Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Ripley's Believe It or Not! Reality Shock!

There is just something about Ripley's Believe It or Not! that captures the imagination. I remember watching the older television show, back in the '80's, and finding all the featured oddities fascinating. Several years ago, when we were in Niagara Falls, we went to a Ripley's museum, and even before that we visited the Ripley's aquarium in Gatlinburg. Both brought the unbelievable to life.

But I have to admit, there was always a little part of me that wondered if all the crazy stuff featured by Ripley's was truly real. (Not the fish - they were very much alive!). I didn't know the history of Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Recently I received a glossy, hardbound copy of the latest edition of the Ripley's Believe It or Not! bestselling series, Reality Shock. And I learned some interesting facts within the first few pages.

Robert Ripley, the founder of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, was a cartoonist at The New York Globe, a radio show host, and a renowned world traveler. He went places no one had ever even heard of way back in the early to mid-twentieth century. He went everywhere, looking for anything strange and unusual.

Then I read this paragraph:
Here at Ripley's we pride ourselves that everything in this book is definitely true - no picture is doctored, no story exaggerated, and nothing is ever invented.
Nothing is included without proof. That is pretty impressive, because if you've ever browsed through a Ripley's book, you know there is some pretty unbelievable stuff in them!

Reality Shock is chock full of colorful pictures of real people, real animals, real places, and real things that might seem like fiction, but they're not.

My kids and I have been enjoying looking through this book over and over, because every time we find something we missed before. It is a fun book to share as a family, although I will warn you that there are some images that might not be suitable for the squeamish. This is all relative of course, but you might want to go through it on your own before you show it to your kids, in case you come across anything that might upset them. Nothing is gory or violent - but some might be bothered, for example, by an image of a man who can pop his eye almost entirely out of its socket.

I have an exclusive offer for my readers! Follow this link to purchase Reality Shock! for just $14.99. This is a really nice hardcover book that would make a great addition to your family's book collection, and help make reading fun for your kids.
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I am also offering one copy of Ripley's Believe It or Not! Reality Shock! to ONE lucky reader! Just use the Rafflecopter form to enter.

Disclaimer: MichiGal received a complimentary copy of Ripley's Believe It or Not! Reality Shock for review purposes. All opinions are those of MichiGal.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Ordinary, Remarkable Night

Tonight was not perfect, but it was close.

I came home from the grocery store and all four kids ran downstairs to help me unload the van and put everything away.

A little while later, when we sat down to dinner, I asked, "who wants salad?" And everyone wanted salad. (What?!) While we were eating, I heard lots of "this is so good!" and "where did you get this recipe, mom?" which is all very funny because I am not known for my cooking skills.

There was some humming of Mamma Mia songs going on, from at least one child. So when we finished eating I put the soundtrack on because obviously they totally wanted me too. And there was singing and dancing while we cleaned up. And Connor, my beautiful son, said that he wants to see the movie after hearing the music so many times. He didn't say play, but it's a start.

After clean-up, I got out ice cream, sprinkles, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup - the works. Bethany crushed up fake Oreos (I'm the weird-o mom who buys the organic versions of everything, apparently for the sole purpose of embarrassing my kids. But tonight they were happy to eat the organic fake Oreos crushed up on their ice cream). We were celebrating an academic achievement for Bethany that she has worked very hard on this summer. I'm really proud of her. Our ice cream sundaes were delicious. Can't go wrong with ice cream.

Then when I announced it was time for workbooks and IXL (computer academic program Connor and Lucy do), everyone got right on it. Bethany offered to help Mathilda with her workbook. This was my perfect opportunity for some me time, so I put on my running shoes, which are not used for running very much these days, and went outside for a walk.

What a glorious night. I walked 3.65 miles and listened to music, smelling bonfires and laundry and loving the night sky and perfect summer air. Bethany called to check on me because it got dark and she wanted to make sure I was okay.

I came home to a quiet house. Chris wonked out on the couch and the kids all upstairs doing something that does not involve screaming at each other. Maybe they even went to bed. I don't know, and I'm waiting a few more minutes before I check.

Now I'll tell you a secret or two.

When I came home from the grocery store, I  had to yell pretty loudly to get everyone to come downstairs to help me.

During dinner, someone spilled milk and there was a little eye rolling, and kid passed on the salad. But she usually is the only one who eats it so that's okay.

While we were cleaning up and listening to Mamma Mia, there was a little antagonizing going on and a little tattling, and a little of me telling everyone to stop trying to ruin my perfectly lovely evening.

When we started making ice cream sundaes, someone dumped a large portion of our brand new jar of sprinkles on the counter, and while we ate our treats there was minimal sibling squabbling going on.

But despite these minor technicalities, it was a pretty darn near perfect night.

This is my version of perfect. It's not Mary Poppins, but it is real.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Anti-Bucket List

I have a Life List - a sort of bucket list of things I'd like to do at some point in my life. I hope you do too. My list is incomplete and I really should work on adding to it because I believe it's really important to have goals. But, in the friend Melissa over at Rock and Drool inspired me with a different kind of list. The ANTI-Bucket list. A list of things I would never, ever, not in 10 billion years, want to do.

I love Melissa's list and agree with everything on it. Except maybe the baby thing. A small part of me wouldn't totally hate it if I were to become pregnant again by some miracle. And it would take a miracle, trust me. But I promised her I would think of different things for my list. I mean, it wouldn't be much fun just to copy.

Here's what's on my anti-bucket list:

  • Become a chef. Cooking is not my thing. Just ask my family. I can follow a recipe and all, but I don't like the process of cooking, or of thinking up my own way of preparing a meal, or anything related to it. Except dessert. Dessert I'm all over. I simply cannot envision a world in which I have mastered cooking and people actually let me cook for them in a professional setting.
  • Work in the medical profession. The sight of needles makes me feel feint. I can't even...ugh no, no, no. This is unfortunate because I think something medical could be a great career for me as a parent. But there is no way I could be involved with blood, needles, bodily waste, people's insides, surgeries, none of it.
  • Sing in front of other people. Whether doing karaoke in front of a bunch of drunk people, or getting up on a stage in front of hundreds of people like my husband regularly does, I just could not, would not sing in front of anyone. I might sing along to the radio now and then, or sing my kids a silly song, but I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be belting it out and showing off my (non-existent) vocal skills. No way, no how.
  • Fly a plane. Nope. Not ever gonna happen. I will never find myself in any kind of pilot capacity. I will also never be jumping out of a plane, but I feel that this one is so obvious that I'll bunch it in with "fly a plane".
  • Go to space. Listen, did you see Gravity? If that didn't squelch any fantasy you ever had about becoming a great space explorer, well I don't even know how to relate to you.
  • Get a facelift. I know I'm not quite at the age yet to be worrying about such things, but aging is okay with me. I don't expect to look 30 when I'm 60. I do not want a doctor to be re-configuring my face. I'll do my part with the sunscreen, and the be it.
  • Eat strange animals, organs, and other disgusting things. I don't want my own show on the Food Network. I'm a vegetarian anyway, but if for some reason I ever start eating meat again, it won't be lamb brains or kangaroos or anything like that. 
  • Become a professional bodybuilder. I'm all for women being strong and athletic, but the whole female bodybuilder thing doesn't suit me. I do not want to look masculine with huge bulging muscles. I like feminine curves and softness. If that is your thing, good for you! You're probably way healthier than me. But for me, no thanks.
  • Do one of those crazy food challenges. I recently went to Melt Bar and Grilled in Cleveland, where, for a mere $30, customers can eat a gigantic grilled cheese sandwich, complete with 16 slices of cheese, french fries (on the sandwich) and 3.5 pounds of coleslaw (also ON the sandwich). And if they finish, they get a t-shirt and their picture in the hall of fame. Uh, no thanks. Even if you pay me, I have no desire to eat until I'm sick, and then force myself to eat more.
  • Become Amish. Is this even a thing? Is it possible to become Amish, or does one need to be born into it? Well anyway, I can sort of see the appeal of a simpler way of life. But at the same time I love modern amenities way too much. And not wearing bonnets and ankle length dresses. No offense to the Amish, who I guess would not be reading this because, well, you know. Anyway. No Amish life for me. I could live fairly primitively for a couple months if I had to, but I'd have my iPhone with me. 
This list was fun to make! I would love to know what's on YOUR anti-bucket list! Leave me a comment below or comment over on the MichiGal Facebook page!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Circuit Math Makes Learning Math Fun

Once upon a time, I loved math. It was one of my favorite subjects in high school. Then I had a crummy teacher in 11th grade, totally lost my focus and was done with math for good. Well...except no one is ever really done with math for good. We use math all the time. When we're shopping, banking, paying bills, budgeting, redecorating a room in our house, baking, and so much more, we're using math.

But most math instruction in schools is dry and, let's be real, BORING. Sitting at a desk, listening to a lecture, and writing out math problems is not much fun for most kids. Story problems aside, this type of instruction doesn't teach much about real life applications of math. Of even more concern, some kids simply aren't wired to learn this way. Getting lost and falling through the cracks is a reality for many of them. Teachers are under so much pressure to teach to standardized tests, and their work loads are constantly growing. We can't really blame them, most are doing their best and then some. So what's the solution to this problem?

If you're lucky enough to live in the Metro Detroit area, Circuit Math in Bingham Farms is one solution. Circuit Math is an innovative and unique education center that focuses on bringing math to life and making it fun. You read that right - FUN. I have looked into math tutoring centers in the past and they all seem the same. Sitting at tables, plugging away, a couple tutors walking around in case anyone has questions. That is basically the polar opposite of Circuit Math.

Let me touch a little bit on each of these. First of all, kids are allowed to MOVE and are not stuck at a desk the entire time they are at Circuit Math. In fact, they are not required to sit at a desk at all. Their sessions begin with individualized instruction on a laptop or tablet, and they can sit at a desk if they'd like. But if they'd prefer, they can choose a beanbag chair or an exercise ball. Middle school kids have their own room, equipped with funky, colorful seating options. Then the kids move around the center to participate in various activities. They are encouraged to engage their bodies and their minds together. How many kids do you know who have trouble sitting still during a dull lecture? That's not happening at Circuit Math. Kids are doing what comes natural - moving!

Circuit Math believes that a strong focus on the fundamentals of math is vital to students' success. For that reason, the program puts an emphasis on these basics. Gaining a true understanding of the foundations gives the kids just that - a foundation to grow on. Their confidence increases and they are able to move upward and onward.

Along with the focus on the foundations of math, kids are able to learn using real life applications. There is a play restaurant, a lemonade stand, and other fun stations like darts and basketball. Kids are taught to use their skills in real life situations. For example, if you throw 10 darts and three hit the board, what percentage is that? If each one that hits the board is worth 20 points, how many points do you have? If someone orders a burger for $3.79 and a milkshake for $2.99, what is their order total? Kids are also encouraged to use their imaginations by creating their own make believe menus or dreaming up store ideas, complete with imaginary inventory. The middle school kids actually designed their room, working with a budget and room dimensions to see how much furniture, paint, etc. they needed and how much they could afford to spend.

At Circuit Math, your child is not forced into doing work he really doesn't need to be doing just because the other kids are doing it. The lessons are totally individualized based on an assessment. Each student has a dashboard and personal sign-in information to use on the tablets and laptops. They can see what they need to work on. If parents have special concerns, like a fractions test is coming up at school, they can request help in that specific area. Kids wear headphones so they aren't disturbing each other, and teachers are available to help. The students watch short instructional videos on the devices, made by their Circuit Math instructors, and are required to interact. If they get something wrong, it is reviewed and they try again. No slipping through the cracks here. Also, this is an ideal program for kids who are falling behind in math, right where they need to be, or even ahead.

All Circuit Math teachers are certified. They are proud math nerds and know how to teach it! Many prefer the part time hours that a position with Circuit Math offers, and are glad to have a chance to share their passion for math.

As kids master various skills at Circuit Math, they earn COWs, which stands for "competency of week." There is a big chart on the wall with each student's name where they can put their COWs. The chart is part of the reward center, which is where kids can turn in their COWs for cool prizes at the end of their sessions. Some days they might not earn any COWs, and some days they might earn multiple COWs. It all depends on their progress. If they are impatient, they can turn in their very first COW for a small prize, or they can save them up to get something bigger and better. Many of the prizes encourage activity, like footballs, soccer balls, or giant frisbees.
The reward center, with COW chart and prizes to choose from.
There are no "tests" at Circuit Math. At least, the kids don't think there are. The assessments are never called tests, they are called polls. Almost magically, the pressure is off. They don't get grades, they earn COWs. The space is not called a classroom, it's called an "arena." Somehow changing simple terms like this helps to also change the students' perception. They don't feel like they're at school, under pressure to succeed and deliver the grades.
Part of the "arena". Everything is colorful and bright, with an entire wall of windows to bring in the sunlight.

Perhaps most importantly, Circuit Math is fun. You might be skeptical, as I was when I first read the testimonials on Circuit's Math's website. But the honest truth is that I took my soon to be 3rd and 6th graders in for a trial session, and these are kids who don't typically enjoy math. As we were walking out the door, both of them were asking when we could come back. They both enjoyed it. They even had fun.

Circuit Math has been in business for over a year working with school districts with wonderful results. The program designers, Maggie and Reid, are excited to now have a home for the entirety of their vision to come to life. As I chatted with them I learned that they hope to expand into reading (which they do in the schools along with math) and science sometimes in the future. They have great ideas to incorporate more real life applications into the program and are enthusiastically looking forward to growing Circuit Math.

I am so excited about this place! Finally, someone gets it. Kids need to be positively engaged and interested to truly learn. They need to be allowed to move around and make choices. Not everyone can effectively learn in a traditional classroom setting, but that does not mean they are not capable of learning. I cannot recommend Circuit Math enough, and plan on bringing my soon to be 8th grader in for a trial session soon to see how she likes it. The environment is fun, yet calming and conducive to learning. Every employee I talked to was personable and lovely. No one here is going to make you feel out of place. I spoke to two grandmothers who had brought their grandchildren in for sessions that day and both were overwhelmingly impressed, as was I. Want to see for yourself? Read on for more details.

Circuit Math is located at 30300 Telegraph Road, Suite #230 (just south of 13 Mile Road) in Bingham Farms, Michigan. The building is located north of Noodles and Company, and you need to go in the North entrance and up to the 2nd floor. It was very easy to get to from 696.

At this time, Circuit Math is geared to kids entering 3rd-9th grade. This age range may be expanded in the future.

One hour sessions are offered Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:00 noon. In the fall after school sessions will be offered, and possibly weekend sessions.

First session is FREE!

Purchase 10 sessions for $250 and use them at any of the scheduled times. At first glance you might think this sounds spendy, but call some traditional tutoring centers, or look into hiring a certified teacher as a private tutor, and you will soon realize that $25 per session is a bargain. Especially for something so in sync with the learning needs of kids.

Call 248.690.MATH (6284) for more information, visit, and be sure to like the Circuit Learning Facebook page.

I would like to thank Maggie and Reid for having us and introducing us to their fabulous learning center! I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about our experience, just leave a comment or contact me via email (link in the sidebar).

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in conjunction with Hay There Social Media. MichiGal was compensated for this post and received free trial sessions (all new clients are entitled to one free trial session). All opinions are those of MichiGal.

Hysterectomy Infographic

In keeping with my last post regarding the potential dangers of power morcellators used for hysterectomies, I thought I would share this infographic.