Thursday, April 6, 2017

An Unseen Angel {Book Review}

On December 14, 2012, a young man by the name of Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire on two classrooms full of first graders.   The victims numbered 27.  Eight little boys, 12 little girls, 6 women who worked in the school and Adam Lanza, who turned the gun on himself in the end.  Among the dead was a beautiful 6-year-old girl named Emilie Parker.  This is her story.

As the mother of one of the children who died at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, Alissa Parker had her world shattered by a mass murderer's rampage. She was left to make sense of her daughter's life and death and to rebuild, seeking a deeply spiritual path to carry on with her life and find new meaning and purpose.
As a co-founder of, a touring national advocacy group that helps people take action to make schools safer, Alissa has talked to hundreds of parents around the country about her ordeal and how she was able to endure the unspeakable horror of Sandy Hook.

This is the first book about the school-shooting tragedies with a focus on faith and spirituality. As we learn Alissa's story, we are introduced to a special little girl who was wise beyond her years and whose lessons about life and the transcendent power of love continued even after she had passed away."
I just don't even know how to write a review about a book like this.  My throat swells and my eyes fill each time I revisit Alissa's story.   The day that Alissa lost her sweet daughter was a day like any other.  In fact, she was shopping when word reached her that there had been a shooting at school.  Fighting panic, Alissa made her way to the school where she was shuffled to a room with the other parents to wait to pick up their children.  Hours later, she would learn that Emilie would not be getting picked up that day...nor would any of her classmates.  They had all been killed by gunshot wounds.

 How does one move forward after something this tragic and unfair?  The only thing Alissa could do, with her husband Robbie, was pray.  They desperately needed God's guidance and reassurance that everything was going to be ok.  He blessed them with a strong sense of peace and made it possible for the family to put one foot in front of the other.

While her grief made it nearly impossible to function, Alissa still had to learn to live again.   She had to learn that there are some things that even a Mom cannot protect their children from.  She had to overcome the guilt that she couldn't save her daughter...and that she wasn't there to protect her.  She had to learn how to function in day to day living.  How to engage with her other children.  She had to learn how to find a new normal.

This book is a whole-box-of-tissues read.  But, it's not all tragedy.  Alissa & Emilie give you triumph in the face of great odds and demonstrates that love really does conquer all.

You can purchase An Unseen Angel and a big box of tissues from your favorite retailer.

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What We are Reading {BiblioPlan Week 16 & 17}

We've picked up the pace a bit!  Next week will be a Spring Break for our homeschool and before we get to relaxed we are going to finish up Week 17 of BiblioPlan.  We are studying both India and China this week using our evening to read from both Remember the Days AND our reader.  We are really hoping to finish the year "on time."  Hopefully by the end of May.  That gives us about 10 weeks to complete 16 weeks of history.  Doable?  I hope so!  :)  We have a busy spring coming up and will be constantly reading history even on our days off.  I think we can pull it off!  Luckily, BiblioPlan year 3 will start with a review of Columbus so we can catch up a smidge next year if needed.  

Anyway, here is what we are reading for Week 16 & 17 (which we are squashing into 1 week!)

Our Read Aloud is Marco Polo by Manuel Komroff.  This is an excellent, unfortunately OOP, book that is recommended by Ambleside as a reader.  I managed to get my hands on this book and we are reading it in place of BiblioPlans recommended reader, The Boy and the Samurai.  This Marco Polo is awesome!  We are really enjoying it!  Did I ever mention that the flexibility to tweak is my FAVORITE thing about BiblioPlan?  

Another Read Aloud this week was The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History.  Yes, this choice is another tweak!  BiblioPlan scheduled Stories from the Silk Road but our library didn't have it... I did, however, have The Silk Route and I knew it was a good one!  So, we enjoyed this one very much.  It has a great map in the front that we kept turning back to as we traveled along the silk road.

For individual readers this week Maggie is reading another Magic Treehouse book.  I know that many CMers and AOers would say that MTH is "twaddle" I've decided that I don't care.  They are some of the best books for emerging readers that I can find that match up with our history...  A nice thing about these is you can usually find a quiz on Book Adventure and Maggie LOVES taking the little online quizzes. 

Kayley finished up her reader last last night, Whittington.  Since we are just days away from a Spring Break I decided to not assign her another reader just yet.  I never need to encourage her to read though.  Right now she is enjoying The Long Winter (she has read nearly the entire series in the last couple of months) and the American Girl, Smart Girls Guide to Babysitting.  (She has dreams of making some money, so she is getting ready for when she turns 11 and is legally old enough to babysit!) 

And, in case you are wondering about me?  I will (I hope) finish up Persuasion by the end of this week!  It has been a really rough read and I still have 4 chapters to go before I'm done...but I'm glad that I made the effort to do a hard thing.  I am not-so-secretly glad the the next book club reader is our choice...LOL. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Plague and Joan of Arc {BiblioPlan Week 14}

We are trying to pick up the pace a little this week and are finishing up BiblioPlan Week 14.  It was a full week since our reading squished in both The Plague and Joan of Arc!  We didn't do many projects since we are kind of getting "summery" and the girls are just staring longingly outside while we are getting our work done.  We did do the plague wheel in Story of the World and we threw together, with tape obviously, a plague doctor mask!  Yeah...we probably should've used glue, but, we were in a hurry.  LOL.

We have read from BiblioPlan's Remember the Days and Story of the World this week.  Remember the Days has been a tougher transition that I would've liked but we are finally getting the hang of it.  Our favorite is Story of the World, but I am really debating on dropping it next year in favor of just 1 spine.

Our read aloud choice for this week is The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli.  This is a favorite!  We actually read this as a read-aloud a few years ago and it was awesome enough that we decided to read it again!

Our 2nd read aloud is Diane Stanley's Joan of Arc.  Lots of pictures and goes into much more detail about Joan.  It's a great one! 

Kayley's reader for the next 2 weeks is Whittington.  
It tells the story of Dick Whittington from the perspective of a cat!

Maggie is enjoying a Magic Tree House book called The Knight at Dawn.

As for me...I am trying my best to get through Persuasion by Jane Austen.  Thanks so much to an online book group that I joined (I need accountability!) I am getting way out of my comfort zone!  I confess this is my first time reading Jane Austen...and my first, in a really long time...reading a  classic that wasn't designed for small children.  I admit that I have often had to read the Spark Note, read the chapter, and reread the Spark Note to figure out what is going on.  I'm slowly getting the hang of it and I can feel the squeak of my rusty gears.  I am close to the end and I look forward to reading something a little lighter next month! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ice Skating Anyone?

We got a chance to go to a birthday party last weekend for one of the girls' friends from church.  She would be having her birthday at the MediaCom Ice Arena where we would get a chance to try something very new.  Ice Skating!

Kayley took to it like a pro.  Well, a pro who fell down a LOT. 

Maggie required a bit more assistance and thank you so much to 2 of my good friends who were willing to schlep Maggie around on the ice...  Because, well, her own Mom wouldn't.  I was WAY too afraid I was going to break something.  Like my wrist, tailbone or head.  (Oh, that is Kayley's legs in the picture, right after she wiped out...  ask her to show you the bruise on her knee.  It's a good one.)

Maggie scooting along the wall. 

Kayley...right after she basically ran into the wall. 

I am so glad that the girls had a chance to do something brand new.  It was so far out of my comfort zone that all I did was basically lace up my skates...slide about 12 feet and turn around and come back.  There were a LOT of people so we are thinking we might try to go another time when it is not so crowded.  And, maybe, Mom will get out on the ice too.  But only if I am wrapped in bubble wrap.  Because, basically, I want to live.  LOL. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What We're Reading on Wednesday {BiblioPlan Week 12}

This week in BiblioPlan we have started learning about the Crusades.  Remember the Days was a bit rough as we were pretty lost in our readings about the Battle of Manzikert.  Thank goodness we can always jump over to Story of the World when we get a little lost.  We have picked some great books to read and of course, the living books is what really makes history come alive for us.  Here are our book choices for Week 12:

Read Alouds:
Our Read Aloud this week is The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green.  We really debated on this one.  It was between this or Howard Pyle's Robin Hood, but the Pyle book looked a bit tougher to read aloud in the old English and the test run had Maggie lost...  Green's version of Robin Hood has been great!  This book will likely take us through the end of next week.

We also read aloud this retelling of The Pied Piper of Haemlin by Corrin.  Unfortunately it is fact I'm not even sure where this copy came from, but it was good.  It had a great fact vs fiction section at the end that discussed the fact that the Pied Piper is possibly a story about one of the Children's Crusades.

Both girls have read You Wouldn't Want to be a Crusader!  The "you wouldn't want to be" book series is awesome.  We have read at least a dozen of theses! 

Kayley's Reading:
Kayley is in her 2nd week of Will in Scarlet.  She is really into it now and enjoying it quite a bit.  She will, hopefully, be finished by the end of the week.

Maggie's Reading:
Maggie is reading Revenge of the Red Knight and Imagination Station Book.  She is only a few chapters into but says it is really good.  This should take her into next week.

Stephanie's Reading: 
I try to keep up by reading a few of BiblioPlan High School level readers.  I am really trying to get a feel for if BiblioPlan is "enough" for High School.  So this week I am going to putter through The Magna Charta by James Daugherty.

Just For Fun:
And our "just for fun" reading...because the girls always have another book going somewhere.

I caught Maggie reading Storytime with the Millers this week...  We have already read this aloud but she really enjoyed the Millers stories and I often find them laying all around the house. 

Kayley snatched up this Lego Fantastic book from the Library a couple weeks ago and has been enjoying reading this one...

Right after the inauguration the girls and I were talking about how mysterious the White House was and I was I decided to grab this book about The Residence.  It is SO interesting!  It has very few pictures, but honestly, they were not needed as the author interviewed people who have worked on the White House staff for years.  They share their stories about the inner workings of the White House and stories of the Presidents and their Families each told from a staffer who LOVES their job.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Pretend Play with Playmobile

Did you have Playmobile as a child?  I did!  I remember really enjoying pretend play with it...that and Little People (I loved Little People)!  I have recently made a decision to buy my girls some Playmobile!  We started with the Middle Ages and it has been such a big hit.  
Boy do I regret not buying the Ancient Egypt sets last year!
They have really enhanced the girls imaginations and they get excited to act out many of the stories we have read in our history books!

It's Pirates vs Knights in these epic battles! is where they park the horses.   LOL! 

Really though, I cannot recommend Playmobile enough.  It can get a little pricey but if you watch they often go on sale and get marked down at Toys R. Us and Barnes and Noble!  We even found a great coupon code last week at AND they offer free shipping on all orders over $19!  The hubby and I really look at toys like this as an investment.  Playmobile (like Lego!) will hold it's value for a long, long time...  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What We're Reading on Wednesday

We are reading a lot of really good books this week as we meander our way through the Middle Ages!  I am a bookaholic and reading good LIVING books, is very important to me.  With BiblioPlan we do use a text book called Remember the Days.   I think it is also important to have a solid spine but those the living books is what really makes history fun and approachable.  

I pilfer my book lists from a really wide variety of sources starting with BiblioPlans recommendations and moving on to Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside.  

Anyway, with that aside I thought I would share what living books we are currently reading in our homeschool...

We are learning this week in our history about the legend of William Tell so we took a quick jaunt through The Apple and the Arrow...  It tells a fictionalized about of William being forced to shoot the apple of of his sons head.  It's pretty good and only 5 chapters long, so easy to fit into our week!

We are only a couple chapters away from finishing up Adam of the Road!  
Hopefully he is reunited with his Father and his Dog soon!

Maggie is reading a Stepping Stones history book called the Minstrel in the Tower.
This is perfect for the emergent reader crowd as a beginner chapter book.

Kayley is reading a great book that I stumbled across called Will in Scarlet.  It is the story of young Will Scarlet and how he becomes a part of Robin Hood's Merry Men.   Full of action and adventure! 

As for me, I sat down and guzzled Cindy Rollins new book called Mere Motherhood.  It was so good and I read it way too fast.  As soon as I finished, I turned around and started reading it all over again, aloud this time, with my husband.  Such a gem!   

Friday, January 20, 2017

Medieval Times {BiblioPlan Y2 Week 9 & 10}

We are having a great time studying all about the Middle Ages at our house!  With the cold and icy weather we enjoyed several projects since we've been cooped up indoors for a couple of weeks.  These projects reflect 2 weeks of BiblioPlan Year 2, Weeks 9 and 10.  Check it out!

First we had a small Medieval Dinner.  Meat (Pot roast) with root veggies (Turnips, Potatoes and Carrots) on a Trencher!  True to the middle ages we only had a knife and fork for our use.  We also enjoyed a blueberry compote on the side and had apple cider to drink.  The girls dressed for the occasion.  It was really fun and so easy to do!

One morning I made "gruel."
This was basically a watery oatmeal with some chia seeds.
To show you how lazy I am, I actually bought this from Schwan's.  

We also built a castle out of rice crispies.  This was an ambitious project that I will probably not do again, but it is really awesome and the girls labeled all the castle parts with small banners.   The instructions for this project are found in Story of the World Vol. 2.

We also learned about how monks created pretzels as a way to remind children how to pray (by reverently folding your arms).  We tried our hand at making fresh pretzels and they were SO good!
This project came from the book Huzzah Means Hooray (the updated book is called In the Days of Knights and Damsels).  There is a TON of stuff to do in this book!) 

Our pretzels turned out really, really yummy! 

We've been doing a ton of reading. 
Here are some of our favorites so far:

Our history spines are BiblioPlan's Remember the Days.  It's recommended for ages K-6th.  We tend to pick and choose what we read and that is working for us right now.  We also use Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World Vol 2 that is also scheduled in BiblioPlan's Family Guide...

The Illustrated Book of Knights.  Non-fiction book that details all things about knights.  In fact, the design for our rice crispie castle came from this book!  Full of nice color pictures!

We really love all the Usborne Books that we can get our hands on and this is no exception.  Meet a Medieval Family and join their adventures as they go through a typical day, plus experience a knighting ceremony and participate in a tournament! 

A wonderful read-aloud about a young minstrel boy named Adam, who gets separated from his father and dog while traveling to a fair.  We are about 2/3 of the way through and plan to finish this book by next week's end.

And that sums up our history studies for the last couple of weeks!  
Thanks for Swinging by!

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