Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who Wouldn't Want a Toydle FORT for Christmas? (Giveaway Link!)

Everyone, everywhere should have a fort! I have great memories surrounding forts, both the kind you build yourself out of sheets and chairs and the kind you create in the woods from fallen branches and the grown up kind people like to refer to as gazebos (but really, when you're sitting inside giggling with friends you know it's just a fort with a fancy name). Forts are fun, plain and simple.

Toydle makes some seriously fun forts and they take their fort building seriously. Our family will be reviewing these superdeliciousocious forts for you next month, but I did not want you to miss out on this as an awesome Christmas gift idea or not tell you about the cool giveaway going on over at the TOS Crew Homeschool blog!  So here I am, telling you to check out the forts and the giveaway!

First off, the forts themselves: These are high quality and American made and can be configured in multiple ways without rearranging your furniture every time someone wants to build a fort. They are available in two sizes.  The Toydle Fort is over 45 square feet and is available for $149. The BIG Toydle Fort is double the size but not double the price, which is cool. It sells for $229.99.  No matter which size you choose, it comes packed in an industrial strength storage bag.

And now what you've all been waiting for: The giveaway!  The TOS Homeschool Crew will be giving away three (Yes, I said THREE!) of The Big Toydle Forts (Yes, I said BIG!) and you won't want to miss your chance to enter!  So head on over to the GIVEAWAY POST and see what you need to do for your chance to win one of this fun forts!  Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to tell 'em I sent ya. ;-)*

NOTE: This contest is open to residents of the United States ONLY .  TOS Staff and TOS Crew Members (and their families) are not eligible to enter this contest.

*Telling them I sent you will not increase your odds of winning in any way, shape or form. It just makes me look cool for sending you. GRIN.

Monday, November 21, 2011

FFH One Silent Night Christmas Album Giveaway!

Yesterday was my birthday and I was out of town, so please forgive the day late drawing. The very first comment was chosen by, so the early bird gets the worm!  Crystal, please email me at so that I may send your info to the vendor. Enjoy!

*This giveaway is now closed.*
I’m a fan of Christmas. I love every bit of it, even the crazy shoppers and the crowded malls. One of the many things I love about this time of year is the music. I would play Christmas music year ‘round if only my family would keep their complaints to themselves. But I’ve discovered a great work around for those who don’t want me to play it until after Thanksgiving- review it. “I’m sorry, Honey, I have to listen to Christmas music. It’s for a review.” Works like a charm and I enjoyed every second of it.

FFH’s Christmas album is a great mix of the traditional and the new. I especially loved Baby, It’s Cold Outside. It’s a fun song, one of my favorite of the less traditional Christmas songs, with great flow and they do a good job with it. 
The songs on the album also include Jingle Bell Rock, One Silent Night, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, The Birthday of a King, O Come O Come Emmanuel (one of my all time favorites), Winter Wonderland, Glorious Impossible, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Heaven and Nature Sing. I’m sure we will enjoy this offering over the next month as we celebrate Christmas!

If you would like to have the chance to enjoy it as well, enter my giveaway for the digital version of this album. It was easy to download and add to my iTunes account! And be sure to check out FFH:


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Drawing will be held on Monday, November 28th. 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Truth Tats: The Christmas Story (A FIRST Wild Card Tour)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card is developed by:

and the Advent idea:

B&H Publishing Group
***Special thanks to Susan Otis of Creative Resources, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Truth Tats: The Christmas Story
Celebrating the Season of Advent with Truth Tats

Designed just for the season, Christmas Truth Tats present a new way of telling the story of Christ’s birth. Truth Tats are temporarily on your skin, permanently on your heart.

This is a five week program leading up to Christmas day, each packet of Truth Tats includes a family devotional booklet that kicks off each memory scripture of the week. The twenty accompanying Scripture tattoos are a visual way to continually applying and memorize God’s word. Each week opens with a set of four identical Scripture tattoo designs so that each family member can have his or her own tattoo! Week two, there is a new Scripture for memorization and four new tattoo designs, again identical designs so each person is memorizing the same Scripture.

For over 1,000 years Christians worldwide have been celebrating Advent, a time of spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus meaning “coming toward”. So it is entirely appropriate that the four weeks prior to Christmas we will be preparing our hearts for His Advent.

Truth Tats are a unique way to celebrate the season as well as to “show and tell” God’s word to others. This is ideal for the classroom, family devotion time, and in personal Scripture memorization

Product Details:

List Price: $3.99
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Language: English

AND NOW...WEEK ONE OF ADVENT (Click on pictures to enlarge):

My Thoughts: For several years we've enjoyed doing an Advent study to lead up to Christmas. We light our candles, sing a Christmas Carol, pray, and read from a book of some sort.  Our favorites have been the Jotham's Journey series but we have rotated through those so often that the kids could probably tell the story without needing the books! Last year we did a more traditional study but we're not a more traditional family and frankly, we were bored. I was on the look out for something fun yet focused on the meaning of Christmas when these came up for review.  I love this idea!

The package comes with enough for four kids (or adults!) to place a new Scripture on their hand each week. With the verse so "handy", it would be very difficult not to memorize it. The Christmas Story edition comes with a booklet that provides one reading for each week of Advent, focusing on who God is, who we are in Christ, our transformation, and sharing His love. I think this would be a fun and inspiring way to prepare our hearts for Christmas, as well as a great way to share the "reason for the season" with those around you who may inquire as to what's on your hand!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Laughed, I Cried, I Went to a Funky Tea Shop (Women of Faith Reflections Part II)

Women of Faith is a conference like no other. It is a Friday and Saturday full of laughter and tears, speakers and music- at times heart wrenching and at others hilarious. You leave completely overwhelmed but overflowing. Some years it can take a lifetime to fully process everything God is working in you in such a short time. It is profound and simple all at the same time.

The schedule consists of speakers interspersed with drama, music, and comedy. The speakers this year were amazing. They shared their hearts and, as I said in Part I, were not afraid to admit their failings and frustrations. They were real and honest and they shared sufferings and tragedies that brought the crowds to tears, but they shared them in such a way that left everyone listening with hope that there is a God and He is bigger than any of our circumstances.

Friday’s first session began at 10 am and continued until 3:30, when there was a long break before the 7pm evening session. Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud were the speakers for this session and they were excellent. I had never heard Henry Cloud speak and I was quite impressed. He was intelligent and clearly knew his stuff, yet he was also very down to earth and straight talking. I really appreciated this and liked him immediately. He shared a few points from his book, The Laws of Happiness (which I now want to read) and spoke about the psychiatric research and how it backed up what the Bible said (imagine that). My favorite quote was when he stated that happy people are givers and then settled down all the women he knew were blustering over that by saying that people are not happy giving when the life is being sucked out of them by control freaks. Ha! I love it.

I Tweeted several key moments throughout the weekend (although there were times that were too profound to sum up in a Tweet)and I’d like to share them here, to give you the flavor of the speaker’s messages.

"As you are, right now, you are outrageously loved by God." -Sheila Walsh

"Only 10% of your happiness is based on circumstance." -Dr. Henry Cloud

"Happy people are connected." "Who's your monkey?" Henry Cloud

"Sometimes you have to give up perfectly good stuff to make room in your life for the 20%" (20% is where the life is) -Dr. Henry Cloud

"It's okay to not be okay. Wherever you are now, just show up." -Sheila Walsh

"Peace is not the absence of trouble, it is the presence of Christ." -Sheila Walsh

"The God of the universe loves misfits. And life begins when we all admit we are misfits and broken." -Nicole Johnson

"He takes what we'd throw in the trash and makes it a treasure." -Nicole Johnson

"Live in the now. Live this very moment fully." -Luci Swindoll

As Queen of the Misfits, you can see why I could relate so well to speakers who are willing to admit their place among the misfits, to share God’s outrageous love for us right where we are, and to encourage us to find life in this very moment and allow God to transform us into treasure. Powerful stuff.

I can’t finish this before sharing how much I LOVE Natalie Grant and have enjoyed seeing her in concert over the years as she’s moved from newlywed to mom of three. She’s genuine and talented and I’m a fan. The Mary Mary concert was also great and I loved that they took the time to share things they have learned and to teach this white girl how to look in the mirror and say, “Not Today!” with as much soul as I can manage.

Oh, and I have to mention the funky tea shop my friend and I hung out in between sessions Friday! It was like no tea shop I have seen in this area, with an art gallery meets spa vibe (the art was, in fact, for sale) and the friendliest staff. We sat and drank mochas (we weren’t in the tea mood) and ate cream puffs and cake next to the waterfall. It was incredibly relaxing (and quite reasonable!). I would highly recommend visiting the Tea Haunt Canvas when in Hartford, CT!

To sum up, I highly recommend Women of Faith and if you haven’t yet attended a conference, I would encourage you to check one out for next year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time Timer iPad App

Time Timer is available as both a physical product and an iPad app. It is designed to be a great tool for parents and children, to provide a large visual for anytime a timer is needed. I know in our house, we use a timer for daily independent reading. Rather than assign chapters, I will typically assign a 30 minute or 60 minute time for independent reading. We tend to use our stove timer for this purpose but what about when I need a timer outside of my home (or kitchen for that matter?)?

Honestly, my first thought when this came up for review was my need for a timer for National Novel Writing Month Word Wars.  We meet at local coffee shops and challenge each other to write the most words in 30 minutes. I needed something portable and convenient and the iPad version of this product has worked well for that. I'm already bringing my iPad and I don't have to pack something else, which is a plus.  I'm usually plugged into the iPad with my headphones listening to music as I write, so the timer goes off in my ear and that is another plus! As long as I remember to actually press the Start button...but that's another story.

The Time Timer app is very easy to set up and use, the timer is large and brightly colored (making this a good choice for young children), and there are various alarm sounds to choose from (which will go off in the background even if you're listening to Pandora or whatever in the meantime). At $1.99, it's a very reasonable way to help your kids visualize the amount of time they have left on a project or keep you on track with whatever your timing needs may be. There are not a lot of bells and whistles, it's a simple timer, but it does what it is supposed to and I liked it.

*Disclosure: I received this iPad app at no cost, for review purposes. To see what others thought of this product and more, check out the TOS Crew.*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Are Something More (Hope for Those Facing Bullying)

 My son's band*, Beautiful Tuesday, has released their new music video today for the song (Prove You) Something More, along with a new site called You Are Something More. This is about more than just sharing their latest song or video, this about making a difference in someone's life and offering hope for those dealing with the bullies of this world. Here it is in their own words;

Everyday, 160,000 students stay home from school because of it.

90% of 4th through 8th graders have been the victim of it.
36% of high school students don’t feel safe at school because of it.
And 32% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety while they are at school because of it.

            The “it” we are talking about, is bullying. Bullying is becoming more and more common, and occurs in many forms including physical, verbal, and most recently: “cyber” abuse online. Both children and adults have grown to believe that bullying is unavoidable, and that it is a part of growing up, and often times kids are too embarrassed to tell anyone because they feel threatened, or that they are not good enough. But none of this is true. No one should ever grow up feeling like they are less important than anyone else, or that they don’t fit in. However, bullying does not only affect children at school, but adults as well. This growing problem can be seen in the workplace, at home, in public, and as previously mentioned, over the Internet. Verbal and emotional attacks that may seem minuscule and foolish can often have a lasting effect on the victim. Stereotypes and cultural differences aside, we are all created equal and that is the bottom line. Our goal is not just to raise awareness about this problem, but also to give hope to those who need it most. We want to make those who have been victimized in the past, present, and even the future, understand that they are loved, and are just as worthy as everyone else.

You ARE something more.
And we want to show you.

-Beautiful Tuesday

I shared my own experiences with bullying in my post A Safe Place. This is one of my many reasons for homeschooling my children, but I know it's not for everyone and that even then, they are not completely immune from this kind of thing.  Beautiful Tuesday is hoping to provide a safe place online for people to share their stories . A place where they can stay positive despite their circumstances and find hope in the fact that they are something more than the lies they've been told. That's pretty cool.

Spread the word. Share the site. You are something more.

*He's the drummer. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

What the Lord Has Done in Me (Women of Faith Reflections Part I)

Let the weak say I am strong/ Let the poor say I am rich/
Let the blind say I can see/ It's what the Lord has done in me

As we sang these words this past Sunday morning, my mind still processing the Women of Faith conference from which I had just returned, I realized this is exactly what the speakers are doing as they travel across the country sharing their stories. The common denominator of every speaker was suffering, and being walked and carried and held through that suffering by God. None of them pretended she (or he) had it all together. None pretended they had figured out life and wrapped God in a nice shiny box to present to the ignorant masses. They were real and broken and grateful for His grace in their lives and they wanted to share this with as many people as would listen. And I've been listening.

For several years I attended the Women of Faith conference in Hartford, and then a couple of years when they moved to Boston. After being away from it for 2 years, I found myself moved to be sitting once again in that arena in Hartford. I couldn't help but remember the years I had come and the places I had walked during those years. I brought my first group to Women of Faith, all shiny and new at the pastor's wife stuff and eager to please. A year or two later I sat and tried to hold in the tears as Sheila Walsh described the many years she wore a mask and pretended everything was fine when it was not anywhere close to fine. Oh, could I relate as I struggled to wear the mask of Christianity too many expected. Then there was the year I sat without a group and with only a friend and my newest baby, weeping tears of sorrow and joy over a nightmare from which we had only begun to awake. There were years of joy as I shared the conference with friends and church family and the mountain tops were in sight and the skies were blue. And then there was that last year, where friends had turned away and the mask seemed appealing once again. And then, my time away from Women of Faith.

Until this past weekend. As I sat and laughed and cried and listened once again to some of my old favorites and discovered some who may very well become new, I realized these were my "older women", my mentors. I became a Christian as an adult and always wanted a mentor but had never found one and so turned my attention to learning to be one instead (I'm still learning!). But I realized this past weekend that these women, although they do not know me personally, have been my mentors over the years. They have encouraged me, they have strengthened me, they have kept me from losing my sanity at times. And they have done this by being real and being transparent and letting me (and others) know that God loves us right we are and He will walk us all the way home until He has tranformed us into who we are meant to be.

We can't do it, our well meaning friend can't do it, the not so well meaning pain in the arse can't do it.  It is only through His grace and His love that we are anything at all. He takes the trash of our lives and turns it into treasure.

This is what I have learned over the years at Women of Faith. I'm glad I had the chance to be a part again and I plan to be there next year and hopefully for years to come. This is an important part of my Christian walk and I thank these women (and men) who are not afraid to be real and share their pain and walk this journey with the rest of us. You are my mentors and I'm so glad you have allowed God to use you in this way.

Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge Days 7-13

It's been pretty quiet in this corner of cyberspace, as I was away from Thursday through Saturday for the Women of Faith conference in CT. It was an amazing time away and I'll be sharing with you all later (today would be nice but tomorrow's more realistic!). In the meantime, here are last week's Gratitude challenge status'. Again, thanks to Brenda for hosting. It's been good to stop and think each night about that day's blessings and I'd encourage you to join us!

Gratitude Challenge Day 7: Good friends, good times, and good sci-fi. Oh, and fish. ;-)
Gratitude Challenge Day 8: Starbucks and Word Wars and meeting awesome people and hanging out with other awesome people I've already met and plot bunnies and stickers and smack talk and Abney Park Pandora station and blue Tootsie Rolls.
Gratitude Challenge Day 9: Friends who laugh at my dorkiness, 4,695 words written today, B&N didn't kick us out...yet, Shakespeare class video clip, kids who crack me up, caffeine, my son making lunch for his mom just because, and peppermint mocha frappacinos.
Gratitude Challenge Day 10: The great group of teens at our church, laughter, free tickets to Women of Faith, friends, seeing God's hand in your past, freedom, and my husband who encourages my dreams.
Gratitude Challenge #11: overflowing heart, the opportunity to attend the Women of Faith conference, my monkeys, mochas at the funky tea house, my "brother", speakers who are real and aren't afraid to admit it, my church family being a real and imperfect family, His strength in our weakness.
Gratitude Challenge #12: Kids hugs when returning home, house cleaned while away, my own bed, talking my husband's ear off, too much good stuff to process.
Gratitude Challenge Day #13: Sunday naps and eating ice cream in bed with my honey.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'm Not Okay, You're Not Okay- Apparently That's Okay With You Too!

Awards! Awards! Awards! There was a time when my blog was about more than awards! But hey, awards are shiny. I like shiny.

Remember way back to the original Misfit Awards post, when I shared that they were started due to a group of us grumbling and complaining about our desire to be part of The Homeschool Blog Awards but no one would ever notice our wee little blog presence? All the woe is me stuff was really in good fun and through that conversation we began to realize how cool it is to connect over our own feelings of isolation, of not quite fitting in. So many of us feel that way that when we find someone else who is weird, even if it's different weird than us, it encourages us to feel a little less alone. And so were born The Misfit Awards.

Well, something funny has happened. The Homeschool Blog Awards nominations are in, voting is open, and many of the Misfits have been nominated for these as well! Yours truly included. This should make us laugh at ourselves for a moment and then put big ole' grins on our faces as we realize someone noticed us and took the time to fill out a nomination. Pretty cool.

NotSoSuperwoman has been nominated for two awards. The first is a credit to my blog designer, A Mommy's Blog Design Studio. I picked out my graphic, told her what I did and did not like, and she created something fun and crazy and totally me. Thanks again, April!

The other nomination is for the category I most appreciate; The Best Nitty-Gritty Homeschooler. The description reads like this: "Since we included a category for the Super-Homeschooler… I figured we would add one in for the homeschooler who is brutally honest and open about her mistakes and failures. These are the moms that make you feel better and let you know that it is OK that we aren’t perfect. What would we do without them???"

Yep,I'm glad to know I've encouraged someone that imperfection is okay, we just need to keep striving to be the best of who we are and love on our kids and our family and the world around us. I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's okay. Through our weakness, His strength is shown. Super Woman ain't got nothing on the one who admits she can't do it on her own.

Anyway, this NotSoSuperwoman is completely behind on life and needs to go write a trillion words and check the dryer to see if she has pants yet (!) and run a thousand errands. If you'd like to vote for me or whomever else you choose, you can find the post HERE.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Homeschool Misfit Award Winners

And the winners are...

1. The Wannabe Award- This is for the homeschool parent who wants to be this or that (Classical, Structured, Relaxed, Unschooler, Free Spirit, Sane) but frequently falls short and is not afraid to admit it.  "Here's where I want to be, here's where I am, and I'm going to keep on striving."

  2. The "Squirrel" Award- "Wait, weren't we supposed to be studying Abraham Lincoln?  How'd we end up talking about the chemical properties of Styrofoam?"  This is the homeschool blogger who begins her posts on one topic and then takes off in several different directions.  ADHD anyone?

 3. The Harried Homeschooler Award- "Good thing I don't neglect my kids like I do my blog."  or "Who are all these kids and why are they wanting my attention when I'm trying to blog?".  This is the blogger who has every intention of blogging regularly, but life just gets in the way sometime.  Her family expects regular meals.  What's up with that?

4. The Perfect Procrastinator Award- "I really should write that thought provoking piece about world hunger/child discipline/spiritual growth/etc. but I'd rather play on Facebook.  Here's a cute puppy photo instead."  Some bloggers have turned procrastination into an art form.  Quit procrastinating and fill out the nomination form!

5. The Blabber Blog Award- "MOM, you put THAT photo/story on your blog?" This one's for the blogger who isn't afraid to "embarrass" her family for the sake of blog fodder.

6. Too Busy Blogging Award- The opposite of The Harried Homeschooler, this blogger posts at least once a day, if not more.  It's an addiction. Like coffee, only not as tasty.

7. The Meme Forgotten Award- For those who begin a meme, mentally commit to following through weekly, and then promptly forget or manage it sporadically at best.

8. The Not Coming Soon Award- Ever write a post informing your readers of all the great upcoming posts you have in mind?  Did these posts actually get written? This is the award for the blogger hanging their head sheepishly as they read this description.

9.  The Snarky Homeschooler Award- (1.) snarky adj \ˈsnär-kē\- sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner   (2.) home·school·er noun \-ˌskü-lər\ - one that homeschools 


10. The Misfit Among Misfits Award- Have you read through the Homeschool Blog Awards and not found a category that fits you, only to come to the Misfit awards and realize you still don't belong?  You may just be unique, qualifying you as the Misfit among Misfits!

The only winner I have not heard back from is The Perfect Procrastinator. Perhaps she's busy procrastinating?!  I'm collecting the prize choices and will be emailing our wonderful sponsors with the information soon.  Please show them some love by clicking through and checking out their sites!

Sonlight               Schoolhouse Publishing            Teach With Games

        A Journey Through Learning     Joyce Herzog            

Purposeful Planning       Zeezok Publishing       

Winners, feel free to right click and save as on the winners button if you'd like to share it on your site! Not a winner this year but want to share the Misfit love?  Feel free to grab the Misfit Button from the sidebar!

Thanks for another fun year!



Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge Days 1-6

Brenda from Garden of Learning is hosting the November Gratitude Challenge once again.  I love the idea of taking the month to focus on your daily blessings but November is a bit too crazy for me to commit to posting something for this meme every day.  My compromise is to post daily on my personal Facebook account and then tally them up once a week in a blog post. I actually meant to do this yesterday but...yeah...I accomplished nothing but surfing Ebay and watching TV with my daughter last night. But it's a new day! So here goes nothin':

Gratitude Day 1: Food in the house, kids singing in the living room, hot showers, hope in the midst of sorrow.
Gratitude Challenge Day 2: Prescription headache medicine, purple suede boots rescued from under a pile of clothing, kids who love their Shakespeare class, friends who take the time to teach said Shakespeare class, Ry singing "Live it out, shout it out, show the world what love's about!" at the top of his lungs, and quiche in the oven.
Gratitude Challenge Day 3: Amazingly awesome headphones that pipe music straight into my brain at alarmingly high but clear decibels, days I don't have to get dressed or shower (smelly can be fun), relaxing and staring at the TV with my husband (looking forward to that tonight!), people with similar interests who reach out to encourage you with no agenda of their own (helps temper the cynicism), and striped toe socks.
Gratitude Challenge Day 4: Friday night friends, Wonder Woman Kit Kats, lunch dates with my husband, inside jokes, and auto correct.
Gratitude Challenge Day 5: Dinner with almost all of my family present (we missed Jake and Paloma!), an extra hour to sleep tonight (or to stay up and play), hot apple cider (even if I mixed up the nutmeg and the cinnamon).
Gratitude Challenge Day 6: "Your Grace is Enough".
 What are you thankful for today?


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