Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mid-Week Update

Hello, sweet friends.

It's Tuesday evening here at the Parsonage. I'm wedged into my favorite spot on my comfy couch waiting for a pot of chili to finish the business of simmering. Today was an uneventful day....filled with our usual Tuesday happenings. We did have a visit from a sweet church lady. I think she had just gotten her hair done and was getting rid of some cabin fever while we have a few days before some more snow.

Yes! We have snow. It is the first significant snowfall of the winter. And from what these native Indianan's tell me (including The Studly Muffin) it's late. We have another weather event happening this weekend.

Yeah, buddy.

I thought perhaps I tell you a few things we are doing right now...perhaps provide someone out there with some mid-week/snow day inspiration.

Keep in mind that MOST homeschoolers would rather take their snow days in the spring. In our house, we have been known to mix it up with an impromptu winter nature study or a Tolkien binge-a-thon (which is happening very soon).

Anyhoo. It's how we roll.

Reading

We are reading Beowulf. I've taken the easy road and purchased Robert Nye's retelling of the epic poem.  It is nice and grisly. Listen to this.

"Out in the black fen something stirred. It was cruel and slimy and its eyes shone green. A part of the night it moved through, its wicked heart was darker than the darkest place in that night. Even the moon would not look at it."

Isn't that deliciously horrifying? We are going to watch The 13th Warrior later in the week and another movie adaptation next week. 

Listening

One of the best Audible purchases I've made in a while has been unexpected. On a whim I got Medical School For Everyone: Emergency Medicine from The Great Courses. If you aren't familiar with The Great Courses they feature university-lectures on many, many subjects. This one has been a huge hit with Josiah. It comes with a PDF that features all of the lectures in written form. I have been printing them out as we go and filling a notebook. Josiah simply reads along.

It's almost like watching Grey's Anatomy without all the icky relationship stuff.

Doing

Last year, I purchased a book called The Useful Book. It basically is a whole book of life skills everybody needs to know about. It is AWESOME! And the very first lesson? How to boil water. I kid you not. Josiah learned how to deep fry french fries last week using a lesson from the book. And that my friends is a dangerous thing. I'm not talking about the dangers of hot, boiling oil. I'm talking about plates of deep-fried french fries. I think this week we will focus on how to chop vegetables for salads. We need to counteract all of that french fried goodness with some green stuff.

Well, that's all I have for this evening. Sleep tight!




Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Random Thoughts: The New Year/Life Updates Version

I'm BAAACCK!

It's been a few days since I've posted anything on the ole blog here. A couple of reasons. I'm sure I'll get into them in what is sure to be a widely entertaining and often rambling post.

I'm sure you can't wait. Instead of boring you with my life's novel, I have decided to do all updating in an orderly fashion.

I love a good list.

1. The Big Black Dog


I have sad news. Solomon (the Big Black Dog aka the Rottweiler) died just after Thanksgiving. We knew he probably wasn't going to make it through the winter. He had lived an awfully long time for a Rottweiler.  His deep black coat had turned red and gray and he was painfully thin. He was still faithful to try and crawl into the car and sit on my lap when we first arrived for our Thanksgiving holiday. That was 169 pounds of Big Black Dog, by the way. I always had special feelings for Solomon. We were living with my parents when they brought him home as a puppy. It was a particularly painful and tough season in our lives. I was in active heart failure. We had resigned from our church and were basically homeless. Solomon would crawl into my lap and put his great puppy head on my shoulder. He was a welcomed playmate to a busy little Josiah. As he grew into that great massive dog, my little nieces would ride him around like a pony.  He was really the best dog. We're going to miss him.

2. 17! 


This baby turned 17! I can't even stand it. My mom took his usual birthday pictures. He spent most of his time trying to be cool about flinging his hair out of his eyes. That is a lot of hair to manage. I've mentioned his fascination with 80's rockers. He has dreams of glorious hair.

Me too, buddy.

The car belongs to my nephew. It used to belong to my brother and before that, it belonged to our great uncle. At least, I think that is the chain of ownership. At present, the car doesn't have an engine. But it is really great to lean up against when one is trying to look cool.

3. Surgery

When last we spoke, I had just had my surgery. I have really done well, but it has taken me a bit longer to recover than the average Joe (or Josephine).  This is one of the reasons I have tried to lay lower than usual. Let's be honest. 2018 wasn't a banner year for me as far as my health goes. I seemed to have hung on by the hairs of my chinny chin chin. By the time I had the surgery, I had about 3 functioning brain cells and even those were dodgy.  I wasn't even able to read a book....which left lots of time for Netflix binging watching. Which, I'm pleased to tell you, I am really good at.

Overall, the winter months are really tough on me. I am hoping that I can prevent some of the nastier effects by focusing on good habits.

4. 'Tis the Season

I always approach the end of the holiday season in two different minds. I am always a little sad it's all over. On the other hand, I am THRILLED it's all over. Thankfully, we had a great holiday season. Unfortunately, I have no photographic evidence.  You'll just have to take my word for it. We got to spend time with family. And I was able to rest when I needed to rest. And I got some really great stuff. One of my favorite things was a porch swing! I have been talking about wanting one for quite some time now. The Muffin and some of our sweet friends from church went in on one. It's red and hangs from the rafters of our porch.

I'm in love.

I do have one final confession about Christmas. I still have a small pile of Christmas cards that need to be mailed on my coffee table. And, yes,  you bet your bippee I'm going to mail them.

5. New Year's

I am always a big maker of resolutions. This year is no exception. I always think it's a good time to reflect on the direction of one's life and how one could live more beautifully and fully. For one, I need to focus on developing my routines and rituals. I have a tendency to fly by the seat of my stretchy pants. I have come to realize, however, that flying by the seat of my stretchy pants isn't necessarily the best plan for me or my "issues."

Plus, I want to do so much...I need a few routines in my life to accomplish what I want to accomplish. Our yearly Downton Abby "binge-a-thon" is quickly approaching. I need to be on my game!  One of our traditions for the past several years has been to binge-watch Downton Abby during the winter months.

It's the little things, my friends. 

I think I've said all I want to say for now. I've got a list of things I want to do today and time seems to be passing. I've got all of our sheets in the washer and a pot of coffee brewing on the counter.

Have a GREAT New Year!


Friday, December 7, 2018

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)


Setting a portion of one's day aside to spend time with God is one of the most important things we can do. It can be challenging to set aside that time or build the habit in the first place. Devotions can beautiful and inspiring tools to help us be faithful to our time with God. I recently had the chance to review a devotional book for young women from Zondervan. It's called Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women




This is a lovely, lovely hardback book. The artwork on the cover is delicate and is set off with a simple ribbon bookmark. 


The pages inside are also pretty to look at. They are printed with a border of the same floral pattern located on the outside of the book. The devotional itself is very well organized. Instead of being organized into calendar days, the days are marked by numbers. I REALLY like this, myself. I have had many devotionals that have been separated into calendar days. It can be very discouraging to know you have missed half of March. I like being able to simply pick up where I left off.

The devotions, themselves, are brief and can be read in a few minutes. The focus verses are about the women in the Bible.  While all of the topics are age appropriate the devotions don't shy away from some hard issues. After all, not all of the women in the Bible had days filled with sunshine and roses.

There is also a journaling space on each page. 





I found the devotions to be heartfelt and thought-provoking. For example, several devotions talks about Naomi and her relationship to her daughter-in-laws. Day 172 deals with how we can feel that we don't have anything to offer. It encourages us to dig deep to see those gifts God has given us and be willing to share them with the world.

"It's easy to forget all we have to offer sometimes. When we don't feel particularly blessed with wisdom or gifted with talent, we might decide it's better for those we encounter to spare us a quick nod and go on their merry way. But we can't lose sight of all that God has given us to share with the world."

What an encouraging word for the young woman of today! In fact, some of old"ish" gals could stand to hear it.



We are fast approaching Christmas. This would be a WONDERFUL and thoughtful gift for the young women in your life. In fact, I have some young women in my life who would love this lovely little book to add to their daily devotions.

You can read more reviews by clicking on the banner below. Don't forget to check out Zondervan on the following social media outlets.

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Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women {Zondervan Review}
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Guitar 360 Method (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

My friends. The time is near. We are heading towards the end of our Review Crew run this year. 

Which means, shortly, we will be taking a good long break. In the meantime, I want to share with you with a good one. We got to review guitar lessons! This is really one of the best jobs evah. We got to try out the Semester 1 Bundle from Guitar 360 Method. This included 5 weeks of the Absolute Beginner bonus content). 



The Guitar 360 Method is an online course developed and taught by Krisz Simonfalvi. Mr. Simonfalvi has ooodles of experience playing professionally. He also has mentored and taught students all over North America and Europe from ages 4-74. 

I will talk more about his approach in just a minute. For now, you have to know that we have access to plenty of guitars in our house. The Muffin has a new Taylor and an old Martin. Josiah has ownership of an old honkytonk guitar that used to belong to my grandfather. But other than an impressive air guitar game, Josiah's guitar playing experience has been limited. 






We have been talking about music lessons for some time (with someone other than The Muffin), but things just haven't come together.  We all have a variety of musical experiences and education. Plus, some challenges. We pastor a small church and we don't have all "kinds of time." 

So back to Guitar 360 Method. This method is for beginners and those who know a bit more but want to expand their knowledge. This approach is a wonderful mix between learning to play the guitar for fun and learning music theory. 

The cool part is that the Absolute Beginner Course is FREE! Can't get any better than that! Semester 1 (which I was given access to) is for the "motivated beginner." I would suggest starting off with the Absolute Beginner Course and going from there. I think you will find Mr. Simonfalvi's methods refreshing.

The whole thing is taught by cyclical pedagogy. Basically, this means that the student is taught building blocks and those things are frequently being "cycled" back to in the lessons. I really could have used this approach when I learned to play the piano. There is just great freedom in that method of instruction. 

How We Used It
Josiah was so excited to start this course. Krisz Simonfalvi is a pretty cool teacher. He is most certainly teenager approved. However, I think it was a bit harder than he thought. His honkytonk guitar hasn't seen a lot of action for quite a number of years, but I imagine Josiah thought it would just magically start singing under his fingers. 
The lessons were (and are) exactly the pace he needed. The Absolute Beginner Course starts on basic things like finger placement, strumming, and picking. 


He's not quite through the Absolute Beginner Course yet, but I've had the opportunity to look through Semester 1.  I am really impressed. The content is excellent. The videos are well-produced and easy to navigate. And I love, love that we can watch them as often as we can. 


So here is where I get to the nitty gritty (along with a little pep talk). In our house, we have varying degrees of musical background and education. I have piano training, more vocal training and with that comes quite a bit of theory. However, playing the guitar is a different experience. My husband (aka The Muffin) has only had one guitar lesson in his life but has had years and years of "on the job" playing experience. He wishes he had more music theory in his life and a bit more barre chord know-how. 
And then there is Josiah. Who absolutely kills it on Guitar Hero. 
A program like Guitar 360 Method is a fit for all of us. It provides the hands-on visual practice we need. We can take our time. We aren't tied to a timetable. It provides excellent music education that gives us musical freedom AND a foundation for great technique. 
There is really SO MUCH GOOD STUFF here. The content is impressive.  
Right now is a great time to dive in. There is currently a discount on  Guitar 360 Method for homeschool families. Use the code HOMESCHOOL20 at checkout for 20% off the course.
You can connect with Guitar 360 Method via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 




Guitar Lessons with Krisz Simonfalvi {Guitar 360 Method Reviews}
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Surgery and Stuff

I did it. 

Remember my frank "talk" I had with my gynecologist some time back? 

On Monday, I had a quick little surgery. 

I say a quick "little" surgery because I still have most of my "parts." The surgery itself was uncomplicated, but for someone like me, there were a few more steps and hurdles. 

I had a little difficulty waking up and my oxygen levels weren't ideal when I was in recovery. But all is good and I was sent home with a few more stitches and a happening pair of fuzzy socks. Color puce. 

It is early. Currently, I am on my couch (I couldn't climb the vast height of my bed) with my cat waiting to take a pill (or two). The rest of the household is asleep.

Including (wait for it), MY MOMMA! She is here! In my house. In Josiah's little bed. 

I know what you're thinking. Why are you just now hearing about all of this STUFF going on with me? I am generally a bit more transparent. After all, I have admitted to losing my skirt in public, frequently going to the Wal-marts with two different shoes AND accidentally putting cough syrup in a coconut cream pie. 

Just. Plain. Goofy. 

That's what I be. 

This season in my life has been just harder to talk about. There is so much going on in the world. Wildfires. Contentious elections. People have just become unhinged. 

The fact that I had to sign a "Consent for Sterilization" seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of things. My private pain and suffering seemed almost too tender. It has been a constant reminder of all of my perceived failures. 

Rationally, I know that it was impractical and almost impossible for me to become pregnant again. Plus, the miracle of Josiah's adoption was and is a thing of beauty. I have no complaints. I love being a momma. 

It's just that infertility took away my choices. And some of my dreams. 

But. We do what we have to do...don't we? "Railing" against my body and venting publically about my disappointments and current pain seems counterproductive. And it's really not my thing. 

The reality is that my current list of medications is downright ridiculous. The girls at my pharmacy have memorized my birthdate. I have gained more weight in the past two years year than I previously lost. I don't ever have a day that I am not in pain from all the metal located in my body. I never know when the tide is going to turn and my heart function is going to take another nose dive. For nearly 8 months this year, I bled. I stop breathing when I sleep and sometimes my feet and legs swell so much I can't wear my cute shoes. 

Which is downright insulting, I assure you. 

But, my friends. I am singularly blessed. For the most part, the things that I have suffered have made me a better person. 

I have a husband that adores me. 
I have a son that sat up for two hours last night watching over me before he went to bed. He basically took the "night shift." This boy. He is a treasure. 
I have parents who have always been supportive and allowed me to be "me." 

Not to mention the love and support of all of the rest of my crazy family. And I can't even begin to tell you about my church family. 

They are precious. There is even a sweet couple who stayed at the hospital with my family the whole time I was in surgery and only left when they could see me in recovery. Last night, we were blessed with yummy food and a visit from some of my favorite people. 

And I have a Savior who comforts me. Who keeps me. Who has shown His faithfulness time and time again.

The past few months have been a reckoning for me of sorts. I have needed some quiet and private time to sort through my feelings. And, frankly, I haven't felt my best. I have needed to reserve my energies for evenings at home with my boys. Time spent with good books and mastering my homemade roll technique. Mornings spent in quiet devotion with a good cup of coffee (and plenty of cream). 

It's time for me to take a few more pills. I feel pretty good and my cat is doing an excellent job of keeping me company in this, the wee hours of the morning. But pain is pain and I'd rather not tempt it. 

My momma is here and she brought with her some treasures from my daddy's garden. I got to spend a few hours with my brother (though I would have liked it better if he could have stayed longer and made some of his famous beans). The Muffin has fetched and carried and been as doting as he always is. 

I feel cherished. Not only is it a fact...but it is also a choice. In the long run...no matter what is taken away...so much more is given. 







Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Master Kitz The Starry Night (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

We love us some art. However, it can be difficult to find time or opportunity to sneak it into our day. And I always have such grand plans...but find I don't have what I need when it's time to carry out my "grand plan." We are winding down our reviews for this year and I am excited to share with you about this masterpiece. It's ALL about art and it's very grand indeed! We got to review Master Kitz The Starry Night from Kidzaw.com.



I had previously not heard of Kidzaw. Their mission is to expose budding artists to master painters in addition to making art fun and interactive. They have designed several neat kits to do just that. There are the Master Kitz, as well as the Master Sculpz. The kits are intended for ages 5 and up.

This Master Kitz is inspired by Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night.

Each kit contains EVERYTHING a student will need to create a masterpiece inspired by a great artist. For The Master Kitz The Starry Night we received:

3 acrylic paints
4 custom oil pastels
1 van Gogh roller
1 reusable Starry Night Cyprus Stencil
1 standard paint roller
2 sheets of deluxe art paper
1 "Mesmerizing Stars" sticker sheet
and a full-color poster of instructions, along with information about Van Gogh

All of these goodies came in a sturdy reusable box.




This was really an easy and fun project. It is recommended to cover your surface with newspaper or some kind of table covering and then tape down your paper. We used washi tape (because I have it in abundance). The art paper is really heavy duty. Which is a good thing. Josiah is an enthusiastic painter.  

Each step of the project was numbered and contained a detailed illustration as well as written instruction. I think is this benefits every style of learner...including the enthusiastic painter. 



I was surprised at how little time the whole thing took. For those of you who worry about taking time away from math and lunch...you need not fret! This is one of those products that does all the heavy lifting for you. And it gives satisfying results for such little effort. 



We did have a few hiccups. I was THRILLED TO SEE that the stencil was reusable. Unfortunately, it is made of stiff coated cardboard. I wasn't paying attention and starting rinsing it off and scrubbing on it like you would a plastic stencil.

Oops. Listen and learn, my friends. Don't waterlog the cute stencil. Josiah was also kind of heavy with the stickers. He wasn't gentle while peeling them away from the art paper. We won't be able to use them again. But at least we still have the rollers.

Despite all of that, we LOVED, LOVED this product and can't wait to order more. The finished product is really something special. I plan on framing it for Josiah. It really has that "WOW!" factor. As does all of the EXCLAMATION POINTS I am using during this review.

I'm feeling it today, my friends. This was a perfect project to do during the middle of a busy season of life. I also think these Master Kitz would make excellent Christmas presents. (hint, hint).  Josiah would like to try the Master Kitz The Great Wave next.

Check this company out! It's a keeper!




You can connect with Kidzaw via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner to read more reviews. 


Twitter: https://twitter.com/kidzaw
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/kidzaw123?blend=1&ob=5


Master Kitz The Starry Night {Kidzaw.com Reviews}
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

St. Bartholomew's Eve (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

One of our favorite vendors to review has to be Heirloom Audio. Thanks to being on the Crew we are proud owners of hours and hours of fabulous audio dramas based on the popular book series of The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. Once again, Heirloom Audio has put out a great adventure….St. Bartholomew’s Eve.




 If you aren’t familiar with G.A. Henty you need to be. He was a famous war correspondent and author back in the day. His books are filled with all of the virtues we hold dear…courage, integrity, and faith. Heirloom Audio has produced outstanding adventure after adventure. We have listened to these historical tales on long trips, on the way to Co-op, lounging in the living room…pretty much everywhere we can.

Before I talk about the audio production itself, I want to tell you about this era in history. The French Religious Wars happened between 1562-1598. The wars happened between Roman Catholics and a group called the Huguenots. The Huguenots were Protestants. Just a fun fact. According to my family history, some of my French ancestors were Huguenots. They eventually settled on the island of Manhattan, which at that time was not much more than a forest.

The events of St. Bartholomew’s Eve lead up to the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. The hero of our story is a young man from England named Philip. His mother is French-born and he has come to France to visit family and aid in the battle to help the Huguenots escape persecution. Along the way, Philip meets a young Huguenot, Argento. He also happens to have a fetching older sister. The story isn’t all love and sunshine. There are some truly intense moments. Being persecuted for one’s faith and the dreadful events of the massacre kept up riveted. How fortunate we are to live in a country where we can worship how we chose.

One of the most poignant moments included the singing of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It was beautiful. And so very inspiring. For the purposes of this review, we received a 2-CD set. You can also purchase a digital download. The ages for all of Heirloom Audio’s adventures is generally 6 and up. You, of course, will have to decide what is appropriate for your family. We LOVE every bit of the productions No matter how uncomfortable they might make us feel. Persecution isn’t comfortable.

 I just want to make a quick comment about the quality of St. Bartholomew’s Eve. It is EXCELLENT. Brain Blessed, as usual, plays G.A. Henty himself and narrates the story. I have said this before in some of my other reviews, Brian Blessed is a treasure. His voice is wrapped in gold. In fact, all the actors voicing the characters are tremendous. Heirloom Audio never disappoints with the musical scores, acting quality….pretty much all of it. This is one we will enjoy for years to come.



You can connect with Heirloom Audio via the following social media outlets. Don’t forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeirloomAudio
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeirloomStories  
Google+: https://goo.gl/d8btpX
Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial



St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}
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