Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Blessing to you & your family from my children & I this Christmas season!


Chili Soup

It's that time of year that a comforting soup just hits the spot! The other week, my kids asked if I could make some chili soup. I've made chili before which they love, but never in soup form. So I was tickled to have a reason to try out a new recipe! And let me tell ya, it was a hit! This was also a simple recipe to throw together and even better, it freezes well. You can make adjustments to suit your taste. I made ours with a little bit of spice to it as the kids like spicy food. I also topped my bowl with mozzarella cheese, diced red onion and cilantro (I ♥ that stuff!)

Chili Soup

Homemade Kinetic Sand

You all have seen that moon sand in the store, right? It's a cool product but it is SO expensive for the small amount you get. Especially when your kiddo is going to spill some of it and it ends up in the trash.

My teens love looking on Pinterest for activities to do with the littles. Sarah saw a recipe to make a homemade version of moon sand using just 2 ingredients. So I told her to go ahead and give it a shot (I was busy nursing the baby so I didn't get to snap any pics as she mixed it). But she said it was super easy and came together in just a matter of minutes.

kinetic sand

Christmas Love Letters from God - Giveaway

I can hardly believe we are already entering the Christmas season! The temperatures have dropped and Christmas music is already playing on the radio. My kids and I have been talking about some of our favorite holiday traditions as well as brainstorming new ideas.

One new tradition this year has come in the form of a newly released book to read to my younger children. A special book about Jesus' birth!

2 years ago I had the blessing to correspond with author, Glenys Nellist, when she wrote the book Love Letters from God. A year later, she wrote the book Little Love Letters from God. I am excited to introduce her latest children's book in her Love Letters collection entitled "Christmas Love Letters from God".

Saving Money with Groupon Coupon

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Groupon has been around for quite some time but they have really expanded what they offer over the years. It used to be that most people used Groupon for saving money while eating out. Did you know they also have a section called Groupon Coupon? NOW you can save money pretty much every day on many things you are shopping for!

Commissioned Board Game Review

Ever since my children were little, I always said I wanted a huge game closet. Each year our family adds a few new games to it as we LOVE playing games! We have all sorts of games for ages little to adult. We recently got to try out a game that is new to the market called Commissioned from Chara Games.


And They are 17. . .

Friday October 21st was my twins, Sarah & Susan's 17th birthday! They started the day with their weekly science class with friends but then had the afternoon to look forward to. They had off work and had 2 of their friends over to hang out and carve pumpkins.

Fun-Time Phonics- Review

Olivia has been a budding reader from quite early on. She enjoys working on learning phonics in a variety of methods. Recently, she had the chance to try out Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download from The Critical Thinking Co.™.  This is a software download for Windows which means you don't need the internet to use the program. Fun-Time Phonics is part of the "Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™" bundle which offers several downloadable programs to help prepare your pre-K student for Kindergarten. You can also download these programs as apps in iTunes and Google Play.

Accountable2You- Review

We all know how beneficial the internet is these days. Unless you are living under a rock, pretty much everyone uses it in some form daily. Just as there are many positives to having internet access at your finger tips, we also know there are some pretty harmful things out there, not only for kids but adults as well. While there are filtering programs that can be used, another way to protect ourselves is by using a form of accountability. We recently had a chance to try out a Family Plan from Accountable2You.

Saving Money with Groupon Goods

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own.

You all know I am big into saving money any way possible. Whether it's on household items, food, even gifts, I never pay full price. Did you know Groupon helps save you money on more than just eating out? I recently heard about Groupon Goods and boy was I surprised at all the deals I could find!!

click on photo to enlarge

Personalized Name Gifts- CrossTimber Review and Giveaway

One of the exciting things about having children is the extensive thought that goes into choosing their names. Each of my 8 children's names has a unique meaning or characteristic as to why we chose it. One thing they all have in common is that either their first or middle name came from the Bible as Biblical meanings are very important to us. My kids have enjoyed collecting different items over the years that have their personalized name on it such as key chains from foreign countries. Recently, we were introduced to CrossTimber, a family run company, whose delight is making custom name gifts! We were given a gift certificate towards a Personalized Frame Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, though we were encouraged to either choose that gift or select something else from their selection of personalized name art.

My Daughter Rocks CVS Deals

I know I've shared lately about all the great deals we've gotten from CVS as well as explaining just how I do it. But in case you need more convincing that you too can do this just as good as my 15 year old can, here are her deals from last week and yesterday.

Wave of Light 2016

October is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. A time set aside to remember all babies that died during pregnancy or early infancy. October 15th is the specific day where many have special gatherings and activities to honor babies gone to soon. At 7pm in every time zone, there is a Wave of Light. This is for everyone around the world to light a candle for at least an hour in memory of their baby.

Every year I light at least one, if not several, candles in memory of my sweet Noah as well as many of my friends babies.

Eye of the Storm

I've been listening to this song a lot lately. I wish I could say more as to why but needless to say I'm clinging to these words and the promises in the Bible. Especially Psalm 37. God's truth always prevails over sin!!!!

Awesome CVS Deals This Week

Most of you know how I am a bargain shopper and for quite sometime, CVS has been my go to place to stock up on a lot of health and beauty items such as toothpaste, shampoo & conditioner, deodorant, etc. I outline how I do this in a previous post.

Well this week we totally rocked the deals. My sidekick Hannah, has taken over for me this year as I've been quite busy with the baby. She sits down to figure out deal scenarios, finds the coupons, looks up the different rebate apps on my phone and combining all of the above, she figures out just how to get things almost free!!! She has done an amazing job this year  in helping me save a ton of money.

This is the picture today of everything that we got (click on to enlarge):

Thankful for Friends. . .


. . . who stand by me no matter what! Today is one of those days that would be better ignored due to some sad situations but I have been uplifted in prayer by many, received a few texts that made me smile, had a dear soul sister meet me for a long lunch and came home to find that my best friend sent me gorgeous flowers that will soon bloom. Thank you especially Ashlee and Jes for making me feel special and celebrated today!! It means more than you know!!!


Next time Jes, we SO need to take a selfie together!!! Love you!

A dear friend reminded me of Psalm 37 to read and meditate on. It's been an encouragement to me lately and maybe will uplift you as well!

Safe Email for Kids- Review

In today's world, everyone needs to eventually use email at some point. It used to be you didn't need an address until you were older but now many kids need them for accessing online classes, work, etc. It doesn't matter what email program you use, you almost always get inundated with spam, many times spam that you don't want your children seeing. We recently were introduced to KidsEmail.org, a safe email program especially for kids and teens. We were given an Annual Subscription to review.

CHSH- Curriculum Download Club- Review

I don't know about you, but over the years as I found resources for homeschool online, I would bookmark them in a certain folder on my computer. When Pinterest came along, I created a board to save certain printables. Both though can be time consuming and hard to find when you want specific subjects. We recently had the chance to review CHSH Download Club from  CHSH-Teach.com. (CHSH stands for Christian Homeschool Hub).

Apologia Astronomy 2nd Edition Review

Over the course of our 12 years of homeschooling, we've switched up the curriculum we've used for different subjects. Except one. We have been huge fans of Apologia Educational Ministries science curriculum and have used it from our elementary years all the way through to high school. We've gone through almost all the books they have to offer except one, Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition which we recently had the chance to review.

Homemade Caramel Popcorn


Today's recipe is one I make only for when we go camping. Because let's face it, this isn't exactly one of my healthier recipes. It also makes SO much so it's perfect to take camping to share with all the other families we usually go with. It's become a tradition now that we can't go camping without this tasty treat!

homemade caramel popcorn





Jolly Phonics- Review

This year as I start off on a brand new school journey with my 5 year old, it's been amazing to see how much has changed since I first taught Kindergarten 12 years ago! I am excited for all the resources we have available! Recently, we got to review Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar from jollyliteracy.com (from the parent company just2ducks LLC).

Tips for Freezing Corn

It's that time of year that keeps me busy with canning and freezing. It takes a bit of time to do this but in the middle of winter, it tastes so good to eat food knowing it came from my garden or the farm stand!

Tips For Freezing Corn

FlipStir Puzzle Review

Have you ever heard of a puzzle that is contained in a closed cylinder? A puzzle where you can NOT lose any of the pieces? Neither had I until recently when we were given the chance to try out FlipStir Puzzle from Enlivenze LLC.

FlipStir Puzzle

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

Back in high school, I took 2 years of Spanish and while I learned a decent amount, I wasn't fluent. Not until I moved to Lima Peru and was fully immersed did I finally really pick up on the language. Most homeschool Spanish programs out there present lessons the same way I learned in high school. Much to my surprise, we were recently introduced to a homeschool Spanish program that is different in their approach. We recently had the chance to try out the Starter Set 1 from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.

foreign language for kids by kids

Homeschool Encouragement (w/Free Printable)

Homeschooling has definitely been one of the best decisions we have made for our family. I can't imagine not having these years to spend with my children, growing and learning along side of them.

But let's face it, some days are just hard. We all need a bit of encouragement at times to keep pressing on despite the challenges we may face at times. A couple of years ago, I typed up a printable and gave a copy to each of my kids as well as placed a copy on one of my kitchen cabinets so we could all see it daily. Not only do I need the encouragement as a homeschool momma, my kids need the encouragement as well!


5 Days of Homeschool 101

Back to (Home)School Traditions

I don't know about you but our summer break flew by! I guess between having a new baby, kids working, camping, and just every day life happening, time got away.

My kids look forward to getting back into the grind of school work. Slightly odd I know! I think part of it is the new school books and supplies and knowing they will get to see friends weekly at co-op.

Homeschool Curriculum for 2016

It's hard to believe it's already August and we are slowly getting back into school work. We usually start early as typically August is pretty hot so no one wants to be outside in the heat and humidity. BUT that benefits us come spring! Just as the weather is getting nice, we are done with school and can be outside enjoying the weather.

It's also the time for our annual week-long blog hop with my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew!

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Refrigerator Dill Pickles (aka Claussen Copycat Recipe)

I've been picking cucumbers from my garden for about 6 weeks now. While I typically can a variety of pickles (spicy bread & butter, dill, old bay pickles, etc) I also like making some refrigerator pickles that we can enjoy almost immediately.

Talking Shapes

Olivia enjoys using computer programs for some of her learning so she was excited to try out and review a new program, Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy from the company Talking Fingers Inc.


CTCMath

My kindergartner has been so excited to start school like her big siblings. She recently got the chance to review Homeschool Membership from CTCMath. I had been contemplating what I wanted to use for her math curriculum this year so this was perfect timing for us. In fact, we reviewed CTCMath a few years ago but we had concentrated on the older levels so this time we had the chance to dig into the Kindergarten level.

CTCMath

Thank You!

A huge thank you to so many of you who celebrated Noah & Olivia's birthdays earlier this month with us. We really appreciated the messages, thoughts, and prayers. Not only do we celebrate both their birthdays on the 13th but we also remember Noah's home-going which was the 14th. July is a bittersweet month but knowing there are others walking alongside of us really helps!

We LOVED all the name photos many of you took the time to send us!! It was so neat to see all the creativity. Thank you again to each of you who took the time to spell Noah's name. If you didn't have a chance to write Noah's name, we welcome photos any time! It's always a blessing to unexpectedly receive a photo to add to his name album.

ABeCeDarian- A New Take on Learning to Read

My daughter recently had the chance to review Interactive A Workbook from ABeCeDarian Company. This program goes up to 6th grade and the level we reviewed is geared towards the emerging reader, approximately age 4 to mid 1st grade level. Olivia, my soon to be 5 year old was the one who tried this program out. She is actually familiar with all the letters of the alphabet, knows how most sound and can write a majority of them already.

Patriotic Penmanship Review

It's been 8 years since I had a kindergartner, and in that time I've been introduced to so much new curricula that I didn't have with my older children. I don't think my older children had curriculum specifically for handwriting so we were excited to try out Patriotic Penmanship Kindergarten (manuscript) from Laurelwood Books.

Help Us Celebrate Noah's Birthday!

I can hardly believe we are just 1 week away from Noah's birthday and homegoing anniversary. I remember in the early weeks after he died, not being able to fathom being months let alone years out from his death but here I am. 6 years out and still standing.

While grief ebbs and flows, 6 years has not made Noah's special days any easier to face. In fact, at times it's harder as others expect you to "be better" so they don't acknowledge or remember the day like they did the first year or 2. Missing your child for 6 years is HARD! I've had others ask me what we are doing for the day, I honestly don't know. Olivia also shares a birthday with her big bother so it's a bittersweet day. I've had 1 party for their combined birthday (Olivia's 1st, Noah's 2nd ) but since then, it's been hard to corral others to celebrate Noah like they would Olivia. Which is hurtful. I'd love to host a party for both my babies, but if they both can't be celebrated equally, well, it hurts us all as a family. So most likely, we'll celebrate alone. Again.

Notebooking-Creative Homeschool Journaling (review)

Often while homeschooling, my children learn things outside of traditional textbooks. While I can have them do reports on places we visited or things we did, there is an even better way to record what they learned using NotebookingPages.com. We recently were given a subscription to Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership.

I love CVS

Ya'll, can I just say I was blessed to score some MAJOR deals this last week from CVS. First off, if you don't have their app on your phone, download it and tie your CVS card to it. This allows you to see your personal coupons they send you each week. You can use their store coupons AND manufacturers coupons stacked together which is how I am able to get some amazing deals.

Keeping Organized with My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping)

Part of homeschooling involves record keeping and planning. Recently, I had the chance to review My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) from MySchoolYear.com.

Math Tutor Help with LearnBop

LearnBop has come up with a new way to practice math using their LearnBop for Families subscription. For the past several weeks, 2 of my children have had a chance to review grade 7 and Algebra I.

The Ins and Outs of Cruising on a Dime Part 1

When we went on our first cruise 8 years ago, I was overwhelmed with trying to learn all about cruising before we actually went. I wanted to make sure I was getting the best deal as well as knowing all those little tips that experienced cruisers knew.

Tips on how to plan a cruise and cruise inexpensively

Indian in the Cupboard E-Guide

My children and I are all book worms and enjoy reading so Erik was excited to review Indian in the Cupboard E-Guide from Progeny Press recently. This E-Guide is geared for middle school, grades 6-8.

Sisterly Love

I am really blessed that all my kids get along very well. Sure, they are like most siblings and have their occasional spats, but for the most part, they truly enjoy each other. I think homeschooling has really solidified their relationships, even with the age differences.

The New Chick-fil-A App

If you have  Chick-fil-A near you or have never been to one, now is a good time to check out and download to your phone their NEW app called Chick-fil-A One!

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner Review

Hot off the presses and just in time, I'm ready to get started planning with the new Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

Essential Skills Advantage Review

For the past few weeks, Olivia has had the chance to practice her reading readiness skills using Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage

Essential Skills Advantage (or ESA) is an online skills practice program for grades Kindergarten through 6th grade.  The program covers Reading, Language & Grammar, Math, Science and Geography. This supplemental program has over 14,000 online lessons to help students practice and reinforce basic skills. The lessons are self-paced, allowing the student to complete different subjects however they choose. ESA can be used by a single student or up to 10 students at the same time and can be used on the computer or any mobile device such as a kindle or iPad. Each child has their own login. You can choose to set them up with a password or not.

Tips and Tricks for Large Family Travel and a Vacation Giveaway!

Disclosure Vote for Travel

I've shared on my blog over the last several years, some of the travels we've taken as a family. From cruising, to camping, Disney World trips and long road trips to Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina.

Large Family Travels

Sunya- Playing Games While Reinforcing Math

We recently had the chance to play and review a brand new game from Sunya Publishing, Sunya The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying and Dividing. We have found over the years of homeschooling that some of the best ways to help solidify learning, is through simply playing games! Who doesn't like to play games?!

Mother's Day 2016

Growing up, I knew I always wanted to be a mom. And boy have I been blessed! I still can't believe I have 8 amazing children who call me mom. They all gave me handmade cards with such sweet notes written inside. What they each wrote was so encouraging to me! I even got a note "from" Noah, written as how he probably would've wrote it as an almost 6 year old.

Kwik Stix-The No Mess Paint Review

If you are a parent to young children, you know how messy paints can be. But The Pencil Grip, Inc. has come up with an awesome product that won't make you want to pull your hair out when it comes to letting your child express their artistic side! Imagine if you mixed paint with the form of a glue stick and that is what these no mess paint sticks are like. Last year,  I had the chance to try out the  Kwik Stix 12 pk. This time the kids and I reviewed the Kwik Stix Metalix 6pk and the Kwik Stix Neons 6pk.

Kwik Stix

International bereaved mother’s day

Many don't know that Mother’s Day was actually created in honor of a bereaved mother. Anna Jarvis founded the official Mother’s Day in 1908 to honor her own mother, Ann. Ann Jarvis gave birth to around a dozen children but only 4 survived to grow into adults. The meaning of this day has become lost because of the commercialization that so often happens, so Carly Marie set aside this day to especially remember bereaved moms.

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GREEMU- A Vegan Alternative to Emu Oil

Last year I had the chance to try Emu Oil which we really enjoyed. Recently, I had the chance to review a similar product called GREEMU made by Devonian, which is also distributed by the same makers of Emu oil, Koru Naturals.
GREEMU

YWAM Heroes of History: Billy Graham America's Pastor

We enjoy including biographies as part of our homeschooling. Recently, my son had the chance to read and review Heroes of History:Billy Graham America's Pastor as well as the accompanying Digital Unit Study from YWAM Publishing.
YWAM, Billy Graham

Stuffed Crescent Roll Breakfast Pockets

I love playing around with and tweaking breakfast foods. In fact, we enjoy having breakfast for supper which is when I came up with this simple yet delicious recipe.

stuffed crescent roll breakfast pocket