Play Kids Explorer Box Review

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UPDATE: While scrolling through my facebook feed I saw a link for PlayKids Explorer with a 15% discount (box only, not shipping) so can click here. I do not get any compensation from this. I have no idea how long it will last.

I'm always look for activities for me and my daughter to do, and she loves science, so when this popped up as an ad on my Facebook feed I couldn't resist. PlayKids Explorer is a STEM based subscription box for ages 1-10 (although I can't see a kids under 4 getting much out of it). Each box is created by child education specialist and curated to each age group. This box is for a 7 year old and costs $15.95 a month plus $6.00 in shipping, which I paid for myself. There a unfortunately no coupon codes, even though they have a place to enter them, and there is no referral program.


Your first box includes a cardboard brief case, and activity book, a DIY paper craft, a passport and stickers (first kit only), "The Super Guide for New Explorers," (first kit only), magic cards with quiz cards & one coloring access card, a personalized book, and access to their app.


First up, my daughter really likes the brief case and she can use some of this stickers to decorate it. 



The beginners guide doesn't really tell you any vital information. It simply tells you how the company got started and I learned more from looking through the material myself. 




The passport is beyond cute! Make sure to keep track of it because you only get one. I would really like to see on future boxes the option to order another one in case we ever loose this one. Each adventure has its own stamp you place in the passport and then on the next page (not pictured) you can draw what you liked best about the adventure. The extra stickers are great for the brief case or to help illustrate their drawing. 



The activity book is really great! Your first activity will be the DIY paper craft, so it took me a while to find the instructions. Its very hands on and this isn't a subscription box you can just hand to your kid and expect them to do it all themselves. 



My daughter loved the DIY paper craft but she needed a lot of help. Remind your little ones to hold pieces at the base next to the tab. My daughter had a habit of holding them at the top and pressing down which caused the little tabs to bend. The base and water piece will require an adult to assemble. My daughter also said she would have liked a few fish to pop out and play with in the little reef, and their was plenty of room left on the paper that they could have done that.


The DIY paper craft is cute but I have a few tips to make your life easier. To attach the top and base you'll want to use your finger to press down right next to the number slot you are sticking the side piece to (as pictured below). Its a very tight squeeze because you already have one tab in that slot when you assembled the base. Also, not everything is number, particularly the island and the very top of the water. 








The magic cards are really neat and require the use of the their free app which is available on android and itunes. Once the PlayKids app is installed it will ask you for your email/username and password. Your password is a code they send you when you first subscribe to the box so make sure you hold on to the code. The code will also be your password to log in to their website to view your subscription information. 


Half of the cards you receive will be magic cards while the other half will be quiz cards with 3 difficulty levels. 



To use your magic cards you will log into the PlayKids app and click on the Explorer image (pictured above). The app will access your camera which you hold over each card. 



The images are pretty cool and the app downloads each card so your kids do not require internet access when they are out of the house. However, that can eat up a lot of your storage space. 









It took a little playing around to find out that the images, once they've come to life, can be displayed anywhere. 




We were even able to make it appear as if my daughter was holding the jelly fish!


You will also receive one coloring card which unlocks coloring pages specific to this adventure. Kids can color other pages prior to receiving the box but this card unlocks pages previously unseen by your child. 


The last, and my favorite, thing you will receive is a custom book for your child. You get to create your child's avatar when you sign up and put in their name. Their custom avatar appears throughout the book and each new box you receive will be your child in a new adventure. The only issue is that if you have more than one child you can not feature multiple children in the same book. For me that's not an issue but I can see why it would be really nice for families with multiple children. 

Overall it was a great experience and I believe we will be getting more in the future. Although they said it would take up to 30 days to arrive after purchasing, it only took 10! I was shocked to see it in the mail. There are so many activities and I believe it is well worth the price. I also video taped her reaction and you can view it here.
  

My New Craft Station/Office

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Over the course of about week, I constructed my new craft station/office. I have been wanting a new place to craft where I had access to everything and I didn't have to constantly fight to keep clean. 

WARNING: CUTENESS OVERLOAD!


My free-range rabbit is cute but trying to do clay and keep it clean with any animal in the house is a pain. So I had to use a screen and constantly clean. 


You can also see it was a pretty small area and my IKEA laptop desk was just too small. 



 So I set to find a large affordable desk I could work on but honestly a lot of them were either not deep enough, too expensive, or impractical for my purposes. So I build this beauty for under $50!



I used this tutorial from Instructables, but I made some major tweaks. First off I already had enough straight PVC pipe which was a major cost saver. The Instructable uses a hallow door which would have given me good depth but too much width at 8 ft long. So instead I chose to use plywood cut to 2 ft x 5 ft. The entire sheet of plywood was $20 but that allowed me enough plywood to double layer it for my desk, make shelves for a printer cart, and I still have enough plywood for a Lego tray for my daughter. So I only used about $13 worth of plywood. I attached 1" x 2 " boards around the edge of my table so that I could secure the 1" x 4" pieces around the edge without screws showing. The second layer of plywood hides the screws I used to attach my 1" x 2" boards and is secured with wood glue and 1/2" screws. I sanded the entire piece and applied Antique White stain and 2 coats of polyurethane. The PVC pipe is painted with Folk Art Metallic in Gun Metal. 


My Peg board is something I already had but I wanted to update it a little so I used Martha Stewart Chalkboard Paint in Gray and then finished the board with some white trim. I did a little sign but it was so late at night, plus I had already taken my sleeping pills, that I spelled Designs wrong, ha ha! So I will be redoing it. 



The printer cart was my final project because I desperately needed somewhere to store my shipping supplies. I looked everywhere but most carts were going to cost me at least $30 and more. So I bought some 2" x 2" boards for my 4 legs, used plywood for my shelves, and reinforced each shelf with 1" x 2" boards I already had. The 4 casters cost me $5 at Sutherlands and the 2" x 2" boards cost me $5 so I ended up only spending $10 on the cart. The top and bottom of the cart are secured with 2" screws and the middle shelf is supported by 2" corner brackets. Nothing fancy just functional. 

SEE THE FULL TOUR BELOW!



Thanks for Stopping By!







The Flu: A Sure Sign You Don't Love Jesus

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Before you start commenting just bear with me, as I understand how ludicrous the title is, but that's the point. Can you imagine walking up to a friend and telling them you have the flu only for them to respond: "Well, the flu is usually a sign that you are not right in your walk with God." I personally know that when you walk into Church with a cold most people comfort you and instead say something like: "Oh, I had that last week! I hear it's going around. I hope you feel better."  Yet mental illness, of any kind, is considered a reflection of the individual. 
The idea that mental illness is a purely spiritual affliction is one that dates back to Biblical times and is carried on into modern times. Mental illness and epilepsy were often seen as demonic possession or a punishment from God in the early Church and Middle Ages.[1] Thus, as God’s living representatives on earth, the Church saw fit to punish those afflicted by mental illness. Martin Luther argues that suicidal, “persons do not die by free choice or by law…they do not wish to kill themselves but are overcome by the power of the devil…Magistrates should treat them quite strictly.”[2] Those who gave into melancholy, or depression, by ending their life were severely punished after death to set an example to others. The deceased victim’s body was often drug through the street, dismembered, and refused a Christian burial. The suicide victims’ family was then refused their property and it was acquired by the Church or local magistrates. This made suicide a lucrative and powerful tool for the Church to use to enrich itself and condemn other sects of Christianity. Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Anglicans all used suicide as evidence of the false teaching of one another in the hopes of dissuading would be converts.[3]
            It was not until the Enlightenment that mental illness was viewed as a medical illness instead of a spiritual illness. The works that bridged the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment often straddled the world of religion and science. Clergyman Robert Burton gives the causes of melancholy, in 1621, as either supernatural or natural, both of which could be divided further. Spiritual causes included: from God, the devil, evil spirits, or by witches. While natural causes could be old age, heredity, imprisonment, poverty, a blow to the head, overheating, and even too much garlic and onions.[4] Burton is a good example of how little the Church has changed when discussing mental illness. On the one hand, they discuss the medical and scientific reasons, as if not wanting to appear backwards and medieval. On the other hand, they make sure that spiritual reasons are listed first and foremost so as not to be seen as betraying their faith.
            These historical examples demonstrate how far we’ve come in our medical understanding. The Church, and society, no longer punish and condemn epileptics, the autistic, or handicap, so why are the mentally ill still seen as “less than Christian,” or punished by God? We no longer strip women naked and look for moles and skin tags as a sign of where the devil has suckled. We know their causes and consider them natural, although sometimes bothersome, parts of life. Yet the Church often sees fit to say with certainty that mental illness is a spiritual affliction without researching the medical causes. How long will this generation have to wait for the Church to recognize mental illness as a legitimate illness? Because next time my mental illness is seen as reason enough to call into question my relationship with God you can be dang sure that person better not sneeze.




[1] Aristidis Diamantis, et al., “Epilepsy During the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment,” J Neurol 275, no. 5 (May 2010): 692-694, accessed August 25, 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00415-009-5433-7. See also Georges Minois, History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture, Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane, (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), for an excellent breakdown of early Church history and mental illness.  
[2] Martin Luther, Table Talk entries DLXXXIX, DCCXXXVIII, in The Table Talk or Familiar Discourse of Martin Luther, tr. William Hazlitt, London: David Bogue, 1848, pp. 254, 303; entry 222 (April 7, 1532), in Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 54.  Ed. and trans. Theodore G. Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967, p. 29. https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/selections/martin-luther/.
[3] Minois, History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture, 68-69, 73, 113.
[4] Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, (Philadelphia: E. Claxton & Company, 1883): 81-84. https://archive.org/details/anatomyofmelanch00burt

We Lived on Less Than $8,000 a Year...

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We Lived on Less Than $8,000 a Year...


Is it possible to live on less than $8,000 dollars a year? No. No one would expect you to live on that type of wage let alone a family of three, but we did. We actually lived on that wage for over four years and here is what that looks like:

The year was 2012 and my husband worked at Burger King for $7.35 an hour. Now quick math would tell you that is $14,112 dollars a year, still below the poverty line, if he received 40 hours a week. However, Burger King at the time cut hours because after a certain amount of weekly hours they had to offer employees heath care. I can't tell you if it was the general managers decision or the companies decision but that meant nothing over about 32 hours. My husband couldn't even get that because we live in a college town and job openings just weren't there. I even had to double check W-2's because even I'm shocked by the number today, but he only made $7,506 that year. So here are some numbers for you:

Our 2012 Income: $7,506
                            - $5,400 (Rent $450 month utilities included)

Already we're down to $2,106 for food, health insurance, medical expenses, medicine, laundry (because we did not have a washer and dryer), gas, car insurance, and the list goes on. So let's talk bottom dollar estimates.

                               $2,106
                                 -$240 (laundry at $5 week).
                              -$2,400 ($50 week for food for 3 people).
                                 -$480 ($40 month for car insurance).
                              -$1,040 ($20 a week on gas - think of someone who drives 30 mins to work!)
                              -$4,320 (Health insurance at $120 a month per person which covers zilch).

Now we're at -$6,374 which would have been almost as much income as we had coming in and that is with the lowest estimates possible. So what did we do? We got help from the state. We went on food stamps and our daughter had state health insurance, we were not eligible so we went without health insurance for over 4 years. For several years I did our laundry in the tub because our water was included in the rent and then I hung them to dry in the shower.

I also went to college and so did my husband but it didn't help in the way you might think. We were eligible for federal loans which also includes a student refund to pay for your housing, books, etc. So my student refunds covered our rent while his covered things like car insurance, doctors visits etc. Had I not been going to school full time I would have been required to have a job which would have put us over the eligibility line for benefits, even with child care expenses and I would have only made around $4.35 an hour. So we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

While my husband got his B.S. in Physics, no one was hiring for that degree and he continued to work at Burger King until a local plant began hiring a few years ago. Getting that degree vastly undercut the amount of hours he worked when he was allowed to work them. When he finally got the degree it didn't help. The argument that a person is in their position in life because they didn't work hard enough, lack an education, or are bad with money is an insult to those who struggle because the good jobs aren't available, they can't afford childcare, they couldn't afford the healthcare to buy the birth control to prevent the children, or the companies who hire them are allowed to keep them below 30 hours to prevent them from receiving benefits.

We didn't live a life of luxury on food stamps, and the majority of people do not. Yes, there are people who abuse the system but they are not the norm and should not dictate how the rest are treated. I pawned my engagement ring, a ring given to me by my mother, any valuable I could get a hold of to buy diapers, clothes, medicine, etc. When it was time for me to get my IUD I could not afford the $250 because I did not have health insurance and I was very lucky that my grandmother paid for it. No amount of hard work changed our circumstances, an we were very lucky that a job opened up and that my husband got it.  So its very disappointing when I hear people equate poverty with laziness and a mismanagement of money because that was me.
                             

Moms Should Be Better Friends

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Moms Should Be Better Friends

I can't bring myself to accept the notion that mother's make terrible friends or that its okay to be a bad friend because you are a mother. It seems to be a change that everyone expects, and adheres to, that once you have children you forgo having children. Yet the men continue to have social lives and why wouldn't they if they have a free and willing babysitter already at home? Most men don't ask permission to continue having friends my husband certainly didn't. After our daughter was born my husband continued to be on a bowling league, go and watch the basketball games, attend movies, hang out with friends, etc. I'm not going to lie, I really resented him for it. I felt stuck with our daughter and really wanted social experiences as well. I mainly got those occasions when our daughter was with my parents for a weekend but I learned to start taking her with me to meet up with friends. It could be very trying and stressful sometimes but I made the effort. 

I can happily say that nowadays my husband and I have a much better balance of responsibility and he takes our daughter out for movie and dinner dates on the weekend. During the week if I want to go out without her I have to hire a sitter but I happily welcome it. Ideally I prefer to have another mom over so we can visit and the kids can play but I've found that other mothers flake on me and I'm the one who always has to extend the invitation. People without children value me more as a friend and they show that through their words, actions, and communication. They are happy to see me, invite to things, and make time for me. 

When you have children and push your friends to the side you are telling them they are no longer of value to you. If I get pushed to the side until your children are school age then we weren't really friends. Ask me to help watch the kids, go to the park, help with the house, start an organizing project, or sit and gossip during nap time. Don't sideline me and expect me to come around when you decide I'm worth your time 3-5 years later. Having had kids myself I will not understand because my child is not the center of my universe. I desire and deserve friends and time to myself. I can have exactly what my husband enjoys which is an active social life. 

Some women will say they are too busy and all I have to say is that you prioritize what you value. If you want to raise children, have a family, but no social life then do that but don't expect your friends to come running back because now you have the time. It's not fair to them and frankly its not fair to you to deprive yourself. Take turns going out with your spouse or pick one night a month where you both go out and hire a sitter. There is always a way to make things happen when you really want something. Start a sitting circle with your mom friends so that you each can go out one night a week or once a month. One night you watch her kids and the other she watches yours so you don't have to pay anyone but both get to enjoy your other friends. It's always possible. So let's start being better friends ladies. 

Flower Fairy Dolls

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My latest craft obsession has been these cute little flower fairy dolls. They are only made from wire, embroidery floss, wooden heads, and faux flowers. I happened upon them last week and already this week I've made over 12 dolls and have learned I might have a knack for it. Although I do custom order for dolls to look like peoples children, my favorites have been my fantasy dolls based on fictional characters. I learned the basics from YouTube tutorials by Emily Lefler from the Untidy Artist but all fictional characters are my original creations. You can check out Emily's tutorials here: Untidy Artist YouTube Channel

Mermaid (my first doll)

Joy from Inside Out (doll for my daughter's friend)

 Brunette Fairy Doll w/ Blue Skirt

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride Emily and Groom

 Tinkerbell Inspired Doll

 Dark Complexion w/ Purple Dress

Princess Zelda from Twilight Princess

Maleficent (2014 version) 

Maleficent was one of my bigger hurdles because I had to figure out how to get the horns just right, attach them securely, and then wrap the entire head. I can't tell if i'm more proud of Zelda or Maleficent but I can't wait to decide what to do next. 

I currently have a fb page called Edmund Designs where you can follow all of my creation: 

I also have an Etsy page where you can purchase my creations or contact me for a personal order:

Power Green Smoothie Recipe

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This is a very simple recipe to make enough smoothies for 3-6 days, depending on how much you like to drink. I make mine in 48oz batches and store them in 16oz glass bottles, that I recycle after drinking kombucha.


Before I do anything, I wash all of my greens, even when they say triple washed.


Recipe

8oz spinach
6oz power greens (pictured below)/kale
2 green apples, cores removed
Juice of 1 lemon
Chlorella powder (1/2 tsp per smoothie but can increase)
Water (among depends on how thick you like your smoothie, I use 8oz)


I just add the ingredients in small bunches, blend, and then add more until it's all in. Pretty easy! I use a funnel to put my funnels in 16oz glass bottles, and then grab them when I'm ready for them. Sometimes I split one between me and my husband, sometimes I drink a whole one myself. 


Green smoothies are a great way to get your greens in! I don't like fruit smoothies, because blending fruit makes the sugar hit your liver faster.  This can make your liver produce more fat cells, but fiber slows this process. So it's important to eat your fruit whole, but I do like the added bite the green apple gives this smoothie.  So if you are having trouble losing weight, then don't blend your fruit and stay far away from fruit juice! 

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