Samson's Classroom

Reading, spelling & comprehension can sometimes be a challenge for some children to master as they aren't always  as exciting as other subjects. So that's why I appreciate when I can find online resources like Samson's Classroom to change things up from our typical book work. This especially comes in handy if you have a child that enjoys engaging computer games.

We recently were given a chance to try out Samson's Classroom. It's a fun, online educational program that is broken down into 3 parts, sight words, spelling & reading and designed for grades K-5.

In the sight word section, there are 28 different list made up of some of the most common english reading words. Each list has 8 words and 5 different steps to go through to help master the words. Each step is a different game the student completes earning a check mark. Erik liked that each game was different & kept it from getting repetitive or boring.  Once that level is complete, they earn a star. Each step & level gets progressively harder as they master everything.

The spelling sections contains more than 5,000 words or you can use your own spelling lists. The words are broken down into grades 1-5 and grouped into different categories like commonly misspelled, days of the week, ocean animals, etc.There are 4 games for each list the student can play.

The reading section is comprehension where the student reads a short story. There are 4 different levels to choose from. The child then questions they have to answer pertaining to the story they just read. If they answer the question wrong, the portion of the text containing the answer is highlighted. When they get the answers correct, they earn a chance to play a game called "hammer time".

I used this program mainly with Erik as he fit in the suggested grade level. He really enjoys the program & seeing his immediate results as he does each section. It's been easy to include in our everyday schedule as it doesn't take a lot of time. I like the parent dashboard where I can see his progress. There is also a section where you can download worksheets, lesson plans & certificates for your child.

You can try out a demo of Samson's Classroom to see if it's something that would work for your family. There are different pricing options available from one student all the way up to a classroom size. The cost is $30 for one student for a year or $50 for up to 4 students for a year.

As a member of TOS review crew, I was provided a family membership at no additional cost to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Ahhh yes that time of year.....apples, pumpkin in many forms (coffee & cappuccino anyone?) as well cool, fall nights. We've been itching to make some goodies using pumpkin and one of our latest creations was pumpkin spice pancakes. These were a hit with everyone. The pumpkin isn't strong tasting for those who don't like an overwhelming taste of it. The hint of spices rounded out this yummy breakfast and it couldn't be complete without the dollop of whipped cream on top!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir with a fork to combine.  Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil or butter in a liquid measuring cup.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combine.  (The batter may still have a few lumps – that is okay.)

 Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.  Let cool until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.   Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed.  Serve with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and/or whipped cream.

*note, I doubled this recipe with my family which gave me a few left overs. These also freeze well.

The Pilgrim Story

Dayspring Christian Academy is no doubt a familiar name to my local followers as you know this is a Christian school in our area. So imagine my surprise when I was asked to review one their online courses called The Pilgrim Story. For those not familiar with Dayspring, they take the principal approach in their teaching which means they use the Bible as their central resource to equip students to have a biblical worldview.

The Pilgrim Story is an online, self paced course that consists of 5 units with a total of 17 lessons. The website stated this course was geared for grade 3-6 but at the beginning of the intro it stated grades 2-8. All my kids worked on this together (grade 4-7). We did 2 lessons a week as they can take about 45 minutes give or take to complete. There is also a lot of information to soak up as well as additional activities you can do. I also wanted to stretch this out to finish right before we celebrate Thanksgiving.

The course is made up of a multisensory approach containing colorful slideshow presentations while being narrated at the same time. That made Erik happy he didn't have to do a lot of reading! (though at times it was a lot of writing for him). The students have to click through each slide which keeps them from tuning out the lecture. At the beginning of each lesson, there are notebook pages you can print out to put in a 3 ring binder. During the slides, there are times when the student can fill in the blanks on the worksheets. These are highlighted on the slides with a pencil and the words underlined that they need to copy. This helped keep them engaged and retain the facts. There were also interactive questions throughout the course that required the students to click an answer before moving on. At the end of each unit there was an online test they could take or you could opt to do an offline essay instead.

This is a screen shot you see at the beginning of each lesson that lists the different activities you can download to print out. I love the options each lesson have (some of the later lessons have crafts and a recipe) but I would prefer to have the ability to download the pages for printing in one location or at least at the beginning of each unit instead of each individual lesson.

Overall, we have been learning a lot of new facts about the Pilgrims and their life that we've never heard elsewhere.  This course definitely digs deep into their history, showing us how important the Bible was to the Pilgrims and all they went through in order to be able to worship freely. We've all found it enjoyable and are looking forward to the end of the course where we will take a virtual field trip to Plymouth, MA led by Mary Stauffer the creator of this course.

The Pilgrim Story is $99 and will give you access within 48 hours after purchase. It is then available for 6 months after you purchase it.
As a member of the TOS crew, I was provided this course at no charge to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Capturing Your Grief Day 13: Signs

I view this as signs from Heaven, ways God is letting me know that Noah is still involved and a part of our daily life and a reminder than they both love us.

There have been lots of big & little signs these last 2 years. I'll just share a few. The other month we had this beautiful butterfly that came and sat in our garage on a broom and wouldn't leave. We needed to run some errands and I didn't want it trapped in the garage but it wouldn't leave no matter what we tried. When we came home, the butterfly was still in the same spot. We eventually got it to fly outside to a bush right by Noah's rosebush and it sat there for several hours before eventually flying off. The day this happened was on the 13th. Noah was born on the 13th.

This past April, a dear friend of mine was giving birth to her precious son Weston who wasn't going to live very long. He was born & later died on the 14th (Noah died on the 14th as well). That morning, which I didn't know till later but it would've been around the time Weston died, I got a whiff of Noah on my hands. I can't explain it but it smelled I had chills. We were outside doing some yard work as a family. I didn't say anything but called the others over & stuck out my hands and said take a smell. Susan didn't miss a beat and she said that smells just like Noah!!!! Which confirmed my thoughts exactly & that I wasn't imagining it. The others couldn't believe it and didn't stop sniffing my hands. Admittedly I didn't either. I didn't wash them for many hours, not until after his scent was gone. Call it what you want, but I hadn't smelled Noah that strong since he had last been in my arms. I don't think it was a coincidence on the timing nor the day. I'd love for that to happen again someday!

Back in August, I blogged about the Travels of Noah's balloon which was another neat story!! A balloon a friend released on Noah's birthday traveled about 1200 miles and the details behind who found it & when are pretty special.

One of the biggest signs from above was my rainbow baby. I was due with my rainbow the day Noah died which I felt was a sign in and of itself. But I usually carry close to 2 weeks late. Noah was my "earliest" at 9 days late so I figured I'd carry baby #6 until close to the end of July. Apparently God had a bigger surprise in store and I unexpectedly went into labor early, giving birth to my rainbow baby on Noah's 1st birthday, in the exact same room that Noah was born in & later died in (the nurse had no clue who I was when I came in in labor thus didn't know about the room when she put me in it). Knowing my history & that I should've carried late, there is no doubt that this was the hand of God tying together Noah & Olivia's stories for a bigger purpose.
Noah & Olivia on their shared birthday in the same bed they were both born in

Day 11 & 12: Support and Scents

Day 11: Supportive Friends & Family

First off I'd have to say my husband and kids have been so very supportive. They are the only ones who also truly feel the depth of my pain in missing Noah.
Us gazing at sweet Noah before his burial. Our last time as a complete family this side of Heaven.

My dad, stepmom & grandma are also some of the other family who stood by us the last 2 years, calling to check on us, having us over for meals as well as remembering & including Noah. My homeschool co-op has also been a rock for our family. Many of those precious friends don't hesitate to ask me how I am truly doing and aren't afraid of my tears. They remember me on the harder days with notes or emails and have even given us gifts that have reminded them of Noah.

Our church family was also there for us in the early days by providing meals, helping out around the house and taking the kids out to do some special activities.

I've met many dear women both in real life as well as online who have been a wonderful network of support. Most of them have lost a child themselves. There are also some who haven't walked this path but have such compassion and understanding and have been very supportive to me as well. I have several dear friends that I email with fairly regularly and one recently reminded me of Galatians 6:2 in that we are to bear one another's burdens and that's how I'd describe what this circle of friends does as well as those others who have supported us.

I know I didn't cover each & every person or act of kindness that has been done for us but please know each & every thing that has been done for us has not gone unnoticed and has been very much treasured & appreciated!!!

Day 12: Scents that remind us of our baby

I wish I could say I had a specific scent that reminds me of Noah. As I read some of the other baby loss moms answers on this topic, I wish I had done what some of them had. You just don't think of all these things when you are trying to prepare for a birth & death of your baby. Some of them picked out a special lotion before their child was born, maybe even using it on their belly before they had their child. Then after their baby was born, they caressed that lotion onto their sweet baby. And to this day, they have that to smell and remember them by.

The only scent I have of Noah's was the sweet scent he had after he was born. It remained on his hat so much so when we came home from the hospital, I put it in a ziploc bag to try and contain the scent as long as possible. I could pull it out and smell him on his hat for quite sometime. Eventually though, his scent began to fade and sadly I can no longer smell it on his hat. I wish there was a way to preserve things like that.

There was one time earlier this year I got to smell Noah again, but more on that in the next topic.


Do you have a young child interested in music and learning to play piano but not sure where to start? Well, there's an app for that! Kinderbach is a piano program for ages 3-7 that offers both an online program as well as an School Version App for the iPad/iPhone. We had the privilege of reviewing the app for the iPad.

The app contains 3 levels with each level consisting of 10 lessons. In each lesson you have an introductory video, then 4 separate videos. All together, you have a years worth of music lessons. Before you click on each lesson, there is a summary of what that lesson will cover. We liked how the concepts were broken down into simple, concise lessons. The videos were short enough where my kids didn't lose interest in watching them. Karri (seen below) and her animal friends like Dodi the Donkey were very engaging and made the lessons fun.
Also from this screen, you have the ability to play the game that goes along with the lesson (there are 6 games in total for the app and each gets increasingly a bit more challenging). You also can print out any worksheets that coincide with this lesson if you have an AirPrint supported wireless printer. If you don't, you do have the option to buy the PDF files to print. Being that my kids were a bit outside of the age range, they chose not to do the printables as they felt they were geared toward the younger age crowd. But what they sometimes did instead, was take the iPad to our piano, and instead of using the onscreen keyboard, they'd follow along directly on our piano. I though that was pretty creative and gave them a realistic way to apply the lessons.

One thing I want to add about the videos, you need to be connected to wifi to download the videos the first time to watch. Once they are downloaded, you can watch them wherever. Not a huge deal if you are at home. If you plan to take this on the go, it does take a little planning ahead to make sure you have the videos downloaded that you need. My kids enjoyed the portability of this program as we recently went on vacation and they enjoyed playing the games on the plane.

All in all, we were pleased with the app. The only change I would make is a way to go back in and pick up where you last left off at. If you didn't remember or make note of your last lesson, you'd have to try to figure out what you did before.

This app is available for $26.99 with no further in app purchases needed. Remember, this is for a years worth of lessons and once you buy it, you have it forever to use with many kids. I believe I saw on their Facebook page that this coming Friday, the app will be majorly on sale! They also have a free app with the 1st game & 2 lessons you can try out.

As part of the TOS crew, I was provided this app at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Days 8 & 10- Jewelry & Symbol

For day 8, we are to share if we have any jewelry in honor of our child. I actually have a few pieces, all necklaces. Though I'd be open to any piece it just so happens this is what I have for now.

This isn't the greatest picture due to the lighting, but the heart on the left is a picture of Noah and I. It has his picture on the other side of it (like the picture on the far right). The next piece I was given by friends, the baby ring as well as the small ring that has Noah's birthday stone. A friend gave me that before I had him and I wore it when I gave birth to Noah & it's in all our pictures together. The next one is Noah's actual footprints (though on a much smaller scale) that a dear friend gave me, it says "fearfully & wonderfully made" with his birthday on the bottom. And my last piece is one that I won in an online auction for Sufficient Grace Ministries & it says "Noah Alexander" on it.

I love wearing one of my pieces of Noah jewelry everyday. I feel like it's one way I keep him close to me.

Day 10 we are to share a symbol or something that represents our child. Long before we knew the gender or what was going to happen, I had picked out a nursery theme. I wanted something gender neutral. I had just gotten the supplies & bedding right before we found out that Noah was going to die. I still wanted to go ahead with my plans for the nursery anyway and I'm so glad I did. 

The thing that represents Noah for us is anything to do with Noah's ark. Not only because of his name, but the theme of the nursery is animals and the promises that God had given Noah in the Bible along with the rainbow after the storm. It all symbolizes our precious son. You'll find lots of different Noah's ark items scattered around our house, both things we've gotten and things others have given us as gifts.

The puzzle in the back is one Susan had done and glued together. And the figurine laying down says "Noah's Ark" with a little ark & rainbow on top (but it didn't want to stand for my picture).

If you are wondering where day 9 is at, it's to be a special place. I don't really have a picture per-say  but if I had to pick a place, the hospital room where Noah was born and then exactly 1 year later on his birthday Olivia was born in that same room, holds a special place in my heart. I think if I ever go back there again, I'd want to be in that same room where Noah spent his life.

Day 7: What to say & do

The other day, I covered what not to say or do to someone who is grieving the loss of a child. Today I want to share some ideas of what you can say or do.

-I don't know what to say or do but please know I am so sorry for the loss of your precious (insert name). I am thinking of/praying for you. 
I so appreciated the people who admitted they didn't know what to say or do but were thinking of me. I'd much rather they be honest than ignore us or say one of those cliche comments that hurt.

-Offer a hug and don't be afraid to shed tears with them
Actions can often speak louder than words, especially if you don't know what to say. I treasure those who weep with me.

-Remember that special days are hard; holidays, anniversary of finding out fatal diagnosis, birthday & date of death. And not just the 1st anniversary of these times either but in the years to come. 
I appreciate those who continue remember along with us such as including Noah's name in a Christmas card to the family, a note, phone call, email or text on the "special" days letting me know you are thinking of us means the world!

-If you know of a need, just do it.
Many people want to do something to help the family but don't know what so they don't do anything. I found that meals are one of the best things that anyone can do. And not just in the first few weeks after the death, but even occasionally in the months to come. After those first few weeks, everyone goes back to their life and the grieving family feels even more alone. In the following months, I had people occasionally call or stop by to bring us a meal or to put a meal or 2 in my freezer. I can't tell you how many times that on the days that happened, I was having a hard day and not having to worry about cooking lifted a burden. Don't like to cook? Give the family a gift card for a local take-out place. Or drop off a few bags of groceries of snacks or easy to prepare foods. Some other ways to help are mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, doing something special with their other kids, etc.

-Include Noah in the number of kids I have.
I have 6 kids. Noah is also a brother, grandchild, cousin & nephew and should be counted as such like the rest of my kids.

-Talk about my son. Ask about his birth or special memories we may have. Ask to see his picture or video. Tell me what you think he'd be doing today if he were here.
It's ok to talk about Noah. Sure, sometimes I may tear up, but that's not because you mentioned him as the tears are often there whether you mention him or not. I love when someone randomly brings Noah into a conversation!!

-Just say Noah's name!!!!
Just yesterday, a friend sent me an email. All she said was that she thought of me and attached to it, she had a picture of Noah's name. What a gift that made my day!! Things like that may seem insignificant to you, but they mean so much. If your friend or loved one or their child comes to mind, don't hesitate to drop them a line letting them know. Often they need to hear that at that very moment & God is prompting you to tell them as a way to encourage them.

My Child's Name
Go ahead and mention my child, 

The one that died, you know. 
Don't worry about hurting me further; 
The depth of my pain doesn't show. 
Don't worry about making me cry; 
I'm already crying inside. 
Help me to heal by releasing the tears that I try to hide. 
I'm hurt when you just keep silent, pretending he didn't exist. 
I'd rather you mention my child, 
Knowing that he has been missed. 
You ask me how I'm doing, 
I say "pretty good" or "fine", 
But healing is something ongoing. 
I feel it will take a lifetime. 

Noah's perfect feet in my hands

Day 6: What not to say

(if you are just joining, this is what I am participating in this month)
Today we are to share what not to say. I feel like I could write a book about what not to say to someone whose baby has died. Sadly, I was on the receiving end of a lot of hurtful comments & actions. In some ways, this was mind boggling to me. I realize sometimes people just don't think but I know for myself, when I know of someone in a situation that I am unfamiliar with, the first thing I do is to google it or talk to someone who has gone through it. To better inform myself and to hopefully be able to help that person and not hurt them. If only other people would think to take a few minutes to look up "how to help someone who is grieving the death of a child", how much hurt would be saved by trying to find out what to do/what not to do or say.

Noah's Grave

-He is in a much better place now.
Yes while this is true, would YOU willingly choose one of your kids right now to leave you and go to Heaven just because it's a better place? I don't begrudge Noah missing out on the pain & hurt of this world but humanly speaking, I sure as heck still want him here in my arms.

-Be thankful for the children you already have.
Huh? I never said I wasn't thankful for them. But they aren't any more valued than Noah. We all wanted him just as much as the rest. This does not take away the pain of not having him here.

-Your new baby will make things all better & you will be happy now.
I don't care how many kids I would ever have after Noah, NO CHILD can possibly replace him! Yes, Olivia brings us joy, just like any child would, but she has not lessened the pain of grief or taken the ache away from missing Noah. In fact, having her adds a whole new level to this journey as she vividly reminds us of what we missed out on where Noah would've been exactly a year earlier.

-You should be done grieving, you need to support other friends now who have their own (minor) issues.
Yes, this was said to me just barely a few months after Noah died by someone who was supposed to be a close friend. Upon giving said person links & info on grieving to try and educate them on where I was at in my grief journey, it was thrown in my face and they walked away. Grief never goes away, it's a life sentence & changes you. You really do find out who cares & who doesn't when faced with a tragedy like this.

-Let me know if you need something.
Many people say this yet few truly mean it. When someone says this, they feel they did something by saying this and it eases their conscience. I can tell you, no one will ever speak up if they do need something as they feel they will be a burden or they know it wasn't really meant. Instead, tell them you will bring them a meal and ask if Monday or Wednesday would suit better. Tell them you will mow their lawn, is Saturday ok? Can I take your kids swimming this afternoon? Be SPECIFIC and directly offer something, anything. Those are the people I leaned on, the ones who stepped up and did things without me asking.

-Why do you celebrate his birthday or have his picture in your family pictures?
Why wouldn't I? Noah is my child, he lived. Therefore we gladly celebrate his day of birth and we include him in family photos because he a part of us. Noah is alive, he just has a different address than us for now. If your parents died, don't you still remember them on their birthday? Just because a baby might not have lived long, their value of life is no less than someone who lived decades.

-I know how you feel, I lost a pet once.
While I realize pets are special to people, losing a pet does NOT even come close to the level of grief of losing a child. Never compare grief, even if you've lost someone close to you as everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

-You are stronger than I am as I don't think I could get through it. God doesn't give you more than you can handle.
I am NOT strong. And I'm no different than you, I can't handle what I've been going through either. And yes things do happen to us that are more than we can handle, it's part of living in a fallen world. This phrase says it best "God doesn't give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we've been given".

And probably one of the worst things a lot of people have said or done is:

It's so hurtful for people to ignore us, not say a word or act like nothing happened. I was surprised at the people who did this after Noah died. On the other hand, I am thankful for those who didn't let our grief scare them away and stepped up & continue to be there for us.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Day 4 & 5: Treasured item & Memorial

Day 4 we were to share a treasured item from our child. As I sat and gave it some thought, I can't just pick my most treasured item of Noah's as each and every piece we have is very near & dear to me. They all have a special meaning. From the things Noah physically came in contact with to the items people have given/still give us in his memory. They are all precious & treasured items!!

I decided to just pick out a few things for now to share. Here is a picture of his blanket the kids picked out the week before we had him. I'm so glad they suggested it and I love the wording it says. "Thank Heaven For Little Boys". There is also the hat the hospital gave him that he wore. His clipping of hair we cut, I couldn't believe how long it was in the back!! It was over an inch long. It looks black in this picture but his is brown with blond highlights. I also did a plaster 3D mold of his feet and his one hand. If you were able to see this in person, you can see the outline of his long fingernails and all the creases in his skin.

Day 5: Memorial

This is Noah's headstone we designed and had put in place right before his 2nd birthday this past July. It's something no parent should ever have to do but I am thankful to finally have something permanent there that recognizes his precious life!
Yes, our last name is listed but since this blog is public & for privacy reasons, it's removed in this picture.

Orlando Stroller Rental

In the past, when we've traveled with little ones, we've always brought our stroller(s) along. Our first 2 trips to Disney World, back in '02 and '04, we had 2 small, old strollers we brought along instead of a double as it was easier to gate check as well as haul on & off the Disney buses.

Our 3rd trip to Disney the kids were finally old enough we were able to be stroller free. What a great feeling that was!!!

But alas, our recent trip to Disney that we just returned from a week ago (more about the trip another time), we knew we would need a stroller for our youngest who is 14 months old. I was trying to debate which of my single strollers to lug along. One that I wouldn't care if it got banged up while flying but was also comfortable enough for Olivia yet small enough to fold up compact for all the on & off trips we'd be doing on Disney transportation.

Problem was I didn't really have one that fit the description and wasn't sure what I was going to do. That is until I thought about using a rental company near Disney. During all our trips, I knew there were companies out there that rent strollers and other baby equipment but I never really paid attention to them. I saw great reviews about Orlando Stroller Rentals and decided to contact them to see if they'd be able to help me.

They returned my email promptly and answered all the questions I had. They said they would set me up with City Single Stroller. The reservation process went smoothly and they said all I had to do upon arrival at our hotel was to go to the registration building/luggage area to pick up the stroller. 

We flew down to Orlando with friends of ours who brought their double jogging stroller. I have to say it was nice not having to worry about going through security with our stroller as well as gate checking it then waiting for the airline employees to unload it once we landed. Olivia preferred to be in the sling on me during this time anyway.

Once we arrived at our hotel, the pick up place for our stroller was right where we got dropped off. It was as simple as giving my name to have them retrieve it for me. And let me tell you, I was impressed with this stroller from the very first push! I had seen online prior to our trips how this stroller works so I had an idea of all the features and how to fold it. I loved how easy it was to push with one hand but the selling point on this stroller was the larger than normal sunshade which is a needed thing when you are in the Orlando sun most of the day as well as the easy one hand fold! My older kids were even able to quickly & effortlessly fold the stroller as all you do is pull on a single strap in the seat.

 The back of the seat had a nice large pocket for storing just about anything!

This stroller had a nice large basket.

 They also offer the option of a cup holder with handy pockets.

For extra an extra fee, you can also rent a rain cover. For the time of year we go, we are used to pop up showers that happen so we wanted the rain cover. Go figure, we didn't have any of the afternoon showers we are used to. Though I bet if I didn't have the cover, it would've rained!

The seat reclined far and made a nice area for napping. 

When it was sadly time to leave Disney, all we had to do to return the stroller was to take it back to the same location where we had picked it up at. The friends we traveled with said next time they will rent a double stroller as they really liked the ease of renting from this company and the features this stroller had.

Orlando Stroller Rental doesn't just rent for those going to Disney but also any other area in Orlando that you might be visiting. Check out the different strollers they have for rent, both single & double as well as the pricing listed for the different lengths that you would need it for.

I was provided a stroller rental at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Zoo Whiz

Does your child like to play computer or video games but you prefer they don't play mindless ones? Well Zoo Whiz is the perfect combination of fun yet educational, all wrapped up in one great website. Zoo Whiz is a new online program for ages 5-15 that covers math, reading, word skills, punctuation & grammar. Erik recently had the chance to review a premium subscription but they also have a free account that anyone can sign up for as well.

What I did when we first used the program was to log into the parent account and set up Erik's account. I can choose what level to have him at so he isn't playing anything too easy or too hard. Not only that but I am also able to monitor his progress from the parent account and see what areas he may be struggling with in getting answers wrong. After I got him set up behind the scenes, Erik logged into his own account and picked his avatar then started exploring. This program is based in Australia so the voices have that awesome Australian accent which Erik got a kick out of hearing.

The idea behind this program is that the child plays in the "Learn & Earn" area to win and accumulate coins for getting correct answers. If they get an answer wrong, they have a second chance at answering it. If they still get an answer wrong, they are shown the correct answer. The only change I would make to this is that the program would show them how to achieve the correct answer, mainly in the math section.

After Erik earned a stash of coins, he had the choice of going to the arcade to spend his coins on games and/or he could go to the Biodome to purchase animals to build his zoo. This zoo is more of what I'd describe as a collection, as in you get a picture of the animal you purchased. It's not an actual zoo setting that the child manages or plays (though I think that would be an engaging way for the student to be more involved!) The neat thing with buying animals is that when he purchased one, it gave him some interesting facts and info on that particular animal. Erik thought it was pretty cool how many animals there were to choose from. Between almost 14 categories, there are tons of animals to purchase, rare & endangered animals, as well as extinct ones like dinosaurs.

There is also a milestone section for the student to click on to see how they are doing. Erik was able to tell how his progress was based on the smiley faces.

Overall, this was a great way to take a break from book work and reinforce skills Erik was already learning.   I would say this program is a supplement to what you are already doing and not a full curriculum. For the most part, he was able to do this independently but there were a few areas that didn't give verbal instructions so I'd have to step in and help him. Zoo Whiz is currently making changes and updating to add more features that will be coming soon as well. 

Register for the free keeper account. If you & your kids enjoy it, purchase the premium subscription with many more options for only $14.95 for a one year subscription.

As part of the TOS crew, I was given a premium membership at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Day 3- After loss self portrait

I've never shared these photos anywhere. It is pictures of us during Noah's private graveside service. Just seeing this picture brings back the emotions from that day. I am thankful to have had a dear friend photograph everything during Noah's viewing, burial & memorial service as I can hardly remember anything from that day. Except the sickening feeling I had at seeing my son for the last time, holding him one more time, then tucking him into his casket. Those are memories etched into my head & heart until the day I am reunited with Noah. Just thinking of it all makes me sob to this day. There is no worse feeling than burying your child. It is just.not.fair.

On one hand this day feels just like yesterday but also feels like a lifetime ago. Oh how I miss my son SOOO much!! I wish I could say this ache goes away but it doesn't. I'm only learning how to cope with it as best as I can. I've been given a life sentence of living with a piece of my heart missing. 

 "As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned,this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
John 9:1-3

There has been a person or 2 who implied via gossip to others that we did something to deserve our son dying which is so far from the truth!! The only thing we've done is give our lives to Jesus to direct as He sees fit. He obviously felt like we deserved the blessing of Noah so He could work in his life and ours for His own glory and I love how this verse portrays that exact thing!!!! God often uses negative things to display His works to the world, if we are willing to let him.

Day 1 & 2

Yesterday was such an incredibly busy day and due to some other things going on, I was unable to post my first picture for Capturing Your Grief.

I took this picture early Monday morning as we left for our homeschool co-op. It's a view up the road in our development as the view of the sunrise across from my house is blocked by trees.

Day #2  is a picture prior to our loss. I'm going to share 2. This first one was taken about 1 month before I found out I was pregnant with Noah. We were on vacation as a family at Disney World. I was obviously blissfully happy, unaware my life was going to be flipped upside down, making us face our worst nightmare. I am a totally different person now than I am in this picture. Grief totally changes you, both in good and bad ways.

This is a picture of me at 28 weeks pregnant with Noah. It was just a few weeks before we got his fatal diagnosis. At this point I was loving how pregnancy agreed with me and anxiously awaiting our 5th blessing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine on this day that my time with my precious son was going to be limited. That he was going. to.die.

I can tell you my innocence is gone and I don't know if I've ever smiled this carefree since before Noah's diagnosis and death. I have a longing for Heaven that I never felt prior to Noah dying. I no longer sweat the small stuff, relish and appreciate the little things in life, brush off and ignore those who try to cause drama. It's amazing how you find out who truly cares about you & those who don't when you lose a child. I try my best to live in the here and now, appreciate those who chose to remain in our lives despite how tough our walk has been and to cherish every moment with my kids, all thanks to my precious Noah!! I know life could yet again change in the blink of an eye and I want to make the most of what God has blessed me with.

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted of me what I asked of Him."
1 Samuel 1:27