April 30, 2014

April 2014 Family Update

At the beginning of April I had a 1-day work trip out to Phoenix but I tacked on a trip to Dallas before returning home. It was so great to visit with Kelly (and the fam) and I got to meet Owen, my first Facetime doula baby. Snuggling him was just what I needed to fix my baby fever.
On the homeschool front, things are still going well. We snuck in a few field trips this month to the Hermitage, Nashville Children's Theatre, the Science Center, Kaleidoscope and Belle Meade Plantation. We are taking our time finishing up 1st grade but I'm already thinking about curriculum for 2nd grade.
I'm getting a little anxious about going to Uganda. Mainly it's the thought of being away from my people for 2 weeks that has me all jittery. But, the plane tickets have been purchased so there's no backing out now. Ha! Truly, I'm excited to have this opportunity and thankful that the Lord is providing the funds for me to go. If you were planning to donate but it slipped your mind, it's not too late. You can donate through the Paypal link online. You can also make a tax-deductible donation by sending a check to the address below and earmarking it for Staci Bishop.

Mercy for Mamas  |  1604 Prairie Run Circle  | Mulvane, KS 67110

We had a lovely Easter weekend. In fact, it was quite possibly my favorite weekend of the year so far. The weather was gorgeous and warm. We spent so much time outside putting in the garden and going to the TDF egg hunt. We also headed downtown to visit Riverfront Park for the 1st time. Oh my goodness, I love that place! So urban. And because I know you are wondering, that's our buddy Ledarrin. He lives down the street.
We had a laid-back Easter morning worshipping at home and then headed to Grandmas for lunch with the family and activities with the kids. Our new favorite game is using the hardboiled, dyed eggs in a friendly little game of whiffle ball. It was hilarious, as I'm sure you can imagine!
That's about it for April. Next month I'm going to be teaching a nYn lip balm class to help fund my trip to Uganda. If you've ever wanted to pick my brain about natural health, wellness, herbs, and/or essential oils, here's your chance. ;)
For more April photos, click here.

April 2014 in Pictures

Don't forget to check out our monthly update for details.
 My Dallas Peeps
 Audio Tour of The Hermitage
 My nYn Doulas
 Children's Theatre
 Rock Wall at Cumberland Park
 This is what happens when you try to let tLG take a photo. We ended up with a selfie instead!
 A beautiful Saturday!
 The "Cousins" on Easter
 We finally retired the teal boots after 2 years of fashion statements. 
 Planting our berry bushes on Earth Day
Baby Birds. Spring is here. 

I hate running

I hate running.

Like, almost as much as winter.

So when hubby suggested we do the Couch to 5K program together, I laughed and said "naw!" in my best Jase Robertson impression.

He explained that it's just quick little bursts of jogging with lots of walking in between.

I reminded him that I do hot yoga because I hate running. And pretty much every other form of exercise known to man. It makes me sore and achy. I don't like sore and achy.

He said it's only 30 minutes a day 3 times a week and I will be ready to run a 5K in just 8 short weeks.

I adamantly replied that I don't need to run a 5K. I'm not a runner. I don't even "get" why people run for fun.

He says he will do it with me and the app is free.

I think he needs to work on his sales pitch but I did give him points for appealing to my frugal side. At this point, a little voice in my head reminded me that I'm going to Uganda in about 6 weeks and we will be doing a lot of walking. A lot. Since I sit in a chair at a desk all day, it might be a good idea to get prepared for that.

I asked if I can listen to music while I run.

He says I can make my own playlist.

I download the app just to make sure he's telling the truth while simultaneously thinking about half-price milkshakes at Sonic.

Later, I come downstairs dressed in my yoga clothes and sneakers. Yes, it looks as ridiculous as it sounds and we all had a big laugh about it. You should also know that my tennis shoes are white Adidas (yes, white) which probably means they were purchased in the 90s. Go ahead. Laugh. It's okay. I never claimed to be a runner.

So I ran, or rather haphazardly jogged in 60-second spurts. And I didn't die. Best of all, my sweet hubby who had already completed Day 1 was waiting outside for me when I turned the corner to come home.

I told him it wasn't terrible but I think I'm gonna need new sports bras and shoes if I'm going to keep this up but at least my tight fitting yoga clothes kept all the other things that bounce in place. I hate running. That was the most positive thing I could think of to say about the experience.

C25K Day 1 - check! 

And to ensure that I was not sore and achy I promptly took a hot bath with epsom salt and eucalyptus essential oil.

We'll see how long this lasts. Ha!

April 29, 2014

Trick For Laminating Small Pieces

Last week I showed you how we are using colored pieces of paper to help with English lessons in our homeschool. I wanted to share a quick tip that I learned while laminating the strips.

There is nothing more frustrating than getting all of your pieces lined up on the laminating sheet only to have them shift once you try to slide it into the machine.

My solution? 

Hair spray. 

Specifically, the aerosol kind. I opened up the laminating sheet and gave it a quick spray before laying down my pieces. It was just enough tack to keep the pieces in place as I folded the top over and moved it into the machine. 

I was afraid that it would cause some discoloration on the back of the paper but there were no problems whatsoever. 

Now that I know this little trick, I might laminate a few more things!

April 28, 2014

[REVIEW] Forces of Nature (National Geographic)

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We've recently become members of the Adventure Science Center. As a part of our package, we received complimentary tickets to the Sudekum Planetarium. I checked the movie options and thought that Forces of Nature by National Geographic looked pretty neat. Boy was I wrong. So, here's my review in hopes that it will better prepare you for the show since I didn't even think about looking up a preview before we attended.

For starters, if you believe in the biblical story of Creation, this movie presents a completely different picture. Within 10 seconds I burst out laughing at the absurdity of their explanation of how the earth was formed. Basically, the first 5 minutes left me and my hubby rolling our eyes. We had some explaining to do with tLG on the way home.

The documentary discusses volcanos, earthquakes, and tornados. The information they gave about each of these phenomena where pretty accurate from what I can tell. However, they paint the earth as a scary and volatile place. If you live near a volcano or along a known fault line, I'm sure this is possibly true but the film gave the impression that we should always be in fear of what the earth is going to do next. Not cool if you ask me.

I'm not sure if all of their movies are this way, but this one would not be good for those who are prone to motion sickness. I had to close my eyes quite a few times to make the dizziness stop.

The movie lasts about 45 minutes and I was pretty much thrilled when it was over. We had a great time together at the science center but I kinda wish we had chosen a different movie.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

April 24, 2014

Homeschool Lessons with Colored Paper

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After attending the session with This Reading Mama at TTD Day #1 I came away with several great ideas and asked my mother-in-law to be on the lookout for deals on sticky notes or notepaper. She got us this awesome block of note paper from Staples and I've already put it to good use.
First up was an I'm Bored Basket. I went through the house and wrote down every possible thing that could be played with or done to provide entertainment. Now, when I hear "I'm bored" guess who gets to draw out a square of paper and complete that activity.
I also cut the squares into strips and wrote down lots of nouns that we can use for our English lessons. I used this list to help me get started. So far we have used them in a variety of different ways.

a vs. an - In this lesson she had to sort whether she should use "a" or "an" before the word.
nouns - In this lesson she had to sort whether it was a person, place or thing. Then we turned it into a math lesson where she created a tally chart of her findings.
alphabetize - This one is kind of self explanatory.
I love that there are so many colors to this block of note paper! I think next we are moving to verbs and it will be great to have those in a new color to show the difference between the parts of speech.

April 22, 2014

[REVIEW] Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant Trilogy (Veronica Roth)

Divergent Trilogy
Veronica Roth
A few weeks ago I devoured Divergent and then promptly saw the movie. Since then, I have powered my way through the 2 other books in the series. These are my thoughts on the entire story line. I've tried not to give too many spoilers even through I discuss all 3 books.

To read my full review on Divergent (the book and the movie) click here.

Divergent     I couldn't put this book down. Much of the story follows Beatrice's initiation into Dauntless, which is quite intense, as told from her point of view. It becomes evident from the start that there is a strong connection between Four and Tris which turns into a romantic story line carried throughout the entire series. There is an interesting plot twist near the end when, basically, all hell breaks loose. This book ends immediately following the chaos.

Insurgent     The story line picks up immediately where it left off. Turns out there is little time for peace before a different type of chaos ensues in an attempt to correct the original catastrophe from Divergent. I wasn't a huge fan of this book. I felt like the author repeated Tris' grieving thoughts over and over again to the point where they became annoying. In the first book she was so strong and sure of herself but this plot line made her seem feeble and weak. The relationship between Tris and Four is also strained for a good part of the book, which just made me frustrated. This story ends with a supposed big "ah-ha" moment but I felt the announcement was rather lack luster. It didn't add up!

Allegiant     Since the ending of Insurgent made no sense, I picked up Allegiant looking for answers. This is the longest book in the series and it didn't really pull me in until around Chapter 15. By the middle of the book I was just as confused as Four. At every turn it seems our characters have been given false information and, as the reader, it was getting hard to keep it all straight. I wasn't quite sure who the good guys and the bad guys were. This book also switches narrator between chapters going back and forth between Tris and Four. While it was interesting to get into Four's mind, I would read pages of his chapters still thinking the narrator was Tris. There was also a total flip flop between character qualities as well. In book 2, Four was strong, Tris was weak. In the final story Four is the one having trouble and Tris seems to have her heroine persona back again. By the end of the series, even though it didn't end the way I had anticipated, most of my questions had been answered.

Overall, I would recommend the series.

For starters, they are being turned into movies, which is always good motivation. While I took issue with some of the author's writing style, it was still a good plot line and I enjoyed the story. It has all the things you need in a series: romance, suspense, friendship, humor, and surprises! As always, once I reach the end of a series it's hard for me to let go. I want to know more about the characters and what happens to them in the future. This trilogy was no exception. Can't wait to see it played out on the big screen! IMDB currently shows them on schedule to be released in 2015 (Insurgent) and 2016 (Allegiant - Part 1), but both are currently in a pre-production status. IMDB is usually pretty accurate so it appears they will split the last book into 2 films, which brings up the question.... "where in the world will they make the break?"

April 15, 2014

Why I'm Opting Out of Easter Service

I still remember Easter morning of 2012. I often remember the bad moments more than the good. It's something I'm trying to change, but this particular morning was SO disastrous that it still lingers in my mind two years later.

On that day, I somehow managed to get out of the house and to the church but not before fighting with my husband, spanking my daughter, and seething with frustration and discontentment. I happily abandoned took my daughter to her Sunday School class and then marched walked right back to my car and sobbed for the entire church service. Whoever wrote the lyrics "easy like Sunday morning" has clearly never attempted to go to church.

As you may have guessed, my house was clearly under the attack of Satan on that morning and I swore that I wouldn't let it happen again. It was so bad that I went as far as putting this "appointment" on my calendar for 2013. Y'all it was BAD!

My journal entry for that day reads...

"I vow to NEVER try to go to church again on the seemingly religious-all-for-show Sundays."

... and I was dead serious. Easter is a busy day with lots of expectations. On that infamous morning I was dealing with a basket of candy that my daughter can't eat (dye sensitivities) and trying to get all of us looking photo ready because it's Easter for goodness sake and preparing two casseroles for the big family get together that we were going to be late to because we had to go to church first. I don't like to be late. I'm type A, without a doubt. The thought of going through all of that hoopla only to arrive at church and unable to find my seat because of the-only-show-up-for-Easter-service folks... well, it was just icing on the cake. Trust me, I know how selfish I sound. In typical Murphy's Law fashion, I had a few kinks thrown into my plan and I was fit to be tied. You can take the girl out of the South but you can't take the Bama out of the girl. Basically, I had placed too many lofty expectations on the day that were neither holy nor obtainable. But I was determined, by god. Naturally, this was my first mistake. It all seems so clear, now.

I had to figure out a way to prevent this from happening again so, in 2013, I decided to opt out of Easter service. This went against everything I wanted. I love the Easter service at our church, which is unique because I've pretty much hated Easter Sunday services my whole life. Too much focus on the harsh reality of the crucifixion for my taste. But at TDF, they focus on the celebration of the risen Christ. Isn't that what Easter is about anyway? It's the amazing revelation that our Creator overcame DEATH and provided a way for us to be with Him in eternity. He made a way so that all of my mistakes are not only forgiven, but forgotten, and will be that way as long as I continue to make them. Which, let's face it, I screw up on a daily basis even when I'm trying my best not to. Darn you sin nature. Grace, on the other hand, is a beautiful thing!

So, I was sad that I would be missing that little pep rally. I desperately wanted to just pray a hedge of protection around my family so that I could be a part of that celebration. Ultimately, it wasn't just about getting to church. It was about solving all of the other expectations I had placed on the day. Therefore, I held firm to my decision to opt out and it was one of the better choices I've made in life.

My solution? I decided to bring "church" to me. I wanted to share the celebration of this special day with my family with no expectations and less hustling and bustling. So, last year, we woke up and snuggled in bed and opened Easter baskets (this time with carefully selected dye-free candies). Then we headed downstairs to worship in my daughter's love language: Art & Music!
She and I had such a sweet time working on six craft stations and singing & dancing to the Contemporary Christian music station on Uverse. Then we were able to leisurely get ready for our big family get together. I had already made up my mind that we didn't have to be picture perfect or wear fancy, new dresses which was also a relief on the budget and tLG who despises dresses. I didn't have to stay up late the night before or wake at the crack of dawn to prepare my casseroles either. Besides, God doesn't care if I worship in my pajamas. Bless Him! It was one of the best Easters I can remember. I only wish that I had thought of it sooner.

I can't wait to do it again this year! Here is my Easter Pinterest board where I'm saving up new arts & crafts ideas for this Sunday. I'm particularly excited about this one.
I know that opting out of Easter service is potentially a controversial choice. I am so thankful for the many childcare volunteers, staff, choir members, greeters, AV team, and many more who make the choice to be there to share the celebration of our risen Savior with all who come. I'm even thankful for those who only come on this one Sunday and sit in my seat because they need Jesus too. It also provided me an opportunity to re-evaluate my motives, which were clearly in need of attention. Seriously, thank you!

Once upon a time my "word of the year" was SIMPLIFY. This holiday had gotten so out of control in my little world that it needed a major overhaul and simplification was the only way to solve the dilemma.

Maybe one day we will go back to church on Easter. Maybe one day I will be the childcare volunteer or the greeter for Easter service. But, for now, I love our new little tradition and am looking forward to celebrating Easter at home for a while.

I hope that you and your family have a meaningful Easter whether you choose the hustle & bustle route or the laid-back version. In the meantime, I'll try not to envy those of you who have figured out the happy medium. For those of you who put on the front that you have it all together on Easter when your morning really looks like mine did 2 years ago, you have permission to opt out at any time.

Blessings to you!

April 14, 2014

[REVIEW] Growing Up Duggar (Jana, Jill, Jessa & Jinger Duggar)

Growing Up Duggar
By: Jana, Jill, Jessa & Jinger Duggar
Preview Here
I was so excited when I learned that the four oldest Duggar girls were writing a book. I can't quite seem to get enough of this family and I was interested to know more about how the day-to-day details of how they make it work. On the flip side, I wondered if what these young 20-somethings would have anything to say that would resonate with this mid 30-something working mom. Let me just say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I borrowed this book from the library but I quickly realized that I'm going to have to purchase it. There were so many times while reading that I felt the need to highlight and underline some of the principals they follow.

Growing Up Duggar is broken down into 8 sections and focuses on your relationships with yourself, parents, siblings, friends, guys, culture, your country, and the world. To be so young, they all seem to be mature beyond their years and this is reflected in their writing and how they portray their message.

As a recent homeschooling mom, I've been on the hunt for curriculum. After reading this book I wish the Duggars would create a curriculum for how to raise a family. They share many resources in their books and this one is no different. However, Jim Bob and Michelle just seem to come up with the neatest little "tricks of the trade" to teach their children and capture their hearts. I gleaned so much from this book that I hope to start implementing in our home very soon. In fact, step 1 is to get my hubby to read the book so that we can get on the same page.

I'll admit, part of the Duggar lifestyle seems pretty ultra-conservative but reading it from the girl's perspective made it all click and make sense for me. I was never 100% sold on the whole courtship philosophy, until now. Reading about the practice in detail made me think back to my high school and college days. There are relationships that I wish I wouldn't have started. I feel like the courtship model they use would have saved me a ton of heartache.

It was eye-opening to read from their point of view. They were so open and honest. They genuinely want young girls to develop a love for the Lord and experience the peace that comes from His plan for their life. I was certainly inspired by them and I'm guessing you will be too. I would definitely recommend this book for girls of all ages and especially parents of daughters.

April 10, 2014

[REVIEW] Chore Monster App

I first learned about the Chore Monster app on Day 3 of the Teach Them Diligently Conference. It was one of the first things I implemented upon my return and we are L-O-V-I-N-G it!

For starters, this is an easy way to keep the chores organized. I don't have to make any Pinterest-inspired charts. There are no stickers or checkmarks to keep up with. It's all managed from my phone and tLG checks off her chores from her iPad. It can also be managed from your computer.

I can set up individual chores and put them on a schedule for once a week, once a day or anything in between. Chores can be set with an alert at a certain time of day. If they aren't completed on that day, they show up to be done first on the next day. There is also a "skip chore" option that I use when we are traveling or if she is sick. I also love that you can use pictures with the chores, which would be super helpful for little ones.

I took the things I learned from Crystal Paine and we started using Chore Monster in the following way.

  1. The first time a chore needs to be done I have tLG watch me perform the task. I talk about each step involved. 
  2. The second time around, I have her complete the chore while I remind her of the steps. 
  3. The third time, I have her tell me the steps and complete the chore while I'm close at hand. 
  4. At this point I turn her loose to complete the chore on her own or call me if she needs help. 

Chore Monster has an "approval" option where I can check to see that the chore was completed before awarding points. Crystal encouraged us to praise and praise whatever we see done correctly and help them to perfect the parts they struggled with, always staying encouraging and up beat. Once the child has proven they can do the chore and be accountable, you can change the setting to automatically award points. At this point in time I am no longer checking the mail or feeding the dog. These responsibilities have been completely turned over to tLG and she is doing a fantastic job!

We were on an allowance system before so we've set up the chores to reward on that same type of scale. For example, feeding the dog is worth $0.25 so I set up Chore Monster to award 25 points for that activity. Her reward options are based on dollar amounts. For example, my kiddo is literally DYING to have the computer version of Minecraft so she can join SKRAFTY (secretly, I want it too because they have homeschool classes). She is currently saving up 2000 points ($20) to earn this reward. It's taken her a few weeks, which teaches perseverance as well! 

Another feature of Chore Monster is using raffle tickets to spin & win monsters at the carnival. Kids earn 1 ticket per chore completed so there is an added incentive to do chores.

Overall, we have had a wonderful experience with Chore Monster. Getting tLG to help with things around the house has never been easier. I'm serious! It's been a breeze. It's a FREE app and I would encourage you to try it out at your house too!

Note: I am not an affiliate for Chore Monster. I simply enjoy sharing tools that work! 

April 4, 2014

[REVIEW] Divergent (Veronica Roth) - Book & Movie

By: Vernoica Roth
Preview Here
I've mentioned a few times before that I only like to read fiction books that I know are being made into movies. It is what it is.

I've put off reading Divergent mostly because I read Hunger Games and hated it and heard this series was similar. My dear friend, from A Southern Ruckus, tried to convince me otherwise but I wasn't having it. Until I saw the trailer and decided she might be right. It's the movie thing, I swear.
So, I read this book cover to cover in just a few days. My hubby on the other hand knocked it out in one. He keeps trying to say he's not a fast reader. Whatever.

This series was SO much better than Hunger Games, in my humble opinion.

Yes, they are a divided population and each faction has one key job/attribute they focus on. The difference is they have a choice of where they want to belong. Also, the government isn't oppressive. They really are trying to keep peace among the factions.

Divergent follows the story of Tris, a 16-year-old girl who has reached her day of choosing. Instead of declaring loyalty to her home faction of Abnigation (selfless) she chooses Dauntless (brave) but her aptitude test reveals that she also has tendencies for Erudite (intelligent). The combination is called Divergent. The population has been taught to fear divergence because they don't always conform to one way of thinking, which is what keeps the current system of peace in check.

The plot chronicles Tris' initiation into her new faction, her attempt to keep her aptitude a secret, as well as the relationships she forms among her peers and, in particular, with her instructor. Things get really interesting when one of the factions gets a little too big for their britches and tries to take over. Guess who turns out to be the hero and the heroine.... exactly!

This past weekend we also popped over to see the movie. I usually maintain that the books are always better than the movie. In this case, I kinda disagree. The basic plot of the movie was the same but there were some key conversations that were altered, especially in the simulations that the initiates must go through. It actually made more sense the way they played it out in the movie. I didn't appreciate that the ending was changed. I think it would have been just as exciting if it had played out exactly as it did in the original story. Alas, Hollywood disagreed so we had some alternations and thus they will have to make some alterations in the next movie as well.

It's always interesting to see who is cast as characters and if their physical attributes line up to they way I perceive them as I'm reading. In the case of Four, they totally nailed it with Theo James. Major mysterious personality and hard-core hotness alert! And he is all tatted up. Mercy!
Overall, both the book and the movie were very exciting! As a parental note there is quite a bit of violence but surprisingly little language in either one. I usually have a weak stomach for violence but I was able to tolerate the movie pretty easily. I'm giving Divergent two thumbs up in either media.

Up next, Insurgent. Too bad we have to wait until 2015 for that movie.