Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wedding Wednesday

I do a lot of weddings each year. I would go nuts if I did the same old traditional poses all the time. I like to change it up, play off their personalities and make their wedding photos a fun, memorable experience for all! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dana Mentink’s ‘Fetching Sweetness’ Prize Pack Giveaway

I LOVED THIS BOOK!  Sorry, I just had to shout that! may remember I reviewed a cute little book titled "Sit, Stay, Love" and I thought it was going to be a silly, cheesy book that I'd not really love but then I read it...and I ended up reading the WHOLE book in 1 night because I could NOT put it down?! Imagine my sheer delight when I learned of "Fetching Sweetness," the next in the line after my beloved "Sit, Stay, Love"!!!! I could have screamed with joy when this came in the mail to me! 

I LOVED Tippy in the first book, and Sweetness has won my heart over in this one. I loved it. You have Stephanie Pink who longs to be a literary agent to live up to her brother's memory, and Rhett Hastings-uber rich business guy who gives it all up for his sister to right a wrong from his past. They cross paths when Stephanie is chasing after a dog she doesn't know to win over the author of a much anticipated manuscript, the sequel to her favorite book that she shared with her brother years before. The author, a but eccentric to say the least haha, tells her she can have the manuscript when she finds and delivers her dog, and she leaves Stephanie literally on the Rhett's "doorstep."  After Rhett proves he's not a serial killer, and he doesn't really do that until a fated stop at a gas station proves Stephanie with her missing purse and phone...the journey to deliver "Sweetness" ensues. This book is so funny, and such a pleasant and relaxing read. And then the ending?! OH MY HEAVENS! I just laughed. I can't give it away because I certainly didn't see it coming HAHA! I love this!!!!  Definitely 5 stars! 


A recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest can only be found in Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink. It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink: Retrieve a reclusive author's valuable new manuscript and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent. But when the author's canine companion, Sweetness, makes a break for it and Stephanie has to track Sweetness down, she meets Rhett Hastings. They’re in for a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.

Celebrate the release of Fetching Sweetness with Dana by entering to win the Sweetness Unleashed Prize Pack!

fetching sweetness - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of Fetching Sweetness

  • A $75 Visa cash card

  • A library book necklace

  • A dog-inspired insulated shopping tote

  • fetching sweetness - collage 

    Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 24. The winner will be announced August 25 on Dana's blog.

    fetching sweetness - enterbanner
    **I received this free in exchange for my HONEST review. All opinions expressed are my own.**

    Shelley Shepard Gray's The Loyal Heart REVIEW! A great Civil War era story!


    I LOVE Shelley Shepard Gray's writing! Her style is so at ease, and it really pulls you in to the story. The characters are lifelike and so very real. The story line has a nice flow, and the ending isn't obvious from the start, which I appreciate. It is having read her books before that caused me to choose this book to review, because I wouldn't have otherwise. Why? Well....the overall topic kind of bothered me. I understand the two battle buddies (for lack of a better phrase) made a pact that should Phillip die, Robert would see to it that his wife was taken care of. I also understand it was a different time period. FYI:  Gray nails the time period and the customs of the day, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with those customs haha! It bothered me that the wife needs a man to take care of her. Yes, I get it...I do...but my inner independent female screams at this. THEN Robert falls for her. He wants to save her reputation since Phillip's legacy is not fabulous, so he falls in love with her? Ohhh Robert, I could smack you! To me, that's not showing her a lot of respect given she just lost her husband, but then again, I guess you can't control your heart. But still...sigh....I wanted to slap him.  That's just not my usual style of book, BUT Shelley Shephard Gray is one of my FAVORITE authors, so I decided I'd give her the benefit of the doubt. I'm so glad I did! This is a fantastic book. Robert has Miranda's best interests in the mind the whole time. She isn't portrayed as a weak, fragile damsel in distress as much as she could have been, so I appreciate that. She definitely leads up future characters and I can't wait to read those stories! Real characters, vivid scenes. GREAT BOOK!

    About the book: 

    The Loyal Heart (Zondervan, July 2016)
    Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn't expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.
    Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.
    After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda's home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip's name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.
    Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He's mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.
    He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn't prove to be an easy task---Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.
    Purchase a copy:
    About the author:

    Shelley Shepard Gray
     is a New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

    **I received this free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.**

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    (Un)Natural Mom REVIEW! Are you the perfect mom for your kids?!

    This really could not have come at a more perfect time, seriously. Parenting is hard, but parenting special needs (mostly solo) is really hard. I can't count the number of times I've questions my abilities as a mom. Or the number of times I have wondered what God saw in me to bless me with my son. All too often this parenting gig is so hard because we are trying to be that other parent. You know...the fun one. Or maybe it's the attentive one. Or maybe is the carefree one. Or perhaps it's the baking cookies and cupcakes one. Or maybe....JUST STOP! This book gives you freedom to break that mentality and be the mom YOU are meant to be. 
    I LOVE the Chapter 2 myths. OH MY HEAVENS! YES!  It's crazy the expectations we put on mothers! You know what? I breastfed for 2 years 9.5 months. Guess what. I hated nearly every second of it. Yes...that's right. I did. I did not hear angels singing with each feeding. Actually, my back hurt, I sometimes had cramps, I had to let other things go....I didn't like it. I detest washing bottles more, and it was way healthier for him, so I did it. I didn't like it. Oh well! that's ok! All those "naturally" occurring things for a mother just didn't really naturally occur for me! And that's ok! And just an FYI to the homeschool party moms: No I did not bake those cookies, and this book tells me it's ok that I didn't! Someone did, and that's good enough for me! 

    About the book: 

    (un)Natural Mom: Why You Are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids (David C Cook, August 2016)
    Do you feel like you're the only mom who serves store-bought birthday treats, dreads school plays, and misses the days of going to the bathroom by herself?
    Unnatural Mom gives you permission to say that mothering doesn't always come naturally to you. Parenting expert and self-proclaimed unnatural mom Hettie Brittz helps you . . .
    -Recognize how unrealistic our culture's standards of mothering are
    -Move beyond the myths of "supermom"
    -Complete a profile to determine your own parenting style
    -Understand and forgive the mothers who hurt you
    -Embrace your capabilities as well as your challenges
    Come find new hope in discovering that every mother hasunique gifts. In Christ, the "unnaturalmom becomes the supernatural mom who is just right for her family!
    Purchase a copy:
    About the author:

    Hettie Brittz
     is an author, international speaker, and one of South Africa's foremost voices on parenting advice. She is the developer of the Evergreen Parenting Course and Tall Trees Profiles. Hettie and her husband, Gospel singer Louis Brittz, live in South Africa with their three children.

    **I received this free through Litfuse in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

    Friday, August 19, 2016

    Enlivenze LLC FlipStir Solar System Puzzle REVIEW

    FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
    We LOVE puzzles! We also love games that force us to think. Mix the two together, and you have a home run with Enlivenze LLC! We were blessed with a FlipStir Puzzle  Solar System puzzle to review, and we've really enjoyed it!
    Just what in the world (did you see what I did there? HAHA!) is this thing? Well, it's a contained puzzle in a clear plastic tube like structure that you arrange using a stirring wand, shaking, and moving the pieces around without actually ever touching them. In other words, it's the most frustratingly fun device we've played with in a long while! 

    It looks simple enough. Just a few plastic wedges with curvy edges that you line up to create the puzzle. But it is deceptively easy looking. It is NOT easy to do! At first, I thought Mr. B would breeze through this with it being a level 2 puzzle, then I used it myself. Nope..level 2 is just fine, thank you very much! HAHA! 
    FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
    Enlivenze LLC offers a variety of this 3D puzzles, including the Statue of Liberty, and even the Periodic Table! I chose to go with the Solar System because Mr. B is really into all things astronomy right now, and it is our chosen science topic for the time being. This is a great tool to use to reinforce the learning, and a fun element to his curriculum. 
    What we liked:
    It is not easy! It's not a device that you'll drop $25 on and have it solved in a few minutes, then never touch it again. Noooo....I actively worked at this thing for around an hour before I had manipulated all the pieces together. Mr. B worked for a long time, before giving it to me for help! It is a tricky little beast! Once you solve it, it's not as if it is easier the next time. You shake it and stir it all up, and then you can solve it all over again. The tube allows for plenty of room to move the pieces, but not so much that it's "easy." The curvy edges add an element of difficulty that I truly did not expect. I worked for a while to get Mercury from the bottom, to the top where I needed it. I was so frustrated, but I was enjoying it too haha.

    What we didn't like:
    This is definitely not for small kids who get frustrated easily, or give up easily. It's kinda difficult to move the pieces around, and not lose the positions of the ones you have in place. The FlipStir stirring wand thingy seems a little too flexible for my taste, and I was concerned it may snap. It didn't, so perhaps it is more sturdy than I perceive it to be. I do wish there was a way to "lock" it in place when not in use so that it doesn't accidentally get pulled on or broken.
    Our overall thoughts:

    This should be in the bin of every pre-teen/teen OT patient. It's GREAT for fine motor skills! It is frustratingly fun, so if you want to unleash some stress, this may be the perfect thing----or the worst thing haha. I guess that will depend on your perspective. I did get frustrated with it, because it was a challenge. It's not really big, but it's a little too large to stick in a purse and go. I wish there was a small version that I could take with us more easily to doctor visits and such. I was able to pack this along, but it did take up some space in my bag. Overall, we really like it! 

    Does Enlivenze LLC Solar System Puzzle Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

    1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

    This is a physical game. You can't adapt it beyond it's current design.   

    2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

    Mr. B is 11, and I am....more than 11. We both have enjoyed this! It's a physical product with no hidden fees.  
    3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

    This is an tough one to answer. Some with ADHD may get too frustrated with it, Mr. B did, but then he went right back and eventually solved it. I found it rather entertaining.  I think this is perfect for fine motor skills therapy!!

    4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

    This is only a fun product. There are various "themes" such as this one being the Solar System, so you may find one that fits in with something you are studying as an added element of fun.

    Please check out the banner below for more reviews on this product, including the other levels and puzzles, from the Review Crew!

    FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
    Crew Disclaimer

    Carrie Stuart Parks’ Undercover Artist Starter Set

    Oh how I love a good mystery! And "When Death Draws Near" gave me just that. Even better? I have been the Pikeville, KY so it brought the book a little closer to home for me. I found this to be very entertaining, and the characters were believable and real. This is book number 3, but I did not feel as if I was missing out having not read 1 or 2.

    I always appreciate it when the author KNOWS what they are writing about, and it is clearly evident Carrie Stuart knows her forensics-and if she doesn't, then she sure has me fooled! The material is presented in such a way that I wasn't left feeling confused or like I had just been to a lecture. 

    There is a lot going on in this book, and at times I did feel like it was a little too much, but not enough to be bothered by it at all. It actually added to the page turning aspect for me. 

    I love the writing style! 

    Plunge into forensic artist Gwen Marcey's world, full of cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects. Add Carrie Stuart Parks' new Gwen Marcey novel, When Death Draws Near, to the top of your must-read list. Gwen accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before she can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?

    Join Carrie in celebrating the release of When Death Draws Near by entering to win an Undercover Artist Starter Set.

    when death draws near - 400 

    One grand prize winner will receive:

    • A copy of When Death Draws Near

    • A $30 Michael's or Hobby Lobby gift card (winner's choice)

    • Colored pencils

    • A sharpener

    • A pencil case

    • An eraser

    • A coloring prayer book

    • A coloring notecard set

    • A lap desk

    • when death draws near - collage 

      Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 22. The winner will be announced August 23 on the Litfuse blog.

      when death draws near - enterbanner

      **I received this in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.**

      Wednesday, August 17, 2016

      Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids REVIEW

      HOLA! I am one who thinks a foreign language is a very important elective. I took 4 years of French in high school, and I earned a minor in French in college. Our society is a global society, where we interact with people of all different cultures, and with these cultures come different languages. 
      Children who are exposed to languages, other than their native language, at an early age are better able to learn a second (or more) language quickly when compared to others. I have always made sure Mr. B was exposed to differing languages, so that he could not only pick up key phrases, but learn to differentiate the sounds into specific words. From taking him to my college French classes, to asking his step mom to speak in her native language around him, I love that he has had the blessing to experience these languages. As you can imagine, we were thrilled to review the Start Set 1 Spanish program from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids. 
      For this review, we received a complete starter set that includes sticker sheets, teacher's manual, Go Squish game, student workbooks for levels 1-3, flashcards, as well as DVDs of the first 3 episodes. This isn't a little set. 
      Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids (FL4K ) has real kids using real life situations to teach Spanish in an immersive manner. The creator is a homeschooling mom and lawyer who searched high and low for a foreign language program for her own kids that would be effective at helping them to learn a foreign language. When she came up short, she developed the award winning program we have been blessed with. This program uses humor and fun to help kids pick up on the language. Kids learn best when they enjoy what they are learning, and FL4K is certainly enjoyable! 
      Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
      How we used this and Our Thoughts:

      The teacher's manual has a suggested schedule of use and a "how to use" section that I high recommend you read over. Repetition is key, and you are to watch a certain portion of the videos, then work your way into the workbooks. We tried to do this, we really did. The problem? The videos on the DVDs are so much fun, and we liked them so much, that we just watched the whole videos over and over again HAHA! By the end of the 3rd viewing, Mr. B was frequently using Spanish in his every day conversations for fun! Because HE has been using it so much, I'm learning as well! I caught myself yelling "DESAYUNO!" the other morning instead of Breakfast! He just came down this morning and said, "Mommy, I need desayuno." That was just from the videos alone! 
      The workbooks are great at putting a visual to the videos, so that you can SEE the words. Afterall, spelling and proper written communication is important no matter the language. The workbooks are in both Spanish and  English, and include a lot. You learn about more than just vocabulary words in a different language. There are cultural tidbits, etc. included. I do think the workbooks are a bit on the childish level. The videos show boys who appear to be elementary to upper middle school age, but the workbook art looks like it is geared to a lower age group than a student who would be 8th or 9th grade level. With that said, the majority of the clip art used uses real life photos, which to me is great, especially for special needs learners who may be unable to equate a cartooned drawing with the real thing. So major bonus points for that!  


      Overall, we really like this program. It's fun, and the videos are really funny. The first is titled "Basketballs Aren't for Breakfast" if that tells you anything!  Mr. B really picked up on things quickly, and the repetition really works. The intended schedule would work nicely, but Mr. B just liked watching the videos without stopping. I think the workbook art (NOT the clip art in it) is a bit childish, but the clip art associated with the Spanish vocab words are real life style photos, and that makes up for the cartoon'ish clip art. I'm not really pleased with the addition of the sticker sheets that ask your child to get your permission to put stickers on things as a visual aid reminder. He didn't ask my permission, and my house was covered in Spanish stickers. I'm not sure if that would be an isolated case or not, and I really should have removed those before letting him go through the box. The flash cards are nice, and we typically play games that we make up as we go with those. It was different for me to help him learn Spanish when my background is French, but the languages are so similar that it wasn't impossible or difficult-just a little different. I would LOVE to see this in French! We plan to continue using this product. 

      Does Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids pass my 4 Ingredient Test?
      1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

      You could skip, but that really wouldn't help you to learn the language. You can take breaks, and set your own schedule, but again that may hinder the learning.  

      2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

      It does cover multiple grade levels, but older students may find the artwork in the workbooks a little cartoon'ish. We rather enjoyed it and liked it, so that wasn't an issue for us at all. 
      This is a physical product, so there's no hidden fees that I have encountered. 
      3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

      The videos are funny and use humor to introduce the language. I think it's great for ADHD and autism because of the real life setting. It doesn't last long at all. Actually, I'd prefer longer videos.  

      4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

      Not really. This is strictly a Spanish program. 

      I'm not the only Crew Member who had the chance to review this fun program! Please click the banner below to check out more reviews!
      Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
      This post contains affiliate links. There is no additional charge for these links. I only include affiliate links on products I do truly love and enjoy using! 
      Crew Disclaimer

      Wedding Wednesday

      Marriage is a pinky promise for life. What better way to showcase their wedding rings than through a pinky promise?!

      Monday, August 15, 2016

      I Love You Just Because Children's book REVIEW

      This is such a cute and cuddly book. This would make a perfect gift a special child in your life, or as a baby shower gift. The graphics are lovely, and the message is, of course, fantastic. It's a nice little bedtime story book, or an anytime read aloud book for that special child in your life. The book is sturdy and well made hardback that will last for years to come. This is a great book that is in line with the author's previous books. I think this would also be nice for parents who are going through a divorce to read to their children since it focuses on them loving the child no matter what, and that the child doesn't have to earn their parent's love.  A+!


      Through adorable, cuddly art and fun rhyming text, I Love You Just Because will help little ones understand their parents' love for them and that it doesn't have to be earned. With playful artwork and the same friendly bear family you already know and love from Donna Keith's first two books—I Love You All the Same and I Love You Even When—the sweet story of this book will touch you and your family and will remind you that family members love each other...just because.
      Parents will gravitate toward the felt need and fun messaging of this book as it seeks to help them explain to their little ones that they are truly loved just because.

      Purchase your copy from Amazon today! 

      Facebook @DonnaKeithAuthor
      Facebook @TommyNelsonBooks
      Twitter @TommyNelson
      Instagram @TommyNelsonBooks
      Pinterest Tommy-Nelson-Books


      a Rafflecopter giveaway
      “Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

      Friday, August 12, 2016

      YOU CAN DO IT!

      One of the most common things I hear from people when they learn we homeschool is "I could never do that." Well, yes you can!

      You taught that child how to walk. 

      You taught that child how to talk. 

      What makes you think you can't teach your child what 1+1 is?!

      God gave us our children, knowing we COULD do it. No one will ever be able to teach your child everything they will ever need to know. That's just the truth. You can't. I can't. No one can. There are some things in life your child will have to learn on their own. But you can instill in them the ability to learn. The love to learn. The desire to learn. And once you do that, have taught your child everything they will ever need to know to succeed academically. 

      That's really the gist of it. Your child will learn history if they have a desire to do so. If they love it, they will learn it. Your job isn't necessarily to teach the subjects, but to teach your child how to learn. It is to set your child up for success in learning. Give them the tools, show them how to use those tools, and let them take off and learn! It really is that simple!

      Thursday, August 11, 2016

      First Day Back to school TRADITION!!!!! (5 Days Blog Hop)

      It's that time of year again, friends. Today is our district's first day of school. And, like always, we are doing NOTHING today! Oddly though, Mr. B wanted to do double school work today?! Strange lol! Anyway, we are having pizza, then we may go shop for school supplies, and we plan to meet up with Mamaw later. While others are jabbering about their first day, where their desks are, and their parents are only getting a 2nd hand account of their school day, we will be playing board games! I couldn't imagine missing out on these days with Mr. B! I'm so grateful we have the ability to homeschool!

      Wednesday, August 10, 2016

      Worth the journey

      WHY is therapy for autism and adhd so hard to come by? We have some therapy groups in town, but you have to wait MONTHS to get in. I'm now making a roughly 7 hour trip every other week so my son can get 8 sessions of OT to try and catch up to where he needs to be. We left yesterday morning around 9am and we got home after 6, for a 1 hour OT appointment. The place nearest to me has an 8 month wait, the next closest keeps kids coming back indefinitely if they have good insurance. We had a full work day for 1 session. And we have to do this every other week, in addition to everything else. I know it's worth the journey, but mercy I wish we had better services here!

      5 Days Blog Hop Day 3: HOME MANAGEMENT

      Home Management 101

      I sometimes feel like I need to take a class in this myself. I'm not sure I'm qualified to give much "advice."  Home Management seems to cover so much area, too. So, I'll just say what we do.


      I coupon, first and foremost. I go to blogs, I research, I plan sales and I look up the coupon insert schedule so I know what's going to come and when. I organize them all by type and company, and save 100s each year doing this! 

      I have also budgeted our monthly utilities in such a way that we are able to pay all of our bills at one time each month. This is so helpful! I get everything paid upfront, nothing is late, and I know exactly when each bill has been paid. For those who can't do this, I would suggest a bi-monthly plan if possible.

      We take 10-20% and put that into savings. We keep an emergency savings account in the event we need tires in a pinch, or if an appliance goes out we can get it. We are currently rebuilding this as we just had to purchase a new riding lawn mower. May not be a need for some, but if you have heart problems, a riding mower is a literal life saver! Having this emergency fund greatly reduces our stress when major purchases must me made. 

      We also evaluate everything to make sure it's a NEED vs. a WANT. Sure we WANT to go to the movies weekly, but is that a NEED to justify the expense? Can we wait until Redbox has this movie? any movie is a want, but there are those special ones we have waited to see that we justify the cost of tickets and popcorn. We have reduced our movie going, and other unnecessary expenses, greatly over the past year due to expenses that we have had to make that are out of our control. Those look to be ending soon, but we will maintain our need vs. want method in order to build up our savings.

      We don't do debt. If we can't pay for it outright, or if it is a need and we can't pay it back with in 5 months, we figure out a different way. We don't do debt. Debt is stress, and I hate stress. 

      We do other things to save money as well. Menu planning, shopping lists, thrift stores, clearance sales, and yardsales are just a few things we do to save money. 

      Household Chores:

      I'm big on everyone doing their share. I have health problems and I can't keep up a 2400 sq ft home on my own. I also can't let it go and expect to tackle it. I like Fly Lady and her methods, but that's even too much sometimes. I like to make sure my bathrooms and kitchen are all clean before bed. There's nothing better than waking up to a clean kitchen! I also make sure the rooms are clean down to the bed. This helps sooooo much! I do weekly deep cleaning of each room, picking a room or two each day. And I take 15 minutes each day to tidy up 2 rooms. I make sure all trash is taken care of right away, and I wash a load of laundry daily so that it doesn't pile up. I keep a large hamper in each room, and wash/dry/fold/put away as soon as it is full. I even keep a small one in the kitchen for dish towels!

      We take a day each week to do a "once over" of the house, to make sure everything is kept up and clean. M does his part, Mr. B does his. We share duties since we share work, and our household runs smoothly as a result! 

      Wedding Wednesday

      There are many perks to wedding photography, and dinner is the main one haha! This was BBQ pork loin with a peach sauce, roasted smashed red potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Topped with fried onions, it was simply delicious. The couple was very generous and kind to include their chosen vendors in their reception celebration. We were seated and served along side guests, and given a much appreciated break and dinner. 

      Monday, August 8, 2016

      5 Days of Homeschooling 101 CURRICULUM

      Ahhh...August. Time for all things Back to School. There's clothes, school supplies, and the promise that the local parks and playgrounds are going to be quiet and empty soon....sooo very soon! It also means planning-Insert horror movie music here. I hate planning. I'm sooo not a planning person when it comes to our school life. BUT it is a necessary evil. 

      I'm not a planner person because it requires laying out a curriculum and and deciding what to do, and when. My problem with this is I'm torn between products! I want them all! And then doing reviews, sometimes I don't know what we will have and when. So planning can be a bit difficult. Special needs can also throw a wrench into what products we can use, and what works vs. what doesn't. Add to that, out of state appointments and it's just a nightmare for me right now! 

      With that said, here's the plan-thus far.

      Core: It's not that expensive at $20/month. We can take it with us, it's fun, and I can print out reports as needed. It's also really easy to keep doing this, and add in review products as we get them. 

      Math: We are going to stick with CTC for the foreseeable future. Like T4L, we can take it with us. He can use his tablet, do his lessons, and there's not a lot of book/paper to keep up with. Perfect for hospital or clinic waiting rooms. 

      Science: Sigh...I'm not 100% set yet. We were going to use Apologia Astronomy, but Mr. B has nearly finished that just for fun! Seriously, this kid loves astronomy (review to come on that one!) I'm pretty sure we are going to work our way through MasterBooks Zoology and finish it up, but after that I'm not 100% sure. I will probably use some of the Critical Thinking Co. Science that we reviewed last year. I can take specific pages with us, and he can use the internet on his tablet for the Critical Thinking Co Surfing the Net for Science workbook. I may pick up a Daily Science for 6th grade for him, I've not fully decided. 

      Language Arts: We are going to rely heavily on T4L for Language Arts, while also utilizing Writers in Residence and other workbooks and worksheets that we have or can print. This would be easy to take with us. 

      Reading: We plan to continue with Memoria Press and Progeny Press literature guides. I love them! They are thin and small enough to take on the go, and they are pretty comprehensive. 

      Those are my thoughts so far, what about you? Do you piece together your own? Do you use a boxed set? Let me know in the comments! 

      5 Days of Homeschool 101

      Wednesday, August 3, 2016

      Wedding Wednesday

      The Bride's dress is definitely one of the key pieces to any wedding, so I try to capture her dress in unique ways. Anyone can hang a dress on a door or over a window, but her dress should be captured as the timeless piece it is. 

      Learning Early Literacy with Talking Shapes (REVIEW!)

      Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
      Not long ago, we were blessed to do a review of Read, Write & Type  for Talking Fingers Inc. and this time around, we were able to review Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy. This link will lead you to the app page, and the app works on iPad devices. We were blessed with a 1 year membership to the online program. Talking Shapes is a great precursor to Read, Write & Type, and a really great, fun multi-sensory learning approach to literacy. Geared for pre-K to Kindergarten, children can play games and build words they can not only read, but see as well. 
      Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

      How does it work?
      When Mr. B was in special needs Pre-K, I thought it was so clever that his teacher had made up little rhymes for each letter, to teach the kids how to "draw" the letters. When I was learning to write, I remember my teacher printed off worksheets that had the upper and lowercase letters on them, with pictures of objects that began with that letter. Then we would write our spelling words on the back of the worksheet each week. Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy is very much like both of these methods, combined in a fun, online game format. This features two little girls who are learning to write. They are writing stories, and learning all about letters and phonics as they go. They start with the above screen, and each book is a different level. 
      Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
      Your child listens to the story, then they "draw" the letters as the program teaches them. Not only does this benefit them in an academic way, but it also helps with fine motor skills using the computer mouse or touch pad. 
      Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
      Following the story is a series of games they can play. With this game, a narrator reads a selection and there is a work missing. Your child has to fill in the blank with the correct word. I will say, I wish the choices were randomized more. 
      Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
      This game helped review the object with the letters. And you have to determine what the picture is. Once you drag the correct the letters, you have to join them together. That was a little hard to do, actually. And even I kept "dropping" the squares. You have to wait until they flash, and I'm not very patient haha. 

      Here is another game where your child must read and choose the correct word. 

      At the end of each game, the little animal on the bottom right corner "lays eggs" and then when you finish a story, those eggs hatch. 

      Our Thoughts:

        Mr. B is much older than the intended age range for this, but he loved the last product we reviewed for Talking Fingers, so I figured he'd enjoy playing with this one. I wanted to review this from a special needs mom point of view to see how it would work for others, as well as my own. I knew it would be a great way for him to work on his fine motor skills, and using a computer mouse, and I was right. Plus, he can always use a little review for phonics since he transposes letters and sounds, sometimes. By the end of the review period, he'd nearly finished the program while working on it 2-3 times a week. I could see this lasting a good bit longer for the Pre-K to 1st or 2nd age group. The lessons aren't that long, but you do have to be patient and wait for the game to be ready for you to answer. And you can't jump ahead any at all. 
      This is a really great way to supplement and work on phonics and letter shapes. It's multi-sensory approach is fun and entertaining. It is possible to "cheat" by just wildly moving the mouse to "color" in the letters instead of draw them, but you could easily overcome this by having a pencil and paper on stand by for additional practice. This is also a great tool for fine motor skills, and even speech/communication since your child must look at various pictures and determine what is going on in the picture. Overall, this is a very good product to use for typical students as well as special needs learners! 
      Does Talking Fingers Talking Shapes Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?
      1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

      We were given a 1 year membership.  The program runs in its own order, and you can't jump ahead. You can take breaks, but it will restart instead of saving exactly where you left off. I think it would be FANTASTIC if it would save your place where you left off so you don't have to start an activity over from the start. 

      2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

      There are no hidden fees, and it covers early elementary levels who are just getting into phonics and literacy. I would say pre-k to around 1st or 2nd. 
      3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

      It is very fun and interactive. It is varied, and it doesn't last terribly long, but you do have to be patient and wait on the game to be ready for your answer. I also found that if Mr. B stopped in the middle of an activity, he would have to restart from the beginning. 

      4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

      No, this is just a literacy and phonics supplemental program. 

      I'm only 1 of more than 40 reviewers to review this product. Please click the banner below to check out their reviews! 

      Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
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