Simplicity: Limiting Waste

simplicity copyI’ve talked a few times about how important it is to me to reduce the amount of waste we produce. I’ve read numerous books on the subject, too. And you know what? No matter how “easy” those authors say it is to live a “zero waste lifestyle,” they’re WRONG. It’s really hard. At least it is where I live.

But I try. And I think we do okay (if my neighbors’ full garbage cans every week are any indication, anyway). We go through, on average, one plastic grocery bag two to three times a week in waste. By limiting our waste, we’re not only contributing less to the landfill (a passion of mine), but also saving the money on garbage service – we don’t have it at all. Because we go through so little waste, we just take our bags to the grocery store and dump them in the public waste bins. And when we do get a surplus of large trash items, we borrow my dad’s truck and take a load to the “transfer center” for a small fee.

So how do we keep our waste low? There are three basic steps. Continue reading

Keep It Up! Even When it’s Hard


I’ve said before that homeschooling is one of my greatest joys as a mother. I truly mean that. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard, especially when life gets in the way. You know what I mean: one kid is sick; the toddler is drawing all over himself – or the floor or walls – instead of taking a nap; friends want to play and your kids are not shy about bribing you to let them off early . . . We’ve all been there. Continue reading

Homeschool Curriculum Review: UberSmart Math Facts

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Have you heard of the “unschool” method of homeschooling? It’s basically taking “delight directed learning” (teaching kids what they want to learn) to a crazy level (my apologies if that’s they way you homeschool…) and saying that that’s all you will teach them. If they don’t want to learn to read yet, that’s okay. Eventually they will, and then you can teach them. Kids not interested in adding, even though they’re 10? No problem. They’ll decide to at some point.

We do not subscribe to that philosophy in our home.

There are some things you just have to learn whether you like it or not. Math facts are on that list. And you might recall from a previous review I did that math facts are something my kids and I struggle with regularly. So when the opportunity for another approach to learning these facts came up, I hastily requested this product.

What is it? It’s called UberSmart Math Facts and is offered by UberSmart Software. Continue reading

Product Review: Happy Kids Songs


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Happy Kids Songs ReviewDo your kids love music? Do you want to use their love of music in a productive way? Then Happy Kids Songs might be right up your alley. These delightful songs are all about teaching kids character, one song at a time.

For the purposes of this review, I received three of the Happy Kids Songs albums:

Each digital album sells for $4.95 through iTunes or Amazon and contains 5 songs. You can also buy the songs individually for 99 cents each. Continue reading

Book Review: Wizzy Gizmo Book 1, Who Created Everything?


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wizzy gizmo book cover

We recently received for review a pretty cool new book. It’s from a company called Wizzy Gizmo, which gets its name from the main character of the book series. We received Book One: Who Created Everything? by Chris del Aguila and Justin Cummins. The book is a 58-page, full color paperback. There are seven chapters, most of which are very short. It was easy for us to read multiple chapters in a sitting, even when it was close to (or past!) bedtime. The illustrations, which were drawn by one of the authors, are beautiful. I know that word is tossed around pretty liberally these days in regards to children’s book illustrations, but I truly believe it’s fitting here. The layout of the book was really nicely done as well. There is a lot of interest from page to page, beyond just text and pictures. They did a nice job of incorporating their text into their pictures. Who Created Everything? is written with kids ages 4-12 in mind, and I think that’s pretty accurate. My kids are 2, 7, and 10, and they all enjoyed our read aloud time with this book. Small Fry, being only 2, didn’t really fully understand the book, of course, but he sat quietly and listened and looked at the pictures (for the most part) while we read. Retail price is $12.99, which is very reasonable for the quality of the book. Continue reading

Simplicity: Slowing Down

simplicity copyThings change when you don’t have a car. You have to be more patient. You have to understand that you need to leave the house earlier than you used to. You have to allow more time to get places – and to get home. In short, you have to slow your life down.

It would be easy to decide that we weren’t willing to embrace this slower paced lifestyle. We could take out a loan and fix the car (although maybe not – the cost of the repairs will likely be roughly twice what we’re paying for the car). But instead, we decided that we do want to live life a little slower. We don’t want “Simplicity Breeds Happiness” to be just a catchphrase in our family; we want it to be something we truly put into practice in our everyday lives.

Continue reading

Simplicity: Like a Child

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We’ve had to start attending a new church recently. Biking instead of driving has forced us to adjust the way we do things, and traveling 18 miles (each way) to church is something we just can’t do anymore. Our new church is the Church of Christ in our town. It’s about a mile from our house, so it’s a very quick bike ride to get there.

There are some noticeable differences between this church and our other one – primarily, the new one offers communion every week whereas our old church did it only once a month, and the new church has no musical instruments. All worship songs are done a Capella (this means without instruments, for anyone who doesn’t know).  During the month of August, there’s no children’s church, either. This is to give those workers a much needed break. I think this is a wonderful time to keep families together during church services. It’s good for children to be exposed to what the adults learn in the sermon, so they can absorb “deeper” teaching (rather than just the Bible “stories”), learn to think critically, and ask questions at home.

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Picture of the Week: My New Bike


We’ve been having quite a bit of car issues lately. I’m not going to go into the details here, but suffice it to say that we’ve decided to focus on biking rather than driving, at least until the rainy season hits. Then we’ll reevaluate. My previous bike was a pretty good one – a 70s or 80s beach cruiser that we picked up from a thrift store about a year ago. It was great for getting us back into biking, because it was really just a grownup version of a kid bike (one speed, pedal brakes). As we’ve been biking more and more lately (Will and the boys for the past several months, me for the past couple of weeks), it was clear that a single speed bike in our town just wouldn’t cut it. You see, you don’t notice it in a car, or really even on foot, but our town is quite hilly. Getting to downtown was fine; coming home was the problem (it’s about 3 miles each way). Pedaling a single speed bike up those hills was hard. So a couple of weeks ago, we started bike shopping. We found this one at the local big box store, and Will and I both immediately gravitated toward it. We’d look at it a couple of times a week, and we even got permission to take it for a test ride (around the outdoor – but fenced in – garden center). We just knew that this was destined to be my bike. So we saved up, got a few windfalls, and finally bought it. And let me tell you, it’s an absolute dream to ride! The hills are still a bit of work, but nothing compared to what they are on the cruiser. I couldn’t be happier with this new purchase!

And in case you’re wondering, since the photo was taken, we’ve taken the rack off of the back and replaced it with a baby seat for Small Fry. That little guy just adores going for bike rides!



P.S. In case you’re interested in the details, or want to get one of these for yourself, it’s in the Schwinn 700C family of city bikes.

Simplicity: Counting Your Blessings

simplicity copyI’ve been reading a very sad book this week as I work on writing my children’s schooling curriculum for the coming year (more on that in another post – it’s in process). It’s called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, and it’s about a young Japanese girl during World War II who suffered the aftereffects of America’s dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Long story short, ten years after the bomb dropped, she was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away. It is a novelization of true events, much like the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Homeschool Curriculum Review: Hewitt Homeschooling

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I mentioned in a previous post, the one where I talked about what we’d accomplished in the 2013-14 school year, that I wanted my kids to take the summer “easy” rather than “off” in order to keep their skills sharp. When the option for reviewing items from Hewitt Homeschooling came up, I thought this was just the ticket for the writing portion of our “summer school.” I chose My First Report: Sports (retail price $8.95) for us to work on because both boys enjoy sports (although Seahawk more so than Munchkin). I knew they’d be interested in learning more about a variety of sports and games. After all, knowing the hows, whys, and rules of games will make them more fulfilling to play. The age range for the My First Reports were perfect for both of my kids, too – grades 1-4. Seahawk just finished up 4th grade, but he can use a bit of remedial work in a few subjects (including writing), so I had him use this product, even though he was on the very edge of the age range. Munchkin was right in the middle of the age range, and this was a good product for him. Continue reading


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