Category Archives: Shop Local

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Only a few days left before Christmas!! I wanted to do one last post this year to share ideas for last-minute gifts. I was inspired by my brother who sent me an email last Friday, asking what kind of gifts our family members wanted for Christmas.

I decided to compile a list of “experience”   ideas for him, knowing full well that the Sweet Peas are already receiving lots of “stuff”,  along with the fact that shipping costs might be exorbitant to get anything tangible here by Christmas.  The neatest thing about experience gifts IMO is that we will get to talk about and remember the person who shared the gift every time we use them, and that is especially sweet in this case because he lives so far away.  Every time we use his experience gift is a time for him to be loved, appreciated and remembered fondly. What a sweet bonus!

I am sharing links to local Phoenix, Arizona venues.  If you are not local to Phoenix and you have a favorite place in your area, send me the link so I can share with others (sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com). Or, if you are local and your favorite family-friendly place isn’t on here, let me know what I’m missing – thank you in advance 🙂

Movie tickets – bonus when you can support a local movie house!
Harkins Theatres (We do not attend shows at AMC theaters since they allow open carry)

Trampoline Park or Bounce House
Jump Street (running a GC sale)
Pump It Up – party hosting and play time
Bounce U – party hosting

Family-friendly Arcade+Dining 
Main Event 
Dave & Busters

Phoenix Zoo
Zoo Lights
Sea Life Aquarium
Butterfly Wonderland
Desert Botanical Gardens

1512 Experience Gift

Science Museum 
Children’s Museum
idea Museum
Musical Instrument Museum
AZ Museum of Natural History
Phoenix Art Museum

Great Arizona Puppet Theater
Childsplay – this is a gift with options…Childsplay is a performance group that offers family-friendly theater experiences in Tempe, AZ. Childsplay also offers class experiences in the form of workshops that children can attend during school break in the school year or summer vacation.

Gift of Time
Plan a date when you take your nieces/nephews/grandchildren out to a state park or for a walk in a nature preserve.  Think about bringing some paper or art journals and art supplies.  Pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and just be with the children. It’s amazing what fresh air will do to inspire conversation and art.  If you are not used to speaking with children, HERE and HERE are a couple of lists of conversation starters. You can write out a few and put them in a jar for the children to pull out, or print them out and take them with you.  Notice that I *did not* write, “download them to your phone,” because our children see us with devices in our hands often enough. I feel like the gift of time is even richer when they get 100% face time with us.

I hope this list inspires some of you to do some literal “out of the box” holiday gifting this season. Wishing you and yours a blessed time this season, and most especially as we celebrate the beautiful gift of the Christ-child.  It’s a struggle with all the commercial focus, however, may Jesus find a way into your heart this season.  Happy holidays!!

There might be time to make THESE gifts with your children – check out four easy-peasy gifts we made with our Sweet Peas this year.

Book Review: Secrets of Winter


Secrets of Winter
Written by Carron Brown
Illustrated by Bee Johnson
by Kane Miller EDC Publishing

We didn’t have a playdate to post yesterday since we took the week off for Thanksgiving last Thursday.  So today, I’m sharing a sneak-peek into yesterday’s WINTER playdate.

My inspiration for this playdate was the changing of season this month.  I had the perfect book to share, Secrets of Winter by Carron Brown & Georgina Tee. This book was new in our library this school year – I purchased it from my friend Tina, who is a rep for Usborne Books.

The story introduces the idea of exploring through a winter evening.  The pictures alternate between full color and black&white, which seemed to keep the children’s attention. There is the added intrigue of seeing an additional image revealed when you shine a light through the page!

There is no need to trim the story as the storyteller. The story moves along with 2-3 sentences and/or statements per page.  It also shows a large variety of animals and how they manage through the winter weather, so there are fun animal facts being acquired along with the visual enjoyment of the book.

Our guests and my own Sweet Peas thoroughly enjoyed the book! Their ages ranged from 2 years to 11 years old. From the endpaper printed with delightful animal prints, to the hidden surprises revealed with a flashlight on every page, there are endless ways to enjoy this book.

In fact, the children liked it so much, I sat with my legs out in front of me in order to keep the circle wide enough for everyone to see! That is definitely a first, and always a welcome sight to see children enjoying a book so much that they are piling on top of each other to get closer.

You can purchase your own copy of Secrets of Winter, other books in the “Secrets of” series, or anything else Usborne has to offer by following THIS link to Tina’s online store.  Any orders placed before 12/10/2015 will arrive in time for Christmas gifting.

Happy reading!! Stay tuned for next Thursday’s installment of “Preschool Playdate” when I share all the activites we did to celebrate winter (hint: we had a snowball fight in Arizona!!).


Review: Preschool for Threes by AOP

We are two weeks into our homeschool year.  I am loving our new preschool program – so much that I wanted to share it with you!!

Note: I have not been compensated by AOP for the following review, and I am not in any way affiliated with anyone or anything that is linked in the post.  Feel free to click away on the links!  Nothing is going into my pocket!!
I am sharing out of joy and excitement in the hopes that another family can benefit from this product.

We used the Horizon Preschool program for when our two older kiddos were 4 & 2 and loved it.  They released a new program last year that was too young for Charger, so he also used the Horizon Preschool curriculum.  This year, Otter is turning three, so we had a perfect candidate to take advantage of the new Preschool for Three’s program.

According to the Children’s Health Network, “a normal attention span is 3 to 5 minutes per year of a child’s age”.  If we can keep Otter’s attention on a task for nine minutes, we call it a win.  

Why I love Preschool for Threes: 

    • Otter has a chance to “do school” without being overwhelmed.
    • She has a reader that is just for her.
    • She practices school readiness skills every day.
    • She is introduced to one letter concept and one number concept a week, and the worksheets provide an opportunity to reinforce both.
    • The worksheets have delightful animals that carry through the theme every week.

She is so proud to be able to sit at the school table with her older siblings, and believe it or not, they want to do her work, too.  They *love* her animal coloring pages and cannot believe that I do not have enough worksheets to go around for them to color their own animal.  We are talking a nine-, seven- and five-year-old here.  I guess my only complaint is that I have to get on-line to find them line drawings of animals to color so they don’t feel left out!!

Here is what you get with the program…along with my insight about why there is so much to love about the Preschool for Threes program:

Curriculum: Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing

Curriculum: Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing

Teacher’s Manual:
Every week is themed around one bible lesson.  The lesson plan offers a supply checklist plus additional activities to supplement the worksheets and the theme.  I like having a checkbox, and we also start reasoning skills at the preschool level, so I created a spreadsheet that I can fill in for the week ahead on Sunday night, and then check off throughout the week.  I get all of the supplemental material ready so all I have to do on the weekday is pull out a packet for that day, all ready to go.  Total prep time on Sunday night: 1 hour.


Teacher’s Manual – Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing

Student Workbook:
These are the worksheets for the program.  You can tear them out as needed, or if you have other children to prep for, do it all at once and lay it out for the week.  Horizon has the best illustrations and colors – as I said earlier, our older kiddos pine for pages like these although they are way beyond 3-year-old work.

Student Workbook - Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing

Student Workbook – Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing

Student Workbook Companion:
These pages are printed on heavier weight paper.  They consist of games and activities that can be played throughout the school year.  So far we have prepared a lacing card, a language arts aid, and now we have a memory game for next week.  I am pasting them on card stock to make them last even longer, and as soon as I have a working laminator again, they will be laminated.  I write the lesson theme on the back or the container so that I can remember to reinforce it as the school year stretches on and the themes aren’t at the tip of my tongue.

Since the language arts aid for this week was a child’s face, we have been talking about the vocabulary for different parts of the face in English and In Spanish.  The theme of the week was “Sin” from the fall of the the garden of Eden.  As we go forward to use this aid, we will use the song O Be Careful, Little Eyes to reinforce the vocabulary as well as the lesson.

I am thrilled to be able to fill a preschool box for Otter of just her own activities.  At any point going forward in the school year, she can entertain herself with sturdy materials that can be used over and over.


Student Workbook Companion – Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing

Bible Story Reader:
This is by far Otter’s favorite part of the program.  She is delighted to have her very own book since we have bookshelves full of books for each of our other children’s school programs.  She proudly pulls down her “God book” every day.  We are not just reading the story for the week.  The illustrations are fantastic, so as she finds an illustration that appeals to her, I “read” her the story.  Not always the whole thing, maybe a sentence or two, or I ask her what she sees in the picture.  As you may have noticed in some of the photos, although we are only two weeks into the program, the book is already well-loved.  I have admonished all our other children to keep things well-taken care of since they have to be used four times over, and we don’t want Otter to get dog-eared hand-me-downs.  This is going to be Otter’s very own book so I am patient in letting it be loved.


In practice:
All in all, I do “school” with her and Charger (5yo) for about an hour a day.  She sits at the table to do her worksheet and her other supplemental activity, then I lose her for a little bit while she goes to play and I work with Charger, and then she comes back and we do the other supplemental activity for the day and/or re-play an activity she liked.  We usually come back in the afternoon to finish whatever we didn’t cover in the morning, or do more re-play as well.

This program is just so perfect for a three year old, it seems like it was written by other three year olds for their peers to enjoy.  Thank goodness that there are educational experts who have studied child development…I have a strong suspicion that they were consulted on this program.

Horizon has exceeded my expectations with this program.  I have always enjoyed their colorful pages and activities.  This is about to become my favorite Horizon program, and I am only going to get to use it once!  At least we are going to get to use it and love it well for the next nine months – I can’t wait to see how our littlest Sweet Pea blossoms with this program.


One week of print materials – Horizon Preschool for Threes by Alpha Omega Publishing


Otteroo: The water tool you need

It is advised that consumers immediately stop using the recalled inflatable baby floats and contact the firm to receive a free replacement.


I was fortunate enough to attend the Club MomMe Spring Family Fest in Orange County at the beginning of June.  There were so many amazing vendors there – here is one that fits best on our family blog since it is a great tool after the Birth-Day.

Otteroo is a float designed to be used with infants 8 weeks and up through the time when a child is acclimated to the water and able to support their own weight without tipping over – that is different for every Sweet Pea.  At first, I wondered how comfortable I would be with allowing one of our Sweet Peas to have something attached around their neck.  After seeing it in person and reading about all the research and effort that was taken to make sure it was safe, I felt like this is definitely a product I wanted to share with you.

See Otteroo in action HERE

otteroo baby 1 copy

Creator and Founder of Otteroo, Tiffany Chiu, provided us with this information to share with you.  She sent me the Q&A that they have developed for media.  She has been kind enough to provide our readers with a coupon code – thank you, Tiffany!

How important is it that very young children are comfortable around water? How does your product help with that?
Infants start to “pick & choose” activities and objects that they like and do not like, at around 6 months old by familiarity and how they feel with it. With otteroo, infants and babies find that water play is fun, they become familiar with how to move their arms and legs in water, and also navigate their way around the tub on their own. We believe that this will eventually promote a sense of confidence and independence in water for the infant. The transition to mommy-and-me swim classes that usually start around six months, or swim classes later on, should be much less dramatic when the baby already loves moving around in the water.

Is the bath and beach market growing as baby swimming lessons become more popular?
We have seen a lot of energy and focus being directed toward children’s bath, beach and pool markets, which is great, but we saw a gap in the array of swim lessons and water familiarity building tools for infants under six months of age in the USA.  We came to the conclusion that parents who wanted their babies to love and enjoy the water and interact with it in a positive, fun way, didn’t have much help from the marketplace aside from bath toys and various infant bath tub options.  We wanted to answer to this demand by encouraging babies’ natural love for being buoyant and freely moving their arms and legs in the water as it allows them the gravity-free like sensation that they can not get on dry land.

What is the most common water-related concern that parents face? (safety? kids hating bathtime?)

For all parents, the greatest fear related to water is what could happen in the split second that they are not watching the child by, or in the water.  And we could not agree more.  Like with all child bath and pool floating devices, we make sure that parents know that they must watch the infant within an arm’s length the entire time the infant is in the tub.  Our customer service is very personal and hands on so that we can ensure that parents have inflated the dual chambers, and are also using the floatie properly.
Not so much a concern as it is a tiring hassle for parents is when the child hates taking a bath and puts up a fight; or if you have twins.  To this, we feel that otteroo is a revolutionary bath time essential as it makes bath time fun, something to look forward to, for the baby, and it allows the parent’s arms to be free to wash the infant.  You will be able to bathe the twins simultaneously while they have fun with being in the water together.


  • Otteroo features a cushioned chin rest and rounded smooth edges at every touch point to ensure the baby’s comfort.
  • Our patented design allows the floatie to stretch out horizontally rather than vertically, making it easy for parents to place on and off the baby.
  • The two circular openings also allow the floatie to comfortably expand as the infant grows and naturally drains any splashed up water.
  • The new click-in strap design makes it a snap to secure.
  • Softest, highest grade, toxin-free and latex-free plastic for a lick-safe, smell- and rash-free experience for the infant. No ink is used on any exposed surfaces.

Tiffany has been kind enough to provide SPF readers a 20% off coupon code that expires 9/30: Enter 20KB2014 at check out to receive 20% off of your order

For more information on the Otteroo story, please check out