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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Intentional

I went back and looked at all my "word of the year" posts here on the blog. Purposeful, balance, too much, and relax- those were all great word(s)! I think what strikes me the most is that the things that I mentioned every December are areas where we still struggle- weight, finances, stress, parenting. Those are still my issues. Thankfully I do feel like we have grown in each of those areas even though we still struggle with them.

So as I've prayed the last few weeks, the word God has given me for 2015 is intentional. I want to be more proactive and less reactive in those hot topic areas of my life. I feel like I've gotten a little lazy (maybe that's because my 2014 word was relax!!). I've let things slide, and I don't like it.



My big areas of focus will be:

Intentional Budget

Intentional Parenting (That is actually the title of a book I reviewed for you a while back!)

Intentional Eating

and last but most certainly not least.....

Intentional Relationship with Jesus



I'm frugal and have been for the duration of our marriage but debt can add up quickly. A job loss when the economy tanked is still having its effects on us years later. However Hubby & I are determine to tackle it by starting with a budget. We've tried half-hearted attempts at budgeting before with little success. I feel more confident this time because I've worked on measuring our expenses for almost the whole year. I'm reading a great book on budgeting and attacking debt. I will be sharing that review with you soon!

Our parenting is a fairly consistent matter, but I think there is always room for improvement in that area. Plus as kids get older it is necessary to adjust expectations, goals, and discipline. I haven't done as much studying or planning on this area, but I feel confident that God will guide us as we guide the kiddos. Now that Apple & Speedy are older it isn't as much about drilling the rules into them but about correcting areas that need attention.

Eating. Sigh. I'm snacking on graham crackers right now. I gotta get this eating and exercising thing down. The right way. And for long term. Sheesh.

I need to be more deliberate in my relationship with Jesus. More Bible time, more prayer time, more Him, less me.

These New Year posts are mostly for me. A commitment on "paper" so to speak. Do you make resolutions or have a word of the year? I'd love to hear about it!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lady Underdog

I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.




I love a good underdog story. Sarah E. Ladd's new book A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is full of underdogs. Cecily Faire has lost her mother and is looking for a fresh start to her young life. Her drunken father foils her plans of escape and instead of the bright future she imagined, she finds herself in a boarding school for girls with all ties to her family severed. She could have let those unfortunate events dictate her life but instead she perseveres and finds herself a lady's companion at Willowgrove Hall. Even this dream job comes with unforeseeable challenges. Can Cecily continue to overcome?

Nathaniel Stanton is the steward of Willowgrove Hall, and he has suffered his own challenging circumstances too. His future is uncertain and the stresses he carries are threatening to be his undoing. How will the arrival of a pretty new lady's companion change his life?

I pretty much gobbled up this book. I read it in a day. It was the perfect escape from all the Christmas stress. This fictional story set in England in 1819 was perfect for a Downton Abbey fan like myself. This is book 3 of Whispers on the Moor but it stands alone well. I have not read any others from Sarah E. Ladd. I can say after this one I am a Ladd fan! This book has tragedy, hope, mystery, romance, intrigue, and so much more. There are a variety of characters of every age and many different societal positions. Their stories weave in and out with one another as a singular narrative begins to develop. I appreciate the attention to details about fabrics, gardens, the grounds, and more that are just descriptive enough without being boring. Those details really add to the setting of this story.

If you enjoy historical gentle reads then I think you will like A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. It would make a perfect last minute gift for the reader in your life!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Those Real Moments in the Midst of the Madness

Ahhhh. Finally I can sit down and watch a fun movie and relax a little. My house is clean. My presents are all wrapped and under the tree. This has been a crazy December for us to be sure, but we have laughed and enjoyed one another, and I still got everything the most important things done. I don't write this to brag or make you feel badly if you aren't where I am. I write this because I am grateful.

Christmas is such a busy time for moms. I never knew it would be so stressful. The pain of missing loved ones that are no longer here is almost tangible. It threatens to cloud over the holiday season. I never want to quit remembering my dad and grandma and others that have gone, but I know they would want me to enjoy this time with my kids.

So I press on. I do the best I can to make Christmas as wonderful for Apple and Speedy as my family made it for me when I was a child. Really all we can do is our best. We don't have to work so hard to "make memories". The memories come naturally and often the memories our children cherish the most aren't the ones we think they will be. I never fail to be amazed when my kids rave over something as "the best time they've ever had" when it was something I thought was insignificant or something I thought they really didn't enjoy. Relax mamas. They will love little things as much as the big things.

My kids won't remember that I didn't get out all my Christmas cards this year. They haven't even realized I didn't make expensive, super special Christmas picture cards.

I think my favorite little moment so far this season was when they both fell asleep in my lap yesterday. We had a church lock-in the night before and I drifted to sleep while they were watching a movie yesterday afternoon. When I woke up they were both in my lap sound asleep. They rarely ever nap, even after a long night, so I just savored a few minutes of listening to them breath deeply. I didn't take a picture or write an update on social media. I just sat and soaked it in.

Every day they argue. Every day they need to be reminded to listen and obey. Nearly every day I want to pull out my hair. But they show strong character when I least expect it. When they receive a gift that wasn't something they really wanted and they decide later to give it to a little cousin who has so much less than they do. When they speak to a family member on the phone that they haven't seen in such a long time and they are loving and gentle and excited. Those are the moments. Those are my favorite memories.

Mamas relax. Soak it up. Let some of the busyness and the high expectations go. Let the kids help you even though it will take twice as long. Share their excitement over something like hot chocolate with a candy cane in it.

Merry Christmas. May it be full of wonder and love and free of being to hard on yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Everything Online for Homeschoolers

This post contains affiliate links.



My kids are growing bored of books and worksheets and desks. I'm excited to review SchoolhouseTeachers.com because this online learning alternative will get us away from the rut of seatwork. This is my first experience with this website, and I'm excited to share what I have found so far.


SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review


The website can be a little overwhelming at the beginning. It's a good thing because the overwhelming part is that there is SO MUCH information on the site. There are 8 tabs across the top of the page: Home, Teachers, Pre-K/ Elem, Middle/ High School, Family/ For Parents, Dailies, Resources, and Course Offerings. Some of those tabs also include drop down menus. Each tab takes you to a menu with a larger list of choices. For example the Pre-K/ Elem menu has sub-menus for classes with a year or more of content, classes with a semester or more of content, and then supplementary curriculum and materials. It does take some time to acclimate yourself with site and to find all the curriculum you can use with your family. Since you can get SchoolhouseTeachers.com on a yearly membership, you will have plenty of time to explore it all.

Meal Planning

If you've followed my blog for awhile then you've seen my own meal planning posts. I got back into meal planning last year with some success. I want to continue to meal plan in 2015 so I was happy to find a meal planning section on this site. While this isn't traditional learning for the kids, they do have to eat and both of my children love to help in the kitchen. I always use those cooking times as a way to sneak in some extra math and of course grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking are great home ec lessons. You can find Menus by Month under the Family/ For Parents tab. There are also links to some great grocery lists and meal planning pages that I came across in a home ec lesson. For even more printables, there are 5 free planner downloads included with your membership. The Schoolhouse Planner for teachers/ parents is chock full of organization and planning pages. The student planners are great for getting your kids on the road to doing their own planning.

Spanish

Apple has had a Spanish curriculum every year but this one. It is usually book learning, although I remember a little Spanish from high school. I've wanted to expand her Spanish and get Speedy started on the language but it just hasn't worked into our plans until now. The Spanish lessons are the part of this online homeschool curriculum that my kids are the most excited about. They couldn't wait to start their practicing Spanish. There are 34 weeks of lessons for elementary Spanish. Each one includes a worksheet download and a video. My favorite part is that each lesson includes a Bible verse in Spanish as part of the lesson. How cool is that?!?!

The kids watched the video and repeated the words along with the lesson. 

Apple has been carrying around her lesson sheet and reading me the words. She LOVES it!


Spelling

Spelling has been a particularly drab affair at the Carter Chaos Academy. We've used a few different curriculums over the years but tend to end up back at a boring spelling textbook. The word lists always seem too easy for my kids so typically they look over the words for the week on Monday and then I go ahead and give them a test. They rarely miss more than 1 or 2. Boring! SchoolhouseTeachers.com has spelling units for every level. In the Lower Elementary levels, students have several activities for each week and a video! Videos definitely are not boring. Speedy watched a couple of them and now he's pumped up to swap to this spelling curriculum in January. I am really excited because the extra copywork included with the spelling is exactly what he needs to improve his handwriting.



Next, I want to check out the Bug Science lessons. They will line up pefectly with the Zoology unit I have planned for the first 2015 semester. I know the kids will be happy to step away from the books for special creepy, crawly studies.

So to sum it all up for you, SchoolhouseTeachers.com is a Christian online homeschool curriculum website that includes lessons for subjects in levels from Pre-K to High School. The subjects span art, music, literature, science, and much more. The content varies from online video courses to downloadable, printable elements. The classes are archived so you can begin and end at any time. I'm thrilled to share this review with you right now because there is a sale! I know y'all love a good sale as much as I do and half off a yearly membership is a great deal. 


SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review


You can join SchoolhouseTeachers.com on social media.

Facebook Group

Pinterest Page

Do you use online homeschool curriculum? What is your favorite thing about it?

Crew Disclaimer
This is my first official review as a member of the 2015 TOS Review Crew. I'm looking forward to bring you more homeschool curriculum reviews throughout the year. See what see of the other members of the Crew thought about SchoolhouseTeachers.com. 
SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DVD Organization

We have a lot of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. We don't have cable. Instead we rely on online streaming, discs, and an antenna for any television watching. I will admit over time our movie collection for the kids has gotten a bit out of control. I have a really nice cabinet to hold all of them but the kids aren't great at keeping the cabinet neat. Okay really they are terrible at it. So when we open the doors stacks of dvd cases and discs fall out all over the floor. It's been a real problem for a long time. Hubby or I would put all the movies back in the cases and reorganize the cabinet with a stern warning to keep them neat. That never lasted long.

A few months ago I started brainstorming better solutions. They really do watch the movies often so I didn't want to get rid of them. I wasn't up for trying to go all digital with them at this stage of the game although we do enjoy the movies that come with a digital copy. So I decided to get a CD/ DVD case and put all the kids movies into it. First I had to choose a case. That's one reason this idea has been bouncing around for months. There are so many choices!

Last week the cabinet exploded again, and I went straight to Amazon and picked one. Yesterday it arrived, and I got to work. First I pulled all of their movies out of the cabinet. Then I got some index cards, scissors, and a marker. I cut the index cards in half and wrote the name of each movie on an index card. For some of you this will seem like a silly step. I did it so we will know if any movies are missing from the case and so the kids will *hopefully* put the movies back in their correct slot.


As I was working, Hubby asked if I was alphabetizing them. I did not. For one thing anytime we added a movie I would need to move every movie that came after that one. Also my kids seem to find things better if they are grouped a bit. Since I wrote on cards and not on the actual slots, I can always move discs as I see fit. It was such a big task that I only grouped together holiday movies and movies with sequels. 


We put all the empty cases into a plastic tote for storage and it went to the basement where it would not be in the way. Now all the movies are neatly stored in a BIG media case and the cases will no longer avalanche out of my cabinet. Yay! This solution gives us lots more room in the cabinet and will hopefully save my children from my wrath over movies. 

The small black case is one we have always used for traveling.


What is your favorite storage solution for DVDs? 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sweatin' in Style #Suddora

I tried this product free and received compensation in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 



So have you started considering your resolutions? Do you plan to add more exercise to your routine? Maybe you are going to take up running or some other regular exercise. If so, let me recommend some rocking sweatbands for you. Suddora headbands and wristbands are made from cotton, spandex, and nylon and are offered in 10 different colors. 



To be sure sports headbands and wristbands haven't been as popular recently as they were in the '80s but I see them making a big comeback. I know several ladies that regularly wear sweatbands to Zumba and TONS of folks were them to 5Ks and other running events. It isn't that they are a fad, people wear them because they are useful. I am particularly enjoying mine because it keeps my hair totally out of my face while walking, running, or dancing. Unlike some hair accessories, this headband isn't going anywhere and it gives the added bonus of reducing sweat around my face. The wristbands give me the ability to wipe away any perspiration that may distract me. 



As you can see, we've had some decent weather here for December. We've tried to take advantage and get outside as much as possible. While it isn't warm, I definitely work up a sweat quickly doing my fast walking thing. 



Suddora sweatbands are versatile. They can be used for basketball teams, charity runs, or ninja training. I may have trouble keeping mine away from my daughter....


These colorful bands hold their shape well, are comfortabe, and come in a large variety of colors. I think these would be great to order for a team or event. The sweatband sets are available for kids and adults and large quantity discounts are available. Speaking of discounts you can use the code "GetFit10" for 10% off an order from now until January 31, 2015. Use that discount and fill up those Christmas stockings with a little resolution motivator from Suddora. 

I received this product free and was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another Pumpkinvine Trail Murder

I received this book free from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinion.


There's been another murder on Pumpkinvine Trail in Middlebury. The employees of the Amish Village can't believe there's been a fresh tragedy just as they were settling down from the last one. Vannetta Chapman introduced Amber, Hannah, and the other employees of the Village in Murder Simply Brewed. Now in Murder Tightly Knit, Amber and Hannah find themselves trying to solve the latest crime. Of course local lawman Gordon Avery is on the case but Amber and Hannah feel compelled to look for clues and information at the village. The mix of Englishers and Amish make the Village a unique tourist destination. 

A young man named Owen was killed in an unusual manner on the Trail. His close friend Mary, who runs a shop at the village, is acting strangely. There are rumors about a survivalist group that Owen may have joined. The investigation isn't turning up many clues. Will they ever find out who killed Owen? Are other people in danger at the Village? 

Amber just can't seem to stay away from the investigation and her employee and good friend Hannah is right by her side. This plot continues to twist and turn. In the midst of the sadness, there is the continuing relationship between Hannah and Jesse. Is marriage in their future? Amber and Tate are technically still newlyweds. Will this latest murder affect their marriage? I enjoyed this easy read. This Amish Village Mystery series is quite different from the typical Amish romance fiction. The mystery moves the story while the romances continue to slowly blossom. 

Murder Tightly Knit will be available December 16, 2014. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Prepping for the New Year

Because the rush and hustle during Christmas isn't busy enough, I like to start preparing ahead for the new year as well. That was sarcasm by the way. Someone really does need to invent a sarcastic font. Back to my topic, I take it a little at a time but I find that the new year isn't nearly as overwhelming if I do a little extra organizing and planning BEFORE it arrives.



Now of course some of you work better on the fly or in a crunch. I am not one of those people. I get overwhelmed when things are in disarray. So since this weekend was basically an at home working weekend, I took the opportunity to work on some planning. I pulled out my shiny new Chick-Fil-A calendar (if you don't have one yet you need one- the monthly deals are well worth the price) and my 2014 calendar and transferred birthdays and anniversaries. Since I was feeling particularly OCD, I went ahead and filled in paydays and Hubby's shift changes as well. I have some cool new colorful markers that I used to color code the different types of entries.

This calendar stays in my kitchen close to my GIANT whiteboard. I glance at it a couple of times a week to stay ahead on birthdays and anniversaries although I will admit I have missed some the last couple of months. Sorry if I missed yours. It's been CHAOTIC at the Carter household. I also keep a calendar on the wall in the homeschool room. In particular, Speedy has been very interested in the calendar lately. He tends to be a bit......"organized" as well and likes to count ahead to various events.

Along with my calendar efforts, I took time this weekend to tackle our 2015 budget. This is something we intend to be more diligent with this year, and I LOVE the clean slate feeling of a brand new year. We work hard to be proactive in so many areas of our lives and now it is time for us to take a more proactive stance with our finances. If you are looking over your calendar, budget, or other planning areas, I encourage you to spend much time in prayer alone and with your spouse as you work out goals. There can be no real success in any area of life without God's hand.

I will admit I feel an ease and a peace about 2015 knowing that I have done some prep work. Now as we begin new sports seasons and consider activities, we will have a good starting point. What do you do to plan ahead for the new year? Or are you a nonplanner? Hubby is a nonplanner so we balance one another well.

We also did some serious cleaning here at the Carter house today. Next week begins Christmas parties and fun times and I wanted to get as many responsibilities as possible out of the way this weekend. I may or may not have went on a tiny Mommy rant and thrown out some puzzles that were missing pieces and were in total disarray. Hey gotta make room for those Christmas presents somewhere!

Friday, December 12, 2014

You Are Invited to Hope Crossing

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.


Back 3 years ago (where does time go??), I read and reviewed Cindy Woodsmall's book The Harvest of Grace. It was the third book in the Ada's House trilogy, and I really enjoyed it. I had every intention of going back and reading the first two books about Dry Creek and Hope Crossing, but I never did. Sometimes the review books come in so fast that I lose track of other books I want to read. I need to start a list......and put it in the pile with all my other lists.



So when I got the opportunity to review Hope Crossing: The Complete Ada's House Trilogy, I jumped at the chance. I couldn't wait to revisit the characters from The Harvest of Grace and learn how the stories all began.

The first book included is The Hope of Refuge. This book contains the story of Deborah and her moody fiance. It is tells the tale of Cara and her daughter Lori finding their way to Dry Creek. This New York mother and daughter stick out like a sore thumb in this quiet Amish community. Cara has vague memories of the place as a child. Will she be allowed to stay long enough to discover her past?

The Bridge of Peace continues the stories of Deborah and Cara and focuses on the life of the local teacher Lena. The story of Grey and Elsie also is told. Grey and Elsie have an unhappy marriage. Can this Amish couple ever find peace with one another? Will Lena ever find a beau despite her birthmark on her face?

And of course the trilogy ends with The Harvest of Grace. The two communities of Hope Crossing and Dry Creek are so interwoven and this book in particular bounces back and forth. Ada's House in Hope Crossing has become a successful bakery and family destination. Business is thriving. In contrast the Blank farm is in debt and failing. Sylvia Fisher is hired to help but then Aaron Blank unexpectedly returns. Can these two every work together? Will the farm be sold?

Cindy Woodsmall does a wonderful job of seamlessly weaving these stories together. It was great to read straight from one to the next. The book is rather large and bulky but totally worth it. The blooming relationships in each book are predictable but there are always unexpected twists and turns. In all these are terrific Amish gentle reads with engaging characters and interesting stories.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Deeper Advent

There are many ways to approach the Advent season. For some this time of year is simply about Christmas. Others try to teach their children the importance of Advent in a light hearted way such as a Jesse tree. For some, Advent is a time to delve deeply into the spiritual significance of Christmas. Christmas was the light-hearted, ho-ho-ho season for me for many, many years. When our children were born, Hubby & I began to strive to teach them the true meaning of Christmas beyond the glitter and presents. As they get older (and we get older!) we have embraced the traditions of Advent slowly.

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

This year I wanted to do something a little more than the Jesse tree. While we have loved this special ornament covered little tree for the last several years, it felt like it was time to move to something new. I guess with the kids' schedule of 5 performances the first week of December I should have known better! I haven't had the time to talk with them daily about Advent like I had hoped but all of their performances have had a wonderful message about Christmas and the birth of Jesus. I have been reading Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.


This book has samples from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, CS Lewis, and more. I was excited to see so many amazing authors on the table of contents. I had hoped I could share these readings with the kids but to be honest *most* of the readings are very deep and some are quite long. To be sure, devotions, poems, and excerpts are fantastic but many are far above the interest level of my kids. A few were above my own level! Not really but there are some that would require silence and a lot of concentration to fully appreciate. I love the poems. I love the diversity of the writings and styles. Most of all, I love that each of them point to the beautiful birth of Christ in a most unlikely place. 

If you are ready for a deep, meaningful journey through Advent then this book will certainly start you on your journey. Personally I am looking forward to the slower days of January to spend some mornings curled up with this book and a hot cup of coffee. The glory of the birth of our Savior will be just as sweet in the beginning of the year as it is at the end!



Monday, December 8, 2014

Don't Get Tied in Knots! #ThinkFun




I received this product free from Tomoson.com in exchange for my honest review.



ThinkFun has another fun game that we are excited about. Knot So Fast is a single player knot tying game. Not only will players learn how to tie knots, this game also improves dexterity, strengthens your memory, sharpens your focus, and speeds up your thinking. I personally find games like these can help reduce stress. I consider them "mindless" fun but really you are working your brain, just not in a stress induced way. 


My 9 yr old, Apple, is obviously enjoying it. Hubby has taught the kids a few knots that are useful in fishing and hunting. They are excited to learn even more knots! I think it is great that they will memorize these knots by playing the game. Speedy has terrible handwriting that I feel like is caused by a lack of fine motor skills. I'm excited these game will improve those skills without feeling like a chore or task for him! 

The game includes 40 challenges in 4 levels. From beginner to intermediate to advanced to expert, you (or your child) can work your way up. This is a one player game but I found today that it's fun to watch someone who is playing! This game is recommended for ages 8 and up. I'm excited to add it to our homeschool shelf for fun time!


 
The game comes with the pieces above- a book of 40 challenges with instructions, a metal tying ring, and your rope. It is all neatly packaged in a sturdy box for easy storage. 



I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Following the Star

I received a free book from Tommy Nelson in exchange for my honest review.

Sweet little Ollie the camel spots a bright new star in the sky. He sets off with his family, other camels, and some wise men to follow that star. As he journeys, he meets some new people, does a lot of praying, and wonders what gift he will find. Ollie knows it is a special star and your child will too by the end of the story!


The engaging illustrations by Alexandra Steele-Morgan in A Star for Me are so colorful. They really punctuate the fun, upbeat words by author Jean Fischer. This board book is 8x10 in size so very engaging for toddlers. My kids enjoyed the fun story but it is more appropriate for youngers. It would make a lovely Christmas present.

I think this fun retelling of the Christmas story from the viewpoint of a young camel is a great way to interest children in the real story of the birth of Jesus. In this season of Advent, it can be easy to loose the attention of the younger crowd but a story like this is sure to draw them right back in. If you know a little one that would love this book please enter my giveaway via the easy widget below! One will be given away!



Entry-Form

Follow this link for a preview of the book: A Star for Me preview. My copy of the book even came with a glittery gold star that doubles as a Christmas ornament. What a wonderful reminder of the real reason for Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

And So It Begins.....

On the first day of December my little loves gave to me.......
                          an hour rehearsal for, a 4 hour dress rehearsal for the other one, and a skirt forgotten.



On the second day of December my little love gave to me.......
                                a stunning performance in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and lots of anxiety.



On the third day of December my little loves gave to me.......
                          an encore perfomance of TBCPE, a cast party, and a rehearsal for another program.



On the fourth day of December my little loves gave to me.....
                          a rehearsal for a totally different program and an hour at the downtown parade.



On the fifth day of December my little love gave to me.......
                          three songs at the Christmas at the arts center program and a dinner at Moe's.



On the sixth fay of December my little loves gave to me........
                           one dress rehearsal, one cast party, the first performance of their Christmas musical at church, and a shift in the Live Nativity.



On the seventh day of December my little loves gave to me......
                            the final performance of the month and lunch at my mom's church.




And a nap. I got a nap today. Thankful December only happens once a year!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Diligence in December #wechoosevirtues




We are nearing the end of our school semester. That means children draaaaaaaaging their way through their school work. It means crying and gnashing of teeth....the kids are upset too! Really we have been so super busy lately, and I wish I was one of those moms that could lay aside the books and lesson plans but I like to stay on schedule. So we have to work through our bad attitudes.

I recently received a We Choose Virtues poster free to review. It is a timely product for us. This colorful poster lists 12 Virtues with a cute little character to go with each and a short summary of what the virtue entails. Diligence is a biggie for us right now. Working hard and finishing strong are a struggle come December so I've been so glad to have this chart to point them to. In addition to the chart I like to give them a Bible verse or have them give me one that fits the situation. I absolutely know building character and training the heart are the most important lessons.


I like this We Choose Virtues poster because:

*It is a bright poster that will catch the children's eyes at random times. It serves as visual reminder even when we aren't talking about it.

*It is great for various ages. From your youngest child that is just learning gentleness to your tween that needs an obedience reminder, this chart will serve your family through all the ages and stages.

*The chart isn't overly aggressive or underly syrupy. It is straightforward and the 12 virtues are valuable for everyone. As Christians, we include Bible verses as we talk about the chart but this would be just as valid of a tool for any family.

*It is easy to reference in any conflict discussion. Children arguing? Talk about self-control and kindness. Little Billy not listening to you? Point out "I am obedient". Sally's Christmas list incredibly long? Discuss being content. 



Does this sound like a tool your family would use? My readers can get 15% off using the promo code VIRTUE15 at We Choose Virtues. I also have a giveaway for one reader to win their own We Choose Virtues poster!





I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

So Unique

Guess who was in a local production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever?

This girl.


She did an amazing job. 

I am not an onstage, public speaking or singing person. Okay I'm not a great singer on or off stage. Although in the car I am a superstar. 

So I just have been pondering the ways God made us each so unique. Apple is artistic and bold and a beautiful singer. She did not get any of those things from me. My sweet Hubby is very bold and has a lovely voice but she is on a whole other level.

Speedy is not a stage performer at all. Like the church Christmas program is putting him over the edge. He just isn't about being in front of people on a stage. But on a ball field.....whole other story.

My fear of the stage almost makes me want to hold Apple back. I am always so nervous for her! The thing is she always does a great job. She blows it out of the park. She gets pre-show jitters but she overcomes every time. I'm in awe of her ability to do that. 


I can't let my fear/ discomfort hold her back. God has given each of us such unique passions and talents. It is really obvious that He intends to shine through her voice or her stage presence. I don't know just how yet but I know it will be (and already is) amazing. He gave Speedy his speed and sports talent for some reason or purpose. This all calls to my mind Matthew 5:16:

 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.

When the show is over I'm always so glad I let her go and do her thing. 

Is it hard for you to let your kids do things outside of your comfort zone? 



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Calling all Nature Girls

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for review. All opinions are my own. 




Apple has always been a nature lover. She's always the one that picks flowers and brings them to me or puts them in a cup in her room. When she was a baby, she would get really upset and we would walk outside with her and she would instantly quit crying. She loves all animals (she recently asked for a possum as a pet...umm....no). I knew she would enjoy the new book Nature Girl: A Guide to Caring for God's Creation by Karen Whiting and Rebecca White.



Nature Girl is a great little book for girls to learn more about our environment and going green. It includes lots of information about the best ways to care for our world and about small changes everyone can make to conserve natural resources. In the midst of all this information, there are tons of fun little activities, quizzes, recipes, and projects. These extras are sure to keep your girl interested in this book and all the facts about animals, recycling, beauty, and more!

I feel like it is important to care for all the things God has given us including our world. So many of the things we can do for the environment are easy and don't cost us much extra money. These book makes sharing those ideas with my daughter easy. All the included crafts and recipes are things she can't wait to try! She loves these types of books, and I'm so happy to share this one with her.

I received a free book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Prepping for a Road Trip

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so we will load into the Family Truckster.....err....our SUV and take a short road trip to see my husband's family for the day. We make several trips a year to see them. They aren't far away but we will spend several hours in the car tomorrow. We have our short trip routine down pat now.

This morning the kids plugged in their devices. They usually carry the portable DVD player and a personal device like their DS or MP3 player. Those all need to be charged before we go. We have travel chargers for most of them but we can't plug in all the chargers at once! They will also grab the case that holds many of their DVDs so they have some choices.



I filled the car up with gas already and later today we will purge all the trash, junk, accumulated ridiculousness from it so we can fill it up again tomorrow. Cause that's how we roll.

We will fill some little snack bags with treats so that we don't have to stop and buy any. We do usually buy at least a drink when we stop for a potty break but taking drinks and treats with us cuts down the costs significantly.

The library was a necessary stop yesterday. The kids both got several books to read on our trip and the next few school-free days. They were both so excited to go to the library because we haven't been in a few weeks. We also picked up an audio book to entertain all of us. It will be great....if they can convince me to turn off the Christmas music....which I probably won't.

Before bed we will lay out our clothes for tomorrow and then we *should* have an easy morning getting ready and walking out the door.

Now I just need to go make the desserts I will take with us for the dinners we are attending......


How do you get ready for a quick road trip?


Black Friday Sale for Home Schoolers!

Contains affiliate links.

Bright Ideas Press is offering their big 20% off entire purchase discount!! This is valid on everything except bundles. This sale is valid from 12:01 AM November 28, 2014 to 11:59 pm December 1, 2014.



2014 Black Friday Sale BIP

Use the code "gobblegobble" at checkout to receive 20% off things like Mystery of History and Wondermaps!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Full of Holes #colander12

I received this product free from Tomoson.com for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.


Do you cook a lot during the holidays? I do. We aren't having any gatherings at our house this year but I like to take a couple of dishes wherever we go. Each year I pick a couple of recipes and make them to take everywhere. This year it's Eclair Pie and fruit salad. Both are very easy and travel well.

Eclair Pie

1 tub chocolate frosting (heat in the microwave without the lid or metal seal for 1-1.5 minutes to melt)
1 box graham crackers
2 boxes french vanilla Jello
1 tub Cool Whip
3 cups of milk

Blend the milk slowly with the Jello powder. When it is well blended, fold in the Cool Whip. Line a 13 x 9 pan with a layer of grahams. Spread 1/2 of pudding mix on. Put on another layer of grahams. Spread the rest of the pudding mix on top. Lay one more layer of graham crackers. Pour melted frosting on top and spread out where needed. Cover and refrigerate a few hours.

Fruit Salad

This is how my grandma always made fruit salad. It isn't even really a recipe but just a great idea! You can add or subtract any fruit you'd like. I personally prefer to throw in some chopped pecans too but I have one child that doesn't like them so I refrain.

1 tub of Cool Whip
3-4 large apples peeled, chopped, and tossed in some lemon juice (to prevent browning)
Grapes (washed and drained)
1 can pineapple chunks (drained)
1 can mandarin oranges (drained)
mini marshmallows
shredded coconut

Mix it all together. Watch it disappear.



Want to know what new tool is really going to help me with that fruit salad? The Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel 5 Qt. Colander. I have been using 2 plastic colanders for forever. Neither one has nearly enough holes. You know the kind? I put something in to drain and then I have to roll it around in the colander to get all the water or juice out. Not the case with this Bellemain colander! It has sooooo many holes that any liquid immediately drains right out.


I made a mexican casserole for dinner the other night and look at how easy it was:



I opened cans of corn, olives, and iced tomatoes with green chiles and tossed them all into this HUGE (but not so big it doesn't fit in the sink) colander. I poured all those ingredients into a bowl.



Next I browned my ground beef then used my colander to drain the grease off into a bowl. I returned the beef to the pan and cooked it with some taco seasoning. 


Next I mixed a can of refried beans with the veggie/ corn mixture in the bowl. Then I layered that mixture with tortillas and the ground beef until my pan was full. I topped it all off with some shredded cheese and cooked it until the cheese was melted. My family then devoured it before I could get a picture of the final product! 

The Bellemain colander made a difference because:

*It is large enough to drain several things at once
*The sturdy ring base lets it sit securely on any flat surface including in the sink
*The numerous holes allow all the liquid to drain out quickly and efficiently
*Those holes are small so your food won't slip through them
*It is dishwasher safe! This is a must
*The stainless steel is pleasing to the eye and ensures the colander won't rust, melt, or warp

I am happy to trade my old plastic colanders for this sturdy one with handles. Now I feel comfortable teaching my daughter to drain hot noodles. I know this one won't tip over on her. 

This Bellemain 5 Qt colander would be a wonderful Christmas gift for the cook in your life!


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Just Trying to Keep Up

How is it the end of November already? Am I the only one feeling like it was just summer? This time of year is oh so busy. I vividly remember thinking as a child, "I can't understand why grown ups don't like Christmas. What's not to like about Christmas?!?!" Now I know. Lists. Busyness. Added responsibilities in an already overwhelming world. Now I'm the grown up that feels too tired to decorate, and I'm the one who is bemoaning shopping. ME! Not enjoying shopping. Next I'll be yelling at kids to get off my lawn......


In all seriousness, we are doing our best to enjoy what this season is really all about. We enjoyed one Thanksgiving family gathering over the weekend, and it was so nice. There was a ton of food, lots of laughs, and everyone had a good time. We are looking forward to another family event on Thursday.


I haven't been posting on social media about the things I'm thankful for. I haven't had time! This year I drew a "thankful tree". Each day (we are a little behind) we write on our own colored leaves. Some days it has been easy to think of things and other days have been a little harder. I've enjoyed reading their "entries". This was a fun way to document our gratitude this year.



How do you encourage thankfulness in your kids? 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Get Into Nature


I usually choose home school materials that have lessons all laid out including a worksheet or practice box, but my kids (read "all kids") tend to prefer fun, exciting studies with lots of opportunity to learn outside the box. I am *TRYING* to lean to their preferences so I jumped at the chance to review the Creative Nature Study from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This 100 page e-book isn't a unit study but a guide for parents, home educators, and co-op groups to follow as they give their children living lessons in nature. Each of the 8 chapters addresses a specific way to study nature. The topics include everything from packing a nature bag to gardening to bird watching. There are ideas for creating a nature notebook, journaling, keeping a perpetual calendar, and more. I appreciate how the contributing authors compiled this useful information into a collection to aid in studying nature with my kids in a relaxed, uncontrolled way.






This semester I've had the children spend about 30 minutes outside each morning. Some days they race out to ride their bicycles or play with the dog but other days they seem to have trouble finding a way to pass the time. I'm excited to take some of the tips from this book to encourage them in undercover learning activities. One chapter of this book discusses nature scavenger hunts. Yesterday morning I encouraged the kids to find as many different types of leaves and rocks as they could. When their time was up they had a fun pile of nature findings. They enjoyed it so much that I can't wait to use more of the ideas in the Creative Nature Study from The Old Schoolhouse for future hunts.

Scavenger hunt finds. Sticks are always included in outdoor time.
I have failed at teaching my kids NOT to play with sticks.

Today after our seat work was finished, we took a short nature walk. There are so many ideas for unique nature walks included in the book. I felt my creative juices flowing and I had the kids do nature acrostics of their names. Apple and Speedy both loved this simple writing exercise! Personally I was thrilled that they did it with no complaints at all and they were creative in the process! The book includes 16 printables for journaling and studying various aspects of nature. I'm glad to have those available for the days I'm not feeling so creative. (I'm rarely creative.)

Speedy is searching for bugs. 

Apple writing out her acrostic.

The Creative Nature Study has encouraged me to explore more learning opportunities like these for my kids. I am excited that there are ideas in the book for every season. We are looking forward to utilizing more of the ideas included in the book into our school time.  I appreciate that this book encourages seeing the handiwork of God's creation while learning about science, writing, counting, sorting, and more. This makes it the perfect handbook for parents teaching multiple ages and grade levels. This guide doesn't have specific lessons all laid out, but all the unique ideas included in it make learning about nature while in nature easy and comfortable even for an inside the box mom like me! 




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