Monday, October 3, 2016

This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life

One of my dear friends is just so very lovely that I want to be her when I grow up! She makes her home so warm and inviting, is an amazing hostess, she’s creative, plays the harp, and is just plain fun! My dear friend has written a book that is just so amazing that I wanted to tell you about it! It is so lovely to look at and is so useful in helping me keep my priorities in place. Let me just walk you through it.
The book is called This Beautiful Life: A Priorities Journal for the Christian Woman. It is divided into five main sections: Vision, Nurture, Focus, Growth, and Celebrate. Chloe takes you from the big picture of what you want your life to look like, has you break that into things you want to intentionally work on, and then has you document the growth steps taken each month. I knew this was a FANTASTIC tool for me as I wanted certain things to be areas that I purposed to continually work on throughout the year. It is so easy to set goals and then never revisit them. This tool has me frequently revisiting the things that are important to me. I will give some brief glimpses into this marvelous book and hope that it is something that you might find useful as well.
So we begin with a prayer of dedication. You might be able to sit down and know exactly what you want to say or you may prayerfully consider it for a few days or even weeks. I got one of these books in February and just got around to writing mine down in early April. While this is a vital step, I felt like I hit the ground running with a bit of a late start so I dug right in to the places that were easier for me and really tried to prayerfully consider what I wanted to say here.
In the Vision section, there are many sweet tidbits, but the meat and potatoes of it for me is The Big Five page. This is where you list the five priorities that are those areas you want to focus on. Why five you ask? Chloe has an amazing post on this hereI had already chosen my five areas, but this clarity helped me solidify that these were the right five for me for this year. Who knows…this list could change or it could remain very much the same from year to year. Your list will be as unique as you are, but to give you an idea of what this could look like, my five are Faith, Family, Friends, Field (work, profession, employment related) and Fun (the creative things I often do not make time for or those things that bring joy). Once I had begun, I liked the fact that all of my five began with the same letter. There are two more topics that are on the outskirts here…Fitness and Finances. I am leaving them there, because these are the things that are MOST important to me at this time.
I am going to skip over the Nurture section (not because it is lacking, but I want you to discover some of the treasures of this book yourself) and move to the Focus section. This is the area to take each one of your five priorities and note your desire, what it looks like at its best, what it looks like right now and some steps you can take to make the reality become the desired outcome. This section is a work in progress for me as I am taking the time to think, pray, and dream about what this would look like for me.
Growth is next and this is where you can write down the successes you have had in each area each month. This is the part where talk becomes the walk. Some of the things I have written here are the smallest of baby steps, sometimes nothing has been gained, but I am being very focused day by day as I think on these things and stepping closer to what I want these things to look like.
There are so many more parts to this wonderful little book, but I do want there to be some sweet surprises for you if you choose to get one of these for yourself (by the way, I am not getting any compensation for these comments…I love this book and want to share it because I find it helpful personally). One thing that makes this book so lovely is that Chloe has done all the sweet artwork and made it so beautiful that you really want to keep working in it. I did not want to write in it in the beginning, but got over that fairly quickly. I often throw this in my purse or in my bag as I am out and just jot down a couple of things as they come to mind. I do have more to get done in this, but I am ok with that too. I just want to add one quick thing – this HAS to be a walk of grace for me, not a legalistic box of do’s and don’t’s. There are enough places for me to see where I fall short. This has to be a safe place where I am stretching for growth, but can back up if it is too much at this time.
I have really loved this little journal. A beautiful place where I can keep my First Things, FIRST! What would your BIG FIVE be?

This was originally posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, September 12, 2016

Seasons of Busyness

Seasons of Busyness

This past year was the YEAR OF WAY TOO BUSY! I started this school year with three part time jobs and two extra children (not to mention Orchestra, Band & Choir, Speech Club, Co-op, Bible Study and AWANA).   I woke up tired and went to bed even more tired. We were getting hardly ANY school work done; and I knew I could not keep up this pace for too long, but wasn’t sure what would have to give. It is so easy to say yes to everything before we have counted the cost. If you find yourself on this same end of crazy, I hope you are looking for ways to get out of some of your commitments or to slow down, but here are some tips to get through it.
— Organization is KEY: Developing a plan is essential to keeping your head on your shoulders during a busy season.   This will look different for different families, but calendars, meal planning, budgets, cleaning schedules and lesson plans can be included in this category. The more time I spent in this category, the better things went for me. ESPECIALLY with meal planning. If dinner is taken care of, ALL IS WELL!   Have you heard about the Bullet Journal method? This is a system that I am just beginning to implement. I am a pen and paper girl trapped in a digital world. I LOVE this system. I’ll let you know how it goes.

–Focus is VITAL: Keeping the important things in their proper place is so very important. We get trapped in putting out the fires of the urgent while the important slips by. Why answer the phone in the middle of a conversation with your teenager? That phone ringing is grabbing our attention away from a conversation that could turn into something that could never be recreated. I have a precious friend who has created a beautiful little book to help us keep these first things FIRST…I will talk more about it next month, but it is a sweet little book that I highly recommend. You can find This Beautiful Life here. This wonderful tool helps me keep focused on those things I want to intentionally keep front and center.
–Simplifying Life is ESSENTIAL: This is not the time to make things more difficult than they are. When I was at the busiest in this season, I was making things as easy as possible. Easy meals, easy cleaning schedule, easy lesson plans (If you could really call them that…school consisted of all the extra things. Co-op, Band, Choir, Speech, Home Ec). This was not the time to introduce Latin, sew everyone’s clothing and cook gourmet, multi-course meals. The crock pot was my best friend, with freezer meals a close second.This was one of my favorite meals in this season.
–Teamwork is IMPERATIVE: I cannot stress enough what a blessing my family has been to me in this season of busyness. They have, of course, ALWAYS been a blessing, but when the pressure is applied, you find out the stuff you are all made of. My family really came together and were exceedingly helpful doing chores, meal prep, holding babies, and just really taking care of all the things that needed getting done. One of our favorite methods for getting things accomplished is the Job Jar. Many hands make light work!
–Clearing the Calendar is CRUCIAL: I know I cannot keep up this pace forever, and have already taken steps to slow things down a bit. I have quit one job, and the hours on another job have cut back significantly. We are evaluating our out-of-the-house activities to see if there are any that do not make the cut for next year. Some of these decisions may be very difficult to make, but insanity is ugly and I am closer to it than I want to admit. I see the light at the end of the tunnel though as some things are coming to an end. School books have been dusted off and are being cracked open and the lesson plans are singing with completed work being checked off. Now that we have a driver in the house, I am able to have that child run errands and be the taxi a little more, so that I can be home attending to things only I can do. I know that you cannot get rid of everything and you may need to continue in a season of busyness longer than I have done so far, this too, will look different for each family. Prayerfully consider the things that remain on the calendar and see if they align with the goals you have for your family. So many things look good, are beneficial, but do not accomplish what you desire.
–Taking Care of You is REQUIRED: Seasons of busyness are sometimes unavoidable. If you find yourself in one, try to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, eat as healthy as possible, try to exercise at least a little, do something to pour into yourself. Living off energy drinks and four hours of sleep a night will not be a sustainable lifestyle for very long. You need true energy and stamina to get through this season.
Hopefully, all these tips will help you get through your season of busyness too!

(*This was written ALMOST 2 years ago and it is not at all lost on me that I could say the very same thing past school year as this year that I was writing about!  I am planning on taking my own advice this year!  Keep me to it, OK?)

Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, June 27, 2016

Swimming With Faith

Swimming With Faith: The Missy Franklin Story
Written by Natalie Davis Miller
Zondervan Publishing
Cost: $6.99
Ages: 10-14 ish; Swimmers of all ages

From the Zondervan Website:
Missy Franklin is one of the most talented swimmers in the world.  She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in bother the 100-meter and 200- meter backstroke.  She was Swimming World's World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year in 2012.  This story tells of her rise in fame and humbleness  in the sport.

Swimming with Faith takes a look into the life of Missy Franklin, mostly focusing on her high school years.  I have to say, we have not had television for about 10 years and I really did not know anything about Missy and what she had been through.  It was an interesting look into the life of a girl with a passion for swimming and goals she was reaching for and convictions to do what she felt was the right thing.  She sounds like an amazing young woman with a big faith in our great God.  I love that she is presented as someone younger people can look up to as an example...I would LOVE to my daughter to read this book.

Right now, as we speak, Missy is competing in Olympic Trials to see if she will have a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim this is unbelievable timing!

So, I did really enjoy the information in this book.  The hard part for me was the writing style.  It read a little more like a newspaper (or something) than a book for me.  There were SO MANY citings in the book that disrupted the flow of the text for me.  This might be the way books are written these days, but I am more used to just having the citings in the back of the book.  This could be a personal thing for me...

Anyway, a cool feature in the back of the book is a swim dictionary to explain what all those swimming terms mean. 13 pages of terms help readers unfamiliar with the terminology keep on reading.

I think this is a fantastic book for young people to read!

* I received this book in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and opinions may vary.

NIrV Minecrafters Bible

NIrV Minecrafters Bible
Zondervan Publishing
Cost: $24.99
Ages: 8-12 ish

My initial thoughts...Minecraft...are you kidding me?  I cannot believe that I get the opportunity to review this item...My boy was SO EXCITED!  I am not personally a HUGE Minecraft fan, but my boy is...and it is pretty cool to combine the Word of God with something he finds fun!

So what this is:
Complete text of the NIrV...Genesis to Revelation

24 color tip-in pages featuring full color illustrations in the style of the wildly popular virtual world building game.

Featured stories such as Creation and great builds of the Bible

So, my you know...My boy LOVES IT!!!  We have some different standards to measure by though!

So, the text is NIrV, which I have said before is not at all my favorite.  I would prefer a standard NIV to this...2 pages at the very front of this Bible explain why NIrV...I have read this several times...and I get what they are saying...Not a fan though.  I will leave that there and let you decide for yourself on that.

Also, the text is just essentially a standard Bible...No commentary, no intros to the books of the Bible...Just the plain text.  The words of Christ are NOT in red...just in case you are wondering.

What makes this Bible unique are the 24 color pages.  These pages are full color in the style of that particular game (this Bible is not endorsed, sponsored, authorized or in any way, shape or form affiliated with that particular game)...and many of the pages have a building theme.  Some just have aspects you might find in that particular planting, stones, or weapons.  A few just show the picture in the style of that particular game.  It is a little weird seeing Jesus in the shape of that his name Steve?  I am really not in the know here...this the the BIG draw for fans of that particular game.

I think I am neutral towards this Bible...I don't love it, but I don't hate it either.  It is an acceptable Bible.  My boy LOVES this Bible.  I think he just looks at the pictures though...and those, no matter how much fun they might be, are not inspired.  So, there you have it!

* I received these items in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your result and opinions may vary.

God Bless...Land That I Love Books

God Bless America
God Bless Texas
God Bless Florida
Illustrated by Peter Francis
Published by Zonderkidz
Cost $ 9.99
Ages: All

Today, I bring to you three books from the Land That I Love series.  I will take these one at a you can get up close with these cute board books!

First stop...God Bless Texas!  Texas--Larger than life!  As we come to Texas in this book, we get to take a look at landmarks, Like Guadalupe Peak, the Alamo, and the Capitol.  I won't give every detail, just a small taste!  Children will follow the sweet bear Henry as he travels throughout the state to see the fun adventures he will have.  The text has a Rhythmic cadence that children LOVE and the books are a good length to keep attention for the youngers that these are mostly designed is a board book after all!
Children get to learn little snippets about Texas through the text of the book...For instance, on the Alamo page, children will learn that the Texans fought Mexico for thirteen straight days for freedom.
At the end of the book, we see Henry on his knees praying, thanking God for the things he saw.  Very, Very CUTE!
The illustrations in this book are colorful and sweet!

Ok, our second stop today is Florida!  In God Bless Florida, we take little peeks into Tallahassee (capitol), Daytona, and the Space Center.  This book follows the same pattern as the one above, just new sights to see.

In the last book today, we get to take the speed tour of the United States.  In God Bless America, some of the sights we get to see in this book are Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, and National Mall.  Two of the sights in this book were in the other two books...I would have liked to see something else brought in...but there you have it.  Once again, this book follows the pattern of the one above!

Speaking of that, essentially, the first four pages and the last four are pretty much the same, with the names changed to protect the innocent...oh, sorry...the names changed for this book.  It is annoying to me to see that as I look at it with a reviewers eyes, but some children really do like that!

If you are travelling to any of these places, it could be fun to add pictures, receipts, etc to the books as a memory book of sorts (I Love altered books!).  Or add postcards of other places you went to in the state or country.   This is why I gave it the ALL age range...the text is really written to younger children.

I think for the most part, your family will LOVE these books...I do have one caution each one, Henry buys souvenirs...Now, I am not sure how your family feels about souvenirs, but our family does not buy them for the most part.  They are often expensive and not worth the asking price.  Also, when you have several children, you may have to come up with a lot of extra dollars in your budget for souvenirs... And just do not even get me started on all the stuff they already have without souvenirs added in.  This may or may not impact your child.  Again, I am looking at all three books together and it gives me the impression that this is normal and what we do when we travel.

*I received these items in exchange for a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and opinions may vary

Monday, June 6, 2016

Grads, Dad, Brides and Birthdays

Grads, Dad, Brides and Birthdays

Spring ushers in a season of gift giving opportunities as graduation announcements, wedding and birthday party invitations fill your mailbox.  Giving gifts is not about how much money we spend, but in celebrating someone special in our life.  Thanks to the internet, fresh ideas abound and ways to get creative on a budget  are at your fingertips.  I will warn you though…giving gifts is my love language and I am SURE I go way overboard on this…I just can’t help myself, but I am learning to cut back a little.
Graduation gifts are always a challenge for me.  You often see people suggesting books, a watch or loads of cash.  Cash is ALWAYS a gift that is appreciated!  Maybe you can give it in a creative way.  Search Pinterest for “Graduation Gift Ideas”   to see some of those creative ideas.    A gift card to Target or another store of your choice is ALWAYS helpful.   Creating theme kits might be fun too – laundry soap and quarters, or a basket full of cleaning supplies, midnight munchies or bathroom supplies are very useful at this point in a graduate’s life.
Birthday Parties are the next hurdle to get over. Figuring out which Lego set a child DOES NOT have, what THING is THE THING this year and finally giving up and getting a gift card or giving cash.  Some ideas I am kicking around are movie tickets (Thank you, Costco), zoo, aquarium or museum tickets.   I find that my children do not need more STUFF, and I am trying to think of things we can do to create memories for them instead.  I think that sometimes we get all worked up if we give cash.  My children LOVE to get cash as a gift, because they do not often get money for things. I would not write that off completely, but maybe scale back on the amount you give.  I like to give dollars equal to their age.  I think it makes the gift a little more memorable.

Weddings are made a little easier for us with registry lists.  Often, we can find a gift on a registry within our price range and call it good.  One special gift I have created a couple of times now is a homemade cookbook.  This works beautifully if you have known the bride or groom for a long time.  Recently, I created a cookbook for a dear friend from a Smash Book and scrapbooking supplies on hand.  I did this start to finish in one evening, so it is completely possible, I just don’t really recommend it!  Currently, I have been scouring Craigslist for a used Kitchen aid Mixer  at a FANTASTIC price for a precious friend who is getting married soon.  My Kitchen aid is one of the best gifts I have ever received and has lasted more than 20 years. Other ideas might be to create an evening out with dinner gift card and movie tickets, or a date night in with popcorn, movie, and treats.    There are so many ideas; have a look around Pinterest for wedding gifts or DIY wedding gifts, or even think about the best gifts you have received and I am sure you will be inspired with an idea.
Finally, Dads . . . Dads are really tough  because they often aren’t helpful with what they would like.  How about something for the barbeque?  New cookbooks, cedar planks, or seasonings get those creative juices flowing and bring blessings to the whole family.  What about a basket of different hot sauces – my hubby would LOVE that!  Gift certificates to go out to a nice dinner or Starbucks to grab some coffee on the way to work are great options too.   Coupons for a foot massage, a car wash, or some yard work ease Dad’s burden a little.  If none of these ideas apply to your guy, you can always grab him another tie!
The best advice I can give when gift giving opportunities arise is to focus on the person you are giving your gift to.  As you think about who they are and what they mean in your life, I am sure you will come up with the PERFECT gift idea!

Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Friday, May 27, 2016

Vacation Bible School, Day Five

Well, this is the LAST post for Vacation Bible School theme ideas.  We will wrap up this carnival with an animal theme!  Animals are all around us---in our homes as pets, on farms providing us with meat, milk and eggs, in the forests, in the sea, and even in the sky!  Kids are often curious about the lives of animals and how God relates to them.  This fun theme helps children get in touch with nature and with animals.

Bible Stories that would fit in with this theme:
Adam Names the Animals
Noah's Ark
Daniel in the Lion's Den
Elijah and the Ravens
The Lost Sheep
Jesus Rides the Donkey on Palm Sunday

Books to Reference:
7 Days of Awesome by Shawn Byous $ 16.99 (Just my two cents here...we LOVE this book!)
Goodnight Ark by Laura Sassi $16.99
The Beginner's Bible: Daniel and the Lion' Den (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
The Beginner's Bible: Adam and Eve in the Garden (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
The Adventure Bible: Elijah, God's Mighty Prophet (An I Can Read Book) $3.99
Made by God: Animals All Around $9.99
Made by God: Curious Creatures $9.99
Adventure Bible (NIV) $24.99

Craft Ideas: Zondervan gave some craft ideas from Oriental Trading Company and for some reason, I cannot access their check OTC for some inexpensive craft ideas!  They usually have quiet a few projects to choose from.
A few ideas from Pinterest

Decoration Ideas:
Here are some ideas for this...this theme could go any number of ways depending on what you prefer to focus on....Also, check out the Under The Sea board for those ideas as well!
Animal print balloons

Snack Ideas:
Here are a few snack ideas that look fun AND yummy!

Songs you could include:
Father Abraham (I cannot even believe I am suggesting this...this song is not my favorite, but CHILDREN LOVE IT!)
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N
Hosanna in the Highest

Some other fun ideas include:
Invite a veterinarian or zookeeper to come and talk to your group...maybe they can bring a special animal visitor
Take a trip to the zoo
Volunteer for the day, a a group, at a local farm or animal shelter
Make Handprint Hens
Run a food drive for cats or dogs and donate the collected items to an animal shelter
Host a dog wash event fundraiser and donate the money collected to the church, a children's ministry or to a local animal shelter.
Have a scavenger hunt to spot signs of animal life native to that area
Take a nature walk in your local park or hiking area to spot animals and explore their habitats.
Make animal masks... Enchanted Learning is a subscription site, so there MIGHT be a limit to what they will allow you to looks like you might be able to print this for free, but I cannot guarantee that.
A Pinata is a fun idea...but only if you do NOT make it!

Generic Pinterest Boards...just because you get sucked in to the great time warp

Ok, that is it!  I hope you have enjoyed this VBS round up of ideas!  A big thank you to Zondervan for putting this together!