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Sunday, February 26, 2012

For the bad days...

Sometimes I read blogs where it seems like the author never has a bad day.  Life is perfect, their kids are perfect, the are the most crafty (in the arts and crafts sense), most spiritual, there homes are immaculate, and they never lose their cool.    It is so easy for bloggers, myself included, to only document the good times, the crafts that worked, the angelic behaviours of our kids.  Sometimes we live double lives.. the blog world and the real world. 
So it was refreshing to read this post a couple days ago... "When Motherhood feels like Misery".  I could completely relate to the young mother who wrote it.  Yes, I am admitting that there are days that I don't want to be a mom.   There are days that I sit and try and figure out how I can run away...seriously I do.   There are days I yell way too much, days that the house is turned upside down and I have no desire to turn it right way up, days that I am so overwhelmed that I can't think straight. 

Have you been there?

Praise God we don't have to stay there... God gives us these tough times so we can learn to trust him.

There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1: 6-7 NLT
 How is God teaching me to get through tough times?
I need to remember to stay in the race... This is the mission God has give me... he has blessed me with these kids and given me the role of mom and the task of raising them.  The  Christian life is not a sprint, it is a marathon... a long distance race.  When I am feeling down in the dumps, the one thing my husband always asks is "have you had your quiet time?" and strongly encourages me to do so if I haven't (Husbands... did you get that?  Lead and encourage your wives... I truly appreciate Joe's spiritual leadership).    I don't know about you but for me it is very easy to slack off bible reading and prayer time when I am feeling bad or having a rough time.  I have learned though, that this is the worst thing to do.  Just like marathon running,  if you stop moving, it is hard to get going again.   Even when it feels like you are just going through the motions, go through the motions!

It was during one of these"going-through-the-motions-times"  recently that God spoke to me through His word.  I was having a bad week.. one of those "how-can-I-escape" weeks.  I felt depleted... I knew that I was doing what God wanted me to but I was not really enjoying where he had me.  

 I was studying  Psalm 51 and I came across verse 12.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 Sometimes I try to fix how I am feeling but this verse was reminding me to ask God to restore and sustain. He provides a willing spirit to sustain me.  I was meditating on this for a while and then I read on to the next verse.  King David, the psalmist wasn't asking for the restoration of joy and to be sustained by God only for his own personal satisfaction... read it...

THEN I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
As I meditated on this I changed verse 13 to say this:

Then I will teach my kids your ways so that my kids will turn to you. (they are transgressors and sinners that need to be turned to God right?!) 

This was such a reminder to me of why I am doing what I am doing.. to teach my kids they ways of God so that they will turn to him.  If I keep that as my focus instead of how hard it is, I can keep going.

In addition to staying in God's word, trusting him and focusing on why I am doing what I am doing, I have learned some other ways to get through those tough motherhood days and weeks:

Know when to take a break.  Some days when things are not going well, I call it quits, I put on a dvd for the kids and give myself a time out.

Examine your  schedule.   If you are feeling frazzled, chances are you are doing too much.  I tend to have overly high expectations of what can get done in a day.  We have to learn how to manage our expectations.   Someone once told me "There are a lot of things that are good to do but not everything is BEST for you and your family."  Get in the habit of weeding out the things that are only good and ask God to help you determine what is best.

Don't compare yourself to anyone.  God has made you who you are and has a specific will for you.  We all have a different calling, different gifts, different strengths and weaknesses...and that is okay! 

Have a support system and know when to ask for and accept help.  We want to see ourselves as superwomen and try and do it all ourselves.  Society and culture have taught us that strength is in independence... I can do it by myself, I don't need anyone. We see it as a flaw to ask for help or accept it when offered. It is not strength, it is pride.  Whether it is calling a prayer partner to pray for you or asking someone to watch the kids for an hour or two so you can get away or saying yes when someone comes to visit and offers to wash your dishes... learn how to ask for and accept help.  

Motherhood is the toughest job I have ever had, it is a high calling and thankfully one I don't have to do alone and neither do you.  If you are frazzled, stressed out, not enjoying the journey call on God to restore and sustain your joy.  He is faithful to answer.

 Be blessed,

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Week in Pictures: The Great Outdoors

I am trying to do a better job at capturing our life in pictures this year.   This week we spent a lot of time outside (taking advantage of this mild February!!)

Micaiah: "You can grow a kid in these pots!"

Come with me...

Marcus: "Do I have to be here"

visiting the Wheddons

cluck cluck...

Eli giving Marcus a Pillbug (Rollie Pollie)

Valentine Party

seesaw up and down...



swinging high...

cutie patootie

boy time at the park


helping Daddy put air in the car tires

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ALEKS: A Review

We had a great program to review, it is probably one of my favourites so far. Allow me to introduce you to ALEKS!

Photobucket What is ALEKS? (from the website)
ssessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple-choice questions.

When I was first given the opportunity to review this I wasn't sure I wanted to review another math product as we have had several this year.  I am so glad I did.  I enrolled Micaiah in the program and the first thing the student does is an assessment.  Once this assessment was completed he was given a pie chart of his knowledge.

There are several courses you can choose from covering Elementary Math up to higher level Math, Science and Business.  Micaiah's topics for grade 3 covered Fractions and Decimals, Place Value and Money, Addition and Subtraction, Geometry, Measurement and Graphs, and Multiplication and Division.

Once Micaiah looked as his pie, he was able to click on each slice and choose a topic from that section to work on. I allowed him to work through his pie at his own pace covering whatever topics he wanted each day.  He usually worked for 30 minutes to an hour.  This program is great for kids who are highly motivated and like checklists so it was perfect for Micaiah.

Here is an example of a question:


After 10 days this is what his pie looked like:

Seeing the progress motivated him to work hard.  He continued through a learning, assessment and review cycle until achieving mastery in all sections.  He was quite proud when is pie was completed!

The program has an additional feature called Quick Tables.  Quick Tables is a math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction for grades 3 and up. The online program offers ongoing assessment, learning, review, and visual tracking of student progress.  Here is a look at the quick tables report for division for Micaiah.  Since we had just stated division in math Quick Tables was a great reinforcement and opportunity to practice.

This again is self paced with highly visual results to motivate the student to achieve more.  An additional motivation was games that were unlocked as they made progress. They were games that helped to build the math skill being worked on.


 In addition to the online activities and learning,  I was able to download worksheets for Micaiah to work on based on the topics he was working on.  I could also customize a quiz for him to take if we wanted to concentrate on specific topics.  Detailed reports on progress, time spent on the program and topics needing review were readily available and accessible me as the parent.  I was even able to set a weekly email to be sent to Joe so he also could track Micaiah's progress.

Micaiah's Thoughts:

"Aleks was fun and I enjoyed finishing my pie.  It was challenging in the beginning but got easier as I went along."

Aleks is useful addition to any math program your child is currently using.  It certainly does help to fill in the gaps.

A subscription to ALEKS is
  • $19.95 per student, per month, or

  • only $99.95 every 6 months, or

  • only $179.95 every 12 months.
They also offer a  family discount program.

Think you want to give it a try?  They are offering a free 2 month free trial! Click the button below.

Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Crew review team, I was given a short subscription in return for my honest (positive or otherwise) opinion of this product.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The PERFECT Planner

I am not a shopper.  I get very little joy from buying new clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories but the things I am a sucker for are things like journals, notebooks, pens and planners.  I could spend hours and lots of money in a stationery store.  For me there's nothing like starting a new planner or writing on the first page of a new journal.  So when I stumbled upon it was love at first sight!  This company sells, amongst many other things, personalized notebooks and planners.  I have been trying to find the perfect planner  so when I saw the 2012 Life Planner, I really wanted it (I know it is February and I probably should have had something for the beginning of the year but hey, better late than never!)  I was so excited to place the order... it cost me an arm and a leg for shipping but my hubby agreed to let me splurge a bit (Thanks Babe!) 

And then I had to wait for the package to arrive.  I am not the most patient person so I obsessively checked the Fedex tracking site until it landed!

I knew the package would be delivered on Thursday and in my perfect world this is how it would go:  

The package would arrive and my lovely, well behaved children would be busy with their school work, Marcus would be napping, I would whisk the package away from the Fed ex guy (thanking him of course)  sit down with my freshly made caramel latte, put my feet up and enjoy ripping open the package.   I would spend the next ten minutes exploring my beautiful new Erin Condren 2012 Life Planner and another 30 minutes filling in all of our appointment, birthdays, soccer practices, ballet get the picture...

This my friends is what really happened.  It was Thursday,  so that meant my father in law was over to  give music lessons to the kids.  One child who will remain unnamed had decided that today was not a good day for music lessons and then proceeded to go to their room and slam the door.  The next child was called for their lesson.   I went to deal with the door slamming stubborn child while leaving the third child to keep an eye on Marcus who was now 20 minutes late for his nap but needed to have a diaper change.  In the midst of the disciplinary session I hear "Mommy! There are 3 people at the door!" being shouted through the house.  I wondering how big this life planner is that it takes 3 people to deliver it...I know my life is busy but the planner does need to fit in my purse! I leave a "now crying, not so stubborn, sorry he slammed the door" child in room to think about his behaviour.  As I walk briskly through the kitchen towards the front door I notice that the child who was supposed to be keeping an eye on Marcus had dumped a cup full of flour on the counter and was now proceeding to sweep it everywhere with a pastry brush (did I mention I was making cookies in the midst of this all?)  Marcus was at the door, ready to greet the three people with a sagging diaper, now 30 minutes past his naptime.  My father in law has thankfully made it to the door ahead of me and  nicely let them know I would be right with them.  As I get to the door there is one Fed Ex guy and 2 ladies carrying oversized purses... yes, Jehovah's Witnesses.  Anyway I deal with the Fed ex guy first.  I have to pay customs duty for the package (it has now cost me the other arm and leg) so I ask him to excuse me while I go and get my purse.  I need to pay with a card as I never have cash... the Fed ex guy needs to borrow my phone to call in the payment... is he serious?  Has he ever tried to find a cordless phone in the middle of a chaotic household...especially one that is not ringing?!  Back to the kitchen, child with pastry brush is still sweeping away, locate phone, payment is authorized, sign the slip, accept the package.  The 2 nice ladies are still on the step  and want to give me a booklet titled "The Happy Family" or "Raising a Happy Family" or something like that... They must have seen I looked a bit frazzled! I  tell them thank you but that I probably won't read it so I won't take it.  They then ask me if I homeschool... I felt like saying "No I run a circus, can't you tell." But I didn't, we had a quick chat about homeschooling and they were on their way.  I close the door try to restore some order to the chaos, get Marcus to nap, clean up the flour, and then I crack open the box and take a peek.  My Life Planner... it looks perfect...

And opening it in the midst of chaos was a perfect reminder to me that although I may find a perfect planner,  life will still be chaotic and unexpected at times but if we keep our eyes on the Master Planner HE will give us peace!  HE  is the Perfect Planner so I pray that as I use my new planner I will remember to rely on God and trust in the perfect plans he has for me.

Psalm 119:133 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Isaiah 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Math Rider: A Review

Photobucket For the past month we have had the opportunity to review a math facts game called Math Rider.    Understanding addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and knowing all fundamental math facts is necessary for higher level math.  It is important for the kids to be able to memorize these.  Before starting this school year Micaiah was having some difficulty with this but over this year, with constant practice I can see improvement.  Math Rider has thus been great reinforcement and an opportunity for both Micaiah and Eli to practice and gain confidence in this area... while having fun!

So what is Math Rider?  Here is an explanation from their website:

PhotobucketYour child is taken into a land of fantasy and quests. Living in the Land of Ray and riding a horse called Shadow, he or she will set out on various noble adventures. Riding across amazing, digitally matte-painted moving backdrops of distinct fantastic lands, they will accomplish their quest, be it finding magical flowers, returning gems to the elves or even rescuing a princess!
Each operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) contains four quests, ranging from easy to master.
The four quests are the same across the four operations, however, the rewards are not. Every combination of quest and reward holds a different reward. The rewards are all animated according to how well the player answered the questions.
All rewards are displayed on the main screen of the game. In this way there is a direct feedback and incentive for your child to do as best as they can.
 What I like:

  • It is exciting.  Micaiah was hooked on the game immediately, often asking to play Math Rider and never complaining when I asked him to.  Eli was a little less enthusiastic but also never complained when he was asked to play it.
  • The game is designed intelligently.  The game learns what the rider knows and what he or she still needs to practice.  The pace of the game adjusts to each player.  This was important for Eli who gets easily frustrated if something is too fast. 
  • It is uncomplicated. In order to play the child simply types in the answer and presses enter, thus they can focus on the math rather than how to actually play the game.  The each level of the game, apart from the final mastery level, focuses on a single operation so the child is not getting confused between operations.
  • It can be used for more than one child.  Every person creates their own rider, and the game tracks each rider’s progress and unique practice results individually.  The license you purchase is for up to 8 players.
  • Feedback. As the parent you can see very easily your child's progress.  The feedback includes a overview map of mastery for each number table so the parent and child can easily see what they have mastered.
This is a great program for homeschoolers and non homeschoolers alike.  It is a great way for your kids to memorize the important facts and gain confidence in math!  And you won't feel like you are  pulling teeth!!  (Do you remember learning multiplication tables with flash cards... BORING!)

There is a free trial available which will allow you to try out the full program.  The program is compatible with both Windows and Mac Platforms and is currently on sale for $37 until February 15th.   The regular price is $47 which I think is a great value considering that it is a one time purchase that can be used for up to 8 players and can be installed on up to 3 computers.  One thing to note is that it is not played in an online environment, so if you start a quest on one computer you can only access your progress on that computer.

Finally,  what did my riders have to say about Math Rider?

Micaiah after completing his first division facts quest.

Knight Micaiah: "I like it because I get to learn math and it helps me with my other math programs.  It is very fun because I like horses and I love math!"

Builder Eli: "It's good and helps me learn and it is fun!"

Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Crew review team, I was given short term access to the program in return for my honest (positive or otherwise) opinion of this product.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Celestial Almanack: A Review

 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words, no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,  their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19: 1-4

I love looking up at the night sky and thinking about the glory of God but I must admit that my astronomy experience stops at being able to identify the big dipper.

 Are you curious about the activity that happens around us?  The way the planets move, the names of the constellations and how to find them? You may consider purchasing a Celestial Almanack from Fourth Day Press (available through Currclick).  This monthly publication is an illustrated guide to learning the night sky.  I was recently sent  Celestial Almanack: A Visual Representation of the sky Vol 1, #2 February 2012.


What can you find inside?

February, 2012: this month, learn about:
* The Sun is moving higher in the noon sky, and rises and sets farther to the north, and how this relates to the days growing longer;
* The constellation Orion dominates the evening skies.  Find Orion and his neighboring constellations, and how Orion can be used as a starting point for finding 35 constellations!
* Jupiter and Venus are drawing closer this month, approaching a spectacular conjunction in March!  What an amazing sight!
* Mars and Saturn are visible earlier in the night, and are well placed before midnight;
* Discover these planets and also many bright stars on the evenings when they line up with the Moon.

My thoughts:

I didn't have very long to review this product as it is obviously time sensitive (you are not going to want to purchase the February issue in March!)  As a novice, I found the information, while well written, to be a little overwhelming.  It is advertised as a monthly illustrated ezine companion guide for the Signs & Seasons curriculum which is a traditional hard copy publication from the same publisher.    It would probably have been better for me to be more familiar with that curriculum before trying to jump right into the Almanack.  I soon realized that I wasn't going to  understand it enough to explain it to the kids before this review was due.  If the kids were older ( it is advertised for 11+) and if we had more time  we could have checked it out together, using internet resources to explain things we didn't know.

My recommendation:

Don't let my experience deter you from checking out this product.  I am going to press on during the rest of the month and try and identify some of the events in the night sky.  The material has piqued my curiosity in the area of astronomy and hopefully by the time the kids are older I will have a better understanding of the subject.  If you have kids in the suggested age (11+) whether you homeschool or not,  I would recommend you checking out this ezine (hey, it's only $3... what do you have to lose?)  Then bundle everyone up on a clear night and go and see some of God's amazing handiwork!

Check out a free sample here.

Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Crew review team, I was given this downloadable copy in return for my honest (positive or otherwise) opinion of this product.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Goodbye Shampoo

I haven't shampooed Eden's hair (or mine for that matter) since November. Before you freak out or report me to child services for neglect, let me explain.

I was getting to a point of frustration with Eden's hair. It was always dry and dull and it seemed that any hair product I used would just dry it out even more. To top that off she has very sensitive skin and I never knew if something I would put in her hair was going to irritate her scalp.   There has been lots of trial and error in the hair department at our house!  Eden has very curly/ frizzy hair. The hair itself is not thick but she has a lot of it. There have been many tears shed over hair washing and hair combing. It would take forever to clear out the tangles.  I had tried ev.ery.thing. Before giving up shampoo, I had starting using coconut oil which was helping to make the hair shiny temporarily but I still found it to be very dry.

bad hair day
I remember the first time I read about someone giving up shampoo... really?  I couldn't imagine that that would work for us.  That is until my friend Marilyn started raving about how she had stopped shampooing her daughters' hair. Her girls have beautiful hair and when I saw it after a few weeks of no shampoo I was a little less skeptical.  I was ready to give it a go.

Giving up shampoo doesn't mean giving up cleaning your hair.  So before I reveal how I am now cleaning our hair I'll let you know the results.

Washing and combing out Eden's hair now takes 10 to 15 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour.  (yes, 45 minutes... and that did not include styling).  Now I can almost run a comb straight through as soon as I am done washing it.  This means there is less breakage and hair falling out.  Her hair is softer and shinier... .  I still use the coconut oil while her hair is damp but now it absorbs into her hair much better so I use much less.  Also, it may be my imagination, but I think Eden's hair is growing a lot faster.  And an added bonus is there are no more tears!!  As for my hair, it feels much more healthy and I need to use much less product when I style it.

So what is the secret?  Baking soda and apple cider vinegar!  Now wait, before you go and make an explosion in your bathroom trying to wash your hair, you don't mix them!!

The baking soda which is alkaline... a very gentle one that clarifies the hair from chemical buildup.   I mix about 1 to 2 TBS with one cup of water. I pour that over wet hair and massage it in starting at the scalp and then move towards the ends.  After rinsing that out the hair feels squeaky clean and then it is ready for step two, the apple cider vinegar.  The vinegar is acidic... mildly, and it is used to detangle the hair and close the hair shaft, sealing in the natural oils and moisture.  I mix about 2 TBS of vinegar with one cup of water.  I pour that over the hair, concentrating more on the ends than the scalp.  I let that sit for a few seconds and then rinse and voila!  Clean, detangled hair. 

Once a month I treat Eden's hair with a mixture of olive oil and honey.  After leaving that on damp hair for about an hour I use the regime above.  I usually have to do the baking soda step twice to get the oil out but it has really helped restore the softness and shine to Eden's hair.

This article goes into a lot more detail if you want to read more about using baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  I was going to spell it all out here but I figured this blogger wrote it so well, I might as well let you read it there!

Oh and one last benefit... imagine how much money I am saving not buying shampoo and conditioner!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kinderbach: A review

PhotobucketWe had the opportunity to review Kinderbach. As you may guess from the name it is a music program... one designed to teach three to seven year olds to play the piano. I found it to be that and more. It not only teaches the mechanics of playing the piano, it also sets the foundation of music theory.
About the program:

There are 6 levels, broken down by weeks (60 weeks total) and each week has four lessons. Each lesson takes less than 10 minutes and there is very little prep required (printing worksheets when required) and the student can move through the lessons at his or her own pace.   

Fun characters, singing, activity sheets and movement are a part of each lesson.
The songs are catchy (I find all 3 kids singing or humming them through out the day.)

The characters are fun and all have a story to  help the student learn the names of the notes.  For example, Dodi is a donkey who lives between the two black keys... and you guessed it.. that key plays D!

The activities are well thought out and help to reinforce the concept that is being taught. The activity book is available as a download and we have just printed each sheet as we need it.

The program is available online, or as a set of DVD's

An online subscription  provides access to all web lessons by computer (iPad, Android Tablet, Kindle Fire or Nook accessible as well)
$7.99 a month - Billed in a one time annual payment of $95.88
(Great Value! Save 60%)
monthly subscription - Billed monthly for a year
(12 separate payments)

The DVD's are about $40 per level but are also available as value package bundles.

Our experience:

We are blessed to have Grandpa Furbert as the kid's music teacher. He is currently teaching Micaiah, Eli and Eden to play the recorder and Micaiah and Eli the piano so when we were given Kinderbach to review, I chose to use it with Eden (she wants to play the piano like her big brothers).

Eden completing a colouring page to reinforce finger numbers

playing her homemade rhythm instrument along with the teacher

Eden has enjoyed the lessons.  In the beginning she would lose interest after one lesson but as we have progressed she sometimes wants to do 2 or 3 lessons at a time.  She enjoys completing the activity sheets and is understanding rhythm better as well.  We will definitely be continuing the lessons for the remainder of our review period and I would recommend the program to anyone who wants to give their 3 to 7 year old a good solid start in music. 
moving on to the piano

KinderBach is an instrument-based program so you do need to have a piano or keyboard available for the lessons but it doesn't have to be an expensive one.. one with 3 to 4 octaves (36 to 48 full sized keys) and no bells or whistles necessary.

Go on and check out the website and even try the first few lessons for free!  Read here to see what others think of Kinderbach.  If you try it let me know what you think!

Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Crew review team, I was given a short term subscription free in return for my honest (positive or otherwise) opinion of this product.