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!