Follow our family as we journey through life.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Rush To Buy

It is the season to be jolly and for many people this means buying a bunch of stuff they don't need and many times can't even afford.

I am guilty of this as well. I love cruising the sites looking for Black Friday Deals and deals leading up to Black Friday and the deals that lead up to the countdown for the deals that are for Black Friday. And then there are the deals leading up to Christmas and the after-Christmas sales.  I see an item that interests me and "OH WOW!" It's super discounted and in one click it can be delivered to my doorstep. Or an email arrives in my inbox announcing some "In-Store Only" special that tempts me to run out and acquire the object (and several others) with a quick swipe of my card.

Compared to some, I don't buy a lot for the holidays. But 90% of the shopping I do is for the five kids that live in my house. I like to see them happily playing with a LEGO set they desired for months, or playing make believe with wooden swords. But today's society teaches us that the three gifts we gift each of our children isn't enough. Although fifteen new items enter our house each Epiphany (and this doesn't include numerous toys and gifts they receive from other family members on Christmas), my kids need more stuff, more clutter, more, more, more to fill their days.

When is enough enough? According to the Consumer Christmas Culture, enough is enough when you have given up your Thanksgiving dinner in order to acquire a great deal, as well as maxed out most of your savings or credit cards. And then you're lucky if this stuff you've acquired makes you or the receiver happy for longer than the holidays.

I am not saying don't buy gifts for those you love. In fact, I encourage my kids to purchase gifts for each other. Thoughtful gifts that are paid for in part or full from their own piggy banks. My husband and I exchange handmade gifts as an example of giving that comes from the heart.  

When my kids recall Christmas memories they have never, and I mean never, talked about a gift they received. What my kids remember are Christmases that we spent with family out west or in the South. They remember a snowstorm that meant we could not go to the science center two days before Christmas or teaming up with the neighbor girls to gift a recently widowed neighbor with special treats each day of December. They remember piano recitals and singing Christmas Carols together. They remember moving the Wise Men closer to the Nativity each night after Christmas. Their memories are made from time together and experiences that define our family, not from something acquired at a great sale price.  

Time with children is short and precious. My desire is for my kids to grow up and remember the time we spent doing things together, not the flood of gifts under a tree one day a year.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hotel Living

Total Cuteness

Notice the stylish jacket and boots. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Isaac's Debut!

Isaac had his musical debut at school when he played his first trombone solo in front of the entire school for the morning meeting!

This kid is too awesome for words.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Product Review: The Sparkle Box (Book)

Buy The Sparkle Box
I was recently offered a chance to review a holiday themed Christmas book. With Christmas fast-approaching I quickly said yes!
I really didn't know what kind of book The Sparkle Box would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I read it and realized it is a lesson as well as a Christmas book. The lesson revolves around a box that you fill with gifts for Jesus on his birthday. These aren't the physical kind of gifts. These are spiritual and other gifts that you give to those in need during Advent.
The story is of a little boy. His acts of kindness and those of his family are written on little slips of paper. On Christmas morning the box is opened after his other gifts and the family talks about how they shared God's love with those less fortunate. Mittens for a homeless man, a well for people in Africa, blankets for those in need~ there are only three things in the box, but that is enough to remember that Christmas means more than just getting more stuff.
The simple storyline and wonderful illustrations are appealing to all ages. I especially liked that the message and the examples given were accessible to all. The box in the story isn't filled with fifty items, or expensive items. It is filled with only three monetary items and the gift of time. More importantly it is focusing on something other than the "I want..." mentality that Christmas has become.
I adore this book and plan to utilize these teachings during advent. Even beyond giving to those in need, which we do during December in many ways, but also remembering to pray for those in need.
The Sparkle Box is available on Ideals Books website for $19.99 and includes your very own sparkle box to fill with your family's Christmas offerings.
I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation and all opinions and views are my own.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Test Answer

The question asks: "What is the difference between an instinct and a learned behavior? Give one example of each."
Isaac's answer states: "The difference between an instinct and a learned behavior is that an instinct is something you are born with like a spider spinning a web while a learned behavior is something somebody teaches you like eating cake without getting messy."

Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes

I feel like this month is flying by! Thanksgiving is in two weeks and then it's practically December!
We are remodeling the sewing/office/clothing room. Michael is going to start after I take the kids to Georgia next week. I have spent the last several weeks "moving out" of that room. Not easy when it was filled to capacity!
Unlike decorating the rest of the house, this room is totally mine to outfit in any way I choose. I have all sorts of ideas. One whole wall will be our closet system with dressers and storage. But the rest of the space is mine!
It still needs to be practical and usable. I will use it for sewing, and it will still be our office as well. I am thinking a retractable sewing/cutting table that folds into the wall, and storing my machines and sewing supplies in a cabinet over my clothes. My fabric will still be stored in the gem of a kitchen cabinet my mother in law found at an antique store.
I will probably spray paint the filing cabinet, and get a new desk. Our current desk was some curbside trash we scored a few years ago. Very usable, but also very college dorm-like.
The floor right now is splintered wood, which we have covered with a mismatch of rugs and chair sliding mats. You can still get splinters if you step on the wood. I am thinking a very short carpet. Something I can still find my pins in.
Of course Michael is only starting the project while I am away. Between LMCA, SVC, kids, sports, and everyday life, it'll probably take several months to complete. Enjoy these before photos and send any suggestions my way!

Check out more Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Product Review: At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume 1 (Book)

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Looking for a good read to keep you busy this winter? If so, I have a great suggestion for you. I was recently offered a free copy of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume 1: Nothing that Eats in exchange for an honest review on this blog.

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At Home in Dogwood Mudhole is the true account of one family's wish to escape from the stresses of average American life. Tired of it all, Franklin Sanders packs up his wife and sets out to live an "authentic life." Soon the children follow with spouses and grandchildren. Very quickly the nuclear family has become a homesteading multi-generational farm experience.
This first volume in the three-volume series will have you laughing, gasping, and pondering the realities of starting a life over. It is above all, a story of family who loves God. A family who wants to put importance back into the way they live. Away from computers and media and the constant sense of doom, you will find yourself longing to also experience that deep sense of peace and contentment with your life.
I could relate to many aspects of the book. In comparison to the Sanders, my own family would not be considered large. But in comparison to the majority of folks in my life, I have a large family. Franklin Sanders captured perfectly the sense of wanting to protect and guide the chaos that is a large family. Things are always just a little bit out of control, but manageable.

Another aspect that I could relate to was moving day. Many folks around here have heard me say that if we move again I am setting the house on fire first. Everyone has a good laugh, but I am only half-joking. Mr. Sanders mirrored my thoughts on moving by relating his own feelings on the subject: "Where did all the stuff come from?... Frankly the idea of backing the [moving truck] into the pasture, unloading it, and starting a large bonfire is beginning to look reasonable to me (p. 156)"
Something that I really noticed about the book was the voice. Originally published as a series of letters, Mr. Sanders writes with a familiarity as though he is speaking to you personally. It is easy to get lost in the story and imagine that you as well are a part of this intriguing and mysterious adventure. It is easy to get wrapped up in it and begin thinking of the Sanders family as people that you know, instead of people that you read about.

I received a physical version of the text. This softcover book had over 350 pages and several black and white photos of the Sanders Family and their experiences.   At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, Volume 1: Nothing that Eats is available on the Sanders' website for $22.95 for a physical copy and $16.95 for an e-version.

In addition to this book, Franklin Sanders has published Volume 2: Best Thing We Ever Did. It is also available on the website. Volume 3: The sage of Dogwood Mudhole in scheduled to be released in the near future.

Many other folks on The Schoolhouse Review Crew got a chance to read At Home In Dogwood Mudhole. Click here to check out those reviews, or click the banner below.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

6 Days

In six days we went from beautiful Fall to First Snow.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Blogging and real life

There's a lot of competition out in the blogging world.

It's easy to get wrapped up in it and get swept away on all the "what ifs..."

What if I got a comment on every post? What if my goggle page rank was higher? What if I made money with my blog? What if? What if? What if?

My review period is coming to an end for this year. I have only a few more product reviews and then a nice break until after the holidays. Some folks on the review crew are talking about what they plan to blog about during the break since they won't have any reviews. I wasn't interested because I have plenty to blog about. Lots of content swimming around here. Little post-it notes and notebook pages scribbled with funny events, homeschooling struggles, and thoughts. All these thoughts and yet nothing ever gets written or posted. Sometimes pictures get posted, and sometimes that's all I can manage.

It's hard to raise kids. There's no easy way to do it. If it is easy, then I am convinced you're doing it wrong. It takes all your time, all your money, and a good part of your life. And it can be dirty and messy and exhausting. And that was just this morning.
But at the same time there really is no better way to spend your time. Or your money. It's a life-long commitment. And it is so worth it.
Totally worth it!

Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes

I feel like I have been neglecting this blog but that is all going to change because: SOCCER IS OVER! Our last game was in Pittsburgh last Sunday and now we have blissfully reclaimed many of our nights.
Here are some photos from Isaac's game:

They didn't win, but it didn't matter. The season ended just the same.

This is Isaac's Saint's Day costume posted mostly for Mama who couldn't see it clearly in the other blurry version I posted from my sword.
Man! I am behind on blogging. Here is a photo from eating out with Mema and Pepa from their visit two weeks ago.
Here's Margaret and Malcolm at LMCA

Did you know LMCA has a Facebook page where we upload photos and you can see all the cool stuff we are doing. Click here to check us out on Facebook!
And for the grand finale of Quick Takes I leave you with this wonderful video of a future star:
Check out more Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary


Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Product Review: If You Were Me (Away We Go Media)

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Award winning author Carole P. Roman began writing on a dare from one of her sons. She has written about pirates, yoga, and most recently, world cultures. I was so happy to receive four of her children's books intended to teach about different places in the world. I received these books at no charge, in exchange for a review on this blog.
I received four different titles to review. All the books came in softcover form and were 20 to 30 pages in length. Intended for ages four to eight, the books had simple text and lovely bold illustrations. Pronunciation guides were in the back of each book to help with names and other words.

All the books talk about common names for boys and girls, names for family members, sports, food, holidays, and school.  They all start with a picture of a globe showing where the country featured is located.
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If You Were Me and Lived In... Mexico will also show you how colorful a Mexican Market could be and some historic areas of interest. The illustrations depict some traditional clothing and household items.
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If You Were Me and Lived in... South Korea also talks about toys and eating utensils. Illustrations show Korean writing as well as traditional eating styles.
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If You Were Me and Lived in... France also shares what children like to eat for dessert as well as how their important holiday is similar to our Fourth of July. Illustrations show scenes from Paris as well as French homes and cafes.
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The newest release in the series, If You Were Me and Lived in... Norway (no link at time of blog post) can also teach young learners about the landscape and weather in Norway. Illustrations show traditional clothing and foods.
Margaret and I read the books together and found the country featured on our large wall map. She loved looking over the pictures and having her brothers reread them at bedtime.
For further learning I plan to read these books to the students in my first grade class at our homeschooling academy. We are starting a "World Cultures" unit and these will be a wonderful addition to the unit. We can expand on the learning by trying some of the treats mentioned, dressing in traditional clothing, and playing some of the sports and games mentioned.
Another great idea to expand the learning is to have the students draw a picture of themselves in the country being featured. Having them use their imagination can lead to pictures of dog sleds, eating with chop sticks, or being at the top of the Eiffel Tower!
These books are clearly well-researched and thoughtfully written. The simple text is appealing to young learners as well as thought provoking. The illustrations are creative and eye-catching. The way that each book follows a similar format increases awareness through repetition. Margaret began to remember that the round ball was the Earth and that the Earth was made of water and continents. She began to make comparisons: the treats in Norway and France were very similar and Korean toys looked a lot like the toys we have at home. These books would make a wonderful supplement to an already existing geography or world cultures study.
(Notice her choice of an American treat)
"Oh, I liked the girls in those books! I would like to know some of those girls. And I liked the talking of the different words. And I liked the book about the girl who lived the closest to Japan."
The If You Were Me and Lived in... series is available for purchase through amazon and Barnes and Noble. Prices vary depending on the title, format, and retailer. At the time of this blog posting, the Mexico, France, and South Korea books were $8.99 paperback and 99 cents Kindle on amazon. The Norway title was just about the same cost for paperback, and $1.99 for Kindle.
Many other reviewers on The Schoolhouse Review Crew got to look at these books as well. Click here to read their reviews, or click the banner below.
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