Friday, December 29, 2017

I'd Rather Be Fat Than Crazy: A Farewell Note to 2017

For 8 months I had mostly refused to buy myself any clothes.  The days and months after having a baby are full of change and uncertainty.   I had been down this road before and my bulging closet was proof of the varying sizes I had been over the last 7 years.  Why should I waste the money? I had lost weight before and would get where I wanted to be eventually.  What I had should cover my needs.  But my little race car's pregnancy was almost entirely different than the others and that included my weight gain.  I carried him differently and thus gained more weight in certain areas and not as much in others.  Plus, he was 10 pounds!  That meant more skin stretched further and more time for it to return to 'normal' if that's even possible!  Weight-loss this time around was more complicated because of stress, more physical healing, and three kids!  Tired of my fits of frustration while getting ready to go anywhere, Mr. Butler finally insisted that I go buy clothes that fit and would make me comfortable.

So, as I tried on clothes in the dressing room of Kohl's, I found myself repeating, "I'd rather be fat than crazy.  I'd rather be fat than crazy." over and over in my head.   Everything was either too big up top or too small on the bottom so dresses seemed to be out of the question. My pride screamed at me that I should be further along than I was in my weight-loss and recovery, but if there is one thing I gained this last year it's perspective.  About a year after miss Z was born, I physically and emotionally burned out.  In a nut-shell, I was overcome with sometimes immobilizing and unreasonable anxiety.  I remember being so afraid that I would never be able to enjoy my kids or even be up to having another one because of the hold it all had on me.  Fast forward 3 years and through the year we just had - full of stress, loss, challenges, but nothing like the problems I had before - and I can see things much clearer.   

I hate being uncomfortable in my own skin.  The extra weight just serves as a  reminder of the unhealthy side effects of stress, sleep deprivation and life changes.  All of this can be such a tool of the devil in my life.  I think all the insecurity of life that most people can feel is the devil's biggest tool sometimes.  But in the day to day, satan is defeated with perspective. Yes, I couldn't fit into things the same way yet, but I wasn't terrified of getting out of bed.  I was able to enjoy my kiddos and think clearly and sanely.

This year gave me the most fun, lovable, and good-natured little boy I have ever met.  Seriously, my race car is always looking for someone to smile at!  Not only that, but he is 100% healthy after a scare early on.  I survived the death of one of my dogs.  Not a big deal to most, but it was a day that I had dreaded since we brought Grace home almost 11 years ago.  This year was a huge financial burden, but it could have been so much worse.  I wish I was skinnier.  I wish we had never had to spend the second week of the race car's life in the hospital.  I wish my dog was still alive and chasing frisbees.  I wish our savings were built up rather than being drained by medical bills and car purchases. But I'd rather be afloat, than drowning in debt.  I'd rather be grieving a sweet dog than causing her pain and suffering.  I'd rather have an emergency room experience than risk the health of a fantastic little soul. And yes, I'd rather be fat than crazy!

Our perception (and opinion) of ourselves is such a complicated and fleeting thing.  In some ways, it just doesn't matter, but in other ways, if it's not satisfactory, it can change the course of our life.  I found clothes that fit and that made me more comfortable.  So go me, I guess, but more importantly it allowed me to recognize how we cope with the ugly and hard things in life.  There are days, months and in our case years of life that are full of exactly what we never wanted.  So then what?  We can quit and let the devil ruin the good gifts the Lord brings.  Or we can be thankful for what is and wait patiently for the good the Lord is bringing through it all.  As 2018 closes, I think of it like that high school nemesis that was always beating you out of things.  2017 was just wretched to me, but without it, there are so many things I would not have gained.  So for that, I say a fond farewell to 2017.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Magic Stix Washable Markers: A Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc. is at again and have released ANOTHER new product that you are going to want to include in your craft supplies.  We were given the chance to try out their new Magic Stix Washable Markers.  When your kids are consuming art supplies like food, it is easy to assume a marker is a marker, right?  According to The Pencil Grip, Inc. these markers are odorless, washable, non-toxic, but the big reason you should care about these?  They will not dry out with the cap off for 7 days GUARANTEED!  That is a pretty bold claim, but we have seen it tested and succeeded.  Some friends tested it much longer than 7 days and so far haven't seen it dry out yet!

They came in a nice plastic carrying case that secures each marker into a spot.  It was so nice that both kids decided it was theirs and of course arguing ensued.  Typical. :)  Whatever the case, they have been using them religiously for the past two weeks and no complaints or throwing them out, so I call it a win!  If you haven't tried out this company's products, you're really missing out! Follow the links on this page and you can purchase them off of Amazon.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Don't Be Annoyed When You Receive What You Ask For!

We had been wrapping presents all morning and everyone was a little 'whippy.'  When the racecar and miss Z naps, J has designated Quiet Time which usually consists of reading or school work.  He's been reading the Horse Diaries Series and currently had two checked out from the library.  One was a special edition, Jingle Bells, with trivia questions, a craft and a special recipe talked about in the book.  After he had finished his reading today, he walked into the kitchen with this book open to a specific page and said, "Momma? Do we have cream?  And what about baking soda?  Or Camdara?"  When I didn't recognize 'camdara' I finally stopped him to say, "What for?"  With a very sly grin he said, "I was thinking we could make these cookies that she made in the story."  Turns out the recipe called for cardamom, but he had a little trouble pronouncing it seeing as how we had never used it or mentioned it before.  "We don't have any cream, but I think we have the rest of it." I said.  Not to be deterred he said, "Could you text dad and ask him to get some on his way home?"  I told him I would talk to his dad and we would see.

Lately, this 7 year old has been getting so many big ideas to make things and do all sorts of stuff.  Balancing the two bigger kids with a baby can easily make me cranky because I just want to focus on one at a time.  Mr. Butler's offspring are consistently in a hurry to go and do!  So, here again is another project that J wants to do when I'm still trying to finish Christmas plans.  Initially, I internally rolled my eyes and huffed a big sigh of exhaustion.  But then a thought blessed by the Holy Spirit I think crossed my mind.  What is one of our main purposes in homeschooling?  We hope to instill a love and life-long desire for learning, independence and creativity!  Well, looky there.  It's working! It's really working!  The very thing that was annoying the daylights out of me was what we were seeking in the first place.

We have been incredibly blessed this year despite so much loss and struggle.  Why it is so hard to see those blessings when they are staring back at you, I don't know.  I'm thankful God works in many ways to save me from my bad attitude, especially when it comes to my spirited children!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Turning Holiday Stress in to Amazing Grace

As much as we love this time of year, the holidays can be so stressful. With social media begging you to compare everything and my family’s wants far outweighing their needs most of the time, it is enough to bring out the Grinch in anyone!  Nothing sucks the joy out of these special times faster than your heart being clouded with a big stress.ball.  Especially as parents, our moods set the tone for everyone else and those tense comments we make out of panic or frustration can easily bring the whole house into arguments, if we’re not careful.  For those of you who thrive under pressure and simply see the chaotic yuletide plans as an interesting challenge, thanks for all you do and we’ll try not to let you make us sick with all your crafty skills.   For the rest of us, it’s just not worth the mental breakdowns and the physical toll stress takes on our bodies.  We have to find a better way to balance what is doable with what is desirable.

When it comes to the holidays or special occasions, my ideas are usually bigger than my budget or my time will allow.  Sometimes it is the things I do to please others.  Other times I find myself committing to a job because no one else will.  Then, of course, there are my favorites that I can’t bear to skip or don’t want to miss out on.  I’m also an introvert, which means all of the people time can be extra exhausting.  Like most wearying things in life, none are so bad in and of themselves, but when I try to do them all, bad things happen.  Like the frog in the pot of water that doesn’t realize he’s slowly boiling, many of the things I love about the holidays are the ones turning me into the worst version of myself.  That is too heavy a price to pay when the entire purpose of this season is to bring joy, peace and family fulfillment.

So, what’s a family-loving mom to do to when she seems to spread holiday stress instead of cheer?  Take a breath and shift gears, of course!

Read the rest at Homeschool Review Crew and check out all the resources they make available to families!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Road Trip 2017: The Tale of Changing Plans and Expectations

Comparison. Expectations. Discontent.  I can be my own worst enemy and usually these are at the heart of it.  Everything we go to do can be lost to what we thought it should be or how we see others doing it.  We just took a family vacation to Flagstaff, Arizona that absolutely did no go the way we intended or expected.  I got some great pictures, my kids had some great experiences and Mr. Butler and I had some much needed time together for reflection and growth.  A successful trip it sounds like, right?  Yes, it was successful, but there was a ton that was just rotten and not how we planned time off.

The baby projectile vomited 4 or 5 times and prevented us from checking out a couple of surrounding towns like we'd planned.  After that day being so stressful we opted to stay in town the next day, which meant our Grand Canyon day was a lot colder.  We had fun at the Lowell Observatory and even came back later that night, but just as we finished a really neat demonstration, J threw up everything he had between the lobby and the bathroom.  Never before in my 7 years of being a mother had I dealt with so much vomit in such a short time span so by the time we got back from their MY stomach was feeling queasy.  So, since everything seemed to be crumbling anyway, I felt awful sick all night and finally willed my body to throw up just so I would feel better.  And I did. Mr. Butler and I both woke up the next day with headaches and feeling weak, along with come and go tummy troubles. Was it a stomach virus or some kind of flu?  Was it altitude sickness?  Honestly, I'm not certain either way.  It was all so weird and affected everyone differently (as in miss Z's case not at all!), but certainly not our idea of a good vacation element.

So, depending on my attitude, this could have been a disaster trip and waste of time or a successful time away where my kids got some unique memories and definitely a growth experience in my marriage and mental health.  The truth of the matter is that our perception of the way life normally goes for other people falsely feeds our expectations and then in turn influences our gratitude and attitude towards disappointment and unhappiness.  Poll those around you about their worst vacation experience.  There are all kinds of horror stories to be heard, but then somehow when it comes to our life we expect things not to be challenging.

There was one morning of this trip that I was just flat unhappy that everything was getting rearranged and in my mind just ruined.  As usual I had perfectionist ideals that were being thrown out the window and I wasn't happy with what was left.  Thankfully, one morning's attitude doesn't a ruined trip make.  At the end of the day I desire a healthy, close relationship with my family, a steady flow of fun learning experiences and more time to become the person God designed me to be.  In light of those goals, we had a fantastic trip and can't wait to do it again  - maybe minus all the vomiting!  So let's remember this:

1. Trips or life in general rarely go exactly as planned - and that's okay.
2. The ideal life we might see in a Christmas card or on Facebook isn't ideal or without trouble.
3. Be thankful.  Even be thankful for the vomiting.  ;)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Smiling Faces

 Life is busy with these three.  I am a very blessed girl who needs to work on her thankfulness.  Genuine smiling faces born out of joy and silliness are something to be so very grateful for.  

(J/7, Z/4, R/7 months)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Forbrain: A Sound for Life LTD Review

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD
If growing up in this world was ever simple, it certainly isn't anymore.  From stranger danger and violence to health problems and learning difficulties, our children face so many mountains every day and rarely is there a clear cut solution without a wounding side effect.  Today's review is over something that makes me so thankful to be a member of the crew and glad to have such a huge educational resource through my relationship with it.  Forbrain from A Sound for Life LTD is a headset that uses your voice to enhance your brain.  Using Bone Conduction, it transmits the sound of your voice faster and clearer.  Then a dynamic filter enhances specific frequencies of speech and constantly surprises the brain.  It is has been used for things such as auditory processing, sensory integration, speech issues, and short-term memory help.  When you are in the business of educating young minds, it is likely that you have at least one student that could benefit in one or more of these areas.

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

In recent months, my brother and sister-in-law had been investigating ADD and various methods for addressing related issues for my nephew.  When this product came up for review, I immediately thought of them because all of the skills Forbrain is advertised to help with can be traced back to ADD issues.  They had recently started a new regiment of dietary changes and various exercises designed to help balance certain things in the brain.  Trying Forbrain fell right in step with the new things they were trying.  The one disadvantage of that is that some of the progress they've experienced is hard to trace back to a single change they've made, like the use of Forbrain, but they did make some interesting discoveries anyway.

The main user was to be a 7 year old suffers from focus and attention issues.  They found it to be easy for him to use by himself on a daily basis.  He would read books aloud to himself for 15-20 minutes at a time.  They also had him count aloud alternating from a soft to loud voice for each number.  They have seen some improvements in some of his problem areas, but again it is difficult to say what has made the most impact.  More time with the product may produce more specific results.  One frustration is the size isn't adjustable so it feels large on a child's head.  That may be necessary for it to work properly, but it takes some getting used to.  Still, the kids enjoy using it and making silly sounds! 

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Because little sisters always want to do what their big brothers are doing, another user was a 3 year old.  At her age, her language and clarity is still developing so Forbrain made a very clear difference immediately even though she only used it a few times.  Each time she used it she would talk more slowly and deliberately, correcting herself when she would hear a word spoken incorrectly. It quickly helped her to say her ‘L’ sounds more correctly.  

Based on this limited experience, Forbrain is a high-quality resource certainly for anyone with language or speaking difficulties.  Those difficulties certainly impact other issues so it makes sense that this tool could have farther reaching effects with long-term use.  When learning challenges come with our children, one of the most life-giving things is just knowing about different resources that might could help.  This gives us hope for growth and improvement!  

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Our experience was limited to our family's needs and challenges.  Follow this link to read how other people used this product and what types of results they had.

Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Happy 7th Birthday J!

At every stage your children go through, there is a moment or a series of moments when you know that this is when it matters.  Rocking that baby that just wanted Mommy.  Teaching that toddler to pray.  There's a lot of stuff that matters, but then there are those things that you know you won't get back.  The moments that shape their hearts towards God and their expectations of other relationships.  J turned 7 over the weekend and we celebrated until we couldn't anymore!  As we should.  His birth was a beautiful accomplishment for me and his 7 years of life have been such a blessing.  As he's asleep in his bed under a brand new comforter in a relatively new bunk bed and I roll around the concept that he's 7, I'm struck with another moment.  He's on his way to 10 and whatever strength of character I hope to shine through in adolescence needs to be formed immediately.  I know it isn't absolute, but it feels almost like cement is being poured into his heart and I need to shape it before it dries.  

He came home tonight and finished a new Lego set he had gotten for his birthday all by himself.  That's a new thing for him because usually he either requires help or just really wants a partner for relationship sake.  Tonight though he made it very clear he wanted to prove to himself and his family that he could finish the whole thing by himself in one day!  I was so proud of him.  I've known for a while that there are certain things that he needs as a male that I either can't understand or won't always recognize readily on my own.  This is a great example.  Proving himself is important to both genders of course, but I think it can be especially important for boys to do so in areas having nothing to do with their mothers.  His focus of energy and motivation was so neat to watch, while a little overwhelming how much this little person has developed into a boy looking ahead to adolescence.  I love it and it terrifies me all at the same time.

I'm deeply dreading the reality of his heart needing to belong to another, but I'm so thankful it has been mine for another year.  Happy 7th Birthday J!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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

The Pencil Grip, Inc.
I haven't been reviewing products for all that long (about to close out year 2), but I love getting to see a product develop and flourish over time.  The Pencil Grip, Inc. is back with more colors and a bigger collection in the form of the Thin Stix Creativity Pack.  Every time we review for The Pencil Grip, Inc. it's like we get a creativity shot in the arm.  The kids start doing one thing, but then end up with more ideas as time goes along.  This review is no different. Miss Z started with a picture of her dad putting her in a headlock with very colorful furniture and then suddenly we were all making Pilgrim hats and Squanto headbands!

This new creativity set we received includes 24 Thin Stix - 12 Classic colors, 6 Neon colors and 6 Metalix colors.  This collection of colors is a well-rounded assortment that facilitates just about anything you can think of.  And there is something about having a lot of color options that is exciting!  When this set came in the mail, I never once had to offer it up as a suggestion for something the kids could/should do.  It was a go-to activity all on its own for a couple of weeks.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

The fantastic quality of this product that I first fell in love with is the tempera paint effect without a mess.  This makes parents happy! Of course my kids are a fan because they are allowed to run wild with it, so to speak.  With the introduction of the Thin Stix - that feel in the hand more like a marker or highlighter - adults are more comfortable using them.  One of my favorite creative activities besides writing is painting.  As a stress reliever, as a creativity enhancer, painting for process is very freeing to me.  I know I'm not skilled at actually creating life forms so it is 100% play.  And as we all know, play is far more important than we give it credit for - even in adults!  By now maybe you already own a set of Kwik Stix, but I'm thinking these would be a easy, cheap gift for your favorite college student, crafty adult, or stressed out friend in need of a stress-reliever!

Did I mention how much of a mess is NOT made when we use these?  One of the kids used a brown clipboard to hold their paper and when they were finished there was paint all over it.  The said child went and got a wet rag to clean it up.  With almost no scrubbing, the clipboard looked good as new!  This is mess-free painting at it's best! 

Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix Creativity Pack

Keep Up With Social Media Links for The Pencil Grip:

Twitter: @thepencilgrip

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack, like all of their other Kwik Stix products, is so versatile that the possibilities of uses are endless.  Check out all the other projects these were used on through the link below:

Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, November 5, 2017

This Beautiful and Wounding Life of Motherhood

As I'm navigating this child life for the third time,  there is so much beautiful and wounding at the same time.  On a daily basis you're hit with a reality wave that reminds you how this is not how you planned it exactly and yet it is everything!  My sister-in-law put it right in her newest song.

If you like it and would like to support more music coming from Hannah, go vote for her at the link below:

Vote for I've Got It Good by Hannah Elise

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Magic Stories: A Reading Program Review

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
One time someone asked me if being a member of the Review Crew and my kids starting various educational programs, but not necessarily finishing them was detrimental to their learning.  Honestly, I had never thought about it that way, but I've after having thought about it I'm sure the answer is no.  For one thing, sometimes we do either finish a program in the review period or continue using it afterwards.  Still, even in the cases where we might not, the educational exposure is more opportunities to learn and exercise mentally.  Our latest review is a good example of this.  The Magic Stories from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series was completely unfamiliar to me and something we started on in the middle of other curriculum already in progress.  And yet, for the first time ever, I walked by J as he was reading The Magic Hole and he was laughing.  He loves reading, don't get me wrong, but I don't think I've ever caught him laughing at something he's read unless it was Calvin & Hobbes! Needless to say, new venues for learning are always welcome here.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

The latest venue, The Magic Stories is a digital product intended for 2nd and 3rd graders that includes 6 stories approximately 20 pages long, corresponding vocabulary cards and exercises for each story, and pre and post sight word assessment worksheets for each story.  The student is expected to take a pre-assessment, read the story, work through the exercises and then take the post-assessment.  Hopefully, the student will have improved.  The vocabulary in each story increases in difficulty so reading them in order is recommended, but the assessment worksheets are great for determining your child's level of readiness for the individual stories.  The exercises and worksheets are designed to be used with the stories, of course, but the vocabulary cards can be used long after you've finished with The Magic Stories program for review and refreshing.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

While my avid reader loves to consume just about anything, he is definitely ready to work on comprehension.  The Exercises included with each story are great for digging into content.  Each story includes The Maze, Finish the Sentence, Imagine, and Finish the Story. My favorite is the Maze.  It presents true or false statements that, if answered correctly, will lead you successfully to the finish.  I thought it was a really fun take on the maze concept!  J loves reading, but slowing down to comprehend isn't always his favorite thing to do.  Having different kinds of exercises available covering the same content really does make it more palatable for him. 

There are also some helpful free resources on the website like instructions, the assessment worksheets I already mentioned, Running Record Sheets that assess reading fluency and a running record sheet for a classroom or group of students.  If this sounds like something your reader could use, my readers will receive 25% off by using the coupon code raisingreaders at checkout.   For the amount of content and exercises you receive, $16.95 is a great price! Getting 25% off makes it even better.

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The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, October 23, 2017

October Reset: Friendship

I put off writing this October Reset post because it made me nervous.  Friendship is a sensitive and difficult subject for me.  I am not really good at friendship, yet I crave it like water.  I am motivated most by relationship, but I'm terrified of others coming face-to-face with my flaws and insane quirks.  So, a friendship reset is something I've needed to do for years, but it seems so deeply rutted that I'm overwhelmed at where to start. 

First things first I guess.  I love deep meaningful relationships where loyalty and authenticity are mandatory.  As a kid and through adolescence I usually felt deeper (or at least more loyal) about my friendships than the friends did.  I was always a bit of a know-it-all which meant not really a barrel of laughs, but got a lot of people asking me for advice.  And truth be told, who doesn't like being asked for their 'expert' advice, right?  But when the crisis was over, most would move on to their regular friends.  Before you think I'm throwing a pity party or something, understand that I have been blessed with some amazing people in my life where I've spent some amazing weekends of fun with. 

I seem to remember a crazy weekend with some beautiful Bradford girls that involved way too many accidents and emergencies, but made for some great laughs and stories.  Whenever the subject of no friends would come up, my mom would always advise us to look for others who needed a friend.  I remember a couple of sweet Tidmore girls recently back from living in Honduras for a few years that became fast friends at first because we all didn't really know anyone.  Teenage years into my twenties brought some really great people close to home that were the building blocks to so many adventures - Melissa, Annette, Darcy, Olivia, Brandi, Andrea, Jessica, Afton, Stephanie and I could just keep going.  

So, yes I was blessed with friends, but friendship is complicated and then adulthood starts happening.  People get real jobs, get married, children take over and before you know it, an introverted, easily-overwhelmed girl who was always scared to really put herself out there first anyway, finds herself drifting farther and farther away from true friendships.  Why? Because life for one thing.  If you don't see each other on a weekly basis, then staying in touch requires more.  If your timelines in life (if you marry, age of your kids, values, etc.) don't align, it requires even more commitment.  And then there is me:  All of that plus my life and kids taking up a lot of the limited free space in my brain.  I go to bed longing to be closer to people - to be invited or included in things, but figuring a random text message at 11:00 probably won't be welcome or bring me that much closer to them.

The snowball of drifting away from friendships is sometimes impossible to avoid.  When you have a baby (and then two and then three), your life has to change.  For better and worse, you have a new job in guiding that little soul.  Your priorities have to shift.  And that's a lot of what has happened to me.  I take my job seriously as a mom and before I knew it friends were changing.  And then I want to do friendship perfectly or effortlessly - both of which never happens.  So I tend to give up before I try because it can't be either.  Thus, arms length or whenever its easy, which can be really unfulfilling. 

So, a friendship reset for me involves starting over from this new normal.  This new normal has 3 children, awkward introductions, 40 lbs of baby weight to lose, and a mountain of things to be grateful for.  My desire for friendship to be perfect or easy always required me to be the perfect friend.  If I was thinner, if I was funnier, if I was more stylish, if I was a million other things, then maybe friendship would be easier.  The first reset truth is that friendship requires work and maintenance, things I've resisted in so many areas of my life over the years.   The second truth is that I'm not perfect and neither is anyone else that I might be friends with.  I have to be okay with both of those things.

This month has really turned a corner in my heart with recovery from the really rough first half of this year and my little racecar's first 6 months.  I'm feeling more hopeful and joyful than I have in several months.  Ladies, motherhood makes so many other things in life hard.  Now may not be the right season for seeking friendship beyond what is already available to you.  That's a reality that we must accept sometimes.  I've been a lousy friend on multiple occasions - and knew it - but just never seem to have enough energy or brain power to fix it.  Now my season of life, especially with the racecar being our last planned pregnancy, is shifting.  I'm not exactly declaring I'll be everyone's best friend in 30 days or less, but I am committing to the pursuit of real, deeper friendship.  You might not be in the right place for this kind of reset right now, but tuck it away for another day when the time is right.  Isolation and arms length is just not how we were designed to live.  

If you find yourself in the presence of an awkward exchange or a nervous invitation from me or anyone else, try to have mercy on us.  Even if we aren't your forever friend, you might be just the practice we're needing to not give up!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs: An Online Reading Program Review

Reading Eggs

With learning to read being one of the big milestones for our kids to hit, we are always looking for new and creative ways to encourage them during that process.  We were given the chance to review Reading Eggs with my almost 7 and 4 year old this past month and half and were absolutely blown away.  Reading Eggs is an enormous program full of a zillion activities that teach everything from phonics to comprehension with very clever games and reward systems.  In this one program there is so much content that this review will not begin to give you a full picture.  Regardless of what I share with you today, you should take advantage of their  Free Trial by November 30th because it  gives you free access for 4 weeks!  
Reading Eggs
What do eggs have to do with reading, anyway?  Before I explored the site, the name always made me think of chickens - certainly not reading!  The eggs are actually a currency all over the website to access different activities, rewards and levels.  This is what makes it such a hit with the kids, I think. It's a great combination of a typical video game format and a reading program.  

The Reading Eggs website contains 3 reading levels: Junior Reading Eggs (for ages 2-4), Reading Eggs (for ages 3-7) and Reading Eggspress (for ages 7-13).  There is a Bonus Material Section that includes Activity Sheets, a Parents User Guide, Homeschool Curriculum Guides for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade, and access to The Eggsperts, an animated  series about solving problems with letters and sounds. There is also a Mathseeds area in a just as clever video game format that is all about math.  For this review, we're focusing on the reading portion but the math is a fantastic bonus with your subscription!

Before beginning any program, each child has the option of taking a placement test where they can begin where most appropriate rather than at the beginning of the program.  If your child has some reading skills, this is a wise option.  My 4 year old was just learning about word formation so beginning at the start of Reading Eggs worked perfectly, but also spent some useful time in the Junior section where things were a little easier.  My almost 7 year old is a great reader and the test started him near the end of the Reading Eggs for some comprehension work.  He also tried out the Reading Eggspress, where he really liked the games, but sometimes grew tired of the higher level work.

If you are familiar with my family and homeschooling style, you know that I prefer hands-on, screen-free curriculum whenever possible.  Send us outside and it's a perfect day!  However, if I didn't know before, the past two years have taught me that life is full of less than ideal circumstances.  This program does a solid job of teaching children to read while getting them excited about their schoolwork!  Whenever I need something they can work on independently this is one of everyone's top pick.  For our household, this program was used as a supplement to their other reading activities.  If you are in the market for a complete reading program, Reading Eggs offers a Parent User Guide that lays out the different ways you could use the various elements.  A new option they offer is a complete homeschool curriculum guide (as seen in the picture below) that uses Reading Eggs, Mathseeds, activity sheets and all of its online books for the entire program of work for the school year.

The incremental levels just seem to be unending and the games continue to entertain long after the newness wears off.  This program exceeded our expectations and has provided loads of educational fun for both of my school age children.  Don't forget to try it out yourself for free before November 30th!  
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Monday, October 16, 2017

October Reset: Parenthood

When I feel out of my normal control, I (too often) default to panic.  In my marriage reset post, I mentioned this panic too.  Children, especially as they multiply, can hit your overload button just by breathing sometimes.  Since Zoey was about 1, I've been trying to fully recover from the default panic mode my body had been set on.  Before we moved to the new house, I had finally started feeling healthy again, but then change ran amok.  Of all the roles I play in my life, being a mom is perhaps the one I feel the fiercest.  It's hard.  I'm easily overwhelmed.  I'm an introverted homeschooler which makes me a little crazy for alone time.  But I am absolutely enthralled with  what they are (miracles that combine their dad's DNA and mine in a beautiful way) and deeply committed to the responsibility of raising them.  So, despite the panic roller coaster they have kept me on, I keep coming back for more!

Still, panic is bad for your health long-term.  Trust me, I know.  So, my parenthood reset involves breathing first.  Before a reaction, before a demand, before a scolding, I'm learning to breathe.  My stressful state shouldn't be blamed or perpetuated (long-term) by their lives.  They are precious and the parts that aren't fall under my domain.  I'm the parent so it's my job to work on those.  Panic, stress and reaction is my responsibility to eliminate, not theirs.  The times when I struggle to enjoy my children have more to do with my state of mind than their behavior.  Parenthood reset puts my mental health under my control and responsibility.  A long day is still a long day, but I need to be cautious about blaming my children for what is largely my doing.  When I stay up too late or don't take time to pray and set my mind for the day - that's not their fault.  It is very easy for me to react to the behavior of now - like loud talking or children squabbles - as though they are the worst.  However, when I'm rested, emotionally filled and peaceful, managing those things are as simple as breathing.   The difference is me, not them.

It always sounds silly to hear someone say, "You're the parent, remember?" As though we could forget.  But somewhere along the way we do forget that being the parent means we are in control of so much whether we like it or not.  They do what we do.  They react like we react.  They resist what we resist.  Join the parenthood reset in taking control of what is and should be yours to direct.