Monthly Archives: December 2011

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Merry Christmas and See You Next Year!

This will be the last post of the year – I am going to be taking the next week and a half to spend time with the family as well as get ready for next year.  I know – it’s sad – I’ll miss you too (so be sure to connect with me on Twitter), but I’ve got some pretty exciting things in the works! What are we going to be up to (in addition to all the great homeschool stuff, of course), you ask?  Well, there are always lots of goals at the beginning of each new year, so I’m joining up with some online friends to really make progress in these areas that are normally a challenge for me.
One of my goals for this year is to have a more inviting, homey – more comfortable – home.  To help me get there, I’m going to be using  31 Days to Clean starting on January 1st. I’ll be sharing about my experiences on my Facebook page, and I hope that you’ll join me there and share your experiences as well.  Don’t forget to buy your copy (only $5!) and we’ll do it together!

Because I need accountability in order to stay on task and focused on my goals, I’m joining the 3 in 30 Challenge next year.  The challenge was started last year to help others just like me (and you) to support each other and help us reach our goals – 3 at a time.

3in30 Challenge
And, because Ashley is brilliant (or probably as she would tell you – very, very blessed), she has started a new challenge for this year.  In January, the 31 Days to Pray for Your Spouse Challenge begins, and I’ve already signed up.  She also has an e-book available called 31 Days to Build a Better Spouse ($5). I don’t think you need to buy the book to participate in the challenge(although I’m sure that it would be a wonderful resource!) Won’t you join me in committing 5 minutes a day to pray for your spouse?

I'm Joining the 31DBBS Challenge

Well, that’s quite a lot to work on to start off the year, don’t you think? To help me accomplish these goals as well as squeeze every drop out of each day, I’ve joined Hello Mornings. Anyone who knows me would tell you in a heartbeat that they can not ever imagine me getting up before the kids – at least not on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I recently told Kat that I would probably be their toughest case ever – to which she replied, “It’s a good thing that God is our case worker.” To which I can only say, AMEN! They have 2 fantastic (FREE) e-books, Maximize Your Mornings and Mission Statements for Moms, to help get you started on the right foot.

And, lastly – I am planning on attending the 2:1 Conference in April.  I’m looking for a sponsor to help with the travel and lodging expenses, so if you like what you’ve read and are looking for someone that would be a dedicated spokesperson for your company, I’d love to talk to you!

2:1 Conference Button
While I’m away, I hope you will visit some of my favorite blogs 
and get to know some great new people.
Holy Mama – This is quite possibly the first blog I ever read and definitely one of the first blogs I ever started reading on a regular basis (several years ago.) I also think this may have been the beginning of when I started thinking about blogging myself, so if you like what you see – you have to thank Kelsey for inspiring me to start.  :)  Kelsey is hilarious and keeps me in stitches. However, I have to admit that I’m not sure how to accept that she’s not on Twitter. *smile*
Adventurez in ChildrearingKelli shares her day to day adventures with her three adorable boys. She especially has some great outdoor activities. But, you should definitely start at Bringing Home Baby and then go to The Greatest Gift – A True Story. Kelli always warms my heart with her true stories.
Get Along HomeCindy shares her opinions on everything from Coupons to the DuggarsPregnant with her fifth child, Cindy tells it like it is – no holds barred.  I love how she is able to cut through all the extraneous noise and focus in on what really matters.
A Slob Comes Clean – are you domestically challenged like I am? Then you definitely want to get to know Nony! She offers such a common sense approach to housekeeping while being absolutely real about her own struggles. Every new article I read, has be nodding my head and thinking “Yes! Yes!”

Money Saving Mom – If you’re like me, you are always looking for ways to save money.  I recently discovered Crystal through Cindy at Get Along Home, actually. *smile* I have been devouring her site over the last few days.

Raising ArrowsAmy has such a wonderful way of sharing how she nurtures her large family, and I LOVE her quote “A gentle voice. A firm resolve. An abundant homeschool life. I suggest starting with her series 10 Days to a Peaceful Home, and then follow the rabbit trails – I promise that you will be blessed. Amy also happens to be a speaker at the 2:1 Conference I mentioned above.

Savvy Blogging – As a somewhat new blogger, I’m always on the lookout to learn new things. This has been my go to site to learn about everything blogging.
There are so many other sites that I love and go to on a regular basis, but I felt like this list gives a nice variation of topics to discover.  And to be honest, I’m afraid that if I start listing more and then I forget one, I’ll feel so bad…..so, for some more great people to get to know, you can check out my Twitter list: Kindred Spirits.  These are all people that I feel a special connection to.
And last, but most definitely NOT least, come get to know the other authors at the HSBA Post.  I am so thrilled to be part of their team, and if you are not familiar with the Post already, you will be amazed at how much useful information is packed into one site.   (You’ll even find a few posts from me there as we close out this year.)
I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

See you back here on the First!

Note: Some links are affiliate links – Thank you for your support!

Chocolate Meltaways and Banana Muffins ~ Gluten Free!

Recently, I told you about a new Cookbook, Good and Easy Eats, that I had the opportunity to review.  At the time, I was looking forward to trying the Chocolate Meltaways in part because I was really intruguied by the idea of a desert with a black bean base. Yes, you read that right – BLACK BEANS. In a desert. So, needless to say, I was a bit skeptical. But, it only required a few new products that weren’t already on the shelf: black beans, agave syrup, and carob powder.  So, not too bad of an outlay for a potentially great reward.
Well, I have to tell you, it is absolutely amazing that this is made out of beans – they do NOT taste like it at all!  I have to admit, that I am not particularly fond of the carob powder, but my son LOVES these things. So, the 10yo that I can’t get anywhere near beans is eating black beans – which is totally AWESOME!  We will definitely be making them again – although I think I will make it with extra cocoa powder and drop the carob. Hopefully that will work out well, too.

We also made the Banana Muffins from the cookbook, and it’s hard to believe that these things are gluten free!  They turned out a little dryer than I would have liked, but I think that was a preparation problem and not a recipe problem.  We’ve also had good luck with the Italian Dressing, so I encourage you – if you are interested in learning about an alternate HEALTHY eating style for your family – or, just learning some new HEALTHY recipes – then, get ahold of this book – and give it a try….even those recipes you never would think go together……like black beans and chocolate.

Apparently the holidays brings out the baker in me, because you can find me over at the HSBA Post talking about favorite Christmas cookies today.  Won’t you come share yours?

Note: Some links are affilate links – thank you for your support!

In Search of a Role Model

Tim keeps fightin’ them off

OK, so today we’re going to talk about a topic that you will NOT see very often on this site.

You see, I’m not a big football fan – or even any sport for that matter if I’m going to be completely truthful about it.

But, it has not escaped even my ignorant ears that Tim Tebow is being talked about wherever I go – including church.  He’s having to suffer through some pretty intense criticism – especially considering that from all appearances, it looks like he is doing everything right.

First, I’ve got to cover the top three reasons why I personally believe that Tim is worthy of role model status:

  1. He’s a very public homeschool success story.
  2. He and his parents are huge pro-life advocates.
  3. He’s committed to preserving his purity for marriage – publicly.

Basically, one guy was taking the position that Tebow is just not that great a player – he’s mediocre and is only being talked about because he’s controversial. But, then our youth pastor made such a GREAT observation – he said something along the lines of 

But, isn’t that even better? If God is using an average player to do outstanding things and to keep HIS message in the public arena.

(As a side note, I got the impression that our youth pastor did not agree with the notion that Tebow is average but was trying to make a bigger point.)

Also, my father told me that they are trying to make him change his stance because he’s doing it wrong. I totally do NOT understand this because if he’s been winning and won the Heisman Trophy, isn’t it possible that he’s just doing it different – not necessarily wrong? (Maybe that’s just the homeschooler in me talkin’…)

Now, I can’t tell you anything about Tebow’s skills, so please (oh, please) don’t lecture about whether he can or can’t play because truthfully, I have absolutely no idea – but, what I can tell you is that I respect this amazing young man who is willing to put it all on the line for his Saviour. 

Much like the Duggars, who are publicly mocked and condemned (recommended reading: Why Does the World Hate the Duggars? by my friend Cindy), Tim Tebow and his parents are living a Pro-life, Pro-family, Pro- GOD message and the people of this world will continue to challenge them to try to tear them down.

I keep hearing that he doesn’t deserve to be a winning QB because his skill level just isn’t there, and my response to that is only – do any of us truly deserve any of the blessings that we receive? Or, do we deserve nothing – absolutely nothing….or if we’re going to be completely honest – less than nothing?

So, my prayers go out to Tim and his parents to keep fighting the good fight because they are truly a blessing to this broken world. In a profession that has way too many bad role models, I am so thankful that there are a few shining lights out there that we can point out to our sons and daughters to give them confidence that they too will succeed if they stand firm in their faith.

My Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1: 2-3 (NKJV)

When Will I Get it Right?

Recently I discussed my journey through the land of discouragement, and then last night while I was waiting for sleep to come, I had the most AMAZING thought!  See if you can follow this analogy.

Imagine that your child is learning something new (shouldn’t be too hard, right?) such as developing the habit to make their bed each morning.  And then let’s say they forget. Alot. Do you want them to come to you groveling for forgiveness? Or would you rather they just admit their oversight and then take care of it? 

I’m sure that many of you are like me and don’t want to ever see your child beat themselves up for a mistake. We want to wrap our arms around them and help them to make it better – help them to learn how to succeed next time. 

Well, it all of a sudden occurred to me last night that God uses the picture of parent/child so that we can understand His feelings toward us in a real way. I’ve realized that He doesn’t want me to berate myself about my shortcomings, but instead to just come to Him, my Heavenly FATHER for help and guidance, and together – I will improve.

Doesn’t it just make your heart SING that we serve such an AMAZING God?!?

It’s Official!

I’ve been sitting on this news flash for about 2 months, so it thrills me to say…

See this nifty little button
 

I am so excited to announce that it’s official, and you can read my Introduction Post over at the HSBA Post where I am excited and humbled (oh so humbled) to have joined their team of authors. 

Geography Stop: France

As you may remember, we’re doing Geography a bit different this year.  For the next two weeks, the spotlight is on France.  We ordered the books through our inter-library loan program.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Leigh

The first stop is supposed to be Operation World, but I had a “mommy moment” and completely forgot, so we’ll go there today. It’s interesting to note that the percentage of Christians in France is going down 0.6% each year, BUT Evangelicals are going up by 2.4% a year. Also, 33% of the people of France are unreached with the Gospel.

Insight Guide: France: I have to tell you that this book has just been fabulous! We love the pictures too, but the writing is just so vivid and clear.  These are by far my favorite series to read for Geography. It’s amazing how much more real a travel guide can make the country than most of the children’s books we’ve been able to find.  Just one of the great tidbits that we learned referred to the shape of France. If you take into account the natural boundaries of mountains and rivers, France is almost a hexagon in shape. They view their shape and their geographic location as being central to their uniting Europe.  This is something that the French people take great pride in according to the Insight Guide.

We also were lucky enough to happen across Mr. Bean’s Definitive and Extremely Marvelous Guide to France, and since it was in the non-fiction section, I’m hoping that everything in it is accurate.  The kids think that this book is hilarious which always helps to encourage learning.  It is a very busy book with lots of pictures and text written in different directions (kind of like the DK books.)  I may have to buy this one – right now it’s under $3 on Amazon for the hardback version. If you’re thinking about it, make sure you do the “Look Inside” because it really is a different kind of book.

And, to round it out, we got Favorite Fairy Tales Told in France.  I was a little disappointed, because out of the 5 fairy tales, we’re already familiar with 4 of them.  I am however looking forward to reading “Drakestail” because I’ve never even heard of it before. You can read it for free at the Baldwin Project. The other 4 stories that are found in French manuscripts from as early as 1697 (follow links for free reading).

And, just because I’m sure that you’re dying to know, “Drakestail” is found in a book from 1888.

What are some of your favorite ways to study geography?

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Note: Some of the links are affiliate links, but I always recommend checking with your library first.

Linking up with

Good and Easy Eats: Review

I haven’t really posted a lot about it, but my son, Rex, was recently diagnosed with Aspergers.  It really wasn’t a huge surprise, but what was a (albeit mild) surprise was how much diet can play a role in how his day is going.  For instance, we recently had pretty good confirmation that food dyes affect him negatively. And, another suggestion that I’ve seen offered is that it’s a good idea to remove Gluten from the diet.

Now, I’m not really sure I really understand what gluten is to be completely honest with you – so, you can imagine how thrilled I was to be offered the opportunity to review Kim Wilson’s new ebook Good and Easy Eats which is a collection of recipes that are not only gluten free but are also free of dairy, egg, soy, yeast, and wheat.  Wow – what a list, right?!?

I have been looking over all of the recipes, and I’m so encouraged to see how many of these recipes are foods that we would normally enjoy – just prepared in a slightly different way (and with different flours, etc…)  We particularly love the idea of adding Fruit Smoothies to breakfast and making our own salad dressings (of which there are 4 basic types and there is a recipe included for each type.) Kim also offers suggestions on a lot of the recipes to change up the recipe if you don’t have issues with gluten.

She has included a wide variety of recipes from an easy way to prepare Steel Cut Oats (Baked Oats) to the more exotic Coconut Curry.  We have such a long list of recipes that we’re going to be trying that I don’t want to include them all here, but I’m probably the most excited to try the Chocolate Meltaways which includes 2 cans of black beans.  I thought – What?!? but, Kim has already predicted the surprise factor and advises

“Don’t let the ingredients scare you away! These little fudge bites are amazingly tasty and no one can believe they have black beans as a base.”

All throughout the book, Kim has also been gracious enough to include tips and hints that have helped her family as well as a pretty good look at how they schedule their meals and are still able to eat wholesome foods on a reasonable food budget.  I find these bits especially helpful because I always tend to freeze up when I try to imagine implementing new habits in our routines.

Additionally, Good and Easy Eats would be equally beneficial for the family that is looking to supplement their regular diet with some healthier alternatives instead of making a complete change.

Good and Easy Eats is being released Saturday, December 10th, and will be available as an instant download for only $4.99!  Kim has graciously offered a free copy of the book to one of my lucky readers! This is a 24 hour give-away (well, a little longer but pretty close..,) so you have until 12:01am ET, December 10th, to enter.

TO ENTER: You have the opportunity for 2 entries per person. Leave a comment below answering one of the questions below (each comment will count as a separate entry, so if you are answering both, please leave 2 comments.)  I will use Random.org to choose the number for the winning comment. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail address or your Twitter name in the comment.

1.) Why do you feel that this book would be a great addition to your cookbook library?

AND/OR

2.) Go to the website for Good and Easy Eats and watch Kim’s introductory video and then tell us the most interesting thing you saw/heard in the video.  (Even if you don’t normally watch videos, I think you’ll find some of the information well worth while…..the video is right at 4 minutes long.)

I can’t wait to hear your answers!
Giveaway Day

Note: I was provided a complimentary copy of Good and Easy Eats for my honest and unbiased review. Links within the post are affiliate links – Thank you for your support.

Drowning in the Sea of Shoulds

Well, it’s been kind of quiet on here lately, hasn’t it? And, you might think it’s because we’re off having wonderful homeschool adventures, and I was just too busy to write. I wish that were true, but it really couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I’m struggling – really just trying to keep my head above water right now. What could be so bad, you ask? Nothing – that’s what is soooo frustrating! I have no reasons for my being overwhelmed – none at all. So, I’ve been looking for something – anything really – to try to pull me back on track.  As I look around at the chaos, I keep thinking of those wise words that said. “Just DO something.” And yet still I sit, paralyzed by the task ahead of me. Here are some of the strategies that, along with prayer – lots and lots of prayer, I’m going to use to see if I can create a lasting effect.

I’m still not there, but I am trying out Ann Voskamp’s 100 Day Calendarto help me identify 3 new habits that if I were to put into place over the next 10 days would simplify my life. What are my 3 tasks that if accomplished could help to change my entire day?

  • Getting up earlier in the morning (I’m going to move the time back gradually as Donna recommends until I’m getting up before the kids (which I’m afraid of what time that might end up being – ack!)
  • Devotions – I’m working through Power of a Praying Wife right now which might not officially be a devotional but it’s what I need to learn right now. Can you believe that I just happened across this book at Goodwill for $2? Hopefully, I will get to the point that I can put together something like Jamie’s prayer binder.
  • 1 load of laundry a day from start to finish – I really love the idea of a laundry day a la Denise in Bloom but for me, it just doesn’t work. It’s too easy to skip it on the day and then before you know it, we are out of clean clothes. Once I get in control of my household, maybe we’ll give the Laundry Day thing another go.

I’ve also printed out Ann Voskamp’s Joyful Parenting Manifesto and am referring to it frequently to try to become the kind of parent that I truly long to be.

And, I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve. I’m planning on working through 31 Days to Clean starting in January. My heart wants to start now, but my head know that would just lead to frustration to try to start in the middle of the holidays.  Also, by starting in January, I hope that you will join me on Facebook so that we can support each other and share the journey together! If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, you can get the pdf here or a version for you Kindle here. (It’s only $4.99!) For me, the pdf version works well so that I can print it out and have it available to peruse. :) I hope that you will consider joining me because I’ve gotta tell you – I need all the support I can get!

What are some of the strategies you’ve used to pull yourself back on track (or to keep on track) when things just get overwhelming?

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links – I appreciate your support!

Review: Swish

We have recently added educationaI/edutainment games to our regular school day, so you can imagine how excited I was to be offered the opportunity to review Swish made by ThinkFun, and as an extra bonus, they provided a second game to give away to one of you lucky folks! So, a big thank you to ThinkFun for my very first giveaway opportunity!

Based on the description, this game looked like a good fit with our family, so I eagerly awaited delivery.

Swish is a spatial card game that challenges you to be the first to make matches, or “Swishes.”

First of all, I have to give big kudos to ThinkFun for awesome packaging.  The box is very cool.  Secondly, even though I read the description (obviously) before we received the game, I didn’t pick up on the fact that the cards are transparent – which was a fun surprise. The cards are very well made and seem like they will hold up over time and I LOVE that they include a drawstring storage bag for the game ’cause even though the packaging is cool, who really has room for all those boxes, right?

OK, so down to the game – how was it to play is really what you want to know, right?  The rules were a quick read, and then we got down to business.  The kids picked it up really quickly and I must confess that they beat me every time.  That’s one of the great things about the game – age is NOT an issue – your skill level is going to be based on how your spatial abilities – the ability to imagine moving or flipping the cards around. And, yes – you must IMAGINE because there is no touching of the cards until you have called out “Swish!” to let everyone know that you’ve got one.   And, lest you be concerned that your lack of spatial ability will be a problem, I was very pleased that by the third round my ability to be able to “see” what needed to be done to make the matches was already improving.


Another cool aspect of the game is that it is really fast moving and everyone is always playing – searching for matches.  This may be a downside if you have a wide range of abilities playing together, but I’ve already been contemplating ways to make it a “turn taking” game if necessary.  With all the creative moms out there, I’m sure that this small fact can be worked around so that everyone can play and have a good time.  This game is definitely being added to our school rotation! (It would also be a great family night game, but we tend to play our games during school.)

ThinkFun is also very excited that Swish was nominated for Educational Toy of the Year (click here to vote) and Tilt has been nominated for Specialty Toy of the Year (click here to vote).  I will definitely be voting for these products!  (I must confess that I haven’t used Tilt, but Swish is our third game from ThinkFun so I have no doubt that it is phenomenal just as their others have been.)  You can also help them out by clicking on the links to vote as well.

As an added bonus, ThinkFun is offering 25% off of any 3 (different) games PLUS free shipping on any order over $25.  I already have 2 of their newer games on the way from their previous promotion, Knot so Fast and Cartoon It!, and I will be sure to let you know how we like those as well.  We are definitely a ThinkFun family!

Now for the knitty-gritty rules of the giveaway: Just leave a comment below answering either of the following questions – or you can answer both for 2 entries (must be separate comments) with a maximum of 2 entries per person.  Also, please be sure to leave a way for me to contact you – either by e-mail or your Twitter name.  Your entry must be received by Midnight ET on Thursday, December 8th to qualify.  I will use Random.org to choose the winner. I will notify the winner within 24 hrs, and they have 72 hrs to respond.  After 72 hrs, at my discretion, another winner may be chosen.

The questions: 
What is your Favorite Family Game? or/and After looking at their website, which of ThinkFun’s games (other than Swish) would be a great addition to your school day?

Giveaway Day

Disclaimer: I was provided Swish for my honest and unbiased review.  Links within the post are affiliate links – thank you for your support!