And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Monday, December 30, 2013

Quick Relief




I told you last year that my go to cold sore relief is Orajel Single Dose Cold Sore Treatment and now it comes with a moisturizer! Here's a recap of my review of this product:


Orajel Instant Pain Relief for Cold Sores is some serious stuff! I get cold sores about twice a year usually following a sickness or super stressful time. It was no surprise that after a week's worth of sickness (possibly flu) and Hubby's graduation from the police academy, I woke up last Monday with 2 small bumps on my lip. That was my first time to have 2 at once. I had this new Orajel for Cold Sores and decided to give it a try.

Hubby had already successfully used one vial a couple of months ago. I read the instructions and followed to apply to both bumps. First off, this is serious! My whole lip went numb. I mean that should have been obvious since it's coming from Orajel but honestly I didn't expect it. The taste is less than desirable which is actually good because it kept me from chewing my lip or licking it. Gross I know but truthful.

Those little bumps never got any bigger! In fact they begin to dry up that afternoon. Within a few days, those small dried bumps were completely gone! No one even noticed my cold sores. I will be keeping a pack of Orajel Instant Pain Relief for Cold Sores in my cabinet for future break outs.

I received this product as a member of Smiley360. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.



Find more information about Orajel Instant Pain Relief and get a $1 off coupon!

2014

It's coming. It's almost here. 2014 begins THIS WEEK. 2013 really flew right by. I feel like I need some brakes on life. A whole new year already. Just wow.

So I told you a couple of posts back that I thought my word of 2014 would be relax. I really feel God leading me in that direction so that's going to be my resolution. Now relaxation comes in lots of different forms for different people. I'm a traditionalist in most areas and relaxation is no exception.

Now in reality I have a husband, 2 kids, and a giant, slobbering dog so it's more than obvious why I am tense most of the time. However my goal this year is to find some ways to let go of the things I can't control (whew that is tough to even type!) and to find those calm, peaceful moments in the midst of the chaos.

I've started a post of my top few ideas for relaxing and I will share that with you on January 1, 2014. I'm hoping to add to that list of ideas in the coming weeks. I'm trying to be really aware of the moments that I feel the calmest so I can try to recreate them as needed.

I started a little early and we got the Christmas tree and decorations taken down and packed away the day after Christmas. School begins again on Thursday and I'm going to try to take an hour or so tomorrow to clean up our schoolroom a bit and get things organized for our new semester. I'd also like to get the house cleaned up to some extent and do some meal planning before we kick into a full "normal" week next week.

I also did a little couponing yesterday. That might not be relaxing for some people but I can tell you paying full price for toiletries has been making me insane! It's been quite awhile since I've actively couponed so I was excited to ease back into it. I'll share with you in case you are tired of paying full price too!

Walgreens (coupons and sales may vary by region)

Gillette Power ProGlide Fusion razor $9.99 (with Balance Rewards card, I got the free app on my phone yesterday- makes life easier) - $3 coupon from yesterday's P & G insert- $2 Register Reward coupon (good towards future Wags purchase)= $4.99

Pantene Shampoo & Conditioner 2/ $7 (with card)- $3 coupon from yesterday's P & G insert= 2/$4

Always Infinity Pads $3.99- $1 coupon from yesterday's P & G insert= $2.99

Happy couponing/ relaxing/ New Year! What are your resolutions for 2014?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Love Your Neighbor



In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourself. Whoa. That one is a hard one for adults and even tougher for kids. It seems especially challenging for kids with siblings. I once heard it said that the people who live with us are our closest neighbors and therefore the ones we should love the most. So.....with the constant sibling rivalry/ arguments/ squabbles I am often repeating those special words Jesus gave us. I love when books, stories, and movies back up those ideals that I'm often trying to ingrain in my children. Sometimes my back up comes from a whimsical children's book about pirates and farmers.


As you can see from my picture above, my children have been enthralled with pirates for quite some time. Their fascination hasn't changed much over the years. So I figured Pirates on the Farm would be a big hit with Speedy and I was right! It's getting harder to select books for him now that he's reading. He's still a little intimidated by chapter books so I try to give him as many books like this as I can to build his confidence. This book by Denette Fretz has a cute story line and the illustrations by Gene Baretta are totally engaging.



What happens when a group of rowdy pirates moves in next door to a quiet farming family? Lots of antics and a little neighborly love. This is a great children's book for boys and girls and it quietly shares the message of loving our neighbors- even when they are very different from us. This is the first book in The Next Door Series. Look for the second book Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door coming in September 2014. 

Our favorite parts of this book include the pirates escapades at church, the local store, and even when they invite their neighbors over for dinner. I love that the dad is consistently open to helping the new neighbors while the mom is busy hiding her money stash. In life sometimes we encounter situations like these and my Hubby is always the one open to all new people. I try to learn from his example. No worries, even though the mom is hesitant at first the pirates win her over by the end. So let your mateys learn a lesson about love while they learn some fun pirate terms and have some laughs.

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 


Friends


Friends are such an important part of life. God created us to long for fellowship with others. This is Apple and her lifelong friend. They have done so many things together and even with the occasional tween girl drama they love to spend time together. I think it is really important to help our children foster those really special friendships. It's so much more important to have one or two really close friends than it is to be super popular and have hundreds of acquaintances or surface level friends.



In Kathryn Slattery's book My Friend Jesus: The Gospel for Kids, children can see how Jesus is there for them just like a close friend. In this retelling of the gospel, the time Jesus spent on Earth is summarized for young readers and listeners. The overview gives kids a new perspective on what Jesus said and did while He was here. The story also lets them know that Jesus is waiting for a relationship with them. 



I love the concept of this book. As a child growing up my family didn't go to church very often so a book like this would've given me a great overview of the gospel.The illustrations by Alida Massari are engaging. The beautiful full cover front is eye catching. This would be a lovely addition to a Sunday School class library.  I can see this book being a terrific gift for a young person who doesn't go to church or doesn't go regularly. It would be a great missions tool especially for children in unstable family situations. It would give those kids the confidence to know that Jesus is always with them no matter where they go. 

On the other hand, I'm not sure this is as great of a book for kids like mine. My kids know the gospel very well. We've been teaching them scripture and reading through the Bible with them since they were in the womb. Apple already has a relationship with Jesus and Speedy is moving along at his own pace. We didn't push Apple in to her decision and we don't have any plans to push Speedy either. We want them to make their own choice in their own time so that it is a lifelong decision. This book (like many others) gives a little push at the end for the reader to pray a salvation prayer. It then goes on to assume every reader will have said this prayer and be ready to embark on this "new adventure." Again it isn't a bad thing but just a different approach than we have taken. 






You can enter to win a copy of this hardback book. Use the easy Giveaway Tools widget.








I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 




Friday, December 13, 2013

Is Your Skin Dry?



I don't know about you but in the winter my skin feels like a dried up sponge. As soon as I step out of the shower I feel like all the moisture is sucked out of my face. Enter my free sample of Meaningful Beauty Creme de Serum compliments of Influenster. 


My initial reaction to this product wasn't very positive. I was surprised that an expensive Cindy Crawford facial product was packaged in such a lightweight bottle. It also seems very, very small. At the beginning I just put on a dab every morning and tried to focus on the areas of my face that have the most fine lines and wrinkles.

After watching the infomercial, I decided to try putting it on twice a day. Now I apply it in the morning and at night. I still just use a dab. It doesn't take a lot to smooth it all over my face. I've noticed that my fine lines seem to be disappearing and my skin feels very moisturized once I put it on. The smell isn't stellar but it doesn't really stink either. The bottle is small but even using it twice a day this one will last me a long time since it takes so little each application.

All in all I would be interested to try the whole Meaningful Beauty line. Seems like Cindy has a good thing going here.......

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Homeschool Scheduling





In the last few weeks, I've tried to share some homeschool insights with you. I know with the semester coming to an end this is a time that HS parents evaluate where the kids are and a time when some public school or private school parents may start considering homeschool. I had a sweet text chat with a fellow HS mom earlier this week about our # of days for the semester, etc. Like most things with HS this is an area where almost every family can follow a different plan. Here's a rough outline of how I do things.


1. Our state requires 180 days per school year. I break ours down into 90 days a semester and that is how we report to our umbrella school.

2. Typically in the summer I sit down and map out our calendar to plan for those 90 days. We generally run from August- December and January- May. 

3. Then I take a look at our curriculum choices. I try to break down how many times a week we will do a subject by how many days/ weeks of work are included. 

4. I should tell you here that I plan for 4 days a week of "seat work." Our fifth day of the week is used for library trips, field trips, music, art, computer games, listening to audio books, educational movies, etc. These learning times may not always fall on that fifth day. In fact we get some of them in during our summer break. I just try to keep track of all those things we do and fill them in on my planner. 

5. So back to #3 let me explain how that breaks down. Usually Math U See has 30 lessons. Each lesson includes a DVD session, 6 worksheets, and a test. We break that down into a week. They watch the DVD session on Monday and do 1-2 worksheets. Then Tuesday and Wednesday they do an additional 1-2 worksheets a day and take the test on Thursday. Our semester usually runs 18-19 weeks (some are short weeks due to holidays). MUS also includes about 3 unit tests and a final test. As I plan I give them a MUS lesson a week and then the week they take the unit test they don't do any other MUS that week. That gives us some built in days in case we get behind or if the kids need extra review. There is also a final test which is taken in May and wraps up their math for the year.

6. I do the same thing with all our other subjects. Some subjects we only do for a semester. language arts, reading, and math are pretty much done every day. Other subjects like spelling, handwriting, history, science, Spanish, etc. are only done a couple of days a week.

7. I try to make each day as even as possibly but usually Monday is the hardest day of the week and each day following is a little lighter. Thursdays tend to be quick because it's "test" day for a couple of subjects.

8. What happens if we have more days/ weeks than we do curriculum? This actually does happen for us quite a bit. Especially towards the end of the semester. Those days just become more relaxed. If our seat work is finished we focus on other things. We cook, we clean (home ec y'all!), the kids read, etc. Basically those days look a lot more like our fifth days. We might do some extra writing or a few extra worksheets but usually we just study at an easier pace. The kids love Science and History so they like to do more with those subjects when we have time.


As I said every family sets up the schedule according to what works best for them. This is just our rough outline and it's what works best for us right now. In a year or two it may be totally different and that'll be fine too. How do you schedule your homeschool?

Personal Assessment Time

As our school semester winds down and the holiday season amps up, I feel myself evaluating where we are. Assessing the progress the kids have made in their studies and our progress this year. I went back and re-read my New Year's post from almost a year ago. I basically had to laugh. My words for the year were "Too Much." Well I didn't accomplish too much this year so I guess I was right but a bit backwards. If anything this year has been filled with more too much than last year was.

Last year I worked 2 part-time "jobs"- this blog which provides my family with some free products in exchange for some of my time and an independent contracting job that I've done from home these last 8 years. This year I added an additional part time job bringing my total to 3. Last year my husband had an 8-5 job (except for the 10 weeks he was gone to training) and this year he works a job with abnormal hours and no regular shift. This year the kids added softball and baseball to their ever busy schedules and one played an extra half a season.

However it wasn't all a bust. I did manage to regain some of my time from situations that I felt like were draining me. Of course a lot of that time has gone to my extra work schedule. What I absolutely didn't do was reign in my stress. It's been much worse this year. So while there a still a few weeks left this year I'm praying about God's word for me for 2014 and I'm thinking right now it will be relax. I need to find ways to relax. To let go of the things that I can't control. To dispense of the worry that plagues me.

One way I will do this is to STOP reading a majority of the blog posts that go viral. I know that seems backwards. I'm a blogger. I want people to read my content. The thing is that I hope when you read my blogs you don't feel condemned. I don't want you, my reader, to feel like I've added something to your already full plate. I hope this is making sense to you. Lately I've read several articles that were posted on social media by multiple mommy friends. Particularly the one I read yesterday got to me. Initially I felt convicted by the words. Oh I could relate to this mommy and the things she was saying. By the end though I felt condemned, not good enough, underachieving. Ain't nobody got time for that. If I pray about something and God convicts me to change then I need to work on that. If I read 100 mommy blogs and they all tell me 100 things I need to change then I'm just heaping undue stress on myself.

So if relax is truly my word I'll share more with you about my plan closer to the New Year. In the meantime let me encourage you. Let go of the stress of this season. You can't do it all and you shouldn't. Your kids likely won't remember perfectly wrapped gifts or a perfect Christmas tree, the won't remember elf shenanigans or every Christmas event/ parade/ play/ musical/ party you attend, what they will remember is the time and love you share this time of year. Keep it simple mamas. Or do it up special everyday if that's what makes you happy. No condemnation here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Homeschooling- What You Need to Know



There are so many things that don't make it into typical homeschool conversations. When you are first looking into the homeschool world you get overwhelmed by umbrella schools and curriculum choices and scheduling. There is often no time to talk about these little gems......


            *Homeschool can be expensive. It can also be very cheap but you have to work a little harder. While the costs can add up so can the cost of public school with fundraisers, projects, lunches, special programs, field trips, etc. When prepping for homeschool you need to count costs for your umbrella school (if you use one), co-op fees (again if you use one), supplies, lunches and snacks (this won't be a change if you've been staying at home with your child all along), curriculum, etc. The best resources include the library, any free community field trips, and finding used curriculum (my favorite place is homeschoolclassifieds.com).

             *Folks are going to give you lip. You will be amazed at the insensitive, judgemental, crazy things people say when they learn you homeschool. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Most of those negative opinions are going to include something about "socialization." Feel free to roll your eyes and walk away.

             *Your housework, cooking, and personal hobbies (whether it's watching tv, quilting, or doing crossword puzzles) are going to take a hit. There isn't going to be a lot of time to accomplish those things. Your best bet is a well planned schedule but be aware that there are days when Suzy and Johnny take ALLLLLL DAYYYYYY to do their assignments. It happens to all of us. On those days the house will be a mess and your husband will need to hit the drive thru on the way home from work. You're gonna want to go ahead and put some drive thru trips in that budget.

             *What works so well for one child will most certainly not work for your other child/ children. I was so excited when I found curriculum that worked for Apple and I tucked it all away neatly and nicely for Speedy. Ahem. While several things (Hooked on Phonics, Math U See) have worked for both just as many have not. They are different. They learn in unique ways. Just sell what doesn't work and try something new.

              *You're going to be learning alongside your child. Never worry that you don't know enough about a subject. You can learn or re-learn with them. Truly.

              *It really isn't about all the memorization and timelines and facts. It is all about the character that you are building into your child. You need to teach them responsibility, respect for others, and morals. That's your job homeschool Mom! Teach it well. The multiplication facts and history and science will all come over time but focus on that character first.

             *And what I'm realizing more this year is that with the character we are really, really teaching our kids HOW TO LEARN. I know that's epic. It's a big homeschool secret. Shhhh! A good man (whom we miss so much) pointedly told me a story when Apple was a baby. The point of his story was that you teach your kids their morals and characters before they are 5. After that it's tougher to teach them a whole new behavioral concept. Boy do I see how right he was! So now that both of mine are over 5 my job is to help refine their character (because the foundation is already set) and teach them how to learn. They need to know how to go to the library to find books for research, how to find a how-to video (made so much easier by YouTube with my supervision, how to find a real, live person to teach them a skill (Mawmaw recently taught Apple to crochet), and how to go on-line or look at a dictionary or encyclopedia for more information. We need to teach them how to memorize Bible verses and addition facts. We teach them how to form opinions on debates. This is the other big part of our jobs homeschool moms! Don't worry about teaching them every single fact in every single subject before they turn 18. Just make sure you teach them how to find out those facts if they need them.


Monday, December 2, 2013

This is It!


About a year or so ago, I started looking for a Bible plan for Apple to read the Bible in a year. Hubby & I had done some Bible reading challenges and I really wanted to find one for her to do also. What I found was disappointing. At the time there just weren't many (I really didn't find any) resources to help kids read through the majority or whole Bible in a year or any given length of time. I've always found that most children's resources cut down the Bible to the most popular stories and then cut those down until they are almost unrecognizable! I first noticed this when Apple was just a toddler. I would read to her from a Bible storybook and then go compare to the actual verses. I was usually surprised at the difference in the context.



So as she got older and began reading more on her own it was just a natural progression to want to help her make her way through the whole Bible. Now I've told you here on the blog that I've found some EXCELLENT Bibles and devotionals for her, especially in this past year. She & I have been so grateful to have these wonderful resources at our fingertips. I've still longed for a program or book to help her through the whole Bible though. It is so important to keep God's word upon our hearts and how better to do that than by studying His whole Word?



All this to say after looking for so long I have finally found the one, the Bible, the Bible in a Year, The NCV Daily Bible by Tommy Nelson. Here's what the back cover has to say:

"Simple daily readings from the easy-to-read New Century Version include selections from both the Old and New Testaments as well as Psalms and Proverbs. Also included are full-color maps, pages to personalize, top memory verses, and key Bible teachings."

Wow! Just what I wanted for Apple! She was baptized this year and will be 9 next year. This is the perfect time for her to unlock the secrets of the Bible and store those treasured words in her heart. Along with maps and timelines, there is also a section in the back with a place to take notes each month. That's perfect for Apple because she is all about jotting down ideas or drawings as she reads.

The daily readings aren't overwhelming either. Most run from 2-3 pages. Easily accomplished in less than 30 minutes of reading. For example December 2 is Daniel 7:1-8:27 and Psalm 137:1-6. Each day's selection is printed together so the reader can just easily read the passages for that day. I may have to sneak this Bible away and read through it myself! I am not super familiar with the NCV version but just glancing through it I don't see anything sticking out. Since the Bible isn't in "regular" order it's harder for me to check my go-to passages when looking at a new version.

While there are some colorful verses and maps at the beginning and end, the majority of the Bible is just regular passages with no art or extra color. This Bible in a Year is definitely for strong readers in the tween-teen stage.

Would this make a great Christmas gift for someone on your list? Well enter below and one reader will win a free copy! Now Apple won't get this copy until Christmas because I'd like for her to start it on January 1 so shhhhhhh! Don't tell!


I received a free copy of this Bible for the purpose of review from Tommy Nelson. All opinions are my own.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Prepping for the Holidays



How do you prep your family for the holidays? In particular I feel like Christmas needs extra pre-prep. There are decorations to put up, gifts to wrap, and you have to make space for all those new items coming into the house.

As I shared in my Cleaning Up series, I believe organization is the key. Don't put off the organizing until later. It's easy to say "I will organize those decorations when we put them away for the season" or "I will go through the kids clothes and toys after we see what they get for Christmas." I find that those times never come. I get wrapped up in the next semester of school or new activities for the year and forget all about all those organizing promises I made to myself.

Instead start now a little at a time to get the organization ball rolling.

1. Make sure you have enough big plastic bins or containers to store all those Christmas decorations and designate one area in your attic, garage, or closet to keep all of those bins. I label bins with a marker and re-use the same one for the items each year. For example: Christmas lights, Living Room decor, Tree decorations, Kitchen decor, etc. That way when you pull them out next year you can take them right to the space where you need them.

2. Inside those big bins group together smaller items. Put extra tree hangers in a plastic bag. Keep the wreath hanger with the wreath or other door decorations. Put all the name tags, bows, tape, etc in one bin. When you hit the after Christmas sales go ahead and put those new items in with like items. If you know you will need to buy more of something next year make a list and place it in or on one of those Christmas bins.

3. Go through the kid's clothes (again because hopefully you did this as you pulled out the fall/ winter wardrobes) and pull out any items that are too worn, too small, too big (put away for next season/ year), or that your child just won't wear. Donate them or put them in a place with items that need to be sold. It is getting harder to find places that will accept used clothing and toys but you may be able to find a local charity that will take them. A good place to sale used items is in a spring yard sale or an online sale group. These can often be found on social media.

4. Go through your child's room. Now is the time to throw away trash (Apple seems to hoard trash, anyone else have a kid that does this?), weed out unused, neglected items, and get rid of toys that are no longer age appropriate or are broken. With Speedy we have to do this in stages. He isn't big on getting rid of toys. Usually we go through his toy box and then a few weeks later we do it again. Otherwise he will hold on to everything. Apple never has much trouble parting with her items (only her trash). Remind your child that Christmas is coming and they need room for new sketchpads, books, toys, etc.

5. Now is also a great time to take a look at the outside toys. Do they still ride that scooter, play on that swingset, use those balls? If not or if some items are going to be replaced go ahead and throw away, donate, or add to your sale pile. Make a special place to store all those outdoor toys too. It can be as simple as a corner of the garage or in our case a spot under the patio to keep them. Use a plastic container or bin for smaller items like balls, frisbees, etc.

6. Now make sure to go through your own items as well. Take a look at your clothes and discard any that you don't use. Now is a great time to evaluate your shoes and handbags too. We all have some that we don't use. Throw out all those old socks with holes in them or repurpose them for dust rags.

7. Make sure your bathroom is stocked for company. Keep a few unused, unopened toothbrushes on hand and keep extra soap, shampoo, toilet paper, and paper towels on hand. Now is the time to check your cleaning supplies so you aren't searching for all purpose cleaner on Christmas Eve.

8. The hardest area for me to let things go are kitchen items. I use them all! However I usually get at least a new item or two for the kitchen for Christmas so it is a good time to declutter a few items. It's also a great time to check your cabinets and fridge for outdated food items that can go in the trash. Also I usually make room for my Christmas dishes by packing away a few of my regular items in the bin that I take the Christmas dishes from. Then when I put them away for the year I can pull back out the regular items.

Now obviously you don't have to do all of these in one day (unless you have a day or two extra off of work). Most of these can be accomplished in an hour or less. Set aside a few evenings to work through these this month and you will be much happier come the end of the year. You will also reap the rewards of this work next December!

Family Sundays

I've fallen a little behind on my family Sunday meal posts. One Sunday we had a holiday meal at the church my parents attend and then last week we just enjoyed leftovers because we had our Thanksgiving last Saturday.

Today we are back in the swing of things and the meal today was Taco Soup. Now taco soup is one of those versatile meals that can be changed and adjusted depending on the items you have on hand. I enjoy trying new variations to this family favorite. I will give you the recipe I used today and then tell you some other ways I've made it.

Taco Soup

2 15 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 can golden corn
1 can black beans (drained)
1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 lb ground pork cooked & drained (1st time trying pork. I was pleased! Normally I use 1 lb beef)
1 packet dry Ranch seasoning

Toss it all in a slow cooker and let simmer. I put it on low about 4 hours before we ate. Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

As noted above I typically use ground beef but this is good with the ground pork or shredded chicken. I've been known to throw in other varieties of beans or black olives. Many recipes call for ranch seasoning and taco seasoning. I've found we like it better with just the ranch powder. The tomatoes and diced chiles give it some heat. You can also put it fresh raw or cooked onions, hot sauce, etc. Really make it your own!




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Governess and the Gentleman

I've always been a history buff (I even got an award in high school for taking so many social studies classes) but I'm not always a fan of historical fiction. I like historical fiction from all different time periods as long as the book isn't bogged down with period information. Do you know what I mean? I have a hard time selecting historical books because I don't know (without reading them) if they will be the kind I like or the kind I don't like! Eek. I decided to take a chance on The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky. I'm so glad I took the chance! This is the kind of historical fiction I love.



Julia has just returned to England from a stint serving as a missionary alongside her parents in India. Her father is ill and she must find work to help support her family. After a rather unusual interview she becomes the governess at Highland Hall for the children and nieces of Sir William. She faces opposition from the nieces, the head maid, and sometimes it seems Sir William is against her. She makes friends with Sir William's sister Sarah soon however and things begin to change. Sir William begins to confide in Julia. Everything is unsettled though as Julia tries to find her place between the servants and the family. Will Highland Hall ever be a peaceful place?



Do you love Downton Abbey? I DO, I DO! And so I love this book. It is very similar with things happening downstairs and things happening upstairs and sometimes the people from the floors cross paths. There is no overwhelming historical information in this book (yay!). Each character brings a unique piece to this puzzle of Highland Hall. It is certainly a roller coaster ride as you read. Some parts seem very slow and steady and then suddenly there is a huge exciting spin in the tale. While there is plenty of romance in this book it is a very gentle read.  I found it hard to put down. I was so happy at the end to see there will be a future book about Highland Hall.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.



Be sure to check out the latest Giveaways here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Unexpected Mystery




I told you back in October how much I enjoyed A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower. I was excited when I saw her new book Andi Unexpected. I knew Apple would love it and she did! The writing style is similar in the adult and juvenile fictions by Flower. It's obvious she has an affinity for mysteries and the Amish.



Andi Unexpected tells the story of young Andi and her sister Bethany. They are orphans and go to live with their Aunt Amelie. Andi and her new friend Colin find out that she isn't the only Andora Boggs in her family tree. Where will this information take her? Is the small town of Killdeer a suitable home for Bethany and Andi? Will their crazy hippie aunt be a suitable guardian for them?

Apple says,"I think this is a very good book. I like mysteries and this one keeps you guessing until the end. It's very interesting because it has pets and is a happy book."

Y'all know I love anything Apple can read that isn't filled with questionable or overly mature information. This book is hardcover and 218 pages. We saw it in the local Lifeway store earlier this week and she told an employee how much she liked the story!

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Itsy and Bitsy in Bethlehem and a Giveaway!



Max Lucado has an amazing way of relating to children through bugs (like Hermie) and animals. For young children his imaginative approach can really bring the Bible and Biblical ideals to life. My kids have loved Hermie and his friends for a long time. Now they've been introduced to Itsy Bitsy Christmas.



Itsy and Bitsy are 2 little mice that Lucado and illustrator Bruno Merz use to bring the story of the birth of Jesus to life. Itsy and Bitsy are joined by many other animals in this whimsical retelling of that miraculous story. From the perspective of the animals we see what that night in Bethlehem may have been like. The story is easy to read (Speedy had no trouble reading it aloud) and the illustrations are enthralling. To see the some of this book check out this flipbook. Use your left and right arrows to scan through part of the book.

I expect this will be a favorite for children at Christmas for a long time to come. This is a great book to read aloud to your children or for your readers to explore on their own. The story is told simply with a fun twist as the animals of Bethlehem interact and spread the word about the King. This is another great starting place for discussing the real meaning of Christmas with your children.

Other ideas for sharing the birth of Jesus with your kids include:

*reading Luke 2 with your family
*doing a Jesse tree with your kids
*doing an Advent activity with your kids like lighting the Advent candles, doing an Advent devo, etc.
*having a Happy Birthday Jesus party complete with cake and gifts (an Operation Christmas Child box would be a great gift for Jesus)
*volunteering at a soup kitchen or toy drive
*donating gently used toys to a local charity
*attending a live Nativity or setting up a Nativity scene with your Christmas decor

**GIVEAWAY**

Those are just a few ideas. I'm sure you all have some to share! Tommy Nelson will provide one reader with a copy of Itsy Bitsy Christmas. To enter to win leave a comment on the blog with your idea for sharing the real meaning of Christmas. If you don't have a specific idea tell me how you include your small children in the traditions of the season. Comments will close (and the giveaway will end) on November 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm CST. This giveaway is open to the US only.

For more fun enjoy these free coloring pages!

I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smarty Gloves

ISOTONER smarTouch gloves keep your hands warm while using your touch screen devices. Keep them bright and clean all winter long with Purex liquid detergent and WIN! One grand prize winner will receive an iPad mini + a $500 ISOTONER shopping spree. Ten (10) runners up will get $25 gift card good towards any ISOTONER product!



What an awesome giveaway! I'd be happy with some of those nice gloves but an iPad mini and a $500 shopping spree would really make my Christmas bright!

I will be entered into a drawing for a gift card for sharing this information with you. I am a Purex Insider.


Google

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Family Sundays

I told you last week all about our family Sunday meals and so of course since I blogged it we didn't have a big family meal on Sunday. Go figure. We had some other things to do after church and so we just grabbed some fried chicken at the local grocery store and had it. I don't want to leave you hanging though so here is one of our favorites.


Baked Sandwiches

Everything Bread loaf (or your favorite LARGE bread)
Sandwich Meat (turkey, ham, roast beef, etc)
Cheese (provolone, american, etc)
Condiments
Lettuce
Tomato
Pickles
Onions
Chips

Slice the bread. I slice around 3 sides and lay open. Layer on cheese and meat. Close the bread and heat in the oven. 350 for 10-15 minutes should suffice. You just want to warm the sandwich and melt the cheese. Then lay out all the toppings and slice the sandwich into serving sizes. Everyone can build their own sandwich wedges. These are so much better than a typical sandwich! The cost of this lunch is very low. I like to find the bread on the discount rack so it saves even more.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Calling for Christmas


I don't know how you do your Christmas shopping, but I have this whole process. I start making a list early (usually in the summer) and then I begin buying things. Sometimes I get the buying part accomplished really early. Since I've had the kids it takes me a little longer. No matter when I finish though, the same thing always happens. Whenever I am finished I start seeing more cool stuff that I wish I would've bought. Confession: sometimes I go ahead and buy it. And then Christmas presents become more numerous than I wanted them to be. Like my kids need extra stuff. Sigh.



Last year I had a little more self-control. Hubby was finishing his training and we were going on a mini-trip in early December so I had all our money ear-marked for the trip. I remember seeing really awesome things though and fighting the urge to buy them. 



One of those things was Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young (adapted by Tama Fortner). The cute little blue bird on the cover seemed to call to me from shelves in every store! I finally found a free download of the month of December from the kids version and the adult version. Looking over those just made me want the book for Apple even more! I didn't buy it though. Over this year I've received (and shared with you) some really cool devos that she has been reading but I still kept spotting Jesus Calling on the store shelves. So when the awesome ladies at Tommy Nelson offered it as a review resource I was so excited! I received the Jesus Calling for Kids Deluxe Edition



When it arrived Apple immediately took off with it. Over the last couple of weeks she has pointed out the eye catching orange soft leather hardcover. She also loves that chipper blue bird! The blue ribbon bookmark helps her keep the day marked. The actual dates at the top of the page keep her on track. With undated devotionals she has trouble remembering if she has read for the day or not. The "Read It On Your Own" suggestions at the bottom of each page have her delving into her Bible. She's come and talked with me about some of the different passages she's been reading. The simple entries are easy for her to read and digest on her own. Plus many of them are things that she and I have been discussing lately: No Grumbling, Troubles Into Triumph, Measuring Your Day, etc. 

Jesus Calling for Kids is an adapted version of Sarah Young's Jesus Calling. I love that the daily devotionals are perfect for Apple to read on her own or for us to read together. I also think this would be a great devo to incorporate into our homeschool time. I have them each read a devotional as the beginning of our school day. Another great thing is it will work just as well for Speedy in the future. The recommended age for this one is 7-12. If Apple finishes it up in the summer, I may use it for Speedy's daily devo in the fall. See a special preview here: Jesus Calling for Kids Flipbook.

This will be a terrific gift for a special child in your life. It is made to last and could easily be passed through the family. Would you like to win a copy? Enter via the Giveaway Tools widget for your chance!



I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 






Wednesday, November 6, 2013

O' Christmas Tree

Every single year I BEG to put up our Christmas tree early and every year Hubby denies my request. Even when we used an artificial tree he insisted we had to wait until after Thanksgiving. A few years ago we went back to using real trees so he stuck by his Thanksgiving decree. It's become something of a tradition for me to run him out of the house the weekend after Thanksgiving to find me a tree. Then we are all exhausted while we are decorating the tree. Well this year.....Hubby surprised me with a tree early! I was so excited when I came home and saw it! Now I may not be quite so excited when it is totally dry 2 weeks before Christmas but we shall see (anyone else picture the burnt up tree on Christmas Vacation right then?).



So today we turned on Christmas music and decorated our tree. So exciting! And a little sad at the same time because this will be our last Christmas tree in this house. We have to move at the beginning of the year. We'd appreciate your prayers as we hope to move in January. However we are pushing all of that aside right now to enjoy this Christmas as much as we can!



So let's start this season in the right way. It's so important for children of all ages to have some understanding of the story of Jesus and His birth as we celebrate Christmas. This is such a special season as we set aside this time to really focus on His earthly arrival. Too easily Jesus can be swept behind the piles of food and gifts and busyness. Let's keep that from happening in our own families! I've got 3 wonderful Tommy Nelson books to share with you this month. Today let's talk about The Story of Christmas. This is a fat little board book that will fit just right in a toddler's hands. It also has a convenient plastic handle for those toddlers on the go.



The illustrations are bright and colorful, the wording is simple, and the story is timeless. This is the perfect first book to share with your child on the meaning of Christmas. Boys and girls alike will be drawn into the story by the sweet drawings. See a flipbook preview here: http://issuu.com/tnelson/docs/fb_the_story_of_christmas. I can't wait to share this book as a Christmas present for one of my favorite toddlers! For a recommended price of $6.99 it will fit into your budget and would also be perfect for slidding into a stocking!

How would you like to win a copy of this cute Christmas book about the birth of our Savior? To enter just follow the easy Giveaway Tools Widget below.


I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

How Do I Start Homeschooling?




I was CERTAIN I had written this post before. I've searched, I've looked. Maybe one of you can find it. I can't find it. Maybe I've just typed it up for so many friends that I thought I already wrote it. I don't know. Just in case I'm going to write it now. I seem to always have friends and family members ask me about homeschool and how to start. It really is overwhelming at the beginning. I remember all the panic I felt as I started to research the topic.

1. I'd say the first place to start is with the requirements of your state. Each state has a different set of laws and regulations when it comes to homeschool. Some only require you file an intent to homeschool (a document stating that you are homeschooling your kids). Others make you submit lesson plans. Tennessee is on the easier end of the spectrum. There are lots of places to find this information. HSLDA is a great starting point. You can also look on your state's website or just do a search for the information online.

2. Now that you've familiarized yourself with the laws in your state you will need to decide how you want to homeschool. This can take quite a bit of time. There are lots of choices in most states. The most common are:

*Straight homeschool through the local school board. In this case you will need to file paperwork with the school board and then follow their standards. Some will require you to use certain curriculums, others just require the paperwork and will require your child to participate in testing in the local school. Either way most will need you to submit grades and attendance twice a year.

*Online school is an up and coming method of homeschool. It wasn't available when we began this journey a few years ago. Most online schools are free, provided by the state, and assign your child a teacher. They require online weekly or monthly meetings with a "class" and your child will be required to test in the local school system. With this method you are more of a facilitator than a teacher. It can be a great springboard for those just starting or leaving the public school. Many seasoned homeschoolers will find the program too burdensome with a lack of freedom.

*Umbrella schools provide you a different experience. This is the method we use and always have used. In this case you pay a yearly fee and report your attendance and grades to your school. Some allow you to select your own curriculum, others have a list of pre-approved resources for you to choose from, some require testing and some do not. The school we use allows us to choose our own curriculum. While we pay the yearly fee and pay for our curriculum we are still able to school in a frugal way. More on that later. I love our particular umbrella school because we are able to submit everything online. It makes it quick and easy for me! There are also counselors available to help in any area.

3. Curriculum will be your next time consuming area. Trust me there are SOOOOO many choices out there. For real. If you select online school or an umbrella school with specific curriculum requirements then you won't have as many choices. Otherwise get ready for some research. To be honest unless you just feel called to classical curriculum or another specific path then it will be trial and error at the beginning. You may not know your child's learning curve. You may be unsure of how they learn the best. That's okay! Actually I ignore all the labels. We don't do Montessori or Charlotte Mason or kinesthetic or any of those (I don't think). I'm sure they are all lovely and wonderful but I just don't use them. I research (and research and research some more) and then I take the plunge and purchase something. I get as many items as I can second hand so I haven't blown all our money on something that may or may not work for us. While I bought some items hoping they would work for both kids, I don't push if they don't. Apple and Speedy are very different and their learning styles are very different too. If you've been following my blog then you know we made some changes this year to shake things up a bit. It really is about trial and error and just finding what works best for you and your child. If you have more money than time you can order boxed sets of curriculum that offer everything you need for a school year.

4. Scheduling will be your next hurdle. You must decide when to begin and end your school year. This can follow the local public school, can be a variation of year round school, or can follow whatever works best for your family. You just need to make sure you have a plan to get in your required number of days and stick to it. Each state has a different requirement. Usually we do traditional calendar but we tend to do a few things in the summer to stay on top of it and to give us a few extra days off during the regular semester. You also need to schedule your hours. Most systems require a specific number per day. Maybe your kids work better in the morning. Maybe they work better in the evening. Maybe you like to work around your spouse's work schedule. Remember there is freedom in homeschool and you should enjoy doing what is best for your kids! Do make sure that you are doing enough though or you will be playing catch up when you'd rather be playing catch.

5. Make sure you are committed. Pray before each step and then through each step. If this is what God intends for your family then it will be obvious. Just like many other areas of life you need to be committed or it will be a miserable experience. It isn't always easy, in fact I'd argue that it's that narrow road, the tough path, the hard row but if you are certain it is right for your family and you are ready to go then you will pull through even the worst days. As you are making sure you are committed do little things to get your child or children excited about the prospect. Take them out with other homeschoolers, find some books with characters that homeschool (they exist!), plan in some fun field trips that your kids can anticipate. It will be better for you if they are excited! Don't shy away from reward programs, class parties, movie days, etc. They break up the monotony.

So here is a brief summary of what I think are the important steps. Now I can refer all those inquisitive family and friends to one place. If you homeschool, what would you add to the list?


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family Sundays

Several years ago we decided we were tired of fighting the crowd to eat out every Sunday. It was just too much money and too much trouble. My mom and I put our heads together and dusted off our slow cookers. Since then we've been having family style lunches on Sundays usually at my house. The slow cooker makes it so much easier. For a long time we were at a church on the other side of town so we all got here about the same time. Now we are at a closer church and our services end before the services at their church so I come on home and get things ready.

Back in the summer I started jotting our lunches down in a journal so we could flip through when we ran out of ideas. Usually we try to pick something that one of us already has the ingredients to make or something that just sounds really good. Of course our menus tend to change as the seasons change. Since I do most of the cooking my sweet mama tends to provide the more expensive portions of the meal but we try to keep them all economical and easy.

I thought I'd share our easy meal with you that we enjoyed today. Maybe it will help you create a family Sunday meal and save you some $$!

Chili/ Slaw Dogs

Hot Dogs (you can use your favorite hot dog, brat, sausage, etc)
Buns
Fries
Veggie Oil
Chili (we had some my mom had made earlier this week)
Slaw (I mixed this up before church this morning and stuck it in the fridge)
Condiments
Drinks
Desserts (we grabbed an inexpensive pack of cookies at the bakery of the local superstore)

So Mom provided already made chili, I mixed up the slaw, and this morning I put the hot dogs in the slow cooker on low. No frills, little work. I literally just open up the slow cooker and put the hot dogs in, no bother with putting holes in them or adding water or anything. After church I came home and fried up the french fries. Apple enjoyed a chili dog, Speedy enjoyed a slaw dog, and the grown ups enjoyed it all! I opted for chili cheese fries with a slaw dog. All this just to say we do these lunches as really informal buffet style meals around the kitchen table. It works great for us.

If there is interest I will post a few more of our favorite Sunday meals over the coming weeks.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Find Your Way




Do you ever feel like you need one of these    

to navigate through the Bible?

Even though I've read through the Bible again and again sometimes it can be confusing and I can feel lost. It seems crazy that I can have so many verses memorized but find it so difficult to just open it and read front to back. I've tried different and interesting ways to go through the Bible from challenges (read the whole New Testament in 90 days) to chronological (from an AWESOME study) but I can't always just pick it up and start in Genesis and wade through.

Smart people realized how difficult it can be and they put together The Wayfinding Bible: Helping You Navigate God's Word from Tyndale Publishers. The Wayfinding Bible offers 3 paths to navigate through the Word. Readers can choose from:

Flyover- 54 readings to get a chronological overview

Direct- 215 readings to gain a full perspective in less than a year

Scenic- 386 readings to enjoy known and unknown passages of Scripture

Each of these are important and awesome to have right at your fingertips. Flyover would be perfect for a new Christian or someone interested in knowing more about the Bible. It could also be great for a seasoned Christian to give themselves a short challenge. The Direct route is the one I am reading through now. I decided it would give me a a big challenge that I could carry into the new year. The Scenic route is perfect for someone wanting a guide to read through the majority of the Bible. I'd suggest looking at this for Christmas presents. It would be great for a new Christian or a teen that needs to work through the whole Bible. With maps, extra information, and pictures it gives the reader so much to enjoy.



God's word is His gift to us. It is the place to turn for comfort, guidance, stress relief, hope, and perspective. If you aren't delving into this Word then you really are short-changing yourself and your relationship with God. I encourage you to challenge yourself to read through part of all of the Bible in 2014. It will change your perspective and your life. When we step outside of God's word we tend to feel selfish. We decide we NEED this or we NEED that when really what we need is to lean on Him and his word. If you've never read through the Bible then begin with the Flyover route and when you finish it challenge yourself to read the Direct route next.



I received this Bible free from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cowabunga!


Speedy loves all thing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. For Christmas last year he asked for and received mostly Ninja Turtle toys. After Christmas he scoured the stores for the last 2 weapon and mask packs he needed to complete his set and when he found them (after several weeks of looking) he purchased them himself with Christmas cash. We were really shocked last year that so many stores ran out of the toys and it took them months to get them re-stocked. I'd say the green dudes have come back from the 80s with a vengeance! 


Of course he wanted to dress up as his favorite turtle for Fall festivities! We had to find just the right costume. Now he's making his Christmas wishlist and the top 2 items are a TMNT Secret Sewer Lair and a TMNT Remote Controlled Shellraiser. 

So when Coyne PR let me know that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a chance to enter the National Toy Hall of Fame I had to help them out! You can vote for them now at: http://www.toyhalloffame.org/see-do/2013-finalists-poll . Here's a little more information that Coyne PR gave me:

Great news coming from our favorite green heroes in a half shell... The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one of twelve toy nominees in contention for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame 2013! 

  • The National Toy Hall of Fame was established in 1998, and recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period.
  • Each year, the prestigious hall inducts new honorees and showcases both new and historic versions of classic toys beloved by generations.
  • The iconic toys are celebrated in The National Toy Hall of Fame gallery located at The Strong's National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
  • This year's winners will be announced on Thursday, November 7th.
                                                                                         

Considered one of the most popular kids' entertainment brands of the 1980s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become
an enduring global phenomenon. The Turtles made a totally epic return in September 2012 with the launch of a CG-animated television show on Nickelodeon and an all-new toy line inspired by the show from Playmates Toys, the driving force behind the global toy sensation for decades. Within just one year of its return, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has once again become the number one action figure line in the toy industry!


I did not receive any incentives for posting this. I just love the TMNT! :)









Sunday, October 27, 2013

Going on an Adventure


For Easter 2 years ago we bought our kids the really nice Adventure Bibles. Speedy got the green one and Apple got the purple one. They were so excited about them because those were their first "real" Bibles. The grandparents bought them covers to go with them and oh boy were they ready to go! Now of course you know our family has grown to love, love, love many Bibles and we now have a house full of them! However the kids keep those Adventure Bibles and use them often. Apple uses hers during school most of the time and Speedy has his next to his bed. Sometimes they still carry them on Sunday mornings too. We've been really pleased with their durability and I've recommended the Adventure Bible to many other parents that are looking for that first "real" Bible for their big kids.



Now there is a great companion to the Adventure Bible. Introducing the Adventure Bible Handbook: A Wild Ride Through the Bible. Geared towards the tween age, this comic like adventure takes 4 siblings on a wild ride with their dad who is an archaeologist on an expedition to the Holy Land. The group leads the reader on a fast paced adventure complete with art, maps, and the comic story line. Apple is enthralled with this book. I had to pry it from her hands when it was chore time. She's been laughing and flipping all around through it. She couldn't wait to show me the yacht the group was on! I love seeing her so excited about a different type of journey through the Bible. Speedy has been looking through it with her too!

I do have one issue with this book. I REALLY wish the art was documented. She is so artistically minded and she'd really like to research into the art but without artist's names or even years I don't know where to begin. Other than that this is a great companion to the Bible that will help your child get interested in the big story.

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Happy Feet Courtesy of Dr. Scholl's Active Series



I've got happy, happy, happy feet. Wanna know why? I'll tell you! (I always love to share with y'all, my internet people.) It's because of my new Dr. Scholl Active Series insoles. They are FANTASTIC. I was so excited to get them free as part of an Influenster VoxBox. My Zumba shoes were starting to wear out and my feet hurt after every class. I've tested inserts before with some success but usually they are thick and make my shoes too tight. Not these active series ones!


As you can see they aren't much thicker than the original soles of the shoes but they are packing some super comfort in a thin strip! There is extra firm padding in all the right places like the heel and the arch. I could tell a difference as soon as I slipped my shoes on. After an hour of working out I didn't have any foot pain at all! I've worn them to class several times now and each time I am amazed by how well they work. I am recommending these Dr. Scholl Active Insoles to EVERYBODY so I wanted you to know too! 



Need to revive your favorite active shoes? Pick up Dr. Scholl's Active Insoles! Get more information including a coupon here: http://www.drscholls.com/Products/ActiveSeriesInsoles



Answers at Your Fingertips



When I was a kid, we had these 2 big sets of encyclopedias. I really enjoyed having them once I was in school and had research to do. That was back in the days before the internet took over and it was so easy to grab a volume and look up whatever I needed to without begging my parents for a trip to the library. Sadly those old volumes have gone by the wayside but I do keep a set of children's encyclopedias for my kids. Apple loves to thumb through them and read at leisure.

Now imagine a set of Bible encyclopedias. They are softback and much smaller than those old heavy encyclopedias but they contain just as much information. That's what I feel like the Answers Books are, Bible encyclopedias. The New Answers Book 4 answers more than 30 questions on Creation and the Bible. The general editor of this volume is Ken Ham and it is published by Masterbooks. 

The kids and I have been studying Chapter 3: Dragons....Were They Real? These are the kind of questions that my kids ask me and I love having the research at my fingertips. If they kids are still interested in a subject or don't feel like they have all the answers then we can use this Answer Book as a starting point to further research. The charts, graphs, pictures, and information are clearly presented so it is easy to follow along. While there is a lot of scientific research in the book, it isn't a hard read. This is another terrific resource for families and homeschoolers to keep on the shelf. The volumes can be purchased individually or in a set. 

These types of publications make me hopeful. There is so much buzz out there about the number of young adults that are choosing to walk away from Christianity. I have to believe that in large part this is due to a lack of communication about the tough questions. The world is constantly pressing in from all sides with "science" and persuasion against the Bible. As Christians we should all be arming ourselves with all of the information out there that supports creation and the great flood. Arm yourself! Download a free preview of the book here: http://www.nlpg.com/downloads/dl/file/id/489/the_new_answers_book_4.pdf.

I received a free copy of this book from Masterbooks for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.