Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Woman of Courage

In this latest book by award winning author, Wanda Brunstetter, we meet Amanda Pearson.  She is a feisty little lady.  After her fiance leaves her for her best friend, Amanda decides to head west to do mission work with the Native Americans, specifically, the Nez Perce, which she knows next to nothing about.

The trip proves to be fatal for her weakened father and then for their guide--and almost for Amanda, as well, but our hero, Buck, discovers her illness wracked body just in time.

What follows in Woman of Courage (affiliate link) is the story of how they overcome stereotypes and misconceptions to become friends, and eventually fall in love.  Supporting players include Mary and Jim, the couple that Amanda stays with while recuperating from her illness.  Mary gives birth to Little Joe, and Amanda acquires a baby she names Little Fawn.  And even Thunder, the dog, gets an active role, growling at villain Seth Burrows and finding water for Amanda on command.

One particular part of the story I found far-fetched was when Amanda's former fiance shows up thousands of miles from home to try to rekindle things with her.  I can look past Buck getting saved by a free pet bird and other improbable leaps, but if Nathan were as shallow as he's portrayed to be, he would never have made the financial and personal sacrifices needed for such a journey.

Still, it's a wholesome story.  I had no problem sharing this book with my 14 year old daughter, Brianna.  She liked it and asked if there would be a sequel she could read.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano - Teaching Music When You're Not A Music Teacher

Our family was selected to review HomeSchoolPiano.  Brianna has taken some online piano lessons in the past, and I thought this would be a good way to further her music learning.  While I took a few piano lessons as a junior high school student, it would be a stretch to say that I play the piano.  I am grateful that Brianna has the opportunity to go further than I did, from the convenience of our own home.  

HomeSchoolPiano will work with a piano or an electric keyboard of at least 49 full sized keys.  You should have a stand with your keyboard, and of course, you'll need a stool, bench, or chair of some sort for you student to sit upon.  You'll also need a way to connect to the internet, and a computer, tablet, or smart phone.  You're all set!  

Homeschool Piano Review

The levels for HomeSchoolPiano are:
     CorePiano, for the absolute beginner
     Book One, for someone new to piano or returning to piano after not playing for a while
     Book Two, beginner to intermediate
     Book Three, intermediate

Brianna can read treble clef music and play with her right hand, but she has a mental block against playing with both hands.  Because of this, we started her in Book One.  

Click here for an overview of the 6 units in Book One.  There are seven lessons in each unit.  Each lesson took Brianna between 5-15 minutes to complete.  She said she liked that there's a test at the end of some lessons so you can be sure that you're mastering the material.  She mentioned that the instructor seemed friendly, which she also liked.

To work on a lesson, I would let Brianna use my iPad to watch the lesson at her keyboard so she could play along with the instructor and complete the exercises.  You can also use HomeSchoolPiano on a smart phone, laptop, or desktop computer, but the iPad worked best for us.

You have the option of printing the books for practice, as well.  Brianna didn't feel like she needed the book printed yet at the level she's working at, since she's able to follow along with the instructor just fine.  What she did print, however was blank sheet music paper!  She was so very excited to find this available on the website.

I asked Brianna to work on HomeSchoolPiano 3 days/week.  She would often complete more than one lesson at a time.  On the in between days, I hear her playing from her Disney piano book, which was a Christmas present, or from various sheet music she's printed from online.  

My student is 14 years old, but HomeSchoolPiano is designed to be used by children and adults of all ages.  Brianna liked the pace that the program moves at.  I liked that it didn't feel "juvenile" to her, which kept her interested.

Homeschool Piano Review

HomeSchoolPiano has two payment packages and the pricing is very reasonable when compared to live piano lessons in person:

1. Success Package (One payment of $299)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.
2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months):
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

You'll notice that each plan covers up to five students.  You can set each student up with their own log in so that HomeSchoolPiano will start up where they left off playing the last time they practiced, which I thought was a great feature.  As the parent, you can keep track of student progress and quiz scores.

You can connect with HomeSchoolPiano on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

If you're interested in what other Crew families, with kids of different ages and playing levels, have to say about HomeSchoolPiano, please click the box below:
Click to read Crew Reviews

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Fun Cereal Crafts

Have your kids gotten to the part of summer where they're bored yet?  If they have, how about providing them with some open ended craft fun that can serve as snack time, too?  

Miss Katie has been working on sorting by color.  I found a dot markers printable online and thought it would be perfect for cereal sorting!

Fruity Cheerios are one of the participating brands in the Big G Cereal movie promotion, so you could have some crafty fun AND get a free movie.  How awesome is that?

Katie had some greens up in the pink row, so I'm wondering if she might have a little red/green color blindness going on, or if it's just a preschooler thing.

Either way, she enjoyed this activity, and she enjoyed eating her work even more!  Plus, we can still use this page for other color sorting activities and for dot markers.  I'm fond of multi-use activities.

Once Brianna saw Katie with the cereal, she decided to make fruity necklaces.  We used satin cord, also known as "rat tail," and Brianna said it made it really easy to string the cereal.

You could suggest bracelets, too.  Or give each child an apple and some toothpicks and let them make crazy hair styles for their apples, by poking the toothpicks into the apple and then stacking cereal on the toothpicks.  This might be a fun project for Honey Nut or Chocolate Cheerios!

Special thanks to Big G Cereals for sponsoring this yummy craft!  Please click to learn about how you can get a FREE MOVIE from them.  Thank you!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Take 2 Referrals and Call Me In The Morning

Luke's team started with his Primary Care Physician, who referred him to a couple more people, who each referred him to a couple more people, who referred him to a couple more people.  We have a binder that we take to Luke's appointments, and one of the "pages" is actually a 10 slot business card holder to keep track of Lukey's specialists and therapists.  I think we're going to need another page pretty soon.  We're already doubling up the cards back to back to use both sides.

This week, Luke had his appointment at PM&R (to which he was referred by his physical therapist), and the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation folks want him to see... a couple more people.  Namely, the neuromuscular doc at Shriners, and a pediatric ophthalmologist.

I've mentioned the blotchy patches in Luke's eyes to doctors, but they mostly just shrugged and moved on to other issues.  However, when Paul took Luke to see the geneticist at UCSF in February, they looked at his eyes and said, "Copper poisoning?"  Well, the bloodwork is in, and his copper levels are fine.  It's not copper poisoning, so his PM&R folks want to send him to an eye specialist to see what it might be.

Hannah and Katie are patients at Shriners, but not in the neuromuscular department, so I'm not sure what to expect there.

I spent this morning on the phone with the school district nurse, who wanted to do an intake interview prior to Luke's IEP, which is tomorrow.  I'm pushing for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy once a week and feeding therapy (the only area he's made progress in) twice a month.  We'll see what we get.

This Friday, Luke gets his first wheelchair.  Wednesday, he goes back to the GI Doc.  At Monday's appointment, he had gained 3# from the visit when he was diagnosed Failure To Thrive, so I'm hopeful that they'll be pleased with that.  The GI Doc prescribed PediaSure, but our insurance won't cover OTC items, so Luke's been drinking the generic Costco version.  It does unpleasant things to his diapers, though, so we've tapered back a bit from the 2/day suggested.

Next Friday, he goes back to the neurologist, who is the guy in charge of trying to diagnose Luke.  We'll be talking about his increased seizure activity, and getting the rest of his lab results.

One commenter recently suggested that we stop with all the appointments and just love him.  I feel that pursuing a diagnosis and getting him the best medical care possible and advocating for him is a form of love.

For the Display of His Splendor

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Special First Day of School Outfit

I think I've mentioned before that our dentist is next door to Hobby Lobby.  I recently took Josiah in for a cleaning and told him to come find me when he was finished.  I spent my free time wandering the aisles, getting craft inspiration left and right!  

When I saw the "2nd Grade" iron ons, I decided to make Hannah something special for the first day of school.

I chose a panda to go with it, and picked out a green shirt (bamboo, maybe?) to put them on.

After prewashing the shirt, I applied the iron ons.

It was about this point I decided she needed a panda skirt to go with the T-shirt.  And then I realized my mistake.  I would have had a LOT more fabric options if I'd gone with a black T-shirt instead of a green one.  I had to find panda fabric that was just black and white, with no other colors.  Easier said than done. has some cute panda prints, but they have other colors in them.

I ended up finding this cute print on ebay.  It reminds me of the panda in the Little Pim DVDs.

I used a Kwik Sew pattern for the skirt, which goes together super fast.  (In fact, I have high hopes of making a Very Hungry Caterpillar ensemble soon.)

Today is the first day of school.  I've already talked about how much I loathe the track system, so I won't go into how ridiculous it is to have school start on July 15.

After dropping Sam off at football practice, I came home and got Hannah ready for school.  It's still warm enough here to walk to school without jackets, so Katie and Luke came with us.

I peeked into her new classroom, not expecting to be allowed in, when so many parents were milling about in the quad.  Her new teacher, however, welcomed us in and let me get a picture.  She's right up front, where she can see the board, and the teacher can keep an eye on her.  (She tends to chatter.)  Many of her friends from last school year (which was all of 3 weeks ago!) are in her new class.

It was an emotional mama that walked home without my little girlie.  It's going so so fast.

We recently hit a very big adoption milestone.  We met Hannah when she was 3 years, 7 months old.  She's been part of our family for 3 years, 7 months.  From here on, she has been here longer than she was in China.

I love her so much.  It's such a blessing to get to be her mama and watch her grow.  The milestone days like today remind me to stop and be grateful that we've been allowed to be her family.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Family Movie Night - with a snack!

Big G Cereals has an awesome promotion going on right now!  Buy two specially marked packages of cereal, and get a FREE movie!  In a large family, a free movie is a super bargain entertainment!

When I stopped at the store to pick up my cereal, Reese's Puffs were the only ones available.  These are not something we normally buy, and my kids were SO excited to try them out.  The cereals participating in the promotion are:

Honey Nut Cheerios
Fruity Cheerios Frosted
Cheerios Lucky Charms
Reese's Puffs
Cocoa Puffs
Golden Grahams

I decided to mix them in popcorn (2 c cereal to 1/4 c unpopped kernels) to make them stretch, and use it as our movie snack.  There's also a yummy sounding recipe on the box for a Sweet & Salty Cereal Mix that sounds delicious.  If I can keep the kids out of the other box, we may have to give that a try.

You think they were excited??  Somehow, the bowl ended up with the strongest sibling.

Yup.  This was a winning snack.

As for the movie, the options are:
Night At the Museum
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Ice Age - Dawn of the Dinosaur
We Bought A Zoo
Mr Popper's Penguins
Home Alone 2 - Lost in New York
Dr Doolittle

We had seen several of these, so we decided to get Anastasia.

Please click here to learn more about this promotion, and a special thanks to General Mills Big G Cereals for sponsoring today's fun and post.


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Family, Community, and a Free Episode of Adventures in Odyssey

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 For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE! Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5! Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!


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