Monday, May 18, 2015

FishFlix: Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition {Schoolhouse Crew Review} Review
I don't usually keep up with movies, box office numbers, or the latest gossip about Hollywood stars. Because of that, when offered reviewers a choice of movies, I picked the Unbroken 2-DVD Legacy of Faith Edition solely based on the description on the website. I wanted to hear more of the story of Louis Zamperini's life -- his story of running in the Olympics, floating in a raft at sea, and then surviving a WWII prisoner of war camp. I honestly didn't know that I was picking a blockbuster movie directed by Angelina Jolie. Review

Unfortunately, I wasn't really all that impressed with the movie itself. It tells the story of Zamperini's life, but it seems like something is missing. When he floated at sea for more than a month, he clung to the hope that they'd be rescued sometime soon. Later, when he was tortured in Japanese internment camps, he continued to stand strong. He was tortured by a prison guard the American prisoners had dubbed, "The Bird," but he never backed down. Sadly, the movie never really gave an explanation. I saw his many trials, but I never did see what carried him through all it all. What gave him the strength to continue? Why didn't he ever just give up? After watching several hours of a movie showing the most horrific moments in his life, I didn't find satisfying answers to my questions. Don't get me wrong; I was thrilled to see him safely return home to his mother and father at the end of the movie. I just wanted to know more.

As happens sometimes, I set aside the DVD for a few weeks before I got a chance to watch the second disc. The Unbroken 2-DVD Legacy of Faith Edition from contains a second DVD with more than ninety additional minutes of bonus features about Louie Zamperini. I guess I'm not the type of person Hollywood movies are produced for. I preferred watching the bonus content over the actual movie. The DVD includes several interviews with Louie Zamperini, an inspirational message of faith that was produced in conjunction with The Billy Graham Evangelical Association, and Louie's own discussion of faith and forgiveness.

I was touched when I heard Louie Zamperini talk about how his wife talked him into going to a Billy Graham revival meeting several years after he had returned from war and how his life was changed. Zamperini could have lived a bitter life scarred by his memories, but instead, he offered forgiveness to his Japanese captors, even The Bird. Later in his life, he was able to visit Japan and even led a Bible study with many of the men who had tortured American prisoners of war. To me, the stories he told of his life after the war were as meaningful as the fancy motion picture showing his time before and during World War II.

Unbroken was rated PG-13 for "war violence including intense scenes of brutality and for brief profanity" (according to the Classification and Ratings Administration at the Motion Picture Association of America). I agree that it's a movie for mature audiences. advertises "Christian Movies to Inspire and Entertain." In addition to the Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition that currently sells for $19.97, they offer a wide variety of films for both children and families. Some of the other crew members watched educational films geared for a younger audience than Unbroken. Be sure to click the button below to read their reviews. Review

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean: Our Master Bedroom

In Michele's 34 Weeks of Clean challenges, she listed the master bedroom the week before the master closet. As it happened, I got a bit of a late start cleaning the bedroom, switched to the closet for a few days, and then went back to finish the bedroom. I shared the after pictures of our closet a few weeks ago, but I never shared a finished look at our bedroom.

I have (had?) a nasty habit of spending so much time trying to pick up things in other parts of the house that I didn't have any energy left to worry about all the things that I piled in our master bedroom. I think part of it was a bit of laziness on my part and part of it was an "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon.

Here's a candid shot of my side of our dresser before I started cleaning:

Rather pitiful, isn't it? Most of the jewelry belongs in the jewelry box that was sitting right there. Thankfully it only took a few minutes to put it all back where it belongs.

If I thought the dresser was bad, my side of the bed was horrid.

I should say that the picture was taken on a worse than usual day. I don't always have Brennan's guitars in our bedroom. Sadly, though, the stack of clean laundry waiting to be put away didn't used to be all that unusual.

Again, it didn't take very long to get everything put away.

As I work through 34 Weeks of Clean, I'm learning that it really doesn't take much time to keep things clean. For some reason, I always think that I don't have time to clean. Instead, I overestimate how long it will take to do a task and then procrastinate. Before I know it, all my procrastinating leads to a little mess here, a little mess there, and a discouraging feeling that the whole house is a wreck.

I timed myself to figure out just how long it takes to put away my laundry -- less than five minutes to put away the entire week's worth of folded clothes. I spend that much time checking Facebook "one more time" before bed. I'm slowly learning that it's a lot more satisfying to make sure I've spent a few minutes here and there cleaning up after myself.

If you'd like to join me with the challenges, you can find Michele's posts on her Family, Faith, and Fridays blog, on the Facebook page, or by clicking the button below. She posts a new challenge every Friday and will also be hosting a weekly link-up for any other bloggers who are brave enough to share pictures of their progress. There is also a prize basket giveaway with entries earned by blogging or posting pictures on her blog's FB wall.

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

There are some homeschoolers who are blessed with a strong support network in real life -- family or friends who homeschool, a co-op group, etc. When we set off on this crazy homeschool path eleven years ago, I don't think I knew anyone locally who was homeschooling. In hindsight, I probably could have used a friend to not only support me but also to challenge me to be more purposeful about our days.

Recently I've been using an online homeschool encouragement course from Successful Homeschooling Made Easy. At first I worried that the material was primarily geared towards new homeschoolers. As I worked through the materials, though, I realized that the materials are valuable for homeschoolers at any point in their journey -- even a homeschooler with more than a decade of experience.

Normally this online course sends students a single lesson per week for twenty-six weeks. For the Crew review, Stephanie Walmsley sent us the first few lessons all at once so that we could see more of how the program works. Because of this head start, I've worked through the first nine lessons of her materials, with lesson ten arriving in my inbox earlier this morning.

Each lesson in the twenty-six lesson series comes as a pdf file that ranges from twelve to twenty pages long. Initially I read the lessons online, either in a web browser or on my Kindle. Eventually, I realized that I need a print copy of the material so that I wouldn't be tempted to skip past all the question and response sections. Thankfully, the pdfs printed nicely doublesided and in grayscale so I didn't use very much paper or ink.

The first lessons walk homeschool moms through the very basics of setting up a daily homeschool routine. It's a perfect way for a new homeschooler to ease into school at home and also a great way for experienced homeschool families to ease back into a routine after vacation, the birth of a baby, or anything else that disrupts the old normal. For the first week, the routine simply consists of a literacy hour for writing and reading. The second week adds a numeracy, or math, hour. Later you add something fun, then music and art. I am seriously considering following this plan when we start back to school after our move this summer. I can't do it for all three of my students (two will be stressing about finishing all of their high school classes in a year), but I can make Lauren's transition back to school more gentle. I'm known for setting lofty goals and developing complex plans to reach them. I'm also known for burning out quickly when I try to accomplish all the I've written down in the schedule that I've arranged as carefully as I would Tetris blocks.

As we talk about developing a schedule or routine for our homeschool days, Stephanie Walmsley also challenges homeschool parents to think through a vision for their homeschool family. Our fourth lesson in this series asked difficult questions like, "What do you want to achieve in your life?" or "Why do you want to home educate your children?" She recommends going back to basics and setting a vision before jumping into homeschool specifics such as methods, curriculum, and educational goals. After developing a vision, more questions helped me focus on what things are important for me and my children, where I'd like to be in my relationship with my child in ten years, and how homeschooling will help me achieve that goal.

I will readily admit that I got a bit bogged down in the two lessons about visions and goals. My husband sometimes says I'm a "fire, ready, aim" sort of person. I tend to work on getting things done without ever thinking about why I'm doing them. I know it will be good for me to spend the time needed to work through the questions posed in the lessons. It's these answers that have the ability to sustain me when the homeschooling path gets rocky and steep.

One goal of this course is to help "fireproof" homeschool parents. In other words, to make sure that I don't get burned out. Working out reasonable schedules and setting a vision are just the first two parts of the fireproof process. Stephanie Walmsley may have stepped on my toes a few times in the chapter that challenged moms to take care of themselves and to consider devoting some time to achieving my own dreams. She also challenged me to look at our schedule in terms of finding a balance between outside commitments and unscheduled time just being at home.

Each lesson in the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy course presented information and planning tasks in easy bite-sized pieces. In the past few weeks, I've made some slow, but steady progress in terms of developing a vision for our homeschool and goals for my children (and myself). Since it is late in our school year, I haven't implemented a homeschool routine or schedule for our days. I look forward to following the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy plan next fall and slowly developing an effective, but reasonable plan for our homeschool days.

I recommend Successful Homeschooling Made Easy for both rookie and veteran homeschool moms. For me, it's been a perfect way to slow down and intentionally plan for both the next homeschool day and the next homeschool year.

The Successful Homeschool Made Easy online course costs $48 (or $10 per month if you'd like to pay in installments) and includes 26 lessons delivered weekly by email.

Koru Naturals Review

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Friday, May 8, 2015

First Day Photos {May 2015}

Once again I proved that I have attention issues when it comes to taking first day photos. I took a few snapshots at breakfast and lots of pictures when I went hiking with Tim that morning. Unfortunately, however, I got caught up in a busy afternoon and completely forgot to take pictures of the rest of the day.

Even if it's not a complete picture of our day, I gathered some my favorite pictures of our hike and of the petroglyphs we were searching for.

If you want to join the first day fun, you can visit Nicole's Journey to Josie blog or click the cute paper airplane button below.

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Motivate Your Child Action Plan Giveaway

For the past few months, I've been hearing about "heart parenting," a term coined by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. A heart-based approach to parenting and discipline challenges parents to reach their children's hearts in order for them to grow morally and spiritually. Heart-based parenting focuses on internal motivation rather than on external behaviors.

Several of my friends recommended that I read Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told, and I am quite impressed (even though I haven't quite finished reading it yet). I was excited to see the companion book Motivate Your Child Action Plan. Although I enjoy reading and thinking about the author's great ideas in the first book, the second book seems like it will give me the tools I need to make real lasting changes in how I parent.

I am working on a full review of these books; look for it towards the end of the month. In the meantime, I invite you to enter our big Motivate Your Child Actuon Plan Book Release Giveaway. You should also mark your calendars for the Facebook party on May 20th. It promises prizes, fun, and lots of good Biblical parenting advice.

Motivate Your Child Action Plan Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child Action Plan, we are joining other members of the Launch Team in a wonderful giveaway filled with an iPod Touch, $50 iTunes Gift Card and several biblical parenting products! A value of nearly $350! Here's what you could win: 

Apple iPod touch 16GB Black/Silver  ($195 value)  

  • In the Box - iPod Touch, Apple EarPods, Lightning to USB cable, QuickStart guide
  • Brilliant 4 Retina display with Multi-Touch IPS technology
  • Front-Facing FaceTime camera with 1.2MP photos & 720p HD video recording.  
  • iOS 6 features - Siri, Apple Designed Maps, Integrated Facebook, Shared Photo Streams, Passbook & more

iTunes Gift Card ($50 value)

 Because you'll need apps and music for that iPod Touch!

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide ($56.95 value) 

The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age.  The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step. Each lesson contains advice from Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller in a 5 minute audio tip and then offers teaching, an assignment, a Bible verse, and a prayer to help you apply each idea or strategy in your family. The tips are available to you as MP3 downloads and access to them comes in the workbook.

Family Time Activities Book Bundle ($45 value)

Your kids will have fun learning about God's Word and how it applies to their lives. Science experiments, art activities, and games are all designed to reinforce spiritual truth. Each lesson is clear and simple, yet profound even for parents! You'll teach kids how exciting it is to learn about God and his ways. Your kids will love these books, but more importantly you'll build spiritual memories of Family Time in your home. Titles in this giveaway include:  Seeing Is Believing  Playing for Keeps  Running the Race

Enter the Giveaway using the Rafflecopter below! This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY to those 18 years of age or older. Void where prohibited by law. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Join us for the Action Plan Facebook Party on Wednesday, May 20 at 9:00PM ET. There will be even more prizes and giveaways there and the authors of Action Plan will be present to answer your questions! The winner of this giveaway will be announced at the Facebook party!

RSVP here for the Party! 

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Land of Nubbins: The Goober Crystal {book review}

It seems like everyone is talking about graduation these days. High School and college graduations are around the corner, and Addison's girls chorus is already practicing the special Senior song for their upcoming concert. It's fun to see so many people achieving their dreams.

Yesterday, I saw a Facebook picture of a special friend here in Tucson achieving one of her life long dreams. My friend, Djuana Berlin, recently published her first book.

Land of Nubbins: The Goober Crystal is a 160 page book intended for children (but enjoyable for adults as well). 

"Adventure is the ticket when 11-year-old Billy had a run-in with his Dad's latest and craziest invention in their basement, and ends up in a strange and wondrous land -- the Land of Nubbins! With his new Nubbin friends Hazel and Filbert, Billy must face extraordinary creatures and overcome dangerous enemies as they search for a way to get him back home!" (Author's summary)

I enjoyed reading Land of Nubbins: The Goober Crystal, and I look forward to sharing it with Lauren soon. My initial readability tests showed that it's at a 3rd or 4th grade reading level, but I'm not sure if she'd prefer to read it herself or listen to it as a read-aloud. Maybe I'll just wait for the author to record it for Audible -- what a fun treat that will be!

As I read through the book, I couldn't help but think that it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz. The main character, Billy, falls into his father's latest invention and ends up in the Land of Nubbins. He then encounters various creatures and interesting lands as he makes his journey home. Later, I read Djuana's Smashwords interview where she called the Land of Nubbins "a modern day Wizard of Oz story."

Djuana Berlin's debut novel in her Land of Nubbins series is a true hit! I can't wait to see what sort of adventures Billy and his nutty friends find in her next book.

Land of Nubbins: The Goober Crystal is already available in Kindle format ($3.99) and will soon be available in more formats, including paperback, iBooks, Nook and Audible.

You can find more information about Land of Nubbins: The Goober Crystal on Facebook, Smashwords, Amazon, or the Land of Nubbins website. You can even download the first chapter for free!

Disclaimer: I received a free pdf copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, now was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five Random Keepin' It Real Confessions

All this week some of my blogging friends have been taking readers on a sneak peek of their real life -- what their houses really look like, what messes don't always get cleaned up, etc. We're showing a side of our lives that doesn't always get photographed and doesn't usually show up on our blogs. We're all "Keepin' It Real" so that we can let other moms know that life doesn't always look like Pinterest.

I've been taking pictures all week, sharing some on Instagram and saving some for this blog post. Tonight I decided to share five Keeping' It Real confessions.

1. I have spiders that like to live near my front door. Black widows, to be exact. Every once in a while, late at night, I put on some sturdy tennis shoes and head outside with a flashlight to stomp on them all. Sometimes, though, the cobwebs accumulate faster than I can go spider hunting. Thankfully they don't show too badly from the street.

2. I don't start our homeschool day early in the morning. Some days of the week I get up really early to go running with friends. Other days I sleep in a bit more. It's not easy having a high schooler that often stays out late for activities and an elementary student that's up at 6:00 every morning. My goal is to finish breakfast and medicines by nine o'clock so I can start schoolwork with Lauren. I'd guess I have a 50/50 success rate with that.

Our homeschool room:

3. I try to wash dishes and clean off the counters after dinner each night.

I sometimes wake up in the mornings to find the kitchen looking like this:

4. I think having a messy desk is hereditary. I took pictures of the Lauren's desk in the schoolroom, Brennan's desk on the other side of the schoolroom, my desk in the front office area, and Addison's desk. Addison cleaned hers off last night. I've tried to clean mine, but it's hard to keep a shared area neatly organized.

5. Last week, I worked on cleaning up the master bedroom as part of the 34 Weeks of Clean challenge. I'm hoping that the clean, organized look in there will last for a while.

Do you sometimes feel like a failure when it comes to homemaking?  Do you ever beat yourself up for not keeping your house spic and span?  Do you thumb through magazines and ever wonder why your house can't look like that, or when you visit your favorite bloggers you wonder how they can keep a tidy home but you can't?

House porch with wicker furniture and flowers

Well, let's get REAL!!  You are NOT a failure; your house does NOT have to be spic and span 24/7; those magazine photos are NOT real life; and I can guarantee you that the neat and tidy pictures you see of bloggers' homes are hardly ever like that on a regular basis.

So I thought it would be encouraging and fun to do a little home tour of my own (along with several other bloggers - make sure you check out the other home tours at the end of this post).  You know, kind of like those lovely house tours that DIY/Home bloggers do that show pictures of their immaculate, magazine-worthy homes?  Like that, but a little different.  For this home tour we won't pretty up our houses or make them picture perfect, but rather show them as they are in their usual state - lived in!

We hope that through these home tours that you are encouraged to know that nobody has it all together, and that's okay; that you have fun peeking into the life of another family and seeing how other moms do things; and also to dispel the myth that bloggers have a flawless life.

BUT WAIT!  We want to see your homes too!!!  Even if you aren't a blogger, you can join us and share pictures of your home on Instagram.  For the next six days we will have a little Instagram challenge; each day will have a different topic for you to post a picture on.  Check out the graphic below to see what is assigned on each day.  Be sure to use the hashtag #KeepinItRealHomeTour on all your Instagram post so we can find each other easily. 

Keepin It Real Home Tour IG Challenge

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.


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