Friday, March 27, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean! Week 13- Pictures and Scrapbooks

Let's just start this post by stating the obvious - I am not the BEST person to write on this particular subject.  I used to be.  But nowadays, not so much.  I seriously considered having some wonderful someone guest post, but decided that I may as well come clean about my scrapbooking.  Of lack thereof.

I use to be a scrapbooking queen.  Loved it, went to crop nights and weekends, was all caught up and had a house full of ribbons and stamps and pretty paper, stickers, and more.  It was fun.

I had ONE child.

Now I have four.  And I homeschool.  And I move every two years.  And I am currently playing the role of single parent.  I have a lot of excuses, but regardless of which one I claim at any given moment, the harsh reality is that I am very behind.  Years.  Let's don't count how many.

Truthfully, my problem is not really even the scrapbooking part.  My problem is the pictures. Hundreds of them.  Old fashioned picture film was my best friend.  You took 24 pictures, went to your local drugstore and had them printed.  Done.  Now I take hundreds of lovely digital pictures and they are somewhere lost in the abyss of my computer.  I know, I know, download them and have them printed you say.  I try every so often and it takes so long to find the ones I want to try to download that I give up in disgust and walk away.  Hence the years of being behind.

Problem is, the longer I wait, the more pictures that get lost in the abyss.  I know.

So this week, and well, let's face it, for MANY more to come, my goal is to find those pictures and get organized.  That is your challenge as well.  For those of you who are more organized, take this week to scrapbook to your hearts delight and then come help me.

You will find me in a puddle buried under hundreds of pictures.


Just to try to save face and because I do actually have a decent plan, though lacking execution, here are your helpful hints-

1 - Purge!  Really guys.  Memories are great, but the sweetest memories we hold are in our hearts.  Let's not make our photo albums our idols.  Have fun and keep the important pictures, but let's get rid of the multiples, pictures of people with cut off heads and ones that would embarrass all of the relatives.

On that note, let's not make all of the supplies our idols.  One thing I found was that the more scrapbooking became a social thing for me, the more I had to do to keep up with the Joneses.  It became a ridiculous amount of work and list of supplies.  I have the receipts to prove it.

I have decided that I simply do not need all of that stuff in my life and have passed much of it on to friends who will better use it!  Everyone is different, but I am here to tell you that additional clutter was not only taking up valuable space in my home but in my head and heart as well.  Not good!
Now my stuff takes up this one tote. And I have committed to not buy any more until this is gone! Am I the only one who is a sucker for all that amazing patterned paper?

2- Print your pictures!  Ha- good luck on that! ;)

3- Make a plan!  THIS is the week I am going to get the pictures printed.  THIS is the week I am going to pull it all out!  Whatever your need is - make. a. plan!  I have created a folder for each child to put pictures in - then all I have  to do is put them in order and slap them in a book.  Hey, at least it is a plan!

4- Simplify! Here is where a friend of mine really saved me several years ago.  Instead of scrapbooking every single picture I ever took, I began doing a 10 page double spread per year.
  • Friends
  • Hobbies & Sports/School
  • Vacation
  • Birthday/ Family
  • Christmas
 ~You might decide you need a few extra pages, but the point is we are cherishing the highlights, not the seconds!

  ~Another way to simplify is to go all digital.  This is where you will need to take the phone-a-friend other-than-Michele option because I am clueless, but I hear it is a life saver for some!

For those who do not scrapbook - no worries!  You still have pictures!  Let's organize them in a shoe box or fun craft box.  However you decide to preserve your memories, commit to work on it this week.

OK, are you ready?  Yep, me neither, but we can do this.  And I am willing to bet it may take more than a week for most of us.  But it will never get done if we never get started!

Here we go!

And you thought bathrooms were bad, huh? ;)  Wanna chance to show those off? We wold love to have you link up below.  Each link provides you another entry into our 34 Weeks of Clean Prize Basket drawing.

Check out this fun FREE printable for this week from Kemi at Homemaking Organized!  Love her!!
 Happy Organizing!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Whatever Wanda!- Children's Book review and Giveaway!

It is no secret that we love books in our house!  Especially children's books.  And quite honestly, this was an easy review for me because I have another book in this delightful series that we loved reading.  So yes, I was excited to see a new title from author Christy Ziglar.  And yes, that is the daughter of the famous Zig Ziglar!

Whatever Wanda! is a sweet 29 page book geared for elementary aged children.  It tells the story of a little girl named Wanda that needs an attitude adjustment, and quick!

Her town is hosting their annual Rubber Duck Days festival and it seems everyone is excited but Wanda.  No matter what anyone says to her, her response is "whatever."  Through a series of events, Wanda learns that her attitude can not only affect those around her, but also determine how much fun she has as well.

Luckily for her, she is challenged by a friendly duck, named Waddles, to change her attitude and her day, resulting in much more fun.  It is a good lesson for children who tend to be hard-to-please as well as a gentle reminder to us all that we need to choose to have good attitudes.

"Being positive is a choice that makes everything better - not to mention, a whole lot more fun!"

Shine Bright Kids books teach kids the importance of making good choices.  Each of the titles in the series focuses on one character trait or life skill.  One of the fun things about this Shine Bright Kids Series is that each book has a yellow star on every page.  The star is either perky and happy or sad, determined by the main character and their behavior.  This is a great conversations starter for younger children, allowing for discussion on what the star looks like and what made the star feel that way.

My son, age 7, really enjoyed this book (despite the main character being a girl) and loves looking for the star on each page.  He even said about two pages into the book, "She shouldn't say 'whatever' to everyone. That's not nice"  Yay us!  We love the eye catching colors used and the adorable pictures. They bring each page to life and hold a child's attention easily.

This is a great book for character building in your home, but would also be perfect for churches and childcare situations as well.  It would make a perfect gift for an elementary-aged child.  My second grader is able to read this book independently, making it a common choice for his quiet reading time.

By visiting ShineBrightKids you can access even more parent resources, games, activities, and worksheets.

You have the opportunity to win a copy of Whatever Wanda!  Just enter the rafflecopter below and a random winner will be chosen next Wednesday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, March 23, 2015

Easter Stories- Book review and giveaway

We love traditions in our house.  While we tend to blow off some of the lesser holidays, (my apologies to the leprechauns and cupids) we are big into ones like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.  We have certain meals we fix for each, certain decorations we pull out year after year, and certain books we read as a family that point us to the real reason we are choosing to celebrate.  Well, the certain books have been slightly lacking during Easter.  When the kiddos were younger we read a few Peter Rabbit type books, and even fell into a few Easter Bunny books even though we did/do not "do" the Easter bunny.  I felt convicted that we should direct our kids to more God centered stories, but honestly have had a hard time finding many.

When I heard about the book Easter Stories- Classic Tales for the Holy Season  I was intrigued.  A whole collection of stories, 383 pages, based on the true reason we celebrate Easter as a Christian- wow! And the authors!  Tolstoy, Dickens, Wilde and more.  Now THIS sounded like a book we could add to our tradition of reading as a family during the holidays.

Table of Contents

  • Jane Tyson Clement The White Lily
  • Laura E. Richards The Coming of the King
  • André Trocmé How Donkeys Got the Spirit of Contradiction
  • Alan Paton The Church of the Washing of the Feet
  • Clarence Jordan Stories from the Cotton Patch Gospel
  • Selma Lagerlöf Saint Veronica’s Kerchief
  • Lew Wallace The Way to the Cross
  • Selma Lagerlöf Robin Redbreast
  • Ludwig von Gerdtell The Atonement
  • Maxim Gorky The Flaming Heart of Danko
  • Elizabeth Goudge John
  • Hans Thoma The Legend of Christopherus
  • Sara Cone Bryant Robert of Sicily
  • Leo Tolstoy Two Old Men
  • Ivy Bolton The Golden Egg
  • Karl Josef Friedrich The Case of Rachoff
  • Ruth Sawyer The Deserted Mine
  • Anton Chekhov The Student
  • Claire Huchet Bishop A Dust Rag for Easter Eggs
  • J. W. Ooms The Barge-Master’s Easter
  • Walter Wangerin Jr. The Ragman
  • Kirk Wareham Easter Under a Park Bench
  • C. S. Lewis The Death of the Lizard
  • The Brothers Grimm Mary’s Child
  • Ger Koopman The King and Death
  • Oscar Wilde The Selfish Giant
  • John Masefield From The Everlasting Mercy
Be forewarned, this is not light reading.  It is an anthology of short stories that go beyond a bunny and colored eggs.  Each of the 27 stories were selected for their spiritual value and focus on the Holy Week and Easter.  Some stories are shorter than others, but make no mistake about it, this is some serious reading.  With a few exceptions, this is not a book that you can easily sit down and read a story out of in one night.  Be ready to spend some time with it.   It is pretty hefty, but it is geared to be a multi-generational book.

Our family realized we cannot get read every story each Easter season, but we are slowly working our way through.  There are a few stories that are too intense or academia for our younger son, age 7. For that reason, I would encourage you to read the stories alone at first to judge whether or not your young children are ready for the subject matter.  There were two in particular that we chose not to read aloud because I did not agree with the theology behind them.

Stories tell of hope, of love, sacrifice, redemption and God's love.  But many are wrapped up in allegory or other literary techniques.  Be ready to have some pretty serious discussions on what some of the stories mean and how they apply to us!

As Easter approaches, I encourage you to enjoy the upcoming spring weather (it is coming, I am sure) and find time and new ways to point your family to the One who gave it to us!  Have a blessed and beautiful Easter!

You can find Easter Stories from Plough Publishing House on the following social medias-

*You can enter to win a copy of Easter Stories for your family by simply leaving a comment!  A random winner will be selected on Friday!*

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean! Week 12- The Family Room + DVDs

After last weeks assignment of bathrooms, I do have to wonder how many of you still like me!  Or are sticking around.  I promise this week is not quite as hard and it may even be a week off for a few of you.  If that is the case, you can use this week to catch back up on any unfinished weeks.  Like books!  Just saying ;)

So this week we are headed to the family room.  Or den.  Or whatever you choose to call the place where you spend time as a family.  Ours is currently in our basement and does not get as much traffic because of that.  It is however a hang out place for the kids and their friends, and is where we retreat on Fridays for family nights and weekends to hide from the world.

Here we go!
  • First things first, so clear the clutter.  One of the things that seems to happen when we stay in one place for any length of time is that we collect things in piles.  Somehow those piles just grow in layers and we start to not even notice the piles.  Now is the time to notice the piles!  And get rid of them!

We seem to have a problem with blankets.
  • Now on to the dusting!  Bet you will be surprised at how dusty the tops of things are.  

  • Don't forget lampshades, light fixtures and switches!
  • On to the furniture.  One sure fire way to tell you have kids is to check the nooks and crannies of your couches.  YUCK!  We vacuumed the cushions and beyond and finally decided to actually wash two of the cushion covers.  It seems at some point in time something had been spilled on them.  Luckily they survived the wash very well and look so much better now. 

This is what we found under the cushions and in the nooks and crannies.  Nerf, anyone?

  • Floors and baseboards are next.
  • And now the fun part.  NOT!  This is the room we house our DVDs, so guess what?  We are clearing out DVDs.   Luckily, Riley is the queen of movies and loves to organize them, so she took this project over.  You can see the start of our pile, but eventually we took three plastic bags stuffed full of movies to Goodwill.  Many were old VHS tapes and we decided that was time to let them go.  I made a list of a few we would eventually like to replace with DVDs, but we will see if they are really missed first.  Before you judge, we no not watch TV, so we rely on movies for our Friday Family nights. Hence the large numbers of movies.

  • Before you walk away with a smile on your face for a job well done, take one last look around!  Do you have stuff just filling a space?  Do you love everything you see?  Does it have a purpose?  Because 34 Weeks of Clean is just not about cleaning,  but also about taking back our homes in the clutter department, I challenge you to get rid of extras.  If you don't love it or use it, lose it!  Time to clear out the clutter!

This week my sweet friend and partner in crime, Kemi, at Homemaking Organized has created  DVD/CD alphabetical dividers just for you!  She'll explain how to use them on her blog, don't worry!

Ready to share those sparkling bathrooms?  Don't forget that for each link up you earn an entry in our 34 Weeks of Clean prize basket drawing!  Behind a week?  No worries!  Show us what you have done this week!  Not a blogger?  Share a picture of your progression our Facebook page!

Week 8- The Living Room
Week 9- Books!
Week 10- The Entryway
Week 11- Bathrooms

Until next week, happy cleaning and many blessings!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

GPALOVEMATH- Schoolhouse Crew Review

Recently we had the opportunity from GPA LEARN to review their program GPALOVEMATH, a  web based Math program for kids grades Kindergarten through 5th grade. For an entire year's membership, we can explore any grade level we desire and see fits us best.

GPALOVEMATH follows an Instruction, Practice and Quiz format, covering over 10,000 practice problems per grade.  That is over 150 lessons per grade!  By using different animated characters as your child's "coach", GPA Learn makes learning math fun!

Adirehs, an island girl, is the coach for 2nd graders, which is where we have been currently working. Other characters include a penguin, a detective and a cool robot!

Each day your child can follow a recommended path of instruction or choose what they would like to learn.  There are several colored "paths" to choose from (green, purple, or blue) and you must complete certain lessons to open other ones.  This ensures that prerequisite skills are learned before moving on to higher skill levels.  Once you choose the path you want to work on, you "test drive" that skill- by first receiving instruction on the new skill presented. After the instruction and a quick process review, you then working through practice problems with your coach. Once practice is completed you move to the quiz where you can earn points based on the number you get correct.  If your child gets stuck on a practice problem, they have three lifelines they can use to get help.

To further help motivate your child, there are over 100 reward options the parent can choose to set into the program.  The more options you choose, the more often they are rewarded to the child. These options range from things such as snuggle time and playing a game with your family to an extra movie privilege or later bedtime.  There is also an option to make up your own prizes.  In addition, the points your child earned can be redeemed for gift certificates to places like Toys R Us and Target!

Though this is not a game based system, there is a little adventure tied into the lessons and every few screens a little something extra is added in, giving the child a break for a moment.  During our time using the program, it was discovering animals on the islands or finding what to feed them, learning about recycling, and choosing tools to hang a sign.

A private social network where parents and kids can communicate with those they know in the same program can also provide an extra level of fun to the program.

How did we use this program?
Since we do math daily, we put aside our current math and used this for several weeks, 5 days a week, though they suggest 3 days a week is sufficient.  It is easily accessible and my 2nd grader often pulled it up on our laptop without me and got started before I could sit down.  We began with 2nd grade, since that is his current grade and followed the recommended path.

What did we think?
Hmmm, I had to really think about that.  While GPALOVEMATH did not knock our socks off, I did think it was a good solid program.  After several weeks into the program, we had not really hit any "new to us" skills, but that seems reasonable since we are already 8 months into our current school year.  We are planning to move up into the third grade level and see how he does.  Some concepts were taught a little differently than we had experienced before.  One of the things I did not like was counting on your fingers was encouraged several times, which I discourage in our home. While the lessons tended to take us on average about 30 minutes, CJ did skip through some of the screens when he already knew what to do.

In addition, GPALOVEMATH teaches the concept of S.P.O.T.-  Study the problem, Plan it out, Operate and solve the problem, Test and confirm your answer.  While I like the concept a lot, it is repeated and explained in every lesson and grew tiring to my second grader who began to skip it every time.

I do like that your child has a little freedom in what they choose to learn each day.  For my strong willed child, getting to "pick" is a big thing for him and made his day.  He also LOVED the rewards. Funny how the little things can matter.  Before he started his lesson each day he would go to the rewards tab to see how far he was from earning a reward or how many points he needed for another certificate.

I also like that this is NOT a game based program.  I like to make learning fun, but I think it is important to teach kids that life and learning are not all about games.  GPALOVEMATH seems to have found a good balance in their program.

Special Introductory Price of $129 per child per year includes-
  • Entire year math curriculum
  • Includes all grades K through 5
  • 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
  • Includes Learn, Engage, Motivate, & Parent dashboard features

You can find GPA LEARN on social media-

GPA Learn Review
Crew Disclaimer