Monday, September 29, 2014

Why I Love Amazon's Kindle Unlimited

I love to read, but have always had a hard time A) finding time to read, and B) affording the expense of all the books that I'd like to read.  I recently discovered Amazon's "Kindle Unlimited", and let me tell you...I am in love.  I have been reading so many books that have been on my "want" list, and am starting to have a hard time NOT downloading everything onto my iPad.  AND, it only costs me $10 a month.  The time issue has been solved by downloading the Kindle app on my phone and reading while I nurse my baby to sleep, while I'm on the elliptical, or when the kids are playing and I have a little down time (which, let's face it, doesn't happen as much as I'd like it to!).  Mostly, I've just gotten creative with finding time to read.  Since I always have my phone with me, it's easy to read a few pages here or there.

If you want to use Kindle Unlimited, here are a few things you should know:

First, you don't need to own a Kindle device to download Kindle books.  You simply need to download the Kindle app (it's free) to your computer, phone, tablet, etc. and you're good to go!

Secondly, you can usually get a free 30 day trial , so look for that and use that first (though don't forget to cancel before the end of your 30 days if you don't want to continue subscribing).

Lastly, if you choose to subscribe, it's only $10/month for unlimited qualifying books.  Not all books qualify, but there are a ton.  Also, you can only "check out" 10 books at a time.  Then, you just "return" a book to get another book.

So, what have I been reading with my new found Kindle Unlimited Subscription?  LOTS of fiction.   In the last 2 months I've read:

*The Mockingjay (book 3 of the Hunger Games Series)- I'd read the first two books years ago, and now with the soon to be released third movie, I figured I should finally read this book, too.

*The Giver-WOW.  This was amazing.  It was a 1994 Newbery Medal winner, and I loved it. Side note: this just came out recently as a movie, and it was pretty good, as well.

*Gathering Blue-This book is part of the "Giver Quartet."  Though it's not a continuation of the Giver; it's a separate story.  This book was also really intriguing, but not as great at the Giver, in my opinion.

*Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire- These books are amazing, and I'm disappointed that I refused to read them all these years.  Book 4 was by far my favorite, followed closely by book 2.  I'm currently working through the 5th book.

*The Divergent Series (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant)- I totally loved these, and really enjoyed the first movie, as well.  This series, however, is not currently in Kindle Unlimited, but after watching the movie, I figured that I had to read them anyway!

*Water for Elephants- I'm not even providing a link for this book because I quit it half way through.  I didn't enjoy (and wasn't expecting) the unnecessary sexual content in this book.  Just as I don't think looking at porn would be acceptable for my husband, I don't think literature packed with sexual scenes should be appropriate for me.  And with that, I quit the book.

I do have some nonfiction books I'd like to read, but fiction is just so much easier to get through when I'm tired (which is currently: Always).  Nonfiction usually makes me use my brain to think, and thinking makes me even more tired.  So for now, fiction is perfect.

Overall, Kindle Unlimited solves the "I don't have enough money to buy all the books" problem, and their free Kindle app on my phone solves the "I never have any time to read" problem.  It's a perfect solution, and I love how inexpensive it is!

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited yet?  Do you have any books you'd suggest?

(The links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Potty Training Tips from a Fourth Time Mom

Thank you to Pull-Ups for sponsoring today's post and helping me Potty Train with the Big Kid Academy.

My littlest munchkin is nearing his first birthday.  Along with all the other things that begin around 1 year (walking, talking, etc.), my "potty training" prep begins at that point, too.  You start potty training at 1 year old?!?  Well, no, not really, but we get some aspects of it rolling.

Levi is my 4th baby.  I have two boys and two girls.  And man, are they different!  But, one thing has been the same for us...the first three were all fully potty trained by age 2 (though one child took another 2 months to be night time potty trained).  I HOPE that little Levi, being our easiest baby thus far, will also potty train as easily as his older siblings.

I in no way consider myself any sort of "expert" on the topic of potty training, but I do have some potty training tips and advice that have worked for us:

#1: The Potty Chair is Your Friend

At one year of age, we put out the (totally clean) potty chair in our child's bedroom.  They don't use it, but they get to see it, touch it, stuff their animals in it, etc.  The reasoning behind it is that we don't want the potty chair to be some big, scary, new thing once it's time to learn how to use it.  We want it to be more of an old, familiar object.  They are free to play with it however they want, but we also show them how to help their dolls or animals go potty in it, which gives them a glimpse of what it's actually used for eventually.

#2: Older Siblings Make Great Cheerleaders

If you have older siblings, involve them in the process.  Allow them to help pick out the Pull-Ups, choose a spot for the potty chair, cheer for little brother when he pretends (or really does) to go potty on the chair, or pass out his reward for actually going potty in the chair.

#3: Make it Fun

Purchasing their favorite character Pull-Ups (and eventually their favorite character undies), is so motivating and fun for little ones.  My kids have always loved to pick out their favorites, and these Jake the Neverland Pirate ones are so cute.  Let it be their choice (or have an older sibling pick a favorite), and talk about their characters each time they put on their Pull-Ups.

Huggies Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy has some really great resources for making learning fun, too.  I especially love their "Potty Training Progress Chart" and their "Video Character Calls" to celebrate going on the potty.  Seriously, I wish I had some of these resources with my older kiddos!

Want to enroll and get access to all their great resources too?  Click HERE to enroll!

#4: Bribery is Your Friend

Some people don't use bribery with their children...I am not one of those people.  I am ALL for bribery, especially with potty training.  Here's what we've always done: potty in the toilet earns a jelly bean, poop earns a lollipop.  Now, it must be noted, that if your favorite candy is jelly beans, this may pose a problem for your waistline...ahem.  If that's the case, you may want to try something else.  Funny story: When our first born was potty training, she ended up blending "poop" with "lollipop" so that what she called her reward was a "lollipoop".  Which is especially cute until you're at the checkout line counter with all the fancy lollipops and she's yelling at the top of her lungs, "lollipoop! Lollipoop! Lollipoop!"

#5: Follow the Leader

Hint on this one: You are not the leader.  Your child is the leader.  Follow their lead, despite your own desires to rid yourself of the "diaper" budget category.  When you notice them asking questions about the potty, ask if they'd like to try.  When they start asking you to change their diaper, or telling you that they just went potty or poop in their diaper, they are ready.  Don't push too hard, but encourage them to regularly take a trip to the bathroom.  Starting before they are ready will just make it a long road to completion.

Bonus Tip:

While this one may seem a little odd, is has been a HUGE help to our children.  We always keep the potty chair (once they've progressed to actually using it) in the living room where we spend most of our time.  We have found that if the potty chair is always within sight, our children are more apt to initiate "trying" to go regularly.  Once they've gotten the hang of taking themselves regularly, it gets moved to the bathroom where normal humans go.

What are your best potty training tips? At what age do you begin the process of potty training? Don't forget to enroll in the Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy for more awesome tips, games, encouragement, and fun ways to celebrate your big kid!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall Homeschool Schedule

School has been "going" for a month now at our house.  This year we have a 2nd grader, a Kindergartener, a preschooler, and the baby.  So far, so good, though we're still getting into the swing of how things will work this year with three of them doing school.  I can't even begin to think about what life with 4 elementary aged children will be like in a few years!

Here's what our weekday schedule looks like this fall:

*We generally do school in the mornings, M-F.  This time is flexible, and depending on what we're learning, either all the kids will do school at the same time, or they'll all take turns-one after the other.   

*We use the morning for language arts and math.  We typically do sciences, social studies, history, etc. in the afternoon or whenever we're in the mood for it :)

*We try to use each "life" experience to our advantage, i.e. grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, neighborhood walks, etc.  There's something to be learned from everything!

*On TUESDAYS, the kids come with me to one of my AM Kindermusik classes.  They love music and dancing, and this class is a family style class (0-7 year olds), so they fit right in!

*On WEDNESDAYS, the girls have soccer practice.  This is our only evening devoted to sports.  Generally, evenings are our family time, so we try to not to do much.  Ben coaches Zoe's team.

*On THURSDAYS, we have our co-op classes.  This fall, Ellie is taking an Art class and Ballet; Zoe is taking Spanish and Ballet; Aaron is taking preschool; Levi parties in the nursery with the other babies.  This gives them great classes, and time with other kids their own ages, too.

*On FRIDAYS, the big three take swim lessons.  It has taken me MONTHS to find private swim lessons for the three of them that could actually fit in my budget, and I'm SO happy to finally have found someone (group instruction didn't go so well this summer).  

We also try to do one park play date each week with some friends from another homeschool co-op.

At this point, we are loving the new school year.  We are learning lots of new things, trying lots of new activities, and meeting lots of new friends.  

How is the new school year going for you?  What are your favorite parts?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Bucket List

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the colors, the smells, the crispness in the air.  This year, we made a Fall Bucket List with the kiddos.  We had to ban pumpkin related baking on the list because we had a ridiculous amount of pumpkin things that we bake every year (we've already brought a big batch of pumpkin scones to Ben's work).  But other than those items, we created a pretty fun bucket list.  We downloaded some cute fall fonts, made a "bucket", and the kids glued their list to the bucket.  It's displayed on our fireplace, and we highlight the things we've done.

What's on this years list?

*A trip to Apple Hill 
*Ride in a hot air balloon (did this at the soccer fields!)
*Attend the hot air balloon races (did this, too!)
*Attend the Reno Championship Air Races  (did this-for FREE-with our homeschool group)
*Take a trip to the Sacramento Zoo (I'm thinking I may need to move this to the spring, plus I need to find a Groupon deal for tickets)
*Bake a pumpkin, roast pumpkin seeds, carve or paint a pumpkin
*Visit Callahan park (one of my faves!) to collect leaves
*Ferrari Farms Pumpkin Patch (this one is FREE and simple, but fun)
*Corley Ranch Pumpkin Patch (I may change this to the Andelin Farm since Corley didn't plant the corn field due to the drought)

Along the lines of pumpkin:
*Pumpkin Spice Lattes (x1 every day all fall)
*Pumpkin Scones (done!)
*Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins
*Pumpkin Pancakes
*Pumpkin Granola
*Pumpkin puree (enough to freeze for later months)

Here's our "little" family at the Balloon Races ^^^

My kiddos at the Air Races ^^^

Levi LOVED watching the planes fly ^^^

My kids and their friends watching the soccer ball balloon (which they rode in) inflate at the soccer fields ^^^

Fall is so fun.  And since we homeschool, we can do things during the week, too (like the air races on a Friday, or the balloon ride on a Thursday)!  It's the best!

What's on your bucket list this fall?  What fun things do you have planned?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shaving Cream Writing Part 2

I've posted before about shaving cream writing inside a bag (see HERE), which is a great option for those of you who don't like messes or for when it's cold and you don't feel comfortable with shaving cream all over (under, around, etc.) your table.  But since the weather is still nice in my neck of the woods, and school is back in full swing, we went outside this week to practice our spelling words with shaving cream!

Because our patio table has slatted wood, we used trays to give the kids their own smooth space.  You can find cheap shaving cream at Walmart for $.98.  My 2nd grader practiced writing her spelling words, my kindergartener practiced writing her blends (ba, be, bi, bo, bu, etc.) and my preschooler practiced his name.  

Then, they went to town giving themselves mustaches and beards and drawing pictures in the cream.  It's such a fun way to practice spelling!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Studying the Continents in Our Homeschool

We are continuing with homeschooling this year, after deciding that we for sure, really did enjoy it last year (it took a while to get to that point).  We began school in mid August, and are adjusting back into the swing of things.  We have a 2nd grader, a kindergartener, and a preschooler this year (as well as the baby!).

This school year, we have joined two home school co ops.  I've been involved with the ladies from one throughout the summer, visiting different parks together and hanging out while our kids play, but I'm joining a second one this fall in which my kids get to take art, Spanish, and ballet classes.  We are continuing to use A Beka curriculum for our language and arithmetic, and are pretty eclectic with the rest of the subjects.  We joined a post card swap with 49 other homeschool families (one from each state in the US), and will be studying different states as our postcards arrive in the mail.  We will also be doing a study on the continents, both with one of our co-ops, and on our own.  We are generally pretty frugal, and so we try to keep our school expenses at a minimum.

In regards to continents, here are a couple new items we've bought (or want to buy) and will be using in our homeschool this year:

I love this continent ice cube tray, and I think my kids will think it is so cool!  I suppose you could also use it to create crayon shapes (out of old, broken crayons), or even use cant melts to make little continent shaped candies!  The best part is that it's only $3.72 shipped from Amazon!

I bought this world map from Amazon, as well, and my kids think it's so cool.  While we have small maps or atlas books, they love how big this one is, and they love finding new places on the map.  It is paper, so I'll need to buy some clear contact paper to protect it, but for about $5, it was totally worth it!

I love this Melissa & Doug floor puzzle!  It's such a fun and simple way for little ones to learn about Earth and the continents.  Plus, ALL my kids love puzzles!

I'm so excited for another school year with my kiddos!  I love seeing them grow and learn.  Already, my 5 year old is starting to read, which is particularly exciting because she had zero interest in reading up until a month or so ago.  What things are you most excited about for this school year?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Building a Household "Important Papers" Binder

Ahhh!  After about two weeks of a totally broken computer, our new computer arrived in the mail yesterday!  Woo hoo!  

Oh, I have so much to blog about, too.  I'll start with this post of mine that ran on the Reno Moms Blog last week....

"If there were ever an emergency near or in your home, such as a fire or natural disaster, what would you grab?  After getting my family out safely, I would grab things like my pets, my wedding album, and some clothing/toothbrushes/etc.  But then there are all these little things, like social security cards, birth certificates, and insurance policies that would be great to grab, too.  Our family decided that we needed to keep all these items in a single place for such instances, and so we decided to create an Important Papers Binder.  It’s super simple to create, and it not only keeps us organized on a daily basis, but in case we ever had an emergency, we can easily grab all these important things at once..."

To read the rest of the post, including supplies to help build your own binder, what should go in your binder, etc. head to the Reno Moms Blog!


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