Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Reflection

InCourage posted "20 Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection".    I thought it would be a great way to wind down my blogging for the year.... OK, I am really just procrastinating on taking down the tree!

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?    Seeing both of my boys baptized


2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?      All of the sickness we faced

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?    Our 20th anniversary trip to Asheville.      Such a cherished time!

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?    Big Guy's sickness and being unable to find answers

5. Pick three words to describe 2010.   Leaning.  Loving.  Laughing.

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2010 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).      Lots.  Of.   Doctors. 

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2010 (again, without asking).    Work.  Work.   Work.  

8. What were the best books you read this year?     I read almost 275 books this year so trying to narrow it down to just a few would seem tough, but there really are a few that stick out to me.    Each one is unique from the other, but left me thinking for a LONG time!


9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?     Hubs, Big Guy and Little Guy are obviously my most valuable relationships.     However, outside of this core I am so thankful for my cousin/brother, Randy, who has literally jumped in at literally a second's notice this year to come and stay with the boys while I was in the hospital or had to go to the hospital.    He has literally been a gift from God.   

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?     I have grown more comfortable in my own skin this year.     I am an odd duck.... even my extended family has accused me of such.     I don't watch the same movies, television shows, listen to the same music, or read the same books that others do.    I subscribe to the idea of "garbage in... garbage out."     It used to bother me when people looked at me or called me weird, but this past year has taught me that the only person I have to worry about looking at me weird is God.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?    I was finally able to bring some closure to some anger and hurt that I had been carrying around for a long time regarding some personal issues with a family member.    The relationship with this person hasn't changed, but I have.


12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?     Scriptures I have read over and over have begun to take on new meanings for me.    I feel like I have stepped up on another rung of my spiritual ladder.   

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?     I am trying not to grow any more physically.   Ha!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?     We have enjoyed having people over more this year.    We used to do that ALL the time, but somehow got out of the habit.     We made more of an effort to invite people over after church for lunch and just over in general this year.     It has been wonderful getting to know people more.


15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?    I love being able to spend so much time with my boys.     Seeing them learn, laugh, grow and mature is so rewarding to me.    I am glad that God gave us this time together.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?   Finding balance and the fine line between being mom and teacher.    

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?    electronics

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?    Any and all the  time spent with my Lord

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?    I don't think I learned this, but simply reaffirmed it:   My God will never leave me or forsake me.  

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2010 for you.      Whether the cup is 1/2 full or 1/2 empty doesn't matter... it only matters what is in the cup.     Fill my cup, Lord!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Shadowed Mind

A suspense-filled mystery which answers an ominous question:
Who will be found worthy to live; who is the next victim?
After the deadly investigation into the Smithsonian murders, Dinah Harris is now facing a daily battle to keep her sobriety while struggling to form a new career from the ashes of her former job as an FBI agent. From the shadows will emerge a cunning and terrifying killer, who carefully and methodically will decide whose life has value to society and whose does not.
Using her profiling and security skills as a private consultant based in Washington, DC, Dinah uncovers a connection to the shadowy world of neo-eugenics, and those who publicly denounce the killings but privately support a much different view.
Against this backdrop, Dinah must come to terms with her own past, as those associated with the deepening mystery face their own personal demons, and struggle with the concept of God's inexhaustible grace and forgiveness. Old secrets are revealed, tragedies unearthed, and the devastating legacy of science without compassion is finally brought to light.

The second in a powerful new fiction trilogy!

Check out Julie's Website! 

Book Review

Julie Cave once again center her second book in this trilogy around Dinah Harris just as she did in the first book, Deadly Disclosure.     Dinah is still struggling with her demon, alcohol, and trying to reestablish herself after losing her career as a FBI agent.      Fortunate for her, even though she lost her career she didn't lose her skills.    They serve her well with the challenges that face her.    

A serial killer with a "god complex" starts murdering people whom he/she feels is not worthy to live.    The moral issue of euthanasia and the value of human life is looked at in this book.     It is challenged on every level:    age, race, sex, mental capacity, social standing, addictions.... no stone is left unturned.    

In addition to Dinah, you get to know Ella and her father who is struggling with Alzheimers.    As you can guess, this ultimately plays a role in the main story line.

So well written that you have a hard time discerning who the murderer is before Dinah does, Julie Cave writes a mystery you will love to read.

Disclaimer:  As part of the New Leaf Publishing Review Group, I did receive this book for free from Creation Converations.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TOS Review: IEW

The Institute for Excellence in Writing sent me a DVD.    When I read the title I pretty much decided it couldn't have described my boys any better:   "Teaching Boys... Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day".     Given a choice they would so much rather build, explore and play than sit down and write.

I popped the DVD in and for 80 minutes I listened to Mr. Pudewa.    He talked about a lot of things including the basic differences between boys and girls and the way they learn.    

It was refreshing to hear so much of what he said because boys and girls are different so naturally they learn differently.     God created men and women to be different and taking our cues from Him would be a wise place to start.

At $10, this DVD is a great value for anyone looking for how to better teach their children.

Disclaimer:  As part of the The Old Schoolhouse Review, I did receive this book for free from IEW.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Radical

Radical

Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

Written by David Platt

Waterbrook Multnomah



WHAT IS JESUS WORTH TO YOU?

It's easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily...

BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple--then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a "successful" suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment --a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

Read Chapter 1

Book Review

I am very skeptical about books that run away as best sellers in the Christian community.      In general, I never buy or read them because my skepticism runs so deep.     However, this book keeps popping up all around me so I decided that I wanted to read it and form my own opinion.

You can't help but feel Platt's passion for Christ just pouring off the pages.    It is contagious.    There are some things in this book on which Platt and I definitely agree:
1.   We are way too busy pursing the "American dream" instead of Jesus.
2.    Churches have conformed to the world and tried to make the world more comfortable in the church instead of making the church a lighthouse.    
3.   Megachurches aren't impressive.  People don't flock to do hard things and following Jesus is definitely not the easy path to take in life.  
4.    Churches worry too much about their building programs and not enough about building the kingdom.    One of his examples is a church who had a new multi-million dollar sanctuary, but could only raise $5,000 for starving orphans in Ethiopia.    

However, there are some areas in Platt's book that I am not sure if I would say I disagree or just raised some concerns for me.     But here they are:
1.    Guilt is one of my least favorite methods of convincing someone to do or not do something.     I don't remember Jesus trying to guilt people into following Him either.      Platt's endless stories meant to guilt readers into be more "radical" was a turn off for me.  
2.    Platt's book is full of things we are to do.    There are a lot of do's.    Almost checklist like.    I wish Platt would have spent more time pointing out all God has done for us.    His everlasting mercy and we actually can do nothing  to deserve his grace and mercy.    God doesn't need us at all.    We need Him!

In the end, one of the best lessons of Radical is that our treasures are to be laid up in heaven, not here on earth where they can rot, be destroyed or stolen. 

Disclaimer:  I did receive this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.

Illegals


Illegals The Unacceptable Cost of America's Failure to Control Its Borders
By Darrell Ankarlo
Published by Thomas Nelson


Not since the Civil War has America been so divided over such a seemingly unsolvable issue as U.S. immigration policy.

Phoenix has become the number 2 kidnap capital of the world, ranchers and police officers in border states are being killed by drug runners from Mexico, and the federal government refuses to enforce its own immigration law. Why are 20 million people disregarding America’s sovereign borders and laws to come to this country? Darrell Ankarlo follows the lives of several Mexican citizens as they contemplate their existence south of the border, their temptation to sneak into America, and what waits for them here. To understand the issue first-hand, Ankarlo stared down gun barrels, was caught in the middle of a drug-lord showdown, and then wandered the Arizona desert after illegally sneaking back into America. Illegals explores issues raised by these personal stories and offers perspectives—often contradictory—from U.S. citizens.

Book Review

Want a big dose of reality that you want find on any television news network or newspaper?      Ankarlo has peeled away the politics and shown you what is really going on America's borders.     The issues that are affecting every person, citizen or non, of every age in our Country.    

Ankarlo has a lot of credibility in his writing as he lives in one of the border state and works as a radio personality.    However, he was willing to go outside his radio studio to walk the streets and interview anyone and everyone who was willing to talk to him.     He didn't just talk to people here in the United States, but also in Mexico.  

There is no doubt that Ankarlo is passionate about this topic.      He is so passionate that about two-thirds of the way through the way through the book I wanted to ask him to take a breath, get a drink and just slow down a little.      I could just envision him standing there talking really, really fast.

It is rare to have such an insider's look at such a volatile current event in our Country.

Disclaimer:  As part of the BookSneeze Review, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

From My Family to Yours



In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2: 1-20

Friday, December 17, 2010

TOS Review: Tiny Planets

One rainy afternoon I told my Little Guy that I had a new website I wanted him to play on for a little while.  
 This website had been sent to me by our TOS Homeschool Review, but I didn't want him to know that.   I just wanted him to try it out and get his honest opinion.


Tiny Planets is a website that provides "award-winning educational entertainment set in space exploration and discovery, inspiring creativity and critical thinking in youth ages 4 to 12."

When I glanced at Tiny Planets before asking Little Guy to start playing I immediately noticed to silly looking aliens, which the website called Bing and Bong.    Bing and Bong are your child's hosts for their space adventure.     On the homepage there are six different planets to explore:    Tiny Planets, Tiny Planet Labs, Tiny Planet Books, Tiny Planets TV, Tiny Planets Fun, and Tiny Planets Learning.

I really appreciate the fact that Tiny Planets is certified with the ICRA (a part of Family Online Safety Institute) as well as Connect Safely Online.    You can play Tiny Planets for free, but they definitely try to entice your kids with KEYS which unlocks bigger and better levels.   

So back to Little Guy's playing time....

About thirty minutes after he logged in I heard him giggle and say, "Mom, if this is supposed to be educational then I would be happy to do it every day."      He enjoyed just sitting and having fun on a rainy day.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book for free from Tiny Planets.com.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.   

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scenes from "Joy To The World"

Our church choir had our Christmas worship service this past Sunday.     It was such an amazing time that I still feel like I am floating.     The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra as well as the Ballet Magnificat came as special guests for our Christmas service.     

We have two talented college students who took photos during rehearsal and the service.  I thought I would share some with you.









Here is a video of one of the songs that we did in our Christmas celebration. It is probably one of my favorites. This is Natalie Grant's version:

TOS Review: Wits and Wagers Family

We were so pumped to find out we were receiving a board game to review.    We had never heard of Wits and Wagers Family, but we didn't care.     We LOVE games and couldn't wait to give this one a try.

While waiting for it to arrive we went online to see what it was all about and here is what we found:
  • The Wits and Wagers Family Edition can be enjoyed by all ages
  • Features 300 kid friendly questions
  • Object is to write down a guess to a fun question, then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer. 
  • Not a trivia buff? It doesn't matter! Each player writes a guess to a silly kid friendly question and then proceed to choose who has the best one. Feeling confident? Pick your own guess. Think someone else knows better? Pick theirs! 
  • For 3 - 10 players, ages 8 and up.150 question cards, 5 dry erase answer boards, 5 dry erase pens, 5 large Meeples, 5 small Meeples, 1 dry erase score board and instructions. 
  • Price: $19.99
  • Made by North Star Games

 We couldn't wait for the game to arrive because one of our holiday traditions is to try to buy a new board game and to take it with us to family events.       What better place to try out a board game than with a huge group of family?    We took this home for Thanksgiving.

What a hit!    I am not sure how many times we played this, but everyone enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.   Did you notice the age ranges in that picture above?    One of the best things about this game is that if you can guess a number then you can play.      Someone reads out a question:  "How many colors are in a bowl of Fruit Loops?"   Every person writes their guess on their dry erase board and puts it face down on the table.     You turn them over and then place your Meeple (little people) on the guesses you think are right.     If you place your Meeple(s) on the right answer, then you get point(s).    The first team to get 15 points wins!     How easy is that?








Because we had so many people playing, we grouped up into teams which was a lot of fun too.     Aunts and nephews,  husbands and wives, fathers and sons, aunts and nieces, uncles and nephew, Father and daughter.... you name the combination we had it!     

I told my family I was reviewing the game and asked if they had any comments.    They gave me the following comments:

My sister:  "The markers included with the game didn't last through the second game so you need to make sure and cap after every use and have some extra on hand."   So true!
My son:   "Not all the facts are completely accurate!"     He was still mad about losing points for one of his answers.     Ha!     However, he has a good point.    On every card they ask a question and then site their source.     It is a good idea to read the source to your players so they have a point of reference.      The first question where we discovered this was, "Who is the oldest woman to give birth?"   My 9 year old wrote 90 on his card because he was thinking of Sarah in the Bible.     However, their answer on the card did not match that because their reference was the Guinness Book of World Records.    

My family gave this game a THUMBS UP!     I can't wait for our friends to come over in a week so we can play even more of this game.      If your family has a tradition of playing games or even buying a new game every year, I highly recommend this one.    If your family has never started the game tradition, this would be a great way to start.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book for free from North Star Games.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 INSPY Awards Announced

It was an honor to be one of the INSPY award judges this year.      I was asked to read five books in the romance/romantic suspense category.       At the appointed date, the five judges in this category met online to begin discussing the five books we had read.        It was a great week of dissecting these books.    We evaluated everything about them from literary content, faith content, and story line.   

At the end of much discussion, we all agreed that the book we believed should be chosen as the 2010 Romance/Romantic Suspence INSPY Award winner is Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren.     With the amount of discussion that was generated by this book, I think this would make a great book club book.
 


Tonight the INSPY committee released the total list of winners.     Congratulations to all the authors for these excellent books!

The INSPY Award winners are:

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes, General and Literary Fiction (Tyndale House)
Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, Creative Nonfiction (Zondervan)
She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, Historical Fiction (Bethany House)
The Knight by Steven James, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction (Revell)
Green by Ted Dekker, Speculative Fiction (Thomas Nelson)
Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman, Amish Fiction (Thomas Nelson)
Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, Romance/Romantic Suspense (Summerside)
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, Young Adult Fiction (Little, Brown)

The 2010 INSPY Awards cover books published from July 2009 through June 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I am a sucker for traditions.    I love the special comfort that the routine traditions bring to our holidays.      Here are a few things that we do during the Christmas season, what does your family do to make the season special?

Trade out all the music in the house and car stereo to Christmas CD's
Make Christmas Cookies and doorbell ditch them to the neighbors.
Get Mistletoe from Grandma and Grandpa's house to hang in our house.
Address and Mail Christmas Cards.
Buy at least one new Christmas book to read.
Read Christmas books -- even some from when the boys were little.   Shhhh!
Make Gingerbread Houses with our friends from Atlanta
Spend several days having a mini-Christmas with our friends from Atlanta
Go to Canton to see the Christmas lights
Sit in the living room with just Christmas lights and fire drinking hot chocolate.
Try a new recipe from Christmas Around the World
Read Jotham's Journey.
Put out all our nativities around the house.
Hide all the baby Jesus figures from the nativity scenes to be found on Christmas morning.
Decorate the Tree
Watch Christmas movies like Elf and Santa Clause
Drive around to see the lights.
Go caroling
Go to Nana and Papa's the weekend before Christmas
Go to the movie theater and see the latest Christmas movie (This year - Chronicles of Narnia!)
Volunteer to work the Toy Shop with the Salvation Army
Sign up for the Giving Tree and buy items for a needy family.
Watch Elf
Our Church's Christmas Concert

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TOS Review: ALEKS Math

What is ALEKS?

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial
Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

* Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
* No Textbook Required
* Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
* Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
* Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
* Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
* QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction
o Learn More

ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your student may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

After picking a subject for each of the boys, the first thing each of them did was go through the ALEKS assessment.      The assessment was about 25-29 questions over the scope and sequence of the topic which they chose.    For Big Guy that topic was Algebra I and for Little Guy that topic was 6th grade math.    

Following their assessment, ALEKS generated a pie chart which showed them their strengths and weaknesses.    By far, I think that was the best part of the ALEKS program.     I liked seeing what areas ALEKS said that they had mastered, which ones they were learning and which ones they had yet to discover.      After the assessment, I assigned them to start working on their weakness areas.      We immediately ran into our first challenge as we discovered that ALEKS is not a teaching program.     It is great for review, but there is no real explanation of new materials.      It didn't take but two days of frustration for all three of us to realize that ALEKS is not good for day to day lessons.    

We all three decided that it would work great as a test or review before test, but was more of an aggravation on a day to day basis.    I hated it because I thought that the progress charts and over all reports were amazing.    


For our family, this wasn't a good match although I could see how it could be used as a good summer bridge program.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book for free from Aleks.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Making Good Use of Insurance

Whew!   I barely made it, but yesterday I was finally able to have the surgery that my doctor recommended for me back in January.    Of course, everything had to be put on hold after I had my pulmonary embolisms.     After working through that issue I asked the doctor if we could please have this surgery before the end of the year and my insurance deductible started over.



My sweet cousin Randy came over to stay with the boys.      They were excited about getting to have time with him because he is one of our favorite people ever.    

Since my surgery wasn't scheduled for 12:30 the only complaint I had was that I was sooooo thirsty.    They said no eating or drinking after midnight.     I wasn't really hungry, but I wanted a BIG glass of water so much.     Twice I almost grabbed up a bottle of water and chug it down!  



When we walked into the surgery clinic, the admissions lady said, "Mrs. Germany, I am so glad you are here.   The pre-op nurse just came and said they are ready as soon as you get here."    Wow!   Talk about service.    

I had a sweet pre-op nurse.     She said she didn't want to hurt me when she put in my IV so she wanted to numb my hand.     I told her I wasn't scared of needles.    She said, "No, no.   Let me numb your hand."     Want to know how she numbed my hand?    She gave me a shot that felt like a bee sting!     I told hubs that was worse than any IV  that I had ever had, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

Following surgery, I ran into the same problem with pain relief that I always have.    There is something about taking seizure medication that absorbs the effectiveness of other medicines.     It wound up taking quite a bit more morphine to get me comfortable because of my silly seizure medicine.    

All that morphine gave me a big case of insomnia.    We came home and I haven't slept since Thursday night.    Boy, if I was a little less sore I could be tearing up some house work!    

However, it has been nice to just snuggle up in the bed with my sweet guys watching movies, playing games on the computer and talking.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TOS Review: Master Ruler

As I sat down to write this review my nine year old said, "I love the Master Ruler.   It is so awesome!    Just tell everyone they need to buy it!"      I am thinking that is a better endorsement than anything I could write.     When my boys love a review product so much that I can't get them to get using it then I know it is a winner.    Master Ruler is definitely a winner.


The Master Ruler is SEVERAL rulers in one!

Instantly understand the lines on a ruler – no more confusion or guessing! A hands-on way to learn measurement, fractions, mapping skills, scale drawing, and geometric functions like area and perimeter. Available in metric or standard units

The Master Ruler makes measurement concepts easy as you can see in this video:



We received the standard and metric ruler along with a workbook.     It was a lot of great practice using the master ruler, but nothing was as much fun as watching them use the ruler around the house and in daily use.


For all the educational value, I think that the Master Ruler is a STEAL at $9.95.     I have twin nieces and I am going to be looking at the Master Clock for them.    However, I am definitely going to invest in the Master Angles set for my boys.    

Master Ruler.... BIG Thumbs UP!!!


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book for free from Master Ruler.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Can of Red Spray Paint

I have had two bar stools in my kitchen since we moved here in December of 1999.    They have worked great, but boy were they worn out and scuffed up.      I took them outside and gave them a good washing and sanded them down really good.


Although they looked 100% better I decided that they just needed a new look.     I grabbed a can of red spray paint and went to town.     A couple of light coats and they look so much better and have new life!   My picture below says "Almost After", because I still had another coat to paint when I took this picture.



I like the little hint of color that this adds to my kitchen and really love that I was able to extend the life of my bar stools.

An Early Christmas Present

I have entirely too much to do to be sitting here even thinking about writing a post.    I am not even sure what I am going to write about.    Now THAT is procrastination.    All of my Christmas decorations are out, but the boxes haven't been put away yet so the house feels like a tornado went through which is appropriate since we spent last night in the hallway due to tornado weather.     We were very fortunate that we only had to endure the threat and sirens of tornado weather while a community just north of us got hit again for the second time since April.    

Sunday night I wrote out a very nice, neat and organized list of what I had to do this week.    We have a lot of on our plate, so I knew that I needed to get myself organized.     Each day was carefully planned as I know I have a lot to do before having outpatient surgery on Friday and our best friends coming from Atlanta on Sunday -- YAHOO!    Even with all that in my head.... somehow I haven't managed to quite make that piece of paper of reality.    

I have been thinking that maybe I need an early Christmas present... some motivation or a REALLY BIG CUP OF COFFEE!!

Hope your day is turning out more productive than mine!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Exactly Like Thanksgiving

The lines were long and it was almost as if there were a gas shortage, but it wasn't.   It was just the day before Thanksgiving.     Another lady and I were parked in the line waiting our turn and started chatting.   

"This is crazy weather.   It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving at all." 

I started laughing and said, "How long have you lived in Mississippi?   This feels exactly like Thanksgiving.   One minute you are in your shorts playing football and the next you are bundled up in blankets drinking hot chocolate."

That pretty much summed it up too.     We packed up the van and drove over to my parent's house on Wednesday night.     On Thursday morning, we woke up to a incredibly warm day and the boys all went stomping around in the woods.         By that evening it was raining and the wind was blowing, but we were all snuggled inside playing games and enjoying the big Thanksgiving meal my Mom had made.

Daddy's coffee tasted so good on Friday morning when we all woke up to that cold air which had arrived.     While none of us are Black Friday shoppers and have no desire to get out at 4 in the morning, we did go out about 10:30 to see what was happening at the local Outlet Mall.    After just a little shopping we decided to head back to the parent's house because that wind was cold.

Thanksgiving in Mississippi.... it is definitely a cornucopia of weather!

Emily of Deep Valley

Often cited as Maud Hart Lovelace’s (of Betsy-Tacy fame) best novel, Emily of Deep Valley is now back in print, with a new foreword by acclaimed young adult author Mitali Perkins and new archival material about the characters’ real lives.


Emily Webster, an orphan living with her grandfather, is not like the other girls her age in Deep Valley, Minnesota. The gulf between Emily and her classmates widens even more when they graduate from Deep Valley High School in 1912. Emily longs to go off to college with everyone else, but she can’t leave her grandfather. Emily resigns herself to facing a “lost winter,” but soon decides to stop feeling sorry for herself. And with a new program of study, a growing interest in the Syrian community, and a handsome new teacher at the high school to fill her days, Emily gains more than she ever dreamed...


In addition to her beloved Betsy-Tacy books, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote three more stories set in the fictional town of Deep Valley: Winona’s Pony Cart, Carney’s House Party and Emily of Deep Valley. Longtime fans and new readers alike will be delighted to find the Deep Valley books available again for the first time in many years.


If you would like to browse inside Emily of Deep Valley, go HERE.

Book Review

Although Emily of Deep Valley is set in 1912, the story of Emily is timeless.    The book begins with Emily's senior year.    Mixed in with all the excitement of parties and preparing for commencement, is the bittersweet awareness that she is not going off to college with all of her friends.     She has lived with her grandfather since she was very young.    She feels that she cannot leave him alone now that he is older and requires care.    

Reality sets in once all her friends step on the train to leave for college and the new school year begins.    Determined not to wallow in pity, she begins to look for ways to be useful.    God soon begins directing those ways across her path.     She learns that God uses you wherever you are as long as you are willing.

Emily of Deep Valley definitely has timeless lessons for all generations.     What a wonderful book!     I loved the fact that all the historical knowledge of the real people that this book series was based on was included in the back.    Such a treasure.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Divine Appointments



Josie Brooks, at the age of 47, thought she was leading an enviable single life. A successful consultant, she calls her own shots, goes where the money is, and never needs to compromise. But her precisely managed world begins to falter during a Chicago contract when an economic downturn, a bleeding heart boss, and the loyalty and kindness between endangered employees ding her coat of armor.


Throw in hot flashes, a dose of loneliness, a peculiar longing for intimacy, an
unquenchable thirst—not to mention a mysterious snow globe with a serene landscape, complete with a flowing river and lush greenery that seems to be beckoning her in—and Josie’s buttoned-up life is on the verge of coming completely undone.


Maybe her solitary existence isn’t as fulfilling as she has convinced herself to believe. It will take a few new friends, a mystical encounter, and an unexpected journey to set Josie on her own path to “right-sizing” and making the life changes that really matter. Filled with laugh-out loud moments and a gentle dash of inspiration, Divine Appointments is another heartwarming charmer from a master storyteller.


If you would like to read the first chapter of Divine Appointments, go HERE.

Book Review

For a person who is hugely influenced by a book's cover, having a snowglobe, which too easily mimicked a crystal ball, along with the title, Divine Appointments, was not the best first impression.     It didn't take long after reading this book to realize that my gut instinct was correct.    

The book is based on Josie, a 47 year old single woman, who is a cut-throat business woman.     She has built her life the way she wants it.     She moves every year never putting down any roots which is probably a good idea since her job involves helping companies downsize.      The basis of the story is giving Josie a second chance.      A great idea for a story line except her second chance lies in a mysterious, mystical snowglobe.    I think this author missed the true chance to show that true second chances are found in Jesus Christ!

A book published by a Christian publishing company under the genre of Christian fiction should be just that:   Christian.      God and faith was lacking in this book.    And since this is the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, I was disappointed in this as a book.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lightkeeper's Bride

A thrilling romantic mystery set in the lush Victorian age.

Central Operator Katie Russell's inquisitive ways have just uncovered her parents' plan for her marriage to wealthy bachelor Bartholomew Foster. Her heart is unmoved, but she knows the match will bring her family status and respectability.

Then Katie overhears a phone conversation that makes her uneasy and asks authorities to investigate. But the caller is nowhere to be found. Mysterious connections arise between the caller and a ship lost at sea.


Against propriety, Katie questions the new lighthouse keeper, Will Jesperson. Then a smallpox epidemic forces their quarantine in his lighthouse. Though of low social status, Will's bravery and kindness remove Katie's suspicion and win her love. Katie and Will together work to solve the mystery of the missing girl and the lost ship as God gives the couple the desire of their hearts.


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Lightkeeper's Bride, go HERE.

Book Review

Katie is working as a central phone operator.    Her days are very content connecting and disconnecting the lines of people's conversations.      During one of those calls she overhears something terrible happen and goes to check on the young woman on the other end.      What she found was terrifying in more than one way.   

She also uncovers many questions which need to be answered.     Unfortunately, the people who are closest to her in her life may hold those answers.     Her heart is torn between needing answers and fear of ruining her chances for a potential marriage with a wealthy gentleman which her parent's have arranged for her.     In the end, Katie must decide whether to follow her heart or what others think is right.    

Although not as severe, it is a situation and question which we all face at some point.     A great mystery behind the story line and several great intertwining story lines.      Add this to your "to be read" list!

TOS Review: Bright Ideas Press

We love music.    When we start school in the morning we like to turn on some type of music in the background.    My youngest son calls it "smart music".     It is probably because we usually choose some type of classical music station.  

Loving music and having a true appreciation for the artists behind the music are two different things.     Music is a God-given gift and one that both of my boys possess.      I wanted them to be exposed to some of the great composers to see their lives, struggles and their dedication to develop the gifts that God gave them.   


A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers is a great curriculum to introduce students to the people behind the music.  

 Highlights of this Guide Include:

  • 32 Weekly Lessons
  • 26 Bios of Famous Composers
  • 6 Eras of Music Explained
  • Easy-to-Use Comparative Timeline
  • Easy-to-Use Maps
  • Composer Info-Cards & Game Directions
  • Note-taking Pages
  • Quizzes
  • Answer Keys
  • Listening Suggestions
  • Intricate Coloring Pages
  • Resource Books



In the morning, I would look up the suggested links for the music for the composer and play it while the boys did their warm up lessons.      This allowed them to listen without having to sit still and listen.    After their warm-ups we would gather to read together about the composer.     There are great note taking pages provided which helped the boys stay engaged and also helped them practice those vital skills.     Not all the time, but occasionally I would give them the quizzes just to see how much they were retaining and to see if we needed to adjust how we were doing this book.   

Although we still have quite a few composers to go, as this is a 35-week curriculum, we are definitely adding this into the "win" category for us!

To purchase your A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers (recommended for grades 4-8) for just $29.95 for the CD-ROM version or $34.95 for paperback, you can do so here.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Card 2010

All Of Us Christmas 5x7 folded card
Make a statement with custom Christmas cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Need A Little Christmas Card

It is the week before Thanksgiving and I haven't finished my Christmas cards.     How can this be?    Normally I have finished them, addressed them and have them ready to go in the mailbox on Black Friday!     Maybe it is because this year has been crazy and I am in denial about the fact that next week is Thanksgiving?   

No matter the reason, ignoring it won't make it go away!     I am so glad that I don't have to panic because I know that I can go to Shutterfly and order amazing Christmas cards and have them delivered straight to my front door.     I love Shutterfly.   I have been a fan forever.




Before there were the fancy picture frame to which you could upload your photos, I began making photo DVDs through Shutterfly and giving them to my husband for Christmas.    This is one of his favorite Christmas gifts ever.    He would load this as his screensaver on his computer at work and run it all year round. 


When Little Guy was born, I used Shutterfly's snapbooks all the time as one of his first learning tools.   I made quiet books that we could take into church with us.     Photo books of our family and friends so that he could learn names and relationships.    I even made photo books of special events.    Little Guy would look at these for hours and hours in the car, restaurant and church.



My mother-in-law still has a wall calendar that I made for her hanging in the kitchen.    That isn't a bad thing except that it isn't 2006 any more!   ha! ha!      Shutterfly has made their calendar feature even more fun because you can add photos and personalized dates straight onto your calendar.      Love that!     You can also buy one that is a 12 month or 18 month calendar which is GREAT if you homeschool and need to plan around the school year.

So now the hardest part will be picking a card from all the great choices!     So far these are the ones that I LOVE....

 Love the monogram
Very simple

Funky modern


lots of photos
See???   So many great options!     What would you choose?  

The Silent Order

Rural America - 1928. After the murder of his partner, Detective Rollin Wells hides away in an Amish home near Sugarcreek, Ohio, to find out who in the police force is
collaborating with Cleveland’s notorious mob. While Rollin searches for answers to his partner’s death, he befriends an elusive young Amish woman named Katie and her young son. As Rollin learns about Katie’s past, he’s shocked at the secret Katie is hiding - a secret that has haunted Rollin for eight years.


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Silent Order, go HERE.


Book Review

There has been a huge trend of Amish books lately arriving in my mailbox.    I thought that was what The Silent Order was as well.    Instead this a suspense filled book that is truly one of my favorites to read.  

The time period is the Prohibition where obviously the making of illegal liquor is a huge problem.     Where you have illegal liquor, you have the mafia and corrupt police officers.     Detective Wells takes on the assignment to figure out who those corrupt police officers are and hides out in the Amish community as his cover.   He winds out discovering a lot more while he is hiding out there than just those behind an illegal liquor problem.    

Lots of suspense, unexpected twists and turns and romance!    What else do you need for a great book?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2 Years With 2 Bundles of Joy

Since the holidays tend to get so crazy, my sister and brother-in-law decided to have the girl's two year old birthday party just a few weeks early.      We all said quite a few prayers last week that the predicted rain would hold off so that their park party could go on as planned.      Sunday arrived beautiful although just a little breezy and everyone had so much fun watching our sweet LK and MM run around and play.


They sure aren't babies anymore.   They are growing into such precious little girls.     They are so amazingly smart.    They love to sing.   You name it and they will sing it (ABC, Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Happy Birthday to You, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc...).    They know their alphabet and all the letter sounds.    They can count and know their colors.    Give them an I Spy book or Search and Find book and they will pick out anything you name.   

Both girls will tell you "I do it!".    They are fearless and want to try new things.    My sister caught them straddling the rails on their baby beds the other day.    The girls looked at her and said, "I am a montey!" (I am a monkey!) and just giggled.      They are the sweetest monkeys!






We are looking forward to Thanksgiving next week.    We will get to spend more time with not just our sweet LK and MM, but my other niece and nephew, A and J, too.     I love being an aunt!

 (my niece with her boyfriend)


Monday, November 15, 2010

Long Time Coming

Two women from different worlds find hope together.


Faithful Christian Deidre Clark-Morris is a professional career-minded woman with a loving husband, but no children. Kenisha Smalls has lived in poverty all her life. She has three children by three different men and has just been diagnosed with inoperable cervical cancer.


While the meeting between these two women appears accidental, it becomes their catalyst of hope. Neither woman expects the blessing that God has in store for her. While Deidre will guide Kenisha on the path to eternal life with Jesus Christ, Kenisha will teach Deidre how to stand strong against the hard-knocks of life.


If you would like to read the first chapter of Long Time Coming, go HERE


Watch the book video:





Book Review

I love this book and my husband officially hates it.   He hasn't read it, but he still hates it.   The publishers were having some issues getting the hard copies printed and out to us on time so they offered us this book in ebook form.     I went to the link they provided and downloaded it to an ereader for my computer.     I sat in bed reading.     I have been thinking for quite a while that publishing companies are probably going to start more and more offering their review books in eform because it will save them a lot of money in shipping.     This is why my husband hates this book.    I have now decided I would really love to have a Kindle for Christmas.

Why do I love this book?    "Service is a natural byproduct of salvation."   That was the theme of our Sunday School lesson yesterday and it is a wonderful summary of this book as well.      We meet new people as we are going through our lives each week, but do we really see them is the question.    Deidre Clark-Morris is the principal of a school.    She definitely has a lot on her plate but professionally and personally.    She has a boss who is demeaning and could give her every reason to never do anything for others for fear of losing her job; however, Deidre chooses to do what is right.      She could choose to think she has too much to handle with her own problems of infertility, but she knows that isn't right either.    Basically Deidre faces a lot of the same choices that we each face every day.    

The story was at times raw, gritty and in your face truthful, but that is what makes this such a good book.     I hope to read many more like it in hardcover AND on my (hopefully) new Kindle!   *hint, hint, hubby*

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ahhh.. Weekend

If the weekend were a person, I would hug its neck!    This has been the LONGEST week.      I have had doctor's appointments and tests scheduled every day this week except Monday.     Hubs and Big Guy took a class that had them gone every night until last night.      I had to teach an art class Monday for co-op.     Crazy!  Crazy!  Crazy!

Of course, in the middle of such a crazy week were God hugs that made it wonderful.   
  • With Hubs and Big Guy gone to a class for three nights that meant that Little Guy and I had special time together.     One night we went and got caramel apple cider and watched a video together.    One night we went to the bookstore and browsed and then went to get sushi.     The third night was church night, but he and I still got a little time in before leaving.
  • Wednesday night was choir practice which is always a highlight of the week for me.      Our choir practices are very worship filled times.    As terrified as I was to join our choir and still get jitters when it is time to walk out on the platform on Sunday morning, I LOVE choir practice.   
  • Yesterday my cousin (who is more like my brother) came over for the afternoon.     He and I played hours of RACKO in the hospital when his dad was sick.    It was quick, simple and didn't require a lot of thought.      Now the boys play and they have been challenging Randy to a RACKO "smackdown."  We played RACKO and SEQUENCE for several hours and loved every minute of it.      Definitely a highlight of the week.      

Now it is the weekend.    The boys are out at the park running while I am updating my blog quickly before starting supper.   

Tomorrow night is the BIG GAME.   Mississippi State vs. Alabama.   


 Hubs is a State fan and I am an Alabama fan.     Before leaving, hubs jokingly asked Big Guy if he was going to referee tomorrow night during the State vs. Alabama game.   


His answer:   "No way!   I am going to be hiding!"      

We take our football seriously.    Serious fun.


Have a great weekend whatever your plans are!
   

City On Our Knees

When we step across the line we can sail across the sea

Amazing, beautiful things happen when people have the courage to live, work, and pray in the spirit of unity and peace. Often, though, to make these amazing things happen, we have to step out of our comfort zone and into a world we find uncomfortable or intimidating. Sometimes that world is physical; other times it can be emotional, relational, or spiritual.

City on Our Knees shows this, encouraging you to take the first step. It offers stories of people who have stepped across lines. Lines of discrimination, persecution, doubt, prejudice, pride, bitterness, self-isolation, and despair. I pray and hope that you will be inspired to see how just one person, or one small group, can be a mechanism for change.

God can use us right here. Right now. All we need is faith that He has our best in mind. And believe me—He does.

—TobyMac

 Book Review

After listening to TobyMac's music for so long, I was curious to read what the man behind the music had to say.     The photo above doesn't quite do justice to how visually stunning this book really is.   My boys both grabbed it up when it arrived because they loved the look of the book.     I hope that same reaction will prompt people to grab it off the shelves because it is what is inside the book that is truly stunning.    

TobyMac's heart and passion for Christ literally pours off every page.     Whether you are reading the chapters, which highlight ordinary people who have allowed themselves to be used in ordinary ways, or the pages in between, which are covered with TobyMac's favorite Scriptures and quotes, you feel your heart absorbing the passion.

My own boys have enjoyed reading this book.   I remember when I was little reading the Bible and thinking that the men and women who were used by God lived so long ago.    Through TobyMac's book I am able to show the boys great Christian examples who are living TODAY!    

Some of the examples are familiar.  Michael Oher from The Blind Side is one that most will immediately recognize.   However, some of the best chapters highlights the life stories of people who just followed God's leading and never really intended for anyone to know about it.

The passion you hear in TobyMac's music definitely comes through on the pages of this book!     If you have a TobyMac fan in your life, they will love you for buying them this book.

This book was provided to me for free by Bethany House Publishing in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amy Inspired

With rejections piling up, she could use just a little inspiration...


Amy Gallagher is an aspiring writer who, after countless rejections, has settled for a career as an English professor in small-town Ohio just to pay the bills. All her dreams suddenly start to unravel as rejections pile up--both from publishers and her boyfriend.


But just as Amy fears her life is stuck in a holding pattern, she meets the mysterious, attractive, and unavailable Eli. She struggles to walk the fine line between friendship and something more with Eli, even as staying true to her faith becomes unexpectedly complicated.


When secrets, tragedy, and poor decisions cause rifts in Amy's relationships, she must come to terms with who she's become, her unrealized aspirations for her life, and the state of her faith. Can she dare to hope that she will find love and fulfillment despite it all?


If you would like to read the first chapter of Amy Inspired, go HERE.

Book Review

Amy Gallagher is a thirty something woman who is trying to write her first novel.    She is a Christian who has had firmly held convictions, but over the past few years she has questioned some of those in light of her relationships.    

I am not sure where your comfort level lies in reading a book, but I personally do not like to read about unclothed people in a Christian fiction novel.     I think there were some boundaries crossed in this book both physically and spiritually with which I don't personally agree.      Nothing "harlequin" style or that sort, but things that I felt inappropriate for this genre.

I did appreciate the story line as I know that there are so many career singles who face the challenges that Amy talk about in this story line.