Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Christmas Music Playlist

Christmas is undoubtedly my favorite time of year!  One of the things I love about it is the music.  I love all the classic versions of the traditional Christmas songs, but this year I've heard some new songs that I've really enjoyed. So here's a little mix of both for you and I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas!

Here are some of my older faves : )

I could definitely include many more...but I hope these minister to you this Christmas season.  God bless!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reviewer's Bookshelf: A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

Book Summary: Abigail Stuart Thought She was Jeremiah Calhoun's Widow.
But Jeremiah Calhoun Is Very Handsome, Very Alive, and Very Perplexed.
Most Inconvenient Indeed.
With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he's gone--a practical solution for both of them.

After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain--until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail's story. Abigail is flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she's never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn't trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage? (book cover and summary from amazon.com)

My thoughts...The only other book I had read before by Regina Jennings was Sixty Acres and a Bride, which I thought was pretty good. The book didn't cause Jennings to stand out to me as an author, however, so I had not read any more of her books until I had the chance to review this one.  I'm SO glad I did!  

There were several aspects of this novel that I enjoyed. The general plot of Abigail marrying a man she believed to be Jeremiah Calhoun in order to help his family was written very well. Abigail didn't have any hidden motives for doing this and was very open that her intentions truly were to help his family. If there were any type of hidden agenda it was simply that she wanted to love and be loved by a family.  It was heart warming to see how she truly cared for people who were basically strangers and became part of their family.

When the real Jeremiah showed up, he was obviously not accepting of the idea of having Abigail there and was suspicious of her every move. The fact that Abigail was consistent in her desire to serve the family...and even him...made her a heroine you wanted to root for. She worked hard to prove to Jeremiah that she was dedicated to everything she said she was. She even wanted to help Jeremiah get back together with his childhood sweetheart. Also using her nursing skills to help Jeremiah, who had a physical ailment, was another way that drew her closer to him and his family.

The pacing of this novel really helped build the tension romantically as well as the suspense. Several conflicts were going on at once: a romantic conflict, an inner conflict among the hero and heroine concerning their pasts, and a conflict within the community that was causing harm to the residents.  These conflicts weren't rushed to be resolved, which made the book a page turner. I didn't find myself thinking, "Oh brother, not this again," referring to the same old plot lines, same old conflict, same old resolution.  

Overall, I really loved reading this book.  Abigail was a heroine I wanted the best for, Jeremiah was a hero that had just the right combination of masculinity and vulnerability (although he did frustrate me a few times : )), and I really didn't want their story to end.  I would definitely recommend this book!  Loved it!

**I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in order to give an unbiased, honest review**

Happy reading!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review and GIVEAWAY!: The Song: A Couple's Journey to Awaken Love in Their Marriage by Kyle and Desirae Idleman

**And the winner is....Facebook commenter Ashley Peacock!  Thanks to everyone for your comments and for stopping by!**

I am so excited to have the opportunity to review a couple's devotional based on the book of Song of Solomon in the Bible. This devotion is also connected with the movie, "The Song" which was released in 2014.  "The Song" is a full length movie that is a resource for churches to explore God's plan for relationships, love, and marriage.

This couple's devotional is a 6-week book for couples that can help awaken love in their marriages.  With daily relationship insights and prayer points drawn from the Song of Solomon, this devotional will help couples grow in their relationship with God and one another.

My thoughts:  There were several factors that made me want to review this devotion, but one was that I thought it would be very beneficial to my husband and I.  Let's face it...we live a busy life, as most people do. We have small children, I am homeschooling and ministering as a homemaker, and my husband is also busy as an associate pastor.  Even for us, who love God's Word and want to grow in our relationship with each other, it's hard to find the time to sit down and have a time of communication.  This devotion really meets couples like us right where we are.  The lessons are short but filled with truth.  They are very applicable to the struggles that are common in marriage today and address them in an appealing way.  There are 5 lessons for each week that often begin with an illustration or story.  Then it moves on to a verse in Song of Solomon and has a "Bridge" where the verse is applied to everyday life.  There are also some exercises that couples can do together to build their marriage.  A quote that I liked in week 1 says:

"The people of Solomon's day believed and understood a basic reality: all truth is God's truth....There is no way to know what love is and to experience it fully apart from God."

If you are struggling in your marriage or experiencing marital bliss....this devotion is applicable to wherever you are in your walk with your spouse and the Lord.

Another aspect of this devotion that appealed to me is the authors, Kyle Idleman and his wife, DesiRae.  I had previously attended a book study at our church that Idleman authored called, "Not a Fan," and thought it was fantastic.  I knew that this devotion would be solidly based on Biblical truths, and it is.

Idleman is the Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the fourth largest church in America.  Author of the award-winning and bestselling book, "Not a Fan", and presenter of eight of City on a Hill's curriculum series, he regularly speaks at conferences and events around the world. Kyle and his wife DesiRae have four children.

It's my pleasure to be able to offer one of you A FREE COPY OF THIS DEVOTION!  Stop by and comment here on my blog post or on my facebook link and you will be entered into the drawing that will take place next Sunday, November 30th.  

More resources:
*Here is a resource page connected with the devotion
*Check out The Song movie on Facebook
I thought I would also give you a peek at the movie trailer:

God bless!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

Book Summary: Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . . 

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure. 

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger? (image and synopsis from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: From the beginning of this novel, there was a foreshadowing of some kind of misfortune or darkness ahead.  Abigail and her family have lost their financial status due to some poor investment choices, and it seems that the offer of Pembrooke Park for their family to stay in is too good to be true.  When Abigail and her father arrive, invited by a mysterious solicitor, the house almost seems haunted by the past.  This sets the tone of most of the novel.  There are secrets, mysterious events that can't be explained, and Abigail thinks she hears and sees someone moving through the rooms in the house.  I have to admit, I do most of my reading at night and I was feeling the shivers up my spine!  There was definitely an element of suspense that I liked.  I appreciated the fact that there were several different factors that kept me turning the pages of this novel.  

The suspense was good, but so was the romantic element.  I've observed that in several of Klassen's novels, there is more than one worthy gentleman that could capture the heroine's heart.  The same is true in this novel.  Each of the gentlemen had his strengths and weaknesses.  This added to the tension in the novel as I couldn't honestly predict who Abigail would end up with in the end.  There were also some nice romantic moments between Abigail and one young gentleman.  It created a nice balance of intense suspense and tender romance.  

There were several plots going on throughout the novel.  I felt that Klassen resolved and explained them well, with the exception of the man in the green cloak.  Without spoiling the ending, I will say that you find out some of the details behind this character, but I would've like to know much more.  It seemed to be wrapped up without really knowing many details.  

I also felt that the point of view jumped around a lot.  In the prologue and epilogue, there was a first person perspective, but throughout the body of the novel the perspective often jumped around.  I did receive an advanced reader copy, so there may be some indicators in the final copy of when the perspective is going to change, but it was a little confusing at times while I was reading.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the characters in this novel.   The element of suspense was well done and the balance of that with the romantic tension created a page turner.  

Happy reading!

DISCLAIMER: In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” we would like to note that we received an electronic copy of “The Secret of Pembrooke Park”provided by the publishers, Bethany House, through Netgalley.com in exchange for our honest review.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

At the halfway mark! Classical Conversations Cycle 3, week 12: General Robert E. Lee, blood, Appalachian Mtns and more

This will be our last week of CC until after the new year!  Hard to believe that the holidays are upon us, but I must confess this is my favorite time of year.  We'll still be doing school work after this week and probably going back and doing a few review activities/fun things that we didn't get to with CC since school started.  I'm glad that we've been doing so well this year and still chugging along with not too much burnout : ).

History: Robert E. Lee
This week is basically highlighting Lee's surrender during the Civil War, so we'll still be able to go back and do a few Civil War activities that I mentioned last week.  I also thought it would be fun to have a night that I cooked a meal with recipes that date back to or were popular during Civil War times.  Here are few things I've found:

I thought this was pretty neat!  Mary Todd Lincoln's Vanilla Almond Cake recipe...I think we need to try this one!

*Several Civil War recipes and history behind cooking during this time
*Confederate Johnnie Cakes
*Lots of Civil War info, including Civil War generals, food, battles, and other info.
*Info about Lee and free coloring sheets (right click on the image you want, save the image to your computer, then go to the image and print)
*Blog post on Lee's surrender with some nice pictures
*Robert E. Lee biography:
*I have several more Civil War recipe pins on Pinterest under "Classical Conversations Cycle 3"

Science: purposes of the blood
*short video singing the purposes
*Magic School Bus Goes Cellular ...I haven't watched it all the way through, so I'm not sure how applicable it will be but my kids love MSB, so either way they'll enjoy it : )

Latin: John 1:1
*This video is for weeks 12-24...so you'll be using it for a while! : )

Geography: Appalachian Mountains
*The music is not my favorite, but it does help highlight the geography stuff.  It starts with last week's features.

Hope all of you have a great week!  I probably won't do my regular CC posts until we start with Week 13 after the holidays, but I will post any fun activities we decide to do during the holidays : ).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall

Book Summary: One accidental kiss. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or the desire to fall for her friend Lawry Hampton. However, with Vance out of the country and Lawry constantly at her side, Meredyth can’t help but wonder if what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from their unfortunate past. 

When Vance comes home to stake his claim on Meredyth, will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’s convinced she deserves? Or will she find the strength to accept that God’s plan for her life could include redemption... and quite possibly the love of her best-friend? (from Goodreads)

My thoughts:My impression of Meredyth when I read Crandall's first novel, The Hesitant Heiress, was of a girl who was always close friends with a gentleman but never entered into any kind of courtship. She had brothers so she could relate to men easily, and was always comfortable around them. I loved that this book explores all that's inside of Meredyth and how her actual experience with a man has shaped who she's become. We were only able to get to know the outward impression of Meredyth from others in the first novel of the series, but in this novel, we're able to see all of her struggles and the depths of her heart.

I commend Dawn Crandall for doing an excellent job of using the first person perspective in both novels in this series. It took me straight into the heart of the character, and there were times when I felt as if I were experiencing her emotions right along with her. The title for this novel is perfect, as well, for Meredyth's heart is certainly bound in more ways than one. 

Meredyth has admired Vance Everstone from a distance for years, and when he seems to be returning her affections, Meredyth is caught up in the moment. When Vance takes advantage of her, Meredyth is scarred for life. But instead of being repulsed by him, she feels bound to him. She is physically and emotionally connected and can't break free. She is, however, desperate for freedom, but can't will herself to accept it from anyone, even God. At one point she thinks that freedom can only come if Vance rejects her. This roller coaster journey is at times heart wrenching. I wanted Meredyth to experience love that is honorable and true, not this false sense of love that was more like a prison. 

And then there's Lawry. Oh Lawry. He is a true representation of a gentleman. He is kind and persistent, wooing Meredyth with a love that is not self-centered. Meredyth has been oppressed for so long she thinks Lawry's love is just too good for her.  He gently pursues her and offers her a gift that means even more than his love....grace and acceptance.

The Bound Heart is not just a romantic love story, although I really enjoyed that aspect of it, but a story of forgiveness, unconditional love, and redemption. Meredyth's journey is a great representation of how we are before we experience freedom in Christ. We are bound by the sins we have committed, but through Christ we can experience a joyous release from all that holds us captive. I will confess, I did shed a tear or two : ). 

I would definitely recommend The Bound Heart, as well as Crandall's first novel, The Hesitant Heiress. 

*I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this novel from the publisher in order to give an unbiased review.*  

Be sure to stop by Dawn's blog, www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com for updates, giveaways, and more!  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Back on track...Cycle 3, week 11: The Civil War and the endocrine system...Oh...and there's a bit about my Austen obsession : )

I'm going to start with what's on my mind right now...um...a little Austen obsession : ).  I have loved Pride and Prejudice...in all versions...for quite some time.  And last week I just happened to run across a Masterpiece Mystery! series entitled "Death Comes to Pemberly".  This series is based on a novel written by crime writer P.D. James, and I was immediately sucked in to this fantastically done sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  I'm kind of giddy after watching it :D.  Yes...I know...cray cray. But seriously, if you're an Austen fan...you will probably enjoy it!

Eeek!  Yes, it was really good.  : )

Ok...now on to our week of school!

History: Civil War
I know before I even get started that there is a TON of stuff on the Civil War.  So I'm just going to hit some of the highlights.
*Four free worksheets from crayola.com
*Instructions on how to make Civil War hard tack...looks like a fun activity!
*I looked up second grade civil war worksheets on education.com and got a few good ones pop up : ).  You can search for other grades or topics.
*Good resource for top ten interesting facts and a printable for the Civil War (I LOVE this one...great info, condensed, and there is a flip style organizer you can print)
*Civil War blog created by a kid who is interested in the Civil War
*Love the "Horrible Histories" videos : )
*Liberty's Kids video "Conflict in the South"...definitely watching that one!  My kiddos LOVE Liberty's Kids!

I'm going to move on...but like I said, there are lots of ideas.  I also printed timeline cards from Teachers Pay Teachers when I bought some for the Revolutionary War...so we'll probably do those, too.

Science: the endocrine system
*I have some personal experience with this, as I had thyroid cancer in 2012...and no longer have a thyroid.  We'll probably talk about that this week.

Here's a nice graphic to explain some of the different parts of the endocrine system.

This is probably about all we'll do for the endocrine system....just go over the graphic above.

Geography: Appalachian Mountains

Here's one map I found to show where the different mountain ranges are located.

Have a great week!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary: All she's ever wanted was a home. But stranded at Presque Isle port after their steamboat sank, Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, couldn't be farther away from security. While Ryan at least can find work, Emma can't even find a place to stay. An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper, who recently lost his wife and is struggling to raise his young son, arrives in town. A traveling preacher believes they might be the answer to each others' problems, and after a hasty marriage, Emma is headed back to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger.

But nothing in her wandering life has prepared her for suddenly being asked to raise a child and keep a house. Struggling at every turn, Emma also suspects Patrick may be keeping something hidden from her. In town she hears whispers about strange circumstances surrounding his previous wife's death, and it seems as though Emma's answered prayer for a home and family may actually be something much more dangerous.

My Thoughts:  Jody Hedlund is easily one of my favorite authors.  Each book I've read by her has not only taken me through a whirlwind of emotions, but they have also reflected a moment in history.  Some of her characters are fictional, but many are based on real life people and events.  I love that.

Her newest novel, Love Unexpected, takes us on a journey to Michigan and into the life of a lighthouse keeper, a job that is dangerous in more ways than one.  The weather can go from calm to torrential storm at the blink of an eye, and there are those who would want to sabotage the keeper's efforts in order to pirate the ships coming through the dangerous waters.  The light must be lit every night, without fail, or someone could be harmed.  It is a demanding life, but one that Patrick has found honor in doing.  When his wife dies, leaving him with a young son to raise on his own, he is desperate to find a way to keep his little family together.  This is the situation that Emma enters in to.  

There are several themes going on throughout this novel, but the aspect that I enjoyed the most was the romantic tension.  Hedlund is a master at creating those heated moments that make you wonder what will happen next between the hero and heroine.  It may be something as simple as words that are spoken, a moment where two hands touch, but they are moments that carry so much weight in the attraction between two characters.  I like the way that this can be created and still keep the novel clean.  For me, this is evidence of a skilled Christian fiction novelist.  The attraction between Patrick and Emma was obvious, but it was some of the other themes that hold them back from fully trusting each other with their hearts.

Patrick has a dark past...one that he is not very open about with Emma.  She is unable to see who he truly is because he is unable to trust her with his past...for fear that she will reject him.  Emma is unable to trust Patrick fully and ask him about where he spends his time.  Instead she relies on a busybody from town for advice.  There is a push and pull between the two of them as they are unable to communicate openly.  It would be hard to do this given their quick marriage, but it is also the root of several of their issues.  The growing love between them allows them both to trust more, forgive those who have wronged them, and allow God to soothe their wounds.  Trust, forgiveness, and honesty are themes that run throughout Patrick and Emma's love story.

Once again, I definitely recommend this novel.  Before I read Love Unexpected, I picked up Jody's FREE e-novella, "Out of the Storm", which is a prequel to this novel. It's not necessary to read it, but it does offer a little bit of background.  I enjoyed it as well.

Hope you enjoy Love Unexpected!

I received an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of this novel from the publisher in order to give an unbiased review.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Little Backtracking...Cycle 3, Week 9: Compromise of 1850 and the lymph system...and a free printable!

Last week I was pretty tired...this week I've got it together a little better.  BUT...I accidentally skipped week 9 so we went ahead and did week 10 last week and we're going to go back and cover week 9 this week.  Make sense? : )

And if you think about it, please pray for healing for my left knee.  I know I've got fluid and arthritis in it but it was doing much better after my second shot several weeks ago.  I've been playing with the kids, taking a few walks, but after a busy weekend with a lot of walking, I feel a lot of pressure in there.  : (  I'm praying it'll get better soon!

Week 9
History: Compromise of 1850, Fugitive Slave Act, Dred Scott decision
*I love these little videos.  This would be a great idea for an end of the year homeschool project, too (pick your favorite week of cycle 3 history/science and do a video of it like this)

*Dred Scott video (I would say more appropriate for older kids)
*Fugitive slave act video...I thought it was informative and interesting

I thought this was helpful, too.  I pinned some more videos and things on my Classical Conversations Cycle 3 board.

Science: lymph system
*A blog post with some kid-friendly ideas; different post on the same blog with links to printables and ideas about the human body
*A helpful diagram from this page
video about the lymph system (about 8 min and animated)

I posted this free printable report card on my facebook page last week, but I wanted to pass it on here, too, in case you're like me and about to do report cards.  I LOVE these free, cute printables that you can customize for your specific needs.  I used them last year and really liked them.

Hope you have a great week!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week 10, Cycle 3...President Polk and the respiratory system--printables, video, info, and a field trip idea

Ok, friends.  Today has been rough.  Some days being a mom feels like the hardest job in the world. I'm also making this big goal to get up and exercise in the  morning...and try to start eating better...and make healthy smoothies for my kids...and get more sleep....so I definitely need your prayers.  In light of all that...I'm going to do my best to post some good resources for history and science for this week.

History: President Polk/Manifest Destiny
I'll have to say...I know pretty much nothing about either of these!  Should be an informative week!

Here is James K. Polk.  First president to be photographed while in office. He is buried in Nashville, TN.

*Free James Polk coloring page

What is Manifest Destiny?
 Man·i·fest Des·ti·ny
  1. the 19th-century doctrine or belief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.

*Background info on the Mexican-American War and how it related to "manifest destiny"
*Background info on the Gadsden Purchase

Science: the respiratory system
*free worksheet showing a respiratory system diagram with some fill in the blanks
*Love this paper bag lungs demonstration to show how the lungs work.  I'm pretty sure I've seen paper bags at the dollar store.  This would be easy and fun!
*"Meet the Lungs" video from Khan Academy (kind of long)
* Great webpage with several videos, book resources, and experiments that go along with the respiratory system

Geography: states and capitals
*free states and capitals matching game (printable)
*I'm still printing our flashcards from crayola.com

Field trip idea
*Even though it'll be another week before we start studying the Civil War, there's a great opportunity this weekend to go to Living History Weekend at Andersonville, GA, which is the site of a former Civil War prison.  It will be pretty neat to see history come to life!  And it's free!  Even if you're not close to this park, there may be similar events at your local National Park.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ten Things I Love About You

(Photo by Kay Kelley)

Today is a big day.  This day 10 years ago, this man and I said, "I DO!" and began this roller coaster called marriage.  We've had our ups and downs, thrills, scary moments, but I would do it again...and again.  I definitely wouldn't want to go on this journey with anyone but him.  In honor of this momentous occasion...I thought I'd do a tribute to this guy.

Ten Things I Love About You
10...I love the way we can laugh together.  Laughter is so important in marriage.  And I'm glad I'm learning not to take everything so seriously : ).  I love those moments that something cracks us up so much that we do those crazy laughs and can't stop!

9....I love your sense of adventure.  You love a good roller coaster and would go anywhere around the world that God calls you to.  It compliments my love of travel and culture just perfectly. 

8....I love your patience.  Oh, how I love it.  I can think of so many moments that I have received that patience when I was upset, accusatory, frustrated...and you just sat there and listened.  In so many decisions I can hear you say, "Let's wait a while and pray about this first." God has led us in the right direction so many times through that patient seeking of His will.  I could go on and on...I am blessed!

7...I love the way you relate to others.  You have such a natural, easy way with people.  You can have a conversation with a kid, teenager, or adult...and they are at ease with you.  When there are people that aren't the easiest to talk to, you speak with them with respect and dignity.   

6...I love the way you lead me.  I'm not the easiest to lead sometimes.  I still have a little independent streak in me.  There have been lots of times that I thought I knew the best way and that's the way I wanted to do it.  You always try to steer me along the best way, even when I don't see it at the time.

5....I love your sense of direction.  I'm so thankful that the Lord put me with you...because if it were up to me, we'd always be lost!  lol  

4...I love the way you minister to me.  I am specifically thinking of the way you so willingly watch the children so I can get out of the house, have a girl's night, or even a girl's weekend!  You never act like it's an inconvenience to you when I'm at my wits end.  In fact, on more than one occasion you've encouraged me to do something for myself.  May I always see this as a privilege.

3...I love seeing you being a father.  Even though you'd never changed a diaper or any of those "Dad" things before we had Sophie, you jumped right in.  You are such a wonderful Daddy and it shows by the way our kids love you so much.  You are loving and patient with them.  It's not always easy for either of us, but I'm glad we can parent together and encourage each other to keep our cool when the going gets tough. It really warms my heart when you spend "Daddy time" with the kids.  They love it...and I love it, too.

2...I love that you protect my heart.  I have no fear that you will ever embarrass me, talk about me behind my back, joke about me...it's not even an issue.  There are many times, as a woman who has had babies, surgeries, and cancer, that I feel less than beautiful.  But you always make me feel loved and beautiful. You don't always express it in words, but you have always treated me with honor and respect.  I am a blessed woman!

1...I love the way you love the Lord.  That's really the root of all.  You love Jesus...and you want to help others to know and love Him as well.  The work of the Spirit enables you to persevere, speak truth in love, love me and our children, love family members, and share the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  I pray that our children will have a husband/wife who knows and loves God.  With all that we've been through over the past 10 years, I can't imagine making it through without God's presence in our lives.  Praise Him!

There are surely more than 10 things I love about you, Dearest, so this is just a sample.  Happy Tenth...may the Lord bless us with many more!  I love you!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Moving Right Along...Cycle 3, Week 8: Missouri Compromise and the circulatory system

I don't know why, but this year has just been crazy!  We've had SO much going on...almost every week since we started school.  But we're pressing on and moving right along to week 8 this week. Hope all of you are doing well!

History: Missouri Compromise
* Free worksheet...it gives some good info/summary
*I thought this was a cute video

*I love this Social Studies notebook!  This could be used for several other weeks, too...including some we've already done!

I was able to print this page for free from the above link.  LOVE the ideas that are on here.  I'm going to use this image to color in the states with my kiddos.

Science: Circulatory System
*free worksheet on the parts of the heart from kidshealth.org
*The Circulatory Song on YouTube
*Blog post with links to lots of Montessori-inspired activities about the heart and circulatory system
*A great webpage with lots of book ideas, videos, experiments, etc.--all about the circulatory system
*One more blog post with fun food activities, projects, and experiments along with some free notebooking pages.  This looks like a lot of fun!

**There are TONS of resources for the circulatory system.  Pinterest has LOTS of ideas!**

And that's a wrap!  Hope you guys have a great week!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Back to School! Cycle 3, Week 7: War of 1812 and the excretory system

We've had a glorious week off for fall break.  Honestly, I think this break was more for me than the kids.  After a very busy summer and 6 weeks of school, I was feeling a little burnt out.  The next couple of months will be pretty busy and, of course, we want to spend some time enjoying the beautiful weather.  So this break was perfect timing.  Starting tomorrow it's back to the routine!

History: War of 1812
I'm so glad that we were able to go to Fort McHenry when we were in Baltimore this summer!  We were able to walk around the site, see an interesting video about the battle that took place there, and even see part of a Flag Day presentation.  We will probably revisit some of our pictures from that this week. There are also some good resources that we might try.

*One thing that looks fun is an interactive powder monkey activity on the National Parks Service site.
*Liberty's Kids also has a video that we will watch
*Teachers Pay Teachers have some really nice War of 1812 printables, but the ones I found are not free.
*War of 1812 for kids with lots of links to activities and sites
*USA coloring sheets page...but I had trouble getting all the ads off
*Online resource with some coloring sheets and some really interesting activities like making baked apples, homemade butter, candle making and making your own ink!
*Another online resource with links to several sites and activities
*Lots of great printables/info here. It has free resources on the flag, key historical figures, patriotic songs, etc.
*A site with American History Crafts and Projects...this could be used later, too!
*Lesson on the Star Spangled Banner and art project
*I just splurged and bought a timeline for the War of 1812 and the Civil War on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Honestly....I think it'll help us to have some visual resources that summarize both wars.  We will use the Civil War one in a few weeks.  Hopefully it'll be $5 well spent!

Science: Excretory system
*We will look at the body systems printable I posted about here
*Nice printable coloring sheet with info
*There are several YouTube videos you could watch...but make sure to preview them first ; ).  "Make Me Genius" and "Crash Course" are two channels that have informative videos.

Geography: states and capitals
*continuing to print state/capital cards on crayola.com
*I bought a very cute cookie cutter in the shape of the US on Amazon for only $3...with free shipping.

That's all I have for this week! Have a good one!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Taking a Fall Break!

We've completed 6 weeks of school so far and I think Momma needs a break.  : )  We've been pushing hard the past 6 weeks and since fall has just begun, and the weather is cooler, and just because I have a TON of things I need to catch up on (hello piled up laundry) we're going to take a few days off.  BUT...I do think it's a great time to still do some fun things together that could still be considered "school" even if we aren't tackling week 7 in Classical Conversations.  We'll do that next week.

One thing I've been inspired to do is learn how to play chess...and teach our children.  We had a college student visit us during the summer and he is very good at chess.  He convinced me that chess is "brain sport" and really helps develop the mind.  Last night I started trying to find some good resources to first of all learn, and then to try and find something somewhat interactive.  I came across a site called "Chess Kid" that was helpful.  You can sign up for free, and you can sign up as a parent/coach and then add the kids that you want to learn.  You can go to a "learn" section and it teaches you step by step about the pieces, how the board is set up, and then moves on to strategy.  I learned a lot in a very short time.  I wanted to try and play a simple game and that's where I started to lose interest because it wanted to set me up with online people I didn't know and then the games that you could set up against the computer didn't really look like a full game...just specific strategies.  But, once you set your kids up you can play against each other (at least that's what I think it said).  It definitely got me up to speed on the basics.  I also found a 3-in-1 chess, tic tac toe, and checkers set at Walmart for less than $10.  It was just right for our purposes.

Another thing I want to do next week is pick out a pumpkin.  We don't always get to do this every year and I found out there's a pumpkin patch with a corn maze and other fun things to do.  We have really enjoyed pumpkin carving in the past so I think we need to do that while we've got some down time! : )

Next weekend we're also visiting my alma mater, Berry College, for it's annual Mountain Day.  This year will be my 15 year reunion (and yes, I do feel old right now) and it's also the 100th anniversary of the college.  I can't even cover how much I loved my 4 years at Berry.  I spent my summers working there, too, so it really felt like home during that time.  I was able to explore several neat spots and made SO many memories! Here are a few pics of the campus <3 .="" p="">
    The Grand March on Mountain Day                            The Ford buildings on campus...I lived here!

                                                  The Old Mill on the Mountain Campus

I can't wait to go back...after all these years!  I have visited since I graduated but I haven't been on Mountain Day since my senior year.  The story of Martha Berry and how she founded the school is fascinating.  I hope we'll be able to fit in a little of the history while we're there.

This is also the first week of the fair!  We LOVE going to the fair each year as a family.  There are fun rides but also a circus, animal exhibits, and last year we did the petting zoo.  A definite October activity that we look forward to...and it can be educational! : )

There are plenty of fall crafts, too. The blog Art for Kids is having a Fall Art Contest!  They are giving away a great set of art supplies as a prize and entries are due on October 6th!  I think we're definitely going to try to do this! Click on my link to get the guidelines.

Happy fall, everyone!  I'll be back in the groove next week with week 7 and as many activities as I can find ; ).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reviewer's Bookshelf: A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears

Book Summary (from Amazon): Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn't even in town when she finally arrives.

Axel's business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend's mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store--where she quickly proves she's much more adept at business than he ever will be.

The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream in store for them both.

My thoughts: Initially it took me a while to get into this book.  I'm not sure why, because the beginning scene was a train hold up...and very exciting.  I guess once our main character, Eliza, got off the train the action slowed down quite a bit.  As I continued to read on, however, the story became more engaging as there were some nice plot twists and unexpected events.  Eliza also took a journey of self-discovery that I was able to relate to.  

Some Facebook comments on an author friend's page that I read recently pointed out that when you pick up a Christian fiction romance novel...you should expect a romance!  : )  So I expected there to be a romantic interest for Eliza.  The fun part about reading this genre is the journey that a character goes on.  What twists and turns will be in the story that will affect the outcome?  Who will the hero/heroine end up with? What will the character learn through developing a relationship with someone? There are going to be a few predictable elements, but I found this novel to have just the right amount of interesting characters, plot twists, and romantic moments to keep my interest throughout. 

Eliza was so confident in some things, like her abilities as a store manager, and yet so insecure about others, like her appearance. Her past caused her to struggle with a need to depend only on herself, striving at all costs to get what she wanted and felt she deserved.  Don't we all struggle with that to a degree?  Entitlement.  I know I do.  Throughout the novel we see how she deals with this and how it affects her relationship with two men...Axel and Will.

Will is definitely the hero in this story, but he also struggles with insecurity.  It is almost crippling for him.  He makes bad business decisions, trusts someone who shouldn't be trusted, and helps people to a degree that it's harmful to his own welfare.  It can be a little frustrating at times, and hard to read.  But Will is also very kind and endearing, which made me believe that he was the kind of guy that Eliza could like.  

Overall, by the time I finished this novel I really enjoyed it.  There were times when the pace lagged a little bit for me, but it would always pick back up and a new, unexpected thing would happen.  

My rating:
4 stars
Happy reading!
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in order to give an unbiased review*

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cycle 3, Week 6: Louisiana Purchase, the Digestive System, and some great freebies!

It's been a great, but busy, weekend!  We celebrated my hubby's 50th birthday with a surprise party on Saturday!  It was a couple of months in the making...and I'm SO glad it went so well!  We have been blessed with some amazing family and friends...so thankful.  With that said...I am pretty wiped. But I need to get ready for school..tired or not.

I read that adding additional worksheets and things to the memory work is not necessary.  But honestly...my kids love it.  And I do, too.  I think it helps us remember the memory work better so that's why we do it.  Plus we don't have any other science or social studies curriculum, so this is what we do.  With that said...I enjoy making these resources available to anyone that might like to use them.  I hope they help you on your CC journey!

History: Louisiana Purchase/Lewis and Clark
Schoolhouse Rock video

Time Warp Trio....this is part one but I saw a link to the next part
*Free Louisiana Purchase worksheet
*Free Louisiana Purchase accordian foldable (You could use it in a lap book)
*Fun ideas from this Homeschool Book Club page...I like the cake idea :-)
*I pinned some other things on my Cycle 3 Pinterest board...check it out!

Science: the digestive system
*LOVE this FREE human body organ sytems foldable.  It would cover several things we've covered and then some.
*Magic School Bus Gets Eaten video!  My kiddos love MSB!
*Nice blog post with a set of free worksheets! that go into some great detail about digestion.  I just printed one copy for our family to do together.
*Short, factual video that shows the process:

*Digestive system demonstration
*Kinesthetic model of digestion
*Digestion in a bag

And...I think my FAVORITE activity is making an organs t-shirt! This blog even has free printables for stencils.  And I bought t-shirts at the dollar store!  Can't wait to try this!!

Latin: Nouns
Still searching for help with this, but I did find John 1 in Latin on this video...

English: Irregular Verb Tenses
*The blog Suzanne Shares has a FREE printable set of all of the irregular verb tenses that we're studying.  Looks great, as always!

*Still printing our state cards on crayola.com.  The kids are getting into the hang of coloring one a day and at the end of the week I laminate them.  I think we'll really enjoy being able to review with them!

And that will be all, my friends!  Hope you have a great week!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz

Love's Fortune is the third book in the Ballantyne series by Laura Frantz.  Here is the book summary (from Goodreads):

Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas's vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Rowena makes the journey with him and quickly finds herself in a whole new world--filled with family members she's never met, dances she's never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew. As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes' shipping line. Even with his help, Rowena feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

With her signature attention to historical detail, Laura Frantz brings 1850s Pennsylvania alive with a tender story of loss, love, and loyalty. Fans will cheer for this final installment of the Ballatyne saga.

Before sharing my thoughts, I really love this video that not only features the author, but also gives you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes in creating a book cover.

My thoughts...
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Laura Frantz's books.  Why?  Because her novels create word pictures that sweep me up in a new time and place, but also take me on a roller coaster ride of emotions.  Fear, angst, love, and devotion are just a few.  And as Laura said on the video, this series is a lot about the choices that are made and how they affect generations to come.  So relevant to our own lives.  A good novel takes you on a fantastic fictional journey but pulls you in by relating real feelings and experiences.  Each of her novels have done that for me....including Love's Fortune.

Wren.  I love the name chosen for the heroine in this novel.  Her real name is Rowena, but Wren suits her perfectly.  When she is in the wilds of Kentucky, free to pursue her love of music and not bound by the confines of society, she thrives.  When she travels to see her family in Pennsylvania, she is more like a caged bird.  Trapped physically right down to the corset she has to wear, Wren still tries to find moments of freedom through musical expression.  Society doesn't look too kindly on her "outbursts".  But there is someone who sees this soft, beautiful side of her...James Sackett.

James can see how vulnerable Wren is.  She is without an advocate in Pennsylvania, as her father has gone away on business.  He wants to help her thrive in society, but he also wants to protect her from those who would take advantage of her.  James is good at being admired in society. However, his true passion and skill is being a steamship pilot, which is coupled with his love and admiration for the Ballantyne family.  As much as he tries to avoid it, his attraction to Wren is undeniable.

This book also had several side stories going on in the midst of the main plot.  I can see that not every character's tale can be resolved...it would be a really long novel! I can appreciate that the main characters and the overall novel reached a point of resolution by the end of the book.  

I would recommend the entire Ballantyne Legacy series as well as Laura Frantz' other novels. I give Love's Fortune:

Four stars!  I really enjoyed it!

Happy reading!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cycle 3, week 5...Washington and the senses

Tired.  It's been another busy week, complete with a crazy reaction to an insect bite, school, and basically me being overwhelmed.  But there were good moments, too.  So...Monday is always a good day to start over.  There will be a lot going on this week but hopefully with a good night's sleep I'll be ready to go.  Let's get rollin'...

History: George Washington
*Great video about Washington on the Scholastic site
*Another Washington biography video
*Liberty's Kids movies:"Washington Takes Command"
*Funny, short Sesame Street video explaining a painting with George Washington
*You can search "George Washington" on YouTube and there will be several video options
*blog post that shows some Washington anchor charts
*Very cute, FREE, George Washington booklet --it can be printed in b/w or color
*FREE George Washington lapbook

Science: the five senses
I know there will be lots of cute things for this!
*10 free senses worksheets--labeled to be used for Kindergarten
*I might try the apple poem that goes with the senses found here

I like this idea to do with popcorn (found at http://spotlightonkindergarten.blogspot.com/2012/03/anchor-charts-and-classroom-charts.html)

Geography--still printing our state flashcards for the week from crayola.com

*Not much to help with this one! : )  I did see a few links to some videos on Pinterest.

I know this isn't a ton of stuff...but friends, I'm exhausted!  Hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

GIVEAWAY and Review!! Dolphin Tale 2 Homeschool Curriculum and Promo Pack

The movie Dolphin Tale 2 will come to theaters this weekend.  And guess what?!  Friday, September 12 is also Homeschool Day 2014!  I am very privileged to be able to review a homeschool curriculum designed to use right along with Dolphin Tale 2. 

I haven't seen this movie yet, of course, but I remember Dolphin Tale being a heart warming, family friendly movie that everyone could enjoy.  The sequel brings back several of the actors from the original film as well as a few new ones, including a cameo by Bethany Hamilton ("Soul Surfer").  I can't wait to see this with my kiddos and I'm especially excited to tell you about a free homeschool curriculum that you can use right along with the movie!

I had never heard of the site Homeschool Movie Club until tonight.  It's free to sign up and it gives you access to homeschooling materials that go right along with family friendly movies.  For the movie Dolphin Tale 2, there is a curriculum intro along with 5 lessons, all of which include a video from someone who works at the aquarium and a pdf file that you can print off that goes right along with the lesson.  There is also an answer key and....drumroll....Classical Conversations homeschool curriculum included a FREE packet that is over 60 pages long and includes connections to literature, math, science, history, geography, language, and Bible.  There is even a section for parents that has a place to put together a family presentation.  Just click on the link above and go to "free curriculum". You have to sign up and log in before you can view it.

So...what do I think about this curriculum?!  LOVE it!  The videos that go with each of the lessons are short and informative.  A good portion is a man talking, but there are video clips and graphics dispersed throughout.  I thought the videos were easy to understand and the information was presented well.  I believe that children as young as elementary age up through high school could learn something from the videos.  The printable pages that went along with the lessons were geared towards younger students, I would say up through 5th grade.  The printables were colorful, informative, and there was a variety of activities ranging from drawing to science.  I also liked the way that the lessons encouraged students who might have an interest in marine biology or would like to work in an aquarium.  The Classical Conversations material was just...amazing!  I am a little biased since we use this curriculum, but the graphics and lessons were eye catching and filled with information.  I liked the inclusion of the Bible in the study of dolphins.  There were also pages where your child could draw something, printable information cards, and a wide variety of information at your fingertips.  This would be a great week long...or more...unit study on dolphins.

It's rare to find good quality entertainment these days, and even though I haven't seen it yet, I believe that Dolphin Tale 2 will be great.  Here is a trailer:

Love it!!  Here are some more ways to check out Dolphin Tale 2:
Official Movie Website: http://www.dolphintale2.com
Twitter: @dolphintale

You don't have to be a homeschooling family to enjoy this resource.  And you definitely don't have to homeschool to enter my GIVEAWAY!!!  I'll be giving away a free Dolphin Tale 2 t-shirt and a pair of sunglasses to one commenter.  So just leave a comment on this blog post or on my facebook pages where I'll be posting, and you'll be entered to win.  I'll draw a winner on Wednesday, September 17th...one week from today!

So DON'T FORGET!!  Go see Dolphin Tale 2 starting this Friday, September 12th!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”