Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Avoiding the Summer Slide With This One Simple Tip

Summer is here! Summer is here!! I'm from Michigan, so this is really exciting.  Especially since we had snow into May.  Seriously, not cool.

Last summer I intentionally didn't stop homeschooling when summer hit.  I figured with a baby due in September if I didn't homeschool last summer I'd be homeschooling this summer just to keep on track.

I'm not going to lie it was a very, looooonnng year.  But now summer is here, I *might* take a break, the family hasn't decided just yet.  Year long homeschooling has it's benefits but mama needs a vacation sometimes.

Which brings my thoughts to the dreaded "summer slide."  It goes with the territory of a summer vacation.  Kids take off three months of school, they pretty much forget three months of school.

So, how do you avoid it?

While this isn't a fool proof trick, there is a secret that I guarantee will help your kids.  Here it is:

Make them read for a half hour to an hour every day. And make sure they have plenty of books that they love.  

Go to the library have them pick out fiction and nonfiction that interests them and get them reading.  Make a chart, reward them, do what you need to do, just get them reading.

I told you it was a no brainier, but seriously do it.

What are your tricks for avoiding the summer slide?


Monday, March 30, 2015

Why I'm Done Buying Cheap Toys

It's so tempting, I'm at a thrift store, a dollar store, or a clearance section and I see something for just a dollar that I know my kids will love. The excitement in their faces when I bring it home would seriously make my day.  

Who doesn't like giving their kids a treat now and then?

Here's the problem, with four kids the toy situation,  in my home is a little out of control.  Toy rotation has helped, but with Easter coming soon I am NOT going to give them a basket full of dollar store toys  that will break or get lost within a week.  

They get plenty of trinkets from church, birthday parties and their grandparents, that's cool.  My kids are blessed. But this is why I'm done buying cheap toys.  They already have enough and they're bound to get more.  For the sake of my sanity I can at least limit what they get from me, Quite frankly I would buy something for them every time I'm out if I had the money, which is just NOT an option.

So with Easter coming, I've decided instead of an Easter Basket I'm getting my kids a DVD or two.   It's the perfect gift for my kiddos because they love new DVD's, and have been asking for a few different ones lately that aren't in our normal budget.

What's also great  is, these days it's easy to find Christian DVD's that my kids will love.  Not that I'm against secular T.V. shows or movies, but it's nice to be able to point back to God on Easter.

I had the opportunity to review the newest Veggie Tales movie, Noah's Ark.  My kids and I loved it.  I'd highly recommend it if your kids are Veggie fans.  I wrote about it here if you'd like to know more.  Honestly I should have been smarter and saved it for an Easter gift rather than opening it right away.  

What faith based DVD's do your family's love?  What are you sticking in the basket this year?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How I Adjusted To Being A Full Time Stay At Home Mom

We can all pretend that a new year starts in January, but having been a teacher for eight years, and now a mom with school age children, it always feels like the "real new year" starts in September.  The day after labor day to be exact.

This year has been a hard one, and one of transition.  It started with September when I started "formally" homeschooling my oldest.  

And ironically this transition wasn't the hardest last year.  Homeschooling Kindergarten was awesome and fun.

Unfortunately the year also began with a bit of a surprise, that came by way of e-mail.  I was out of a job. Notifying me by e-mail was not cool.  The writing on the wall had been obvious, simply because enrollment was down, but it still came as a shock, 1 day before I was scheduled to teach.

I definitely had a freak out moment, mostly because we had no back up plan for my income, but blessedly just as my income got cut, my husband's income was picking up by way of extra commissions.  So money wasn't an issue. My personal identity however, was.

Ever since I had Ivy (my first) I've called myself a "mostly stay at home mom."  I worked one, maybe two days a week for 2 maybe 3 hours teaching at a local college.  I LOVED the classes that I taught, but didn't realize how much I let being a teacher define me.  I was comfortable being a "mostly stay at home mom."  I wasn't in the house the whole time, just most of the time.

This past year, I've seen myself as being "just a stay at home mom."  No career, no outside work.

Coupled with a surprise, but welcome, pregnancy that has literally zapped all my energy I've struggled with my worth this past year.

I've struggled with the fact that I feel like I haven't accomplished anything.  I struggle with the fact that even though I'm home more, the house isn't always immaculate.  I've struggled with the fact I haven't written much this past year or worked to grow my self-employment income.

And yet, at some point during this past year I realized despite the self-loathing how much I had "accomplished" even though I wasn't being paid to do any of it.

I realized at some point I would never say to a daycare worker, "Oh you just watch kids all day, that's not a real job."  

I would never say to a chef, "Oh you make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for people.  I bet that isn't mentally stimulating."

I would never say to a maid, "So you clean up other people's messes.  How degrading."

I would never say to an elementary school teacher, "Oh you teach 5 year old's, well I teach college.  My contribution to society is so much more valuable than yours."

No!  I'd never say any of these things.  Because I realize a person's value is so much more than their career, not to mention the fact that every single one of the aforementioned careers are honest, good, hard work that contributes to society in meaningful ways.

Why on earth then did I say these things in my own brain?  Why did I think I was "just" a stay at home mom rather than embracing this new exciting season in my life, where I am blessed to be there for my children for more time than I was before.

Changing my thinking has been hard.  Very hard.  But fortunately at some point in the past year it happened.  Maybe all I really needed was time to adjust.

I taught at a local Bible college for seven years because that's where God was calling me to be, at that time.  I was able to be a blessing to my students by teaching them music.

God closed that door though, and the window he opened was one of continued humble service to my family.  
I've been homeschooling through the summer with my now first grader and pre-kindergartner.  As everyone gears up to start their new school year we'll actually be taking a break, so I can survive the end of this pregnancy and then adjust to a new baby.

I'm so excited about this next year though.  I've had time to adjust to my new role, and while I know a new baby is sure to shake things up again, I know a little bit better who I am.

Ultimately though my identity doesn't even lay in being a stay a home, homeschooling mom, it lays in Christ.  I'll follow wherever he leads.  And right now he's leading me home.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

20 Ways To Make Your Next Family Movie Night Awesome!

My husband works every other Saturday, so unfortunately when he get's home there isn't time to really go someplace as a family and "do something", but luckily my kids are always in the mood for a family movie night.

 Whether it's a rainy day, it's too hot, it's too cold, everyone in the family is sick, or you're just looking for something fun to do a family movie night just might be in order.

 While popping in a family friendly flick and then popping some popcorn make for an easy event there are ways to make your family movie night a little more awesome without a terrible amount of effort. Now you could go all "Pinterest Mom Crazy" and do every single one of these ideas or use them as a spring board for your own creative adventures.

 I've tried to keep this list to simple things that involve the kids in a fun activity that don't require a ton of setup.

Make Movie Night Awesome By Adding Pizza Before the Show

 1) Make your own pizza dough, and watch youtube videos to learn how to toss it with the kids. If you're family is gluten free Chebe dough (affiliate link) is one of the few tossable options, the rest fall apart. (Ask me how I know).

 2) Setup a toppings bar and let your kids simply top their own pizzas.

 3) Have your kids play pizza man and "deliver" a homemade pizza to the front door. Just make sure it's in a container that won't ruin dinner if it's dropped. (As a bonus be sure to tip them).

 Make Movie Night Awesome By Adding Awesome Snacks
(While I'm a huge advocate of natural, healthy snacks I'm also of the opinion an occasional splurge is okay too.)

 4) Try to create movie themed snacks. These certainly don't need to be complicated, just fun. Check out these Pins for inspiration.

 5) Involve the kids in prep work for the snacks as much as possible.

 6) Make a spread of dips. Think, cheesey, ranchy, and sweet. Provide plenty of munchies for the kids to enjoy.

 7) Make a Sundae bar or Blizzard station. This can be an incredibly sugary option unless you opt for natural fruit toppings and a carb friendly ice cream.

 8) Make popcorn on your stove top rather than in the microwave. Even if your kids aren't old enough to help you make popcorn they'll enjoy watching if they've never seen popcorn made the "real" way before. Jiffy pop is always fun, although buying a bag of kernels is infinitely cheaper in the long run.

 Make Movie Night Awesome By Adding Imaginative Play

 9) Do a movie premier themed night and have everyone dress up in their fanciest. Give air kisses, call each other "Dahling!" and don't forget to have someone play the role of the reporter.

 10) Dress up in movie themed costumes. There's no need to break the bank buying "official" costumes when raiding mom and dad's closest and accessory drawer generally yield a ton of fun options. Princess and pirates are always easy to pull together. Make Movie Night Awesome By Not Watching From The Couch 

11) Build a living room fort in a prime location for T.V. viewing.

 12) Watch from sleeping bags and let the kids camp out after the movie is over. If you don't have sleeping bags check your local thrift store I always see a ton come through ours. Just wash first.

 13) Grab every spare pillow and fluffy blanket from your house and make a huge pile on the floor.

14) Hook up your T.V, computer, or projector outside and watch from under the stars. Don't forget the bug spray.

 Make Movie Night Awesome By Adding Crafts and Decorations 

15) Have your kids create movie posters or color movie coloring pages. Make it more fun by letting them use paints instead of boring old crayons.

16) Create movie themed crafts as a family.

17) Decorate your viewing area to match the setting of the movie. Crepe paper is cheap and with a little creativity can become water, ice, the jungle, or a hundred other things.

Make Movie Night Awesome By Choosing a Movie Everyone Will Love

18) If you have a spread of ages, and there is no pleasing everyone with a favorite choose 2 family friendly movies (one geared to the older, one geared to the younger) and pull a double feature. 

19) Read plugged in reviews first to know about any trouble spots that may be in a movie. 

20) Check out Veggies In Space. (my affiliate link). It's the newest of the veggie tales bunch and my family loved it! Your kids will think it's hysterical and there are plenty of sci-fi references to keep the adults laughing as well. References to Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, and other cult flicks won't be lost on the geeks in the family.

 It's also only an hour long, so if you do have older ones in your family it's short enough to easily do a double feature. But even as a teenager I still loved the talking vegetables. You can get the DVD from major retailers or just stream from Amazon if you want instant gratification. (also my affiliate link.)

 Either way this is a wholesome hilarious movie your family would love. What does your family do to make movie night special? I'd love to hear if you try any of these. 

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Veggies In Space in exchange for my honest review. The ideas to make movie night awesome are my own.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Catching Up On My Reading

Get ALL of these eBooks for 1 LOW Price! One Week Only!

So, at the beginning of the year I joined Jon Acuff's empty shelf challenge.  I've posted one book (hangs head in shame) This is my big "catch up" post where I tell you what I've been reading lately.  Because I have been reading, just not posting :)

Over the past 2 weeks I've read a TON of homemaking books that are a part of The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle  so I can give an honest opinion of their merit.

Without further ado, here are my favorite books from the bundle, which can be ordered now through Monday April 28 2014, here.

How to Manage Your Mouth - A 30 Day Wholesome Talk Challenge

How To Manage Your Mouth: If you are a human being you need to read this book.  If you are a human being who cares for young children, you need it even more.  I love how Connie uses scripture and humor at every turn.  It's an easy read that I sat down and finished in one sitting, but it can be used as a daily devotional as well.

It's Me or the Coupons
It's Me Or The Coupons: These coupon tips work, and they are simple too.  I sat in on a coupon seminar (yes they have coupon seminar) several years ago and the same techniques that Beth shares in this book are what I learned there.  The tips and tricks WORK, I know first hand.  If you don't know where to get started with coupons this book is an excellent place.

Blog At Home Mom: This book is a must read if you are a work at home mom, who blogs.  My blogging and my mothering were so out of balance a year ago, this book deeply convicted me.  Christin uses plenty of scripture and is very encouraging.  I highly recommend.

101 Independent Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

101 Independent Activities For Toddlers: An excellent resource for moms with toddlers, but invaluable for moms who are also trying to homeschool older children as well.  Sometimes the littles just need something fun to do, this book has excellent ideas.
The Best of Visionary Womanhood Volume Two
The Best of Visionary Womanhood Volume 2: There are some chapters in this book that are absolute gems, and invaluable to wives and moms. But...... there are some philosophical and theological differences I have that prevent me from giving a whole hearted approval of the book.  Keep in mind though it's written by homemakers who are living their Christian faith and have a ton of experience, that in and of itself has great value.
The Homemaker's Guide To Creating The Perfect Schedule: I liked the first section of this book, but I LOVED the second section that dealt with scheduling the homeschool day.  I came away with excellent tips I had never thought of that will be a huge asset to us in the future.

The Sweeter Side of Candida: If you're on a limited sugar diet, this cookbook will be a treasure.  Not only do the recipes look fantastic (even if they are sugar free), there are also excellent tips for cooking with sugar substitutes.  

How To Build a Strong Christian Home: 5 years ago, I would have absolutely loved this book.  I definitely think it's more for a woman who is newer in her marriage or newer in her faith.   I could also see it's benefit for someone who wants to deepen their commitment to Christ in their family but doesn't know where to start.  What I do really like about it is the authors tone of love and not judgement.

So there's my empty shelf catch up.  I'll probably be posting some reviews on Amazon too in the near future. If you haven't checked out the bundle, you must.  It's an incredible value and sure to be a blessing.   

Sale Ends Monday April 28 2014, be sure to check out all the details!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

3 Sources For Free Phonics Videos

Okay not to brag, but my three year old is reading (albeit not very many words). What's truly shocking about this was I wasn't even trying to teach her.

She's been picking it up from 2 things, me teaching her older sister, and phonics based T.V. shows and videos we watch.

I won't go as far as saying she's a budding genius, but it's apparent she's a little sponge with propensity for words.  So today I'd love to share some of our favorite phonics videos, because, well ummmm, I guess they work.

Here's a Hooked on Phonics playlist.  The songs and videos are a bit slower paced, which I actually prefer as a mom.  Somehow I reason that slower paced means, they'll learn and not be distracted by the cartoonishness of the video.

We also love the videos on Starfall.com.  This website seriously can't be beat.

We love Starfall website for the great free reading program.  However it use flash, means it doesn't run on iPAD. Fortunately, with the help of a free app, you can access the website - fully functional like on computers #kidsapps #freeapps
(Pinterest source)

And finally the phonics videos and games on PBSkidsgo.org are other huge favorites in this house.

Interactive Whiteboard Games | PBS KIDS  This site is GREAT for use on the smart board!!
(Pinterest Source)

Of course I'm sure the videos have helped all my kids work on their reading, but I'm also sure videos aren't a replacement for books and reading together as a family.  

Looking for more homeschooling and homemaking help?
Sale Ends Monday April 28 2014, be sure to check out all the details!

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Teaching The Value of Life To Little Ones, And a Perfect Book For Spring

I had the awesome opportunity because of a successful book launch for the ABC's of Freezer Cooking  to attend the Allume Blogging Conference in South Carolina.  I had an amazing time.  

I was able to meet some fabulous bloggers, get connected with some wonderful charities and learn about some awesome books being released by Christian publishers.

It was when I was speaking with a representative from B&H publishing that I learned the story of Angie Smith, the author of "Audrey Bunny."  I immediately started crying and the rep offered to send me a free copy to review on my blog, and one to give away too. Apparently the representative assumed if I cried simply from the back story and synopsis of Audrey Bunny, I'd probably review it favorably.  She was right. 

What makes this book so special: I was initially drawn to this book because of the artwork by Breezy Brookshire, whose blog I've followed on and off for awhile.  Her illustrations remind me of my mother's for one, but they absolutely capture the joy of children in a tender realistic way.

In the book there is a little bunny with a mark over it's heart.  The bunny waits in the toy store, afraid it will spend it's whole life at the bottom of the stuffed animal barrel because of it's imperfection, until a little girl falls in love with the sweet bunny.

The bunny attempts to hide the mark from the little girl whenever they play, only to later discover it was because of the imperfection she chose him.

My children loved the story the story from the first time I read it to them.  In fact my daughter has a bunny that's holding a carrot over it's heart (like the bunny in the book who was always trying to hide it's mark behind something) she's named Audrey that immediately became a favorite toy after reading the book.

What's truly wonderful about the book though is the fact it opens the door to discuss how God made us all, and knit us together in our mother's womb.  In fact there is a discussion section in the back of the book as well.

Why I started crying when talking to the B&H representative:  The story is incredibly sweet yes, but that's not why I started crying at Allume.  I started crying because the whole reason why Angie Smith wrote Audrey Bunny was because she had lost a baby to a horrible heart defect.

While pregnant she was told her child wouldn't survive long after birth.  Rather than terminating the pregnancy she carried her baby.  She felt her baby move in her body, she grew to love her baby, she and her family celebrated the life of her child even though it was terribly brief.

She loved her daughter Audrey because of her heart defect, not in spite of it.  Having dealt with 3 miscarriages, this is why I started crying in front of a complete stranger.  

You can enter the giveaway below, or buy the book on Amazon.

The Giveaway:  I have one hard copy of the book, and for fun I'll also send a sweet little stuffed bunny (one I bought myself) with it.

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