Thursday, April 28, 2016

Any Questions?

Leighton wrote the following post for a series called The Sharpening Stone for our church's website exactly one year ago today. I thought it would be a good reminder to re-post it here. This instance made such an impact on my kids that they still talk about it today. 

 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known unto God.  -- Philippians 4:6

The other day we were taking the kids out to go geocaching. Our children love going. It gives a chance to get some fresh air, exercise, and time together. As we were getting ready to go Erika, my wife, reminded me to make sure I grabbed a pen. That way we can sign the logs in the caches we find. I assured her that i would grab one before we left and went on gathering the necessities to get five kids ready for caching. I made sure we had our GPS, the wagon and stroller were in the van. Erika had the water and a few snacks ready. All was good to go, so we went. We drove out to a local bike and walk path where a couple cachers had hid quite a few caches along the walkway. We got everybody unloaded from the van then into the stroller in the wagon and headed down the path. I got the first cache set on the GPS and we were off. We got the first location and began our search for the cache. It is always easier for the adults to find them so we kind of guide the kids in the right direction, but this time while I was looking in all the wrong places our daughter looked just in the right spot and found our first cache of the year.

She handed the tiny plastic container over to me and I reached for my Fisher space pen, that is my unofficial geocaching pen, and it wasn't there. Of course, I forgot it, you probably saw that coming. I looked at Erika with a plea in hopes she knew I'd forget and brought a pen of her own. Nope. So I lean on our oldest child and nothing from him. So our first cache of the year goes unsigned by us.

At this point I just figure I messed up and now we simply won't be able to sign any logs today. That's not what Erika nor our oldest thought. As we then continue down the path toward the next set of coordinates they each independent of each other ask God to give us a writing utensil. Erika asks for a pen and our son asks for a pencil. Independently! Erika didn't say out loud maybe we should ask God to give us anything. He simply asked on his own. Erika did say after she finished her prayer that she had asked. This lead to an immediate almost surprised response form our son, "I just asked Him for a pencil!" They shared a laugh and as they began, and I mean right away, like he looked away from his mother and exclaimed, "Look!" He ran a few feet ahead and picked up about half of a broken pencil. God had given him his pencil. I, of course, had my knife on me and was able to sharpen it. The rest of our logs that day got signed, but more important then that, my son's faith in God grew a bit more.

I was humbled by the fact that I would just settle to suffer the consequences of my forgetfulness and not make such a simple request to the Creator of the universe. As if the idea of providing to such a simple need of one of His children was in some way below Him. Yet my 9 year old son was not afraid to make his request known and then even expect it to happen. 

What is so small in your life that you're afraid to ask for God's help. "Be careful for nothing," the verse says. Don't worry about it. Simply make the request.

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Greemu: The Green Alternative to Emu Oil

I love reviewing products for my kids as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew team, I truly do. The homeschooling resources such as curricula, games, CDs, DVDs, and online subscriptions are a blessing to our whole family. Every now and then though, I receive something specifically for me, the mom. How fun is that? Oh, I could share these things with the kiddos, but I don't see them jumping up and down in excitement over beauty products, haha. The latest of these goodies is GREEMU from Devonian.

Devonian is not a company I had previously known, but it is distributed by Koru Naturals, which I am quite familiar with. It is a science-driven company that is devoted to creating natural beauty products using plants. They believe that anything that we currently derive from animal products can be replaced with suitable plant alternatives.

GREEMU is the green alternative to emu oil. Emu oil itself is extracted from the fat tissues of emus. These flightless birds from Australia have been the source of the oil that has been used by thousands of years as a hair and skin moisturizer and to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Pure emu oil has a composition of fatty acids that is not found in other oils, giving it these benefits.

After two years of research, scientists at Devonian have developed a product with the same lipid composition using a blend of plant oils and butters in place of the animal product. GREEMU is made of a combination of macadamia seed oil, palm oil, shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and rice bran oil.

I have been using emu oil since I reviewed it for Devonian's parent company, Koru Naturals. I was interested to see how they compared. First of all, they look identical. Both are a milky white liquid with a thicker consistency. They both have a mild, almost nonexistent smell. Both require only a drop or two for application. The only difference I have noticed is that the GREEMU absorbs slightly more slowly than the emu oil.

Because this works in the same manner as emu oil I, personally, cannot use this one as a facial moisturizer. Even a small amount makes my skin break out. However, like the other, GREEMU has been working wonderfully as an eye cream. Having a little one who does not sleep well at night can make for a tired-looking momma. I started applying this product and was pleasantly surprised to notice a difference after only a couple days. My eye area looked more refreshed and hydrated. Also, I pointed out in my last review, that the emu oil helped to lengthen my eye lashes. I started using GREEMU and realized that my lashes had gotten thicker. Gotta love that!

This oil works well on razor burns, especially in delicate areas, and other rashes. I noticed that one of my kids had a bit of a rash one day. I applied a few drops of this on the spot. After one application it looked better. After two, the rash was gone completely.

I have nothing bad to say about this product. It works well and is all natural. If you already like emu oil, you'll be pleased with this alternative (that is less expensive, as well!) If you're looking for a beauty product without harmful chemicals and not derived from animals, try a bottle of GREEMU.

You can connect with Devonian (through Koru Naturals) on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this oil on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

George Washington: True Patriot

Our family loves to read, so it's no surprise that our favorite reviews often are of books. The kids enjoy reading for a while each day on their own, but they especially love when my husband or I read aloud to them. We read all sorts of books, but the older kids have grown to love biographies. They like reading about the lives of people, knowing that that events actually took place. They're fascinated to study the actions, vocabulary, foods, dress, and thinking of past periods and seeing they ways in which our lives differ.

The books from YWAM Publishing are our favorites for biographies, and I often recommend them to others. I knew my kiddos and I would enjoy reading Heroes of History- George Washington: True Patriot and incorporating the accompanying Digital Unit Study guide.   

The book starts with Washington as a young boy. In a short amount of time, he experienced much heartache and acquired much responsibility. He was obligated to stay home and care for his mother and many siblings, but his heart craved adventure. Through a series of events, he learned surveying and was able to journey through western frontier. The cold, rain, fleas, ticks, and wilderness did not discourage him. He worked hard and earned money to buy land and many fine things.

After the death of his eldest brother, he was able to gain the position of adjunct of the Virginia colony and the red uniform that went with it. This was his first taste of military life. He was tenacious, was given a special assignment, braved great danger, and earned the respect of many people. 

His story continues as he fought for the British, fought against the British, got married, experienced the death of more loved ones, and gained power and importance. He trusted God and strove for a free, unified country. He was well-loved, but understood that today's heroes could quickly become tomorrow's scapegoats. His path to the first president of the United States of America was not of his choice, but rather duty. His life was spent as a sacrifice for his country, often setting aside his will for the best of the people. He was a remarkable man and one to esteem.

Along with the book, we received the digital unit study guide. The guide helps to further your study including geography, social studies, and history, to name a few. It designed to benefit all learning styles, group and individual study, and a wide range of ages.  

The guide includes the following:
  • Student Explorations - essay writing, creative writing, hands-on projects, audio/visual projects, arts/crafts 
  • Community Links - meaningful field trips, guest speakers, service projects
  • Social Studies - reproducible maps, geography, terms/vocabulary, conceptual questions, critical thinking
  • Related Themes to Explore - politics & law, math, history, science & medicine, geography
  • Culminating Event - project displays, cultural food, music, activities, oral presentations
  • Bibliography or Related Resources - books, movies, documentaries, magazine articles, websites

Since the recommended age is 10 and all but one of my kids are younger, a lot of the study guide was a bit advanced for them. We discussed the comprehension questions at the end of each chapter. The first question was always a vocab word (cantering, aversion, armada, formidable, etc.). I'd ask the kids what the word meant. If no one knew, I'd use it in a sentence. They'd tell me the meaning after that. I personally loved that part. It's very important to me to read my children rich literature that incorporates vocabulary that is above their level. I also enjoyed discussing the questions with them. It helped us to review the story and got them understanding it more fully. We also practiced cartography, made a timeline, and wrote newspaper articles. I fully intend to read this book again with them many years from now so we can partake in the other great activities in the guide. We can create an election campaign or host a levee.  We can act out a play about Washington's life, write essay questions, and recreate objects from the era like wax candles, embroider samplers, line cuttings, and more. The study guide is filled with activities, projects, and ideas to greatly further your study.  

Both the paper and digital copies of the book can be purchased for $7.50 and the digital unity study can be purchased for $5.49. We enjoyed these materials immensely. In fact, we own multiple books from their heroes series. It's not just Heroes of History books they offer, they have Christian Heroes and Heroes for Young Readers, too. All in all, we own 20+ of their books. Yeah, we love them that much. Not only does a purchase give you quality books at a great cost, it helps support missions around the world.

You can connect with YWAM Publishing on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see more biographies and study guide offered by YWAM Publishing, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

God Answers Prayer

This week has been rough.

I'm physically and emotionally spent.

And, honestly, I don't see much changing over the next few days. Sometimes parenting is hard. Life is hard. But I don't have to handle it on my own. (Yes, my husband is wonderful and is a hands-on parent, but he has many responsibilities of his own, as well.) Time and time again, when I reach the end of my rope, when I feel like I'm drowning, God is immediately there for comfort. For relief. For help. I can see Him in a big, real way. I know that He cares. When I finally come to Him broken, I can imagine Him saying, "What took you so long?"  

Too often, I think, I try to do too much on my own. Raising and schooling 5 little kids is busy. Throw in a week like this past and it can get overwhelming. I have piles of laundry to be put away and dishes to be washed. The kitchen floor needs to be swept and the carpet throughout the house needs to be vacuumed. Again.

So what am I doing writing instead of caring for my home?

I stayed home today with a sick little boy. My other little loves are singing tonight during church. I was sad to miss it, but promised to listen online to the live stream of the service. I kissed them goodbye, tossed yet another load of laundry in the washer, and cuddled my baby.

I watched the clock so as not to miss their song. Then my little guy had another episode, and it was not pretty. I washed him up, changed his clothes, cleaned the mess on the carpet, and put him down to sleep just in time for the song to start.

The most beautiful sound came through the speakers.

Oh, it wasn't that every note was hit just right or that their pitch was perfect. In the musical sense, it wasn't flawless. But they're kids. And 3 of them are mine. 

Most importantly, they sang from their hearts.

Did you ever talk to God above?
Tell Him that you need a friend to love.
Pray in Jesus’ name believing
that God answers prayer.
Have you told Him all your cares and woes?
Ev’ry tiny little fear He knows.
You can know He’ll always hear
And He will answer prayer.
You can whisper in a crowd to Him.
You can cry when you’re alone to Him.
You don’t have to pray out loud to Him;
He knows your thoughts.
On a lofty mountain peak, He’s there.
In a meadow by a stream, He’s there.
Anywhere on earth you go,
He’s been there from the start.
Find the answer in His Word; it’s true.
You’ll be strong because He walks with you.
By His faithfulness He’ll change you, too.
God answers prayer.

I stood in my kitchen with tears streaming down my face as the music filled the room.

A minute later, as I was still wiping tears from my eyes, my phone chimed. My husband had videoed the moment so I wouldn't miss it. (I sure do love that man.) I listened once more as I watched them sing. And once more I cried.

Those words sung by my little ones touched me. God does answer prayer.


Today is now Monday. That is all I had time to write before my family returned from church and the baby was woken from the noise that is my children. I stayed up late caring for him and woke up early with him, as well. I get discouraged at times because there is much I would like to write for our blog--memories, favorite recipes, DIY projects, experiments, fun. Life. When it comes down to it though, my family is my first responsibility. My poor blog gets set to the side, and I write in snippets when I find the time.   

I had considered changing the wording in the beginning to fit today, but decided against it. This is life. This is real. This is the busyness I mentioned. 

And this is all the more reason I need God.
Today I find time to write again as the baby is napping.

Have you told Him all your cares and woes?
Ev’ry tiny little fear He knows.

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I Peter 5:7

You can whisper in a crowd to Him.
You can cry when you’re alone to Him.
You don’t have to pray out loud to Him;

"The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles." Psalm 34:17

On a lofty mountain peak, He’s there.
In a meadow by a stream, He’s there.

"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Jeremiah 33:3

Find the answer in His Word; it’s true.
You’ll be strong because He walks with you.
By His faithfulness He’ll change you, too.
God answers prayer.

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

When you're discouraged, He's there.
When you're dealing with sickness, He's there.
When you're correcting attitudes, He's there.
When you're stressed, He's there.
When you're heartbroken, He's there.

When life gets too be too much and you're overwhelmed, God is there.  

I love how God used a ministry of my children to remind me of this truth. What a blessing these little ones are. May they never forget these words themselves and always hold them dear. May they forever remember to call upon Him.

God answers prayer.

*God Answers Prayer by Frances Towle Rath & Greg Soule

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Writers in Residence Review

I enjoyed writing stories as a child. I grew up and took writing classes for my English major in college. Now, I write for our blog. My husband wrote stories, too, and continued even as he got older. I have multiple poems he's written me over the years, as well. {swoon} Our daughter writes stories often and has her own notebook specifically for them. Our oldest son though? Hates writing. When we talk about his writing assignments, I always get the typical response, "Why do I need to learn this?" He think because he doesn't want to become an author that he shouldn't need to hone his writing skills. I've tried to show him how practical it is to put your thoughts into written word, whether he wants to write a sermon, fill out a resumé, send a letter, go to college, get certain jobs, along with other examples. I couldn't seem to get through to him, so I was hoping maybe Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries would help.     

Apologia Educational Ministries is well-known in the homeschool realm for their science curricula and other biblical worldview products. This Christian company believes "that every educational subject in your home school can and should be taught from a biblical worldview built on the solid foundation of God’s Word and centered on Jesus Christ." It's always best to use products that reinforce your beliefs. We have loved everything we've gotten from Apologia in the past, so I was looking forward to this product, as well.
Writers in Residence is a new language arts curriculum created by Debra Bell. This all-in-one student text and workbook will guide your students through the entire writing process. Along with learning how to create engaging stories and essays, they'll learn sentence structure, the parts of speech, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. Instead of focusing solely on the four traditional forms of writing (personal, expository, persuasive, and narrative), this curriculum teaches the student how to combine several forms of writing as it is more practical.

There are four types of writing projects throughout the course:
  • I Remember -- Students write about experiences they had.
  • I Imagine -- Students write high-interest, creative writing assignments in the form of fiction.
  • I Investigate -- Students use research skills to write a form of investigative journalism.
  • I Think -- Students write persuasive essays  and defend them with logical reasoning, facts, and examples.      

The program is divided into six units with multiple modules each. 

Unit 1: When I Was Young -- Writers use their memories as a source of ideas.
Unit 2: Very Truly Yours -- Writers use their imaginations.
Unit 3: My Family Hall of Fame -- Writes should write what they know.
Unit 4: My Favorite Author -- Learning to think deeply.
Unit 5: The History of Me -- Learning to dig into your past.
Unit 6: Zap! Pow! Kazam! --Learning to create great characters.
The Writers in Residence curriculum is intended for 4th grade and older, but is flexible enough to be used with multiple ages at a time. A sample schedule is given at the beginning of the book. This tool makes it very easy for my son to know what assignments need to be completed each day and helps him to not get overwhelmed by the size of the very large book.
Speaking of large, this book is packed full of not just assignments and directions, but all sorts of little tips and snippets of information. The book is engaging and colorful. It grabs your attention with its format and isn't a typical "boring" textbook.

An Answer Key book is also included with the all-in-one student book. This key contains all the answers for the student activities in which there are specific answers, like the punctuation and capitalization exercises, answers to reading assignments, definitions, and more. The answers are shown in green type on pages that look identical to the student's book.

Both books are easy to use. My son is being challenged by the assignments, but not to the point of frustration. We had a few very rough days in the beginning, but because the lessons build on previously taught concepts and skills, he is becoming more confident in his writing. I still cannot say that he enjoys writing, but he is starting to accept that it's a necessary skill to know. In fact, the other day he told me that he read that he needed to learn to write properly so he could make quality scripts for his stop motion videos. Hey, it's a start! Whatever it takes to grab his attention in learning this skill works for me.  

I am pleased with the content of Writers in Residence. It's thorough and systematic and is written in a way that my 10-year-old can understand. The assignments are interesting and not overwhelming. I have seen improvements in both my son's writing and his confidence. While he may never completely enjoy the writing process, I do believe this book is making a difference in helping him to accept it.

You can connect with Apologia Educational Ministries on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this program, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 4/8/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (8), Zac (6), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)

Happy Friday! This week was pretty typical--LEGO, reading, crafting, baking. Smiles.

1. Tyler, making up jokes: "Why did the grass eat the grass?"
Me: "Why?"
Tyler: "Because it was hungry!"

2. Hearing the older kids give commands like "Get thee hence!" and "Crucify him!" when their younger siblings are bothering them. 

3. Me: "Daddy lost his voice."
Alyssa, laughing: "Do you think he's dumb?"


5. Me, reading: "What did God help people to build so children could learn?"
Zac: "Houses!"

6. Tyler: "Where are we going?"
Me: "Church."
Tyler: "Aw, I just want to go to Gramma's. I like Gramma's."
Me: "I know you do."
Tyler: "I like Gramma!"

7. Tyler, after hearing me talk about someone he doesn't know: "What world is she from?"


9. Alyssa: "We should make a thing to show 3 ways how God is like Swiss cheese. (1) It's holey and God is holy."
Me: "(2) It's white and white means pure. God is pure."
Jake: "(3) It's delicious."
Alyssa: "God isn't delicious."
Zac: "'Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.'" (Psalm 34:8)

What made you Smile this week?

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake

Having kids with birthdays just 3 days apart means that we eat a lot of cake during the third week of March. Each child gets to pick the kind of cake he wants for his actual birthday and then they have to decide together on a cake for their combined party with our extended family. 

This year, Tyler was insistent on having an ice cream cake for the party. Ice cream, yes! This would mellow our abundance-of-cake week. I discussed some flavor options with him and Alyssa. I said something about peanut butter cups and ice cream sandwiches, and it was settled. No other combinations could sway their decision. And who could blame them? Chocolate & peanut butter is one of the best flavor combos ever. We have plenty of recipes featuring the two already (like these homemade Butterfingers made with a crazy ingredient, this decadent peanut butter brownie torte, this rich and creamy peanut butter pie, these peanut butter bars which is one of our absolute favorite desserts, these homemade Girl Scout peanut butter patties, and the ever-faithful no-bake cookies), but you can never have too many chocolate-peanut-butter desserts. Am I right?

The ice cream cake was a hit at the party. In fact, the entire thing was eaten that night. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing. I mean, you always want to serve something that people enjoy, but it also means that there were no leftovers to enjoy later! 

Alyssa had chosen a rich, mint chocolate chip cake (which is another favorite of mine!) for her birthday day, but, I admit, I was pleased when Tyler said he wanted the ice cream cake again on his birthday. Yes, more cool peanut buttery goodness. I've trained them well, you know, refined their palates and stuff.

In addition to being delicious, this cake is incredibly easy to make. The hardest part is assembling it before the ice cream melts. Chopping the peanut butter cups in the beginning and keeping the ice cream sandwiches in the freezer until needed (pulling out only 6 at a time) helps to keep your dessert in cake form, instead of a drippy, soupy blob.

To make this recipe even easier, you could use Cool Whip instead of making the whipped cream yourself. I, personally, love using fresh, whipped cream. It takes only a few minutes to make, yet the difference is amazing. Place a dollop on pancakes, garnish hot chocolate, ice a cake--it makes treats extra special.

I hope you enjoy this ice cream cake as much as we do! I'm already ready for another slice.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake
18 ice cream sandwiches
1 cup creamy peanut butter
12 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, chopped
Chocolate sauce
Fresh, whipped cream (or 1-2 small tubs of Cool Whip)

1. Heat peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir.
2. Working quickly, place 6 unwrapped ice cream sandwiches on a serving platter. Spread half of the peanut butter on top. Sprinkle with 4 chopped peanut butter cups. Drizzle with chocolate sauce.
3. Arrange 6 more unwrapped ice cream sandwiches on top and repeat layer or peanut butter, peanut butter cups, and chocolate sauce. Place remaining 6 ice cream sandwiches on top.
4. Cover cake with whipped cream. Garnish with peanut butter cups and chocolate sauce. Freeze cake for at least 30 minutes, and until ready to serve. Keep leftover cake frozen.

Whipped Cream
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place metal mixing bowl and metal whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Place all ingredients in the bowl and beat until stiff peaks forms. Do not over-beat.

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