Monday, March 31, 2014

REVIEW: Captivated DVD by Media Talk 101

I had the opportunity to review the intriguing Captivated DVD documentary from Media Talk 101.

 

WHAT IS IT?

The Captivated DVD is a documentary film that highlights the increasing dependence our society has on various forms of media, from television to cell phones, computers to tablets, to video games.  Everywhere we look, people are engrossed or “captivated” by their digital devices. 

Are our relationships with people suffering because of the time and attention we give to media?  Are we being unduly influenced by worldly sources?  Are we using these devices as tools in a modern world, or are they taking over our focus?

This film helps us answer these questions and more and also forces us to examine our own use of media and to consider whether or not we put it in its rightful place or give it a unjust priority over opportunities for spiritual growth in our lives.

You can watch a large number of video excerpts from the film and see for yourself if this documentary could be important in your life and the lives of loved ones around you.

This DVD is intended for adults.  You can purchase it for just $16.95 with free shipping.  They are also offering a special sale right now where you can order 2 and have the second copy to give away to a friend for just an extra $5 with free shipping.  Now that’s a deal!

This film is 1 hour 47 minutes long and includes an additional 2 hours of bonus features.

 

OUR EXPERIENCE:

I have to admit that when I first heard about this film, I didn’t think I’d be interested.  I watched the trailer, and I still wasn’t convinced.  But once I sat down and watched each and every video excerpt available on the website, I became more and more intrigued, and I was certain it was worth investigating further.  I’m so glad I did!

I invited over a close Christian friend for tea, and we sat down and watched the film together.  Wow!  We had wonderful discussions throughout the film, even pausing it several times to talk more about it.  We watched all of the bonus interviews on the DVD, as well, and it was all so worth our time!  We both found ourselves nodding in agreement throughout the film.  It definitely sparks some self-examination and gets you thinking about how the use of media impacts your own family.

There’s so much to tell about this film.  I took lots of notes as I watched it, and I think the best way to summarize it for you is to highlight some of the many points that jumped out at me as important.

The movie starts out introducing how we began using media in the first place…with the telegraph.  Suddenly, people found they could share thoughts and tidbits of news across the miles without having to wait days or months to get their messages through.  It literally changed the way people communicated, and it allowed families spread out in distance to stay close through this type of contact.

One of the first good points of the film was how introducing busy programming on television to very young children actually conditions their brains to need excessive stimulation in order to generate interest, and this in turn develops a shortened attention span as they get older.  This really caught my attention, because I have a kid with ADHD and two others who really struggle with their attention span for things that are not visually stimulating (like school work…go figure!).

Another good point was that the brain gets good at whatever it does most.  So if kids spend their time playing video games, they get very good at them.  But if they spend their time reading books or playing board games, they get very good at those things, as well.

While we’re on the topic of video games, here’s something else to consider.  Your brain, when it works hard to accomplish a task, derives pleasure from a job well done and a sense of accomplishment at reaching a goal.  But scans of the brain show that playing video games also stimulates the pleasure center in the brain, bypassing the part where it works hard to get the sense of accomplishment.  So essentially, it tricks your brain into having strong feelings of having accomplished a lot on a difficult task without actually working hard, so you get a false sense of accomplishment with the same gratifying feelings of pleasure.  Also, the film states that 10% of children are actually physically addicted to video games, and in a clinical sense, it parallels that of a gambling addiction.  That’s a scary thought!  Do we want our children crippled with dependency in this way?

I mentioned that I have a child with ADHD.  I chose not to medicate.  I homeschooled him until high school when he had developed more self-control, and I kept his life very routine and regimented so he could focus better at home.  The film talks about how often times, children with ADHD can become more regulated and avoid medication by disconnecting them from media, ensuring they get sufficient sleep, having plenty of outdoor activities, and ensuring they have good nutrition.

It also discussed how the Hollywood rating system for films created the “R” category, which allowed movies that would never before have been allowed in theaters to now be shown with the “rated R” label.  In fact, there are now twelve times more R-rated films than G-rated films being made each year, and that is largely driven by the money generated by the popularity of these films with questionable content that our grandparents would have found shameful.  Over time, people become desensitized to shocking content so that foul language, violence, and adult situations are no longer shocking.

Many people have unknowingly become enslaved by media.  How many times have you been in line at the grocery store while someone stands at the checkout pecking away at their phones or rudely carrying on a phone conversation in front of the cashier?  What about texting in church or at the dinner table?  Do you have friends who panic if the power goes out and they can’t get on the computer?  Do you children dread vacationing in remote locations where they have to be disconnected from media for a while?  Do they know what else they can do with their time?  I know my own family suffers from some of these same maladies at times.  It can be a tragedy if one of the kids fails to charge their tablet and finds that the battery is dead…real tears!

Also, we should consider more closely what messages are being communicated through the television, music, and internet sources we choose.  Countless sources communicate the ideas of man and not of Christ.  Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Are those the ideas that linger in our minds through the media we’re accessing?

Without media, you have more time for other things in your life…to learn, to do, to interact with others in a meaningful way, and most importantly, to spend time in God’s word.  Do you catch yourself saying you don’t have time for bible study?  Could you skip Facebook today and immerse yourself in the bible instead?  Are we making right choices in how we spend our time?

The film also points out that television was once a family-oriented activity where parents were ultimately in control of what their children watched.  Most homes had only one tv in a central location, and children watched whatever their parents were watching.  I remember that in my own childhood home, and I remember that my parents didn’t always shelter me from questionable content in the programming, but instead, used it as an opportunity to discuss with me the situations that I’d encounter in the world and how to handle them or what better choices could be made in a similar situation.  Do we do that with our children now, or do we give them their own televisions in their rooms and just assume they are watching something appropriate?

Instead, we need to control the medium, not the other way around.  Be selective in what you watch and the messages you stream into your mind through video and music.  Use television as a opportunity to discuss things with your children that conflict with your Christian values.

The overall message I got from the film were that if we don’t allow ourselves to be captivated by the messages of this world, then it means we can strive to be captivated by something else that glorifies God.  Media sources and digital devices can be wonderful tools in living a godly life.  The key to it all is discernment.  And that’s the message I think this film drives home to viewers. 

What captivates you?  Ask yourself that question as you watch this film, and you’ll be glad you took the time to examine yourself.  The first thing my friend said when it was over was that she wanted to get the film for herself and watch it again with her husband.  Its message is too important to ignore.  I highly recommend it!

See what other Crew members had to say about the Captivated DVD by clicking the banner below.

Our Family's Animated Series: "Homeschooled," Part 2 of Episode 1

Here it is...Part 2 of Episode 1 of our new family animated series:  "Homeschooled."  Enjoy!


Please take a moment to post and let us know how you like it!  My family sure has had a lot of fun putting it together.  Stay tuned for the final installment of the first episode next Sunday night!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – March 16th-22nd

Welcome to a new week!

********************

Haylee’s been doing a 50-state study from Knowledge Quest this school year, so I bought her this fun magnetic states puzzle from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet for $4. 

DSCF1384

She put it together on the included magnetic map first and then transferred it to the side of the freezer so it would look cool.

********************

Monday was St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided to make our traditional meal.  Our long-time favorite is Betty Crocker’s Slow-Cooker Old-World Corned Beef & Veggies

DSCF1385

Haylee was quite happy about that, because she LOVES this meal!  I didn’t make it on St. Patty’s Day for the last 2 years in a row because I was following the PINK Method nutrition plan and didn’t want all of those calories and fat.  But I agreed to make it this year and just gave everyone far more veggies than meat!

Then for dessert, we had these Easy Grasshopper Bars from Betty Crocker. 

DSCF1386

They were pretty good!  And it made 24 of them, so it was a treat that lasted us most of the week.

********************

Mid-week, I went with my neighbor friend and my homeschool field trip group to Student Night at the Opera to see Carmen performed at the Harrison Opera House. 

DSCF1407

The last performance I saw was Ariadne Auf Naxos, which I hated because it lacked a cohesive storyline.  This was so much better!  That crafty Carmen…such a seductress! 

********************

I began working on my homeschool plans for the new school year starting in June.  Sonlight released the .pdf version of the new 2014 catalog on Friday, so I pulled out some storage tubs of books in our shed that contained Core B and Core F, and I compared what I had with the latest version. 

Sonlight Catalog

Customer service at Sonlight informed me there are no changes to those cores from 2013 to 2014, so once I’d made my list of what I needed to upgrade my cores and science packages, I went ahead and placed my order to take advantage of 2013 prices before they increase to the 2014 rates on April 1st. 

I’m so excited!  I could hardly believe they changed out so many books in Core F…it hardly resembles what it was when I first purchased it in 2009.  This was our favorite core of all, so I’m hoping the changes don’t ruin it for us!  I’ve heard rumblings that the old Eastern Hemisphere Explorer was much better (it was certainly more visually appealing on antiqued paper), but if that’s the case, I still have an unused copy of the old EHE that we could go back to if we wanted to. 

I went ahead and shipped off two big boxes to Sonlight to return Hayden’s Core 200 and Science 250 that I’d ordered for him last spring but never ended up using since he ended up going to charter school.  That will get me a refund of about $850, and I’ll just lose the $47 I spent shipping it back to them.  I’m so glad I remembered to check on that, because I was only a week from the return deadline!  It was so much money because I had to order the Sonlight Ultra Microscope, which account for over $200 of that cost alone.

********************

I’m hearing almost nothing on my mom now that my sister is not there visiting.  I did learn, however, that she has been switched to liquid morphine as needed for pain.  On one hand, that makes me sad, because I know that is done in the final days for a patient’s comfort.  But on the other hand, I am glad to know that my mom will not be in pain with that.  I certainly don’t want her suffering day in and day out like that.

I feel very torn about whether or not to try to visit again.  I don’t think I want to see her this way and have that be what sticks in my mind when I think of her.  I don’t think I could hold myself together seeing her in pain, and I don’t want to upset her more.  She is now on a catheter and bed pan and no longer getting up at all.  She still can’t speak from the stroke.  My sister said when she has the stomach pain, it’s very intense.  I can’t imagine watching her suffer like that.  My sister said leaving for the last time was the hardest thing she’s had to do, and she wasn’t even sure my mom understood that she was going home.

Please continue to keep her in your prayers.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful portrait of my parents that was taken not too long before my father passed away in 2001.

DSCF1428

This is how I think of them.  That’s what I want to remember.  I love them both so much.

********************

Until next week!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Our Family Project: “Homeschooled” the Web Show

As I mentioned earlier, my family has been working on a collaborative project to create an animated comedy about homeschooling.



Hayden, my 14-year old son, created the theme music.  My husband, Steve, does the comedy writing with input from the rest of us for lines and real-life situations.  Hayden also does the animations.  We all record our own lines in our real voices.



So here it is…the first episode, or “webisode.”  We hope to post a new one every Sunday.   Enjoy, and please…PLEASE…leave us some feedback as to whether or not you find this little project of ours entertaining.   It makes us laugh, as least :).



 

Weekly Wrap-Up – March 9th-15th

Welcome to a new week!  We finally had a week without any snow, and things even warmed up a bit mid-week.  We enjoyed a couple of lovely days, and spring was definitely in the air!

********************

On Sunday, I went to see the Virginia Symphony Orchestra play a Salute to Broadway.  It was a lovely show!  They had the Virginia Chorus and a couple of guest solo singers, as well.  Personally, I prefer just to hear the symphony play at the Classics series, and I like it when they had solo musicians as guests.  The chorus can be nice, too, but when they have solo singers, I feel like it kind of take over the show and drowns out the instruments, which is the reason that I go.  But it was a lovely performance, even still, and I got to hear 3 songs from A Sound of Music, which I love, so I was happy.  The symphony is always so peaceful, and I really treasure being blessed to go every year as my Mother’s Day gift from my husband.

********************

I got daily updates from my sister while she was visiting my mom through Tuesday.  I did get to talk to my mom a couple of times when Wendy put the phone to her ear, and I really appreciated that.  I heard her say “okay,” when I told her I loved her and am thinking of her, and it was so nice just to hear her voice.  I love her so much.  Wendy said mom does seem to have frequent bouts of intense stomach pain, and that she takes a pain pill when it happens, but then she mostly sleeps.  She said mom was so glad to see all of her visitors and seemed to recognize everyone, but she also has periods where she seems confused about what’s going on around her.  I’m so upset that this stroke has stolen my mom’s last days from her.  I know she was looking forward to having people come visit, and it’s too bad she had to spend it this way.  I went through a lot of emotional stuff through this weekend of hearing more about how mom is really doing, and it’s been hard to think of her there, unable to talk, and having intense pain.  My sister asked her if she was glad to be back at home, and she said no.  That made me so sad for her.

********************

On Wednesday, there was the most beautiful sunrise!  It reminded me of God’s awesome creation and how His mercy is new every morning.  I ran out to snap a picture before I took Hayden to school.

DSCF1367

This was the view from our back yard.  Gorgeous!  It was just what I needed to put myself back in the right frame of mind and snap me out of the sadness that has plagued me since my mom got sick.

********************

By Friday, the kids were so glad to have a day off from school, and I put on some music for them to dance to.

DSCF1371

All I could think to myself as I watched them having fun together was that my life really isn’t so bad, and in fact, it’s pretty darn good.  I love them so much.

********************

On Saturday, I realized this was our final Saturday of freedom before soccer season begins next week, so I decided to make my husband’s favorite dinner…a labor of love…homemade Calzones!

DSCF1378

It takes hours of my time to make them, but it’s always worth the wait.  They are really large.  One feeds all 5 of us for dinner, so we still have one for dinner tomorrow night.  Here’s my slice from the end.

DSCF1379

Mmm…heavenly goodness!  It was so good that I actually licked my plate!  Smile  It’s stuffed with turkey pepperoni, turkey sausage, onion, green pepper, black olives, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and organic tomato basil pasta sauce.  Then it’s drizzled with warm sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan on top.  Wow!

********************

Later today, I’m going to do a separate post announcing the premier episode of a Burgess family project we’ve been working on.  It’s an animated comedy about homeschooling.  My whole family has collaborated on it.  Our actual voices are used with the animation.  It’s been a lot of fun!  The plan is to release a new webisode every Sunday. 

Stay tuned!

********************

That a wrap!  Have a wonderful week, and stop back by next Sunday to read about my upcoming visit to the opera.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – March 2nd-8th

Howdy!  We kicked off the week with a fun potluck at church.  I drugged myself up pretty good on Saturday night with saline nasal spray, Vicks Vaporub, a vaporizer with Vaposteam, antihistamine, and Sudafed, and think I finally licked this nasty cold.  I got up for church Sunday morning feeling like I’d finally turned a corner to feeling better.  Hooray!  It was in the 70’s and was a gorgeous day, but at the same time, we were issued a Winter Weather Warning for Monday.  Look out…winter is still hanging on!

********************

The snowy weather brought the closure of schools for a couple of days, so we got to enjoy having Hayden home with us again.  I let the other two kids off the hook for their homeschool work so they could enjoy some time with their brother.

Tuesday was a perfect day to have him home, because there was a lot of good stuff happening that day!  It happened to be National Pancake Day, so we started off the day with a trip to IHOP for a free stack of pancakes plus some turkey bacon on the side and made a donation to a local charity on our way out.  We were too busy stuffing our faces to take any pictures, but you get the idea.

I was out running some errands later in the morning and early afternoon, so I ran by our favorite local Mexican restaurant to see what the lunch special was.  They had tacos for 99 cents, so I ran home and grabbed the kids, and we went back for lunch.

DSCF1305DSCF1306

After that, we ran home briefly to get ready for a trip to the movies.  Our Cinema CafĂ© runs a $1.50 movie special on Tuesdays, so we decided to go see The Nut Job while we were all together.  We got lucky and discovered they were also running a half price special on the large bowl of popcorn, so we splurged and had that, too. 

DSCF1307DSCF1308

On the way home, Hayden snapped a photo of me sitting at a stoplight, and one of what was left of the snow on the ground.  With this storm, there wasn’t much snow, but we had a major layer of ice that fell underneath it, and that’s what made it so treacherous out.  By the end of the day on Tuesday, it was mostly gone, as you can see.

DSCF1309DSCF1311

My husband said the roads early that morning were the worst he’s ever seen them, though, and there were tons of accidents.  It’s good that the schools decided to stay closed, even though it creates a real problem with make-up days.  We already have 3 Saturdays scheduled as make-up days from last month, plus 2 holidays we lost.  There’s no telling what they’ll do for these two snow days.  I guess it’s possible that they could interfere with spring break.

********************

The next day, we were back to our schoolwork.  We got busy doubling up so we wouldn’t have to do school on Friday if we could help it.  Holden’s Abeka art project for the week was to make a turtle in a pond from Play-doh.  We were out of those colors, so we used modeling clay instead.  That was harder to work with, so Haylee and I had to help mold it.  Here’s how it turned out!

DSCF1314

Pretty cute!

********************

By Thursday, we were back on track for school.  Yay!  For lunch, we decided to make some salads.  We don’t eat small portions when it comes to salad…we go all out!  Check this out.

DSCF1333DSCF1334

Yum!

********************

On Saturday, we realized this was one of those rare days when we were not scheduled to do anything specific at all.  Amazing!  So I promised the kids a big breakfast when we could all sit and eat together without rushing off somewhere.  Here’s what they got.

DSCF1337

That’s a nice omelet with smoked turkey, cheese, green onion, and green pepper.  Then French toast sticks, hash rounds, turkey bacon, grapes, and apple slices, plus orange juice.  What a treat!

********************

Now for a little update on my mom.  By Monday, my mom was still unable to speak more than an occasional word.  She complained to her doctor of pain in her stomach, and he put her on a Fentanyl patch.  That’s pretty intense!  We were all concerned about that.  It’s a narcotic likened to heroine.  I was also concerned about how she could be accurately evaluated for her cognitive abilities when drugged up so heavily on pain meds.  They made her sleep a lot, and she was reported as staring blankly into space most of that day and not responding to much.  I told my brother I wanted her off those pain meds for at least 48 hours before anyone made any diagnoses of her mental state.  The doctor also ordered another CT scan, and late that night, the results showed that in fact, my mom DID have another stroke, and that’s why she is now unable to speak.  We were all devastated to hear that, but it was in line with what we all thought.  Her symptoms afterwards nearly mirrored her stroke 4 years ago, and we recognized that immediately.

By Tuesday, my mom ripped the pain patch off herself.  I imagine she probably didn’t like how it made her feel.  By Wednesday, my brother had met with hospice care, and the doctor recommended that she go home under hospice care.  They sent her home that day.  Now there will be no more medical treatments or hospital stays.  She will only receive supportive care at home.  That saddens me tremendously.  My sister had asked my mom’s doctor to fill out FMLA papers for her so she could get off work to go visit.  He did so and sent them over to her on Thursday.  On them, he wrote that death was imminent.  That was certainly hard to hear.

My sister headed out on the road from Florida the next day with her husband.  They arrived at my mom’s on Saturday, as did my brother from Arizona with his family.  I hope they all have a wonderful visit, and I know my sister will take good care of mom while she is there.  I’m anxious to get another opinion as to mom’s state of mind, and I’m hoping my sister can let me talk to mom, even if she can’t talk back.  I just want to tell her I love her and that I’m thinking of her every day.

********************

I hope you all had a wonderful week.  See ya next time!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

REVIEW: Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs and The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book by Egglo Entertainment

We had a chance to try out the super cool Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs and The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book by Egglo Entertainment.

In addition, we got to use The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Audio-Book, Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls, and The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide.

 

WHAT IS IT?:

Egglo Entertainment offers a wonderful selection of products to help you make your Easter celebration meaningful in your family or church youth group. 

The foundation of the program is based on the use of the unique Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs ($11.99).  Your little adventurers will love the new twist to their Easter Egg Hunt by searching for the pink, blue, and green glowing eggs in the dark.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book ($12.99) will provide children with a fictional story about three kids who find that the glowing eggs filled with scripture scrolls lead them to a treasure box in the attic, and there, they realize that they’ve been following “the light” all along, and that the real treasure is the light of Jesus in a world of darkness.  This story is also available in a downloadable The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Audio-Book ($2.99) that’s approximately 30 minutes long.

The sturdy Egglo Treasure Scripture Scrolls ($4.29) are a nice touch when combined with the glowing plastic eggs.  They fit neatly inside, and kids get the fun of unrolling them to read key scriptures that convey the messages of Jesus as the light of our lives.

All of these items are tied together in The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide ($14.99), which gives you tips on preparing an all-out celebration for your group.  It gives you ideas on decorating, preparations, snacks, how to introduce the theme to your children, activities to relay the message, and how to conduct the glow-in-the-dark egg hunt effectively.

This product line is adaptable for any age, but it’s targeted for ages 4-13.

 

OUR EXPERIENCE:

First off, I want to say that while we are a Christian family, we do not celebrate any man-made holidays as religious holidays.  This means that for us, both Christmas and Easter are merely secular events.  With that said, we set out to use these products from Egglo Entertainment not as Easter lessons, but simply as bible study lessons.  I wanted to clarify that, because I think it speaks to the versatility of the product line in serving Christians with slightly different beliefs.

Before we began our study, I perused the program guide to get an idea for how the presentation should flow and to pick and choose the ideas and activities I wanted to do with my kids.  Once I had a game plan for how I wanted things to proceed, I gathered the kids together.

First, I read aloud Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection from a Common English bible translation, as suggested in the program guide.  This was a great way to start the kids to thinking about the theme of our study.  Then we went over the “Bible Alive” discussion questions in the program guide that helped them recall key points from the scripture reading.

Next, I adapted the program guide’s “Light and Dark” activity to suit our two-student circumstances.  Instead of using an appliance box, I just had the kids go into a dark closet and close the door.  Then I asked them the suggested questions that led them to realize how little they could see in the darkness.  Then rather than handing them a flashlight and using a printed copy of the poster, I instead opened the closet door and passed them my backlit laptop computer displaying the poster on the screen and shut the door again.  Then I asked them if they could now see the poster and read it out loud, using the light of the computer.  Of course, they could, and the poster stated that Jesus is the light of the world.  Then we discussed how everyone in the world lives in darkness until they come to know the light of Jesus, and that in turn, they spread that light to others.

Then it was time to present the story.  My kids don’t tend to share my reading aloud from one book to them very well (my 9- and 6-year olds like to bicker over who can see better and such), I opted to have them listen to the audio-book of The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure from my computer so they could sit farther apart from each other.  This worked well.  Although they aren’t usually fans of audio-books, this 30-minute story held their attention better than I expected.  Afterwards, we went over the discussion and comprehension questions from the program guide together, and I was surprised to find they did quite well with their recall of events in the story.

Then I sat the kids at the bar for an adaptation of the activity called “Scripture Scramble” in the program guide.  The guide suggested writing the words to John 1:5 on balloons, putting only one word on each balloon.  Participants would them try to put the balloons in the right order.  Since I jusDSCF1354t had the two kids particDSCF1355ipating at home, I wrote the individual words on cut up index cards and scrambled them up on the bar.  They sat together and worked to unscramble the words to correctly quote the scripture.  Haylee enjoyed this activity a lot, as evidenced by her big smile when she figured it out!  My kids, like most, have always enjoyed hands-on activities like this, so she was a willing participant in this one, for sure.

Our final activity before the big event was to do one of the snack breaks suggesDSCF1357ted in the program guide called the “Light of the World” snack.  For this snack, I laid out a plate of pretzel rods, a plate of large marshmallows, a bowl of Cool Whip, and a bowl with a tub of yellow or red sprinkles as you can see here.

Then the kiDSCF1358ds assembled “torches” to represent the light of Jesus by inserting a pretzel rod in a marshmallow, rolling the marshmallow ends in Cool Whip, and then putting either all yellow or all red sprinkles over it to represent the “flame.”  Hayden, my teenager who attends a public charter high school, was home from school by this time, so we filled him in on our activities and invited him to join in.  Making these was a big hit, as you can see the kids displaying their torches and their best smiles. Smile

Then we started preparing dinner and going through our evening routine while we waited for the eggs to “charge” under the living room lights for a while.  I also printed out some of the coloring pages from the program guide to keep Haylee busy, since she loves to color.  Since we planned to doDSCF1359 our glow-in-the-dark hunt outside in the front yard at night, I decided not to put the beautiful and sturdy set of Egglo Treasure Scripture Scrolls inside of the eggs, as I was afraid that some of them might get lost outside.  I will save those for an indoor hunt on another occasion.  Instead, I opted to stuff them with the printable scripture scrolls that are included in the downloadable program guide.  I placed two scripture scrolls inside each of the twelve eggs.  Before I went out to hide the eggs, I used the printable Discussion Cards from the program guide to have some conversation with the kids, just leaving out the parts that specifically referenced the Easter holiday so as to make it appropriate for my family.

At last, it was time for the big event we’d all been waiting for…the culmination of our lesson in Jesus being the light of the world who would guide us through the darkness.  I went out to the front yard and spread the eggs out.  I tried my best to take no-flash photos that would show the eggs actually glowing, but you just couldn’t see it well enough!  So I switched to using the flash so you could at least see the kids collecting the eggs into their baskets.  They had so much fun!  (We found the eggs glowed the most after sitting under the florescent light above our breakfast bar, so

DSCF1363DSCF1364DSCF1366

keep that in mind if you use these eggs.)  Once they were done, they came back inside to open their eggs and read their scriptures aloud to each other.  It was a really memorable family moment, I must say.  I liked ending the whole afternoon of activities with the reading of the scripture scrolls.  It really helped reinforce the key concept of the lesson and left us all to our own inward thoughts on the message.

This whole topic was so timely for my family, as this very idea came up in our bible study at church just this Sunday.  We were talking about the story of the laborers who were hired at different times of day and yet were paid the same wages at the day’s end, and many were disgruntled at the perceived injustice of it.  That led us to make the correlation in our discussion of those that enter a saved relationship with God early in their lives vs. at the end.  But I said in that case, I wouldn’t feel bitterness, because I would rejoice that others had been saved at all, regardless of when it happened.  I would want as many people as possible to enter the gates of heaven and reap an eternal reward.  But I commented that I would much rather enter that relationship early in life, because who would want to live in the darkness of this world with all of its tragedies and difficult experiences without the light of Jesus to see us through it?  I can’t imagine how much harder life would be without His loving presence.  I’d much rather live with the fruits of the Spirit with love, joy, and peace.  Amen!

All in all, I thought this program had a lot to offer in leading my family into a fruitful discussion about what it means to have Jesus lead you through a dark and dreary world.  It helped me convey the message of hope we can all attain through Christ Jesus.

Egglo Entertainment offers a number of optional products you can use in conjunction with the program guide, including those mentioned here as well as items like stickers you can use to decorate the eggs, scripture scroll stickers to use inside of them, character stickers to use as prizes inside the eggs, and the story presented on DVD (which I think my kids would have really enjoyed).  So there are lots of options available for your family or group.  The items can be purchased individually, or you can purchase a complete kit.  I would definitely recommend that you add this to your family’s bible study!

I also wanted to mention that while I’ve quoted the regular retail prices for the items we used, I did notice that many Egglo items are currently on sale at reduced prices (listed here), so if you think you want to give this product line a try, now might be the best time to place your order!

To see what other Crew members had to say about these versatile products from Egglo Entertainment, click the banner below.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – February 23rd-March 1st

Wow!  This week started out kind of crazy.  Hold tight!

********************
Every year, I get a season subscription to the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s Classics series at Sandler Center for Mother’s Day.  Best give I could give myself!  I don’t do a lot for myself, and over the years, I’ve learned that these brief moments of peace away from the house alone do wonders to recharge my batteries and make me better for everyone else in my life.  It gives me something quiet and peaceful and relaxing to look forward to, and I really do enjoy it so much!  My husband is happy to afford me this privilege, and I appreciate it so much.  So on Sunday, I was off to enjoy a Rachmaninoff performance.  It was lovely!  The guest pianist was wonderful.  I also ran into old friends at the show, and we got to catch up during the intermission.  It was a nice break.

********************

It was great that I started the week off so peacefully, because Monday was a whole different story! 

To start the day, I woke up and realized it was far too bright in my room, and I had obviously forgotten to set my alarm the night before.  I bolted upright in bed and glanced at the clock, realizing we only had 13 minutes to leave the house, and no one was even up yet!  Somehow, we managed to get out the door on time with a cup of hot tea in hand.  Miracle of miracles! 

On Sunday night, I fueled up my van knowing that I had to take my van in to the dealership for state inspection and an oil change as soon as I dropped Hayden off at school.  On my way home from the gas station, my check engine light came on.  Great!  I happen to have one of those OBDII scanning tools, so I was able to record the error codes and clear them so I could hopefully get through the inspection.  So after I left Hayden’s school, I stopped in at the repair shop we use near our house and asked the mechanic if it presented a problem for my inspection.  He said no, I should go ahead and get the inspection done and stop back by to have him check out the problem with the error codes.  The light had come back on that morning, so I cleared the codes again and headed off to the dealership.  After waiting about an hour and a half, the guy comes and asks me to come out to the garage to look at something.  There under my hood, they had taken off the engine cover to reveal this mess.

downsized_02241409260224140926a

I was informed that all winter, some sort of rodent, be it mouse, rat, or squirrel, had been living inside my engine.  What?!?  As you can see, it had chewed all the insulation off the engine cover and spread it out to make a bed on top of the engine.  In the second picture, you can see that it relieved its boredom by also chewing the fuel injection wires bare.  Therein lies the problem with the check engine light!  The dealer said “I’m surprised your check engine light hasn’t come on yet!”  Umm…yeah.

So this little fiasco cost me $116 to clean that up and replace the wires.  In the end, they still failed my inspection because they said a blinker wasn’t working (hubby probably knocked it loose when he replaced a headlamp bulb the night before), there was a shard of metal in one of the tires, the front brake pads needed to be replaced, and the front brake rotors needed to at least be resurfaced.  Aye, aye, aye!  It was gonna be one of those days.  So I accepted a rejection sticker and went on my way.

Keep in mind that none of us had eaten breakfast, and I had my younger two kids with me.  They were starting to get cranky from hunger, and they were losing patience with one another.  They had an all-out brawl in the waiting room at the dealership.  So we left there and headed off to Goodyear to use my road hazard insurance to fix the tire for free.  While they were looking at it, I went next door to the 7-11 and bought each of the kids a bowl of cereal, milk, and a banana.  I scarfed down a banana myself and called it done.  Then the guy comes out and says that they checked all the tires and couldn’t find anything in any of them.  For the tire that was rejected, they sprayed it and even dunked it in water and didn’t show any leak at all.  So whatever was in the tire must have come out between the dealership and Goodyear, and there was no damage to repair.  No problem!  Then we were off to the repair shop near my house to address the brakes.

I left the van there, and he said he could do new brake pads and brand new rotors for $285, and they probably wouldn’t get to it until the next day.  He said he’d check the signal bulb for me, and once the brakes were fixed, he would be able to give me a passing inspection sticker for $1.  Done deal!  We grabbed out stuff from the van and began our brief walk home from there.

Well by this time, it was close to lunch.  The kids were spent.  Haylee was already ready for lunch, and by the time I emptied out my email, let the dogs in, and returned some phone calls, I only had about an hour before I was planning to pick Hayden up from school.  He was staying late to go to baseball tryouts.  After spending about half an hour in the quiet of my room, Haylee comes running upstairs with my cell phone telling me that Hayden had called twice.  It was time for school to have just ended, so I figured he must have needed something for the tryouts.  I called him back, and he said he thought it was just supposed to be a meeting and not the actual tryout, and he needed to change and get his equipment from home and get back up there pronto.  I grabbed the kids and headed out the door once again, taking my spare van.  Low and behold, I couldn’t even get out of my neighborhood.  They were repaving the main road from damage done by the snow plows recently, and police actually had some intersections blocked off, backing up traffic all the way to my neighborhood.  We were on a time crunch, so I took a long way around, cutting through 2 other neighborhoods to maneuver my way to the school.  All I could think of was that without my GPS, it was a good thing I learned my way around the neighborhoods as a school bus driver many years ago!  Holden remarked that I was like I had a GPS in my head!  LOL

I grabbed him from school as fast as I could and shimmied my way back home.  It was already time for him to be back at school by that time.  He rummaged around and realized that his athletic cup was still in the van in the repair shop, and his sports physical form wasn’t where he thought it was.  It was clear that we weren’t going to make it to that tryout!  We had a bit of a heated discussion about his unpreparedness, and then I emailed the student activities coordinator to explain what happened and ask about possibly trying out another day, called the school office to ask if he could try out another day, and contacted the pediatrician’s office about picking up another copy of his sports physical.  Off I went then to pick that up.  Hayden thanked me for trying to help, and I got a message back from the activities coordinator that he just needed to shop up tomorrow after school and explain why he missed the first day, and everything should be okay.  Crisis averted!  Steve and I tried to stop by the repair shop to get his athletic cup out of the van, but the van was locked up in the shop.  So late that night, they ran to the store to buy another one.

Sheesh!  The stuff we do for our kids…

********************
Monday evening, thankfully, Steve and I had planned to go out for a date night.  We only do this once a year for our anniversary and occasionally one other time during the year, so this was a big deal for us to go out together without the kids.  After the day I’d had, I really needed a nice break with my hubby!

DSCF1263DSCF1264

We went to Applebee’s, and I had the new Tequila Lime Chicken & Shrimp from their 2 for $20 menu.  Oh, my!  It was amazing!  Way too much food for me, but that just meant lunch for the next day.  Steve looked at his steak and then had a bite of my meal and said it paled in comparison!  Really, it was SO good.  You should definitely try it.  Smile  Don’t mind Steve’s strange expression…he has a habit of making some weird face every time I take his picture.  I told him when we’re old, I won’t remember what his smile looks like, because he never shows it in any photos!  LOL.

*********************

When Steve and Hayden ran out to Target to get the athletic cup, they came back laughing that they had a bizarre story to tell. 

Apparently, the couple in line in front of them were holding what looked like a premature baby in a bed of straw wrapped in a blanket and laid across the girl’s arm.  Steve was so puzzled by what the heck it could be that he stopped and stared, and he and Hayden had a discussion about what it could possibly be.  Hayden thought it was a doll.  Then Hayden saw patches of black fur on its legs, and they were REALLY confused. 

So when they got up to the cashier, they couldn’t resist asking what the heck that was about.  The cashier said “oh, that was their homemade wolf baby.”  WHAT?!?  Then the cashier proceeds to tell them that the fellow had such a pronounced widow’s peak on his forehead that she was convinced he could have transformed into a wolf himself at any moment.  OMG…I’m dying laughing by this point in the story and told Steve I couldn’t believe he hadn’t snapped a picture with his phone.  A picture speaks a thousand words after all.  Aren’t you all dying to see a picture?  I know I was.  Steve said he was too stunned to think about getting a picture. 

I Googled “homemade wolf baby” but couldn’t come up with an image.  I was convinced there must have been a whole segment of the population I was out of touch with, but apparently that was not the case.  Welcome to the beach! 

********************

The day after I had the repairs done to my van and got it to pass inspection, my check engine light came on.  Isn’t that always the way?  Now what?!?  I’ll have to deal with that next week.

********************

I devoted Wednesday to working on writing my first review of the year and then volunteered at Hayden’s school with him that evening. 

While there, the Head of School asked Hayden to join the school’s Planning Council, of which I am also a member.  What an honor!  He has decided to accept, and I am pleased that we were both selected to represent parents and students at the school.  I am also quite pleased that being the only homeschoolers there, we have the opportunity to represent the homeschooling community, too, and influence the public school community’s stereotypical perception of our homeschooling.

Thursday morning, I finalized my review and got it posted.  That was a long and very thorough review!  I hope you all liked it, too.  We definitely enjoyed using the product, and I think it showed in the photos of my kids doing the experiments and fun, hands-on activities.

********************

I spoke to my mom on Friday morning.  She sounded fine and said she had seen her doctor the day before for a rash that appeared to be some sort of allergic reaction to something.  Then on Friday night, my brother called to say she had been taken by ambulance to her local hospital because she was delirious.  He suspected perhaps she was dehydrated, which has happened before.  However, that turned out not to be the case.  A CT scan didn’t appear to show a new stroke, and they kept her overnight for observation.  On Saturday morning, however, she was no longer able to speak at all.  Also, her doctor posted a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order on her door.  My brother argued with them about it and had it taken down.  They have not as yet offered an explanation.  I did some research to see if all this could be related, and it appears it could be further symptoms of the spread of her cancer.  It’s certainly disheartening that we can no longer talk by phone.  I pray that this condition improves and that she is able to go home, but we just don’t know at this point what it means.  Please continue to pray for her peace and comfort.

********************

Also on Saturday morning, I took the kids to another kids’ Build & Grow workshop at Lowe’s.  They got to build a Trojan horse bank. 

DSCF1304

It’s a character from a movie that’s coming out this month.  It is a working bank with a trap door and everything, and it actually rolls on its wheels, so it’s like a toy, too.  Neat!

********************

That pretty much sums up my week.  We were off from school, but the kids took turns being sick with a bad head cold and eventually passed it to me, too, so I spent the last half of the week feeling pretty miserable.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was this sick.  So glad the week is over!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – February 16th-22nd

The weather warmed up a bit this week, so we felt like a warm-weather meal.  I decided to make some fresh subs for dinner.

DSCF1234

Yum!  Smoked turkey, provolone cheese, organic tomatoes, red bell pepper strips, mild banana peppers, romaine lettuce, fat free mayo, and Italian sub sauce.  It hit the spot!

********************

An end-of-the week treat for dinner was the ever-popular homemade chicken nachos.

DSCF1235DSCF1237

Here’s what we used:

  • one pound of grilled chicken breast in bite-sized pieces
  • one small jar of Pace mild chunky salsa
  • one jar of Tostitos medium queso
  • shredded New Zealand grass-fed sharp white cheddar
  • one can organic pinto beans
  • organic grape tomatoes
  • romaine lettuce
  • Trader Joe’s tortilla chips
  • fat free sour cream

Blend together the queso and salsa in a saucepan until heated through and well blended.  Then I stir in the drained and rinsed pinto beans and add the grilled chicken.  Arrange the chips on a large air-bake tray.  Pour the heated blend over the top.  Then add the cheese.  Place in the oven on hi broil for a few minutes until the cheese is all melted.  Then remove and add the fresh cold ingredients before serving.  Yum!  This always gets devoured by the 5 of us.  I’ve made it with 96% lean ground sirloin, too, but we all prefer the grilled chicken the best.

********************

On Saturday morning, took the kids to another kids’ building workshop at Lowe’s.

DSCF1238DSCF1239

This time, they made a Claw game.  It had little cardboard “prizes” inside with hooks on the top so they could move the hook to grab them when they maneuver the string that comes through the top.  So cute!

DSCF1240

Holden was especially proud and reminded me that he’d always wanted to play the Claw game.  Smile

********************

Earlier that morning, I went to pick up my very first order from One Harvest.  We used to order from Angel Food Ministries years ago, but they were closed due to embezzlement by the owners.  That was a disappointing ending to a service that had helped a lot of struggling families.  One Harvest was started by two gentlemen who used to serve on the board of Angel Food, but who left when they suspected illegal behavior by the pastor who ran it.  One Harvest started in GA but eventually made its way up here to VA, as well.  I found Angel Food’s meats in the main box to be nearly as lean as my family needs (we all have hereditary high cholesterol), but I likes some of the other things they offered.  So to try out One Harvest, I decided to order the 10 lbs. of popcorn chicken chunks for $19 for my kids’ lunches, and the kids’ box of assorted heat-and-eat foods for breakfast and lunch for $30.

DSCF1241DSCF1244

You can see here what we received in the boxes.  I was impressed that even with so many ready-to-serve foods, they had some leaner choices, like turkey corn dogs and turkey sausage/egg/cheese on bagels for breakfast.  Plus, they included an instruction sheet with preparation instructions for everything in the kids’ box, and even some of the nutrition labels.  A lot of it was name brand foods like Tyson and Ball Park, too.  My kids were tickled to have so many treats and variety for their breakfasts and lunches.  I’m pretty happy with what they got! 

We already tried the popcorn chicken for lunch yesterday, and it was really good.  It had a nice crispy coating.

********************

The really downside to this week was that my mom got an official diagnosis of Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.  In other words, she is terminal, and there isn’t anything they can do for her.  The lung cancer has spread to that fluid in the pleural effusion, called a malignant pleural effusion.  The doctor didn’t give a prognosis, but everything I’ve read says that this diagnosis without any treatment to prolong life has a prognosis of about 2-4 months.  The fluid they drain off refills so quickly.  They did surgery to implant a shunt with a catheter attached to it and sent her home.  A nurse comes to her house every other day to drain off the fluid, which amounts to almost a liter every 2 days.  This relieves the pressure on her breathing and helps her stay comfortable.

The blessing is that my mom is not in any pain right now, and she can live out the time she has left in the comfort of her own home.  She was so happy to be reunited with her beloved dog, Misty, and to be able to rest comfortably at home.

I’ve done so much crying and have made myself sick with despair…irregular heartbeats, eczema blisters on my hands and toes, a big fever blister on my lip, difficulty sleeping, and all kinds of nervous habits of years’ past that have resurfaced.  Recognizing this, I’ve prayed for my mom to have His comfort and peace that only He can provide, and I’ve tried to accept that this is something I can’t change or even affect.  I truly hope her passing is gentle and peaceful, and that perhaps she can just go in her sleep.  I know inside, she probably longs to be reunited with my dad and their oldest son who died as a child of pneumonia, and that probably gives her some level of acceptance in her fate, as well.

I love her SO very much.  I can’t imagine this world without her in it, but in a sense I’m already mourning to prepare myself for that.  I’m selling off some school books to raise some money in the event I can come up with a way to see her again.  I’m sad that my children don’t know her, but we are 1,100 miles apart.  I’ve considered taking spring break and driving all of us out there, but I’m the only one of my siblings who still has very young children, and I’m not sure she could handle that kind of disruption, especially now.  I’m so thankful I got to spend time with her a few months ago in the fall.  I enjoyed my time with her so much.  Here are some photos of us that were taken as I was leaving to come back home on September 3rd.

DSCF0833DSCF0834 DSCF0835

I sure would appreciate it if you could pray for her.  God bless you, mom!

********************

See ya next week!