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Twas the Evening of Christmas | Review and Giveaway

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I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Christmas is coming!

With Christmas comes all the feels and wants of making this the most wonderful time of the year, and in our home, there are three ways we make that happen: books, traditions, and beauty.

Christmas Is a Great Time for Books

When you think of Christmas books, what comes to mind? Go ahead… I’ll give you a second.

I have a list of books, which I will share with you next month, that come to mind for me. But now on that list are two books by author Glenys Nellist.

Last year, Mrs. Nellist wrote a beautiful book, Christmas Love Letters from God, which filled every one of my personal requirements of a good, solid Christmas book. It now has permanent residence in our Christmas book basket. This year, Glenys has outdone herself… again. She has taken a well- loved classic Christmas poem, and created a beautiful version of her own, charmingly retelling the biblical account of the Christmas story.

Twas the Evening of Christmas demonstrates Glenys’s ability for taking a story, setting it to rhythmic poetry, and letting the words paint a picture on their own. As I read the story to my children, the words flowed so easily, and I couldn’t wait to read the next page to see how she would retell each part of the story in the way only she could.

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Christmas Is a Great Time for Traditions

As each Christmas rolls around, I want my children to expect specific recurrences. I want there to be expectations in their hearts that I can fulfill. Reading certain books under the tree during the evenings in December is something I want my children look forward to. Twas the Evening of Christmas is one of those books that will continue to be read year after year, and one day will be read to the next generation as well.

Christmas is a visual treasure

When I think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is what Christmas looks like. Twinkling lights, beautifully decorated trees, full evergreen garlands, large green wreathes, and wrapping paper in every color and print imaginable. The images of Christmas leave as much of an impression as the smells and sounds do.

One of my favorite aspects of Glenys’s books, outside of her skillful authorship, is the illustrators she chooses to tell the visual story. Whether you are looking at her books for toddlers and preschoolers, her Love Letters books, or her newest book, Twas the Evening of Christmas, her illustrators tell the story with artistic beauty.

Elena Selivanova has done an amazing job of illustrating Twas the Evening of Christmas. There is such a nostalgic look to her art, and it fits this book so perfectly. When I asked my children which illustrations they loved the most, each chose something different. Ian, 6, loved the illustrations of the Baby Jesus. Addie, 9, loved all of the illustrations depicting the animals.

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I want to send a huge thank you to Zondervan for sponsoring this giveaway so you can possibly win your very own copy of this visually beautiful, beautifully written book, Twas the Evening of Christmas. I hope you take the time to enter the giveaway below.

Note: This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address (no PO boxes).

Next week, Shawn Howell at Prayer Lights will be sharing her review. I look forward to tuning in to hear what she has to say!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Worth More than Rubies | Proverbs 31 Series

My mother’s favorite passage of scripture when it came to teaching my sister and me about being women of God was Proverbs 31:10-31.  I am always amazed at how we can read the same passages of scripture in different seasons throughout our lives and have it speak to us in various ways as we pass from one stage to another.

At one time in our lives, these verses were just preparation verses for the kind of women and wives we were to be. We were able to put some of the verses into practice that dealt with our character and relationships with society in general, but the verses that dealt with husbands and children needed to be waited on until God brought us into that time.

The verse I have been reflecting on for the last week has been Proverbs 31:10, “An excellent wife who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (NIV) I love the King James Version of this verse, “Who can find a virtuous woman? because her worth is far above rubies.” Rubies are a beautiful, rare gem, making them extremely valuable.

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How can we as women be rubies?

My Mom used to say, “You can walk outside and find rocks and pebbles anywhere, but you can’t just walk outside and find a ruby.” A ruby must be searched for and does not come cheaply.

For unmarried women, this speaks to character. Are you the kind of woman that is a carbon copy of the others around you, or are you someone that sees yourself as being valuable to God and therefore to others as well? Do you conduct yourself with dignity and modesty? In other words, are you living in a way that will not leave you with regret tomorrow or even later in life?

For married women, the question becomes, how can I be an excellent wife? What changes do I need to make to achieve excellence? I am forever working on the last two questions.

If we are ever to grow spiritually, or just in general, we need to constantly ask ourselves those questions. If we don’t, we will stay in a state of status quo and become stagnant as a woman or wife. If we ever believe that we have achieved excellence, we will come across as being prideful and arrogant.

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I know I will never achieve perfection, but I can strive for excellence in everything I do:

  • laundry… and it keeps coming.
  • housekeeping… do you ever feel like you are putting beads on a string without a knot on the end?
  • childrearing… so rewarding, but so demanding if you are choosing to be a proactive parent.
  • cooking… no burned meals.
  • gardening… sigh… that’s just not my thing, but I can keep the Lantana cut back and the bushes looking neat and in order.
  • grocery shopping… keep those coupons coming!

How will you strive for excellence in the place God has put you for now?

Years ago, I heard a lesson which discussed how everything we do can be an act of worship to God. The teacher brought up all of the mundane, everyday chores and responsibilities we as adults, spouses, and/or parents have- mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, washing the laundry, going to work- and how our view of them needs to change.

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We need to see these everyday tasks as an act of reverent worship to God. 

When we look at our homes and the things we do for the people inside them as an act of worship to the Lord, our attitude and outlook changes. We are no longer doing these things because we have to. We begin doing them as a way to honor the Lord.

When we change the focus of Who we are working for, it will automatically change our attitudes towards our homes, husbands, and children to one of worship and excellence.

Excellence in caring for the homes that God has provided for us.

Excellence in caring for the husband He has blessed us with.

Excellence in raising and caring for the children He has entrusted to us.

Dear woman, as you think about this verse today and throughout the week, I would encourage you to think of yourself as a ruby, a treasure, a woman of great value and allow that to be reflected in everything you put your hands to do.

During this series, I am going to challenge you to memorize the entire section of Proverbs 31:10-31. We will only memorize one verse per week, making this challenge doable for us. It will also give us something to meditate on as we ask God to refocus our hearts to become the woman He wants us to be.

This week, memorize Proverbs 31:10.

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hurricane-irma

Catching Up After the Emotional Stress of an Event

On September 10, 2017, the state of Florida waited in varying degrees of time as Hurricane Irma made a slow but powerful approach to our coast. She had already spent the previous week moving her way towards us while devastating some of the islands in the Caribbean. Knowing she was approaching gave us about a week to prepare… and worry. No one knew what would actually happen when she hit, but the general consensus was that we wanted her to stay off the east coast of Florida and eventually dissipate in the open waters of the Atlantic.

On the Tuesday before Irma hit, I took my kids to Sam’s Club for a few extra supplies in case the storm actually came in our direction. I decided to join the twenty or so cars waiting in line to top off their tanks with gas and prayed there would still be some when I pulled up. For me, that Tuesday was the day the emotional stress began building.

Over the next few days, Irma changed course several times. We could see the effects of the prayers from many in the state as she decreased in strength by the time she arrived in our neck of the woods. When she finally hit us at 2:00 a.m. Monday morning, God had miraculously changed her course multiple times so that our family only experienced a Category 1 hurricane, sustained no damage of property, and stayed safe during the entire ordeal. We lost a tree in the backyard, but it was one I didn’t want anyway, so even that worked to our advantage.

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While some are having to recover from Irma in a very drastic way- rebuilding their homes, picking up the pieces, receiving government assistance for lost food due to the extended loss of electricity- some of us are having to catch up and recover in other ways.

At our Classical Conversations co-op last week, a mom and I were discussing how hard it had been to get back into the school rhythm we had been in before the storm.

School schedules were thrown off as many kids in the state had school canceled for more than a  week.

Home schedules were tossed out as husbands had to stay home from work due to county wide curfews to keep drivers off the roads in order clear them.

Housework was pushed to the side as our normal changed for a few days.

A hurricane is not the only thing that can turn a home and schedule upside down. Loss of a loved one, a move, a new baby, or a major life event are all life jarring events that can throw a monkey wrench into a schedule for a temporary period in time. How do we get past these moments and come back to our normal?

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Housekeeping

Usually when it is time to get back to our “normal,” things have gotten out of hand- it’s just the nature of a major event to disrupt most areas of life. Don’t let housekeeping overwhelm you. Yes, we want our homes to be clean and back to a sense of normalcy, but after a major event, allow yourself to take it slow. Get back on track by making your home livable again, one room at a time, because life isn’t going to stop or slow down while you clean your house.

Purge

Sometimes, a major event is a perfect time to do a total home purge. I thought I had a pretty simple home until it was time to move things in from outside and move things around inside the house. It was eye opening how much excess I didn’t realize had crept in.

Slow down

The emotional toll taken by a major event is even more taxing than we give it credit for. For weeks after Irma, I found myself exhausted and wanting to sleep but not understanding why. After talking to other women, I found that I wasn’t alone. The emotional toll of a week of preparation, watching to see where the storm would hit, battening down the hatches, long term planning for a projected disaster, and then having to move on was more emotionally tiring than I expected. Take the time to stay home and rest. Don’t feel obligated to pack your schedule and live as you did before your event. Take your time in getting back to where you were. You may even find that you enjoy the rest and peace more than the busy.

Life events will happen. How we choose to catch up after them will determine how quickly and well we are able to resume our new normal. Remember to move at your own pace and speed. It’s not a race. It’s life.

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back-to-school

4 Simple Back to School Ideas and Traditions

Back to school time comes with so much excitement and anticipation, but sometimes, also, with a feeling of dread and anxiety.

For some, new classes, new teachers, new clothes, new friends, and a brand new year to grow and learn are reasons to wake up ready to go on the first day of school, while for other kids, those same reasons bring anxiety levels to a breaking point.

Going from 3rd to 4th grade was a bit of a transition for Addie (we homeschool using Classical Conversations). She knew the work load was going to increase as would the difficulty, so she was not particularly thrilled to start school this year. Ian, on the other hand, was starting Kindergarten- seriously, what’s not to love about Kindergarten! He couldn’t wait to start school!

I found that these four ideas, which have become traditions for us, help bring a sense of excitement to the first week of school. And, yes, we allow ourselves a week to celebrate.

Photo

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I have always taken a photo of the first day of school (like every mother out there!), but this was the first time I printed out signs for it. It will be neat (and heartbreaking) to put Ian’s “First Day of Kindergarten” and “First Day of 12th Grade” photos side by side one day.

We took these photos the day before we began school (because it was Sunday and we were already dressed up) so we wouldn’t take any time away from our actual first day of school.

If you want a copy of these signs for yourself, you can find them here at Homeschooling’ Mama.

Questionnaire

I love the idea of asking kids the same questions year after year. What better way to see their growth than by how their answers change!

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This year, I scoured the internet looking for a few questions that the kids could answer, and I posted Ian’s answers on Facebook. These are the questions I chose to ask them:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite show?
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?

Every year, I will ask those same questions. And I am sure that every year the answers will change in some way.

Special dinner

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One night during “Back to school” week we make an effort to either go out to dinner or have food brought in. It gives everyone something to look forward to (including Mom), and time around the table always lends itself to opportunities for great conversations.

Special breakfast

My son goes to sleep asking “What’s for breakfast?”

Knowing how important it is for kids to have a great breakfast (especially on the first day of school), I try to make breakfast something they will really enjoy. Some years, I have made their toast look like a bear with cream cheese, a few banana slices, and raisins. but this year we went with cinnamon rolls… because I know it’s a family favorite.

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However you choose to celebrate the first day or week of school, be sure to only take on what is comfortable and doable for you and your situation. Then, sit back and know you have added a brick to the foundation of love in your children’s hearts.

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The Simplest Possible Chore System for Kids

Chores… they are a necessary part of life, but they can also be a tedious task… and, in all honesty, sometimes teaching our children to help us can take more time than we are willing- or want- to give.

I mean, really, we can do the job faster and with more skill than they can, but by not taking the time to teach them how to help with the chores, we are depriving our children of the opportunity to learn how to be a contributing member of the family and, eventually, their own home, and in the long run, we are also depriving ourselves of the extra hands needed to make light work.

I am always looking for a good way to give our children a list of expectations for their assistance in our home, but I found that if I make out a nightly list for them, I get a little carried away and add too much to their list. If I print out a chore list online, many times it doesn’t apply to us.

One evening this past winter, I sat down and wrote out a list of the absolute musts that needed to be done on a weekly basis and divided them up between the easy (kid stuff) and the difficult (mom stuff). Then I divided the kid chores between the kids- some I even had them share so they would have to work together (another valuable life skill).

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Making these cards was very simple.

I went into the power point program on my computer (Keynote for Apple users), found a layout I liked, and worked from there. I used the complete template and didn’t change anything about it. I added a picture of the child the card would belong to and which 5 chores they would be assigned each day.

Each day has 4 of the same tasks and one different chore. It’s the daily change up that keeps them going… and their picture… and the fact that they can use a dry erase marker to cross off each task they complete (because who doesn’t like crossing something off, right?).

Our daily tasks are:

  • 4 things (which you can read more about here)
  • Empty the dishwasher (Addie handles upper cabinet dishes, Ian handles safe silverware and lower cabinet dishes)
  • Help fold/put away laundry
  • Read & play for 30 minutes

Our daily change ups are:

  • Clean the windows
  • Vacuum the tile/Dust the baseboards
  • Wipe down the cabinets
  • Clean up/organize and area of your room
  • Pull weeds in the flower bed

After creating the files, I uploaded them to Walgreens and had them printed out as 4×6 photos. When I came home, I laminated each photo, and Addie helped me cut them out.

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Do you need to find a chore system that is computer generated or online? No!

Take some index cards, write the day of the week at the top in different colored markers, and list the chores needed for each day. That’s it! As their ability changes, you can easily make a new set of index cards. The important thing is to start small and make your chore card doable for your littles.

Just a little side note for you Mommas who have tiny ones… begin a routine now of things they can do and give it a specific name. For example, have them pick up their toys or clean up their rooms at a specific time every day or evening, and call it by a specific name (toy clean up or room pick up) every time they do the task. As they get older, you will only have to say the task name, and they will know exactly what you want them to do.

What system do you use for keeping track of your children’s chores?

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Four Tips to Becoming a Purposeful Dad

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I thought it would only be appropriate to encourage the dads out there who may be reading this! When Suzette and Faye began the blog, I remember thinking, “I sure hope I can be a purposeful Dad to my girls!”

This post is a starting point for me to become a ‘purposeful dad.’ I am nowhere near perfect and still have a lot to learn, but here are four tips this Father’s Day I’d love to share with other dads out there who may be struggling on this fatherhood journey, especially when it comes to being intentional with your children.

1. Turn everyday tasks into family tasks. You know you’re going to have to go to the grocery store at some point. You know you’re going to have to get an oil change. There are things you’re going to have to do around the house or errands that have to be run. Instead of getting stressed or frustrated when you have to take the extra time to do those things (especially if it’s on your day off), turn it into family time!

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I have turned our grocery trips into daddy-daughter time. I block off at least an hour and a half. We all get ready and head to the grocery store. First stop? The Deli. Most grocery store delis hand out a free cookie to the kids. Now my girls get a little treat, make a memory with dad AND they stay busy while I get to work on that grocery list. Don’t forget to take a selfie! Side note: this is also a good way to give my wife a break at home!

2. Look them in the eyes. The past week and a half have been absolutely crazy for our family. From church activities, to officiating a wedding in Louisiana, to preaching at a camp… all while trying to answer work emails and spend time with my in-laws while they were in town for the week at our house! I was exhausted. Of course, I would love to come home and “veg.” As a dad, I realized my kids needed ‘dad time.’ Take the moments that you do have with your kids and look them in the eyes, tell them you love them and make them feel like nothing else matters when you’re with them.

Fortunately, I was able to put them to bed one night last week. As I put them to bed, I spent time with each child. I’m talking maybe five minutes each. All I did was look them in the eyes and just talk to them! No phone. No TV. No toys. Just me and my child. I looked them in the eyes and made them feel like they were the most important person in the world for the next five minutes. My time had been short with them, but the quality of time spent with them was high engagement and lots of eye contact.

3. Watch your screen time. This is one that goes hand-in-hand with the above mentioned. Quality time with my kids involves looking them in the eyes… and not at my phone. I found an article that showed me how to check the amount of time spent on each app on my phone. I always tell myself that I am “so busy” and don’t have enough time. And yet, when I checked to see how much time I was spending on my phone with social media apps or email, I felt terrible! How could I be okay with spending four hours on Facebook in the last seven days but not spend four minutes playing a tea party with my girls!

I realize our world is almost to the point where we can use our phone or apps for almost anything we do, so I know that having your phone always on you is just a normal routine for most people. I try to push myself to leave my phone in another room (on purpose) when I play with my girls. I also have turned off all email and social media notifications. Don’t be afraid to turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ button on your phone for “phone-free playtime.” My wife has also been a HUGE help in reminding me to be present when I am home and not staring at a screen (including the TV!).

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4. Pray for your wife and kids. Whether you’re the dad that stays at home and your wife works or you go to work and your wife stays with the kids, don’t forget that the most important “bread-winner” of the family is the one praying for your family. As you lead your family, be sure to lead them spiritually as well. Pray for your wife and kids. Be the father God has called you to be.

One of the ways I remember to pray for my wife and kids is by picking a day of the week to pray for them. That way I know, if it’s Monday, it’s time to pray for my wife and kids. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar. In the evenings, I lead my family in a short prayer time where I lead the prayer. I pray for the salvation of my kids and that our family and marriage would honor God. My kids will hear me and see me pray for my family. It doesn’t happen every night of the week, but our goal is to do it almost every night!

I realize it’s tough being a dad! I still have so much to learn. There are tough days being the dad and spiritual leader of my family. I continue to push myself to be a better dad each day and follow the example of my Heavenly Father. What an honor it is to be a guest blogger this Father’s Day weekend. I hope and pray this can be a starting point for you to become a “purposeful dad.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Josh Waugh is the Associate Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Susie, have been married five years and have two beautiful daughters: Bella Grace (3) and Juliette (2). Suzette and Josh served at a church in Florida together for a season! You can follow Josh on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and blogs over at www.joshwaugh.com.

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God Moved Our Mountain

(Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.)

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23 KJV) 

Life can be filled with mountains- challenges or obstacles that stand in the way of our dreams or success. While some seem more like hills and a bit easier to conquer, there are others that just don’t seem as simple to plow through. 

Whatever the size of our mountains, though, I find that it’s often much easier for many of us to talk “about” the mountains in our lives as opposed to talking “to” them as the verse above states.

“It’s so hard to lose weight”, we tell ourselves. 

“I don’t know if I’ll get the job. So many people have applied, and I’m sure there are plenty more qualified than me.” 

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of debt. I’m having a struggle just paying my bills, and these days we’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

Yes, my friends, you know the mountains. You’ve perhaps climbed a few yourself… And some just don’t seem like they’ll ever go away… 

But what if the words in the above Bible verse were actually true? Could it be possible to see those mountains move by God’s power working through our faith and the words we speak? 

Well, one did for me…

When my husband and I first got married, we decided to start our lives together in an apartment complex beside a beautiful master community. While living in the apartments, together we’d enjoy bike rides into the neighboring community, where we not only had access to a beautiful nature trail but also were able to use the community’s clubhouse amenities for a small yearly fee. Nature-purposeful-moms-image

Over time, my husband and I began to look at buying a home and found a beautiful one right in there. At the time it was on the market as a short sale. When visiting this home for the first time, I felt a strong sense of peace that I hadn’t felt before during our house hunting experience. And it was amazing to see that both my husband and I actually had a unified agreement on this home. 

However, shortly after fixing our eyes on this home, it was taken off the market… as it began to go through the foreclosure process.

I still had my heart set on it and remember one day returning with a good friend and asking her to pray with me over it. Together we touched the door and agreed in prayer that it would come back on the market and be priced. 

After a few months of waiting, it did come back on the market, and we were thrilled. (Hey, and it even came with a jacuzzi! Can’t beat that, right?) So, very soon after, we put in our first offer. 

Yeah….And the bank rejected it.

Hm… Not enough? So, we gave another offer…

And…. Another rejection by the bank.

Not willing to give up, we put a third offer on the home…

And… (Cue the crickets!)

We heard nothing back.

So, we assumed our third offer was also rejected and finally gave up on it, having our first two offers rejected by the bank and our third offer never getting a response.

Still in the market for a home, we ended up house hunting some more.  And, finally, after not being able to find anymore homes in our ideal community within our price range, we made an offer on a home in a different community. It was a nice home and nice community but just not the home we originally wanted… Honestly, even though it was a beautiful place, we felt like we were getting our second pick (of community) and not our first. 

It’s so amazing, though, how although at times it seems as if a dream has died, God has the power to resurrect it…

Hope-restored-purposeful-momsIn fact, it’s funny as I remembered (after the fact) that God had given me a special personal word regarding our house hunting experience, and it was this… “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Little did I realize how very relevant this word would be to our situation…

…Because on the morning our offer/paperwork was to be submitted to the owners and as I got ready for work, I began to be reminded of the first home that we loved and that I had felt such a solid peace about. (It was basically out of the picture, though, from our past experiences with the bank and now with us in the current process of putting an offer on another home.)

But as I was getting ready in my bathroom… Something I’d never really done much of before happened. I began speaking directly to my mountain! 

REALLY. 

(Okay, it may sound crazy to you. And if you were a fly on the wall you might have thought it was a bit strange. But it was as if God allowed faith to rise up in me in that moment, and I started confessing out loud in my bathroom {of all places} that the house we really wanted at first would open up and the bank would accept our offer…TODAY!)

Whoa, girl… That’s a big step of faith. How do you know it’s all going to happen? Believe me, that boldness in faith and that word had to come from God because I don’t know if I really realized at the time what was actually going to transpire that very same DAY… 

So, I headed out to work to decorate and prepare my classroom before the beginning of the school year, and a little later I got a call…

It was my husband who told me that a line in the paperwork from our current offer was missing one of our signatures, so it couldn’t be submitted yet. (The fact is… Once an offer is submitted, you can’t put an offer on another home. So this was crucial to what would happen next.) 

Then, a little while later Jim called me again. This time, he told me that our realtor (who was not the main listing agent for the foreclosure house) just learned that the bank had dropped the price on the house we really wanted. They had never seen our third offer (possibly due to the main listing agent wanting the full commission on the house), and now our third offer (which the bank had never seen) was $1,000 less than our third offer.

So… Yeah…..!!!!! Needless to say, we got our dream house!

GOD HAD MOVED OUR MOUNTAIN!!!

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Yes, banks have power to say “Yes” or “No”. People have choices to agree or not agree, but something I’ve learned is that when God is in the middle of something, and He wants something good to happen…Nothing can stand in His way.

I will always remember the day God prompted me to speak to my mountain, and the amazing events that happened that day. For me, this story will always remain a encouraging testimony to share with others regarding the mountains they face… Because it’s not just me sharing a positive “reminder”, it’s actually an event that took place in my own life where I saw God at work. 

If you have any mountains in your life, no matter what they are, just know that God is much bigger than them. Take them to God in prayer… and then get ready to start speaking to them about how BIG GOD is….because even though mountains are big, they can still be moved by God’s power.

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Teach Your Child to Read

Do you have a young child at home who you would like to give an advantage to by giving him a head start in reading before he heads off to Kindergarten? Do you have a struggling young reader who you would love to help over the summer so she can tackle the new school year in the fall with confidence? Are you homeschooling and teaching your child to read for the very first time?

Yeah, me, too!

I had never taught anyone how to read before. As a 4th and then 5th grade teacher at a private Christian school, my job was to teach reading comprehension, get my students thinking about the moral implications of the day’s reading selections, and develop critical thinking skills in my students while reading a passage.

My mother had taught me how to read by the time I was two and a half years old using SRA DISTAR by Siegfried Englemann, which my father’s cousin, a New York public school teacher, had given her because her school was throwing it out. I remember the spiral bound books and games my mother would play with me using the books.

Right before Addie turned one, I saw a commercial for the Your Baby Can Read series. I bought it, and faithfully sat with Addie every day to watch the videos, play the games, look through the books, and review with the flash cards. Within 6 months, she did learn to recognize what each card said, but she was unable to translate her knowledge outside of the cards, videos, and books. (The series is now called Your Baby Can Learn.)

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We began watching the LeapFrog: Letter Factory and in no time at all Addie began recognizing her letters and the sounds they made. By the time we began Kindergarten, she could read small words. The curriculum we were using at the time (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools) had a reading program that required a lot of writing. She became frustrated, and reading became a dreaded subject for us both.

 

Mid year, I switched her over to A Handbook for Reading, Phonics Textbook (A Beka Book Reading Program) which gave her the phonics foundation she needed. The pages had colors and fun pictures and the words were grouped in easy to read sections. But she still had no confidence in picking up a book and reading it.

Frustrated with reading and having passed my self-imposed timeline for teaching my daughter how to read, I began asking my father if he remembered which reading program my mother had used with me. After a few phone calls and emails back and forth he remembered the initials SRA. I began researching and discovered that the program my mother used for me was still around, just under a different name- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I ordered it and began working with Addie as soon as it came in.

The lessons are designed to be 20 minutes long- perfect for little ones who have short attention spans. Each lesson covers more than just reading. Children are taught to sound out words by “saying it slow” and then reading words by “saying it fast.” They also learn the concept of rhymes and how to make up rhyming words through daily oral exercises. They are also taught how to write the letters they are learning to sound out in each given lesson. Sound blends like “th” and “ch” are visually attached to teach children how the sound works.

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Lessons are taken in small steps. For example, the first two lessons only teach the sounds for “m” and “s”. The type for the sounds to be read is nice and large making reading less intimidating for children. (That had been Addie’s biggest issue. She would only read books that had large type in them because she was afraid of reading small type words.)

As the book progressed, I found myself splitting lessons in half. They could be a bit intense the further into the book you journeyed. I had to remind myself that the goal was for my daughter to be able to read with confidence and understanding- not finish the book in 100 days.

One particular thing I loved about the book was that as we reached the last quarter of the book, the type gradually became smaller as the stories became longer. Addie never noticed the size change.

The evidence that she could finally read above her grade level with confidence and speed came one evening as I was preparing to review her Awana verses with her. I opened up to what I thought was a new verse, and she responded, “Oh, I already know that verse.” She then began reciting it to me complete with reference. I asked how she had learned it, and her answer was, “I read it, Mom.”

Within a few months of completing Teach Your Child to Read, she picked up our copy of Now We Are Six and read it in two days. I wasn’t sure about her understanding of the book, but when she told me about the poems she was reading, I knew she understood.

We have used a combination of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, and The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer for Ian (the 5 year old entering Kindergarten this fall). I noticed that going to the same book day after day causes his interest to wane, so we change it up often to keep his enthusiasm up.

At this point in our reading journey, having enough books on hand is my biggest challenge.

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celebrate-ordinary-days-summer

Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Summer Edition- Part One

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Although Summer vacation has already started for some and will soon be starting for others, the official beginning of summer happens on June 21.

Here in Florida, summer means more time at the beach, sunscreen, sand, afternoon thunderstorms, more freedom to go out, and patriotic celebrations. The way we think of our northern friends during the fall and winter, they think of us during the summer.

I look forward to the summer because there are so many ways to make simple memories and traditions that our children will remember for many years to come.

Although we do not need to fill every moment of our summer with an activity or special over-the-top activity for our children (boredom is a good thing!), here are some upcoming days that we plan on celebrating or recognizing in passing throughout our summer. If you are looking for more days that your family might enjoy, check out National Day Calendar. There are so many “national” days, it is impossible to list them all here.

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Jun 21- First Day of Summer- This is the day with the most daylight hours, so to celebrate, we are staying up till the sun goes down. How will you celebrate?

June 21- National Selfie Day- Gather those kiddos together, and if hubby is available grab him, too, and smile big for the camera!

June 23- National Pink Day- Since as far back as I can remember, my girl’s favorite color has been pink (for a really short time, purple was thrown in there… but that was very short lived), so finding a day to celebrate this color was pretty exciting.

June 26- National Beautician’s Day- Those people who are dedicated to keeping us looking our best need a bit of recognition. This is also a great day to teach our children to show gratitude to others.

 June 26- National Chocolate Pudding Day- This  day lends itself to an easy snack idea.

celebrate-ordinary-days-summerJune 27- National PTSD Day- During my research for special days, I noticed that from Memorial Day thru the end of summer there are many patriotic observances and holidays. Today is a great way to bring awareness to our children that some of our soldiers have returned home with wounds that cannot be seen. It’s a great way to round out the honoring and observances of these patriotic days.

June27- National Sunglasses Day- Does your child own a pair of sunglasses? If not, today would be the perfect day to gift them an inexpensive pair to shield their eyes from the sun this summer.

June 28- National Paul Bunyan Day- Do your kids know about the Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox Babe? If not, why not show them a cartoon or read a book to them about this famous lumberjack legend.

June 29- National Handshake Day- Do you appreciate a good, hearty handshake? Give your kiddos a lesson in greeting others with a good handshake.

June 29- National Bomb Pop Day- Why wait for the 4th of July to enjoy these red, white, and blue treats? Grab a box and go outside to enjoy these with your family… let’s be honest, it’s more for the clean up aspect than for the fresh air.

June 30- National Meteor Watch Day– Go outside after dark, look to the skies, and see how many meteors you can count.
celebrate-ordinary-days-summerJuly 1- National Postal Worker Day- Have your kids write a card or if you can, leave a small gift for your postal worker. Day in and day out, they bring our mail to us. It’s a great way to show a little appreciation for their service.

First Saturday in July- Hop-a-Park Day- Do you have a local park you enjoy going to? Hop-A-Park day is designed to get families out of the house, away from technology, and enjoying the great outdoors together.

Jul 4- Independence Day- Get out and celebrate the declaration of our country’s independence. Until it’s time for us to get together with our family and friends, we have a Liberty Kids marathon where our children see and hear the struggle for our country’s independence alongside the young characters portrayed in the show. In the evening, after we have returned home or our guests have gone and the kids have gone to bed, Brian and I watch The Patriot together. It’s a tradition, and always makes us thankful for those who fought and died and are continuing to fight for our nation’s freedom.

July 7- National Father Daughter Take a Walk Day- Imagine the forever memories that can be made when our daughters take an annual walk with their fathers. Imagine the changes in topics that will occur over the years. And before they go on their walk, be sure to snap a picture… and take one each year so you can see the growth and change in both of them.

July 7- National Macaroni Day- Grab that box of macaroni, some paint, glue, and string and let your children’s imagination soar! You may even want a second box to use in your dinner plans!

July 9- National Sugar Cookie Day- Gather your children and baking supplies in the kitchen, and make a batch of sugar cookies. Then settle down with a book (If You Give a Mousse a Cookie is a good choice) and enjoy your freshly made cookies.

July 11- National Blueberry Muffin Day- Blueberries are a summertime staple. Find your favorite blueberry muffin recipe (mine is from this cookbook) and bake up a batch or two.

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July 11- National Cheer Up the Lonely Day- After you bake your muffins, you may consider taking some to someone you know who may be lonely- a senior saint, a widow, or an empty nester- and bring them some cheer.

July 11- National 7 Eleven Day- Don’t forget to go out and pick up your free slurpee at 7 Eleven! It’s been a summer tradition in our family for years.

July 11- All American Pet Photo Day- Although we do not have pets, many of our friends and family do. Take a photo of your fur baby and then share it with your friends and family.

July 12- National Simplicity Day- Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. As an advocate of a life of simplicity, today has been dedicated the National Simplicity Day in his honor. Use today to read a few of his writings. You can pick up his book Walden in digital form free of charge here.

July 12- National Paper Bag Day- Paper bags and a life of simplicity have always gone hand in hand in my mind. With the ability of being useful in so many capacities, paper bags can be used to carry groceries, pack lunches, hold gifts, and make crafts. Hoe many ways can you use a paper bag today?

July 13- National French Fry Day- A quick trip through the drive thru will take care of this day and put a salty smile on any little face!

July 14- National Mac and Cheese Day- This is an easy day to celebrate! Grab a box of mac and cheese and serve up dinner.

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July 15- National Give Something Away Day- This is a great day to get our children thinking beyond themselves to others. Have them go through their things in order to pick something to give away. Then take them to your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a local shelter to give their items away.

Third Sunday in July- National Ice Cream Day- A lot of very easy days are coming up! And all you really have to is, “Guess what guys, today is…” and then let that day direct your meal or dessert. Today, why not go out for ice cream to a local ice cream shop, and celebrate National Ice Cream Day!

July 19- National Hot Dog Day- Frankfurter… hot dog… whatever you call it, celebrate the hot day today. Serve it for lunch or dinner and you are all set!

July 19- National Lollipop Day- You know those big obnoxious lollipops that you only pick up on special occasions? Today is the day pull them out and let your little ones have a taste.

July 21- National Junk Food Day- I know we are supposed to shun junk food, but in all reality, we all enjoy some from time to time. While teaching our kids healthy eating habits, don’t be afraid to grab a small bag of chips or a candy bar or a slice of cheesecake and enjoy it!

July 23- National Vanilla Ice Cream Day- A half gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings are all that is needed to mark this day at home.

Fourth Sunday in July- National Parent’s Day- Today is a great day to teach your children Ephesians 6:1-3. Then recognize your parents in some small way. Our children will do as we do, and if we remember our parents, they will most likely remember theirs.

July 24- National Cousins Day- They say cousins are the first friends you ever have. We have been blessed to have a very close bond with many of our cousins. Give them a shout out on Facebook, post a picture of you all as kids, or recall a special memory you have with them… and teach your children to do the same. Talk with them about their favorite things about their cousins, put a handmade card in the mail, FaceTime or Skype with them, and remember the necessity to stay close with family.

Jul 27- National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day- Do you have a family member that was in the Korean War? Talk to your children about this hero that lives among them, and maybe make a visit or make a phone call to ask him or her questions about their experience (if they are willing to share. I guarantee you will make their day.

Although summer doesn’t end at the end of July, this list will get you started at turning a few of your ordinary days into special ones. Stay tuned for Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Summer- Part Two where we look at August and September.

Other posts in this series:

Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Fall Edition

celebrate-ordinary-days-summer

summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

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Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

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Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

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Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

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Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

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Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

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