Friday, March 31, 2017

The Beauty and the Beast of the Body's Connections

We like to marvel at the small world we live in when we meet someone from our obscure hometown on our flight to a foreign country or your two childhood best friends - who have never met before - separately move to the same small town in Texas and end up going to high school together.  Everything is connected!  And that is fun to do, but American culture sure does struggle to realize how much more true it is when it comes to our bodies.  Our bodies' are fearfully and wonderfully made!  As I'm nearing the end of my third pregnancy, it is still crazy and amazing how God designed my body to create and sustain this little person until he's strong enough to start on his own.  Everything I do right now can have some effect on my new son and his future! The way our bodies work and the intricate connections are just beautiful!

The beast of it all is that throughout our life whatever negative thing that happens or we may do to it, will affect the entire body somehow eventually.  A neglected infection in a limb can endanger the whole body.  The foods we eat on a regular basis will effect the health of our teeth.  The stress of new jobs or loss can impact the health of our heart.  The connections are endless!  It's beautiful, but it can be a burden too.  The entrance of Miss Z into our lives has brought so much joy and love while initially putting a heavy strain on my physical body.  I didn't realize and stay mindful of that and it almost broke me completely.  Anxiety, depression, and deteriorating whole body health was the reaction.  All the factors of my life were culminating in my body and it just couldn't take anymore.  Thankfully, due to some drastic changes, lots of prayer and time, I was able to change the direction of those connections!!

As a parent, one of our biggest worries, money and time consumers is our kid's health.  I know it is for me.  We don't want them to be sick at all and sometimes sickness never seems to leave!  One of the simple truths that I've experienced in my children's lives is that, just like me, their various choices or circumstances - diet, sleep, environment, exposures, stresses, etc. - connect to their overall health and wellness just like adults.  Mr. Butler and I are all too familiar with the negative impacts neglect in all these areas can have on our lives.  I love having herbs, oils and nutrition knowledge at my fingertips (through my mother's business and experience) and am happy to share it with anyone interested, but more than anything I just believe in a whole body approach to everything!  Health, relationships, impulse control, mental abilities, finances, you name it!  Everything connects to everything else eventually and beginning with that perspective in mind can help us understand problems to help better solve them rather than just pacify or place band-aids on them.

The connections in life are beautiful, but also burdensome when we neglect for too long.  May we all strive to build up all aspects of our families and lives so that balance is easily kept!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Blessings in the Chaos

One of the burdens a (relatively new) conscientious homeschooler bears is constantly measuring your children's educational experience with that of an average public school experience.  When things don't look the same or paces differ, it is so tempting to panic and hide!  The irony is that most of us homeschool so that we can have the freedom TO do things differently.  So then of course things are going to look different and that is beautiful!

Moms worry though.  I'm 37 and due with my third child very soon.  This baby was kind of a now or never kind of situation (mostly because I'm on the older end of the spectrum) and wasn't exactly a sure thing.  So, between the extra prayers, the extra morning sickness, and all the waaay different symptoms of this pregnancy, the last 9 months have been complicated to say the least.  So, back to homeschooling, things didn't always (hardly ever) run like clockwork.  That can make a mama worry.  Then again, so can anything, whether it's worthwhile or not.  And the last 9 months of J and miss Z's educational journey have been varied and colorful some days.  The really awesome part?  There has been growth, joy and mastery in spite of me!  The 6 year old LOVES reading chapter books, learned to tie his shoes, ride a bike, take care of his sister and can handle his laundry with a little help from me on top of some academics sprinkled in there.  And of course the 3 year old falls in step with him, talking our ears off so she'll be fine regardless.

The reality is that every season of life is a beautiful teacher if we let it.  I'm planning to start both of them on a new school year/curriculum by the end of the summer and already have a list of things I want to do differently for better organization and smoother handling with an infant in tow.  The stumbling I've felt at times over the past year has shaped and prepared me to do a better job.  As parents (or maybe humans in general), how often do we want to do this thing, but if it wouldn't work perfectly, we give it up and say not for me?  I'm afraid we write things off too soon before we've allowed ourselves to grow with it.  I know I can do that all too easily.  Still, I may always be fighting off worries in regards to my kids, but I'm thankful for the continual blessings amidst the chaos.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Finding Grace in Social Media

One of the hallmarks of our culture and time is the effect social media on our relationships.  It began with the onslaught of advertising 60 years ago and now culminates in our friends sharing a good picture of their life.  Too often we believe the staged is real and get overwhelmed at the high standard OR we criticize the realistic only to comfort ourselves that we aren't that bad.  
You've probably read online about how only people in failing relationships post the 'perfect' pictures and gush about how great they are.  At the same time we also have a climate where posting anything could potentially get us in trouble, even if it's innocent.  The genuine person is guilty of something no matter what they do!

Don't get me wrong.  I understand that there are stereotypes in this world for a reason.  People can be ridiculous, fake, shallow and deceitful.  Still, amidst those realities are other realities that we shouldn't ignore.

Sometimes that picture of a new car or house is a lifelong victory.  Other times that relationship gushing is filling a great need in their partner.  That perfect photo of that perfect life might just be the best moment they've had in months and the only thing that makes them feel normal amidst a very dysfunctional reality.

One of my most favorite photos, but reminds me of so many conflicting emotions.  Photos can be deceiving, but really they are just snapshots - and that's not a bad thing.

I guess what I'm talking about here is grace.  I don't have to like you and you don't have to like me.  My choices may never be your choices.  You will undoubtedly think things about what I say and do that may or may not be right.  Still, when you find yourself about to spew judgments about others - how their relationship must be awful or their choice of staged photo means this or that - pause and look at them with a mother's eyes.  Or better yet, look at them with God's eyes.  See their pain or their struggle.  See their weaknesses and love them anyway.

I'm about to be a mother of 3 - a pretty daunting task - and over the last 7 years I've experienced a lot of the downs of parenting.  Being tired, judging other mothers, being judged by other mothers, feeding struggles, milestone competitions, jealousy, pressure to perform, pressure to do it all and absolute failure to feel good about any part of it some days.  The media and us regular people can make a big deal over anything and sometimes that ruins us.  Somehow we need to get to a place where my victory can be celebrated right along with yours even if they look vastly different.  So, try to calm down your feelings about what everyone else is doing.  Do good. Celebrate the good.  And just love them anyway!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Andi Adventures: A Kregel Publications Book Review

Kregel Publications
Now that we have a chapter book reader in the house, getting new books at the library can sometimes be complicated.  Some books I've heard of or even read, but a lot of them I haven't and don't always know if they are age appropriate for my 6 year old.  Thankfully, there are some great books out there, if you know where to look!  Last month, we received two books from Kregel Publications that were written by Susan K. Marlow to review.    Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top are the first two books in the Circle C Stepping Stones series, with 4 more books coming out over the next year and a half.  

Andi Saddles UpThe books are set in 1887 on the Circle C Ranch following 9 year old Andi Carter and her adventures.  Her horse Taffy is certainly a main character and one of the things my son was most excited about.  He loves horses - has since he could talk - and has recently been enthralled with chapter books that have horses in them.  Needless to say, he didn't have a problem getting motivated to read.  A great element too is the various character building lessons that are sneak in as the stories play out.  As a parent, I love knowing that the reading my son is doing isn't just enhancing his mind, but also giving his heart a greater store of empathy and understanding to pull from as he gets older.

Andi Under the Big TopThe intended audience is boys and girls ages 7-10 that are ready for chapter books with longer chapters and deeper story lines.  J has really taken off with reading so these books were perfect for him to read on his own.    Still, they would be great read aloud books as well, especially when used with the various activities.  A really unique element of this series is the supplemental resources that are available to enhance their use, if desired.  Along with the first two books, there are free coloring pages, free activity pages, schedule of suggested activities and printed activity books and lapbooks available for purchase.  From a teaching perspective, the activity pages were fantastic! There was vocabulary building, story elements, comprehension, history, mazes, hands on activities and a great jumping off point for so many discussions!  Each book could be turned into an entire unit study if you wanted.  Depending on what other topics you are covering, the possibilities of incorporating different aspects together really are endless!

Our experience with these first two books was great! What is just as exciting to me is to find out that this series is actually one of three! Also by Susan K. Marlow is Circle C Beginnings, Circle C Adventures, and Circle C Milestones, all following different times of Andi Carter's life.  This discovery can certainly enhance my homeschool curriculum, but give my budding readers lots of options as well! 

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Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}

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Monday, March 13, 2017

I'd Rather Be Your Mommy: A Home School Adventure Co. Review

Home School Adventure Company
When we see other people make choices that oppose what we have chosen in our life, it is so easy to get defensive and judgmental.  Motherhood is littered with such choices and is one of the ugliest battle grounds that we can find ourselves in.  Because it can be one of the more explosive topics of conversation, sometimes the joy and importance of motherhood doesn't get communicated to our children the way that it should.  Home School Adventure Co. provided us a copy of the ebook I'd Rather be Your Mommy that shoots straight into the heart of our children the value of being their mom.  This also includes I'd Rather be Your Mommy Coloring Book Edition and I'd Rather be Your Mommy Print Set.

I'd Rather be Your Mommy Book

In some areas of the world, it is common place to have the freedom to vote, to be educated, to be employed and to choose the direction of our lives specifically as women.  There are so many messages flying around that supports and encourages women to achieve and compete with the best of them.  However noble and coveted these options are, it is important to remember that there are many options and motherhood for many of us is one of the best options!  I have been very blessed with the opportunity to be educated at the college level, I can vote, and I have pursued many individual goals that I am proud of.  When trying to compare those things to what it means to be J, Miss Z and soon to be little brother's mom, it just doesn't work.  Caring for them fulfills many desires of my heart and has forced me to grow in ways I never thought possible, but even more it carries so much weight in shaping their future.  Like it or not, my voice will be in their head from time to time for the rest of their life, long after I'm gone.  The way they love and learn and let go 30 years from now will be influenced by the days we're spending together right now.  Being their mom means and will mean so much more than diapers and discipline.  And we all need to be reminded of that often.

I'd rather be Your Mommy Coloring book

This 34 page children's book, along with a corresponding coloring book and print set, are simple, yet profound and a needed element in every mother  and child relationship.  Our fast paced and ambition-minded society forgets so quickly how cold our world grows when our relationships are not valued and nurtured.  The most important place to start is for each child to know how much someone loves them and desires to choose them first.  The coloring book is a neat additional element that provides kids a way to interact with the story further.  And of course, what child doesn't enjoy new and different coloring sheets?  The beautiful print set could be used in a number of ways including framed and hung on the wall, sent as a postcard to that grown child far away or given as a gift.

I'd Rather be Your Mommy Print set

There are a lot of seasons of life for us to live through, especially as women, but none so life altering and mind blowing as motherhood.  Before living through it, it can be hard to believe but our children need to see it anyway.  In the midst of our exhaustion, worry and desperation, we don't always remember to tell our sons and daughters that all of the incredibly hard stuff is absolutely worth it.  This book is a great way to remind us, mom and child alike.

Keep Up With Homeschool Adventure Co. on Social Media:

Twitter:  @HomeSchoolAdven


The Review Crew is reviewing several other texts by Home School Adventure Co. that you might find interesting.  Follow the link before to read more reviews:

Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Providing an Organic Home Environment

 Maybe it's part of my emotional and feeling nature but I love for things in my life to be as gradual and organic as possible.  The sudden change of plans and the brand new experiences - that life is stocked full of - are hard on my sensitive nervous system.  So, whenever I can I work hard to provide an environment that can naturally produce certain outcomes.  This act of self-preservation has provided some insight, especially in regards to my children and their development that I just LOVE!

It isn't rocket science or anything, but I think it bears notice in our cookie cutter world.  When you surround someone with certain things, there will be a response.  The nature and quality of things you surround them with will dictate the quality and nature of their response.  Hang out with complainers and you'll find yourself complaining and unhappy.  Work in a place with windows and a great view, you'll have a little better outlook on life.  When it comes to kids and education, there are so many factors that can influence for good or bad that it behooves us to incorporate as much good as we can squeeze in!  

No parent, relationship or educational journey is perfect and our family certainly has its weaknesses. Still, there are a few things that have had a really good effect on our family's development and education that I think are worth sharing. 

Music - Between my teaching piano lessons, 3 worship services a week worth of a capella singing, singing as a part of bedtime routine, and the perpetual playlist at our fingertips via Spotify and Pandora, music is part of everything we do.  Enhancing their musical involvement doesn't just boost their musical skills, but activates their brain development as a whole.  Google it. ;)

Nature - Being outside, having the freedom to move outside, gardening, hiking, climbing trees, seeing mountains and waterfalls - all of this is so good for your body and soul.  Besides the obvious vitamin D that is desperately needed for a healthy immune system, children are hard-wired to move and boxing them up for too long really does them a disservice.  The great outdoors help us balance out where we get stuck.  Can't focus? Go outside for a while.  Difficult relating to other people? Go outside for a while.  Whenever possible, there is always an outside element to whatever we are doing.  From school to vacation, we plan to go outside and probably get dirty!  That is definitely one of the perks of homeschooling.

Books - This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but I feel it is best when taken a step further.  My kids have been doubly blessed because they have access to books and also have parents (namely their father) who read and appreciate books themselves.  I have always loved to read, but it takes more diligence to fit it in these days.  Mr. Butler though, always has his head in a book or listening to something on his commute to work.  His relationship with books has nothing to do with the rest of us and speaks volumes to his kids.  So far, the kids both consume books like their daily meals - just can't get enough!  I know for some that reading a book for fun is like exercising for fun - it just doesn't compute.  Still, both are incredibly healthy examples to set for our families AND to keep our brains young and active!

Learning - This is an extension of the last one.  Mr. Butler is very abnormal (at least in my circles) in that he loves learning new things and loves to consume information.  The more data the better! Add that to home being the location of school and learning anyway, the kids are constantly surrounded by various aspects of learning.  When learning new things is a natural state of living, our brains, our relationships, even our moods can be enhanced.  Sometimes the DIY or how-to videos the kids beg to watch get annoying, but it is evidence of their love of learning (and their nerdy father!).  

Educating and raising kids is difficult at best.  My conservative nature loves to find ways to cushion my path and I guess building these life aspects into our routines so that they aren't even options most days helps me relax! Plus, now that J is really diving into school, I can see the benefits all around me! I love that!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Eclectic Foundations: A Language Arts Program Review

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

When I officially started homeschooling my oldest the biggest hurdle in my mind was teaching him to read.  Especially for boys, reading can be a major source of contention and I was nervous about how it would go.  Little did I know that not only would he do just fine, but once he learned to read the hurdles only diversified from there!  Much like the different approaches to education, there are various approaches to each subject as well and it can be hard to determine where you prefer to end up on the sliding scale.  We were given the opportunity to review Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B from Eclectic Foundations that is a language arts program based on the McGuffey Readers popular in the 1800's through the 1960's.   As you'll see, this program, specifically Level B, combines some very basic and straightforward approaches to engage in phonics, poetry, picture study, grammar and cursive handwriting.  It certainly does live up to it's name in being foundational yet eclectic!
Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

Eclectic Foundations currently offers Level A, B and C with D soon to be released.  We received  Level B, which includes:

  • McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader (Publisher graciously copied and bound a public domain edition for our use)
  • Teacher's Guide
  • Phonics Practice Sheets
  • Student Workbook
  • McGuffey's Word Cards

The program has 36 4-day/lesson weeks with each lesson being quite short.  Every lesson includes a  task with the McGuffey reader, grammar questions or activities with the cards, cursive handwriting practice, phonics, and a poetry reading/discussion.  Most lessons took us about 15-20 minutes at most, usually less.  Level B is intended for first or second grade, with the material being intentionally advanced in some areas.  For example, much of the grammatical concepts were not fully understood when first introduced.  By design, students are simply introduced to them and understanding is expected to increase with familiarity.  

Our experience:

While his print handwriting isn't exactly winning awards, my 6 year old has been begging to learn cursive.  When the possibility of Eclectic Foundations came on the scene that included cursive and grammar in greater detail than we had done so far, it seemed like a good fit!  
  • The short lessons made it very easy to incorporate it into our school time and weren't a burden on his attention span.  
  • I found the teacher's guide to be very easy to use with all the information spelled out and available in one place for every lesson (no flipping back and forth like some manuals).
  • Scripture and scriptural principles are engaged throughout that helps reinforce the shaping of the heart that we as parents are striving for.  Being reminded (both child and parent) of different aspects of character building, even in the middle of a grammar lesson, is such a blessing!
  • The simplicity of this program continues into it's price.  To receive a physical bound version of these items (minus the McGuffy Reader), you would pay approximately $56.  If that is a stretch for your budget, you can purchase the entire PDF version to print out how and when you'd like for $30.

My son is nearing the end of his first grade curriculum and beginning second grade sometime this summer after baby #3 arrives and settles in.  Whatever other curriculum we may begin for second grade, it is my intention to continue with Eclectic Foundations for the remainder of this program because of it's simplicity and straightforward education.  Whatever else he may do, I know we're covering some important, foundational ground that is easy to administer and something he is enjoying.  A victory for everyone!

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Like I mentioned above, there are other levels available with more to come soon.  Feel free to browse other Crew Members reviews through the link below to get a taste of what the other levels involve.

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Brain on Pregnancy

Some people have nut or egg allergies.  Other people have sensitive stomachs or injury prone.  My weakness is my brain.  If I'm sick or worn down in any way, my body's first response is for my brain to stop working.  That could mean I forget words or have a difficult time communicating.  If things aren't rectified within a reasonable time, I start thinking irrationally and becoming upset or worried about all the things.  I can be quite a case, let me tell you.  And this is my body on normal.

I am 35 weeks pregnant (where everything has been a lot different than my other two pregnancies) at 37 years old with two children, where I homeschool them, teach a little piano, maintain a blog where I review products and have to maintain a household.  My body is certainly not on normal and my brain suffers regularly.  I have many of the silly yet common symptoms like breaking things or misplacing things.  A few weeks ago I had some yogurt (out of a larger container) and when one of the kids asked for the same snack a little while later, for the life of me I could not find it anywhere in the fridge.  Of course, I found it in the cabinet above the stove where the honey is supposed to go.  

Then there have been incidents (yes, multiple) where I sit in the passenger seat longer than a sane person should before I realized that I was supposed to be the one driving.  Being the only adult should have been my first clue, but sadly it took my children reminding me.  

This week, I've just been an emotional mess with severe mood swings, multiple meltdowns and feelings of punishment though it really isn't the case.  Still, this morning I just about lost it completely when I had to be the adult when one of my dog's found herself in a 'situation.'  Having been a dog owner for almost 10 years, I've learned the typical symptoms and useful treatments for their various ailments.  I know that when my dog starts chewing things up or digging in the trashcan while we're gone, she usually has some kind of parasite in her system which calls for a great herbal combination called Herbal Pumpkin from NSP.  Such was the case yesterday and I had been administering it appropriately.   After her dose this morning, she had been acting better.  

So, while completely disgusting, it wasn't entirely surprising to see that she had eaten a diaper and it had made it's way through her system.  How did I know this, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  She came in from outside with an extra 'tail' of said diaper that was still attached to her with some floss she no doubt acquired during her dumpster diving,  Yes, still attached meaning connected to the exit on her body from whence it came.  Seriously, where is the Punk'd crew or the sign confirming that I should absolutely QUIT today?

So, since this isn't the first time my dog has been caught eating floss, I already knew that there could be a slight danger to her if it doesn't move through appropriately (yep, google it).  As quickly as she pranced into the house with her lovely trail, I gasped and sent her back outside.  With my make-shift plastic gloves (to ziploc sandwich bags), I begged the Lord for mercy and prepared for surgery.  In a most ridiculous manner with scrunched face, held breath and stiff shoulders, I pulled on the floss, fervently praying to God it wasn't somehow tied around an organ and about to shorten sweet Grace's life.  Think I'm kidding? Go ahead and google it.

Ick doesn't begin to describe it.  Praise God, everything was detached very quickly with no negative consequence and I refrained from throwing up.  Because, let's face it.  That wasn't a "it's so gross when you're pregnant" kind of thing.  That was an "all the time, no matter who you are you never want to experience that" gross kind of thing.  

Yeah, needless to say, my brain is about fried.  They say writing helps.  I'll let you know. :)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Colorado: A By the Way Book Series Review

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

Being a parent can be one of the most stressful and worrisome jobs on the planet! Just keeping them physically safe is a huge task, but when you consider their emotional and spiritual well-being too, some days it can feel too much.  One of the ways to truly influence our children's spiritual lives, a way that is not only instruction from the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:7) but also professionally documented to be effective, is to share our Christian faith with our children in all facets of our day.  By The Way Book Series has provided a great way to do just that!  We were given a copy of  the book Colorado ~ By The Way to read and review, which gave us a chance to explore deeper one of our favorite places!

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series }

Author Joy Budensiek has created a series of books where a particular geographical region or state is highlighted through the lens of scripture and God's creation.  Each book is a story book that also contains interesting facts about wildlife, history, weather, and popular visitor attractions.  These books are hard back books of 50 pages with fun illustrations of the story's characters and great photos of the animals and places they visit.  The author's goal is write 100 books, beginning with all 50 states and spreading out from there!  In addition to Colorado, she has already published Ohio State, Pennsylvania State, Smokey Mountains, Treasure Coast,  and Washington State.  New York City, Ireland, Idaho, and Indiana are due to come out some time in 2017.

Mr. Butler and I love Colorado and have vacationed there before kids and later with kids so of course it would be my first choice in something like this!  We had fun pointing out places we had been and learning about some new ones too.  While this book is and should be classified as a story book, we didn't feel compelled to treat it like one all the time.  There is a story with specific characters who travel around experiencing the nature, landscape and sites of Colorado and their experiences certainly enhance a child's understanding of some of the information.  However, it could also be used like an encyclopedia or informational stepping off point.  It is 50 pages long with a lot of dialogue and information so finishing it in one setting before bedtime might be daunting for some attention spans.  Still, with all of the pictures and scriptures, it is easy to pick a few and have a great learning experience and discussion using only those.  Either way, our experience certainly fulfilled By the Way Book Series' intent of 'discovering Biblical truth in every day life.'

Whether you are looking for a supplemental resource for geography and state history or simply could use a great method to connect with your kids through nature and a Biblical worldview, By the Way Book Series is certainly worth adding to your book shelf.

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Like I mentioned above, they have published several other books and my crew friends are reviewing those too! Check out what they thought about other states' books as well by following the link below:

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

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