Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Swimmingly good fun and savings starts tomorrow!

Ba dum, ba dum, ba dum...

Something really cool is coming tomorrow! Your kids are going to love it! Your budget will thank you, and it just might make you the coolest parents on the block! Be sure to watch for our post tomorrow morning!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Books With Bean ~ The Dark Unwinding

Books with Bean, book reviews by teens, Sharon Cameron books

Title: The Dark Unwinding 

Author: Sharon Cameron

Published: 2012

Genre: Historical fiction, Steampunk, mystery 

Summary: Katharine Tulman lives with her aunt and her spoiled cousin in a less then amazing life. When her aunt sends her from London to the country to their family estate to declare her uncle insane so her aunt can have the land and money (to care for in her son’s place until he comes of age of course) Katharine thinks it will be an unpleasant task but soon over. When she gets there, however, she finds the estate and Uncle Tully much different then she thought it would be. The main house on the land is mostly deserted however hundreds of people live on the estate in two villages and have their own working towns with governing councils and several factories for producing goods to sell. Uncle Tully she finds is also nothing like she expected. He is odd in the head but he is also a genius, the mechanical creatures he makes are fantastic to Katharine but he is also somewhat childlike in his mannerisms. Now Katharine who thought her job would be easy finds herself confronted with a problem, if she says her uncle is crazy then the estate will go to her spoiled cousin and his mother. Katharine is sure that they will turn out the people of all ages that live on the estate, all who came there to get away from the workhouses of London. But what will happen if she doesn’t? She can go home and pretend everything at the estate is fine, but how long will it be until her aunt wants to go to the estate and see for herself? Finally after debating this for a few days Katharine decides to take the whole month her aunt allowed her to evaluate the situation. She soon finds out that her choice only becomes harder to make the longer she stays and learns from the people on the estate.  

What I liked about it: I like the characters. Katharine was interesting, Lane was intriguing, Uncle Tully was a lot of fun and the other characters added depth to the story that made it come alive to me. 

Language: None

Romance: Katharine begins to develop feelings for Lane, her uncle’s assistant, but it never gets past one or two brief kisses. 

Violence: When someone Katharine begins to trust turns out to not be very good she is exposed to some dangers but its never gory.

Magic: None

Recommended Age: I would say 14+ its good and clean but I think that it simply not the sort of thing that would be interesting to younger kids.

Books with Bean, book reviews by teens, Sharon Cameron books

Friday, July 27, 2018


thirteen, five minute friday writing prompts, 4-H, childhood

Kate's word prompt for this week is thirteen, but that is one number shy of how long I have been a 4-H parent. So let's just think back 13 of those 14 years, after all, it's only five minutes!

Thirteen years ago our oldest daughter had just finished her first year of Mini 4-H. She had bitten by the 4-h bug and was ready to take on the world. Two years behind her, her little sister also joined Mini 4-H as Emily graduated to her regular 4-Her status. 

Every year since they were little, Kurt and I had made a point to take them to the Indiana State Fair. It is a truly awesome way to spend part of your summer, and while 4-H is a big part of it, it is by no means all of it.

We have random pictures like the one above of the girls at the State Fair from over the years. This one was probably taken around 2009 or 2010. 

Yesterday the girls left to spend the next month working at the State Fair. It is a privilege offered to older 4-Hers, and recently retired 4-Hers, to help with setting up, and overseeing the 4-H projects brought to the State Fair. They work hard, get a little pay, and make some really awesome friends!

This weekend I will go see them when I take Arlene's last 4-H projects to be entered in the State Fair. After 14 years of fun, our 4-H journey is almost over, but what a wealth of joy, challenge, and learning it has brought to our family! I'm so glad our own children had a chance to enjoy 4-H. It is different than when I was in 4-H all those years ago, but not as different as you might think.

If you're headed to the Indiana State Fair in August, check out the 4-H buildings, maybe you'll see the grown-up versions of these two fairgoers hard at work!

p.s. yes, I'm sure Arlene will give me grief about choosing this photo when she reads this tonight - but it's still one of my favorites, she has always loved her milkshakes :)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Books With Bean ~ A to Z Mysteries: The Absent Author

book reviews by teens, Books With Bean, Ron Roy books

Title: A to Z Mysteries: The Absent Author 

Author: Ron Roy

Published: 1997

Genre:  Children’s Early Chapter books, Mystery

Summary: Donald David Duncan better known to his friends as Dink is very excited. He wrote to his favorite author Wallis Wallace and Wallis Wallace agreed to come to Dink’s home town of Green Lawn to do a book signing. There is just one problem, when Dink and his best friends Josh and Ruth Rose get to the Book Nook, their local bookstore, for the signing Wallis Wallace is nowhere to be found! Reading over the last letter he got from Wallis Wallace, Dink is worried that his favorite author might have been kidnaped! Teaming up with his friends and a woman named Mavis Green who is a friend of Wallis Wallace, they try to find the missing author before anything bad happens.

What I liked about it: A to Z Mysteries were one of the first beginning chapter books I can remember reading and I remember loving them from the start. The smart and curious Dink, the goofy Josh and the independent Ruth Rose were always so fun and went on all sorts of cool adventures. They never got boring even in the most recent book published more then 20 years after the original. This is one of the few series that I started reading as a kid that is still being published that I still read to tell you how good it is! The books are clean, fun and full of adventure and mystery. 

Language: None

Romance: None

Violence: None

Magic: None, the series is done in the order of the alphabet and I remember mom was hesitant to let me read H, V and Z originally as they are the Haunted Hotel, the Vampire's Vacation and the Zombie Zone. However, I will let you know ahead of time theses books have nothing magic or even slightly supernatural about them. The hotel one turned out to be someone in a costume, the vampire is just a movie actor (who did play a vampire in a movie in their world) on vacation, and the Zombies are likewise not real and only people dressed up to scare locals away while they commit their crimes.

Recommended Age: The kids age a bit during the series and I would say they are good for 3rd grade on up. The kids have yet to age past 5th grade in the most recent book. If you have younger kids, the author also has books about the younger relations of the characters from the A to Z mysteries called the Calendar Mysteries which are good for K-2nd graders.

book reviews by teens, Books With Bean, Ron Roy books

Saturday, July 21, 2018


This week's Five Minute Friday word prompt was :Way

As I thought about it, the words that kept repeating in my head were not my own, but these, from John 14:6. 

So I spent my five minutes illustrating them, instead of trying to write something new.

These words have been a life verse for me. Just as Jesus said to His disciples, "Come, follow Me." He has said these words to me time and time again.

Jesus is the ONLY way.

Scripture Writing, five minute friday writing prompt, Bible Verse


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Road Trip ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder's Rocky Ridge Farm

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almonzo Wilder, Little House Books, road trip, Missouri

Do your children have favorite authors? Did you when you were growing up? One series that I enjoyed as a child and then our girls read and enjoyed were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. That is why we were so excited to get to stop at Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MO recently and visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum. This was a road trip worth remembering!

The last time we traveled through this Southwestern part of Missouri was 2013. At the time, we did not realize just how close we were to Rocky Ridge Farm until we were on our way home again and simply could not fit in a visit. This time, when Arlene learned we were planning another trip through the area, she stated “WE HAVE TO visit Rocky Ridge this time - no matter what else we do!” 

Our trip began on Arlene’s 18th birthday, and after almost an entire week of amazing stops around Missouri and Oklahoma we arrived at Mansfield, MO and Rocky Ridge Farm. On the property are Laura and Almonzo’s Farmhouse, and the Rock House. These two homes were where Laura wrote all nine of her Little House series of books, including Farmer Boy. Getting to learn more about Laura and Almonzo’s life was a real treat for all of us, even Kurt. For Arlene and I, who both write regularly, standing inside Laura’s homes provided extra inspiration to keep writing, keep refining our writing skills, and to remember that we each have a story to tell the world.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almonzo Wilder, Little House Books, road trip, Missouri

When you first arrive at Rocky Ridge, you will stop at the new (2106) museum center. Here you will purchase your tickets for visiting the homes, see a fantastic museum filled with Wilder and Ingalls family memorabilia, and visit the gift shop. This museum center is a welcoming sight for the 30,000 annual visitors to Rocky Ridge Farm. The staff are warm and welcoming, the museum displays are well done, and the restrooms are clean and bright. We were especially excited to see Pa Ingalls’ fiddle on display. Each September the farm hosts Wilder Day and Pa’s fiddle is brought out and played. How exciting that must be for visitors since so many of Laura’s childhood memories were centered around her Pa playing music on his fiddle. The tickets are designed as souvenirs and make excellent bookmarks to remind you of your visit.

Take your time on your trip through the museum. Enjoy the movie that tells about the history of Rocky Ridge and the Wilder family. On the day we visited there were a variety of guests. Some families with younger children, and several older couples, as well as singles. While it still would have been interesting to go by myself, I am really happy we took the whole family to enjoy the adventure! If you are headed to either Springfield or Branson, MO you should definitely make this a stop on your trip! Mansfield is 45 miles East of Springfield, MO and about an hour and a half Northeast of Branson.

Once you are finished in the museum you can walk the path over to the farmhouse. For those with mobility issues, there is a limited mount of handicapped parking near the farmhouse. The museum and homes are open from March 1- November 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday- Saturday, and on Sundays from 12:30-5:00 p.m. (Closed  Easter Sunday)

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almonzo Wilder, Little House Books, road trip, Missouri

For the historic Farmhouse there are guided tours every half hour, which begin at the back of the house in the kitchen (the first room built) and end in the room by the front porch. A huge thank you to our docent Sarah, as our entire group had questions and she patiently answered all of them that she could. You are not allowed to take any photos in the historic homes or the museum. But you are allowed to take as many of the outside of the homes or in the gift shop as you want. Even if you could take photos in the homes, the photos would not do justice to your trip. I’m so glad we made these family memories together - for those will last a lifetime! 

On a side note, to those interested in historic preservation and museums in general, I was amazed, yes, amazed at how well this historic site runs! They do not receive any royalties from the Little House book series, due to a decision made by Laura and Almonzo’s daughter, Rose, to gift the rights to a family friend upon her death instead of back to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association, as Laura had wished. Having spent several years volunteering at a living history museum, I understand just how expensive it can be to maintain and interpret historic homes. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association has done a fantastic job stewarding the resources they have, caring for the homes and making this a phenomenal road trip destination! They operate on ticket sales, donations, fundraisers, and gift shop sales. Truly amazing! They are to be commended for their hard work and diligence to continue to make this adventure possible for Little House fans of all ages. Tickets are reasonably priced at $14 for adults and $7 for children 6 to 17. Five and under are free.

Back to the farmhouse…
For those of you who have read the Little House books, or watched the TV series, you remember that Pa called Laura his Half-pint. That name was so appropriate when you realize Laura only grew to be 4’11” tall. While not a particularly rare height at the time, the life-sized cutout of her in the farmhouse kitchen gave us all a moment’s pause as we thought about the home. As she and Almonzo built their beloved farmhouse, they had it scaled for themselves. That means all of the counters, cabinets, doorways, and chairs looked a little small when my 6’4” tall husband was standing next to them. Almonzo had Laura’s Adirondack-style chair built with extra wide arms because she loved to sit in it and write her newspaper columns and books. Laura wrote with pencil and paper, something not many authors do anymore, but a habit I find refreshing because it causes me to stop and think about my words, instead of typing aimlessly. Laura’s daughter Rose was also a writer, and probably preferred a typewriter, since Rose was rather progressive.

The farmhouse was built room by room as Laura and Almonzo saved enough money. So many things inside reminded me of my great-grandparents’ home. The Wilder Home Association preserved the home after Laura passed away in 1957, so they entire feels is late 1940’s to early 1950’s farmhouse. You’re probably wishing I could describe it all, but I just cannot - you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it! Amazing - simply amazing. It’s like Laura and Almonzo just stepped out for a bit and will return any moment.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almonzo Wilder, Little House Books, road trip, Missouri

At the other end of the property, just a few minutes away by car, is the Rock House. This home was a gift from Rose to her parents, a Sears Roebuck catalog house (The Mitchell) that was built on Rocky Ridge Farm, covered in stone, and dubbed the Rock House. When Laura and Almonzo moved in, it had all the latest conveniences. While living here Laura wrote the first four of her Little house books. Later, Laura and Almonzo returned to their beloved farmhouse where she wrote her other five books. The Rock House is a self-guided tour with a docent available to answer your questions. Rhonda was there during our visit and shared some interesting stories about the Rock House and the Wilders’ time living there. 

As a family we agreed that you should set aside at least two hours for your visit, but three would be preferable. There are several benches around the museum grounds, and we stopped to have a picnic lunch after viewing the Farmhouse before we visited the Rock House. The Association is working to raise funds to restore the Wilder family walking trail between the two homes. I would like to return after the trail is finished and walk the ground that Laura and Almonzo called home, while thinking about my own writing. Before she wrote her books, Laura was well known locally for her articles in the Missouri Ruralist, a farm journal. Visiting her homes in Mansfield opened up a better understanding of her adult life, past her book, The First Four Years.

After we were done at Rocky Ridge Farm, we drove back into Mansfield to the cemetery to see where Laura, Almonzo, and Rose are buried. It was encouraging to see how the town where Almonzo and Laura lived more than 60 years ago still loves them and honors their memory today.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almonzo Wilder, Little House Books, road trip, Missouri

Later that afternoon we drove about 15 minutes north to visit the Baker Creek Historic Seed Company. As I was looking at all of the heirloom seed varieties, I wondered how many of them Laura and Almonzo had grown. All in all, it was an excellent day filled with adventure!

heirloom seeds, historic seeds, Baker Creek, Mansfield MO

You can help keep Laura’s legacy alive. Visit Rocky Ridge in person, purchase gifts from their online gift shop that is open all year long, or donate to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association. 

Keep up with the happenings at Rocky Ridge Farm by following their Facebook page.

A big thank you to Jean Coday, Anna Bradley, and all the amazing staff at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum for helping us plan and enjoy our visit!

To see more of the pictures from our road trip to Rocky Ridge, visit our Instagram account.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Books With Bean ~ The Ransom of Red Chief

Books with Bean, book reviews by teens, O. Henry stories

Title: The Ransom of Red Chief 

Author: O. Henry

Published: 1910

Genre: Short Story, Fiction 

Summary: Sam and Bill had a good idea to make some quick cash. At least they thought it was a good idea at first. They soon learn of their foolishness. It goes like this, they are con men and they need some more money for one of their schemes so they decided to kidnap the son of a wealthy man in a small town in Alabama. This seems to work fine until they learn what a terror the child is. He is 10 and all but uncontrollable in his whims and wishes. After a bit they decide to ask for the ransom quickly so they can leave the crazy child behind them... only to end up receiving a very different offer for the child that they simply cannot refuse. 

What I liked about it: This story is fun and funny, the plight of Sam and Bill while at first you have no sympathy for them because they are con men, after meeting the child you immediately became really glad that you aren't the one having to deal with the willful and somewhat crazy kid. Their plight is one that is both entertaining and yet you are just as glad as they are when it is over. 

Language: None

Romance: None

Violence: The kid is crazy and he wants to play indian in the sense of the stereotypical view of Native Americans at the time and he does a lot of weird stuff but its never actual violent

Magic: None

Recommended Age: I would say 13+ simply because I think the shallow and yet deep levels of he story and the old fashion humor of it would be lost on a younger person.  

Books with Bean, book reviews by teens, O. Henry stories

Sunday, July 15, 2018

1 Corinthians 3:6

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

In this verse to the church in Corinth, Paul is not talking about planting flower seeds, but about planting the seed of the Gospel. He uses an illustration they would understand from everyday life about planting and growth to remind us all that we each have a specific task to do. Our job is to be faithful to share the Gospel, the good news, about Jesus Christ - how His birth, life, death, and resurrection offer hope to any who would bow their knee and admit their need of a Savior. 

Perhaps today is the day to plant the seed. Maybe it is your turn to water the truths that someone else shared yesterday. Do your part and wait in anticipation of God making it grow! For then the new believer becomes another worker with us is sharing the Gospel, and the planting cycle begins again as they share their faith in the forgiveness offered through Christ. 

One body, many parts, all here to glorify God.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Hands on Experiential Learning Round Up

Happy Friday morning! 

I wanted you to know that today over on the Homeschool Review Crew blog there is a round up all about experiential (non-book) learning! 

Since we are BIG fans of learning by doing, and having fun while learning, we've got a few of our most-read posts featured there. I also want to get some ideas for more hands-on activities we might want to do together this fall before Arlene graduates. Will you come join us for what is sure to be some fun, happy, messy learning?

Awesome! See you over there!

Hands On Experiential Learning ROUND UP {Homeschool Link UP}

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Unspoken Words

poetry, encouragement, words

I cannot un-say those words I just said

I cannot un-send that text
or delete the email I sent this morning

and sometimes
that makes me ponder...
should I speak at all?

Even if someone construes my words wrong
or misunderstands my thoughts
does that mean
they are not worth saying?

We may have a difference of opinion
you may want to go right and I want to go left
can we still get along?
Are we able to look beyond the words
and see the person inside?

Can we think before we speak
can we choose our words wisely?
There is value in relationships
worth and strength in being heard.

May I never leave these words unspoken:
you are important to me
You are loved

I value our talks
Jesus Loves you

Let's be friends

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Math Refresher for Adults ~ a Crew Review

math skills, pre-algebra, geometry, homeschool math

Over the years I have heard a lot of moms bemoan the fact that they have forgotten a lot of math (or never learned it well in the first place) and are now a bit concerned about being able to help their children with math. While most of these have been homeschooling moms worried about teaching math, I've heard it from public schooling parents too. That's why I was interested in reviewing the new Math Refresher for Adults book from Math EssentialsBecause no one should be afraid of math! 

Math Refresher for Adults covers everything from basic addition up through algebra. One of the best things about this math book is that is has accompanying videos for each lesson where you can watch Richard Fisher (the author) work the problems on an electronic whiteboard while he describes each step. That means if you think of yourself as being math-phobic you can learn math in the privacy of your own room, on your own computer or tablet, with headphones - and no one will ever know. :)

For the rest of you, choosing to use Math Refresher for Adults may be a wise choice for the summer before you return to college - to practice for your placement test. Or you might want to brush up on your math skills before applying for a new position, or asking for a raise at work. 

For myself, I wanted a chance to exercise those parts of my brain that have not had a workout in a while. There are some parts of algebra you just don't use much as an adult. I've also read several studies that say learning new skills can help ward off dementia. While math isn't new to me - I used to enjoy working story problems a lot - I don't use algebra very often at work - so I figure reviewing math is almost like learning something new. Plus - it means I can shut myself away in a quiet room for 15 minutes a day, several days a week. That is a blessing at the end of a long day spent dealing with the public. :)

So how do you use Math Refresher for Adults? It is a 270 page softcover textbook. If you're wanting to use it to review math to help your 4th grader with long division, but your high schooler wants to use it to study for their SAT, then you can use it as a traditional textbook and copy the problems onto another piece of paper to give yourself plenty of space to show your work. If you are like me, and just want to use it yourself, you can write in the book for most of it, and only copy out the more advanced pre-algebra and algebra problems. You CANNOT photocopy the pages, as that breaks copyright laws. 

math skills, pre-algebra, geometry, homeschool math

I like that this book includes the basic arithmetic functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as basic geometry and several sections filled with story problems before you get to the pre-algrbra and algebra sections. Each lesson has at least one story problem down at the bottom of the page, wisely named problem solving instead of story problems to help those people who have mental hangups with the term story problem.

So how else might you use this book? There are a lot of ways, but what about this: your child comes home from school (or co-op) and says, "Mom - help me, I can't remember the difference between area and perimeter!" Ahh, see, you weren't even the teacher, but somehow you are expected to know the math answer. Yup - that happens in thousands of homes every week! You grab your Math Refresher for Adults book off of the shelf, turn to pages 89-97, find the geometric shape they are working with, and log into your videos on the Math Essentials website. Now in just a few minutes you can choose the correct video, watch it with your child, and then you can BOTH feel confident that they can tackle their homework. Most of the videos runs from 2-5 minutes in length, and are focused on one specific piece of the math puzzle. 

Now doesn't that sound easier than trying to randomly search the web for the correct answer? Yes, yes it does! 

Oh, and if you're still a bit confused about decimals - don't be - there are several lessons about decimals in here. Plus, some lessons on percentages - you know, so you can figure out just how good of a sale your store is having on that dress you've been eyeing all summer! You're welcome. ;)

To read more reviews of Math refresher for Adults, click on the banner below!

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Math Refresher for Adults {Math Essentials}

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