Thursday, September 18, 2014

{Review} When Calls the Heart - The Dance DVD

I'm a big fan of Janette Oke's books. I've read the entire Love Comes Softly series but hadn't really delved into many of her others. I have that "so many books so little time" problem. When I was presented the chance to view this DVD based on her work, I was eager to see it.

When Calls the Heart is a series on the Hallmark Channel. Word Entertainment took the first two episodes and created this feature length film. I hadn't heard of the television or seen it so this was all new to me. I really enjoyed it. My youngest son even watched it with me and seemed to like it as well.

The series is set in the time period when the US was settling the west. New miners have arrived in Coal Valley where Elizabeth Thatcher is the school teacher. One of the new miners, Billy Hamilton, seems to have taken an interest in Elizabeth. She appear to be very flattered by the interest. However, the Mounty that lives in town, Jack Thornton seems to think something isn't quite right about Billy and begins to look into his background. Elizabeth just feels he is jealous.

I did feel on occasion that I was missing something in the story line so I'll be interested to see how this lines up with the television show as well as the books. I know that the Love Comes Softly movie series veered far afield at times from the original books. Although, that series was very enjoyable so I think this one will be as well.

This was a wonderful, family-friendly film. I'm now very interested in reading the books as well as watching the television series. Michael Landon, Jr. is the director. He does such a wonderful job on any project I've watched of his and this is no different. You can view a trailer of the first movie below.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. I'm celebrating a birthday this week so a question relating to aging feels appropriate. Douglas MacArthur is quoted as saying, "You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair." Would you agree? If not why not? I would agree with this statement. I think the essence is that if you have faith, self-confidence, and hope the big picture doesn't really matter. It's when we get bogged down in the things that strip us of those things (doubt, fear, and despair) that we forget how much we have to be thankful for. I find that as I grow older this becomes even more true for me. (Great quote, by-the-way!)

2. What remarkable feat, interesting piece of trivia, or historical event occurred on your birth day and month? Not necessarily in your birth year, just the same date/same month. After a quick internet search I discovered that the first official US flag was raised aboard the USS Alfred naval vessel (December 3, 1775). 

3. Describe a time or circumstance where you wanted to 'have your cake and eat it too.' In a few weeks actually, I'd love for this to happen. I have two different events planned. However, I can't attend both as much as I would love to. In fact, that seems to happen quite often. A similar thing happened this past weekend. I had three things I wanted to do but I needed to pick just one.

4. What's something you do that makes you feel young? Something that makes you feel old? I take care of little ones, well, one little one. There is nothing like chasing after a two-year-old to make you feel young. 
"Mr. T."

As for feeling old? How tired I feel (and it's not all the fault of this little one) and how I don't bounce back as quickly as I used to. I certainly feel all the aches and pains I have!

5. When did you last do something that was 'a piece of cake'? Honestly, I can't think of anything at the moment. I'm sure there was something but for the life of me I can't remember. Oh wait....wasn't there a question about what makes me feel old? This. The memory is going fast I tell ya!

6. Beef, wine, and cheese all improve with age. What's something else you'd add to that list? (not necessarily food or beverage) Relationships - if done right. The more you get to know a person and the longer you know a person, the better the relationship. In particular I'm thinking of my marriage. We celebrated 21 years this past July and it's far better than it ever was when we were barely in to our 20s and married.

7. If I were to have a giveaway when we hit Volume 200, what should I give away? By my calculations we'll hit Volume 200 on November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving, which means whoever wins would have whatever it is in time for Christmas. Oh gosh. I'm not going to be any help at all with this one.

8. Insert your own random thought here. I'm absolutely loving this song lately. Have a listen. 

Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
Somebody less than perfect
I wouldn't choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact, I'd understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that's just not my story
True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made
Something out of nothing

I don't need my name in lights
I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all a stage
He knows my name


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Busy School Year

That title may seem a bit out of place considering our official start date was September 2nd. However, we did light school throughout the summer so we just hit day 30. A month into our 2013-2014 school year and it's not even the end of September. I'm actually amazed we've managed it, but so far so good.

Now that September is here, though, all of our school related activities have started back up which is making for a very busy schedule.

We are very blessed to live just 20 minutes away from a state college that has a wonderful fitness facility with a pool. They offer youth swim lessons each semester for an extremely affordable rate. In fact, beginning levels (pre-swim to Level 2) are paid for by a grant and are free to the families. We have been taking lessons since we first moved two years ago and my boys love them! 

This year we will have a challenging Tuesday though. My oldest son is now taking an outside class for the first time and needs to be in the same town as our swim lessons but his class starts over an hour before swim lessons. So I'll need to figure out if we'll find some place to hang out in town until swim or drive back and forth. I'm thinking it may be a good idea to start exploring the library in that town. 

My other issue is that my two sons in swim lessons are in different levels. For some reason, one level is scheduled all by itself from 9:15-10am. Then we have a half hour break while the younger students have their lesson when we have nothing to do. Then my son in the higher level has lessons from 10:30-11:15. That means two hours at the pool. I'm considering buying a day pass each time we go (cheaper than a monthly rate) so I can walk the track with the two year-old I babysit so that we don't get extremely bored sitting in the humid pool room. 

My boys also take art lessons. We have one that meets the first and third Monday of each month. These are general drawing/sketching classes taught by a very nice gentleman who also does our weekly music lessons. Art classes begin next week. 

In the past they have also participated in a different art class also held bi-monthly. I call these are "messy art" classes since they do a lot of hands on type things like making pottery, painting, and all kinds of unique things. However, this fall they are being held on the same day as our music lessons so we won't be able to participate. 

In addition to all of the above activities, we also are taking a bi-monthly Spanish class. This is just my boys and their cousin and we go to, once again, the college town to meet with a lovely young lady who tutors them. During the time in between classes they work on some free online activities. This year they are also going to work on memorizing scriptures in Spanish. They started this past week with John 3:16.

If that doesn't make our days look full and busy, my two younger boys (and my hubby), also participate in karate. A recent schedule change now means that I am there four days a week. One son has lessons on Monday & Wednesday nights and one son has them Tuesday & Thursday afternoons. 
My youngest hamming it up for the camera. 
He just received his orange stripe last Friday.

My middle kiddo and hubby. 
My middle son received his yellow belt and hubby received his orange stripe. 

Needless to say, we are busy. Some days it feels like too busy, but for now it's working. I am trying to carefully evaluate each activity we take on and make sure they are beneficial not only to my children's learning, but also for our family schedule. One nice benefit is it does force me to be very organized which is a good thing!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up: Our First Full Week Done

Weekly Wrap-Up

Today marked our first official full week of our 2014-2015 school year...kind of. What I mean by that is this - over the last 12 years of homeschooling I can't remember the last time we had completed all 175 days of school by the end of June. Typically we had a few more days (or weeks) to finish up throughout the summer. There were even a few years we had to do the dreaded Saturday school to finish everything up. Not this past year though!

A couple years ago I heard about Scholaric on a friend's Facebook page. I checked it out. I loved it immediately. It has saved me countless evening hours scheduling out the next day's workload, creating checklists, and tracking everything. It is not a free program, but it's dirt cheap (I pay a whooping $3 a month - but I was grandfathered. I think the max now is still under $10 a month.) I can track days, hours, and grades. I can bump assignments not completed to the next day. I can block days as "vacation" or "holiday." I can schedule our "Together School" across all the boys without entering it three times. I can schedule out a math book in just a few easy steps. Those are just the highlights. And it prints me a daily checklist which the boys like as much as I do. Checklist is done? School is done.

Since we had finished earlier than normal this year, we have been doing "light school" throughout the summer. I've wanted the boys to continue working on their math, writing, and reading - the three R's basically. So while this marked our first full week of school, it's actually over three weeks done.

We are still doing what I call a "rolling start," however. I just ordered my oldest son's science program and my middle son's writing program this week so we'll be adding that back in once they arrive. I also just received the back ordered history book for my middle son as well. I was pretty excited about that. I wouldn't say he was necessarily excited, though, more like resigned.

We have also been adding in our outside activities. This week it was Spanish class. I came across a young mom who is fluent in Spanish and once taught it at the high school level. Last year my sister and I asked if she'd be willing to tutor all of our boys. She agreed and we began going to her house every other week for sessions. In between the boys use Duolingo and BBC Languages. They also are working on memorizing John 3:16 in Spanish as well as writing out all the books of the Bible in Spanish. Sadly, we only have our tutor for one more year as she and her family will be entering the mission field next year. We have jokingly said we'll have to Skype our lessons after that, but I have a feeling she'll be just a touch too busy.

Overall it's been a great first week. We've stayed on task and accomplished all I have set out for them to do. I'm just praying the rest of the year goes as well. Considering this is my 12th year of homeschooling, I know it won't, but right now I'm still hopeful.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Day of History

Earlier this spring when I was having some major cabin fever going on, I organized a bunch of field trips. Last Friday we headed out on one of those trips. It was all located in Portland which is the biggest city we have here in Maine. Most of us drove at least an hour or, like me, an hour and a half and some even drove a bit further. Because of that I turned it into an entire day. 

We began at the Tate House Museum. This was the home of Captain George Tate and he and his family lived here around 1750. We broke in to two groups and were told we would have an interactive, hands-on "trunk" activity where the kids would be able to touch and feel replicas of objects from that time period. However, it wasn't quite as interactive as we were led to believe. 

While that portion of the program was interesting, we had a docent at the front of the room who shared various objects and their uses and passed around about five of them for the kids to touch. I do have to share that the two year old I watch did try to brush his teeth with the toothbrush that was passed around. 

My sweet niece.

Once this activity was done we had a short break and then headed back in for a tour of the house. It was wonderfully preserved and very interesting to walk though. 

I loved this detail in the house. A number of ceilings had this black outline drawn. It helped to make the rooms feel bigger. 

I am always amazed at the fireplaces. I can't even begin to imagine cooking on one like this. 

Master bedroom

This was a bed in the children's room. Captain Tate had four boys. They all shared a room when they first moved there. There was a double bed and then two smaller beds. And it was not a large room at all. 

The family also employed a tutor who had a small room just off from the boys room. You could only get to it by either going through the boys room or the guest room. 

Captain Tate's desk located in the guest room. 

Captain Tate's job was to identify trees for masts for the King's ships. This is an example of the symbol cut in to them to mark one. Once marked you no longer owned that tree. It was the King's property. 

Our tours here went about two hours. After we were done, my sister and I and another friend took our boys to a park in the city so they could run off some energy and have their lunch. 


Then we headed in to the downtown area to explore the city on foot as well as have a tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House

Our group started on the walking tour of Portland. While this was one of the hottest days we've had so far this year, it was still an enjoyable walk. This was our third field trip last week and all of them happened on rather warm days. 

We were all handed this packets and told to not stop for pictures as it would slow down the tour. Our guide had long legs and a fast pace. I managed to only snap a few photos along the way. 

The church that Longfellow attended. It was burned down during one of the fires that went through Portland and rebuilt in stone to help it last should another fire come through. 

Our guide and some of the boys in our group. We learned that parks were added to the city to serve as fire breaks. Portland lost a lot of homes to various fires.

The only time we were encouraged to snap a photo! The statue is of a lobsterman holding a lobster.

The two toddlers in our group, Mr. T above and my niece, both conked out on the walk. My sister offered to sit in an air conditioned room with them while we toured the un-air conditioned house. I think she had the better end of the deal!

We were not allowed to take any photos at all during the tour of the house. Some fun facts though...
  • Only a Wadsworth or Longfellow lived in the home 
  • Anne Wadsworth was the last occupant and lived there most of her life
  • She gifted the house to the city of Portland upon her death but wanted it used as a museum
  • The majority of articles in the house (furniture, etc) are the originals - not replicas
  • Floor coverings and wall coverings are exact replicas
Overall it was an interesting day in the city. However, it was a very hot day. And for those of us who needed to check off some "Maine History," this certainly served that purpose.