Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas, 2015!

May your season be filled with the love of the One we celebrate..

Friday, December 18, 2015


One of our favorite holiday traditions is going to look at Christmas lights. The kids and I used to wear our jammies, take hot cocoa, and drive all over town. We would sing Christmas carols, visit and sip our cocoa. Last year, we took some of their friends, and they had recently asked if we were going to do it again. I was happy they wanted to join in, so we invited a few more friends to join us too!

So last Tuesday, we packed Olga to the brim and took Springfield by storm! It was such a blast!! The lights, the cocoa, the jokes, the singing (both good and not so good!) all made for a memorable night - and hopefully a new tradition of sharing one of our favorite things about the holidays with friends!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Class Act HPA presents: The Aristocats!

We absolutely love our local homeschool theater group! Class Act Homeschool Performing Arts has become a family to us, almost as much as our co op. The people who love theater and give of their time and talents to bless and teach our kids and use this medium to honor the Lord and teach the kids to do likewise just amaze me. I am honored to have a small part in this amazing group.

This past weekend marked our 5th production with Class Act - The Aristocats. Chloe has been with Class Act since the group's beginning in 2012. Connor and Canon have participated, as well. But this is the first time Caleb has been involved. Chloe got a lead role as Duchess, the well-to-do mother of 3 precocious kittens. We are so very proud of all her accomplishments, and we have loved watching her grow and improve on stage. We were very pleasantly surprised when Caleb received a large role, as well. He was cast at Toulouse, the spunky redheaded kitten of Duchess.

They have had an amazing semester preparing, and tonight they both shone in the final show! It has been a great, but exhausting weekend, and I can't wait to do it all again next semester. Chloe will be moving up to the older group and taking part in Guys and Dolls. Caleb and Canon (who is returning after taking a year off) will be a part of Pinnochio, Jr. It is sure to be a crazy busy time, and I am looking forward to it all.

The Aristocats

The Alley Cats

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Transformation Tuesday

February 3...

December 8. How can it be going by so quickly??

This little doodle bug is such a joy. We love her and spoil her so very much. She is nearly always happy. She is a blessing from the Lord. Our Rainbow Baby...she is not treasured any more than our other precious blessings, but she is definitely a sweet reminder of God's faithfulness and goodness, and His overwhelming love for us all. This Christmas is just a beautiful time to be thankful for all He's done for us. Giving His son, and giving us our Cadie.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Little Man's Big Day

Castle Jason is 3 years old...I seriously want time to slow down. I love watching my little man explore and learn new things every single day. He is bright, inquisitive, brave, funny, and still super cuddly! He is Mama's special boy, and Daddy's little buddy. We are so proud of him. To know Castle is to love him. We were thrilled to spend the day at home yesterday celebrating him at then going to Chuck E Cheese today - his new favorite place!
Opening the gifts

Connor made his cake - he loves our pigs!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My First Five Devotional

I have been using this wonderful devotional for the past few months, and it has really blessed me. In this crazy busy family, I had found myself jumping out of bed to deal with others' needs, and not stopping before noon to even realize that I hadn't had any time with the Lord yet...except maybe a muttered prayer for patience when dealing with a not so perfect mommy moment! ;) So finding and using the First5 app has been a huge blessing. My phone beeps in the morning, and I grab for my sweet and short devotional to start my day with Him. Yes, I have missed a few here and there, but it has gotten me back into starting most of my mornings in the Word.

Recently, one of the devotionals really struck a chord with me. The verse that leapt from my screen wasn't even the main focus of the lesson that morning, but my heart just smiled when I read it:

Isaiah 49:16 "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand..."

Now I am not one to comment on the devotional very often. I sometimes read through the comments, like a couple that stick out to me, and occasionally leave a comment. But when I read this version the other day, even though I had read it many times in the past, I knew I wanted to share how I felt when I saw these words. Here is what I wrote:

"I know it's probably not what jumps out at most people, and it isn't very 'PC' to say, but I absolutely love that the Lord of all creation is 'tatted up' with the names of his children! For anyone who has had tattoos, you know that is not a pleasant experience -in fact, when the conversation comes up most times I'll tell people I have 6 children but I only have one tattoo...that pain is still fresh in my mind! But I have thought occasionally of getting another tattoo that would honor my children. Both my sister and brother in law have tattoos with their children's names. My nieces and nephew all love to touch their names KNOWING that they belong to their parents. What a beautiful picture knowing that my Father loves me so much to have my name engraved in the palm of his hand - one of the most tender parts of our body - the same place where he was pierced for our transgressions. How great is the Father's love for us that we may be called children of God!"

No, I didn't mean to set off a firestorm...but indeed that is what happened! I'm not really sure why people were offended by my comment. Yes I understand Levitical law, and I know that there are people out there that would like to see all Christians abide by every jot and tittle of the Old Testament. Some of the comments were snarky, rude and just plain old self righteous. I love every part of the Bible and it speaks to me because it's my Father's word. But the sole purpose of the law and the keeping of it was to remind us that no one is perfect - it was and is impossible for anyone to keep the whole law - and we are all in desperate need of a savior. For people to take such a stance and judge others for tattoos is not showing God's love. Some of the comments were spouting scripture at me, telling me how wrong tattoos and defiling the body were. Others said things like, isn't it funny how people can twist God's Word to defend their bad choices... and so on and so forth.

Working at Freeway Ministries has been an amazing life changing event for me. I wouldn't have ever said that I was better than anyone. But I will admit there would have been some people that are now in my life that I love and respect that I would have been cautious to get to know had Freeway not been the avenue in which I met them. God has used this ministry to show me the outer skin is not what He looks at. I'm so thankful to watch my children have relationships with people they never would have been in contact with if it wasn't for the love of God and this ministry that He's blessing. I think the verse in Isaiah struck such a chord with me because it speaks to those who may still be seeing the Lord as a far-off God who may not care intimately about them. But this verse proves otherwise. He loves us, each and everyone of us. I could have responded with anger or my own snarky comments, but I chose to respond like this:

"Thank you everyone who participated in this conversation. I by no means meant to start a conflict in the group. When I used the word PC, I was referring to my use of the term 'tatted up'. An engraving is a cut - whether or not it's considered a tattoo until it is filled with ink is another discussion for another time. I consider myself a student of the Word, and I am familiar with Levitical law. There are many pastors and teachers whom I know and respect who have a very different stance on this subject,  as well as many other scriptures - not to mention translation notes and denominational differences. It doesn't change my opinion of any of them, and I enjoy a healthy, educated exchange of ideas with several of them on a regular basis...and yes, there are those people who will try and distort God's Word to satisfy their own personal agendas, but I don't believe that was the case in any of these comments - including my own. My comments were simply expressing my own personal observation of just another example of the Father's sacrificial love for us. I work in a ministry for people who are at their lowest of lows: homeless, drug addicted, single parents just trying to make a way for their children. Many of them wouldn't fit into a typical church setting.  Many of them have even said they wouldn't step foot into a church for fear of being judged. Praise God for His forgiveness, for differences, for looking at the inner man and not the outer, and the beauty of all his children. God bless all of you,  I am thankful for this group!"

There were a couple more comments after I posted that, all encouraging. I just hope people remember whether you are in person, in a small group, or in front of a computer screen, your words have impact. Whether you're judging someone impersonally or directly, it matters. Love first.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Day of Thanksgiving...

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." President George Washington, October 3, 1789, from the Thanksgiving Proclamation 

It doesn't matter whether you want to accept it or not, but history speaks for itself. We are a nation founded on Christian principles, founded by godly men who honored the Lord. We have drifted so far from that beginning, in such a short time, that it's no wonder the mess we are in today. But nevertheless, the battle is not over. Not so long as there are men and women out there who are willing to bow their knees, to humble themselves, to ask God to forgive us and to heal our nation. We can become a nation of thankful people once again.

There are so many things to be thankful for, and so many to whom we owe our thanks. But let us never forget the Giver of all good gifts. Thank you, Father, for my salvation, my family, my country, and so much more. You are so very good. I am so very blessed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

TBT - SDC 2013

It's amazing how much can change in just 2 years. At this time, they were the bookends - oldest and youngest of our brood. The oldest is looking less boyish and more like a young man. This baby is about to turn 3 next week! :O And we've added another blessing to our clan. Pictures can bring memories back in an instant. And I love the memories of my little men enjoying a day outdoors together at one of our favorite places in the world. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

GOOOOOO Chargers!!

This week a very special group of people are traveling to sunny Florida for the national homeschool football championships. Even though we don't have a player this year, I still know this is our family. We go through seasons in life. And I know we will revisit this season and rejoin this amazing family again someday. Maybe next year, maybe not. But I do know this - once a Charger, always a Charger. Go get 'em, boys! HIT SOMEBODY!!!

National Champs 2014

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A TOS Review: Grapevine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

There is nothing more important in our lives than teaching the Word of God to our children. To share His love, His story, His gift of salvation, is the greatest privilege I have as a mother. But sometimes, I find it hard to teach the many ages we have in our family with one single bible study and make sure they are finding it applicable. That's why I was eager to check out Grapevine Studies and their multi-level guides. We were sent the digital downloads for their Old Testament I bible study in Level 1 (6-8 years), Level 3 (10-12 years) and Level 4 (12+ years).

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies strives to give a family or Sunday school teacher the tools to teach children in an engaging, hands-on way that simplifies the planning, engages students, and grows disciples. Their method is to read the scripture, draw a stick figure picture to help you remember key points, and review together. They integrate color, character, timeline and symbols to teach the Bible to all ages. It has been a lot of fun!

So the Level 1 and Level 2 studies share a Teacher Guide, and the Level 3 and Level 4 studies share a Teacher Guide as well. We would sit down as a family with all the pages I'd printed out for each of them, my laptop so I could look at the Teacher's Guide, a wipe board easel and dry erase markers. We would take turns reading passages. I liked to have them guess what the picture should be, then I would draw it out for the younger kids to copy. All my kids were of the age to do the timeline sections, and the older ones would have word studies or more comprehensive questions. To do one lesson a day with 5 kids (Castle would watch and draw on a wipe board, too) took about 45 minutes to an hour. There was always someone losing a page of their lesson, or two would bicker over a certain color crayon. I took care of that issue by getting everyone their own box of crayons! I am not a big fan of digital downloads, simply for the reason above - we are a large family, and my kids lose things pretty easily...I have no idea where they get it from...LOL! But I think it would have been much more manageable with books - for us, at least.

I think the lessons were fun, and I enjoyed the simplistic technique to studying the bible. I don't know for sure if my kids learned a lot, since they are already very familiar with the passages we covered, but they definitely enjoyed the drawing aspect. I did appreciate the possibility for more in-depth study for the older students.

One thing I was a little disappointed in was that the older levels needed to purchase more books for more in-depth study. Grapevine requires Levels 3 and 4 to have a topical bible, a bible dictionary and a bible concordance on hand for their lessons. I thought these lessons would be a great asset, so I was glad to purchase some of these items. I didn't go through their site, but I found the titles on Amazon they suggested and bought two of them. The topical bible I received ended up being a completely different book than the one they recommended - the one they sell is a condensed version of what I bought. The bible dictionary I purchased was, in fact, the exact one they recommended. However, some of the words we were required to study weren't even in the book. They even had page numbers in the worksheets, and the word wouldn't be on that page. I appreciated the idea of the deeper study, but it didn't pan out very well for us.

Despite the hiccups we encountered, I was overall very pleased with Grapevine Studies. My kids enjoy drawing, and I think it helps solidify the concepts covered. It was a good time to connect as a family, and I hope to see more of their studies in the future - stick figures are awesome! :)

To follow Grapevine on social media, follow the links listed here:

More members of the Crew received other items from Grapevine for review. To find out more, check out the link below.

Grapevine Studies Review

Crew Disclaimer

A TOS Review: Critical Thinking

As homeschool parents, we have the responsibility and privilege of teaching our children from the day they are born, almost exclusively. They have Sunday School teachers, co-op teachers, and others in their lives through sports and activities, but the majority of their education comes from us. Sure, we study reading, writing and arithmetic. We teach them about our nation's history, and first and foremost, about our Lord and Savior. We make sure culinary skills and budgeting are touched on as often as possible. But there have been times when a child will come across a situation in real life and be completely unprepared. It is a natural skill that can be honed, or a skill they have to learn from the ground up. Many public schoolers I know don't even have a grasp of it. What am I talking about? Critical thinking. The Critical Thinking Co. sent me their book, The Basics of Critical Thinking, for my 9th grader to review.

The Basics of Critical Thinking ($22.99) was designed to teach middle school aged kids (4th-9th graders) the skills and concepts of critical thinking. The book defines critical thinking as "finding and evaluating evidence to try to make the best decisions". They emphasize looking at a situation or problem critically, objectively, and without emotion; they desire to teach using logic to come to the best conclusion. The book covers object lessons, activities, diagrams, and touches on argument forms and fallacies. One thing I liked very much is that you can move through the book in any order. The lessons covered in the book are:
  • What is Critical Thinking?
  • Decisions and Conclusions
  • Beliefs and Claims
  • Finding Evidence
  • Evaluating Evidence
  • Inferring and Inferences
  • Facts and Opinions
  • Facts and Probable Truths
  • False and Probably False
  • Facts, Probably True, and Probably False
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Logical Connectives
  • Advertising
  • Agreements and Contracts
  • Common Errors in Reasoning
  • Arguments
  • Valid and Invalid Arguments
  • Fallacies
  • Analogy Arguments
  • Using Critical Thinking to Make Better Decisions
Connor is a natural problem solver. He can look at a pile of LEGOs and envision what he's going to build. He can see puzzle pictures and quickly figure out what's wrong or what's missing. He is fairly intuitive when it comes to reading new acquaintances. He is mechanically minded, and very logical in his thinking. So why was I excited to see him use this book? Because I wanted him to see the importance of sharpening these skills and how it is such a benefit in the real world.

Quite often, Connor would tell me the answer before going through the basic techniques that the book was trying to teach. Most often he would be correct, and he would get a little cocky. However, when he would miss one, he could definitely see the benefit of how to work through the problems step by step. The sections about probable truths and facts and learning the difference was a great section for him to go through, specifically for this purpose. In my experience, I have found most teenage boys to be pretty set in their ways, certain their view is the correct one. It was good for Connor to see assumptions did not ALWAYS equal fact. He did made the observation that what he would assume would often be backed up with the critical thinking skills. I'm not sure everyone would have that conclusion, but it seemed to be true for him a lot of the time!

Connor had some fun with the fact and opinion section. In these assignments, you are given a picture, and you are to write a sentence that is fact and then a sentence that is fiction. One picture was of a man on the ground next to a motorcycle. His fact sentence stated, "The guy fell into the mud." His opinion sentence stated, "The guy is an idiot." Not very polite, but it was truly his opinion! ;) Another picture was of a mountain lion crouching. His fact sentence: "The cat is growling." His opinion: "He's about to be a dead cat." He is a hunter at heart, to be sure!

I am very glad we got the chance to review The Basics of Critical Thinking. Connor is really enjoying working through this book. I plan to buy the book for Chloe and Canon to work through and the second level book for Connor for next year.

To follow The Critical Thinking Co. on social media, go to the following links:

The Critical Thinking Co. sent several other products to members of the Crew. To see their reviews, click on the link here:

The Critical Thinking Company Review

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Golden Rule?

The article Being 'left out' hurts: one mothers plea for other parents to stop from appeared in my newsfeed today. It truly struck a chord in me, as it is something we have been struggling with for a long while now.

For those who don't click over to read it - which I highly encourage you to - the author discusses scenarios that occur in middle school and high schools all over the country every single day, and how we as parents have the power to feed or destroy this monster we know as bullying. The emotional games these kids play with the exclusion and targeting of one child can go too far and have lasting effects.

So did you think my homeschooled kids would be immune to this monster?? Well, think again, my friends. I have encountered it many times over the years, to different degrees with each child. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to watch your child try to figure out what is wrong with him or her, why they have been so obviously left out, or why their once dearest friends no longer have time for them, when you KNOW that it has nothing to do with them.

I've tried so hard over the years to include others that seem to be on the fringes, to invite new kids to activities, to bring families into the fold at church or co op, and I've striven to teach my children to do the's extremely frustrating and hurtful when it isn't reciprocated. It even happens among the moms - sometimes, it may even begin with the moms.

I have one child who has been what many call a loner for the majority of his life. He insisted that he liked animals more than people, and he was usually more comfortable on his own than with a group. In recent years, however, he has had a desire to go do things and gain more friendships. But sadly, the kids he's known his whole life don't even reach out to him. In fact, some are meaner to him now, like he has no right to want to be included after all the years he did his own thing. He is rarely invited to parties or to a friend's house. He even tried a new sport to make some connections this past year, but the only real connections he made were with his coaches. Recently, a friend of mine was dealing with a similar situation with her son. Another mom, one I consider a good friend, mentioned that she knew my child seemed to have difficulties in this area, as well. So she encouraged this mom to contact me so our boys could be, in theory, I realize she was probably trying to help. She saw two boys that need a friend, so voila - problem solved. My problem with it was, why wasn't her son encouraged to be friends with one or both of the boys?? Her son is actually friendly with my boy - in certain, but not all, places. I know my son feels the difference and knows he doesn't get to play with this friend at one place, but can in another. THIS IS SO WRONG.

Some of my children have been excluded over the past few years by ones our family felt were very good friends. I saw it several times, but I ignored it, hoping it was just a moody moment or a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, it kept happening. I watched my kids try over and over, brushing off their hurts and keep wanting the friendships to work. To see kids you love like your own, ones you would do anything for, treat your own children in such a way is gut wrenching. One of my kids is super resilient and walked away, knowing that other friends were out there. But one has stopped bouncing back so quickly...and that was completely unexpected. Watching a child go from being a leader, a go getter, to sitting alone all too often texting friends just to find out they are all together or seeing friends do stuff together on FB and not having been invited is a terrible feeling.  Seeing him withdraw from activities he loves and ask us to stop going to places we used to just to avoid being left out (because it happened so many times) has absolutely broken my heart. He's in self preservation mode, and I have no idea how to help him thrive again.

I've tried to pinpoint when the changes came. There is no one place. I do realize that having two babies in two years seriously  slowed down our social lives. I haven't been able to have extras over like I used to. I haven't been able to plan get togethers with friends as often as I once did. That was to be expected. But I didn't realize exactly how many things would change because of it. It seemed like when I stopped being the one to organize or host, someone else stepped up to do that...but my kids were no longer included.

I do know that people change and gain different interests. I understand not everyone will stay friends with the same people forever. But it doesn't mean I will allow my kids to be hurtful to people intentionally. I won't allow there to be five girls standing in a group and four of them talking about coming to our house for a sleepover. My daughter KNOWS what the right thing to do here is. There is always room for one more. There will be times when we can only have two friends to an event, due to transportation or cost. But my children also know they aren't to go on and on about that event in front of other kids and make them feel left out. Making someone feel less about themselves to make yourself feel better is tragic. For the hurt one, and the one doing the hurting. Why would we as parents stand by and allow this? Or encourage it? Or even worse, just ignore it?

I don't have all the answers. I'm not a perfect parent - so very far from it. But when I see my child not being compassionate toward one who may desperately need a friend, I strive to remind them of the times they've been hurt, and to remember to never make someone else feel that way. I can't protect them from every hurt. But I can teach them to learn from that hurt and be better people because of it. And sometimes, I guess that has to be enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A TOS Review: The Brinkman Adventures

A few years ago, I received a cd with the first three episodes of a new audio adventure series with the purchase of my curriculum. The series followed a homeschool family with a passion for spreading the Word and a desire to serve the Lord in their home and all over the world. Their missionary stories inspired us, the exploits of the younger ones tickled us, the concerns of the parents touched us, and the entire family drew us into their lives. The family and the episodes were The Brinkman Adventures.

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

We loved the first three episodes so much, I went ahead and bought the rest of the first season. We'd listened to the stories many, many times - so many, in fact, that our first cds are so scratched that they don't play well anymore! :) So when we had the opportunity to review Season 3, I knew the kids would be thrilled!

The Brinkmans are an all American family. The parents are deeply committed to the Lord and to each other. The kids are intelligent, insightful, and full of mischief! They have adventures wherever they go, whether it be Alaska or their own back yard. Now you may think that audio adventures are for long road trips, but you woud be mistaken! We popped the first cd into the player of the van and listened every chance we got! It takes us 15 minutes to get to church and at least that long for everywhere we go, so we would listen to a little at a time. It's funny how I'd have to pry my kids out of the van, or they would beg for me not to turn the ignition off just yet! ALL of the kids are captivated by the Brinkmans! Season three contains 12 episodes, giving you over 5 hours of entertainment. The list of episodes are:

  1. God's Mule
  2. Mountain Mover
  3. The Silent Ambassador
  4. Translating Trouble
  5. Man-up
  6. Acorns and Oaks
  7. A Saint's Story Pt. 1
  8. A Saint's Story Pt. 2
  9. Untouched
  10. Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  11. Missionary Tourist Pt. 1
  12. Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review
    Now we were surprised with the format of the adventures this time around. The first story went straight into a missionary story, with no Brinkman involvement. We were a little confused at first. We were looking forward to hearing about the family and what they were up to. However, we were drawn in very quickly. Tomas' story, the first missionary we met, was very impactful. Once we got into it, we loved it. I was very intrigued with how they wove each story into the Brinkmans' lives. Every missionary we heard from somehow had interactions with the family further down the line. It was very cool.

    The younger boys loved Man-up. Ian's coming of age story and his adventure on an iceberg with Mr. Brinkman was nail-biting at times! They wouldn't want to get out of the van that whole day! Connor's favorite story this time was Missionary Tourist. Hearing about Isis and relating it to what we see and hear in the news every day really touched him. Chloe enjoyed Translating Trouble the most. She was pulled to the character of Mikey and was so happy to see him reappear later in the episodes. I couldn't tell you which I enjoyed most, but I will tell you this: to see my children so engrossed in stories about people dedicating their lives to Jesus truly blessed my heart. No matter what path my children take - whether it be to the mission field, the business world, or their own little community - I pray that they be bold for Christ. Having them hear these stories that captivate their imagination while touching their hearts and souls will have Kingdom impact. Bringing these missionaries' stories to life not only blesses them, but it inspires the next generation of missionaries. I am thankful for the direction the Brinkman Adventures took this time around.

    ...but I'm really excited to see what happened to Aunt Sarah - what a cliffhanger!!

    You can follow the Brinkmans on the following social media:
    Wanna see what the rest of the Crew thought of the Brinkmans? Check more reviews out here:

    Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review
    Crew Disclaimer

    Thursday, October 22, 2015


    Sometimes life throws you curveballs. Sometimes you are ready for them. Other times it hits you so hard in the face, that you can't see straight. You can't even tell if it's painful at first because of the shock of the impact. Then the pain comes. The tears. The confusion. The anger. All of them mingling together until you just don't know what you feel. This is where life finds me today. Waffling between sadness and shock, anger and confusion. I just don't know...what to feel.

    A friend took her life yesterday. She'd been struggling for a very long time with physical ailments, as well as emotional issues. She left behind two very beautiful, incredible teenage girls. When I found out, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. The emotions were deep, but I didn't know what to do with them. I still don't. So many thoughts went through me, I couldn't even keep track.

    My bible study this morning was on Joseph. How he met the cupbearer and the baker in the prison. He interpreted their dreams, and he asked the cupbearer to remember him when the dream came to pass...but the cupbearer didn't remember. In his elation to return to the king and his life, he didn't remember Joseph and his assistance, his unjust imprisonment. Here is an excerpt from my study:

    "We forget others. Others forget us. But God never forgets us. Sometimes we forget that God never forgets us. But He never does. At precisely the right time, God would cause the cupbearer to remember Joseph."

    God never forgets...but my failing of forgetting is haunting me today. I didn't see her. I forgot. I knew she had many issues, and I saw her failing. I would try to be there for the girls, to fill a gap, to mentor them. But, I admit, I was angry with her. I have thought to myself many times, why can't she just get her act together and take care of them? Aren't they what's important? And even now, they never saw it that way. Through all of it, they saw the best in her and were fiercely protective of her. I stopped reaching out to her. I even blocked her on Facebook because I was sick of seeing her complain and only think of herself. Last night, I went to her page. I saw she'd been reaching out. She had posted some stuff about suicide. Said things were really tough. Tuesday night, her last post, asked if anyone out there wanted to talk...nobody responded. I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I forgot her. I didn't see her cry for help. But I will do best to learn from this. To reach out more. I will be there for her girls. I pray that they will be Josephs, not letting this world's troubles embitter them, but empower them. That they will seek Him, love Him, trust Him fully.

    God's word is there for us. He teaches us and comforts us. One nugget from my study that gives me hope on this dark day is this: "The amazing life-giving news in all of our forgetfulness is that God never forgets us! He is always working in our lives for our good and His glory, no matter our circumstances." Amen and amen. I will hold to that encouragement today, and in the many days and weeks to come.

    Friday, October 16, 2015

    A TOS Review: FishFlix Review no 2

    In today's world, we have so many choices on how to spend our time and money - especially when it comes to entertainment. Going to the movies or renting a video is a common family activity. But how often do you feel like your money was wasted or your time could have been better spent? And how often do you feel like you should have set a better example for your kids in the movie choices you make for your family? I know I have had that dilemma many times, and sometimes I think I'm ready to swear off Hollywood and the movie industry completely. Then recently, I had the opportunity to do a review for, Christian movies to inspire and entertain. I was happy to get to watch the DVD When Calls the Heart, Heart of the Family with my kids.

    FishFlix is striving to give families a wide range of entertainment possibilities that are appropriate and enjoyable for all ages. They believe the media industry is a gift from God that should be used as a way to spread His word. With this goal in mind, they have chosen to compile the best and highest quality movies and TV series that honor Christ. Review no 2

    When Calls the Heart, Heart of the Family is the adapted rendition of the popular series from famed author, Jeanette Oke. The story focuses on wealthy young schoolteacher Elizabeth Thatcher who breaks from tradition and heads west to follow her dream of making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Along the way, she makes new friendships, learns much about herself, and grows in her relationship with God. 

    In this movie (one of many in the Hallmark series), Elizabeth has just returned to Coal Valley from spending time with her family back east. She immediately volunteers to care for a neighbor's children while he travels out of town, only to be surprised at the difficult and abundant way of life of this small, motherless family. Her friend and would-be suitor, as well as Canadian Mountie Jack, comes to her rescue and assists her with the outdoor chores. More storylines of the eclectic citizens of small town Coal Valley make this an entertaining and very family friendly movie.

    I was familiar with the book series by Jeanette Oke, but it had been years since I had read them. I did not remember many of the characters or storylines, so I had to re-familiarize myself with Coal Valley. I think there were many changes and adaptations to make the movie series work, but I still enjoyed it very much. I also didn't realize how far into the series I was when we watched this. I believe this was probably the 10th installment of the Hallmark series, so I would love to watch the others and see what I missed. 

    While I was a little lost due to coming into the series so far in, I liked the movie immensely. All of the kids really enjoyed the movie as well, and they loved the "city girl gone country" storyline. We look forward to watching more of this series in the future. 

    FishFlix prides itself on providing quality, Christian family entertainment, including today's top new releases in Christian film. I plan on looking through their inventory this holiday season and making some gift purchases. This DVD was only $9.97, half off the retail price. Movies from the first season are only $5 - I suggest you look here for your Christmas list, as well!

    To follow FishFlix on social media, check them out here:

    Many of my fellow reviewers received different movies from FishFlix. Check out their reviews here: Review No 2

    Crew Disclaimer

    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Crew Blog 2016 about to set sea!

    Have you ever wondered how I get my hands on all the things I review? Have you ever thought you'd be good at it, or would like a chance to try it? Well, here is your chance! The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew 2016 is about to begin the application process, and I wanted to give YOU the chance to get in on the fhn! Here is the link with much. More information. Good luck!!

    Friday, October 9, 2015

    A TOS Review: Reading Kingdom

    Reading Kingdom Review

    For many children, reading can be a difficult task to master. For others, it seems that they just pick it up without any problem. As of now, I have taught four children to read, all using the same technique and program. That is one reason I was glad to review Reading Kingdom's program, Reading Kingdom Online, a new online Learn to Read program for ages four to ten years old.

    Reading Kingdom Review

    Reading Kingdom teaches reading proficiency up to a third grade level. According to the Department of Education, only one out of three children is considered a proficient reader. It is the most important skill that we can teach our children, and yet so many are falling short. Reading Kingdom is dedicated to teaching children to read in a nonthreatening, entertaining environment that makes learning this necessary skill seem like fun and games. 

    While most reading programs are phonics based, Reading Kingdom rounds out the learning with the other 5 skills necessary to achieve reading proficiency. Those skills are: sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension.

    The most interesting thing about Reading Kingdom, in my opinion, is how the program adapts to each child. First, the student takes a Skills Survey. Once the assessment of the student's reading and writing skills is complete, the computer places the student exactly at the point that the student needs to be. There is no relearning information they already have learned, and there is no frustration with being introduced to skills he or she is not ready to learn.

    Caleb is a second grader, and a fairly good reader. However, he is definitely all boy, and taking the time to sit down to read for fun has not been on his radar as of yet. So when we found out he would be reviewing this, I wasn't sure if it was going to be a very good fit. Well, Caleb has been using Reading Kingdom for a month now, at least 4 days a week. He is loving it! The Skills Survey placed him, and on he went. There is a key word to each lesson, and I admit, this had me wondering what exactly we had gotten ourselves into. It seemed so basic, and I felt like he was doing more to improve typing skills than reading. I felt he was placed in a level much too low simply because his typing wasn't quick enough, and I thought he'd be very frustrated. But as I watched him progress through the "games", I saw how much content he was absorbing, such as:

    • letter recall
    • word recognition
    • phonemic awareness
    • capitalization
    • punctuation
    • and so much more!

    While, yes, being placed on a lower level was a bit of a frustration, I can now see that it was for the best. He can read words much more difficult than what he is working through. But since he isn't bored and is thoroughly enjoying the program, I haven't deemed it necessary to manually move him up a level. I believe that the content reviewed has been excellent, and the skills being taught will serve him well. And he is definitely getting more familiar with where the letters are found on the keyboard!

    We have a lot more to learn about this program, but what I've seen so far has been excellent. I am happy we had the chance to review Reading Kingdom. It is not something I would have looked at for Caleb, simply because I would have thought a program that taught reading wouldn't be necessary for a child who is already reading well. But I am so glad he is able to sharpen his skills, improve  upon what he already knows, and even progress in other areas. I am looking forward to seeing how much more he learns on the next levels of the program.

    To follow Reading Kingdom on social media, check them out here:

    To read what other TOS Reviewers thought of Reading Kingdom, see more reviews here:

    Reading Kingdom Review

    Crew Disclaimer