Monday, January 30, 2012

Menu Plan Monday (and a Good Read Aloud)

Stop by and check out other menu plans at Organizing Junkie

I have been looking for ways to cut down on our grocery expenses and while at the bread store last week, I realized that not only could I spend considerably less on bread for our lunches by shopping there regularly (and on Tuesdays when there is a 10% discount) since a loaf of bread is about $1.29 there instead of the $2.69-$3.89 it runs in the regular store, but that by buying the cinnamon bread, bagels, and super-sized loaves of bread for french toast, I can save money on breakfast, too. We normally eat cereal most days of the week, and even when we buy the cheapest store-brand cereals, it runs $3-$4 dollars a box, and one box lasts for one day...not to mention the extra milk we wind up paying for at $4 or more a gallon ($7 for Boo's lactose free stuff). By varying our breakfasts to include other things, like toast and yogurt, french toast (we have eggs from our hens), fruit and and bagels, I will save quite a lot every week. Yay! We started the "change" this week, and while the kids are missing their usual favorites (even though they always had healthy cereals), they are enjoying the new variety.

Here's our Menu Plan for the week ahead:

Monday: Spaghetti and garlic bread, green salad...friends over for a visit. Nice.

Tuesday: Leftover buffet

Wednesday: Hamburgers and Hot Dogs with fries at church, then Awana for the kids and Bible study for Mom and Dad

Thursday: Black Bean Soup, cornbread muffins...simple, inexpensive, and delicious

Friday: Pizza and a movie (Real Steel)

Saturday: use leftover black beans to make Tortilla Pie. served with Spanish Rice and refried beans

Sunday: Superbowl party at Nanny and Poppy's house (only they aren't there since they are helping Grandma Pooh in Iowa...but their cable is, and Poppy said we can hang out for the day since we don't have cable at our house). I am serving 7 Layer dip, pizza, mozzarella sticks, veggie tray...I am not so much into the football, but I love the food! The girls are going to sew while the guys watch football. Nice. This is different than the Not-a-Superbowl party that mom and I have cooked up the last few years, but I can adapt. You can check out our Simple Seven Layer Dip recipe at last year's party post.

Our read aloud for the week is Flat Stanley in Space since we are reviewing an astronomy product this week and will be spending some time outside stargazing. The forecast calls for clear skies Monday through Wednesday, and unseasonably warm temperatures (a sizzling 70 degrees on Wednesday!), so this is the ideal time to do some star watching. Rain and falling temperatures are expected later in the week, so I am going to make sure to get the kids outside as much as possible on those beautiful days...I am thinking that a day off from regular studies to do a nature walk, ride bikes, and take the kids for a ride on Jake might be a good idea. I just love the flexibility of homeschooling!!

Have a blessed week!

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you read my earlier post A Day in the Life of our Homeschool, you will know that we have a fairly easygoing pattern...especially for the little kids. However, I don't like to get into too much of a rut, for both my sake and for the sake of the kids, so we came up with something to remind us of getting the fun stuff done, too, and not just the basics. 

We came up with the idea of doing one "focus" activity a day, along with the usual required Bible, math, spelling, and reading/English. This allows us some variety, as well as a bit of structure, so we don't always default to our favorite activities when there is extra time (such as art for Ladybug, games for Cowboy, or reading for Tex).

Here's the sign I made for our fridge:

Our "Special Activity of the Day" sign

As you can see, we have listed one specialized area of study for each day. I will be honest here and tell you that we do NOT do each of these each week. Some weeks are good if we manage to do two or three of them, and on others we have actually done all five. My attitude about not getting to the "fun" and "special stuff" every day is that while everyone needs goals to aim for, we should also be content in doing our best...and since we are trying pretty hard, I think our best (for the time being) is actually quite good...though there is always room for improvement.

A Fun Friday field trip to a farm...

We always do Fun Friday  (which is sometimes a field trip), though I do not always manage to blog about it (my camera is on the fritz and I have had computer trouble, so my participation has been sketchy recently). To facilitate this, we accomplish our "regular" work in four days, leaving Friday free for doing the more creative and exploratory activities...or just resting, playing, being crafty, gardening, etc. 

Tex has been trying to do everything but his science experiments earlier in the week, leaving them for Fridays. This works for him because I can be more involved on Fridays, and he can pound out the other book/computer work faster if he isn't stopping to do experiments throughout the week. I think families should talk about what needs they have, try a few things out, then settle in to whatever fits them best. I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

The Writing of the fun activities the kids like to do

Painting on Talented Tuesday

We also have extra-curricular activities that add fun to our homeschool days. Twice a month on a Wednesday, the Bookmobile comes to our house and the kids get to choose books, play with the stuffed animals on board (Mr. Mike collects animals in a basket and the kids love that), and collect any items we might have ordered from the regular library (delivered to our door, no less!). Usually once a month, our friends, Lady L. and her five kids, come over to join us for books and lunch (and playing, of course). That is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to have fun.

Reading on the Bookmobile

Also, on Wednesdays, we have supper at church and the kids do Awana. This is a recent addition, since we were still in the "church hunting" stage until recently. So far, the kids are LOVING the memory work (and the games, of course) and the chance to be around other children their own age. Hubby and I are enjoying the brief "break" we get by attending the women's and men's classes (and I love the grown up conversational opportunities!).

Twice a month on Friday, the kids attend 4-H at a local state park. This is mostly for Tex and Ladybug, and is currently a bit rough on me (trying to keep the others busy without disrupting the others when it is too cold to go outside and play), but it is worth it to give them the interaction with others and the chance to develop useful skills, such as public speaking and photography.

Nanny and Poppy...two of our favorite people!! 

Then, of course, sometimes our week gets a bit of fun added when Nanny and Poppy show up unexpectedly (or expectedly) and that is wonderful! My dad often helps out by working on something that needs fixing, and gets the boys to help him do whatever it is. Tex is a HUGE help, since he knows where to find all the stuff needed to do the repairs, and Cowboy just likes being able to watch or to hand tools to Poppy when he needs them. Tex and Poppy also like to chat about computers and sports, and maybe shoot some hoops. My mom will offer to help do any chores we are behind on, or to read with one of the little ones, or sew with the girls, or even give a piano lesson.

Bubba trimming Lily's feet

Sometimes we do just take the time off and enjoy a beautiful day outside, or take time to do something crafty, or get a visit from Bubba (usually to trim the horses' feet), or make something delicious to eat. All that is a lot of fun!! We also try to get out and ride the horses as often as possible. Once a week when it is cold, more often when the weather is good.

Ladybug sewing an apron for herself

After writing this, I think I will have to revise or add to my list, though. I think I will amend our art activity choices to include nature notebooks after a nature walk and also the art dvds that Ladybug received for Christmas and her birthday (See the Light and Inspiration Station...all the kids have art kits and like to do those dvds). For Thinking Thursday, I want to add "logic problems and word puzzles" (we have crossword and jumble books, and logic problems galore), as well as playing online thinking games (we have a listing of some on our homeschool-for-free site. For Fun Friday, I am also going to add "crafty things, like crocheting or sewing and baking (yum!)...or projects like building birdhouses and forts."

On a nature walk...

I know that we could (obviously) choose to do any of these things on ANY day of the week, but having the sign up on the fridge has been motivating for the kids and helps me focus on the fact that we need to add something a bit different to each of our days (as often as possible). It has also helped the kids focus on getting their other work done (so there is time for the "fun stuff"), and has helped them be more creative with their choices of fun learning activities (kids will get stuck in ruts of preference, just like us adults). 

One of our goals as homeschoolers is to raise creative, confident, and well-rounded individuals who are able to accomplish whatever the Lord calls them to do. Raising the children to have diverse interests and abilities (including interests beyond what I have as interests and abilities in) is one of the ways we can help make this happen... after all, variety is the spice of life (or one of them, anyway!).

To see what others do to add FUN to their homeschooling week,

I pray you have a blessed and FUN week.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Monthly Challenges for 2012

Instead of making hard to keep resolutions this year, I have decided that each month in 2012, I am going to learn or do something I have been wanting to do, but have been putting off for whatever reason. It doesn't have to be something huge, but I would like it to be something that requires me to learn a new skill, or maybe something I have previously started, but not completed. Since each thing will be something I want to do, and will find enjoyable (if challenging), I am hoping that it won't be so tough to keep going on this project all year.

So far I have lots of ideas, but I am not sure which ones will work out each month, so I am going to keep this goal-of-the-month idea fairly loose. That way it will stay fun and not be high-pressure. I want the kids to be able to participate as much as possible, and to see me developing new skills and trying new things. That way they will get the idea that we are lifelong learners, and that if we put our minds to something, we can accomplish a lot and do things we never imagined we could...even if they are something we never thought we could master.

I want the kids to see me finding different ways of developing the new skills: from consulting friends, to looking in books, from watching videos on youtube, to taking a class. I also want them to understand that working at something can be FUN, not just drudgery. We are only given a certain number of hours here on earth...why waste them doing frivolous things when we can be doing things that have value to us and to others?

Here are some of my ideas:

  • Learn to crochet dishcloths
  • Learn to crochet towel toppers (the ones that button onto your oven handle)
  • Learn to knit a scarf and/or hat
  • Finish the yoyo quilt top that I plan to use as a tablecloth for our dining room table
  • Make my own bath soap
  • Make my own natural cleaning supplies and beauty products
  • Make baking mixes and soup mixes from scratch (and store them for easy use)
  • Organize our household library
  • Get good at making bread using the Bosch mixer and Nutrimill grain mill
  • Edge a hankie with the vintage supplies I got at the antique mall
  • Learn to do fun girlie hairstyles on my daughters 
  • Make a skirt out of blue jeans
  • Make a skirt from scratch
  • Trim and hem my lace curtain panels
  • Learn to can veggies (I do freezer jams already)
  • Learn to play another classical tune on the piano (I have a limited repertoire)
  • Sew a set of cloth napkins for our family
  • Go geocaching with the kids
  • Sew a replica of the stitched picture I bought my SIL for Christmas (I wanted to keep it sooo badly!)
  • Get my camera fixed and actually read the manual to learn how to use all of the settings!
  • Clean and fix up our enclosed front porch so we can use it this spring/summer
  • Get certified to foster/adopt

I will add more ideas as I think of them. If you have any suggestions of things you like to do that you think I might like to try, feel free to comment!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Apologia Live Retreat Ticket Giveaway!

Celebrate the Journey of homeschooling, wifehood, and being a mom during the good times, the bad times and yes, even the ugly times.  

Join us as we look at the scriptures and seek encouragement from veteran homeschool moms on how to Celebrate the Journey!
Apologia Live invites you to a retreat designed to encourage and support homeschool moms.

Learn more about the convention by clicking HERE.


Rachael Carman
Pam Tebow (Atlanta)
Heidi St. John (Baltimore)
Zan Tyler
Debra Bell
Jeannie Fulbright
Sherrie Seligson
Elizabeth Smith

You can see the more about the speakers and their published works HERE.

You are welcome to listen to these audio clips from the 
2009 Walking in the Light conference to see what  you think.


March 9-10, 2012        Baltimore, MD
March 23-24, 2012      Atlanta, GA


Registration costs of $115 include the six general sessions and two prayer sessions on Friday and Saturday, as well as lunch on Saturday.

There is also a Nuts and Bolts pre-live event with four sessions that focus on the basic why's and how-to's of homeschooling. There will be three tracks: Preschool, Elementary, and High School. The pre-school track will focus on the basics such as "Should I homeschool?" and "How do I get started?". The elementary track will focus on Charlotte Mason style teaching methods and notebooking, and the high school sessions will focus on homeschooling all the way through, as well as growing independent learners, and internships. This event costs an additional $25. 

If you'd like to read more about the costs involved, click HERE.
If you are interested in registering for Apologia Live! in either Baltimore or Atlanta, click HERE.

Session Descriptions

Each session will cover topics important to every home educating family. Here is what you will hear about: 
  • Undertaking your homeschooling journey with a Biblical vision 
  • incorporating scripture into all you do, building your house on a firm foundation
  • never losing sight of your child's potential
  • identifying and developing your child's gifts and strengths
  • enriching your marriage
  • parenting heart to heart, and more.

You can read more about the sessions at Celebrate the Journey using this link.
You can read what to expect from a typical day at the conference using  this link.
You can contact Apologia with further questions using this link.


I have ONE ticket to give away to a blessed reader. 
If you live near enough Baltimore or Atlanta that you truly believe you will be able to attend the Apologia Live conference (or know someone who will attend that you can bless with by giving them a ticket), sign up to win ONE free ticket to the conference TODAY.

This ticket does not include the cost of lodging or transportation, and will only be valid for a location that has not sold out. I am receiving my ticket in exchange for promoting the Retreat (and telling about my experiences there) here on my blog.

Here is what you need to do
(if you want a chance to win a ticket, that is):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Menu Plan Monday (and a Good Read Aloud)

Check out more menu plans at Organizing Junkie


more Happy Homemaker posts at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

What's up at our house this week??  

Our Menu Plan:

Monday: Chicken lasagna, specialty salad, biscuits---Made by Tex (thank you!)

Tuesday: Tuna rolls, green salad, Italian pasta salad, yogurt

Wednesday: dinner at church

Thursday: Spaghetti and cheesy Texas toast

Friday: Pizza and a Movie Night---The Black Stallion

Saturday: Daddy's cookin' on the grill---cheeseburgers, potato packets, corn on the cob, pickles. 

Sunday: Broccoli and Cheese Soup, Apple Spice Muffins, celery and carrots

Our read aloud:

On my reading pile: The Broadmoor Legacy series by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller, Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki, and Ten P's in a Pod by Arnold Pent III

In my craft basket: This month's project is to learn to crochet so I can make washcloths. So far, I have completed one washcloth using single crochet (takes a while). I sent the first one to my grandmother so she could use it when she is doing her dishes in the morning (it helps her arthritis). I am going to work on making one using double crochet this week.

On my to-do list: I am still working on organizing our master bedroom. I am hoping it will be ready to have shelves installed in the closet over the weekend. Having storage for our clothes will help a lot, since we took out our dresser last month to make room for my sewing machine/craft table (two short filing cabinets with a plywood top...we make do with what we have!).

I have to run by social services to pick up a packet to do foster parenting training in February. We are very excited about this. I have to mail a "care package" to my mom (who is in Iowa helping my grandmother as she recovers from a heart attack) on Monday, and get to the drugstore to buy my other grandmother the nail file she likes that they don't sell in her neck of the woods (Missouri) and get it in the mail, too.

What's up in our homeschool? We will be trying a few new programs for the TOS Review Crew this week. Firefly will be starting Reading Eggs and all three Amigos will be trying out K5learning,com. They have been enjoying Math Rider a whole lot. The Bookmobile comes on Wednesday, and the kids go to Awana, which they are LOVING. On Friday, friends of ours are visiting and I am hoping Lady L. and I will have a chance to walk around the local Antique Mall for an hour or so. Maybe one day will be nice enough to take the kids for rides on Jake.

What we are listening to/watching: Vivaldi's Four Seasons, The Kids Hymnal Disk One, Signing Time ABC Signs, and me (only me...when I can't sleep) Numb3rs (on Netflix)

Our weather: is still fairly warm for this time of year, but it keeps yo-yo-ing up and down, getting down to the low thirties at night, sometimes rising to 60 during the day, other days not breaking the low 40s, raining at least 50% of the time (we even had sleet a few days ago, but no snow yet). The kids play outside on any dry day, no matter how cold. Jumping on the trampoline keeps them warm!

Here's a link to a site I just discovered: Pink and Green Mama...I love, love, love her kids' spaces! If only...maybe one of these days.

A picture from my camera: This is from last spring/summer...the kids love strawberries and have strawberry goodness on their minds because the strawberry plants in a faux terra cotta planter in our kitchen have blooms and they are watching them daily, hoping they will become scrumptious strawberries soon! In order to help them wait patiently, I am going to pull out the huge freezer bag of strawberries I froze over the summer and make freezer jam this weekend. Yum.

Scripture for the week: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Have a blessed week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

We Choose Virtues...What Do You Choose?


 We had the opportunity to try out the Virtue Clue cards and the Kids of Virtue-ville Coloring Book from We Choose Virtues, the brainchild of Heather McMillan (I like her first name!!), a wife, mother of four, preschool teacher and children's pastor. It was born out of her love for children and her desire to see them reach their full potential. As she saw more and more children who lacked self-control, honesty, and perseverance, she wondered how they could possibly succeed without those important traits. Then she  wondered what she could do to help them aspire to do better. 

Out of this desire to help children learn to not only change their actions and do better momentarily, but to change their whole attitudes and thus their entire lives, she developed the program We Choose Virtues. We Choose Virtues is based on simple, positive, consistent instructions, using catch-phrases and positive reinforcement to help trigger memories of the important, eternal truths that true virtues reveal. 


What we did: 

We chose a virtue to work on for that week and displayed it on the refrigerator. The Virtue Clue cards come in a clear plastic sleeve, and I hung them up with a heavy-duty clip. I thought it might have been nice if the cards came with a magnetic holder, like the ones you can buy at the Bible bookstore to display inspirational phrases and verses, but then, not everybody will display them like we did. 

We discussed each virtue (both its positive attributes and what it is being content means that "I have my 'wanter' under control" and that "I am not bored or greedy or always wanting more, and I don't beg or whine." Then we'd check out the catch phrase for that virtue and work on it for a few minutes (our favorite was: "Okay, whatever you say, I will obey, right away" for Oboe Joe and obedience). Lastly, we'd look at the character on the card and try to imagine their story. Since we got the "Clue" cards and not the "Teacher" or "Parent" cards, we did not get the character's stories, so we had to improvise. 


We did receive the Teacher's Handbook, which is $4.99 for a downloadable copy. It tells you how to use the program and gives information on each of the available resources. While it appears to be geared towards the classroom teacher (either public or private, since both a general and a faith-based version are sold, as well as Sunday School and Children's Church classes), much of what it suggests is easy to implement in a homeschool setting. The manual gives details about how to develop three important parts of the Virtue Teacher Cards: the definition of the virtue, the catch-phrase, and the antonyms (in the faith-based set, you will also have a Bible verse to accompany each virtue). It also covers why We Choose Virtues chose to use only three rules on their rule chart: Obey, Be Kind, Be a Helper (I liked the simplicity of this, especially for younger kids) and offers suggestions for making these rules fit easily into your day without turning the practice of them an overbearing lesson. 

One way to keep track of how your class (or family) is doing in their attempts to be more virtuous is to keep the Family Character Assessment Chart (available for free on the WCV site), the 100 Days of Virtue Chart  (SALE $11.99), Personal Virtue Charts (just $2.99 for 16 charts), the Virtue User Review pad (just $3.99 for 50 sheets), or Student Character Assessments (available for FREE! on the WCV site).


Virtues can't be taught in ten minutes a day; they must be consistently modeled and referred to throughout every day. One way to focus on the virtues presented in this program is to color one of the cute characters that represents the virtue. We Choose Virtues offers a coloring book with adorable blackline pictures of each character to color that my Amigos (ages 4-8) liked a lot. 

We had the idea that the pictures would make great place mats if you colored each picture neatly (printed on card stock), then wrote examples of ways to practice each virtue on the back, along with the representative catch-phrase and associated Bible verse (as a copywork exercise). You could then either laminate the page, or use one of those great laminating sheets to make it into a mat that your kids would see at every meal. You could give a mat to each child at lunchtime depending on which virtue they most exhibited that morning, OR according to which one they needed to work on the most after lunch. ;-)


Here is what we thought about the program in general:

  • The idea of needing more teachers focused on teaching virtues FIRST is a great one. I have always agreed with the statement that if you can't trust your kids (or students) to obey, be attentive, be kind, be diligent, be helpful, etc., then how can you expect to teach them effectively? Much of your time will be wasted handing behavioral problems and conflicts instead of learning, so you might as well do yourself a favor and focus on behavior first.
  • IF you already have a program with which you teach your kids virtues (ie. a Bible study, using a character traits chart, teaching your own family rules of behavior, etc.), then you probably don't need this program. You are already teaching virtues, and if your program is working, you should stick with it. (This is our situation, though we did think this product was nice, too). You might use this to supplement an existing program, but it really isn't necessary.
  • BUT if you don't have something in place and your kids are young (my 4, 6, and 8 year olds were receptive to the characters and 14 yo was not very interested...not surprising), then this program might work well for you. It works for many families (see other TOS Review Crew reviews HERE)...many of the reviews I read were extremely positive and excited.
  • I would suggest buying the Faith-based Parenting Cards (so you get the character stories) for $34.99 and the Teacher's Handbook ($4.99 for a download) to start.  If your kids are avid colorers, the downloadable coloring book would make an inexpensive, enjoyable addition. Also, I would definitely download the available freebies that I mentioned above.  Later, you could add  3 Rules Poster  (only $9.99 with shipping available for free with the code SHIPFREE), and  The Kid's Virtue Poster (it's $11.99, and using the code FAMILY gets you another $3 off) might be a good investment, if you want all of the memory items in one easy-to-spot location, or you could even consider purchasing the entire Family Faith-based Kit for $69.99 (use the code VIRTUE15 for 15% off your order). I thought that the Virtue Flash cards look like they might be a fun way to practice the virtues, but they are pricey at $19.00 a set. You save some money and get all of what I mentioned above by buying that family kit. Oh, I thought I'd let you know that I noticed that one reviewer of the WCV products went a step farther and made a  copywork set available on Currclick which supports the Bible verses found in the faith-based set (for $1.50, I think), if you want to check it out. 
  • I have to say that I was disappointed to not know the stories of the characters. That made it harder for me and my kids to identify with the program and to really be motivated to color the cute pictures. To us, the names seemed rather odd and random, but I am sure that they make sense if you know the stories behind them. The one or two examples we encountered in the Teacher's Manual or on other blogs were interesting, and I think kids would like them (Airplane Betty Jane is so fascinated by airplanes that she thinks about them constantly and has a hard time being Attentive). I think a good addition to the program would be a series of story books to support these stories. I wonder if that is in the works?? What do you think?
  • The activities and suggestions shared in the Teacher's Manual were very good. If you buy one of the sets of cards, you really need to go ahead and get this manual (just pay to download it since that is much cheaper), so you will get full value from your cards.
  • There are only twelve virtues (and I do think Mrs. McMillan picked twelve of the best ones), so once you are done with them, I guess you do them over again? This is definitely a solid teaching practice (repetition and reinforcement), but it would be nice if another set of virtues was an option for folks in their second or third years of using this program, or with slightly older students...maybe this is in the works, too? I can see where this program has a lot of potential for growth.
In any case, overall I guess we wish we'd had the Parent's Cards with the stories. I think we would have used the program more (my kids would have been more interested after hearing a story about the characters, I think...though once we concocted our own elaborate stories, they got more into it).

I think the Virtue Clue cards that we tried out are most suitable for folks who already have those Teacher Cards or Parenting Cards and would be good for carrying around in a purse or backpack or car glove box to allow for easy drilling on the go. 

I think you could also use single packs of cards to encourage your individual students by giving them one each time they demonstrate ability to consistently apply a virtue over a set period of time until they collect an entire deck (kids today seem to like collecting cards, I am told). I am certain there are many other ways a resourceful parent could find to use this deck of Clue cards. 

Lastly, I think this program is an excellent idea for incorporating into Sunday School or Children's Church classes that may teach Bible stories and verses, but maybe do not have a solid character-building program. You can buy a faith-based Classroom starter kit for $99.00. The program would also make a simple introduction to family time for younger children (if you found stories from the Bible for each virtue, such as obedience using Samuel, which is what we did). Family and Homeschool Faith-based Kits start at $69.00. I am thinking of suggesting it to our church for use in the nursery (with the 2-4 year olds...Boo could definitely use some of that Self-Control!!).

Coupon Codes:
  • Virtue15 for 15% off of everything in your cart
  • FAMILY for $3 off of the Kids Virtue Poster
  • SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping
(sorry, only one code at a time)

And, until the end of February, the 100 Days of Virtue Poster and stickers will be included with any Homeschool Kit purchase!

We received a free set of Virtue Clue Cards, as well as downloads for the coloring book and Teacher's Manual in order to test this product in our homeschool and write this review. What you read here is a reflection of our own experiences with the product and is my own opinion of it. If you have questions about what I have written here, please feel free to comment or contact me.


Sermon Sunday---Taking Responsibility for Your Life

You are wondering what an open book has to do with today's Sermon Sunday topic of taking responsibility for your life, right?? I could tell you that it is the Good Book, the ideal place to turn when you have decisions to make, the repository of wisdom for our Heavenly Father, who should always be consulted first when we are making choices. Or that our lives should be an open book, ones that will withstand even the harshest scrutiny, because we strive to live as the Lord would wish us to...responsibly and in a way that honors Him.

 Those would probably be reasonably good answers, but they would not be 100% accurate. The truth is that I am out of web storage and have yet to purchase some more, so here I am, digging in the archives of Picassa for something to use as a graphic. Voila. You get an open book. It could be a Bible. It could be meaningful. Or it might be just a book. Sigh.

In any case, Andy Stanley is the speaker for this Sermon Sunday post. His sermon series on Taking Responsibility for Your Life is one that I think is timely (I am homeschooling a teenager, who will be listening to these sermons this week) and needed by folks of all ages...including me. I can't wait to see what he (Andy) has to say about responsibility.

I pray the series blesses your family, and ours.
Let me know what you think of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Mile in His Shoes

Our family has a tradition of watching a movie every Friday and ordering out for pizza. It gives the kids something consistent to look forward to, gives me a break from cooking, and provides an opportunity for us to view quality movies as a family (and discuss them) without the kids having to feel deprived because we don't often spring for the "real" movie theater experience.

Over the last year or so, I have been blessed by the opportunity to work some new quality family movies into our repertoire that diverge from the usual kiddie, cartoon-y movies that seem to often be the only "clean" movies available (and if you keep track of some of the cartoons out these days, you will know that even being a cartoon does not guarantee appropriateness for children these days). Hubby and I have found this to be a great relief...oh, let's be honest here...I have found this to be a great relief (Hubby is happy with cartoons) because I am just not that into animation, or cartoon-y characters, or constant capers and hi-jinx. 

These new family movies are emerging to fill a market need that producers are starting to identify as "family values.' GASP! It's like Hollywood forgot that there are FAMILIES out there who watch movies, too, and not all parents want their kids to see promiscuous women parade across the screen, hear language not fit for the local pub, or see adults engaged in sleazy high-risk behaviors, and children determined to undermine their parents' authority. It amazes me that the average movie has gotten so bad that even if it has a "good" message, you still have to be cautious about taking your family (even your teens) to it, because it is likely that negative behaviors such as swearing, drinking, and violence will be showcased, all for the sake of  "making it realistic."

Last week for family night we watched a new movie from the Thomas Kincaide collection. Yes, that's Thomas Kincaide the artist. I remember walking through Thomas Kincaide galleries when I was younger, admiring the paintings of cottages and misty streets that seemed to glow from within. Well, he still has those, but these days he has diversified and now he even has Disney, NASCAR, and baseball paintings! Then there are the movies, too. Movies like The Christmas Cottage (available for instant viewing on's a good one), and The Christmas Lodge, and now, A Mile in His Shoes (he also has a painting series based on the movie which you can view HERE).

Based on a true story, A Mile in His Shoes is a film about the profound changes that occur in many lives when a determined minor league coach (played by Dean Cain) recruits a sweet young man named Mickey (played by Luke Schroeder, Ricky Schroeder's son) to be his team's pitcher. Mickey, whom Murph (the coach) discovers on a farm when he runs his car into a ditch in the country, is unusual in a number of ways. First, there is his innocence, because he has been sheltered by his parents (good on you, mom and dad!). Second, there is his amazing pitching arm, which he developed by pitching apples into a wash tub on the farm so they'd splat and make slop for his pet pig (my kids loved that part!). Lastly, there is the fact that he has Asperger's, a type of autism, which means that while he is incredibly talented in some areas, in others (such as social interactions), he has some difficulties coping. In spite of the challenges, though, Mickey and Murph make a great team, and work together to make the Rats' year their best year yet. 

We watched the film on Friday, curled up together on the couches in the parlor, while enjoying CiCi's three specialty pizzas for $9.99 deal (can't beat that one!). We explained to the kids beforehand about the young man being autistic, so they'd understand the context of the movie. They have a friend who is autistic and he is not quite as high functioning as Mickey, so they were a bit confused by that, but overall they got the idea that Mickey was just a really nice guy with a special God-given talent, and that he was blessed to have been influenced by such a passionate and thoughtful coach as Murph. They saw that the real blessing, though, was to the team, whose lives were all changed by their interactions with the young man. The players (and coach) learned to consider more than themselves, and to take stock of what was really important, and Mickey learned to spread his wings and take on a challenge. 

There was only one spot I was uncomfortable with the kids in the room (time for a bathroom break, anyone??), and that was when the "bad guy" has taken Mickey to a party (not a nice one...more like a tailgate in the woods one, but the alcohol use is not overt) where he convinces a female admirer of his to take Mickey for a walk in the woods. I was concerned because I didn't know how far they'd take that scenario, but other than some talk, and a peck on the cheek where she tells Mickey she likes him, it's fairly tame...sort of. The walk turns out to be a set up to get Mickey alone so some guys can beat him up and prevent him from pitching. They really didn't show that either (other than a fist coming for his face), but if it bothers you, you could send the kids out like we did.

The movie was a nice change for the adults (I mean, I love Tangled and Ratatouille, but you can't watch cartoons every week). It was safe for cursing, no (real bad) violence, no guns or crazy chase scenes, no vampires or undead, no (really) sleazy women (the one girl was a bit ditsy, though, and clingy, but in the end, nice)...and it had a good message, or two, or three:
  •  Don't judge people. 
  • Hard work pays off. 
  • Being the "nice guy" CAN get you somewhere. 
  • Stand by your friends, teammates, family. 
  • You have God-given gifts for a reason...use them. 
  • Don't let grief cripple your ability to love (the coach still mourned his son, who died young). 
  • There are many people out there who need to be loved for who they them. 
  • Second chances don't always happen. If you get one, don't waste it. 
  • Take care of those who need protecting. 
  • Stand up to your fears. 
  • Share your gifts (of teaching, of love, of kindness) with others
  • Be honest, be kind, be sincere, be determined, be brave, be a friend. 
Those are just some of what my kids and Hubby and I came up with. I am sure that if you watch this movie, you will find your own lessons of value in the story.

I just thought you'd appreciate knowing another movie is out there with family values, so go on out and get yourself a copy, then buy another to add to your church or local library...if everyone did this, there would be more quality choices out there to influence more young lives. Supporting the good films, and refusing to go to the bad ones CAN make a difference. 

This is a Dove Family Approved Movie.
If you'd like to see a trailer of the movie, you can check it out HERE.
If you'd like to buy a copy of the movie, it is available HERE.

If you'd like a copy of this movie without buying it, you can enter my giveaway, which ends on Monday, January 30th at midnight. Just follow me (or let me know that you are already a follower) and leave me a comment telling me who in your family will like this movie the most. I will give ONE bonus entry to the first person who enters...just because I think you are awesome!! I will draw a winner and notify him or her on the 31st (just make sure you leave me an easy way to contact you, or the movie will go to the next name I draw). Thanks!


Snuggle Puppy and Other Favorites

This is one of the kids' favorite bedtime books. They think all of the books by Sandra Boynton are hilarious. I noticed that it is the Storytime book of the month at Barnes and Noble (click on the link to hear the author read the story to you). I have to admit, I like the song better than just reading the book. We wind up singing along whenever we read it since we found one of the Sandra Boynton sing-along books with a cd at the thrift store one day. It's a fun one. Have you heard the 15 Animals song? It is hysterical. I couldn't find it on you tube. Another favorite is Barnyard Dance.

Here is Pajama Time. We like to rock to this one before bedtime.

And last, but not least, here is Moo, Baa, La La La!, a perennial favorite of all the kids (especially the youngest ones). My Aunt Grace gave us our first Sandra Boynton board book years ago. It is thanks to her that we've had years of fun reading them as a family at bedtime. The first time we read this book with Ladybug we all cracked up over it because when we got to the last page which says, "What do you say?" Ladybug tooted (she was a baby)...hahahahaha! Everyone was rolling on the floor laughing like crazy, even Aunt Grace, who was sick with cancer (she's with Jesus now). It remains a special memory of a special person...especially since she was just a little bit like that: cute and sweet with a tiny bit of very silly! >smile<

If you've never thought about YouTube as being a place to find quality children's videos, think again! With a little bit of hunting you can find lots of favorite children's books either read aloud by loving parents (we love these versions of Going on a Bear Hunt and The Very Hungry Caterpillar) or even the classic professional recordings of the books (like Dr. Seuss). You can set up a free account, make playlists (such as children's books and sewing videos) and VOILA!, you have an excellent FREE teaching resource that is quite a lot of fun.

What are your family's favorite children's books? How do you use YouTube to supplement your learning? Please leave a comment and share your ideas. 



Monday, January 16, 2012

Menu Plan Monday (and a Good Read Aloud)

See other delicious posts at Organizing Junkie.

Monday: Stromboli and green salad

Tuesday: French Dips (easy recipe=1 London Broil bought on sale, 3-4 bouillon cubes, 4 cups water in a crock pot on high for 6 hours, then pull apart with a fork, serve on hoagie rolls and top with melted provolone with au jus on the side...yum!!), pasta salad, carrots and celery

Wednesday: Dinner and Awana at church
                      Breakfast for dinner

Thursday: Chicken Enchilladas
                  Spanish rice and refried beans

Friday: Pizza and a movie (Secretariat)

Saturday: Daddy's cookin'!
                 Grilled something...?? Surprise!!

Sunday: Tuna Casserole, applesauce, fluffy biscuits

One of our favorite recipes: Campbell's Creamy Chicken Enchilladas from
(I double this)


  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup or Campbell's® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 cup Pace® Picante Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (or taco seasoning)
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 10 Mission® Fajita Size Flour Tortillas, warmed
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 green onion, sliced


  1. Mix soup, sour cream, picante sauce and chili powder.
  2. Mix 1 cup picante sauce mixture, chicken and cheese.
  3. Spread about 1/4 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam-side down in 3-quart shallow baking dish. Pour remaining picante sauce mixture over enchiladas. Cover.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until hot. Top with tomato and onion.

Read aloud of the week: Andi's Pony Trouble by Susan K. Marlow.
Check out the author's website...the author offers lots of fun and adorable free printables...from coloring pages to puzzles to activities. These books are very cute for kids, and Andi learns good lessons throughout each one. Both girls and boys love them because Andi (who is a girl) has brothers and a friend who is a boy. My grandmother bought the six book series for us for Christmas. We found the best price at Library and Educational Resources. So far, books as a Christmas gift is a big hit here!! Thank you so much, Grandma and Grandpa.



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