Movie Review: The BFG

A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.” (IMDB.com)
My 9-year-old daughter squealed with delight and did a cartwheel when she found out we were going to see The BFG. Last fall she read this book by Roald Dahl (1982) with her reading club at school and declared it as her favorite book. She loved the nonsensical words used by the giant and the partnership between the big friendly giant and the young orphan heroine. She has been waiting with much excitement since then for this movie to be released! Thankfully, she was not disappointed.
My daughter “loved, loved, loved” the movie, even though she said there were various aspects different from the book. She kept saying “this part is going to be really funny” and it usually was, indicating that fans of the book will not be disappointed. She giggled often and could not stop talking about the movie on the way to the car. The next day she told anyone who would listen about it.
Overall, I also really enjoyed the movie. Knowing Roald Dahl stories can be a little dark (the unfriendly giants in the story are feared because they eat children), I was pleasantly surprised. There are some potentially scary moments for younger children, but the whimsy of the movie reduced the intensity of these scenes. At times the movie will feel slow, but I found it a wonderful opportunity to fully enjoy the marvelous artwork and glorious details.
Children under age 13 will especially enjoy this fairy tale, and it will put a smile on the face of their parents. The littler children may be scared by the giants, but the scenes are short. And, as with most fairy tales, (potential spoiler alert) everyone lives happily ever after. This is a movie I plan to purchase own one day and watch again. It has already become a family favorite.

Just the facts: “The BFG” opens in theaters on July 1, 2016, the year that marks the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth. It is rated PG “for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor” and is 1 hour and 55 minutes long.

Thanks so much to my sweet friend, Heidi, for reviewing The BFG for me.  Heidi is a strong and patient mother of two (ages 12 and 9), follower of Jesus, and fan of peanut butter and chocolate and herbal teas of all sorts.  She's the best kind of friend to have, and I'm so glad she and her little girl could enjoy this media preview opportunity. 

Review: Veritas Press Self-Paced Bible

Veritas Press offers several online options for Bible learning in a classical Christian model- family subscriptions to VeritasBible.com or Self-Paced Bible studies in Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua, Old Testament 2: Judges to Kings, or New Testament 1: The Gospels.

This year at church, my oldest child did a class called "Foundations for Faith" which is comparable to a confirmation class.  He had to do lots of Bible memory, weekly classwork, a very in-depth paper, and a mid-term and final exam.  Because his class was very in-depth and required a lot of time out of class studying, we didn't really add any extra Bible beyond that class for his 6th grade year.  Now that he's done (and earned a trip to King's Dominion!) I am really excited for him to pick back up with Bible study at home.  Because he did so well being self-motivated for the class he was in, I thought that the Self-Paced Bible New Testament 1: The Gospels would be just perfect for him.  Riley, as a reminder, is 12 and in 6th grade.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
Each topic has a set of 4 lessons, and each lesson has introduction, review, the new lesson, games, the gospels memory song, review of the lesson quizzes, and wrap-up. There is a test lesson for each group of lessons as well. Each lesson is introduced by Benjamin, a carpenter, and Jude, the apprentice.  I think that this course would easily work for a younger child done as a family study.  We found the course to be very user-friendly.

Throughout the course there are quizzes, which require an 80 percent to pass, but passing isn't required to move on with the next lesson. You can track your child's progress in the parent dashboard, which allows keep your child on track with assignments, displays the cumulative percentage (automatically calculated, my favorite way to grade anything!!).  He wasn't a fan of the songs.  If you have Veritas Press History Flash Cards, you'll notice that many of them align with what you are learning in this program.  We happen to have a set from a previous program.

This course is an online course which gives you one year to complete. It is recommended for 2nd-5th grades but we found it great for Riley, although some of the images are definitely geared for a younger audience. The course is regularly $179 for the year but until June 11th it's only $79 for the year! I think that I definitely concur with the 2nd-5th grade ages, Riley is a little old for this particular format, but didn't mind things being a little easier.  Savannah (rising 3rd) and Logan (rising 5th) were very interested in what he got to do on the computer- always a favorite in our homeschool, and would definitely be interested in doing this program next year. 

You can also find Veritas Press on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
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Nutrition Sunday: Fueling Student Athletes

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Review: Zerorez Carpet Cleaning

Okay, I am sure a lot of you are with me on this, but I have a love/hate relationship with carpet.  In the scheme of things hardwood is so much easier, especially when it comes to spills – wipe them up and they are gone.  On the other hand, when my piggy toes get out of bed in the morning they want to hit the soft warm carpet and not the hard cold hardwood.  So... I still have carpet in the bedrooms of my home.  Well, the carpet in my room is eight years old and so, of course, it has been put to the test with those that live here, my husband, me and an occasional sneaky dog; and those who visit, my daughter, her husband and three kids and my son and his wife.  Why would they be in my room you ask?  Years ago my husband watched tons of football and I wanted to watch anything else, so I agreed that we could get another TV in the bedroom for him to watch football on as long as he did laundry (ours is upstairs) while he watched. I know, smart, right!  Now we will let the grandkids, or the grownups watch something up there when we don’t all want to watch kid stuff.  Well after all those years, my carpet had some dirty high traffic areas and one iced tea stain that needed to be cleaned up so I decided to call Zerorez and give them a try.  I called their office to schedule and was pleased that I would not have to wait weeks to get in.

Of course, anything that is going to make things better first makes them worse, so I worked my tail off getting everything out of my room.  Boy do I have a lot of stuff!  Of course, this gives me the chance to easily Spring clean my room. J

When I scheduled with Zerorez, they told me my appointment time would be 10:30-12:30.  After having scheduled many home repair type projects and having everyone run late, imagine my surprise when Tim, the tech that was coming to do the job, called me at 10:00 to tell me that he was on his way but that traffic may delay him until 10:40.  Shoot, I was thrilled with such a short delay and it ended up he was on time!  I showed him what he was going to clean and he asked me some questions about the type of traffic the carpet get, its age, etc. and then he showed me his demonstration again.  I took a video so I could let you see it because it really caught my attention:

Tim got to work and I could smell the pleasant citrus oil scent of their eco-friendly powered water coming down the stairs to the kitchen.  The essential oil smell is nice, and I didn't have to worry about allergies or anything because there is no detergent in the water. About an hour or so later, Tim asked me to come and see the room.  Wow, the tea stains were gone!
                                                     Before                                  After
The high traffic “get in and out of bed” stains were gone too.

                                                       Before                                         After

The bedroom looked happy and I felt happy knowing that my carpet seemed almost new again.  The carpet was supposed to be dry in 4 hours and I was excited because I wanted my bed back.  Because the contents of my bedroom were blocking almost every bed in the house, I had been sleeping on the bottom bunk in the grandkids' room.  It was a little bit of a maze to get to because I had rested my mattresses against one of the long sides of the bed and the room is not very big so I had to go around the back side to lay down.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a bed above, the mattresses blocking one side and the ends of the bed that go up to the top bunk, so I thought I was in a box and freaked out for a second before I looked right and saw the window.  That was definitely weird!
                                                Junk                   Junk                  "the box"
Well, the carpet was dry in the 4 hours like I was told but I had dinner guests so I did not get my bed put back. L  One more night in the grandkids' bunk bed but at least I knew where I was when I woke up the second night.

After vacuuming the bedroom, I am very happy with the results although there is one place that still looks a little stained.  It is better, but not as good as I think it could be.  The good news is that when I talked to Zerorez they immediately scheduled a time to come out and work on that stain.  They “want everyone to be 100% satisfied with their job”.  They are returning tomorrow and I have no doubt that they will take care of the remaining stain because everyone I have spoken with right down to the scheduler has been very courteous and eager to prove that their green carpet cleaning process is better than the rest. I would be more than happy to have them come and clean more carpets, but right now I am considering having them give me an estimate on one of their other services, air duct cleaning and sanitizing.

Now when people come to visit, I will not feel like I have to close the door to my beautiful bedroom!


Review: LearnBop for Families

Edit: We've now been using learn bop for a few months, and I have to say I am less happy with it now.  There are some confusing questions, for example, we issued a complaint about a measurement question where the student is supposed to measure three flowers.  One of the three flowers is partially covered by the box where the answer is to be typed, so it's practically impossible to do.  Additionally, on the MANY questions where they ask you to give multiple responses, they don't let the student know which of the answers they gave is incorrect, so it's impossible for the student to know which of the questions they answered incorrectly.  Further, many of the questions are either asinine or unnecessarily vague.  For example, see the question below: 
"Samantha had 45 marbles.  Her friend gave her 54 more.  Label each sentence as true or false." Followed by several statements that are easy to identify and the final one, which is not.  It reads "Samantha needs to add her marbles to her friends marbles."  First of all, it should be "friend's", I assume, since only one friend is mentioned, but this question grammatically is asking if Samantha needs to add her marbles to her multiple friends marbles they don't have possession of.  This question further confused my daughter because her friend gave her marbles, so they're not her friend's marbles anymore.  

My biggest disappointment, however, is two other issues.  First, if a student asks to do additional "bops" or problems, they receive the same exact questions with different numbers.  The word problems do not change (sometimes at all- even the numbers stay the same) even if they do 10 additional bops.  Second, learn bop is SLOW in responding.  We issued a complaint about the measurement question I detailed above last week and they still haven't responded.  The only option in that case is to move your child around that lesson on their learning roadmap, effectively skipping the section, because you can't just delete or move on from an individual question, even if it is written incorrectly or the correct answer is not available. 

LearnBop for Families Review
My 8 year old lacks confidence with her math skills, but she definitely feels like she's got computer games down, so LearnBop LearnBop for Families was a perfect fit for her! She's actually got a friend who has the school version, and she was always interested to play, so she was very excited to try the home version! It's a great way to practice math in a fun environment! We're using this program as summer enrichment right now, but I could see you easily using this as a year-round math program for your children!

 LearnBop offers each student a customized learning roadmap, which you, as the parent account, can access at any time.  This provides you with broad insight into what your child is working on (Roadmap shows general concept), what specific task their working on and how much of it is done (Current Unit), and the specific task they are working on right now (Active concept).
 Each unit is divided into pieces.  The first steps are videos, which, if you've ever used online math software, you should be pretty familiar with the idea of.  They clearly and concisely explain the concepts that your child will be working on.  Next, there are some problems to solve.  The system requires your child to achieve 90% mastery in any given exercises (called "bops") to move on to the next level.
As you can see, comprehension of a given subject on the child's roadmap is divided up in to the different grade levels.  Based on how my child did on her pretest, with this concept it started her with review in first grade (she's in 2nd, and again, lacks confidence, so this made sense).  It will walk her through up to 5th grade base ten operations at some point, but it's not mastery-based, so she'll work on some other concepts and not just base 10 for weeks in a row.
What I think really sets LearnBop apart is the videos.  While the format is familiar if you've ever done an online math program, not to name names, sometimes the videos can be a little high-level and include confusing examples because they don't use graphics to help a child audience.  These videos actually demonstrate using pictures where applicable so that visual learners can connect with the information, as well.

The bops are more questions than games, but that didn't seem to matter to my daughter, who enjoys being on the computer no matter what the task.  My 10 year old, who also tried the program, didn't really enjoy the online aspect because he still felt the need to copy down every problem to paper, so he felt like he was doing twice the work, but that child has an old soul and technology just doesn't speak to him the way it does to my other two!! It's funny how different kids can be!

The Family Plan includes up to 4 students, and the 12 month subscription I received is $199.  You can also purchase per month, per student plans starting at $14.95, if you just need some summer "keep the brain functioning" coverage for your child's math education.  I think you'll really like the online tracking of your child's progress, the easy to understand videos, and the digital stickers and achievement to keep your child motivated as they go.

To read more reviews of LearnBop for Families, click the link below:

LearnBop for Families Review
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Review: Applebee's Woodfired Grill Menu

It’s funny how life circles back around.  Some 30 years ago I became friends with Judi.  Our husbands worked together at Telenet and then Sprint and because we didn’t live too close together we only got together occasionally.  Some years later we moved into the same neighborhood, had children that went to the same schools, were both stay-at-home moms and still had husbands that worked together.  Often, when the hubbies were both working late, we would get together and pool resources to have dinner at one of our homes.  The kiddos would play and we were able to have some grown-up time.  It was awesome because one of the best things about being with Judi is all the laughter that goes on – she always has a funny story.  Well, as time went on, the kids got more and more busy and we began working and our time together dwindled to nothing.  

Over the last year, now that the kids are out on their own and successful in their lives Judi and I have rekindled our friendship by going to plays, parties and having dinners that have included our spouses.  But last night, my husband had to work late and guess what, so did Judi’s!  Well, cooking for two seemed silly so we went to Applebee’s to check out their new woodfired grilled menu items.  In the car we discovered that neither of us had been to Applebees in years so we were hoping the new menu would be a welcome change.  We were immediately greeted by a friendly, smiling hostess that seated immediately which got us off to a great start.

With our hubbies happily at work (ha!) we knew we had plenty of time so we started our evening with their Classic Combo appetizer that features mozzarella sticks, spinach and artichoke dip, chicken quesadillas, chips/salsa and, by our choice, Sweet Asian Chili chicken wings (other flavors available).  While we liked everything in the combo, the wings were sweet and spicy, crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside and finger-licking good! YUM!

For dinner we decided that we would order two of the wood-fired entrees and share them so that we could try more food – yep, some things never change – we both still love to eat!  We ordered the Sirloin with grilled vegetables (yellow squash, zucchini & red peppers) and Crispy Cheddar Bacon Potatoes.   We were both happy to see that our steak was perfectly cooked to medium, and our palettes were excited when the tender, juicy, wood fire flavor hit our tongues.  The grilled vegetables were cooked just enough to heat them through and add the grilled flavor while still leaving them slightly crunchy just the way I like them and OMG, the Crispy Cheddar Bacon Potatoes were really yummy.  We both agreed that these dishes were delicious!

For our second choice we chose the Wood Fired Pork Chop with BBQ Spiced Fries and Garlicky Green Beans for the sides.  The Pork Chop was cooked through, juicy and had a Cajun flavor similar to Old Bay.  It was good, but it could not stand up to the steak in our opinion.  The fries were hot and crispy on arrival just like all fries should be but we really could not taste the bbq spice on them which was a little disappointing since they sound so good.  The garlicky green beans had a really great garlic flavor and once again were cooked lightly and not to mush.  Three cheers for the Woodbridge Applebee’s chefs!

We may not have been eating at home, but we certainly were in a friendly environment.  The manager on duty, Thomas Kingsbury, was friendly and obviously customer focused.  He came around to the tables in our area throughout our dining experience to check to make sure that everyone was satisfied with their service and he took time to smile and laugh with us.  Our waiter, Conner, was awesome!  He was attentive, very friendly, kept our water glasses filled, and made great side dish recommendations.  I would vote for him getting the good shifts.

Judi and I stayed and nibbled on the leftover appetizer (it was huge and we could not finish it) and chatted for quite a while – it was awesome and left me with a happy feeling.  Nothing better than good food and good friends – thanks Applebees for bringing us full circle!

Giveaway: Hylton Summer Family Series

We're excited to partner with the Hylton Performing Arts Center to give you an opportunity to win tickets to these fun summer events for children in Prince William County! Remember that by entering, you agree to our giveaway rules. All prizes are provided by the HPAC and PwcMoms has no control over content, showtimes, or your experience  or safety at the show. 

The Sound of Found Objects
June 28 at 11 a.m.
Hylton Performing Arts Center, Merchant Hall
Everything from kitchen utensils to rocks to junkyard items transform into instruments for this high-energy percussion performance. Junk Music™ has been featured on CBS Sunday MorningCBS News, National Public Radio, BBC, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.  Learn more
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Trickster Tales
July 20 at 11 a.m.
Hylton Performing Arts Center, Merchant Hall
Can a spider defeat an elephant at tug-of-war? Overpower a python? Capture a cloud of hornets? With Anansi the Spider, world famous trickster, all things are possible... Learn more (http://www.hyltoncenter.org/calendar/793/ )

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Can You Kazoo?
August 4 at 11 a.m.
Hylton Performing Arts Center, Merchant Hall
Experience the rural roots of American music with a band playing old-time songs from Virginia and classic jug band songs. Children will be chosen from the audience to create an onstage kazoo orchestra! Learn more  (http://www.hyltoncenter.org/calendar/794/ )

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$15 Adults/$5 Children
Phone: 888-945-2468
Have a group of 10 or more?  Contact the Group Sales office at 703-993-7758 so that we may help you coordinate a great arts experience.


Guest Post: Grab the Kids and Go Make Some Summer Memories

Grab the Kids and Go Make Some Summer Memories

Summer is almost here. The kids have less than 1 week left and then the 5am morning alarm clocks get turned off. I just realized that this is the final summer I will have with my eldest. Next summer we will be getting ready to send him off to college. Years ago I ran a marketing campaign that we only have 18 summers with our kids so we should make the most of it. Now I am having to live that reality myself.

I have two very busy teenage boys who have already filled our summer calendar up with camps, activities and a vacation with extended family. I would like to say we can slow down during the summer months but my calendar says otherwise. But we still try to have dinner together every night. Every Tuesday night we head to a local restaurant for $5 burgers and fries. That is a better deal than some fast food chains. It is just so nice to slow down and spend time with each other. We all have to put our phones in a stack in the middle of the table. Whoever reaches for their phone first has to pay for dessert. Try this game the next time you are out to dinner with teenagers. Trust me they love their allowance money more than checking their latest text.  

There are so many great museums and activities in and around the metro DC area that cost little or no money. I encourage you to pick a few and enjoy with your family. As a family we like to try new activities together. From an early age we have included our kids in the planning of summer activities. We ask each family member to write down 3 summer activities they would like to enjoy together. Then we put them on our calendars and make them a priority. The activity must be local or a day trip and everyone must participate. So yes Mom has had to go fishing and my boys have gone to a cooking class. We have had lots of fun and made so many memories.

Here is a small list of some of our favorites over the years:

  • Visit the Smithsonian
  • Mini Golf
  • Make Homemade Ice Cream
  • Cooking Lesson
  • Photography Scavenger Hunt
  • Nationals Baseball Game
  • Drive In Movie
  • Hike in Shenandoah National Park
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Water Mine Water Park
  • National Zoo
  • Fishing
  • Shakespeare in the Park
  • Navy Band Concert
  • Old Town Alexandria Walking Tour
  • Make and Fly a Kite
  • Nighttime ride to view DC Monuments
  • Paint a picture
  • Pizza at the Pool

Try to make the most out of the time spent with your kids this summer.  Relax and don’t over schedule. Let them sleep in till noon. Serve them ice cream sundaes for dinner. Throw water balloons when they jump off that final school bus ride. Build a fort in the family room. Pitch a tent in the back yard and sleep under the stars. Whatever you decide to do as a family make sure to take lots of pictures because childhood summers go by way too fast.

Patricia Mickus lives in Bristow, Virginia with her family. She is a Co-Owner of Simple Luxuries Travel. Follow her Facebook page for more great memories with your children.


Nutrition Sundays: Cooking with Protein Powder

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