Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Good Idea - Using the IPod in the Car

Our car is older.  We don't have a stereo system where you can connect your iPod and hear the music.  Our Big Mac LOVES music.  We do listen to the radio, but sometimes we just want to hear specific songs that he had on his iPod.  We recently stumbled upon a fabulous idea that works wonders and we want to share it with you.

If you, like us, can't plug your MP3 player into the car stereo but want to listen to music on the iPod, try placing the player into the arm rest of the car.  The sound comes out of the bottom of the iPod, and is bounced out into the car by the bowl-shape of the arm rest.  It really works!  We are able to listen to Big Mac's music and sing along as we travel down the road.

Give it a try!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Sketch A Day

Instead of a formal art class this year, we tried something different.  Each day when I was reading our read-aloud to the boys, they drew something in a sketchbook.  I bought sketchbooks for them at our craft store and they kept them in their lessons boxes.  Sometimes they drew from memory.  Sometimes they drew something in the room.  Sometimes they got onto the ipods and found a picture to draw.

I came up with the idea when I saw a sketch-a-day journal at a book store.  I almost bought this journal, but thought, why not get a sketch book and let the boys draw each day?  When they were younger they filled sketch books with their ideas and creations.  We had gotten away from that somewhat, so I was anxious to get back to it.

Well, our sketch-a-day experiment was a great success.  There were some days when the boys weren't very inspired, but we are now on our second sketchbooks for this year and they have even gotten back to sketching in their free times when the inspiration strikes them.  Below are two of their sketches.  The first is Big Mac's drawing of our dog, Favor.  The next is T-Bone's drawing, with color!  I love them both. (the boys and the sketches!)

This has been a great way to incorporate art and creativity into our day, without a lot of instruction that sometimes squelches creativity.  Give a sketch-a-day a try!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Truly 5 Hour Sweater

After receiving a bag full of yarn for Christmas, I spent some time on new patterns.  I found a pattern that one of my friends "favorited" on Ravelry called the 5-hour baby sweater.  I gotta tell you, it's really a quick knit.  Using worsted weight (I used acryllic, because if it's for a baby you want it to be washable!) I was able to complete this sweater in just over 5 hours.  Now, I knit continental, so I'm a little quicker than a thrower.  I have made two of these sweaters.  They are really precious.  My pictures below, don't do it justice, but there is a great picture of a completed sweater here.  

This pattern was originally developed to be made for a charity drive, so the author encourages users to make at least one to donate to a hospital or birth center.  This would be so easy to do and wouldn't take much of your time at all.  

When I had a bit of yarn left over, I made the baby squash hat from the One Skein Wonders book so go with the sweater.  You'll see it pictured here:

I do want to leave you with one note:  TRUST THE PATTERN.  The sweater is knit from the top down, so you begin with the yoke.  It doesn't seem to make sense as your knitting, but do what it says and you will have a lovely pattern.  You can see the pattern a bit in the picture above.  It really shows up better in a solid yarn.  I did make one in green that is beautiful.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Taking a Picture with Boys

On a recent field trip, the Big Dog and I tried to take one of those couple-y pictures together where we snuggle up and he reaches is arm out to take our picture.  Well, just follow the progression of pictures below, and you'll see what happened to our romantic couple-picture:

I was in hysterics by the end! ...oh, yeah, here's the "innocent" culprit, our T-Bone:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Field Trip Friday: The Civil War Museum

Mary Todd Lincoln made this velvet tapestry.

Over the winter months, the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has one Saturday where entrance is free.  We were able to take advantage of that free day and I was so glad we did.  This museum is beautifully built, and full of original artifacts from the Civil War as well as striking dioramas, and dramatic videos.  You never know what you are going to find when you turn the corner.  

The Big Dog, who loves the Civil War and reads everything he can get his hands on, was filled with awe as we gazed on original items from key players in the war that killed the most Americans ever.  One of my favorite artifacts was a brass mold of President Lincoln's face.  It had been taken a few months before his death.  Truthfully, it was almost eerie to gaze on his likeness in this way.  But it was cool.
Robert E. Lee's Bible.
We saw the entire museum and took in a lecture in under 3 hours.  Of course, our guys did not stop to read every description or watch every video.  Being typical boys, they barreled through quite a bit of the museum.  But we were all able to absorb quite a bit of what we read, saw, and listened to.

Big Mac has been working on a research paper on baseball in the Civil War.  During this free day at the museum, a man gave a talk guessed in the Civil War.  So we were able to listen to that talk.  There were re-enactors and musical groups in addition to lots of presenters.  You could have filled a day with all the activities planned for the day.

Kind of dim, but this is a large display of a war-torn city.
So, why would I tell you this when the free day has passed?  Well, there's another one coming up!  If you are in the Central PA area, or you have travel plans to be near here, The National Civil War Museum is planning another free admission day on Saturday, June 15, 2012.  When we listened to the baseball speech in January, he said that they play a baseball game with Civil War rules during the June free-day.  So we have that to look forward to!

If you will not be able to take advantage of viewing the museum for free, consider visiting it at any other time of the year.  It is worth the price of admission for all that you will see and learn.  And if it's just to far for you to travel, check out their virtual tour on their website.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One of My Favorite Things...Fairy Lights

"So, you're buying a fairy light!"  I didn't know the woman who said this to me in the line at the thrift store.  I had picked up this really cool blue glass jar-looking thing and was waiting to purchase it.  And older women in line behind me informed me that this thing I was purchasing was called a "fairy light."  Or at least that's what "they" called them in the 70's, she said.

Since that day, I've picked up two more fairy lights that are slightly different and I have them clustered together on one end of our mantle.  As you can see, these fairy lights cast a beautiful glow when they are lit with tea-light or votive candles.  I just love them and the lights they project onto the wall and mantle.

PS.  The blue one is still my favorite.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I was recently given the opportunity to speak at a women's retreat.  We used the videos from Women of Faith entitled "The Joy-Filled Life."  You can get a copy of this video by following the instructions here.  I thought I'd post the content of my talks here on the blog for anyone's edification.  I'd love a conversation if you need to have one.  Feel free to contact me.

Let's talk about abandonment.  Abandonment looks different in almost every life.  I need to tell you a couple stories.  Both are quite different, but speak to abandonment and how it affects our lives.  

First, here is one way abandonment manifested itself in my life.  I’ve been in true love twice.  Once was immature and I praise God that it ended.  The other is with my husband, Todd.  The first time, was in high school.  I dated a boy for about a year.  He had been one of my best friends before we dated.  We had lots in common.  I really loved him.  It wasn’t the same as it is with my husband, but as much as I was capable at 16 years old, I loved him.  He broke up with me shortly before my 17th birthday.  It was the worst birthday of my life.  I was miserable and heart broken.  I was sad.  Fast forward to the year I met Todd.  We had been dating for 2.5 months and my birthday was fast-approaching.  By this time, I already knew that Todd was “the one.”  And those of you that know our story know that we didn’t waste any time in our relationship.  We dated for 8 months, got engaged and were married 3 months later.  Anyway, before all that, my birthday was approaching.   Todd was in the National Guard, and his drill weekend was falling on my birthday.  It was completely irrational and I know it was, but I was freaking out because boyfriends leave before your birthday.  That was in my head.  That abandonment was there for me and it came out almost 10 years later with the man I would spend the rest of my life with.  I made his life miserable for several days leading up to my birthday.  In my mind I knew he wasn't abandoning me, but in my heart, I couldn't shake that fear.  This story ends happily, Todd took leave from drill and spent my birthday with me.  And it worked out well, since we will be married 20 years in October 2012.

For, Todd, though, his abandonment issue is pretty deep.  His parents were divorced when he was 11 years old.  In my opinion, it was the single biggest impacter on Todd’s life.  It has driven many of the decisions he’s made in his life especially with me and our sons.  A few years ago, we took the boys to Northern Minnesota where Todd grew up.  As we were getting into familiar territory, Todd began pointing out landmarks that had meaning from his childhood:  “…there’s where I went to school…there’s where I fished with grandpa…there’s where grandpa dropped me off and said, ‘you’re the man of the family now.’ There’s where your great grandma lived.  There’s where the greenhouse was…”  I felt the wound as he spoke.  The divorce was wedged into a slow stream of landmarks as if it was just one of the many occurrences in life.  But our boys, too, felt the wound as he spoke.  Todd’s dad didn’t completely abandon them but they saw him much less and he no longer lived with them.  That moment in time and that geographical location was forever imprinted on Todd.  And Todd has a horrible memory.  He can’t remember what he had for lunch yesterday, but he can point out the exact spot where his dad dropped him off when the divorce was happening.  It left a deep mark that influences how he is with the boys and I.  Even though his dad remained in his life in a diminished capacity, Todd felt the abandonment of divorce in a very deep way.

The theme of our women's retreat was gardening.  In our life, we must spend time weeding our gardens.  You have to deal with the past in order to move to the future.  What keeps you from fully connecting to another person, whether it be your spouse, your friends, or your family?  We are made for connection.  We are created for connection.  We are meant for connection.  In Genesis, we read that for Adam, no suitable helper, no suitable connection was found among the animal kingdom.  He was made to connect to another human being.  We are made for connection to other human beings.  So what’s keeping us from connecting?

One of the parts of the Sunday worship service that I dislike the most is the meet-and-greet time.  I watch everone jump up and walk across the room to greet someone and I turn to the person behind me, shake their hand, say good morning, turn to the person in front of me, shake their hand, say good morning, and sit down!  And yet, I’m supposed to  be made for connection?!?  So what’s keeping me from connecting?

Rejection.  I fear rejection.  I fear it.  I hate it.  I obsess over it when it happens, it eats away at me.  So I avoid it wherever possible.  I was a “cheeky” kid.  I said stupid stuff that I can get embarrassed over even today.  I regret my big mouth even from when I was a kid.  And the mouth didn’t shrink as I aged.  I’m an idiot.  I say the wrong things.  I don’t want to be rejected because I don’t know the right thing to say.  And so, shake, shake, good morning, good morning, good bye!

But, oh my goodness, that’s changing!  I have looked back and forgiven that little girl for saying stupid stuff and I can talk to people I don’t know!  And if they don’t like me, well, I can’t fix that.  I can just be who God called me to be.  I’m not responsible for others reactions.  And I know that my motives are out of love.

During the women's retreat, I gave out "Hi My Name Is" stickers.  I encouraged the women to put their names on one and wear it, but on the other, I wanted them to write on their sticker what was keeping them from connecting with others.  For me, my sticker said, "Rejection."  So what’s on your sticker?  I love these stickers because that’s how we connect when we go to conferences and seminars. What is keeping you from connecting today?  We are meant for connection.  So why don’t we connect?

Quite often, I have a brown thumb.  I neglect my plants outside especially.  What if, when my neglected plant died, I replaced it with a plastic stem of flowers?  Would I get the same reward from a plastic flower that I do from a living plant?  We replace whatever it is we desire from a relationship with something else that will never satisfy the original need.  I have replaced lots of stuff with food.  I will never get the emotional response from a bag of cheese curls that I desire.  But cheese curls are safer than people.  We need to get to the root of our feelings and responses.  And for many of us, there is an abandonment issue keeping you captive.  Acknowledging it is the first step toward freedom.

If this has impacted you in any way,  find a quiet place to pray.  Ask the Lord to reveal to you what is your stumbling block to connection.  You don't have to share it with me, but you may want to share it with someone.  This stuff that the Lord is bringing you to, it isn’t just for you.  Yes, it is first for your healing, but THEN, you are supposed to share it with others to help them toward their healing.  That's what brought me to speaking at the women's retreat in the first place.  I HAD to share what the Lord was doing in my life.  Find another person and share with them your need for freedom.  We are all in the process of deliverance.  We are all in the process of freedom.  So no one is here to judge you.  Connect with someone after you’ve met with your Lord.  Share what keeps you from connection and then agree with each other to pray!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Heritage History

I received the British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum CD from Heritage History to review recently.  This is an interesting resource.  Like another review I completed recently, Heritage History believes in the use of living books to teach history.  I am SO warming to this idea.  The idea of reading an engaging book in order to learn history, instead of a boring dry textbook seems so natural.  I may actually become a history lover yet.

The British Middle Ages CD covers the fifth to the seventeenth century and contains 55 books, over 60 maps, timelines, battle dictionaries, reading recommendations, geography terms, short biographies, historical era summaries and a ready-to-print Study Guide!  Priced at $24.99, this CD is a great value.

The e-books are easily transferrable to a reading device like a kindle or a nook, used on a PC or laptop, OR you could actually print the e-books and put them in a binder or have them bound.  The options are endless. Truly, this could be your history curriculum.  There is some work involved for mom.  Although there is a lesson plan, it still takes some effort to pull up the resources on the CD and decide how to use them.  But everything is right there on the CD.

You can contact Heritage History for yourself here.  Or, as always, read the reviews of my fellow crewmates here.  There are several different reviews of different time periods offered in the Classical Curriculm CD series.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of the British Middle Ages CD from Heritage History in order to complete this review.  The opinions offered here are my own and not influenced by my receipt of the product.

Monday, May 14, 2012

For sale: TLP Sarah Noble-sold

This item has been sold.

Total Language Plus forThe Courage of Sarah Noble. $10 plus S&H. OR please make me an offer! Book is in excellent condition. This is language arts with a Christian Perspective for the early elementary grades.


Captain JackI am regularly asked by my homeschool friends with younger children, "How do you teach the facts?"  Everyone wants their children to be able to rattle off their multiplication tables or do basic addition in their head.  Sometimes, that's not so easily achieved.  I will admit to you, that even though our guys are taking Algebra I and II this year, they still struggle with the basic facts.  So, I was grateful for the opportunity to review CapJaxMathFax and give Big Mac and T-Bone a bit of fact review.

I first had to install the program which proved a bit challenging for me.  In the end, I had to disable my virust/download protection in order to install.  My program did not want to insall CapJax because it found too few users.  Next, when you are installing, I did get a message that said certain files found were older than those already on my PC.  I opted to keep the more current files and continued with the installation.  In the end, after I figured out how to disable my download protection, the download was very quick and easy.

From there, I could get to CapJax from the start button on my laptop.  I run Windows 7 just in case you are wondering.

This is a game/facts drill program but one that is useful to put on one machine for all your students or children to use.  The reason for this is so that they can compare themselves to each other.  When you get into the program, you choose what you want to drill, multiplication, addition, subtraction, or division.  You can choose a combination of these or just one option.  Then we choose "Play for Rating" so that we can see how we "stack up" against each other.

I played the first game.  I chose to practice multiplication, at all levels, so the problems would be mixed up a little.  The keyboarding is a piece of cake.  You hit enter for a new problem, you type a number for the answer and then hit enter.  But here's where it threw me.  The first few problems were formatted like this:
So I was cruising along and then the next problem was like this:
WAIT!  It's amazing but just a slightly different format and I was out of my groove.  But I like that!  I mean, we don't always see a math problem in exactly the same format.  For multiplication, the program switched between three different ways of displaying the facts. Trying to complete the facts while they were regularly changed in format was pretty cool.

To use CapJax, I had the boys sit at my laptop alone in my room for 5 minutes each day practicing their facts.  We did a mixture of all four types of problems, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Each day they could track their progress (there's a cool charting feature to see how you are doing), and compare themselves.  We like that kind of thing around here.

I liked CapJax because it is easy to use and easily taught to any age child.  If you have kids in the early elementary grades, you would find this useful for the basic addition and subtraction facts.  But then the program will grow with you into the upper elementary years for multiplication and division.  I wish our guys had a better mastery of the facts.  I do believe that CapJax is helping that, and plan to continue use of it over the summer months.  I want them to be able to do the addition and multiplication quickly in their heads as they are working on the higher maths.  It's hard enough to complete complicated math problems without having to try to count out addition or mulitiplcation.  CapJax is great for a fact-refresher.

This is not a complicated program at all.  It's all about the facts.  But it's a useful one.  Could you accomplish this with flash cards or timed tests?  Probably.  Would it be as fun, and as little work for mom as CapJax?  No way!

CapJaxMathFax main website is found here.  Click on the menu bar from that link to find out more from the vendor too.  You can get your copy of CapJaxMathFax for $29.95 here.  If you would like to contact CpJaxMathFax for yourself, go here.  There are a bunch of crew-members reviewing this product, so don't take my word for it.  Check out the crew reviews here.

Disclaimer:  I received a download of CapJaxMathFax because I am part of the TOS Crew. This is my honest review of the product.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Go Science DVDs from Library and Ed

Since we are all experiencing an extreme case of Spring fever around our house, receiving the Go Science DVDs from Library and Educational Services for review was very welcome!

I received two DVDs:
Air and Flight - Go Science #5 ($8.97 from Library and Educational Services)
Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, and Design - Go Science #3 ($8.97 from Library and Educational Services)

You can view all of the DVDs available in this series here.

The videos were interesting, but I feel they are intended for a much younger audience than our 13 and 15 year old sons.  the presenter spoke in a sing-songy voice that is usually used in pre-school or very early elementary presentations.  The information, however, was not early elementary level.  He used some really neat gadgets to introduce and explain topics.  What I liked was the "gadgets" (he had super powerful magnet, an electro-magnet, and one of those static electricity generators in one video) were not things that the boys and I would be able to view here at home.  So we could see an expensive piece of equipment used while the process, magnetism, electricity, etc... was explained.  There was also usually at least one experiment for each subject discussed that we could do at home.  For some, I had to go on-line and get the details of how to do the experiment that he did in the video, but it was still a good way for the boys and I to reinforce what we learned.

I would recommend the "Go Science" videos for the middle elementary grades.  This is not a stand-alone curriculum but would be an excellent supplement to an already planned course.

Library & Educational Services has many quality resources.  I found a long list of books and DVDs that I will be purchasing soon.  Check out what they have to offer.  The prices are really good.

Library and Ed's contact information can be found here.  And the Homeschool Crew reviews for the various Go Science DVDs can be found here.  Check them out!

Disclaimer:  I received these two DVDs to review because I am currently part of the Homeschool Crew.  I did not pay anything for the DVDs nor was I paid for my review.  This is my honest review of the product.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homeschool LIbrary Builder Review

homeschool books, homeschooling resources, home school library builderAt this time of year when you are trying to figure out what next year's homeschool will look like, a ready resource like Homeschool Library Builder can be really advantageous.  I had the opportunity to review this online book store a couple years ago here.  Homeschool Library Builder is a good place to go for books that you are looking for to fulfill a unit study or history program.  Since I am planning to use a literature-based history curriculum in the Fall with the boys, Homeschool Library Builder will come in handy.

These are used books and many of them are vintage.  Where possible, the books are marked if they are out of print.

Homeschool Library Builder also has a really neat feature where you accumulate points every time you purchase something from them.  With the accumulation of points you can roll the points over into dollars to purchase more books.  You can read about the members benefits here.

And this is a company with a heart for homeschool families.  They have a Marketplace  where they feature homeschool families who produce a unique product.  It's their way of giving a "leg-up" to fledgling businesses in homeschool family.

Homeschool Library Builder is a quality company with a great mission.  And, hey, they sell books!  What homeschool mama doesn't love that?  If you would like to contact them for more information, try here.

My fellow crewmates have reviewed Homeschool Library Builder here.  Be sure to read the reviews from others.

Disclaimer:  Although I did not receive anything to review Homeschool Library Builder I was asked to write this fair and honest review.