Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Parkside Church Christmas 2010

Here is the video to the Christmas concert!

I must say, I've been to many Christmas concerts over the years. This one, by far, is absolutely breathtaking.

I hope you are able to take the time to listen and watch. If we are anything alike, my friends, you will find yourself singing along at times, getting goosebumps, tapping your foot, and having your eyes fill with tears of joy. While I love every single song, O Holy Night is my favorite. Well, then there's Jesus! What a Wonderful Child! Let me know which song is your favorite and why.

Be sure to listen to Alistair's gospel message around the 39 minute mark.

Parkside Church Christmas 2010 from Parkside Church on Vimeo.

Do you love OneVoice Gospel Choir from Cedarville College as much as we do? Amazing! You can see them enter around the 18 minute mark.

Merry Christmas!

May your heart be moved to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

P.S. See if you can find Caleb and Rachel. Here's a hint: Rachel is in the front row, the very right corner. Caleb is almost in the center of the center of the choir. Our dear friend, Alex, is standing on Caleb's left.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stuck on Me

Home at last...

Remember the post about our refrigerator dying the day after Thanksgiving? Well, a few days later, my brother-in-love, Gary, came over to help Mr. Wonderful move it out to the garage. It's proper burial will come at a later time.

Gary brought with him an appliance dolly which made moving the huge refrigerator a little easier. Because the refrigerator was so wide, it had to be taken out the front door (after removing the refrigerator handle and the hinge on the front door). But, I digress...

Imagine our surprise to find eight magnetic letters stuck to the underside of the refrigerator. There they were, plain as day: E, G, N, Q, T, W, X and Y. Thank goodness there was a vowel mixed in there!

I realize this is not world breaking news or anything important, but, I'm here to tell you, when I saw them, I realized they had been there for a very long time. Do you know how long it's been since my kids have played with magnetic alphabet letters on the refrigerator? Yes, a very long time!

No amount of sweeping or cleaning would have ever revealed their location. They were literally stuck on the bottom of the refrigerator. Apparently, they fell on the floor with the magnets facing up. When we removed them, they had quite a collection of dog hair and dust bunnies stuck to them. But they washed up quite nicely, don't ya think?

I couldn't help but think of Toy Story. Remember how Jessie was pushed under the bed and left there collecting dust? Well, I suppose, these poor Alpha-buddies probably wondered if anyone would ever come to their rescue.

Never fear!

It only took the death of the refrigerator to realize they were even missing in the first place!

And yes, I intend on keeping them. A wonderful little treasure to pull out someday so we can recall those early days when spelling names and leaving love notes were exciting moments for tiny little hands.

They'll always be stuck on me...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Concert Memories

This is such a beautiful time of year, but it's also a busy time. The kids had the privilege of performing with the adult choir at church for the Christmas concerts. There were four concerts in all, spanning a three-day weekend. We have already had a couple of huge winter storms hit here on the Great North Coast, and the possibility of a third monster storm was to arrive on Sunday evening during the last performance.

We prayed. Everyone prayed. God was faithful and held back the big snow until after everyone was safely home late Sunday night. The performances were beautiful with Christ where He belongs...on the Throne!

And the storm? It hit in the early morning hours on Monday. We all woke-up to another blizzard!

Here are some pictures that capture a few wonderful memories of Christmas at Parkside!

Caleb in his very first tuxedo and Rachel wearing Mama's pearls. You probably can't tell, but Rachel is also wearing mascara. Just a little. The girl was born with brushes attached to her eyelids, I tell you! I've never seen anything like it. Now I know why there's such a thing as an eyelash curler. As you may have guessed, I have never ever had a need for one of those!

My "Spy Kids"

Caleb, posing after the very last performance. I think this has become one of my all-time favorite photos of him.

And here's Miss Rachel, looking all aglow before the first performance.

We were so thankful to have our neighbor, Stacey, along with her mother and grandmother, join us for the Saturday matinee performance. Stacey and her family moved in behind us when I was nine months pregnant with Rachel. She has been like a daughter to us and an older sister to Rachel since the day she was born. We were talking about how Stacey was 11 when we first met. Now, she's all graduated from college and just turned 23! My how time flies.

Caleb posing as a Steak 'n Shake waiter! The serious face was on purpose. Everyone was laughing while I was trying to get his picture since he looked exactly like the Steak 'n Shake ads!

One of the highlights for the kids was being able to go to Steak 'n Shake after Saturday night's performance. It wasn't because they got to go to Steak 'n Shake. No, it was because all of their friends and their families were going! The place was jam packed with people dressed in formal attire. You should have seen all the women in long black gowns! We could have had a flash mob right there in the restaurant. You remember what a flash mob is, don't you?

Hey, thanks for checking in on me! I feel like I've been so overwhelmed with so many things of late. I hate not having time to blog. But, we're all doing well. Mr. Wonderful has just started his third week at the new job. We are still so very thankful for this miracle!

I hope this Monday finds you preparing your heart for the week ahead as we try to slow down and think about the true meaning of Christmas. God's richest blessings to you!

Much love,

Monday, December 13, 2010

ALEKS TOS Product Review

You know, I was thinking I could make this the shortest review ever by quoting my daughter, Rachel. The first time she used ALEKS, this is what she said...


The second time she used ALEKS, she said this...

"I love this!"

I could tell you what she said every single time she used ALEKS, but it would just be more of the same. She loves ALEKS!

Actually, after she had been using it for a few weeks, I asked her if there was something she didn't like about ALEKS. She said, "You know, I don't think there's a thing I don't like about it!"

And this comment comes from a girl that makes a To Do list each morning, checks off everything that she has completed and, like her mother, writes in those things she has completed that weren't even on the list, and then checks them off. I know. I know. Needless to say, she is a very detail-oriented young lady. If she had a problem with ALEKS, she would have found it and said so.

But alas, I can't just make this the shortest product review ever because it deserves much more attention than a few sound bites.

So, let me tell you about ALEKS (in their own words)...

What is ALEKS?

ssessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

• Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
• No Textbook Required
• Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
• Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
• Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
• Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction

Learn More

ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your student may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

MyPie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.

Explanations: When a student is working on a particular problem, she can access an explanation of that problem by clicking on the "Explain" button. The explanation typically provides a step-by-step solution, with commentary. In some cases, an alternative or more detailed explanation is also available.

Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes.

Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the topic is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple-choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery.

Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more.

Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately.

Student Progress Report: Track student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percent of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percent of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percent of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

There are many other features including a Student Attendance Report which tracks student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Here's a little side note, if you're interested...

Mr. Wonderful is a math major. He was very curious and wanted to spend some time on ALEKS just to see what all the hype was about. Let me just say that he got a little bit addicted to solving math problems while on ALEKS! He couldn't help himself. Like starting a puzzle, he just couldn't quit until he had completed his PIE! Even Mr. Wonderful thought ALEKS was a great teaching tool.

Here's the scoop on ALEKS:

A subscription to ALEKS is

$19.95 per student, per month, or

$99.95 every six months, or

$179.95 every twelve months.

You can also learn about their Family Discount Program.


I have been asked to pass along this message from ALEKS...

We invite to share the ALEKS free 1-month trial ($19.95 value) with your blog readers who are homeschoolers. We only offer a 48-hour trial directly from our website, so this is a special offer only for homeschoolers who are new users to ALEKS. Click on the blue box below in order to take advantage of this very special offer!

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

Let me end this product review by quoting Rachel one more time...

"I just love, love, love ALEKS!"

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Little Lambs Nativity

While we have several Nativity scenes in our home during Christmas, this one is by far my favorite. Here's the story...

When Rachel turned two years old, she was placed in a very special Sunday school class. I remember hearing parents talking about how they had hoped their child would be chosen for this very special class. The class was known as the Little Lambs. The teachers of the Little Lambs were Mrs. Linda and Mr. Jim. Now, I don't know if you know anything about teaching two-year olds, but let's just say it can be challenging. So imagine a room filled with two-year olds.

I was amazed week after week after week how this amazing couple taught Sunday school. They did not give these kids a toy box filled with toys to entertain them for an hour, they taught them a Sunday school lesson and had a host of activities from the moment they walked in until the moment we picked them up. Every single week. And they heard the Gospel message every single week.

You will notice below there are twelve wooden blocks. The first block was given to a child to complete during their first month in attendance. On each subsequent month, another block was given to the child until, at the end of the year, each child had a complete Nativity set. What you do not see here is the wooden apple basket the Nativity set came in nor the back of each block which contains a unique scripture verse.

Each wooden block has a hand drawn picture adhered to it which was then painted by the child (or had cotton balls glued to create a lamb, etc.). Yes, uniquely created by the hands of a two-year old child. Isn't it amazing?

Isn't the little bundle of straw adorable?

The Fruit of the Spirit as taught to a two-year old

And there's Rachel! She's represented on the "Salvation" block.

Look how sweetly baby Jesus is covered in cloth and there's Joseph with his curly black beard!

Even the donkey has a beautiful warm blanket.

I have taught Sunday school many years, but I have never seen anything quite like this class. Mrs. Linda and Mr. Jim loved and prayed for these kids as if they were their very own. I remember when Rachel informed me that someday if she had a little girl she would name her Linda. Rachel received Christ when she was days away from turning three years old. How can a three-year old receive Christ? Ask Rachel. She vividly remembers this time in her life. Certainly God used the faithful witness of Mrs. Linda and Mr. Jim to influence the life of our little girl.

Now I don't remember how this came to be, but I entered Mrs. Linda and Mr. Jim into a national Sunday school teacher of the year award. I simply wrote a letter explaining why they were so special and the impact they were having on the youngest of children. I remember when I received the phone call from the organization telling me they had been chosen as one of the top ten Sunday school teachers in the country! The church surprised them with a special celebration and they were honored with a beautiful award, surrounded by a classroom filled with two-year olds. I am sure this celebration pales in comparison to the celebration that will take place in Heaven!

Did I mention that at Easter each child was sent home with a container which held a Monarch butterfly chrysalis? Mmmm hmmm. New Life explained to a two-year old in a way that would never be forgotten.

All these years later, we still correspond at Christmastime and Rachel always receives a birthday card from Mrs. Linda and Mr. Jim. All of their children are now grown and married and they even have grandchildren of their own!

God bless Mrs. Linda and Mr. Jim. May their legacy live on in future generations!

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmastime is Here Again

We put up the Christmas tree over the weekend. I will admit that as I've gotten older, I don't really enjoy the putting up part as much as I do the ambiance it brings after all the decorating is completed. Oh, we always have our favorite Christmas music playing on the iPod. And we stop for a break of hot cocoa. This is probably one of Rachel's favorite things to do. She loves opening all of the ornament boxes and she loves placing the specialty ornaments in just the right spot. Mr. Wonderful thinks I would enjoy it much more if I would chill out and hang just a few things. Forget the tricky garland. Forget the gigantic bulbs that anchor the tree. Forget balancing the colors. Just stick a few things on the tree and be done with it. Well, that ain't gonna happen! Nope. Decorating for Christmas might be work, but it's wonderful when it's all said and done.

I started a tradition when the kids were babies. I purchased a Christmas ornament for each of them after Christmas was over. You know, when it's 80% off! The box is labeled with the year it was purchased. Each ornament has a story. I took a few pictures and thought it might be fun to share several with you.

These photos aren't in any particular order.

Last year we read a ton of classic books for our literature, history, and theology course. It required about two to two and a half hours of reading a day. It was big! We loved it and I commemorated the first year of this curriculum with reading ornaments. This is Rachel's. Caleb's Once Upon a Time is a little further down the photo list.

Another ornament belonging to Rachel. This was from the year we went to Disney World.

A handmade Nativity which happens to be one of my favorites. Caleb made this in Sunday school in 1999 when he was three and a half years old.

I made this little ornament when Caleb was 17 months old. There's a poem I wrote on the little piece of paper attached to the ribbon. This is what it says:

The Silly Reindeer

I know this reindeer looks silly and dumb
but if you look closely you'll see two thumbs.

Look now and do not linger
for right beside them are eight little fingers!

Look below and you'll see a face
with toes on top that are outta place.

On bottom is a nose to boot
that helps to hide Caleb's foot.

Merry Christmas 1997

The year Caleb fell in love with Curious George. I think we must have read every Curious George book ever written!

Caleb's ornament from last year, 2009. Behind it is Rachel's Precious Moments ornament from the year she was born.

A gift from my mother-in-love to Mr. Wonderful and me for our first Christmas together.

Rachel and Caleb ice skated weekly for seven years. This ornament belongs to Rachel.

Oh, the year we all fell in love with Lord of the Rings. One of Caleb's favorite characters, Gandalf.

My idea is to have a wonderful ornament collection to give to each child when they get married or move out on their own. I suppose I never considered how I might feel putting up the tree for the first time without their special ornaments. I've grown attached to them and all the memories they hold.

It has been snowing here like crazy. We're under a winter weather advisory until late tomorrow night. I'm so glad we're inside where it's warm and cozy.

Here's a little tune to get you in the mood if you're not already...

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hello? Anyone? Hello?

Do you remember the Screaming Woman?

I'm just throwing this in here because I'm a little frustrated at the moment. I will admit, however, that I'm not stressed out and screaming like I was this past July 21st.

Actually, we're all still floating around a little bit at the wonderful news we received on Tuesday night. We are so blessed and thankful.

Anyway, I took the time yesterday to completely overhaul my blog, you know, so it would be nice and pretty for Christmas and our wintry-snowy season. Did you get to see it? Anyone? I thought it was so lovely, all baby blue and sparkly.

I guess I went against my better judgment and chose a blogger background from You Know Who. It appears the entire site is down again.

Maybe by the time this posts, the pretty blue background will magically re-appear. But then again, maybe it won't. So, sometime between now and well, whenever I have a chance to pick a new background and take the time to re-design everything, you might find yet another new festive look. In the meantime, it will be that boring Minima background that looks minimal. Just use your imagination, right?!

I do hope to post what used to be part of my Friday blogging pattern...a favorite recipe! We're having homemade pan pizza tonight.

Until then smooches,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Times are in Your Hands

Looking out our back door last January

Today is December 1st. We woke-up to find a candy coating of snow on everything outside and, even now, it is snowing. It's pretty to watch snow as it slowly falls from the sky and changes the landscape. I knew it would arrive sometime...snow. I'll admit that I'm glad it has held off until now. With Christmas just around the corner, snow seems more appropriate some how. It didn't snow here in November. That's not normal for our neck of the woods. But then again, things haven't been normal around here for quite some time.

Mr. Wonderful has been without a paycheck for quite some time. He found himself receiving an unemployment check this past June for the very first time in his life. Like so many other small business owners, the family business that has employed most of his family and many others for the past twenty-five years has come to an end. It has been heartbreaking to watch the slow death of this once vibrant and growing company. I would liken it to the death of a close family member as you helplessly watch them suffer and slowly die. It's been horrible. And it's been extremely difficult knowing there's absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop it. So, a set of parents, their five sons and their families, along with almost a hundred other employees and their families have all had to say goodbye. Even as I write this, I still cannot believe it.

It has been so hard watching my husband spend 8 to 10 hours a day, just looking for work. In today's world, everything is done on-line. Resumes are submitted on-line. Extensive applications are entered on-line. Hour and a half long tests, countless times, are taken on-line. Interviews are given on-line. Psychological tests are given on-line. And my favorite, writing poetry in order to even enter into the on-line application process. I kid you not. Once when he tried to contact a company by phone, he was told that if they allowed applicants to call in to ask questions, they would have to hire two full-time people just to answer the phones. Brutal is an understatement. The reasons for what seemed like endless rejections were even harder to comprehend.

And so yesterday morning our family gathered around the kitchen table to pray. And once again, in thankfulness, we called upon the Lord to hear our prayers and answer them according to His will. He alone knows our future. Surely the Lord sees what we cannot. We have continually prayed we would "consider it all joy" and learn the many lessons He has for us. We prayed we would be found faithful and not falter through these difficult times. I am ashamed to admit that I have stumbled many times.

Yesterday we found ourselves, like so many others, receiving our last unemployment check. Twenty-six weeks goes by quickly when you're not working. It's not much, but it was enough for us to help keep our nose above water. When you read the statistics that most families are two paychecks away from homelessness, we recognized God's provisions for our family. While we have exhausted much of our resources over the past 18 months, we are thankful we had resources to draw from.

Have you ever heard that saying, God is NEVER late but seldom early? Last night Mr. Wonderful received an e-mail which contained the first of its kind. A job offer...a job offer that exceeded any expectations. And they wanted to know if he could start on Monday.

How do you respond to that? Is "thank you" really enough? We gathered again as a family and through many tears thanked God for His mercy. We prayed our memories would not be found on the short side, like the Israelites' when they left Egypt, but that we would remember this time, for all time.

I found myself early this morning pondering what had transpired over the past 24 hours. I want so much to remember that moment in time when we discovered God's hand in our lives. It felt like the last possible moment to us. I know it didn't seem that way to Him. He knows all things and sees all things. His timing is perfect.

From Babbie Mason's Trust His Heart...

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When don't see his plan
When you can't trace his hand
Trust His Heart

In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. ...I trust in you, LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands. Psalm 31:1-2, 14-15

With a thankful heart and overwhelming joy,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

This no longer looks as appetizing as it did a few days ago...

A plate filled with food on Thanksgiving Day

Starting at noon on the plate above:

Old World Stuffing (my very own creation which includes Tuscany bread, bacon, walnuts and apples)
A tiny dollop of cranberry sauce
Yes, that is the very famous Carrot Souffle
Awesome Broccoli Cheese Casserole with both Ritz Crackers and French Fried Onions on top
Sweet Potato Casserole with roasted pecans in butter and brown sugar
A slice of ham and turkey
Your basic frozen shoe peg corn microwaved before serving...
and in the middle, roasted garlic mashed potatoes with turkey gravy (the gravy was from a jar this year and, well, it worked for me since no one else here likes gravy).

Rachel made four fabulous pies: two pumpkin, one peanut butter, and one coconut cream. Dear goodness, this girl can cook!

And, no, we did not eat four whole pies! We took them to a get together with family later in the day. Thank you, very much!

I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home for the past thirteen years. In all those years, I've never taken a photo of a plate filled with food. I suppose it was because there was between 20 and 25 hungry people milling about as I finished mashing the potatoes (always the last thing I do before dinner is served) and as my dear aunts helped make the gravy and slice the turkey or rib roast or ham. I was always too busy to take pictures and by the time things had settled down, I wanted to sit down with everyone else.

This year was different. It was just us. Four people. We decided to do things quite differently. Rachel set a formal table using our wedding China, silver, and crystal. We decided against the white linen table cloth although we splurged and used the white linen napkins. She insisted on lighting long white taper candles. And so we ate our Thanksgiving dinner with the lights off and the candles flickering. It was a lovely atmosphere and I am thankful for the memory. This was the first year I slept in. And this was the first year I took a nap in the afternoon. I must say, I liked it!

Now, rewind to four days before Thanksgiving.

We went to church and came home knowing we had a short break before we had to leave for Rachel's piano recital. The moment I walked in the door from church, I knew something was wrong. The house was cold. I peeked at the thermostat and sure enough it was cold as it read 65 degrees (we keep the house at 68 during the day). Mr. Wonderful went downstairs and discovered that, once again, the ignitor on the furnace had died. I think this is the third or fourth time this has happened in 15 years. He called the heating and cooling company (remember, it's Sunday) and within a few minutes received a call from the repairman telling him he would arrive at 1 o'clock...exactly the same time we need to be at Rachel's recital. He explained our predicament to the guy, but realized heat in the house was more important than a recital. And so it was decided that Mr. Wonderful would stay home while the kids and I headed for the recital. Within about three minutes, the phone rang again. It was the repairman. He had received a repair call just a few minutes before ours. He called them, told them our situation, and asked if they would switch appointments. Amazingly, they agreed to switch. Even more, he was pulling into our driveway as he spoke!

And so what did Yours Truly do? Why she stood in the kitchen and started sobbing. Because she was thankful? No. Because she was not thankful. She was having a big fat pity party for herself. She could not find a moment of thankfulness in that situation even though it appeared to be a small miracle...a repairman at your house within five minutes, a problem fixed in an hour, and everyone able to go to the recital without delay. No, I wasn't thankful. I was angry.

A dear friend reminded me later that day of the song that ends with these words:

"You give and take away,
You give and take away,
my heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be your name."

Well, it's been feeling like a lot of take away for quite some time now and on this particular Sunday, I am sorry to say that I didn't respond with, "Lord, blessed be your name."

Fast forward to the morning after Thanksgiving.

We had made it a very late night on Thanksgiving after visiting with family until midnight. We came home and decided to watch a movie together and so we didn't crawl into bed until after 2:30 a.m. I can't even remember the last time we stayed up that late, or that early, I should say. Anyway, I was the first one up. Jesse puppy was eagerly waiting for me since it was past her regular breakfast time. As I walked into the kitchen and around the island, I stepped into puddle of water. Is it water? Hmmm. Yep, it's water. Actually, it's a huge puddle of water right in front of the refrigerator. So, I open the refrigerator and quickly discover that it had died. And it had been dead for a while because everything in the refrigerator door and freezer door was warm. A few things in the front of the freezer were also thawed, but for the most part, everything was still frozen since the items were stacked closely together.

What a difference five days can make. And knowing dear friends are praying for you. Thank you, dear friends! Instead of standing there and sobbing into the big puddle of water on the floor as I held a bag of warm soggy strawberries, I thanked God the refrigerator didn't die on the morning of Thanksgiving. It could have, but it didn't. It died after Thanksgiving. And, thankfully, we have a smaller refrigerator in the basement where we carried the frozen food and the food that could be salvaged from the refrigerator. I am so thankful!

Oh, that God would find me faithful to be thankful no matter the circumstances. He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Practice, Persistence and Prayers

Some beautiful music for your enjoyment...

Sonatina Op. 55, No. 3 (Kuhlau)

Rachel played this piece for her fall recital this past Sunday afternoon. During the two minutes she was at the keyboard, I will tell you that I could hardly breathe (like every other mother seated in the audience). I am thankful to say that my heart wasn't pounding out of my chest like it usually does!

Is it OK to say we are proud parents? I hope so. I will follow that by saying we recognize God has given Rachel a wonderful gift. We pray she will be able to use her gift to serve Him and bring glory and honor to His name.

In the end, recitals are a great opportunity to showcase, for just a few moments, the many hours of practice, persistence, and prayers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers TOS Product Review

About six weeks ago, we received in the mail A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press. This oversize 298-page book is beautifully presented, professionally published, and covers a full year's curriculum in 32 weekly lessons. The Introduction includes a letter to teachers as well as to students which I found to be very helpful and informative.

A number of years ago, we studied the history of classical music. We loved it back then, but I wasn't sure if it would be met with great enthusiasm again. I asked my daughter, Rachel, who is 12, to go through the book with me. It became clear very quickly that this was a curriculum to get excited about. After all, Rachel loves music and plays classical pieces on the piano daily!

Here's an excerpt from the Bright Ideas Press website which best describes this book:

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

A User-Friendly, One-Year Curriculum for Grades 4-8

Christian, Creative, Chronological

Why take the time to “Crack the Code” of Classical Music?

• Music is from the Lord. He created it, and He created us with the ability to both make and appreciate music.
• Classical music is uniquely part of our Western civilization.
• Research suggests that both listening to and playing classical music aids brain development.
• Even rudimentary exposure increases one’s level of enjoyment and understanding.

This course provides a close-up look at famous composers, their music, and their times, with special attention to character traits and Christian testimony (or lack thereof). Even the musically challenged will enjoy this course! It’s perfect for grades 4-8 but is easily adaptable for younger and older students. Minimal teacher prep will return maximum enjoyment!

• 32 Weekly Lessons
• 26 Bios of Famous Composers
• 6 Eras of Music Explained
• Easy-to-Use Comparative Timeline
• Easy-to-Use Maps
• Composer Info-Cards & Game Directions
• Note-taking Pages
• Quizzes
• Answer Keys
• Listening Suggestions
• Intricate Coloring Pages
• Resource Books

Let me see if I can unpack some of these wonderful things just a little bit.

First of all, I quickly realized that having the paperback book presented a slight challenge. While I love having the physical book in my hand, I think I might have preferred the CD-ROM book instead. Of course, the CD-ROM book has its own set of challenges (i.e., you either have to read the lessons from a computer screen or you need to print everything out). Anyway, because a number of the pages need to be used by the student (note-taking pages, quizzes, coloring pages, time-lines and composer cards), there's just no way around either need to photocopy pages out of the book or print pages from the CD-ROM.

If you'd like to see a few sample pages of this book, click here.

Here's my little suggestion to the publisher: Making PDF files of the consumable pages available at your website (either for a nominal fee or via a password which is given with the physical book), would be a huge help.

Anyway, I did the unthinkable in order to overcome my little consumable pages challenge. I used a ban saw to cut the binding off the book. Yes, it's absolutely true! Then we three-hole punched the entire book and placed it in a sturdy binder. All of the consumable pages are now loose and easy to photocopy. How's that for ingenuity?!

Rachel loves doing everything suggested in the curriculum... everything! Each lesson is laid out over a three-days a week schedule. We read the lesson aloud together (this takes us about 10 to 15 minutes) and then Rachel fills-in the note-taking pages (or the student review questions). We listen to the suggested music selections (links are provided in the book so a student can listen to the music via YouTube if needed). We happen to have a huge library of classical music on our iPod and so had most of the selections available without having to use the computer. Regardless, it's great listening to a piece of music after reading about its composer.

Composer cards are created (using an index card and a couple of the consumable pages I mentioned above) by coloring the composer's portrait, matching the composer with his country of birth (a little mapping exercise is always a great thing), and providing important information about the composer (when he lived, where he was born, 3 facts about him, two of his compositions, and whether or not there was evidence the composer was a Christian).

In addition, a detailed timeline is filled-in and colored as recommended by the curriculum. All of these items are then placed in a notebook for easy access and reference (there are instructions on how to create a notebook, but some pictures would be helpful). In addition, a great assortment of coloring pages are also available. These pages are fun to color while listening to the selected piece of music or while listening to the lesson while it's being read.

Another thing I really appreciated about this book is that the faith of each composer (if evidence supports it) is often included by using direct quotes. Introducing the composer's faith to the reader is not forced. Here's an example:

...when Handel was writing the "Hallelujah Chorus," his servant brought him food, as he usually did, and found Handel with tears in his eyes. Handel said, "I did think I did see all of heaven before me and the great God Himself!"

"...I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better."

What more can I say? Well, we love the idea of studying composers and found A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers a great way and a fun way to learn.

If your family hasn't yet studied the classics, I highly recommend this book!

Here's the scoop:

Recommended for grades 4-8
$29.95 CD-ROM book
$34.95 paperback book (298 pages)

Most products are intended and licensed for single-family use only. For co-op pricing, click here.

For more information, go to Bright Ideas Press.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

KBTeachers TOS Product Review

When we started homeschooling ten years ago, we began our journey by learning a  letter and a number each week. I have fond memories of the kids creating Alligator Al, a green salt dough alligator that would represent the letter and phonetic sounds of Aa. Yes, Alligator Al is safely tucked away, along with all of his other letter of the week pals, in a storage container in our basement. I never had the heart to throw them away. Memories!

Oh, if I would have known about the wonderful resources  at KBTeachers! As I browsed their many pages of fun printable worksheets, I kept envisioning how we could have incorporated some of them into our school week. Check out this link to the alphabet worksheet pages. And to think, with the help of KBTeachers, I could have easily incorporated sign language into each week's lesson. If you're just getting started as a homeschooler (or if you're in the middle of your homeschooling journey), this family friendly resource is a must.

A few years later, I have fond memories of unrolling butcher paper on our kitchen island and creating full body outlines for each of the kids which we hung on the walls of our school room. Each week we would learn about a new bone in the body and then later, important organs, their uses and where they were located within the human body. The kids loved creating their bodies one piece at a time. Again, how fun it would have been to add to our weekly studies, the great resources available at KBTeachers. I think they have thought of just about everything. Here's a link to their human anatomy section which not only has a number of worksheets and activities available, but includes direct links to recommended study websites. It's a great time saver having so many resources available in one place!

Fast forward to just a couple of years ago when we spent a year going through a very extensive study on world geography. I cannot even tell you how much time I spent searching for maps that would allow the kids to practice and study what they were learning. Again, KBTeachers has so much to offer. Check out their social studies worksheets and activities here.

There are so many benefits to becoming a Premium Member of KBTeachers. Here's what they have to say on their website...

For Parents, Teachers and Educators
* One click worksheet generators and alphabet factory
* Create an unlimited number of engaging printable activities - For all ages and grade levels
* No watermarks and unlimited access
* Exclusive graphics and clipart - Decorate your websites, Blogs, activity sheets etc...
* Diverse educational resources - From simple ABC worksheets, to 20 pages exams
* Intuitive activities online or off - At home, at school or in study hall
* Free 24/7 Support - If we don't have it, we'll create it - or help you find it
* Answer Keys - Proofed and checked quality materials you can trust
* Updated regularly - New features and member created content added every week
* Nothing to download, instant access - From any internet connection

Access content based on standards set by the following organizations
* NCTE National Council of Teachers of English
* NCSS National Council for the Social Studies
* NSTA National Science Teachers' Association
* NCTM National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
* ISTE International Society for Technology in Education

As a KBTeacher you will

* Join an online community that shares knowledge and makes learning fun
* Increase technology awareness
* Encourage collaboration
* Engage students in learning
* Diversify educational materials
* Structure activities online or off
* Combine traditional and progressive teaching techniques
You'll also find seasonal and holiday activities along with monthly webquests. Did you know that November 26th is Charles Schultz birthday? Meet him through the Schultz Museum and learn about his life and philosophy. How fun is that?

A premium membership at KBTeachers is only $29 for 12 months or $49 for two years. An extensive library of printable worksheets (without watermarks), activities, and valuable resources for you and your students (Kindergarten through 10th grade) are just a click away!

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Random Thoughts on Tuesday

Here are some thoughts going through my head:

1. I had planned on making pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes, and a Caesar salad for dinner. After putting the potatoes in the oven, I opened the 1 lb. package of pork tenderloin (which I had pulled from from freezer a couple of hours ago) to discover it didn't smell like something we would want to eat. After calling Mr. Wonderful into the kitchen, we both agreed something went terribly wrong somewhere. So, what's for dinner? No clue. Um, roasted sweet potatoes?

2. I wanted so much to work on a quilt that doesn't intimidate me that Rachel and I went shopping and bought cozy warm fleece fabric from Hobby Lobby over the weekend (on sale, I might add). I chose a wintry looking blue and gray print for the top with matching gray for the bottom. Rachel chose camo pink for the top and matching hot pink for the bottom. We started them this afternoon...she's at the kitchen table, I'm at the island in the kitchen. We have our basting finished. I am hoping to have a new snugly blanket for the family room by week's end.

3. Access to my computer has felt limited lately. I'm used to having my own computer much of the time. Caleb joined a fabulous speech and debate club a couple of months ago which requires quite a bit of research. He's using the school room computer which means Mr. Wonderful needs access to my computer. I am learning how to share...again.

4. Rachel is performing in a piano recital this coming Sunday afternoon. I have been listening to her practice her piece today (although she's been working on this for some time). She plays just beautifully and I am reminded of the incredible gift she has been given by her Lord.

5. We were spoiled with about ten days of perfect weather. Today, the reality of November on the great North Coast settled in. Gray skies. Cold winds. Pouring rain. At least it's not snowing...yet.

6. I need to give Jesse Puppy a bath. She's going through a major molt right now which will make bath time very messy. We cannot brush her enough. Dog hair rolls on the tile floors like tumble weeds. Sweeping the entire downstairs every morning has become the new routine. And the poor girl is suffering so. Her face has been messed up and bleeding since the end of July. I've done everything I know to do. Of course the vet told me he knew what he was doing. Yeah, right. Nothing has worked although I started her on yogurt and acidophilus capsules last week. It might take weeks before we see any improvement. I am so tired of cleaning up blood on the tile and having to wash her blankets every couple of days. I do love her so and know it's not her fault. She's been my loyal companion for over nine years.

7. I was thinking that when my children were babies I never felt like I had time to do anything. I am learning that I accomplished more when they were babies than I am able to now that they are independent and self-sufficient (for the most part). I don't know what it is. Am I just getting old? When I would nurse them in the middle of the night or go in and check on them, I would pray over them. I have come to realize recently that I don't pray for my children like I did when they were little and depended on me for so much. That makes no sense at all especially since they need my prayers more now than ever before. The world wants them in the worst way.


Befor The Throne Of God Above Lyrics

8. Thanksgiving is next week. We have hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home for the past 13 years. This included the very famous Thanksgiving Dessert Contest. Next week things will be dramatically different. I have very mixed emotions about this change. But I am so thankful for the wonderful memories we have shared together. I am entrusting this very special day to the Lord and hoping new traditions will bring much joy.

9. I have been wondering lately if my blog has, in a very strange way, become Satan's To Do List. Sometimes I feel like some of the very things I have written about have become a target for attack. I'm still working on this one. Quit blogging? I don't know. I sure hope not.

10. The kids are singing with the Christmas choir this year. This undertaking is no small task. Choir practice started back in September. They will be performing next to another 125+ voices along with a full orchestra. So, throughout the day, I hear singing. Beautiful singing. Amazing words that touch my heart. Sometimes two voices harmonizing together. And I smile to myself. Surely God has blessed me beyond measure.

Thanks for letting me ramble on...

Much love,