Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Review

Instead of doing a normal weekly wrap-up today (because really, that can be summed up with "we're packing, things are chaotic, we're trying to fit in a little school where we can), I thought I'd look back on 2012 for a few minutes . . .

This has been a year of travel and change . . . there have been challenges, but God is good. . .

Some highlights . . .

SOOO much travel. Perhaps too much travel, but I wouldn't NOT DO any of it . . .

Perhaps the most significant, was our trip to Tennessee this summer. Sassy and MiniMe were soo excited to "meet" their Great-Great-Uncle Bruce (they'd met him when they were toddlers, but didn't remember him), and, despite his failing health, they had a good visit. They got a glimpse of the master story teller that he was. He seemed to enjoy having a new, captive audience to share those stories with, it was a priceless time, made even more precious by the realization that if we had delayed even a couple more weeks, it would never have happened. He passed away a couple of weeks later.

One trip that I might change was our Williamsburg trip in February. It was fun, as always, but we definitely and unanimously concluded that September is the better Homeschool Days to attend from now on.

Our children are so blessed to have living great grandparents, so it's important to us to find the time to visit those great grandparents. Since my grandmother lives next door to my parents, and less than 3 hours from us, we see her often, for which we are thankful.  Rodney's grandpa lives several states away however, and I'm thankful that we were able to make the trip to visit him this fall. He was so appreciative of our effort and, as always, loaded the children with gifts. It is priceless to now have Little Bit look at picture albums and say "That's Grandpa Hess, I know him", or cuddle her stuffed bunny, or play with the obnoxious battery-operated yapping puppy, and comment that "Grandpa Hess gave this to me.".

Florida was a FUN trip. . . we fit in lots of great learning along the way, but it was fun to see how differently the twins enjoyed the amusement parks now, compared to even 2 years ago. And to watch Little Bit enjoying the parks in ways similar to the twins' FIRST trips there. . . Fun times, despite the bee stings on the trip home!

School . . .

Perhaps the most dramatic "progress" in school-related-stuff is Little Bit. I never DREAMED, when she told me she wanted to "do school too" and I started her on a laid-back "Letter of the Week" path, how she would TAKE OFF with that. Now, at a few months shy of 4, she can not only recognize, but write most of her upper case letters. She can write her name and pick it out of a page, as was emphasized at Christmas when she went through the packages under the tree and picked out her own.  She loves counting and numbers and letters and is basically doing her darndest to disprove my "better late than early" leanings LOL (I still, strongly believe that, when it comes to parent/teacher initiated/directed learning, better late than early stands, when a parent or teacher is following the child's leading, things can move at whatever speed is right for that child!)

There has been so much growth in the big girls too. . .

The Civil War has been such a fun learning adventure.

Reviewing products is a wonderful fit for our family, we all learn so much thanks to the variety of resources that cross our path in the form of review items.

Writing: while both girls continue to balk at writing "assignments" I'm seeing more and more spontaneous writing. Sassy's handwriting has improved dramatically this year. And MiniMe's cursive is coming along nicely (I'm hoping to use her love of art and making things "pretty" to encourage her to improve her printing in 2013, we shall see).

Both girls will pick up and read anything and everything without batting an eye. Recently, due to some behavioral issues, Sassy missed out on our bedtime read aloud, currently The Lord of the Rings. While I wouldn't encourage them to read these books on their own quite yet, she was perfectly capable of reading the part she missed the next day, and actually asked if she could keep going because "it's fasater", now THAT'S a child after my own heart!

Life of Fred has been a wonderful fit for Sassy and MiniMe this year, and is encouraging their love of math.After starting last month, they are already on books 3 and 4 respectively.

And of course, the big news of 2012 . . . moving! We have loved our little hidden farm house (and I'm not sure it's been that clean since . . .). The girls have loved exploring the woods, we have awesome neighbors . . . I truly believe that God brought us to this house and it has been a wonderful place for us. But I saw just as clearly, as the second half of 2012 unfolded, God leading us to look elsewhere, and after sooo many houses that seemed almost, but not quite right, I believe, once again, God has led us to a place that is perfect for us. I don't understand why God decided December/January was a good time for this move, it was frustrating to not be able to maintain our normal traditions and focus this month on Hanukkah and Christmas like we'd hoped, but I'm sure God had a reason. And now, as the year winds down, we are, so much more than usual, looking at CHANGE . . . so many changes, piling on top of each other as we look at a new house, new neighbors (God is sooo good, saying "goodbye" to our awesome neighbors here (but not really goodbye, we'll still see them at church) is easier when we know that we're moving TO awesome neighbors as well, new routines . . . a new curriculum for Little Bit . . . so much change, but I think it will be a good thing . . .

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Which I Play Catch-Up . . .

So, I'm not doing so well at keeping up with blogging these days . . . I thought I'd post a few random pictures from the last month or so, and try to mention things I've missed . . . 

November snow . . . we didn't get much, as you can see, and (thankfully) it didn't last long, but it was just enough for the kids to do a little sledding.  Since last winter we didn't have any "playable" snow (the only snow we got was the October snow storm that also knocked out power, so they couldn't play in it because we had no way to get them warm again if they went out and got cold), this was really her first time playing in the snow, she loved it! 

Little Bit was so excited to use her "berry own sled!"  Last summer when Pastor Mike and Miss Linda moved away, they gave us the sleds their boys had outgrown. When Little Bit noticed the sleds and realized that there was a saucer sled, and big sisters already each HAD a saucer sled, she was SOOO excited to realize that made the new (to us) saucer sled HERS! After learning the ropes by sledding with her sisters, she happily used HER sled all by herself.

Little Bit is enjoying playing dress-up these days, and boy does she come up with some fun combinations . . . This was one of my favorites. Actually, my favorite is this get-up minus the jammies, but those aren't really pictures I want on the internet, so we'll stick with this version.  Don't mind the mess, our house is a maze of boxes, thanks to the whole moving thing . . . So, in this particular instance she's wearing Dora jammies, pink crocs,  a pink and black tutu, pink fairy wings, and of course, sun glasses. Three is such a fun age (most of the time)!

We've finally convinced Little Bit to try out the balance bike she got when she was 2. She's still abit nervous about it, but when she's in the right mood, she enjoys it. We're looking forward to the flat driveway at the new house, that will make bike riding easier for all 3 of the girls, this house just does NOT have anywhere to ride. I think part of what makes Little Bit so nervous about the balance bike is how uneven the patio space is. The cement is terribly cracked and broken. It will be fun to see if she "takes off" on her bike riding once we have a better space for it.
So those are our random updates. We are hoping to have closing on the new house in another week or so, and then things will be SUPER busy for awhile, before (hopefully) settling into a new routine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I know I have other updates to do, but for the moment . . . wishing you all a merry Christmas!

Because of the chaos in our housing situation right now, we opted to have Christmas at my parents' house this year. And to further complicate things, in a part of the country that almost NEVER has snow until January or later, it snowed on our way to my parents' house on Christmas Eve. And the forecast was for more snow starting during the night tonight, so we adjusted our plans, and headed home late this afternoon instead of coming home tomorrow as we'd originally planned. . . Still we had a nice time at my parents' house (but it re-emphasized to me why we usually do Christmas here, it's a PAIN to have to pack and unpack and load and unload all the kid-stuff!)

We got to my parents' house yesterday afternoon and the girls helped Mama decorate the Christmas tree, then they got to decorate Christmas cookies!

After supper the girls opened their traditional Christmas Eve presents of nightgowns that Mama made (see pictures further down of the big girls wearing theirs, Little Bit's ended up being a little too big and she's not big on clothes anyway. She's doing better about staying dressed at our house, but since my parents' keep their house quite abit warmer than we keep our house, it's a real challenge to keep ANY clothes on her there LOL) and a game and video. This year, the video was a Leapfrog Christmas video, so Little Bit enjoyed that while the big girls and I played their new Farmer's Market game. Then we headed to bed.
Christmas morning started with stockings . . . we had to improvise, since the girls' stockings are packed in a box somewhere in our mountain of boxes, but mom found some stockings that would work (as long as we didn't worry too much about the names on them LOL).

After stockings, we had breakfast (Mama's more ambitious than me, so she made Hungarian Breakfast Cake instead of the monkey bread I usually make, YUM!!!), and I read the girls the final chapter of Bartholomew's Passage (our Advent book this year. They enjoyed it, though there were some things I didn't like about this one), then we got started on presents.

 Little Bit was having great fun passing out gifts as quickly as possible, and THEN she figured out where to look on the tags to see who the gift was for. She can't read much yet, but she CAN read her name, so from then on, she just looked at the packages until she found one with her name on it, then opened it LOL.

Once everything was opened, she was happy to sit down and play with things.

Later in the day, Rodney's sister and her husband, and my brother all joined us for dinner.

After dinner, we exchanged gifts with those who weren't there earlier. Little Bit was funny, it took her a minute to realize she really did get another gift, since, we'd told her the presents were "all done" when she'd opened the last of hers during the morning presents.

The girls also had to show Aunt Lynette & Uncle Dave their play house. Dave & Lynette were duly impressed, hee hee.

Then, thanks to the coming snow, we had to load everything up and head out.

And that was our Christmas, 2012.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware

In Finding God in the Hobbit, Jim Ware looks at the spiritual significance of themes found in J.R. Tolkien's book, The Hobbit. This devotional, type book, moves systematically through the Hobbit, comparing Bilbo's adventures and the lessons he learns, to our own lives, and lessons God teaches us through our daily lives.

I was excited when Tyndale Publishing offered me a free copy of Finding God in the Hobbit to review, just as I was finishing up reading the Hobbit to my daughters for bedtime story, and this book did not disappoint. The chapters are short and to the point, making it a great devotional reading for busy days. The book obviously assumes you have read the Hobbit, but it also assumes you have read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which might not always be a safe assumption, but all in all, this is a wonderful way to bring another layer of meaning to a great book!

Disclaimer: Tyndale Publishing provided me with a free copy of the above mentioned book in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. Additionally, affiliate links are used on this blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bi-Monthly Wrap-Up - Dec 16

Sigh . . . apparently I decided to take a blog-break LOL.

Things have been chaotic. . .

For the last couple of years we have been casually house-hunting. We were happy where we are (renting), but figured if the perfect house came along . . . While we were in Florida, an e-mail from our landlord, detailing some changes they were making to our lease agreement made it apparent that we needed to bump up our house hunting.

Before we had left for Florida, a friend had told us that their neighbor was planning to sell his house soon and it might fit our criteria. So, while we were traveling, I e-mailed Penny and asked for more information about her neighbor's house. We went to see it the day after the girls and I got home. It was smaller than we'd hoped to find, but otherwise met our criteria pretty well. After much prayer and discussion, we decided to go for it.

Thus began the whirlwind of discussions with the seller, figuring out all the stuff the realtor would normally do (nice because no realtor fees, a pain because we have to figure stuff out ourselves).  In the midst of it all, our current landlord informed us that we could no longer store stuff in the farm out building "for free" and if it wasn't out in 2 weeks, would have to pay 3+ times the going rate for that size space (keeping in mind that a storage facility space wouldn't have broken windows that let in moisture and "critters" like this space did). I'm still baffled as to how we were "using it for free" when we were told when we were first shown the house that that storage space came with this house, but apparently since it wasn't specifically listed in the lease agreement, it didn't count, I told Rodney that I'm pretty sure the use of the driveway wasn't specified in the lease agreement either, maybe they'll start charging extra for that too . . . SO, we talked to the seller of the new house and arranged to move everything from the storage space into the garage at the new house while we continued to work to set up the inspections, closing, etc. We knew we were taking a "risk" moving stuff in before the inspections and such, but decided if we moved it all into a storage unit or down to my parents' garage we would for SURE have to move everything a second time. So might as well "risk" having to move it all back out of the garage at the new house if the sale falls through.

So now we have inspections scheduled for tomorrow and, assuming that all goes ok, closing is scheduled for the 26th.

Meanwhile, I've been having fun juggling the need to get as much as possible packed, with not knowing for sure WHEN we're moving and needing to continue not only living, but homeschooling, in the meantime. I originally figured I could hand the girls boxes and tell them to pack our books, but then I realized that we USE a LOT of our books . . . and we're NOT going to be able to instantly unpack all of our books (one of the challenges of the new house is going to be figuring out WHERE to have all of our books, the much more open floor plan of the living area is AWESOME but it means I can't stick a bookcase against every wall (more or less) like I have here. Additionally, the house is a cape cod with slanted ceilings upstairs, and upstairs will be the school room (and the girls' bedroom), so while I'm loving the thought of having a school room, the slanted ceilings means I can't line all the walls, floor-to-ceiling with bookcases. . . so anyway . . . it will all work out, but it meant I had to sit down and schedule out our curriculum more than I normally do, for a couple months and make sure to pull out the books we'd need during that time. So for most of the books, I just packed them and pulled out what I needed as I went. . . and for so many other things, it's been the same . . . Add in that this house is entirely too small to have TOO many boxes stacked around, and it's been a challenge. HOPEFULLY all will go well with the inspections tomorrow so we'll know abit more, and can for sure put more stuff in the garage and get REALLY serious about packing up EVERYTHING. . .

THANKFULLY, all of this happened during the "break" in reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I love, love, love reviewing for them, but am so thankful that we were able to just focus on our bare minimum schooling during this chaos. So what HAVE we been doing for school during all of this?

Bible:  In November we continued using Polished Cornerstones for morning Bible time. Starting the first Sunday in December, we began using Bartholomew's Passage for Advent. Last year we read Jotham's Journey and LOVED it! I didn't tell the girls that there were MORE books in the series, so they woke up the first morning of Advent this year to find the Advent candles set up (though I just used candle holders I already have, set in a circle, since the advent wreath is packed in the Christmas boxes that were NOT unpacked this year, sigh . . . ) and the new book sitting on the table waiting for them (shhhh . . . don't tell them I already have Tabitha's Travels for next year, hee hee), we are loving this one just as much! The biggest complaint is that they want to just read the whole story instead of reading a few pages per day LOL.

Evening Bible: The girls decided they want to learn Hebrew so, at least for the moment, we are using Read Hebrew Today to start learning Hebrew during our evening Bible time. For Hanukkah (this past week), we set it aside for a few days and have been reading Alexandra's Scroll which tells the story of the origins of Hanukkah.

History: We've continued with the Civil War - most days we manage to find time for read alouds, though as I've packed our books, I've found some civil war books hidden on the shelves so some days I just tell the girls to each choose one of those to read on their own while I pack LOL. We also finished listening to With Lee in Virginia by G.A. Henty, while in the car.

Math: This is new LOL.  Last fall I started thinking ahead to what we should use to "fill in the gaps" for the girls' math education as they are getting older. I am 100% sold on the idea of delaying formal math until children are older and am so glad we did that, but they are getting older and I like to plan things to death, so I started thinking about it, and in my research, I came across Life of Fred, the girls and I talked about it, looked at the sample problems, and it seemed like a good option for them. BUT at that point, I had said we would start through the elementary books starting next fall. And then, I was ordering something from a site that had free shipping if you spent x amount, and they carried the Life of Fred books, and ordering the first book would get me up to free shipping, so I went ahead and ordered it, so we'd have it when we needed it. And then all of the above mess with housing happened and I had very little time to devote to fun school stuff, but didn't want the girls to just sit and watch tv all day, or even spend all day packing and such, though they've done plenty of helping with that. . . so I went ahead and handed them the first book, showed them how to use it, and turned them lose with it. They LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! I have to tell them "you need to stop doing math" every day! Sassy (as usual, she works "faster", MiniMe is more thorough and methodical) was done the first book, begging for more within about 2 weeks. So I ordered the 2nd book, and told her it better last her until we move. But they didn't listen (MiniMe is running about 1 day slower than Sassy), so a couple weeks ago I went ahead and ordered several more so they can just keep working through them at their pace. . .

Science: We are listening to the Jonathan Park Adventures again in the car.

Language arts: They get this through reading for history, writing for fun, writing out the required "homework" for math, etc. As an added writing bonus for Hanukkah, our "Hanukkah Fairies" brought along a notebook this year. Each night they left the girls' a short message and finished up with a question for the girls to answer, so the girls got abit of extra writing practice in each day of Hanukkah answering the fairies' questions.

The chaos of the last while has meant we haven't really kept up with Little Bit's "Letter of the Week", but that's not all bad, since we took letter "W" with us on the Florida trip, so only had 3 weeks left. We've skipped some weeks, and spread things out, but we have worked through X and Y, and will probably spread out "Z" over the rest of the year. Then, depending how the timing of hte actual move goes, we may skip the first couple weeks of January, but hopefully by mid-January at the latest, we will start in with the same Waldorf preschool curriculum that the big girls started at this age. I'm excited to get back into it, it was a fun, program and I think not only will Little Bit enjoy it, but the big girls will have fun participating again as well :)

So that's what's been going on around here. .  . hopefully I can remember to update abit more regularly from here on out . . .

Friday, December 7, 2012

Review '- NuNaturals Stevia

I was recently given the opportunity to review some yummy, natural, sweeteners.

NuNaturals has a whole line of natural stevia products. Stevia is a very sweet herb that can be used as a safe, all natural, low calorie sweetener, safe for diabetics. You can read more about stevia here.

NuNaturals generously sent me one bottle each of Peppermint, Lemon, and Orange NuStevia. AND they threw in Vanilla and regular liquid stevia, white stevia powder packets, and their new, prebiotic blend . Along with all these yummy goodies, they sent me a whole stack of recipes to get started with, and a conversion chart, showing how much of each type of stevia to use in place of sugar in recipes.

When I received my box of goodies, I immediately started using the liquid sweeteners in my coffee (vanilla and peppermint are both YUMMY for that!) and adding the lemon and orange to ice tea and water. For water, I add some real lemon to it too, so it's more lemony and not so sweet. We've also enjoyed using the the peppermint in hot chocolate, yum!

One of the recipes we tried, using the powdered sweetners, was this muffin recipe. We liked them, as written (using eggs instead of egg replacer), but then we had to try them again, substituting the orange liquid stevia instead of the powder. YUM!! Though I need to play with the amount of liquid, they were so moist they fell apart (because of the changes I made, to a liquid sweetner, and eggs instead of the powdered substitute)

Another "recipe" we made was loosely based on a friend's recipe for healthy chocolate. All we did was combine equal parts coconut oil and cocoa powder, then added orange stevia (peppermint would be yummy too!) to taste. Drop it in little plops on wax paper (or if you're feeling fancy, pipe it) and freeze it. Yummy, healthy, chocolate drops that I'm happy to let my kids eat whenever they ask!! (they do need to be kept in the freezer)

So, if you're looking for a healthy, natural low calorie sweetner, stevia's the best option, and the NuNatural stevia products are some of the best I've tried!

AND they are offering a special coupon for our readers: just enter the DISCOUNT CODE ;  BLG1212  at checkout to receive a 15% DISCOUNT on your ENTIRE ORDER. This discount remains  EFFECTIVE UNTIL  DECEMBER 31, 2012 .

You can also get free shipping on any order over $35 after discounts.

Disclaimer; I received this product free to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm Still Alive . . .

Did you think I fell off the edge of the earth? Sorry, life got crazy (still is), sigh . . .

So to try to catch up . . . I think we left off as we were starting to drive home from Florida.

Sunday and Monday we spent at Fort Sumter and surrounding area. Lots of fun, some not-so-fun.  Highlights included . . .

  • the bird that dive bombed the captain of the ferry out to Fort Sumter. When the girls asked him about it, while we were waiting for the crowd to thin out, getting off the boat, he said he feeds that particular bird (named Henry) and the bird comes and attacks him if he doesn't feed him immediately. Then he let Sassy give the bird some bread.
  • met some awesome rangers, one we'd have enjoyed visiting with all day if time had allowed.
  • the girls thought the joggling board (below) was great fun.

The not so fun highlight was getting stung by yellow jackets (or hornets or . . . the jury's still out, Dad called them ground hornets but when I googled ground hornets the description didn't match so who knows . . . ) whatever they were, they HURT! Like no sting I've ever had before! We were hiking on the nature trail at the Pinckney House and one of us must have inadvertently stepped on a nest. MiniMe said "bee!" and I saw one near her face & told her to stand still, then I realized they were swarming all around us and said "no run!!!" Dad and Little Bit were ahead of us and he grabbed her hand and took off, the rest of us followed and then all of a sudden Sassy started SCREAMING and came running past me. her sweater was COVERED with them (thankfully that day was MUCH cooler than the day before had been, the day before, as you can see in the joggling board picture), we were all comfortably wearing short sleeves, the next day was chilly enough that Sassy had chosen to wear her sweater (a thick weave, thankfully) AND put her hood up (which I'd come SO close to saying, "why in the world do you have your HOOD up?" but I bit my tongue and figured, whatever floats her boat, SO thankful I did, her hood was covered too) and MiniMe was wearing an anorak (because she forgot to pack her sweater, and I carry anoraks year round in case of rain). Dad end up having to yell in Sassy's face to get her to stop screaming and stand still so he could knock a couple hornets off her face, then he took her sweater off, and told the rest of us to keep going.  Dad knocked the hornets off her sweater once we'd moved on. Mom said she had Little Bit so I focused on keeping the big girls moving till we could find a place to sit down and I could give them Apis (homeopathic for bee stings, thankfully I had my NaturoKit in my purse). Sassy had literally "run out of her shoes" (crocs) when she got stung, so mom picked them up and the ipod Sassy dropped when she took her sweater off. We got to some benches (well away from the hornets) and I got apis and crisis calm (flower essences to help calm down) into both of them (and me). By then mom & Little Bit came up. Little Bit was crying and I asked mom if she thought Little Bit had been stung and mom said she didn't know, Little Bit just kept saying "Sassy". We finally managed to calm her down enough to confirm that no, THANKFULLY, Little Bit hadn't been stung, she was just sooo worried about Sassy. That worked to our advantage, pointing out that it was worrying Little Bit was what finally got the big girls to calm down.

So once we'd dealt with all that, we went back to the ranger station to get the girls' junior rangers AND tell the ranger about the hornets (or whatever). She felt AWFUL!! And quickly closed the trail until she could get someone to go deal with them. Conveniently we'd been right by a little bridge so could easily pinpoint for her where we'd found them.

I've been stung by various bees and wasps in my life but NOTHING that hurt like these did. It was still hurting enough to be hard to sleep when I went to bed that night. Oddly enough different stings were different too. One of mine swelled up a BUNCH, the other, not at all. One on Sassy's cheek didn't swell at all the first day, but was VERY swollen the next day. The girls said theirs had stopped hurting before we went to bed, mine still hurt, but the next day, some of theirs itched and mine never did . . .very odd. But thankfully by mid-day the next day, other than Sassy's still being swollen, they weren't bothering us anymore.

So after that "excitement" we headed on home to my parents' house, and then, on home.

Right before we left on the FL trip, a friend had told us that their neighbor was planning to sell and they and thought it might be a good fit for us (they knew we'd been casually house hunting for awhile now, and had a rough idea of our "criteria") so when we got home, we made an appointment and went to look at it. While the house and lot were both smaller than we'd hoped to find, there were definitely things that made up for that . . . many that we've looked at have been short sales and would have required, if not structural repairs, eventual major remodeling to be "nice", this one is newly redone. The lot is smaller than most we've looked at but surrounded by farmland and has a nice little stream running through the back, which the girls love, so it still gives the "feel" of being in the country. And, of course, being across the street from friends has definite advantages . . . so . . . after much back and forth, we have decided to at least make an offer on the house. Of course, while there are financial savings in not going through a realtor, it means more "work" too, so we've been figuring that out, and Thanksgiving has slowed things down (and dh had some work stuff that meant lots of late nights working so that slowed us down too), but hopefully before too much longer we'll know when/if we're moving!  In the meantime, the girls and I have been working to pack things that we know we won't need for a little while if things move slowly. . . so that's what we've been up to. . . 

Even before the whole house buying thing, I'd suggested to my mom that, since we'd just spent several weeks with them, we'd just stay home and do our own thing for Thanksgiving, and while getting together with extended family is wonderful, we enjoyed our quiet Thanksgiving of "just us" this year too! Sassy and MiniMe made dinner (salad, roasted potatoes and "alpine casserole" (a stuffing-like casserole with vegetarian chicken in it) pretty much all by themselves. They were proud of themselves and everything turned out great! Last year we also ended up being just us for Thanksgiving (I don't remember why), and we started a "Thanksgiving Gratitude Tablecloth" I got an inexpensive, light colored table cloth (I'd have preferred a cloth one, but it was a last minute thing and the only thing I could find that was a light solid color was a plain tan "plastic" one), so last year, and again this year we each wrote one thing we're thankful for on the table cloth (with Sharpies) along with our names and the date. It was pretty cool to see how, last year Little Bit had done a scribble next to her thing (that I wrote, obviously) and this year she clearly printed her own name, without any help! So the girls were excited to see what they wrote last year and write this year's thankful things, it's a fun, easy tradition :) 

And today (black Friday), was another quiet, family day. We cleaned the house, visited with a friend who stopped by, did some cooking, watched some TV, did some packing, read for history, and just enjoyed a quiet day together at home :) As thankful as I am for all the great "field trip" opportunities my kids get, days like today remind me how nice it is to just STAY HOME sometimes too :) 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Crew Review: Growing Up Wild

I grew up hearing Missionary Stories, and my kids have enjoyed those same stories. BUT, I have to admit, when I think of "Missionaries" I tend to think of how things were 50+ years ago. So, when we were given the opportunity to review some videos about a MODERN Missionary family, I was thrilled!

Photobucket Growing Up Wild is a series of 5 videos, made by the Wild family, about life as a missionary family in a remote part of Indonesia. We were sent Vol 1 and Vol 4. Each video includes 3 episodes. Each episode is approximately 15 min. long. At the end of each episode there are several suggested activities to go along with that episode. The suggested activities are also available as a .pdf on the included, Activity Guide CD.

The videos are targeted at ages 5-12, but I found them just as fascinating as the kids did. So perhaps, more accurately the ACTIVITIES are for ages 5-12 (though some of them, like thinking about how you would plan for a supply trip, if you could only go to a store a couple times a year, are probably good exercises for all of us!), and the videos are great for the whole family.


We received these videos in a 2 week window between trips, so we chose to watch the videos all the way through and, for the most part, talk about the activities we would do when we revisit them later. When we revisit them, hopefully later this winter, though we've had some curve balls thrown at us recently, so life is abit unsettled at the moment, I plan to have us watch one episode per week, then really dig into the suggestions in the activity guide, and answering any other questions we might come up with. When used in this manner, the price of $18.99 per DVD, or $80.99 for all 5 DVDs, becomes very reasonable! That is 15 weeks of curriculum for under $100!!!

The girls LOVED the videos, we were all fascinated to tour the Wild Family's house, travel with them on a supply run, learn about the culture they live in, etc.In most cases there were one or more of the suggested activities that the girls were excited about as well, which is always a good thing :)

I would have liked to get a better understanding of what the actual "missionary work" this family is doing, entails, but perhaps that is addressed more on one of the other videos. Regardless, these videos are a wonderful, fun way to learn more about missions, culture, and God!

  To see what my fellow crew mates thought of these videos, click here


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Weekly Wrap up Nov 4 (a few days late)

Our travel adventures continued all this past week.

So last Sabbath we drove from Tampa to Orlando. Sunday we spent at Aquatica, the Busch water park. Little Bit happily spent the day in the wading pools while the big girls made sure to ride all the biggest slides, and spent a couple hours in the wave pool.

Monday we went to Disney's Magic Kingdom. We had figured the big girls would spend a little while doing things with Little Bit and then head off to some of the "big kid stuff" but we ended up all spending the day at Magic Kingdom. Little Bit's favorites were Small World, the carousel, and the Jungle Cruise.

Tuesday and Wednesday we spent at Sea World. Little Bit wouldn't pet the sting rays but loved seeing the baby ones. The big girls continue to love petting the sting rays though. Little Bit's favorite show, by far was the dog and cat show. Shamu was so loud and so much just lights and pictures on the screen that she would lose interest and not be watching by the time the orcas DID do something, so she didn't get into it like her sisters did the first year we went (I understand they can't be in the water with them after what happened a couple years ago, but I wish they would skip all the video and loud music and just show us what the Orcas CAN do).

I also had to laugh, Little Bit's favorite part of the shark exhibit wasn't the sharks swimming right over our heads, it was the moving floor that we stood on while going through the shark tank lol.

Thursday we had planned to go to Epcot and Hollywood studios, but all 3 girls and Papa had colds, so we decided not to spend the money on a Disney day when people weren't feeling good. We spent time at the time share play ground, and mini golf, and then went back to Sea World (since our Sesame Place season passes get us into all Busch parks, it's free) and watched some of our favorite shows again.

Friday we finished the week like it began, at Aquatica.

And Sabbath we began our journey home. We stopped at a couple forts along the Florida coast on our way up. Didn't take time to do junior rangers, though at one fort the ranger gave us the books and said we could mail it back and they would send us the badges, but toured the forts and such.

So that was our week, now we are continuing our journey toward home, and back to reality lol. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Crew Review: Journeys of Faithfulness

I always get excited when I see Apologia, pop up as a review item, I've loved everything I've reviewed for them! And I got REALLY excited when I saw that this time it was another book by Sarah Clarkson. I've loved everything I've read that her parents have written, AND that she's written. But then I was bummed . . . this one is for girls ages 12+, and my girls are only 9, sigh . . . but I wanna read it! Then I read the information a little bit closer, and it said we could go ahead and apply if we had younger girls, so I did! I read the sample chapter, and looked over the table of contents, and decided that this would work well as a book to read together with Sassy and MiniMe even if they were a couple years below the recommended age. And we got to review it!!! Woo-hoo!!!!

PhotobucketJourneys of Faithfulness is a wonderful devotional for mothers and daughters to enjoy together, or for teen girls to read on their own (or for adult women to read).  Looking over the above mentioned sample chapter and table of contents will give you a really good feel for this book. It has 3 chapters each about four women in the Bible. Each chapter includes a story from the woman's life, a devotional from Sarah, and a Bible Study section related to the story and devotional.

We used this book for our evening Bible time together. For the most part we spent 2 days per chapter. The first day I read the story, the second day I read the devotional and we went through the Bible study together. A few times due to getting a late start or whatever, we split it into 3 days, doing the Bible Study on it's own the 3rd day.

While I think the 12+ age recommendation is certainly accurate for using this book independently, and probably in most cases, even for using together, we had no problems using it with 9 year olds, and the girls thoroughly enjoyed the book and were sad to see it end.  The only real evidence of them being "too young" was a few references, mostly in the devotional thoughts, to things they aren't familiar with yet (Lord of the Rings, and Mr. Darcy, off the top of my head). Since we were reading it together, it was easy enough to provide a brief explanation of whatever didn't make sense, and move on.

I was expecting to enjoy this book with my girls, I knew I enjoy Sarah's writing style, and in general, I love stories that "flesh out" Bible characters/stories, so this book was right up my ally. But I'll admit, I was expecting the devotions/Bible study to be . . . more for the girls than for me. Afterall, this is for girls 12+, I'm WAY past 12! But I was pleasantly surprised. While not being over the girls' heads, certainly not over the head of the target audience of teens. This book spoke to ME in such a real and wonderful way too! God knew what I needed to hear these last few weeks, and brought this book along at just the right time. So, even if you don't have girls the right age, look into this book, look over the chapter, and contents, and consider adding it to your own devotional reading!

One aspect we didn't use, because of using this together, but that I like, is that, in addition to room in the book to write in your answers to the Bible study quetions, at the end of each chapter there are a few "journal pages".  In a few years, I may re-introduce this book to my girls, and get them each their own copy (if they want), so they can go back through it during their personal devotion time and write down their own thoughts.

This book is available for $13. While you're looking on the Apologia site, look around, there are lots of other great books there, you can read about the ones I've reviewed, here.

To see what my fellow crewmates thought of Journeys of Faithfulness, read their reviews, here.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Weekly Wrap up Oct 28

(I wrote this on the 28th, but then couldn't get the iPad to connect to the internet so I could get it OFF the iPad to post, so here it is, a few days (or a week) late . . . )

Traveling is fun, but exhausting.

Sunday we celebrated Grandma's 95th birthday.

Monday morning, my parents, the girls, and I began our journey. And by that evening we were in Georgia.  Long day, but the girls continue to be awesome travelers.

Tuesday was a shorter day, driving. And we broke it up by visiting Andersonville national park in the middle. The girls earned their Junior Ranger, and we all got lots of wiggles out walking around the former pow camp. 

Wednesday we took some time to enjoy the pool before heading the rest of the way to Tampa.

Thursday we headed to Busch Gardens. Last time we went the big girls were in a kind of in-between spot where they weren't big enough for most of the roller coasters but were beyond the little kid rides. This year they made up for it. They were the PERFECT height, just a tad under 56". The little kid stuff mostly had a max height of 56", so the girls could ride those with Little Bit. But they were also tall enough for all the roller coasters. And, over the course of 2 days, rode on every roller coaster there lol.

Little Bit's favorite thing was a moon bounce type thing in the Sesame St part.

Thursday the park was empty, it was awesome!

That night Rodney flew down and came with us on Friday. It was busier than Thursday but still not bad.

And finally, before heading out, we visited DeSoto National Park. It is all about the Spanish explorer DeSoto who explored Florida, etc. We were kind of frustrated because they were doing some Halloween thing there that evening and had covered up most of the museum, and some of the outside displays with Halloween stuff. Even if we liked Halloween, I'd have been annoyed. When I go to a historic site I want to see the history! If I want to go to a "haunted house" most towns have several. But such is life. . . Aside from that, the junior ranger was REALLY cool. The books were a beautiful color book, and for one of the activities they gave the kids each a small, working compass (to keep), and the activity was to follow the map and go on the nature walk and record various directions at certain points. The girls loved it.

So that was our busy week. I do have pictures, but I haven't figured out how to add pictures to blog posts from my iPad so I will have to post them later.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Crew Review: Grace and Truth Books


You probably know by now, if you've spent any time on my blog anyway, that we LOVE LOVE LOVE books around here. So anytime books come up for review, I get a little giddy, even before I look at the specific books.

This one presented an interesting problem though.  When I looked at the list of books available for review from Grace and Truth Books, there weren't very many that I could even consider, even though they had generously provided a list of TEN choices! Why, you ask? Well, obviously, one reason for the variety is different age ranges, and different genders, so that ruled out a few, but the bigger problem was that so many of the books that were for 9 year old girls already live at our house!! While I didn't recognize the company, I'm obviously already a fan of their books! (I think I've purchased the books through other homeschool sites instead of direct).

PhotobucketSo, that narrowed things down dramatically, and we finally decided on the Collector's Edition: Seven Favorite 19th-Century Children's Stories.

This paperback books is a collection of stories that were published in the 1800s by the American Tract Society. We chose to use this book for our bedtime stories.

We enjoyed these stories on two levels. They are nice stories, teaching nice moral lessons without being too terribly "preachy". But, because they are well over 100 years old, they also provided some interesting "social studies" lessons for us, as we discussed what some of the unfamiliar terms meant and why, for example, it was considered terribly sinful for Herbert to go for a walk instead of going to church (while we attend church regularly, we also love to worship God through nature, so nature walks are a fun part of Sabbath when the weather, and our schedule, cooperates).

Another interesting history lesson woven into these stories was the fact that Sunday School used to actually teach academics! The girls were very confused when a story alluded to that, so we took a few minutes to talk about the history of Sunday Schools :)

The recommended age range for this books is 8-14. I think this is accurate. Because of the stories being so old, I don't think any younger than 8 would understand the big, sometimes archaic, words, or the no longer common in our lives, concepts. But since the stories were originally written for children, much older than 14 would probably find the stories too "young". Of course, *I* loved the stories, but I've always been a collector of classic children's literature, so this is right up my alley!

This book retails for $7.50, which seems very reasonable, AND it's currently on sale for $6.50, even better! 

Before you rush over there and buy this book, be sure to check all the other crew reviews! As I mentioned we had the choice of 10 products to review and I can vouch for the fact that many of them are excellent! But go read all the reviews and then start adding stuff to your cart, it shouldn't be too hard to get to $49 and get free shipping!


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: Imagination Station books

When I was a kid, a highlight of our week was getting to listen to Adventures in Odyssey on the radio. Now my children are loving listening to the adventures on CD. So when Tyndale House Publishers gave us the opportunity to review a couple of the Imagination Station books, I figured the girls would loved them too.  And I was right!

We received books 8 & 9.  Book 8 is Battle for Cannibal Island. In this book 2 children take an adventure in the Imagination Station and visit an island inhabited by cannibals. After many harrowing adventures, they make it safely back to Whit's End where Whit tells them that the missionary they met is the well known, James Calvert.

In book 9 Escape to the Hiding Place, the same children go on another Imagination Station adventure, this time finding themselves in Holland during World War II where they help an injured Canadian pilot, and then deliver a Jewish baby to Corrie ten Boon's house, hiding in their hidden room while the gestapo looks for them.

As soon as these books showed up, my girls grabbed them! I think Sassy had the first one finished before it had been in our house a full day.  Both girls enjoyed the books and asked if we could get more of the series. I also found them enjoyable, and like that it's teaching kids, in a fun way, about missionaries.

I think it's important to note, that these books kind of assume you know about the Adventures in Odyssey radio series. Whit, the Imagination Station, etc. are never really "introduced" for anyone who's not familiar with the show, although it occurs to me that they might have been introduced more thoroughly in the earlier books in this series. Overall, these books don't seem to build on each other, so, while they are numbered, it appears that you can choose the books that deal with the topics that interest you.

Disclaimer: I received these books, free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crew Review: Activity Bags


As you may have noticed, we've been doing a LOT of travelling the last couple of months. We're actually (hopefully) almost done with our constant travel, at least for awhile, but even during "normal" times, we do travel quite abit. Visiting grandparents, traveling with Daddy for work, etc.So "portable" school options are a great option for us.

And this review came at a great time, in the midst of all our travel.  We were given the chance to review two great products from Activity Bags.

Photobucket Travel Activities in a Binder  and Math Games in a Bag. Both are for elementary age students and each ebook is available for $15.

I received these ebooks a couple of weeks before our trip to Florida. Both products (and most, if not all, of the products on the site) are written in a way that is geared toward a group of families. In that scenario, one person would purchase the ebook and act as coordinator (the site offers a free downloadable coordinator's handbook to help you figure it all out). The coordinator would assign "bags" (or pages, in the case of the binder), to each participant. So, if I were assigned math game #1 and it was a group of 20 people, the coordinator would give me the instructions for making that game. I would make up 20 copies of math game #1, each packaged, with directions in a labeled gallon-size ziplock bag. After everyone had turned in their bags, the coordinator would sort them all out & I would then get 20 different math games (including the one I had packaged). Cool huh? There's information in the coordinator handbook for organizing a long distance swap if you're like me and have very few friends with similar age children nearby. While the book is written as if you will do a swap, you do have another option, and that is simply to make one of each activity bag for your own use. Since we only had a few weeks (even a local swap would have been difficult to coordinate quickly enough for us to use the product in the time allowed for this review), I didn't attempt a swap for either of these products.

 I went through the math games ebook and printed off some of the games for the girls. What I suspected as I was reading through them, and found to be true, is that, since we take a "real life" approach to math, rather than drills and worksheets, these "math games" weren't real appealing to my kids. I think if a child was used to doing math workbooks and flashcards, these would be a great change of pace. For my kids, it wasn't nearly as fun as working on fractions by making a cake :) That said, I know that our family is in the minority (to put it mildly) in how we do math, so for most kids, this would be great. Even so, the games struck me as having a relatively short "life" . . . a game that helps you learn your times tables is great, but once you KNOW them, you're not likely to revisit it often. I think, if I were coordinating a swap for this, rather than doing it as suggested, for this one, I would have each family make ONE of their bag(s), then just trade bags around within the group so that all the families get to use all the games for a month or two, then rotate. While I plan to continue to use these games from time to time to fill in some math aspects that my kids need some practice with. I think what I will do is talk to a couple teachers I'm friends with, who happen to teach 1st-4th grade and see if they would like the games to use in their classroom after my kids are done with them.

One thing I wanted to note about these games. The games that include reusable "cards" of some sort, in the directions the person making up the bags is instructed to print them on cardstock, then once you, as the recipient, get your bag, it suggests laminating and then cutting out the cards (or game pieces, or whatever). Perhaps laminators vary, but I know the laminator I have, each item needs to be sealed all the way around, so laminating the page and then cutting it out wouldn't work.I need to cut them out, then laminate them, then cut them out again.

Photobucket The other ebook we received, Travel Activities in a Binder (yes, the graphic says bag, but trust me, it's a binder), was timed perfectly, since we got it just before a 3 day (one way) road trip. This is a slightly different product. instead of packaging activities individually in gallon ziplocks, these are all pages that are printed out and placed in page protectors, then all the pages are placed in a 3 ring binder, along with a dry erase marker, and a couple other small things (piece of felt to use as an eraser, a couple of the games require dice . . . ) all placed in a pencil pouch inside the binder. Then you have a binder all ready to take along in the car to keep your child(ren) entertained as you travel. I went through and printed out the pages I thought my kids would enjoy, a single copy of most pages, 2 or 3 copies of those that I thought each child (or each of the older girls) would want their own copy. I included 3 dry erase markers.

And I discovered that, my 9 year olds don't require "entertaining" in the car. They played with the pages some, but for most of the drive, they preferred to just do their normal "talk play" as they call it (they make up imaginary scenarios together, kind of like joint day-dreaming, it's great fun to listen to). The 3 year old enjoyed the pages that were things she could do.

So, what DID we think of it? There is a good variety of things. One page includes a bunch of "classic" silly song lyrics to sing, we had fun with that, and then branched off into others that we knew, it was fun, and worked to snap Sassy out of a bad attitude one morning. MiniMe isn't a fan of competitive games, so that caused some conflict since there were quite a few pages that were 2 people games that I'd figured the two of them could play together. Sassy was annoyed that MiniMe wouldn't play with her, sigh . . . but I can't fault the games for that, it's just my kids, and their quirks LOL. Sassy WAS very impressed with how challenging some of the mazes were.

All in all, this is a binder that will stay in our car and we'll continue to enjoy for a long time. While elementary age seems like a good "guideline", if you have older & younger children there are certainly alot of pages that will keep them entertained too.

In addition to the products we reviewed, the Activity Bags site offers lots of other ebooks, including science experiments, preschool games, reading games . . . the Crew had the opportunity to review many of these, so be sure to read the other reviews to learn about all these great products.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crew Review: Sugar Creek Gang


With all our travelling this fall, we've had lots of time to listen to audiobooks and such. When we got the chance to review the Sugar Creek Gang  audiobooks from Beloved Books, I was thrilled!

PhotobucketThe Sugar Creek Gang was a series of Christian adventure books written in 1939 (my kids were really impressed to know these stories are "older than Papa"). More recently, the books were read "dramatically" to be used on the radio, and that is what we got to hear. This is one man reading the books, BUT he does so many different voices and inflections that it's much more . . . dramatic than just someone reading a book (not that we don't love straight audiobooks, but these were even better!).

We received Sugar Creek Gang Volume 1 CDs  ($54.95). This is the first 6 stories on 12 CDs. Each story is approximately 2 hours long.

While each story would be enjoyable on it's own, they do build on each other so-to-speak, and listening to them in order makes them even more fun.

The stories are about a "gang" of boys who live in a farm community, are mostly Christian (I think by the end of this volume all of them have "been saved"), and have all kinds of amazing adventures while learning more about God, Christianity, and how to be decent people.

The stated age range for these CDs is 6-12. I'm not sure I agree with this, I can see where, when the books were written, a 6 or 7 year old would have enjoyed and understood them just fine, but while God's love is timeless, much of day-to-day life has changed in the last 70+ years, and I'd put an age range starting more around age 8 on these now. My 9 year olds have had several questions about what things mean and such, just because things are different now. I love that about these books, it's a built in history lesson as well, but I do think that bumps the age range up abit. I would also think that children older than 12 would enjoy them, the boys in the gang" range in age from 10 or a little younger to their mid-teens, and I would think that teenagers would also enjoy the stories, and the "old fashioned" aspect of them. I enjoyed them and I'm quite a few years past 12, but then again, I've always loved classic children's literature.

One thing that some might find disturbing is somewhat frequent references to spanking. It's not a major theme, and is generally mentioned in an off-hand way (the shed where Dad takes me when he has to give me a spanking, and things like that). My children haven't commented on it either way, and while we choose not to spank, they are aware that some families do and, perhaps more than that some families now do, that "in the olden days" people used spanking as a punishment. Families who prefer to avoid any reference to corporal punishment would probably not enjoy this series. In other ways also, the books are very different from "modern" writing. I find it interesting, and abit . . . jarring . . . that the main character/narrator refers to his best friend as being fat, and generally describes each of the boys in the gang's appearances using terminology that I'm not used to hearing. Nothing horrible, and obviously "Bill" doesn't have a problem with his friend, "Poetry" being overweight, it's just presented as a fact, no different than mentioning that someone has blue eyes or brown hair or is short or tall or whatever, still in our current, politically correct culture, it's abit surprising the first time you hear it.

One of my favorite "cultural" differences though, was when Bill matter-of-factly stated that girls are "fragile, helpless things" Little Bit was asleep, so Sassy knew she had to be quiet, but the expression of absolute rage (though good-natured, rage) on her face was PRICELESS! Again, different time, different norms . . . and we talked about that after Little Bit woke up. Sassy was somewhat appeased when, abit later in the story, Bill mentions that "boys are like dogs" and makes some comparision, that, Sassy found much more agreeable than his comment about girls LOL.

PhotobucketSo, all that to say, just be aware, if you're looking for a typical, acceptable in today's culture, series, this isn't it. If you're looking for a series of books that teach good character and Christianity, flavored with the beliefs and culture of the 30s and 40s, these are great!

Not only have my girls eagerly asked for these whenever we've been in the car, but, when I told them we were on the last story, they asked "are there more?!?" When I told them there are 4 volumes all together, they asked if the "points" they earn by doing chores without reminders could be used to get the other volumes, so I'd say these are a hit around here.

I'd recommend these for conservative Christian families, taking into consideration the "disclaimers" about changing cultural norms and such. I also want to point out that, while my girls have LOVED these, they are also GREAT for boys! I know sometimes my friends with boys struggle to find as many books/stories that keep their boys' interest, as can be found for girls in this age range, these, I think would definitely qualify as "boy stories", though adventure loving girls like mine, love them too.

AND Beloved Books was kind enough to provide a coupon code just for you, my readers! Use coupon code BROADHORIZONS-20 to receive 20% off your entire purchase, how cool is that!!!

Be sure to check the other reviews to see what my fellow crew members thought of this series.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review and GIVEAWAY!!! - The Sparkle Box

Teaching about generously giving to others has always been something our family has tried to emphasize, and overall, I feel good about how my children view giving to those less fortunate. They have never complained about designating a portion of the allowance to be used for charity, and when it accumulates to the point where they get to decide what to do with it, sometimes ask to add some of their saved up spending money to the total as well.

Still, I don't think we can ever put TOO much emphasis on helping others, and was excited to get a chance to review The Sparkle Box.

This beautiful picture book tells the story of a little boy noticing a sparkly box/present as part of the Christmas decor. When he asks about it, his mother tells him that "first we have to fill it". The story unfolds with them doing various giving throughout the Christmas season and the parents always answering the boy's question of "have we filled the box yet?" with "we've put some things in, but it's not full yet". On Christmas morning, they allow him to open the box and he finds it contains slips of paper with the various charitable activities they've done that season. The parents explain that this is their family's gift to Jesus for His birthday because doing things for others is like doing them for Jesus.

The book ends with a challenge, of sorts, to begin a similar tradition in your own family and comes with a cute, silver sparkly box (folded flat in the back of the book), so you can have your own "sparkle box".

The book's pictures are beautiful and the book is high quality.  The idea of "giving presents to Jesus" is certainly an important one.  Something that bothered me was that the parents didn't explain the purpose of the sparkle box up front. It seems to me, that it would have been a better idea to explain at the beginning of the season what they were putting in the box so he could be thinking about it and coming up with his own ideas. Obviously, if you read this story to your children you're already addressing this, telling them about the idea, so it's not a big deal.

My children enjoyed the story and liked the idea of having our own Sparkle box, though in typical, literal child fashion, they were quick to point out that the box that came with the book isn't EXACTLY like the picture - no big fluffy bow, for example, LOL.

We received this book right before leaving on a trip, but when we get home, we plan to find a special place for the sparkle box where it will remind us often to do things for others. I think we will "open" Jesus' present at or near Christmas, but then make it a goal to fill it ALL year next year, not just around Christmas time.

And now, for the giveaway!!!

In addition to sending us a book to review, the publisher has another copy waiting in their office to send to one of my readers! To enter, leave a comment on this blog post (not on facebook or via e-mail) telling me one of your favorite holiday traditions. Make sure that you include an e-mail address or other way for me to easily contact you if you win.  The giveaway will close on November 1. Once I contact the winner, they will have 2 days to reply or I will choose an alternate winner.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product, and a second copy for use as a giveaway in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekly Wrap up October 22

In case you didn't guess from the lack of blog activity, life is busy again still.

Once I figured out that Little Bit's rash was ringworm and began treating it accordingly with a mixture of coconut oil, lavender essential oil and tea tree oil, they dried down quickly. They are still blotchy, but soooo much better than it was.

Saturday afternoon Rodney had taken the big girls to his mom's house and they didn't come home till Sunday evening, so Little Bit and I just kind of hung out on Sunday.

Most of the week was filled with packing for our next trip and homeschooling (while the reviews have been quiet this last week, we have a BUNCH that we are using now and I'll get to write reviews while we are traveling).

We did take some time to play at the park with friends and while we were there, find a geocache that was hidden there. 

Another evening a neighbor came over and played soccer with Sassy and MiniMe for awhile.

Friday the traveling began again. We were going to my parents' house, but now that Miss Judy isn't our neighbor anymore she lives about halfway between our house and Mama and Papa's house, so we stopped and visited her for awhile on our way.

We spent a fun weekend celebrating My grandma's 95th birthday. My aunt and uncle were there too. And so were my cousin, D and his girlfriend, and my cousin, J with her toddler. So all of Grandma's great grandchildren were together. Little Bit had great fun not being the littlest, and C didn't seem TOO overwhelmed by all my hoodlums. All 4 kids joined together to make a banner, and hanging balloons around it (with help from Cousin Dennis and Emily)

Little Bit helped by handing Sissies the balloons, with a little help from Cousin Dennis
Helping Grandma open presents

So that was our weekend.. And now we are off on more adventures, but they will have to wait for another post.

Book Review: Carrie and Bandit by Vicki Watson

A few months ago I reviewed the first book in the Sonrise Stables series, Rosie and Scamper. My girls loved the book and asked about getting the rest of the series, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review book 2, Carrie and Bandit!

Carrie and Bandit picks up where the first book left off. In this book, Bandit comes to live at Grandma's farm, and begins to learn to trust again. Carrie is legally adopted by Rosie's family, and just as they are all adjusting to these changes, more changes come when Grandma is hurt, and the family decides to move.

When this book came in the mail, my girls grabbed it and insisted they both got to read it before I could. As MiniMe finished the last page, and closed the book, her first words were "we HAVE to get book 3!!!" Sassy agreed.

When I finally got to read it, I could see why they had enjoyed this book so much, and I'm thrilled that they are so thoroughly enjoying a series of books about other Christian, homeschooled children. This book wove subtle, but powerful lessons about honesty and learning to build relationships with others, into the story without sounding the least bit "preachy". While the children in the story are homeschooled, I think this book would appeal to any Christian family, not just other homeschoolers. The story centers around the girls' adventures with their horses and interactions with their family and friends.

I definitely recommend this series, and we are eagerly waiting for the rest of the series to be available.

You can purchase Carrie and Bandit from Amazon for $9.95 or the Kindle version for $7.99.

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Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book/Ebook/Product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.