Monday, November 28, 2011

Almost there...Gratitude Challenge 27 and 28

Day 27. I am soooo thankful for my family. We had Thanksgiving today at my mom and dad's house. It was the best day we'd had as a family in such a long time. There was food, wine, games, stories, the odd wrestling match between my husband and 15-year-old niece, and lots and lots of laughs. My oldest sister and husband didn't attend, but it was still such a lovely day. I was dog tired from all the festivities of the last week, and was a little tense going in...always worried that someone will be in a foul mood and ruin it for everyone. But not today! I loved every minute of the 10+ hours we spent together, and I'm already looking forward to Christmas!

Day 28. I am thankful for cold cereal and fresh fruit. After the week I've had, I was more than happy to let the kids rummage in my kitchen and fix their own breakfast this morning so I could sleep in! HA!

Blessings to you all!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankfulness Catch-up!

Can I just say up front how much I admire those of you who post every day!? I just can not seem to manage it, even when I have a goal, like posting my blessings through the month of November! :( But, I have blogged more consistently this month than any other month, ever! Improvement, indeeed! :) I even passed my 100th post and didn't even realize it - that should have been a celebrative!!! I have posted 102 times now, yay!

21. I am thankful for my children's increase in responsibility. I have found this weeek that I haven't had to harp on them as much about chores...could it be they are hearing sleighbells in their minds and are being extra good? Who cares, I'll take it however I can get it! ;)

22. I am thankful for my friend Treva and all who helped her put on our church's Thanksgiving meal Tuesday night. The decorations were beautiful, the food was AMAZING, and the fellowship was so very sweet! Servants of Jesus don't ask for recognition, but I'm inclined to give them thanks whenever I can. The unsung heroes of the body of Christ are those who work in the background, not the limelight. Don't forget to thank the servants of your church family!

23. I am thankful for Thanksgiving break!!! Woohoo, the kids and I have taken Wednesday through tomorrow off, and it's been fantastic for all of us. We've stayed up late, slept in, played games, had sleepovers, it's been such a great mini vacation. I love the flexibility we have as homeschoolers!

24. I am thankful for only having to be responsible for a small part of the HUGE Thanksgiving dinner we partook in! Kelly's family met this year at his Aunt Phyllis' home. Okay, only about half of us were there...but that's still a houseful! LOL! With this many people, it's so nice to split up the menu into manageable pieces so nobody feels overwhelmed. The only thing that we had two of was green bean casserole - and if you're going to double up on anything, that's the dish to have more of! ;) I made brownies, stuffed crescent rolls and .... tada, green bean casserole! It was a lovely, relaxing day. I'm so blessed to be a part of the Hartzell family!

25. I am thankful for - yep, you guessed it - BLACK FRIDAY!!! I have never had such a whirlwind day of shopping and price matching. It was a thrill ride with my best friend, Steph, and our daughters, Molly and Chloe. Steph and I went out Thursday night about 9:30 for a big ticket doorbuster item. We were in bed by 1:00 am, and back out the door at 4:30, with the girls in tow this time. We made it home a little after 1:00 p.m. Typically, I don't get too worked up about this. But for me, this year has been so busy that I hadn't bought ANY presents yet! I am usually done by this time, minus two or three stocking stuffers! So yesterday, I got caught up in one fell swoop. I got everything on my list at great prices! Plus the bonus of spending the day with my favorite girls. Thirteen stores in 12 hours, and my list is nearly complete. Good day, indeed! I'll post more on my Black Friday experiences in more detail later.

26. I am thankful for you, my followers. I know it's a lot to ask of people to take the time to read my posts when your own schedules are so busy. But I'm grateful that you find my words worth reading. Hoping to break 100 followers by the new year!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20

I am thankful I am feeling human again. I was sick with a migraine all day today, and I am just starting to feel decent in the last hour or so. I don't know exactly what brought it on, but I'm sure it's a combination of things. Up super early to deer hunt this weekend. Sleeping on hay bales with kids piled around me, a crick in my neck, and no caffeine since Friday. I was violently ill this morning, went to bed at 10 and slept till 2:30. I haven't completely recovered, but I'm not wincing in pain with every noise that my kids make now. ;)

Bonus: Kelly let me rest, kept the kids reasonably quiet all day, and fixed dinner! I told him I should get sick more often! He didn't agree. :) So I'm thankful to feel better, and for a husband who let me rest in order to feel better. Double blessing!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 19

Tonight I am thankful for a friend who has chosen to stand in the power of the Lord and share the Word with those of us who need to hear that we can, too.

Jeffrey Chavez, my dear friend and pastor, is one of a kind. He is kind of a dork. ;) He is DEFINITELY A.D.D.! :O And he is an example to me about setting your box aside and letting God do the work in your life so you become a totally empty vessel for Him to use how He sees fit. It hasn't been an easy road - and I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like Jeffrey expected it to look - but The Catalyst Springfield is officially a launch. While he still maintains that our first "Official" service won't be until April (Easter weekend), Jeffrey is already a pastor to many...feeding God's people the Holy Word...discipling and evangelizing...creating small groups, and spreading the Good News of Jesus to a lost and hopeless world. So, yes, Jeffrey, say what you may. But this ministry is off the ground and taking wings.

Tonight, Jeffrey referred to us people at The Catalyst as "broken toys". (Do you know the reference? In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the broken and unused toys were sent to the Island of Misfit Toys. They were torn, worn, and unloved. They were cast aside and told they were useless. But they were not useless - they still had a purpose!) Jeffrey talked about some of the great, powerful men of the bible, and he reminded us that THEY were not the powerful ones. But God had shown HIS power through their mighty deeds. Jeffrey urged us all to see ourselves, and to those we want to share Jesus with, as broken toys - torn, worn, but STILL loved by the Father and capable of being used for His glory.

He delivered the message with typical Jeffrey flair ;), and it resonated with me deeply. It's not always easy to put our own plans aside and say yes to God. He said that we often forget our role as the "created" and not the Creator. Sometimes I am guilty of that. I want to drag my feet, or hide my face, or just pretend the message wasn't intended for me. But the fact is that He will use me regardless of what baggage I'm carrying. Regardless of how weak I see myself. Regardless of how scared I feel. His power will see me through.

Jeffrey told me recently that he was scared to talk to me about something, but knew he needed to be honest with me. God used Jeffrey to make me deal with a few issues I was burying and pretending weren't issues any longer. Jeffrey could have ignored the problem. He could have pretended that God hadn't brought the issue to him. But he stood in the power of the Lord and helped me...even when I didn't want the help. That is a true friend, and a great pastor.

So tonight, I'm thankful for my goofball friend, Jeffrey, who lets God have the final word in all his plans and shares that with all he meets.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Days 17 & 18

Yep, I missed another day...surprise, surprise! ;)

So...yesterday I was thankful for carryout pizza. After a crazy afternoon and about 3 changes of plans throughout the day, I completely forgot to think about what to do for dinner! So I called my sis-in-law, Tiffany, changed the evening plans for the FOURTH time, picked up a couple pizzas, and headed to their place. We ate and visited, the kids played, and we just caught up. We used to get time like this every weekend, but life has been hectic for both our families this fall. Finding time to just sit and chat have been few and far between, and we both have missed it. So, yes, for making our lives a little simpler, I am thankful for carryout pizza! ;)

Today, I am thankful for modern medicine. I have not been feeling quite right for a couple months now, but I am such a procrastinator that I kept putting the appointment off. It seems like I am always putting off things like that...things that don't seem important, or things that I'm just a little uncomfortable with...but regardless of that, I finally went today. A quick exam and visit with my doctor, and I left with the promise of a prescription that will make me feel better in a few days. I am not one to go to the doctor for much. I don't even like taking over the counter meds very often. But I know there are reasons for modern medicine, and we all take the ease and accessibility of medicines in America thoroughly for granted. It makes me think of the people all over the world who are losing their lives because they don't have access to the simplest of medicines, like Neosporin. I am so thankful for the fact that we have the ability to get affordable medicine and medical care in this country.

So are you keeping tabs? I'd love to hear about some of the things you are thankful for. :)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16

Tonight I am thankful for our house. Ninety percent of the time it is messy. It's big, but constantly cluttered. It's covered in tiny to mid-size fingerprints and there are often kool-aid spills on the floor. Some rooms are drafty, others are stuffy. But even with all these faults, we've made this house our home. It's where my children play countless hours together. It's where we curl up on the couches and read as a family. It's where we join hands, pray and eat at the dinner table together. It's where numerous bumps, bruises, cuts and broken hearts have been held, bandaged and kissed back to health. It's where a ton of forts and easy bake cakes have been made and enjoyed. It's where memories made with friends and family have been made for seven years.

We spend a lot of time within these walls - more so than other families since we homeschool, I stay at home, and Kelly works nights. There are days when I feel so stir crazy that I just HAVE to get out of the house...if only to get a frappe from McDonald's. But it's also where I can come home after a weekend retreat with my girlfriends and have 4 children run down the porch steps to hug and kiss me and yell over each other to tell what all they did while I was gone. Kelly and I have our most important conversations on our couch at 1:30 in the morning when I've waited up for him to pour out my heart or share an exciting moment of the day with him. The furniture is showing wear, the water pressure is sometimes pitiful, the floors are needing replaced, and I need to clean more often. But I am thankful for all the things that make this old house our home.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have had so much going on, that I have not been taking part in the November Gratitude Challenge. But don't take that to mean that I am not thankful for all the many blessings in my life! It's just that the "blessings" have kept me so busy that I haven't been on the computer much till last night! LOL! So I am going to try to catch up and continue this challenge for the rest of the month - I'm good at cramming! :D

1. I am thankful for my savior, Jesus Christ. Without His sacrifice, the rest of these numbers would not be possible.

2. I am thankful for Kelly. He has been my best friend, my lover, my helpmeet, my other half for nearly half my life now. Words can not tell you how much I'm in love with him and the life we've made together.

3. I am thankful for my children. Even now, the chaos going on behind me - even though driving me up the wall - is such a blessing because it means my home is their haven. They are all healthy. They are each other's main playmates and best friends. Their imaginations are large...and loud...and their creativity knows no bounds. I know I may desire a moment's peace on many occasions, but I know there are years ahead when my heart will ache for the noises of their childhood.

4. I am thankful for my sisters, and cousin that is like my sister. Angie, Ariel, Tiffany, and April. They have been there through the worst times, and they've shared in the best times. God gave us each other for a reason, and the journey is so much sweeter with them by my side.

5. I am thankful for my girlfriends Stephanie, Michelle, Niki and April. My life would be so much more difficult without these girls to pull me through. They lift me up, make me laugh, and always tell me the truth even when it's hard to hear. They are amazing, godly women who inspire me and challenge me. They love my kids as their own, and they even put up with Kelly! ;)

6. I am thankful for our amazing country. The United States is still a shining light on a hill to so many other nations. We are the hope that many strive for. We have a lot of problems ourselves, and I am not saying it is perfect. Goodness, far from it! But even through the difficulties, God has granted us a position of authority and leadership that we work hard to live up to. We must remember to pray for those who lead this country and the government. Land of the free, home of the brave - may God continue to bless the USA.

7. I am thankful for the freedom to homeschool my kids. All of you should know how very passionate I am about my children, and the Lord called this rebellious, stubborn mama to take a stand for them and Him. I was afraid for so many reasons and continually refused to heed His gentle proddings. But now, 6 years later, I can't imagine any other way to raise our family. Kelly has encouraged and cheered me on, picked me up when I was a blubbering mess, and reminded me often of the end honor God with all our hearts, minds and strength. We are proud of what our children are accomplishing and learning. But more than that, we are thankful for the godly people they are becoming. God is going to use them, not because of me, but despite me. He continually works in me and them to teach each other about His grace and mercy. My heart aches to think of what all I'd have missed if I had refused to obey the Father's calling.

8. I am thankful for my co-op family, Lighthouse Christian Academy. This homeschooling journey would be nigh on impossible some days without the love and support I receive from my friends and mentors at LCA. The people there are my anchor, and a sweet reminder from God that we are not in this alone.

9. I am thankful for the cooler weather. Fall is my favorite time of year - you can't beat hot chocolate, bonfires, hoodies and crunching leaves!

10. I am thankful for my church family. Evergreen has been our home for over 13 years. We had to say goodbye to them this past year, but have recently been led back home after many months away. The work is not over, but the Lord is moving and healing. Praise Jesus!

11. I am thankful for fuzzy socks. Even though I love the cooler weather, I hate cold feet! I can never have enough pairs of fuzzy socks! ;)

12. I am thankful for 88.3 The Wind FM. I love hearing my kids sing praises to Jesus, and I am so glad to have the Clean Air in my car every day.

13. I am thankful for my new RED blender - it chops ice very very well, and it even has a pour spout! Yay, I am so happy! :)

14. I am thankful for Disney World...and I am so ready to go back. I know it's gonna be quite a while till we can make it happen, but the memories are so much fun to relive through our photos and videos. Barely a day goes by when someone in our house says, "Remember when we were at Disney World and (such and such) happened?"

15. I am thankful that we finished the 500 piece puzzle on my kitchen table tonight - I was seriously considering throwing it away out of frustration, but seeing Canon so excited tomorrow to see it complete and glued together for his room will totally be worth all the work we put into it!

Well, I am now caught up! Sorry I had to cram, but this procrastination habit is getting to be a problem. I'm gonna do better...later! HA!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Nikki from "Joy in the Journey" awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award a few weeks ago because you can find everything from homeschooling tips, bible study, menu planning, couponing, and mindless ramblings of a stay-at-home mommy of four on regulars know what I'm talking about! ;) Nikki and I have been friends since childhood, and she's my inspiration for blogging, getting back into writing, and oh, so very much more. Thanks, babe, for thinking of me! If you don't follow Nikki's blog, stop by and check it out - she's a blessing to me, and I'm sure she will inspire you as well!

So here are the rules for this award:

Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.

Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.

Give this award to 15 recently discovered bloggers.

Contact those bloggers and let them in on the news.

Okay, I gotta think of some good stuff now... Here are seven things you may not know about me:

1) I am addicted to Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke from Sonic. I know, it's terrible. But I just can't get enough of that syrup-py goodness.

2) I have been singing in church since I was about 3 years old. I can sing soprano, alto or tenor by ear. I made it into competition choirs all through high school...all without being able to read sheet music!

3) I am deathly afraid of mice. I would like to rid the entire world of these vermin, and all their close relatives. I know there's a reason for all God's creatures, but I've often wanted to ask Him what He was thinking when He made them - and gave them a desire to live in my linen closet and pantry!

4) We have shared a home with my in-laws for 7 years - first out of necessity, eventually by choice. We are so very blessed to have our lives so intertwined with theirs, and I can't imagine not having them with us.

5) I spent the summer after graduating high school in Italy with my oldest sister, Angie. If there had been a way to get Kelly over there, I would have seriously considered staying forever!

6) I can tune practically everything out when I am engrossed in a good book. I LOVE reading, and I desire to instill my love for the written word in my children. When there are terrible times in your life, or you just need a moment of escape from the everyday, a book can transport you anywhere you want to go.

7) I am seriously thinking about getting my nose pierced. My niece has been talking about it and asked me to do it with her. I told her I'd wanted to do it for a long time, but thought Kelly would just die. I texted Kelly just to tease him, and he was actually disappointed to know I was joking! So don't be surprised if you see a little bling on my face in the months to come... ;)

Fifteen Bloggers I'd like to award (drumroll, please...)

1. Morning Glories and Moonflowers
2. North Laurel Home and School
3. Swinging on Small Hinges
4. Raising Godly Maidens
5. Sister Tipster
6. This Sweet Life of Mine
7. Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
8. Little Rays of Sunshine
9. Our Everyday Life
10. Just Making Memories
11. Cows Don't Moo
12. The Loose Screw
13. The Youngn's
14. Wonderfully Chaotic
15. Orange Marmalade Mama

Be sure to check out these blogs - there's something for practically everyone!

Product Review: Keyboard Town Pals


Keyboard Town Pals ($39.95) is a beginner typing program geared for early elementary students. It takes the general fundamentals of hand-on-key placement and uses puppet characters to retain memory. It is a fun and engaging way for 6-8 year olds to acquaint themselves with the keyboard.

Here is what KTP had to say about their program: "Keyboard Town PALS™ is a computer keyboard program that teaches elementary school children the letters and symbols on a Qwerty keyboard in an hour using proper technique. It is fast and efficient as well as enjoyable and easy to learn. Keyboard Town PALS™ accomplishes this through the PALS system. PALS stands for PURPOSEFUL ASSOCIATIVE LEARNING SYSTEM."

This is Sunny, your personal tour guide of Keyboard Town. The kids found her engaging. I just found her creepy.

The program is set up into small, 3 minute videos that introduce you to a specific key on the board. Each letter or key has a corresponding puppet. They give you a little story or jingle to help you remember, then a chance to practice what you have learned. NOTE: it is NOT an interactive practice. So, basically, you can be hitting the wrong key the entire time and not be called on it...or you can choose not to participate at all and not be called on it, either. I wasn't very pleased with that.

The Keyboard Town PALS

After watching all the videos, you have the chance to go through an assessment. Again, I didn't much care for this part. It doesn't give you any time restriction, and it doesn't record your results. So basically, there is no way to gauge improvement or accuracy or speed. While speed doesn't necessarily matter at this age, it does give the student a goal. Here is what KTP had to say about this:

1. Surveillance – There is no need to hover and watch over the child while learning.
2. Competition – We do not put children in a win-lose situation where only one person can come out on top.
3. Over-control – We do not grade or count the number of incorrect letters pressed.
4. Pressure – We do not establish grandiose expectations for a child's performance. This often ends up instilling aversion for a subject or activity. Unreasonably high expectations often pressure children to perform within strictly prescribed guidelines.
5. Time – We do not have timed speed tests. If intrinsic motivation is one key to a child's creativity, the crucial element in cultivating it is time: open-ended time for the child to savor and explore a particular activity or material to make it his own. The results will be apparent after an hour."

Now while I understand what they are trying to accomplish, I can not say that I agree with it. I can see where there should be a time of learning without all the stress of worrying about the mistakes and so on. In fact, I love the idea of deactivating the delete key so they don't worry about correcting mistakes. However, there is no way with this program to measure improvement of any kind, because nothing is saved, recorded or kept track of whatsoever.

With that all being said, my kids did enjoy the program. They thought the puppets were cute (maybe a little cheesy to Connor! :D), and the little jingles or sayings did help them remember finger placement a little better. As far as seeing a great improvement after an hour of use, I find that a little overly optimistic. However, after watching it once or twice a week for a few weeks, I will say that they are all a little more confident with the keyboard. Unfortunately, I just don't see us purchasing this product for our family.

*Don't just take my word for it! Check out some of my fellow TOS Crew Members' reviews here.

**Disclaimer: I received this product via TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review; all opinions stated are mine or my children's.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Product Review: Ooka Island


Ooka Island is an online adventure game that teaches 3-to 7-year-olds early reading skills. A number of games are used to teach phonics, simple blending, and gradually more opportunities to read books on their own. You are guided by a fun-loving robot, as well as a woman and her niece and nephew.


I had Canon, my 7 year old, test out this product. Here is his take on Ooka Island.

"I loved Ooka Island. I got to save an elf. I liked all the games. There is nothing I didn't like about it. ABC Mountain was fun. Reading the books weren't the funnest, but I did save an elf while reading. It taught me about the ABC's, I liked discovering sounds in the mine. I also liked it because the Ooka Island Seedoo was so much fun - I rode it all over the place! And that's it."

LOL, it may not all make sense to you until you've seen the program. ;) But basically, he enjoyed the entire game. I thought it was way below his level - he is reading easy chapter books - but it gave him a change of pace and a strong confidence level going in. I know from what I read about it beforehand that the difficulty increases as you progress in the game, but I wish he could have started on a higher level.

One good thing about Ooka Island from a parent standpoint is the pricing system. There is only as much commitment as you'd like. You can choose a monthly rate for a trial, or a discounted, yearly rate. There is also a family price break - gotta love that! The website is offering a 14-day free trial right now! There is also a 30% discount if you use the code.


Here's the breakdown:


Overall, I have really enjoyed Ooka Island for Canon. I think I would consider purchasing it for Caleb next year - he spent a lot of time watching Canon play! Try it out for your family and see if they don't love it, too.

*Don't just take my word for it! Check out some of my fellow TOS Crew Members' reviews here.

**Disclaimer: I received this product via TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review; all opinions stated are mine or my children's.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Time for Refreshment and Renewal

And...we're (almost) off! In 8 hours, 8 of my girlfriends and I will be heading to KC to meet up with my cousin Sarah and her friends to attend the Women of Faith Conference. I am so very excited! I have never been able to attend one, and we have been planning this for nearly a year. It is going to be a time of refreshment, renewal, fellowship and uninhibited praise for my Jesus.

I am so thankful for the life I have. My husband is the love of my life. My kids are the apple of my eye. My friends are amazing, my extended family is at peace, and my church family is healing - all praise to Abba! But even with all these abundant blessings, I have found myself tired, overloaded, irritable, lazy in my devotion and prayer time, and generally luke-warm. That is so hard for me to admit, but confession is good for the soul. I have been praying this week for God to speak with me intimately, to make some truths evident and relevant, and to show me where He wants to use me. I have no doubt He has big plans for this weekend, too big for me to even comprehend.

I am so appreciative to my moms - both of them - to help me with the kids while Kelly is working. I love Kelly for acknowledging that my soul desperately needs this time and encouraging me to go, even when it means so much more for him to take care of. Without them all I wouldn't be able to go. I know I will be so very ready to get home to my loves by Saturday night, but at the moment I am wishing the time to move a little quicker!

So what is your way to refresh and renew? Have you been able to take this sort of trip before to worship? Or do you carve out time regularly to just connect with the Father uninterrupted? Share your secrets, share your experiences. Blessings to you all!