Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Shooting Stars

Cassidy and her Shooting Star teammates had their first Whatever basketball game on Saturday. The team was down 2 players so the 5 remaining players had to play the whole game, but the girls rose to the occasion. Two girls had never played middle school basketball before and one of those has never played basketball at all. With missing players, some (including Cassidy) had to spend time playing outside of their usual position. They came away with a win, but what blessed me most was watching how hard they worked the entire game, how well they listened to their coaches, how they worked as a team to be successful, and their positive attitudes. It was so much fun to be a spectator and I got some cute pictures, too! 😃

 Prayer time before the game

 Preparing for tip-off

 So proud of this girl. She had to spend some time at point guard - not her usual position - and she was nervous, but we had a talk before the game about the opportunity she had to lead her team by demonstrating confidence, a positive attitude, and determination to work her hardest for the team no matter what position she was playing. And she did. I've never seem her play with such confidence and instinct as she did yesterday. 

 She shoots...she SCORES!!!

 Guarding the net with one of her best friends, Morgan (aka The 7th Walls Kid)

 Getting instructions from Coach Jon and Coach Joey (aka Dad)... we love our coaches!


 She made 2 baskets yesterday, doubling her total scoring from last season in her first game! 

The Shooting Stars

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Pierced Ears

Lily got her ears pierced yesterday. She was supposed to have them done on her birthday, but she and Finn were serving time for damaging the BRAND NEW TV in the today was the day and she was so excited! :)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Cool Gifts for the Book Worm, Writer, or Teacher in Your Life

My first born turns 12 next Saturday. I can't believe how fast the time has gone and I am blown away by the beautiful young woman she's becoming. She is incredibly giving and never asks for anything for herself...even if she's truly in need. It's a beautiful quality...until it's time to buy her a gift. When asked what she might like to have she just shrugs her shoulders and replies, "I don't know." That's helpful. However, I'm always up for a good challenge so I started brainstorming (and googling). Like her mama, Cassidy's an avid reader and a writer at heart who dreams of one day being a published author. So in preparation for this year's birthday celebrations, I took the reader/writer theme and ran wild with it!

Here's the results of my stuff for book worms and aspiring writers! These would also make great teacher's never too early to start thinking about Christmas! 😉

These adorable hand stamped earrings from Beads & Books (michellemach) were my first find. Simple, understated, and themed with two of her favorite pastimes, there were a must-have birthday gift. This set also comes in copper. Click on the photo to visit the seller's Etsy page and see more of her hand stamped jewelry!

Some other unique earrings I found:
(Click the picture to visit the seller's website.)

This Etsy seller (Artful Sunshine) has a book earring selection that ranges from Dr. Seuss to Pride & Prejudice to Comic Books. She had a couple of sets from The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games that I was eyeing, but they are no longer listed on the site. Hoping I can get her to make me a set for Christmas!

Next on the list...some inspiration for her bedroom!

An inspirational quote for writers printed on an actual page from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. What could be better??? TicketyBooPrints was so wonderful to work with during the ordering process. I wanted a smaller size than was offered and she took the time to cut and mat the page for me so that it fit into a 5x7 frame. She did a fabulous's absolutely beautiful. And since I made sure that Cassidy was bitten by the musical theater bug at a young age, this print will have a double meaning for her as it graces her school desk.

I had the hardest time choosing a print...there are so many cool ones out there. Here were others that made the short list:
(Click on the picture to visit the seller's website.)

Finally, the BIG gift. Not necessarily in terms of cost, but in significance and meaning for Cassidy. For those of you that are Facebook friends, you may have seen my posts referencing Cassidy's novels. After spending last summer lost in the worlds of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Divergent, Cassidy embarked on her own journey of writing her first trilogy. She has completed two of the novels and currently spends most of her free time working on the manuscript for the final book. Usually reserved and quiet, Cassidy comes to life any time someone asks about her books or comments after reading one. It is obvious that they are precious to her and that she takes great pride in her work.

I was watching the kids at swim practice one evening over the summer when I it occurred to me...perhaps the greatest birthday gift I could give her would be to have one of her books printed and bound. With a cool cover...her name emblazoned on the front. Like a real, published author. But how the heck was I going to do that? I threw up an SOS on Facebook and several friends immediately came to my aid with suggestions. Amazon and a couple other business names were tossed around as places where you could publish just one copy of a book. So I started researching the sites...and my head started to spin. Do you have this special number who's name I can't remember for your book or do you need us to provide you one for a fee? Your cover has to meet all these graphic standards that someone who makes their graphics in PowerPoint will never understand, but here's a template.

After a couple of days of being confused, I was ready to throw my hands up in defeat. But then I remembered something. I know how to use Shutterfly. And you can put text all over their little photo albums. So I logged into my account, chose a simple 8x8 photo album template, and went to work. And it WAS work. I won't bore you with the details, but there was a lot of copying, pasting, and reformatting involved. It took some time, but at least I knew what I was doing and in the end the result was amazing!

 How cool does this look??? I am so excited for her to see it!
(NOTE: I actually designed her first two novels at the same time (she'll get the second one at Christmas), waited for a 40% off photo books sale, and then ordered them both at the same time...cashing in on free shipping over $39. Each book ended up being about $25...and to my girl, it will be priceless!)

 I fell to pieces the first time I read her book and found this dedication at the end. 

 Formatting these chapters was a labor of love, but it was completely worth it!

I even included an About the Author page at the end of the attempt to add one more authentic touch. 😄

You could create so many different kinds of books this way. Poetry books. A collection of short stories. Picture books. Scan the hand drawn illustrations as images, load them onto the Shutterfly pages, and then type the text for the story underneath each one. Do you know a budding artist? Scan their artwork, load one image onto each page of the book, and you've got a cool coffee table art book. These gifts could be given to the writer/artist OR would make awesome gifts for grandparents and other relatives. So many possibilities and such a cool way to show your love and appreciation!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Favorite FREE Learning Sites

As a single income family, we are always looking for ways to save a buck (or a penny), so I was thrilled when I stumbled upon these two sites before our homeschool year started. 

Teach Your Monster to Read is the perfect site for "ready to read" or beginning readers. Completely free, you can register as many children under your account as you like. There are 3 levels: First Steps, Fun with Words, and Champion Reader. You can set your students at any level and the game will automatically move them up as they complete all the skills. Emerson is working through First Steps and Eli just moved up from Fun with Words to Champion Reader. They LOVE playing because the games and the monsters are a blast...I usually have to drag them away from the computer when their time's up. And I love it because they are learning a lot. There aren't any "fluff" games that don't really teach them anything...something I often find on other free sites. It's all learning, but they're too busy having fun to notice! Click on the graphic to visit the site and check it out for yourself!

NOTE: There is a phone app available for this site that you can download for a fee.

We have used Keyboarding Without Tears (highly recommend it!) for typing practice the last few years, but when our subscription ran out right before school started I searched for a free typing program to use instead. doesn't have all the pretty graphics or typing games that are incorporated into KWT, but as a former keyboarding teacher I can tell you that it's a solid typing practice program. The lessons are a bit long - at least for how much time I want to devote to keyboarding during our homeschool day - so sometimes we break them up over two days. Like Teach Your Monster to Read, this program is also completely free. You can register as many students as you wish under your account and have them start at whatever level you choose. The kids haven't had any trouble transitioning to the new program and I am thrilled to have saved our family a few more dollars!

What are your favorite FREE learning sites? I would love to have some more resources in my school bag! 😊

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Homeschoolers are Always Learning

Since we started homeschooling, we've found that there are infinite opportunities for learning even in the most everyday situations. Even better, we've found that we really LOVE learning and that it can be fun and not a chore. One of my favorite things to do is to teach the kids life skills. It helps them prepare to live on their own one day...and it helps me now to have many hands working to run our home. No big surprise, one of their favorite things to do is help in the kitchen...they're not as fond of cleaning the bathrooms. 😄 Today's lesson was making homemade pizza dough for pizza night! It was really fun and a job that the older ones could handle on their own in the future! WIN!!!

 Eli takes kitchen duty VERY seriously. He was verbally checking off the steps as we went.

Yes, our boys are only partially dressed because...well...they're boys. Let's all just be grateful they have anything on at all! :)

 The Finished Products...they were SO yummy! And we made 2 batches of dough so we have enough to freeze for another meal!

Enjoying the fruits of our labor!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Happy 10th Birthday, Lily Anne!

This girl. She is a competitor. Fierce and focused. Usually the smallest on her team, in her division…it only drives her to work harder. She’s been known to tell a friend to stop talking to her before a race…because she already understands that at least half the battle is mental and she needs to get ready. She is poetry in motion in the water. She is at home. A musician. She practices her craft with passion…always looking for ways to improve. Through the melodies that fill out home, we see her heart. A servant. She has such a huge heart for people, a desire to help, a desire to know them, understand them, comfort and care for them. Such compassion from such a small person. It is easy to see why all that know her, love her. Because she shows them the love of God. Most importantly, a child of God. Her love for God and His Word overshadows all. Her hunger to learn and her desire to serve inspires and encourages me. Today this girl is 10 years old. Today I am praising God for a decade of living and loving with this beautiful little light. Today I am looking forward with great excitement to all that the next year will bring for our precious Buggy. Today we will publicly celebrate her, but every day we celebrate her life in our hearts. Happy Birthday, Lily Anne! I love you, my sweet girl!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

God Cares About the Little Things (The Story of the Pink Guitar)

Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Ephesians 3:20

About this time last year we found out that our homeschool co-op would be offering a beginner guitar class in the coming school year. Lily was thrilled. She had been asking to learn how to play the guitar for several years, but we hadn't made time in our busy schedule or room in our family budget to allow her to try learning a musical instrument. Now she would finally have the chance.

For me, that meant that I spent the summer in search of an affordable (most likely used) starter guitar. But since it's almost impossible to find a guitar (even a used one) that doesn't sound like a toy when it's played for less than $100, the search went on and on and on. During the hunt, Lily announced that she would really like a pink guitar. I was unaware that non-toy guitars came in colors and since all I really cared about was finding a good deal on a decent instrument, I told her color was not a priority. We were going to get the guitar we could afford. But I also told her a story I had heard many years ago:

Many, many years ago there was a minister that had a weekly radio show. He would talk about God's Word and people would call in with their prayer requests. One evening a woman called and told the minister that she was in need of a new home. She wanted him to add her need to his prayer list and added that she would really like the living room of the new home to have red curtains. The minister thought that was a silly request. After all, a home is a need. It doesn't matter what kind of curtains are in the living room. But, he told the woman he would pray for her new home. Some time went by and during another broadcast, the woman called back to tell the minister that God had blessed her with a home. "And when I walked into the living room, there were red curtains in the windows," she said.

So see, God cares about the little things, I told Lily. The minister thought her request was silly, but God didn't. God loves us. Why shouldn't the woman have red curtains her living room if that's what would bless her? The color of your guitar may only be important to you, but God loves you and wants to bless you. Go to Him in prayer and we'll see what he provides. I know whatever it is, it will be the best guitar for you.

More time passed. The start of the new school year was only days away and I still hadn't found a guitar for Lily. I had decided to settle on one I'd found on Amazon. The reviews weren't great, but it was the right size and in our price range. Right before I ordered it, I felt a tugging in my heart to check craigslist one more time. It was that still, small, quiet voice and I am so glad I was listening that day because when the page opened up I found this:

This $300 guitar was being sold for $50. I had seen it in a previous search and the reviews were great. Right size, right price. But the best part of all? It was PINK. I almost cried when I told Lily about it. "Look what God provided for you!!! It's better than I ever could have imagined!!!"

But the story gets even better. Turns out the little girl it belonged to didn't really use it at all. For all intents and purposes it was brand new. And, though I didn't attempt to haggle over the price, the mom only took $40 for it. That's "exceeding abundantly above." That's God.

I've been thinking about this story a lot the last few days. My heart and mind have been distracted with the many changes coming for our family in the next few months. New babies, new activities, new work endeavors, changes in our finances. There is much about which to rejoice, but there are also many things over which I could sit and worry. How will this work? Can I do it? Will that be enough? And recently on one really rough evening with the kids...oh my gosh, what are we doing???

It would be easy to get consumed with the unknown, but instead I choose to focus on prayer, on being thankful and praising God for all He has done and continues to do for us, on bringing favorite bible verses to my mind. Ones that remind me that God loves me, He will never leave me, He will protect me, He will meet my every need, He will comfort me, and that I never have to be afraid. And I think about that pink guitar. Because if God cares about the color of a 9-year-old's guitar, then he cares about my stuff too...the little stuff and the big stuff. 

When there is so much light, the darkness has to flee. And God loves me - and you - more than anyone else ever could. And he sees that - although we mess up (for me, sometimes it's a lot) - we are trying our best to know Him, love Him, and serve Him and are endeavoring to teach our children to do the same. So we can trust Him to be faithful. And sure, we'll still work as hard as we can at all our different jobs and we'll try to be good stewards of all God has blessed us with (not eating out as much and making the kids hand-me-downs stretch as far as they can), but it's God who will give the increase. And it is He who will receive all the praise and glory every step along the way.
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