Monday, December 5, 2016

FitBit Charge HR - Product Review

After doing a lot of research into fitness watches, I happened upon the Fitbit Charge HR.  My younger sister purchased one in February 2016, and many of her friends had Fitbits as well.

It seemed to be a sturdy watch that was helping my sister move around more during the day.

So, for Mother's Day 2016, the Ref bought both of us Fitness Watches.  Totally different ones.

I got a size Large Plum Fitbit Charge HR for $129. 

You can now get them for much cheaper as they have recently introduced the next generation of watches.

I've used my Fitbit Charge HR for 7 months straight, as well as many of the Smart Phone app features.  I use an Android, and my sister an iPhone.  Recently, an upgrade has made both programs nearly identical.

The first thing I did after purchasing my Fitbit, was to purchase a silicone cover for it - which I do not consider to be a wise choice.   You can read the review here -

While I do not like the watch cover I purchased, I do like the protection that is has given the overall mechanism, as I have now met several former Fitbit Charge owners who had their watches come apart or the buttons damaged.  The cover does over some protection from dirt and water and getting tugged and bumped.  ...  There are now many other choices, but they will not fit the Charge 2.

What do I like about my Fitbit?

First, it showed me just how sedentary I actually was during my day.  I expected it to show that I was moving around more, but I was struggling to reach 4000 steps, and rarely got more than a few of the movement dots.  Also, a short 150 yards walk uphill on our driveway left me breathless and my heart racing well over 140 bpm.  

I used the Smartphone app to GPS track my walks and discovered that I was quitting after a mere 1/8th of a mile, and that was taking 15 minutes.   Not real good stats.  

I quickly tired of the Calorie and Meals part of the app, since many of my meals are from scratch and it was quite difficult to match what I was eating to what was available.  

By the end of the week, I was seriously discouraged with my progress, and by the end of two weeks, I was ready to quit.  But one night I was playing with the app and began to notice some interesting things.  My heart rate while I slept had dropped by 8 bpm during the 2 weeks.  My heart rate while walking rarely went over 130 bpm now.  And I was now up to 1/4 of a mile in 14 minutes.  I had doubled my walking speed while my heart rate had decreased.  Shocked, it gave me a reason to keep going.

The second thing I loved was the GPS pairing with my cell phone.  I did have to turn on the Location services, but it was really fun to look at the data online after I had been walking and see that I was walking farther and faster.  It was even more fun to go someplace new and track my walks.   Looking at the data on my cell phone though, usually causes it to crash, however, I can easily go online and view my stats at

Third, I love being able to look back over the 7 months and see that I really have made some serious progress.  I'm now keeping up with 8,000 - 10,000 steps each day, usually without thinking about it much.  With the colder, wetter weather, it has been difficult getting outside to walk, and I don't have room in our trailer for exercise equipment.  So, I scoot back chairs and march in place - trying to get my bpm over 130.  My kids frequently march around the school room while I teach at least one lesson.  So far, my high for a day has been 17,000 steps - and I felt like pudding for several days afterward.

I love how easy it is to use.  Sometimes the lights do not come up when I tap it, but eventually, they do.  Resetting the watch is easy, just hold down the main button on the side for 15 seconds while it is on the charging cord.  I reset it whenever it starts acting "funny".

I can charge it while I'm in the shower and getting dressed.  I lose the steps, but it should not get wet, so I figure if I'm going to have it off, I should charge it.  So far, I've only rarely had to charge more often than shower times - usually on days that I forget and leave the bluetooth paired after I sync it.

And I really love the awards that I get and their fun names, like the Sarengeti Award.  I love to share them on FB with my friends.  Because my friends know I'm trying to get in shape and lose weight, they are more likely to comment that they are noticing I look better.  Maybe I do ... but it is really encouraging to have them say it.  I also love the little display lights that show when you reach your self-assigned step goal for the day.  It's fun to see what will happen each day.  My Garmin family wishes theirs had the variety that mine does.

I absolutely love the amount of control I have, I get to set all of my own goals and decide when to push myself to a new level.  Just about everything is adjustable - including how much I have to move before it counts as actual exercise - right now I have it set at 10 minutes.  This is another plus for my Fitbit over the families Garmins.

It took a while to get used to the silent buzzing - but it is nice having an alarm clock to help keep me aware of time - right on my wrist.

I like the way it tracks my walking and keeps stats during the walk.  It is pretty good at recognizing exercise.  One day, I was helping my youngest, Sunshine, get her next season clothing out, and was pleased to see that I qualified for a workout during the time.

There are also several things that I do not like.

The first thing I found to dislike is that there were no reminders to move ... I could zone out and not move for hours.  So, I didn't get my dots.  The Charge 2 is supposed to remind you - but I do not know how the feature works.   This model has no way to remind you other than the alarm clocks.

While I loved the way it tracks my sleep - and it seems to be quite accurate at picking up on when I am asleep - even involuntary naps (this is one area that it really outshines the Garmins in our house),  one thing I seriously dislike is the flashing green light that occasionally will wake me or the Ref up in the middle of the night.  The light is the heart rate monitor - but the green light is bright enough to be very noticeable and wake a light sleeper.

I do worry about having the watch on 24/7 ... sometimes if I forget to turn off the Bluetooth, my wrist aches.  And I frequently sleep with my arm/wrist near my head.  But I've not seen anything negative about this on any of the health blogs that I follow.

I do not like the watch band is stretching as I wear it.  Nor do I like the way it fits.  I latch the large on the 3rd to last notch.  And wear it over my inside wrist, as this makes it easy to check during the day.  During the night I roll it over to the outside wrist as it is more comfortable to sleep that way, but it is a lot harder to read it.  it does not fit my wrist well.  If I tighten it up, it pinches and itches, although more recently I've been able to use the 4th notch.  It may fit better as I lose weight.  The actual hard gadget part is the full width of my wrist.

Overall - I would give it 4 stars.  And I would highly recommend it for people overweight like me, just starting out.  The Challenges with friends can be a lot of fun.  You have the option of being more public and competing with a larger group as well.

I love how easy it was to get use to using, and how intuitive the phone app was to learn to use.  I love that they are constantly improving the program.  So far, I've met with nothing less than kindness and encouragement in my journey to regain my health.

Reasons to avoid this watch?

If you work with water a lot - it is not waterproof, but it is splash proof and sweat proof.

If you are more active already - you might find the programming less supportive than you want it to be.

If you run regularly - and want to train more - this watch is limited in the amount of help it will be.

I can get a full charge to last up to 3 days before it emails me to charge it again, but only if I rarely sync it and don't pair it with my phone calls.  Phone calls was a feature I used for less than 48 hours before turning it off, as my phone was usually within reach anyway.

If you want the new features, you should probably go for them rather than pinching pennies to buy the last season watches.

And as cheap as the chargers are ... I would recommend picking up an extra.  These are really short and easy to misplace.

You will get a "dongal" with the watch to pair with your PC or laptop via the USB port.  It works well, but will cause the batteries to drain faster, so I rarely plug it into my computer.

The rest of the family all bought Garmin's.  I will be reviewing those watches as well.

NOTE :  May 5, 2017

Shortly after Christmas, the watch cover began to tear and so I removed it.  The crisscross design of the watch band had little pockets of dirty salt ... so would hesitate to say using a cover is any better than not using the cover.

In late February, the watch band began to develop a small bubble above the watch face, on the right side, and one morning it had popped loose. I put some pony tail rubber bands around it. After several other spots did this, I contacted the companies warranty section and emailed them these pictures with notes added.

In less than 24 hours, they had contacted me with a few more questions, and then offered a full replacement of the same watch ... or the option to upgrade at a 30% discount.   We chose the discount.  (We had been discussing upgrading anyway as soon as the price came down to a certain point.)

When I did not immediately purchase the watch, they contacted again to see if I needed help - I explained we were waiting for the next paycheck.  And as soon as I used the coupon, they contacted me again to let me know that the transaction had gone through, and if I had any problems to let them know.

The only BAD thing was that I purchased it on Easter Weekend, so it took a LONG time to arrive - though a full day before they had predicted it would arrive.

It has a completely different charger.

They did not ask me to return the watch, but instead to take it to be recycled.   I could not find the email a second time, so I disconnected it from my account and gave it to my young niece.  Barely a week later, the watchband came off totally.  So she carries it around in her pocket and uses it to check her pulse when she's been working. She does not use any of the internet app features, she's basically limited to steps and heart rate.  But she's happy as a lark, and she has already started talking about saving up her money to get one of her own.  I didn't think the company would mind me creating a new customer for them. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

AWESOME Indie Author Black Friday Sale .... Because My Daughter is one of the Authors


It’s that time of year. The time for buying presents, making wish lists, and planning New Year’s Resolutions. If any of those activities involve books for you, Indie Christian Authors has a perfect event for you.
From Nov 25 (that’s today!) through Nov 28th, more than 70 independent Christian books are on sale. You can find free shipping$0.99 ebookspackage deals, and more! And if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, they’ve got you covered with some freebies!
Think 70 books is overwhelming? Narrow it down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your Christmas list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list.
What awesome reads of 2016 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2017?
A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks. Also, some of the authors this year chose to not sell their paperbacks directly through the site. Those books are also marked "Sold Out" but if you click them open, you'll find a link to the site where they are on sale and a discount code for you to use at check out.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek for their work organizing this sale, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homeschooling the Solar System

This activity was suggested in the Apologia Astronomy text for 3rd - 6th graders.
We did not get around to repeating this with Scholar when he went through the book the next year.

We gathered all of the supplies (or my sister did - then all of us joined her on their space trip.

A small soccer ball became the SUN, and the kids wrote that beside their ball.

We carefully measured to Mercury, and then Venus.

The kids were awed at how tiny Venus was after such a long way.

Next stop EARTH.


Then something bad happened ... we ran out of church parking lot, and we were only to Mars.

So we changed directions ... and kept going down the street toward home, over 1/4 of a mile.

Here I am standing at Mars .... and way down there ....
THAT is the great Asteroid Belt.

We made a thick salt barrier to show the Asteroid Belt.

Looking back at Mars, the big kids ran and got the sun ... they couldn't find Mercury or Venus, but they did find a smushed Earth!

Next up was a rock named Jupiter ...  we looked back and could barely see the kids who ran back to the Asteroid Belt.

Uranus was even harder to see when we looked back toward Saturn, but we were nearly to our property line.

We walked past both driveways ... and were right past the other property line when we finally stopped for Neptune.
From the Sun to Neptune, we had travelled over 1/4 of a mile.

We decided to push on for Pluto....
and a long time later, we reached the very, very end of the mile road - so Pluto was 3/4 of a mile from Neptune.

We managed to hike back to Neptune, and the kids were exhausted!

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 - 1017 School Year Plans

This year will be the first year that I'll not have Story and Song to worry about in school, as both girls graduated in May.   It has been a rough 3 years,  but we've managed to survive.

Scholar will be our oldest school child, he'll be doing 6th grade work this year.    Sunshine will be in 1st and 2nd grade books.  We've also been joyed by their 2 best friends (for the 2nd school year).  Steam (think Steam Engine Train) will be in 4th/5th grade levels, while Star will be in 3rd grade.

All of them will be in Rod and Staff curriculum for English, Reading, Spelling, and Math..   I like how thorough the curriculum is, and because it is very affordable, I don't mind assigning just a few problems.   Reading also uses the Bible as the basis for the stories through 4th grade, so they get Bible at the same time.

Bible for the boys will also be with my aunt.  She is using the Plants Grown Up from Doorposts.  This gives them topics to study and they learn to use concordances, study books, dictionaries and other books to help study the Bible on their own.   This is primarily for Scholar, and Steam will be joining in.  Also, they will work on their 5th grade AWANA books.

The girls will use their AWANA books for Bible, along with their reading program, and just so they don't feel left out, Aunt will take them twice a week and to For Instructions In Righteousness also from Doorposts.

For Science, we are using Apologia.  They will all be working through the book Swimming Creatures.  And the boys will also be working on the Flying Creatures.

Song will take them once a week for Art - again an affordable option from Rod and Staff, while branching out whenever it suits her to learn something extra.

Sunshine will be going through the Rod and Staff Health curriculum for 1st and 2nd graders on Fridays.

Steam and Star are only with us 12 days out of the month, not so very much really.  But it is enough to give their mom some extra time to work with their two special needs siblings.  We do 3 weeks of Mon - Thurs, and then they are home a week with assignments.  It has worked well enough this year, and we plan to continue this at least one or two more years.

I almost forgot History.  The girls will be doing a World Geography exploration with me.  We're winging it mostly, but I'm trying to set up to allow them some self study time.   Of course that is the plan, but I'm still working on the one for the first 4 weeks!    The boys are working together on Texas State study, then will return to the State Study that they have both been working on for the past couple of years.   ...  We've been very pleased with this curriculum and have taken time to read extra books and watch movies with each state.   Doing this has given Scholar a good overview of the US history at the same time.  Steam started the curriculum last year, so we've not spent as much time doing extra to catch him up to where Scholar is.  We actually know the family who publishes these books, as her father was our pastor years ago.... small world!

Scholar will also do some extra spelling and vocabulary work on Fridays, as well as writing a blog entry each week ... although plans don't always work out as neatly as planned ... so we'll do our best and trust God for the rest.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Preschool - Leafy Name Pictures

This was a "spin-off" of an idea from the Horizon 4-year-old Preschool Curriculum.

Go to a park or outside .....

1.  Pick out your favorite colored construction paper.

2.  Using a good quality School or Craft Glue, Adult writes their name in glue and a border if wanted or if it is a really short name.

3.  Encourage your child to find items to glue onto their picture.

You could also give your child a bag and take a nature walk.  Then use the collected items to make their pictures.   Help them learn the names of as many items as possible that they find as an extra learning experience.

Here is how the names turned out after the kids worked on them. Mostly without help.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Life Gave Us Some Lemons

I have always enjoyed blogging ... as it gives me an outlet to reach out to others that I don't have otherwise.

But it wasn't until Story pointed it out to me that I realized that I have been mostly missing for over a year.    two and a half years.

Where have I been?

Just surviving.   I had a long post planned out a year or so ago ... but decided it sounded too whiny and never posted it.  So this is a rework on that one.

We were in a major car wreck Thanksgiving 2009, right at the end of our little 1/2 mile road.  It was horrific, and yet we came out fairly well all things considered - but I've always been prone to night mares, and they took their toll on my health and emotions.  Coupled with having just lost my mom that Spring, the Ref being unemployed and having a heart attack, extra kids to watch and other responsibilities.   When my Aunt came to live in my Dad's house, something inside me just quit ... I had been holding things together for so long as the oldest ... grief, exhaustion, and stress just snowballed into me just zoning out into auto-pilot.   To most people, I was functioning just fine, but at home, I would fight sleep all day, and be unable to sleep at night.

There was nothing that hundreds of others haven't survived, and it wasn't really so bad as many have it.  But there was no break, and even a strong rope will fray if rubbed long enough.

So, for about 18 months, I just stopped.

Life is improving.  By bits.  I got one of those fancy Activity Tracker Watches last month. ....  And I started moving.  A lot more.  I'm not seeing much in the weight loss department.  Though some of my shorts are a bit looser.  But I am seeing improvement in my heart rate, and I'm walking farther.  I can usually top 5,000 steps, and most days top 6,000 steps.   Currently my goal is beating 6000 steps a day for a solid month.  Not easy in this summer heat.  Sleep is still weirdly sporadic, especially with the Ref's ever changing McD work schedule.

Just as I planned to start blogging, I insisted a friend let me help her catch two of her kids up in their school work ... which has turned into full time schooling.  We are on a 3 week / 4 day at my house 24/7 and then 1 week and 3 day weekends at home.  Sometimes they have homework at home, sometimes there is a 2 week break - and halfway through we break for Christmas and Summer.   We scramble if anyone gets sick, but with Aunts help, we've managed pretty good.

But I REALLY want to start blogging again.

And I've been researching Fitness Watches ... so I'm going to try to do some reviews on the ones we've purchased so far ... and what I'm looking at for Scholar and later for Sunshine.   I'll try to finish the blog posts that I had been working on ... and round out what I'm doing with school right now.   Maybe with some tenacity and better planning, I can get some stuff done.  Maybe.

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