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How to Write a Book When You Have No Time
​Creativity is a weird gift to manage, and I'll be honest, I'm only beginning to even attempt to harness my creative energy is certain directions. For the last few years, I've enjoyed creating books in a wide variety of fashions, whenever my energy felt right. So, I would wake up; tend to my normal mom life tasks, making 18 meals a day for kids that don't eat them, cleaning up, homeschooling, and taking care of the littles, ext. And when I'd have a moment, I’d jump on my laptop or grab a pen and paper and start creating in whatever capacity felt right at the moment. This helped me write my first 5 books and create a line of workbooks, but I've been feeling the need to harness my creativity in a specific direction to make more progress and better steward my time. 
 
 When I have creative session, I have to purpose it well. What I've been doing to plow through my next book is simple:
 
Start with a synopsis. Having the bones of the story outlined is so important to using your time well. When I jump into creating, I have a guide post that tells me where to start, where to stop, and what I need to portray in this chapter. Of course, the guide post can be amended, but it brings purpose and direction to your work time.
 
Second: Just write. When I first enter a chapter, I write and write and write in one session. What I end with has a mess of typos, run on sentences, and isn't close to being properly formatted. I save that for another day. If I worry about the grammar semantics, I'll lose my plot and stagnant my creative energy during my short period of time.
 
Third: In another creative session, I’ll reread what I’ve written and clean it up a bit, focusing on grammar and editing. Then, I’ll add to the plot if time allows.
 
The fourth, and final time I touch a chapter, I focus on descriptive writing, upgrading vocabulary and making sure I’m showing, not telling. This is often the most tedious process for me, but it’s necessary for creating.
 
Then, I always let the work sit and simmer. Occasionally, I revisit a project, hate it, and decide I need a new career. But more often than not, when I reopen a project, I see it with fresh eyes and inspiration to make the necessary changes to bring it to life.
 
Creativity is a messy business- I’d love to hear about how you harness creativity and/or your writing process in the comments!
 
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 ​Learning to read is an exciting time in every child’s development. It sets the stage for their education, provides the ability to learn independently, and hopefully blossoms into a hobby that can transport children into adventures and far off worlds alike. But, learning to read can also be a tedious task filled with bumps in the road and frustration. With an emerging reader and a beginning reader in my house, I was really excited to learn about Learning Dynamics and check out Learning Dynamics Reading Program with the Homeschool Review Crew.
 
Learning Dynamics Reading Program  is a fun an innovative program that provides everything you need to teach your child to read in a neat little box.  When you open the box, you’ll find over 50 color books, a lesson manual, child’s workbook, letter flash cards, reward cards, and a music CD to accompany the lessons. 
​​For the first 38 lessons, a single letter is studied each session. The workbook provides practice writing the letter and identifying words that start with it. The CD has songs to accompany each lesson and help children gain familiarity with the sounds. After the first 5 lessons, your child will begin blending sounds to form simple words like “Pam” and “Sam,” and after learning just 8 letters, they’re ready to read their first book!
 
Once children have completed the single letter sounds, they advance into using two vowels, and various letter blends. These letter blends open up even more doors in reading, and Learning Dynamics Reading Program introduces and explains the concepts with simplicity for parents and kids!
 
We used this program 4 days a week with my almost 5 year old daughter. She had familiarity with the ABC’s, but had little practice blending sounds or reading words. I was excited by the claim that she would be reading in just 4 weeks, but had a fair level of skepticism. In our case, the claims were true! My daughter began picking up letters, sounds, and blending them with ease! More importantly, she loved using the program and getting her rewards with each lesson!
Each lesson takes about 20 minutes. I pull out the letter flash card, read the short story about the letter in the teachers manual, then we practice making the sound together with our motor mouths, and listen to the song while she completes the work page. After the workbook page [and the first 5 lessons], we practice blending different letters together to make words. When the lesson is complete, I'd give my daughter the letter reward card that she'd earned. The reward cards and flash cards also provided a hands on way to build new words with the sounds she was learning!
​My son, who is 7, has also been enjoying the program. He started by helping his sister build words during the blending time, and then began reading some of the more advanced books that accompany the program. He loves reading the red level books and has grown in confidence by being able to master the vocabulary that’s displayed on the front cover, and then read the stories to his little sisters. If you have two learning to read, you can purchase a separate workbook for the additional learner without having to buy all of the material again!
My son has really enjoyed the books, and I’m thrilled that my reluctant reader feels encouraged by his progress!

Over all, I have loved using Learning Dynamics with my kids! Learning Dynamics Reading Program is a wonderful, easy to use, program for learning to read and developing existing reading skills. I would recommend it to homeschooling families who are beginning their reading journey, and traditionally schooled children who are looking to get a jump start of reading or struggling on their journey.

Make sure to check out the other crew member's reviews to see how Learning Dynamics worked in their homes!

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I often feel like I’m living inside a children’s book. Call is a coping mechanism for the craziness of life with four littles, but sometimes creating kids stories out of real life brings a level of sanity and humor to the day to day.

So, guess what happened yesterday?
​Yep…
 
Without further ado, I present you the story behind the picture:
Gevy and the Purple Marker
One afternoon, I was playing nicely in my sister's room when I little spider climbed up on the bed. 

He said, "Hello!" 

And I said, "Hello, Mr. Spider, it's nice to meet you, but please don't bother me, I'm playing nicely."

He said, "Kind girl, I really need your help for you are big and I am small, yet I have big dreams deep inside my heart." 

“What do you dream of?" I asked the spider, only trying to be polite. 

"I dream of being purple, just like your pretty purple marker on the floor..." 

"Oh," I replied.

And then I continued playing nicely by myself. But, poor Mr. Spider began to cry, and cry, and cry.

I was afraid he'd wake up my baby brother, so I offered to help him, just this once.

I grabbed my purple marker and put a little on his back, but then his crying turned to laughter. 

"That tickles!" He giggled.

 I kept trying to color him purple, and he kept squiggling and jumping about. 

I told him to lay down on the bed, and I'd try to finish his coloring, but he rolled some more.

Finally, I held him in my hand and colored his legs. Ha was so ticklish that he jumped onto my leg and rolled about some more, but I didn't give up. I kept coloring him until the job was done.

Mr. Spider’s dreams came true, and my sister was very mad. I think mom will understand.
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​"I am the true vine and my father is the gardener... No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

Remember Abraham, a man filled with God's amazing promises and chosen to be the father of a great nation... except he had no children. After years of waiting, and only getting pushed further away from the promise land, he decided to try to help God out with his plan and had a child with his wife's servant. This decision only led to more pain, heartbreak and created a counterfeit compared to what God truly wanted for his children. 
 
When we abide in Jesus, the true vine, we put his calling above our desires, his truth above our feelings and his thoughts above our imaginations. Then, we can bear the most incredible fruit that will bless the nations of the world!

How do you know if you’re abiding in Jesus? Well, look around in your life to see if the fruit of the spirit is growing on your vine: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,  gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

If you’re lacking in a certain area, then spend some time asking God about how you can abide more deeply in Him and find out what area needs to be pruned. If you need more love, ask God to help you see others through his love and truth. If you need more joy, cast your worries on the Lord and allow him to carry them for you, you need more peace, guard your spirit with the truth from the word of God. When we lack wisdom, God is faithful to provide the wisdom we ask for so that we can glorify the Father more and bear good fruit.
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One thing I love about life is that when you think you've mastered something, you're usually proven wrong. I've dealt with a handful of serious health issues over the last few years, and managed through faith to see some incredible healings and miracles (Read some testimonies here and here). 
 
Recently I received news that some blood tests weren't normal, my thyroid is under functioning and protein and calcium levels suggest a tumor. I took the news well, for the first 7 days, but while I waited for further testing, my faith began to flail around like the arms of a person about to drown. To make matters worse, I had a terrible dream which confirmed all of my deepest fears and made me certain that death was a few months away. That dream did more damage than any WebMD article could and I was shaken. 
 
It's difficult to conform bad situations to the goodness of God. When decaying life hands us more dirt, it's easy to feel like a victim with an absent Father. But our circumstances won't ever change heaven's truth. God is good and there's no darkness in Him.
 
Today, I head to the Dr. for more testing, and my heart is resting firmly on the notion that as I wake, God is good. And when I sleep, He'll be just as good. There's no path I could ever walk where my savior won't accompany me, and he was more mercy and grace than I could comprehend- no test results have the power to change that!
 
These last few days have surely been a reminder of James 1:2-4,
 
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
 
Though this isn’t a path I’d chose, I can chose to glorify God at each step of the way and I’m trusting that He will “Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. (Isaiah 40:4).
 
We appreciate you adding your faith to ours during this time!
 
Blessings!
Alex

Oh, and this song has so blessed me recently! Check it out if you need some encouragement! 
Catch The Wind (Official Lyric Video) - Jonathan & Melissa Helser | Beautiful Surrender - YouTube
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I still have flashbacks of choking back tears in a classroom, spelling “l-i-g-h-t-i-n-g” for the 10x time after failing a second-grade spelling test. Comprehending spelling did not come easily for me, and to be honest, I still rely heavily on Grammarly and spellcheck. When I saw my son struggling in the same way that I had, I wanted to find a comprehensive way to instill confidence and comprehension in his spelling studies before any tears could be shed, so I was thrilled to discover that Memoria Press offered a program that focused on spelling: Simply Classical Spelling Book One: Step-by-Step Words and Simply Classical Spelling Book Two: Step-by-Step Words.

We started our spelling studies by using Simply Classical Spelling Book One: Step-by-Step Words. Book One introduces 7 to 8 spelling words per week. The first 5 the words follow a letter pattern such as CVC, silent e, plurals, consonant blends, consonant digraphs, and possessives. Additionally, there are 2-3 “words to know” which are featured. Many of the “words to know” are sight words that beginner readers might be familiar with such as “done” or “again,” but they may not know how to spell them independently.  Each week, students work on memorizing their spelling words through different, multi-sensory, activities (I’ll break it down day by day below).

The next level, Simply Classical Spelling Book Two: Step-by-Step Words is designed for more advanced grade school spellers. Student’s working in this book should be familiar with (‘s), consonant blends, and vowel teams. They’ll work on their spelling words 4 days per week (potentially 5 days if you choose to review missed words), and they’ll play some fun and simple games that help with word familiarity and memorization.  

Students begin the program based on their current ability. I found that my son was able to correctly spell the first ten lessons, so we began with Book One, lesson eleven. We used Simply Spelling four days a week and typically spent 15-20 minutes on each lesson. On Monday, we’d look over the words that we’d be studying that week and I’d have my son search for any letter patterns that he might see. Then, he would practice writing the words in the space provided in the workbook. 
​Tuesday, we’d review the words we’d learned the previous day and then practice writing them in a multisensory way with chalk, letter tiles, sand, and cards. 
 Wednesday, or “Write-High Wednesday” as the program calls it, we’d spell the words verbally and rhythmically (sometimes clapping), and then write them high up in the air with our fingers. Thursday was the official spelling bee day (my son liked pretending to be Charlie Brown, must have been from a movie I missed?) and he’d stand by the chalkboard and say each word and then spell it.

When we first began the program, I didn’t even know how I’d remember our weekly spelling words, I seldom remember why I went into the kitchen, but I was pleasantly surprised that just a bit of diligence and consistency sharpened my brain. My son caught on more quickly than I did, and he’d remember the words without looking at the book, and soon had an “aha” moment when he realized that he could spell the words more easily when he pictured them in his mind.

Simply Classical Spelling really helped us to be intentional and thorough in our spelling practice. Learning a few new words each week helped instill confidence in my son and his ability and allowed us to avoid any frustration and tears. The program was also simple to jump into and required no prep for book one, and simple prep with note cards for book two. No additional materials were required. I’d highly recommend this for kids 6-9 who would like to gain a solid grasp on spelling, increase phonetic awareness, and auditory comprehension!

The Homeschool Review Crew checked out different material from Memoria Press, so be sure to read their thoughts on many more amazing products! 
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​ 
Ahhh, Fairfield County… one of the most expensive places to live for no reason other than being in proximity to New York City. Seriously, when you pay this much, you should at least be comped with an ocean front view! But, it’s where we dwell, and it IS still possible to stick to a budget and live well. 
One of my favorite ways to save money on every day grocery purchases is by using Ibotta. Ibotta is a rebate program that rewards you for buying things you probably are already buying. You simply register, add the offers to your account, and upload a receipt after you buy the item. In the last two weeks, I’ve gotten $40 back from grocery shopping. One of the best parts is that you can still use coupons, and get a store discount, PLUS the Ibotta rebate.

Here’s a score from last week that I found at our local Shoprite:

StonyField Yo Baby Yogurt- on sale 2 for $7
Then, I used a $2 manufacturer’s coupon
Then, topped it off with a $0.75 Ibotta rebate for each package.
Total spent after coupon and rebate: $3.50 for TWO packs

SCORE!

Another awesome deal I found at Shoprite was Udi’s Gluten Free Bread on sale buy 5 for $14.44- then I used an Ibotta rebate and saved $1.30 PER bread so I got back $6.50. Total spent was $7.94 for FIVE loaves of Udi’s Bread. Normally, each one is over $5 so my freezer is stocked.

If you sign up for Ibotta: tell them I sent you with my referral code rojqsja and we both win!
 
Another coupon app I love is Fetch Rewards. Fetch rewards you with points for uploading your receipt (which is essentially something I’d trash 5 minutes after it printed). Every time you upload, you get points, and then you get bonus points it you purchase any of their specific brands. Sometimes, the bonuses will even equal the full value of the item purchased, so you essentially can try new products for free. The points can be redeemed for cash through various gift cards. My game plan: upload all my receipts throughout the year, and then cash out for an Amazon Gift card when it’s time to start Christmas shopping. In two weeks, I’ve earned $5 without going out of my way at all, so I’m optimistic that I might be earn $60 by Christmas. Talk about turning receipt trash into treasure!

Tell them I sent you and get referral bonus points just for signing up! W6JWR
 
The next app I use is Checkout 51
Checkout51 is like Ibotta, but has fewer offers. One of the biggest bonuses is that it’s super simple to link all of your rewards cards to your Checkout 51 account, so you don’t have to take pictures of your receipts. Simply add the offers you’ll likely buy, purchase them, and stack rewards. After hitting the $20 in saving threshold, you can redeem your cash. In two weeks, I’ve earned back $1.50, BUT a penny saved is a penny earned!
 
The final app that you MUST have if you shop at Target is the Target Cartwheel App. The app allows you to load coupons (a max of 50) and special deals, then you simply show them your smart phone at checkout. My FAVORITE ways to score are to take advantage of their deals that offer a $5 reward card after your purchase. Last week, they had a deal where if you spent $20 on meat, you get a $5 reward card. Then, they had a coupon to save additionally on ground meat and chicken. We walked away with an amazing deal on something that we constantly are buying, plus a reward card to use on the next trip. The Krazy Coupon Lady can keep you up to date on all the ways to score big at Target if you’re worried about missing a deal!
 
How do you like to save money on groceries? Am I missing out on any other ways to save?? Tell me in the comment section!
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Southbury, Connecticut is a quintessential New England town with historic churches built before the American Revolution, scenic nature preserves, and fun thrift shops.  Southbury was founded in 1673 by religious dissidents from Stratford who purchased the region from the Native Americans. Today, it offers charming historic sites, modern conveniences, and scenic outdoor adventures. My family's favorite way to spend the day in Southbury involves a little shopping, exploring, and of course, eating! 

​Though Southbury is home to many well-known chain stores, we prefer to take a ride to Southbury Training School Thrift Store. The thrift store is large, occupying 4 separate sections: clothing, antiques, miscellaneous toys and housewares, and electronics. The clothing store frequently has amazing sales, like 4 pieces of kids clothing for $1. The antique section and electronic sections sell used products at marked prices, but our favorite part is always the toys and miscellaneous section. There, you bundle up anything that looks appealing and asks an associate for a price. Based on the items, we normally score a bag full of goodies for $5 or less.  
 
After our thrift shop fun, we head down the street to the Audubon Center at the Bent of the River.  The Audubon is a 700 acre nature sanctuary, filled with trails, bird sanctuaries and scenic views of the Housatonic River. There is a main barn equipped with a bird look-out deck, information, and restrooms. If we're feeling energetic, we continue on to the rocky beach and splash in the Housatonic River.

​We always pack snacks and extra clothes for the kids and take precaution against ticks. Our last visit was in May, and we spent 4 hours and left with 3 ticks. I'm always far more concerned with the ticks you don't see and remove, so be sure to use tick spray and dress appropriately when exploring the Audubon!
 
All that shopping and exploring makes for a hungry crew so we drive a few miles to a family owned sandwich shop, Nardelli's. Nardelli's is one of my favorite stops because they serve up unique in house sandwich creations right alongside the traditional deli favorites AND they offer gluten-free buns and cookies. My favorite sandwich is the original turkey club on a gluten-free bun and my picky eaters love it just as much as I do!
 
Some other fun Southbury stops that we enjoy include the playground at Ballantine Park, the library's children section, which houses a small play area for small kids, and Denmo's for an Ice cream treat!
Have you been to Southbury? What do you enjoy?
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​ 
One thing that I love about Genesis, and the Bible in general, is that there is no shortage of dysfunctional people living in dysfunctional families. I can imagine that things got a little stuffy on Noah's ark when all your extended family is shoved together into a boat for 40 long days. A little bit of family counseling also might have helped clear the air a bit before Sarah sent her servant and her husband's son out to the desert to die. But the Bible is filled with flawed people being used by a perfect God. 
 
This morning, I was looking at the relationship between Jacob and his father-and-law, Laban. Now, Laban was a bit of a scoundrel. Jacob worked for him for 7 years to marry his daughter Rachel, and he tricked Jacob on his wedding night and gave him his other daughter Leah instead.  Even after the dust settled, and Jacob agreed to work another 7 years for the Rachel, I can only imagine the awkwardness at family events never ceased. Perhaps you can relate too?
 
The hatchet is never buried between Laban and Jacob, and Laban continues his passive aggressive behavior towards his son-in-law. Laban changed Jacob's wages (10x according to Jacob's account in Gen. 31:7), started treating him differently, and his attitude towards Jacob even ran off and affected how Laban’s sons treated him. Finally, Jacob had enough so he went to his wives declared they were taking off and leaving (31:17). 
 
Even though Laban hadn't proven to be the most honest and trustworthy person, he did love his daughters and grandchildren so he decided to follow after Jacob- perhaps even to fight him and force him to return. God supernaturally intervened the night before the two adversaries met in a dream to prevent Laban from kicking the hornet's nest (Gen. 31:24), and then we witness what I'll call the Bible's first family counselling session.
 
There are a few great lessons to learn from what all went down at the close of the 31st chapter. 
 
First, both parties air their grievances against one another. Both men express why they're doing what they've done. Laban accuses Jacob of stealing one of the family's gods and Joseph says that he didn't and if anyone from his house did, they should be killed. In the open air of expression, resolutions can begin to be formed.
 
Next, Jacob's tents and belonging are searched to see if he's lying. But Rachel is sitting on the stolen god and Jacob is unaware. Once that family issue is seemingly resolved, the counseling session shifts back to the pain Jacob is carrying. 
"I've been with you for 20 years now, and have never wronged you." (I'm paraphrasing here) Jacob explained.
 
Between Jacob's words and actions, Laban seems to develop some acceptance, and explains that "the women are my daughters and the children are my grandchildren," and he loves them though they don't see eye to eye. 
 
Though the wrongs weren't magically made right, the two decide to look forward for the sake of their family and they make a covenant with a stone and a heap of rocks. Every member of the family participates in the construction of this monument- and the best part is, Laban calls it one name and Jacob calls it a different name.
 
They couldn't even stand to agree enough to call it the same thing!
 
But this covenant represented two things: it settled Laban's fear of Jacob mistreating his daughters and it created a boundary between the two households. Jacob and his family could grow and prosper the way they needed to, and Laban could have the relationships restored with the members of his family that he loved.
 
 To me, this first family counseling session offers some great lessons.
 
 A) Air your grievances instead of letting it fester for 20 years.
B) Listen and respond to the grievances.
C) Respect family member’s different relationships with one another. We all don't have to feel the same way about one another, but we are supposed to love (Jhn. 13:34).
 D) Honor boundary lines for they're a holy thing. 
 
What else do you think this chapter is saying about family relationships?

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