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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Our Flat Stanley

Probably two years ago, I asked my brother if he would take "Flat Stanley" on a trip with him (he travels for business). Flat Stanley has never returned, and honestly we don't want him back. He gets to take the COOLEST adventures, and then he writes his OWN blog posts about them. I just have to share because my brother does an amazing job on this blog, and I know a ton of people out there in the homeschool would will enjoy reading about Stanley's adventures too!
Here's the blog address:

Go check it out!
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FamilyMint Review

Sometimes education gets so focused on the 3 R's...and all the other things there are to learn...that life skills like money management are totally neglected. That's where FamilyMint comes in.

FamilyMint is an online FREE financial tracking system designed to teach kids how to be smart with their finances. Here are some of the highlights (direct from FamilyMint's website):
•Kids log in themselves and manage their own money within FamilyMint. From deposits, withdraws, and transfers, to working towards goals they can create themselves, FamilyMint is meant to be a place for children to learn by doing.
•To you and your kids, this is REAL MONEY in FamilyMint. They manage, you approve. Every dollar in the bank is a real dollar that you owe your kids. You are a real bank to them.
•In essence, when they hand you cash (i.e. when they make a “Deposit”), they are giving you a loan and you are in debt to them and need to pay back that debt when they ask for it (just like your bank would for you).
•To anyone outside your family, this is virtual money. Nobody can hack in and steal anything because FamilyMint is just a tracking system.
•FamilyMint is… a mixture between a personal money management tool (such as Quicken) and an online bank. There is a period of time that things can be changed, and after that they are firm (like an online bank). You can always see a complete history of what changed.

The Pros:
You can set up as many users as you need, and as a parent, you can view all your children's accounts from one screen or click on each one for more information. Kids can set goals to save toward, and through the new Savings Plan feature, kids can even use a virtual form of the "envelope system" to take their monthly income and compartmentalize it into their different spending/savings goals. Also, the program reinforces a lot of the money management advice from respected authorities like Dave Ramsey, and the blog has great idea about how to use their product to implement those ideas. And the program is FREE, so how can you go wrong?
The cons: We are not wealthy, and my kids don't get an allowance, nor do they have relatives giving them money, so for us, they have nothing to learn to manage.
The Bottom Line: It never occurred to me to set up their accounts with "virtual" money (not the way it's meant to be used, but could still work) and allow them to spend that "money" on goals around the house, like wii time, etc. I may investigate doing that, because I do think the program is easy to use, and really teaches kids how to save up for something and how to take the finite amount of money they have and make it stretch to meet their wants and needs. Since the program is FREE, you can't go wrong checking it out.
To see FamilyMint for yourself, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.
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TOS Homeschool EXPO

Don't miss out-today is the last day for the early bird discounted rate. Seriously, the free downloads are amazing, and TOTALLY worth it, even if you never check out the Expo itself, but the Expo has SO MANY amazing speakers, you are sure to want to take part in the whole thing. Below is the info again!

If you're looking for homeschool encouragement, resources, and fun, check out all that is going on at The Old Schoolhouse!

Right now March Madness and Win Big are going on in the Schoolhouse Store. During March Madness, over 240 items are 10 to 40 percent off!
Click here to read the details.

Then, if you're customer 139,000, 139,500, or 140,000, you will win over $348 in prizes. Prizes include a 5 year subscription to TOS (U.S.
only), Scripture Sleuth literature series, guitar lessons on CD, and more! Hurry, they are just past customer #137,818.

The BIGGEST news of all--The Schoolhouse Expo is coming in May!
Pre-register now and save $5!

As homeschool teachers, what do you need to learn? More about teaching multiple grades? All about different homeschool methods? Transcripts?
Could you use some help with reading, language arts, math, and more?
Are you intimidated by the idea of teaching middle school and high school?those dreaded, advanced courses? Would some encouraging words and motivational Scripture help you on your way? Get answers when you attend The Schoolhouse Expo, an 3-day, online conference, presented by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse® Speaker's Bureau.

Pre-register today for only $19.99 through March 31.You do not want to miss this unbelievable, virtual homeschool convention! PLUS, you'll receive over $300 in free gifts when you register.
Get the details and preregister here.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We must have an invisible target...

on our foreheads that says, "Steal from us". Scott's ripstick (actually it's a Wave) was stolen today at the park. That makes his bike and ripstick both stolen in the past 2 weeks.

Thankfully, our local landfill has a program where they collect discarded bikes and make them available free to residents. Yesterday after my failed trip to the DMV (who knew you needed you MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE almost 18 years later to prove you are who the state already currently acknowledges you are on your current license???), we went to the landfill next door and Scott picked out a new-to-him bike.

Sadly, there is NOT a similar program for Ripsticks...
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Random Update

Yesterday was my birthday. I made a pathetic comment on Facebook that no one had wished me a happy birthday and suddenly everyone I knew was chiming in...oh the power of the internet! And today, a member of UIP even brought me a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. YUM! I'll have a birthday everyday for chocolate ;-).

Yesterday we signed TJ up for Upward Soccer. He is SO good at soccer, and he has not had the chance to play on a team for almost 2 years. He's excited, and so am I. Ironically, his older sister also decided she wanted to play. She knows full well that she may not know anyone on her team, but she still wants to play. I think we will be eating beans and rice for the next few months but how do you allow one to play and tell the other no when they both are expressing a desire to play? Wishing that money tree in the backyard would grow quicker, LOL.

Our garden is really growing. I think we will have fresh veggies within a month. We have to build one more box to accommodate all our budding plants, but hopefully we'll get that done this weekend. We have potato growing quite unintentionally. They are growing in my worm composter, and we need to transplant them somewhere too.

Our old neighbor is having a baby in the morning. It's a scheduled c-section. They have a 11 year old daughter and are having another little girl. My girls are SOOO excited for them. I'm planning on going over there to take pictures sometime in the next week. I've learned some great tips from some instructional DVD's I got, and I can't wait to try them.

The orange blossoms are blooming. That's my number one allergen. And Matt and Susan's baby is the first of 3 newborns that I am meant to be photographing in the next 2-3 weeks. What are the chances the moms are going to be okay with my shooting photos of their newborns in between blowing my nose and sneezing...I'm guessing slim to none.

The fence people are coming to give us an estimate on Friday. That project is funded from our refinance over a year ago, but it seems weird to not have the money to fix our broken ice maker or to go to the chiropractor for my neck/shoulder problem, but have the finances for a fence...but that's how it works. I'm VERY excited. Our questionably legal chicks arrive in a little over 2 weeks, and the fence in critical to hiding them from prying eyes.

Speaking of prying eyes...we have new neighbors behind us. They don't seem the prying type at all. In fact, they are very nice, and they have two little girls-one Sari's age. Sari however is consumed with being shy around this little girl. I have a feeling they will be fast friends before too long, but it's interesting to watch the shy beginning right now.

The house next to us has been inspected and had a property survey, but still no actually sign of purchase. It seems like someone should have been moving in by now...

I think Spring Break starts tomorrow for our homeschool...I have a house that is in shambles, and I need the mental break from schoolwork to get it in order. I do want the kids to do some Easter lapbook/Unit study things first though...and maybe a art project or two.

Again, I have given you a terribly boring update, but at least it's something, LOL.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

iheartfaces "Dramatic B&W" Challenge

I used to LOVE shooting in B&W...back when I shot on film and you actually had to CHOSE to shoot B&W. It has a skill set all its own really, and it was even better once I learned how to hand tint photos. But in the new digital age, any photo can be made B&W, but that doesn't mean every photo makes a good B&W picture. This challenge really forced me to cull my photos for what really worked as a B&W shot, and it also challenged me that I need to shoot intentionally B&W more often because I LOVE it.

I love this picture because Mad has the most dramatic eyes. She is gorgeous-the spitting image of her mum-and she goes from "girl-next-door" to "cover model" in the blink of an eye (or really the difference between her smiling vs. serious looks). Equally stunning in color, this photo harkens back to ones I took in my film days. I used PSPP 3's time machine option to age it back to a daguerreotype photo which frames it nicely I think.

Click on the iheartfaces camera above to check out the other entries in this Challenge.

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And whose idea was this?

So someone (the hubs) decided it would be a good idea to burn EACH child their own CD of worship music. That someone doesn't live in an environment of noise every waking moment of his life, nor does he have the noise related sensory issues I have, so he thought that would be a great idea. And then to add insult to injury, he allowed THEM to pick the music they wanted, and Phil Wickham was part of the selection. So now, on my birthday, I am listening to a cacophony all around me capped off by Phil's dulcet tones that rival nails on a chalk board.
That's grounds for divorce right there.
Or at least a night in the dog house.
Or maybe I'LL sleep in the doghouse-it's sure to be quieter there!
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seasons of Faith Books Review

Seasons of Faith is a new four book series by CBH Ministries, better known to many people as Children's Bible Hour. The four books are adaptations of radio scripts, and the stories chosen reflect different stages, or seasons, in a Christian's faith. CBH's website explains it this way:
The Seasons of Faith illustrated books encourage children to learn about their
faith in God. Spring: This is a time when people experience new life in Christ.
Faith develops and Christians begin to share the Salvation message with others.
Summer: The season when faith grows under God’s love and care. Fruit is
witnessed and triumphs are gained through applying His Word and striving to be
the best we can be in Christ.
Autumn: Times of struggle and temptation, peer pressure, making mistakes, and scary transitions happen during this season. Even though it might seem like nothing good can come from this time, God has promised us He will be there. He will teach us how to forgive and then grow in grace.
Winter: This season is the most difficult. Deep struggles, mourning, trying to
make it through difficult times, or the death of a loved one can pull us away
from God. He teaches us to lean on Him for comfort and peace.

As part of the TOS Crew, we received all four books to review. Each is soft cover, with full color illustrations and each is available for $10, which includes the book and a "listen along" CD complete with the little chime to tell you when to turn the page (although it is subtle enough that it does not interfere with listening to the story if you aren't reading along). The CD's are narrated by Uncle Charlie (apparently a CBH long time character) and he does a great job of making them interesting to listen.

Race with Midnight is the "spring" book. Here is the plot summary: "Becky spends spring break on her cousin Sarah's horse farm in Montana. Taking horse rides amidst the beautiful mountains and valleys, Becky tries to share her faith with Sarah as she talks about God's creation. Will Sarah listen? "

You Can't Come In is the "summer" book. In it, "Adam and his new friend Zack decide to build a tree fort one warm summer day. After zooming down a hill and falling into a muddy pond, Zack asks Adam about going to church and salvation. Will Adam be able to explain his faith to Zack?"

Seventy Times Seven is the "fall" . It deals with forgiveness, and "When Brad accidentally breaks the ice cream shop’s sign, the owner forgives Brad. But when his best friend Doug ruins Brad’s favorite baseball cap, will he be able to forgive Doug?"

Braving the Storm is the "winter" book. "When Thomás moves away from his neighborhood and into a mobile home in his grandparents’ backyard, he misses his friends. There’s nothing to do around the apple orchard with no friends, his dad works a lot, and his little brother was hurt in an accident. All his sister wants to do is play with her dolls. Will Thomás be able to rely on God to get through the difficult times? "

The pros: Although it is a tad cliche, the books represent a broad spectrum of ethnicity in their characters. I appreciated that, since ALL the people of the world are God's children. Beyond having the story and illustrations in book form, my kids and I really appreciated the CD. Uncle Charlie was very easy to listen to, and we enjoyed the CDs very much. The books are all deeply Christian in their content, and each of them spells out the "ABCs (Admit, Believe, Choose)" on the last page.

The cons: This review is a personal struggle for me, because I hate to not totally LOVE something that is Christian and that so clearly has a heart for spreading the gospel. But I am not in love with this series. Most of my hang-ups are with the first two books. To start with my pettiest of issues, the books are illustrated by 2 different people, and I don't care for the illustrations in the first two books nearly as much as those of the second illustrator who does the third and fourth books. But leaving pettiness aside, my issue with the first two books is that they are not engaging stories at all, but really just a method to convey the salvation message. I guess maybe I should appreciate that, but I don't. I want books to be good reads, and so do my kids, and so will kid who haven't heard the gospel before. That's the whole point of a book-to tell a story. I think the first two books focus too heavily on evangelism at the expense of writing a book that is actually interesting to read. And my even bigger issue is that that evangelism in the story is left to a child to do. It is a heavy burden to bear to expect a child to lead a person, or a whole family, to Christ, and it burdens the child who reads it too by implying THEY should be doing that as well. Personally, I don't think we see a Biblical example of Jesus relying on children to bring adults or even other children to a saving faith, and I think the reason for that is that there is more to evangelism than just conveying the gospel. New believers must be "plugged in" where they can get fed and grow, and children are not capable of that level of follow up. I don't want to at all put God in a box, or imply that He CAN'T work through children, but I don't see that as the Biblical model. And I am disturbed that CBH's mission includes this statement: We honor and respect the family unit. Therefore, whenever feasible, we will partner with parents to aid in the evangelization and discipleship of their children. At the same time, where appropriate, we will also partner with young people in spreading the Gospel to other young people who need to hear. (emphasis mine)

Again, I believe the targeting of children to evangelise to other children is not sound doctrine since it fails to account for the guidance of those new believers to a meaningful relationship with Jesus. Too many "Christians" came to faith as a child, and that was as far as they ever got. There is so much more to a true relationship with Jesus, and so much more to a real saving faith.

The Bottom Line: These books are available individually, and I very much enjoyed the second two, "Seventy Times Seven" and "Braving the Storm". They transcend the heavy salvation message, and offer sound counsel about how Christians should act and react to our daily circumstances. I would recommend checking them out. The first two books I have too many reservations about to be able to recommend them.

To check out Seasons of Faith Books, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE. I would definitely recommend checking out what my Crewmates have to say, since I am sure not all of them share my reservations.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received all four books for the purpose of giving my honest review. These books are the only compensation I received.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

History Odyssey by Pandia Press Review

Anyone who knew me in college knew that I was a total history buff. I have a B.S. in Social Science Education (I can teach middle and high school history, geography, religion, etc.) with a minor in History. Yep, total history geek, with the degree to prove it. So because history is my thing, I was excited to get History Odyssey to review, even though I had never heard of it before.

History Odyssey is written and published by Pandia Press, a company located right here in Central Florida. It is based on the Classical Education model, which traditionally covers history in 4 year cycles (History Odyssey calls them Ancients, Middle Ages, Early Modern, and Modern Times). History Odyssey offers three different levels specific to the different classically defined learning levels. The level one books generally cover first through fourth grade. All four time periods are available in level one, although the Modern Times book really covers grades 3-6 as it is a bridge between level one and two. Level two books also cover all four time periods, although Ancients and Middle Ages cover grades 5 and up, while Early Modern is 6th and up, and Modern Times is 7th and up. Level three currently only have Ancients and Middle Ages and is for grades 9 and up. The "books" are really study guides that make use of a "spine" history resource and supplemental quality literature that is appropriate to the time period being studied. The study guides lay out daily lesson plans that tell what to read from the "spine" resource, what activities to do, and what other reading to do that ties in with your studies. Each guide, as far as I can tell, contains a different number of actual lessons, but all are well short of being daily, allowing you to cover history 2-3 days a week and still complete your level in a year. Or do it daily and cover more than one time period in one school year's time.

My family received Early Modern Level Two, and so the rest of this review will speak directly to Level Two, since each level uses different "spines" to teach from. A "spine" is the basic text that a curriculum like this, which is a study guide and not a text itself, uses to provide the framework for the rest of the learning. Level Two uses two spines-The Story of Mankind by Van Loon and The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. I was able to borrow the Kingfisher book from a friend, and The Story of Mankind from the library, but if you were to use this curriculum, you'd definitely want to own these books. Level Two is meant to be student directed learning. The guide is written for them to be able to read and do the work without much, if any, teacher involvement. Beyond learning history by reading the spines and supplemental books, there is a heavy focus on outlining to summarize what is learned, and the curriculum also focuses on keeping information sheets about the people and events studied, filling in details on maps, tracking people and events on time lines, and writing essays.

The pros: This curriculum, in my opinion, could very easily be used well into high school, giving you a lot of bang for the buck over the years. It is also notable in the fact that it endeavors to cover ALL of the world history during that time period instead of the more typical "teaching in a vacuum" approach of studying one area of the world at a time, which makes it hard to see all the interconnected influences on event in history. The timeline, map work, and information sheets all help that global approach too. The curriculum allows for flexibility in the schedule, since there are not 180 days worth of lessons. And yet it's not a light weight at all, and actually is above grade level, at least for the younger ends of the grade brackets.

The cons: This is NOT a Christian curriculum (most Classical curriculums aren't). Even the company name is the name of a Greek goddess. And the spines are HEAVILY not Christian. The Story of Mankind devotes the first three chapters to the evolution of man...literally the EVOLUTION of man-like single cell organism climbs out of the muck type evolution. I can NOT in good conscience give my children a book to draw all their primary learning from and present it as truth when it so blatantly is NOT. Even though the time period that is covered in Early Modern does not make use of those early chapters, it would be hypocritical of me to expect my children to embrace the latter chapters as truth when I want them to know the earlier ones are pure fiction. And I feel the anti-Christian sentiment continues through the book. The chapter about Jesus is entitled, "Joshua of Nazareth: The Story of Joshua of Nazareth, Whom the Greeks called Jesus" where as three chapters later, the chapter on Mohammed is entitled, "Mohammed: Ahmed, the Camel Driver, Who Became the Prophet of the Arabian Desert, and Whose Followers Almost Conquered the Entire Known World for the Greater Glory of Allah, the Only True God." Really. I can't make this stuff up. Kingfisher too is not Christian in its worldview, but to me is less offensive since it skips the subjective commentary. But if the secular worldview weren't enough of an issue for me, I also think the SOM book is tedious to read and that Early Modern begins in an awkward place historically (probably fine if you are continuing on from Middle Ages, but quite difficult to just jump in there as a starting point). I think it might be fine for upper levels, but it was definitely too detail oriented for my 7th grader.

The Bottom Line: It's probably obvious that as a conservative Christian, I don't feel I can recommend this curriculum personally. But if you aren't hung up on a Christian Worldview, and you want a very thorough history curriculum that is definitely high school credit worthy, this would be worth checking History Odyssey out. It contains some of the best practices I learned in my years of studying history, and it definitely contains practices, like outlining, that will serve your students well in the future. And perhaps one of the best features is that you can try-it-before-you-buy-it HERE, so that you can actually use the curriculum for a few weeks to see if it is right for you. If there is one thing I've learned in my homeschooling years, it is that just because it isn't right for US, doesn't mean it isn't right for tons of other homeschooling families.

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say go HERE. And this is one time when you definitely should check out what my teammates had to say. I think almost everyone else got different levels/time periods OR they got a Science curriculum also by Pandia that everyone whose reviews I have read has LOVED. History Odyssey is available HERE, and the cost varies by level and time period, but they are $28.99-$34.99 per e-book. They are also available as printed books from various vendors, a list of which is available from Pandia's website.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a print copy of Early Modern Level Two for the purpose of giving my honest review. That book was the only compensation I received.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Homeschool in the Woods Olde World Style Maps Review

I'm sure all homeschoolers have companies whose products they love. For me, Homeschool in the Woods is one of those companies. I was first introduced to them through their hand drawn timeline figures (I own the CD-I love them so much). Then they branched out into Time Travelers History Studies and Hands-On History Activity Paks (I reviewed those last year-LOVE IT!). And now? Now they have introduced a line of Olde World Style Maps.

The maps are available in two separate sets -World Maps and United States Maps. As you can see above, both include well over 100 different maps ) available with choices such as labelled, unlabelled, outline, or detailed. AND, both include bonus notebooking pages to offer a way to easily record what the students have learned about the places they study.
Here are some sample State Maps:

And here are some of the Modern and Ancient World Maps:

And here's an idea of what the Notebooking pages look like:

The pros: I LOVE Homeschool in the Woods. Their hand drawn images are charming and professional at the same time. These maps are very reminiscent of what real Olde World maps look like, and yet, unlike their historical counterparts, they are accurate and easy to use.

The cons: There is nothing about these maps that I am not fond of, but since everyone out there knows that I am a spendthrift, I do wish they were a tad less expensive, although they certainly are not more than the better map outline books out there that homeschoolers currently turn to.

The bottom line: These maps are gorgeous, and their homeschool uses are endless. I like that I can print them off as I need them, and that it is on my computer, not hidden on a bookshelf where I would forget about it. For either set, the cost is $18.95 to download, or $19.95 plus shipping for the CD. The much better deal, which I would suggest, is to get the two sets combined for $28.95 downloaded or $29.95 on CD.

To view more information about the maps, and to download full size samples, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received both sets of maps for free so that I could review them. These downloads were the only compensation I received for my review.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010


TJ came home from Precept with a piece of paper with the above letters written on it about two weeks ago. The paper was just a slip torn from a larger piece, and somehow it got lost in the car until last night. I knew the letters meant something, but they reminded me of our trip to Wales.

We participated in a church exchange program when Scott had just turned 2 (and I was 6 months pregnant with Mimi). The year before, a group from Wales had come over to stay with people from our church, and then that summer it was our turn to go visit them. The native language in Wales is Welsh (shocking, I know) and Welsh is a VERY interesting language. The more I study Biblical Greek, the more it reminds me of Welsh. Both are pictorial/descriptive languages, in that the word denotes an entire concept/picture and frequently require phrases and not words to translate them correctly into English.

So it's not surprising that Wales is the home of the city with the longest name in the Europe. It is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
and means " St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of the church of St Tysilo near the Red Cave." Locals call it LlanFair PG or simply "the Go Go". At 19 syllables long, it's understandable you'd want to have a nickname, LOL. For the record, because I'm nerdy that way, I learned to pronounce the full name. How else do you pass your time on a bus tour when you are 6 months pregnant stuck on a bus with no air conditioning, and just one pothole away from tossing your cookies?

So back to TJ's paper...It stands for "Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet." Wow! Now there is something actually worthy of being committed to memory. And not just as it relates to parents and children. That's actually sage advice for all of us. I know I wish everyone I encountered remembered that I am a work in progress, and I know that I need to remember that about OTHERS too.

Apparently, I need to be reminded about that A LOT, as God has smacked me with that truth twice more over the past few days. I always say that empathy is NOT one of my spiritual gifts, but amazingly remembering that we are all works in progress is helping me to be more empathetic...or at least forgiving.

I found out today that some of my actions hurt, or at least irritated and upset, people when that was not my intention AT ALL. In fact the total opposite was true. It's like the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished. And when I am taken to task for being me, especially when I'm being the genuine, honest, open me, it makes me want to retreat into my shell and stop putting myself into the position where I can be hurt. It's safer emotionally to not extend yourself at all than to extend yourself and get hurt in the process. But the truth of PBPGINFWMY has really helped me get through today. (Well, that and a two hour nap to overcome my emotional exhaustion.) I have to trust that God knows what the intentions of my heart were, and that they were pure. And instead of getting mad at people for misjudging my intentions, and misjudging ME because of them, I have to remember that they too are works in progress, just like me. We are ALL sinners who fall short of the glory of God, and we are all fallen. None of us are perfected in our faith yet, and we will ALL disappoint others or misjudge others or get mad at others or be hurt by others. The best we can do is be patient with others and pray that they are patient with us while God is working out our perfection. AND, I need to remember that GOD is the judge of my actions-and if those actions are pure what other people think of me really shouldn't matter. I was reminded of that just a few weeks ago as I began my Precept study on Isaiah. In Isaiah 2:22, God commands us, "Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?" In essence, God reminds us that man is temporal. We will all cease to exist someday...even the greatest of men (as regarded by other men). We all awake each morning only because the Lord sustains us. GOD is eternal. And, He is judge. We will all stand before Him some day for judgement, so why is it so easy for us to dismiss Him and why do we seek to curry the favor of men over the favor of our Creator? If my God is for me, who can be against me? And He loves me enough to die for me, so I am going to work on regarding Him over man, and on being patient with the other people He brings into my life, whether for a moment, a season, or a lifetime, because He's not finished with them yet either...
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random Thoughts for the week

So, God hasn't shown up to tell us to build an ark, but He did deliver more animals. For months we've had a fearless Raccoon eating our catfood at about 5-6PM every day. Well, last night I found out that that Raccoon is a girl. How do I know? Because she had two babies in tow. No wonder we've been going through cat food so quickly.

We were robbed AND vandalized in the past week. Really. The boys bikes were stolen from our front driveway right up next to the house. And yes, you could argue (and we did) that the bikes should have been in the BACK, but we have also had three bikes stolen from the back in the past, so that's not a guarantee either.

The vandalizing appears to be someone practicing their sling shot skills. They put a hole in one of the screens in Tyler's room...oh, and after the hole in the screen, the rock also made an even bigger hole in the WINDOW. Lovely. We live in a old house, they don't make windows like this anymore, and now we have a HUGE hole in on of the panes. It's a shame that what kids view as harmless fun can be so costly. Scott's theory is that they shot out the window BEFORE stealing the bikes...kind of as a way to see if anyone was home/awake. I don't know, but it is suspicious that it happened int eh same week.

I cooked a turkey last week using Sonya's recommendation. You put it in the cold oven, turn it on to 500, and once it reaches 500, you cook it for an hour and then turn the oven off and leave the oven closed with the turkey inside for the next 4-6 hours. Oh, and you need to add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pan the turkey is in, and it needs to have a lid, although I used foil. It worked great, and is a nice alternative for busy families who aren't home all day to be sure they can take the bird out of the oven when it is done cooking.

I also made some YUM-OLA mac and cheese yesterday. Homemade is just SO much better than the box.

Does ANYONE out there really care if/when/where Tiger will play again? I don't.

The hubs was channel surfing the other night and landed on a show on the comedy channel that has left me scared for life. I can't even explain what they were doing here without making this blog rated R, but my local friends should ask because then they can share my burden of the image I can never forget. All people may be created in God's image, but some of them obviously got NONE of His intelligence.

It's good not to have the puking plague anymore. But catching up on the laundry, school, and housework may take weeks.

I'm sorry, I'm too tired to be funny tonight. This time change thing is SERIOUSLY overrated!!!

Cats don't play piano well. Just sayin'.

They are also nocturnal...ask me how I know, and how it relates to my tiredness, LOL.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Sari's Birthday Project

I have to say, Graphics-Toolbox is one COOL program. You really should check out the free month trial. Above is my humble attempt at a scrapbook page of our day at Disney.
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Homeschool Library Builder Review Revisited

Below is my review from last year for HLB. I still stand by everything I said. My experience was that they have good prices and quick service. I would definitely encourage homeschoolers and book lovers alike to check them out!

I must confess. Before this review, I had never heard of Homeschool Library Builder. It's funny to think that 25 years ago, homeschooling was rarely seen, and resources were hard to come by. Now, it seems that new resources appear daily to help homeschooling moms in their pursuit to school their children.
Homeschool Library Builder is a website/internet store that is run by two homeschooling moms whose goal is to help you fill your bookshelf without emptying your wallet. What's not to love about that? I have to admit, I LOVE books. I love to read. I love to be taken to far away places or times since past...or maybe even times still to come. And I want my children to love books too. But good books. WAY better books than some of the ones I read when I was their age. I read anything and everything, but my parents had never heard of "living books" or had any sort of tug toward the idea that maybe what I should be reading was QUALITY literature. As I strive to create a different, more wholesome, learning environment for my children, I grow more and more appreciative or places like Homeschool Library Builder that carry not only newer released books, but many older, and even out of print books. The owners themselves have this to say:
Our books are excellent choices for anyone, regardless of age or chosen educational path. Our desire and delight is to assist you by offering selections
to enrich your child’s education, from preschool through high school, and
beyond. In addition to books recommended by highly-respected and widely used
homeschool curriculums, we offer titles specifically chosen to supplement unit
studies, promote sound moral character, and provide knowledge of truths for
curious youngsters. We want to help you build your own excellent library and
create memorable reading experiences for your family!

For those of you who use a "book intensive" curriculum like Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Five in a Row, Ambleside, Beautiful Feet, or Veritas Press, you will find that they even have many of your supplemental books there, all organized so you can search by curriculum.
With books covering a range of topics from activities/crafts to biographies, and from science to poetry/art/music, there are tons of books for every possible area of study. And all at great prices. Plus, their condition is noted, since not all the books are new, so you know what you are getting for the price. Again, here's what the owners have to say:

We stock new and used, hardcover and softcover titles. Most of our new titles
are publisher’s remainders and overstocks. Our used books are rated by condition
and priced accordingly. Most of our used titles are in very good or better
condition. Additionally, we are always on the lookout for hard-to-find or
out-of-print titles.

Homeschool Library Builder also has a FREE membership program, allowing you to earn points for every dollar you spend. 15 points gives you $1 credit toward purchases, so it's like getting paid back to read books. How cool is that? (Oh, and there's a referral program, so if you go there and if you buy something, could you put my name-Amy Anthony-as the one who referred you?)
So what's the bottom line?
I think Homeschool Library Builder has some great books are really great prices. I love that they have books specific to certain curriculums, and I especially love the chance to earn points toward free books. Their shipping is modest, and with the price of gas as high as it is, it could easily be worth it to shop online and pay the shipping rather than driving all over looking for one book in particular. That's what I did. I got 5 books from HLB for $12 and change-and that included the shipping. They ran the spectrum from a Cam Jansen book for Mimi to a book about Thanksgiving with firsthand accounts from some of the pilgrims. And they arrived 5 days after I ordered them! I think HLB could get addicting!

To check out Homeschool Library Builder and all the cool book they have, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: There is none! This site is free for everyone, and I received no compensation to review it.
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Pukes, Poops, and Aloe Juice

Disgusting, I know, but the title is catchy at least, LOL.

SO over the past few weeks EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE we know has had the puking plague. Even people who don't usually get sick.

But I though my family...the puking plague kings...seemed to somehow blissfully avoid it all.


Shows what I know.

Our visitation of this nasty bug waited until everyone else we know was well so we could wallow alone in our misery.

And on my husband's birthday no less.

Sari got sick Wednesday night starting at about 12:20 and puking every 20 minutes until about 5:30 when she blissfully got a few hours sleep. Me? Not so much. Hard to sleep on a couch with a sick child whose every movement has you jumping for the bucket.

Knowing Thursday would be ugly with one seriously sick kid and one seriously sleep deprived mamma (who tummy was pretty rumble-y by that point), I went to the Red Box, checked out Planet 51 and Where the Wild Things Are and pretty much told the other kids as long as it did not involve bugging me or their sick sister, they had free reign.

That was prophecy from God right there, because I went down for the count within the hour. Luckily I did not get the throw up end of it, because I'd rather meet my Maker now than throw up every again, but I was NOT WELL.

Sari was doing better by last night, and I thought she was on the mend, and then she woke up at 4:30 this morning and puked again. And she had not eaten anything. This is a wicked little bug!

Scott woke this morning with poops, and my hypochondriac Mimi proclaimed herself sick too. She moped around and generally did her best to act sick...and then would ask if she could have some strawberries dipped in sugar. Not a very convincing patient. Later, while I was on the phone, she came in proclaiming she had thrown up and offering me evidence which I declined to view. When she asked me for some soup 10 minutes after that, I told her sick (barfing) kids don't eat soup, and she fessed up that she filled the bucket with some water and a little yogurt (for opacity) and pretended to throw up because, "I just wanted a day to lie around and do nothing". As if, with a sick mamma, that wasn't what was on the docket anyway. Oiy! That one will be the death of me.

So now, where does the Aloe Juice come in? Well, about half a year ago, I started using Nature's Sunshine products (I am a "member" or "Distributor" or whatever they call it) to address many of my health issues. I have LOVED the Chlorophyll, and some of the other herbal supplements I take, and I've seen some success from them, particularly with the Chlorophyll and a reduction in my allergies. So, a few weeks ago they had a special in the Aloe Juice that my friend swears by for gut issues. Having IBS and a ton of gut related problems, I ordered some.


I hadn't brought myself to try it yet.

See, I've never consumed Aloe before. Rubbed in on my skin, yes. Drank it, NO. And then there was the description of it being "refreshing" that I found a bit ambiguous and kind of scary. Refreshing HOW exactly?

But when you are on death's door step, you'll try almost anything.

SO, I poured my self 2oz. of Aloe and purposed to drink it.

I know now why they call it "refreshing".

It's a tad weird. Hard to describe. It smells like baby wipes, and I had a real mental battle to drink something that smells like baby wipes. But I was desperate. So I chugged it. It has a strange effervescence. Almost like it's carbonated, but it's not. It just makes all the cells in your mouth puker so you feel like it is. But it's palatable.


I felt better within 30 minutes. My stomach no longer contorted in PAIN. It was crazy, but I'll do crazy if it means I feel better.

Today, I snuck it into Scott's cup with a little gatorade, and he drank it we'll see how he does.

From now on though, if we get the pukes and poops, we are DEFINITELY going to be drinking Aloe Juice.
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Happy Birthday to the Hubs!

Today is my husband's birthday. I had grandeous plans for celebrating it...and then the puking plague hit our house. I think he got the best present today...he gets to LEAVE, LOL. I, on the other hand, am stuck here and let's just say it isn't pretty largely because I'm sick too :-).

So, with much less ado that I had planned, happy birthday to the man of a thousand silly faces!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just call me the world's worst mom

Monday was Sari's 5th birthday and I didn't so much as blog a sentence about it. I had started making a really cool Graphics-Toolbox scrapbook page to post, but then a new, and very needy, homeschool mom called me Monday morning, and I didn't get it done. After that, we went to Disney for the afternoon and night, and then yesterday was Precept and the park and United in Praise, and here we are on Wednesday night and I STILL haven't finished it!

So, here is my lame-o attempt to make up for that:

Sari, you are the BESTEST little girl a mother could want. You are my "B" and my princess and I love you.
I love the way you can't say your "l" and say an "n" instead. I imagine by this time next year, that will be a distant memory. I love that you can't do some of your consonant blends, so you ask me for a "poon" instead of "spoon"...I'll miss that someday too. I love that you can play in your room for hours by yourself making all your little toys act and talk to each other. I love that when you fall asleep you always tell me you are just going to take a "nittle nap". I love that you love to be read to, and always ask for just "one more" story. I love you to pieces...right up to the moon and back.

your mamma
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

iheartfaces Challenge-Jump for Joy

This is definitely NOT the best photo from a professional standpoint, but it is straight-out-of-camera, and it makes me laugh. When I saw the theme, THIS photo came to mind first. My son TJ is a NUT. Really into physical comedy. In this series of pictures, I was trying to take pictures of my brother and my youngest daughter dancing together...but my cute and crazy small boy kept jumping across the camera.

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Big Stuff at The Old Schoolhouse!

If you're looking for homeschool encouragement, resources, and fun, check out all that is going on at The Old Schoolhouse!

Right now March Madness and Win Big are going on in the Schoolhouse Store. During March Madness, over 240 items are 10 to 40 percent off!
Click here to read the details.

Then, if you're customer 139,000, 139,500, or 140,000, you will win over $348 in prizes. Prizes include a 5 year subscription to TOS (U.S.
only), Scripture Sleuth literature series, guitar lessons on CD, and more! Hurry, they are just past customer #137,818.

The BIGGEST news of all--The Schoolhouse Expo is coming in May!
Pre-register now and save $5!

As homeschool teachers, what do you need to learn? More about teaching multiple grades? All about different homeschool methods? Transcripts?
Could you use some help with reading, language arts, math, and more?
Are you intimidated by the idea of teaching middle school and high school?those dreaded, advanced courses? Would some encouraging words and motivational Scripture help you on your way? Get answers when you attend The Schoolhouse Expo, an 3-day, online conference, presented by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse® Speaker's Bureau.

Pre-register today for only $19.99 through March 31.You do not want to miss this unbelievable, virtual homeschool convention! PLUS, you'll receive over $300 in free gifts when you register.
Get the details and preregister here.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Graphics-Toolbox Review

Anyone who knows me knows that technology seems to malfunction when I walk into the room. And any sort of advanced software is usually a recipe for disaster...not good for a professional photographer! So when the TOS Crew was asked to review Graphics-Toolbox, I have to admit my reaction was very mixed.

Graphics-Toolbox was developed by Lynda Holler and William Tsao (their complete story can be read HERE, but suffice it to say that they are both amazingly qualified) because they noticed that many people were turning to expensive photo-editing software to do graphics work because they really had no other option for their daily graphics needs.

If you are not tech inclined, you may be wondering what your daily graphics needs might be, so here are a few examples of the plethora of things that Graphic-Toolbox can do. Graphics-Toolbox can be used to edit photography. You can combine images from more than one photo, or edit images out of photos. You can flip the way a photo is oriented. You can change the color of the whole photo OR individual elements in the photo. You can easily resize your photos and increase or decrease their resolution. And you can add text to a photo, like I did below:

And you can use it to create photo art like adding text to your favorite photo. We were offered the chance to attend a webinar on creating Warhol type pictures, and it is REALLY cool-and the tutorial is available on their website so everyone can learn to do it. This is my beginning satges of htis project, and obviously, I framed too much of the workspace when I saved it so that's why Sari is soo small!

Beyond photo editing, you can use Graphics-Toolbox to make your own custom cards for any occasion. Or gorgeous flyers. Or business brochures. Or business cards. And they are totally professional looking because this is real professional level software. You can also use Graphics-Toolbox for digital scrapbooking, or creating amazing school projects. Oh, and if you've ever spent eons looking for just the right clip art because it's too big, or too small, or the wrong color, or facing the wrong direction, those days are over, because now you can change anything or everything about stock clip art that you have on your computer or even ones that you find on the internet.
The pros: As someone who uses photo editing software, I would say that this program does with ease some of the most complicated editing that professional photographers do. And the fact that Graphics-Toolbox is $149 when photo editing software can be 6 times that much makes it a great deal. And the potential is incredible. I've only scratched the surface of what G-T can do. Beyond photo editing, as a small business owner, the applications are numerous. Creating professional looking ads, flyers, or business cards are just a few of the things I plan to use it for. And as a blogger, the uses are also endless-you can create your own headers, graphics, banners, etc. And if you scrapbook? WOW, is this for you! And from a homeschool perspective, your kids can create really cool projects about ANYTHING they have China, and create a travel brochure of some of the landmarks. Study an artist and create a poster of the artist surrounded by their most famous works of art. The possibilities go on and on.

Scott's project on the relative size of the sun and the planets.

The cons: While this program is undoubtedly easier to use than professional graphics programs and professional photo-editing software, it has a STEEP learning curve. Your best bet is really to print out the manual and really spend some time getting to know the program. And use their free tutorials. In them, Lynda walks you step by step through creating several different types of projects. As a visual learner, that helped my immensely. But expect to invest some serious time in to learning how to work the program-especially if you want your kids to be able to use it too. (My biggest issue is that I forget to save at critical places until I've gone too far and realize I have no choice but to go back and undo all that I just did so I can fix my mistake.) And you will really benefit from having a trackball mouse which some people may need to go buy. I only have my laptop thumbpad, and can't use some elements (like the zoom) to the fullest because I don't have the trackball. And while the $149 is a GREAT price for a program that can do what this one can, it's still steep from many of the homeschool families I know, especially since it's not a critical component to homeschooling.
The bottom line: I am floored by all this program can do. And I will be using it for years to come. As a professional photographer, I'd recommend it to anyone who love to take pictures and wants the ability to edit them in different ways, but can't afford or has no real use for Photoshop or another program like it. I'd also highly recommend it to scrapbookers, especially if you work with a lot of digital kits, photos, or components. And if you are a small business owner...or even a large business would seriously benefit (and save a TON of money in the long run) by owning Graphics-Toolbox. As a homeschooler, I have mixed emotions. I know for me personally, $149 is a huge chunk of my homeschooling budget (that's the cost of two levels of our math curriculum, for example). BUT, you could look at it, especially with older kids, as an investment in their future, and even PART of their curriculum, because if they learn the ins and outs of graphic layout and design, it will definitely give them skills that will always be in high demand in our technology driven society.
The best part about Graphics-Toolbox is that you don't have to decide blindly if the $149 is a necessary expense. G-T offers a FREE 30 trial. I would encourage anyone reading this to give it a try. It really is a powerful graphics program with unlimited potential and so many different applications. And you should definitely check out their website HERE so you can get your free trial, but also so you can see all the other things this program can do that I might have forgotten to mention. And if you want to see what other TOS Crew members had to say, and check out some of the projects they created, go HERE.

Legal disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, we were given a free copy of Graphics-Toolbox for the purpose of being able to do this review. We also were given private group learning sessions (which are now available for free as tutorials on the Graphics-Toolbox website). The program and training sessions were the only compensation I received for my review.
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

More really random thoughts

1) When is a free farm tour NOT free? When you hop onto the flat bed trailer they want to take everyone around on and a wood splinter tears a hole in your jeans.

In the BUTT of your jeans.

In the BUTT of the only pari of jeans that fits you.


That was a $25 farm tour at LEAST.

2) Did I mention my kids had already told me how BORING this farm tour thingy was before I tore my pants? In their defense, the Orchid place was neat for the adult people in the front of the pack, but not so much for anyone in the back OR under the age of say 50.

3) My daughter Sari and her cousin Bam-Bam fight like siblings. Probably because he has none, so he really views her as his sister. In the car yesterday, they were fighting. Really fighting. LOUDLY. Luckily I was on the phone with the hubs so I was able to laugh instead of scream at them. The funniest part was when Sari yelled, "N-O" at the top of her lungs, and Bam-Bam yelled back, "N-YES!". HA HA. 5 year olds! They are a hoot.

4) Our kitten likes to fish from our goldfish bowl. So far, the goldfish are fine, although their water level drops at an alarming rate.

5) Three of my four kids fell alsleep tonight with me reading aloud to them. How many time has that ever happened before? NONE. In fact, some of my closest friends probably are having to pick themselves off the floor at the idea of me reading aloud ( I HATE to do it...I'm not bad at it...but I prefer to read silently to myself).

Yes, I know, these aren't nearly as funny as my last random thoughts, but it's 11 PM, I'm tired, and my husband just got home. I am trying though to mildly entertain my faithful readers, LOL.
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Scott's first Graphics Toolbox project

Graphics Toolbox is a WAY cool program that we have to review, and so I decided to help Scott with a project for his Astronomy Lapbook. We copied a picture of the planets' relative sizes off the internet, then cut out each planet and pasted them on top of each other to make a Planet Sandwich in order of size. A 12 year old boy has a different artistic take than his mamma does, but he now knows the planets by order of size!
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Monday, March 1, 2010

iheartfaces Hilarious Outtakes Challenge

This week is another Hilarious Outtakes week. We can enter up to five pictures. These four are some of my favorites from the last few months. Click on the iheartfaces logo above to see more entries.

Some people just know how to take a great picture, LOL!

Only a child thinks, "I wonder how many rubber duckies I can fit in my bathing suit." I *should* mention, in her defense, that her mother is pregnant with her fourth child. She is NOT, however, expected to deliver a rubber duckie.

Rivers of boogers AND dirt. YUM!

My husband has learned a coping mechanism for always finding himself in front of my camera-the deliberately goofy face. This is from our son's 8th birthday at Disney. Notice how even the 4 year old is mortified by her silly daddy.

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