Monday, November 11, 2013

Random Ramblings: Giving Thanks

I LOVE Christmas.  The whole Christmas season.  But, as my children are getting bigger, I'm realizing how commercial it has become, and how commercial I have let it become.  So, while I still love Christmas, Thanksgiving is quickly becoming my favorite of all the holidays.  Don't get me wrong, I'll probably look at the advertisements on Thanksgiving, and I'll probably do some Black Friday shopping, but I love that Thanksgiving about giving, not getting.

First, lets break it down.  Thanks giving.  Giving thanks.  For the past few years, I've tried to focus on thing to give thanks for on each day in November.  It amazes me, that by the end of the month, I still have so many things for which to be thankful.  I've also noticed, that over time, it gets easier to be thankful. Of course, there are the obvious things, God, family, friends, home, food, etc., but what about the tough things?  Should we be thankful for stressful things?  

I say yes.  And the Bible says yes.  Romans 5:3-5 says that we should "glory" in our sufferings because of the results.  Perseverance, character, and hope.  Things that we wouldn't gain without suffering.  It's not easy, I'm the first to admit.  And there are some things that we simply won't take glory in (abuse, etc)  There's some deep, tough, things that I pray none of us will ever have to go through.  But our everyday stress isn't life ending.  It's molding us.  It gives us character to know how to deal with future stress, and to help others as they go through difficult times.

But why?  Why should we be thankful?

As many of you know, I have at times had issues with anxiety.  I've let other people and situations control my feelings.  I'm also very fortunate that God has placed people in my life that have helped me to overcome much of this.  A scripture I hadn't really taken to heart until recently is Philippians 4:6-7.  This scripture tells us that we shouldn't be anxious (easier said than done, right?!).  Rather, we should pray about our situation, with thanksgiving.  Once we do this, we are promised that the peace of Jesus will protect us.

For me, this has been so true.  For so many years, I've dealt with difficulty by either stuffing it inside, or praying for God to take it away.  I've never considered that while waiting for a situation to change, that I should consider all I already have.  All that I've been given.  When we focus on being thankful, our entire thought process changes.  We no longer find discontentment in what we don't have, we find joy in what we do have. 

 Today, I challenge you to look at your day through different eyes.  Try to see the blessing in each situation.  Too many dishes to do?  Thank God that He has provided you with food.  Stressful work day?  Thank God that you have a job.  Kids not listening?  Thank God for your children - there's plenty of people that would kill to have a child.  You see, when we see all that we've been blessed with, the temporary stress doesn't seem as big.  Take joy in your day.  Soak in every moment and enjoy every good thing. 

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Our Disney World Curriculum

If you're here to check out our pre-Disney World curriculum, I wanted to make things a little easier and have a list of each day's lesson/books/activities.  So, here you go!

Day 1 - North America
Day 2 - Italy, Germany, and France
Day 3 - Norway and UK
Day 4 - Asia and Ocean Life
Day 5 - Africa and Additional Ideas

Hope this makes navigating a little easier.  I am so glad that we took the week before our trip to do some studying on countries in Epcot.  Last year, my kids really didn't enjoy Epcot; this year they LOVED it.  We could have spent a few days there.  Another thing we did was try foods from many of the countries while we were there, of course they really liked that too!  Some of our favorites were the lamb and chicken platter from Morocco; chocolate croissants, ham and cheese croissants, and napoleons in France; Kaki gori in Japan; school bread in Norway; and the chocolate gelato in Italy (this is not part of the meal plan, but totally worth the splurge!).  We also had dinner at the Rose and Crown in the UK, so they had fish and chips there along with a super yummy dessert.

Like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we plan on creating an additional post with trip tips and some of our favorite moments.  We haven't completed this yet, so please check back!


Bzzcampaign - TruMoo - Halloween Vanilla Milk

Recently, I had the opportunity to try a limited edition variety of TruMoo vanilla milk. Please read my review below.  After you're done, check out the TruMoo Goosebumps Sweepstakes! You could win an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles!  




Our family has enjoyed Tru Moo in the past, so we were very excited to be chosen for this campaign. 

We probably would not have purchased Tru Moo Vanilla milk if it weren't for this campaign.  First, we probably wouldn't have known about it.  We shop at Kroger, Meijer, and Marc's, and none of these stores carry Tru Moo.  I visited the Tru Moo website and was happy to see that they listed stores that carried Tru Moo.  Unfortunately, we did have to travel to a store several miles away to get Tru Moo.

When I did locate a store, it was easy to find Tru Moo amongst the other chocolate and flavored milks.  One thing that I like about Tru Moo is that there is less sugar than store brands, and unlike my store's brand, there is no HFCS.

The cost of Tru Moo is higher than my store brand, but due to the increased nutritional value, I feel that the price increase isn't too extreme.

So, onto the Vanilla milk.  The orange color did make it fun for my kids.  I would rather it be white, but it wasn't a deal breaker.  The milk was creamy, more like a vitamin D milk than skim.  And it tasted like vanilla.  Not overpowering, artificially flavored milk; just the right amount of flavoring milk.

My children really enjoyed the milk, and I did too.  I think they could easily make additional holiday flavors, which we would be interested in purchasing again.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bzzagent Review - Transformers Construct-Bots

Recently, I had the opportunity as part of a Bzzcampaign to review new Transformers Construct-Bots.  Below is my review:

I want to start with full disclosure.  My son is just under seven years old and not particularly interested in Transformers.  He's not uninterested, he's just (in my opinion) too young for the movies, so he isn't really familiar with them.  He is, however, very interested in building toys and cars.

To begin, I really like how this toy is packaged.  In each box is two small, plastic (with LIDS!) boxes.  These store the pieces for each of the two Transformers.  Each box also has an instructional booklet for each Transformer (Megatron and Optimus Prime). 

The building materials are strong plastic, they remind me of Legos or K'Nex quality.  The Megatron comes with just over 60 pieces, and the Optimus Prime comes with just under 80 pieces.  I like that there aren't a ton of pieces, just the right amount for kids.

Building each Transformer was tough.  The directions are step by step drawings, and were mostly easy to follow.  The beginning of each book shows how to construct, then, they have instructions on how to convert it into a driving toy.  Some of the pieces are very similar, so we really had to pay attention to the directions to make sure we didn't use the wrong toy.  As I stated, building was tough.  There's no way that my almost seven year old would have been able to build this on his own.  In fact, it took me about 45 minutes to build one.  Then, I decided to take a break before converting the toy.

I like that I could store the completed Transformer in it's case and come back to it later. 

Converting each Tranformer involves many steps.  You wouldn't want to lose the directions or else it would be nearly impossible to convert.

I love the concept of the toy.  I love the storage (you won't have to buy a separate storage container!).  I like that you can play with the Transformer as an action figure or as a vehicle.  However, my son really wasn't too interested in the toys.  The directions are far too difficult for a seven year old.  I think they should increase the suggested age.  I also felt that the toy was high-quality, it just wasn't my son's favorite building toy.

Back from Iowa - cast-free (for now)

We're back!  It's amazing how quickly the trip to and from Iowa goes by.  It used to seem to take forever, but now that the kids are bigger, it's a much easier drive.

Sunday we headed out a little later than we normally do - around 7:30 am.  We made our normal stop for gas, and only had to stop once for a potty break in Illinois.  The kids were troopers.  There was no complaining (of course, DVDs on the laptop, coloring, and snacks helped quite a bit!).

We made it to the Ronald McDonald House at 2:30 CST (that's only eight hours total!).  This was a record for us!  The house is the same as last year, but they instituted a couple changes.
  1. When we arrived, the kids were each given a business card for their toy store.  A traveling motorcycle group (I believe it was the Golden Wings) donated a roomful of toys, clothes, books, and other items for the kids.  Little Lou chose a giant stuffed bunny. She has taken very good care of the bunny, he is lucky to be so well-loved! X-Man was having a hard time deciding what to choose until he saw a 96 pack of crayons.  He said "Ninety six crayons?! That's so many!" - then, his decision was an obvious one!  Everywhere we go, he tells people that he has a box of ninety six crayons.  He loves them!  So many thanks to the wonderful people who donated these items to put a smile on a child's face!
  2. They now give you a parking pass. You can use the pass to park in the lots adjacent to the house (before, you could only park there on weekends and before 7:30 am, then, move your car to a far off lot).  You can also use the pass in the parking garage at the hospital.  I'm not sure if it gives you a discount or if it makes your parking free (we were there for less than an hour and had free parking), but it's going o be a big help for many families.
We also were able to go to the Children's Museum of Iowa (it's free for RMH residents).   They added a couple new exhibits and the kids had a wonderful time.

The next day, we had our appointment at 8:15am CST.  We got there a few minutes early because they have you fill out a survey before you go back. 

When Dr. Morcuende came back, X-Man was being very shy.  He told us on Sunday night that he was afraid to go because he hadn't seen the staff in a year but that "it felt like five years ago".  Right away, Dr. M started goofing around with him, and within a couple minutes, X-Man was excited to be there.  Dr. M checked X-Man's feet and had him walk a few times up and down the halls.  I told him about our concerns, and he talked with us about some long term case studies by Dr. Ponseti.  One thing that I really like is that Dr. M gives us a lot of information so that we can make an educated decision about X-Man's treatment.

He agreed that X-Man's right foot was pretty stiff.  He said it could be the result of a growth spurt, which would mean that it may loosen up in the next month or so.  He said they like for the kids to have dorsiflexion of around five degrees or better.  X-Man's left foot is five to six, so that one is good.  His right is at zero.  So, he told us that if we wanted to have him casted (right foot only), that we could do that, but, if he has a growth spurt in the next couple months, it may not be very effective.  Or, we could wait until April (he said that he doesn't want to wait until summer because he doesn't want him to have a cast in the summer) and come back.  He'll recheck him, and if he's still at zero or less, then we'll have one or two casts put on his right foot to get some extra flexibility.  Luckily, this time around, he would only need one cast and it could be a short leg cast. 

He told us that if we keep on stretching (we currently stretch for around 15-20 minutes each night), that we may be able to gain some flexion.  We told him that X-Man is still wearing his magic shoes at bedtime.  He told us that he only has three other patients that still wear the shoes at his age, and that it's wonderful that he is still tolerating them!  He did suggest that if X-Man is still having pain in his right foot, that we may want to remove the stops from his shoes.

Our favorite nurse, Maria, also came in to the room to talk with us.  We joked about the Iowa vs. OSU game, and asked X-Man how he was doing.  I love that even though they must see hundreds or thousands of patients, that they still remember us when we come.

They both thanked us for coming back - which cracks me up!  They're so appreciative of us coming, but we're the ones that are benefiting from them!  And, of course, we're so appreciative and thankful for them. Ben and I talk often about how going to Iowa was the best decision we could have made regarding X-Man's treatment. 

We had a great visit with great news (we also got to visit with my sister in Indy for a little while, and my mother-in-law who graciously agreed to watch our dog).  Thank you all for your prayers, well-wishes, calls, and text messages.  We're so blessed!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

And we're back (and leaving in the morning)...

We're back from the Wonderful World of Disney.  We had a most wonderful time, and I can't wait to share some of our favorite memories and tips with you.  I'm still in denial about our trip being over (which is why we still have suitcases in our bedroom).  I'm just not ready to be back - we spent so much time getting ready, and then it's gone in the blink of an eye.  So, in the next week or two, I'm going to post a ton of photos and info - be prepared!

Until then, I wanted to ask a quick favor of our readers.  Please pray for us.  Tomorrow morning we're driving to Iowa.  X-Man has a check up on Monday morning.  Before nearly every appointment, I get a little nervous.  One of the things that I LOVE about X's medical team is their honesty.  They let us know that while his feet look good, there is always a possibility that he will need a tendon transfer surgery.  Of course, we're hoping that he won't need it, but it's always a possibility.

Lately, X-Man has been complaining of some pain in his right foot.  Unfortunately, this is his less-flexible foot.  We still do nightly stretching, and he still wears his boots and bar (with stops), but we've noticed that his right foot has significantly less mobility and flexibility than his left foot.  I'm concerned that once we get there, we may be discussing a possible relapse.  This could mean surgery (worst case) or recasting.  In the grand scheme of things, this really isn't so bad.  It's still helping him.  As a mom, I just worry.  I know the medical team in Iowa is the best in the world, and I have full confidence in God that he will grant them the discernment to know what is going to be best for X-Man's feet. I just need to keep my mind from wandering into worry and pessimism. And, I need to keep in mind that God's got this.

Once we get back, hopefully we'll have no news.  But regardless, we'll let you know how things went.  So please, pray for us, the medical team, and most importantly, for our sweet boy. 

Thanks for reading, and for the constant support, it means the world to us.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Disney World Curriculum - Day 5 - Africa and Additional Ideas

Today was our last day of the Disney World curriculum.  We focused on the one remaining (and, my personal favorite) country in World Showcase: Morocco.  Since Morocco is in Africa, we thought it would be a great time to learn about some of the animals at Animal Kingdom. 

Africa

  • National Geographic DVD: Swinging Safari 
  • National Geographic Little Kids book: African Animal Alphabet by: Beverly and Dereck Joubert
  • Water for One, Water for Everyone by: Stephen R. Swinburne
  • We All Went on Safari by: Laurie Krebs

Morocco

  • The Children of Morocco by: Jules Hermes
  • The Storytellers by: Ted Lewin
  • Mirror by: Jeannie Baker (this one was really neat - it compares the lives of a family in Australia to a family in Morocco)
  • We also watched Aladdin - partly because it was helpful so that I could get some work done
  • We tried mint tea - you would've thought that I tried to poison X-Man (and I wish I would've had the event recorded!)
We did a few other things today too - I looked up some info on the architecture and landmarks at World Showcase.  I look forward to being able to share information on the martyrdom of St. George in Germany, and the church in Norway, I think they'll enjoy trying to figure out which totem pole is the real one in Canada, and seeing the Terracotta Army in China.  I think our preparation is going to make Epcot much more enjoyable for them this time around.

We've also been listening to Disney music as we rented a few CDs from our library.

Additional Ideas

We decided to skim a lot of information this week.  I think when they're older, I'd love to go back to Disney after a more intensive curriculum.  Here's some additional ideas that we just didn't get time to do:

  • practicing with money
  • time (keeping track for shows, etc)
  • reading the non-Disney versions of fairy tales and comparing them to Disney versions
  • write a new ending to a fairy tale
  • write a new fairy tale
  • write a dialogue between two characters from two different stories
  • practicing reading maps
  • looking for spiritual applications in movies/stories
  • creating packing lists
  • creating foods from various countries
  • physics and magnetism - how rides work
We have packing lists ready and our house sitter in place.  We're getting pretty excited and can hardly wait to get there!  In the next few weeks, I hope to add additional information and tell you all about our trip.

Thanks for reading -  "See ya real soon!"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Disney World Curriculum - Day 4 - Asia and Ocean Life

Wow, isn't it amazing how quickly time flies when you're busy?  I'm so glad that we decided to take a break from our regular curriculum this week.  It's given me more time to prep for our trip (which, somehow, there's still so much more to buy/do/plan than what we've already completed) and learn new things to prepare us for our trip.

You'll notice that almost all of our curriculum has been based around World Showcase, and there's a reason for that.  The least stimulating parts (for young children) of WDW include World Showcase and Animal Kingdom (more on that tomorrow).

So, today, we focused on China, Japan, and Ocean Life (Epcot's aquarium is pretty cool!).

We started in Japan.

Japan

  • National Geographic Website
  • Japan by: David F. Marx
  • We also had rice for lunch, tea with our snack, and talked about Hello Kitty (Little Lou's favorite!), also, since Japan is an island nation, we decided that it would be a good intro to ocean life.

Ocean Life

  • Ocean by: Cassie Mayer
  • Coral Reef - this book mysteriously went missing as I was typing this
  • Tell Time with Turtles by: Melissa McDonnell
  • Out and About at the Aquarium by: Amy Rechner

China

  • National Geographic Website
  • Postcards from China by: Zoe Dawson
  • Chinese New Year by: Nancy Dickmann
  • The Emperor's Silent Army by: Jane O'Connor (we looked at the pictures and discussed each one)
  • Watched Mulan - prior to our last trip, I hadn't ever seen this movie - I was really missing out.  Mulan has a wonderful message about loyalty, friendship, and bravery.  Plus, it empowers women, which I think is refreshing.
Over the past few days, we've also done a few supplemental (FUN!) activities.  We've gone on long walks to prepare them for the walking they'll be doing, we've played "Just Dance: Disney" as PE, we've talked about our must-see attractions, we've worked on reading maps, made some iron-on shirts for our trip, and we've watched some videos (only a few).

Tomorrow, we'll be learning about Morocco and African animals (AK safari!).  Stay tuned :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disney World Curriculum - Day 3 - Norway and England

I think today was my favorite day of our Disney World lessons so far.  I learned quite a bit about England (it's embarrassing how much I didn't know).  I also realized just how gorgeous Norway must be (though, COLD!).  You'll notice we didn't have an art lesson to go along with today's countries.  That is because a month or so ago, I signed them up for a two hour art and creativity class for this afternoon.  There wasn't time or energy today.  Tomorrow is a new day though!

England

  • National Geographic Website
  • England By: Kay Melchisedech Olson - mostly skimmed this one
  • A to Z England  By: Byron and Rebecca A. Augustin
  • Postcards From Great Britain By: Helen Arnold (this one was one of my favorites!)
  • Skimmed through National Geographic Kids: Everything Castles By: Crispin Boyer
  • We talked about a few words that differ in American English from British English (loo vs toilet, trainers vs. sneakers, sweets vs. candies, etc.)
  • We talked about characters from England, including: Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Pongo and Perdita and others from 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, and Alice

Norway

  • National Geographic Website
  • A Primary Source Guide to Norway By: Elizabeth Rose
  • Norway By: Elaine Landau
  • Three Billy Goats Gruff - many Norwegian stories a centered around trolls, so we thought this would be a good additon
  • Last week in our normal homeschool curriculum, we also discussed vikings, so we talked about that for a few minutes today too

 I do hope you'll check out the National Geographic Website - the videos they post are about things that aren't typically covered in traditional kids books, which I think is refreshing.  There are also breathtaking photos (especially the one of the Northern Lights in Norway).

Tomorrow, (I think) we'll focus on Asia.  Or Morocco...  I guess you'll have to remain in suspense until then!

Disney World Curriculum - Day 2 - Europe (Italy, Germany, France)

Yesterday was a pretty busy day, which is part of the reason I am just now posting this.  Epcot World Showcase has five European countries, which I thought was too many for one day.  We chose to focus on just three.  Here's what we did yesterday:

Italy

  • National Geographic Website - this is a wonderful resource (since we just found out about it yesterday, we also looked up the countries we learned about on day 1).  There's photos, facts, maps, and videos about several countries.
  • Find Out About Italy By: Patricia Borlenghi
  • Michaelangelo By: Diane Stanley - we mostly skimmed through this, but enjoyed looking at his work.
  • We also talked about Pinocchio being from Italy.

Germany

  •  National Geographic Website
  • A Look at Germany By: Helen Frost
  • We talked about how Snow White is from Germany (at least in World Showcase!)
  • I learned that many composers are from Germany - Beethoven, Bach, Brahams, Schumann, and Wagner just to name a few.  So, we listened to a few songs:
    • Brahms Lullaby
    • Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata 

France

  • National Geographic Website 
  • Find Out About France by: Duncan Crosbie
  • We talked about which Disney characters are from France, including Belle and the Beast, Aurora, The Aristocats, Remy and others from Ratatouille

Europe - Art

For an art lesson, I had them decide which country's flag they would like to make.  Since all three of these countries have simple designs, I thought it would be good cutting and pasting practice.  Little Lou chose Italy, and X-Man chose France.



Stay tuned.  Our next blog post will be about England and Norway.  We're getting so excited for out trip, and learning about the various countries is making it even more exciting! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Disney World Curriculum - Day 1 - North America

Next week, we'll be in my favorite place, THE Walt Disney World Resort!  We're so very excited, and since we are homeschooling, we really want to make the trip as academically rich as possible.  We've decided to take a break from our normal curriculum this week and instead focus our studies on subjects and themes that can be enriched by our experiences at WDW.

I've had a hard time finding Disney lesson plans from other homeschoolers, so I thought I'd post our resources here in case it would help another family.

Today we began in North America (or, at least, the North American countries represented in World Showcase).

North America

  • We Live in North America By: Susan Ring
  • Famous Places of the Word, North America By: Helen Bateman and Jayne Denshire (we kind of skimmed this one)

1 - Mexico

  • History/Geography
    • Mexico By: David F. Marx
    • 1, 2, 3 Suddenly in Mexico: The Protective Jaguar By: Cristina Falcon Maldonado (this may be my new favorite (geographically, historically rich) book series
    • Mexico's Great Pyramids - National Geographic DVD (we only watched 15-20 minutes of this as it was a little dry and talked about human sacrifice (Mexico in World Showcase looks like a Mayan Pyramid)
  • Fine Motor
    • Lego pyramid

2 - Canada

  • History/Geography
    • Canada By: David F. Marx
    • Niagara Falls By: Sarah De Capua
    • Totem Poles By: Jennifer Frantz (Two faux and one real totem pole in World Showcase)
  • Fine Motor/Art 
    • Stamped totem poles onto construction paper

3 - The United States

  • History/Geography
    • America the Beautiful - A Scholastic book
    • Florida By: Carmen Bredeson
    • Celebrating Florida By: Marion Dane Bauer

    • Landmarks
      • The White House By: Susan Ashley
      • Visit Independence Hall By: Alexander Wood (Hall of Presidents is modeled after this)
      • The Liberty Bell By: Nancy Harris (Replica in Liberty Square)
    • Biographies
      • Mark Twain By: David and Patricia Armentrout (Co-host of American Adventure, also, ties to Tom Sawyer Island)
      • The Life of Ben Franklin By: Maria Nelson (Co-host of American Adventure)
      • Walt Disney By: Joanne Mattern 
      • Read About Walt Disney By: Stephen Feinstein
    • Literature
      • Tiny Dreams, Sprouting Tall: Poems about the United States By: Laura Purdie Salas 
      • Brer Rabbit Down the Well Retold by: Louie Stowell (Br'er Rabbit is the main character of my favorite ride - Splash Mountain)
      •  Br'er Rabbit Caputred! By: Jean Cassels
      • Meet Me in the Magic Kingdom By: Kathy Jakobsen
    • Art
      • Created Hidden Mickey's by reusing recyclables
        Please check back tomorrow for day two of our Disney World curriculum.  Thanks for stopping by!

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    Ten Years Ago I Was So Wrong...

    This year (in November) marks ten years since Ben and I got married.  There's certain moments in your life, that seem as though they just happened yesterday; and for me, walking down the aisle is definitely one of them.



    For some background, Ben and I had known each other for three months before we were engaged, and only eleven months before we were married.  I was nineteen and I thought I knew everything.

    Walking down the aisle, I remember being so happy, excited, and hopeful.  I thought at that moment (as several of our cheesy centerpieces stated) that love was all we would ever need.  I thought life would be easy, that we wouldn't ever argue, we'd spend every moment together, and that each day would be better than the last.  I thought I loved him more than I could ever love anyone.

    And, I was mostly wrong.

    We had a wonderful honeymoon.  After having a long distance relationship, every moment we were together was cherished.  While out one evening, a staff member at an attraction asked us if we were on our honeymoon - she said it was obvious that we were newlyweds.  I giggled, smiled, and blushed constantly.   Every second we were together, every time he touched me, I had butterflies.

    After our honeymoon, life wasn't all butterflies.
     
    Within seven months, my Grandma was diagnosed with cancer.  Within a month of her diagnosis, we said goodbye to her.  It was the most difficult thing I had ever been through.  I cried constantly.  Life wasn't easy.

    Within our first two years of marriage, there were three deaths in our family.  It still wasn't easy.

    We fought about everything.  From religion, to politics, to household chores, to where we wanted to go out to eat, it was a constant battle.  It wasn't easy.  We argued.

    We didn't want to spend every second together.   

    We had a very sweet baby boy.  It was the greatest moment we had experienced (and he still is such a huge blessing to us).  We were shocked to find out about his clubfeet.  I entered one of the darkest times of my life.  We went to weekly castings, and sat together while he had surgeries.  It wasn't easy.

    We were blessed with a precious little girl.  She was (and still is) lovely and wonderful; but I was terrified that I would go back to the dark place.  I felt overwhelmed - It wasn't easy.

    It wasn't what I expected.  I thought we'd always be in the honeymoon phase. I thought we'd never argue.  I thought we'd only experience good news.  I was so wrong.  But I am so glad that I was.

    Once the butterfly feeling wasn't constant, we worked harder on our marriage.  We prayed together.  We prayed for each other.  We got involved in ministry together.  We started cultivating a much deeper love.  I liken it to a tree, over years the roots grow deeper and deeper.  The roots become entangled, inseparable.  One. 

    We constantly communicate.  We don't agree about everything, but we know where the other one stands on nearly everything.  We've both changed and have become more compassionate.  And I love that when my heart isn't where it should be, that he lovingly tells me.  He holds me accountable and helps me be a better person. 

    When life was hard, he was so supportive.  He never once made me feel guilty about spending every weekend in my hometown to be with my Grandma.  He drove me back and forth every weekend.  He never whined about getting home late on Sundays (I cried half the way home every week) and waking early for work on Mondays.  He didn't complain that he didn't get to hang out with his friends on the weekends.  He stayed by my side. 

    When I was in my dark place, he never let me know that he was struggling too.  He was what kept us going.  He was our strength, our backbone.  When I was at my weakest, he picked me up and held me up.  Years later, when I suggested driving back and forth to Iowa for our son's clubfoot treatment, (ten hours each way), he never looked at me like I was crazy.  He helped me pack, took off work, and we went together.  It ended up being some of the richest, most memorable times in our lives.  

    When I was afraid of being a mother of two children under the age of two (and returning to my dark place), he reassured me that it would be okay. Having our sweet daughter ended up being anything but dark.  It was beautiful and wonderful.  He took off work for half the month to help me.   He spent so much time taking care of me, our son, and our home so that I could focus on caring for our newborn.

    When I told him that I wanted to homeschool our children, he helped me gain enough faith to try it.  He has fully supported me in our curriculum choices (regardless of cost).  He is confident in me even when I'm not. He constantly reassures me that I am enough.

    He encourages me to have girls nights.  He encourages me to take breaks and get out of the house.  And I need that.

    When I walked down the aisle, I thought I would never be able to love anyone more than I did in that moment.  And I was wrong.  I love him so much more than I did then.  And I know that I'll love him more in ten years still. 

    He has supported me, forgiven me, encouraged me, lifted me, led me, and loved me.  Deeper than the ocean, unconditional, indestructible loved me.  I was right about one thing on my wedding day - with that kinda love, love is all we need.

    Sunday, August 25, 2013

    Countdown to Disney! The Grey Stuff...

    I'm super excited to say that very soon, our family will be heading back to Disney World!  We're going with some of our very best friends, and can hardly wait.  We've been watching lots of Disney movies, and I'm shopping for clearance and sale items to take on our trip.  Tonight, I began creating a Disney homeschool curriculum for the week prior to our trip.  Once I have the (50 plus) books I requested from our library, I plan on posting more details about the curriculum in case it would help anyone else.

    But for tonight, I wanted to share an idea that was inspired by this pin on Pinterest.  The plan was to theme meals to our movies.  That didn't exactly happen tonight (and, I failed to get photos as everything was delicious and promptly inhaled), but the idea was to watch Beauty and the Beast.  (What actually happened is three other movies - but still, it was the thought that counts, right?!).  For dinner, we had American-French-inspired food: croissants with cheese and ham, french fries, and veggies.  For dessert, we made a special treat: the grey stuff ("Try the grey stuff, it's delicious!  Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!").  It was very tasty.  I contacted Lisa at The Disney Diner and was granted permission to share this yummy recipe with you!  Please note: while ours was delicious, we scooped it into cups so it wasn't the prettiest dish - her presentation is gorgeous, and looks like photos I've seen of the grey stuff at Be Our Guest Restaurant at Disney!

    So, without further ado - the grey stuff.

    Please let me know about your fun countdown to Disney ideas - we're always looking for ideas to make this time even more exciting.  As always, thanks for reading!

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    One Week In

    We're just over a week into homeschool, and so far, we're loving it.  Sonlight's materials have been wonderful - they grab our attention much better than last year's curriculum did.  I've also been checking pinterest for art activities to go along with our History lessons.  We've also figured out a schedule that works really well for us and keeps us on (a very loose) schedule.

    Here's a list of the weeks highlights:

    As I mentioned, we figured out a schedule, so each day, we know what happens next.  Below is our schedule:
    1. Bible - I feel that it's important to begin every morning in God's word.
    2. History
    3. Art - normally our art projects go along with our history lesson.  Some projects we've done (relating to cave people) include cave painting (we created a dark, cave-like area for them to paint in), bone painting (using a straw to blow paint - they would've used a hollowed out bone), and making a coracle (a type of boat used by the first people).  We also do Spanish during this time.



    4. Reading - their reading selections are the same, so it makes sense to me to do these earlier in the day.
    5. Math - they use different math books and sometimes have to separate to watch their weekly DVD.
    6. Next, we always do lunch.  I try to get them something fun to do, like an educational game or fine motor activity while I make lunch.
    7. An afternoon activity.  This could be physical education, gross motor games, music, an additional art project, or health class.  We've even made desserts on slow days, just so that they have something to do (hey, measuring and planning count as homeschool lessons too!).
    8. Language Arts - they each have a different book, and handwriting lessons.  Sometimes they aren't able to work independently, so I'll have one play with a cash register, educational game, a workbook, or color.
    9. Science - they have the same science curriculum, so it's nice to have them back together at the end of the day.  Also, I love science, so I like keeping it for the end of the day, almost like a treat.
    10. The very last scheduled thing we do each day is a small journal entry about something we've learned.  For example: "I would (or would not) like to be a caveman because ________," or (when learning about emotions in health class) "Something that makes me happy/angry/sad/scared is _________. " This also gives me time to write out the next days activities on our whiteboard.
    11. At the end of the day, sometimes we'll go to the pool (PE!) or play outside, or make dinner. 
    So far, school is going really well.  X-Man has had a tantrum nearly everyday which has been completely exhausting (we've decided to go back to gluten-free to see if that helps), but as far as the materials go, we're very pleased thus far.  Little Lou is so excited to have her own school books and has been wonderfully behaved most days.  I plan on keeping this blog updated as the school year continues - so stay tuned.

    Also, just as a heads up, I am no longer comfortable with posting many photos of my children on this blog.  So most photos that you see of them are going to be poor quality, or of the side of them, but probably not a portrait.

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    Bzzagent Review - Special K Nourish Bars

    Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a campaign for Special K Nourish bars.  Below is my review:

    I do not typically purchase Special K products.  To me, the brand makes me think of diet food, and I'm not a fan of diet food.  So, I'm glad I had the opportunity to try something that I normally wouldn't.

    As part of this campaign, I received three Nourish bars: cranberry almond, lemon twist, and dark chocolate nut delight. They are convenient (in individual servings), and are a decent size.

    Of these three, I tried the lemon twist first because I thought that I would like this flavor the most; I was wrong.  I did not care for this at all.  I thought the texture was good, but the taste was terrible.  To me, it tasted very artificial, and the smell was almost cleaning-product-like.  I couldn't finish this bar.

    The next flavor was the dark chocolate nut delight.  I don't normally like chocolate flavored things as they taste fake (or diet-food-like) to me.  The nourish bar was an exception for me!  I thought it was very good.  The chocolate was good, not artificial flavored.  I couldn't really taste the nut part, but it was good.  I would possibly buy these in the future.

    The last flavor I tried was the cranberry almond.  I liked these too, though the aftertaste wasn't great.  The bar was very sticky and stuck quite a bit to my teeth.  I felt that there was a good amount of cranberry and almonds, and I would consider purchasing these again as well. 

    All in all, the nourish bars were okay.  I won't be replacing my current granola bars with these, but if the price is right, I may purchase them in the future.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Bzzagent Review - Special K Nourish Hot Cereal

    Recently I had the opportunity to review Special K Nourish Hot Cereal.  Below is my review: 

    Special K isn't a brand I typically purchase.  To me, lower calories = lower taste; that's why I'm so glad that I was picked for this campaign.  I love that Nourish isn't just oatmeal; it's a hot breakfast cereal made up of oats, barley, and quinoa.  Unfortunately, the barley does make this cereal have gluten which will keep some people from purchasing this cereal.

    The cereal is easy to make.  All you have to do is peel the lid halfway back, add hot water, then close the lid for three minutes.  I like that there's a fill line in the cup which makes it easy to measure the right amount.  Due to the convenience, I feel that this would be a great option for people in offices who need quick breakfasts.  I stay at home during the day, but I did really like the ease. 

    The first one I made was the maple brown sugar crunch.  I was very excited to try this flavor as I thought it would be the best one.  I made it as directed, then walked out of the room for a minute.  When I returned, the bowl was empty, and my four year old daughter was happily licking the spoon.  She inhaled it.  I asked her how she liked it, and she gave it two thumbs up. She tends to be picky, so this is a win!

    The next flavor I made was the cinnamon raisin pecan.  This was very good.  There was a bit more pecan flavor than what I normally like.  I liked the texture of the hot cereal, and I thought that both the pecans and raisins were a good addition. 

    The last flavor we tried was the cranberry almond.  Out of the two flavors that I was able to try, this one was definitely my favorite.  I thought that for the serving size of cereal, that there was just the right amount of almonds and cranberries. 

    The only reason that I gave this four stars instead of five is that the raisin pecan flavor could use some improvement (in comparison to the cranberry almond flavor).  I do think that the serving size could be a little bigger as it wasn't completely filling (I'm used to a bigger serving). 

    All in all, Special K Nourish is delish.

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    Small Reminders of a Big Love

    Earlier this year, I mentioned that we started a budget.  Basically, we want to be better stewards of the money we are blessed with, and a budget has done that for us.  It has also helped make expenses more predictable and has actually given me a freedom that I didn't have.  I know it sounds backwards to say that establishing a budget would actually give us more options, but it has. We have a set amount that we spend each week on 'other' expenses, such as clothing, entertainment, dinner out, and other non-grocery items.  Before, we didn't have this budgeted, so anytime I spent any money on non-grocery items, I felt a little guilty.

    Another way that it has given me freedom, is that now I don't feel bad about saying "no" to things.  Since we do have a budget, sometimes things come up that we just don't do.  We pick what our priorities are, and we stick with them.  I know that if an expense comes up that is beyond our 'other' budget, that we are taking away from our food budget, and it's really easy to say no to something when it would involve taking food away from your children.  I've had to become more assertive, which has been difficult, but also liberating.

    Unfortunately, I'm not perfect.  I've miscalculated our amount spent, which has (more than once or twice) resulted in needing to take away from what we normally put into savings.  Also, more than once, it's allowed us the opportunity to see how God constantly provides.  I'm going to list a few things that have happened just since April.
    • When X went gluten-free, we had to buy some new baking flours.  They flours and rising agents were quite a bit more than I had anticipated ($20 for xanthan gum and gf flour).  It just so happened that X-Man (for the first time in months) needed a prescription filled for his eczema.  It also just so happened that I had a $20 cash-back coupon for the pharmacy, so the unanticipated charges were covered - we met our budget within a dollar that week.
    • A few weeks ago, I went over budget by two dollars.  When we got home, Ben received a survey in the mail with two dollars in it. Goosebumps.
    • Earlier this week, we had some extra expenses.  We had only $25 dollars left in our budget (food plus other) by Tuesday.  I wanted to go to the fair with my sister, and out to a fancy restaurant with one of my very good friends for her 30th birthday, but we knew we wouldn't be able to do both.  Well, Tuesday evening, I had paypal funds of $90 become available for an ebay sale I had made.  Entrees at the restaurant are around $20, so this was the perfect amount for all four of us to go to dinner (we ended up making it a date night, but still - awesome!).  Then, on Wednesday, a day before we would go to the fair, I received a check in the mail for $44 from our bank.  This was plenty for the fair! 
    I know some people will say these are coincidences, but I don't buy that.  I believe that God takes care of His children by giving them small reminders of His big love.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    Bzzagent Review: Lysol Power & Free Multi-Purpose Cleaner

    Recently I had the opportunity to review Lysol Power and Free Multi-Purpose Cleaner as part of a BzzCampaign.  My review is below:

    I love the idea of Lysol Power & Free cleaners.  Tough cleaners that kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, without all the typical harshness of regular cleaners.  The products are easy to find in the cleaning aisle, though, they don't make it obvious on the bottle which scent you are buying; there's a small spot on the bottom right that tells you which scent it is. 

    In the past, I have purchased the multi-purpose cleaner spray in Oxygen Splash.  I hate this scent (in the spray form).  It doesn't smell clean to me.  Now, this could be because I'm used to the strong fumes of other cleaners.  It does clean well and gets the job done.

    For this campaign, I received a bottle of the multi-purpose cleaner in citrus sparkle zest, and the wipes in oxygen splash.


    The citrus sparkle spray cleans well.  And the scent is good.  It's very light, but pleasant.  I will likely replace my current kitchen cleaner (also a Lysol brand) with this cleaner in this scent. 

    The wipes also clean very well.  They're not as abrasive as Chlorox wipes; the wipe itself is soft and foams as you scrub with it.  The oxygen splash scent in the wipe is much different than the scent in the spray.  As a wipe, it almost smells like pine.  I don't think the scent is bad, (it's much better than the same scent in the spray form!) but it is taking some getting used to.  If these cost less than other brands, I will happily switch to Lysol Power and Free Multi-Purpose cleaning wipes.

    All in all, these are great products.  I like that there aren't fumes, that the price is good, they're easy to find, and most importantly, that they get the job done. 

    Thanks Lysol for a great product!

    Sunday, August 4, 2013

    New Design!

    Something needed to change with this blog.  I didn't like that once you visited my blog, that there was no way to search for specific blog posts, so, after some work (that took way longer than it should have), there is now a search box! 

    Also, check out the new tabs above this post - now you can click on one of the tabs to be directed to all the blog posts that fit under that specific category.  So, if you're here because you found our blog on a clubfoot support group, you can just check out our posts about clubfoot, or, if you are a homeschooling parent, you could just check out the posts under the homeschool tab.  I think it makes so much sense this way. 

    I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty stinkin' excited about these new changes (maybe more than I should be).  I also changed the background to my blog, which may or may not change again in the next few days.  Hopefully this new format makes it easier to navigate - please let me know what you think of the changes.  I'd also love to hear if you have any additional suggestions.

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013

    Curriculum 2013-2014

    Just in case anyone was wondering, I wanted to share out curriculum choices for this year.

    • Core (History, Language Arts, Bible): Sonlight Core A - I absolutely fell in love with this package when I saw it at a homeschool convention.  Last year we used Heart of Dakota, and it was okay; however, my kids didn't like the reading selections.  We really enjoyed their Bible and History, but we were ready for a change.We also purchased Sonlight's kindergarten and second grade readers/language arts.
    • Science: Sonlight A.  Luckily, we found this on ebay in like-new condition.  I'm also pretty excited about this (it came with several books and a DVD). Last year we used Apologia.  I think Apologia would work well for older kids, but it didn't work well for my kids.  It was a big text book that in my opinion wasn't reader-friendly for younger children.
    • Math: Staying with Math-U-See.  Little Lou will do Primer, X-Man will do Beta. LOVE MUS.  The only issue I have is that there are 30 lessons and our school year is 36 weeks.  Small issue, but I thought it was worth noting.
    • Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears kindergarten and first grade.  Last year X-Man's handwriting improved VASTLY with the help of this program.  We really liked it, so we'll use it again this year.
    • Health: Alpha and Omega, Horizons Health 1.  This year we added a health program.  It looks like it covers quite a bit of info, but only on the surface level.  There's 50 lessons, but they appear to be pretty simple, almost an introduction.
    • Additional: We also purchased a PE book, some art appreciation books, and some classical music CDs.  Due to X-Man's fine motor delays, we also purchased a few activities that should help him (Little Lou is VERY interested as well!).
    So, there you have it.  There are thirteen more days until school, and I've prepped for two weeks of them so far.  We're pretty excited!  We can't wait to share more with you throughout our school year!

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    Praying for a legacy

    Recently God has really put it on my heart to pray (incessantly) for my children.  For as long as I can remember, before I go to bed, I check on each child, give them a kiss, and say a quick prayer over them.  I've always prayed that they would love Jesus and that they would lead lives that are pleasing to Him, but as time has gone on, I've added quite a bit to my prayer list.  I'm no expert parent, but I wanted to share what I pray in case any of my (three) readers needed some ideas for their children.

    • As I stated before, I pray that they love Jesus.  I pray that they feel His presence in their lives, and that they see Him in every facet of life.
    • Purity.  I pray that they lead God-honoring lives.  I pray that they are not corrupted by this world, and that they choose to wait.   I pray that they learn things 'the easy way' and not feel the need to try things that aren't beneficial to their future.
    • Compassion.  I pray that they want to help others.  I pray that they put others needs before their own wants.  I pray that they don't ask for things in return.  I pray that they see the good in people.
    • Thankfulness. I pray that they see the blessings they have, and that they are grateful for them.  I pray that they never be selfish. 
    • Joy.  I pray that they find beauty in everyday.  I pray that they have wonderful memories and that they chose to live each day to the fullest.
    • Love.  I pray that they feel truly loved, and that they love with their whole-hearts.  I pray that they speak the truth in love, never in judgement.
    • Purposeful.  I pray that they feel needed and wanted.  I pray that they see that they are important and that they matter.  I pray that even if they mess up (which, everyone does), that they still feel valued.  I pray that they feel freedom from perfection.
    • Needs.  I pray that their needs are always met.  I pray that God will protect them.
    • Their future spouses.  I pray that their future spouses love God.  I pray that they are compassionate, kind, and that they respect and love my children.  I pray that as they grow, they make God-honoring decisions, and that they choose to wait for my children. I pray that they feel loved and welcomed into our family.
      • I pray that Little Lou finds a husband that is a hard-worker, a Christian man, someone who treats her like a queen, and will be a gentle leader of their future family. I pray she respects and loves him with all her heart.  I pray that she become a mother (if that's what she chooses) that is representative of God's love.  I pray that they honor their commitment to each other. 
      • I pray that X-Man finds a wife that is a Christian woman who supports him, is respectful and loving, and becomes a mother (if they choose to have children) representative of God's love.  I pray that he treats her like a queen with constant love and respect.  I pray that he works hard to provide for his future family and that he be a wonderful, gentle, leader of his family.  I pray that they honor their commitment with each other.
    • Their relationship with each other.  I pray that as they grow older, that X-Man and Little Lou remain friends.  I pray that they stay close and that their spouses be supportive of that relationship. 
    • Our family unit.  I pray that we always keep our focus on Christ.  I pray that we are always loving toward each other.  I pray that we can always communicate in love and honesty; and, when needed, that we choose mercy and forgiveness over grudges. I pray that we are always close and that we never feel as if we are a burden to one another.  I pray that they know that they can come to us about ANYTHING and that we will always have unconditional love for them.
    • I pray for my future grandchildren.  That they have the wonderful qualities of their parents, and that they also choose Christ.
    As time goes on, as life happens, as we see sad and traumatic situations, I feel that it is imperative that we constantly pray for our children.  I'm reminded of some song lyrics "I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?  Did I choose to love?", and I pray that the legacy we leave behind, is one that God would be proud of, one that positively impacts the legacy of our future generations.  One that changes our future generations for the better.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    Pork - Be Inspired BzzCampaign

    I was recently selected to review Kroger's Moist and Tender Silver Plate pork as a part of a BzzCampaign.

    As part of the campaign, I received some coupons for pork (including one that was $5 off!), a recipe booklet, a basting brush, and a potholder. 



    We don't but a lot of pork, maybe once a month or so when pork chops go on sale.  I tend to buy the lean chops, then throw them in the crock pot with italian dressing, honey, and a squeeze of lime or lemon.  It's tasty, but it dries pretty easily.

    So, with my $5 off coupon, I decided to try something that I normally wouldn't get.  The 'regular' ribs were pretty expensive, but the country ribs were very inexpensive ($6.06 for just under 2 lbs, which made it just over $1 with my coupon - SCORE!).

    I was concerned that the meat would be dry, so I visited my 'go-to' website for recipes, allrecipes.com.  I found this easy recipe, it took around 2 hours (45 minutes to boil, an hour to bake), but it was so good.  Pretty fatty (since they were country ribs), but DELISH!  I can't wait for ribs to go on sale so I can make a rack or two using the same recipe.

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Today's Creed

    I've been struggling.  A lot.  I've been seeing evil (in the world), I've felt abandoned, I've felt not good enough.  I've lost sleep, made mountains out of mole hills, and have either not cared for myself, or have been so focused on myself that I've neglected others.   I've been worried about things that may not happen, I've been worried about things that may happen.  I've cried, I've lost joy, and I've found myself in a dark rut.  And I'm done.  I'm over the worry, I'm over the anxiety, I'm over the bad. 

    I am blessed.
    I am saved.
    I am kind.
    I care and I love deeply.
    I am favored.
    I am gracious.

    I will not allow anxiety to rob me of joy, confidence, sleep, sanity, relationships, honesty, or life.

    Life is bigger than this.

    God cares. My anxiety is His, for I am His.

    I will find joy in EVERY day.  For my children, for myself, and for the one who gives me each morning.

    I refuse to focus on evil.

    I will delight in truth.

    Truth is love.
    Truth is good.
    Truth is real.
    Truth is Godly.

    I choose joy.
    I choose love.
    I choose truth.
    I choose to live.

    Yesterday was worry.
    Today is a new day.
    Today is truth.
    Today is peace.
    Today is hope.
    Today is the only day.
    Today is new.
    Today starts now.

    I am ready.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Specialists and Evaluations and Therapies. Oh My!

    I don't know how to start with this post.  I guess a warning would be good - this is probably going to be long.  I want to cover the last few months of what's been going on without skipping over details and all that our X-Man has been through.  So, grab a cup of coffee, and let's talk.

    Last fall, X-Man started playing basketball.  We knew he wasn't going to be the star-athlete on the team.  He doesn't have much muscle mass (he weighs only 37 lbs at 6 years of age), and isn't quick on his feet (maybe from clubfoot).  What I wasn't expecting was to leave practice one night sobbing.

    At his practice, I noticed something wasn't quite right.  When the other kids were listening to the coach, he was rocking back and forth staring at the ceiling.  When the other kids were dribbling the ball, he was jumping up and down and putting his hands all over the other kids and making unusual sounds.  When it was his turn to dribble across the court, he couldn't without trying to shoot a basket every time he walked past the basket.  He was the disruptive child on the team - the one the coach had to constantly redirect and correct.
    My hubby was the assistant coach, and he started to notice too.  Basketball was pointless.  It was basically a time for X-Man to act excessively silly and disrupt the team.  There were a couple of games that the hubby couldn't make due to work, and I would have to walk across the court and try to calm/redirect/correct X-Man's behavior.  He played the whole season as I didn't want him to quit mid-season and he still loved going.  He was very discouraged that he hadn't made a basket, but he still had fun.
    So, I called his pediatrician (whom we adore) and she asked that we come in to the office to observe him and help us come up with an action plan.

    We spent time discussing things that concerned us, as well as some questions that she had for us.  She recommended that X-Man have evaluations for autism spectrum disorders, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.  We filled out multiple evaluation forms, met with specialists and came up with an action plan.  We would do PT once per month, OT once per week, and thankfully, it was determined that he does not have any form of autism.  It was, however, recommended that we have him screened for ADHD.

    I've been having mixed feelings about getting a diagnosis for ADHD.  I feel that there is such a stigma attached; besides, I homeschool, so an IEP really isn't something that he needs at this point.  I talked to our pediatrician about these concerns and she explained that there are support groups and parent-led groups that could possibly help us learn how to cope and help him.  I told her about my concerns with stimulants and that I wouldn't be interested in putting him on medicines.  I'm biased, but X-Man is SO smart, and I'm concerned that medication would alter the way he thinks, and that's the last thing I want for my brilliant child.  I asked if there's some dietary changes we could implement to help his symptoms. She explained that there is no scientific proof that dietary changes help, but on a case-by-case basis, there's anecdotal evidence that it can help.  We decided to cut out gluten, red food dye, and cut back on other dyes, artificial flavors, and sugar.  It has seemed to help.  He was having daily meltdowns, now he has them every three days or so.

    He did have the biggest meltdown of his life two weeks ago, which resulted in many stares, whispers, and judgmental glares by patrons of the zoo.  It also resulted in the biggest meltdown of my life, but that's another blog post on another day.

    X-Man attended physical therapy in January, February, and March.  His therapist was very surprised.  She said that considering how inflexible his feet are, that he is able to do more than almost any other child that she's seen! In those three months, he greatly improved as we would spend time implementing stretches and exercises at home.  And, at our last visit, he 'graduated' from PT - she recommended that we put flexion-stops back on his magic shoes, and that we continue his exercises and stretches.  She said we could also contact her whenever we had concerns or questions.

    X-Man has been going to occupational therapy each week.  Unfortunately, it took a while to get us in as the locations we preferred had no openings.  We go to the main children's hospital, which isn't as bad as I thought - I tend to stay in my quadrant of the city, so I think it's a good thing that I'm being pushed to go somewhere new.  And I absolutely adore his occupational therapist.  She is so patient and kind and easy to talk to, which is great.  About two weeks ago, she asked if we had ever had him assessed for sensory processing disorders.  I told her that we're going to get him assessed for ADHD, but that there had been no conversation about SPD.  So, she described it to us and explained that sometimes SPD is misdiagnosed as ADHD.  We filled out a questionnaire and Audrey (the fabulous OT) scored it for us.

    He had two 'senses' that fell within the normal range (I think they were vision and body awareness), the rest fell in a light gray area, which means 'some problems'.  Thankfully, even though some were close, none fell in the dark gray 'definite dysfunction' area.  She also gave us a lot of information on SPD as well as activities to help him throughout the day, called a sensory diet.  So far, it seems to be helping.  He had one of his best, focused days of school to date.  We started the day by having him carry the jug of milk to the table, push a basket of laundry across the floor to the laundry room, load the washer, and then had him chew on chewy jellybeans while he did his math work.  He didn't complain about his math work, and didn't forget to do any of his problems (nearly every day he forgets to do a few problems).  His handwriting actually looked better too! 

    There are many times where I think he is just not listening (constantly tossing a ball up in the air, acting very silly, getting very wired when he 'rough houses', making sounds over and over again, etc.), that may actually be him 'stimming', which is something he cannot control.  When we do certain activities on the list, it really seems to help - which is quite amazing.

    I feel very happy that he isn't in the definite dysfunction category, and even happier that we now have ways to help him.  I'm still not sure about getting the ADHD diagnosis (or ruling it out), and I'm trying to figure out just what SPD means - I'm currently reading The Out of Sync Child which was recommended by some SPD parents and am spending probably too much time researching - but in the meantime, it feels good to have some answers.  We're going to keep working with him, and doing all that we can to help him.  If you or someone you know loves an SPD child, won't you please share any tips you have?  We could also use prayers for discernment (please no prayers for patience ;) ).  I also want to thank all my friends and family members who have already been praying for us and checking in for updates - your support means the world to us.

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Kroger Good For You Campaign - CARBmaster and Greek products


    For this campaign, we were given a $10 Kroger gift card to try Kroger's CARBmaster and Greek yogurt products. We purchased four CARBmaster yogurts (strawberry-banana, strawberry-colada, caramel spice cake, and banana cream pie), four Greek yogurts (strawberry, vanilla, peach, and pomegranate), and one Vanilla CARBmaster milk. 




    I typically buy 'normal' milk, and the CARBmaster milk does cost more.  Honestly, since we don't have a need for lactose-free milk, we likely won't buy this again. The kids loved the vanilla milk, it was sweet and delicious on cereal.  I was a little surprised at how thin the milk was, I just expected it to be really thick.  It has a rich taste, almost like a milk shake.  We also used a clementine, banana, some crushed ice, a Greek yogurt, and some vanilla CARBmaster milk to make a smoothie.  It was REALLY good.  Maybe in the summer we'll consider purchasing some more as it is lower calorie than our regular 2% milk (60 calories versus 100) - and it did make a fantastic smoothie!

    Now for the CARBmaster yogurts.  The price is really good - about $.40 per cup. I am NOT a fan of lower fat/sugar yogurts - to me, they all taste artificial.  Unfortunately, this yogurt was no different.  I tried each of the flavors we purchased (I will say that I am impressed by the extensive flavor selection).  I was really looking forward to the banana cream pie, but like any other low sugar yogurt, it tasted artificial to me.  My kids loved each yogurt though and gladly finished each cup for me.  Of the four we purchased, I liked the strawberry colada the best.  If it weren't for an artificial-sugar-substitute aftertaste, I probably would purchase this flavor again. 


    I love Greek yogurt.  Again, I'm not a fan of lower fat/lower sugar yogurts, so I purchased four 'full-fat' Greek yogurts.  I really like Dannon Oikos yogurt - and I gladly spend $1-$1.10 per cup because it's worth it to me.  The Kroger Greek yogurt costs roughly the same - a little less than $1.00 per cup.  So, I knew, unless this yogurt was incredible, I wouldn't replace my current yogurt with the Kroger version.  Again, I liked the large selection of flavors.  The yogurt is good.  It's thick and creamy, the was Greek yogurt should be - just like the CARBmaster yogurt, my issue was an aftertaste.  Kroger Greek yogurt is sweetened with stevia.  I understand that stevia is a natural product, but the aftertaste has nothing natural about it - it tastes pretty artificial too.  I added some candied walnuts to the vanilla yogurt, and that did make a big difference, I liked it much better.  However, it doesn't come close to Oikos for me.  My kids enjoyed it, but I won't be replacing Oikos with the Kroger brand. 

    I think someone who enjoys low sugar/low fat yogurt will enjoy the Kroger CARBmaster and Greek yogurts.  Unfortunately, for me, they were just okay.

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Bzzagent Review: Schick Hydro Razor

    Let me start by saying that the worst razor I ever purchased was a Schick razor. Because of this, I haven't purchased a women's razor from Schick in a few years (my husband does like the men's razors from them). So, to be honest, if it weren't for this Bzzcampaign, the chances of me trying this razor were very slim.

     First, I liked the packaging. It was shiny and pretty - not confusing at all. I like that the razor came with a replacement blade and a holder which suctions to the shower wall. I really like this option as it makes it very easy to keep out of the hands of my little ones. The design of the razor is also good. The handle is easy to grasp, it has almost like a rubbery coating which makes it pretty non-slip. It also has little etchings on the handle which also makes it difficult to slip around in your hand. I've only seen the razor in blue, which is fine; I just think for families with more than one woman, the option of purchasing other colors would be helpful.

    The razor was very easy to load. I also noticed, that unlike my current razor, it is impossible to load the razor upside down onto the handle. I've cut myself with my old razor by accidentally loading the razor upside down. One thing I really like about the design is that the razor head maneuvers very well; it actually flexes/rotates about 60 degrees. My current razor is no where near this. It made it very easy and kept my wrist from having to turn and bend awkwardly.

     The first time I used the razor, I was very scared. There are five blades. FIVE. I've been known to cut myself with one or two blades, so I thought for sure that I would annihilate my legs with this one. It also had some moisturizing serum on the top and bottom of the blades (I figured that would be helpful for the many cuts I was about to experience). So, I took a deep breath and started my first use. According to the directions, you need to get the razor wet to activate the serum. So, I ran it under a little water, and then began my shave. It didn't feel like the razors were making contact, but my legs did feel moisturized (kind of slimy in the shower). Even though I couldn't feel the razors, they were doing work. The razor removed all my stubble (I get stubble every single day). Oh, and I didn't cut myself. I've probably used the razor a dozen or so times and haven't cut myself!

     The day after my first use with the Schick Hydro, I noticed that unlike nearly every other morning of my adult life, I had no stubble on my legs. So I skipped shaving. I was actually able to skip two days of shaving (it's a miracle!) before I was able to notice any stubble. I haven't experienced any red bumps on my legs or underarms, so it does seem to moisturize well.

    I've used the razor for the past two and a half weeks, and the blades still work very well. The moisturizing serum lasted for about five or six shaves.

     Schick Hydro really surprised me. It is my new favorite razor. I am now a loyal Hydro user and WILL purchase blade refills.

    Friday, January 25, 2013

    Bzzagent Review: Morningstar Farms Corn Dogs

    So, my most recent campaign was for Morningstar Farms.  My family really likes their spicy black bean patties, so I was really excited to try another product by the Morningstar Farms brand.  Below are a few photos and my review.
    My Bzzkit




    Corn Dogs!
    Okay, let me start by saying that our family has tried (and really likes) their spicy black bean patties.  They are very flavorful and when we eat them, no one misses meat.  They really have a great texture, and wonderful flavoring.

    I decided when we received our kit (seeing that we already had spicy black bean patties in the freezer) that we would try something that I normally would not purchase.  So, we decided to try their corn dogs. 

    They were easy to find in the frozen food section.  All the Morning Star products were grouped together - all I had to do was look for the green section (all their boxes are green which makes it very easy to see them right away).  I purchased the corn dogs, which came in a pack of four. 

    A few days later, I remembered they were in the freezer - I had actually been putting off trying them because I was afraid of what the texture of a meatless hotdog would be.  So, I baked them for 20 minutes like it said on the package.  My kids scarfed these down so quickly, that I had to practically bribe them to get one nibble. 

    The bite I had was good.  There was a good crunch to the outside (the next day I baked them for 22 minutes, and that was even better!), and the texture of the 'hot dog' wasn't bad.  As to be expected, it wasn't the typical texture of a meat hot dog.  One pro to this; however, is that you won't get any of those hard little bits that you sometimes find in hot dogs.  My kids didn't notice a difference.  My only issue with the corn dogs is the aftertaste.  The hot dog aftertaste was just a little odd, but nothing that a little ketchup or mustard couldn't fix.

    The price on sale isn't bad either.  I don't think I'd pay full price for them (of course, I rarely pay full price for anything), but we will most definitely purchase them again when they go back on sale. 

    As I mentioned above, I never would have tried these had it not been for this Bzzcampaign, but now, we're going to be regular consumers! 
    Prebaked

    Also, please note that the picture is of the corn dogs before they were baked - my children ate them so quickly that I wasn't able to snap a shot of them (still intact) once they were cooked!

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Checking In and (finally) Catching My Breath

    As usual, December was a whirlwind.  Actually, the last few months have been a whirlwind.  I'm finally able to sit down and catch my breath.  And, I wanted to update ya'll.  Okay, so we have a few friends from Texas, and I now say ya'll - not often, but sometimes.  I swear, I pick up dialect like some people catch colds.

    Anyways.  Homeschooling is going very well!  X-Man loves it.  I had a schedule planned earlier in the year - the schedule is no longer applicable.  X-Man has been loving math, so he's a few weeks ahead there.  And, we took our time to study the planet Earth, so we're a few weeks behind there.  We've also added in some Presidential studies (X-Man can tell you the order of Presidents, which number each one was, and the dates of their Presidency - I however, cannot).

    Also, we started back (after taking a couple weeks off for Christmas) last Monday, and now we begin each day with a quiet time.  I work on my Bible study, X-Man reads devotions, and L picks out some picture Bibles to look at - she often prays during this time (unfortunately, she thinks this means she can play  but call it praying "No, I'm praying over here!").  Overall, this change has been great!  It gives us time to ease into our day, and starts the day in the right mentality. We also added a basketball hoop to our classroom.  If X-Man starts getting antsy, he can hold the ball (it seems to help him focus) - he also gets to shoot a basket between each subject if he was a good listener.

    I feel much more confident, so we often change what we were going to learn about to make it more interesting for them.  We've been using our library and are loving that.  Anything he wants to study is easy to study when you have a fantastic library with tons of resources.  We've been adding activities and games and even movies - all of which have been great.

    Our family also started 2013 by adopting a weekly budget.  I take X-Man grocery shopping while Little Lou is at school.  He brings a calculator and keeps track of how much we're spending so that we don't overspend.  I also have him help me cut coupons - this helps him with fine motor skills, alphabetization, and matching similar items.

    Little Lou is still loving preschool three days a week.  She is still learning Bible/History and Science with us, we also read some stories before she goes to Preschool.  The days she is home all day are much easier (I thought it would be easier when she was at school). 

    Oh, and one more (huge) thing.  Remember when I left my job to begin homeschooling?  We talked about how this meant that we'd be bringing in less money.  Well, God again provided for us in ways that we never planned!  The hubby was offered a new job (a few months ago) that has more than provided the amount of lost income from my old job!  And, he loves his new position.  Again, I'm so thankful and can't wait to see what God has in store for us this year.  And, He has great things in store for you too :)

    Thanks for reading!

    Bzzagent Review - Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cereal


    This past Friday, (three days ago), I recieved a BzzKit containing Kellogg's Crunchy Nut cereal.  Well, the box is already gone, and I couldn't wait to post a blog about this very tasty cereal!  Below is my review:

    Okay, so my family LOVES cereal.  As a mid-western family, we're dealing with the cold of winter right now, so a typical morning begins with a bowl of oatmeal; however, we LOVE to snack on cereal. And, when it's warmer outside, we typically have cereal for breakfast.  So, with all that being said, we were quite excited to be chosen for this campaign.
     

    When the kit arrived, we were lucky enough to receive a big box of the Golden Honey Nut variety, along with four $.50 off coupons.  It just so happened that when the box arrived, my children were finishing breakfast, so we opened it right away. 

    My daughter isn't a big fan of nuts, but she wanted to try some of the cereal.  I gave her a little bit in case she didn't like it - and she didn't like it - she LOVED it.  Immediately, she asked if she could have a bowl of cereal and milk with her remaining breakfast.  My son LOVES things with nuts.  So, I wasn't surprised that he also really enjoyed the cereal. I had a bowl (which may have been much larger than the serving size) and was quite surprised with how good the cereal tasted.  To me, it tasted just like honey roasted peanuts.  It really was quite good, and I may have poured myself a second bowl.

    Two days after we received the box (we had spent the weekend out of town), I asked my hubby to try it as there was only enough in the box for one more serving. He is very picky and only has a couple cereals that he purchases and consumes regularly.  Even he was impressed.  Which says a lot.  He said that he would pack the remaining cereal to take to work with him. I may have given him 'the look' in response to him taking my remaining honey nut goodness.

    He forgot to pack the cereal (which may or may not have to do with my reaction the night before), so I enjoyed the last of it today.

    I do like the cereal in milk much more than on its own.  Don't get me wrong, I liked it dry, but if you eat each flake on its own, you don't get nuts in every bite.  If you eat it in milk or with a spoon, you definitely get a good amount of nuts in every bite.

    The texture was good too.  Crunchy and holds up in milk.  The last bite wasn't crunchy, but it definitely wasn't soggy either.

    The taste (as mentioned above) was pretty good.  Very nutty, and also tasted a lot like honey.  It was sweeter than what I normally enjoy, but to be honest, it didn't bother me. I thought it was great.
    I would purchase this cereal again.  My only issue with it is the sugar content - there's 10 grams of sugar in every 3/4 cup serving.  Knowing that the sugar comes from honey and not added sugar makes me feel a little better, but for my children this is too much sugar for a school day.  I'll likely buy this again for them to enjoy on weekends or as a snack.
    All in all - it's a real winner.  Quite tasty!