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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blue Springs Field Trip

We take a field trip to Blue Springs every year. The manatees come into the Springs because the spring water is a constant 72 degrees and when it has been cold out, the river temperature falls below that, so the springs are more temperate and the manatees like that. Thanks to a prolonged recent cold snap, the river has stayed cooler, and there are record number of manatees to be seen. Every year we take a picture at the Spring head on a tree stump that sticks through the boardwalk. This year, we had a larger than normal group of friends with us.


We saw two alligators. The water is sooo clear that you can see their whole body in the water.

Here's the sweet face of a really sadly injured manatee.



The manatees like to congregate on the far bank...far away from the tourists, LOL.


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This is going to be fun!

The TOS Crew is being given the chance to review this really cool graphics program called Graphics Toolbox. I had a webinar on how to use it today, and since I learn best visually, and then by applying that knowledge, I made the creation below to play around with the program and to show you guys these cool "Fish Eggs" that TJ and our Godson J got for Christmas (Santa likes to shop at World Market). You make have to click on the image to see it better.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christian Keyboarding Review

Many years ago when I worked at Disney, I spent some time working as a secretary while I was recovering from wrist surgery. Ironically, the position I was filling was open, and I was totally able to do the job and did it quite well, but I could not actually qualify to keep the job I was already doing. Why, you might ask? I couldn't pass the typing test. Now, having worked at the job for months, I knew I typed fine enough to fill the role, but because of the job classification, I had to be able to type twice as fast as I could to actually qualify to keep the job. Crazy, I know. But that was the one time in my life I actually regretted not learning how to type in high school.

My personal typing skills are not the best. I type about 40 words per minute, and I admit I have to look at the keyboard more than I would like. So I was very intrigued at the opportunity to review Christian Keyboarding's two e-books that teach keyboarding skills. Here was the chance for my children to learn what their mother missed out on!

Christian Keyboarding has several keyboarding lessons available, but the two we were asked to look at were Keyboarding for the Christian School
and Keyboarding for the Christian School Elementary Edition.
Essentially, the e-books teach the same skills: how to type using the correct fingers on the correct keys using the home positions and learning where each finger reaches to type the different letters and numbers from that home position. The lessons are presented in a series of short drills using repetition to build muscle memory for where they are located. They start out with typing single letters with different fingers on each hand, and build to typing words and sentences (scripture) and then some of the shorter psalms. The books are different in the additional skills they teach: the upper level one teaches much more MLA layout of different types of letters, papers, envelopes, etc. that the elementary version does not cover.

The Pros: We live in an age where using a computer is a MUST, and good keyboarding skills will serve your students for life. But we also live in a time where wacky abbreviations for words and throwing proper formatting away have become the norm, so if your student HAS those "old fashioned" skills, they will be MILES ahead of their peers. Either level of Keyboarding for the Christian School will give them those skills. The programs are affordable ($15.95 for the upper level and $12.95 for the elementary level-or just $22 collectively). And as a Christian, I like that the sentences and paragraphs the students progress to typing are scripture.

The cons: It's not a flashy program. There are a TON of "fun" typing programs out there that feature popular characters and game-like activities. This is NOT one of those. It's dry and to the point. But it develops critical skills those software programs don't teach, like how maintain typing fluency as you are transferring information from a paper or other resource to the computer. That ability to look up and away from the keyboard and read the resource and transpose what is read into your new document is vital, and a skill that software typing programs do not address. You will need to print the pages of these e-books for them to be usable, so you should allow for that when calculating the cost. Also in the upper level of the book, the black and white MS Word screen shots appear blurry to me in Adobe, but print out just fine.
The bottom line? Typing/keyboarding skills are vitally important. And I like that beyond teaching where the keys are and what fingers to properly use, the books also teach basic commonly used layouts like paragraphs, research papers, how to read and use proofreading marks, and even tables and columns. I'd definitely recommend these books, even if they won't attract your student with flash and flair. Someday, they will thank you.
Keyboarding for the Christian School and Keyboarding for the Christian School Elementary Edition can be purchased HERE, and sample lessons are available for preview there as well. To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.




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Monday, January 25, 2010

iheartfaces Texture Challenge

Can I confess something? I've never used a texture before. And I sometimes feel like the only photographer in the world who uses Corel Paint Shop Pro Ultimate instead of Photoshop. But, I had PSP at my disposal for free, and Photoshop is NOT so free. But that's why I love iheartfaces so much. Their weekly challenges make me stretch myself and learn more about the editing software I have. Hopefully, I did okay with this.

So anyway, back to little RG. She is gorgeous. She always has been. And I LOVE this picture of her. Here mamma does too...it is her blog header, LOL. The textures help to focus the attention on her sweet face and less on the building that was behind them, and yet they add an interest of their own too. It was fun to play around with them :-).

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Two of the cutest...

and to be fair, two of the most obnoxious, creatures God ever created. They get along swimmingly because they understand each other so well. I love them both, but they both can make me CRAZY sometimes!!!
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Kregel Publishing/Bertie's War Review

I love books. I love reading. And I LOVE having a book "assigned" to me by the Crew because then I can justify losing myself in a story even while "Mount Washmore" towers over me! And over the Christmas holidays, I did just that.




Bertie's War by Barbara Tifft Blakey is the story of Bertie, a twelve year old girl living in 1962-a time of uncertainty in our country as Cuba sat with missiles poised at the ready and all of America scrambling to prepare for the seemingly inevitable attack. Bertie too is scrambling, but not just with missiles. Bertie is scrambling to define her place in her family and in the world, both of which are scary to her. In the end, Bertie's war is with herself and the fear that paralyzes her.

The background story of Bertie's War intrigued me since the house my family currently lives in has a 1200 square foot bomb shelter built in response to fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was the first one built in our county. The ceilings are one foot thick concrete with steel "I" beams running through them. The walls are supposed to be 3 feet thick, and the paths leading into it are a series of right angle turns designed to defuse the impact of a missile blast. So you can understand that the Cuban Missile Crisis was a very real danger to many people...especially those living in Florida. And immersing myself in Bertie's world was very insightful, but it wasn't always fun.

The pros: The story is well written, and Bertie's War offers a glimpse into an era of history that not many resources deal with. While Bertie's fear seems a bit over the top to us today, if you lived in my house, you would understand that real, grown people were sure that the sky was imminently going to be filled with enemy missiles that would forever change life as they knew it.

The cons: Honestly, I just didn't care for the book much. It was emotionally exhausting to read. Maybe because I grew up in the home of an alcoholic whose "rules" changed depending on how many beers had been consumed, I related with Bertie's unease with her father a little too well. It made me uncomfortable, and I found myself thinking that I didn't really want my kids to read this book. The real world will rush in to greet them soon enough without me exposing them to an emotional girl who chews her hair and cries incessantly to avoid dealing with her fears. Her mother is flighty and critical. Her father is distant and unkind. Her siblings tease her. Her fears consume her. And through all that, she fails to ever speak about her issues or handle them in a Biblical way. I did love the end when her father finally took her to the woodshed, but I felt it was a total disconnect with the way he was portrayed in the rest of the story, and so I didn't believe it.

The bottom line? I thought the story was well written, and obviously well researched. Barbara Blakey wrote Total Language Plus, and her professionalism is reflected in the quality of this book. I just didn't care for the story, and I don't think I would let my kids read it. Maybe others without my upbringing would feel differently, so I would encourage you to check out the reviews written by my fellow TOS Crew members HERE. I understand Kregel has many other wonderful publications, and I encourage you to check out their website HERE. You can also check out more about Bertie's War there and purchase it for $7.99.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

I have a new computer :-)

I feel spoiled. I (for the first time EVER) have a better computer than my husband. Of course, for all his work with computers, he isn't editing the large picture files I am and that drain on the memory seems to be what was constantly causing me problems. I'm still getting used to the new computer (which yard sales and Snapshots of Grace helped to fund), and I still don't have any of my e-mail addresses or bookmarks/favorites installed, but I am back in business. Hopefully, that means I'll be able to actually blog with some regularity! And share months worth of photos that I haven't shared yet. But for now, I just thought I'd check in :-).
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Computer...gasp...dead..gasp...again

That's right. It's almost comical...almost. I'm declaring today a "no new schoolwork" day since I can't print their math or keyboarding...or well, anything.
If you need me, e-mail my regular e-mail or call.

If you'll excuse me, I have a sledgehammer to find.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Florida Freeze

It has been COLD here. Really, really cold. I know for you northerners, our weather is nothing to speak of, but we have had a string of really cold weather with several nights of hard freeze. We even had sleet one morning (it snowed in some areas, but we just had sleet). It has made national news because of the potential impact on orange and fern prices, but for our kids don't care about that...they just want to see it snow. Here are some pictures of what we woke to the other day.
I don't know how my roses, which obviously were still in bloom, are going to fair...you can see the frozen raindrops on the leaves, and on tiny white speck of sleet.

These icicles got bigger as we watched...that is until I tossed the laundry into the dryer and the hot air from the exhaust melted them.





Icicles on the leaves.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

iheartfaces "Best Face" Challenge


This week's challenge from the folks at iheartfaces is in honor of their first anniversary! The picture is meant to be what you consider your "best face" picture...with a catch. It has to be taken in December '09 or January '10-no searching archives for this one! I've taken LOTS of pictures over the holidays, but this one stood out:
Not only is baby J soooo cute, but he is the world's best baby. And not only is he the world's best baby, but older sister has a terminal genetic disorder, and has spend most of the past year in and out of hospitals for her bone marrow transplant. Through it all, baby J just snuggles and looks cute. I know he's a bright spot of normalcy in the lives of a precious family that has been through more than most people can even imagine. His sister is enamored with him, and so is anyone who looks into those eyes. This was taken on a cold, cold winter day-about 40 damp degrees-very atypical for sunny central FL. His sister is finally able to come out into public, and the family came to a post-church outdoor gathering for some church friends who were visiting from out of town. Cute little J just snuggled in his mamma's sling. The only sign he was cold was the pink tinge to his tiny nose.


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Monday, January 11, 2010

Jean Welles Worship Guitar Class Volume One DVD Review


Even before I saw the movie The Bucket List, I had my own set of things I wanted to learn to do "someday". One of them that has been at the top of my list for a while now is to learn to play guitar. I know, it might sound crazy, but until recently, we have not had any ladies at our church who could play guitar to lead worship at ladies' events. Now we have one, but I still have had a burning desire to learn.

That's why I could not have been more thrilled to receive Jean Welles Worship Guitar Class Volume One DVD. The DVD has 7 lessons, each teaching or reinforcing basic guitar chords and different strumming techniques. Jean Welles has an impressive list of credentials, and all of that is great, but more, much more ,than that is her ability to easily and effectively teach a total beginner like me how to play two chords and a very simple worship song (He's Got The Whole World in His Hands) in the span of about 15 minutes. I'm AMAZED. I'm flabbergasted. I'm HOOKED!!!

The pros: In no time, (obviously with practice on the side) you can sound like a real guitar player. The DVD teaches real worship songs, ones song in my church regularly, not the typical beginner stuff, so you can immediately put your learning to practical use. At $29.95 for the first DVD (which includes a book with the lesson info in print form), it is cheaper than two guitar lessons with a live instructor. And yet, even for someone like me who is very visual and likes to be SHOWN things by real people, this DVD was easy to follow and understand. AND, she even teaches you how to tune your guitar to itself if you don't have an electronic tuner or piano around. Each DVD also includes the lessons in Spanish if that is your native language.

The cons: Minus a live person, if you don't understand something, there is not a person to ask. And there is no one there to correct you if you aren't doing something quite right. But I've made it through five of the 7 lessons so far (the holidays put things on hold for a bit) and I think things have gone pretty well. I'm not ready to play in church or anything, but I am getting the basics down in a really short period of time and at my own leisure.

The bottom line? If you have ever wanted to learn guitar, I'd RUSH to buy these DVDs. There are four total, and while they are individually available for $29.95, if you purchase all four, they are $99.80 and your order includes $40 worth of free instant downloads. That might seem like a lot, but Jean Welles charges $50 for private guitar lessons, and you get 28 lessons on these four DVDs. A local man charges $20 a lesson, and I'm sure it would take 5 lessons to learn what the first TWO lessons on Volume One covers.
If you'd like to try a free lesson, follow this link. To see more information about these DVDs or the other lessons Jean Welles has to offer (there are classes for kids, and piano, and voice, just to name a few), go HERE. To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say (some of them reviewed the kid's version), go HERE.
Legal disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a FREE copy of Jean Welles Worship Guitar Class Volume One DVD to review. That DVD and book were the only compensation I received for this review.



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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

NOT in love with it

but I needed to change my blog from it's Christmas theme, and I've devoted too much time to that already today, so this will have to do for now :-)
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Friday, January 1, 2010

ACK!

My computer is dead...again. At least this time it was my husband's fault and not mine. Sadly, he's sick, so I'm not sure when he will feel well enough to get me up and running again. I can't access any of my own pictures, so I thought I'd share these that my friend Bonnie took (I can't photograph MYSELF, nor do I have a studio, so she was kind enough to get some shots for me). Now, I have a new profile shot for this blog and for Snapshots of Grace :-).






















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