Monday, July 31, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean- Rinse and Repeat: Week 30- The Cars

OK, OK, I know your cars are not technically a part of your house, but let's face it, many of us spend enough time there to count them as such, right?  Between groceries and appointments, children and friends, we spend a lot of time in our cars.

And like anything else, time and lots of kids takes its toll on our vehicles.  Honestly, it is not usually a big deal to me.  But, it is a big deal to my sweet husband, so I do try to keep a handle on the chaos. We used to keep a car organizer on the back of the seat for my youngest's books and such, but that went out recently.  We do tend to have a plastic bag hanging for trash.  But past that, well, life happens!

Since our kids are getting older (10 and up) we do not usually have too big of a mess to deal with.  AND, because our kids are getting older, we can bribe pay them to do detailed car duty occasionally. Yay me!

So, here we go- CLEAN OUT THOSE CARS!

A quick checklist for you-

  •   Empty all trash bags or just get rid of all the trash you have on the floor and everywhere else!

  •  Take out all car mats and wash down.

  •  Vacuum the floorboards.
  •  Wipe down all surfaces.
  •  Wipe down all windows inside.
  •  Wash outside of car, including tires!
  • Check tire pressure while you are there! ;)

One of the things we always keep in our cars is an emergency car kit.  It hold simple things like a first aid kit, extra clothes, blankets, jumper cables, and such.  You just never know when you will be stranded and our motto is better safe than sorry! 

That's it!  Pretty simple, huh?  And it will make the men in your life smile for some reason, go figure!

Well my friends, we have almost come to the end of the road with 34 Weeks of Clean!  I cannot even believe that the time is almost done.  Next week we are heading back inside to finish up for our last few weeks.  I hope you are starting to look around and see a difference.

You only have a few more weeks to share your pictures with us for the big prize drawing!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Celebrating 25 Years

You have may have seen on facebook that my husband and I just celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary last week!  It's a pretty big deal since the reality is we have actually known each other for 33 years.

I will make the math easy for you- yes, we met in 8th grade.  I know, right?!  I have put up with him for a long time.

Just kidding.

So here we are many years later.  4 kids later.  Many locations later.  You get the idea.

It was HOT ya'll!

For years we talked about a 10 year anniversary get away.  Then a 15.  And then a 20.  You get the idea.  Didn't happen.  Life happens and we got busy and while we did celebrate, we never got away.

This time almost didn't happen either.  My recovery from gall bladder surgery was much harder and slower than I had hoped and expected and we weren't sure I was going to be able to get away.  In the end, I took a chance.  So glad I did!

Luckily for us there is this great place not too far from us that my hero was able to make a reservation for the weekend at, and away we went.

Lied Lodge.  Have you heard of it?  I hadn't either.

But it is a really cool place and former home to the man who founded Arbor Day.  You can tour the homestead, gardens, and grounds.  It is simply lovely.

 And just what we needed.

 Rest. Beauty. Nature. Quiet.

The Old Homestead at Lied Lodge

The back view

 Happy Anniversary, my love!

Monday, July 24, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean: Rinse and Repeat: Week 29-The Garage

Maybe I should have just named this week the Man Cave Edition.  Seriously, what is it with men and their garages?

If I was in charge of our garage this is what it would like like, I am sure of it! ;)

Or this...

I am not in charge of our garage so this is what it looks like-

Just keeping it real, folks!

In my husband's defense, this is the first time he has been involved with this particular assignment.  He was deployed for a year when I started this madness series and I promised not to toss out all of  his stuff without him.  Not that that was not very tempting, mind you.  But, hey, I can shut the door and, ta-da! out of sight, out of mind!

The garage is not an area that I feel all that comfortable cleaning out by myself.  If it were up to me, I would simply dump it all in the trash with the exception of about five things.  Really, I would.  But my sweet hubby might have a heart attack.  Luckily for him, I conveniently ended up sick in bed all day for this assignment so he and Ashton, our oldest who happens to be a minimalist, had the whole place to themselves.  I think God smiled down on me. :)

So roll up your sleeves and let's get to work on those GARAGES!

  • Empty it all out! Yes,  because we had recently done all of the Christmas buns, those did stay in place.

  • Sweep and then hose down the concrete.  After a LONG winter of snow or just plain weather, dirt and grime are bound to build up.  I hate to even think about how much junk we track into our home.  Another reason we leave shoes at the door!
  •  Now is a great time to wash out your trash can and recycling cans!  Those things can get smelly! 
  • Throw out any trash that has accumulated over the last year and sort out anything that is broken and not being used. 

Before de-cluttering, but you can see the bike storage
Now is the time to start putting back the things you are keeping-

  • Put like things together and organize.  Think outside the box here!  Can you hang bikes from the rafters?  Can you hang tools on a wall?  We use an old trashcan to store rakes and shovels and such!

  • If you have storage containers, now is the time to clean them out.  Throw away things that have not been used in years.  Most of the stuff we hang on to "just in case" never gets used.  It is just taking up space, I promise!  You CAN be prepared without being a pack-rat!

When you are done, pat yourself on the back!  Or treat your hubby to a night out on the town!  Whatever works! ;)  Don't worry, we are headed back inside soon.


Friday, July 21, 2017

God's Smuggler

Reading is always a favorite pastime in my house, but in the summer we really up our reading time.  What better way to beat the heat while learning and letting our imaginations soar?  The biggest challenge for me is to find books that are interesting enough to hold my 10 year old's attention. He reads at a higher level than he is age-wise, so finding subject matter that he is interested in that also fits his maturity AND reading level can get tricky.

When we were contacted about reviewing God's Smuggler, Young Reader's Edition by Brother Andrew, I knew we had found a gem for our collection.  This classic book, one that has sold over 10 million copies, is now abridged for younger readers. Written for 9-12 year olds, this 219 page soft-back book about a true hero of faith will inspire your kids with Brother Andrew's many adventures.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Brother Andrew grew up in the Netherlands around the time that Germany was sweeping the countryside.  He served in the war until a leg injury sidelined him.  During his struggle to heal physically and emotionally from the war wounds, he had a come-to-faith conversion.  At that time he dedicated his life to Jesus and eventually found himself serving believers behind the iron curtain.  By smuggling Bibles into areas that were not open to the gospel, he gave people the hope they were in such great need of. Now, at age 89, Brother Andrew no longer travels, but his work continues throughout the world through his ministry, Open Doors.

I had all intentions of my having my 10 year old son read this book independently.  So much for those plans!  To get him interested, I agreed to read the first chapter with him.  We were BOTH hooked.  Since then, we have been taking turns reading a chapter to each other, making it part of our afternoon quiet time together.  He is more than capable of reading and understanding it on his own but we have enjoyed the time together.  Simple pen and ink drawings every few pages help hold a young reader's attention as well.

There are some sensitive issues, such a war and drinking, discussed, but I believe it is done in as much of a family-friendly way as possible.  Reading the book together has provided us the opportunity to talk about our beliefs and feelings on the subjects.  A few names are hard to pronounce due to the fact they are names we are not familiar with, but we did our best not to butcher them.  I did have to stop a few times to explain what a word he was not familiar with meant, but it did not slow us down nor deter him from reading.

When I asked my son what he liked most about the book, here is what he said-

 "I like that the book is adventurous.  He had a lot of adventures when he was young AND old.  It made me laugh when he stopped up his neighbor's chimney by putting a glass window over the opening.  I also liked it when he set off firecrackers to scare soldiers.  I think Brother Andrew was pretty brave.  He worked hard for God!"

In this day and time when true heroes are often a bit harder to find, I love that I have found the book God's Smuggler to show my son what a true hero of faith looks like. I think you will enjoy it as well!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Take Your Mind to Flight! Doctor Aviation Review

It is no secret that this family loves aviation.  Dad is a pilot after all and attended the United States Air Force Academy for college.  My kids have grown up in hangers, have a love for all flying things, and WILL interrupt a conversation to identify a plane or helicopter in the air.  When we heard that Doctor Aviation was offering the Homeschool Review Crew a 6 month subscription to review his Aviation Course we did a happy dance.

Who is Doctor Aviation?
Doctor Aviation is actually retired Air Force officer Darryl Smith, with over 24 years in the Air Force.  He has been an instructor pilot and test pilot and has over 2,000 flying hours.  He is currently a college professor who has a continued love of flying and wants to pass on that love and knowledge to others.

What is Doctor Aviation?
Doctor Aviation is a 6 Section, 15 lesson online course to help people learn the basics of flight, it's history, and the important people in the field.  Sections include the Course Intro, The Aircraft, Air Traffic Control, Aircraft Maintenance, Airfield Operations, and The Aircraft II.  Each lesson within the sections averages about 60 minutes and can be broken into three parts. 

The first section- Technical Trivia- presents the basic information for that particular lesson.  Lessons include subjects like the parts of an airplane and airports, airplane systems and such.

The second section, Notable Innovators, presents a person or persons of interest in the aviation world.  Some people included are Amelia Earhart and Nate Saint.

The final section of each lesson is called Legendary Aircraft/Events.  This part of the lesson highlights an event in history in the aviation world or a specific aircraft.  Examples of events that are covered are the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk and planes such as the F-117 and the Wright Flyer.

The Technical Trivia section is primarily a facts sections.  Both the Notable Innovators and Legendary Events sections include not only basic facts about the person or event, but also what we can or have learned from those mentioned.

Available to you to print are fill in the blank Guided Notes that can be filled in while your student is watching the lecture.  These note guides are several pages long and cover all three parts of the lecture.  Also included to download is a To Learn More feature. Here you will find additional books, websites, movies, and more pertaining to the studied topic. To make your life easier, links are included!  The last part of those notes is a For Further Study section. This has additional areas for study for your student to explore, with ideas for projects, research, or field trip ideas.

For ease, you will also find a dashboard on the site that will show you what your next lesson is about.  It also will show you your course progress, from how many days you have been on the course to what percentage of the course your student has completed.

While the target age for this course is a high school level, it can be done by younger kids with parental involvement, as well as enjoyed by adults who want to learn.

How we used this and what we think?
Our oldest son, Salem, age 15 and a high school freshman, has been the one using this course. Like his dad, he has a love of planes and a fascination with history.  He has watched the lessons, usually about two a week, independently, although I admit to watching a few along side of him because it sparked my interest.  (I loved the section on Nate Saint.) Salem has watched each lesson in one sitting because it is summer and we have the time.  That being said, if I were scheduling this for a child during the school year, I would schedule one section each for three days a week to break it up a little and assign the To Learn More sections for a fourth day.

So what do we think?  Well, we really do like this program!  Not only has Salem reviewed a lot of information about airplanes, he has learned a lot from the history portions of the class as well.  My kids are admittedly all history buffs, so learning about people and things from the past naturally interests them.  I think Darryl did a great job of choosing whom and what he would cover in the last two sections of each lesson, covering the past up to more recent events and people.

A few other things I appreciated-
  • The video lessons with Doctor Aviation teaching!  As homeschooled children, it is not super often my children get to learn from another human being other than me.  I love that they can have that experience from Doctor Aviation.
  • The maps and pictures.  Throughout the video, lessons, charts, maps, and vocabulary will pop up on the screen to look at.
  • Videos.  Let's face it, an aviation class is just more fun when you get to see planes flying.
  • The hanger.  Yes, most of the videos are filmed in a hanger!  That's the aviation geek side of my family showing through.
  • Test are also included.  Take note, this is what I appreciated, not necessarily Salem. ;) 
  • Full subject coverage!  Yes, you will learn about aircraft, but there is also information about history, the science behind things, geography, and even a little math with the Lift Equation!
The only thing Salem struggled with was the pace of the course.  There were times he voiced that he wished the instructor would move a bit faster.  I would mostly chalk this up to the fact that he is not used to sitting in a lecture-type setting, and he has a fast talking Southern momma!

While watching all of the videos will only take a little over 13 hours total, I most certainly will count this as a half a credit high school course in Aviation!  By the time you do additional research and exploration with all of the links provided as well as the For Further Study suggestions, there is no doubt you will have taken enough hours to cover a 1/2 credit course load.  Love that!  What a better way to get an elective in that is not only informative, but also fun!

Your subscription is for a half year- plenty of time to complete the course and all the extras you would want to do!

You can find Doctor Aviation on Facebook!  Be sure to follow him- he posts lots of fun articles and videos your aviation loving family will enjoy!

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, July 17, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean, Rinse and Repeat: Week 28- The School Room

Welcome back to 34 Weeks of Clean, Rinse and Repeat!  This week is for all you homeschoolers out there.  If you are not a homeschooler, I invite you to stick around anyway- you can always just laugh at the mania. Trust me, there is plenty of it!

You can also use this week to catch up, just saying! ;)

For background in case you are new here- we have been homeschooling our four kiddos for the past 19 years.  The oldest has since graduated from college and the next is a junior in college.  I am down to two boys in case you are counting.  I began teaching my oldest when she turned four, giving myself some breathing room in case it did not go well.  I decided if it was a failure of a year, I could still put her right into public kindergarten and not bat an eye.  The year was not one of our best but we decided to stick it out and have not looked back once.  Well, we did question our sanity a time or two, and I have threatened to send them to the worst public school I could find, but that was mainly in our first few years.  I have since asked for forgiveness. ;)

So, what does all this have to do with cleaning and organizing?

Have you SEEN the curriculum that is involved with homeschooling?  Not to mention the supplies!

Yes, I have a tote for every year, and one for foreign languages and art.  There used to be a rolling cart full of manipulatives, flash cards, and games, but I have since taken that down to one small basket.  I know, can you believe it?!  Since I am schooling our last and my daughters have assured me they will buy their own stuff eventually to school future grandchildren, I am not hanging on to tons of curriculum! (be looking for a quick post later this week with a list for sale!)

Then there is this mess-

The first picture is what happens to the inside of the school cabinet after months of doing school with two not-so-neat boys.  The second picture is a bookcase in my basement that is stuffed with "extras," review products we have used, reference books, and various supplies. 
Now, keep in mind, I have homeschooled four kids, have done so for 19 years, and own a lot of curriculum.  Ok, probably too much!  Also, keep in mind that I am not currently operating out of a dedicated school room- just a living room, basement storage, and one cabinet in our living room with our current books on it.  Since I do not have tons of extra space to display all the wonderful books, I finally gave in, divided them into grades, and gave them each a tote.  This was done over a period of time, hence the non-matching crates. Each crate was then labeled and put in the basement.

But I knew there was still work to be done.  As always, at the end of the year things begin to collect in stacks and don't make it to their intended spots.  New curriculum also comes in and I need to weed out old things that are not being used.  I am schooling my last child in 5th grade this year and like I said, I am paring down and only keeping what I know my girls would really want to use.  I am also blessed to get new things occasionally and am able to move out some older things that way. 

We are currently operating on a summer school schedule, but it is just a matter of time before we get back to full time schooling, as I assume many of you are doing as well.  In preparation, here we go!

This week's assignment is to clean up and clear out the school room!

That is going to look differently for many of us but here are some things to think about-
  •     If you have a dedicated school room, now is a good time to do a deep clean.  Pull as much as you can out and CLEAN!
               Windows, blinds, and curtains
               Ceiling Fans
  •     Now's your chance to try out a fresh furniture arrangement and maybe some new decorations!  Have your kids write their goals for the school year on poster paper and hang it up for a visual reminder.

The glory of this cabinet is when it is closed, no one can see the stuff in it!
  • Regardless of where you school- go through the books!  If you are going to use it, put it back on the shelf.  If not, sell it, donate it, or trash it.  Do not hang on to things you do not need!

  •  Go through all of the random papers!  If you like to keep children's work, I would encourage you to limit to it one file per child.  If there are things you just can't move out, take a picture of it first and then toss it.  I promise you, you are more sentimental than most of your kids and they will not miss it.  A few prized things from each grade are enough!

  •  Keep extra school supplies in one place.  This will help you know what you already have when the back-to-school sales start soon.  Yes, it is great to pick up supplies at rock bottom prices, but no, no one needs 100 spiral notebooks. 

You can do this.  Trust me, when the start of your school year rolls around you will be glad that this task is already done!

How'd you do with your clothes storage last week?  Come on - show us how you did!  We would love to celebrate your progress.  Don't forget, if you are leaving a picture on the Facebook page for us each week, your name gets put into the drawing for our 34 Weeks of Clean Prize Basket which includes goodies from our amazing friends at 621 Gifts and Redeemed.


Monday, July 10, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean: Rinse and Repeat: Week 27- Clothes Storage

I know last week was kind of overwhelming, so let me encourage you for a moment.  You CAN do this!  I promise, if I can, you can!  Really - have you looked at my before pictures?  And this is the THIRD time I have done this!!  This is a family that moves every two years or so.  We carry a lot of "just in case" items with us from place to place.  I understand about storage rooms.  But know this- there IS such a thing as too much and we are working towards breaking the cycle and clearing things out.  So if you have not started or just haven't quite finished- KEEP GOING!  I am cheering you on and still working too.

In the meantime- this week we are conquering the clothes storage areas in your house.  That may look a little different for everyone, but in our home, it is back to the storage room we go.  Hiding in 8 of those bins are either off season clothes or clothes for our youngest child to grow into. 
Because we do not have huge closets in our house, we keep the kids' off season clothes in bins (with Ashton's off season capsules in there as well).  I also have kept a few clothes from my 15 year old to pass on to his younger brother. Since I went to more of a capsule wardrobe concept, all of my clothes are in my closet.

I also tend to buy off season sales, so anything I find I put into the bin for the upcoming season.  If you have things you know a particular child is going to need, make an inventory list of what the needed items are and attach it to the bin.  That way, when sales come up, you can easily reference your needs.  Not wants!

Because my two boys have a slightly larger age gap, some of those bins had not been gone through lately, so I opened each one and took everything out.   We decided that it is better to just bless others with the hand me downs they can use now.  By the time our youngest can use them we will have either hauled them around for years or they will no longer even be worth wearing. Anything that was worn or terribly outdated went into the trash.  Things I thought just wouldn't get worn by the youngest (different styles, tastes, or body types) went into a Goodwill pile.  Quite frankly, I was surprised at how much I was able to pare down.  We are now two totes less!

Another load headed to Goodwill

So this week is pretty simple.
  •     Pick your favorite method of storing clothes- by gender or size or specific child, and get organized!
  •     Go through the clothes storage you have, purge and re-sort if necessary.
  •     Make a list of any items you know you need so you can take advantage of off season sales.

A quick note about clothes.  Please keep in mind that one of our goals in this series is to declutter our homes and lives.  This includes clothes.  Just as we did with our own closets, we must evaluate what we need and what we don't. 

Do not confuse needs with wants.  There is a difference.

Face facts, we can only wear one outfit at a time.  Having closets and storage bins with clothes popping out of them is not needed.  Be honest with yourself and evaluate if you are not only being good steward of your space but also your money.

So how did you do with last week's assignment?  We can't wait to see your progress!

And homeschooling moms- next week is just for you! ;)

Until then, blessings!!