Monday, October 20, 2014

YMCA {Years Ago}

Years ago, when Brennan was about 15 months old and Addison was almost 4, we moved from Ohio to Illinois. After the moving truck left, our new neighbor came over to introduce herself. I remember her saying three things.

1. "It looks like you have small kids. Do you need to know the name of a good preschool?"
2. "Do you need a church recommendation?"
3. "You need to join the Y. Let me know what day you want to come along with me to check it out."

I wasn't opposed to exercise, but I wasn't really interested in joining a gym. Eventually, she talked me into bringing my kids and joining her at the Y.

The absolute best thing about the YMCA there in Southwest Illinois was the child care facilities. One whole side of the room had a ginormous foam climbing gym. The rest of the room was filled with equally cool toys. Y members could leave their children in the supervised child care area for up to 2 hours at a time while they worked out.

For that entire summer, my kids woke up and asked me if we could "please, pretty-please," go to the Y. Hmmm . . . if I took them to the Y, then I'd get to exercise for a bit and then take a shower all by myself. I usually ended up at the Y.

Before long, I signed Brennan up for a preschool swim classes one morning a week. I was sitting in the parent viewing area when the aquatics director came out and told the parents that he was in desperate need of more swim teachers. I argued that I could barely swim. He counter-argued that I wouldn't need to be a strong swimmer if I was teaching beginning swimmers in the shallow end of the pool. I ended up teaching swim lessons.

After teaching swim lessons for a while, the aquatics director came up to me again. This time he needed more lifeguards. I reminded him that I couldn't swim. He told me that I'd just need to practice until I could swim a mile and that he'd help me. He even offered to pay for the lifeguard classes. I accepted his challenge. I'm not sure I could even swim a whole lap on my first day, but I gradually got better. It looked like I'd be able to finish the mile swim test in the required time so I signed up for the class. On the first night, I stood on the deck next to a bunch of high school swimmers. The instructor told us, "Long shallow dive, then breaststroke." I took a big breath and hoped that this dive would be better than the ones I had done twenty years ago in swim lessons. I was perhaps the weakest and least graceful swimmer in my class, but I passed. For the next several years, I worked on and off at the Y as either a swim teacher or lifeguard.

The best part of being in the water is that I could bring Addison and Brennan with me when I was teaching. At times, they were swimming nearly every day. Tim deployed for four months, and the kids realized that I hadn't put them in the bathtub at home the entire time he was gone. I'd just rinse them off after swim class and call it good enough.

Sadly, we've never found a YMCA as friendly as the one we left behind when we moved away from O'Fallon, Illinois. I'll always fondly remember my days in the pool there.

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story (or stories) corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those treasured stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lilla Rose Hair Accessories -- Pretty Hair Everyday {Review}

Two years ago I did a review for a Lilla Rose Flexi-Clip that we fell in love with. That single Flexi-Clip multiplied and now we have a whole stash of Lilla Rose products floating between the girls' bathroom and mine (when they aren't being worn).

 My favorite Flexi is often found in the bottom of my purse or the center console of my car. I like to carry it around in case the Arizona weather gets too unbearable and I want to twist my hair up off my neck in a messy twist.

On the other hand, the girls prefer to use their Flexis to hold only half of their hair back off of their face. I often look up at the youth group sitting together in church a few rows in front of me and see Addison's hair clipped back with a pretty Flexi.

When Addison wants to pull all of her hair up, she prefers forming an actual rounded bun instead of a twisty up-do with a Flexi-Clip. Her Lilla Rose You-Pins are perhaps the most frequently used hair accessory in the house.

She uses them when she's studying:

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When she's going to work at the eye clinic:

And even when she's fishing:

On fancier occasions she uses the You-Pins to dress up intricate braids:

 click for Step-by-step Instructions
All of Addison's buns and both of the braids shown above use the regular length You-Pins (approximately 3" long). Now that Lauren has started putting her hair up in buns for ballet class, I'm going to order some of the new, shorter You-Pins so that she can quickly twist her ponytail up into a bun too.

Addison's other favorite Lilla Rose product is their bobby pins. If she is wearing her hair down, there's at least a 90% chance that she'll slide in a bobby pin for decoration.

Basically, all three of us love our Lilla Rose hair accessories. Perhaps the only problem is having a limited supply of options and three people trying to share them.

This weekend I'll be adding to our collection with some new items from Lilla Rose's three-day sale. All of their hair accessories are 10% and anything fall colored (black, brown, or brass) is 15% off. 

I've already picked out short You-Pins for Lauren (she definitely needs heart ones), and I think these Bobby Pins would look gorgeous with Addison's choir dress this holiday season.

I guess the only real question is whether I should order something for myself or just keep borrowing  from the girls.

To start shopping, you can visit Jennifer's Lilla Rose website or click on the Lilla Rose logo below:

Disclaimer: I received a few Lilla Rose products in exchange for blogging about them. I was not required to share a positive opinion, and I was not 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 FTC regulations.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apologia's iWitness books {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Sometimes a review product arrives at just the right time.

One afternoon, I opened a package of new books and sat down on the couch to read iWitness Biblical Archaeology (from Apologia Educational Ministeries). Every one else was already quietly reading so I couldn't share any cool facts from my reading right away. As our daily reading time drew to a close, I read a section about a burial shroud of Jesus once displayed by a church in Turin, Italy.

I started telling Addison and Brennan about the burial shroud and the mysteries surrounding it. They both piped up that they had been talking about it in their teen Bible study class at church the previous Sunday morning. What a fun coincidence to be able to share the information I had read so they could find out even more about the Turin shroud.

The iWitness Biblical Archaeology book was one of three new apologetics books I received from Apologia. The other two in the series are Old Testament iWitness and New Testament iWitness. All three books were written and designed by Doug Powell.

I enjoy reading apologetics materials myself and I especially like being able to teach my children why I believe what I believe. These three paperback books (each 64 pages long) are worthy additions to my apologetics library.

Old Testament iWitness looks at the Hebrew scriptures, the books that most Christians refer to as the Old Testament. It answers questions such as: Why aren't there more ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible? Who wrote the books of the Old Testament? What is the Septuagint (and why was it called that)? How is the Hebrew Bible arranged and which books are included? The preacher at our current church always refers to the Old Testament scriptures as the Hebrew Bible, and I have a better understanding of the Hebrew Bible after reading this iWitness book.

The New Testament iWitness book asks some of the same questions about the New Testament. It looks at which books are included in the New Testament and why those specific writings were included in our traditional canon. As I read through the evidence presented, I could see why specific books were or were not included in the New Testament as I know it. It is not a matter of a particular church council choosing certain books, instead the Councils of Hippo and Carthage gave formal recognition to the writings that were already considered to be the foundation for Christianity. Finally, this book looks at reasons why we can know that the books we read in our modern New Testaments are indeed the same now as when the apostles wrote them.

Finally, iWitness Biblical Archaeology addresses a variety of issues related to archaeological evidence that has been found to support Biblical writings. It talks about controversial topics such as flood accounts in other ancient cultures and why Noah's Ark hasn't ever been found. It shows how modern archaeological discoveries show the accuracy of events portrayed in the Bible. For instance, the Lachish Letters (found in 1935) date back to 597 BC.  They mention the name Yahweh and match the history recorded in Jeremiah, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles.

I loved all the tidbits of information I learned while reading these three books in the iWitness series. Originally, I had planned to give the books to Brennan (my eighth grader) to read. Unfortunately, I found the layout of the book to be a bit visually overwhelming and the different non-standard fonts to be a bit difficult for me to read. Since Brennan does not enjoy reading (and probably still struggles to read difficult passages), I decided that it would be better to use the information in the books as a basis for family discussions instead of assigned reading.

I've seen these books recommended for ages 11 and up (reading level). I took my own samples from the text and found that they had a readability score of roughly 8th or 9th grade. The material in the books would provide interesting apologetics discussions for children (and adults) in upper elementary grades and up.

The iWitness books are available from Apologia for $14 each. Military families will be interested in knowing that Apologia offers as 40% off discount for military families (active, reserve, retired, and disabled veterans).

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

X is for Exhausted {Years Ago}

Every week, Lauren likes to ask me what my next years ago story for my blog is going to be. This week Addison was standing nearby when I said that "exhausted" was the best idea I had for the letter X. I had even picked out a few sleepy pictures of Brennan to share:

She said that I had absolutely had to tell the story of the church talent show in Virginia.

It was our first year living in Northern Virginia, and our church had a church-wide talent show in early December. I was sitting alone with Addison and Brennan because Tim was singing in one of the group numbers. Addison was 8, Brennan was nearly 5, and I was about six months pregnant with Lauren.

As the performances stretched on and the night grew later, Brennan stretched out on the pew beside me and fell asleep. The entire church grew quiet as a performer started playing on the harp. It was beautiful.

And then . . . Brennan started snoring. Not a little snore. A snore to put many grown-ups to shame. (The same snore that led to his tonsils being removed about a month later.) He was so loud that I'm certain half of our very large auditorium could hear him. I tried to wiggle him around so that he would stop, but nothing worked.

Thankfully the harp solo eventually ended and his snores were less noticeable during the rest of the performances. Brennan doesn't snore anymore, but there may always be pictures to share of him falling asleep nearly anywhere.

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story (or stories) corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those treasured stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Essay Rock Star by Fortuigence {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Fortuigence Review

I remember the class I grumbled most about in high school -- Senior English. I also remember all the nights in college that I was thankful for that Senior English class. I may have shed a few tears over the writing assignments I wrote for Mrs. Westbrook in high school, but all that work paid off when I had the writing skills to handle the essays thrown my way in college.

One of my primary high school goals for Addison (and her two younger siblings) is to make sure that she can handle the writing assignments she'll face as a college student. Recently we added a course from Fortuigence to her language arts curriculum so that she could build important writing skills.

Fortuigence's primary offering is their Essay Rock Star course, which is divided into four mini-courses -- The Personal Statement, The Persuasive Essay, The Expository Essay, and The Textual Analysis. Each course can also be taken individually. Addison took about a month to complete Essay Rock Star Personal Statement Writing Course.

Fortuigence teaches students a five step process for writing -- brainstorming, organization, free-writing, revision, and editing. Each lesson includes a video description and written materials to explain that particular step in the process, and then the student completes an assignment to submit to the teacher. A further explanation of the class with a short video and lots of pictures can be found on the Fortuigence website.

At first I worried how this online writing course would work. I shouldn't have been concerned at all. Even when we accidentally mixed up our log-in names, our mistake was quickly and easily corrected so that Addison received credit for the assignment submitted with my name. We also wondered about the turn around time for getting her assignments graded. In every case, Addison's writing assignment was returned with suggestions for improvements within 24 hours (not including weekends).

The five step writing process taught by Fortuigence bothered Addison. In past writing classes, she learned to develop a strong thesis statement before she started writing. In this course, she didn't craft a thesis statement until the revision (fourth) step. Hence, the Fortuigence method seemed a bit backwards to her. (Not necessarily wrong, just different from the way she is used to approaching a writing assignment.)

The personal interaction with the teacher stood out the most to Addison about this class. Ms. Iatridis's comments were always positive and encouraging. It seemed like she truly wanted to read Addison's writing, not that she was simply grading papers for a class. All of the essay critiques pointed out the good aspects of her writing in addition to offering specific suggestions for improvement. For instance, she included a few questions as suggestions for details to include, such as "How long did it take to learn each piece for chorus? Why did you perform so many concerts in December?" instead of just saying that the essay needed more facts or details. After Addison submitted her final essay, Ms. Iatridis added a few suggestions about style, but also highly praised Addison's writing.

In addition to the comments directly relating to Addison's assignments, Ms. Iatridis went above and beyond when Addison asked additional questions. Since this class involved writing a personal essay, Addison asked if she could share any tips for doing an interview. (Both writing an essay about yourself and doing an interview both include the awkward feelings of not wanting to seem like you're bragging about yourself.) Ms. Iatridis not only offered a few suggestions, she also contacted someone who had recently applied to several colleges to get his recommendations to be prepared for an interview.

Addison and I were both pleased with Essay Rock Star: The Personal Statement class. Her writing improved, and she now has an excellent personal essay that could be used for college applications. More importantly in my mind, the encouragement from Ms. Iatridis gave her a hefty dose of writing confidence that will serve her well as she finishes high school and moves on to college assignments.

The Essay Rock Star classes from Fortuigence are intended for high school level students of all ability levels. According to her placement assignment, Addison started her class at a proficient writing level and improved towards mastery level. A student struggling with writing might show even greater improvements with one of these courses. If a student takes all four classes, it could count as a half-credit (one semester) of English composition on a transcript. For Addison, we're counting her single class as part of the broader English credit for this year.

Essay Rock Star is available for $197 and includes Personal Statement, Persuasive Essay, Textual Analysis, and Expository Essay. Each individual course costs $57.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First Day Photos {October 2014}

I started to lament the lack of pictures for the first day of October, but then I looked at how many (or rather how few) pictures I remembered to take on the first day of September. It looks like I'm doing awesome this month, even if I forgot to take any pictures in the evening.

Several of the pictures of Lauren doing school work are of her completing an awesome multiplication treasure hunt from Clued In Kids. A full review will be coming in a few weeks.

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.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Wild" Horses {Years Ago}

Years and years ago, I read an article in a magazine about a family camping trip to Assateaugue Island. When we moved to the Washington DC area a few years later, we were close enough to make the trip. We packed our tents, found special stakes to hold them in the sand, and set off for an adventure. I told Addison and Brennan about the Misty of Chicoteague book that tells of wild horses living on Assateague Island, but I didn't want to get their hopes up that we'd definitely see horses.

I would've been safe if I had promised wild horses, though we're not sure that the horses are really all that wild anymore. So many visitors come to the islands and feed the horses that they've become accustomed to human interaction. It wasn't a problem of not finding horses, it was instead a problem of horses getting a bit too close for our comfort.

On one afternoon during our first trip (in 2005), we drove to the bay side of the island and went canoeing for a while. Here's what we found when we returned to our car:

Thankfully he moved on after a bit, and we could go back to our campsite.

Later on that same trip, we were cooking dinner at our campsite. Tim walked to the car to grab some of the food that was kept in the trunk. For reference sake, the car was this close to the tent.

As soon as Tim took a few steps away from the back of his car, a nearby horse spotted the open trunk. He helped himself to a full bag of potato chips. The closed bag was no match for a horse smart enough to know that one good step on the bag would pop it open. He finished off the entire thing and left all the crumbs for the seagulls (hundreds of seagulls it seemed like).

Assateague Island boasted more "wild" animals than just horses. One of my favorite pictures is of Addison's breakfast on the beach -- just moments earlier the deer had tried to lick her toes.

I shared the story of our second camping trip to Assateague Island story several years ago. It wasn't a "Years Ago" story when it happened, but I guess it is now -- Assateague Island, the Rest of the Story. This time Lauren got to enjoy one of the horses stopping by to see what sorts of snacks we would share.

If the whole point of camping or traveling is to come home with the best stories, our trips to see "wild" horses on Assateague Island must have been some of our best trips.

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story (or stories) corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those treasured stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

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