Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thin Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc. - A Review


The Pencil Grip, Inc
Thin Stix by KwikStix

With all of the great educational products I get to review, few of them are a great fit for most any family.  With varying ages and differing circumstances, the needs of each family will always be different.  Last year, however, I believe we found something that every family can use and enjoy! We were so excited to discover and review Kwik Stix!  This year The Pencil Grip, Inc. has a new product, Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors and we got to review that too!  This is definitely one of our absolute favorite product lines!







Thin Stix by KwikStix

Kwik Stix are sticks of Tempera Paint in a solid form that glides onto paper smoothly and dries very quickly.  It's a genius idea and perfect for kids!  When it comes to painting it is hard not to cringe at the request simply because of the mess and clean-up involved.  The solid format and quick-drying aspects make it practically mess free and super easy to clean up! And all the parents rejoiced!!  I have seen them on sale at Target and they are always available on Amazon, with lots of different color options. 

Thin Stix by KwikStix
The sticks that we reviewed last year are shaped like glue sticks.  This new product is longer, like a pen and the width of a thick marker, noticeably thinner than the original, hence the name Thin Stix.  The consistency is the same in both products - like writing with lipstick - but with the new thinner tip you can create detail more easily.  Things like writing words or drawing small objects is now possible and adds a different element to the work that can be created with them.  I played around with the Thin Stix myself just doodling, but felt a little limited without original Kwik Stix.  As I contemplated making something more substantial, I went and got out our stash of regular Kwik Stix in order to have both options available.  As I suspected, having both options really completed the tool box so to speak.  Backgrounds and coloring in pictures went faster with the original Kwik Stix and details were noticeably easier with the Thin Stix.  







I think it goes without saying that my kids used them with ease and loved the whole process.  What I find fascinating and convicting is how addicting their use can be to adults.  Anywhere they are placed in the path of adults where they are welcomed to use them and create, people start surprising themselves.  As a society, we just don't freely create as adults the way our brains and bodies enjoy.  Think of restaurants with paper table cloths and crayons lying around.  Most people will pick up a crayon and doodle, at minimum.  It might bring a few giggles (and that's probably good for your mental health too!), but I would love to see after dinner creativity become a thing, like coffee and dessert.  Kwik Stix are the perfect medium to jumpstart it I think! They are easy to use, but the result looks like you've invested some time in painting - very satisfying!


Thin Stix are an excellent addition to the Kwik Stix family and I'll be excited to see what they come out with next!  
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No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
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Monday, May 22, 2017

Who Is Stealing Your Success?

Success really does look different to different people.  Success even looks different from day to day sometimes.  Why do we forget that so easily?  I'm learning to manage three little people's lives as well as a list of other responsibilities.  There are moments when I feel compelled to justify a decision or circumstance because I'm afraid my real victory of the day - like slowing down long enough to cuddle with my three kids and capitalizing on their questions about heaven - isn't acceptable or doesn't seem like much.  Witnessing the bonding of my kids together is a beautiful victory, but why do I let a messy room or mismatched clothes steal the success in my mind?  

So, let me remind myself and you if you need it:  The expectations of others - and especially the PERCEIVED expectations of others - aren't valid until they align with God and your healthy conscience's standards.  Don't be motivated by the ambiguous THEM or PEOPLE.  Be motivated by sincerity and God's standard of love.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Homeschool Rescue: An Only Passionate Curiosity Review

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

One of the comments I often hear from non-homeschool parents when the topic of homeschooling comes up is "I just wouldn't be good at it."  The trouble with that statement isn't regarding it's truth, but the big fat assumption it is based upon.  Most homeschooling parents didn't choose to do so because they were going to be so good at it!  As much as our kids are learning, we as parents are learning right along with them.  That's why Homeschool Rescue from Only Passionate Curiosity was created and why reviewing it this month for the Review Crew has been such a blessing! No homeschool runs smoothly from beginning to end and often there are times in life when we get off track, especially in our homeschool.  At the end of the day, we're all having to learn how to do this.  Homeschool Rescue is a much needed reset or focusing tool whether you have years under your belt or are just beginning to homeschool.


Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

What is Homeschool Rescue?


Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

How I'm Using It:

As you know, I just had a baby a few weeks ago and his pregnancy before that was pretty wearing on me this time around.  My little homeschool has morphed and collided with life events several times and now with 2nd grade and kindergarten on the horizon in the fall, everything is pretty disjointed.  With a newborn and all of us suffering from changes, I would have a difficult time evening knowing what needs to be improved without just caving and saying all of it!  What Homeschool Rescue has offered me is a self-paced boot camp for my homeschool and household management.  The worksheets (like A Dream For My Child and homework gave me the opportunity to put into words my desires and expectations for my homeschool and let it dictate my priorities, rather than what I believed to be everyone else's expectations.  The specific challenges that I'm facing -like teaching more than one child and time management issues- are all addressed and with lifetime access, I can revisit anything as much as I need.  With my sleep being quite disrupted, revisiting things several times is a way of life for now! 
The entire program has a storehouse of practical help and resources, but what I found the most helpful was all the different ways it communicated that my homeschool, with its challenges and strengths, is normal.  Struggling, worrying and celebrating along the way is common and in most cases downright healthy.  There is no perfect homeschool and the need to revamp and revive it is normal and healthy.  I see revisiting Homeschool Rescue at least yearly to note what needs to shift and change.

Is It For You?

Are you inspired by the concept of homeschooling, but sometimes fall short in the doing?  Have you been homeschooling for a while and are just about ready to throw in the towel?  Have life circumstances drastically changed what your school even can look like? Wherever you are on this spectrum, sitting down and reevaluating things will be so useful to enhancing your homeschool and your management of things.  

Homeschool Rescue {Only Passionate Curiosity Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rory the Race Car: A Birth Story

When miss Z turned a year old, I began having some health issues and eventually the need to wean her was discussed.  I didn't want to end that stage of parenting on such a difficult note.  At that point my anxiety was very high and the fear of not being able to have another child was very real.  I certainly didn't want to put me or a new child at risk, but in my heart I just wasn't finished with two.  There were a lot of prayers going up about this possible child #3 and from start to finish, everything was so. much. different.  From J to miss Z there were some clear differences, but I still felt like I was in the same ballpark.  Sickness, how I carried, emergencies, labor and delivery with this one were all almost foreign to me, they were so different! And for someone who really aches for familiarity (and panics at change and new things), this was hard to process.  Rory is over a month old and I'm just now sitting down to write about it - the shock of it all has made it hard to have any words I think.

As I've written before, miss Z's birth was so much more gentle and efficient than J's and I had attributed a lot of it to the self-hypnosis I had learned.  So obviously, I intended to do the same with the next one.  The trouble with that was that nothing lined up the same both mentally or physically.  I was looking to recreate miss Z's birth, but couldn't even muster up similar feelings when it came down to it.

On Saturday April 8, 2017 I woke up still very pregnant looking like this: 


I didn't feel good, but there were no regular contractions.  There was hardly any irregular contractions.  I felt poorly enough to ask my mom to work on (reflexology) my feet just to get things flowing in a good direction.  She did.  I felt better.  She left.  And I continued my day.  Mr. Butler was nesting for me - cleaning up the house like a pregnant woman.  I was cranky so I had a late lunch/snack and then took a shower.  

Showers always make me feel better.  This one made me feel worse.  It activated something and around 3:30 I started feeling sick in every direction.  That would make sense if I was in the middle of labor - that's called transition in case you're not familiar.  Transition is the point where most women reconsider and say "I can't do this."  The good news is that you're almost done at that point.  Well, I didn't know it at the time or even that it was possible, but I WAS in transition.  For some reason I just started there and skipped the build up.  Yay, right?  Well, sort of.  Because there were no rhythmic contractions, we weren't sure we should call the midwives or not.  Then I started having severe acute pelvic pain but still no contractions.  It was very uncomfortable and not getting easier.  So, Mr. Butler called and they were sending an assistant to check on me.  In the meantime, miss Z woke up from her nap and very concerned for me.  J was already with my dad so we sent her over there and my mom came over to help me.

After we had called, things started getting out of control.  I couldn't get comfortable, everything was VERY painful and I had to squat for any kind of relief. HELLO, that's transition getting ready to push!!!  But it just didn't make sense. None of it was in a familiar order or form.  When the guttural sounds started coming out of me spontaneously, I had Mr. Butler call back to confirm we were having a baby, regardless of how little sense it made!  Now, I tried to use my hypnosis.  I tried to relax and focus, but it was all for not.  Nothing I or anyone else did really helped.  The pain was constant and so intense that I had to focus on getting out of that situation as fast as possible.  So, that's what I did. 

The midwives' assistant arrived about 5:45 pm and had to start setting up for birth immediately as I was practically pushing.  She got everything set up just in time too because he was born at 6:01 pm before the senior midwife even made it!  The relief and joy was so amazing largely because the intensity of labor was insane!  But of course our little race car couldn't let the excitement end there.  When he came out he started turning blue and wouldn't sustain breathing.  He would cough and make a sound and then nothing.  So, the fantastic assistant knew just what to do and gave him oxygen and some chest compressions.  He was right next to me the whole time and perhaps it was all the love hormones flowing through me but I was confident he would be fine.  Mr. Butler and my mom seemed to be in charge of panicking instead.  Still, after a little bit of help he was breathing on his own and we were in business!


Rory Emerson was 10 lbs 2 oz and 22 in long. 


The big kids were VERY excited to meet him.





As many people know, we went on to have a hospital stay and some health concerns, but thanks to an enormous amount of prayer, he has been cleared of all issues and thriving at home!  We are learning many lessons through this sweet boy, but none so much as thankfulness for all the good things.  This mama's heart is very full.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thoughts in Progress

-The best rewards often only come from really difficult circumstances.

Growth - the kind that makes life more worthwhile and more pleasing to God - doesn't come from easy things or our plans going just as expected.  Deeper perspective comes from time spent with the curve balls and in the valleys.  


Friday, April 28, 2017

The Gospels: A Drive Thru History® Review

Drive Thru History
One of the major advantages to living in the digital age is how much knowledge we have access to.  Media definitely has its burdens and flaws, but it also has the power to embolden our faith!  Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” is the latest project from Drive Thru History® with Dave Stotts and one of those tools that can be used to teach and build up our family and friends toward a better understanding of the Bible.  One of the first questions a person might ask when introduced to the gospel is usually about how we can trust the Bible to be true.  This entire series touches on many ways to answer that question.  This has certainly been one of those reviews that the adults benefit just as much as the kids! 
Drive Thru History The Gospels
Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”  is a series of 18 30 minute episodes over 3 DVDs where Dave Stotts travels to all the locations mentioned in the gospels that housed Jesus' birth, life, death and ministry.  There are over 50 ancient sites he visits and utilizes history, archaeology, geography and art to bring the story to life.  As students of the Bible we all picture in our mind what events looked like, but at best come up short with a good visual because we just weren't there.  Visiting, albeit virtually, the places where these things really happened sets our understanding on a whole new level and certainly builds up our faith. 

Drive Thru History The Gospels
Also included in this set is a study guide corresponding to each episode that can be used in a variety of ways.  The study guide provides a summary, recommended scripture reading, discussion questions, beautiful graphics and bonus information under the heading 'Side Road' for each episode.  The recommended age of this series is 5th grade to adult, but families are encouraged to watch them together too.  Since the children in our family are 6 and under, we simply watched episodes together and not as a specific study.  However, when using the study guide, this quickly turns into a massive bible study tool.  For homeschooling families, this could supplement a major history, geography or Bible study.  It could also be useful for church groups or even just studying with your friends and neighbors.   Drive Thru History® provides a great springboard opportunity to discuss all aspects of the gospel with others from a unique perspective.

Drive Thru History The Gospels
As a parent and teacher of small children, I'm excited to have this in my library.  Almost like a digital encyclopedia, this set provides multiple layers of information to be dissected and used.  It's been fun to watch now, but it will also be useful to pull from as my kids get older and much of it becomes more relevant to their own understanding.  Drive Thru History® sure did a great job!

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Check out what other Crew Members thought about Drive Thru History:
The Gospels {Drive Thru History® Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It Only Takes One: Letting Go of Longing

If you were one of those favored people that everyone wanted to date or be like, then feel free to skip this post because you might not understand where I'm coming from.  For the rest of us, I expect you'll know what I mean.  We all had a time - and maybe still live there - where we longed to be that popular and interesting person that seemed to have all the cool friends and get all the dates.  Contentment with ourselves seemed impossible and no matter who paid us attention, we just weren't satisfied.  For most people it is simply an adolescent phase, though a few drag it into adulthood and beyond.  Regardless of how real it feels, it isn't a healthy place to live.

I was (am) most certainly that girl with the super sensitive feelings who noticed when all the boys paid attention to miss beautiful and all the girls didn't mind me if there was no one more interesting around.  The longing and discontentment, while maybe I hid it well - not sure, followed me around like a dark cloud.  I've been married 10 1/2 years to quite my uncomfortable opposite that has forced me to learn and grow more than anyone in my life.  It has certainly not always been fun, easy or even felt good (because growing is hard), but friends I just want to say something.  It only takes one relationship, maybe a best friend, maybe a husband, or maybe just a committed relationship with God, to satisfy those longings our adolescent conjures up.  It doesn't take attention from ALL the boys or all the popular kids, it just takes one faithful, authentic relationship to heal old wounds and teach the heart true commitment and devotion.  It's so easy to get a perfectionistic view of what we want or demand in a relationship that distorts truth as well, but it only takes one good one to realize how unnecessary all that fixating is.

There is a lot that I dislike about this picture.  It is NOT a perfect shot of us.  
But it doesn't take perfect to fill up the soul.

Tomorrow marks 3 weeks since my third child was born and the closing of a most stressful and trying adventure.  There's much to say about that, but I'll save it for another post.  What is significant is that Mr. Butler is and was the most amazing faithful friend and partner I could have had in all of the things we had to do.  He was the perfect strength in my weakness.  We have weathered all kinds of storms together so it didn't surprise me when we stared down this one together.  However, it did overwhelm me how far the 14 year old girl I sometimes still carried around in my heart had come.  It only took my (aged and purified) relationship with Mr. Butler to stamp out the foolish comparisons and longings of my youth.  So, whether you find yourself stuck in a cycle of longing or as our children grow through these stages, let's remember how many lies adolescent sneaks in. It doesn't take the popular crowd or the cutest boy or even the perfect 15 friends to satisfy our hearts.  It just takes one relationship of truth and stability to ground us where all others can come and go for the best without constantly pulling us out of orbit.