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

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


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.


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)

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: 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)
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)
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.