mental illness and depression.

Having heard that before I watched it I think I went into it taking it a bit too seriously, but in the end I was laughing and tearing up anyway. Lil’ J was completely connected and concerned for Riley throughout the movie, and I loved every second of the film. It was awesome, nothing like we’ve seen before, and one I’m excited to see again and again.

Like Lil’ J I’d rank it above Cars, and Monsters Inc. probably even Finding Nemo. I wouldn’t rank it above Wall-E, Toy Story 3, or The Incredibles, but I suspect it’ll grow on me through the years like these have, and if you ask us, it’s definitely worth seeing, especially with your kids!

Do you plan on seeing Inside Out?

If your kiddos want some fun before or after seeing the movie, here are some activity sheets from Disney that I’ve uploaded for you!: Spot the difference game, coloring page, emotional door hangers and my personal favorite: Inside Out inspired nail art tutorials.

When I was planning my family’s trip to Disney World I asked about “must-have” magical experiences that I should consider. I have no idea when we’ll be able to go again, so just in case, I wanted to get it all in on this trip. I wanted something that would be memorable, and significant.

One of the experiences several people suggested was the Bippity Boppity Boutique. It’s like a makeover salon for little princesses where they can get their hair, nails and makeup done.

Another was the Harmony Barber Shop for a kid’s first hair cut experience. I wasn’t keen on the hair cut idea but as far as memorable first-hair cut options go, it doesn’t get better than that.

But can these places handle curly hair? I’ll tell you our experience.

disney salons vs curly hair showdown bbb review harmony barber shop review

Bippity Boppity Boutique

I did a quick Google search and saw a bunch of cute girls all dolled up with updos and glitter. But none of them looked like my daughter, or had her hair texture.

I love that my daughter is growing up automatically learning to love her curls and I didn’t want a bad experience to change that.

So can Bippity Boppity Boutique Fairy Godmothers handle curly hair? When I called to make an appointment the woman booking my appointment instructed me to make sure my daughter’s hair was clean and brushed before our appointment, and to bring our own brush.

“Can they handle curly hair?” I blurted out, immediately feeling kind of silly. But all this talk of brushing and “clean” hair made me wonder if they expected us to walk in with hair blow dried straight.

The woman on the other end of the line paused for a moment and said that the fairy Godmothers had experience with all hair types and that she’d be fine.

This made me feel better, but I continued to wonder if I should request a special stylist who was experienced with curly hair. But how hard could it be to put her hair in a bun? I thought to myself.

I washed and detangled her hair the day before, but her appointment was at 6pm. She spun on the tea cups, road Dumbo, danced and played with her curls bouncing around her face all day. All of the detangling was for not, and I was a little nervous. She was totally pooped by mid-afternoon and took a nap in the stroller before her appointment.


I had to wake her up and get her changed into the Rapunzel dress we brought. She is rarely in a bad mood, but waking her up from a nap is one sure way to be greeted with her cranky side.

Lil’ J sat in the chair and started getting excited when she got to pick out her hair style. At first she pointed at a crazy updo with fireworks coming off of her head, and twists going back, but we steered her in the direction of the more tame princess bun. Plus it came with a tiara.

The Fairy Godmother in Training took the wide-tooth comb we brought and started detangling her curls. (Note: DON’T do what I did. Just bring a brush like they ask. It’s way easier to slick it back for the bun styles. Once she ditched the comb and went for a brush things got way better, as you’ll soon see.)

She added some detangling spray, then tried again. Knowing how much water and moisturizer it takes us to get through her curls at night, I knew this wasn’t going to be a successful plan of action.

I looked at my daughter who was trying to be brave but crying silently (the worst kind of crying for a mother). I tried to comfort her, not knowing if I should help the stylist, or help my daughter. Lil’ J eventually couldn’t take it anymore and started wailing. Two more Godmothers in Training swarmed her to do her nails and makeup, while the main one took a break from her hair.


When she picked it up again to be met with more tears the young woman finally asked me if I cared if it wasn’t totally slicked back into the bun.

“Absolutely not!” I assured her. “I don’t care, it’ll be totally fine!”

She moved to brush (yes, brush! We don’t always do this but in this situation it was just what we needed) the hair back into a ponytail, then she banded it and folded it under itself to make the bun which would have been about 30 times the size of a “normal” princess bun, to be just about twice the size (and even more beautiful if you ask me).




Lil’ J loved the makeup, the glitter (oh the glitter!) and the stories they read her as she was pampered. When the spun her around and show her herself in the mirror her cute little smile was priceless.



She got a photo shoot afterwards which was included in our memory maker package (more on that here).


I just asked her today what her favorite parts of Disney World was and Bippity Boppity Boutique made the list. She does remember it hurting, but says it was still one of her favorite parts.

Harmony Barber Shop

I was DREADING my son’s first hair cut. I loved his long hair so much and so did everyone else. Even Minnie Mouse herself said she loved them as he posed with her at Animal Kingdom.

Nevertheless, my husband convinced me it was time, and I caved under the condition that his first hair cut would be at Disney World.

If you want to make a huge impact on a first haircut experience, this is the way to do it.

The Harmony Barber Shop has a first hair cut package for under $20, which you know is an amazing deal for Disney World. Especially considering it comes with special embroidered Mickey ears, a certificate, and a little keepsake with your child’s lock of hair.

hair cut 1

Again, I was nervous about how the barbers would be able to handle my child’s extremely curly hair. I don’t know how often they get ethnic clients, or clients with extremely curly hair. Plus my son is tender headed. He hates people messing with his head, so I knew it was a disaster waiting to happen, but I had high hopes anyway.

I washed and detangled it the night before, but you know little boys, and Disney World… Not a great recipe for staying that way.

Initially when I called to book the appointment, the shop was going to be closed for renovations. They ended up changing the dates, and as soon as I heard that I called to make an appointment and had my choice of times.

I scheduled the appointment for right after the parade, and we watched the Festival of Fantasy Parade from right in front of the shop, then walked in once it ended.


Big T was fine sitting in the chair, and happy to play with a little toy his barber gave him, but once she busted out the brush and started brushing it was not pretty.

Oh he screamed and screamed. I cried, and he screamed some more.

She really went to down brushing out his hair. She used a Wet Brush, which I now LOVE using on his curls, but it was a lot more difficult getting through it when it was longer.


Luckily, like I had asked, they didn’t use the clippers. I only wanted them to take off a couple inches but I gasped as she took off huge chunks.

I wasn’t ready.

Lil’ J has never had a hair cut, so this was a first for me, watching my child go through a transformation.

I cried partly for the loss of his locks, and partly because he was so sad and I wanted to do more to comfort him.

I was a little disappointed that the Dapper Dans weren’t there. They’re a singing quartet usually around Main Street. I thought they hung out at the Harmony Barbershop to serenade people, but they weren’t anywhere to be found during our appointment. However, a fellow customer turned up the magic.

A woman there with her son–Or maybe her grandson, I didn’t ask–Started singing, and by chance, chose my son’s favorite song: The Wheels on the Bus.

After a couple lines the whole room started chiming in and my son was mesmerized. I’ve never seen him calm down so quickly, and I couldn’t believe that he continued to stay calm while his barber finished his hair cut. I took a little video because I wanted to remember this moment just the way it was.

Once the song was over, he did start crying again for a moment, but he was basically done.

Since his curls were brushed out, and then cut, once they bounced back they were WAY shorter than I had really wanted, or expected (this picture below was taken before the picture above so think of it opposite in terms of ending length) but the barber suggested I keep it shorter so the next time he gets a hair cut the barber could use the longest set of clippers. Umm… We’re going to avoid clippers for a bit. But I appreciated her suggestion.


She took his cape off, put on his hat and showed him himself in the mirror.

I kid you not, that happy face made all of the tears worth it.

hair cut 2

I was still a little bummed about the length. It was much shorter than we wanted (three months later it’s finally grown to about the length I wanted initially), but my husband loved it, and Big T seemed to love it.

I didn’t realize it as much at the time, but the sides and back seem to be shorter than the top. Or maybe his curls are just tighter there. I don’t mind it, it’s a cute style for him.

Harmony Barber Shop Review

Three months later Wheels on the Bus is still his favorite song, and every time we sing it I think of this day. Talk about a magical memory!

Have you been to either salon? If you’re considering taking your curly-headed kiddo, hopefully now you feel a little bit more at ease.


I can’t tell you how many offers I get in my inbox asking me to write about, or represent a product or brand. I’m not saying this to brag, but to try to paint a little bit of a picture of how things are on my end when it sometimes seems like I’m writing sponsored post after sponsored post.

I am extremely selective of the companies I work with. I don’t want to waste their time if I don’t think you will be interested. I don’t want to waste your time when you expect to read something personal from me, and I don’t want to waste my time writing about things I don’t really care about. And if it’s not a topic I won’t be excited to go back and read about a few years from now, I pass.

When Sears asked to partner with me for the holidays I thought it would be great and relevant because I’m all about the holidays and it being my favorite time of year, I can write about this stuff day in and day out. Then, when they wrote to me about a video campaign they’re promoting I thought ‘Oh no, this may be hard to write.’ I don’t do commercial posts. They give me the heebie jeebies.

So I sat down to watch the video links they sent me about their #MoreToYou movement I wasn’t expecting what I saw. And I am not lying when I tell you each and every one of them moved me to misty eyes.

But how do I tell you this and share a video or two without coming across like I’m just trying to pimp a product? Let me try.

I’m not going to go through each of the videos, you can watch them here. But I’ll tell you how one of them touched me. Instead of describing the whole video first just watch it:

Ok, my kids are 1 and 4. Why am I boohooing up in here like they’re about to leave for college next week? This mother who thought her son wouldn’t SURVIVE his first year of life, and doctors told her he might not grow, is now buying size 15 shoes for him.

After he flew away for college, his mom surprised him with a tablet and other college supplies, and you catch a glimpse of his little sister was bawling cause she misses her brother *cue the waterworks*

Maybe it’s that time of year, maybe I’m just emotional, or maybe now that I’m a mom I’m a sucker for any video about a parent’s love for their child. Well played Sears, well played.

making shopping with kids easier

Though the story was about a son leaving for college, I noticed how they weaved in the fact that you can order items online, and have a gift ready for pickup at another store. Or, in another video you see how a mom uses the in-vehicle pickup service so they can bring your items (big or small) to you once you pull up at the store. No need to unload all the kids. If every store did this I’d go shopping with my kids a lot more.

I’ve mentioned before how I will go to great lengths to not have to go shopping with both of my kids. Unless we snag one of those little pimped out shopping carts, forget it… I’m on a time limit. The idea of pulling up to a store and getting all my good loaded in my car without having to unbuckle anyone or even turn off the Kidz Bop tunes?… Dreamy.

I’m sure by the time my kids go off to college all of our groceries and supplies from the stores will have some new way to get transported. Who knows, maybe by then someone will have invented teleportation and 2-day shipping will seem like snail mail. Until then, I appreciate companies making an effort to make things easier for me.

Like I mentioned, each of the #MoreToYou videos touched me a different way. Check them out if you have some time. What did you think of the video(s)? Do you think you’ll use the in-vehicle pickup service? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Sears gift card, sponsored by Sears. Contest ends Wednesday November 19th as 11:59pm.

Reading with kids digitally and with paper books. A list of favorite books read in 2014.
Last year I got a new tablet for Christmas, downloaded a library app and have been checking out all sorts of books. I started the New Year reading the Divergent series. Here are a few of my favorites from this year and a little one-liner of my thoughts.

matched trilogyTypically my favorite genre. I feel like I read more of these but these stand out the most.

Divergent Series (3 books): I couldn’t put the first couple books down. Very fun to read.

Matched Series (3 books): Also very good, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite between these two. Both were post-apocalyptic society-type books.

Gone Girl: I read because it was recommended to me based on the books I’d been reading. I was seriously frightened and disturbed at some parts but it was an unexpected mystery book that I enjoyed.


One of my goals was to read more auto-biographies this year.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me: A hilarious way to start my attempt to dive into biographies.

Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons– I bought this book before the publishing company sent me one because my friends wrote it. It’s hilarious, and uplifting, and a great read. You don’t need to be mad or black or Mormon to enjoy it.

5 Love Languages: My first “self-help” book and wow… I loved it, still reference it, and I just bought it so I can read it again with my husband.

Children’s Books

Of-thee-i-singThis category isn’t as long because we have so many classics and favorites that we read over and over. But there are still a few new ones that jump out at me.

Of Thee I Sing: A historical book with gorgeous illustrations. Written by Barack Obama. The book tells short stories of boys and girls who grew to be miraculous men and women who changed our country. I love hearing Lil’ J talk about Jackie Robinson, Neil Armstrong, Jane Addams and Helen Keller. I want to find more books like this one.
Reading with kids digitally and with paper books. A list of favorite books read in 2014.The Boxcar Children: Lil’ J was so excited to show me a new movie she discovered on Netflix. As she described it to me I realized she was talking about the Boxcar Children. I surprised her and downloaded a digital copy of the book so we can read it together at bedtime. I’m amazed at how interested she is in the story, and how she notices subtle differences from the movie. I’m hopeful we can continue to read this series together.

Reading with kids digitally and with paper books. A list of favorite books read in 2014.

I’m also re-reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, reading the Maze Runner series, the latest Percy Jackson book (I know, I’m a dork), and a book a friend from church wrote and is letting me read before some big publisher picks it up. I’m rooting for her!

Depending on who you are (and how much you get to read) you may be wondering where I find the time. I don’t feel like I read THAT much. If I had it my way I’d plow through way more books. But the fact is I typically get to read after my work is done and the kids are occupied or asleep. But most often I’ll read while working out on a cardio machine at the gym or while I’m rocking each kid to sleep.

Nothing beats the smell and feel of a physical book… Unless you’re a mom who loves to read but lacks the time. Then a tablet beats that hard-cover book. I have yet to really get into audio books, I feel like they’re great for long drives and I don’t take those very often. I want my kids to grow up with a love for books no matter what format it’s in.

Reading with kids digitally and with paper books. A list of favorite books read in 2014.

Our latest digital device is the Samsung Galaxy Tab® 4 NOOK®. It’s easy to hold with it’s 7-inch vibrant display. My son loves watching Elmo song videos on it, and my daughter has enjoyed sharing stories with me.

I can read in the dark while my kids are dozing off in my arms, or on the elliptical when I can’t steady a book. It’s also nice because I can put in some headphones and turn on background music, or even watch a show when I’m done. I always have it with me, and I can pick up reading where I left off while I’m waiting for dance class to end, or stuck in a long line.

This isn’t meant to argue paper books vs digital books, just stating some of the benefits I’ve enjoyed and noticed this year since it’s been my first year as a portable tablet owner. Hopefully next year will be full of just as many or more enjoyable books.

Reading with kids digitally and with paper books. A list of favorite books read in 2014.

What have you been reading lately? What books do you recommend?

Visit this page and tell me what feature you like most about the New NOOK by Samsung, then leave a comment by Monday November 17th and you’ll be entered to win the New NOOK by Samsung which comes in black or white, and loaded with $200 worth of entertainment. The device also has front and rear cameras for picture-taking and epic selfies, GPS, and it’s a fraction of the cost of other popular tablets. My Facebook Fans, Pinterest Followers or Google Plus Followers get one extra entry.

**Winner Alert 11/19** Cynthia who said “I am new to the Nooks. I’ve never own one but looks the information on the BN website I am excited about the parental controls. My daughter is constantly using my Ipad and going to other things that she is not supposed to go to. This feature will definitely keep her from going on Youtube etc.” Is the lucky Random.org winner of the New NOOK by Samsung. Thank you everyone for entering!

Big thanks to Barnes & Noble and The New NOOK by Samsung for sponsoring this giveaway. Samsung sent me a tablet to test for the purpose of the review. All opinions expressed are my own.

For my husband’s academy graduation I rented the beautiful Canon 135L lens to capture the special occasion. I took tons of photos, maybe around a hundred. I can’t tell you the exact amount because I lost all of them after my daughter knocked over my laptop of seven years, and it was not worth the price of repair. Then what do you know, the external hard drive I used as a backup crashed the same week.

The only photos from that event I have are web-sized versions I happened to send to my mother-in-law. Thankfully she hounded me for pictures or I wouldn’t even have those. Pictures from that event and a period of my daughter’s life are all gone, forever.

I’m generally not an obsessive-compulsive person, but that terrible experience triggered this fixation with backing up photos. I spent so much time researching multiple ways, to back up my photos. ALL of my photos. Including images from my iPhone, our iPads and most of all, my camera.

Last year I shared with you a way to backup and print all of your iPhone (and Android) photos for next to nothing. This time I’m going to share the ways I archive and my opinion of the best ways to backup photos and videos (you know how I love my videos!) so that you nor I will ever lose another cherished captured moment again.

Never lose your precious photos again! Here are three ways you need to be backing up your photos and videos. The easiest and best ways to save your memories.First let me explain why it’s SO important to organize your photos. It’s one thing to have a million photos backed up, but it’s an entirely different issue when there’s no rhyme or reason to how you have them saved. I could dedicate an entire post to this but let me just briefly explain how I organize mine.

Any time I import new photos I make a new folder with the event. That folder is saved inside a folder for events for that month, which a subfolder of the current year folder. For example I’d import Lil’ J’s ballet recital pictures which would be in Pictures à 2014 Pictures à August 2014 à Lil’ J’s Ballet Recital.

Then each picture in that folder is titled “Lil’ J’s Ballet Recital01, …02, ..03 etc. It makes it much easier when looking for specific images. Especially when you can’t remember the name of the event but have a general idea for when you took the photos. As I back my images up, I keep them organized the same way as often as possible.

Now here are some of the best ways to back up your photos.

The Cloud

I am a huge fan of web backups, especially if they can be automated. Like I explained here, I have all of my iPhone photos automatically backup to Google Plus in a private album (you don’t even need the app to be open for them to upload), then I print out the month’s worth of photos using Groovebook for $2.99 (free shipping). You can also upload images from your computer to Google Plus but I haven’t been doing this unless it’s a super important event I want to save because of the amount of images I take. Storing images and whatnot on Google Plus is free up to 15GB then you have to pay for more space.

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need. Another option for backing up large photos from your computer is using Flickr. Flicker is awesome for storing your photos and videos because you get a full TB of storage for free. Even I can’t imagine filling that up. However videos have a time limit of 3 minutes, so keep that in mind with your uploads. I haven’t been using their mobile app to backup my photos because my app had to be open in order for it to update, and I aint got time for that. But I love using it to back up my large photos from my computer. I try to log in once a month and upload my photo event folders for the month. Most of those albums I keep private, or select which photos I want to show publicly.

External Hard Drive

This is an obvious necessary backup. You never know when the Internet may fail you, so back up your stuff to another hard copy you can keep your hands on. I have a few Western Digital drives that I use to backup my entire Macbook Pro and iMac. I even connect it to my wireless router so it can backup both of my computers wirelessly and have less of an issue with plugging and unplugging it in, or it getting knocked off my lap when using my laptop (which I think is one of the reasons my previous one failed). I have two 500GB drives and a TB drive. Believe it or not my TB drive is full already because I was backing both of my computers up to it. I’ll probably do them each on separate drives from now on to conserve space, or upgrade to a 2TB drive. My plan is to keep one in my fireproof safe and update it every month in case of a fire (is my OCD showing again?).

LyveHomeNever lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need.

This device is my latest backup endeavor and it’s the perfect addition to the methods I already have in place. In fact, if I had this first, I’d be tempted to skip my other two means all together.

The LyveHome is a wireless photo and video manager. It works in conjunction with the Lyve App that I have downloaded on my iPad mini, my iPhone and my iMac. So every time I take a photo on my phone, or upload a photo to my computer, it automatically pulls it over to the LyveHome and stores it as a backup. It has 2TB of storage so until I reach about a million photos, or an insane amount of videos, I won’t run out of space. (So far I’ve imported 14,038 photos and 617 videos and I’ve only used 4% of my storage). I love my external hard drives to backup EVERYTHING(all of my programs, documents, files, etc) but it’s nice to have a device specifically for our memories.

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need. My favorite aspect is seeing photos I take on my iPhone now automatically sent to my computer. My iCloud account has long since been full, so I had to manually sync my phone (which I rarely did) or search my Google Plus backup to find a pic I wanted to edit. Or just email it to myself. ANNOYING.

I can also view all of the images from my computer on my iPad or iPhone. When you reach storage capacity on your phone and get that dreaded warning, you can delete your photos and videos from your iphone library without worrying because you’ll have an extra copy already on your LyveHome and stored in your LyveApp. This also comes in handy when I want to show off a photo I took on my DSLR that I haven’t uploaded online yet. I can access the photos from my computer while I’m out.

Another little bonus is the cute clock it adds to my desk, and the fact that it scrolls through all of my old photos so I can feel a bit of nostalgia while I work.

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need.

Here are a few things worth noting:

-Although it has a touchscreen, you can’t watch videos or delete photos/videos by toughing the LyveHome device, but you can through the app on any of your other devices. I was a little confused by this at first. You control it from the app, not the cube itself.

– It doesn’t import photos shot in RAW format. So if you are like me and don’t shoot in JPEG or RAW+JPEG, you’ll have to convert your images before they’ll be added to LyveHome. This will probably motivate me to hurry and edit all of the images I love so they’ll immediately be backed up in an additional spot, instead of just saving them to edit later.

-It scrolls through all the images, and right now the only way to “hide” them from being displayed on the LyveHome cube is by deleting the photo from your LyveApp. So those boudoir photos I wanted to save for myself but maybe not have my friends from church see when they come over… Umm, I’ll probably just stick to my alternate backup methods.

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need.

Overall, I love it for automatically syncing photos as I take them, and for peace of mind. I wish I had this back when my computer and hard drive crashed. It could have saved me a lot of heartache.

One of these will run you about $299. You can learn more by visiting their website.

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about the best ways to backup your photos. Now here’s the fun part. I LOVE sharing ways to document and preserve your family legacy and you know I love feeling like Oprah. Lyve sent me an extra device to give away to one of my readers. To enter the giveaway just check out the video about LyveHome and let me know what you thought, and what memories you’re most excited to backup and why by leaving a comment. You have until August 28th EXTENDED TO SEPTEMBER 2ND to enter. I’ll randomly draw the winner using random.org. Entrants must be at least 18 years old and live in the United States. Good luck my friends!

*I’d like to give a huge thanks to Lyve for allowing me to review their product and give one away to one of my fabulous readers. I was sent the device to try for free, and compensated to include an honest review in my post. All opinions expressed are mine, ALL MINE!

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need. Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need. Winner Alert: Lucky #13: Trenton Robertson. If the winner fails to claim their prize an alternate will be chosen at random.

Never lose another precious memory: 3 Best ways to backup photos and videos. This post will give you all the tips you need.

When I left my family to move to Utah I couldn’t have been more excited. I was going to college and pursuing my dreams. But little did I know the Utah winters would be the bane of my existence. As I approached my graduation four years later my husband and I only circled potential destinations that were warm on our map.

Texas summers have been a whole ‘nother story. While they get extremely hot, I’d much rather deal with the heat than the cold.

Big T’s birthday was a couple months ago and when Grandma asked for his wish list, a water table was at the top. We busted it out right away, but now that the temperature is heating up, it’s getting a lot of use. I’d been working on a video for their grandma to show off all the fun they’ve been having, when some friends of mine invited me to join in a Step2 giveaway. I realized that the water table they’ve been playing with is the same brand, so though this tie in would be perfect.

So a big thanks to Grandma for the fun toy!

I’m hoping to start doing a giveaway once a month on my blog to give back to my fabulous readers.–Sharing something I own and love. Consider this a start. Watch the video to see the Step2 water table my kids are enjoying (promise you’ll love it), and read below to see the fabulous giveaway where one winner takes all.


TerrificTwoStep2Giveaway (1)

Welcome to the It’s Terrific to be Two with Step2 Giveaway, hosted by Viva Veltoro and Thrifty Nifty Mommy and generously sponsored by The Step2 Company.

Viva Veltoro and Thrifty Nifty Mommy are celebrating their little boys turning 2 years old and have partnered with Step2 for a fabulous giveaway featuring gift ideas that are perfect for 2 year olds!

Gifts Under $25

2-in-1 T-ball & Golf Set: Score a hole-in-one or a home run with the 2-in-1 T-ball & Golf Set™ by Step2. This sports toy helps toddlers and preschoolers to be active in their playroom or the backyard. The 2-in-1 T-ball & Golf Set helps teach kids cooperative play as they take turn swinging the bat or putting the golf ball. Children’s coordination and motor skills will develop as they try to hit the ball off the tee or swing the golf club at the putting green. Kids can practice counting as they keep track of how many points they score during a baseball game or round of golf. The 2-in-1 T-Ball & Golf Set is sure to be a hit! Made in USA. ARV $19.99
Crayola Crayon Rider: Their favorite crayon is now a life-size ride-on toy! Zoom around the town in color with the Crayola Crayon Rider™ by Step2. This kid powered ride-on promotes gross motor skills as kids use their legs to get the wheels moving. It is never a dull moment with this exciting riding toy for toddlers! Made in USA. ARV $24.99

Gift Under $50

All Around Easel for Two: Vertical writing easel makes developing proper writing skills fun! Features a chalk board on one side and a magnetized dry erase board on the other. Includes a clip to secure artwork, two removable and easy to clean storage bins, and a 94 piece foam magnet letter and symbol kit. Available in red or pink color (winner of the giveaway can choose color). Made in USA. Accessories, dry erase board and foam magnets made in China. ARV $39.99

Gift Under $75

High Seas Adventure Sand & Water Table with Umbrella: Ahoy matey! Your little pirates will have hours of outdoor fun with the High Seas Adventure Sand & Water Table with Umbrella™ by Step2. With two different sides for sand and water, this activity table is perfect for multi-child play. Toddlers and preschoolers can pretend they are sailors at sea while they play on the water side and then arrive at a desert island when they use the sand side. The High Seas Adventure Sand & Water Table with Umbrella is also great for sensory play as little ones splish and splash the water and dig for buried treasure in the sand! The cover helps keep sand clean and dry when not in use. Made in USA of US and imported parts. Accessories and umbrella made in China. ARV $69.99

Gifts Under $100

All Around Wagon: This is a multi function wagon for nearly every use. The seats flip into a flat bed, seat, or table. The wagon has a large storage capacity and six cup/snack holders. The wagon also features an easy pull handle design, seat belts for added security, Whisper Wheels™ for a smooth ride, and a door that opens and closes for easy entry and exit. Weight limit is 75 lbs. Made in USA. ARV $79.99


Grand Walk-In Kitchen & Grill: The Grand Walk-in Kitchen & Grill™ is a realistic play kitchen with all of the features a real kitchen has to offer; except this kitchen set is for kids! The Grand Walk-In Kitchen & Grill has plenty of room for multi-child play, including an attached dining area and toy kitchen appliances that will keep kids busy for hours. This pretend play kitchen has three realistic electronic features: grill, stove top, and phone. Children can use the toy grill to cook hot dogs and hamburgers when they play make believe. The large toy sink has a swivel faucet with push button for preschoolers to pretend wash the play dishes, play food, and even their hands.“Stainless steel” toy refrigerator enhances role play by allowing kids to store their play food and accessories in the fridge. Includes a 103-pc accessory set. Great for use in an indoor playroom. ARV $259.99

What do you think? Do you have a two-year old who would love the items on this list? We’re giving away this entire set of toys to one lucky family!

If you’d like a chance to win, just enter using the Giveaway Tools entry form below. This giveaway is open to residents of the 48 contiguous US states only. Must be 18 years or older to enter. Good luck!

Disclosures: This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. Thrifty Nifty Mommy, Viva Veltoro, and the participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment. Giveaway is open to residents of the 48 contiguous US states, age 18+. Giveaway will close at 11:59PM EST on 06/16/14. One (1) winner will be selected randomly from all eligible entries.

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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