Saturday, May 25, 2013

We are the Champions! {Baseball Spring 2013}

Another season of baseball comes to a close ... what an exciting season it was. Our team ended the regular season play, going into the playoffs, in 2nd place. We came up against the 1st place team who was undefeated all season and pulled out a great win! Congratulations Rays!!

Devin pitched a great game ... giving up only 1 unearned run during his starting innings.

He also had some great hits and scored a few runs! And, though I did not catch any photographs - he caught two pop flys in the game, too.

Pictured below ... Devin with his head coach and trophy for 1st place.

Final score ... 10 to 6!

Devin was chosen by his team to play in the All-Star games ... two fun nights of baseball. Love this picture of all the All-Stars!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Home School Grades {A Mosaic Review}

Earlier this year I attended a seminar on homeschooling through the high school years. It was great to glean wisdom from a homeschool mother and teacher who has graduated several high school seniors. It all sounded great until the talk turned to transcripts. I think at that point I began to break have a panic attack. The information presented to us made it sound so simple but, I just could not wrap my brain around collecting all that schooling data and making it look "official".

Then I got this great opportunity to review My Home School Grades and my faith in being able to handle high school transcripts greatly increased. First and foremost, this program is so simple to use! You can have all your children entered into the site and ready to begin tracking in a matter of minutes. There are even tutorial videos on the main page of the site which easily walk you through step by step - though I don't know if you will need them, this site is so user friendly.

Several curriculum packages {Apologia, IEW, ALEKS, and Rosetta Stone - to name a few} have already been linked with My Home School Grades which makes it super easy to enter lessons. And, if you have a favorite curriculum they are not currently linked with, you can request yours to be added.

The program is as easy as just entering your child's courses, grades, and activities and then printing a transcript. If you are entering grades at the end of the year you can just enter a final grade rather than every lesson.

You can give it a try yourself for two weeks absolutely free! My Home School Grades does not even require a credit card for your 2 week trial. If at the end you love it as much as I do, you can purchase a LIFETIME membership for just $49.99. With it being the end of the school year and here in Georgia time to write those fun end of the year reports, this is a great time to give this program a try.

Dance Recital {2013}

And, the curtain closes ... on another year of dance! Lexi and Ava Mae had their ballet recitals this past weekend.

Little Ava Mae has always loved dance but, this year she finished her first year of Pre-Invitational Classes and I could really tell how much she has grown as a dancer. 

I thought it was funny one parent even asked if Ava Mae takes private lessons ... um, yes, from herself. Seriously, this child dances 24/7.  When she isn't at dance she is home watching You Tube videos and emulating every dance move she does not know yet. Of course, it helps to have an older sister who dances!

This Mouseketeer dance was amazing! And, it was a complete surprise to find out there was an original Mouseketeer in the audience who came backstage after the first recital to have her picture made with the girls.

Lexi continues to grow as a dancer as well. I can say sending her to a full month of summer dance intensive last year really made a difference.

She has begun to really show her flexibility and acro talent in jazz. She absolutely loves her jazz/lyrical teacher Ms. Kelly! It is one of her favorite classes.

Lexi also had the opportunity this year to help with  a 3 year old ballet/tap class.  Such an adorable little class of girls who all see Lexi as their new best friend.

This dance recital marked the 20th year anniversary of our ballet studio ... Our director, Ms. Lisa began the studio with just a handful of girls and a 14 minute recital their first year. Wow, have things have grown! Ms. Lisa is amazing and it was so special to hear all the girls who came back and spoke at her reception. We love you BIG Ms. Lisa!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Orange You Glad ..." Teacher Gift Idea

I saw the cutest idea ever on Pinterest for an End of Year gift for teachers - featuring the saying "Orange You Glad it's Almost Summer".  The original idea can be found over on Shaken Together . Here is what I came up with ...

I found the travel cups at Target, along with the Izze drink and Trident Tropical Fruit Gum. Of course, everything had to be orange themed! It was a cute idea that could be easily duplicated, for multiple teachers, for our Wednesday night church activities.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hymn Sing {2013}

Hard to believe but, this is it ... we are wrapping up our 2012 - 2013 school year. I know being completely wrapped up in our adoption over the last few months contributed to the last five months seeming like a blur. Between keeping up with our school work, extra-curricular activities, and all the paperwork and appointments that our adoption brought with it - I am kind of surprised I still have any brain cells left.
We are enjoying all the fun that the end-of-year activities bring with them ... last Wednesday night was the kids' Hymn Sing. Devin, Lexi, and Ava Mae all received their Hymn Memory Awards this year. So proud of them!

For Devin it was a special night because, as a 5th grader he was graduating from Children's Choir. I have to admit it was a little bittersweet. Devin's Hymn Memory Award was a special Hymnal with his name engraved on the cover.

Devin pictured with the AMEN Choir Director, Ms. Pamela. She is the most amazing choir director ever!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waterproof Bible {A Mosaic Review}

I have had the opportunity to review many great products over the last few years but, this one has to be my most favorite so far! The Waterproof Bible published by Bardin & Marsee Publishing is such a wonderful idea. The idea originated from the publisher's desire to "take God's word into all of His creation, regardless of the weather or circumstances". As we head into the summer months I am so excited to be able to have a bible I can take with me - absolutely everywhere! No longer am I worried about my bible getting wet or dirty - it can travel with me to the park, pool, and beach.

We had great fun testing the bible out ... I mean we had to really make sure it was waterproof. I have to admit the first time we poured water over the pages I was afraid to wipe it off. We were pleasantly surprised. Not only did the pages easily wipe dry - you would never have known they had water on them. The pages are made from a synthetic material which makes them waterproof and stain resistant. I just loved they way the pages felt and you can easily highlight material with a dry highlighter, colored pencils, or a ball point pen. From our experience the pages also do not tear - another bonus.

I received a pink and NLT New Testament Waterproof Bible with Proverbs and Psalms. The bibles are available in five different translations and three different color covers. They start at $44.95 for a full version or $24.95 for a New Testament version. You can even have the cover imprinted with your name or initials for just $7.00. What a perfect gift for any graduating senior!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Adoption Update : Waiting ...

It seems like adoption is a lot of "hurry up ... wait ... hurry up ... wait". At least that has been our experience so far. I don't need to tell you how much this has tried my patience. We rushed to get our homestudy complete, so we could work on our dossier and send off our i800a - then came the wait on the i800a approval. We rushed to get our dossier apostilled and into the country for translation and to go in front of the ministry ... now we sit and wait again, this time on the orphan court. And, just when you think you've waited just about enough a key person in your adoption, in country, goes on vacation for the rest of the month. Ahhhhhh ... so frustrating.

Being the planner I am I want the adoption process all neat and organized and in a box with a bow on it. That is not adoption! Adoption is messy {as I've come to learn} ...  not only the process but, the relationships. Nothing breaks my heart more than to call our sweet girl and have her beg me to come get her now or ask me for the one hundredth time the exact day we will arrive in her country. Not to mention the ever present feeling that something could go wrong - no one is promised an adoption will go through. In the last few weeks, in the group I am in on FB for other families adopting from L@tvi@, adoptions have failed, for one reason or another. You grieve for that family that just lost a child. A child they had already pictured in their home - at their dinner table, in their life. And, then you just get reminded that could be you. It is times like these that I wish God would just reveal himself to me and spell out the plan he has for us. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11

And, in all of this I am still thankful for so many reasons ... God has provided so abundantly for our adoption. I need to remember what a wonderful adoption agency we are with. How blessed we have been to have our case worker for our adoption agency living just twenty minutes from our home, making our home study process fly in record time. How we have never needed to wait on funds - God has always provided the money when we needed it. How though we may be waiting months - some families wait years to complete an adoption. And, I am working to be more thankful for the lessons God is teaching me in all of this! I must remind myself that a year ago if you had told me I would be adopting, a teenage girl, from a country I had never heard of, I would definitely have thought you mental.

I equate where I am now to being 9 months pregnant with my three children. You know hard times are to come but, you just want to get that child here so you can go on with life. You want to hold them in your arms and feel like a family.

So, we will go on waiting. I will try to wait with a "happy heart", as I have so often in the past asked this of my children. I will wait right where God has me ... I will not try to squirm out from underneath the trial he has me under. And, in everything I will give thanks!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. - James 1:12

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day Weekend {2013}

I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend ... the girls and I attended a Mother-Daughter tea at our church on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, my husband and the kids made a delicious dinner from scratch!

Just a nice relaxing weekend with my beautiful family - a perfect Mother's Day in my book!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ooka Island {A Mosaic Review}

I was asked to review a software application called Ooka Island Adventure that helps children ages 3 - 7 learn to read. Though, my youngest is 8 years old - she is always "game" for a fun learning computer application. Ooka Island Adventure ensures skill mastery in five areas of of reading instruction - phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. It is all based in a fun learning environment meant to adapt to your child's strengths and weaknesses.

So, even though Ava Mae was at the top of the recommended age, she loved the various areas of Ooka Island and couldn't wait to have me write this review. In Ava Mae's words "the books were really fun - I enjoyed that I got to read them! I liked the Seashell Sentences and sailing along on Jet Skis and saying the right phonic sound. I also liked I got to create my own hero at the beginning of the game - I even picked her hairstyle. My mom didn't have to help me sign into the game - I would just pick my character and start back where I left off. I really liked earning stickers and I think kids younger than me will love it."

I liked Ooka Island Adventure as I feel it is one teaching tool that has some great science behind it. Here is a little info on their Learning Flow Cycle - 

What is the Learning Flow Cycle?

There are three distinct parts to the learning flow cycle in the Ooka Island Learn-to-Read System. This unique learning flow is what makes Ooka Island so engaging for young learners and keeps them eager to play and learn on Ooka Island.

  1. Guided Play – focuses on phonological / phonic development through skill-building instructional activities.
  2. e-Reader – focuses on concept of word, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension through the Ooka Island Books Series (85 leveled and sequenced books in total)
  3. Free Play – allows children to play activities that reinforce what they have learned, to reread books from the Popcorn Library, or to do just-for-fun activities.
*Helpful Hint – Children can exit out of Ooka Island at anytime and their progress and spot in the program is saved for the next time they log in.
Many of the computer based phonics programs we have tried out in the past focus on one area of the learning to read process - Ooka Island Adventure covers it all and can have your child reading within 8 hours of beginning the program. I also felt the reporting end of Ooka Island allows parents to keep track of where their child is succeeding or an area they may need extra focus.

The only area we had issue with was technical in nature. My childrens' laptop would not run the program without throwing us out. I contacted Customer Service and they were awesome both in their response time but, also in quickly finding a fix and emailing me a patch to download and install on the computer. It did help, though we have continued to have spells where it would run slow or kick us out after playing for awhile. 

Ooka Island Adventure pricing begins at just $12.95 a month for one student or $19.95 for up to four students. And, I have been given a special coupon code for 30% off  - good through June 1st.

I think this would be a great summer learning activity for your per-schooler through 1st grader!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Our GIANT Yard Sale {Adoption Fundraiser}

This weekend we had another large fundraising event for our adoption. We have spent the last month collecting donations of items from friends and, even complete strangers who had heard of our adoption and wanted to help in some way. {Thank you to everyone who spread the word about our sale via social media.}

We have so many people to thank for helping out with the sale ... 

Wednesday and Thursday of last week we worked hard at sorting and tagging all of our items with the help of my friends, Tammy and Christina. I also had an awesome friend who made signs to go all over, thank you Kelly. And, thanks to Christina and her husband who placed those signs as they were driving out of town.

Friday morning, we were up bright and early ready to get everything out and ready to go ... a HUGE thank you to my friend, JJ and her two boys, who helped us getting everything out of our house and garage and onto all the tables. The morning work crew showed up soon after and got to work making all the tables look great! Thank you Kelly, Robyn, Tammy, and Debbie for all your hard work. I know having everything displayed so nicely helped with the sale of so many items. I have to also say thank you to several of my friends' boys who worked the sale and helped load cars with goodies purchased. A special thank you to Wesley - who went above and beyond to help set up and make sure every electronics item was in good working order, when we wasn't loading customers' cars.

Thank you to Kerrin who came by with Krispy Kreme donuts ... not once but, twice during the morning! That was a huge morale booster!!!

Friday afternoon, we let the sale continue to run until we had no more customers - around 5:00pm. Then it was time to pack everything up due to the fact that the weather was going to deteriorate and rain all evening and the next day. We went with Plan B and moved tables into our garage and home. Thank you to Jennifer and Carol who came over with their children and helped us start moving items inside.

Thank God for precious friends who take all your children for the night so you can completely crash. My head hit the bed at 7:00pm and I did not get up until the next morning - bright and early. 

Saturday morning, I awoke around 4am and heard the rain ... a little disappointing but, I was thankful we had Plan B in place. So, my husband and I were up early once again to put that plan into action. Thank you to Jennifer and Tammy who were back bright and early to help us reset. We had two shopping areas - our garage and lower level of our home. {So fun trying to make sure the shoppers were only looking at the items we had for sale and not everything in the house.} I was a little worried when by 9:30am we had not seen one shopper but, I think everyone just got a late start - by 10am we were slammed. Lots of shoppers - praise God! By 2pm we were wrapping up and not believing how much we had sold! We were able to bless another family - fundraising their New Horizons for Children summer hosting fees - with our items that did not sell. We helped them pack everything up and were were left with just a small pile for donation to Goodwill.

Also, thank you to Kerrin and Bill - who got out early Saturday morning and attempted to bring us some tents to get set up and protect a few large items outside of our garage!

And, the most wonderful news {insert drum roll here} ... we made $2,000 from the sale and a very sweet family {who wishes to remain anonymous} donated another $2,000, this completely funds our Lifesong for Orphan grant. That means we have $8,000 towards our first trip to Latvia!

As I wrote on Facebook after our sale ... we truly are blessed far more than we deserve with the most wonderful friends who worked just as hard, if not harder, than us to make this sale such a success.