Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Ideas for Valentine's Day...

 We absolutely love Valentine's Day at our house - well, almost all of the "we" at our house does.  You know my one special guy - well, he is not too crazy about it - but I even get him into helping us - most of the time...  but we'll see about this year. It does help that he is a super sketcher - and likes to help the girls draw....

Anyway, the girls always love to make homemade crafty Valentine's - and every year we look for great ideas that are low cost but CUTE.  Well, this year I think I hit the        JACKPOT     :)  I have used Family Fun magazine before for ideas, but this year all of their ideas are soo cute and so afordable. 

I think we are going to do the "low" sugar version and use the graham cracker bears (plus I just bought a bag of them on sale) with the "Bear Hugs" printed on the card...  use some scrapbook paper, and brown ribbon and I am sure they will be just "Darlin'."

If you are looking for a homemade Valentine that you and your children can make - check this page out - there are so many great ideas you are bound to find one you...   WANT TO GIVE A HAND TO...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review of The Long Way Home...

Hello again - wow twice in one day... my husband says I am getting addicted - well... I have to admit that there may be another addiction driving this post. :) Like the fact that I signed up with Thomas Nelson Book Review club now called "Booksneeze" (which I did because I read another blogger who was doing this - so maybe it really is blogging's fault afterall...whatever). I know - it's not like I don't already have enough to do. But I happen to also be a book lover, and I mean LOVER - - I LOVE TO READ - - and of late just couldn't justify spending $15-20 on "one" new book. I get to the library occasionally, but most of the time I have to help the children stay out of trouble make their selections. So,  "me" time at the library is just not easy.

Anyway - if you catch me occasionally talking about a book I have read - you will know why.  I must have gotten a free book to review. So here is this week's book:


If you are a fan of "24", then this book is for you!  At first I did not think that a juvenile fiction book would hold my interest - but I thought I would give it a shot.  I am so glad I did.  I could definitely describe the story line as "riveting."  I was captured with the first chapter, and didn't put it down until I finished it.  I don't necessarily advise this - but I happened to be sick yesterday - so my schedule was inadvertently "cleared." Anyhow, I anticipate reading the next book in the series "The Last Thing I Remember" which comes out November 2010. Apart from a kiss or two (which doesn't coincide with our viewpoint on courtship) - the book was pretty decent - even for a younger juvenile.  Though the "ideas" of terrorists and murder might require a bit higher maturity level.  I plan allowing my 14 year old to read this book.
In this book by Andre Klavan, 18 year old Charlie loses his memory - and a year of his life.  He is somehow framed for murder while at the same time terrorists are after him. A seemingly impossible situation, Charlie, relying on God and a slim hope to clear his name,  goes back home. Facing incredible danger, his old friends and his true love join him in his quest to find the truth.  Juvenile Fiction by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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FREE Preschool Curriculum Contest

Thought that I would share a post I just did on my other web site :)  Online Education for Kids.

Just noticed that there is a Free Preschool Curriculum Contest going on at Time4Learning.  Read my post to see how WE like this curriculum - then rush over and put your name in for a chance at a free semester!

Your little one will be so happy you did!!!

OK - made me think of a too funny story I have to share - Chloe got on the computer to do "her school."  She was busy - doing her thing - moving the mouse so well (unbelievable for a 3 year old - well, to me anyway) and I asked her what she was doing...... she replied, "Just checkin' my email momma..."

...hmmmmm.... guess I check my email too much.....

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Learning to Read

  Ok - today was a red letter day for us. I hope you understand - when you go nowhere and stay at home all day - when you work everyday with your little ones in hopes to make a little progress...     This     is      red      lettter.     My five year old - has been struggling with getting all the letter sounds "down" and putting them together with their letter names.  We have been working on the phonics aspect of "blending." She has used some online phonics resources and I have been trying to help her do these little charts we call blend ladders that have a consonant and a vowel pair - one for each vowel - all set on  a cute little printed ladder.  She typically will be able to tell me the sound of the letter for example an "s" - but when she would put it with the vowel she would say "c". Example - she should be saying "ssss -aaaa , sa" but she would say "sssss-aaa,  ca."  Crazy.... I have taught children for a long time  - and can't remember coming across this one.    Anyway - today - - I am so excited -   she did it correctly - and not only that - but in her workbook was able to write the blend correctly!  Woohoooo!  Ok - I know - I need to get out of the house... but just think . . . if she accomplished that today. . . what will she accomplish tomorrow?

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thankful for God's Tree Removal Service...

Have you ever had to get a tree removed from your property?  Well, if you have you can really comiserate with this story. We have lived at our current house about 6 years.  When we first bought the property there were two large oaks right on either side of the front walkway - both planted by the family who had lived here almost a century.  We really didn't want to get rid of them, but almost immediately after we moved in one of them started looking sick - so we called a tree doctor.  There's a doctor for everything now adays!  He told us that it had a disease and that before the year was out, the tree would be dead.  Sure enough, the doctor was right - the tree was very dead by the end of the year. The only thing green on it was the ivy that covered the trunk. It was really kinda sad... but what was even more sad - (we are talking real big huge tears and gut wrenching sobs sad) was the estimate that we got to remove the tree.  Unbelievable!  They wanted $1200 . . . for one tree!

Of course, with 6 children we pinch pennies every week just to buy enough laundry soap and milk... so the tree was just going to have to wait. You see our big concern was that the tree overlooked a major street, was only a few feet from the front of our house, and was directly across the street from our little post office.  Well, several years had gone past, and the tree was beginning to fall apart. We really didn't know what to do - so, we just prayed - and asked God to take care of it . . .somehow.  Funny thing - every time it would rain - and that dead wood would soak up the water - another limb would fall.  Somehow, every time a limb would fall it always seemed to land in a safe spot.  Yet, our concern was growing.  What if a strong wind blew it right over on a car - or the post office - or even our house?  But by now there really wasn't much left to the tree as far as limbs go...  but keep in mind - it was still a great big old oak.

Taken in 1950 - see how small the trees are?

Well, to finish up my story - just a while ago in the middle of the night there came up a really big storm - a wind so strong that it was blowing against the wall by our bed so hard I thought it had to be a tornado.  Then we heard a huge sound - and knew a tree had fallen somewhere.  I bet you know where we looked first!  And sure enough, there it was laid out as pretty as you please right between the school buses and the post office. We couldn't believe it! Yet even as we watched some little black sportscar came speeding up the street and ran right into it and then turned around and drove off. People are so weird! Almost immediately a deputy sheriff was there directing trafic and then the county road service came and sawed it up and carried it away. When it was daylight we went out to see what else needed done, and can you believe that it didn't even turn up the ground around the base of the tree? It was like God just took it and laid it over, and sent the county workers to clean it up.  There was nothing left but a few little twigs. Wow - God's tree removal service. We were absolutely amazed.

The tree in question is the one on the right
These days there seems to be a whole lot of things in our lives just like this dead tree.  Things we have no control over - no ability to change - and have to just trust God that He will take care of it.  The tree is gonna help me remember for a long time that God really does care - God will take care of every situation that we are facing.  We don't know how or when He will do it - it may take years - but He has it under control.  If you are facing something that you cannot imagine a way out or even a solution - just step back and give it to God.  He created you - He knows you better than you know yourself - trust Him with it. Lay it at His feet and rest in Him.  You may be suprised at how He handles it for you!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January To Do List...

It does not seem possible that it is already the middle of January 2010! I personally am having a hard time with this! It sure doesn't help that as I get older time seems to go by faster and faster. Oh, for those days as children when time seemed to stand still.
Today I was reviewing my "Homeschool January To Do" list, and I thought I'd share it - just in case a "newer" homeschooling mom might like a few ideas. Though, I must admit that even after homeschooling for over 5 years I still feel like I'm in "Homeschooling Mom Kindergarten." There is always so much to learn!
In January, I usually set aside some time to review where we are at in our own homeschool. I start by looking at our state requirements for homeschooling just to make sure they haven't changed on us! I use several websites to help me with state homeschool resources. If I need to make any changes for the year to adapt to their guidelines - I do them in January.
I also like to determine what I will do regarding standardized testing for the year. Our state requires standardized testing at least every 3 years, however, they "like" to see it more frequently. Up to this point, I have had the children tested every year. I know many homeschooling families are against standardized testing, and if their states allow them to avoid testing then that is their choice. However, I use the test as a tool to help me homeschool.
There are three ways that I use the standardized tests to help me. The test often gives me the "Big Picture" of my child's academic progress. I know it is often true for me that I "can't see the forest for the trees." The daily little probelms often cloud my ability to see where my children are "across the board."
Standardized tests also let me see areas that the children have weakness in. I might think they are doing pretty well overall in math, but the test may pick up a particular weakness with fractions or decimals that I hadn't noticed. Sometimes, I will purchase an inexpensive small workbook highlighting the weak area and let them do it casually during the summer. This keeps them on target and thinking until school picks up again in the fall. That simple review often makes the difference and helps them out of the rough patch.
Finally, I use standardized test scores to help me make decisions about the curriculum that we use. I don't base any decision solely on standardized test scores, but simply use them as part of a many faceted view of assessment for my children.
January is also the month I like to get some idea of where I will be going with next year's curriculum. Often the final decision will have to wait a while, but I just start thinking about it in January. This really stems from the practical bargain hunter side of my brain. If I can get an idea of what I might use - I can watch out for deals on these items. I can also purchase them a few at a time - helping to keep intact an already stressed budget. That is good for everyone these days!
On a more personal note January is also the month I like to clean closets, unload uneccessary junk, and just generally declutter my home and my life. I love the "new beginning" feeling it gives me and my home. In recent years with the economic pinch we've all been feeling, I take the victims from the decluttering and sell them on ebay or Craigslist. It is a bit of work , but hey it's money to buy next year's curriculum. Woohoo! Also - lest anyone think I have it all together- I still haven't gotten to most of these items on my January To Do list - but January's not over yet!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Why blog? Hmmm... good question!

I have had several friends ask - "Why in the world would YOU blog?" I know I didn't jump on the bandwagon when blogging got its glorious start. But, I am usually like that anyway - I take my time and make sure that it is something that I want to do - and will be able to do. But still - why would I want to blog - it's not like I don't have 6 reasons running around to occupy my time. Well, really there are plenty of reasons to blog... but to name a few - - I felt it would be a good outlet for writing, a way to minister to people, a way to keep family and friends updated, as well as a way to meet new friends. So far it has been all of those and more. But what really helped me the most on this blog writing trip? I have to say it was the Blog Writing Course that I took this past fall. This consisted of an 8 week course containing all the information needed to get a blog started off on the right foot.  I am not sure what I expected when I began the course but nothing prepared me for what I got! (Although a few of the assignments  required deep thought... that was kinda tricky with all the crazy we have here!) BUT - I was thrilled with the content (there was so much stuff we learned) as well as with what they require you to do. The teacher was great and was so very helpful.  The students interacted with one another - and let me tell you that was so encouraging. Just when I thought for sure my blog was just not working - a fellow student would give me some encouragement or advice. It really was more amazing than I could have imagined.  Just like our teacher"Topsy" says, you may "awaken the blogging beast within and you won't even see it coming."
If you are interested in using those rusty writing skills - or getting a bit more internet savvy - this may be for you. They are starting a new Blog Writing Course 101 in the near future. Why don't you check it out - you just may be suprised at what you walk away with! Still not sure??? Try their free Blog Pre-Course - it takes just a few moments but it will give you a glimpse of what the course will be like.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Well and the Oil...

This post is something that I had studied out and God really brought to life for me over the past few weeks - but I probably won't post again until Monday. I have to take the GACE Early Childhood I and II exam on Saturday.  I don't typically have test anxiety- but I have heard that many people fail it the first time. So, your thoughts and prayers will be greatly appreciated.

I don't know about you all, but I personally have been struggling with many things lately. I know that God is good, He has always been and will always be. Yet, often life is filled with disillusionment and disappointment, and our human hearts are sooooo very........HUMAN. The disapointment will hit and broadside us,or "knock us out" so to speak. Sadly, that is where my heart has been for a few weeks now. But, today God really put it on my heart to write a note to a friend to encourage her. Isn't it just like God to use an act I meant to help someone else - to actually help me?

As I was writing God used the idea of the well and the oil to speak to me. The well I am referring to is the well mentioned in Psalm 84:6. "Who passing through the Valley of Baca make it a well."

A literal rendering of this would be "Passing through the deep or difficult place of weeping, make it a spring." Later it says "the rain also filleth the pools." A. White tells us that on this occasion only the word berakah was translated as "pools" when every other time it is translated "blessing."  White continues by putting these two together, "Happy is the man for whom Baca (pools of weeping) becomes Berakah (blessing)" Literally, for whom weeping becomes blessing. That's is our hope isn't it?

The Valley of Baca is a very different place for each person that travels through it. Yet, the common thread is that it is a hard dry place. A place where digging a well would be a difficult task. Yet, when we are faced with the valley or desert what other option do have? There is no rain and there are often no one else's wells that we can rely on. We must  "make it a well." God has supplied us with all the tools we need for this task; His strength, His WORD, and His Spirit. He has given us the tools, now it is time for us to dig. If you are like me getting started is no easy task - the ground is hard and so digging is a very difficult job. But again, we have no other option - we must "make it a well." So to the task we must commit. Think about it - did He promise His children ease? Is "your best life now" really what the Bible teaches us? II Tim 3:12 says "Yea, and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Why should we have it easier than Jesus did? No, He didn't promise ease or even happiness, but He did promise something even better  - JOY. Joy is peace, rest, and contentment even when things are tough.So, dig the well - and when you reach "the springs of living water" you will have something better than an "easy" road. You will have Him who is the source of all strength and joy. Remember the old song "one look at His dear face all sorrow will erase?" The trouble and trials in the valley will seem so insignificant after one swallow from His spring. So, dig - dig - dig for all you're worth - - dig until you've reached the precious water that quenches your thirst and makes the valley look attainable.
But the oil.... remember the story of the widow and the son who was to be taken and sold to pay their debts?  Elisha told her to borrow every vessel she could get her hands on - and go to her house and close her door. (I can't help but think that - sometimes part of our problem is that we are not where we need to be. Are we able to be alone with our family so that we can receive a miracle from God? Close our doors - have some quiet time...)
She and her sons got alone inside their house, but only after she believed that God was going to work a miracle for her.She believed by borrowing and begging every vessel possible. She did this in faith.Then went in and closed the door. It was then that God's supply was equal to the demand of her belief. The oil flowed until there were no more jars to fill. She then sold the oil to pay her debts and live. Her need was met through her obedience and faith to God's plan for her. Just enough - right on time...
Yes,at times it is God's design to let us go through the dark, dry, and weeping place known as the valley. But we are given the opportunity to make a well. A Well! A well is not like getting a glass of water and being satisfied for a moment - a well is a place to come back to over and over. A place that you can go to the NEXT time you go through the Valley of Baca (yes, I know who wants to go there again - but that is usually part of life!) And get this one... that well can be a place that others can also go to. Wow! You dig the well to make it while you're in the valley and God can use that well (your experiences) to help others as they travel through the same valley. Amazing! So, today if you are in the hard, dry, bitter weeping place of the Valley of Baca- "make it a well." Be encouraged to dig for all you're worth, find the Spring and let Him give you the strength to make it through the valley. And remember the oil - there will be just enough to meet your needs! God is so good!
"It is those who attempt great things for God who obtain great things from Him." Thomas Champness

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Welcome 2010!!

Wow! I have been gone for quite a while! But since the last post. . . we made a crazy dash to prepare for Christmas  - with cookies and wrapping and PACKING! It was really wild for a few days - but we made it and had alot of fun along the way. Here's a little glimpse. . .

I think they ate more than we cooked!!

and how did the "big" girls have time to do this and PACK??

We finally got away to go visit "Nana and Papa" half way across the country for Christmas - in Texas and got snowed in for three days! It was an absolutely beautiful WHITE CHRISTMAS! As a born "Yankee" I grew up with white Christmases almost every year, but since I have lived in the South. . . Well, let's just say - it's been a long time.  So we had lots of fun - with LOTS of snow!!

I still can't believe we had a BLIZZARD in Texas!

The kids love this - they say it's a "little" Christmas tree!

Here's the whole crew - in front of our "itty bitty" snowman!
It was all so fun - and we made so many precious memories.

Your typical disaster zone after opening presents on Christmas morning!

I hope that each of you had a very special blessed holiday season this year, and  I pray that even as the new year has started that God will bless each of you and your families in 2010.