Monday, May 20, 2013

Poetry Month in our Homeschool

Sure, you can force a kid to read a book. Any book, actually. But you can't force a child to love to read. You can't push and push literature on them and shove it down their throats and simultaneously wonder why they revolt and push back with a forceful "I HATE READING!" after months or years of doing your "parental duty" of making them read.

As a homeschooling mom, I kind of HAVE to "make" them read. It's a part of the job. BUT, I try, with every fiber of my being, to not turn reading time into a forced or timed activity. This means that if one of my kids is actively involved in a chapter book for 5 hours straight, I don't interrupt. Not even for math. It means that I am constantly peppering every surface of our home with countless varieties of books in all genres and levels.

It also means that if my daughter says "let's read poetry outside today," that I happily follow her to our patio and read along with her for as long as she wants; No matter how many dirty dishes await me in the sink.

 Here is Corinne on a lovely spring day last week after we worked in our garden pulling weeds and planting seedlings. We sat in the shade and drank lemonade and read poem after poem after poem from the adorable children's collection entitled "A Pizza the Size of the Sun" by Jack Prelutsky. She insisted on searching for the funniest ones; the ones she had MEMORIZED during quiet reading times. She insisted on sharing these poems with me so that I could also experience the joy of the words she had discovered. How do you refuse THAT?

It's a fantastic collection of fantastic children's poetry by the award winning author. We received this book along with several others including a second collection of poetry by Mr. Prelutsky titled, "The new Kid on the Block."  Both attracted my 7 year old's attention this month and have really engaged the two of us in discussions about the words, the phrasing and the rhythm that poetry entails. She has become so interested, in fact, that she signed up for a poetry class at our homeschool co-op next fall!


 This picture is from today, as a matter of fact. With hair still wet from the sprinkler and dirt across the tops of her fingers, Corinne sat beside me and insisted on reading the entire book, "Dirt on My Shirt" by Jeff Foxworthy. He's NOT just a comedian! Who knew? Dirt on My Shirt is yet another amazing book of poems for elementary-school children. Absolutely adorable and hysterical at times, it engages the imagination of both child and adult. This one will be, without a doubt, a new favorite in our read-aloud time.

*disclaimer: I received these books and others by Harper Collins Publishers for review. No compensation was received and all opinions remain my own. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Medieval Times - A Review and A Giveaway!

 Evan turns 11 today! As usual, I cannot believe how time has passed. But that's not what this post is about...
 I was offered complimentary family passes to Medieval Times in Schaumburg, IL and they just so happened to be available the weekend before Evan's birthday!
 Talk about a kid who was thrilled with the entire experience! Evan thanked us, repeatedly, and told us he loved us, repeatedly, the entire night.
 The pre-show anticipation was pretty high. We had a very hungry teenager (not pictured) and that always causes him to be, shall we say, less than sweet? This in turn, causes me to be anxious and on edge. I was ready for the fun to begin!
 Thankfully, the lights went down and the horses entered....
 And we were all entranced. It really is a great show. A little cheesy in the acting at times, but the storyline and characters engaged the audience and there wasn't a silent seat in the house. The food was phenomenally delicious (and they ALL ate it. ALL OF THEM. Even the picky one!) and was served on such a perfectly-timed schedule; you could tell this was a well-oiled procedure. We did have a minor issue pre-show where Evan wasn't knighted with the group (we got him a birthday package that included being knighted by the king, an announcement, photograph, and cake). I caught the eye of the "chancellor" and he came over as the king was leaving the knighting area. He was exceptionally helpful and, after a few minutes of trying to figure out what went wrong, he arranged to have the entire royal crew (king, trumpet dudes, photographer, etc.) come BACK OUT just to correct the mistake. This in no doubt was a huge time set-back for the cast but they were all incredibly polite and helpful. A definite thumbs up for their customer service!
 Look who caught a flower from our knight! This was seriously the best souvenir she could have ever gotten. (which is handy, cuz this momma doesn't do many souvenirs!)
This shot makes me laugh and laugh because it is SO legitimate! My husband was leaping from his seat, screaming louder than the kids were, as the Black and White knight kicked some serious jousting ass.

Tickets for Medieval Times may seem a little pricey up front until you realize that the cover charge pays for not only the dinner and show, but also for the cast and crew, equestrian trainers/caretakers and 3 different equine ranches that provide the fabulously trained horses for 9 different castles. Suddenly, the cost makes a lot more sense. Still, it can be difficult to find resources for larger families to attend, which is why Medieval Times runs special ticket discounts on their website. You just need to make sure you plan accordingly!

From now until 4/07/13, use the code SBWEB to Buy One ticket and Get One Ticket free for certain shows through April 30th at the Schaumburg castle!!*

 I am beyond THRILLED to announce that Medieval Times of Schaumburg, IL has offered 4 tickets** to one reader on my blog!!

To Enter:

~ Just comment below! Have you ever been to Medieval Times before? Who would you bring if you won?

~ ONE extra comment if you share this giveaway via any social media site of your choosing. Please be sure to copy the link back here. (Facebook/Twitter/Google+/etc.)

Giveaway is open until Midnight CST, Saturday, April 13. I will draw 1 winner on Sunday. Giveaway is open to anyone 18 or older and I must have a valid email address to contact you by or I will have to choose another winner.

Best of Luck!

*Certain restrictions may apply. Be sure to check the Medieval Times website for all rules and regulations.
**Certain restrictions/time frames may apply.

Updated with winner information:
Congratulations to Meghan Winscott! I hope you guys have a fabulous time!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

McDonald's and My Family: AND a giveaway!

 That would be my "Yeaaaaah, baby! I would most definitely like a Shamrock Shake, please!" look. I mean, what's not to like? I would like to thank St. Patrick for chasing those snakes out of Ireland or whatever he did hundreds of years ago so that McDonald's could make a minty shake of goodness every spring.
 Miss Lori (SMILE!) was a brand ambassador for the McDonald's "Moms Nutrition Panel." She gathered some of the mom bloggers in Chicagoland at a local McDonald's to discuss the healthier options available for our families at this classic American institution. I happily admit that I frequent McDonald's with my family. We take advantage of their dollar menu items when we are in a rush for time without extra cash to spend, but my kids' favorite McDonald's meals (and I'm not even joking here) are the Southwest Salads... withOUT the dressing! (Well, Corinne likes a little dressing on hers...) 
 It was really nice to hear the different options available for families who are trying to treat their children without overloading them with calories, sugar or sodium. Though McDonald's is obviously not the HEALTHIEST choice in the line up of restaurants available, they are continuously moving towards a menu that is up front and helpful for us all. Not all fast food restaurants can claim to be so forward-thinking towards health, and I give McD's a lot of credit. The main difference I have noticed and am grateful for is the calorie information that you will find beside every food item on their menus. Just look up at the boards! It's all there, in black and white, so no one can claim ignorance of the crazy high calorie number on some of their items anymore. You can also find all of the nutritional information on the backside of every tray liner or on the McDonald's Website.
 Mcdonald's very generously provided me with several vouchers for 4 of their healthier options including the Premium Chicken Sandwiches, Premium Salads, Fruit Smoothies, and Fruit & Walnut Oatmeal. My kids' eyes bugged out when I brought home a salad for each of us. It was as though I had told them we were having a gourmet treat at a 5 star restaurant. :)

I just so happen to have 4 sheets of vouchers that McDonald's provided to me so that I can give them away to some of YOU! I will pick two names and each person will receive 8 vouchers total (2 free item vouchers for each of the foods listed above).

These vouchers are valid only in the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana McDonald's restaurants. You must be 18 or older to enter.

To Enter:

~ Comment below! What is your favorite McDonald's food? (Healthy or not, I don't care!)

THAT'S IT. That's all you have to do. :) One entry per person, please, and I will pick two winners on Thursday, April 11 via

Good luck!

*Though McDonald's provided me with lunch and coupons to review their product, no monetary compensation was received and this review/giveaway is being done of my own desire. All opinions are my own.

Updated with Winner:

Congratulations to Julie and David Lobner! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Legoland In Schaumburg introduces a Star Wars Exhibit! AND a giveaway!

(Giveaway closed: Winner posted at the bottom!)
My family has been to Legoland in Schaumburg many times over the past few years but it had been several months since our last visit. I was thrilled to see the new addition of the Lego Friends corner and an updated luncheon area. The kids were thrilled to see their newest exhibit:


 Schaumburg is the first of all of the Legoland facilities to host a Star Wars exhibit of this nature.
 Hands-on activities include driving your own pod-racer...
 ...Helping a Naboo Starfighter escape from the hangar...
 And assisting the Gungans defeat the droid army. Pretty cool, right?
There are still the building workshops and the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride in addition to all of the regular activities that are crazy fun for the kids to enjoy. But if you have a Star Wars fan, you simply HAVE to check out this new exhibit at Legoland Discovery Center!

I just so happen to have 4 tickets to give away to one reader!

To Enter:
(must be over 18 years old)

1. Just comment below and tell me who the biggest Star Wars Fan is in your house!
2. Share this giveaway on any social media site (Twitter/Facebook/Google+/etc.) and link back here (on a separate comment, please!)

I will pick the winner via on Tuesday, March 26. Good luck to all and may the force be with you!
And the winner is.... #18: Mep from "Not to Brag." Congratulations! I hope that you and your kids enjoy the tickets!

Thank you to all who entered! I have other giveaways coming up soon!

Friday, February 1, 2013

JumpStart: New York! A Review and Giveaway

My kids and I have had a long-standing love affair with JumpStart programs. We've played their Wii games, CD roms and the games from and loved them all. Corinne has always enjoyed having a site that she is able to independently navigate. Look at her first review of the Pet Rescue game for Wii! I can't believe how little she was... recently added a new feature to their online children's website called "Greetings from JumpStart, New York" which features the penguins from Madagascar in a cool new page. Here's what Jumpstart has to say:

"As if the arrival of the Central Park Zoo and the animal’s European Habitat were not enough to quench your kids thirst for all things Madagascar. Now, they can help us welcome Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman back to New York. With exciting new areas and games, there are so many more adventures for your kids to enjoy while in the JumpStart World. From the city skyscrapers and iconic yellow cabs to the arrival of Central Park, all the sights and sound of the city are just waiting to be discovered." Read more of the details from Jumpstart's site!

It's adorable. Really. The graphics and navigation have only gotten smoother over the years, making the site one of the most kid-user-friendly sites I've encountered. There are several different "lands" to enjoy, from ages 3-5 all the way through grade school (my 5th grader still enjoys the MathBlaster games!) so the membership is one that can be enjoyable for all of your children at once. Check out the adorable graphics on this tutorial of Storyland:

My own personal FAVORITE update to the entire site are all of the parent resources available! There are pages and pages and PAGES of downloadable worksheets that encourage the skills your children have learned on the site. Everything from geography and reading skills through fractions and geometry! As a homeschooling mom, this is AWESOME. I have been perusing the pages with ways to implement these pages and plan on bringing a ton of them for our car trip to Florida next month!!

JumpStart has offered one reader a complimentary 3 month membership! Please follow the directions below and good luck! (Giveaway is open to adults over the age of 18 only.)

First entry: just comment below about who will be using the membership!

Second entry: Visit JumpStart's Facebook account and state: "I hope I win a membership on Just Another Review Blog!" (Be sure to link back!)

3rd entry: link back to this giveaway on any other social media site and link back.

BE SURE that each entry is in a separate comment and that you provide a valid email address. Giveaway is open until Midnight, CST, February 14. I will choose the winner via on February 15 from Florida!

Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.”

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monster Truck Jam in Chicago!

It's that time in Chicago again! Time to rev up your engines and head to the Allstate Arena for some...

Monster Truck JAM!!!
I truly cannot convey to you how much my family has enjoyed attending the Monster Truck Jam these past few years. I am bummed that we may not be able to make it this time due to other scheduling conflicts (that I am desperately trying to work around, because my kids LOVE THIS EVENT) but I am happy to announce that I am still able to offer my readers 4 free tickets to the opening night show at 7:30 on Friday, February 8th! Follow the directions on how to enter below and ACT FAST because this giveaway will end on Friday, February 1st!!

For anyone else who wants to go, you can use this code for some amazing discounts. (be sure to read all disclaimers and fine print):

Save 33% on adult tickets to all shows Feb. 9-10 with code MOM.
Kids tickets are always just $10.
Offer Not valid on Opening Night.  Discount does not apply to VIP or Gold Circle seats.  No double discounts.  Service charges, handling, and facility fees may apply. All tickets $2 more day of show.

To enter the Giveaway:

~ Comment below and tell me if you've ever been to a Jam before or who you would bring.

~ To earn 1 extra entry, share this giveaway on one social media site of your choosing. Be sure to link back to this giveaway and to provide a link to your share on a second comment. (i.e. 1 comment for every entry).

Each person entering has a total of 2 chances to win. You must be over 18 to enter and provide a valid email address in the comments. I will contact the winner via email by Feb 2nd. Winner must respond back within 24 hours or I will have to pass the opp along to someone else, due to the time sensitivity of this event.

Good luck! The giveaway will end on Midnight (CST) on February 1st.

(I used 1-12 entries because there were replies within comments that did not count as full entries)

Congratulations to comment #2: "aismeg"

I hope you enjoy the show!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winner of the Novica Gift card

Winner of the Novica $50 gift card is....

#6, David Lobner.

Congratulations! I sure do hope you buy your wife something with it!

Thank you to all who entered. Remember to enter the Sears giveaway that is still open till Feb 1.