Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy ALL Year with Bookroo!

It’s no secret that we love books around here.

There’s at least one book on every flat surface in our house. However, after I’ve read the same books 4,700 times, I’m ready to add a new one into rotation, and some of my kids are too.

*The products mentioned in this post were provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are strictly my own.* Some links in this post are affiliate links. Ordering through them will not affect your pricing, but it will provide income for me.*

This month, Bookroo saved me there. New books – without having to search through the internet and 100 reviews or having to chase a toddler through the library while simultaneously scanning books to approve them for my 8 and 6 year olds and telling the 5 year old she cannot check out the Dora dvd AGAIN? Yes please!

Boxes of books showed up at my door, wrapped in pretty paper (Every book is gift wrapped. Yes, I’m serious. How sweet is that?), and ready to be enjoyed. The best part? They now offer subscribers three reading levels to pick from! Board books for our youngest book lovers, picture books for the whole family to enjoy, and now (in beta testing) junior boxes with chapter books for ages 7-10! The junior box seriously made my 8 year old’s day. He’s an avid reader and I struggle to keep up with him. Bless him, that sweet boy has been re-reading every chapter book in our house over and over for the last two months because I just was not up to a library trip with a toddler and a newborn. The junior boxes would also be great for family read aloud books. (Don’t be afraid to introduce chapter books to younger, non-reader kids!) That’s exciting to this homeschool mom.

It never gets old seeing him devour a new book. I was happy with the books selected for this box too. I’m a bit picky on the books I allow, and these both seem to be age- appropriate and well written, which seem to be a bit harder to find a lot of these days.

My girls were no less thrilled than their older brother about getting new books (and how sweet are they in those matching Christmas jammies?).

With a new baby in the house, there’s been plenty of time for snuggling on the couch to read stories the last several weeks, and the two included in this month’s Bookroo box were great additions to our collection of storybooks. With every box I’ve seen from Bookroo, I’ve been very impressed by the books selected. Each one has been fun to read (not dragging on forever, leaving me trying to skip pages lol) with great illustrations.

Last, but absolutely not least, is the board book box. I have a weakness for board books, and oh my, these are precious.

I expected my little guy to love them, but his older sisters were just as excited about the books we received in the board books box. I had multiple requests to read Our Love Grows right away. We read it three times in a row. 🙂

If you want to make sure the kids you love have fun books under the tree (and in the mailbox each month!), there’s still time! Order by Monday, Dec 18 for delivery by Christmas!

Prices range from $15.99-$24.99 and plan options include monthly, 3, 6, and 12 month subscriptions. Junior boxes are available on a 2 month subscription plan.

Check out Bookroo.com for more information.

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Harvest Fest at The Memphis Zoo!

 

 

Harvest Fest at The Memphis Zoo

The temperatures may not be dropping around here, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t Fall! That just means we’re in the South. 🙂 I would prefer a bit cooler weather, but I’m also happy that swimming weather hasn’t completely left us yet. Either way, Fall officially arrives this Friday, September 22! If you’re looking for something fun to do with the family to welcome the new season, this weekend would be a great time to head on over to the Memphis Zoo for Harvest Fest, a family-friendly event presented by T-Mobile!

The two-day event will include lots of fun for all ages. You’ll be able to learn from local craftsmen, hear live bands, and even participate in hands-on activities such as churning butter and stamping your own leather.

This event is included with zoo admission.
Details:

What: Harvest Fest, presented by T-Mobile

When: Sept. 23 & 24, 2017, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Memphis Zoo’s Once Upon A Farm,
Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38112
Entertainment Schedule (at the Once Upon A Farm exhibit)
Saturday
All day – Ghost River Bluegrass Band
11:30 a.m. – Red Hot Lindy Hop
1:30 p.m. – Marti Patchell Folk Music
Sunday
All day – Ghost River Bluegrass Band
1:30 p.m. – Red Hot Lindy Hop

Happy Fall Y’all!

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Arkansas Places to Visit: Beatles Park & Parachute Inn Restaurant

 

Y’all, Summer vacation is here!!! Okay, technically, as homeschoolers, we school year round, but we do take breaks as needed. Right now, a break is needed. lol We’ll be back at it in about a week. Hopefully. Maybe. Even when we are doing lessons in the summer, it’s a lighter load and more spread out. My mom is a public school teacher, so we also like to take advantage of her time off in the summer to spend more time with Nana. Recently my oldest four children spent a few days with my parents so that the oldest three could attend a summer farm program near their home, and our second daughter got to experience two days of Camp Nana and Camp Pawpaw. (Let’s just say, she wasn’t in a hurry to come home.)

When it was time for my kids to return to the real world (AKA home), my mom and I decided to meet up in the little town of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Now many, if not most of you, have probably never heard of this tiny little map dot town, but it’s near where I grew up. Walnut Ridge is a small town located in Lawrence County, Arkansas with a whopping population of about 4,700. There were a few spots around town on my list of places to visit in Arkansas though, despite growing up just a few miles down the road. I’m a big fan of exploring, big and small. There’s always something fun and interesting nearby to see, no matter where you live. Rural Arkansas is no exception.

(This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links will not affect your pricing but I will receive a percentage, which benefits my family and keeps this blog growing. 🙂 )

kids in front of beatles park monument

That day we got to check off two of the items on my list of places and things to see in Arkansas. Our first stop was Beatles Park. My 7 year-old son recently discovered The Beatles through a book called The Beatles (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) and was very intrigued. (On a side note, there is an entire series of the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers books along with a series for artists  and inventors and scientists. I knew he’d enjoy seeing Beatles Park.

In 1964 the famous band made a couple of brief stops at the Walnut Ridge airport and caused quite a stir in the small, rural town. In September of 2011, a monument downtown,  designed to look like the cover of their Abbey Road album, was unveiled commemorating the 1964 event and a downtown street was renamed Abbey Road. In 2012, a guitar-shaped plaza was built downtown.

beatles-park-walnut-ridge-arkansas1791

We were only able to make a quick stop for pictures and to stretch our legs, but the kids had a lot of fun posing for pictures and learning that the Beatles had actually been in Walnut Ridge!

Our next stop was the airport for lunch. We went for lunch on a plane! However, we weren’t eating your typical airplane food.

parachute-inn-restaurant-walnut-ridge-arkansas1747

The Parachute Inn Restaurant is a fun, quirky place with Southern home-style cooking. They offer a lunch buffet but also have a full menu to choose from. Now here’s the fun part – you get to dine in a reconfigured Southwest Airlines Boeing 737! They do have regular restaurant seating just inside the door, but you’ll want to take the small step up to the left. Trust me. The seats have been adjusted and tables added to make dining booths, and the kids can hang out in the cockpit while you wait for your food. (You can check them out on Facebook for more details on their menu and directions.) This would be a fun stop on a road trip for sure!

parachute-inn-restaurant-walnut-ridge-arkansas2305

parachute-inn-restaurant-walnut-ridge-arkansas1788

We lucked out; arriving right at 11 a.m. for an early lunch meant we had the whole plane to ourselves and the chicken didn’t even go out on the buffet until right after our drinks arrived! It was perfect timing! (Now don’t let the lack of a crowd worry you. They started getting busier at the end of our meal, as the lunch rush started.)

Be sure to add the Parachute Inn Restaurant to your next trip through Northeast Arkansas!

Hours:
Tue-Thur 8am-2pm
Friday 8am-8pm
Sat 11am- 8pm

10 Sky Watch
Walnut Ridge,Arkansas
72476USA

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5 Tips for Disney World with Little Ones

We’re baaack! From Disney World that is!

I did not intend to have such a long break from the blog, but life got a bit crazy(ier) here for a bit. It’s not exactly slowing down now, but I did find a few minutes to sit and write.
We just spent a week in sunny Florida after surprising the kids with a dream trip to the amazing Walt Disney World parks. If you missed it, there’s a video up on my Facebook Page of us telling the kids. They were surprised for sure. It was a lot of fun!

While there, we learned a few tricks for visiting Disney World with small kids, so I figured I should share them with you!

1. How to Wear Magic Bands
When you go in the gate at each park, you’ll have to scan your band AND your finger print. The best way to do this is to have your band on your left wrist due to the set up. For adults, it’s not a huge deal to wear your band on the right wrist and cross your left arm over to scan the finger. That’s what I did because I wear my Fitbit on my left arm. However, for little kids that crisscrossing arms and reaching up to get their little fingers flat on the scanner is tough! So definitely make sure you get their bands on their left wrists. You also have to use the same finger each time, so if you mess it up the first day, you’ll be crisscrossing little arms all week.

For even smaller kids (our 3 year old), parents can carry or wear the child’s band and even use their own fingerprint for scanning. The bands are sizeable to fit small kids, but our little one kept taking hers off, so I wore it to avoid it being lost. I just turned hers backwards on my wrist so there was no confusion about which one belonged to who (they were the same color).

2. Baby Carrier – A MUST Have!

little girl riding in carrier on dad's back
Invest in a quality baby carrier if any of your kids are under the age of 5, maybe even two, depending on how many littles you have. This was a lifesaver for us. Between our 2 carriers (We actually only used 1 for most of the trip) and a double stroller, we pulled off multiple 12+ hour days. One kid could nap on my husband’s back while another kid or two (or three lol) rode in the stroller.

3. Snacks for Bus Lines
We stayed on resort (best decision ever!! I’m so glad I listened to my husband on that one!), so we rode the Disney buses to and from the parks each day. It worked out great for us! However, if you stay until closing or watch a late show, there’s a good chance you will have a long wait in a crazy, possibly confusing, line. Bring snacks for the kids while you wait! If you’re out of snacks by then, stop on your way out and buy a popcorn. There will be plenty of little ones crying, so save yourself some sanity. 🙂

4. Stay on resort!

IMG_0481
Seriously. Yes, I know it can be more expensive. Yes, it’s totally worth it. We arrived Sunday afternoon and did not move our van all week. No gas being used, no fighting traffic at 8 a.m., no paying for parking, etc. However, if you do choose to drive your own vehicle to one of the parks while staying on resort, you get free parking. By far though, the best part of staying on resort was being able to split up our party. When the boys wanted to stay for a 5:00 show that the girls cared nothing about watching (and were starting to meltdown anyway), I packed them up, headed back to the hotel on the bus, and ordered pizza that arrived even before the boys were back. On Friday morning when the girls had 9:00 appointments to be transformed into princesses – the boys got to sleep in and met us for lunch at Epcot. If we had stayed off resort, we’d have had to all stay together all day, every day. That would have meant the boys missing out on some fun stuff or all of us dealing with really overtired little girls for hours.

5. Bring snacks
Staying on resort, we had a meal plan that included snacks. However, it was still helpful to have our own snacks on hand. I brought some little ziploc bags with us each day that were filled with crackers, veggie chips, trail mix, etc. As I mentioned above, these were great for waiting in bus lines, but they were also very helpful in restaurants as we waited for seating or food, in the hotel room in the morning before we grabbed breakfast, etc. Bigger kids are fine waiting until a meal arrives at the table. Our 16 month old doesn’t understand that as well. 🙂

AK_PANGTRAIL_20170425_8017515660

This is just a small list of the things my husband and I have discussed that made our trip easier. Are you wanting to take your large family or multiple little ones to Disney World? Feel free to email me any questions or leave them in the comments!

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Be Healthy Box from Simply Earth

Cold and flu season is in full force around here! Thankfully, our family has been spared so far, but February’s Simply Earth essential oils recipe box has arrived, so we’re prepared should it strike.

(Disclosure: I received this box of essential oils free from Simply Earth in exchange for this review. However, all opinions are my own.)

Essential oils have been around for a very long time, but Simply Earth has put a new spin on them, offering high quality, pure oils in a monthly subscription box. Each box also includes recipes and most of the necessary supplies for the recipes. Take a look at some of their previous boxes I’ve received..

Simply Earth Essential Oils Recipe Box Contents

This month’s box included several oils that are pretty handy to have around:

Peppermint
Eucalyptus
Blood Orange
Breathe Easy Blend (Fir Needle, Frankincense, Cedarwood, & Myrrh Essential Oil)
Head Soothing Blend (Lavender, Rosewood, & Frankincense Essential Oil)

All seven recipes in the February box required very minimal effort. They were basically all mix-and-go recipes, which is definitely handy if you aren’t feeling your best. I don’t think they would be necessary for the particular recipes in this box, but should you have any questions about completing a project, Simply Earth does have instructional videos for each box available on their web site.

Recipes included:

  • Head Soothing Roll-on
  • Cold & Flu Bath Soak
  • Sinus Relief Roll-on
  • Calming Inhaler
  • Steady-on Diffuser Blend
  • Nausea Relief Inhaler
  • Point Pain Roll-on Relief

My favorite is the Head Soothing Roll-on. I put it to use immediately.

Simply Earth Essential Oils

Want to get started with your own subscription to Simply Earth’s essential oils recipe box for just $39 AND a free diffuser? CLICK HERE (Diffuser offer expires March 19)
Hint: next month’s box involves soap making! 😀

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Homemade Beauty Products with Simply Earth

January’s box from Simply Earth has been my favorite so far!

Before I tell you more about it, let me make the obligatory comment that yes, they did provide the product free of charge, but all opinions are my own. I’m not going to tell my readers I like something that I really don’t. 🙂

essential oils with diffuser
If you haven’t seen my first Simply Earth essential oils box review, be sure to check it out. Their boxes are a unique mix of essential oils and fun crafts! Each box contains 4-5 full size, high quality essential oils, 5-7 recipes for using them (on cute little notecards), and most of the supplies you’ll need for each project. Boxes start at only $39 per month.

January’s box was all about creating homemade beauty products with essential oils.

On several occasions I’ve seen posts on Facebook or heard other moms *cough* my sister-in-law *cough* talking about making things like homemade lip balm and facial products and thought, “Who on earth has that kind of time?! I’d love to do that, but really?” I mean, I was totally confused as to where these women were finding these extra hours in their day. I’m currently sitting at my computer, in the dark, and running back and forth from my kids’ rooms, trying to get everyone to actually go to sleep. On most days, I’m in a dead run from the time I wake up until 9 pm or later.

Well, thanks to Simply Earth’s essential oils recipe box, I realized I was wrong! It’s really simple and not nearly as time consuming as I had imagined. I spent less time making 6 tubes of lip balm than I do trying to decide which one to purchase when I’m standing in the store staring at them.

It was truly a 1, 2, 3 & done process.

Three steps:

1. Melt beeswax & almond oil in a double boiler.
2. Add essential oil
3. Pour into containers & let cool

Yes, it’s that easy.

My little girls love lip balm. They call it their “lipstick,” and want to wear it every time they see me putting on make up. Now I can hand them their own tube of homemade lip balm, knowing it’s free of dyes, natural scents my youngest daughter may be allergic too,  or any other unnecessary chemicals.

And look how pretty they are.

homemade lip balm
This month’s subscription box also included two diffuser blend recipes. I enjoyed them both, and a friend suggested using their “Rejuvination Blend”(lime & cedarwood) as a mom-hack for those days that you don’t get to the cleaning. Ha! She’s such a genius. Why didn’t I think of that?

My second favorite project in this box was making the Beauty Within Face Mask. I don’t tend to have dry skin on my face, but it will be an amazing hand cream for this mama that washes dishes and/or her hands 100 times each day! Again, I was surprised by how super easy it was to make too. It was basically the same process as the lip balm.

homemade facial mask

 

This essential oils box also included a recipe for a Beauty Within roll-on and a solid perfume (along with the supplies for each of course). There’s a fun video of the roll-on over on my page on Facebook.

If you want to try it out for yourself, you can see their subscription box options and individual products over at www.simplyearth.com.

And right now, you can get a FREE diffuser (regularly $50!) when ordering your first subscription box and using this code! {Expires March 19, 2017}

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Homeschooling is messy.

Homeschooling is messy. Very messy.

It’s perpetual snacktime (and sweeping crumbs), spelling lessons, paint and markers, and unending pencil shavings all mixed together.

It’s also grouchy moods from lack of sleep, annoying siblings, complaining about chores, curious toddlers, 3-5 sinks of dishes every day, and an exhausted mama.

All that stuff sounds pretty ugly right? Well, in the moment, viewing it from the midst of it, it is.

messy table with art supplies and snacks

 

But when you step back and view it from a different angle….

it’s not.

school table from above with paint books and snacks

 

It looks like little growing bodies and minds and time spent being creative. It looks like being able to rest when rest is needed (sometimes in a blanket fort), learning patience, love, kindness, work ethic, and how to be a friend. It looks like having fun, having full tummies and hearts, a family reading together after lunch, and a mama learning daily (and teaching her children by example) to lean on God.

Homeschooling is beautiful when we take the time to see it from His view.

 

kids coloring together

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We Date and Paint at Home: January

spirograph art and pen

I love date nights. Looooove them. However, we have 5 kids, recently moved to a new area, and don’t live near any of our family. We totally strike out in the babysitter department. That shouldn’t stop us from having a good time and spending some quality time together though, right? Didn’t think so. For a long time we had one or two shows we watched together each week. Then we chose to get rid of our satellite tv services, so we switched to renting or buying a movie once or twice a month. Life got crazy, and that got pushed to the back burner. This year, we’re revamping our date nights in with a Date Night Challenge. If you missed my last post, or want to join in, go check out the intro post.

This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links will not change your pricing, but I will receive a small percentage.

January’s date night wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but we did get to spend some time together creating some fun art, so I’ll call it a success. The baby decided to take a super late nap and then wasn’t ready to go to bed, so he joined us in his highchair. The activity I chose for this month’s date night in was fun though, and I’ll certainly pull it out for other crafts too. I have yet to let my kids touch it. 🙂

First reactions:

Me: Yaaaay! These are so fun! Back to my childhood! I’ve been wanting one of these for years.

Steven: (peeking in the box) You’re such a kid.

January’s Date Night Activity:

The Original Spirograph Deluxe Set

the orginial spirograph set box

My husband’s initial reaction may be a tad bit true. I’ve never denied it though.

spirograph-art-2

The Spirograph set has mostly stayed the same over the years. However, some special edition kits have been added, such as the Spirograph Cyclex.

The appeal of the Spirograph was the open it and go aspect. I wanted something quick and fairly easy to master. As I mentioned before, I’m not very gifted in the drawing area. Who wants to be discouraged on a date night? Not me. I was thankful for the nifty design guide included in the set. The guide gives pictures and instructions on how to create many different designs – from extremely simple to rather complex.

spirograph set box with wheels and pens

spirograph-art

spirograph-set-2

Date nights at home definitely don’t have to be elaborate. Sweet tea, good conversation, and the Spirograph Deluxe Set made a fun and quick at-home date night. I’m sure we’ll get it out again for another date night in. I have a few other ideas for using it to create different crafts too. (And at some point I may even let my kids in on the fun. :-p )

Looking for more Spirograph fun? Check out my Spirograph ideas board on Pinterest!

So what fun activities did you come up with for a January date night? Share them in the comments or over on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag me (@mommythezookeeper) and use #wedateandpaintathome! I can’t wait to see what fun y’all had!

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We Date & Paint at Home: Our 2017 At-Home Date Night Challenge 

 

I have rarely made New Years resolutions. It’s just not my thing. This year though, I happened upon an idea or two I’d like to try.

The last Friday night of 2016, I found myself standing in Wal-Mart with my husband when the crafting bug struck me. I suggested (ok, begged/demanded) that he step out of his “always go by the plan” box and do some painting with me that night. We bought a couple of cheap canvases, paints, and brushes, and headed home. I was glad he didn’t ask if we had any at home. I didn’t want to ruin my chances by telling him I did have all the supplies….packed away in storage 😆🙈

It was the funnest date night we’ve had in a long time. (Nothing will ever top the Valentine’s Day date to Chuck E. Cheese though. Oh yes, we did, and it was awesome! I nearly peed on myself in the front seat of his truck from laughing so hard as we took selfies with bubba teeth.)


Anywho, I stink at painting. My husband is crazy talented at drawing, and apparently painting too. He hadn’t touched paints since high school, and yet, he could have outdone me blindfolded. We did have a great time, despite my lack of painting skills! Our painting supplies, a pot of coffee, and cookies from my mother-in-law, and good conversation made for a fun, cheap date night at home that didn’t involve watching tv or movies, which is usually our go to. My husband even told some friends and family it was a really good idea, and he’d enjoyed our at-home date night!


All of this got me thinking. Why not do a different date night craft or art activity once a month? Cheap, fun, lots of opportunity for conversation, and it won’t require a babysitter, which we don’t exactly have easy access to.

So that’s my goal – 1 at-home date night per month that involves some sort of art or craft and is inexpensive. I’ll try to stay at $20 or less.

Then, each month I’ll share our date night activity here!

PS-If you’d like to share your own at-home date night arts and crafts, be sure to post them and include #mommythezookeeper and #wedateandpaintathome in the comment! I’d love to see what ideas y’all come up with!

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Tennessee Safari Park

tennessee-safari-park-zoo

 

We’ve said for years we’d like to visit a drive-thru zoo, but we never got around to actually doing it. Until our vacation this past Fall! We headed out on our family vacation to Gatlinburg, TN several hours earlier than originally planned, and when we passed a sign advertising the Tennessee Safari Park my husband, who is normally Mr. By-the-Book-Has-to-have-a-Plan, surprised us all by stopping!

wildebeest

There is a billboard advertising the Tennessee Safari Park in the city where we grew up, and now we do a lot of our shopping, so I was somewhat familiar with it, but had never researched to see what they actually had to offer or how close it was too us. Had I done so, we’d have visited much sooner! The Tennessee Safari Park is located in Alamo, TN (about 30 minutes northwest of Jackson, TN), which is an easy drive from Northeast Arkansas.

The zoo today includes over 700 animals of over 100 different species. What started as a family homestead of cash crops and livestock in 1858 is now a nearly 200 acre zoo and conservational breeding center.

 

The park now features a drive-thru zoo and a walk-thru petting zoo. Buckets of feed can be purchased at the park entrance, which I highly recommend. We had a blast feeding the animals. There was lots and lots of laughter in our car! We got an up-close encounter with llamas, camels, Axis Deer, Fallow Deer, Common Elands, zebras, emus, and more!

llama waiting to be fed

A few things we learned:
Bison are even more beautiful in person.
Llamas are hilarious.
We really don’t like ostriches. Really. And my husband thought it was hilarious to roll down MY window every time one came near us.

spotted deer lying in grass

 

When we finished the drive-thru portion, we parked our van and made our way over to the petting zoo. Unfortunately we were there on a pretty warm day, so many of the animals in the petting zoo area were in their shelters to get away from the sun, but that certainly didn’t stop our kids from having a good time. The water sprinklers set up were a nice touch on a hot day too.

 Tennessee Safari Park gets 12 thumbs up from our crew (two for each person that can give thumbs up at this point)! Our experience was well worth the time and money.


 

Want to plan a trip for yourself?

Hours:
Monday – Saturday:

Gates open at 10:00am
Last car in at 4:30pm

Park closes at 5:00pm

Sunday:

Gates open at 12:00pm
Last car in at 4:30pm

Park closes at 5:00pm

Ticket Pricing
$12 / adult
$8 / children
*Group and field trip rates are available*

Tennessee Safari Park
637 Conley Road
Alamo, TN 38001
731.696.4423

For more information, visit: http://www.tennesseesafaripark.com/

Or visit them on Facebook.

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Filed under entertainment, Experience Review, field trip, out and about, Reviews, travel