Kwik Stix are Back and Now They’re Thin! (review)

We’ve been lucky enough to review Kwik Stix a couple of times in the past, and today I feel lucky to share with you their newest product: Thin Stix. From The Pencil Grip, Inc., Kwik Stix are a revolutionary product that allows children to paint with absolutely no mess. The solid tempera paint come in tubes not unlike glue sticks, and once applied to paper, they dry in just 90 seconds. For this review, I received one set of Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors.

Kwik Stix review May 2017

So how do Thin Stix differ from traditional Kwik Stix? Well, as the name implies, they’re much thinner. This allows artists young and old to get more detailed with their coloring. The regular sized Kwik Stix are about the size of glue sticks. Thin stix are somewhere between a pen and a glue stick. They’re not as small and detailed as a pen, but they’re considerably smaller than the original Kwik Stix. They also have a clip on the caps (like a pen). Other than that, they work very much the same.

In our family, Small Fry was the main beneficiary of the “paint sticks,” as he calls them. They arrived the day Will was in the hospital having surgery, and we were out until very late that night because of that. For this reason, he didn’t actually get to paint anything until the next day, but he was very excited about that the morning after surgery. While we waited for the phone call saying that Will was ready to be picked up and brought home, I let Small Fry paint. He chose to make a get well card for his dad.

Thin Stix artworkHe’s at a stage in his artistic life where he draws the same thing over and over again, and this project was no exception. He used the Thin Stix to draw a Mr. Potato Head and his name. (He’s so cute about writing his name, too. He always writes his first name and last initial in capital and lowercase – he thinks the one letter twice is how to write our surname. He’s not totally wrong, either – we have that letter in two of the three syllables of our last name. But still . . . cute.)

The other thing that these got used for (and unfortunately, I don’t have a picture) was to make tiger stripes on the cardboard “armor” that Munchkin has been making for himself lately. He really likes to create things out of paperboard, and for the past several months he’s been working on a whole suit of armor. To date, he has a helmet, one shoulder guard, a breastplate, and wrist guards. During the review period for Thin Stix, he created the wrist guards. After getting them the right size, he covered the paperboard with regular white paper and used the black paint stick to draw the tiger stripes.

So, what do we think of Thin Stix? Just like their “fat” counterparts, we adore them! I can’t recommend Thin Stix enough. If your kids like doing art projects, you definitely need Kwik Stix in your life. You can purchase them from Amazon or the Toys R Us website. Even better is winning a set, though! The Pencil Grip, Inc. has graciously offered to provide a set of Thin Stix to one lucky reader of this post. Enter using the Giveaway Tools widget below. The giveaway runs from now through Sunday, May 28, 2017 at 11:59 pm PST. Good luck!


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No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

My Week in Pictures: May 20

Besides the normal school etc…, we had a fun week. Here’s a taste.


This picture wasn’t taken this week, but it was perfect for Mother’s Day – all four of my boys in one photograph. 


We found a pond just a few blocks from where we’re staying right now, and there are lots of ducks and geese who live there. The boys have had a really fun time going to visit them. We went twice last week, and it’s really neat to see them interacting with nature so freely. We took some bread one day (old hamburger buns) and taught Small Fry how to tear it very small so that his portion would last a long time. By the end, Will and Seahawk had some of the geese literally eating out of their hands. That was pretty cool. Small Fry tried to let one of them eat from his hand, and it nipped at his fingers even though he did everything right and held his hand very flat. After that he was happy to just toss the bread.

When we ran out of bread, we walked around to the other side of the pond where Seahawk and Munchkin skipped some rocks. Seahawk is a natural at that (at most athletic things, actually) and was able to get 5+ skips a few different times.

IMG_0179After we left the pond, we were going to go to a local ice cream place where they have lots of different (unusual) flavors of ice cream. Will and I went there a week or so ago and had the rose petal flavor (it tastes mostly like vanilla, but there’s an aftertaste that is just what you’d think roses taste like based on their scent). Unfortunately, they were closed by the time we got there, so we went to Dairy Queen instead. Small Fry was pretty excited about the Guardians of the Galaxy cutout there and wanted his picture taken, so we did that for him. He has a photo album that he loves to look at full of pictures of some of the experiences we’ve done together. I’m sure this one will end up in there at some point.

IMG_0217That night, after we’d been asleep for a few hours, Small Fry came into our room crying. I woke up to find out what was going on with him; he said his lip was hurting a lot. I took him into the bathroom so I could turn the light on without bothering anyone else and take a look. He had quite the fat lip and was bleeding just a little bit up underneath. The blood wasn’t severe, so I got him calmed down and back into bed so we could all get enough sleep and deal with it more in the morning.

The following morning, when neither of us were as tired, I got the full story out of him. Turns out he’d fallen out of bed during the night, and because the boys are in such close quarters (all four are sharing one room temporarily), he slammed his face into Seahawk’s bed frame when he fell, hence the fat lip and bleeding. It was very sore all that day, and the next afternoon he came running up to give me a hug and very gently bonked into me. Even though it was hardly any pressure at all, it was enough to break open the scab under his lip and he started bleeding profusely. We got that under control, and everything’s been fine since then.

IMG_0221The last picture I have to share is Munchkin in his new glasses. The boys qualify for their annual eye exams each spring, so we make sure to get them done every year. Seahawk and Small Fry don’t have any issues, but we get them checked anyway. Dragonfly is small enough that he doesn’t need exams yet, but the eye doctor said starting next year, he will. Munchkin, though, wears glasses. He has since he was 5, when he was diagnosed with an astigmatism. He tells me that he doesn’t remember a time that he didn’t have glasses. I remember his first pair of glasses, and that was a magical time. He was small, and didn’t even realize he hadn’t been seeing very well. We took him to pick up his glasses a few days after the eye exam, and as soon as he put them on, his face lit up. He could see so well! That really was a wonderful moment.


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A Christian Superhero? {Captain} Absolutely! (book review)

Comic books and graphic novels are all the rage for kids these days, and for good reason. They help take reluctant readers and turn them into voracious readers (often). They give already voracious readers something “easy” to read. If the comic includes a superhero and a lot of action, then it’s even better, especially for the 8-13 year old boys (of which I have two). But what do you do if you (the parent) aren’t really “into” mainstream superheroes? Is there an option for you and your kids? Yes!

Book Review Captain Absolutely #hsreviews #faith #captainabsolutely #comicbook #character

Captain Absolutely originally appeared in the Focus on the Family magazine, Clubhouse. It was published there, two pages at a time, over the course of five years. Now it’s available on its own as a paperback book. The comics were written by Stephen O’Rear and Christopher P.N. Maselli, and based on the character created by Paul McCusker. There’s an introduction before the story starts by “Wooten Z. Bassett, Mailman, Licorice Enthusiast, and Creator of Captain Absolutely.” It doesn’t give any specifics about Wooten, but because his name isn’t in the copyright page, I assume he’s made up. That doesn’t make what he has to say any less deep, though. He summarizes Hebrews 12:2 for us, reminding us to keep our eyes and minds on Jesus. Doing this allows us to be shaped by the absolute truth, hence the name of the book’s main character. The villains in the story were designed to teach children how to combat the lies that may come up as we “defend” our Christian faith and evangelize to others.

captain absolutely interiorKnowing this is the goal of the book, I was really pleased that my 10-year-old son, Munchkin, got the chance to read it. Because of the format (lots of pictures, few words), it took him only one afternoon to read the whole thing. My 13-year-old isn’t as into books as his younger brother, but he typically enjoys graphic novels, so I’ll probably have him read it soon too.

From Munchkin:

The story is about a guy, Josiah King, who works at the library. His friend accidentally blows up the computer, and Josiah is trapped in a room full of Bibles. He starts reading God’s word and becomes a superhero called Captain Absolutely. He fights a bunch of bad guys and puts them in a bunch of prisons, which they escape from a lot. He fights them again, they escape again. It’s a vicious cycle.

captain absolutely cover 2He eventually gets the main bad guy, Dr. Relative, to believe in the Bible and join his team.

I thought this book was interesting. Usually I like “regular” books better, but Captain Absolutely was really fun to read. This was only the third graphic novel I’ve ever read, and I liked it.

Overall, I’m glad we had a chance to review this book. It was a fun read for Munchkin, and anything with a good message is a win as far as I’m concerned.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are talking about Captain Absolutely this week, too. Be sure to head over to the Crew blog to find out more.


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5 Random Things: May 12

5 random things


  1. During the time I’ve been reading Jacob De Shazer: Forgive Your Enemies to the boys (we finished it today; look for a review later this month), I’ve decided/realized that reading together is my favorite way to do homeschool with them. For this reason, I think we’re going to try out Ambleside Online for our curriculum next fall. I’d start now, but the timing for that would be a bit weird considering it’s almost June 😉
  2. My Aqua Zumba class got canceled due to lack of participation. The pool claimed that our class wasn’t making enough to pay the lifeguard, much less the other expenses involved with us being there, so they canceled the class. Despite the fact that this has been in the works for several months, it’s still frustrating on a variety of levels. First, I’ve been doing the class for a year and a half, and we’ve consistently had the same number of people. It wasn’t until January that they started making noise about canceling it. Second, the Zumba class isn’t the only thing going on at that time, but apparently it was the only one responsible for paying the bills. But whatever. Life goes on. (No bitterness here, can you tell?)
  3. There is, however, an Aqua Zumba class in the town we moved to, so I’m going to start going to that one instead, effective tomorrow. It won’t be quite the same (different pool, different teacher), but I’m familiar with the teacher here because she subbed for my other class a few times. She’s good, so I’m confident the class will be just as good as my other one.
  4. Munchkin has been drawing nonstop. He’s getting quite good. I’ll try to remember to share a few of his pictures next week.
  5. We’re living with my in-laws temporarily. The interpersonal part of that is going pretty well, but the location is a bit frustrating. The town they live in is really far from any of our normal activities, so everything takes way longer now.

Have a great weekend!


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Pictures of the Week: Our Homeschool Week

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re doing much in the way of school, but I know we’re just fine :). Here are a few pictures showcasing some of the things we’ve done recently. Most of these are review items for which you’ll get to read my thoughts soon (later this month in many cases).


Small Fry has continued working on Eclectic Foundations to learn to read. We also received a set of the newest Kwik Stix no-mess paint sticks: Thin Stix. In this picture, he’s making a get well card for Will, who had surgery a couple of weeks ago.


One of the blessings of living with my in-laws is that they have an electric piano. Will has taken Seahawk’s desire to learn seriously, and they’ve had a few lessons. Besides the lessons, Seahawk practices nearly every day.


We were blessed with a biography of Jacob de Shazer from YWAM to read. He led a fascinating life, and I’m so glad we get to read about it. In this picture, we’d just finished reading about his involvement in the Doolittle Raid during WWII. The book mentioned that there were reporters on the aircraft carrier with the soldiers, so I looked on YouTube to see if there was any of that footage. Instead I found a newsreel from the event, so we watched that.

Besides what you see here, we’ve also been doing “boring” things like math and science. Also, the boys are learning to type with The Typing Coach.

Have a great weekend!


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Book Club: The All Girls’ Filling Station’s Last Reunion (part 1)

Book Club with Lori

Just a quick update on this month’s book club… I’m still reading the book (I haven’t had much time to read since we moved; our family dynamic is a bit wonky from what we’re used to, and things are still meshing into the “new normal”), so I don’t have a full book club report today. But Lori has already finished the book, so she’ll have a post up sometime very soon. I do plan to keep reading the book; I am enjoying it, I just haven’t had time to finish it. When I do, I’ll do a post with my answers to these questions from LitLovers.


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Digital Puzzle Fun (Planet 316 review)

Most of the products I have the privilege of reviewing from the Homeschool Review Crew are things for the boys and their schooling. But every now and then something just for me comes along. Today’s review is one of those.

Daily Bible Jigsaw review1For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing the Daily Bible Jigsaw game, offered for free on Android and iOS platforms by Planet 316. It also works as a Facebook game. As the name suggests, this app is at its core a digital jigsaw puzzle. Each day, a new one is available, absolutely free. The daily puzzles aren’t difficult; each one takes me between 3 and 8 minutes to complete, and I’m not that great at puzzles. If one comes along that I do find difficult for some reason (or I don’t have a lot of time to work on it), no matter. There are “cheats” you can use (separate the edge pieces out, rotate all the pieces to their correct orientation, connect two random pieces, see a picture of what the finished image should look like, and sweep all the pieces not currently attached correctly off of the playing board). Each of these cheats costs “puzzle coins,” which are the currency of the game. One way of acquiring puzzle coins is by purchasing them. There are a wide variety of options to fit almost any budget, and “the more you buy, the more you save.” For example, 20 coins is $1.99 but 780 coins is $59.99, which is a 30% bonus. For this review, I was given a pack of 500 coins to use as I see fit ($39.99 value).

Daily Bible Jigsaw beginningYou can also earn puzzle coins for free. How? You can watch ads (completely optional – the game, unlike a lot of other free apps, never requires you to watch ads) or you can correctly connect the “power piece.” About a minute into the puzzle, one piece starts emitting stars and a task bar appears at the top of the screen. This is the power piece. If you can attach it to any other piece correctly, you earn one free coin. Another way to earn coins is by completing puzzle goals. For example, when you complete 5 “Resurrection Sunday” puzzles, you earn 1 coin. Solve 25 of them, and you get 5 coins. Solve 100, and you earn 10 coins. The same goes for every day of the week. You earn 5 coins when you’ve solved your 100th total puzzle. There are also coin awards for solving a puzzle quickly (under 5, 3, 2, and 1 minute).

Daily Bible Jigsaw 1In addition to cheats, puzzle coins are able to be used for previous puzzles. Remember the name of the app? Daily Bible Jigsaw. This means that the creators issue a new puzzle each day. But the puzzles from previous days are still available right in the app. If you want to do a puzzle from a day besides the current one, it costs 3 puzzle coins.

What sets this puzzle app apart from others I’ve used in the past is the “Bible” part of Daily Bible Jigsaw. When you put the last piece in place, all the lines fade away leaving you with a “smooth” image, and then a Bible verse appears over the image. Oftentimes, it relates to the puzzle in some way. If you have a Facebook account, you’re given the opportunity to share the verse on your wall (is it still called that? I haven’t used Facebook in years…). There are other benefits to connecting with Facebook if you have an account, too. By doing so, you get 10 free coins. Also, you can compare your times to those of your friends who are also playing the game.

Daily Bible Jigsaw completedI’ve used this app on a variety of devices over the past several weeks, and it worked fine and looked great on all of them. When I first got it, I had an inexpensive Android phone, and it was fine. Partway through the review period, Will and I upgraded to iPhones, and the graphics are great on it. With the account creation for our new phones came iPads also, and the app is awesome on it. I love the bigger size, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing it on a phone. Connecting my account to a new device was no problem, either. I just had to download the app, open it, and sign in using the email address and password I’d chosen in the very beginning. All my progress shows up every device. Easy peasy.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed playing Daily Bible Jigsaw each day. I haven’t missed one yet, and I don’t plan to – at least not in the near future. I highly recommend this app!


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Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}

When You’re Not the Right Person for the Job

What a week! Not only has the blog hop been going on, but it’s been a crazy busy one for our family. My husband had surgery on Wednesday, so I’ve had to take over nursing duties for him on top of the regular stuff with the kids. He frequently drives the boys to their activities, so that’s been on me this week. This isn’t me complaining; I’m more simply justifying the lateness of my final blog hop post. This introduction is actually rather fitting for my topic, though (the part about driving the kids around specifically). 

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Oftentimes in homeschooling families, one parent is responsible for making sure the education happens. I personally think this is a good thing. Taking charge of our children’s educations is one of the most important things we do, whether you homeschool or not. But what about those subjects you don’t feel competent to teach? In those cases, it’s perfectly fine to use another teacher! This can be in the form of a co-op, a tutor, or even something like dance class or online lessons. Our family is pretty inward-focused, so we aren’t involved in a co-op, but my boys (the older 3) take dance classes. I am absolutely not a dancer, so we take them to a studio for dancing; this is the main way we utilize outside teachers. We do also use online teachers when the opportunity arises, too.

As for how this relates to kids with an age gap, I think it has two main benefits. First is the obvious one: getting help with the teaching allows you to spend time with your littles. But there’s one slightly less apparent reason that I can come up with, especially if you sit in the classes with your big kids at least some of the time. That is, you might just learn something with them! And that could help you to feel more confident teaching when the little kids are ready for the same classes years down the road.

Thank you so much for joining me during this blog hop, even if I was two full days late with my final post. 


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Can I Do It? Yes, You Can!

I know that the title of this post is a little confusing; it sounds like something that would be asked by someone who’s not sure they can do something really hard (like homeschooling their kids). While that’s part of what I meant by it, it’s actually more of a “conversation” between child and parent. When you ask your child to do something on their own, they might ask, “But can I do that?” Your response should be an emphatic, “Yes, you can!”

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Such is the case when our children get a bit older and they’re ready to begin tackling some of their school subjects on their own. This can be difficult for both parent and child. We’ve been guiding them thoroughly and intently for so many years that when they reach the middle school years and it’s time to teach them to be truly independent, it can be a bit scary for both of you. I know this was the case when we reached this point with Seahawk (13, 7th grade). It felt weird to suddenly just push him out of the nest, so to speak, but it turned out to be exactly what he needed.

What does this look like in our homeschool? Because we’ve been doing this for a couple of years already, it’s pretty basic. I give the older boys a subject and specific assignment (do this page of math), and then they do it. Sometimes a lesson needs to be taught first, especially if it’s new, but sometimes the textbook itself is a good enough teacher and they can just read the lesson and then do the exercises. When they’re done, I look over their work to make sure they understood the concepts and nothing needs to be clarified further or retaught.

Another thing we’ve recently added to our homeschool to further enhance the boys’ independent learning is weekly research papers. Every Tuesday, we go to the library. My mom takes the littles to story time (this falls into the category of allowing/asking for help when you need it that I talked about in the Day 3 post) while I help the bigs choose a topic and find books about said topic. They go over the books, take notes, and choose which ones to bring home. They have until Friday to turn in a paper on their topic. I don’t give them any firm guidelines except for the due date. This forces them to work on their own, but it also allows them to express themselves. See, some subjects (like math, science, or literature) are pretty dependent on their grade level and not so much based on their interests at all. But the research paper allows them to choose any topic they want – I give literally NO limits on this – and learn more about it. I was hoping that this weekly project would accomplish two things: a) help them expand their horizons and begin to research topics they didn’t necessarily think they’d have any interest in, and b) teach them to want to learn and how to learn. So far (we’ve been doing it about two months), I think we’re on track with both of those objectives.

How do you foster independent learning in your homeschool? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!


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Help a Gal Out

This post should have published yesterday. I didn’t realize that it hadn’t. Due to that, I’ll post my day 4 musings later this afternoon.

Hello, and welcome to Day 3 of the Homeschool Review Crew annual 5-day blog hop. I hope you’ve been reading and being blessed by all the different blogs sharing about different aspects of homeschooling this week. I know I have.

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Today, I want to talk about how it’s okay to have your older kids help out with the younger kids. This is one of the main benefits in having a gap between the kids in my experience. We often ask Seahawk (and Munchkin, but to a lesser extent) to help out with the little brothers, and this is useful for a few reasons.

  • It frees me up to do other things, such as help another brother with something or work on time sensitive things like meal preparation.
    • Sometimes I feel guilty relying on the big kids to help so much, but when I remind myself that they’re learning valuable life skills (taking care of young children is one of the most important jobs in the world), I ease up a bit.
  • It teaches the older child responsibility.
    • Learning to be responsible is vital for our children as they age. If we don’t teach them how to care for people and things, they’ll be disastrous adults, and as parents, our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. Allowing them little bits of responsibility that grow bigger as they do is not only good, but an obligation on our part.
  • It teaches the younger child to rely on someone besides Mom.
    • When our babies are new, they need Mom for everything. As they get older, it’s healthy for them to begin to understand that other family members are also capable of caring for their needs. This will ease them into becoming big kids – and later, adults – as they grow.

In addition to helping with the smaller kids, older children can also help with other chores around the house. The phrase “train yourself out of a job” comes to mind. The reasons and explanations are basically the same as what I talked about above in relation to caring for younger siblings, but in the case of helping with things other than childcare, they can be applicable to families with fewer children.

So the next time you feel bad about asking your older child to help out with a younger sibling again (or is that just me?), remember that it’s actually good for everyone involved when they lend a hand.


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