Saturday, November 25, 2017


I went grocery shopping! 

I know . . . Boring, right?

But when you haven't done much except sit on the couch for nearly 3 months, even the mundane tasks of life seem exciting.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately actually--how your perspective can affect so much. We don't realize all the things we take for granted. You've heard the saying "You don't know what you have until it's gone"? Often we think of that statement applying to relationships and reminding us to appreciate the people in our life, but it can pertain anything. 

Like those mundane tasks.

Now that my ankle is in the process of healing and I'm able to get back to a somewhat "normal" routine again, I realize how the simple things can make me happy. I remember the excitement I felt when I walked from the couch to the kitchen. I didn't have to use my crutches! And the thrill of walking down the stairs to do laundry. Sure, it was a long process of putting both feet on each stair instead of going step-over-step, but I didn't have to scoot down on my bottom and crawl back up on my knees like a baby. I remember the day I was able to stand with the strength and ability to sweep and vacuum the house. And don't even get me started on the joy I feel every time now I get to organize an area of our home that was neglected for 3 months while we were in "survival mode."

Who knew that doing chores and simply walking whenever you want to could bring such happiness?

Too often, I think, we let insignificant things annoy us, cloud our judgment. It's easy to let little things  creep up and affect our attitude if we're not careful. I'm guilty of it, too. But, really, what good can come out of that?

A critical and unappreciative attitude robs you of your joy.

I carried a 3-ringed binder to classes with all my assignments in high school. It had a clear plastic cover that I could slide in a page on the front. Though I changed my decorative accents on the page from time to time, I always kept this quote from an 18th century French writer, Nicolas Chamfort: "The most thoroughly wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed." (See, I was looking for Smiles all those years ago, too, ha.) It doesn't mean that you have to tell jokes or watch comedies every day, but it's a reminder to be intentional in keeping a good attitude. Negative circumstances happen all the time, but how you respond to them is what matters. The more negativity you dwell on, the less joy you find in the simple things.

I've always loved my role as a stay-at-home mom. The cooking, the cleaning, the raising of the kids--it has always been a rich, fulfilling life for me. And then we added homeschooling. And more kids. My responsibilities have multiplied. And somewhere along the way I think I lost a little of my love of caring for our home. I've gotten annoyed by the crumbs and bothered by the mess. Oh, it's not an everyday feeling, but now much more often than before it feels like housework. Chores. Responsibility. Work.

I let the busyness distract me from my joy in serving my family.

"You don't know what you have until it's gone." Yes, thankfully, my family is still here, but my ability to serve them was gone for months. It was a discouraging, helpless feeling watching everyone else take care of our home. And suddenly, I couldn't wait to sweep up those crumbs and scrub the toilets.


I'm still struggling with some chores around the house. What the mind says, the body doesn't always do. But as I'm listening to my body and trying to push it to strengthen the ankle (and knee, leg, and hip that also weren't used for months), I'm also trying not to push it to the point of greater injury. It's a difficult balance to find.

Every night I go to bed sore and exhausted. My body and my ankle ache. I have good days and then days when my ankle swells back up and walking is nearly impossible again. But even on those physically challenging days, I have chosen to be happy.

Life is good, for so very many reasons. And now again, I get to serve the people who bring me the greatest joy and blessings and who are part of my "many reasons."

I won't claim that the messes make me happy, but I will be thankful for what they represent. Food. Clothing. Learning. Fun. Life. Blessings.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/24/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2) 

Happy Friday and Happy Thanksgiving! Our family has been abundantly blessed. What are you thankful for this week?

1. Alyssa, watching me ice cinnamon rolls: "There's a sight for sore eyes."

2. Tyler, sweetly: "Alyssa, you're the best sister I ever had."

3. Nicholas, hiding under all the pillows on my bed: "Mommy! Where are me?!"

4. Jake: "I got a joke! What kind of bird sings?"
Me: "Hmm, a mocking bird?"
Jake: "No. A chicken tenor!" (chicken tender)


6. Tyler is notorious for sitting at the dinner table with his barely-touched food, long after everyone else has finished.
Tyler, 2 minutes after we discussed what he had left to eat: "I ate all my (raw) carrots!"
Me: "Really? That fast?"
Tyler: "Yes! . . . Oh, that’s right. I accidentally dropped them on the floor. Accidentally."
{I tell him to pick them up and eat them. Time passes. He eats 2 carrots. I encourage him to eat the last one.}
Tyler: "I ate them all!"
Me: "Good. Did you really eat them all? You’re sure?"
Tyler: "Yes."
Me: "Ok, but if I go in there and find your carrot, you’re going to have to eat 2 more instead of just that 1."
Tyler: "Weeeeeell, I’m just going to check to see if Nicky ( who hadn’t been in the kitchen for 20 minutes) dropped one of my carrots on the floor . . . Oh, yep, he did. And it’s even by his seat so I know he did it. {picks up carrot} Hey, it looks just like my last one!"

7. Tyler, looking in the mirror before we left to celebrate Thanksgiving with family: "Hey, I actually do look nice."


9. Nicholas: "You need go rest."
Me: "I do?"
Nicholas: "Yes, on the couch. Your ankle hurts."

10. Jake, after Nicholas was acting silly: "I love that little baby."

11. Tyler, looking at his arm: "Hair is technically invisible unless there's a lot it."

12. Zac, about the dishwasher, because Tyler was getting a clean bowl: "Don't close it all the way, because then the green light will turn off and it will think it needs to wash the dishes still."
Tyler: 'Whoa, I didn't realize it was actually alive."

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/17/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2) 

Happy weekend! This week Jake went to The Henry Ford Museum with friends, we had our first Game Schooling day, Leighton took Zac to the zoo for his Special Day to celebrate his 8th birthday, and we enjoyed time together as a family. 

1. Jake: "What do bugs learn in kindergarten?"
Me: "I don't know. What?"
Jake: "The A, B, fleas."

2. Nicholas: "I 'mall. You big and Daddy big, but I 'mall."

3. Me: "Hey, that's cool! Where did you learn that?"
Tyler: "My brain taught me."


5. Me, frustrated: "Aw, Ty, why did you do that?"
Tyler: "I didn't do it on accident."
Me, humored by his mix-up: "You didn't?"
Tyler: "No, I'm serious. It wasn't on accident!"

6. Alyssa: "Every good notebook tells you how many pages are in it."

7. Zac: "Mom, I bet you'd win a breakfast, lunch, or dinner competition show, because everything you make is delicious."

8. Zac, showing a die with one dot: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "One."
Zac, showing a die with two dots: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "Two."
Zac, showing a die with three dots: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "Upstairs." 

(looks like a set of stairs up, up, up)

9. Me: "Are you my boy?"
Nicholas: "No. "
Me: "No?! Well then, whose boy are you?"
Nicholas: "Daddy's."
Me: "You're Daddy's boy?"
Nicholas: "Yeah. He my bess fwend."

10. Nicholas, to me: "Hey, babe? I want someping to dwink."

11. Nicholas: "I have fuit nacks?"
Me: "No. We don't even have fruit snacks."
Nicholas, dejected: "Aww, Jesus have fuit nacks!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/10/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Weekend! This week, we finished up another year with the Homeschool Review Crew, Leighton took Zac to the zoo for his special day alone for his birthday, the kiddos made some easy fall decorations, we celebrated Leighton's birthday, and we made sure to Smile. 

1. Tyler: "Mom, I think we have too many toys."
Me: "Can I get that in writing?"
Tyler: "But, Mom, pleeeeease don't get rid of any of my toys. I love them. I'm serious."

2. Tyler, to Zac: "I remember when you were 5. I don't remember when you were 6 though."

3. Me: "Does anyone realize that I'm up and organizing the pantry?"
Alyssa: "Yes."
Me: "Isn't that amazing?!"
Alyssa: "Yes. If you think it's amazing, I think it's amazing."

4. Nicholas, sitting on Jake's shoulders, squeezing around his face and clawing his eyes: "Hug. Let's be fwends."


6. Alyssa, watching my dad make shapes with dominoes and give the names for shapes with 8, 9, and 10 sides: "Just when you think shapes can't get more complicated . . . "

7. Tyler: "I like socks. You can wear them on any feet you want!"

8. Jake: "What do you call a sea chocolate?"
Me: "Hmm . . . I don't know. What?"
Jake: "An M&Mone." (anemone) 

9. Nicholas, in bed at 10:30 p.m., wide awake: “Mommy, can I hold you? Mommy? Mommy! Can I hold you? Can I hold you, pease?!"
Me, from my room: "No." 
Nicholas: "Oh, man! Pease, Mama! Pease, Mama! Pease! I need my water. Where my cup? Hey, where my punkin? Pizza! Pizza. Pizza. Where is eberyone? Eberyone? Where are you? Hmm, my bess fwend . . . Sissa, turn on your light. Sissa, turn on your light! Sissa!" 
Alyssa: "Go to sleep."
Nicholas: "No, you go to fweep! {grabs a book to read} Dis go pirate. Hmm, dis go pirate, too. Dis go ship . . .”

10. Tyler: "Yesterday was my worst day ever."
Me: "It was? Why is that?"
Tyler: "I don't know."
Me: "It was the worst day but  you don't know why?"
Tyler: "Oh, that's right, yesterday wasn't my worst day ever. A long time ago was."
Me: "Well, why was that day your worst day ever?"
Tyler: "I don't know! I don't remember anything about that day."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Engineer

It's hard to believe this is our last review with the Homeschool Review Crew for 2017! We've received some amazing products this year, but what better way is there to end than with one my son's favorites?

As soon as I watched the introduction video of Thinking Like an Engineer, I knew my oldest son would love it. He wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I was . . . until he started the course. Then he was hooked! I can't even tell you how many times now he's thanked me for signing him up for Innovators Tribe

Innovators Tribe was created to help revive innovation, creativity, and discovery. STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) is being recognized more and more for its importance. Wayne Kroeplin (Mr. K) created the Innovators Tribe's courses--Engineer, Architect, Carpenter (coming soon)--to direct students to become problem-solvers and innovators who are driven by their natural abilities. The self-paced, interactive lessons take the work away from the parents and give them the resources and confidence they need to support their students. These online courses are ideal for 6th-12th graders who love technology and hands-on activities.

Thinking Like an Engineer covers the following the topics:

  • Introduction to Enginnering
  • Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design)
  • Engineering Rollercoasters
  • Engineering Bridges
  • Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World)
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion

The lessons are a combination of videos, slides, pictures, and text. Mr K teaches in a way that makes the information easy to understand. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject spills over into his teaching which causes the viewer to catch some of that excitement, too.

One of the best ways to learn something is to do it. That's why there are many engaging challenges to reinforce the lessons. Students will build a tall paper tower, find the best way to craft paper to hold up pounds of books, build a filter to purify water, learn how to 3D design, build a working mechanism completely out of paper, design and create a rollercoaster, construct a suspension bridge, and more.

When I said that my son loved the program, I wasn't exaggerating. The course requires approximately 30 hours to complete, including projects. We've had access to Innovators Tribe for just over a month, and he's gone through all the lessons. All the lessons. On his own. I'd get up in the mornings to find him already working through the material. There are some challenges that he still needs to do, but he's waiting for help from my husband. He just couldn't wait to move on though and would watch the next portions before completing certain projects.

My husband was interested in engineering and architecture when he was a teenager. He had planned to make it his career before God called him to Bible college. Now, it's amazing to see how often he gets to use his talents at his demolition job. He's often solving problems and creating new tools to meet their needs. His inventions amaze me. Our oldest son is just like him. It's been fun watching the two of them talk about this engineering course and working together.

One thing that drew my boy to the program is the inclusion of 3D CAD software. He loves designing (which is why you can find him building with LEGO at any given moment) and technology. He is fascinated watching my husband design and create things on his 3D printer. So when he had access to his own lessons to teach him the ins and outs of the software, he was ecstatic. He completed the challenges in that version and then moved on to the advanced lesson using the software that my husband uses. He has learned so much in such a short amount of time and has far surpassed what is included in the course. The things he has designed on his own are so impressive and contain much detail.

I cannot say enough about this program. It is challenging to get my son motivated to do schoolwork, so saying that he completed this course much sooner than required and then spent numerous hours delving into deeper study is astonishing. It's not just because of the topic either, because we've used other engineering type of programs that just couldn't motivate his inner engineer. Innovators Tribe truly is remarkable.

Once he and my husband finish all the projects, I would like to have him work through Thinking Like an Architect and the newest course, Thinking Like a Carpenter. We hope to be part of the Tribe for a long time.

You can see some of the fun and engaging activities that are included in Thinking Like an Engineer in the video below. What you can't hear in this is when he was lifting the books and said, "Whoa! These are heavy. This paper is stronger than me!" Come watch how he made 1 piece of paper and a little tape hold up dozens of pounds of books.

Thank you, Innovators Tribe for sparking this passion in my son and encouraging him to apply himself and his engineering mind. Here's to the next generation of innovators. 

You can read more reviews of this program and also of the architecture version on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

Crew Disclaimer
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

My kids are so excited every time we get to review for The Pencil Grip, Inc.. They love arts and crafts and appreciate getting new supplies to make creations. The mess-free Kwik Stix are well-loved in our house by both kids and mom alike. The kids equally like the thinner version of the stix as well, but had only used the classic colors. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they opened the box with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. was started in 1992 by Dr Lois Provda, an educational therapist. The company has been selling hundreds of unique and innovative products for the school, home, and office ever since. They offer the original ergonomic pencil grips that encourage proper writing skills, textured products that appeal to sensory-seeking kids, ultra-safe scissors, basic office supplies, and, of course, the Stix. 

The Thin Stix, just like the original Kwik Stix, are solid tempera paint sticks, but without the mess. That means we don't always have to pull out the paint, brushes, smocks, and cups whenever the kiddos want to create masterpieces. Don't get me wrong, my kids love traditional painting! But Mom doesn't always want to deal with the hassle. With these paint sticks, they can simply uncap, twist, and paint to their hearts' content. On top of that, the fast-drying formula of the stix though allows the color to dry in only 90 seconds!  Now we don't have paintings drying all over the house. The pages can simply be stacked in one neat pile. 

Even times when I would say no to a full-on painting session, I would never deny their requests for the Thin Stix. So quick and easy.  

The Stix remind me of a big tube of lipstick. The paint is waxy and slightly tacky. They silkily glide across the paper as you swipe. (I admit, it's a bit addicting!) Using them is more like coloring than painting though since you draw instead of brush the color around. The finish on the page is paint-like with a shimmery sheen, so the completed project looks like it was painted.

The Thin Stix are much slimmer than their original counterpart. Their size and length are similar to markers. They have slightly less paint inside (0.35 oz for the original, 0.21 oz for the thin). You can be more precise and accurate with the thin version.

Just like the regular Kwik Stix come in a variety of colors (classic, neon, and metalix,), the Thin Stix do, as well. All the colors are fun, but the shimmery metalix are my personal favorite, and given the fact that my kids "ration" the use of the gold and silver stix, I'd say they're their favorites, too, ha. 

We've used these to paint on all types of paper, coffee filters, popsicle sticks, wood, and styrofoam plates. They really are easy to use on just about any surface (just ask the 2-year-old how much fun it is to use these to paint on the kitchen table. Stinker.) This time we made sure to make some fall decorations to display on the windows. The kids and I had fun swirling the colors on pages. Then we flipped the pages over to draw leaves and cut them out. It was a fun surprise every time we turned them over to see how the patterns and colors came together.    

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack offers so many opportunities for creativity. If you're looking for a mess-free, fun, and easy form of art, these Kwix Stix may be just what you need.

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on the following social media sites:

You can find more art projects made with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/3/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler 5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy weekend! What a fantastic week it's been! Zac turned 8 years old, we celebrated 3 of the boys' birthdays with a party with family, and after 11 weeks I can walk! I still have a long way to go before my ankle  injury is fully healed, but we're finally seeing improvements. So much to be thankful for, so many Smiles.  

1. Jake: "You know why I don't like birds? Because they're foul." (fowl)

2. Nicholas, in the middle of the night: "Mommy, can I hold you?"

3. Nicholas: "Zachy, you want to be my bess fwend?"

4. My birthday boy.

5. Jake, making up a joke: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Jake: "Archibald."
Me: "Archibald who?"
Jake: "Archibald and have no hair?"

6. Nicholas, running into the room with a big smile: "Hi, Mama! Nuffing in my mouf!" (He had just sneaked chocolate from the pantry.)

7. Alyssa, writing a story: "The girl in my story speaks fluent Scottish."

8. Zac's LEGO creation.

9. Nicholas, handing me a LEGO Duplo boy: "He sad. He miss his daddy."
Me: "Aww, he misses his daddy? Do you miss your daddy, too?"
Nicholas, looking out the window: "Oh, where my daddy? I love my daddy!"

10. Zac, making up a joke after eating cantaloupe: "What do you call melon bread?"
Me: "Hmm, I don't know."
Zac: "Cantaloaf."

What made you Smile this week?

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