Clumsy Thief Junior

A big thank you to Timberdoodle for giving us the opportunity to review Clumsy Thief Junior. The fast paced card game perfect for children learning their tens facts. Clumsy Thief Junior is currently a part of Timberdoodle’s Kindergarten Curriculum Kit.

Overview:

This card game consists of two phases. In the first phase, players match pairs of numbers from their hands to make sets of ten, which they then place face up in their playing field. Cards that make tens (9s and 1s, 8s and 2s, etc.) have matching fruit or vegetable pictures on them. The pictures help children who have not yet mastered the tens family and the repetition of seeing the numbers together will help them memorize these facts. During phase two, the rest of the number cards a player has in his/her hands can be placed on piles in the playing field, continuing to make tens. For example, if a 9 and 1 are played with the 9 on top, you may add a 1 to steal the pile. But watch out! Someone else can then add a 9 to steal the pile again. There are also raccoon cards that can be used to steal any pile and trap cards which can be played on raccoons to freeze the pile and stop any further stealing of that pile. Phase two is fast paced because everyone plays at the same time. You have to be quick. Play rotates between phases one and two several times over the coarse of the game. The player with the most number cards in front of them when the cards run out is the winner.

What the Beans thought:

Both Monkey and Mr. Man know their tens facts well, so we didn’t play the game in an attempt to teach this skill. However, they both still really enjoyed the game. Mr. Man was a pro at being ready to steal back any pile someone tried to take from him. He struggled a bit to remember which phase we were on and required some reminders in that regard. But, the more he played, the easier this became. Due to his processing delays, fast paced games are more challenging for him, but he did very well with this one. Monkey is currently struggling with competitive fast paced games as he’s at an emotional stage where he becomes very upset with any game he doesn’t win. Because brother is able to match wits with him on this game, he currently “hates it”. On the plus side, this creates the perfect scenario to help him work through these emotions, build his coping skills and practice proper social and emotional responses. Clumsy Thief Junior will make a perfect addition to the games we can use during therapy. It has definitely been one of the top choices in the house lately.

Something to note…

*When playing Clumsy Thief Junior, it is important to be mindful of table size. We have a large gaming table and found reaching across the table to steal piles of cards difficult. It would be much better played on a smaller table or closer together.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of Clumsy Thief Junior in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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The Beans Review Battle Sheep

If you know our family very well, you know we are big board gamers. Board games are an excellent way to learn a variety of skills, both academic and social. Mr. Bean has had his hand in the creation of a couple games and has a sizable collection himself. So, we were very excited when Timberdoodle gave us the opportunity to review Battle Sheep.

Battle Sheep is a fun strategy game found at Timberdoodle and is part of their 3rd Grade Curriculum Kit. My husband and I were immediately struck by the quality of the game components- very important to Mr. Bean (The Eclectic Bean) The board pieces are made of thick, durable cardboard and the sheep discs are a nice quality plastic chip. The idea of the game is to move your sheep across the board to claim pasture space. The player with the most pasture when everyone is out of moves (either because their sheep have been blocked in or because they are out of sheep) is the winner.

It was interesting to see the different responses we got when we played with Mr. Man (9) and Monkey (7). Mr. Man struggled at first to move his sheep in a straight line and needed a little guidance. He is also not a strategy game player. He struggles with processing and executive function, so he’s typically a reactive player. I was surprised to watch his persistence and perseverance shine through when playing Battle Sheep. He really enjoyed it and beat both Mr. Bean and myself! He has asked to play again, several times. Monkey is our thinker and planner. However, the game takes a few plays to figure out a strategy. Monkey did not win his first game (score: 12 to 14) and became upset, refusing to try again. I would have definitely thought this game would be more appealing to Monkey than Mr. Man, so i was surprised to find the opposite to be true. Hopefully, in time, Monkey will give it another try. Mr. Bean and I have also played a few times by ourselves and both found it to be a game we would continue to play.

Overall, 3 out of 4 Beans give Battle Sheep a big thumbs up. Because the board is different every game, Battle Sheep has high replayability. Also, any game that can be played with the kids but also enjoyed by adults alone is a great addition to any game collection. Be sure to check out Battle Sheep. Happy Gaming!

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of Battle Sheep in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Dr. Bonyfide: A Timberdoodle Review

We recently had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s Dr. Bonyfide presents Bones. This is a set of 4 books that teach your child the names of all the bones in the body. We are about halfway through Book 1: Bones of the Hand, Arm and Shoulder. This book has quickly become Monkey’s favorite science curriculum. He loves it! I never have any push-back when it is time for Dr. Bonyfide… that speaks volumes!

The entire family has shown interest in these books and have sat in for lessons as schedules align. In fact, I will probably go through them with Mr. Man as a summer activity. The books are engaging and fun. After only a few weeks, Monkey can confidently tell you the names of (and how many) phalanges in each hand. He WILL correct anyone who calls them fingers.

Monkey enjoys the idea that we share a special science language. He is now learning the names of the carpals. My 6 year old can independently spell Scaphoid. I love it! The activities in the book are repetitive enough to make the information memorable, but varied so they don’t become boring. Monkey loves the Mr. Bonyfide x-ray glasses and is always eager to use them to read the skeleton jokes.

Overall, these books are nicely put together and I am eager to work our way through the rest of the titles. They are fun and, most of all, he’s actually remembering the names of the bones. This set is definitely a winner in our home. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the skeleton and the names of the bones.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of the Dr. Bonyfide Presents Bones book set in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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True Stories of War: A Timberdoodle Review

Mr. Man loves all things history/war related. He also loves his graphic novels. So when I had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s True Stories of War Graphic Novels 4-Book Set, I jumped on it. Mr. Man seemed excited when I showed him what I got and he quickly sat down to read. He asked a few questions about the first story and soon lost interest. His lack of interest truly surprised me. I sat down to find out why these were not the success I thought they would be.

Mama’s opinion…

The first thing I noticed was how the illustrations were different from other graphic novels that Mr. Man reads. He’s a very visual child, so my instinct says this is a big part of his disinterest. The colors are very dull and uninviting. I understand this was done purposefully to match the time period and mood of the topic, but this does not help draw in his interest. Two of the books (World War I and The Civil War) are done by a different illustrator and are a bit more colorful and interesting to look at than the other two.

The second problem I noticed is that the books give short snapshots of different key figures lives from the time period. This style of writing, while not inherently negative, makes it difficult for younger readers to follow since this is different from the normal flow of stories they are used to seeing. Even reading them as an adult, the tales felt very disjointed. I did like the excerpts given at the beginning of each story to explain who the person was and how they fit in with the events. However, I don’t think it was enough to help Mr. Man understand who the person was or why they were important to the event.

Overall, these books were a no go in our house. If a child isn’t interested in reading a book, it’s a pretty pointless read. That being said, there isn’t anything necessarily bad about them, they are an interesting approach to the various sides of meaningful events in history. It’s important for us to know our readers and Mama missed the mark on this one. For the right reader, these would be wonderful. They just weren’t for my reader. The recommended age range for True Stories of War is 3rd-9th grades. Mr. Man is at the end of 3rd grade. He’s a strong reader but does struggle with comprehension. I would recommend these books for children higher in the recommended age range. I definitely plan to hang on to these books to try again in the future. If nothing else, we can use them to reference some of the figures and events mentioned in them. They may not have worked for Mr. Man, but perhaps in a few years Monkey will find them enjoyable.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted True Stories of War book set in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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World Scrunch Map: A Timberdoodle review

Monkey and I have been working really hard on learning the difference between a continent, a country and a state. I thought I would take a moment to review one of the products we are using to learn this. The World Scrunch Map, from Timberdoodle.com, is a fun little portable map that is designed to be used anywhere you explore. What is so unique about this map is that you don’t need to worry about little hands folding, creasing or otherwise destroying a beautifully made map. This map is made out of water and tear resistant material and is designed to be scrunched into its very own portable pouch, no need to fold! This beautifully designed political map measures 36 x 24 inches and is a great addition to any classroom.

 

Pros: There are so many! We really love this map. It’s durable, beautiful and easy to read. The boys love that it looks like an “adult” map and we love that we don’t have to worry about them destroying the “nice” maps. It scrunches so nicely into its cute little carry case, which hangs on a hook from our school cart. I also love how the map wraps around to show how one side connects to the other. This gives the children a better view and understanding of the bearing straight than a typical flat map.

Cons: I really don’t have many cons and even the few I have are minor. First, even though it says tear-proof, given to two boys who are fighting over it, the map can be stretched and distorted if pulled too much. (I’m talking extreme roughness here, not usual movement). So, while it’s tear-proof, it’s not indestructible. This is minor as I would expect most products to have a hard time standing up to our extreme boy behavior. For a typical child handling situation, it is plenty tough. Second, we own both the United States and World Scrunch Maps and I feel like the US Scrunch Map has more vibrant colors. I wish this one was a little more vibrant. Again, minor complaint.

Overall, we love this map. It’s beautiful, durable and stores great! At a price point of $9.99 it’s a great addition to our education! *Sadly, due to demand at the time of this post, this map is only available as part of the 2020 First-Grade Curriculum Kit and 2020 Nonreligious First-Grade Curriculum Kit (which are great kits, check them out!) Hopefully, this product will be available for individual purchase again, soon.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted World Scrunch Map in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Take Time To Smell the Coffee

I love coffee. I blame my parents….I’ve been drinking it since I was a kid. Terrible, I know, but I LOVE coffee. Partly because of the memories. I had my own special cup and got to sit with the big people. Coffee made me feel special. I LOVE the aroma. When I smell coffee, I feel my body relax. I am a chronic migraine sufferer. I also struggle with chronic fatigue. There have been many days when coffee has been my lifeline… more literally than I care to admit. I remember days when I would make coffee and one of the boys would ask, “Mama, your head hurt?” Such sweet concern. Days when I would be cranky and one of them would say, “Mama, do you need coffee?” I guess I passed the love to the boys. Most kids play with pretend food, my boys had a toy cash register and would play “Making coffee”. You can say I have prepared them for teenage employment.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of my college friends and share a cup of coffee. I haven’t had the opportunity to do this for FAR too long. I realized something that day. How many times have I not invited someone over because I’ve been embarrassed about the condition of my house? A LOT. My friend’s kitchen wasn’t clean and I didn’t care. I understood. In reality, we all do. As we talked, her two year old overturned all of the toys in the other room… ALL of them. Insert smile. I remember those days. She knew I understood and we enjoyed our morning.

How many of us can relate? ALL of us! But we still allow these things to keep ourselves separated from others. We don’t connect. How many times have we talked about the crazy loneliness of young motherhood? Yet, we usually do this to ourselves. If you’re one of those people who somehow always has a miraculously clean kitchen, awesome! Don’t judge the rest of us. We judge ourselves enough and we let that fear of judgement keep us from the simple joys of a cup of coffee with a friend, an understanding ear and a few minutes of normal adult conversation. If you are like me (I am just beginning to realize that many more people are than I thought) realize that your friend’s kitchen probably looks just like yours and she doesn’t care. Somewhere along the line authenticity got lost and we feel the need to pretend life is perfect. In case this comes as a shock to anyone, life isn’t perfect. It’s just the opposite and it’s usually messy.

If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that we can’t let stupid things like a messy kitchen stop us from spending time with people. Because the chance may not come again. I don’t want to look back and realize I missed the opportunity for friendship because I was preoccupied with a messy house. We all need to do each other a favor, stop pretending and enjoy the coffee.

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Read Across the USA: A Timberdoodle Review

As we celebrate Read Across America today, I thought it would be fitting to post a review of the Read Across the USA Challenge Bundle that we have been working on over the past week. This reading challenge is put out by Timberdoodle and challenges students to read a book set in (or about a person from) all 50 states. The bundle includes a downloadable file that gives book suggestions from each state, a map to fill in for every state they complete and a list to keep track of what books they read for each state. You also receive a physical copy of a giant poster to color and create. The poster is a map of the United States and shows capitals, landmarks and interesting facts about the states.

What we thought?

Monkey LOVES reading and enjoys his United States puzzle, so this was bound to grab his interest. I used the tracking pages as a way to plan what books we would read and what books I needed to order from the library. Monkey used the small map to fill in each state as we read a book for it. He enjoyed this. He also enjoyed showing off that he already knew where some states were because he paid attention when doing his puzzles. To my surprise he was willing to color the poster page for Arizona (Monkey doesn’t color as a general rule). “I don’t do that!” Needless to say, we haven’t completed the poster because I don’t want to push it, but he did make an effort to color some of it. Hopefully, the interest in putting the giant puzzle together will entice him to complete more of it.

Cons: I wish there were more variety within the book suggestions. I found a lot of the suggestions were either very young or too advanced for Monkey. I also noticed that many of the choices were parts of a series, which feels a bit useless if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series. I ended up having to do a lot of researching myself to find books.

Pros: The giant poster is printed on thicker, quality paper. The perforations are good quality and make taking the pages out to color and assemble quick and easy. The poster also contains a great amount of information and fun facts about the states. Price point is low at $10.

Overall: While I felt the bundle was a bit lacking. It did provide a good ‘jumping off point’ to introduce my young geographer to the 50 States. It’s a nice theme if you are simply trying to get your child to read more. If your child enjoys coloring, the poster is a lot of fun. I, myself, probably wouldn’t use this on its own, but it would compliment a more in depth study on the 50 States very nicely. Even if you decide to just use it as a fun way to encourage extra summer reading, the price point is worth the giant poster coloring book and the amount of fun facts that can be gleaned from it.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a free copy of the Read Across the USA Challenge Bundle in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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To Your Health

Another area I want to focus on this year is my health. I have had medical “stuff” much of my life. 2 years ago, I felt I was getting myself on the right track. Then, I ended up in the hospital having emergency surgery. My progress stalled. I lost momentum during my recovery.

There are 3 things I plan to focus on and make changes in this area. The first area is to drink more water. Why is this SO hard?!?! I just don’t get it. This should be the easiest thing in the world. So, why do I fail so miserably? Exercise is another thing I plan to focus on. I thought I could make a habit to walk a mile a day, but this has been proven more difficult than I first thought. However, I have been fairly successful at 2+ miles 4x a week, so I call that a positive change. The third way I am working to make changes is with diet. I have seen WAY too many people die of cancer in the past 10 years. I truly believe this is connected to our diet and the junk we put into our bodies, among other things. And yet, it is still so difficult to change these bad habits. I will say I have been doing better about breakfast. I have tried several brands of shakes over the years and haven’t enjoyed any of them. I have found success in making smoothies using YourSuper mixes. I did their 5 day detox before Christmas (I am so not a detox person) and lost 7 lbs. It all came right back over Christmas, but this was the first time in 8 years that I lost weight, so I know I can do it! I also noticed that I have more energy and less joint pain while using YourSuper. Success! Lunch is hit or miss depending on if I have a veggie bowl or leftovers, and we won’t discuss dinner as I have yet to figure out how to balance what I want to eat and what my family will eat. My aim is to eat mostly plants and minimal processed foods/sugar. These habits are hard! Small changes.

Successes I have seen so far in 2021…

*Instead of having a meltdown, Mr. Man and I walked through his anger and completed a 5K together.

*Mr. Man will ask for a smoothie everytime I make one. This is a great way to hide veggies and other good stuff!

*Both boys discovered they LOVE kiwi. This is after they told me they would never try it because “That’s SO gross!”

Our kids are watching us. What changes are you making for yourself and them?

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What Are We Teaching Our Children?

You are your child’s first teacher. Whether or not we homeschool, we do teach our children. Everyday. Our children watch everything we do and, even though it sounds cliche, actions speak louder than words. What do we silently teach our children through our actions? 

How many times have you been cleaning the house, only to have your children ask “who’s coming over?”

Or is that just me?

Are we teaching our children that we only need to clean when someone will see our homes? Are we teaching them that our clutter is okay for those we love most, but it’s not good enough for others? That we shouldn’t take pride in our own homes? 

Let’s take it a step further. Are we teaching our children that the judgement from others is something they should expect? That we should fear and cater to this judgement? My children are judged constantly. Let’s face it, we are all judged on a daily basis. Sadly, it’s part of life. But I don’t want my children to accept this judgement as an acceptable norm and change because of the it. Sometimes making a changes IS a good thing, as in the case with a messy house. However, I want my children to decide to make a change because they recognize that the change will benefit them, not as a reaction to the judgement of others.

What are you teaching your children? I’m pretty sure none of my questions made it into the weekly lesson plans, but many of us teach exactly this. Are the lessons we are teaching them the ones we want them to learn? How can we change our actions to teach lessons that will equip them with the tools to create a brighter future?

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Reclaiming My Home

Last time I wrote, I mentioned the three areas I planned to focus on this year. I didn’t give specific goals because I feel that any progress is better than where I began. I want to focus on progress, not just an end result. Focusing on the goal, or end result, leaves me feeling defeated when I fall short of that goal. All progress is worth celebrating and I didn’t want to undermine the progress I am able to make. In this post I want to focus on one of these three goals. Decluttering with purpose.

This is the area where I have seen the most progress over the past six weeks, which is very exciting. We’ve been working on decluttering our home for awhile now. When I say awhile, I mean like a couple of years. Ugh! It never ends! But I can finally say that it does gain momentum and there is a tipping point where you can feel the hope.

I am almost…gasp…40 years old and I just recently realized two things about myself.

  1. I am a collector.
  2. I am a minimalist at heart.

Wait….what?! Yep, that’s me…and no, it doesn’t work. But then I always say we don’t do “normal” or easy. Let me go back and explain. As a child, when I got one of something, I had to get the whole set. To be honest, I still struggle with this but am making progress. Even in the video games we play as a family, I find I prefer games where I have to collect items. One the other side of my personality, I have always enjoyed minimalistic surroundings. I just never understood what that meant. I love hotel rooms with their sparseness. I like tiny houses. Not because they are small, but because they force you to have very little. I remember once staying in a friend’s guest room while my parents were out of town. The room had a bed, nightstand and lamp. That was it. I remember how calm and peaceful the room felt. I never really understood until recently. I do better in environments with less STUFF.

So, I have been working hard to reclaim our home, my sanity and a sense of peace. It hasn’t been easy. I probably kept around 90% of my childhood things. Yep, it was that bad! But I am making progress. Step by step. One habit at a time. My local Buy Nothing Project group has been my best friend this month. Today, I gifted the last of the boys baby clothes. The last of the favorites kept “just in case”. I also gifted a ton of craft supplies. I don’t have the time or room to work on any of my million projects, I am spread in far too many directions. By deciding which hobby was most important, I am able to free up time and space to actually enjoy that hobby. I realized that I had to narrow my focus or accomplish nothing.

Our house is old. It has issues that need attention. This year we finally got to painting the exterior, we replaced the AC unit and had to dig through 2 feet of concrete to replace a broken sewer line. Besides realizing that I just wasn’t able to maintain our house with the amount of things in it. It also came to realization that it is very hard to accomplish any of the smaller fix-it projects when your house is cluttered. It takes too much effort to physically get to the project. We have one room of our house that still has painters tape and painting that remains unfinished because I was told, at 8 months pregnant, to get off the ladder and not paint. So there it sits, unfinished… 8 years later!

I was one of those people who didn’t want anyone over because it meant cleaning up, or clutter shuffling, and that was too overwhelming. My husband is a board gamer. He likes to have people over for game nights. In order for us to do this without overwhelming stress, I have to deal with the excess and get to a point where I can focus on maintenance. I enjoy hosting. I want our home to be the house where the boys want to hang out with their friends. Where my friends drop in for coffee. I don’t want the stress and panic of Oh, no! Someone’s coming over!

It has been six weeks since I have become intentional about decluttering and reclaiming my home. One habit I have gained… Do the dishes, every night. I know this sounds obvious… but I HATE dishes. Like, I would avoid them until I had no other choices. Partly because it took attention away from kids who either started fighting or destroying other areas of the house. However, once I decluttered down to 1 days worth of dishes, I HAVE to do them more often. Doing them daily means they don’t take as long AND they are easier because dried food is way harder to clean. Wow! I am a slow learner.

I can’t believe I am even sharing this before picture…. I am SO embarrassed!

It was THAT bad!

When I purge, I find I am not as overwhelmed or stressed. I can clean like a normal person and not feel like I have to move things and organize first. The more I minimize, the more I can breathe. I don’t feel as tense. I see progress and I see hope.

What has helped me get to this point? Believe me there is still much further to go, but I have gotten to a point of hope.

  • During the past year, I have found The Minimal Mom on Youtube and came to the realization that I am a minimalist at heart and don’t need to collect stuff. In fact, I am happier with less.
  • I have found A Slob Comes Clean podcast and listen to Dana when I clean and while I am out for my walks. Very motivating!
  • I am creating new habits, little by little. I do my dishes- every.day!

Maybe for the rest of the world this seems obvious. I often wonder why it has taken so long to start figuring this out. I don’t know, but I am grateful I am, because I am finally beginning to feel at home in my home.

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