Sunday, June 25, 2017

We’ve Arrived!!!

20170617_193619The night before we left, we made sure to say goodbye to friends and family one last time.  First up was my neighbor and good friend, Val.  I will miss my symphony companion greatly!  We’ve had some great adventures with our kids over the years, and I will miss her very much.

My brother and his wife came over to take us out to dinner.  We h20170617_191532adn’t seen them in quite a while, and I was so glad we got to spend time with them one last time!  We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Mi Casita, and enjoyed a lovely dinner.

When we got back, we realized that while we were gone, our beloved 2+ year old hamster, Cookie, escaped from the travel carrier and was killed by our dogs.  So sad!  With an empty house, there was nowhere for him to hide.  We were heartbroken.  We loved him so!  20170617_215301

At around 8 PM, my long-time friend of 25 years and former co-worker, Roslyn came over and treated me and Haylee out to a mani-pedi!  It’s my first time ever getting both, and my nails were in sad shape from all the packing and cleaning, so it was a perfectly-timed girls’ outing!  My aching body and sore feet welcomed the massage, too!  That was a lot of fun!  I will really miss her…my partner in crime.  She loves to travel, and she promised she’ll come and and visit me in the next of years.

After a couple of weeks of working tirelessly with friends to pack up and clean out my house, we finally got on the road on Sunday morning.  We drove from Virginia Beach to Newport, TN and stopped for the night to stay with our good friends, the Nall family.  It was so nice to see them! 

Lilly, our big yellow lab, was really freaked out by her chickens, though, and not only got the gate to the dog run open and escaped briefly, but she also broke my dog harnass!  That meant we had to run out first thing in the morning to buy an extra heavy-duty one so we would be able to stop and let the dogs out at rest areas along our journey.  We found a really good one at Wal-mart and got on our way the next morning!

On Monday, we left Newport, TN and headed for Germantown, TN, just outside of Memphis.  There, we stopped for the night to stay with our old church friends, the Howard family.  They had a nice big yard so the dogs could run around, and they even let our dogs sleep in the house that night, which really helped them to settle down a bit.  They basically turned over their upstairs to us, and we all settled in for the night. 

20170619_100228   20170619_100308

In the morning, we had an early breakfast and got on the road as soon as rush hour traffic to Memphis died down.  We had our longest day of driving…about 10 hours.  We drove in one direction (west) for so long on I-30 that I got wickedly sunburned down my left side from the sun bearing down on me through my open car window (no A/C).  It burned like fire!

At last, we made it to our new home shortly after 7 PM on Tuesday night.  Yay! 


Friday, June 23, 2017

REVIEW: Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Planet

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It was my pleasure to get to review Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Planet once again!


Homeschool Planet is an online digital planner that allows you to track a variety of needs for your home and homeschool. 

You can set up schedules and lesson plans for all of your homeschool students, shopping lists, chores, to-do lists, and so much more!  And it also integrates aff-3-1200x628Facebook[382]automatically with Google Calendar, so your other appointments and events will show up in your schedule, if desired. 

Homeschool Planet also offers pre-made lesson plans for many popular homeschooling vendors to match up with products you might already own. 

You can purchase an annual subscription to Homeschool Planet for just $65/year, or subscribe monthly for $6.95/month.


Homeschool Planet has been such a lifesaver for me!  I’ve actually been using it for a couple of years now, and I honestly wouldn’t want to be without it now!  It’s worth every penny to me. 

It not only manages my kids’ school assignments and schedules, but it also helps me keep track of my shopping lists, appointments, and household chores!  I can store multiple shopping lists by store name, and when I’m out, I can send a text to a special number, and Homeschool Planet will text me back with my shopping lists!  How great is that?

I can also choose from widgets I’d like to view in the sidebar and bottom section of the screen, like the daily weather, a daily bible verse, or a to-do list.  It’s so easy to customize it to show me just what I want to see!

I was able to set up separate logins for each of my kids so that when they sign in each day, they can only see the information I’ve set up for them to view.  Their daily schedule of assignments that I’ve entered comes up automatically, and they can click the check boxes as they complete their work.  A green box means it’s finished, a yellow box means they did some of the work but haven’t completed the assignment fully, and a red box means the assignment is overdue.  Homeschool Planet also allows me to automatically reschedule overdue or incomplete assignments from previous days so it shows up on the current day or the next scheduled school day’s assignment list.  That is really convenient for days when we get behind so we don’t lose track of where we are or overlook completing something!

With Homeschool Planet, it’s also easy to move things around, fill in gaps in the schedule, or to automatically schedule assignments over a specified time period.  This year, I was able to schedule out the entire school year for every subject for both kids in just a couple of days!  And with the help of the pre-made lesson plans available in the Lesson Plan Marketplace, I was able to get very detailed links included that go right to their assignments and activities, helpful resources, etc.  For my free lesson plan, I selected Fix-It Grammar books from IEW, and not only did it have full and complete lesson plans and helpful links to dictionary entries and other resources, but it actually had instructional videos for me as the teacher, as well as full pages of the student workbook content which the student can view or even print!  I was simply amazed at what a valuable resource that was. 

I was so impressed that it gave me so much more than simply “do lesson 1, page 6” as I expected that I immediately went and purchased a lesson plan for the Wordly Wise 3000 online subscription that we already had.  It plugged in direct links to each daily assignment rather than the kids having to go to the website and log in and manually select the day’s assignment.  And at roughly $5-$15 per lesson plan (which can be used for multiple students and stays in your account for future use), it’s a great value and a wonderful time-saver when you’re setting up your school schedules!

I could go on and on about Homeschool Planet.  It truly manages my lifaff-1-1000x1000[383]e, but it manages my homeschool like nothing else!  It takes the huge task of scheduling for the whole school year and turns it into a simple and fast process that’s so easy to use!  This year, I was in the middle of moving cross-country from VA to TX, and I was way behind in setting up our new school year, which we literally needed to begin on the first day in our new home.  What could have been a disaster was something I was able to quickly squeeze in at the last minute as we were packing up our house, and knowing I would not have internet access right away at our destination, I was able to print out the kids’ schedules for the first week and pack them in a folder for our trip.  That was so convenient!

Of all the tools for homeschooling, this one is at the top of my list.  And if you have children of varying ages who will be using the same curriculum over time, you can save their schedule as a lesson plan so you can access it again in the future for another student without having to type it all out again.  Brilliant!  I sure wish I’d had this amazing resource when I was first starting out in homeschooling 14 years ago. 

And before Homeschool Planet came along, I’d always used paper schedules that I’d typed in a word processor.  I’d tried many types of computer-based or online planners before, but I found them to be too time-consuming and not worth the extra effort.  They were either too complicated or involved too many steps, or they simply didn’t have the features I really needed and wanted in a planner.  Not so with Homeschool Planet!  From the first time I tried it, I found it to be completely intuitive, and it had all the features I’d ever wanted in an online planner.  I was sold!  Give it a try for yourself with their 30-day free trial, and I’ll bet you’ll be sold, too.

Keep in mind, too, that Homeschool Planet adds new features and improvements all the time.  There’s a button in the program that allows you to send your feedback and suggestions to the vendor.  They really do listen!  I’ve gone back and forth with them many times on ideas for features I wish it had, and they’ve implemented many of them over time.  I really like that they are always trying to make an already great program even better!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about Homeschool Planet by clicking the banner below.

Monday, June 19, 2017

REVIEW: UnLock Algebra1 by UnLock Math

Haylee is almost 13 and used UnLock Pre-Algebra last school year, so we were looking forward to moving on to UnLock Algebra1 by UnLock Math for review!


UnLock Math offers a variety of high school math levels to choose from, including UnLock Pre-Algebra, UnLock Algebra1, UnLock Algebra2, and UnLock Geometry.  It is an online-only program, so there’s nothing to download or install, and no software is required.  Since it’s online, you do need a solid internet connection to use the program. 

What sets this program apart is that it includes video instruction from a real math teacher, so students can work independently at home and still benefit from class lecture.

Your online subscription gives you full student and teacher access for one full year of any one level for a flat $299, or you can gain monthly access for $49/month.

Try a free demo lesson to see how the program works and to help you decide if it’s right for you!


Haylee has really struggled with math in the past.  As a result, we’ve tried a number of different programs, workbooks, and teaching methods over the years.  Nothing seemed to really help until we discovered UnLock Math!  She experienced so much improvement with this program that I couldn’t imagine using anything else.  But she sometimes has trouble retaining her understanding over time, so I love that there is so much built-in review in the program, and I was quite pleased to find that UnLock Algebra1 starts off with a 19-lesson review of UnLock Pre-Algebra concepts before moving on to new material.  That was perfect for her!

Each lesson begins with a warm-up to get your child’s mind ready for the lesson.  Then comes an embedded video lesson that covers the new lesson material.  After watching the video, the student moves on to the practice problems for the new concept.  This is followed by a “stay sharp” section that reviews past concepts.  At the end is a single challenge question that requires your child to apply a deeper level of thinking.  The challenge question can be truly challenging, and even I have been stumped by them at times!  But the challenge questions are only for extra credit…an incorrect answer does not count against the student’s overall score.  Haylee gets really excited when she gets it right, and it provides her with motivation to put on her thinking cap and dig a little deeper!  There are also reference notes that the student can refer back to in order to help them remember.

I love that the program grades itself and gives the student feedback with solutions to review when Math Screenshotthe student gets a problem wrong.  When I log into the teacher dashboard, I can view her complete progress in every lesson and unit, and I can see what she did wrong and where she might need to practice again.  Students can repeat the practice questions as often as they need to in order to master the material.

Quizzes, unit tests, mid-terms, and final exams are all built in throughout the program to assess their cumulative understanding.  As each lesson and unit is completed, the next one is ready to be unlocked.  I do wish that future lessons and units stayed locked until it was time to use them, just to prevent a student from accidentally entering the wrong lesson or unit, or from moving on before they’ve finished the current lesson or unit, but the program does give free access to any part of the program at all times.  This would be good if you were using the program just to fill in gaps from another program, for instance.

I also really like that on the student’sMath Screenshot homepage, they can get one-click access to all of the reference notes for the entire program.  And because it’s a .pdf file, you can even print them out if necessary (all 472 pages of notes).  Or you can access the reference notes for a particular lesson at the end of that lesson.  Students can also view a progress report or launch their gradebook from their homepage.

For parents, there’s also a suggested pacing guide that helps you plan out the course to fit your schedule.  This summer, they are planning some upgrades, which will include the parent’s ability to receive an email notification when a student completes a lesson.  Personally, I would really like that automatic progress report so I don’t have to remember to log in to the parent dashboard to check on how she’s doing.  This is especially important when you have older children who are working mostly independently.

When there are special symbols required (like exponents), it’s important to note that the lessons always give keyboard instructions for entering in those symbols whenever the new concept is first introduced.  Students can always refer back to these instructions if they forget how to enter symbols down the road.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how well Haylee does with UnLock Algebra1 this school year.  I know my oldest son, who had always loved math, really struggled when he hit Algebra.  I am hoping this program will continue to guide Haylee so she doesn’t hit that road block in the abstract thinking that’s required for this level of math.  I have every confidence that UnLock Math can help her navigate this milestone in math.

And since we’ve been using UnLock Math products for more than a year already, I wanted to be sure to mention what incredible customer service we’ve received.  Any time we’ve had a problem or a question, I’ve used the “contact me” option on their website, and I’ve always gotten a very prompt personal phone call from Matthew, who is the math teacher’s husband and co-owner of the company.  He has attended to every issue we’ve ever had with the utmost speed and courtesy.  Once in the last year, they had a server issue, and I was relieved that they also have backups to their backups so your data is not lost and can be restored.  That could have been a nightmare, but it wasn’t, thanks to their good foresight and planning. 

And at one point during the year,  they helped us figure out that my daughter had not been clicking the save button on her lessons, but was just clicking out of them at the end. As a result, her work had not been saved for quite some time.  She’d been showing me her work as she’d finished it, though, so I knew she’d averaged about an 85.  So to keep her from having to do the work over, the vendor was able to override those lessons so that it started her with an 85 average in the gradebook, and she was able to pick up where she left off.  So even though all companies encounter issues from time to time, I’m pleased to say that this vendor has excellent customer service and works tirelessly to resolve any issues when they arise.  That brings great peace of mind and confidence.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about the variety of math programs from UnLock Math, including the newest level, Unlock Geometry, by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The House Is Officially Ours!

I’m so excited.  We finally had the closing for our new home on Friday!  There were some complications throughout the week.  On Monday, the sellers had a plumbing pressure test done to ensure no leaks had sprung due to the foundation repairs.  The report said there was a sewer leak!  Ugh.  But the owners said it was a young guy who sat in his truck and then came back after a while and said there was a problem, and they weren’t too confident about the results.  So they hired another more experienced company to come out on Thursday and scope out the line to look for a leak.

Turns out they couldn’t find a leak!  So that company did its own pressure test and said everything was fine.  The sellers had to pay $600 for that!  They said they were going to try to get their money back from the first company.  Crisis averted!

Then on Friday, Steve went in and signed the papers for us, and then the sellers went in a little bit later to sign their part.  Afterwards, I got both a text and a phone call from our realtor saying that the settlement sheet was wrong…they’d forgotten to adjust the amount of rent being collected from the sellers when the closing date changed from Monday to Friday, so they were overcharged by $140!  He said not to mention it to the lender or else they’d have to draw up a new settlement statement, and then there would be another disclosure period before we could close!  So everybody stayed mum on that, and we worked it out to give the money back to the sellers when they leave on the 20th.  Shew!  Another crisis averted.  I knew something was up, because the figure my loan officer gave me on the phone on Thursday for the wire transfer was more than what ended up on the settlement sheet, and the title company ended up refunding the difference to us at closing.  That explains it!

So now the house is officially ours!  I’m so excited.  We now technically own three homes.

Boxes #2Boxes

Now back to the real world…I still have to get out of the house I’m in!  The packing is an all-day, every day chore.  It’s only made possible by my dearest friend Micka and her son Xevier who have been selflessly coming every single day to chuck, pack, and clean with us.  I couldn’t have done it without them!  Yesterday, my watch counted over 19,000 steps inside my house!  My feet were killing me last night.  Today, we ended a very productive afternoon with a lovely steak dinner and dessert at the table with our friends in our very empty rec room.  The other doDumpster Exchange #1wnstairs rooms are packed with boxes!  The upstairs bedrooms are still a work in progress, and I’m still working in my laundry room and pantry.  Our second dumpster is completely full and overflowing, so I have to get that dumped and get a third dumpster tomorrow for the last of our discarded stuff.  I also have tons of furniture at the curb for special pickup next week.  I can’t believe all this “stuff” was in this house! 

I worked out a solution for the delivery of our household goods.  Our old preacher (the one who married us) who has now retired to Arizona gave us a tip about using UPack through ABF Movers.  He said it was super cheap and effective and that I should really check it out.  So I did.  Wow, was I surprised!  I’m getting a trailer delivered on Friday, and movers are coming to load the truck on Saturday.  Then we leave on Sunday, and the truck driver comes to pick up the trEmpty Back Roomailer on Monday after we’re gone.  He’ll deliver it between the 26th and 28th, so we’ll have no more than a week without our stuff once we get there.  The whole shebang is only costing us $4,300!  Still under our budget for relocation assistance from Steve’s new employer, and there are no charges by weight or distance.  That’s such a relief!  Now I can just drive my car while Hayden drives our van, and all we have to do is get ourselves there with our pets all in once piece.  Yay!  I was so worried about that whole process that I wasn’t sleeping well, but as soon as I got this set up with UPack, I slept like a baby.  Big relief!

Only 2 days left until Hayden’s graduation.  He had a great time at his prom on Friday night, too.  All these big things are happening right here at the end of our time here.  I had to say goodbye to all of my dear friends at church today.  That was hard.  Some of those people I’ve known for most of my life and are more family than friends.  I will miss them dearly.

Here’s to a productive week, and I’m hoping and praying that all of our stuff fits on that 28’ truck! 

Monday, June 5, 2017

In the Home Stretch…

Closing has officially been moved to Friday, June 9th. We’re getting close…that’s only 4 days away!  We’re so excited.

The appraisal came in on Friday for $289,000, and the sales price was $280,000, so that was good. 

The foundation work was completed on Thursday, and new measuremen4108 Toledo Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76133ts were taken afterwards.  Looks like most of the house is within the 1” allowable variance, but the master bedroom/bathroom area seems to have sunk just a bit more with a max difference of 2.3”.  That’s certainly more than I’d like to see, but I’m assuming the structural engineer was satisfied with the results.  The realtor went by to see it on Friday, and he said most of the cracks in the bricks around the windows outside have sealed themselves after the foundation adjustment, so that was good news, too.

All the pool mechanical pool repairs are done, and the arched window in the library that was cracked has been replaced. 

There was some wood rot in a strip of wood trim beside the garage, and that was replaced over the weekend.  The realtor trimmed back the hedges on Friday away from the house and sent pictures of those corrections to the termite inspector to sign off on, so that should be all good, too.

My insurance company sent a new declaration page to the underwriter, and she is reviewing the appraisal today, so we should be getting final approval any day now.  The policy had to be re-issued because of the change to the closing date.  4108 Toledo Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76133But in the process, we discovered an error on the application…the roof was replaced in 2016, not 2010, and that turned out to lower our insurance rate by over $400/yr., so that was especially good news!  Now it’s down to $2,825/yr.   The listing agent is working on getting proof of the replacement from the sellers so I can keep that reduced rate.  That should lower my monthly mortgage payment a bit.

Also, our realtor is rebating a quarter of his commission to us at closing, so that thankfully lowers our cash-to-close amount by $2,100.  That’s a big help!

So even with all the roadblocks we’ve had, we’re finally wrapping up the loose ends and getting this deal finished!  Steve is going to do the final walk-through either today or tomorrow to check for any new cracks or damage inside caused by the foundation adjustment.

On the downside of things, I finally got a moving estimate on Friday.  They were only going to pack my mom’s china and my dishes, and I had to pack everything else, and they would pick up on June 16th and not deliver until the 2nd week of July!  And for that, they wanted over $14,000!  I kid you not.  It was all I could do not to laugh hysterically!  I quickly informed them that I’d made other arrangements.  Geez.  Steve said we don’t even own $14,000 worth of stuff, and if that was the case, then we should put our clothes in the van and start fresh!  LOL

So I started looking at packing myself and renting a 26’ UHaul truck with a towing thing for my car.  Even adding on some handy equipment rental, packing materials for my televisions, and hiring a moving company to send 2 guys for 4 hours to load my truck, it still came out to less then $2,000.  Now that, I can live with!  So Hayden will drive our van with the big dog and Haylee, and he’ll follow me driving the truck with the little dog and Holden while towing the car.  Now before you ask if I can drive a 26’ truck towing a car, let me just say that I have a CDL and used to drive a 34’ school bus, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine.

But now, I’m short on time.  I will pick up the truck on Friday, June 16th with plans to leave on Sunday, June 18th.  That leaves me with only 11 days left to pack up my entire house!  Ugh.  I’m definitely going to have to enlist some friends to help.  And all the while, Hayden still has 1 week of school left, his prom on Friday night, and his graduation next week on Tuesday, so that shortens things even more.  So if you’re a local friend and you’re reading this, please have mercy on me and help me pack!  LOL

And so the countdowns begin:

4 days until closing

8 days until graduation

11 days until the moving truck is here

13 days until we leave

16 days until we move into the house

Fort Worth, TX, here we come!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Friday is National Doughnut Day!!!

Tomorrow, Friday, June 2nd, is officially National Doughnut Day.  What that means for you is free doughnuts!  Take a look at just a few of the freebies you can get:

Krispy Kreme:  One free doughnut of your choice all day, no purchase required!

Dunkin Donuts:  One free donut with the purchase of any beverage all day, while supplies last.

Duck Donuts:  One free doughnut with any purchase.  In addition, your receipt will be printed with a coupon for “buy 1/2 dozen, get 1/2 dozen free.”

Wawa:  If you are a rewards member, check your account for a free donut with the purchase of any coffee.

Enjoy your doughnuts!