Friday, October 20, 2017

Fall's Golden Days




Fall’s Golden Days



Halfway between school starting and Thanksgiving is where I find myself today…It is a lovely day in my neighborhood, and we have been homeschooling for several weeks now. We have a busy schedule this year, but that is a story for another article…maybe…if I survive it! So as I stare at a blank screen…preparing to write…I’ve got nothing.
Fall is a time in our home to catch our breath and hold on…everything starts, school is amped up and running, and we are just trying to get used to our new schedules, hoping I have the brain power to remember we need dinner. We are hoping to implement some Sabbath rest weeks into our school year to give us respite…but, right now, we are nose to the grindstone. I thought it might be fun to share some lesser known holidays for October…maybe you can find one to color your month, bless someone else, or just create a memory together.

October 2- Name Your Car Day
October 4- National Frappe Day
October 4- International Frugal Fun Day
October 5- Do Something Nice Day
October 11- It’s My Party Day
October 11- Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day
October 14- National Dessert Day
October 17- Wear Something Gaudy Day
October 18- Sweetest Day
October 21- Count Your Buttons Day
October 21- National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day
October 24- National Bologna Day
October 25- Make a Difference Day
October 26- Mother In Law Day


We may try a couple of these…just for fun! When we do, we will add them to our Year Book in a Box from the Smart Kids Launchpad. We will be gathering pictures and memorabilia throughout our school year to remind our children of all the great things we have done this year. The Smart Kids Launchpad is a FANTASTIC site filled with activities for you to do with your children to teach them responsibility, money and the value of hard work. I have several of these activities open in my web browser.
Since I have included a couple of dessert holidays, I will not leave you high and dry with nothing to make. Let me recommend some Gingerbread, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Cheesecake , or this Apple Cake…Now, I already hear it…the groanings…but NOT ALL APPLE CAKES are created alike. I think you might really enjoy this one. Originally from a 1997 Cooking Light magazine, I switched out all the low fat subs for the real deal and this has been a family favorite ever since. Feel free to make the switch back to the low fat equivalents – we just prefer to eat certain things, like butter rather than margarine.

Apple Cake

Ingredients:
• 1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
• ½ stick butter, softened
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 2 large eggs
• 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
• 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
• ¼ tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 3 cups chopped peeled apples (use a type good for cooking. My recipe suggests Romes, but I usually use Jonagolds or Fujis for this cake)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Beat 1 ½ cups sugar, butter, vanilla and cream cheese until well blended.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture beating on low until just blended.
5. Combine ¼ cup sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar over the chopped apples, stirring to combine.
6. Fold apples into batter. Pour batter into a 9 inch springform pan and sprinkle with reserved cinnamon sugar mix.
7. Bake for one hour, 10 minutes or until cake pulls away from the sides.
8. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut with a serrated knife.
9. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Hoping your fall into fall is colored with love and fun, but just in case it is a rougher transition for you, remember, MANY of us get to Fall Back on November 5th! 
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

The Catcher in the Rye

Hello!  I am back again as we are wrapping up this book.  I had never read The Catcher in the Rye before and was a little concerned as I was reading it.  I almost axed it, but decided to leave it in our line-up.  I will say that there is an extensive use of God's name in here that is not what you would call reverent  It was so frequent, that it was distracting.  Also, there is some sexual content that you might want to be aware of.  Definitely pre-read this before deciding whether or not it is appropriate for your family.

So, here are some resources we used for this book:

First, I enjoyed the Crash Course videos on this book.  I don't always agree with what he says...so you may want to watch this before your student as well.


We used this resource from Teacher's Pay Teachers as a Study Guide.  This should be the Pinterest Link for that study guide if you can't see it on the other one.

We printed this timeline off and this plot diagram. I believe both of these resources were free when we did this.
We also used pages 7-13 of this resource.  It was creating journal entries as if you were Holden.  We are not finished with the book yet, but my daughter has enjoyed doing this.
I had her read this article (The link was not working when I grabbed it...It is the New Yorker article Who Was J.D. Salinger by Adam Gopnik, September 5, 2013, in case it is still not working when you go to look.)
I wanted to do a mind map similar to the one in this packet, but we haven't done it yet and I don't see it getting added in at this point in time.  A One Pager would be a good idea too.
I think that is it!  Next up, The Crucible!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2.0 and To Kill a Mockingbird

The last two years, we have been greatly blessed to be a part of a small co-op that we called 2.0.  It was run by a small group of moms and we had a particular focus with this...getting these kids ready for college classes.  I don't know if you are aware or not, but homeschool families have particular things we don't do well.  DEADLINES are one of those...Anyway, that is not all that important right now, but we were blessed to have the strengths of others to teach some wonderful things.  My good friend was one of those blessings.  She gave two of my children a love for some great books. I am trying to re-create that for my girl this year, but I am no where near as wonderful as she is.  And we also don't have that wonderful group atmosphere either...BUT, this momma desires her sanity.

So, I thought I would share some of what we are doing for each book.  I want to be able to remember what we did...and HOPEFULLY be able to find it again!  You can take it, leave it or give your feedback. I know there is a variety of thoughts about what we should allow our children to read and all.  We have an interesting list this year, but I would like to expose my children to these titles when we can talk about them together.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time two years ago and LOVED it!  I knew that I wanted my children to read it.  We watched the Gregory Peck movie then, so we didn't watch it again this time, but I would recommend that...after you read the book.


We did not do tons for this book, because I was not on top of my game early enough...but I did LOVE this resource from Teachers Pay Teachers...You may need to be logged in to see it...if so, here is the Pinterest link for it



I also had my daughter do a One Pager.  Here are some examples.  I have not looked at all of these, so use caution...you just never know what will pop up in a Google search.

We did not do everything in this resource, but we did play with creating a Fakebook page for one of the characters...It was fun!

I also had her write an essay...I can't remember where I grabbed the questions I gave her, but here is a list.

I think that is it!


Monday, July 10, 2017

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie



BOOK Club–‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”


Originally Posted on Home & School Mosaics:
This month we are focusing on the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff.  Two of our writers took on the challenge of this book in their homes and they will be sharing their thoughts and some activities you can do.  The writer for this month is Carrie Cannon.


Did you enjoy the book? Why? Why not?
I LOVE this book. The charming illustrations combined with the innocent and silly series of cause and effect instances that happen when you give a Mouse a Cookie are amusing and entertaining for children.
How did the book compare to other books by the author (or other books in the same genre)?
The author has a series of books that follow the same lines of what happens when you do this. They are fun as well, but If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is by far my most favorite. She has several other books, but I have not read any of those yet.
What about the plot? Did it pull you in; or did you feel you had to force yourself to read the book?
The book is so fun and the illustrations are so wonderful, that you find yourself turning the pages to find out what happens next. I LOVE that it circles back to the beginning…you can see the whole thing happening again!
How realistic was the characterization? Would you want to meet any of the characters? Did you like them? Hate them?
I loved the characterization. I am not sure I would call it realistic, but the characters are sweet throughout the story. I love that the mouse seems to gather energy throughout the book, while the boy is continually cleaning up behind the mouse and looks pretty worn out by the end of the story. Many of the actions remind me of life at home with children. Their wonderful energy, never ending flow of ideas, their creativity, their boundless energy paired with my fatigue at the end of the day, the mouse wanting to sign his name on his picture with a pen, getting scotch tape…my children would have so much fun with a roll of scotch tape.
Did the actions of the characters seem plausible? Why? Why not?
Setting aside the fact that this is a mouse doing these things, I do believe the actions of the characters are plausible. One thing just leads to another all throughout the story. The mouse bounces from one activity to the next with enthusiasm, a little bit of drama and a sweetness that is irresistible to readers of all ages.
Did the book end the way you expected?
I can’t remember what I expected the first time I read it…it has been so long ago. Now, when we read it, it just seems like that is the way it HAS to be.
Would you recommend this book to other readers? To your close friend?
Absolutely YES! My family has all loved this book! It has a nice story with the BEST illustrations. A wonderful book for children!
The Title of this book is ” If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. The Title is simply the name of the book.
Laura Joffe Numberoff is the Author of the book and her Website is here and you can read about the author here.
An Author is a person who writes a book.
Felicia Bond is the Illustrator and you can find out more about her here.
An Illustrator is the person who draws the pictures in a book.

Activities for “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”

My children are all a little too old to do many of the activities for this book, but I had my youngest do a couple of them so I would have pictures! We also took some cookies and a copy of the book to our neighbor for a treat!
Try walking through each step of the story. Have a cookie, ask for a glass of milk, see if you have a milk mustache, get a hair cut…and so on.
Make a bed…either your bed or make up a bed somewhere in the house out of something else….snuggle down and looks at books…or take a NAP!!!
Make a family portrait and sign it with a pen. Hang it on the fridge.
Have fun with scotch tape
Clean up after yourself
Start your own if you give a….. story…
Take cookies/the book to a neighbor or friend

Make “signs” of the nouns in the picture…tape them onto the item
Note the verbs…do the actions
Here is a couple of wonderful Chocolate Chip Cookie printables, which are also on my Pinterest board, but you can create all kinds of games with these…numbers, colors, letters, whatever you are working on in your home!
Numbers
Talk with your child or children about when happens when we do this and introduce the idea of cause and effect. Here is a good article on that.
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, May 1, 2017

Raising Mission's Minded Children



Raising Missions-Minded Children


We have always had a soft spot in our hearts for Missions/Missionaries. We have been very blessed to create strong friendships with many missionaries because of this. We raised our children around Missionaries, with Missionary stories, etc. We know that not everyone can go to Africa, but we can all support Missions/Missionaries in a variety of ways. Here is a short list of some of the things we have done in our family that have helped instill a Missions-Minded Heart:
We began our adventure in being Missions Minded by writing to the Missionaries our church supported. It began before we had children and continued for many years. As more children came and homeschooling began, those letters really slowed down. I cannot tell you how humbling it was to hear that my letters were the only contact one missionary had while overseas. Especially when I had known I had not written much. Missionaries were always gracious in writing back. This was the best gift to us! Please be VERY careful when writing missionaries. Some countries are not very friendly to the gospel. Also, packages are not as helpful as you might think. Some are opened and things are stolen, but often times, the packages are given pretty heavy fees. More than you would pay for the items being sent. Some good friends of ours are in the process of becoming a missionary family. It will be so much fun for my children to write to them when they go into the field and those children will be blessed as well! Most of the missionary friends we had in the early days did not have children with them in the field.
Attend Missions Conferences if your church has them. Most of the missionaries we know come home once every four years. This is a very busy time for them as they are reporting in with supporting churches, seeing family, taking care of needs, preparing to go back, getting some continuing education, raising more support, and so many other things we all take for granted. These times of “furlough” or home assignment are often filled with more activity than being away. It is a sign of respect and love to attend these meetings. This is where they get to see that they are loved and not forgotten. Can you imagine what it would be like to be alone in a foreign country where you speak very little of the language? We have had missionaries stay in our homes while in town for these conferences, which has blessed us all. I will never forget my little girl crying out incredulously, “YOU WERE BORN IN A TOILET???” at the end of a story a missionary was telling us. We have all formed strong bonds with those who have stayed in our homes. Our children have seen that missionaries are just normal people with a passion to share the gospel with a particular part of the world.
If you can afford it at all, support missionaries. Our regular giving to our church supports several missionaries, we take up special offerings as needs arise, support missionaries independently of our church, and are sometimes led for a particular gift. Any amount helps, even if only $5 a month. Throw all your change in a jar and save that for a missionary need. You will never miss it, and I am sure it will greatly bless someone! I will never forget one day when one of my children was younger. A need for a missionary came up and we knew we were going to take up a collection for it. He took every bit of money he had and put it into the offering plate…every dollar, every coin (I am sure the treasurer LOVED that!)…as his momma, I was tempted to tell him he didn’t have to do that…but I didn’t. My child got so much joy in giving that gift. Children can often be such natural and generous givers. Let them know how important their gift is.
Read biographies of missionaries. YWAM has a great collection of children’s missionary biographies included in their Heroes of the Faith series. Not everyone of these are missionary stories, but they have several that are.   My children LOVED these books about Gladys Aylward, George Mueller, Eric Liddell, Nate Saint and more. We learned of their great faith and more about OUR GREAT GOD!   Often times, after reading the YWAM book, I would look for more books on that person to learn more about their life. These really are great books!
Study different countries and cultures, especially the ones you have missionary friends in. Learn about the country’s people, customs, environment, and culture. Try their food! It would be fun to make it for your missionary friends when they come to your neck of the woods.
If your child starts talking like they want to go to Africa, encourage that. Do not treat being a missionary like they are doing this because they couldn’t get a better job anywhere else. You might never say this to your child, but we sometimes communicate that when it comes to OUR child wanting to go into Missions. These missionaries have a heart for God and a passion for getting the gospel out to people who are perishing. A great missionary, Jim Elliot, once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” If God is calling your child into missions, let them go with your blessing and with great joy.

Be missionaries to those around you who do not know Christ. Speak truth, be loving and gracious, be involved in their lives, listen to them…this list is really endless. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” This essentially makes every one of us a missionary.
This is not a complete list by any means, and I am sure you can think of more ideas, maybe even better ideas. This is just a list of things we have done in our house to encourage and support missions and missionaries. We currently have a boy talking about going to Africa when he is older. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but I will trust God to lead each of us along the path He has for us!
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Monday, April 3, 2017

Just a Little Flat




Just a Little Flat


I’ve mentioned before that I go to the World’s Best Co-op Evah…did I happen to mention Biology Dissection Lab? Well, it is co-op season again and we are midterm into this session of co-op. One of the classes I have done before, and am teaching again now, is a Flat Stanley Class. There are so many ways you can take a Flat Stanley Class, that I thought I would share a few of my ideas and maybe this would encourage you as well.
First, we begin with reading “Flat Stanley” out loud and making our Flats. We will make 3 to send out and one more for me to keep until the end of class for a surprise. I LOVE using the Cricut Everyday Paper Doll Cartridge (# 291042) for these. They really turned out CUTE! (Now, because it is just disturbing to me to have their little behinds all nake-y, I flip the paper over after I have cut one set of clothes and cut a second set for the back side so it all matches up…if you are ok with naked little backsides, by all means leave them bare.) I have planned two class periods for this.

The next week, we will ATTEMPT to work on addressing an envelope. Last time I did this, I thought, we would do this each week. Well, with 4 boys aged K-2, that QUICKLY got thrown out the window. This year, I have the same age group, but much more realistic expectations. We are still going to try to do this one time, but will talk more about the proper way to address it, where the stamp goes, and what happens next. You could work in a full Post Office/Mail unit study if you like. (Update: This went so much better than I could have expected this time! So glad we did it! Also emphasized that a STAMP is NOT a STICKER!)
After the third week, we will read portions of some of the remaining books. From these, I am planning for one food item and one activity for each book. Things I learned last time: Papier Mache piñatas MIGHT be the way to go. DO NOT TRY to create your own from cardboard and tape…unless you want to be VERY FRUSTRATED. WE have not yet done the Papier Mache, so I may scrap it entirely if that doesn’t work either. ALWAYS practice the origami project before attempting to teach it. We barely got a Ninja Star done last time. Have a wonderful helper who lives to fill in the gaps you leave by flying by the seat of her pants! I have had the best helpers ever and they totally save face for me before these kids as I can be a whirlwind type in this kind of a class…(UPDATE:  Ditch the pinatas...TRUST ME on this one!)
So, here are some ideas I am thinking over with the books and which weeks I am planning on using them. I am writing this article at the beginning of the class, and I have already told you I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so this MAY change AND since it is at the beginning, I have not yet had the opportunity to tell you what went well and what did not. I will try to post updates to my blog so you can keep up to speed on it if you are interested. (UPDATE:  That did not happen...but you can still check out my blog!  AND by this time, I THINK I will be most of the way through my third time with this class...so you just never know!!!)
Week 4: Mount Rushmore Calamity – I will be talking a bit about the History of Mount Rushmore and why the four presidents were chosen. We will take a look at the South Dakota and Mount Rushmore Quarters just for fun, try some beef jerky, and make a Mount Rushmore Card to take home. This week, we will also begin some light map work, coloring in the area we are talking about. I have glued a U.S. map and a World map into a file folder to keep these neat. I had a hard time deciding what to do this week. Many crafts for Mount Rushmore were rubbings of a Quarter, Nickel, Dime and Penny to create the mountain, but it bothered me that Franklin D. Roosevelt was used for Theodore Roosevelt. I got the card idea from a blog post I found on the Clearwater Public Library Family Connection site . My version is a tweak on what they did, but I was pleased to get the inspiration!  
(Update: This class time went very well…I forgot to get pictures of their cards, but I will try to explain as best as I can: We folded over a sheet of blue construction paper. On the front, we glued a color picture of Mount Rushmore. Inside, we glued a copy of the coloring page that is linked in the post above. Here it is just to keep life easy. For the back, I printed off the four presidents from some cards I found and cut around them. We glued them on and wrote what they represented: Washington represents birth, Jefferson growth, Roosevelt development, and Lincoln preservation.)
(ANOTHER UPDATE:  I could not get the pictures to load from the Library blog post...not sure what the issue is there...Big bummer!)
Week 5: Australian Boomerang Bonanza – I MAY try to see if I can find some Vegemite for the kids to try…I hear this is a BIG deal down under. If not, I know there are some cookies that are also very popular.  We will also be making boomerangs from foam core board and I will bring in origami boomerangs that actually SHOULD return to you when you throw them. I will make these at home though…I don’t think that my group can be this precise. (UPDATE:  I waited too long to find Vegemite...I think I found some Australian candy for them)
Week 6: The Amazing Mexican Secret – We will be making cheese quesadillas with the SECRET ingredient and making a piñata. The Piñata MAY take two weeks…if it does, we will not do the activity planned for week 12. (UPDATE: Just say no to the Pinata!!!  Get something like these instead if YOU HAVE TO DO THEM...and if the link is gone, just search mini pinatas on Amazon...PLEASE TRUST ME ON THIS!)
Week 7: Japanese Ninja Surprise-Origami – We will try a Ninja Star and I will send home some papers for them, with directions, to make a crane to make at home. We will have the children try Roasted Seaweed Sheets that you can get at Costco. We have MANY people at our co-op who love these, so MANY of the children enjoy them as well. I will have a back up treat if that fails…maybe pocky…(upate:  Have an Origami NINJA helper if this is not your gift!  We did the one project and sent the other home.  Did the seaweed and pocky)
Week 8: The Flying Chinese Wonders – I have not yet fully developed this one because I just received the book …but I have a fantastic picture of The Great Wall of China that my husband’s great aunt took when she was there and I will bring that in as well as some of those rice paper candy things you can get at the store. We used to get these from time to time in the Chinese Restaurant when we were little. The book mentions Chinese New Year, talks a little about determination and lists some Chinese Food. The book also covers quite a bit about acrobatics…maybe this will be a good time to do somersaults or cartwheels. Emperor Qin’s Terra Cotta Army is mentioned too and that would be a fabulous thing to show the students as well. We will either make a Chinese Dragon Puppet or a paper lantern. We will have fortune cookies and tea too!
Week 9: The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery – I will be making falafel and bringing in my good friend’s Persian dip. I have a pin on my Flat Stanley board for making mummies in a sarcophagus , or we can use hieroglyphics and make a Cartouche. I also have a pin for a death mask…so LOTS of ideas for this one.
Week 10: The Intrepid Canadian Expedition – For Canada, I am thinking of creating Northern Lights Art and serving up some poutine. If poutine isn’t in the cards, I may try to get my hands on some Canadian snack. Growing up in a hockey family, I may JUST HAVE to talk about the Stanley Cup too! (Update:  I had a friend who was going up into Canada close to when my class was and she brought back some candy.  I cannot even believe I was thinking about making poutine...)
Week 11: The U.S. Capital Commotion – For the U.S. Capital week, there are so many different directions to go, that I am having a hard time focusing.   I may try making a model of the Washington Monument, or we may make newspaper hats. Many D.C. attractions are mentioned and there will be no end of what we can talk about. I may give just an overview of them all. For a snack, I was thinking Apple Pie, because what is more American than that, but Nachos/Chips and Salsa are mentioned in the book so I may do that instead.  (Update:  I cannot even remember what we did here...it was week 11 for goodness sakes!  And actually, I think this ended up being week 12 because something took longer.)
Week 12: The African Safari Discovery -The African Safari book is my ace in the hole. I don’t think we will get to it, because I am pretty sure week six will be two weeks long. It is the book I am also having the most trouble pulling ideas from. I would LOVE your suggestions on what you would find interesting to do with this one. (Update: We did NOT end up doing this one!)

Check out some of the links I have used on my Flat Stanley Pinterest Board. I have not used all of these ideas, but some did spur on other ideas or are for future use too!
So, a couple of last thoughts:
In this class, I send out all the flats. I want to be sure they get sent and not set aside and forgotten.  I have notified all the parents that I will need three addresses before co-op starts, so they are prepared to have that for me either the second or third week. If my children can, I have them address the envelopes we are sending out. If not, then I do it and mail it with a letter for the person receiving it.
I chose to send out three flats, HOPING they would at least get one back. This time, I made a 4th flat for each child and I am HOPING to create a little book for each one. This might be a bit adventurous when push comes to shove, so we will see if it gets finished, but my thought was just in case someone did not get anything back.  (Update:  The book did not happen, but I had a friend make a cookie for them that looked like their flat...it was AMAZING!)
Have you ever done a class on Flat Stanley? If so, I’d love to hear your ideas! If not, I hope I’ve inspired you!
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Friday, March 24, 2017

For Love and Honor

For Love and Honor
Written by Jody Hedlund
Published by Zondervan Publishing
Ages: Young Adult
Cost: $12.99




I have had some HEAVY reading on my list recently, so when I finished my latest 425 page book on the cousin kings of World War I, I was so happy to have some easy reading to give my brain some pleasure.
For Love and Honor filled the gap beautifully.  A story of chivalry, adventure and love, with a historical context (WHICH I LOVE) was a quick and enjoyable read.  Both Lady Sabine and Sir Bennett have a secret that drives this book forward to its finish.  Will it be true love or a disaster?  I am sure you can figure it out, but there were some twists and turns I did not expect along the way, and there is a sweet resolution at the end.
For those concerned about the romantic element, it is all handled modestly...no graphic descriptions, but you can feel the attraction.  If you are concerned about the material, an advanced read might be beneficial.
I personally enjoyed this book, ,but I am also careful not to read too much in the romantic genre as I don't find it helpful in real life.

* I received this product to help facilitate a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.


Promises for You Coloring Devotional

Promises for You Coloring Devotional
60 Days Discovering God's Hope and Love
ZonderKidz Publishing
Ages: 8-12
Cost: $12.99



This is a beautiful hard backed book filled with fun coloring pages and 60 devotions.  This would be a great way for young girls to begin the habit of a quiet time in a way they would enjoy.  There is a page that gives some direction in how to proceed with the book.  I LOVE THIS!
It has some great tips and suggestions...you do not have to start at the beginning...you can look for a page that looks interesting or fun to color.  EVERY word of God is profitable!
 Some of the designs might be a little too detailed for younger or more active girls...
 Some of the devotions might be too simple or short for more advanced or mature readers. This is dependent on where they are in their faith too.

                                                   (aren't these butterflies LOVELY?)

I personally have some mixed feelings about the content of this devotional, but I do think girls would LOVE IT!  It could also be a great way to calm down for the day in preparation for bed or a gentle start to your morning.I wouldn't want this to be the only Bible contact my child had during the week though as it seems to be a little more like a commentary in substance than what we currently do in our family.
One other issue I had, was the book does not lay flat when open.  This would seem to be frustrating to girls trying to color.  The pages are thick and you could use a variety of art materials for the coloring pages.
It would make a sweet gift!

* I received this item to help facilitate a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.

Light Up New York

Light Up New York
Faith Girlz: Glimmer Girls series
Written by Natalie Grant
Illustrated by Cathi Mingus
ZonderKidz Publishing
Age: About 7-12
Cost: $8.99


Light Up New York is the latest Glimmer Girl story out on the market.  I have really enjoyed these sweet stories with issues young people deal with often, sometimes daily.  As the issue of homelessness is seen all around us where I live, I thought this was a timely story, showing what can be done to help out.  While most young people do not have a famous singing mother option for public concerts, television show spots and record deals, I still think that young people can take the principles from the book and perhaps see what they might be able to do.  I know finding ways to help the homeless is a tender spot for many people today.
I also really liked how the book dealt with a side issue of sibling relationships and give suggestions for how to handle conflict.  I won't give a lot of details, but I thought this was handled well.  These girls aren't perfect, but conflicts are resolved in healthy ways in all of the books and sets an excellent example for parents and children alike.
As I have said before, each book has a mystery to solve and this one is FUN!!!  I LOVE this mystery and it has a takeaway for all of us!  Again, no spoilers!!!
Illustrations are simple...not taking away from the story.
I would recommend this book!  I really enjoyed it!

*I received this product to help facilitate a frank and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Your results and/or opinions may vary.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Budget is NOT a Four Letter Word?




Budget is NOT a Four Letter Word!


So as I sit to write another article at the beginning of the year, money matters are in the forefront of my mind. I don’t intend to write a year’s worth of money articles, but I did want to talk a little about budgeting, after talking last month about savings. As I shared, my family has found some easy ways to boost the savings account a little bit. That said, creating a budget has been the number one way we have gotten a better grasp of our finances. Rather than just living paycheck to paycheck with no real idea of where our money is going, we sit down and we tell our money what we want it to do. It isn’t perfect and sometimes there is more month than money, but we are much more in control with our budget than we were before.    

Here are a few of the things we have learned:

First, a budget is not an ogre telling you that you can never have anything, do anything, or go anywhere. A budget is just a plan…a to-do list for your money, if you will…I think it actually gives you permission to buy things. You create the budget categories you need and then that money can be spent on that category. We all need clothing, there is a category for that. Go get some clothes. Have no guilt. You want to go out to eat and to a movie…we have a category for that. Go do it. Don’t think of the budget as telling you what you can’t do, but instead what you get to do because it is in place. You cannot spend freely though, so a budget helps you determine what is appropriate and when you will need to stop spending.
Second, a budget is not a one-time thing.   It will change from month to month… you need to make a new one each month. When we began budgeting, I was not sure where to start. I found a template I liked online that gave some budget categories with some percentage ranges. These are not a one size fits all kind of thing, but rather a helpful tool to know where to begin. We tweaked those percentages through trial and error and still use those figures to begin with when breaking down our paychecks. Our family gets paid weekly, so we create a new budget each week (with some specific things that need to be done with that particular check). Those categories sometimes need to slide a little as the heating bills are higher in the winter and the gas category isn’t as high because gas prices are down, for example, but again are a framework to begin with.
Third, communication is the KEY! Being the math nerd of the family, I LOVE creating the budget, and it might even be right. If my husband has no input, it is not OUR plan, no matter how perfectly the decimals align, and then the budget can be tossed aside by one splurge at Michael’s or Home Depot….and who really cares anyway and let’s just forget it all. It just doesn’t work. Sit down together with the outline, the bills, the things just on the horizon and have a conversation and be in agreement about what happens.
Finally, remember, a budget is just a plan for your money, not a four letter word! You will feel much more in control financially when you have a budget in place, won’t have as many things pop up and say SURPRISE, and may even find there is a bit less month at the end of the money!  We have learned A LOT by listening to Dave Ramsey/reading his books.  If you need some help in this area, I HIGHLY recommend his materials.
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Love, Marriage and Baby Carriages





Love, Marriage, and Baby Carriages


As Valentine’s Day approaches, a topic heavy on my heart is loving our children.  I know this seems silly as we more often think of romantic love; but hindsight is 20/20 and, as I walk along trying to parent a prodigal as well as other children, I want to share some things I have learned along the way.  As an older woman (if you can call 29 older…wink, cough, cough), I hope that the things I have learned can encourage, instruct, and help you as you walk your path.  I always say that time flies when measured by growing babies and we only get a very short amount of time to influence them.  All of those sleepless nights and laundry piles may be one day wished for again…I know, I am not there yet either!  These suggestions are not in a particular order, just as the Spirit leads me through the things on my heart.
While it feels like you will ALWAYS have three in diapers, NEVER be able to shower or catch up on laundry, and you can’t remember what being rested feels like, I tell you…time is flying by.  We often cannot see the years for the days, but your children are growing so fast and the time we have with them in our homes is really so short.  Engage with them, play, snuggle, read, listen to them, and talk with them.  Make the time to do this with them now so that when they are older, they will still come to you and talk and share their lives with you.  We can “one more thing” or “just a minute” ourselves to death. These things never end and they are important, but they will still be there.  One day, our children will be gone and we cannot turn back or stop THAT clock.
Children do childish things.  Learn to determine what is childish and what needs discipline.  This is one area where I feel like I really failed one of my children.  He was always busy and active, getting into things, creating concoctions and secret “formlias”.  Do not overreact to childish things.  I know you’re tired, I know it is a mess, something may have been ruined, etc…but grabbing your child’s heart is much more valuable and trying to see it through their eyes is time very well spent.  “What were you thinking buddy?  What were you trying to do?”  Clean up the mess together and lovingly guide your child to see a better way this could have gone or provide an outlet for their busyness, creativity, and inventiveness.
The flip side of this coin is discipline.  I am not going to go into methods here…we can all find countless resources to help us there.  I would rather encourage you to be consistent and calm in your discipline.  When you are consistent, your child knows what to expect and can respond to that.  When we are too tired, busy or even lazy, our children learn that sometimes we mean what we say and other times we don’t.   If we wait until we explode in a rage, we are both exasperating our children and teaching them to listen and respond only when we hit a certain point.  Remember, you are modeling behavior for your children.  Instead of a feeling of dread…”I’ve become my mother,” wouldn’t it be sweet to have your grown child sigh peacefully and say that with a sense of great joy?  The cost is small now and the reward is great later down the way.  Try not to lose sight of that in the trenches of mothering.
We all blow it.  We lose our temper, we make mistakes, and we hurt those we love.  As soon as possible, go to your child and make a sincere apology.  Do not look for ways to justify what happened, cover it up, or make it seem like it was nothing.  “I am sorry, I was wrong, will you forgive me?”  This models another behavior that is so important…repentance.   True repentance restores broken relationship and opens up communication.  
Be there, Momma.  Get off the gadgets, shut down Facebook, and be there for your children.  Your children will not remember if you had a Pinterest-worthy home with over the top birthday parties and the best holiday themed decorations.  They will remember the silly crafts you did together, the snuggle times, the books you read, how you pretended to grumble when they sneaked into your coffee, or the way you held them when they were sick.  As I have said before, time is short.  Be there…show them they are more important than your computer, phone, television, or whatever your THING is.
Tell them you love them…A LOT!  Don’t just assume they know.  Tell them as often as you can, even if they don’t want to receive it…tell them!  Adopt code words to tell them if it is embarrassing to hear I LOVE YOU in front of others, but tell them you love them.  They really need to hear it, they need to feel it, and they need to see your love in action.  Do not make your love a conditional reward of their behavior…love them.
Precious Momma, if I could leave you with one final bit of advice, it would be to invite a woman into your life to mentor you.  Scripture says that the older women are to teach the younger women and our generation of Mommas has suffered because many do not have anyone to go to for help.  I KNOW that I have not had enough wisdom in my experience to do things as I should and there are areas where my family has suffered as a result of that.  I am so blessed, though, to have a beautiful mentor in my life who I can count on to give me wise and godly counsel and to be for me and my family.  She does not give me the counsel I want or whatever is popular.  She gives me the counsel I need, that comes from above and out of her life that is steeped in the Word of God.  She always points me to Christ.  I know she prays for me often.  My parenting is better because I have been vulnerable and shared some ugly things about myself and my family.  She helps me to stand in victory when I am tired and cannot stand on my own.  She encourages me to be a better wife, mother and woman of God.  It is hard to admit you need help, hard to let others see the dirty places in your life, hard to let others see your sin, but there is great strength and support in the vulnerability.  There is great wisdom in God’s plan for us!


Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Easy Savings Ideas for the New Year





Easy Savings Ideas for the New Year




The New Year ushers in a rush of thoughts on what am I going to accomplish this year and what didn’t I accomplish last year and why. We feel the need to have a list of things we are going to pinky promise ourselves that we ARE going to do this year. Goals and resolutions come in all shapes and sizes…health, professional, spiritual, and personal are a few of the categories we focus on as the last days of a year tick by.   I think having some goals or things to work towards each year is a good thing. There are many things we all can do better; having a plan helps us get there!
One area we are developing a plan for in 2015 (Now 2017) is in the area of personal finance.   Having listened to Dave Ramsey on the radio for several years, we have learned many things about ways to handle money. I know everyone has an idea of how to do this; we just really like his Baby Steps program (which you can find listed here) as outlined in his book, The Total Money Makeover.
Dave talks pretty extensively about having an emergency fund and saving for the things you need. Personally, we have been through a couple of emergencies fairly stress free because of having an emergency fund. I saw a quote one time on the percentage of emergencies that were covered by a $1,000 starter emergency fund and I was stunned at how high it was. Unfortunately, I was unable to find that percentage when I went to look for it though. Certainly, I do know that not every emergency will be covered by this, but beginning is the key. Dave covers this quite a bit in all of his materials, much more eloquently than I can, but I want to share a couple of savings tips that we will be implementing in our home.
Emergency Fund – This is a great time to get that starter fund in place if you don’t have one already. Many people will be receiving the tax documents needed to file their returns and I am sure that some will be getting a refund. If you are one who is expecting a refund, set aside $1,000 for this purpose. It’s not as fun as a new television or camera, a vacation or a wardrobe update, but you will be thankful for it when needed. You can also sell some things or work extra jobs to get this as quickly as possible. I am not kidding…this saved our backsides at least two times this year.
Car Savings – My husband and I both drive cars that are over 17 years old.   We are grateful to have vehicles that get us to and fro, but as the miles stack up, we know it won’t last forever. We have been working our written budget for quite a while now, but are at a place where one of the paychecks is not NEEDED for our living expenses. Since this is the case, we have decided to set aside an amount to apply to a newer car. While this is not going to be the latest model of anything, it will be a step up from what we currently have. We do not have a target date to buy a new car, but are hoping to save for about 18 months or so.
Food – This is one area where I would ALWAYS love to save more money. We do not eat out often as it is terribly expensive, but even eating in is going up in price…have you seen the price of butter lately? While I am NOT an expert on this, ways I have been trying to save more money are by meal planning around what is on sale, limiting my trips out to the store to minimize any impulse items, shopping in the clearance areas of the stores, and trying to make more things from scratch than I currently buy…such as refried beans, granola bars and salad dressings. I have made flavored white sauces for years now as cream soups are not my favorite, but I keep trying to find ways to save at the grocery store. I know that couponing is an option, but I am not at a place in life where that would work for me. I have a good friend who gets some amazing deals, and I can rejoice with her.  I have also been trying a meal prep system that is new to me...this is pretty new for me, so I don't have much to say on it yet, but I LOVE how it has saved TIME AND MONEY so far.
At the Pump –Just kidding…no helps here. Actually gas prices all over the place right now, but have been down a bit from what we have experienced in recent years, which is a blessing for sure!  I also read somewhere something about getting more gas if you fill up when it is colder in the day versus when the day warms up. That could just be an Urban Legend; I never looked into it further.
Change Jar – This is one of those ways to save money that you really don’t recognize how effective it is until it has piled up a bit. We use an envelope system for most of our budget categories and have quite a bit of change that ends up on the bottom of my purse. Rather than deal with that change in each category, I toss it all into a jar every 2-4 days. At first, it didn’t seem like the jar would ever get full, but it is now almost full. I do not notice the money being gone, but as there is now over $160 in this jar, I sure notice that. We do not have a set category to use this for yet, but I am thinking dinner out with the family would be a great treat. We are all actively involved in this process…both with tossing change into the jar and counting it every once in a while. When this jar is full, it is time to find a bigger jar! (New for this year, I have started to throw $1 bills in too!  It is AMAZING how that adds up!)
Weekly Savings – This is, by far, my favorite tip…I found out about this challenge back in June of 2014 and it was so easy, I LOVED it! So, the premise of this is that you save up $1 for each week of the year. Week one you will save $1, week 30, $30, etc. and at the end of the year, you will have saved $1,378. The thing I LOVE about this challenge is that you are saving, but the most it costs you is $52. We never really missed the money we set aside. If you get paid every other week, then $103 is the highest, but you can switch around the numbers to work in your budget. I originally thought that we would use this money for Christmas, but we ended up leaving this set aside. This would be a great way to save for an event, put towards a vacation, or use to buy a particular item (CAMERA!). We jumped in more than halfway through the year, so we put in a percentage of our income each week, rather than just the amount for that week. I glued a chart to the front of an envelope and highlighted the amount we put into the fund that pay period. This year, I am planning on doing the weeks reversed. So, for the first week of January, we will save $52 instead of $1. I like the idea of the larger amounts not coinciding with the holiday weeks AND you see the total pile up more quickly that way. We do not have a plan for this money, so it might end up getting put into the car fund or emergency fund as it builds up, but like I said, we did not miss this money at all. If we were to get paid every other week, I would probably pair week one and week 52, rather than week one and two.
Well, these are a few suggestions to get you started to a greener 2015 (2017)! I hope these ideas get you thinking of the things you can do in your homes to stretch those dollars a bit further!
Originally Posted at Home and School Mosaics