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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

With its new third grade curriculum, my daughter's interest in DreamBox has really multiplied

About a year ago, I got to try out a cool new math program for K-2 students called DreamBox.


I ended my review with this sentence:

(The) only thing I wish? That DreamBox went on to even higher grades. It'd be nice to have their support in a few years when we get to the really tough stuff, like Calculus.

Well, they haven't gotten to Calculus yet, but they have added 100 third grade lessons just in the nick of time, as I am about to beat my head into the ground trying to get my third grader to understand multiplication. Oh, she memorizes the facts enough to get by, but does she really understand what those numbers mean?

Which is why I love having a program like DreamBox in my arsenal. Not only does it reviews facts that kids learn in school (public, private or home), but it shows kids how to approach math from different angles, knowing that not all kids "see" things the same way. And since it's a dynamic internet site, it adjusts the lessons to fit a child's ability, repeating skills that weren't quite mastered, and letting kids breeze through skills that come naturally.

The new third grade level approaches multiplication in a few different ways, by using a number line, picture arrays and area models. Kids also play games to "find the factor" for a product, something that will come in handy when they get to division.


And since their lessons are based on skills set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, I can feel pretty good that these are skills my kids should know.


Plus, unlike some math "game" websites, I don't just throw them on Dreambox and hope for the best. Instead, I get regular email updates and have access to a "Parent Dashboard" so I can see where my kids are on the program, how much time they've spent and what skills they have mastered to date.


But, as much as I'd like to find a program that take over math in our homeschool completely, please note that I recommend Dreambox in addition to whatever regular curriculum you're using. I think it'd be a great, dynamic addition to the classroom, especially since teachers could pretty quickly see how each student is doing. And, since it's designed to be fun and has incentives for kids to keep going, I find my kids spend more time on it than any other math website we've tried.

Want to see a demo about how DreamBox works? Check it out here:

Congrats to Heather for winning a free month of DreamBox!

You can also try out DreamBox for two weeks for free; see the details on their website.


I haven't been paid by DreamBox for this review, although they did let my kids tool around the site for a few weeks to test it out.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I will be March(ing) for Babies!

Click here to help me reach my goal!

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm Promtacular. . .

. . .and I'm not alone, dragging down two of my best friends from the 'hood with me. Stop by Promtacular! and see what I mean.

And, as ridiculous as I look, I feel a bit wistful for those days when wearing a full-coverage dress to the prom was considered ok. Yes, I am getting old.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trash to treasure

"We're going to do WHAT?!?!" my nine year old groaned as I smiled through gritted teeth and explained that it was Earth Day so we were going to wander our neighborhood and pick up trash.

Her younger siblings quickly followed suit, proclaiming this the most BORING idea ever, and why did we have to do this, and blah, blah, blah, complaint, blah.

It was almost enough to make me stomp up to my room and sulk, but as I've been sulking for, oh about 20 months now, I thought that maybe I should motor forward.

Before we left, I called and invited another neighbor----an upbeat one with two fun boys--- to join us, hoping their enthusiasm would win over my brood.

And so there we were, a crew of seven, trash bags in hand, wearing gardening gloves to keep away the ick, wandering the streets of my neighborhood on a bright sunny April morning.

"Look! A cup!" someone yelled and the others pounced. Finding a glass bottle was like finding treasure. Everyone wanted to say they found a soda can. The kids ran into thickets to retrieve a napkin or piece of newspaper.

We got to the end of one street, and our group grew bigger. A friendly older neighbor, the one who sneaks extra candy into Halloween bags, told us to come back in a few minutes. We did, and he had set up his ice-crushing slush machine for us all. We had cup after cup of icy, sweet slush and the kids danced in the yard, stopping only to pick up a gum wrapper or plastic straw on the side of the road.

We didn't finish the whole neighborhood; in fact, we only did half. But, as the kids and I meandered home for lunch, I know I was not alone in thinking that our neighborhood looked pretty great today.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whether you need a crib or not, a little Tax Day gift for you

When I first found out I was pregnant, I went into information-gathering mode, reading everything I could about birth plans and baby care, products and gear. But I still remember my first trip to the big-box baby store: where was brand XYZ that was so highly recommended in my baby books? What do you mean they only have 12 brands? I wanted to compare 15!

Do you know how happy my research-y heart would've been to find CSN Store's Baby Cribs Plus with 600 cribs and 800 strollers and 40 billion other baby doodads? OK, maybe that last number is inflated slightly, but only slightly, because Baby Cribs Plus is part of the entire CSN empire. This is the kind of empire I want to enter if I ever need to furnish my entire home top to bottom.


Now you may be thinking, Christina! Your kids didn't even sleep in a crib!, and you are right. But, I still bought a crib naively thinking my kids would use it, and I would've loved to have drooled over this beauty from Stokke (above) or this more budget-friendly modern crib from Argington. And my sister would've been even more thrilled to get my barely-used hand-me-down.


It's been a while since I had an infant, evidenced by the fact that I can't believe how much the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper has evolved since the light-blue eyesore I had in my bedroom holding books and a water bottle for years (check it out above).

And I would've gone bananas looking at all the baby room decor they have. How long until I have grandchildren? (ha, just kidding! stop looking at me like that!)


Now, here comes the fun part: I get to give one of you a little gift. Just take a look at CSN Stores' Baby Cribs Plus, or peruse any of the 200+ CSN stores, like, or (my fave), and pick out something you like in the $100 range (including shipping).

Leave a comment below with a link to that item, and make sure you leave an email address where I can reach you (that's very important, Anonymous).

I'll select one winner at random on Monday, April 19th at 8am to receive the item listed in your comment. This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only. (North American FTW!)

And, dear FTC: I have not been compensated for this review in any way. I just like giving stuff away from sites I actually shop.

We have a winner! Congratulations to Erin who has won the dollhouse of her (daughter's) dreams! Thanks everyone for commenting!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: The Long Spring


He'd like you to know that there is nothing funny about a broken humerus, especially when there are bikes to be ridden, swings to be swung and trees to be climbed.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Violated by SpongeBob

For the past couple of months, my five-year-old has been asking to watch "Fire Burning" on the computer. It took his older sisters to explain what the heck this means, and it turns out it refers to a YouTube video they've seen at a friends' house.

Someone has taken the popular(?) song by Sean Kingston(?) and crudely overlaid it to clips from SpongeBob SquarePants' episodes in this video. I say crudely because the characters' mouths hardly seem sync'd to the song's lyrics, but it seems harmless enough.

I was a bit bummed that they had first seen this video at a friends' home before I could see it, but when I learned of it, I put it on and watched it. Most of it. After watching SpongeBob, Patrick and the gang's goofy faces for a few minutes, I got up and wandered away, keeping the music on to hear the rest of the lyrics.


This weekend, with my son square in my lap, I was stuck with my eyes on the screen for the entire four-plus minutes of the song. And at 4:03, this is what I saw, appear on the screen


It was all I could do not to blurt out, "WHAT THE F*CK!" in front of my son. Instead, I quickly closed the screen and then started quizzing the kids:

"have you seen that word before?"
"why do you think it's there?"
"have any of your other friends mentioned it when they've seen the video?"

I told them why the word upset me so much. Why it had no business being there, and that the creator of the video obviously added it for shock value. Maybe he knew how many kids would stumble upon this video and watch it.

But, why put "rape" over a kids' video? What is the purpose?

I'd like to say that after this episode, my kids will never ever watch another video before I can screen it, ALL of it. But, the reality is they go to drop-off playdates now, and, even with parental controls on our computers, I'm not standing over them all the time. And there will be times they see things that I don't want them to see.

And the things they could see could be so, so, so much worse than a word, I know that. And maybe that is what bothers me most of all.

edited to add:

As my sis, Mrs Q, noted, the video now has a flag on it. Anyone who wants to watch the video has to plug in their birthdate which will deter some kids from seeing it. I have to give props to YouTube for putting up this up so quickly.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Moms, don't make it look too easy

Several years ago, when my oldest daughter was still a busy toddler and the other two kids were younger than that, I stood in my driveway talking to the girl next door. She was probably around 10 years old at the time and spent a lot of time in our yard making my kids laugh and run around.

Somehow, our talk turned to what she wanted to be when she grew up. The details of how we got on this subject don't really matter. What matters is what my neighbors' daughter said next:

When I grow up, I want to be my mom, so I can lie around the house and do nothing all day.

She skipped away before I could make a sound, although I think the first sound I made was a little squeak with my mouth hanging open.

I know she didn't mean to disparage me----she is an awesome, polite, wonderful person who would never have said something to hurt my feelings. In her defense, she probably thought what I did was "work" since she could see me chasing after three kids, bags under my eyes and milk stains on my shirt.

But, her own mom didn't still have diapers to change and hands to hold. Her own mom was a stay-at-home mom to kids who went to school.

But, do nothing? I know this parent very well and even back then, I knew how much running around she did for those kids. Plus her yard was beautiful, the house clean and the dog walked: this was not a mom who lied around the house doing nothing all day.

And yet, a child's breezy comment bugged me then, and has bugged me since.

It has changed how I talk to my kids. I don't want them to think "work" is something that is done only outside of the house by people who dress up, have meetings and talk of commuting and deadlines.

Work is changing the sheets on four beds. It's mopping the floors. It's laundry and dishes, cooking and chauffeuring kids to soccer practice, then dance, then Scouts.

Work is teaching my kids. It is writing online, whether for money, samples or sanity.

It may sound funny to hear me say, "wait a minute, I need a little time to work" to my kids before I clean the bathrooms, but dammit, I don't want them to ever say I lie around the house and do nothing all day.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

The scream

Our perfect summery carefree Easter ended with a bloodcurdling, gray-my-hair scream at the bottom of our basement stairs.

Jilly has always been a screamer. A great screamer. When she is angry, she will scream knowing that it is as painful as a slap. When she falls and scrapes her knee, her hands, her elbow, I'll hear her scream and rush to her side. A band-aid fixes all.

But, this scream couldn't be stopped with a band-aid. Missing the first stair in our cold concrete basement, she fell sideways and slammed her tailbone into the corner of the stair. A red welt rose up where she hit.

We carried her to the couch, covered her bottom with ice and fed her candy which helped. But an hour later, she needed help to get dressed and brush her teeth. She cried out in bed, but more ice and pain reliever tablets helped her relax enough to sleep.

And, now I wait at my kitchen table to see what today will bring. Will there be more ice and pain-relief tablets, or a hospital visit for x-rays?

In the early morning light, I wait for her call, although I naively hope that she'll bound down the stairs instead and ask for candy.

This morning? She can have it.


My little girl is standing on her own now. She can walk v-e-r-y slowly and is sitting up on a pillow. I think it's just a bad bruise, so we'll just take it easy for a few days.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

A river runs through it

The rains have finally stopped in our area of New England and, other than a very soggy yard, we've been very, very fortunate. But, watching the news of all of the swollen and overflowing rivers brings back memories of a time when the knock on the door of my childhood home was from a policeman telling us to evacuate.

I grew up in Agawam, Massachusetts, just a couple of streets from the banks of the Connecticut River. In June '84, the banks overflowed and came down my street.


(the Barbie sailboat was my sister's and often had a beer floating on it for my dad who stayed behind to pump out our basement and watch our cat)

The water never entered the first floor of our ranch, but it got pretty close (our house is the yellow one to the right).


It was pretty surreal to see our street covered in water, a boat bobbing by the curb.


My sister and I thought this was great fun when we had to stop home for dress-up clothes for my BFF's high-school graduation.


My mother, however, was a nervous wreck.

And now, after watching our yard fill up with water, checking to see if our basement was dry--still dry--, hearing the news stories of evacuations and damage and crumbling dams, I finally understand why she was so nervous.

Mother Nature, take it easy on New England this spring, ok?

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