Our Family

Our Family

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor

I recently received a copy of the fifth book in Chuck Black's Knights of Arrethtrae series Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor to review. My oldest daughter (13) has read two other books in this series and has really enjoyed them. I had never read any of them though and was eager to dive into this book and see what she liked so much about them. As always when I read a book that is not the beginning of a series, I am concerned that I will be a little lost or not understand fully what is going on. Not to worry in this book though. After a brief introduction talking about what the whole series is about, you jump right in and completely understand the book.
The story is about a young knight who makes a choice to leave his safe little world behind him and instead to become a faithful follower of the Prince. he knows it is not going to be easy, but really has no idea what things he will have to face. He faces a terrible tragedy and runs back to the only home he knows only to discover there is now something about him that makes him not quite fit in anymore. Despairing he begins to wander the kingdom trying to flee his past when he is offered a second chance to redeem himself. Can Quinlan reunite the Valor Knights in time to save the people from the Dark Knight's evil plot to rule the kingdom, or will they lose the most important battle of all.
There were many things I enjoyed about this book. The whole story was filled with suspense and intrigue and although the battle scenes were intense, it was not grossly violent. The main characters that are in this book show qualities that you want your children to read about. The plots of the Lucius were subtle and not what you would expect. I loved what Twitch said as he gave himself to the Prince and it's something we all can relate to. " I haven't much to offer my Prince for I am unskilled, ill-equipped, and unworthy. Yet I offer myself to you. If there is something more to following You, then show me and I will see. Command me and I will obey. Lead me and I will follow. If my feeble life can be used by You, I give it. I am Yours, my King and Prince." There are also discussion questions for each chapter in the back of the book that makes a great springboard for discussing this with your teen.
I finished this book during the course of one day. I could not wait to see how it ended. Highly recommended for teens and adults. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation

TOS Review: Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day


When the vender list came out to show who would be reviewing some different products from The Institute For Excellence in Writing, I quickly scanned the lists to see if my name was on one of them. I laughed out loud when I saw that I would be getting a DVD called, Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day. Does anyone think that this DVD might benefit me at all? Me? With 8,7,5 and 3 year old boys (and two girls.) I was very intrigued to watch this DVD and see what Andrew Pudewa had to say about the differences between boys and girls (other than the obvious) and how we can use this knowledge to do a better job teaching them.

Boys and girls were created differently, so it makes since that they will learn differently. In this 80 minute lecture, Andrew Pudewa talks about some of the big differences between boys and girls and how these differences will affect the way that they learn. He backs up his statements citing several credible sources. For example, did you know that it has been scientifically proven that boys and girls hear differently? Can you think of how this might affect the way that they learn?

Have you ever found yourself bored with a topic because it was not relevent to you? How many times have you tried to teach your child something they could care less to learn? It is much easier to teach your child something they are interested in. From the back of the DVD, "Children like to do what they can do, and they hate to do what they think they cannot do." Another fascinating part of this talk is the insight that is offered into ways you can create relevency for your children, not just in academics but also with life skills.

I found this DVD very interesting. Andrew Pudewa is a very intersting speaker and the lecture was packed full of useful information, not just to me as a homeschool mom, but as a person that works with children in many different capacities. It also explained quite well why it is normal for Alex to stand up and yo-yo while I am reading to him. Building up our children's emotional bank is VERY important and I found the reminder of how and why we need to do this a very important part of the DVD.

Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day is one of the many products offered by the Institute For Excellence In Writing. It is available in both DVD for $1o.00 and MP3 Format for $3.00. You can click here for a PDF file listing Books for Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day arranged by grade level.

I received a complimentary copy of this DVD for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

To see what other crew mates thought about this DVD and the Phonetic Zoo program click here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Spirit of Giving

In the days before Christmas, there seemed to be quite a lot of conversation in the house regarding all of the things they were going to get for Christmas this year. I heard my almost 9yo refer to Christmas morning as "a truckload of free gifts." Hmmmm....we try very hard to make the children realize it is more important to give then receive and it is much better to share with others than to worry about all of the things you are going to "get" for Christmas. I try to have them involved with helping with community service projects like the Salvation Army Christmas Tree, food drives, etc..but it seemed as though this year we forgot all of those things in the light of what they wanted. Now, I understand completely children being excited about Christmas and getting presents. It is exciting and a lot of fun, but I don't want that to become their whole focus on Christmas and have them forget why we even celebrate. We had a lot of long talks about giving and doing kind things for others. Most of the children said they couldn't "give" because they had no money, so we talked about different things we could do to be kind to others without having to spend any money. We went over the bible verses about the birth of Jesus and the kindness of the innkeeper to let them sleep in the stable. You wonder sometimes though how much of what you are saying sinks in, or would we go right back to the "all about me" Christmas focus. I got my answer the day before Christmas Eve.

Nicholas ran into the kitchen and grabbed several brown paper bags. He turned each of these into gift bags for each person in the family. In each bag he took something that belonged to him that he knew the other person would appreciate and gave that item away. For example, he gave Lily some sill bands, Alex some army men, and me a New Testament Bible. Then when the other boys saw what he was doing they did the same thing for each member of the family. Anthony even took a picture of his Nana and Papa and made a paper frame for it to give it to Christian. It really touched my heart to see the boys putting forth that effort to be a giver and not just a receiver at Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

So I have spent the last several weeks trying to explain to Christian (3) that it doesn't have to snow to be Christmas (even though it always is snowing in Christmas movies on TV) and that where we live it hardly ever snows at all and we have a 50 % chance of flurries tonight. IF it does snow, it won't be anything he can go out and will probably be after he is in bed. We have spent the day baking cookies and watching Christmas movies. The children were up very early and are very hyper and it's pouring down rain outside so they are stuck inside. I still have to finish some cinnamon rolls,bake a cake, and let the children wrap some presents for daddy before supper so I better get off the computer. I wanted to take a minute and tell everyone to have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the special time you get to spend with your family or friends. I pray that all those who are traveling will arrive at their destinations and back home again safely this year!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wrapping Up Schoolwork for Christmas Break

The public schools here got finished last Thursday, so my kids were grumbling a bit about having to work this week. I reminded them that we don't follow the public school schedule and if they wanted to we would start and work 5 days a week for 6 hours a day. They like my schedule better :). The reason we continued to work this week is that we are taking a few days off the week of New Year's to go see my mom and dad for "Christmas." Nick and Alex decided that they wanted to get all of their work done Monday and Tuesday, so they doubled up and got it done. Chelsea had a bit more to do, but all she has left to finish up today is a book report. This is what we have been working on for the last couple of weeks:

1,3 (with some 5 and 3 yo tag alongs)

Bible-Enjoying God's Gifts-review to come soon
Math-Abeka - Alex is measuring and adding and subtracting. Nick is multiplying and dividing with remainders. Nick is having a bit of trouble with remainders. His mind wants every Math problem to come out evenly.
Math Facts Now-review to come soon
Times Alive-review to come soon
Reading-Abeka reading program for 3rd grade, Dr Seuss for 1st grade
Science-Abeka 3rd Grade Science I'm planning on taking a break from this for awhile and doing a lapbook from www.homeschoolshare for a few weeks. Topic to still be decided
History-We just finished up Time Travelers Revolutionary War CD and completed our lapbook. In January we will start using Abeka's 3rd grade History
Spanish-Speekee TV-review to come soon

9th grade

Home Ec-sewing project completed-cooking next semester
Math- Algebra -Tenmarks (review to come soon)
Bible, Science, Geography, Literature, Spanish-Abeka- Truthfully not my favorite curriculum, but it was free and Chelsea really likes it which is important
Every other week we pick a book off of Sonlight's reading list and do a book report. next semester Chelsea will pick a topic for a research paper. She really needs more practice on long term projects and managing her time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Day Dessert: A Birthday Cake for Jesus

This week in my Menu Plan Monday post, I mentioned that for our dessert Christmas Day we have a Happy Birthday Jesus Cake. I got several comments and questions about it so I thought I would write a quick post. I don't even remember where I originally got this idea but I have been doing this with the children for the last several years and it's a simple little thing you can do to put the focus of Christmas back on Jesus and have fun with your children. It can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Make a cake from scratch or using your favorite recipe. The size and shape is up to you and depends on how many people you are feeding. Sometimes I use my heart shaped cake pan, but usually a 13x9 suits us the best. The children help me make, frost, and decorate the cake. They love sprinkles so it usually gets quite a few of those. We write Happy Birthday Jesus in gel icing and "draw" star and present shapes on the cake (that's what they are supposed to be anyway.) I'm sure many of you are much more creative than I am and can elaborate on this idea and make it your own. However you decorate your cake have fun and enjoy the Christmas season with your family.

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23 NIV

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

28 Week Pregnancy Update

So today I had my glucose tolerance test. Thankfully my hubby is on vacation because I knew I would have to be there for awhile (you have to wait an hour after drinking the tasty drink before they can draw your blood) and I didn't want to have to take all the children with me. Drinking the sugar drink usually makes me feel very sick but it was not too bad today, and I only had to be stuck once which is always a good thing. Blood pressure is great, baby's heartbeat is strong and she is measuring perfect for 28 weeks. I even gained 6.5 pound making my total weight gain 16 pounds (I told you I would put on a few extra over the holidays.) They now want to see me every 2 weeks. I asked the doc why so soon and she said she follows the recommended scheduling for pregnant women. I honestly don't remember this starting so soon even when I had Lily. I told her I am not trying to be difficult but it seems a little silly to me to drive up there every two weeks to get my weight, blood pressure, and baby's heart checked when I am in perfect health. She said I could push the next one off for 3 weeks but then need to come every two. I still think that is an awful lot of unnecessary doctor's appointments. I guess I shouldn't complain and just be thankful for the good reports.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I did two weeks worth of grocery shopping on Friday hoping to avoid Walmart completely this week (although I will have to go the grocery store for milk at least.) Here's what's cooking up at my house this week:

Friday 12/17-pizza
Sat 12/18-chicken patties, french fries, peaches
Sun 12/19-goulash
Mon 12/20- deer steaks, baked potatoes, mixed vegetable
Tues 12/21-broccoli and cheese soup, biscuits
Wed 12/22-Italian Beef Sandwiches, carrots, fruit
Thurs 12/23-Turkey and rice casserole
Sat- Merry Christmas!-ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, corn, Birthday cake for Jesus

Have A Merry Christmas!
For some great menu inspiration go to http://www.orgjunkie.com/

Friday, December 17, 2010

TOS Review: Tiny Planets

Over the last several weeks, the children and I have been enjoying exploring the Tiny Planets Universe. Tiny Planets provides safe, award winning, educational entertainment geared at children ages 4-12 in the areas of space exploration and discovery. I remembered watching Tiny Planets on TV when Chelsea was a little girl but did not know that it was still around or that they had a website and (you'll really like this part) the majority of the website is FREE!

To begin using the website, all you have to do is create a free parent account and then a cadet account for each child and add them to your parent account. It really is simple once you figure it out, but could use some clearer instructions on the website. They assign the cadet a name and you pick the password. After creating the accounts you are free to explore the different areas of the Tiny Planets Universe.

To read some of the books, watch TV episodes, or add extra items to your ship or planet you have to purchase KEYS through the Parent Account with a credit card. Once you purchase a TV shoe episode, book, or accessories for your planet your ship, you don't have to purchase the same one again. It is "yours" to keep. The cost of the Keys are as follows:10 for $1.95 , 25 for $3.95, 85 for $9.95, 250 for $25.95, and 600 for $49.95.

Here are the different areas you can visit on the website:

Tiny Planets TV-You can choose different episodes of Tiny Planets to watch. Some are free and some require KEYS to be purchased.

My Tiny Planets- Children choose their spaceship,navigate through space, adopt and care for their own planet, solve missions with Bing and Bong, help care for neighboring planets, and play mini games while earning points and badges as they go along.

Tiny Planets Fun-has games, puzzles, coloring books, and comics

Tiny Planets Books-Interactive story books featuring Bing and Bong you can read to your child or they can read themselves. Some are free and some have to be purchased with KEYS.

Tiny Planets Learning-for parents, homeschoolers and educators. Has printable puzzles and worksheets for preschoolers (around 3-5 years old) plus over 65 Science related lesson plans with questions and suggested learning activities to go along with Bing and Bong story books.

Tiny Planets Labs-new games just created for kids to test out.

Tiny Planets Blog-where parents and cadets can go to explore tips, science experiments, and astronomy facts.

The Tiny Planets Universe is a safe place for children to play, learn, and explore. The site is completely ad free so there is no worries about what could "pop up" while your child is playing. Even though you can interact with other people on the site, there is no place for children to type in their own text. Cadet names and planet names are auto generated so you don't have to worry about your children reading anything inappropriate. You have the ability to talk to other ships that are in space but can only choose from speech bubbles that have been programmed into the game.

My children really have loved playing on the Tiny Planets website. They enjoyed flying their ships through outer space and playing the games. They have requested to play Tiny Planets every day for their computer time. My two younger boys (5, 3) really enjoy the books and TV episodes.

I like the safety measures that are in place so I don't have to worry about who they are talking to or what is being said. The lesson plans linked with the books are a wonderful science resource for preschoolers. The books and printable worksheets are great.

A few things to consider on this one. TV shows where the characters don't talk bother me. I remember thinking the same thing when Chelsea watched it on TV but the children really enjoy it. Most of the educational value on this site is for preschoolers but I think the Science Activities can be interesting for older children too. A lot of the games seem to be geared for the older children but Christian and Anthony could play with help.

To see what other crew members are saying click here.

I received complimentary access to Tiny Planets for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Homeschooling High School:Home Economics Project

For her first semester of High School, Chelsea decided she wanted to do Sewing for Home Economics (cooking will be next semester.) She has taken a few sewing workshops with 4-H over the last couple of years which has increased her sewing skills quite a bit. She has made pants, a shirt, a bag, a pillowcase, stockings, and several items from the Home Furnishings Workshop that was right before school started this year. For her project, I asked her to decided what she would like to make and she decided to try to make a dress for Lily since she had never made a dress before. Over the summer we picked up a pattern and all of the supplies while we were visiting my parents' house since our Walmart no longer carries fabric or sewing pattens. I wanted her to complete this project by December 1st and she could work on it whenever she wanted to as long as it was finished by the deadline. Well, Chelsea is a bit of a procrastinator and waited and waited to get started on this project. Every week on her assignment sheet it would be there as a reminder, but she still waited. Finally in November she started working on the dress. Once she got going she did a really good job. There were a few things she learned on this project that she had never done before, like sewing pleats and applying interfacing, that she can add to her list of sewing skills. She completed the project on time and it turned out really well. As you can see by the photos that Lily really likes it too!

Decorating Our Gingerbread House

Every year for the last several years, the children have wanted to make a Gingerbread House. One year we tried to build and decorate one, but we could not get the walls to stay up no matter what we tried to do. So, from then on I bought the kit from Walmart ($9) that has an already assembled house, already made icing, and pre-packaged candy for decoration. The children get to have fun decorating the house without me having a hard time trying to put one together. I do let them eat a few candies and try the icing while we are decorating, but after that they are not allowed to eat any more of it. It is just another pretty Christmas decoration to put on the table.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Week-end Getaway

This past week-end was Art's company's annual Christmas Party at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs. An opportunity to have a week-end away (without being too far away) before the baby is born ,along with a discounted room rate, and the availability for my mom to come babysit made it seem like the perfect timing to get away for a few days. The last time we were even alone together for dinner was last May and I was pregnant with Lily the one other time we made it to the Christmas Party. We got to Hot Springs late Friday night and enjoyed having a quiet dinner in a fairly empty restaurant. Saturday morning we were up early ( I seem to be unable to sleep past 7:30 even with no kids to wake me up) so we had breakfast and decided to do some shopping at some of the cool stores in downtown Hot Springs. We wandered by a Toy Store called the Toy Chest and since I had a few more things to pick up went in. This was a very cool toy store. It is privately owned by a family who opened it 21 years ago after the husband retired. They introduce themselves to everyone that comes in and show you around the store. They only stock good well made toys that kids enjoy playing with and only a handful of their toys require batteries. I was very impressed with their toys and books that they had. We spent quite a bit of time in there and bought a few things. I will definitely keep that store in mind as birthdays throughout the year come up.
After shopping we went to the movies. It had been ten years since we had gone to see a movie just the two of us! By then it was time to get ready for the party. The food was good, the games were entertaining, and the band that played was excellent. It was a very enjoyable evening. Sunday morning I was up early (again) and although had thought about hanging around in Hot Springs and going home later in the afternoon, I missed my babies and was ready to go home. It was wonderful for Art and I to have some much needed time alone but it was the first time I had been away from Lily and was ready to get back to her and the rest of the children. I do hope to be able to do it again sometime but it will probably not be for a couple of more years.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I got two days off of cooking this week. One because I was away for the week-end with my husband (will post about that later) and the other because of a pizza party later in the week. Here's what's on our menu for the week. My grocery week runs Friday through Thursday.

Fri 12/10-pizza
Sat 12/11- grilled cheese and canned soup made lovingly by nana
Sun 12/12- spaghetti and bread
Mon 12/13- steak, noodles, green beans
Tues 12/14- potato soup and biscuits
Wed 12/15-stacked burrito pie
Thurs-12/16-pizza party

For menu inspiration go to http://www.orgjunkie.com/


You may be wondering, "What exactly is ALEKS?" Before this review, I had seen it advertised in different homeschool magazines but I never knew exactly what ALEKS was.

From the website: "Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS."

ALEKS is a comprehensive Math program for grades 3-12 with a complete course library ranging from elementary Math all the way through to complex subjects such as PreCalculus. No textbook is required for this program. ALEKS is web based so you have unlimited usage from any internet capable computer and is PC and MAC compatible (JAVA does have to be downloaded.) It offers indiviualized instruction and students can learn at their own pace. The program starts with an assessment to find out what topics the student has already mastered and what they have yet to learn. Students receive immediate feedback and step by step explanations are provided for each problem. Worksheets and quizzes can also be generated and printed out. Parents receive in depth reports for each student so you can see exactly what your child has been working on and for how long. Also included are Quick Tables a complimentary Math Facts program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. Interactive games help reinforce what is being learned. During your subscription period, your student will have access to the full course library so if they finish one of the courses they can move on to the next one without having to purchase another subscription. A subscription starts at $19.95 a month, $99.95 for 6 months, or $179.95 for 12 months for one student. They also offer a family discount program in order to use the program with more than one student.

Through the link below, Homeschoolers who have never tried ALEKS before are eligible for a one month free trial!

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

Here are a few screen shots of ALEKS

My Pie
Quick Tables Student Explanation

I have 2 students in the 3-12 grade range, so Chelsea and Nick both had an opportunity to use a 30 day trial with ALEKS and we set aside our regular Math program during the trial period. Chelsea (9th grade) was working with the Algebra 1 program and Nicholas (3rd grade) was using the LV 3 with Quick Tables. Chelsea really enjoyed using the program. She prefers to work independently and at her own pace. The teacher explanations made it very easy for her to understand how to work out the problems step by step. She also liked that it didn't make her keep going over and over stuff she already knew. I liked not having to teach Algebra for a whole month (she didn't come to me with one single question!) I also liked the reports so that I could see exactly what she was spending her time on and for how long, and how many areas she had mastered.

Nicholas is not a kid who adapts to change very well although he is willing to give it a shot. He did pretty well on the assessment, but got a little frustrated with the program. It is very different from his regular Math and he had never done Math on the computer before. Although he enjoys using the computer it was harder for him to solve Math problems on it than doing them in a book. He wants to know how to do eveything the first time he does it and did not want to have to click on the explnations to learn how to do a new topic (stubborn boy.) He liked the Quick Tables much better than the full program. If it was something we were going to do for the long term I think he would have gotten used to the way the program worked and done just fine.

If you are looking for a computer based Math program , I would highly recommend you sign up for the 30 day free trial for ALEKS.

I received a complimentary 30 day free trial of ALEKS in order to write a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

To see what other crew members are saying about this program click here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TOS Review: Good Morning, God



I recently received the sweetest book in the mail to review Good Morning, God by Davis Carman from Apologia Press. The story is about a 4 year old boy as he goes through a week with his family showing the ways we can enjoy the Lord with our whole being and worship God daily from sunrise to sunset. There are daily prayers meant to inspire your children to consider their own relationship with Jesus and respond with childlike faith. The age range intended for the book is 1-8 years old and the cost of the book is $14.00. There is also a Good Morning, God 32 page coloring book that you can purchase for $4.00. To see a sample of the book click here.

The book can be used in many different ways. You could simply read the story to your children. There are also suggested questions and activities in the back of the book for each day of the week that you can do with your children. To get really in depth, you could read the book every day from Sunday to Sunday. For each day after reading the book you could read the suggested scriptures listed, ask the questions and do the recommended activities for that day. Studying the book in this way would make it a mini-curriculum and a literal application of Deuteronomy 6:6-7. These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

We loved this book! I had all of the 9 and under crowd reading it with me (even Lily 21 months) and they all enjoyed it. It is a sweet little story about an active and curious 4 year old boy and his family. The story is realistic, the prayers are sweet, and the illustrations are absolutley adorable (some are in color and some are in black and white.) The black and white illustrations make you want to grab some crayons and color them in when you are reading so I would like to get the coloring book to go along with it too. I like that the book emphasizes family and the mom and dad teaching their children. My boys loved the illustrations with the boy jumping, climbing, and running (things they can easily relate to.)All of the questions and activities listed in the back of the book are very age appropriate. To be perfectly honest, I cannot think of any negative things or considerations about this book at all!

To see what other crew members are saying click here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: God's Promises For Women of Faith

"God's Word is the most cherished we, as women will ever receive." So true. Where else will you find promises that are always true and never change. In His Word he shows us His love and shares his plans for living a godly life and growing in knowledge of Him. Whether you are looking to use it for a daily Bible reading or for reference purposes, this book will help women in all walks of life to pray, worship, and trust in Christ every day.

This book was listed as a gift book. I have to say it is a beautiful, very portable book that I would definitely recommend to give as a gift or buy for yourself. In our day to day life, we find ourselves working hard to do our jobs, take care of ourselves and our families, and we often forget about all the promises God has made to us and that His resources are unlimited. This book is a great reminder of those promises. It is not full of someone else's commentary or personal opinions of what The Word says. Instead, it simply lists Scripture for each of the categories in the book. A few of these are: God's Plan for Women is To, God Teaches Women to Walk in His Word by, God Delights in Women Who Are, God Walks with Women, God Encourages Each Woman to, God Teaches Woman How to....and several more. The book ends with a chapter of Dynamic Women of Faith and includes scripture for Mary-mother of Jesus, Elizabeth-mother of John the Baptist, Sarah-wife of Abraham, Hannah-mother of Samuel, Ruth-great grandmother of David and Lydia-seller of purple. There also is a section in the back of the book for recording verses that are special to you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in order to write a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation.

Favorite Recipes: Chicken Pot Pie

I love making chicken pot pie, it's like making chicken soup, you can put just about anything in it and not mess it up. I have been making it for so long I don't measure or use a recipe but I tried to pay close attention to how I made it so I could post it here. Keep in mind that you can use just about any kind of vegetables or meat in a pot pie and there are a lot of different variations you can use for crust too. I use my biscuit recipe thinned out with extra milk, but you also could use biscuits from a can, or an already made pie crust. I am feeding a crowd here so I make it in a 13x9 cake pan instead of a pie pan. You may also want to add some salt or pepper to the filling, I don't because we have different tastes and salt/pepper our food once it is on our plates.

Chicken Pot Pie Filling

4 cups chicken broth
2 cups(or more) cooked chicken or other kind of meat
4 medium sized potatoes, diced
1 16 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (or other kinds of vegetables)
1/2 cup flour mixed with 1/2 cup water

Bring chicken broth to a boil and add diced potatoes. Cook until slightly tender. Add frozen mixed vegetables and cook approx. 8 minutes. Add in cooked chicken. Stir in flour/water mixture to thicken the broth and mix well. Pour into 13x9 pan (or pie pan.)

Biscuit Topping
2 cups flour
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk

Cut butter into flour. Add other ingredients with milk being last. Spread over the top of Pot Pie filling. Place in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until biscuit topping is golden brown.

Keeping Christmas Simple

It seems like the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's gets busier and goes by faster every year. It's easy to get caught up in everything that's going on and forget about why we are celebrating in the first place. By New Year's you can be exhausted, cranky, and completely broke. After several years of making these kind of mistakes at Christmas, we work hard to keep our holiday season a little more simple.

There are so many fun things going on during the holiday season. Everyone is having parties, parades, and festivals. If we are not careful and schedule too many activities, we can end up with cranky, tired children and parents, and no time to enjoy just being together and doing things together as a family. During the holiday season we try to chooses activities that we can all do together and only do 1 or 2 things every week so we are not running around in different directions all week long.

Cooking is kept fairly simple throughout the holidays too. On days where we have something going on I try to do a crock pot meal or have sandwiches so there's no added stress of "What's for dinner?" I love to bake and have lots of little "helpers" so our baking projects are kept fairly simple too. We usually make chocolate chip, m&m, peanut butter blossoms (my favorite) and cut outs. Cut out cookies are probably my least favorite to make and the messiest, so to make my life a little easier, I buy already made sugar cookie dough to use for these. That way the children still have the fun of cutting out and decorating cookies, but we don't have to make a batch of dough that will result in 10 dozen cookies to cut out and decorate. For Christmas Day, I make muffins the day before and buy bagels and fruit for breakfast so the children can eat whenever they are hungry and we have a very light lunch. Our Christmas dinner is ham, potatoes, rolls, corn with a Birthday Cake for Jesus for dessert.

Presents. Who doesn't love getting Christmas presents? Our first few years of being parents, our children got piles and piles of presents and we bought presents for everyone in our whole family and close friends too. If we didn't have the money that was ok, we just whipped out one of our many credit cards. The children would get a pile of toys and most would be broken or at the bottom of the toy box before the week was out. What was the point? Once I became a SAHM and a few more children came along (along with more and more debt) we really had to look at this idea of gift giving and what would be reasonable and meaningful, but still fun for our children (and us too.) We had to stop buying gifts first for all of our family and friends or switch to homemade or baked gifts (enjoyed by everyone!) Then we made a commitment to not go into debt for Christmas. It is not fun or enjoyable when January rolls around with a pile of new bills that need to be paid. Then I read somewhere about a family who gave their children 3 gifts each symbolizing the three gifts that Jesus received and we thought that was a great idea. One present is a "big" present, something that they really want, and 2 smaller presents (one is educational and the other usually clothes.) They also get a few things like candy and coloring books, crayons etc.. in their stockings. I do not spend exactly the same amount on each child but do spend less than $100 dollars on each including their stocking stuffers. Art and I buy a few small gifts for each other and we also buy gifts for 3 angels off the Salvation Army tree and give to other charities during the holidays. All of these things come from money I set aside every month specifically for our Christmas Budget.

A few years a go, I even stopped sending Christmas cards. It wasn't really about the time it took to address and send them out (although that was a factor) but simply the cost. Even though you can buy cards fairly inexpensively, the price of postage keeps rising and rising. I do a Merry Christmas blog post and facebook post and for those of my dear friends who do not use a computer in any way, I will mail out a few cards.

However you decide to spend your holiday season, I hope it is a fun and joyous time spent with your family and friends celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

We have a freezer full of deer meat (Yeah!) a free turkey that I am going to cook and split up into as many different meals as I can and the meat that I bought ahead on sale last week so we are in good shape meat wise for the next few weeks. My bread machine however broke after 3 years of using it quite a bit so no fresh bread this week. The good news is I found a barely used one for a great price and will pick it up later in the week. Here's what's cooking up at my house this week:

Friday 12/3-pizza
Sat 12/4-dinner out
Sun 12/5 cheese ravioli
Mon 12/6- chicken pot pie
Tues 12/7- pot roast (well deer roast), potatoes, and carrots
Wed 12/8- chicken, broccoli, noodle casserole
Thurs 12/9- deer chili, biscuits

Go to http://www.orgjunkie.com/ for more menu inspiration.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

14 Years Ago Today......

I was 28 weeks pregnant with Chelsea and woke up in the morning feeling not quite right. I had not been sick at all during my pregnancy and thought it was odd that I was feeling so sick at this stage. As the day progressed I felt worse and worse. I was achy, nauseous, and vomiting. By late that evening I also had pain that had settled in my right side. After heading to the ER and having blood drawn I also had a very elevated white blood cell count. My doctor thought it was probably a kidney infection, but shortly it was discovered that I had appendicitis. I was told I had 2 choices. I could not have surgery and the baby and I would both die, or I could have the surgery and I would probably go into labor and the baby could die. My OB (who had delivered me) had never had a pregnant patient with appendicitis and my surgeon had never taken an appendix out of a pregnant woman. Needless to say I chose to have the surgery. They gave me spinal anesthesia because it was less dangerous for the baby so I was awake during the surgery. At first, I was terrified. I was not worried about myself at all, but I did not want my baby to die. I remember laying on the table while Christmas music was playing, watching the clock tick, and praying. After a few minutes, a wave of peace came over me and I knew that everything was going to be all right. Even though I was not living my life anywhere near the way I should, even though I had not been to church or even prayed in a very long time, I felt the presence of God as I laid on that operating table and my prayers were answered. I never even had one contraction and the baby's heart rate stayed strong. I recovered my my surgery and 12 weeks later delivered an 8 lb 8 oz very healthy little miracle who changed my life forever.

Friday, December 3, 2010

So Many Questions

The fact that we are a larger than average homeschooling family prompts a lot of questions from people. Not just friends and family but also people I barely know and strangers in the grocery store. I don't mind the genuinely curious questions (even though I would never ask anyone myself.) The mean spirited rude ones I have a little bit of a harder time with especially when 95% of the time they are asked in front of my children. I try very hard to set a good example and always answer with a smile and positive response even when I am really thinking,"What is the matter with you people? How can you ask something like that in front of a group of sweet children?" (they usually refer to how many boys we have in a negative way.) Anyway, here are some of the most common questions and answers if you are curious and just didn't want to ask about the size of our family( I am going to ignore some of the most rude questions and assume that you know that we really do know what causes it etc..etc..etc..)

How many kids are you gonna have? My answer to this is we know we are going to have at least 7.

Where do you put all of those kids? We have a 4 bedroom house. The downstairs bedroom we use as a playroom/schoolroom (when the remodel is completed) The boys share a bedroom. We have two sets of bunk beds in there with the older boys sleeping on the top bunks. Lily just moved into the girls room with Chelsea. We have a set of bunk beds in there and a twin bed for Lily. The baby's crib stays in our room until the baby stops nursing and is ready to move to a bed. Our living room has 2 couches (one is a futon) and a love seat so we have room for everyone to sit. We are in the process of remodeling our house and turning the garage into a family room. I drive a 15 passenger van. The last row of seats is taken out (so it seats 11) so I have plenty of room for a stroller, bicycles, groceries, or whatever else I am hauling around.

Do you keep having kids to get money from the government? This was one of the most surprising to me (the fact that anyone would even think it.) But we have been asked more than once. We pay for all of our children and do not get grants or ANY kind of government assistance or funding. We do not live in government housing. We own our home (well in 26 years and 3 months we will.) We do not get Medicaid or food stamps. We do pay school taxes even though we don't use the school system and yes we have to pay for all of our own schoolbooks and supplies to homeschool.

How do you afford all of those kids? My husband works very hard at his job, and I work very hard to stretch that money as far as I can. Somehow, our culture has gotten the idea if you don not buy kids everything they want you are not a good parent. We do not believe this to be the case. Our children have a lot, don't get me wrong but they don't get everything they want. We do not wear $150 jeans and our children don't have cell phones. We encourage them to work for and save money for things that they want. We have a budget for monthly expenses and put away some money into a savings account. I make as much as possible from scratch, use coupons, and shop sales to keep the grocery bill as low as possible. I make Art a lunch every day so he does not have to by one. We do not eat out very often but save that as a treat like for birthdays. We try to buy toys and clothes that will last through several children. We do wear hand-me-downs and shop at garage sales. We put money into an FSA for medical expenses every year.

What about college? Again, many people believe that if you don't spend a fortune and hand your child a college education you are not a good parent. We do not agree with that. We also don't think you should go into debt for your education (the parents or the student.) Art and I started our marriage with over $30,000 in school loans combined (some of those we are still paying on) and it's not a great way to start off your life as an adult with all that debt on your back. Our children who choose to go to college are going to have to work hard and earn scholarships. We will help them find ways to achieve their goals but will they will have to earn it not have it handed to them.

Do you believe in birth control? (yes, complete strangers ask me this question) This can be a touchy subject for some people, remember I am entitled to my own opinions just as you are :).
I do not believe in using chemical forms of birth control. I believe that putting chemicals into your body to stop a natural process that God intended is not a good thing and can cause severe and dangerous consequences for women including things from minor ailments to death (I understand that there are some extreme medical conditions where the benefits outweigh the risks.) I also do not believe in the way many of these chemicals work not just preventing ovulation, but if that fails making the uterus inhospitable for implantation. I believe a baby is a baby at the point of conception so preventing implantation is the same to me as an early abortion.

Why would you want to keep bringing children into a world like this? This one makes me sad. This world is a hard world to live in as it has been ever since the Fall. God sees children as a blessing and so do we. You never know what kind of difference your child can make in this world and for eternity. I saw this quote the other day (I'm not sure who wrote it.) "A baby is God's way of showing that He thinks the world should go on."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Night In A Big Girl Bed!

Over the last two evenings, Lily (20 months) has been watching us get her big girl bed ready. The whole time she was watching her daddy put it together she kept saying, "That's my bed." Last night it was all set and ready to go and she happily climbed up into her new bed. At bed time when I told her it was time to go night night, she gave her daddy a kiss, grabbed her sippy cup, and went and climbed into her new bed. I tucked her in and sang her rock-a-bye-baby song and in minutes she was asleep. I got up and checked on her 3 times in the night and her daddy covered her up before he went to work this morning. At 7:15 I heard her hop out of her bed and she came running into my room happy as could be. Her first night in her new bed was a success ! (we'll see what happens at nap time)
It makes me sad every time we move one of the children out of the crib and into a bed. It makes them seem so grown up! Lily is a good sleeper though and every night climbed into our bed to go to sleep and then I moved her into the crib. Since we need the crib in a few months anyway for the new baby and Lily wanted to be in a bed, it just made sense to move her now. I am so glad she had such a good night and hopefully nap time will be just as easy.