Review: Tied 2 Teaching STEM Activities

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Our family is always on the lookout for fun, new activities we can add to our learning adventure. Even though our children aren’t as young as they used to be, hands-on activities and group involvement is something we treasure. With the help of Tied 2 Teaching and STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading we’re appreciating a change in our morning routine and exploring a world of fun.

Tied 2 Teaching is an online teaching resource with a multitude of printable bundles available for purchase. There you’ll find fun educational materials ranging from history and mathematics to holiday exploration. Just one of their many tools is STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading. STEM Activities comes with an entire year of opportunity, including over sixty-five challenges from twelve monthly bundles. Students are free to choose from either STEM Design Challenges or Building Block STEM Challenges; both include “Close Reading” which gives students a better understanding of real-life application and offer fun insight into the concept being learned.

For our adventure, our family was given a PDF download of the entire bundle. We chose to include two challenges per week into our routine, allowing one day between to gather materials and manage any printing needed. Mondays and Wednesdays were set aside for our activities; with approximately forty-five minutes given to fully explore the topic at hand. While I highly recommended all our children participate in each STEM challenge, I did not require them to do so. I wanted this to be a fun, optional learning adventure. Three of our kids gladly joined in the fun; our high school senior, junior, and my sixth grade son had a blast. Each morning designated, all materials were openly placed on the learning table for our children to explore. A few of the STEM activities we chose were “Design a House of Cards”, “Construct the Eiffel Tower”, “Design a Paper Airplane”, “Design a Balloon Tower”, and more!

We began with opening the day’s chosen bundle and clicking on the included “Close Reading” link. We were quickly taken to the Wonderopolis website where we could fully explore the topic and complete the day’s reading. We learned a great many fun new facts from each. We then tackled the challenge at hand. Some were a little more challenging than others. Who knew building a house of cards could be a tough job? Others were simple, but allowed for creative involvement. Each challenge included not only a physical activity, but printed sheets which helped us formulate a plan before moving forward with our physical activity and follow-up sheets which encouraged us to take a moment to review what we learned and might do differently next time.

There was so much we gained by using Tied 2 Teaching. We discovered we enjoy STEM activities which involve building projects. We appreciated that all links were provided and easy to access and that printable materials were available for us to use as needed. The challenges were fun, creative, simple to follow, and encouraged our family to work together.

Suggested for grades third through sixth, STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading fits the recommended category. However, we found our older students truly enjoyed the fun of each activity. We, too, learned a few new facts and always appreciate a good challenge. We also believe it to be well within the scope of slightly younger students who might appreciate a little educational push. Approached as family activity, it will help encourage working together and offer the ability to make some memories.

Always on the lookout for fun learning activities, we’re pleased to now be including STEM Activities into our regular Morning Table routine. With a multitude of activities to chose from, we still have many more to go. We can’t wait to see what we’re doing next!

If you’d like to learn more about STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading or Tied 2 Teaching, please visit them at their website and on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest. To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Tied 2 Teaching has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’d like to know… How do you incorporate STEM activities into your learning routine?

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Review: Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”

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If you’re like us, you occasionally enjoy incorporating media in your learning day. When that same media helps us draw closer to the Lord and gives us a deeper understanding of the world He created, you know we’re jumping for joy. This past month, we had the opportunity to review Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” by Drive Thru History® and we’re incredibly excited to share this resource with you!

Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” is a beautifully boxed DVD set which includes 3 DVD’s, with a total of 18 episodes, and a complete study guide. Throughout Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”, our host, Dave Stotts, takes us on a journey similar to one Jesus’ disciples would have taken as they spread the Gospel throughout the world, carrying out Jesus’ instructions. Used in tandem with each episode, the included study guide will prompt further discussion with thoughtful questions and illustrations to spark the mind.

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Rather than include Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” in our daily homeschool studies, we instead chose to incorporate the episodes into family time at the end of each day. Snacks in hand, we gathered around the television and watched an episode each evening, Monday through Friday during the course of the review. Each episode lasting no more than twenty-five minutes in length, this was a beautiful way to end our day together.

Our immediate impression was of the care which was taken in creating such quality material. The boxed set itself was lovely. The study guide was clearly laid out, with brief questions all were encouraged to participate in answering. The episodes themselves were fantastic. Cinematically, the videos were incredible. The quality was beyond expectation and overflowing with professional graphics. Frankly, we’ve never seen a history series better made!

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As our review took place leading up to the month of Easter, Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” came at a good time. Our first episode opened with a quick review of where we left off in Drive Thru History® “The Gospels” and proceeded to walk us through an amazing adventure sharing the spread of the Gospel after Jesus’ ascension. As we progressed through each episode, we were shown such incredible sites as Stephen’s Church and Monastery, the harbor at Joppa, the ruins in Corinth, Ephesus, Malta and more. From Pentecost to the seven churches of Revelation, we followed the Gospel message being taken out into the world and the sacrifice of those who spread the message of Jesus.

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We truly enjoyed reviewing Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”. Dave Stotts did a fantastic job as guide; finding a perfect blend of respect and lighthearted, engaging information which encouraged our family to dig deeper and learn more about the spread of God’s Word. Each episode was filled with beautiful locations, amazing historical information, and Spiritual encouragement. This has been a blessed month.

Our only regret in doing this review is that there were only 18 episodes. We would have gladly sat through several more hours of the series. Our consolation is that four other series are available for us to review and enjoy: Drive Thru History® “The Holy Land”Drive Thru History® “American History”, Drive Thru History® “The Gospels”, and Drive Thru History® “Ancient History”.

If you’d like to learn more about Drive Thru History®, along with Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”, please visit them at their website. You can also find Drive Thru History®. on social media sites such as FacebookYouTube, and Instagram.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Drive Thru History® has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Share with us… If you could pick the next location for Drive Thru History®, where would you like to go?

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Give God Your Story

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If anyone had asked me to share my testimony, the story of how I came to have a relationship with Christ, I would have told you it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t until recently I fully understood just how important my story really is.

I was actually what most people would call a “good kid”. No drugs, never drank, didn’t smoke, didn’t ditch school on a regular basis – Hey, I wasn’t perfect! – and I did what I knew would please my single mom; knowing she worked doubly hard to be our everything. See what I mean? It doesn’t sound like much of a testimony does it. What could this ‘good’, little girl have to say that could be so important?

But, here’s the thing… The problem with being a ‘good’ girl is that it’s all too easy to think you actually are good. You tend to rely on your efforts, on your ability to perform, and on your good deeds. It leaves no room for the grace of God. While I would have denied I was trying to earn my way into heaven, I was certainly living as such. As a friend told me, I was missing heaven by 18 inches. The distance from my head to my heart. It wasn’t until I was encouraged to attend an apologetics class at our church that I truly began to appreciate what God had done for me. My faith became real. I realized God is alive and active, and He requires something of me; my obedience.

Now, I have never given my testimony before large crowds. I probably never will. I don’t know how many people would even find my testimony to be worth listening to. But I do know one audience to whom my testimony is vital. My children.

My children share my experienceThey are being raised in a Christian home. My children go to church. My children are being given Biblical teaching day in and day out. If they are not careful they will quickly become what I was; someone relying on their own goodness to get into heaven.

Maybe your testimony isn’t as simple as mine. Maybe the Lord has done amazing things in your life; the person you are now is far different from the person you were before you came to know Christ. Has anyone heard your story? Do your children know all that God has done in you and for you?

“But I can’t share that with my kids! There is too much; it’s too horrible; it’s too harsh.” I don’t know what your testimony is, but God does. Pray about what God has done in you. Pray about how God would have you share what He has done. Maybe He will have you share some of your story; maybe He will have you share all. Maybe He will only have you share with your family. I am not here to force you into telling your story, only asking you to consider how God could use your story to bless others and help them come to a greater understanding of His goodness.

Think of it this way. This isn’t YOUR story at all, it’s God’s. This is less about us than what God is doing in us. This is about His goodness, His grace, His mercy, and His love. It’s about taking something less than perfect and making it truly good; not good in and of itself, but positionally good in Him because of His goodness imputed to us.

When the time comes, don’t be afraid to share your story. Whether it be to the entire world, the world around you, or the little world which resides in your home; may the Lord be glorified and honored for all He has done.

“…’Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”

~Mark 5:19

We’d love to know… Has the Lord led you to share your testimony with anyone?

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The Sanity of Friendship

Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed someone to talk to? Someone who would understand and sympathize; offer great advice and pray with you? Life can often be rushed. Between cleaning house, doing laundry, fixing meals, animal care, child care, ministry, and add homeschooling on top of that… life can get downright crazy! Talking to a good friend helps to keep life in balance and sanity intact.

Talking helps me to unwind, reevaluate my standing, and gain perspective from an outside source. It helps to know someone who will tell you the truth no matter what; who will give it to you straight, but with love.

I have been blessed with a few women in my life to whom I can talk about anything. Whether or not we both homeschool, there is no subject that is taboo. We can talk about marriage, children, our walks with the Lord, our fears, our doubts, and our struggles. There is no harsh condemnation, just constructive criticism. There is no pressure, just honest advice. There are no such things as “too many details” or “getting to the point”; the point is the relationship.

It is great to have a friend who will take your side. It is even better to have someone who will tell you when you are wrong. It is lovely to have a friend agree, but equally valuable when they offer a different viewpoint. Someone who can be real with you and let you be real in return.

A friend is a friend, no matter the distance or the differences. You are friends not because you are exactly alike, but because you each bring something different to the table. You are a better person because they are in your life.

I have been blessed with a few women I can truly call friends. I pray that as my children grow, they will see how much those friendships mean and develop some of their own.

I pray that you have such a friend. If not, I pray the Lord would bring them into your life and, while you are waiting, you would be that friend to someone else. Who knows where the Lord will lead?

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”
~ Proverbs 27:9

We’d love to know… How do your friends help you remain sane?

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Do We Have Bibliophilia? Probably!

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Bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books. Accordingly a bibliophile is an individual who loves books. A bookworm is someone who loves books for their content, or who otherwise loves reading.
– Wikipedia

That, in short, describes the people in our house perfectly. Our home consists of several thousand books, not including the thousands more we borrow from the library each year.

Even if we weren’t homeschooling, books would have been an important part of our lives. My husband had a collection consisting of several hundred before we got married. When we got together, the set was increased by my addition of several hundred. Before kids, we added another hundred or so. Since having kids… Oh, my!

We have discovered books aren’t just an important part of our lives, they are essential. Not a day goes by that we don’t use several books to help us get through our studies and keep us entertained.

We have reference materials for art, history, science, logic, apologetics, Biblical studies, and so much more. Our collection of books is vast and eclectic. We have a little bit of just about everything: comics, graphic novels, classics, fables, poetry, art, architecture, design, mystery, adventure, fantasy, and logic. We have Stephen King, Norman Geisler, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, C.S. Lewis, and the list goes on.

One of our favorite activities is perusing the public library; nabbing the latest and greatest, along with the old and well-loved. We now have five library cards between the six of us and, even then, often max them out. We have been known to check out a hundred books a week. And our interest lists keep growing.

I find it interesting that when people see our cart full of library books – Yes, we have a cart. A bag just wouldn’t hold them all. –  they immediately assume we homeschool. It’s as if the books are an arrow pointing to our methods of education. We’ve also found it interesting that some parents hinder their children from selecting a larger number of reads from their local library. One parent was overheard to have told their children, “Two books. No more.” My children were horrified. However, it was a great catalyst for conversation. I’m sure the mama had a justifiable reason for her statement.

Should we ever find ourselves in a predicament and not know what to read, there are several resources available. Honey For a Child’s HeartThe Book Tree, and Books Children Love are just a few. Fortunately, we don’t have to use these resources very often. There are always great reads waiting in the wings!

Books are a huge part of our lives; they bring us together, entertain, and instruct. We’re extremely grateful to the Lord for the multitude of resources He’s made available to us, and the many books we’ve been blessed with over the years. May He bless us with many more!

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

~ Philippians 4:8

 We’d love to know… Do you love books, too? Which book is your favorite?

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Why That Inexpensive Grocery List Might Not Be Working & Why That’s Okay

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I’m sure most of us have been here. We spot a blog post, Pinterest article, Instagram photo, or something along those lines, advertising one family’s ability to spend what seems a minuscule amount on their grocery bill and we immediately perk up. What’s not to appeal? But upon further inspection we quickly realize it won’t work. Not for our household. What’s wrong with us? Absolutely nothing!

Now I can hear some of you dear readers already. The questions are rolling around in your heads. That’s okay, we can be honest with one another. Am I condemning these lovely people with their amazing lists? Nope. Never. I wish could make these lists work; truly. But here’s the thing…

Their family is NOT my family. Their needs are not our needs. Their location not our location. Their children not my children. (You get the point.) So while I would love to make my grocery bill total look like theirs, it just won’t work. And the same is true in every area of life, not just groceries!

Whether it’s how we homeschool, parental choices, reading materials, or anything else; the minute I start comparing myself to others I lose sight of what God is trying to do in my own family. It’s wonderful to be inspired and encouraged to explore options to be better organized, but the minute I become discontent with what I have or start doubting the path the Lord has put before me, is the moment I need to put distractions aside and ask for wisdom.

Maybe the Lord has something to show me, a better way we could be using the resources He has blessed us with. On the other hand, maybe I am merely meant to congratulate another family on how well they are doing in their adventure of life. What I am not to do is feel condemned or belittled if I am following God’s lead.

I want to be frugal and those lists are inspiring, but my life isn’t someone else’s life. We live in different locations, with different needs, with different families. I am not to compare myself to others. Instead, I am to do my best where I am. If that’s $50 per week on groceries; great. If it’s more like $120; that’s okay, too. If it’s homeschooling in a more classical sense, beautiful. If we’re eclectic and learning hands-on, that’s just as lovely.

So, when we see that article announcing, ‘My Grocery Bill is only $50, and You Can Do It Too!’ Go for it. Give it a shot. If it works, awesome. If not. Don’t sweat it. Send that writer a “Hallelujah” and then ask God what His plan is for your family. Because – let’s face it – whether you spend a little or whether you spend a lot, just knowing we’re even having a meal is a blessing. No matter the cost.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
~ James 1:5

We’d love to know… What is one grocery item you tend to splurge on?

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What If I Could Do It All Over Again?

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As a few of my children near the end of their learning adventure, I can’t help but reflect on the years we’ve spent together. The fun, the adventures, the friends, and, yes, the struggles. I suppose it’s natural to wonder what life – homeschooling life – might have looked like if we’d done things a little differently. But if I could go back and do it all over again, would I change anything?

Perhaps maybe one or two things. Perhaps…

I would have liked to be more purposeful in nature journaling; take more hikes and stress less over tests; there are resources I would have loved to own; books I wish I’d read; and places we could have visited. I would take back my moments of weakness, unkindness, and impatience; replacing them with a more Christ-like representation of myself.

But then the Lord reminds me this is not possible. Not only because time-machines have yet to be invented, but because each step of our journey has been just that. Ours. That cannot be replaced. And I don’t want to take back a moment. Not the spills, the mistakes, or the heartache.

As I reflect on each memory I might like to redo, the Lord speaks to my heart and reminds me of the beauty which followed. The life lessons, the spiritual gifts we gained, and the compassion instilled in us. For every resource we made-do without, we learned ingenuity and resourcefulness. While we might not have gone on many vacations, we’ve visited every haunt in our area and could probably write our own field trip guide. No, we didn’t hike or nature journal when the kids were younger. (I can hear the collective gasp.) But we are making up for lost time and my children have a great appreciation for God’s creation.

Our learning adventure has not been perfect. But the Lord calms my heart and reminds me no one’s journey is and yet everyone’s journey is. It is perfect for them. All those wonderful things were meant for just us. All of the hard, the challenging, were specifically designed to help our family grow.

As we launch into another calendar year, I am encouraged. One of our children will be graduating, and we will no longer have elementary students in our home. My heart grieves just a little knowing this part of our journey is almost over. Yet I take joy in knowing it has been a blessed adventure, and it’s not over quite yet!

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD.
~ Psalm 119:1

We’re curious… If you could start your learning adventure over again, what would you like to do differently?

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Are We Using These “Bad Words” In Our Home?

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Back in the day, when my husband and I were in pre-marital councelling, there were a few words we were advised to avoid in order to keep harmony in our relationship. Now as a parent, I have not only found myself trying to follow those words of advice, but adding a few of my own to the list. Not words that are wrong in and of themselves, but words that can bring harm. “Bad words”.

When we get into arguments, we tend to react emotionally. If we set up parameters of what is acceptable to say and what isn’t, we can reduce the amount of damage done. Here are some of the words our family tries to avoid:

  • Never – Using this word will make the other person defensive. Odd are, it’s not even a true statement. Try using words like “hardly” or “often”.
  • Always – Same principle, no one always does anything.
  • That Makes No Sense – A better choice of words would be, “I don’t understand” or “this does not make sense to me.”
  • I Told You So – It would be best to remain quite when being right. The other person knows they were wrong, there is no need to throw it in their face.
  • It Doesn’t Matter – It may not matter to you, but it matters to them. Trying to see things from their perspective doesn’t mean you agree, but that you are trying to understand.
  • You’re Not Listening  This can come across as casting blame on the other person, which can lead to further arguments. Instead try saying, “Let me try this another way,” or “Let me make sure you are understanding”.
  • Whatever – This may come across as not caring about the other person. This is another one that should be avoided when having an important discussion.
  • It’s Your Fault – Blame is a horrible way to keep the lines of communication open. Instead, focus on how the problem can be resolved.
  • Everybody Else – It doesn’t matter what everybody else says or does. All your decisions should be made based on Biblical principles and with the other person in mind.
  • Yeah, Right – This little sarcastic comment can end an open discussion immediately. Sarcasm, period, is a bad idea when trying to resolve issues. It only makes the other person defensive and closed off. Sarcasm should be avoided at all costs when trying to work through difficulties.
  • I Hate You – This is a huge one for us. If any of our children use this in an argument with their siblings, correction immediately takes place.
  • You’re Mean – As this is an emotional statement, meant to hurt someone, and not an objective observation, this one also gets vetoed. Instead, we try to have our children pinpoint the specific action that was disliked and make sure that it isn’t repeated.
  • Name Calling – The list is endless so I won’t go into all of them, but words like stupid, dumb, and the like are not allowed in our home. Instead, they are encouraged to focus on the action done and how to address it, not on putting the other person down.
  • Shut-Up – This is another one we avoid at all costs; it is rude and unnecessary. Simply asking someone to please stop is enough. If they don’t listen, then consequences are set in place.

I am sure the list could go on and on, but these are the main phrases we try to avoid. Through choosing our words wisely and trying to put the other person first, we will build our relationships and unify our family.

“Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought… therefore let your words be few.”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:2

 We’re curious… What are some “bad words” that your family tries to avoid?

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5 Ways to Avoid Mid-Year Burnout

Five Ways to Avoid Mid-Year Burnout

Whether it be the lack of sun due to cloudy skies, the snow-covered world begging us to hibernate, or rainy weather forbidding us to explore outside, the fact is mid-year for most homeschooling families is hard. If we aren’t careful, our excitement for learning can quickly turn into mid-year burnout.

The year is half over, the review portion of our materials has long passed and we are now into the nitty-gritty of our lessons; the harder sections which stretch our kids minds and add those wrinkles to the brain. Add to this the cooler weather, practically forcing us indoors, and you soon have the makings of an unhappy family.

What’s a parent to do? How do we turn our routine around so mom doesn’t go crazy and the kids don’t start climbing the walls? Over the years, we’ve learned a couple of changes in our routine help us avoid mid-year burnout and help us finish strong:

Get Fresh Air – Even if you’re just going for a brisk walk or stepping onto your front porch, take a moment to enjoy some fresh air. Being indoors constantly can leave you feeling claustrophobic and tired. Our bodies need sunshine and clean air in order to function well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt the soul to enjoy God’s creation.

Change Your Routine – Tired of doing the same ol’ thing? Try changing it up! Switch your routine of subjects around. Change which days you do your chores. Find some creative way to mix things up, without making your life madness. Just a little altering might help you view life a little differently.

Exercise – You’ve been inside too much, possibly sitting down a bulk of the day. Consider getting a little exercise and stretching out those muscles. Running, jogging, and hiking are all great ways to get some exercise. If you can’t get outdoors, consider aerobic routines which the kids could do with you.

Take a Moment For Yourself – Let’s face it, when the family is forced to stay indoors all day, the kids tend to want more attention. They’ve played with all their toys, watched all their movies, read all their books, and are, frankly, just as stir crazy as you are right now. Consider trading play days with friends, giving each other an afternoon ‘off’ to just relax and enjoy peace and quiet. Ask Dad to watch the kids for the night and go enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend. Have Grandma watch the kids and you both go enjoy a movie! No matter how you manage it, take a moment or two for yourself; breathe and refresh your soul in order to finish your year well.

Spend Some Time With Friends or Fellow Homeschoolers – It helps to commiserate fellowship with other homeschooling parents who completely understand what you are going through. Set up a play date, park day, baking day, any day, just to visit with friends. Spend the day encouraging one another and exploring ways to break the lethargy which seems to be taking hold.

The year is about half over. (At least for those following a traditional learning routine.) Don’t allow a short season of restlessness to overshadow the amazing year you’ve been having so far. Take charge of life and get out of the winter rut.

Find what works for you, make it happen, and finish your year strong. Enjoy your adventure!
Cristina

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

~ Matthew 11:28-30

We’re Curious… As a mom, one of the hardest (and silliest) things I used to let bug me was allowing my kids to play in the rain. I was always taught this could make kids sick and, frankly, what was I going to do with all those wet clothes? To my kids’ delight, we got over this and have awesome pictures to show for it. What was one of the hardest (and silliest) things that used to bother you about rainy/snowy days?

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Happy New Year!

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To all of our friends, Happy New Year’s! May this new beginning be one of anticipation, joy, and peace. May the Lord bless you and keep you; may His hand always be upon you, guiding you in all your paths. 

Thank you for your continued support and friendship; we’ve enjoyed getting to know you better over the course of this past year and very much look forward to what this new year will bring.

We aren’t big on New Year’s resolutions over here, but we do hope to use this year growing with our kids, increasing them in wisdom, and making more memories. We pray you do the same.

With Blessings,
Cristina

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