Monday, March 14, 2011

Oy! It's been a month....

I can't believe that it's been a month since I've updated the blog! It's getting creaky... and dusty... and hopefully I haven't lost you in the shuffle.

This month has been a blur of activity and ailments.

Some highlights for ya...

~ My back = achy. Ok, so my back isn't what has me out of joint. It's really my hip that is at the core of the problem but you know how body parts are. Once one starts acting up it's contagious and the others have to start just to get a little attention thrown their way. I'm starting to feel better, but I was positively grumpy for a while. I'm really trying to "choose joy" this year (stolen unapologetically from an online friend lol) and it's hard to do that when you aren't sleeping and are achy. So, I tended to keep my head down low.

~ We have had some sad news about some friends. Actually, several friends. And family. All is good because God is good (all the time!) Weeping lasts for a time because joy comes in the morning, right? Our Lord is in control and will use all things for good. It just takes us a while to get out of our human slump and remember that upon occasion.

~ I started back to school last week! I'll write up a nifty post for you all about my new adventures digging up dead people... uh I mean studying genealogy. :)  I'm on my way towards my goal of becoming a certified genealogist. <raising my glass of ice water> Here's to new adventures!

~ Our plans for homeschooling changed. Again. I'd laugh, but if I laughed every time we made a change people would think that I'm crazy. I'd cry, but where's the fun in that? I was graciously reminded by an unnamed member of my household that my plan didn't include CLEP exams even if it said that it included CLEP exams. So, on a whim I gave the kid a few practice tests. Um. Well. You see... she scored an 80% on the US History I practice exam. So, we're ditching the plan and picking up a new one for this year. Learn to go with the flow is my new motto. (My other one - hold on for dear life and scream - didn't seem to instill a lot of confidence for some reason!) I've been researching and reading any moment I could, and not everything fit on the plate. My beloved little bloggy fell off and landed near the dog bowl (which is now filled with a new food since our dog is now on an ELIMINATION DIET. Who knew a dog needed such a different diet. Again, another story. lol) I've been collecting a lot of titles and links so expect these to start rolling out in the next week or so.

All this to say that I'm back. And happy about it. :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's drawing day! 

Tami Duvall, licensed and accredited Simply Music Instructor at Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom,  is giving away a month's worth of weekly online piano classes ($70 value)!

I've been struggling with getting the pretty html Random Number Generator to work on the blog, so we're going "old school" with their Random Sequence Generator that appears as simple text. It isn't as pretty, but it does the job! The first number wins!

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:


Timestamp: 2011-02-19 15:14:14 UTC

And the winner is... JACKIE! 

I'll be forwarding your information to Tami today, and she'll be in touch with you to set up your free classes!

I'm very excited about my daughter taking the classes. Please take a look at the information below and consider enrolling your child in them as well!

Just a reminder about the classes...
The classes will be held LIVE on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST starting Tuesday, February 22. For more info on the classes check out the following link:

Thanks to everyone who entered! Have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: Beneath the Night Tree by Nicole Baart

Title: Beneath the Night Tree
Author: Nicole Baart
Publisher: Tyndale
ISBN: 9781414323237

Summary from Publisher's Website:

Do I have a child? Julia DeSmit knew she would face the question eventually, but she didn’t expect it now. At twenty-four, she is finally content with the way her life has unfolded. A single mother to her son and young brother, she works at the local grocery store while chipping away at a two-year degree. All her free time is spent with her unorthodox family—her boys, her grandmother, and her boyfriend of five years. It’s not perfect, but Julia is happier than ever.

So when she receives the cryptic e-mail from her son’s father, Julia’s world is turned upside down. She hasn’t heard from Parker since he left her in a college parking lot nearly six years ago. But one look at her son—the spitting image of his father—is enough to convince her that, for better or worse, Parker is a part of their story. Faced with this new reality and an unexpected tragedy, Julia begins a tightrope walk between what was and what is, what she hopes for and what will be.

My Review:

This is one book that I couldn't put down! I found myself sneaking moments to read this book. It literally - though not obsessively - consumed my thoughts until I was able to finish it! Big warning however... there will be tears shed if you are prone to tears! Yet, smiles will be in abundance as well.

I like to do a little pre-reading about the author if they are unfamiliar to me before I start a new book or series. It gives me a bit of a foundation if I can glean a touch about their writing style or the subjects that they tend to lean towards. I was immediately disappointed that I had chosen to read a book that was the third in a series! I'm a chronological girl. I love reading things IN ORDER. But, I gave it a go anyway. I have to commend Ms. Baart because not only was this a fascinating story with life-like characters that you find yourself connecting with, but she also wrote Beneath the Night Tree in a way that we, who didn't grow with Julia through her trials, could still follow along without feeling left out of the loop. That, to a chronological girl like myself, is worth its weight in gold.

The characters in this story are completely lovable, believable, triumphant, heartbreaking, hysterical, sad, and kind wrapped into one. Julia is an underdog that you root for with the strength of a champion. Her situations, though vastly different from some that we may experience, are completely real on the page. Perhaps I connected with her because I was a young mother (22 when my daughter was born), or perhaps it was because I had a similar relationship with my grandmother, but for whatever reason I immediately connected with her character. Even if her life choices are foreign from you they are written with remarkable skill and creativity making you wonder how you would handle them if they were your life. She's a strong mother, devoted granddaughter, and woman trying to make the best decisions she can so that her family has the life that they deserve rather than the one that they have been dealt. Her faith and dependence on God is written clearly and shine through as a foundational part of her life. I applaud Ms. Baart for making her beliefs an integral part of the story rather than a footnote.

I've not yet found any indication that there will be a fourth "Julia" book, but I'll be waiting with baited breath if Ms. Baart should decide to release one. And, I'll be reading books one and two as well (and probably three a second time!)

Rating: 5 Stars! Beneath the Night Tree is a fantastic read that will entertain as well as strengthen your faith as her characters remind you of theirs. But, for those that aren't interested in this aspect, it is still a fascinating read that adds layers to its characters without being "preachy." It will definitely go on my shelf but will be loaned out and suggested. In fact, I might even suggest that my mom read this before a few that are on her nightstand!

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's blogging program in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts and opinions are all mine!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reminder! Natural Notes Piano School giveaway is coming up!

This has been a hectic week so I haven't give you a proper update. So here it is...

It's almost time! Enter today!

The Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom Giveaway is almost among us! Hop over to the original post HERE and comment to be entered into this great giveaway. You could win a free session for your child!

Did you hear that... win... free... session!!!

That means one month's session - 4 weekly classes - free! Not only is this a great program, but it's also a $70 value. Not too shabby. :)

So hop over to the original post, read the details, and enter to win!

The winner will be announced right here on Wild Crickets on Saturday, January 19, 2011.

Good luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photography projects: Ideas and Inspiration for old photos

A family wedding (c 1920)

I only touched on my love for genealogy in yesterday's homeschooling post. I truly have been bitten by the bug again. I can't believe that I let it slip away from me for so many years! With my renewed interest came a renewed determination to do it correctly, accurately, and fully. It's no longer based simply on an interest, but a need to record the life story of the people that we have lost as well as to discover the stories of those forgotten. I don't want my uncle and grandparents to become forgotten along the way.

I'm a visual person. (I'm also a wordy person, but that's another story!) When I think of creating a lasting memory the path at some point will lead me to photography. I was blessed to have photos of my father in law's family when he was a little boy - and even before he existed! - as well as photographs from my grandmother's family for several generations.

My mind is racing... what can I do with these photos to give them the attention that they deserve?

Frames... everyone does frames. (And who has the wall space for all of that?)

Scrapbooks.... maybe, but then I'm still faced with the same problem that I had in the first place. No one would be able to look at them unless they knew where to find them.

I'm still undecided, but I have a few spots of inspiration. I'd love ideas. If you've used old photos in a creative way please share your stories!

Stay tuned to see how I decide to incorporate these pieces of family history into the art that I see hidden behind the curtains. But until then, maybe you'll get some inspiration for your own family photographs from the links below.

*Disclaimer: I am fully aware that original photos should be preserved and maintained in a way that future generations can see them, love them, cherish them. I'll be using copies. I'm creative... not MAD!

Project ideas:

A wall clock. This could definitely be a possibility! Talk about a centerpiece for a room!

Quite a long list of ideas, but I think that I love the idea of holiday cards. I'm thinking note cards would be wonderful...

A photo quilt square! I love this idea! It might be a long-term project, but it would incorporate a few of my favorite things. (And now I'm singing with Julie Andrews...)

Photo magnets (though I can think of an additional way to use these using some recycled jars.)

And, last but not least, Martha. I said then name, and you knew, didn't you? I have to say that I'm not always a fan of the Miss M., but she does have some amazing ideas for photos! (My problem isn't with her specifically, but I would love to see her with a rats nest in her hair and a spill on her shirt every now and again just to make her seem human. he he...)

So tell me, how are you using your photos (and can I steal your ideas?)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homeschooling + Genealogy = High Interest Learning

So, I'm a girl that posts a lot about art and music. I love it. But, I must admit that I have another love affair of a different sort. History. I can get lost in the sights and sounds of another time period so very quickly. I truly think that my love of history is what sparked my interest in genealogy. Granted, I've taken a long hiatus from my research but I'm back and ready for action. Because I've been working more on it lately it started me thinking... History + Genealogy!

Merriam-Webster's website defines history as:
1. A tale, story
2. a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes 
3. a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events
4. a: events that form the subject matter of a history; and
    b: events of the past
Let's review these definitions. A story or tale... History isn't a dry bunch of dusty facts. It's a STORY! It's a tale of living people and the EVENTS that happened during their lives. Understanding these stories and learning about these events helps us EXPLAIN past events and even where we are today. (I know how my family ended up in GA. Do you know how your family ended up where they are today, and why you speak with the particular accent you do rather than another?) These events and explanations together build an entire SUBJECT... the HISTORY of our families, our country, and our world.

So back to my original thought: History + Genealogy! What better way to make history come alive! We've always tied our family history into our studies where it was applicable, but in all honestly I could do a better job. American history is steeped with opportunity to focus on our family's history. Every family has a part, whether it is the immigrant story, the adventure of the Gold Rush, the courage of the Civil Rights Movement, or the bravery and heroics of any number of wars. The various wars that involve the United States throughout history are also good places to incorporate world history. Suppose you find out that Great Uncle Louie loved to tinker in the garage with his latest inventions. Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to tie in the greatest minds of the past such as Tesla, Edison, Carver? Think about how real history will seem when you suddenly have a relative to include among the dry facts and dates. It is also much easier to remember facts and data when you have a hook on which to hang the information. Make Great Uncle Louie that hook!

So, how do you get started? Don't forget, Google is your friend. A quick Google search will return many ideas on how to incorporate genealogy into your homeschool. Here are just a few that I particularly liked for the younger to middle set:

A to Z Home's Cool has a great list of links to enjoy under the title Genealogy For Kids.

Easy Fun School also has a fun Genealogy Mini Unit. It's a great little jumping off point with options for both younger and older students.

Homeschool Learning Network has a free unit study available for Grandparent's Day and Family History. (Lessons #1 and #2 are perfect for an intro into genealogy!)

For my high school-aged daughter I simply drag her along for the ride with me. I'm in the process of setting up the Legacy Family Tree free genealogy software, but once I'm up and running she'll help me search through records online and locally. (I'm getting to sift through mountains of notes and papers in order to make sense of it all... and I love it!) I hope to find a few more connections to Jamestown Colony and other events before we study American history next year. While we won't approach it as the beginning for our unit study we will incorporate it as we find information or as we cover particular chapters in history. I will include biographies as well as maps and source documents wherever possible. How better to understand what life was like during the 1700s in Virginia than to read the letters and will of an ancestor? I know it makes it more real to me. Now, to just figure out how to convince the husband that we need to take a research trip around the great state of Virginia...

Do you love genealogy? Are you actively connecting your family history with your homeschool history assignment? I would love to hear about it! Who knows, maybe I'll write a post about genealogy. After all, it is becoming another "new found" obsession interest and it is on my Big Fat 100 of 2011 list!  :)

And, to give you something fun to think about, has a free two-week trial membership. If you need a bit of entertainment to kick off a new hobby check out the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? I'm a new fan, and let's just say that I've been spending a lot of time watching Season One on! (I have no reason to post these links other than I enjoy them. No reviews, no compensation, no reason... just because...)

History is exciting and a real part of our lives. We are making history ourselves in our own circles and our own communities. It's time to remind ourselves that it surrounds us every day. Go talk to a grandmother or make a family tree. Your kids will thank you for it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Giveaway: Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom!

I hope that you are ready for a fantastic giveaway! Regular readers know that art and music play a big part in our lives, so I'm really, REALLY excited!

Are you ready...

Tami Duvall, licensed and accredited Simply Music Instructor at Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom,  is giving away a month's worth of weekly online piano classes ($70 value)!

From the Simply Music Website:
"Simply Music is the largest playing-based music education institution in the world, with educators at 520 locations throughout the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It presents a revolutionary, Australian-developed piano and keyboard method for those who would like to teach music, or learn how to play. This breakthrough program has students of all ages playing great-sounding blues, contemporary, classical and accompaniment pieces - immediately - from their very first lessons. Simply Music educators look at music in an entirely new light, transforming the teaching and learning process. The program sets a new standard in music education, and presents the possibility of a new era in self-expression through music. "

The classes will be held LIVE on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST starting Tuesday, February 22. The drawing will be held on Saturday, February 19.

If you would like to be entered into the drawing, post a comment including these words, "I would like for my child(ren) and me to have music as a companion for the rest of our lives!"

The winner will be chosen using a random number generator. Make sure that you include either a link to your blog or an email address so that we can notify the winner about their fantastic prize!

For more info on the classes check out the following link:

*Note: Only students from USA and Canada can participate in Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom.* 

I'm pretty excited about the giveaway, and I'm also excited that the kid will have the chance to participate in the next session as well. We will finally put the piano to good use!

Good luck everyone, and come join the music!