The Diary of a Nouveau Soccer Mom

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter!

Wishing you a day of fun, family, and lots of Easter eggs!

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies Blu-ray {Giveaway}

Are you excited for the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies?  I'm pretty sure my husband and son definitely are.  Ben even has an awesome Hobbit Lego set on display in his room.

In this the conclusion of the Hobbit trilogy:
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," the third in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world.
The extended Blu-Ray has some awesome features, including:
  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth Part 3 
  • Recruiting the Five Armies
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Six-Part Saga
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey
  • The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes
  • Music Video
  • Trailers
Check out the making-of montage to see a great sneak peek at the film.

Or use the widget below to discover some fun interactive elements:
  • Are you Brave like Bilbo? Take the quiz to find out if you have the bravery it takes to journey through Middle Earth! 
  • Mouse over the Interactive Map to learn fun facts about Middle-Earth.
  • Watch the official trailer & click the box art to bring the film home today!

Would you like ton win a copy of The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies on Blu-ray?  Take the "Are You Brave Like Bilbo" quiz and leave me a comment via the Rafflecopter sharing your answer.  For additional entries, leave a second comment telling me who in your family would love to see this movie and/or tweet about the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This giveaway was provided via my relationship with BlogLuv, all opinions are my own. Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Blu-ray The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cub Scout Webelos Geologist Activity Badge Ideas

Ben and I have been working on some of his Webelos activity badges as part of our homeschool curriculum.  Several of them match well with science and he enjoys using them for both school and Webelos.  Our latest one we worked on was the Geologist Activity Badge.

For the Geologist Activity Badge, the Scout needs to complete 5 out of 10 requirements, all of their own choice.  To see all the requirements, click here for the list on Boy Scout Trail.

These were our choices as they made the most sense for the time of year and things that were available in Colorado Springs:

7. Describe what a fossil is. How is it used to tell how old a formation is? Find two examples of fossils in your area.

The Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park offers a Scout Day each year.  Woodland Park is about 40 minutes or so from our house and about 15 minutes from my work, so this was an easy activity to complete.  Ben actually attended it with several other Scouts in his troop.

Activity days for Scouts at museums and similar places are usually really well done and meet requirements for badges and belt loops.  We've done all sorts of fun ones.  Many local museums or science centers have fossil and dinosaur exhibits.

5. Make a drawing that shows the cause of a volcano, a geyser, or an earthquake.

As homeschoolers, I knew we needed to do a little more on this one, so I headed over to Enchanted Learning to check out their printable options.

We used the main page on volcanos for facts about the topic, then used our subscription for some of the printable activities.  Ben chose the "Label a Volcano" to add to his geology notebook.  We had also built pretend volcanos for our Blue & Gold banquet, so we were able to add that to our list too.

6. Explain one way in which mountains are formed.

Again, we're homeschoolers!  And this was a combination of Webelos and science class.  Explaining one way seemed a little minimalistic.  Instead, we looked up how mountains are formed online and in Ben's Webelos handbook.  He decided to make a poster showing the three main types of mountains from his book.

A few of the mountain links we used:

A piece of advice to those who might have perfectionist children?  Posters with information glued on top!!!!  Ben did each mountain on printer paper first, then we glued it to the construction paper.  If he made a mistake, it was easy to erase or, in the very worst case scenario, he could have started a new one on the smaller piece of paper.

4. List some of the geologic materials used in building your home.

I googled the phrase "geologic materials used in building your home" to see what we could find.  Near the top of the search results, I saw an awesome diagram of a house with numbered areas:

That took us to a great site from the Illinois State Geological Society that explain all the different minerals used in each part of your house!  That's what those numbers represent.

Since this was a personal project for just Ben and for us to keep in our homeschool notes after sharing at Scouts, I enlarged the graphic and printed him a single copy so he could label it with all the different materials.  We talked about each area and guessed what might be used, along with reading to check on our answers.

8. Take a field trip to a geological site, geological laboratory, or rock show. Discuss what you learned at your next Webelos den meeting.

We wanted another outdoor activity and Colorado Springs has lots of great nature outings.  We chose to head over to the Florissant Fossil Beds to hike and check out the fossils.  Once again, it is less than an hour from our house and we really love the area!

The visitor center has samples of fossils, rocks, and minerals to check out and the park itself is an easy walk.  There are even fossilized Sequoia tree stumps within the park.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Top Ten Outings with Kids in Colorado Springs

We love living in Colorado Springs.  We were very happy when we first got military orders here and have been so blessed to have been here nearly 4 years.  It's an awesome place to live and raise kids!  But if you can't do that?  It's a great place to visit with kids!

Most people think of heading to Colorado to ski, camp, raft, or hike, all of which we love to do.  There are also plenty of gems in the city and surrounding area that are worth checking out.  With the help of my two Colorado-Texans, we've put together a list of some of our favorite things to do here in the Springs.

Garden of the Gods - 

This might be one of two signature excursions in Colorado Springs, with the other being Pikes Peak.

Garden of the Gods is officially a city park, with the land being donated to the city years ago with the stipulation that it is kept free to the public.  We love to hike there with the kids and the dog, and the scenery is amazing.  The kids love the smaller areas where they can climb into the rocks, and both want to really learn to climb.  The area near the Three Graces is especially fun for kids, and seeing Kissing Camels and Table Rock are imperative!

A stop at the visitor's center is also a great idea, with a short film on the history of Garden of the Gods and some great memorabilia to check out.  You can also purchase Junior Ranger booklets for the kids where they can tour the park, answer questions, and earn a badge from the visitor's center.

Their website | Our review

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - 

We've been to many zoos across the country over the years and Cheyenne Mountain is one of our favorites!

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is located on the side of Cheyenne Mountain, starting at about 6800 feet in elevation and rising as you walk through the zoo.  It features multiple animal exhibits, including Rocky Mountain Wild, Monkey Pavilion and Primate World, Wolf Woods, Encounter Africa, and many more.

Our favorite, and definitely a must-do, are the reticulated giraffes in the African Rift Valley area. The giraffes love to walk about and interact with the guests, especially when you purchase lettuce to feed them!  We can't resist doing that each time.

Their website

Pikes Peak -


We love heading up Pikes Peak when people come to visit!  There are two main routes to the top--driving up the Pikes Peak Highway, 19 miles of road traversing the mountain, or the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, a train trip to the summit (all in all, a little over 3 hours).

We've taken both trips and they are both a lot of fun, depending on what you are looking for.  On the railway, you have beautiful views of the mountain and area that can't be seen from the highway, along with a short stop (about 30 minutes) at the summit.  The highway drive offers a different view and the ability to stop along the way at several stopping points, including at a Bigfoot crossing, plus unlimited time at the top.

Which is better for your family will definitely depend on schedules but either way make sure to have the high altitude donuts at the top!

Their website | Our review

North Pole Santa's Workshop -

Up near the entrance to Pikes Peak Highway is a great little amusement park, themed for Christmas, all year long.  It features rides for the whole family, speciality shops, a chance to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus all year long, magic shows, and the highest altitude Ferris Wheel in the world.

Most of the 25 or so rides are family friendly or just for kids, so it's perfect for those with younger children too.  Christmas themes rides include a Christmas Tree Ride with flying ornaments, the Candy Cane Coaster, the Peppermint Slide, and the newest Santa's Sleigh Ride (a zip line style ride).  Traditional amusement park rides fill in the rest of the park, which bring out a very nostalgic feeling.

The park opens in May and stays open through Christmas, weather permitting (it is Colorado after all!).

Their website

Space Foundation World Headquarters

The Space Foundation is located near Garden of the Gods, in the back of an office park area, so a completely unexpected surprise!

The museum consists of several areas--a large open room with tons of exhibits and replicas of space travel, interactive displays allowed the kids to play around with maps of the solar system and details of the planets and spaceflight, a craft and educational area, and our favorite, the Science On a Sphere where a large globe comes to life during the presentation.

Special events occur frequently, so check out their website to see what is offered.  We've been to homeschool days, a talk by an astronaut, and some amazing summer programming.  They even offer story time for little ones.

Their website | Our review

Western Museum of Mining & Industry

The Western Museum of Mining & Industry is located on the north side of the Springs, very close to the Air Force Academy.  We originally thought to check it out as a homeschool field trip idea and we are so glad we did!

The museum is full of exhibits on the mining history of Colorado, but it also has plenty of interactive elements for the kids.  One of the highlights was the opportunity to learn to pan for gold.  While they didn't strike it rich, they did find some pretty stones/crystals that they were also allowed to keep.  The dress up area features mining gear to try on, which entertained our group for quite awhile too.  The docents were exceedingly helpful in explaining the material to the kids and answering the many many questions.  Don't forget to stop and visit the two resident burros too!

Their website

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

We love historical places to visit and the cliff dwellings in Manitou did not disappoint.

Technically, the cliff dwellings aren't native to the Colorado Springs area.  They were found collapsed at an Anasazi site in the Four Corners area, then shipped to Colorado Springs to be reassembled.

The museum consists of two parts--the indoor museum of artifacts from the Anasazi and the outdoor reconstructed cliff dwellings.  With the ability to enter the dwellings, climb ladders, and go from room to room, that was my kids' favorite part.  They spent quite a bit of time doing that while I was able to actually read the posted information (unlike the children, I really did want to read it!).  Pair this up with another outing or two in Manitou Springs to fill out the day.

Their website

Focus on the Family Play Center

This was one of the first outings we took when we moved to Colorado Springs 4 years ago.  I had seen it in a magazine at our hotel and thought it looked like fun for the kids since they had been cooped up in two little rooms while we were waiting on a house.  I'm so glad we checked it out since we've been back multiple times.

Focus on the Family Headquarters is on the north end of the Springs and appears to basically be an office … Except the basement has been converted into a huge kids' play area, complete with Whit's End themed areas (their signature kids' programming), a Narnia wardrobe to walk through, toddler areas, a puppet theater, and most kids' favorite?  A 3 story slide that twists round and round.  Even better?  It's all free of charge to come and enjoy.

Their website

Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs

I don't work far from Manitou Springs, but it took a birthday party for one of Ben's friends before we discovered the Penny Arcade there!

The Penny Arcade is in downtown Manitou Springs, in a little alley with storefronts that joins the two sides of the main street.  Multiple areas feature Skeeball, the rolling RaceHorses, contemporary games, plus there are classic ones at the Penny Arcade. The Penny Arcade is our favorite part. It contains old fashioned games, all still with the original pricing, so you can play games for nickels and dimes as well as the standard quarters.  Ben loves the old sports games--hockey, football, the pinball machines, a crane game that involves scooping gravel, and a shooter game to knock down monkeys while firing balls at them.  It's also awesome to see the kids have that much fun with non-screen games!

Their website | Our review

Magic Town at the Michael Garman Gallery -

This adorable art gallery is tucked away in Old Colorado City, just a few blocks from where I work!  Garman is a talented sculptor, but Magic Town takes the art to another level.  Inside the museum is a miniature city, from The sculptures are combined with assorted movie effects, including lights, mirrors, and video, in order to change the scenes you see.

The first room gives you a taste of this but the second (larger) room really is a full city to see.  The kids could easily spend hours watching the exhibits change and checking out all the details.  The museum also decorates for Halloween and Christmas, which makes it even more fun to visit during these times.  The Halloween zombie baby was Ben's favorite, whereas Faith loves one of the scenes from a story she crafted (and won the museum's contest!).

Their website

What else is there to do in Colorado Springs?  Part two is coming soon.  We had trouble limiting it to our top ten favorites, so a follow-up post is a must.  What would you add to our list?
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In the Forbidden City & This is the Greatest Place {Book Review}

It's no surprise our family loves to read.  Ben is even writing his very own book blog now.  We also love all things history and cultural, which might be what happens when mom is really a history teacher.

We were more than excited to say yes when The China Institute offered to send us two great books about China and the Forbidden City.  China is actually very high on my list of places I need to visit someday and the Forbidden City is a must-do.  Of course, until the time comes that I can actually figure out how to take our family to China, we do a lot of reading about it.

The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals by Brian Tse - Rabbit is eating breakfast with his friends Baby Squirrel, Young Porcupine, and Little Brother Panda when an unexpected visitor arrives. He is a master builder, searching for inspiration todesign a great palace for the Emperor of China.Together, Uncle Builder and the little animals explore how nature supplies us with the wonders that enrich our lives.  Recommended for ages 4 - 9 years.
In the Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu - Serving as the seat of imperial power for six centuries, the Forbidden City is one of China’s most famous and enigmatic landmarks. Accompanied by a mischievous cat, readers will tour this colossal architectural structure, discovering the secrets hidden inside the palace walls. They will encounter the people who have walked through its halls and gardens, including emperors, empresses, and rebel leaders, and hear exciting tales about the power struggles and intrigues of everyday life.  Recommended for ages 9 & up.
This is the Greatest Place is an awesome introduction to China and the Forbidden City for the younger crowd, but we all enjoyed it too.  With adorable animals acting as the guide, the book shows how nature inspired the construction of the Forbidden City.  There are lift-the-flaps that show how each piece of nature helped with a different part of the buildings and an awesome fold-out map page that allows you to see all the different buildings and people that made up the Forbidden City.

In the Forbidden City is written for older students and has much more details about the construction of the city, along with timelines, details about the emperors, and more.  The illustrations are remarkably detailed in black and white and the book provides a magnifying glass to examine them up close!  Like This is the Greatest Place, this book has fold out page for more detail and bigger maps to check out.  We also loved the commentary on the emperors--hobbies, facts, little bits of information besides a typical history book!

We also recommend checking out the website for We All Live in the Forbidden City.  It's full of activities, printables, learning materials, and more.  We loved it for our homeschool classroom and think there are so many things you can do there!

Disclosure: The China Institute provided me with copies of both books above, along with the recipe to share in this post.  All opinions are my own.
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wish You Were Here ...

Snowshoeing at Grand Teton National Park
Taking a break to rest, recharge, and enjoy life!

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to Make Girl Scout Cookie Box Flowers

Even though cookie season is over, there's lots of potential crafting to be done with Girl Scout cookie boxes!  It's the perfect time to cut apart and save boxes for next years booth sales and these Girl Scout Cookie Box Flowers are extra easy to make!  You can assemble them now or just cut the pieces and file them away for next season.

What You Need:
  • Empty Girl Scout Cookie boxes
  • Scrapbook paper (I used three coordinating sheets to match each flavor of cookies)
  • Plain cardstock, cut into circles
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Scrapbook tape or glue
How to Make Girl Scout Cookie Box Flowers
  • Disassemble the cookie boxes along the seams and flatten
  • Using scissors cut out the clover-shaped cookie name on the front of each box.  If you cut carefully, you can salvage the rest of the box for other crafts.
  • Draw a petal template on card stock and cut two from each pattern of scrapbook paper.  (Mine are about 6 inches long and 2 inches at the widest part, I freehanded the pattern.)
  • Cut a circle from card stock to act as a backing.
  • Glue one pattern of petals opposite each other on the circle to start the flower.
  • Add another pattern of two at 45 degree angles and glue them in place.
  • Add the third pattern at the opposite 45 degree angle and glue those down too.
  • Use the cookie name clover to create the center of your flower; glue on top of the petals to hide the area they join.
  • And you've got a cookie box flower!

We made a few and I can't decide if I want to glue them to the booth somehow, make a banner out of them or even tape them to a wall or window behind us during booth sales.  Mostly, I think they are cute, so they're in my kitchen for the time being.

Want more great Girl Scout Cookie Booth ideas?  Check out our other easy Girl Scout Cookie crafts!
Girl Scout Cookie Crowns
Girl Scout Cookie Box Stop Sign & Bookmarks
Girl Scout Cookie Booth Banner
Girl Scout Cookie Goal Flower Poster
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