Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Nativity Story {an app review}

We love books and we love educational apps, so you can imagine how much we enjoy quality book apps for the iPad and iPhone.

I was recently given the opportunity to review the app The Nativity Story, by Puddle Tap Publishing, which is a beautiful retelling of the original Christmas story.  The app is done in book format, retold by Michael Seidelman.

The app opens with the music to The First Noel, and you can choose from English, French or Spanish.  The fact that it is offered in Spanish is a bonus, because we can have a fun immersion experience with this app to aid in our foreign language studies.  There is a Read by Myself option for independent readers, but the Read to Me option includes the printed words and the audio, for a multi-sensory experience.  Created with classic woodcut style illustrations, this app is absolutely beautiful.  There is a charming vintage feel.  It's also like a pop-up/interactive style book, where the kids can touch and swipe the screen to ring the bell, knock on the door, make people talk, or create music.  There were some liberties taken with the conversational parts, and sometimes the voices were a little awkward, but the app is is definitely engaging and interactive.

Emory and Daddy "reading" the book one night on daddy's phone

The app is compatible with both iPhone and iPad.
The Nativity Story Popup Deluxe Edition for iPad is $3.99
The Nativity Story Popup Mini Edition for iPhone is $1.99

The Nativity Story app is recommended for ages 2-8 and I find this accurate.  The app is engaging, easy to navigate, and the various interactive options make it appealing to the wide age range.  I believe it is a great family app, and perfect for the Christmas season!

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Random 5 on Friday ~ November 29, 2013

1.  I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  I enjoyed the time with family.  The food was delicious.  Eleanor's favorite was sweet potato casserole and turkey.  Eleanor is not a "people person" and won't go to her Auntie too often . . . unless she has food!  :)

2.  Bailey is only two years old.  The Husband can't get over that she's already going gray.  I love the pooch, but I can't get over the fact that she still doesn't understand she's not my lapdog.

3.  This has been such a busy time for us.  We joined a co-op this fall, and basketball, and then there's all the holiday stuff going on.  The junior church party was held at the local game place.  This picture cracked me up.  Elliott had ridden it once, so he knew what to expect.  Emory's reaction was hilarious . . .I was in tears laughing at him, and people were stopping to check out the funny kid-giggles.

4.  We celebrated Elliott's birthday a little early.  With everything going on, and him having games every Saturday through Christmas, it was just easier to do it early.

Mike and Sully cupcakes, coming off the assembly line . . .

Not sure what's going on with everyone's hair, but for some reason I loved this picture!

5.  You don't know how happy this makes me.  It took 10 months.  Ten very long months to get this precious little girl to sleep in her crib during the daytime.  It took about 9 months to get her to sleep in at night.  This was the first time she ever fell asleep on her own from a "wide awake" state, and that was after fussing, taking off her socks, and then chatting with herself/Minnie Mouse for nearly an hour.

The Pebble Pond

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Things that make me Happy

Taking nature walks

A good book

Fresh sheets on my bed

Hearing "I love you" from my kids


Organizing a bookshelf

Girls night with my friends

Watching comedies

Hearing my children giggle uncontrollably 

Successfully cooking a new recipe

The dog's happy dance 

Comments on my blog

Listening to thunderstorms

Surprise cards or letters in the mail 

When the Husband cooks dinner 

Homemade Christmas ornaments

Christmas lights

Hot towels fresh from the dryer

Laughing with my husband until we're in tears

When the baby sleeps through the night

Quirky roadside attractions

Pictures of babies on Facebook

Homemade cheesecake

Cuddling with my husband 

Looking at old pictures

Finishing a to-do list

Watching it snow

Eating dessert for breakfast

Watching a baby sleep

What makes you happy?

Blogging Through the Alphabet

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The First Christmas Night {Review & Giveaway}

Most of us are familiar with the traditional "T'was the Night Before Christmas" poem, with the cute rhymes and fun images.  The First Christmas Night by Keith Christopher is written in the traditional style of that poem, but with a much more beautiful story.

The moon, shining bright
in the heavens so high, 
gave the luster of midday
to the Bethlehem sky. 

The author, Keith Christopher is not only an educator, but has a history in music as a composer, arranger, editor and producer, among other achievements.  His background shines through in the lovely flow of the poem.

The book is a beautiful retelling of the birth of Christ.  My boys were quiet from front to back, because they were engaged.  The rhyme was easy to follow, and the pictures by Christine Kornacki were absolutely stunning.  It's truly a beautiful book.  The boys have gone back to look at it on their own more than once.

We really enjoyed it, and it will hold a place on our bookshelf with our favorite Christmas books.  You can purchase a hardcover copy of the book from Ideals Books for $16.99, as it would make a lovely addition to any Christmas book collection or church classroom.  You can also enter to win a copy right now!

As part of FlyBy Blogger Promotions, I am able to hold a giveaway, so that one lucky reader will win a free copy of The First Christmas Night by Keith Christopher.  Winner must be 18 or older, and have a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada.  One winner will be chosen randomly on Saturday, November 30th, 2013 and notified by email.

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Random 5 on Friday, November 22, 2013

1.   I am thrilled to share that I have been asked back to the Schoolhouse Review Crew as part of the 2014 team!  The Crew has been a huge blessing to our homeschool, and I can't imagine homeschooling without it.  In case you missed it, the crew recently voted on the Blue Ribbon Awards, and we were asked to share our own personal favorites as well.  It was so hard to narrow it down, but here are my Best of the Best!

2.  There will be changes at co-op next semester, for both me and Elliott.  I asked to have Elliott moved up to the next class.  He's on the "older" end of his class right now, and it's a big age range, so I felt like it would benefit him more to move up after the break.  From my understanding, another mom asked to have her daughter moved for the same reason, so I don't feel so guilty asking.

3.  The other change at co-op is that I will not be assisting in art anymore.  I was asked to lead the class.  Say whhaaa?  Yeah . . . and I agreed.  I guess the mom who is teaching now won't be there next semester, so they asked me to take it.  I always thought of myself as artistically challenged, but it's not so terribly bad being in there.  I'm up for a challenge.  Unless things change between now and then, I'll have two classes, with kids ranging from 6-9, and after that I'll probably end up in nursery.  Eleanor generally makes it through my two classes but co-op is during prime nap time, and she doesn't sleep well outside of the house, so I usually sit with her so she's not fussy.

4.  Elliott came out with Yahtzee last night, and my first thought was Noooo!  I think board games are a phenomenal educational supplement, but it was almost bedtime and I honestly hate teaching the rules for games we've never played with the kids.  It's agonizing for me.  I almost told him no, but the way he asked won me over.  "Can we do math?"  See the thing is, it wasn't just "Can we play a game?"  He recognized that this game was all about math, and he wanted to do math.  Or maybe he tricked me.  Who knows.  Either way, he caught on quickly and it was a fun game!

5.  The husband caved and the kids won, and the tree went up early.  Elliott liked helping.

Notice anything about that picture?  Yes . . . that is Emory, underneath our tree.  That's his idea of helping.

I seriously couldn't have posed Eleanor any cuter.  These are the lights for the boys' room.

Perhaps it is the jeans, but she looked so darn cute.

Loving her smile.

Okay, I'm done.

The Pebble Pond

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Best of the Best: Blue Ribbon Awards

I have probably said at least a dozen times that being on The Schoolhouse Review Crew has been a blessing.  I have enjoyed connecting with other homeschooling moms, and of course we love the "try before you buy" aspect that the Crew allows.  We've also learned about companies and products we might have never tried otherwise, so it has really helped me learn what is actually out there for homeschoolers!

We just wrapped up the 2013 Crew Year, and it was so much fun!  One of our last "assignments" was to vote for our favorites for the Blue Ribbon Awards.  Before I send you on your way to check out the winners, I wanted to share our personal favorites.  While we reviewed many awesome products this year, I am only going to share our Top 5 Favorites!  If you click on the name of the product, it will take you to my raving review.

Math U See
This was a Mathematics program I had heard a lot about, and now I know why!  The DVD may be meant for the parent/teacher, but it is engaging for my son, and the hands-on aspect was a good fit for him too.  I also like that the lessons are easily adapted to go at your child's pace as fast/slow as you need.

If You Were Me and Lived In . . .
Love, love, love these living geography books by Carole P. Roman!  The boys were intrigued, kept asking questions and asked for more books like it, and THAT is what made me love this series.  The books were engaging and educational, and I am planning to buy the rest of the books as they are released.  They are just enough to give an easy culture and geography lesson in one book, but could always be expanded into full unit studies.

ARTistic Pursuits
I really like the way this program is designed.  It offers art appreciation and artistic expression, and it is suitable for a variety of ages and homeschooling styles.  The materials are accessible, and worth the initial cost. I can definitely recommend this program, and would be willing to purchase more levels.

Chess House
I would say this was Elliott's favorite for the year!  He loved the "game" aspect.  I loved that the beginning set was really and truly accessible to beginners, and that the DVD is appropriate for all ages.  We both have learned how to play and we've had so much fun!  Elliott was already asking for the next DVD in the series before we finished the first one.  Again, anything that encourages interest and further exploration by a child is winner in my book.

Picaboo Yearbooks
Because how awesome is a personalized yearbook!?  This was so much fun to create, and even more fun to get in the mail!  Everyone in the family loved this!  I plan to do one every year now.

That was hard!  There were so many more that we loved.  There are some we are continuing to use, or plan to buy the next level (or another product from the company), but I would be here all day if I shared every single one we liked, so I had to limit myself to five.  Now, if you're interested in learning which companies won the Crew's votes, and what other reviewers are choosing as their personal favorites,  head on over the check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew 2013 Blue Ribbon Awards!

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

G is for Genealogy

Genealogy is defined as:

1.) A record or table of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or ancestors; a family tree
2.) Direct descent from an ancestor; lineage or pedigree
3.) The study or investigation of ancestry and family histories.

I am so in love with family history.  I love looking over family names (all of my children have at least one name with a family connection), or hearing stories that were passed down.  For instance, I didn't know until recently that my great-grandfather had the chance to play baseball, but chose not to leave my great-grandmother.  Romantic, right?  My husband's grandmother still has the quilt that a "grandmother" from her husband's family made while immigrating to America.  I find stories like this fascinating!

A few years ago I tried to do some genealogy research, but with small kids, things happened and I got distracted and it went to the back-burner.  Recently I was given the fabulous opportunity to be part of a launch team for Genealogy Revelations.  I am so excited!  Genealogy Revelations is run by Anna Rae, and while I know there is no guarantee, I am curious to see what she be might be able to find.

Being able to participate in this launch sparked my interest again, so I've been trying to do a little research here and there.  One night I was randomly googling my grandmother's hometown, and the unique name that it is, resulted in an unlikely find.  Someone had uploaded a slideshow from a historic society meeting that was in honor of my great-grandfather's brother!  As I'm watching and listening, I hear the speaker start talking about the guest of honor's Cherokee Indian grandmother . . . I pause, grab a pen and paper, and start taking notes!  This is one part of the lineage I had been searching for!  I sent the link to my sister, who responds that she looks like the woman in my grandmother's picture, then minutes later says her husband is definitely the tall man in the picture.  The names matched up to what I have on record, but she had a very traditional name, so I would have never made the connection before I found this slide show.  I learned that she was "adopted" but still had access to her tribe.  While I don't know the circumstances surrounding that situation, I found it interesting.

The stories were actually "as told by" my great-great uncle, and include stories he shared about his family and life in that town.  I am currently trying to get in contact with his niece that compiled them.  I would absolutely love to read the full version, and hear all of the personal stories about my family.

As you can see, just being put in contact with Genealogy Revelations has lead me to new discoveries!  Her website and the articles she writes are very interesting, so if you like history and genealogy, you will probably enjoy the stories and photographs she shares.  Be looking forward to my full review in a few weeks!

Blogging Through the Alphabet


©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Sparkle Box - Book Review and Giveaway!

I love reading books to my children.  I especially like reading books that encourage them to think beyond the story and apply what they've read to real life.  The end of the year is often filled with commercialism and the "gimmes" and sometimes children (and adults!) lose sight of the real meaning and joy of Christmas.  

The Sparkle Box was written by Jill Hardie, as a way to share how her family gives a gift to Jesus every year.  It is her hope that the book will encourage new family traditions of giving, sharing and bringing light into the lives of others.  

The boys were excited to read this book and find out what the Sparkle Box was all about.  Sam is a little boy who is intrigued by a sparkly box on the mantle.  His mom tells him it just isn't ready yet.  So he spends his time making Christmas lists, going to Christmas parties and helping his mom donate food and blankets to those in need.  All the while, he is still thinking about that sparkly box and what could possibly be inside.

We all sat down and read it together, and I found myself tearing up, as I tried to explain to my young children about the hardships that others face, when our own family is so blessed.  It is sometimes a difficult concept for them to truly comprehend.  

Jill Hardie did a great job with this book, and explaining why we should help others (Matthew 25:40), and in the back there are even a few suggestions for ways to start your own Sparkle Box tradition.  The book was well written, and Christine Kornacki did a fantastic job on the illustrations.  

By the time we had finished, the 6 year old was already asking for his own Sparkle Box, and luckily, the book includes one!

We put it together right away of course, and the kids are thinking of how we will fill our family sparkle box.  My 6 year old has already thought of one lovely idea, and I'm delighted that his big heart is always thinking of others.

For more information about The Sparkle Box or starting your own family tradition you can buy The Sparkle Box from Ideals Books for $19.99 or watch this book trailer!

The Giveaway
I have the opportunity to offer a giveaway for one copy of The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie, through FlyBy Blogger Promotions.  Giveaway is open to all entrants ages 18+ with U.S. or Canadian mailing addresses.  One winner will be randomly chosen on November 23, 2013 and notified by email.

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Random 5 on Friday ~ November 15, 2013

1.  Elliott started playing basketball.  He has suddenly expressed an interest in sports, and we realize this is the age where he needs to start experimenting to find out what sports/activities he is going to like.  Honestly, he is my shy, reserved child, and of all the sports we were a little surprised he asked for basketball.  We are open to everything, though, and who knows what he will be doing next!?

2.  We had our first snow of the season this week.  Also our first power outage.  Luckily the outage didn't last long, and although it wasn't much snow, it was enough to make the kids happy and build a miniature snowman!

3.  Our homeschooling has been all about the books this week.  We went to the library last week so we have a fresh stack of books in a variety of subjects to devour.  Elliott is starting to get more interested in reading for pleasure, so I am delighted!

4.  Elliott went with Daddy for his annual eye exam, and he picked out new frames.  He is super excited, because they had some in red (his new favorite color) and he can't wait to get them in.

5.  Eleanor also had her well-baby this week.  Her doctor called her petite (as he calls all my kids) and dramatic.  She sort of threw a ginormous toddler style temper tantrum on him, for absolutely no reason at all, other than he was ya know...looking at her?  She is also cutting her first tooth, but thankfully she doesn't seem to be bothered by it right now.  Of course now that I've said that...

The Pebble Pond

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Those Random Moments

Homeschooling is a joy.  I know I just recently opened up about how I struggle with the effort that goes into homeschooling, but in reality, it is a wonderful thing.  There is just something special about those random moments during the day, that make my heart happy.

Like turning the corner to find my son engrossed in a "Dr. Seuss Reading Extravaganza"

Or taking a special walk to the grandparent's farm to see how the foal is growing.

And watching my kid run through open fields with his dog, looking for just the right color leaf for his fall scavenger hunt.

Or watching him carefully count his money, before he takes it to the bank to cash in at the coin counter.

Or seeing my boys work quietly together on Henri Matisse inspired art.

Or watching them do nature study . . .

It's just those random, sweet moments that make all that effort worth it!

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole {Schoolhouse Review}

Most of the time when I review something through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, it is for the kids. It is always a nice treat though, when I get something different. At Home In Dogwood Mudhole by Franklin Saunders was a book just for me!

You may remember that I've mentioned living near my in-law's farm. What you may not know, is that I was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, with not a garden or cow in sight, and while I may not be a "city girl" I am definitely not a country girl either. Yet, I have learned to string beans, watched a goat give birth, and panicked when the rooster tried to flog my little boy. I've also been schooled by my two year old on the difference between chicken and duck manure.  I am adjusting, anyway.

So you might be wondering why I would be interested in a book with the following synopsis:
When Y2K looms and modern life fails to satisfy, Franklin Sanders and wife Susan go from nuclear family to multigenerational farm. Despite Susan’s admonition that they acquire nothing that eats, they gain dogs, chickens, horses, cows, pigs, ducks and sheep. Their children move back in and bring their spouses, filling Dogwood Mudhole with grandchildren. It’s no Green Acres, but through sheer persistence and good humor, they learn to farm.

Honestly? I don't think I'll ever be a homesteader, but I felt like I would be able to identify on some level with this story.

I was given the opportunity to review Volume 1: Nothing that Eats, in which Franklin Sanders takes us on a journey with with his own family, and their personal journey to their new home in Dogwood Mudhole. That's a small dot on a map, but it's apparently a real place in Tennessee.  I'm not really surprised.  I've seen a lot of strange road and town names since I moved to the middle of nowhere.

First of all, I will say that this is not so much a book as it is a compilation of seventeen years worth of personal newsletters through The Moneychanger, spanning from the mid-90's to early 2000's. Sometimes the fact that it is a newsletter, rather than a cohesive story, comes through, but it is still an interesting read.

Yes, there's a lot of talk about farm animals. I might have gotten lost in the descriptions and names of all the varieties of chickens and feather colors, but I could definitely relate to dealing with dogs and chickens, thanks to our chocolate lab. There's also talk of cheap dogs becoming $1,000 pets, dealing with the IRS and jail time, stories of weddings and births, personal testimonies and his southern heritage.  I would venture to guess that any history buff would enjoy his talk of Civil war battles, reenactments and historical cemeteries. Sanders also calls it like he sees it. There is no hiding his feelings about his faith or politics.  He is a passionate man, and that shows through in his writing. It's not just about deciding where and how to weather out Y2K, or becoming homesteaders. It's about living a life worth living. It's humorous, it's real, it's honest.

I would say the book is appropriate not just for adults, but also for teens who might be interested as well.  At Home in Dogwood Mudhole-Volume One is $22.95 for paperback, or $16.95 for the digital version (with a no risk guarantee!) and  Volume Two: Best Thing We Ever Did, is available for pre-order for the same price.  You can also read sample chapters from the first two volumes!

You can check out more reviews of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole from The Crew!

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Peek at our Bookshelves: Farm Books

It's been awhile since I've shared what we've been reading, outside of book reviews.  However, the kids are enjoying books about farms and farm animals right now, for two reasons.  The first reason is because of the new foal on their grandparent's farm.  The last foal they remember did not survive, so this has been a fun experience for them.

The second reason is because of the first book I'm going to share . . . which was part of our Year 1 curriculum.  It has sparked a renewed interest in all things farm for them!

This post contains affiliate links.  It costs you nothing, but helps our homeschool.  Thank you!

James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot
If I was only recommending one book, this would be it.  Written by a veterinarian, this is a true living book. Delightful stories, rich vocabulary, and adored by my family!

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
A long-time favorite in our house, this is a sweet bedtime book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
This is another bedtime story, where the little boy asks Daddy how the different farm animals go to sleep, and daddy answers each...and...every...question.  If you watch daddy and son in the illustrations throughout the book, any parent can definitely relate!

Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Admittedly, this one isn't as "living" as the rest of the books on this list, but it is without a doubt, a beloved book in our house.  It's another bedtime book, but the sing-song rhyming makes it kind of upbeat.  The chicks keep sneaking out of bed for a little fun after being tucked in.  My boys still ask for this one.

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen
A great book that introduces all the animals on the farm with their unique personalities.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen
What happens to the animals at different times of the year?  Month by month, we see how animals react to the changing seasons.

Otis by Loren Long
We received this as part of the Imagination Library program.  I had never heard of it before, and didn't know there was a series.  This book is about a small tractor who loves his job, until he is replaced by the big new tractor in the barn.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
We haven't actually read this one yet, but it is on my must-read list for this year, and I have a feeling it will be loved by my kids, just as it was always one of my favorites as a child.

There are others we've read and enjoyed, but these are at the top of our list.  Which farm-related book would you recommend?  We are always looking for new favorites!

Blogging Through the Alphabet

©2011-2013 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.