Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Loyal Heart


I've mentioned before that I'm getting into genealogy.  When the Little Ones were visiting their mama, I had a chance to do some work on our family history, and I found a Civil War ancestor.  So when I picked up The Loyal Heart the next day and started reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a Civil War era POW camp.  The pact that wartime friends make over their friend's grave turns out to have lasting importance for them.

The bulk of this story takes place in Texas.  Phillip (one of the pactees) has died.  Another of the pact members, Robert, goes to his home in Galveston to check on his widow and see if there is any way the remaining pact members can help her.  The widow, Miranda, was pretty much at the end of her rope when Robert shows up.  She is managing her late husband's estate by turning their home into a boarding house.  The people of the town have spread viscous rumors about her.  Someone is sending her threatening letters.

The Loyal Heart is by turns suspenseful and romantic.  Robert and the other members of the wartime pact are able to help Miranda redeem her reputation and Phillip's honor, as well as keep her home and find happiness.  This was a good book, and I will be passing it on to my 16 year old daughter to read, as well.   We have enjoyed many of Shelley Shepard Gray's works of fiction.




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Monday, August 22, 2016

Learn to Read with Jolly Literacy


Even though it's summer time, Katie has been working on a special review program.  The folks at jollyliteracy.com (just2ducks LLC) sent us their comprehensive reading program, which includes the Jolly Literacy Teacher's Book (in print letters); the Jolly Phonics Student Books, 1, 2, and 3; The Jolly Grammar level 1 Teacher's Book (in print letters); the Jolly Grammar level 1 Student Book; and Jolly Songs (in print letters).  Along with these review items, we received a catalog of additional Jolly Literacy products, and My Personal Dictionary from Primary Learning.  Wow, what a package!


Miss Katie is 5.  She did a "relaxed" kindergarten last year, and is still working on learning to read.  Although, she surprised me the last time we went to the zoo.  We were driving, and she said, "That says zoo!" when we passed a plain, no pictures, street sign.  I did a double take and asked, "How do you spell zoo?"  She answered Z-O-O.  She's learning more than I realized.


We started out with the Phonics book 1, just to get our feet wet.  Each lesson has a short story and a motion to go along with it.  The motions are a great idea for squirmy students to help get the wiggles out.  Little kids generally don't do well with sitting still for long periods of time, so beginning readers will benefit from these seemingly "silly" motions and sounds.  The workbook portion of the lessons are short and simple, which gives children a sense of accomplishment when they're starting out.

We also began playing the Jolly Songs CD, which is full of catchy little tunes to help kids learn the sounds that letters make.  The individual clips are short.  I liked to put it on in the car and let it play when I had younger kids in the van with me.


Although Katie already knows how to properly form her letters, and what sounds they make, she had a little bit of a harder time with the pictures at the bottom of the pages in the phonics book 1.  Katie did not begin learning English until she was almost 3 years old, so she's still not familiar with all the possible names of the "everyday" objects pictured.  Students are asked to cross out the picture that does not contain a certain sound.  In addition to increasing her vocabulary, this was good listening practice for her!


As the Phonics Student Book 1 progressed, we worked on not only individual letters, but also double letters and blends.  Book 2 starts off with students reading whole words, and covers the various short vowel sounds, writing, tracing, drawing, and more.  Children begin copywork in book 2, with the teacher writing a sentence on the board, and the students copying it.  Kids learn that sentences start with a capital letter and end with a period.  They are reminded to leave a space (we call them "finger spaces" in our homeschool) between each word.  At the teacher's discretion, students may be asked to come up with their own sentences.  Book 3 takes the skills learned in the first two books and expounds on them with more independent writing, bigger words, reading sentences, and even a crossword puzzle!  Jolly Phonics is a comprehensive reading program, broken down into 3 books to be less intimidating to the student.  There are also readers available in 4 levels, from beginner to confident reader.


Although not completely through the phonics program, we took a look at the Grammar book to see what it was like.  The first page allows the student to personalize the book, not only with their name, but also a self portrait.


This book contains many activities with words.  Students get to trace, draw, write dictation, and more.  The back of the book has 36 ten-word spelling tests.  By the end of the book, students are reading a 3 paragraph story containing words like orange, yummy, sunflowers, watch and summer.  They are then asked to identify different parts of speech by underlining them in various colors.  I'm excited to see how much Katie's skills will progress when we start working through this book!


This is Miss Katie's /oo/ face.  Not oo like in smooth, but oo like in took.  We had quite a time differentiating between the two /oo/ sounds.  Actually, when sounding out the words at the bottom of the page, she kept wanting to double the sounds.  B-oo-oo-k.  We are finding Jolly Phonics book 1 to be both simple enough to hold our interest and keep us (okay me) willing to work on it, and at the same time, challenging enough that I know Katie is learning new things.  I'm impressed.  That's a delicate balance.  I look forward to working through the rest of the program this coming school year.  I feel confident that it will help Katie become a strong reader.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

You can connect with jollyliteracy.com on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Forty Crew families received Jolly Literacy packages.  To read more of their experiences, please click the box below.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our Week with a Birthday


This was the last week of summer for us.  It's flown by so fast.


I've really been enjoying watching the Little Ones learn new things.  Building with the bristle blocks, making towers, putting words together, this is such a fun age for observing growth.


Because of them, the other kids have had a renewed interest in some of the simpler toys in our house.


We dumped the block bucket one day and separated out all the different types of blocks with each child getting one kind:  big alphabet blocks, little alphabet blocks, unit blocks, plastic blocks, etc.


I got a chance to make a pair of nightgowns this week.  I'm thinking I might stack & whack a pile of leggings nexts.


School orientation night for Brianna and Eli happened this week.  Bri painted most of the flags on this wall.


And she helped paint this mountain scene on another teacher's wall.


Checking out the new locker.


The Magnatiles continue to be a favorite here.  The Little Ones like them, too.


I bought candles this time!  (We kind of suck at the candle thing most birthdays.)


Sam turned 18.  My 4th child is now a grown up.


I took Miss Katie in to be adjusted.  She got a new type of foot.  We're going back this coming week with both girls.


The new wooden Tetris puzzle continues to be popular.


We used to have a huge basket of board books.  After Katie outgrew them, I pulled out a few of my favorites and donated all the rest.  With our little visitors here, I find myself wishing I had kept a few more of them.  They love to look at books.  Blue will ask for a book at nap or bed time.


This is the face I get when I try to take a picture of Sam.


There was a pizza fundraiser for one of the coaching families.  The kids had fun hanging on the trees, and the teens had fun hanging out with the team.


These were dresses that I made for Katie a couple years ago.  It makes me smile to see them in use again.


I love my teenagers.  They make me laugh.  After getting all the supply lists for their various classes at orientation, we got out the school supplies bucket and loaded up their backpacks.


It looked a little like a bomb went off in the school room, but we had everything except some pens and composition books.

Now it's time to clean the school room and plan out our first week of homeschool!  Yikes.  This is getting real!


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The Things We Knew


Set on Nantucket, this novel takes a look at the Carlisle family's dark past.  Lynette Carlisle, the "baby" of the family is now an adult, and she's the only one left at the family home, taking care of Dad, who is showing signs of dementia.

Her older siblings have all gone their own ways; an attorney, an overseas missionary, a musician with addiction problems, and one currently unemployed.  Lynette is left trying to maintain the large house that's falling apart, and she begins to wonder if it's time to sell.  Only Mom's will stipulates that all the siblings must return home and agree to the sale in order for one to take place.

Each of the siblings comes back with their own adult baggage and experiences, plus the shadow of the uncertainty surrounding their mother's death.

The Things We Knew is the story of siblings learning to forgive each other, starting to work together toward a common goal, and finally, discovering the truth about what happened to their mom.

An underlying thread through the book is the romance between Lynette and Nick, the boy next door, who left for several years, but has come back to pick up the family business now that his dad has cancer.

I enjoyed this book.  It was a little dark in parts, but I like the idea of art as self-therapy, and I found the story compelling.  The characters are human and compelling.  And the family is very accepting of the surprise African child that brother Ryan brings home with him.  I always love a story with adoption in it.

Author Catherine West has a winner with The Things We Knew.  She currently has 4 other books available on Amazon, as well.  I'll be keeping an eye out for more of her works.




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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

FlipStir Puzzles review


A couple of years ago, I won a Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle.  I'd never seen anything like it before, and thought it was brilliant to have a puzzle that we couldn't loose the pieces to.  Theoretically, of course.  Not that my little angels ever lose anything.  Ahem.

We've had this one for 2 years, and it's still in great shape.  That says something in this house.  We're pretty hard on toys.  And furniture.  And appliances.  And...

Recently, the opportunity came up for us to review another great FlipStir Puzzle from Enlivenze LLC.  This time, we received the Statue of Liberty puzzle, which is a level 2 puzzle, with a more challenging picture, than our level 1 Rainbow Pencils.  The level 2 puzzles also have wavy pieces, whereas the level 1 puzzles have straight edged pieces.

What is a FlipStir Puzzle?  It's a cylinder filled with pieces, with an attached wand to manipulate them.  The end of the wand has a little foot on it to help you turn and place the enclosed pieces in the correct order and position to complete the picture.


When we first got the Statue of Liberty puzzle, I let Eli open it.


"Hey, we have one of these!" was his reaction.


He fiddled with it during nap time and got it assembled for me.


I'm glad I got a picture when I did, because the next thing I knew, someone had stirred it up.  I played with it for a while and gave up after getting about 4 pieces in correctly.  Pretty soon, someone had stirred it up again.  It's one of those things that you can't help but play with.  I noticed several of the children picked it up and messed with it.  I'm not sure who all has assembled it.  Having the Statue of Liberty puzzle out and accessible has renewed the kids' interest in the Rainbow Pencils puzzle, too.

We've taken the Rainbow Pencils puzzle with us on road trips before because there are no small parts to get lost in the van.  The FlipStir Puzzles are all self-contained, sealed and not designed to be opened.  This makes them perfect for taking to things like doctor's appointments where you have to wait, but might have to jump up at any minute.  FlipStir Puzzles are mess free, words that, as a mom, I particularly love to hear.

These fun puzzles would make a great stocking stuffer or Easter basket filler.  They're also a great item to have in your gift closet for a sudden birthday party your child forgot to tell you about.  (Maybe that just happens at my house?)


The Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle was sitting on my desk in it's "unfinished" state when Paul and I were talking in the school room one day.  Pretty soon, he picked it up and started working on it.  His OCD tendencies couldn't let it sit there like that.


Looking at this picture, I suddenly realize...  My whole school room must just make him twitch.

There are currently 5 different FlipStir Puzzles for sale:

Rainbow Pencils
Tyrannosaurus Rex
Solar System
Statue of Liberty
Periodic Table of Elements

One hundred Crew members received one of the first four puzzles for review purposes.  You can read what other families have to say about their FlipStir Puzzle by clicking the box below.

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

You can connect with FlipStir Puzzles on Facebook or Twitter, and with parent company Enlivenze, LLC also on Facebook or Twitter.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Our Week - Fire and Shriners and Cooties, Oh My!


First up, some pictures that didn't make it in to last week's post.


You may remember when we reviewed Kwik Stix.  I gave our small guests the opportunity to try them out, and I was pleased to have no mess, even with little ones.  My girls tend to be pretty neat and tidy, so I wasn't sure how messy toddlers might be with them, but it went well!


Speaking of art, Brianna drew this from a picture that Annaliese posted on Instagram.


Bri also decided to shave part of her head.  School starts in just a couple weeks, and she'll need to do something about the blue ends, but I'm not sure what that's going to be yet.


Our block party for Neighborhood Night Out.  Unfortunately, we missed the police car, as I was driving the teens across town when it was there.


Still, the kids enjoyed the $3 meals and the water balloons and running around in the street.  (Those soda cans in the stroller are not open.  Nor did the little ones drink them.  We just borrowed their cup holders.  Hannah and Katie shared a soda, so they had a leftover one, and I brought sippy cups for the Little Ones, so they had a leftover one, too.  Eli and Josiah drank them later.)


This is Hannah's "but I don't want it to be morning" face.  She and Katie will chatter after bedtime, and I've heard them still talking at 10 p.m. before.  I think she's naturally more of a night owl than a morning person.  Katie pops out of bed in the morning, ready to face the day.



Our small friends really enjoy the Wedgits, the Stacking Pegs, the Mega Blocks, and the kitchen set & play food.  They play with other things, too, of course, but these get daily use.


Paul spent almost 2 weeks in Southern California at the Soberanes Fire.  He came home late Friday night, with a raging case of poison oak.

Sunday night, Jack got sick.  Monday morning, Katie got sick.  Katie and Hannah had an appointment at Shriners, but Katie threw up right before we left, so I just took Hannah.  Hannah is ready for a new leg, so we'll go back in 2 weeks for the casting appointment.  They told me to bring Katie in when she's feeling better and they'll squeeze us into the schedule.  I have a feeling she's ready for a new leg, too.  Monday night, Hannah and Eli got sick.  Sam got sick on Tuesday.  This is one of the less fun parts of having a big family.


Our Little Guests love animals.  Our sneezy old cat is not as crazy about toddlers.


I picked up a Tetris-inspired wooden puzzle.  Jack finds it frustrating.  Sam made pictures out of the different pieces.


Spent some time playing outside, enjoying the nice weather in the morning before it got hot.


Eli's sporting quite the sock tan from daily football practice all summer.


Paul put a new ceiling fan up in the panda room (Hannah and Katie's bedroom).  With both Josiah and Sam planning to leave in the next 6 months, there will be quite a room shuffle.  We'll be painting Jack & Eli's current room and Sam's bedroom & bathroom.

One last week of summer before school starts!  In some ways, I'm looking forward to it, but in other ways, I'm not at all ready.


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