Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Our Week - with a Big Drive

This week has flown by in a blur.  Paul was out of town for a couple of days the end of last week at a big fire.  Monday, Jack and I went to the dentist.

Hannah and Katie have been hanging out in the school room, playing with some of our preschool fun stuff.  Hannah has the rice tray and Katie has the button sorting cups.

Remember when we reviewed the stacking pegs from 4Knowledge-4Fun?  Jack still pulls these out every couple of weeks.  They're a favorite with Brayden, too.  I thought I'd see what our little guests thought of them.  They loved pulling them out of the pegboard, and they liked bringing them to me to connect them to each other.  They also made great projectiles.

Miss Katie is working on getting all the ABCs in order!  Josiah was not happy that I chose to hang this right outside his bedroom door, because the bus makes noise, but it's a perfect spot for it in our playroom.  (If you're curious, I shared the components I used to set this up last week.)

We've also been working on puzzles this week.  I shared on Facebook a picture of the huge mound of pieces that resulted when our little friends dumped a couple dozen tray puzzles out.

They like the cat!  Silly Wheelie is not very good about getting away from them.  He's also not crazy about the new gates we've put up, since he's not a big fan of leaping any more.  Kitty is getting old.

We have to get outside early in the day if we're going to play out there, because it's been getting HOT here this week!

We got a postcard from Annaliese in Australia!  The best mail of the whole week.

So, you know how Chick Fil A does a customer appreciation day where you get free food for dressing up like a cow?  I had advance notice, and I still didn't finish these until 2 weeks after the event had passed.  Left to right:  Hannah's, Small Fry, Katie's.  I would have made 2 little ones, but I ran out of fabric.  Simple peasant dress patterns, with a little bit of black ruffled elastic on Hannah and Katie's, and little black & white bows on all 3 (I added one to K's after I took this picture).

Speaking of sewing!  We needed another pack & play sheet around here, so I whipped one up in bunny flannel.  You can see my how to make a pack & play sheet tutorial, if you're interested.

Only, I think I was working a little too fast, trying to get it done during nap time, because I accidentally sewed the elastic to the outside of the sheet instead of the inside.  I know no one will see it, but I still felt a little silly when I realized what I'd done.

Bath time!  The nice thing is, throwing all the toys out kept them occupied for a few minutes, and they tossed them all back into the tub after the bath was over.

We've been out the door early every day to take Sam to football practice.  One day, however, we went on a very big drive to send 4 of the kids off to camp!  

Josiah and Brianna went as teen helpers, and Jack and Hannah went as campers.  This is Hannah's first year going to camp, and first time going away from home without us.  Obviously, it's been harder on me than on her.  I slipped a little note into her glasses case when I packed up her stuff, so she'll know I'm thinking of her.  

After driving more than 300 miles on Thursday, we needed some down time on Friday, so we went to the park.  I love the way she goes down the slide!  I didn't teach her that.

It was rather warm, and Katie came up and said, "It's hot.  Can we go home now?"  So much for sitting and chatting with my friend!  I spent most of my time following the Little Ones around.  I splurged and bought them squeaky shoes to help me keep track of them.  It's like toddler mama echolocation.  

Hard to believe it's August already!  Just a little over 3 weeks until school starts!  Once the other kids get back from camp, it will be time to start getting ready in earnest.  I've done some uniform shopping, but I have a few gaps to fill in (like shoes!).  

If you haven't seen it yet, the Flexi of the Month for August is just lovely, and it comes in 2 colorways.  (affiliate link)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Do you ever wish you could go back and change a mistake you made in the past?  I think we all do.  I know I have.  Crazy Little Thing Called Love is the story of hope for those of us who've goofed.

Vanessa is engaged to Ted, a comfortable fit.  He's a doctor, she's a paramedic.  He's stable.  Predictable.  And he walks all over her feelings and desires when it comes to planning their wedding.  See, there's this medical conference, and it would be convenient if they got married while they were there.  After all, destination weddings have fewer guests, which would help keep the costs down, and they wouldn't have to go somewhere else for the honeymoon.  Yeah, I didn't like this guy, either.

But it seems Vanessa does, because she agrees to fly down to Florida, to a place where she, as a military brat, used to live, to plan the wedding part of things.

Only, while she's there, she runs into this guy she used to know.  Actually, they kinda sorta eloped during their senior year.  As so often happens in young, impetuous love, things didn't work out, and she hasn't seen him since their divorce 8 years ago.  She's not happy to see him now.

Logan, on the other hand, is thrilled to see Vanessa.  It's a sort of sweet torment for him, because he never stopped loving her.  He's going through his own stuff, and needs to make some decisions about his career, which is an unusual one.

The two are thrown together by a hurricane, literally.  Being forced to spend time together makes Logan hope they can rekindle what they had years ago, but Vanessa is still wounded over how things fell apart at the end.

I really enjoyed this book.  In fact, I even took it to the dentist with me, so I could read during the waiting times.

One part that really stood out to me was when Vanessa is talking with her friend Mindy, and Mindy asks her what she believes about God.  Vanessa's reply is:  "I believe he must not love me enought to let me have a lasting relationship."  Now, in her case, some of that feeling goes back to having to move every couple years as a child, at the whims of the military, and how difficult it was for her to make and keep friends.  But I think we all have felt that way at some point.  God doesn't love me enough to heal my child.  Or God doesn't love me as much as He loves the "in crowd" at church.  Or God doesn't love me enough to give me ________.  Whatever it is.

While the book is not overtly preachy at all, this particular nugget was a great reminder to challenge those feelings of insecurity with the truth of scripture.

Author Beth K. Vogt has done a great job crafting a sweet story with realistic and personable characters.  You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Buy the book on Amazon.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

With Lee In Virginia

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this special package that arrived in our mail recently.  

I took this "secret weapon" with us on our big road trip to Nevada earlier this month:  With Lee in Virginia, the latest audio drama from Heirloom Audio.  I was so thrilled to be selected to review it.  We really enjoyed reviewing Under Drake's Flag and In Freedom's Cause, also from Heirloom, so we had high expectations for With Lee in Virginia.

It did not disappoint.  In fact, the riveting story line kept the entire family silent and spell bound for well over 2 hours, causing the miles to fly by painlessly.  This was pretty impressive, considering there were 10 people in our van!

The star studded cast included Kirk Cameron, Sean Astin, Brian Blessed, Chris Anthony, Kelsey Lansdowne, and Jim Weiss.  One fascinating little tidbit for you...  Kirk Cameron's twelve year old son, James, plays the role of Will Upton, with father and son working together for the first time.

Heirloom Audio does an incredibly professional production.  They take timeless classic books by G. A. Henty and turn them into radio dramas that are exciting, entertaining, and accessible.  The sound effects were fabulous, and I have to confess, the story made me tear up a couple of times.  (I cry at just about everything these days.)

We received the 2 CD set in tri-fold case, along with online access to the downloadable study guide.  The study guide is a great way to really delve deeper into understanding the story.  It features not just discussion questions, but also words to define.  I've noticed with my kids, they just sort of mentally skip words they don't yet understand, and when we take the time to define them, I can see the light go on for them.  It's like when the teens see a movie again that they used to watch all the time as little kids, and suddenly they "get" so much more of what's going on.  They catch little things they hadn't understood before.

The impressive study guide also contains biographical information on some of the real life main characters in the story, as well as maps, links and historical photographs and drawings.  With Lee in Virginia would be an excellent addition to a homeschool study of American history or the Civil War era.  The study guide helps parents navigate discussion of challenging topics like towns and even families divided by Northern and Southern loyalties, and also slavery, and the ramifications of slave ownership for individual people.  The thought provoking questions could easily lead to a full unit study.

The G. A. Henty books are great "boy stories."  Tales of bravery and honor.  Real men of history, doing the right thing in the face of adversity.  I'm so glad that we can listen to these stories that are perfect for Jack, even though he's not reading at this level yet.

I can't wait to see what the folks at Heirloom Audio bring us next!  You can connect with Heirloom Audio on Facebook, G+ and Twitter.  You can also follow With Lee in Virginia on Facebook.  Read what other Crew families have to say about With Lee in Virginia by clicking the box below.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Bride at Last book review and #giveaway

One of my favorite parts about blogging is all the great books I get to share with you.  Today's book, A Bride at Last, is historical fiction.  It's hard to imagine in this day and age of "instant everything" a world in which mail order brides could even be a thing.  That is the era of our story.

Schoolteacher Kate befriends a local mother and child, and when the mom dies, she wants to care for young Anthony.  Except 2 men step forward claiming to be his father.  This book takes us through their attempts to establish paternity in the court, and the hesitant friendship that develops between Kate and Silas, one of the two men.

I enjoyed this book, and would have no qualms about my teen daughter reading it, as well.  It is actually book 3 of the Unexpected Brides series, but can be read on it's own, as I did.  Having read this one, however, I found my interest piqued at the description of book 2, A Bride in Store, so I may have to go back and read the first two.

Can Silas and Kate overcome their rocky start and experience healing—and possibly love? Discover the answer in Melissa Jagears' new book, A Bride at LastNeither Kate nor Silas is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light as they attempt to prove nine-year-old Anthony's paternity to the court. Can their wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever?

Celebrate the release of A Bride at Last by entering to win a $100 Memory-Making giveaway and RSVPing to Melissa's August 4th author chat party!

bride at last-400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 gift card to Netflix (for a family movie night), Shutterfly (to create a family memory book), or TablePlayGames (for a family game night)
  • One copy of A Bride at Last
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/4. The winner will be announced at Melissa's 8/4 A Bride at Last Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Melissa and fiction fans, as well as for a chance to win some great prizes!

bride at last-enterbanner

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our Week - with a Visit to Shriners

We've been busy this week!  I love summertime.  The more relaxed pace gives the kids so much opportunity for free play, and it's fun to see what they come up with.

The cat was feeling neglected.  He's not normally one to aggressively pursue affection, but maybe I don't realize how often I pet him ordinarily.  He needed a little reassurance that the toddlers who chase him around haven't taken up all my energy and attention.

The teens developed a new game:  Fishing For Toddlers.  They're a little bit like kittens, the way they're fascinated with the moving bright paracord.

These dresses from Zulily were supposed to be the girls dresses for church 4th of July weekend, but they ended up not arriving in time, so they wore them this week instead.  I can't get over how lucky I am to be their mama.

Containers are a toddler favorite.  Putting things in and dumping them out again is a fun pastime.

We've been playing outside, too.  Hannah can just barely pedal her big wheel now.  I would really love to find a bike-ish sort of thing that works for her.

This is my Pinned It and Did It for the summer.  One drip pan, 4 Command strips, and a set of LeapFrog magnets have generated all sorts of spelling play.  (affiliate links)  Katie is working on singing the ABCs, and still learning to identify letter names and sounds.  I am hoping this will be a fun way to help with that.

I was concerned about the automatic doors on the waiting room, but they were so good about staying in.  And yes, I am having fun dressing them.  A lot of fun.

This week, I decided we needed a couple of new noisy toys in the house.

Turns out, I should have gotten 2 of the same thing instead of 2 different ones.  We're working on the fine art of taking turns.

This was incredibly sweet.  They were bringing me stuffed animals and playsilks so I could wrap up their babies for them.

I love love love watching my teens with the babies.  Last night, Josiah and Sam each carried one out to the van for me.  There's something so endearing about watching young men be gentle with little ones.  A couple times now, Sam has gotten into the play yard and let them climb all over him.  They love it!  The toddlers light up when they see my boys.

Guess who came over to play this week?  We haven't seen Brayden in a while, so it was great to have him here for the day.

This is a cool stacking toy that I got from 4Knowledge-4Fun a while back!  Right after I snapped the picture, Little One toppled it over, of course.  I like the way it can be stacked in any order, not just cone shaped, like most stackers.  And there's no center post (which in my house would turn into a hammer or weapon).  It was really nice to be able to welcome our Small Guests with a brand new toy that I'd tucked away.

Eli has been making new K'nex creations again.  This one is a pickup with a helipad.  He comes up with the most interesting designs.  He also did a hand grenade and a large helicopter this week.

I took Katie and Hannah to Shriners this week to get checked up on by their surgeon.  Both girls needed adjustments to their prosthetics.  Katie got the good news that she no longer needs to wear her AFO (brace) on her formerly clubbed foot at night time!  I'm so grateful that her foot and ankle are in such good shape, despite not being corrected until she was 3 years old.  For our family, club foot has been a super easy special need.

Actually, limb differences in general has been quite manageable.  Each of the girls has had one surgery, and we visit Shriners every few months, but on a daily basis, they're just kids.  Kids clowning around while they wait for their legs to come back from the prosthetist.  I'm amazed at Hannah's upper body strength!

When we were done, we were told there was free ice cream out front, so we went to check it out.

Turns out, Uber was there giving away Three Twins ice cream cups and other swag to promote their business. That was a fun treat!

On the way home, we had a dragonfly land on our antenna.  Hannah asked me how many types of dragonflies there are in the whole world.  I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of internet searches with her homeschooling this year.  (5000, if you're curious.)

This week we hit one month with our Little Visitors.  I have found having them here to be healing to my mama heart.  Being sought out for affection, being the recipient of spontaneous snuggles has gone a long way. These things and more are helping me realize that the "perks" of caring for small children are what make it worthwhile, and it's just amazingly hard work when those perks aren't there.  Luke turned 4 this week, and we sent a gift and got a picture of him with it.  I feel good about his placement.  He's being well cared for, and I hope that, against all odds, he can make some progress there.

Less than one month until school starts now!  I ordered Eli's backpack this week.  And we got some cool school supplies from BzzAgent, too!  Eli snagged The Big Pen and claimed it for his own right away.  We're looking forward to checking out the rest of the Designed By Students line at Staples.

Aside from Hannah's math, all of our curriculum is here waiting for our first day.  I don't know what that first day will look like yet, since I don't know if I'll still be entertaining toddlers at that point or not.  But I suspect that one day that first week will involve stopping at the donut shop after we drop the teens off at school to celebrate.

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