Monday, January 31, 2011

The Mom Rule

When the boys were really little we called it "couch time".     After hubs got home from work, he would spend a few minutes hugging on them and then we would set the timer for 15 minutes and they were not allowed to interrupt us for that time while he and I sat on the couch and talked.    It was our time to connect before the craziness of supper, going out to play ball, take baths and all those other evenings activities began.   

As the boys got older and started school routines, we moved "our" time to right after the boys went to bed.    We established their bedtime routine when they were really young.     Bathtime, family devotion and prayers, reading in their rooms and lights out.     By 8:00 we were free to have time together.

Now that the boys are older.   Their bedtimes have been moved later.     Recently I realized that the "our" time that we used to enjoy has been pushed to maybe once or twice a week when we could schedule it.     Hmmm.... this just wasn't working so I decided something had to change.

So, the other night I announced to all the boys that I was starting the "Mom Rule".    I told them that after 9:00 all children under 18 had to be in their rooms for the night.     Hubs was no longer available for "Dad" stuff, but was now on Hubs time.     

The reactions were mixed...

Hubs grinned from ear to ear.

Big Guy said, "That is completely fair."

Little Guy said, "You can't do that!    He is our Dad all the time.   You can't take him away from us, Mom!"

After some discussion about the whys or the Mom Rule and how we it would work, Little Guy reluctantly decided that maybe he was OK with it.

It has been almost five days since I announced the "Mom Rule".    The boys giggle about us cuddling on the couch.    Sometimes they want to run out and ask us what we are laughing about.

What I hope they ultimately remember about The Mom Rule is that we loved each other and cared enough about our marriage to SEND THEM TO BED!   

Friday, January 28, 2011

TOS Review: Ten Marks


TenMarks is the only online math program that helps students refresh, learn, and master math concepts - in their own time, at their own pace. Each child receives a personalized curriculum to help them master the concepts quickly.

Here is a great video on how TenMarks works...




TenMarks offers lessons and specialized programs to cover the breadth of the core math skills your child will cover in school.

Grades 3-High School
Over 300 core math skills
Hints and video lessons for every topic
Mapped to state standards

 After you sign up your child and pick what curriculum they want, then you will start receiving weekly emails with their assignments.   

My boys just logged in and completed their assignments.   I was able to log in and see how they were doing -- good or bad.    After they complete their worksheet, they submit it to be graded.    Ten Marks grades it for them (how much did I love that?!?)  and then it is returned to them so they could see their mistakes along with explanations of how to correct their mistakes.

Ten Marks is an amazing program if you are a mom like me where math is not your strong subject.    It gives you step by step help with those math problems for times when you just can't remember how to solve it.    And yes... I am talking about me!  


You can give Ten Marks a test drive for FREE!    After that it is only $10 a month, $49 for six month or $89 for a year.    

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this subscription for free from Ten Marks.  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.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

S-p-e-l-l-i-n-g B-e-e

Little Guy participated in our homeschool co-op Spelling Bee about a week ago.    We got the news that the spelling bee was happening right after Christmas.      There was a notice on the co-op calendar about a meeting to get all the information.

Little Guy wasn't so sure about being a part, but once I told him that participating in this would mean that he was pretty much finished with his spelling curriculum for the year he was all in.     Oh man, we didn't know what we were in for!    

When we arrived at that first meeting we were handed a list of 500 words.    These words were no joke.    I had to get onto a website which could pronounce some of them for me.    While inside my head I was saying, "Wow!  This is a lot to learn for a 9 year old."   On the outside I was telling Little Guy, "No problem, we will just break down this list into manageable sections."

The next bombshell is the fact that the spelling bee is to be exactly one week from that day!   What?!?!?   Little Guy has to learn 500 words in one week.   YIKES!     I couldn't even look at him because I knew he was ready to shoot me.

Next they told us that all ages and grades would compete together which meant Little Guy could be competing with everyone up to 8th grade.     Oh well!

We went home and studied like crazy.    Little Guy studied morning, noon and night.    He studied in the car, his bedroom and while he was eating.     He wrote all 500 words in postcards so he could easily flip through and study.  

The day of the spelling bee... we had an ice storm.    Well, not really an ice storm, but we had enough "weather" that they closed everything.    In Mississippi, if we see a snowflake everything closes.

So we were given another week to study.    Poor Little Guy was so exhausted that his brain was fried.   I told him to take a break.     Occasionally I would see him running through those cards.   

A week later the date came.    The room was filled with kids from 4th - 8th grades.   






Talk about nervous.     I took that picture right before the spelling bee.    That solemn little face is really is "I am scared to pieces" face.

The kids were lined down those chairs and given a number.    The moderator called out each child's number and gave them a word.   The child was to say the word, spell the word and then say the word again.   

I can't tell you how nerve wracking it was.    Every time it was Little Guy's turn I think I gripped a bruise into hubs' arm.     5 rounds.... 10 rounds...   The kids were dropping.   At 13 rounds all of the 7th and 8th graders had been eliminated.    15 rounds...  We were down to five kids.   

Then we got to the 18 round and we were down to four kids.    Little Guy got his word.    The word was "fortification".      Little Guy paused and wrote it down on his leg.    He wrote it correctly and knew it but when it said it he skipped the second "i".   He knew it immediately, but it was too late.    And the rules are the rules.  He turned in his number and sat down.    We winked at him and gave him a thumbs up, but he was bummed at himself.

The bee continued until round 23 and one of Little Guy's friends won on "loquacious".   

Here he is with his Spelling Bee certificate.    So proud of him for all the hard work he put into this.    

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rhythm of Secrets




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rhythm of Secrets
Kregel Publications (December 22, 2010)
by
Patti Lacy



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at www.pattilacy.com, her blog at www.pattilacy.com/blog, and her Facebook daily Artbites.






ABOUT THE BOOK


Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.


After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.


Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.


If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE.

Book Review

Everyone has a "skeleton" in their closet. Sheila Franklin has been carefully standing in front of her closet door guarding its secrets since she left her treasured New Orleans. Like the haunting jazz music which she loves so much, she is haunted by the memories of a fire which took her parents and a decision which sent her north to hide her secret. Now grown and living what seems to be an ideal life as a pastor's wife, her closet door creaks open and all her secrets threaten to spill out when she receives a phone call. Not only will she have to reveal her secrets to her husband, but she will have to finally confirm to herself all that her life has held.

I have read both of Patti Lacy's previous books (An Irishwoman's Tale and What The Bayou Saw) and thought she couldn't write a better book. I was so wrong.   Patti is an amazing example of what is truly meant by Christian fiction. This book not only touches your heart, but draws you in an intimate way. When I finished, I immediately began reading it again because there was so much depth to this book. I am ordering extra copies because I can't bear to give my copy away!

I wish I had the words to truly express how much I loved this book, but Patti is the one with the gift for writing, not me.

On The Road Home from New Orleans

So on the road home from New Orleans we saw this sign posted on the side of a church.     Hmmm.... we all did a double take.    Even the boys made a comment.    

"Mom, is that sign really talking about the Lord's supper?"

"Are they really comparing it to a fast food combo meal?"

I am not sure what my answer was to my boy's questions because I was so stunned.     I did ask hubs to turn around so I could take a picture.     I posted it on Facebook and got varied and wide reactions.

I thought a lot about those reactions too.

When I think about the Lord's Supper I have a sense of awe come over me.     Our church does not observe communion every Sunday as some do.     I am sure there is a reason behind their weekly observance, but for me it takes the holiness out of such a sacred act to make it a weekly habit.   

I don't know how you feel about receiving communion, but hearing my pastor read Jesus' words and envisioning the sheer agony, flesh tearing pain and soul gripping death He endured for my sins so that if I confessed those sins I could have eternal life with Him makes me weep every time.    This isn't a mere cup of juice and wafer of bread.    This is a token of His blood and His body.    The thought of holding it in my hand and "doing this in remembrance of Him" is sacred.

I am sure that this church thought they were being clever as they are right across the street from a McDonald's.     However, I wonder if this church knows just what type of reaction they are truly getting.  

I know that the raw reactions on both of my boys' faces was enough to know that this church needs to do some rethinking.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Orleans - Day 3

After another trip to get a good breakfast from the Embassy breakfast bar, we decided we have to do just one more thing before we left New Orleans.    We thought it would give the Insectarium a try.    Bugs may make me shiver, but they are right up the boys alley.   

I am going to tell you that the museum wasn't so bad.   Once I made it past this...

This was a pantry filled with food that they had just let roaches loose in.    As you can see, Little Guy stuck his head up in there.    Talk about a nightmare!     Seeing all those roaches crawling around his head just about made me throw up.

Some of the bugs were even dead.      That didn't bother me at all.    In fact, the display in the picture above reminds me of a high school project that I had to do.    Our teacher told us we had to gather about 50 bugs, stick them onto a board with straight pins, label them with their regular and scientific names.     It took FOREVER to find all those bugs.    My Mom didn't want those bugs in the house so she made me keep them in my Dad's shop.     The night before the project was due I finished labeling all of them, sprayed them with hair spray like the teacher said, and went and put them in my Dad's shop.   The next morning I went out before school to get the project and all the bugs were GONE!    The pins were still there bug all the bugs were gone.   All we could figure out was a bird or some type of animal had eaten them.     It was awful.     I remember praying that morning that whatever animal ate them got really sick from all of that hairspray.    I know... awful.





 Little Guy was stoked when he saw this sign that said "cooking show".    He didn't even care that they were cooking with bugs.      He wanted to get there early and was the first person to volunteer to try all the foods they had out.

Oh yes, that says chocolate covered crickets, cinnamon bug crunch, southwest worm, crispy cajun crickets.   Did he try them all?  Yes.   The only one he said wasn't good was the southwest worm.    The chocolate covered crickets must not have been bad because all the kids were coming back for seconds and thirds.

Trying a banana cricket fritter.    He said it was delicious... with a slight crunch.    

If I lived in New Orleans and had a pass to all the museums, I think that I would go to the Insectarium on a regular basis for their butterfly garden.     I could have sat in there with a book for hours.    It was so relaxing.   Although I must admit that part of me wanted to open all the windows and let those butterflies go up into the sky the way they were intended.    


Once we were through enjoying the Insectarium, we had just one more stop to make.   We had promised the boys a stop at Cafe Du Monde before we left New Orleans and we were going to make sure that we kept that promise.


Perhaps eating these delicious, powdered sugary beignets in the car weren't the best idea.   But we all enjoyed them so much it was worth the clean up!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Digitalis



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Digitalis
Barbour Publishing, Inc.(January 1, 2011)
by
Ronie Kendig



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!


This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series began in July 2010 from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.


This is the second book in the series.


ABOUT THE BOOK



Step into the boots of a former Marine in this heart-pounding adventure in life and love. Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is a Marine trying to find his footing as he battles flashbacks now that he’s back home. Piper Blum is a woman in hiding—from life and the assassins bent on destroying her family. When their hearts collide, more than their lives are at stake. Will Colton find a way to forgive Piper’s lies? Can Piper find a way to rescue her father, trapped in Israel? Is there any way their love, founded on her lies, can survive?


If you would like to read an excerpt of Digitalis, go HERE.





Book Review

Digitalis is the second book in the Discarded Heroes series.    The first book in the series, Nightshade, was a gripping, edge of your seat read so I couldn't wait to read this one.   Now that I have read Digitalis, which is my third book to read by Ronie Kendig, I can tell you that it is her best and that she only gets better and better. 


I live in a household of boys.    I am fully aware of how they relate to each other.    How they bond.    So does Kendig because she portrays it so well in the relationships between Cowboy and his fellow team members.     Their constant teasing of each other, but having each other's back when faced with confrontation was like listening in on one of my boy's conversations.  

I also love how Kendig allows people to truly see our military and what they do for us.    They are heroes.   they should be portrayed as such.    What they are forced to comprehend and face in the heat of battle is far beyond what we as Americans rarely give them credit for on a day to day basis.

As soon as I was finished reading this book it was a fight to see which one of my boys was going to be next in line to read it.    After reading her two other books, they are already Ronie Kendig fans too!

New Orleans - Day 2

We woke up our second day in New Orleans and went down to eat a big breakfast.     Before we went to New Orleans I talked to my NO expert, Doghouse.    He let me know that we should plan an entire day if we were going to the WWII museum.    I am so glad that I talked to him because he was so right.   

We arrived at the museum right after they opened and stayed all day long.    I know you are probably like we were when you look at that photo.   How in the world did you stay all day long in that museum?    You won't believe the sheer volume of history they packed into three stories of that building.  

This bomb shelter was outside the museum.    Big Guy squeezed inside and then we read that it was made for multiple people.    It made us all claustrophobic just to think about squeezing inside that little shelter and waiting for the danger of the bombs to be over.

I took this pic of Little Guy standing in front of a Sherman tank.     Shermans were built by the Ford motor company.    It kind of gave new meaning to build "Ford tough".

The rest of the photos in this post were taken by Big Guy.    One of the thing that makes the WWII museum so incredible is that there are no replicas.   Everything you see was actually in the war.    Everything has a story.     Despite the fact we were there all day, both hubs and I said we could go back again and spend even more time reading all those personal stories.



I forgot to mention that before we started our tour of the museum we went and saw the 4d movie produced by Tom Hanks called Beyond All Boundaries.    WOW!  WOW!  WOW!    You have to see the movie if you go.      I definitely suggest seeing the movie before you tour the museum.

After all those hours in the museum we were exhausted so we went to Mother's restaurant and enjoyed a long lunch.     


My feet were killing me so I begged the boys to let us go back to the room for a while.   After we got there they realized that a big football game was coming on so they decided it was a good idea to stay in for the rest of the night.   Ha!   

Friday, January 21, 2011

Road Trip - New Orleans

Hubs surprised us with a mini trip to New Orleans as part of our Christmas.    He felt like we had had such a long year that we all needed a little trip to have family time.     What a special and thoughtful gift!

We drove into New Orleans and decided to go straight to the aquarium.  Of course, when we got down to the Riverwalk and smelled all that wonderful food we decided maybe we should get some lunch first.   You would have thought we would have chosen some wonderful cajun food, but Little Guy spotted a Panda Express (his favorite) and went nuts.     So Panda Express it was!

Once our stomachs were full we headed straight to the aquarium.





Such a great aquarium!   

Since our feet were tired and we were ready to get settled, we headed over to our hotel.     We were staying at the Embassy Suites.     We participate in the HiltonHonors rewards program.  This allows us to accumulate points and trade them for free hotel stays.  

    

We love staying at Embassy Suites because a suite accomodates the needs of our family.   When you are traveling with two night owls and two light sleepers a suite really helps!   Also, the Embassy provides a full breakfast and a late evening managers reception.    This means that we generally only have to factor in the cost of one meal per day when traveling.

After bundling up in coats, hats and gloves, we got in our car and drove out to the New Orleans City Park for the Celebration in the Oaks.    This light display is the whole reason my hubs decided we should make the trip to New Orleans to begin with.    It was so worth the drive because it was so gorgeous!    

I can't even get one poinsettia to live and they had this huge tree!

 
 
 This tree looked like it was dripping lights.    It was mesmerizing.   
Give me a lawn chair and some coffee and I could have sat there all night long.


 
 
 


This picture isn't very impressive, but it is part of a HUGE train display which depicted the city of New Orleans.   The boys said it was their favorite part.    The volunteer train engineer came over and noticed how fascinated the boys were and walked them through explaining all the history.   He also answered all their questions about the types of trains and tracks.    We learned a LOT about New Orleans in that little section.
 
 
After such a busy first day in New Orleans, none of us had any trouble falling asleep!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Angel Harp


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Angel Harp
FaithWords (January 26, 2011)
by
Michael Phillips



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.



ABOUT THE BOOK



Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.


The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?


If you would like to read the first chapter of Angel Harp, go HERE

Lady in Waiting

Love is a choice you make every day.
Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband,  rad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad’s departure.

Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring—and perhaps about herself.~

In the sixteenth-century, Lucy Day becomes the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey, an innocent young woman whose fate seems to be controlled by a dangerous political and religious climate, one threatening to deny her true love and pursuit of her own interests.

As the stories of both Janes dovetail through the journey of one ring, it becomes clear that each woman has far more influence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.

 Book Review

Two Janes.   Two different time periods in history.  Each facing a very significant choice.       Because when everything else is stripped away, love is a choice.

Meissner's writing between two time periods is flawless and never leaves you with that awkward feeling that you sometimes get when reading a book tackling this type of story line.    In fact, she accomplishes it so seamlessly that you soon seen the shadows and echoes of similarity between the two Janes.

One of those similarities is the ring.    It is the thing that ties these stories together.     The ring originally starts out as a part of Lady Jane's story.    Fourth in line to the throne of England, she is given the ring as part of an unofficial engagement.      Although only thirteen she bears a heady responsibility as the future heir to the throne.

The ring eventually finds its way to the other Jane in the spine of a Common Book of Prayers.   This Jane is facing choices of her own as her son has moved out for college and her husband has announced they need some time apart.

Back and forth you will read the stories of these two Janes.    By far the best line in the book to me was this one on page 238, ""Faith to Jane was not something to be bargained with or leveraged. It was to be as subtle and unstoppable as the beating of your own heart."