Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Huge Milestone

 We have 2 children who have been clinically diagnosed with Dyslexia.  Our oldest daughter (now 13) really struggled in her early learning years with Dyslexia but her diagnosis was just "mild Dyslexia".  She had an IEP (individualized education plan) when she was in public school and we learned lots of little "tricks" to help her learn despite this diagnosis.  She was in public school until 4th grade.  Our son (who has always been homeschooled) was diagnosed with "severe Dyslexia & Dysgraphia".  Let me just tell you, his level of Dyslexia threw us a whole new curveball.  For those of you who may not understand Dyslexia or have never dealt with it, this is an example of how reading a sentence could look for our son.

Can you imagine how hard that would be and how easy it would be to just give up and not try?  Our son often would say "I want to read but it just doesn't make any sense".  At age 6, we started formal reading programs with him and worked on it everyday.  We did the entire program, then went to and then purchased All About Reading Level 1.  Last year, we did the "Blast Off to Reading" curriculum that is Orton-Gillingham based lessons designed specifically for Dyslexic kids and he even had personalized individual tutoring with a reading coach in our town each week.....and still, he wasn't reading.  Talk about frustrated!  I can't tell you how many times I have cried to David about it, doubted my teaching methods, felt sorry for our son because of how much he wanted to read and seeing his desire to read but watching him struggle, get frustrated, and lose confidence in his abilities.  I listened to people judge him because of his age and the fact that he was 9 years old and couldn't read, listened to criticism on homeschooling and why it's bad because of things like this, been told things like "obviously you aren't the best teacher for him" and "he would get much better help if you put him in public school", etc.  Thanks to many homeschool friends who continually encouraged me and the most wonderful, supportive, homeschool-loving husband who kept telling me I was doing it just right and not to give up, we persisted and continued doing reading, sight words, and sentence strips everyday.  

Last week, we went to the library (which is common for us) and let the kids check out books.  Our small town library has a rule of only 5 books per card no matter if your an adult or child so we are very limited in what we can check out each week.  For all you homeschooling families, that can check out 50 books per are so lucky!  Anyway, Wyatt typically checks out 3 books that he wants me to read to him about animals (he loves learning about animals) and I make him choose 2 books that we can read "together", meaning he reads all the words he can, I make him sound out others, and some of them I just tell him.  

We came home from the library, finished their homeschool for the day, and then he asked if we could "read together".  So we piled up on the couch and he grabbed Dr. Seuss "Green Eggs & Ham" book.  You should know that we don't own this book at home, he hasn't read it anywhere, seen the movie or anything and this was a brand new book to him.  He read the cover it all by himself, then the next page, and the next page, and the next page....and at this point I'm sitting there with my mouth open in shock that he is actually reading without any help!  He read to page 42 before he asked me for help with a word and he was smiling the entire time!!  By the time he asked me for help, I was in tears of happiness.  He read the entire book and was so proud of himself.  In fact, you can watch a short clip of him reading too.  When David got home from the office, Wyatt asked to read to him and again read the entire Dr. Seuss book plus The Bernstein Bears "Bears in the Night" book.  He asked to go to the library the next day and return all his books (even though we hadn't read 3 of them) and get 5 books that HE could read.  So we did.....
He has continued to read everyday and is reading to anyone who will listen to him.  Granted, he is still a beginning reader level but boy, oh boy, are we praising God for his sudden progress, for his excitement to read, for the smile on his face as he reads, and for the sound of his sweet little voice reading!  We are working on harder sight words now and I played a little game with him this week where he got to put a sticker anywhere on my face for every sight word flashcard he could say correctly with no help. When David got home, he played the game again with Wyatt and let him cover his face in stickers too (see, I told y'all he was the best encourager)! Needless to say, Wyatt was super motivated to get the flashcards right.  

On a side note, let me just say that all the reading programs I mentioned I still highly recommend to others.  You see, it wasn't the programs fault that Wyatt wasn't reading and it wasn't bad materials.  It was simply a timing issue.  Wyatt was 9 years old before he could read a book and that's o.k.  His brain just learns a little differently than most kids and we just had to be patient and persistent and keep encouraging him (even though at times that was so hard to do).  Right now, Wyatt is using Explode the Code and he is really enjoying it this year.  

So, if your child is not yet reading or struggles with Dyslexia, just know that there will be a moment when all the pieces finally click together and they "get it" and start reading.  You are a wonderful teacher for them (despite criticism or your own doubt) and they probably wouldn't want anyone else to be their best cheerleader while they learn to read. So hang in there, keep your chin up, keep working with them everyday, and when your child learns to read, know that I will be celebrating with you!  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Holiday Educational Gift Ideas

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some holiday gift ideas with you.  These will be items that our family has used and loved.  With Christmas rapidly approaching, we are all looking for new ideas for Christmas gifts and we probably all have shopping lists to fill.  So here are this week's holiday gift ideas.
Perplexus was named "Game of the Year" recently and we know why!  This little ball doesn't look like much but it contains 4 starting points, 125 barriers, and endless hours of fun and concentration.  Designed for ages 6 and up, this little ball will keep you playing not only for fun but for sheer determination to complete the course.  This is a great educational toy and we found that not only do the kids love it but the adults love it too! 
This softcover, 128 page book gives children the opportunity to use their imaginations and be very creative with their art. Splat Art features full-color images of ordinary stuff that you transform into unique works of art.  For example, turn a handprint into an elephant or make a frilly fern become a dinosaur.  Our 9 year old & 11 year old both loved their Splat Art books and had so much fun using their creativity to fill in each page.  
Looking for a fun way to teach the 50 states and geography?  WorldWise USA card game is a super fun and easy way to learn all about the 50 states and the surrounding bodies of water too.  Players must use all their cards by matching them with bordering countries but beware because game play cards such as "Wild Card" and using a bluffing technique add a whole new dimension to the game play.  The game includes a full-color, dual-sided map and the game is stored in a decorative tin making it easy to travel, keep in a backpack or purse or store easily.  This is a game that is requested by our kids at least once a week for family game time.  
Growing up, I always enjoyed looking at things under a microscope. I would catch bugs in the yard, look at my own hair and fingernails, and even make my own slides once I learned how in high school.  Our family has the AmScope microscope and a set of already prepared slides and we all enjoy using it.  It has been hours of fun for the kids already and they are learning more about Science because of owning a microscope.  This microscope won't break the bank and yet it has a 4 out of 5 star rating.  The prepared slides are great to give your kids an introduction to looking at objects using a microscope and are quite fascinating to see some of them too.  
Want your kids to spend less time on electronics and more time outside?  Kubb is a yard game that originated with the Vikings and is super fun and easy to play.  Our family plays Kubb several times a week together in the backyard and we even have friends that come over specifically to play Kubb with us in the evenings.  It is a great family game, perfect for church groups or game nights and is one that everyone (even the little kids) can enjoy.  

Next week, I will be sharing some homemade gift ideas because who doesn't like receiving a gift that has been made with love by someone? Hope this has inspired you to think about some new and different holiday gift ideas this Christmas season.  We are always on the lookout for educational, family-friendly gifts ourselves.  

When the Heart Calls - Change of Heart DVD (Review)

I have to admit, the kids and I are hooked on the "When the Heart Calls" DVD series.  We eagerly anticipate the next DVD's arrival and we typically watch it the day it arrives.  So when the next DVD in this series hit our mailbox there were many smiles in our home.  When the Heart Calls is inspired by the writings of Janette Oke and this television series is directed by Michael Landon, Jr.

About the Movie
Jack finally gets Elizabeth to agree to join him for a dinner date just as Elizabeth's young sister, JULIE THATCHER, arrives in Coal Valley, surprising Elizabeth. Julie is accompanied by Mountie PATRICK O'REILLY, the man who has been sent to inform Jack of his new posting, and become the new Constable of Coal Valley. Jack had already forgotten that he sent in a request to transfer the week he arrived in Coal Valley, and the news takes him by surprise. As Jack is making his way towards his new posting, he crosses paths with some fellow Mounties who are on the hunt for the infamous TOLLIVER GANG, who are currently scouring the countryside in an attempt to reunite with Nate. Meanwhile, Nate Tolliver is recovering at Abigail's and continues to charm Julie, claiming that he is going to abandon his life of crime for her. Abigail continues to aide Jack's investigation of the mine disaster by stealing a file from Gowen's office. Patrick visits Abigail's to offer her assistance in Nate's recovery, he instantly recognizes Nate and sends for reinforcements. Later that evening, Gowen discovers Abigail has stolen his file with damning evidence against him, and threatens Abigail saying that exposing him would also tarnish the memory of her late husband.
Our Thoughts:
This was the movie we had been waiting for!  F-I-N-A-L-L-Y Elizabeth and Jack begin working on their relationship and are becoming "more than friends".   The build-up to this has been so intense in the last few DVD's and we almost wanted to cheer when their relationship finally took that step to possibly being more than friends.  Just like old times, Elizabeth's sister rides into town and brings alone trouble with her and the ever so lovable Abigail is hard at work protecting her family and friends in Coal Valley.  I can't give you too many details for fear of spoiling the movie for you but this is one you do NOT want to miss watching. As usual, the DVD ends with a little bit of a cliffhanger so now we are all anxiously awaiting the next DVD to see what happens next.  I think that is what makes the When the Heart Calls DVD series so spectacular.  The story lines give you just enough to love the movie you are watching but then leave you with just enough teaser to make you wish you already had the next one!   
DISCLAIMER:  I was given the above mentioned DVD for review purposes only from Edify Media.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own personal thoughts and experiences.  Your thoughts and experiences may vary from mine.  

Harvest Snaps (Review)

I was recently given the opportunity to try out Harvest Snaps 6 flavors through the Harvest Snaps Influencer Program.  Now, I have to admit, healthy snacks aren't always my first choice so my curiosity was peaked at the chance to try these healthy snacks.
I think my family was really surprised when they opened the pantry and found 6 bags of Harvest Snaps too!  Harvest Snaps stand out above other snacks because they are actually good for you.   First of all, one serving is 1 oz or about 22 pieces!  Then there are just 120 calories, 6 grams of fat, 0mg of Cholesterol, 85mg Sodium, 210mg Potassium, 5g of Protein, and 16g of Carbohydrates.  Those facts came from the Black Pepper flavor which happened to be my husband's favorite bag.  Best of all, they are a baked snack that is gluten-free, high in fiber, low in fat and sodium, and high in protein.  Come on, you haven't even tried them yet but those facts alone make you intrigued, right?  

Harvest Snaps come in 6 unique flavors:
 *  Lightly Salted
 *  Wasabi Ranch
 *  Caesar 
 *  Black Pepper
 *  Tomato Basil
 *  Onion Thyme

My personal favorite was the Lightly Salted flavor.  I found myself eating them in place of a honey-bun or chips and it was super easy to just keep the bag beside me and munch on them.  I loved the crisp, light texture and they were more fun to eat than greasy potato chips!  My husband enjoyed the Black Pepper flavor the best but he also got creative and put the Caesar flavor as a salad topping in his lunches.  He used the Harvest Snaps in place of croutons!  To be honest, our kids weren't thrilled with any of them except the Lightly Salted.  The other flavors are really unique and maybe they are something you have to acquire a taste for or you just naturally like those taste.  

My only dislike with the Harvest Snaps is that they do not have a way to reseal the bags!  With 3 kids, that meant I found a couple of bags wide open in the pantry that had been left that way after snacking so can you say "hello stale Harvest Snaps"!  As a Mom, I would love to see these come with resealable packages to help maintain freshness.  That would be my only complaint about them though.  They were delicious, unique snacks that I can feel good about offering my family.  

You can check out the Harvest Snaps Lunchspiration site for more great ideas on how to use Harvest Snaps or you can watch a funny video from the PodSquad here.  
DISCLAIMER:  This post was created in partnership with Harvest Snaps. I have been compensated for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Your thoughts and experiences may vary from mine.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Family Toolbox (Review)

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about the Family Toolbox from the National Center for Biblical Parenting.  Today, I am excited to get to share with you many more details about this wonderful program designed for parents and teens. 
Family Toolbox is a DVD/video-driven program written by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN/BSN.  It features 8 lessons covering 16 Life Success Principles.  In each lesson, you will watch video segments of families under pressure and learn from their mistakes.  Geared for parents of children ages 10-18, this program offers families the opportunity to enhance their relationship together and gives parents additional material that offers training advice to help you with practical strategies for your teenager.  

Family Toolbox Table of Contents:
LESSON 1 - It Starts with the Heart
  Life Success Principle #1:  Be respectful even when it is hard
  Life Success Principle #2:  Develop Internal Motivation
LESSON 2 - Follow Instructions Well
  Life Success Principle #3:  Develop healthy habits for following instructions
  Life Success Principle #4:  Look for ways to communicate to family life
LESSON 3 - Handle Pressure without Losing Your Cool
  Life Success Principle #5:  Solve problems instead of generating conflict
  Life Success Principle #6:  Instead of sarcasm - develop the skills of a peacemaker
LESSON 4 - The Value of Correction
  Life Success Principle #7:  Learn to value correction
  Life Success Principle #8:  Apologize well
LESSON 5 - The Importance of Responsibility
  Life Success Principle #9:  Develop a plan for being responsible
  Life Success Principle #10:  Take responsibility for your mistakes
LESSON 6 - Accept No as an Answer
  Life Success Principle #11:  Train yourself to accept no as an answer
  Life Success Principle #12:  Avoid arguing
LESSON 7 - Deal with Your Own Anger
  Life Success Principle #13:  View your family as a team/Look for ways to work together
  Life Success Principle #14:  Learn self-control to manage anger
LESSON 8 - Consider the Needs of Others
  Life Success Principle #15:  Practice flexibility when plans change
  Life Success Principle #16:  Learn to handle unfairness well.

Each lesson has 2 parts.  The first part contains a dramatic sketch of a family experiencing a problem.  The second part of each lesson offers solutions from a teaching video designed specifically for parents.  Typically, the parent will work through the entire lesson without the teenager present.  Then together, the parent and teenager will work with just the video and the teen worksheets together. 

We love it!  This material is extremely easy to use and very well developed and laid out.  The preparation time for each lesson doesn't take more than 30 minutes and then when we sat down with the kids to work through the lesson together it only takes about 15-20 minutes.  They don't feel like we are "taking forever" to have family discussions and they (and us) and are learning so much in each of these short spans of time spent together watching, discussing, and sharing.  

Of course, one of our favorite aspects to this program is that it is Biblically based.  It is easy to find lots of material on parenting but hard to find solid, Biblically sound material on parenting especially when it comes to parenting teens.  Since we want our home to be Christ-centered in every way it seems only natural that we would want to parent our teens using scripture and God's Word as our guide.  Family Toolbox equips us to be able to do that even during the tough, hard times of the teenage years.  It also helps our teenagers understand that it is just "Mom & Dad being mean" or trying to make their lives miserable but that we are parenting based upon what God expects of us as parents of HIS children.  It helps them understand our rules, choices, and decisions over their lives. 

David is a Student Minister for Kindergarten - 12th grades and the Family Toolbox will be a huge asset to him in ministry and in counseling families.  We would highly recommend that every family own a copy of Family Toolbox and every church should have one available to their ministers as well. 
No one has ever said being a parent was easy but it is absolutely worth every minute, every struggle, every hard time/heartache and all the good times too!  Family Toolbox helps families learn and grow together and helps strengthen the relationship and unity between parent and child.  

The newly released Family Toolbox is available for download on the National Center for Biblical Parenting's website for a suggested donation of $79.95 or you can purchase a home kit which features a DVD and hard copy literature for $99.95.  

You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with the latest information.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Family Toolbox GIVEAWAY

Y'all have no idea how excited I am to be part of the Family Toolbox Blogger Team!  The Family Toolbox is a program that we have recently started using in our home and we can already tell this is going to be one of those things that impacts our family for the positive and brings us closer together too.  Every family has some type of issues they are facing and the Family Toolbox is a wonderful resource to help walk you through resolution in these areas and help bring unity and harmony into the home. Not to mention, since David is a Student Minister this is a program we can use with our families at church and in our community too.  I can't wait to share a full, detailed review of this amazing program with you very soon but in the meantime, you just keep reading to learn more about The Family Toolbox and enter for your chance to WIN a bundle of Biblical Parenting Resources & an Amazon gift card too!

The Family Toolbox is a DVD/video-driven program that brings parents and teens together for constructive dialogue around significant issues of discipleship. Conversation is sparked by engaging video clips. Sixteen Life Success Principles are communicated through eight lessons that give parents and teens biblically-based, practical topics for discussion. The format grabs teens and gets them interacting. The Family Toolbox has 8 lessons. Each one has a 1-2 minute scene of a family living life and experiencing common challenges in their relationships. A discussion guide prompts dialogue between parents and teens and a 10-minute teaching session for parents featuring Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN gives practical tools to use right away. Family Toolbox Giveaway
 I am excited to be joining with the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP) to bring you a wonderful giveaway to celebrate the release of the Family Toolbox.  The giveaway includes a $50 Amazon Gift Card + a bundle of biblical parenting resources from NCBP, including: 

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide

The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age.  The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step. 

Cultivating Responsibility: Parenting Wisdom for Ages 9-12 Years

The later elementary age years are among the greatest times to build responsibility in children. Heart transformation takes place when parents use other tools than behavior modification. Sometimes though, bad attitudes, disrespect, and a lack of cooperation can muddy the waters. You’ll want to learn from the experts how best to navigate these years. Your children are making significant developmental leaps in their cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual growth. Understanding how best to help children through these years is essential.

Family Heart Moments

The Family Heart Moments book is a treasure. Over 70 inspirational true stories from parents who are eager to connect with their children's hearts. The heart is a special place in the life of a child. You don't want to miss it. This book will give you practical ideas for touching your kids in the deepest place.

Family Time Activity for Teens

Teenagers are in an exciting time of life. They're learning a lot about themselves and the world, and they need lots of spiritual guidance. The activities and applications in this book are designed specifically for teens. The object lessons and games are captivating and the biblical lessons are timeless. Walking Billboards, Fear Factor, and Gender Differences, are just a few of the titles. Nineteen lessons are included, all unique and powerful. Make Family Time a regular part of your family's spiritual growth. 

Learning About Sex: Love, Sex, and God

In a natural, conversational style, this book answers tough questions that help teens separate sex and love facts from myths. Straight facts on dating, marriage, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases are presented here.

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids

It affects the way people think, the way they act, and the way they treat others around them. Honor motivates parents to treat children differently. It gives children more constructive ways to interact with their parents. It helps siblings develop tolerance and patience. Honor builds incredibly strong bonds that, in turn, benefit all members of the family. This book shows you in practical ways and shows how honor can transform your family. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is open internationally to those age 18 and older. a Rafflecopter giveaway   
 Also, please join us for The Family Toolbox Facebook Party on Thursday, October 16, 8-10PM ET where there will be even more great prizes, an opportunity to ask your parenting questions, and lots of fun and fellowship! The winner of this giveaway will be announced at the Facebook party! RSVP for the Party here: Family Toolbox Facebook Party

Monday, September 22, 2014

Life Update (with pictures)

A couple of weeks ago, I flew back home to Alabama to attend my aunt's funeral.  Some dear friends of ours here in Texas offered me the opportunity to fly round trip via stand-by tickets.  I had never flown stand-by before but it really wasn't too bad.  Actually, I really enjoyed it.  I learned you just have to be very flexible in your schedule, have a lot of patience, and it is a fun way to meet new people because you spend a LOT of time just waiting in airports.  At one point, I thought for sure I was going to have to spend the night at the Dallas airport (and was totally o.k. with that possibility) but the Lord got me on the plane at the very last minute (I was the very last passenger to board & they literally closed the door behind me).  I am so thankful for sweet friends who knew how close my aunt and I were and who graciously gave me the chance to fly home and be at her funeral.  I always love flying!  I had a window seat on several flights and when you get up in the air you can't help but stand in awe at the awesomeness of God.  Just looking down at the earth below, flying above the clouds, and being reminded what a great Creator we serve is much of the fun of flying.  
This is the old barn at my aunt and uncle's homestead in Alabama.  They lived out in the country and lived in the same house from the time I was born so I have lots of great memories at their place.  My uncle used to do wood-working in this barn and my aunt spent many hours do art in this barn. I used to love going out there with them and watching them work and just seeing all the cool stuff they had in there  I also lived with them when I went to college.  They had a basement that was set up like a little apartment. It had a living area, huge bedroom/bathroom and private entrance/exit and they let me live down there while I was in college. My uncle passed away a few years ago after a heart surgery and my aunt was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease not long after his passing.  My aunt and uncle always made every moment with them so much fun and so special. I praise God for the lives they lived and the beautiful legacies and memories they left behind.  The best part is that while I am sad they are no longer here to continue sharing life with, my goodbye at her funeral was not a final goodbye.  I can look forward to seeing them both again in heaven one day!  
While it is still almost 100 degrees here everyday, the month of September is also our "rainy season".  It started about 3 weeks ago and the rain has barely stopped.  We had a tropical storm come in (picture on the left) that lasted about a week and now it is still raining almost everyday and raining a LOT.  It does make for some beautiful weather pictures though because the clouds are amazing and sometimes it pours down rain even when it is bright and the sun is shining.  The downside is all the mosquitos the rain is producing.  We can't enjoy being outside anymore because the mosquitos are so bad.  And like they say, everything is bigger in Texas and the mosquitos are huge down here!  We're used to really small, almost impossible to see mosquitos and these are so big you can see them very easily. 
We love going to the local flea market to buy fruits and vegetables.  You can often get more fruits and vegetables for your money at the flea market.  Most of the vendors at the flea market speak Spanish so we get to practice our (very limited) Spanish too.  We get a lot of locally grown fruits and vegetables there too.  I bought a huge bag of poblano peppers at the flea market and made chili rellenos with them and they were delicious.  Wyatt loves the Dragonfruit (the pink thing in the right picture) and can eat an entire one by himself.  All of us love the Dwarf Pineapples because they are so sweet and juicy and easy to hold the little pineapple rings when we cut them.  One of the blessings of living in a different culture from where we grew up is the unique foods we get to experience living this close to Mexico.  We have really grown to love it here.  

And now for a little laugh.......
This little comic reminded me so much of my Dad who loves to play Candy Crush.  Actually, I think he has a love/hate relationship with it but he plays it a lot.  I played it too but after about level 137, I got frustrated and lost interest. I'm more of a Bingo Blitz kinda gal.  Yeah, I can admit it, I will probably one of those little blue-haired ladies running around to all the bingo halls with my big purse full of daubers.  I love playing Bingo.   What games do you enjoy playing on your phone?  

Hope you have a marvelous week!  Keep checking back for more giveaways and new content too.