Thursday, May 29, 2014

Animal Jam and Animal Jam Academy Review, Keep the Kids Engaged and Learning This Summer!

Hi friends! Memorial Day has passed (hope you had a great one, we sure did!) and there are only 2 days left of that means Summer is here baby!! We are so excited for riding horses, going to the
pool, camping, and fun times outside, but what do we do when it's so hot outside and we just want to chill out in the house for a bit?! I have a few ideas to share with you. Yesterday I told you I would be sharing a mini series of things we will be doing this summer for fun and learning. Today, I'm excited to introduce you to
Animal Jam! It's a fun new computer game for kids, created and brought to you by our friends at National Geographic, and they are sponsoring today's blog post. The opinions and review are my kids and my own. 

Check out the "Mad Scientist" he's got some crazy hair! Can you guess which one is mine? (This is one of the projects on the Animal Jam Academy website.)

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the awesome Animal Jam Team at a recent blog conference. They introduced me to the idea and gave me a trial of the game for my kids. They have been playing the game since January of this year. My kids are not big "gamers." They don't own a Nintendo DS (is that still a thing?)  Or any other gaming equipment. They don't play video games, but we do a few computer games, mostly educational, but fun stuff. So I love that fact that this Animal Jam game is fun, but the kids can also learn things about the environment and animals. I am not a big fan of my kids spending a lot of time online, but also know it's the way of the future. A kid these days needs to know how to safely navigate the Internet and use a computer! ( Is anyone else freaking out that their 3rd grader is a fluent typist?! I didn't type until Jr. High!)
Starting her Marshmallow Tower. (Another activity from their website.)

Safety is a big concern for me when on the Internet in general, so to say I feel confident in this game is a big deal! When my kids logged on for the first time, I received an Animal Jam email letting me know my child had logged in and created an Animal Jam account (which, obviously I already knew because I helped create it) but it's nice because it gives you control (in the parent dashboard) of what your child can access and do. I am also always in the room while my children are online, no matter the website they are using, just because I want them to be safe. (And "they" claim your child is only 3 clicks from Dora to something "inappropriate") So feeling that my kids are on a site that cares about my kids safety and protection matters to me. But, I still always monitor play by being there. My kids are still young and the computer/Internet are new to them. I feel that these Animal Jam/Animal Jam Academy sites/game are safe places for my kids to play and learn.

What it looks like inside the game!

She had so much fun doing all the Animal Jam Academy activities!

I am not a gamer. I don't find enjoyment from video/computer games so I have never played this game. However, my kids (ages 8 and 6) have played it a lot and love it. I have watched them play the game. The game is played on the computer. It is basically an online playground for kids who like animals and exploring the outdoors. They get to create and customize their own animal character, play with friends, go on adventures, and the part I like the best is that because it was created in partnership with National Geographic, the kids learn while they play and are exposed to real scientists. My kids favorite person to listen to and learn from on the site is the Marine Biologist, Tierney Thys.
The making of a "Mad Scientist!"

The things I like most about this game and site is that I feel they (the creators of the game) are committed to keeping kids safe online. (Safety for me when my kids are online is the most important!) And it encouraging them to explore and protect the world and animals around them. Sometimes we think that because it's a computer game that it must be "bad." I agree that too much time in front of the computer is not good, however I have had a really great experience over the past few months allowing my kids playing time on Animal Jam (the game) and then doing the activities on Animal Jam Academy, which is a great resource for learning and ideas for activities to keep the kids engaged, learning and having fun!
The only down side to the game as far as I can see is that it costs money. But what doesn't?! People pay a lot of money for video games and equipment that are for pure entertainment value alone. This is entertaining, yet educational and encourages further activity and exploration of the world outside.
And they did it!

Here are my kids favorite things about the Animal Jam game:
8 year old:
"It's fun!"
"I like to create and change my wolf (her character)"
"I like to explore the different habitats" yes, she said habitats!
"I like to buy stuff for my wolf" (by playing the game they earn and can "buy" things, we are not talking real money here.)
Map of the game and different places to explore and learn about.

6 year old:
"I like to dress up my animal."
"I like to go see all the places."
"I like to listen to the lady." (Tierney)
"It's fun!"
My 6 year old loves this journey book. She loves to play in the aquarium and learn about the different animals.

I will be going to the Animal Jam Academy website a lot this summer for fun, easy activities to do with my kids! You can go to Animal Jam Academy Link by clicking on this link. They have fun and educational activities about science, technology, engineering and art, to do with your kids and it's free!! You can decide which projects you want to do, click on it, print out a sheet with the instructions and go to town!  Here are my kids and I doing some of their fun ideas:

Even the little guy loves crafts!

And just in case you were wondering if computer games create children without imagination or desire to play outside, let me assure you that in my experience with this game and sites (with proper boundaries and supervision) that my kids are thriving, abounding in imaginative play and are learning much!

Just the other day I was working in the garden. The kids were outside playing. My friend came over and heard the kids playing. She said "What are they doing?" They were all walking around holding up old VHS tapes on their shoulders and following our chickens around. Then the kids said "And next, on National Geographic...we found a new's called a chicken!!" (They were pretending to be a National Geographic Video Crew.) It was entertaining and proof to me that they are learning and that our experiences with Animal Jam and Animal Jam Academy are encouraging our imagination and desire to explore the outdoors and have lots of fun!!
And next, on National Geographic.....
Love how you can print out the instructions to follow as you craft!

So I feel that this is a company, game, site that I can recommend to friends. I have had nothing but good experiences with Animal Jam (the game) and Animal Jam Academy (the free educational and activities website). I don't like things that cost a lot of money to use or be members of, for all the benefits, but I feel that $5.95/month, $29.95/6 month, or $57.95/12 month for a full access membership to the game is reasonable. I have paid more per year for other educational sites.  For more information on how to obtain full membership benefits you can click here:Animal Jam Membership Info
The coloring pages are great and have interesting facts about the animals for the kids to learn while coloring.

So hop on over and check out what Animal Jam has to offer your family! They have graciously offered to sponsor a free trial of the game and some other fun Animal Jam gear to one of you!! To enter to win, just leave a comment here on this blog post about what you are looking forward to doing with your kids this summer! Winner will be chosen at random from the comments section of this blog post on  June first. When the winner is chosen, Animal Jam Headquarters will mail out your awesome prize!!
Our crazy haired Cheetah!

Here's wishing you a super fun summer with your kids! Watch for more fun ideas of how to keep the kids busy and other exciting partnerships and giveaways!!
And my all time favorite thing about Animal Jam is taking what we learned outside to the real world! We made lady bugs and then "released" them into our garden. We talked about how Lady Bugs are so good for our garden and that we should do what we can to save the Lady Bugs! The kids thought our big bugs would definitely scare away any "bad" bugs!!

Here are some links to Animal Jam:

The Animal Jam game: Animal Jam Game

The Animal Jam Academy Website:

Thanks friends for tuning in and thanks Animal Jam for sponsoring today's post!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How To Keep The Kids Busy This Summer! Mini Series Coming!!

"Ain't no cure for the summer time blues!" Do you know the song?! (Alan Jackson!) I am so ready for summer, I just can't stand it!! The kids last day of school is this week and they are counting down the days, hours minutes! They have field trips, class parties and all kinds of crazy going on...But then what?! What are you going to do to keep your kids busy, engaged and learning this summer? I decided I would do a mini series of blog posts about what we will be doing this summer to stay engaged and learning. I'm really excited to partner with some really great companies and people to bring you this series, so keep an eye's going to be fun!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day from Patch a Heaven!

Hi my friends! It's Memorial Day and that means we should be giving thanks to our Service Men and Women who have and continue to serve and protect our country. We salute you!!

This picture was taken last year while we stood on the side of Main Street to watch as they escorted the body of a fallen soldier from our community back home. I thought it was fitting for today. All gave some...some gave all!

Hope you all have a great Memorial Day!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Still Having A Ball At 90! Birthday Party Decor

This is my sweet Granny, isn't she beautiful?! I hope I'm as pretty as she is when I'm 90!!
Maybe some of you have been wondering where I have been recently. I've been around! I've just been super busy with lots of important (to me) projects! One of the most important projects I had been working on was decorations for my sweet Granny's 90th Birthday party! She is such an amazing woman and I wanted to honor her with some super duper decorations for her party. My Aunts delegated us all jobs, I got the job of table centerpieces. My Aunt had seen a theme that she liked (maybe on Pinterest?) that was "Still Having a "Ball" at 90!" And that's the theme they wanted to roll with. My Granny's era was made up of hard working, penny pinching, use it til it can't be used no more...then fix it, and canning/bottling was a big part of that. So I thought it was very fitting. I didn't check Pinterest or any other sites when making my décor. I just went with her theme and did my own thing. I have a new Cricut Explore Machine that I was super excited about using for this project...And man, did I use it!!

Here is what I did:

Here are 3 of the 9 Centerpieces. I used Ball Wide Mouth Vintage Mason Jars, I spray painted them and then antiqued them in the lettering areas with a piece of sand paper. I wrapped a bow around the top of the jar and my amazing floral shop owner friend filled them with gorgeous flowers. I wanted a vintage/rustic feel.

I liked the lace doily look of this table cloth and on the tables we had paper doily's that I had spray painted cream colored.

I bought this Burlap Plate at Hobby Lobby, it was plain when I started. I used my Cricut Explore to cut out the flowers and the letters. Then I used Mod Podge to make them stick. The Jar hanging down was also made with the Cricut Explore. I dabbed blue and cream colored paint around the sides/bottom of the plate to look like flowers and add the colors. Just a little FYI the Cricut didn't handle cutting burlap well, so the burlap flowers were hand cut or purchased at Hobby Lobby also.

I then wanted to continue the theme, colors and décor into other areas of the room, not just the tables. So I made this ribbon garland. I used satin ribbon, burlap ribbon, lace ribbon and fabric and cut outs from my Cricut machine. There are flowers, apples and 90's cut out of paper using the Cricut Explore and then sewn with the sewing machine onto some of the ribbons.

Here is a little closer view of the garland. My favorite cut out is the apple, the intracut cuts you can make on this machine are amazing!

As the centerpieces on the tables I used the quart jar with the flowers and then to compliment the canning theme I used a pint of pear jam that was a golden yellow color, accented with ruffled burlap ribbon, satin ribbon wrapped around and tied in a bow and I also spray painted the jar rings. The small 1/2 pint jar is a cute shaped, vintage inspired Ball jar filled with Strawberry Jam, I spray painted the jar ring cream colored and used a piece of cream lace fabric to trap between the lid and ring of the jar. I placed all 3 of these in the center of the tables at the party.

Then I made another banner with the theme "Still Having a Ball at 90!" I used Burlap ribbon as the base, then made lots of banner cut outs using my Cricut Explore and lots of Jar cut outs that I embellished with lettering, flowers, the apple and the 90. I hot glued all the lettering to the Burlap ribbons, using a ruler to make them exactly 3" apart. (lay everything out where you want it before you start to glue to make sure you have enough room)

Then using one of my old canning racks (that goes inside the pot, that holds the bottles) I made this ribbon hanging. I spray painted the rack (it was old and rusty) then I tied pieces of ribbon onto it. And tied the theme in with the "Still Having a Ball at 90!" banner hanging a bit lower.

I worked on these decorations for 2 weeks (in between feeding lambs and my normal routine) and I could have worked on it forever! It was so much fun to create something for someone who means so much to me! You may look and go...all that work, money, time and you could have just bought some cheaper party store decorations, and I could have. But I have decided that one way that I show people that I love them, is I make stuff. That's just me, my way. So if you have ever received something from me that I made, please feel very loved. If I make something for you...I love you!!

I had so much fun making this and her party was so nice! I'm so glad I got to help make it a special day for her. Granny if you read this, know that you have always been an amazing example in my life and I'm so glad to have had you as my Grandma!

It's That Time of Year Again. Baby Bummer Lambs Everywhere!

I mentioned to Handy Hubby the other day that I needed to get ready for lambs as they would be starting to lamb at the ranch soon. He looked at me and said "you don't have to do that. I make enough money that you don't need to raise lambs anymore." And he's right. He takes really good care of me and I certainly cannot complain! (There was a time in our marriage that construction was to put it nicely...really crappy! And I felt I needed to raise lambs for extra money. Having enough at the end of the summer for a couple of house payments if we needed was comforting and reassuring to me, and a way that I could contribute to our income while taking care of our kids at the same time.)
Here are some of this years babies. They are cuties!!

The reason for my raising bummer lambs has changed. And he's right...I don't have to. I actually like to. It gives me satisfaction to do it. Yes, it takes a lot of work! Yes, it takes a while to get paid. Yes, if we go on vacation I have to find a milk maid. But...I still like it. Call me crazy! Part of me wants to be a full time farmer/rancher, so this satisfies that desire. And the last reason is that it's really good for my kids!! They are getting big enough now to be really good help and since we don't "need" the money anymore to sustain our life, we can use it for "fun money!" 3 years ago, my kids wanted to go to  Disney World and I told them we could go if they would help me feed lambs all summer and not complain. So it was really great! I would say "let's go feed lambs" and if anyone groaned...all I had to say was "Disney World!" and the groaning halted immediately! So this year, my oldest daughter said "Mom, I want a tree house." And I thought to myself "that's a great idea!" So we made another deal. They would help me feed and care for the lambs and at the end of the summer when we sell them we will use the money to build a tree house. They are excited and it gives them a good opportunity to work hard and earn money for something they want! So this summer we are working for a tree house!

Turns daughters are better at this lamb raising thing than I am! They give tender kisses and hugs too!!

It really is a miracle that this lamb can walk on his he gets carried almost everywhere!! He is her pride and joy!!

She just got done at the 4-H Livestock Show with her show lamb and had her babies to feed.

The ones that are harder to get to eat, mom gets at first, but once they are all bottle trained they are the girls job.

"Come on...don't you want a little more?"

Even the little guy can help (he's only 3 but a big time helper!!)

And this is the time saving feeding system my Handy Hubby rigged up for us! (We love him!!)

Because hand feeding 24 lambs takes one hour and we feed 3-4 times a day...Once all the lambs can stay on the nipple and suck on their own, we use the feeding system. It saves time and backs!

We started with 24, we lost one to bloat (darn that green pasture) I tried my darn'dst to save him, to no avail. We lost one to Pneumonia...again, tried like heck, fed him via stomach tube for 4 days straight while giving medication and he still wouldn't eat on his own. And the last one we lost, I think got smothered in the night by his pasture mates. So we have 21 thriving little lambies!

The kids (girls in particular) are learning so many lessons from this adventure. They are learning hard work, and the value of a dollar, caring for animals, dedication, time management, listening and obeying their mother (still working on that one!) But all I have to say is "are you getting a tree house or am I getting Valentino's?! And they come running! (Cause if I was the only one feeding all these lambs all the time, I would definitely buy me some Red Patent Leather Bow or Studded Valentino's!!)

Well, better go make sure the girls fed their lambs!

Happy Sunday from our little "Patch-A-Heaven!!"

Friday, May 23, 2014

Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom, Shearing Sheep

I believe a good education is extremely important in my children's life! And I do everything I can to support that, but sometimes an education is not traditional at our house. Every once in a while (usually when Grandpa needs help at the ranch with big jobs, such as branding, docking, shearing, etc) I allow the kids to skip school for a farm education! We live on a small farm and it's a wonderful way for my kids to grow up, but I also like to allow them to have experiences on a larger scale farm/ranch, like my dad's. We took one of these "non-traditional learning experiences" this past Friday. Grandpa brought the first herd of ewes home from the desert winter range to be sheared before they start lambing. Unfortunately the "before they start lambing" turned into shearing while they were lambing. The shearing crew was delayed by rain and was about a week late getting to us, so we had ewes starting to lamb before they were sheared. This may not sound like a big deal, but let me assure's better to get them sheared before they start lambing! It makes the whole job slower and more work, but you can't change what Mother Nature throws at you, so you just roll with it. (A good life lesson!)
The kids working the chutes for grandpa.

We had 862 pregnant ewes (and some already with lambs on the ground) to run through the chute to be sheared. We had a skeleton crew of a sheep herder, my dad's good friend, myself and my kiddos. Dad was busy tending to the lambing so we tried to keep things moving through the chute! (so he could keep an eye on the lambing situation) The kids learned how to herd, but not crowd the ewes, how to get them moving, but not spook them into a craze, how to manage what needs to be done next to keep things moving (great managerial skills!), how to recognize a problem or something that doesn't look right (like a ewe about to have a lamb that needs to be put in another pen for some private time, how to listen and follow instructions, patience, self confidence, leadership, hard work, and working together as a family. These are lessons that are taught very easily in a farm/ranch setting. And just being outside, free to explore and play is a fringe benefit! I remember how much fun I used to have as a child in the same lambing sheds, playing in the chutes, chasing each other around, playing games and enjoying life! I'm grateful that I can extend these same adventures to my kids.

Here's one little group of babies waiting on their momma's to be sheared.

We all learned a little patience as we got to the end and had about 45 ewes that had lambs to run through. We could only take about 10 at a time, take the babies away and put them in a pen close by(which means picking up each lamb by hand and transporting them, so they didn't get trampled. Put the ewes through the chute and shearing trailers, and back out to be reunited with their babes, before we could run any others through, so to make sure all the babies got back with the right mommas. Sometimes they get confused and "adopt" someone elses baby or reject their own in this scenario, so we had to do our best to make it as less traumatic for everyone as possible. It's a slow process, and much better to shear without lambs.

The kids playing a game in the back alley.
I learned that I can still hop a lambing chute fence about a hundred times in a day and take a pretty good hit from a couple hundred pound ewe! We had a ewe get down on the ground and cast herself up against the fence (it's hard to get up when you are on your back and super preggo! Kind of like a turtle on her back!!) so I went over to give her a hand. I leaned over to get her up and just then the trusty Border Collie Dog spooked another ewe and she took me out like a NFL line backer sacks a QB! She actually took two of us down in one smack, as Bob, (dad's friend) was behind me! We were both OK, nothing a little Ibuprofen and hot bubbly bath didn't fix!! Farming/Ranching is not for Sissies I tell ya!!

I remember the first time I had one of these experiences as a kid. I was helping dad give scour medication to a sick calf. His momma didn't appreciate the kind gesture we were offering her baby. As dad held the calf and kept the tube in him, I was in charge of pouring the medication into the syringe that went into the tube. I looked up just in time to see his momma with nostrils flared, coming right at me! I learned I could run and hop a fence like no body's business!! (I think that helped my track and field career later in life, LOL!) Even though some experiences can be difficult or sometimes scary, you can learn confidence and how to face and conquer your fears! (I still haven't conquered my fear of Rattlesnakes...probably never will on that one! Thank goodness I didn't have any run ins with any of those this time!!)

The kids had a great time at the ranch and they were a lot of help!! They enjoyed sluffing school for a farm education!  It's always good to spend time with my dad, even if it's just working. So grateful for my family heritage of farming and ranching and that I can share that with my kiddos too.

Until next time, Hug a Farmer, Thank a Rancher!!


Friday, May 9, 2014

Our Angel's 31st Birthday!

My girls and their Angel. (With a few dog and lamb photo bombs in the background!)

I have had the great opportunity of knowing many a good horses in my life, but today we are celebrating an extra special mare. Her name is Angel. She turned 31 years old yesterday! If you aren't too familiar with the life expectancy of the equine species...31 is very old!! We have been very lucky to have her last this long and still be in such great health. Sure she is slower than she used to be, skinnier (even though we feed her LOTS!) She has her challenges, but she still has a love of life! And we are so grateful to have her in our lives. She was born on my cousin's ranch in Randolph and served many years there as a cutting/rope/ranch horse, she had many foals, she retired and moved to Herriman where she taught my niece the value of a good horse, she survived colic surgery at the age of 28! She then moved to our house last summer and has given my kids, as well as many other kids in our 4-H riding group the confidence they needed to succeed. She is the best kind of horse to learn on because she neck reins like a cutting horse, so little people can learn to steer without frustration, she stops on a dime, and goes without hesitation when little legs ask. She is really the best kids horse I have ever had the pleasure of knowing! (And I have had lots of good ones.)
Because she means so much to us and we know she won't last forever, we showered her with extra love and care yesterday in her special day. We made her a "horse birthday cake" and then we had cupcakes and ice cream cones, we bought her a new purple halter. And she got lots of grooming and loving!

We are grateful for this great horse in our lives and wish her many more days with us!

Thanks Angel!!

The "Horse Cake"

She's checking out her cake!

Below are some memories with this special mare.
Practicing at 4-H
My niece riding her at a horse show a few years ago.
My daughter wanted her baptism pic to include her Angel.
Learning a Trail Course.