Saturday, March 28, 2015

Happy me!

It's been a great day. My nieces called me to wish me a Happy Birthday. Chloe made me a beautiful birthday card. We got to go shopping, just the girls. LOL, Cadie's first "girl's day!" :) We bought a new board game and brought it home to play with the boys. It is a lot of fun, and I hope it becomes a favorite with the kids. We didn't do a whole lot, but it was just a nice, relaxing day.

Tonight, we went to see "Do You Believe?" with the Elders, then to TGIFridays for dinner. It was the first time Kelly had really gotten to spend any time with them, and we all had a great time together. It was so much fun to simply visit and enjoy getting to know one another better. Kelly said he'd like to have them over soon for a barbecue. It's hard, sometimes, with his work schedule for us to make connections with other families. He misses out on a lot, and sometimes I think he feels like we live a life separate from him. I was so happy that he and Mike clicked because he and Gloria have become great friends to me, as well as their boys.

The movie was just amazing! I was very disappointed that this one hasn't gotten the publicity that "God's Not Dead" received. Personally, I liked it even better! It is definitely a must see for the entire family. No language, no sex, nothing inappropriate at all. How refreshing!

I'm feeling blessed as I go through my Facebook page. Almost 200 people left me birthday blessings and well wishes. I get a little teary thinking of all the people I know, how many from the past and present, that have shared life with me. It's impossible to keep up on a regular basis with a lot of them, but this day made them stop and think of me for a moment. I hope they thought of a sweet memory we made, because that's what I did. This evening gave me a little time to sit back and reflect. How amazing God is to see the people we need in our lives, to weave our stories together, to keep us in each other's hearts even when life takes us in different directions. I have so many blessings in my life, and I have Him to thank for every single one of them. It's been a great birthday!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fairy Tales Brought to Life

Chloe and I went to see the new Cinderella movie tonight - wow! We both loved it! Cate Blanchett was fantastic, evil and horrid while looking absolutely stunning. Lily James was a beautiful, sweet, but strong heroine that shone with virtue from the inside out. Many vibrant characters made this a memorable story indeed.

It was surprisingly true to the Disney cartoon that we all grew up with. However, this version gave us more depth and insight to Ella's character by focusing in the beginning on her and her parents. One of the most inspiring moments of the movie, that carried the theme throughout, was her mother's dying advice to "Have courage and be kind."

Have courage and be kind. What does that look like? In the face of adversity, stay strong. In the moments of ridicule, stay silent. In the times of abuse, stay true to yourself. And always extend grace and courtesy - not because they deserve it, but because you can. This Cinderella was truly stronger than any I've ever found. I've often been told that meekness was the same as weakness. But Ella shows us that a meek and humble heart is a discipline not always easily honed. To be kind to those who mistreat you certainly takes more strength and courage than most people have.

It was a great movie, one that I look forward to watching again with the family. Chloe and I had a great time, just us girls, and I'm so happy that we got a night to ourselves to see this girly movie...Oh! And her ballgown was to die for! It reminded me of a certain dress a little princess used to have around here... ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

May the Luck O' the Irish Be With Ya

Happy St. Paddy's day to you all! We have had a great day getting ready for co-op, picking out our green, and remembering our (Daddy's) Irish roots. The Quinns are proud to be part Irish, and I love being married into the lot of them!

Kelly always enjoys it, too. Bob often shares an Irish prayer or poem with the family, and I love hearing him talk about his grandfather and his adventure to find freedom in America. I am so thankful that he is here to pass on our children's heritage to them.

So while you were worried about whether or not you were going to be pinched, I remembered the blessing of this wonderful family I married into, and the country from where they hailed. I'll leave you with an Irish prayer:

If you want a short history on the holiday of St. Patrick's day, you can enjoy this little video - courtesy of Bob and Larry! Veggie Tales St. Patrick

And here is one of my most favorite songs. Enjoy the beautiful pictures of Ireland! Danny Boy

Monday, March 16, 2015

A TOS Review: The Critical Thinking Co.

Critical Thinking Company Review

"Hmmm. This is different, Mom. Not bad different, but really different. What's it supposed to be teaching me?" Lol, this was Canon's first reaction to The Critical Thinking Co.'s math software download, Math Analogies level 2. He had never seen an analogy before, and he was intrigued. Being an average but eager math student, I was excited to introduce him to analogies. His mind works in interesting ways, and I love watching him go about a problem to see how he will solve it. It is rarely how I expect him to, but most of the time, he succeeds.

Critical Thinking Company Review

I'm sure you remember what analogies Well, see if this sounds familiar: "This goes to this as that goes to that." Yes, the dreaded section on standardized tests that most people chewed through half their pencil stash on. (Actually, I'm kind of a nerd - I enjoyed them!)

The Critical Thinking Co. has developed a basic program introducing students to these analogies. They started out simple, but gradually ramped up to some pretty difficult analogies. I will admit, I got stumped a few times myself. Canon is a fifth grader, and he had not seen all the math concepts that were covered, but he always gave it his best shot. I was pleased with his interest level and comprehension of the material.

Some pros to the program:
  • It gave Canon a first time look in a non-threatening way to a math process that intimidates many adults.
  • It showed me some areas that we will need to work on in the future.
  • It was a great change of pace right in the middle of a winter slump and gave us something to look forward to in our school day.
  • Canon enjoyed the extra screen time - he doesn't get to do a lot on Mom's laptop!

Some cons to the program:
  • It did not give you any idea what grade level you were working through. I felt the content was a bit higher than Canon was ready for.
  • There were no solutions or explanations when Canon got a problem wrong. As I said earlier, some of the analogies were on concepts he'd not had yet, thus had no experience or ideas on how to solve them.
  • When Canon was in the first attempt set, he had a success rate of 84% at problem 100. Then he declined to a 66%. I assumed they were getting harder or increasing in grade level. However, when we went to the second attempt, it was a random selection of what had been covered in the first attempt set. The second attempt only had 51, the 3rd attempt had 16, and the 4th attempt had 6; the percentages then didn't really give me any certainty that he had improved or understood what he had done correctly.

Overall, I was glad to show Canon what analogies were. We live in a state where standardized tests are not required, so I hadn't even introduced them to him yet. It was fun and eye opening, and I'm glad we were chosen for this review. I am looking forward to going through it again in a few months after he has completed his 5th grade math and see how he does then. It was good practice for him to use his critical thinking skills - always a good thing!

If you would like to connect with or follow The Critical Thinking Co., you can do so here:
The Critical Thinking Co. has many other products that my fellow Review Crew members were allowed to investigate. See what the other reviewers thought here:

Critical Thinking Company Review

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Love

My childhood friend Laura lost her husband Monday morning. My friend Dianna and I went to the visitation together last night. I am still in shock. They had had a very busy weekend, were ready to start their busy week, and suddenly, he was gone. Their world will never be the same. They have 3 young children. There are no words to cover the sorrow I feel for them.

My husband is a wonderful man. He is hardworking, honorable, funny and so loving. But he drives me crazy! He is ornery, he speaks before he thinks, and he tracks mud onto my mopped floors every. single. time!! But what would I do without him?

I can't imagine what my friend has in store for her. She is a strong woman of faith. She is already leaning on God, trusting Him to carry her and the kids through this time. I must be mindful to check in on her in a few weeks, a month, a couple months. The sad thing about loss is that everyone around you moves on, and you are still grieving and trying to figure out what life will look like now. She needs her friends and family now, but she will continue to need them in the many months to come.

Kelly and I have been together for 20 years in June. We were married at 19 and 20. I have been a Quinn almost as long as I was a Craker. We have six beautiful children...when Cadie was being born, Kelly looked at me and said, "How did we get here? We are about to have a sixth child!" I laughed and said we were still 21 in my mind. He rolled his eyes and said his back hurt too badly to be 21. Age is a state of mind, but his body reminds him he's getting old.


I love this man with all my heart. God sent Him into my life exactly when I needed him. He was exactly what I'd prayed for, and he is exactly what I need in my life partner today. He knows how to push my buttons, but he also knows how to make me smile in any situation.  I'm not saying I won't still gripe about the muddy boot prints...but how thankful am I that they are there.

A TOS Review: Visual Learning Systems

Visual Learning Systems Review

Digital Science Online is an internet science course from Visual Learning Systems that uses videos, texts, images, graphics, and hands-on activities to engage students and teach them about the world around them.

Visual Learning Systems Review

Digital Science Online can be used as a full curriculum or as a supplement to what you use in your homeschool, or for public school students who want or need more activities and lessons in the sciences. There are two levels to DSI, the Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and the Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12). The Elementary Edition is broken down into two categories, Primary (K-2) and Elementary (3-5). We reviewed the Elementary Edition, but Chloe checked out the Secondary Edition, as well.

Visual Learning Systems Review

The Primary Level covers four subject areas: physical science, earth science, life science and health. There are 64 video lessons, each with videos ranging from 2 to 10 minutes, animations, images, and an in-depth teacher's guide. The Elementary Level covers three subjects: physical, earth and life. There are 63 video lessons in this grade level, and they are slightly longer in length and more in-depth. In the teacher's guide, you will find pretests, vocabulary sheets, hands-on activities, science experiments, writing prompts, diagrams and fun worksheets. For the teacher, there is a complete script of the video the child watched, answer keys, and much more.


I was very excited to be chosen to review Digital Science Online. I received a full year subscription to the website for all the kids and both editions. This came at the perfect time, just before I delivered Cadie. I knew my hands would be full with the new baby, as well as not feeling up to doing all their subjects. I figured this would be something they could do with or without me and keep up with science while I wasn't able to. Not to mention the fact that science is the one subject I'm most likely to skip over because it is my least favorite subject to teach.

One issue that many need to be aware of is that this is a secular, Common Core standardized curriculum. We are young earth creationist believers ourselves, so I understand that this will cause concern for many homeschoolers. There is a lot of great material used here, but they will lean toward an evolution-based belief system.  It is being offered to public school systems, so I did expect that. In the first video we watched, within the first minute, it was stated that life "appeared on earth more than 500 million years ago."

When previewing the site, I knew this was something that Canon and Caleb would especially enjoy. They are auditory and sensory learners. If they can see it and touch and have it told to them, they will remember it! That's why I love the video component of the program. They can watch an entire lesson at once, or watch the segments that the designers have broken the lesson into. For Caleb, I like the segments because he doesn't have to sit as long in front of the screen. The lessons are informative, professionally produced, age appropriate, and so much fun to watch!

Both of the boys were hesitant about the "pretests". I had to let them know right away that this was not a graded part of the assignment, but a chance for them to know what they knew about the subject they were about to watch. Then after the video and the posttest, they would be able to see what all they learned on the subject. They really liked that, especially Caleb. We covered a few topics he had never heard of, and was sad about that during the pretest. But after the posttest, he grinned so big and said, "Mom, look at all the questions I know the answers to now!" He was excited to "see" what all he had learned in such a short time! I love it when they are excited about their learning!

I have to admit, because of the new baby, we didn't utilize any of the hands-on projects. But I am looking forward to using many of the materials now that we are back to a (semi) regular schedule. We also haven't had a working printer for the last couple weeks, so they weren't able to use all that worksheets. We improvised, did the tests orally and just looked at them on the computer.

Overall, I think we will use segments of DSI in our homeschool. I know Canon and Caleb will definitely enjoy it as we go along. I will be viewing the video scripts prior to assignments for evolutionary content. The annual subscription for homeschoolers is $99.99, so it is cost effective for four students. I look forward to seeing what learning adventures await us!

If you want to connect with Visual Learning systems, you can here:

Many of my fellow TOS Reviewers got to use DSI, as well. To read their comments, click here:

Visual Learning Systems Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A TOS Review: Egglo Entertainment

Egglo Entertainment Review
The kids and I were excited to receive our package from Egglo Entertainment. We received a great bunch of products:

Egglo Entertainment is a business started by a mom who wanted to keep her and her children's hearts and minds focused on Jesus through the Holy Weekend. Her idea began at her own church when they hosted a nighttime Easter egg hunt with flashlights and just grew from there. Now there is an entire line of products to help families celebrate and share the light that Jesus brought into the world.

It's important to know that the Eggs need time in the sunlight to "charge up". They absorb light in order to glow in the dark. Unfortunately, we have been in short supply of sunlight around here lately, so I used the alternative - our kitchen lights. I left them under our kitchen lights for an hour as recommended, and they barely glowed that evening. The light emitted was extremely dim. So we tried again the next day outside. Much better! It was too cold to have the hunt outside, so we covered up Chloe's window and had a hunt in her room and walk-in closet. It was a lot of fun, and Castle was very impressed with the shining eggs! :)

Charge them in the sunlight for the best results

"Shiny egg!"

We read The Eggscellent Easter Adventure one evening together.

Egglo Entertainment Review

The story is about Hardy, his sister Ana, their cousin Pascal, and their dog Zeke. They are caught up in the excitement of candy and the coming egg hunt, and they are too busy bickering to remember the real reason for the celebration. When they go to the attic to look for something to do while waiting for the hunt, they are swept up into a grand adventure filled with excitement, life lessons, and the light of Jesus. They are transformed by the message of Jesus' resurrection. My kids really enjoyed the story, even the 13 year old! He said later that he'd really enjoyed the message of the book. I was glad to know that he got it. Sometimes we all get caught up in the worldly aspects of the holidays, and that's not all bad. But when it takes the focus off Jesus, it becomes a real problem and taints the beauty of the celebration. This book and these eggs reminds us to focus on what Jesus did for all of us, and to share this revelation with others.

The little scrolls and stickers fit nicely into the eggs. There are many other things you can order to fill your eggs on the Egglo website. Always a good alternative to candy, and it's sharing God's word in a real and fun way!

I expect there to be many indoor and outdoor hunts in the coming days...taking one of their favorite Easter traditions and using it to share Jesus with family and friends is something they are looking forward to, and so am I. I plan on having a hunt with my AWANA kids this weekend and reading the book to them, as well. I will definitely use it again with the kids and their cousins on Easter night, too.

Having fun with the eggs

Little scrolls with God's word
"See my sticker?"

The curriculum event guide is full of so many ideas and supplies, I can't even begin to utilize all that I want to. It has over 60 pages of ideas for games, snacks, coloring pages, invitations, and so much more. This would be a great tool if you are hosting a large event for your church. Egglo also offers multiple discounts for bulk orders!

Egglo Entertainment Review

When I first saw the prices, I was a little concerned. Ten dollars for twelve eggs seemed a little high to me. But when I used them with the kids and saw how much they loved them, I knew it would be a good purchase to use again and again. The book is fun, lighthearted, and carries valuable lessons the the kids really took to heart. And the scrolls and stickers are just so cute! I believe it is an investment that you won't regret.

If you want to follow Egglo, connect with them, or do your own research, you can find more info here:

Many of my fellow Review Crew members reviewed the products, too. Check out their opinions here:

Egglo Entertainment Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Buster Brown

How is it possible that my baby boy is 7? Wait, he's not the baby anymore...hasn't been for a long time...but I still think of Caleb as my baby. I can't believe how quickly time is flying by with this one, and all of them, to be honest.

Caleb is a feisty boy. He is chock full of orneriness, just like his daddy. I didn't know Kelly at this age - we didn't meet till high school - but whenever Caleb flashes me that crinkle-nosed grin, I can just imagine his daddy doing the same thing as a child. He is funny, a daredevil, always pushing the boundaries...but truly has me wrapped around his little finger - again, just like his daddy! ;)

All Caleb has wanted for his birthday this year was a day at Skyzone. We went over Christmas break, and it's all he has talked about since! I told him I would take him and one friend, but we were not booking a party because of the expense. He was just fine with that, or so he said. Like I said, my boy is full of orneriness...

We got home from co-op last Tuesday, and I had 3 messages from some friends asking about Caleb's party...what?!? It seems that my son told everyone in his class, and some friends in other classes, that he was going to Skyzone for his birthday, and everyone was invited! Oh, my goodness, I was flabbergasted! These moms were curious as to why they hadn't heard from me, so I went ahead and sent out a group message on Facebook. It went something like this: Yes, Caleb's turning 7 next Tuesday. Yes, I am taking him and a friend to McDonald's and Skyzone after co-op. Yes, of course you are all welcome to join us, but we have not booked a party...yep. The boy knows how to put me in a pickle! All the moms understood, and many of them said they'd love to join us. So, what was going to be my son and a buddy turned into this:

And this:

And I don't think everyone is in the pictures! LOL, he got a party, to say the least...and everyone brought presents, which I did not anticipate! My boy...he even talked me into two cakes - how does he do it?? We planned on doing a cookie cake to take to co-op. But then he saw this cool cake that I'd tagged Connor in on Facebook, not thinking we'd be making it any time soon. Well, he batted his eyes at big brother and asked him if that could be his birthday cake. Connor was up for trying it, with my help of course, so off we went to the store for ingredients. Here is the crazy cake:

He even managed to lose his two front teeth on his birthday week. So not only did he get presents, he also ended up with a wad of cash!! Even a couple buddies gave him quarters because he lost both in the same week. I guess that's impressive to a group of six year old boys.

So here's to my Buster Brown. He is the red-headed, freckle-faced, joy of my heart. I love every minute of being his mama. There is never a dull (or quiet) moment around this boy, and I can't wait to see how the Lord uses the neverending energy that He has filled him with. It's gonna be good, I'm sure of it. Happy 7th Birthday, Bus! Mama loves you to the moon and back again.