Fancy Dresses....and Dirt

 Earlier this summer my mom gave Annika a dress. She called it her "fancy dress" and she loved it. Then Paul's grandmother found a dress on sale and gave her another "fancy dress".  Then a couple weeks ago we found a third at the Goodwill Outlet.

 She wears them any chance she gets. And with three of them, one always seems to be clean, which means these dresses are pretty much in constant wear.

But she lives on a farm. And has 4 big brothers to keep up with. And, although she loves fancy dresses, she also loves dirt.

 And no matter what, at the end of the day. Those fancy dresses aren't quite so fancy anymore.

But they are covered in mud and dirt and are usually sopping wet too. 


Peach Pickin'

Last week we went peach picking at a local U-pick orchard. 

Rylan was absolutely in love with the orchard and came home with a perfect vision of how he wants his future orchard to look.  And I will say it was nice- the trees were all pruned and kept to a accessible height. Even Annika could reach a lot of the fruits.

 We picked a ton. In about 15 min. A total of 5 bushels- with one half bushel being nectarines.

 See that nectarine Cale is holding? They were huge! We had 3 carts full of fruit  to bring home with us.

Aren't the beautiful. I love the color! And the kids had a blast, and would have picked more if we had let them.

We also picked a gallon of blackberries while we were there. They had apples too, but those weren't quite ready.

Then I spent just over 2 days in the kitchen. Peeling and cutting and boiling and canning. In total I got 84 quarts of peaches. And the knife only slipped once! Which in my book is a success! We still have a fair amount of nectarines left for eating and a few peaches to make some preserves. 

If you've never canned peaches and are planning on it, I've written up the how-to over on The Free Range Life!


Death by Cake aka Birthday Week

 My first 3 boys were all born within 5 days of each other. Cale on August 8, Rylan on August 9 and Cohen on August 12.  Three birthdays mean 3 birthday cakes, and my boys have very rich tastes! Over the past few years they have moved away from fancy, carved and decorated cakes and moved on to cakes that are all about flavor. But I think this year....took the cake.

We started the week with Rylan's cake, which accompanied us to Tennessee to celebrate with Paul's family. His choice was a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake. It was a yellow layer cake with icing and cookie dough balls in between the layers, frosted with butter cream icing and topped with a healthy layer of homemade chocolate chip cookies!

Once that cake was finished off, we had Cale's cake...

It is very similar to his cake from last year- chocolate cake, peanut butter icing, chocolate ganache and peanut butter cups all around. The main difference came on the inside:

See that in the middle? It's not icing between the 2 layers of chocolate cake, it's peanut butter cheesecake! One slice could make some one slip into a sugar coma.

Cohen wanted an ice cream cake this year- with coffee and chocolate ice cream. His was a brownie crust then the coffee ice cream topped with chocolate ganache then the chocolate ice cream topped with a whipped icing and chocolate chips.

We are now taking a short break from anything sweet! Except for the fact that they all bought each other candy as birthday gifts.....


{Review} Typecrush

What is Typecrush?

Typecrush is a word game based on letter frequency analysis. It is made up of letter tiles, color coded based on how frequently that particular letter appears in the English language. The key is for one player to choose a word and all the other players try to guess the word. There is only one rule- whoever solves the word, chooses the next one. All other rules are up to the individuals who are playing, which means it is fully customizable. It is best suited for ages 7 and up, with some reading skills required.

What you get: 


In the Typecrush canister you will receive the following:
  • 98 color-coded, letterpressed letter tiles made from 100% recycled materials
  • 2 letter frequency charts/how to play cards


How to Play: 


This is the fun part. Since the one rule is simple, you are free to make up your own rules. In basic terms a player picks a word, chooses the tiles needed to spell that word and flips them so that the word is hidden from the other players. Then, using the letter frequency chart, the other players try and guess the hidden word. Whoever guesses the word gets to choose the next one.

There are endless possibilities to this game. We played in sort of a hang-man style. Where we'd take turns guessing each letter. If we were correct it was flipped over and once we had guessed each tile we would get the chance to take guess as to what word it was. This way we all of us, with our varying ages and abilities, were able to play. We also chose to play using categories- such as sea life or food items- in order help with the guessing.


 Some other options to think about:

  • Play in a scrabble formation- where each word has to connect to a previously played word
  • Make it even more educational by playing with spelling words, sight words or vocabulary words
  • Pair up younger and older siblings to help teach cooperation
  • Use the game time to remind kids about common spelling rules or letter combinations


What did we think:

I really like open-ended games like this, especially letter games. There are so many possibilities on how to use the letter tiles- from the intended game playing purpose to using them for added points of interest in spelling, reading and other language arts lessons.

What did I like best?

  • I liked that we could all play together. All of us- even Annika could participate in her own way.
  • This game really encouraged my boys to expand their spelling. My older 2 boys tried to come up with the longest words/phrases they could think of and they had to spell the word and then remember it even after the letter tiles were flipped so they could tell us if our guesses were wrong or right.
  • The critical thinking and problem solving aspect of this game is wonderful. The older the player the more they get it. I saw my oldest thinking aloud often, saying things like, "the only letter that makes sense there is...." I saw them remembering rules and letter combinations and using them to decipher the words. 

What I had trouble with? The price. At $25, it's a little steep for me. But I think just about any game is in the pricy side, so compared with most of the similar games out there, this one isn't any more than your average family game.

Where to get it:

You can purchase Typecrush from their website. They are currently running a free-shipping offer, which makes the game a better deal as well. I think it would make a great gift and a welcome addition to any family game night.

You can also fine Typecrush on Facebook and Twitter.

 If you would like to read more reviews on this product and see how other families used this game, visit Mosaic Reviews.


"Dirty Dishes"

Last week I was cleaning the kitchen. The kids were working on some of their bookwork. I had 5 pans of tomatoes roasting in the oven. The counter like always was full- of produce, dishes-clean and dirty, and junk.  I am sure someone, somewhere in the house was whining or fighting. It was raining, which meant all 4 dogs were still in the house. I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I had Pandora radio on and a song came on. Something about the words made me stop and listen. Here are the lyrics:

Mama hollers "Supper time,
And don't make me tell you twice
Wash your hands and wipe your face.
The table's no place for your toys,
And try to use your inside voice,
Don't dig in 'til we say Grace."
So we put down our forks and bowed our heads
And then she prayed the strangest prayer ever said:


"I wanna thank You Lord,
For noisy children and slammin' doors,
And clothes scattered all over the floor,
A husband workin' all the time,
Draggin' in dead tired at night,
A never ending messy kitchen
And dirty dishes."

We all got real still and quiet,
And daddy asked "Hon, are you alright?"
She said, "There ain't nothing wrong,
Noisy kids are happy kids,
And slamming doors just means we live,
In a warm and loving home,
Your long hours and those dishes in the sink,
Means a job and enough to eat.

So I'm gonna thank You Lord,
For noisy children and slammin' doors,
And clothes scattered all over the floor,
A husband workin' all the time,
Draggin' in dead tired at night,
A never ending messy kitchen

For my little busy bees
Beggin' mama, mama can we please?
Always wantin', needin', callin' me
Loads of laundry pilin' up
Crayons crushed into the rug
And those little sticky kisses
And dirty dishes,
And dirty dishes..."

It made me think. Motherhood is hard. I think we all know that. Maybe it's not motherhood as much as it's being a woman. We tend to let our selves get pulled in a million different directions at any given time. But how you deal with that is all about perspective. It's about seeing the silver lining to any given situation. And all the laundry, dishes and noisy children that make up my life....I wouldn't trade them for the world.

And if you want to hear the song, here it is.

Dirty Dishes by Scotty McCreery on Grooveshark



I would like to announce some changes that will be going on here on It's a Boy's Life!

For the past 5 years, I have written here about our homeschooling and life adventures, but in the more recent months I have been posting more and more about garden and homesteading topics. I have decided to create new site dedicated solely to those topics.

So let me introduce:

You will now find all my articles on gardening, homesteading, farming and fresh eating on my new site The Free Range Life!

If you enjoy my recipes using garden fresh ingredients like:

Or my Homesteading posts like:

You will now find them on The Free Range Life. This blog, It's a Boy's Life, will still be updated with homeschooling and personal posts. So if you are a friend, family, homeschooler or just want to keep up with what my family is doing I hope continue to read here.

If you are interested in learning more about gardening, homesteading and using all that fresh produce, I hope you will join and follow me on The Free Range Life (email and RSS available or add me to your blog reader!) If you already follow me via Pinterest, Google+ or Twitter you won't have to make any changes, but if you follow through Facebook head on over and like The Free Range Life on Facebook so you won't miss anything!


Lessons from the Garden: Following Through

Today I am over on Homeschool Mosaics, talking about making goals, following through and how the garden helped my son learn these important lessons. 

To read all about Cale and his pumpkins, head on over to Homeschool Mosaics!


{Review} LeapFrog Paper Based Learning Products

I am sure most parents out there are familiar with the LeapFrog Brand. Over the years we have owned many of their electronic learning toys, but now LeapFrog, by MEGA Brands, is publishing a line of paper based learning products to help kids develop important school skills such as handwriting, counting and math.

We received a few different products- targeted for the K-1st grade range- for the purpose of this review. When I think of the LeapFrog brand I think of well made, bright and educational products, and these did not disappoint. We received a few different flipbooks covering printing, numbers and math topics. The products are made to last- made from heavy board and an easy-erase surface for using over and over again. My kids have always loved doing dot-to-dot puzzles so, of course, Lakin was happy that each page of the printing book had a dot-to-dot. I am sure he didn't realize that with each puzzle he completed he was solidifying his knowledge of alphabetical order!

Also included in our package was a Ready for 1st Grade Math book and Subtraction Flash Cards. The subtraction cards are double sided and also include counting units (and units marked with an X  for 'taking away')  pictured beside each fact to help with learning the relationship between the quantity and the numeral. The Ready for 1st Grade Math workbook covered a large variety of topics like number order and words, skip counting, patterns and simple addition and subtraction. Lakin has already mastered most of the concepts in the workbook, so it won't get too much use just yet.

What Did We Think?


As I have mentioned before, when it comes to the early years when kids are building a strong foundation in the basics, I will take all the help I can get! If there's a product out there that will make reading more fun, writing more interesting and math less of a chore, I am all for it!

What we liked best:

  • I like the dry-erase aspect. For me, I like that I can reuse the product over and over, for multiple kids. 
  • Lakin (and Annika too!) likes the dry-erase aspect. For kids, a product needs a point of interest. Something about using a special pen and eraser can make all the difference when it comes to writing practice!
  • I like the durability. I have used a number of products over the years and I appreciate the strong cardboard used and the ease of use of the flip book design. Design is important when we are talking about an easily frustrated 6 year-old!


Where to Buy:

 LeapFrog products by MEGA Brands are available for purchase (MSRP $0.99 - $24.99 for children ages 3 and up) at major retailers including Toys R Us, Michaels, Joann’s, Target, Walmart, Officemax, and Costco. At Target and Walmart, look for them near the stationery and writing instruments, rather than toys or school supplies.

You can also check the Back-to-School section at these retailers to find these products!