Friday, June 27, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 6/27/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! Leighton and I celebrated our 11th anniversary last Saturday. It's already amazing to me how quickly times goes, and I know it's only going to seem faster.   We celebrated by going away for a long weekend by ourselves. We walked by the water, did a little geocaching, did some shopping, and just enjoyed each other. My parents watched all 4 kids for us, and though they had a good weekend as well, theirs was not nearly as relaxing as ours, ha. I'm extremely thankful for my family.

1. Alyssa: "Sometimes I wish my tongue could disappear so I didn't have to taste the things I don't like."

2. Tyler, after Alyssa kissed his cheek: "Gank gou." (thank you)

3. Alyssa using the iPad to making flamingo sounds, trying to attract one from the zoo to our house.

4. Jake, after eating a glazed doughnut muffin: "That just put a party in my stomach!"

5. Watching the kids run through the sprinkler.

6. Me: "Apple cider vinegar is one of the best things for you."
Alyssa, making a face: "It's the worst thing I like."

7. Zac: "Wow! You got 30 points! I only got 40."
Jake, laughing: "Did you hear that Mom? I got 30, and he only got 40. Are you going to put that on Things That Make You Smile?"

8. Alyssa: "I'm afraid of heights. I'm still learning not to be."

9. Jake: "Zachary, you really, really need to grow up."

10. Alyssa, in the house: "I think the desert heat is moving in."

11. Zac, dreamily: "I'm gonna fall in love with you, Mom . . . Actually, I already am 'cause I kiss you all the time."

12. Jake: "Do they have the Little Rascals in color?"
My Mom: "No, they didn't have color back then."
Alyssa: "Did they live in black and white?"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Go Science Series 2

I've said many times that my kids love science. Love as in they'd preform experiments all day if they could. Not only do they enjoy watching the experiments themselves, but they want to know the hows and whys behind them, too. (They totally get that inquisitive mind from their daddy. I don't really care why something works, I'm just glad that it does, ha.) They were thrilled to receive 2 Go Science DVDs series 2 to review from Library and Educational Services.

Library and Educational Services is a small, family-owned company right here in Michigan. They've been in business as a whole-sale distributor for 35 years, selling to libraries, schools, resellers, specialty stores, missionaries, daycare centers, and ministry leaders. They carefully select their merchandise to ensure they represent Christian morals and values. I personally have ordered from them and have been very pleased with the products.

The Go Science DVDs are filled with the high-energy demonstrations of Ben Roy, teacher at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and former director of a science program on television. Ben captivates, motivates, and inspires students to get excited about science and points people to God.  

Our first selection was volume 4: Motion, Friction, Electricity, Light. Each of the experiments were filmed with a group of children for a Christian TV broadcast. The demonstrations last anywhere from 3-10 minutes a piece. Mr. Roy is very personable and involves the children. He asks them questions about their likes and such before calling them forward to help with the experiments.

There are many demonstrations on this volume:
  • Tablecloth Trick
  • High Bounce Balls
  • Marble Gravitron
  • Yo-Yo Big Spool
  • Bowling Ball
  • Friction
  • Floating Rice
  • Simple Motor
  • Nail Magnet
  • Jumping Rings
  • Food Coloring and Bubbles

My kids (8, 6, 4) love watching these. They laughed as they tried their own marble gravitron, were amazed at the jumping rings, and couldn't wait to try floating rice. My daughter explained, in depth, how we could make our own simple motor. My son keeps asking me questions about science to see if I know what he's recently learned. They also think it's really neat that the whole series, every demonstration, shows how God made science and everything that happens is because of Him. I love how Mr. Roy not only grabs the kids' attention, but uses that influence to point them to the Creator. In the food coloring and bubbles section, he uses the experiment to show that our sin is red like crimson, but Jesus blood can make us white as snow. 

Our second choice was volume 7: Engineering, Design, Flight. This video is full of demonstrations, as well:
  • How Much Will it Hold
  • Leaning Tower of Lyra
  • Nail Balance
  • Trebuchet
  • Centrifuge
  • Walking on Eggs
  • Bed of Nails-Small
  • Rocket Balloons
  • Vinegar Rocket
  • Toilet Paper on Paint Roller
  • Film Canister Rocket

Any time you talk about a trebuchet or rocket, you're going to gain the attention of my little ones. It's exciting to watch objects fly through the air, using things you can find around the house. And it doesn't matter how many times they've seen it, they want to see it again. They were eager to try walking on eggs themselves, trying out a bed of nails, and sending rockets flying into space (or at least across the yard). Mr. Roy carries that same enthusiasm throughout each demonstration. You can see that he truly loves science and God, and it's contagious. At the end of each episode, he states,"When we learn more about science, we learn more about our Creator, God." And that truly is what these videos are all about.“
science, we learn more about our Creator, God.” - See more at:
“When we learn more about
science, we learn more about our Creator, God.” - See more at:
“When we learn more about
science, we learn more about our Creator, God.” - See more at:

Each individual volume of the Go Science series 2 can be purchased from Library and Educational Services for $8.97 (retails for $14.95) or the entire 7-volme set can be purchased for $59.82 (retails for ($99.70). The videos are geared towards kids 4-12 and are perfect as a starting place for experiments, as supplemental work, or as a motivation for kids who are not excited about science.

My little ones thorough enjoy watching these, and they can't wait to preform more of the experiments at home themselves. I love that they're learning science and how it correlates to God. We'll get plenty of enjoyment from these DVDs for many years. 

If you'd like to see more of what Library and Educational Services has to offer, you can request a catalog. There is also a demo video from the series.

Don't forget to head to the Crew blog to read more reviews of the other volumes in the Go Science series.   

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 6/20/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! Have you noticed all the activity on the blog this week? I've managed to post 6 out of the last 7 days! I know I won't be able to keep up that schedule, but it has been nice getting back to blogging a bit more. We've had a good week here, a little less school and a little more fun. The kids have really been great at helping out since I'm still not feeling well.

Did you have a good week, too? Why not share a funny or sweet memory with us! We'd love to Smile with you.

1. Jake: "What's for breakfast?"
Me: "Biscuits and gravy."
Jake: "Oh, I love biscuits and gravy!!! Heaven just came down to earth."

2. Zac: "I love you, Tyler."
Tyler: "Wuv you, Gacky!"

3. Alyssa, during a thunder storm, "I'm scared out of my guts already!"

4. Picking the first veggies out of the garden.

5.Instead of simply washing his hands, Tyler decided to multitask and give himself a bath, too.

6. Zac: "Mom, I have something special to say to you."
Tyler: {randomly yelling words}
Zac, yelling, trying to be heard over Tyler: "Mom! I have something special to say to you!"
Me: "What's that?"
Zac, sweetly: "I love you."

7. Listening to Tyler reprimand Zac for something and using his middle name, Allan, to show him that he was really in trouble, "Gacky Ayan! Gacky Ayan!"

8. Zac: "Mom, I think you should dye your hair light purple and black."
Me: "And why's that?"
Zac: "'Cause then people would think you look fabulous!"
Alyssa, laughing: "Don't worry, mom's hair is dying itself."
Jake: "Yeah, white."

9. Listening to Jake, who has beaten all of Mario on the Wii, teaching Alyssa, who had never played, how to play the game: "Jump. Jump. No, I said jump! Ugh! Not like that. No. Here, want me to show you? Over. Now, jump. Jump! No, JUMP!"
10. And then hearing Tyler help, too, "Jump, yeah! Go! Jump!"

11. Jake, sarcastically, after he watched me cross something off after I packed it: "You made a list? That's so unlike you!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pantry Surprise 6/19/14

I haven't posted a Pantry Surprise in just over a year. A year! Oh, it's not that we haven't had random things left in strange places. In fact, I think I've gotten so used to finding things where they don't belong that I don't even question it anymore. 

Tyler was on a big kick for a long time where he'd throw things in the fish tank, the toilet, and the sinks. 

And the bathtub. 

And down the heating vent. 

Oh, and the down the laundry shoot.

Pretty much anywhere toys were not supposed to be.

But when I found a true panty surprise in the actual pantry, I figured it was time to dust off that title and revive this section of the blog. 


This Chima wolf was zooming through the pantry on his Speedor, looking for a snack. Battling for Chi is hard work, you know, and one needs to refuel every now and then.

We try not to aid the enemy, but one time can't hurt, right?

Not sure what a Pantry surprise is? You can catch up on past surprises here.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza

This is one of those recipes that I've been meaning to get posted for a while. When my friend asked me for the recipe, I knew it was time to get typing.

We love homemade pizza and make it often. Pepperoni, supreme, slices made-to-order, bbq chicken, personal pizzas, taco, Hawaiian--we're not picky. But my absolute favorite is cheeseburger pizza. Bacon cheeseburger pizza, at that.

I first started making it a few years ago, when I was wanting something different. I love cheeseburgers and figured I could use those same flavors to create a pizza. I stood looking at my dough, ready to be covered in yumminess, and got to work. The end result was delicious and instantly became a family favorite. We've been making it ever since.

I don't have specific amounts for the ingredients, because I never measure. I just cut and add until I have a desired amount. Use as much or as little of each ingredient as you want. Make it your own. That's one of my favorite things about cooking!

I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as we do.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza
pizza dough
ground beef, cooked
onions, diced and cooked
bacon, cooked and crumbled
shredded cheese (cheddar, colby jack, whatever is in the fridge)
lettuce, shredded
tomatoes, diced
pickles, diced
1. Place your prepared pizza dough (optional recipe below) into pan. For this particular pizza, I like using my rectangular stoneware pan, instead of my big round pizza pan, because the thicker crust holds up better to all the toppings. Also, I add some onion and garlic powders when preparing the dough to enhance the flavors.
2. Squirt a generous amount of ketchup and mustard on the dough and spread it around. Add beef and onions, bacon, and shredded cheese. 
3. Bake for 18-20 minutes (14-16 for a thinner crust) at 400*.
4. When it’s done baking, add lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Let it rest a few minutes before cutting.

Pizza Dough
1 3/8 cups water (70-80*) 
3 tbsp olive oil 
3/4 tsp salt 
4 cups flour 
2 tsp active dry yeast 

Combine all ingredients in bread pan in order listed. Select "dough" setting. When dough is finished (will take 90 minutes) pat dough into pizza pan and top as desired. Bake at 400* for 14-20 minutes, or until desired doneness.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Make Your Own Decisions

Father's Day always gets me thinking about my husband and his relationship with his father. Or, rather, his lack of relationship with his father. Some of you know the details; many of you do not.

In a very small nutshell: his mom died, his dad remarried, he ended up in a children's home.

Obviously, I left out a lot of details. Very ugly details. Details that made me angry and broke my heart when I first learned of them. Even now, 12 years after I heard the story, I still question why.

But the purpose of this post is not to fill you in on the sordid details.

The purpose of this post is to tell you that everyone makes his own decisions.

I've heard many times that "you're a product of your environment.," and I do believe that to be true. Mostly. Your habits, actions, way of thinking, emotions are all influenced by your surroundings. I can see traits of my mother in me--the way I fold clothes, the way I organize my bookshelves, the way I cook--just like I can see my influence in my children. After all, the Bible teaches us in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Your influences, as a child especially, will greatly impact your life.

But you still have to make your own decisions.

A rough childhood with poor examples is no excuse to continue down the same path.

You've heard the stories about the men who abandoned their families, because their fathers did. The fathers who were drunkards or druggies, because that's all they knew. The mothers who neglect their children, because that's what they experienced as little girls. Too often as a society, we allow the poor choices of another generation dictate our actions today. It's an excuse to do wrong. After all, it's much easier to blame someone else for your bad decisions.

We shouldn't just accept it as fact, though, with an understanding and sympathetic nod. I know that it must be difficult to make proper choices when you haven't been taught how--sheesh, it's not always easy to make proper choices even when you have been taught how--but people need to hold themselves more accountable. 

I knew, long before we ever had kids, that Leighton was not going to be one of those men. He wasn't going to follow in his father's footsteps. He wasn't going to be another one to use his painful past as a template for his future. Had I seen any of those characteristics, even in the smallest sense, I would not have married him. 

Instead, he became the father I knew he would. He's loving, hardworking, and slow-to-anger. He's a good provider, our spiritual leader, and the head of our home. He's a hands-on-dad and a faithful husband.

He did not naturally have all of those tendencies because he saw them throughout his childhood. They were not just "second nature" because he had a perfect example as a child.

He made the decision to be a good dad. And I think it's a pretty good indicator that he's doing a great job just by reading what his children say about him.

I know it might sound cliché, but I am so proud of my husband. Every time I hear of someone else who succumbed to the struggles of the past, I always think of him. His strength, his resolve, his unbelievable forgiveness, and his unfailing love.

He made his own decisions. And he chose wisely.  

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day 2014

I try to teach my children all year long to love and respect their daddy, to show them just how important he is. Father's Day is an extra special time though. We strive to go out of our way to show him our love on this day. We make his favorite foods, tell him how wonderful he is, and make sure he knows he is loved.

Another thing we've done the last few years is fill out a questionnaire all about him. I love looking back and reading through their answers from 2013 and 2012. An overwhelming trait throughout their responses is that they know that they are loved and they love him in return.  It makes my heart happy.

Here is my husband, the daddy of my babies, through the eyes of our children.

By Jacob, 8 yr:
My dad is 31 years old.
My dad weighs 198 pounds.
My dad is 6 feet tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is mom's.
My dad is really strong. He could lift a 200 lbs.
My dad always says stop being funny.
My dad is the best at doing the right things.
My dad's job is working at BlueStar.
My dad laughs when mom's being sarcastic.
My dad and I like to go hunting.
My dad really loves mom.
I love my dad 'cause he's my dad.
It makes my dad happy when I obey.

By Alyssa, 6 yr:
My dad is 21 years old.
My dad weighs 30 pounds.
My dad is really tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is biscuits and gravy.
My dad is really strong. He could lift a desk.
My dad always says I love you.
My dad is the best at building.
My dad's job is to take apart buildings.
My dad laughs when we tickle him.
My dad and I don't really do anything because he's always at work.
My dad really loves me.
I love my dad because he loves me.
It makes my dad happy when I obey.

By Zac, 4 yr:
My dad is 21 years old.
My dad weighs 20 hours.
My dad is {raises hand in air} this tall (about 2 feet).
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is macaroni and cheese.
My dad is really strong. He could lift the whole entire house!
My dad always says I love you.
My dad is the best at working.
My dad's job is getting money.
My dad laughs when he giggles.
My dad and I like to play with each other.
My dad really loves mommy and me.
I love my dad 'cause hes so strong.
It makes my dad happy when he sees mommy.

Happy Father's Day, Leighton! We love you ever so much.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 6/13/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! Things have really slowed down at home lately with my not feeling well. This week has been a little bit better though, and I've been able to catch up on a few things around the house. I've even been able to get back in the kitchen a bit to make some yummy things, like cinnamon and sugar doughnuts. It's been a pretty good week with many reasons to Smile.

1. While doing school, we were talking about words with irregular plurals. After I gave a few examples, I asked the kids for some. Jake immediately said, "Paczki!"

2. Alyssa: "I like when paper is in a nice and neat pile."

3. Tyler watching the cotton from our cottonwood tree blowing all around and excitedly shouting, "Bubbles!"

4. This picture cracks me up! The kids were outside playing and taking random pictures (my camera was full of hilarious kid-selfies). They explained how they staged these, and then I watched a few in process. Jake would tell the others how to stand and they'd pose for him. They had so much fun!

* No child was harmed in the capturing of these images.

5. Zac: "Mommy, can I have another piece of paper, please?"
Me: "Hmm, what do I get?"
Zac: "Kiss!"

6. Alyssa wanted to read as long as Jake does every day. She didn't make it the 90 minutes that he's required to read, but 50 minutes for a 6-year-old is pretty impressive.

7. School plans changed one day: 
I told the kiddos they could play for a few minutes before school while I finished up some things and got Tyler down for a nap. Instead of playing, Jake found our audio biography of Jacob DeShazer from YWAM Publishing. They all sat and listened to part of the story of this missionary to Japan and his forgiveness toward his enemies. That was better than what I had planned for the day anyway.

8, Zac, getting ready to play outside, "Do I need my snow boots?" because the cotton from the tree was all over the ground and looks like snow.  

9. Zac: "Why does watermelon have to be so watery?"

10. Me: "I think Blue Baby (stuffed animal) needs a bath."
Zac: "Why? She's not dirty."
Me: "Oh, yes, she is."
Zac, inspecting the bear all over: "What, this? That's just old California."

11. Zac, after Leighton walked me to the car with an umbrella in the rain: "That was nice."
Me: "Yes, it was. Are you going to do that for your wife one day?"
Zac: "Yeah! I hope you're the wife."

What made you Smile this week?
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Thing That Make Me Smile 6/6/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

I have been completely humbled by all the sweet and encouraging words, comments, and messages I've received after our announcement this weekend. God is good. Thank you to everyone who has made us feel loved. We appreciate you all.

1. Zac: "I speak English."
Me: "Yes, you do."
Zac: "What! I really do?"

2. Alyssa: "Jake doesn't like me. He treats me like I'm a waffle."

3. Jake turned 8-and-a-half years old!

4. The older kids came up with a way to keep Tyler out of trouble.

5. The kiddos made Tyler a habitat because "he's like an animal."

6. The kids and I were doing school when I tried to scroll down the page in the book. The problem was that I was reading from a physical paper book, not on the iPad. As much as I claim to prefer paper books over electronic ones, technology has influenced me.

7. Zac, getting ready for bed: "I love this part when I hug you and kiss you."

8. Alyssa: "Reading really does come in handy sometimes."

9. Zac came inside from playing just to give me a kiss. Then he ran back out to play again.

10. Jake: "Do you have a pet sea cow?" 

11. Zac: "I love my coat with the Ziploc pockets." (zippered pockets)

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Adding Another Branch

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

These verses have been on my mind lately. When I get overwhelmed, when I start to question, when I fear, I remember those words. 

God's ways are not our ways. His way is always better.

And though we know that to be true, it's not always easy to accept it, to make it our own.

I wrote this post nearly 3 years ago. (Wow, it's hard to believe that much time has passed.) In it, I mention the words of the wise women that I know, about knowing when your family is complete. After baby #4 was born we were complete. We knew it. Many people have asked over the last couple years, when are you having another one? We'd laugh and respond with we're not; we're done. Our family is complete.

But then something happened. About 6 months ago, I really started getting this feeling that we were going to have another. Oh, it wasn't my plan, but I felt it. Little did I know at the time that it was God preparing me, working on my heart. Trying to get me to accept His plan. I kept these thoughts to myself for months. Finally, one evening as Leighton and I were alone, I asked, "Do you feel like we're going to end up with 5 kids?" He immediately and emphatically replied, "Yes." God was working on him, too. I didn't know it at the time, but I was already carrying another precious miracle within my womb.

I wish I could say that I surrendered immediately to His will, that I took His plan and made it mine. I did not. I had my own plan. My own desires. My own fears. Every reason I had began with I.

I want . . .I don't want . . . I was planning . . . I was going to . . . How am I . . .  




I can be such an ugly, selfish word.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. 
Psalm 127:3-5

God has chosen, in His perfect will, to reward us with another child. I can continue to question and fear, or I can remember Happy is the man . . .

Happy is the woman who can hear that new heartbeat.

Happy is the woman who will feel the moving and kicking of a growing child.

Happy is the woman who gets to snuggle another newborn babe.

Happy is the woman who gets to indulge in that new-baby smell.

Happy is the woman who can kiss 10 more tiny toes.

Happy is the woman who can feel those little fingers grasp her own.

Happy is the woman who can calm the crying child like no one else can.

Happy is the woman who can nurse and comfort another baby.

Happy is the woman whose heart will grow yet again to fully love another precious life.

Happy is the woman who has been privileged and entrusted with another blessing.

Happy is the woman.

The kids are already happy, in fact, they're thrilled. (Well, the older 3 are; Tyler is pretty clueless about it.) They've always wanted to have another sibling. I find it ironic that Jake asked if I was going to be ready for a 5th child this year, just a few weeks before I became pregnant. God was using my oldest child to guide me.  

Regardless of what I had planned, I know for sure this is God's will for our life.


Because we got asked when we were expecting last time, and I'm sure we'll get asked again, let me answer a few questions:

Yes, we know what causes this. 

Yes, we know that it's "preventable."

Yes, we already have a TV.

Yes, my hands are full. 

Yes, this baby was planned (if not by us, for sure by God).

And yes, I suppose we are crazy.  


Though at times I still struggle, I will remember that God's way is perfect. He has seen fit to abundantly bless us and add another branch to our family tree. And I will be happy.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Peter Rabbit

Have I mentioned that our family loves to read together? Oh, only about 100 times? Well, it's true, and you often talk about things that you're passionate about. I want to instill in my children a love of reading and a love of learning, and there's no better way than to do it with them. Involve them. Because of that, we were pleased to receive 2 books--How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea and Peter Rabbit's Birthday--to review from Kinder Cottage Publishing. 

Kinder Cottage Publishing was created in 2012 by a couple, Howard and Ann, who desire that their children grow up with a love of literature, history, culture, and Christian faith. They offer products that help other parents educate and give their children that same love. Books like the Peter Rabbit series, the Wizard of Oz series, an original series about the 10 mist influential people in the history of England, and even books written by Howard's mother are some of the rich products they offer. 

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was able to choose 2 books from the Peter Rabbit collection:

1.    The Tale of Peter Rabbit 
2.    Peter Rabbit at the Farm  
3.    Peter Rabbit's Christmas 
4.    How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea 
5.    Peter Rabbit Goes A-Vising
6.    Peter Rabbit's Easter
7.    Peter Rabbit's Birthday
8.    When Peter Rabbit Went to School
9.    Peter Rabbit and the Little Boy
10.  Peter Rabbit and Jack the Jumper

While we do own the entire series for our Kindle, we've read only a couple of them, as of yet, with the kids. They are a bit familiar with the character of Peter Rabbit, but without beig familiar with all the stories, they don't have favorites. I chose books that I assumed they would choose: number 4 (Went to Sea) and 7 (Birthday). 

I think most people are familiar with Peter Rabbit, or at least have heard the name. He's a little bunny who lives with his mother and 3 sisters in a sand bank under the roots of a fir tree at the edge of a big wood near Mr. McGregor's garden. His sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, are good little bunnies, but Peter is mischievous and always getting into trouble. As we read these stories, there were multiple references made to our own little "Peter Rabbit", a.k.a. our 2-year-old Tyler. He, too, is mischievous and always getting into trouble! That connection made silly Peter even more endearing to my little ones.  

How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea starts off with Peter eating too much, forgetting his mother's request, and getting punished. All within the first few pages! He was a naughty little rabbit, indeed. Then, Peter does the one thing his mother told him not to do: play near the brook. His good sisters tried to stop him, but he had made up his mind. The adventures takes him on a wild ride where he meets interesting creatures--Grandaddy whale, Old Man Shark, Johnny Crab, Gruff Old Sword-Fish. It was his experience with Sammie Sea Gull that had him worried though. Peter tricks him and makes it home to his family again.    

Peter may have learned his lesson about being a pirate at sea, but that experience did not stop him from being a mischievous boy. Peter Rabbit's Birthday is a day of celebration, but he just can't seem to stay out of trouble. He finds himself covered in flour, soaking wet, and almost missing his own party. He meets many friends throughout the book and even makes a couple new ones. By the end of the day, he was "such a polite and beautifully behaved little rabbit." But don't worry, in the morning, I'm sure, he rose with mischief in his eyes once again. 

Though Peter is a naughty boy and constantly disobeying, he is a loveable rabbit. My kids laughed at his antics and groaned when he made another poor decision. The stories opened up discussions about how it's so important to obey your parents. Kids don't always understand the dangers in life or why parents make certain rules. It's our responsibility to protect these little lives we've been entrusted with. They're not going to understand it all now, but they do need to understand the importance of obedience. No, they're not going to get caught by Mr. McGregor and turned into a stew, nor are they going to get their fluffy, white tails bitten by a crab, but they will experience other struggles through life. Peter Rabbit is a good example of what not to do.

These hardcover books are 5x7 and are perfect for little hands. They are strong, well-made, and the prefect size. There are illustrations throughout the book: text on the left-hand side of the page, pictures on the right. Kids love being able to visually see the story, so I appreciated that aspect. These are the 1917 versions of Henry Altemus Company editions, except for a few revised out-dated words (like velocipede). Each book costs $4.00 or you can purchase the entire collection for $30.00. The books are ideal for ages 3-9.

If you want to pass on the love of Peter Rabbit, these books are for you.

You can read more reviews of all the Peter Rabbit books from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Frog & Toad

We are a big literature family. Our schooling consists mostly of reading books and hands-on projects. That's why I was so excited to be reviewing the Frog and Toad Together study e-guide from Progeny Press.

Progeny Press is a Christian company owned by Michael and Rebecca Gilleland. It is their mission to "teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!" They offer more than 100 study guides for classic, popular, and award-winning books. The guides are designed to help students better understand and enjoy literature by getting them to think through the themes and ideas written in the stories. The study guides are available in three formats: a physical book, a CD with a PDF ebook, and a downloadable PDF file.

Since my oldest child is 8, I chose a book from the lower elementary (K-3rd grade) section: Frog and Toad Together. My husband and I both enjoyed the Frog and Toad books when we were kids. I still have a couple of them from my childhood, and we've since gotten the others for our kids to read, as well. We even have the entire collection on audio, read by Arnold Lobel himself, and listen to them often. My little ones love hearing these short stories about friendship. Though the two characters are blatantly opposite at time--Frog being the optimist and Toad being the pessimist--their friendship unites them and takes them on many adventures.  

The study guide is broken down according to the chapters, or stories, in the book.
  1. A List
  2. The Garden
  3. Cookies
  4. Dragons and Giants
  5. The Dream

The first part of each section begins with questions about the story: why did toad make a list? why would it be bad for Frog and Toad to eat the whole bowl of cookies at one time? do you think Toad told Frog about his dream? Not only do the questions get the student to review the story, but they also get him to think deeper, to put himself into the story and make decisions.

Within the questions section are Bible verses that compliment the lessons in the stories. The verses are written out in the guide itself, but because a different version from what we read is used, we opted to pull out a KJV and read directly from the Bible. There are also questions that accompany the Bible verses and reinforce the value of friendship.

The kiddos and I would cuddle up together on the couch to read the stories and answer the questions aloud. I find that this read-aloud time helps all the children to hear different ideas and gives me the opportunity to ask more questions and to encourage deeper thought. While they greatly enjoyed this time, they especially loved the parts that followed: the projects!

There are some written activities, like a Venn diagram, word search, and making their very own "list of things to do," but there are many hands-on projects, as well. There's a recipe for making cookies, and art project for drawing your own dream bubble, and painting pictures with watercolors. The highlight, though, was planting seeds, just like Toad did in "The Garden." There are two different seed projects--one to practice vowel sounds, and one to compare circumstances--and we did both. The kids enjoyed going to the store, picking out the seeds, and planting them all on their own. They thought it was so funny that we even read and played music for one set of seeds to determine if they grew better than their non-artistic counterparts! (Spoiler Alert: they grew faster in the beginning, but only 2 of the seeds grew, whereas all 4 seeds grew from the left-alone cup.) 

Honestly, I have nothing bad to say about this study guide, not even a slight suggestion for improvement. The kids and I enjoyed the stories, the question and discussion time, and all the projects. I love how the guides incorporate the Bible and point the readers back to Christ. This study has taken some of our favorite stories and has given them deeper meaning. Whenever you can apply a lesson, rather than just hear about it, it's much more likely to make a lasting difference.  

This study e-guide costs $11.99, and you can view a sample on their site. If your kids are younger than the lower elementary age, don't worry, Progeny Press offers study guides through the high school level, as well. We enjoyed this review and look forward to using another study guide from Progeny Press in the future.

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To read more reviews of this study guide or to check out one of the many others, head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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