Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Check List......

It's Christmas Eve!  Let's break out the traditional Gadow Ohana check list!  Check, check, check....
1.  Attend the candle light service at my church surrounded by my church family and friends who we love so much!  Let's listen to the children sing "Away in a Manger" while signing and then read from the Bible about the Christmas story.

2.  Be unbelievably proud as I watch my son play the guitar with the worship band.  He played "The First Noel" and "Silent Night".

3.  Bake some yummy chocolate chip cookies!  They must be fresh out of the oven to be deserving of the Santa offering.  Yes, chocolate chip cookies and "Christmas milk" (commonly known as egg nog to you non-Gadow people).

4.  A generous sprinkling of reindeer food around the front lawn.  This is a gourmet concoction of oats and glitter! 

5.  Last call for the Joy Stocking!  Final chance to get your last additions into our Joy Stocking is now!  What's that, you ask?  Well, click here to read about our family's favorite Christmas tradition!

5.  Bedtime prayers and chat time.  Just like every night, here is where we pray together as a family, thank the Lord for His blessings, and talk about what the next day will bring.  Tonight though.....we add in the "don't wake up Mommy and Daddy until....7:30 AM" reminder.

6.  Once Matthew is on lock down the stocking is filled and the gifts are laid under the tree.  Aha!  But, 2 gifts are hidden somewhere in the house.  Matthew likes to hunt for his gifts.  We play either "hot/cold" or I give him a riddle that will clue him into where it is hidden.

7.  Time to put baby Jesus in the manger!  Yup, the King is Born and now He can be put into the manger scene with His folks and pet lamb and donkey.  The wise men have moved a little bit closer to the manger now.  They have made it all the way to the coffee table!  Only  1 1/2 more years to go until they meet up with Jesus.

8.  Oh, looky-look!  It's only midnight and I get to go to bed!  *sigh* and visions of sugarplums danced in her head.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where is your JOY?

Where is your joy?

Is it carved in the Rock where it will withstand the erosion of the world?


Is it written in the sand where it can be washed away by the next storm?

Having joy is a choice.  Let's face it.  Life is hard.  This world is filled with disappointments and heartache.  People will hurt you, events will rock you, and there will always be a bubble popper waiting around the corner.  When faced with these challenges what do you do?  What determines your joy?  Is it your circumstances?  Do you have joy when things are going great?

How about when things are hard?

When you feel alone, lost, empty.

When you are jobless, homeless, scared, angry.

When nothing makes sense and you feel like noone understands your pain.

Where's your joy then?

 Do you treat your joy like a light that only shines when the energy from the world fuels it?  Is your joy like a meter that changes with your circumstances?  Is your joy so wavered that it can be snatched away for a meal like the hungry wolf takes the weakest animal to devour? your joy planted with roots that go deeper than the soil of this earth?  Does it reach beyond the farthest star?  Does it overpower any challenge this life can throw at you?  Who or what is your joy?

My joy is in the Lord.

Never changing

Always growing

Christmas has always been a contemplative time of year for me.  I've had to draw on my Savior even more at this time of year for the joy I so deeply desire.  If I were to rely on my circumstances for my joy, I wouldn't have any.  I don't know how your life is looking right now, but mine is stressful.  My husband is out of work, our finances are strained, I have family and friends who are hurting, I have 3 friends who have lost their child much too soon just within the past couple of months, and I'm dealing with people whose sole mission may be to rob me of my sanity and joy.  The list could go on.  None of it makes sense and all of it makes me want to crawl into a ball and wave my white flag.  Then, I look over near my Christmas tree and I see this...

A cheap 99 cent red felt stocking


an old, cheap plush ornament.

And my joy cries out!  My heart swells with adoration and excitement for the Lord that I love.

My tears flow with gratitude and humbleness for the promises of my Savior.

My arms lift high in praise and honor for the greatest gift of my salvation.

My voice sings out "My JOY is in the LORD!!!"

How can a cheap felt stocking and an old ornament do that to a person?  Let me tell you....

12 years ago my husband and I were preparing to share our first Christmas together.  I was 8 months pregnant and we were dirt poor.  We didn't have money for a tree, for gifts, or for a nice dinner to share.  I went to K-Mart and I bought these two things....1 felt stocking and 1 ornament.  Total....$2. 14.  I even had to scrounge in the couch and on the floor of my car to find that.  I proudly brought them home.  We didn't have a tree, but we had this random hook hanging from the ceiling in our living room.  So, we hung our ornament there.  Every time we passed under it we would kiss.  It was our special mistletoe.  We didn't have a mantle so we laid the stocking over the back of our old ragged couch.  We called it our Joy Stocking.  We decided to put little notes in that stocking over the weeks leading up to Christmas about the things we were joyful or thankful for.  Then, on Christmas morning we sat together on the living room floor and opened our stocking.  We read the notes to one another.  We were rich that morning and we were surrounded by our gifts as we spread our notes on the floor around us.

We had joy!

That is where our first family tradition started.  Now, every year, the Joy Stocking gets hung and we put our notes of joy and thanks into it and it is the first thing we do on Christmas morning.  Our prayer is that our son, Matthew, will continue this tradition and always remember that joy is NOT in our circumstances, but in our Lord.

Today, I choose joy.  Despite my circumstance.  I choose joy. 

I am thankful for my loving husband whose hands work unceasingly to provide for our family.

I am thankful for my son who inspires me each day to be a better person.

I am thankful for my loving friends and I am humbled by their unconditional generosity and acceptance of me.

But, most of all, I am thankful for God.  He will never abandon me (Hebrews 13.5).  I am thankful He sent His son to earth and sacrificed Him on the cross so that I would have the CHOICE to accept Him as my that I can be forgiven even though I don't deserve it...and so I can have JOY that

exceeds my circumstances,
          never fails
                    renews my strength
                              gives me hope
                                        defines my purpose, and
                                   paints my most dreary days with beautiful colors.     

Noone and nothing can rob me of my JOY!  It's carved into the Rock (Psalm 18:2).

Want to borrow my chisel?    

Friday, December 16, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories Review

We all have our favorite stories...our favorite authors...our favorite characters.  The Bible is an important book in our house.  It is filled with THE World's Greatest  Stories.  George W. Sarris brings to life some of the most exciting characters and stories in the Bible, word for word!  Yes, that's right.  There is nothing added or taken away.  It's God's Word told straight from the Bible....with George's talented voice and exciting music and special effects to help bring it to life.

My family was given a copy of the NIV translation of Volume 1 - The Prophets from The World's Greatest Stories.  My family sat together one evening after dinner and listened to the CD.  It was a 45 minute story time from the greatest book, The Bible.  There were five stories:  The Blazing Furnace, The Handwriting on the Wall, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Elijah and the Prophets of Baal, and The Prophecy of Jonah.  You can hear audio clips of this CD and the others' offered by clicking here

Besides Volume 1 - The Prophets, The World's Greatest Stories offers five more volumes:  Volume 2 - The Life of Christ, Volume 3 - Beginnings, Volume 4 - Joshua and Esther, Volume 5 - Joseph and His Brothers, and Volume 6 - Defeating Giants.  These CD's are only $7.95 each and you can choose either the NIV or KJV.  When you order 6 or more CD's you will receive free shipping!  Click here to place your order. 

I enjoyed listening to the stories very much.  I particularly appreciated that it was coming word for word from the Bible, so there was no way of an error creeping in.  The sound effects were exciting and helped to really bring the stories to life.  My son thought the voices George used were too strange and not related enough to the accents or voices that the real people probably would have had.  I don't know if that is true, but it was his opinion!  There is no age recommendation assigned to this product, which is probably a good thing.  After all, God's Word is for all ages!  In our opinions this CD would be most appealing to listen to for ages 12 and under because of the childlike feel and quality it has.

The World's Greatest Stories would be a wonderful blessing to your family.  Listen to it in the car, before bedtime, during family Bible study time, or just pop it in when the kids are playing!  It would be a unique and inexpensive gift to bless another child or family.  This product is well worth the buy.  You won't be disappointed!

 Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family.  I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

ARTistic Pursuits Review

ARTistic Pursuits is an award winning homeschool art program for students from pre-school through high school.  These books can also be easily adapted for the classroom setting.  

 ARTistic Pursuits views the study of art as a compilation of the elements shown on the bookshelf to the right.  Each lesson provides a building block to the fuller ability to understand and create art:  conceptual application, expressive application, practical application, art history, technical application, and practiced application.  Click here to read more about each of these concepts. 

The ARTistic Pursuits approach is comprehensive.  The language is engaging and easy to follow. The lessons were not too long and they were interesting.  Click here to see a description of all of the books available from ARTistic Pursuits.  They are $42.95 each and offer a full year curriculum.  The book I was given to review was Grades 4-6 Book One:  The Elements of Art and Composition.

This book gives students their first in-depth look at the elements of art in a simply written text with illustrations in pencil, marker, and scratch art, the media they will be using. The elements of art and composition are explored through American art.  I chose this book because my son has a strong interest in learning how to draw, but has little to no skill.  He is in 6th grade.  It was a good fit for him.  The lessons were easy to follow and the practice "assignments" interested him because he could choose his own subjects to draw.  The supplies needed were easy to get at our local art/craft store and were not an expensive addition.  If you prefer, you can order Art Supply packs from ARTistic Pursuits.  Click here to see them.  For us, art is an extra curricular activity.  We do it (in a formal way such as this) only when we have extra time in the week.  ARTistic Pursuits suggests doing 2 lessons per week, but the student can do more or less when time and interest allows.  I found that once a week was and will be the probable amount we will turn to this curriculum.  ONLY because our lesson and activity schedule is currently so full.

No Risk Satisfaction Guarantee For Individual Orders....That's always one of my favorite features that a company could offer!  ARTistic Pursuits offers a 30 day money back guarantee (excluding shipping) if you are not completely satisfied with your product.  Their guarantee states that you can return it if you are not completely satisfied, but that it has to be unused and in the original packaging.  Wouldn't a person have to use it in order to determine if they were not satisfied?  So, the guarantee is a little confusing to me.  If this is something that is important to you in determining your purchase I would suggest contacting them for clarification on this.  You can find their contact information here

 Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family.  I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Game of Your Life" Family Movie Night Review

It's time for another Family Movie Night!  "Game of Your Life" will air on Friday, December 2, 8/7c on NBC.    Here's a little synopsis....

When industrious high school gamer Zach Taylor lands a prized scholarship to the prestigious Digital Institute of Game Design (DIGD), his future breaks wide open. The opportunity to study under gaming legend Marcus Bentton and alongside the country’s most creative minds will certainly propel him into a successful career as a video game designer. That is, if he can pass the infamous freshman project that eliminates more than half of the class within the first three months.
Paired with brilliant yet socially awkward teammates Phillip and Donald, the trio persuades Sara Ramirez – a determined and striking team leader with whom Zach has a history (and possibly a future) – to join their team. Working off-campus in the teched-out Lincoln Alley loft, the four set out to involve the entire campus in a quirky new social interactive game. But as the group becomes entrenched in the project, Zach learns that his father Billy, a widower, is facing growing financial woes at home. To help out, Zach accepts an opportunity to work directly with Marcus Bentton on a secretive side project that seems too good to be true. The effort requires nearly all of Zach’s time and energy, which he should be devoting to the project. Struggling to keep it together, Zach is torn between his responsibility to his team, his admiration for Bentton and a chance to help his father.
Everything comes to a breaking point when Zach’s team threatens to remove him from the group and the deceptive truth behind Bentton’s project comes to light. With the guidance of Professor Abbie Lambert, Zach must make a decision that not only affects his future, but the lives and livelihoods of the people around him as well. It’s a revealing story that recognizes the magnitude behind the choices we make and the importance loyalty plays in making good decisions.

Enjoy this official trailer....

Game of Your Life - Talks with Nathan from on Vimeo.

So, my family gathered together on the couch to watch this movie last night.  My son, who is a typical 11 year video game lover was excited because of the storyline.  Hubby and I were excited to have some good family entertainment.  The movie was clean and wholesome.  We loved the obvious portrayal of family values, loyalty in friendship, evidence of forgiveness, commitment, and the overcoming of personal struggles.  Overall, the movie was as promised....a great family movie.

We were a little disappointed in the acting.  The main character, Zach, did not seem sincere or believable at times.  I was left feeling like....."hmmmm, I can tell he is trying to act.  It doesn't seem natural".  I felt the same way about the female teacher's character, Abby.  Also, the filming was a bit "C" rated at times.  I'm not sure if it was because I viewed the Director's cut or what, but sometimes I felt like I was watching the quality of a home movie, rather than a TV movie.

The movie is definitely worth your Friday night time in the living room!  Pop some popcorn and cuddle up with your loved ones.  Family Movie Night is coming, so don't miss out!  "Game of Your Life" will air on Friday, December 2, 8/7c on NBC.

See what others are saying about Game of Your Life by visiting their Facebook page or Twitter!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

College Prep Genius VocabCafe REVIEW


OK, so my son is only in 6th grade.  That doesn't mean that I'm not already thinking about high school, SAT's, and college preparation.  Is that weird?

I don't care.  I'm going to do it anyway.

When I saw that I had the opportunity to sign up to review VocabCafe from CollegePrepGenius I did my cyber-wave and jump with the hopes of being picked!  Voila!  Here I am!  Let's see if my acrobatic efforts to get noticed were worth the sore muscles.

VocabCafe is a series of books (currently four) that are modern novellas containing 300 SAT-level words.  Each chapter contains a selection of vocabulary words interjected into the storyline.  These words are in bold and their definitions are at the bottom of the page they are on.  At the end of each chapter there is a review list of the words used.  The four titles and descriptions in the series are as follows:


IM for Murder
Operation High school
Planet Exile
Summer of St Nick

All four books are written with the modern teen in mind.  Although the target age group is middle school to high school, I think the themes would be most appealing to an 8-10th grade student.  With that being said, the vocabulary words were very challenging.  So, it seemed that the theme and the task of the words were not well matched.  I received the following information along with the books....

“***A WORD ABOUT CONTENT – These books were written with an intended audience of high school teenagers, although many parents find them appropriate for their middle school or younger students.  As a family-based company, our goal is to make a quality product that can be enjoyed by everyone.  Thus, these stories contain no magic, sorcery, swear words, illicit situations, nor do they encourage negative behaviors.  However, we recommend that parents should read every book that they give their children (not just ours) to make sure the messages coincide with their beliefs and standards.  The VocabCafe Book Series does contain boy-girl relationships (non-sexual), mild violence, and mature thematic elements.”

I read this before reading the books and was very encouraged.  Although I'm not the literature police when it comes to what my son reads, I do try to weed out books that offer themes I feel he could be sensitive to, would dive into areas that are inappropriate for his age, or that may negatively influence him.  After reading this disclosure, I was put at ease.  Still, I thought I would read them on my own before handing them over to my 11 year old son.  I'm glad I did.

Matthew is an avid reader and he does read at a high school level.  However, the storylines were too frequently off of the moral compass that I like to have as part of his reading.  Things like teenage dating, lying, disobedience and rebellion without consequence, and some phrases or words that I would deem as inappropriate in our house (ie:  freaking instead of the other popular cuss word).  I would not label these books as wholesome literature if that's what you're looking for in your reading.  For us, some good conversation while reading them was in order.  It certainly allowed us to dive into the Bible to find the scriptures that conflicted with the storylines.  Wonderful lessons learned :) 

With that being said....I thought the concept of these books was GREAT!  Boosting your vocabulary can be a boring and fruitless effort if all your doing is making flash cards and trying memorize words you'll probably never use in real life.  Interjecting them into a story will definitely increase the retention level.  Sure, sometimes the word seemed oddly placed.  I mean, if you were going to hold a "vote" among a group to make a decision wouldn't you just say that?  Well, in Planet Exile they will hold a "plebiscite".  OK....sure!  The reality is that most of the words on the SAT are words that no typical human being uses.  But, alas, our student must know them in order to score well and they will find them in the VocabCafe series of books.

If you would like to order these books, you can get them for $12.95 each or the complete set for $38.85.  That's a buy 3 get one free kind of price!  Just visit the website by clicking here.

Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family.  I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grammar Police.....knocking on my door

If I wasn't laughing so hard you may hear the Grammar Police pounding on my door.  But, alas, my jolly outburst has been heard throughout the neighborhood.

Today's Daily Grammar review worksheet had the question....

The three articles are ______, ______, and _____.

OK, so for all of you grammar gurus out there.....the answer is a, an, and the.

Well, if you are an 11 year old boy who retreats into his darkened hiding fort when his teacher (Moi!) says it's time for grammar then this may be your answer.....

Sports, News, and Cartoons

Yes, my dear I left my son to complete his worksheet this was his best answer.  When I burst out laughing and he asked me why, I pointed out his answer.  He could not, for the life of him, see why I was laughing.  When I explained it to him he just said....

"Whoever wrote this needs to say what they mean! 
Articles are in the newspaper, too, so my answer is right!"

Could I argue with him?  Yes, it was a grammar lesson so one would assume that the answer that was being sought would be related to grammar and not journalism.  But, well, you know what they say about assuming...

I'm always asking Matthew to think outside of the box and he has taken my advice!  He thought outside of the grammar box, right where he would like to be.  Unfortunately, learning proper grammar is a necessary evil.  At least Grandpa thinks so...