Book Review: My Princesses Learn to Be Brave

Title: My Princesses Learn to be Brave
Author: Stephanie Rische
Illustrator: Heather Hayworth 
Genre: Children's/ Christian Values
I was thrilled when I opened the mail and saw my latest book to review!  It was two brightly colored children's books from the My Princess series.   Each book in this series by Stephanie Rische starts with this message in rhyme the inside cover:
What makes a princess? I’d sure like to know. Could I be a princess? I wish it were so!

It’s there in the Bible, so I know that it’s true. We are God’s children — You and me, too!

Since God is our Father, the King up above, We are all princesses, The ones that he loves!
The series is about two girls: Grace and Hope who pretend to be princesses.  In each story they run into a problem.  In Learn to be Brave the girls run into a bully.  The girls remember the story of Esther from their Bible lessons and use that knowledge to help them solve their problem.   
I would recommend this book to any mother of young daughters.  The pictures of the characters in these books are inviting to young girls.  Moms will love the values that are reinforced  by the Hope and Grace.  It is a great example to your children of how they can use their knowledge of Bible stories to help them in their daily lives. 
 I also received a copy of My Princesses Learn to Share by Amie Carlson.   I also give that book the same fantastic review.  The book has the same characters, Hope and Grace.  The girls find themselves in another bind but again use their Bible knowledge to solve their problem!

I highly recommend both books for your little girls!

My Big Classroom Reveal!

The first week back to school was a success!  As always, the first week was long and tiring but it was very exciting.  I love my new class!

My van all loaded up and ready to head to school to set up

I moved from middle school to fifth grade this year so that meant moving to a new classroom.  If you are a teacher, you know how much effort goes into setting up a new room for a new grade level.  Here are some pictures of my room when I arrived two weeks ago

Here is what it looks like after I added my touch to it... 

The hallway outside my classroom

 I teach at a Christian school where all of the Elementary classrooms have the same theme.  This year's theme is F.R.O.G.  (Fully Rely On God) so there are plenty of frogs around the room.

I wrote each of the student's names on the frogs

View from the hallway (Rug $19.99 from Ikea)

I have 18 students in my class so I felt placing the desks into 4 groups made the best use of the small space (Curtains from Ikea $14.99 a pair)

Table signs hanging over each group of desks- signs can be found at Teachers Pay Teachers

Continuing the Frog theme with my Birthday chart

This Fun Frog printable was FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers

I purchased these Frog themed Classroom Rules posters from Teachers Pay Teachers

One of my middle school students last year drew this scientist for me.

The empty bulletin board will be filled with speech bubbles and pictures of the kids.  The kids will write their goals of the speech bubbles.

My cursive alphabet has a science theme.  This is an easy way to incorporate more science into your elementary classroom.  I purchased them on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I love working at a Christian school!  I can openly share my faith! You can print the poster on the right for FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers and the poster on the left for FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I love having a podium.  The bar stool is from IKEA.

FREE printable from Teachers Pay Teachers hanging on the front of my podium.

One of my pet peeves is when people don't use these correctly.  So I have these posters hanging on the walls.  I printed them for FREE from Teachers Pay Teachers.

I purchased these Sterlite file boxes from Walmart and decorated them with an editable file from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Every time the students check the time they see this sign.

I will be super busy the next few weeks with my class and with my additional coaching duties but I plan to post about some more of the fun ideas that you can see in my classroom!

Book Review & Giveaway- Interrupted By: Jen Hatmaker

Title: Interrupted: Revised & Expanded
Subtitle: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity
Author: Jen Hatmaker
Genre: Christian Living/Spritual Growth

 You may have heard of the author Jen Hatmaker.  She has huge following on her blog and Facebook page.  She is refreshing, real and very "tell it like it is."   When I read her blog, I find that she says everything that I am thinking but in a much more hilarious yet more eloquent way.   Her family also has a new show premiering tonight (8/7) on HGTV called "My Big Family Renovation."

I was given the opportunity to preview Jen's revised & expanded version of Interrupted.  Right from the beginning of the book I was drawn in.  Jen tells how she grew up in the church just like many of us did.  She tells how she even attended church "three times a week in utero."  She grew up and followed the Christian path and even married a Pastor!   It was easy for her to fall into a "comfortable" Christian walk as a pastor's wife.  She prayed that the Lord would snatch her from the grip of consumer life and raise up a holy passion in her.  

Jen and her husband Brandon share how the Lord called them to action to start a new church in Austin, Texas,  to start a church with a new vision, a new mission.  Their church was created to reach the unreachable in their community.  Jen shares some shocking statistics about the disparity between the rich and the poor here in our very own country.  I dare you to read this book and not be inspired to act in your community, in your personal mission field.  

I wish that every church leader and every Christian that has been attending their church for an extended period of time would read this book.  It will inspire you to look beyond your Christian circle.  Do you only interact with just other Christians or do you reach out and influence your community?  

Jen has given me a physical copy of the book to giveaway to one lucky reader so they can be impacted by the book and pass on the enthusiasm to help others!  You can enter below!

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I also read Jen's sequel to Interrupted-  7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.   If Jen got a high school diploma after Interrupted, she got a PhD after 7.   She really walks the talk in this book.  I encourage you to read this book after you finish Interrupted.  Jen narrows her life down to 7 basic necessities and eliminates the rest in effort to prove that we need to eliminate the excess in our lives and focus on what God has planned for us! 

Make the Most of the Public School Experience

*Since it is almost time to go back to school this fall, I am pulling this post out from my archives.  It is one of my favorites.  I wrote it back in 2012.*

I am often asked what my views are on home schooling versus Christian school versus public school.  I have pretty strong views on all three but that is for a different blog post.

Today I want to give parents suggestions for success when they are sending their child to public school.  I made the choice to send Sydney to public school, but many Christian parents send their children there because they have no other choice.  Let's face it, private schools are expensive!  Home schooling requires one parent to be home and is not financially feasible for every family.  When that is the case, the kids must go to "free" public school.  Some parents feel anxious about that decision.

Sydney is in second grade now(in 2014 she is now going into 4th grade), so I have had a few years to learn my way as a Christian parent of a public school student.  Here are my tips to make this experience the best:

1. Get Involved!-  There are many ways to get involved in your child's class and their school.   

Volunteer as a class parent.  This will afford you the opportunity to go on your child's class trips and to be in attendance during class parties and events.  By being present in the classroom, you get to see the teacher in action and you get to know the children that your child spends their day.   

Some schools have a limited number of class parents so being the class mom may not be an option for you.  You can still volunteer.  Offer to come in to class and do a craft or lesson with the kids.  Volunteer to be a reader.  When I was teaching, I loved having an extra set of hands.  Sydney's teacher have always been willing to let me come in and read.  This year her teacher allowed me to come in and do a craft with the kids.  It was awesome to see the interaction between Sydney and her teacher and I got to know the kids in the class better. In Kindergarten, a friend and I went in and helped the class plant flowers.

The schools in New Jersey give parents the opportunity to observe their child's class during Education week.  Take this opportunity.  It doesn't matter what part of the day you see.  It is important that both your child and your child's teacher know that you care and are involved.  The teacher will be more willing to come to you and share her concerns or praises if she has seen you in person and knows that you want to be involved.

2. Ask Questions- I learned early on that asking Sydney, "How was your day?"  was not going to tell me much.  She would always answer with, "Good."  

Ask probing questions such as:

"What was your favorite part of the day today?"

"What was the funniest thing that happened today?"

"What was the most boring part of the day?"

"Who did you play with at recess and what did you play?"

"What was the most interesting part of your day?"

If you ask your child every day when they get off the bus, they will come to expect this inquisition.    Sydney says she thinks about it during the day.  She says when something happens she thinks to herself, "I need to remember this to tell mom."

If your child is used to talking with you, they will be more likely to share with you if something is wrong at school.

3. Remember that you are Responsible for your Child's Spiritual Education- Enroll your child in classes at your church.  When a child attends Christian or Catholic school, they are getting religious instruction on a daily basis. (I would know.  I spent 12 years in a Christian school growing up.)  When your child goes to a public school, it is solely your responsibility.  You need to be consistent and attend your church regularly.    Enroll your child in a children's program at your church.  My church, Sayre Woods Bible Church, offers an AWANA program for children on Thursday nights.  There, Sydney and Lucas are able to learn about the BIble and our faith since they won't receive that instruction in school.  During the week, we practice our lessons and verses.  Just because your child attends public school, it doesn't mean that they can't have Biblical instruction. 

4. Stay Positive- Don't trash talk your child's school.   Even if sending them to that school was your last resort.  Speak positively about your child's school and teacher.  This is your child's "home" for 6+ hours of the day.     If you have concerns about your child's teacher, express them to the principal at the school.  Don't share them with your child.  

5. Don't Believe the Hype- So many people grow up with preconceived notions about what public school is.  When I was younger, I attended Christian school all the way through my senior year.  I would hear parents say that public school was evil, that public school teaches your child to be gay, that public school doesn't have any character education and so on.  Don't believe what you hear through the "grapevine".  Do the research for yourself.  Go to your local library and check out the curriculum for your child's school.  If you see anything that you are unsure of, make an appointment with the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for your district and ask questions.  If you are still concerned, you are allowed to "opt out" of any instruction that goes against your religious beliefs.  Find out for yourself!  Do not believe the gossip!

6. Pray for your Child- This is something that all parents should be doing regardless of where they attend school.  Make it part of your daily routine to pray for your child's safety and interactions at school.  Pray that they will be a positive role model and a "light" to others.

Let's Pley: Netflix for Legos- Review and GIVEAWAY

Are you tired of paying a fortune for Legos?  I know that I am!  We pay so much for Lego sets that our kids play with for a few hours to put together and then often don't touch again.  

I had the opportunity to test out the Pley Lego rental websiteYes!  It is as awesome as it sounds.  It is just like the old school Netflix but for Lego sets.   

When you sign up for Pley, you sign up for one of three monthly membership plans, the more you pay, the larger the sets that you can choose.    After you choose your set, a few days later this box arrives at your door...

The box included the directions and the Legos in a mesh bag.  The Legos were washed and sanitized after the last family used them.  The box was also checked to make sure that all of the pieces were present.  They even have a place on their website where kids can act as "Lego detectives" and report missing pieces.  This helps the company to identify incomplete sets.

The box that the Legos come in also serves as a handy place to hold the Legos while your child is building their creation!  This was super helpful as Sydney got right to work as soon as she opened her box.  Your child can decide how long they would like to hold on to the set.

Sydney decided the next day that she was ready for a new set.  Just like with movies and Netflix, you can watch it once and send it back or you can hold on to it awhile and watch the movie over and over.  Sydney wanted to try another set right away. 

We packed up the set carefully and put it back into the mesh bag and blue box that it was delivered in.  The set came with a prepaid shipping sticker to put on the box.   All I needed to do was add two strips of packing tape to the box and it was ready to go.  Her second set arrived 5 days after we mailed the first set back.  It is great, you can get as many sets as you want during the month.  It is free shipping both ways!

All in all Pley has come up with a fantastic idea!  I wish I had thought of it!   

I recommend Pley for families with kids of all ages.  My Sydney absolutely loved it!  As a mom, I found it super easy to navigate and manage!  Pley has 3 pricing plans so there is one for every budget.  They have hundreds of sets to choose from for all ages.  The sets are simple like Duplo to advanced like Star Wars!

 If you are looking for a gift for the "kid who has everything."  This would be perfect!  What kid doesn't love to get mail, especially Lego mail?

Pley even sweetened the deal by giving me two memberships to give away to my readers!  Woo Hoo!  I have a 6 month Super Fan membership and a 3 Month Super Fan membership.
  You can enter below and I will use Rafflecopter to draw the two lucky winners!

Even if you don't win, Pley has made everyone a winner and will be giving everyone that enters a Promo code for a FREE one month trial membership to Pley as soon as the raffle ends!

Everything is Awesome!  
(You didn't think I could write a Lego post without saying that one, did you?)

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The Blind Man Meets The Blind Side

I just got back from a four day trip to Columbus, Ohio with my BFF Lindy.  She is a consultant with Thirty-One gifts and earned her ticket to the National Convention.  Since we live in New Jersey, it was going to require a flight and a hotel stay to attend so she invited me along for the trip!  We had so much fun, girl time together.  


One of my favorite parts of the trip was one of the speakers: Leigh Anne Tuohy.  You may recognize the name.  She was the mom that Sandra Bullock portrayed in the movie "The Blind Side."   She spoke to us in a stadium of about 15,000 people.


She shared with us the inspirational story of how her family adopted their son Michael Oher.  She told us how true to life the movie was.   She said that her family really was driving down the road to breakfast on Thanksgiving weekend when they saw Michael walking along the road.  They turned their car around to go back for him which began the amazing journey for their family.  Their journey started with their white family adopting a homeless 6'6" black teen and ended with that teen becoming the starting right tackle for the Tennessee Titans!

Leanne Tuohy also told us the Starfish story.

She encouraged all of us to make a difference where we can.  God may not be calling all of us to go out and look for 6'6" black teenagers to adopt but God is certainly calling us to help others.  He is placing those who need help right in front of us everyday and we just need to open our eyes and look for it.  We need to respond when we are called.  We may not be able to help every single person but we can help those right in front of us.

I left the arena feeling inspired and recharged.  I took the shuttle bus back to my hotel.  As our bus sat at light in the middle of the busy city of Columbus (the capital of Ohio) I noticed a blind man with his walking stick waiting to cross the intersection.   Our bus pulled up to our hotel and as we all filed out of the bus, I realized that the man was still standing at the intersection.  I watched as dozens of people walked past him as they crossed the street.  The light changed several more times as I watched.  Surprsingly, no one offered to help the man cross.  Why was no one offering to help?  There was my person right in front of me.  The Blind Side had met this blind man.  I was not going to walk right by like I might have in the past assuming that he was ok.  I know that those people were probably thinking that he would ask for help if he needed it, right?  So I walked up to him and gently had a conversation with him...

Me: Excuse me. Would you like some help crossing the intersection?

Him: No

Me: Thinking...Hmmm I guess I was wrong when I thought he needed help

Him: I just need help figuring out where I am.  I got myself all turned around walking through the streets and I don't know what intersection I am at.  Can you tell me?

Me: Sure!  You are facing 3rd Street and State Street is on your left.  The Sheraton Hotel is behind you.

Him: (Sigh of Relief) Ahh!  That makes sense now!  Thank you so much!

Me: No Problem!  Would you like help getting across?

Him: Nope! That's the easy part!

He then heard the chirping of the light that signaled him to cross and away he went with a smile on his face.
Lindy and I at the Thirty One awards dinner

 I was really inspired by Leanne Tuohy to act.  I am not sitting here patting myself on the back, I am aware that helping someone cross the street is not worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.   My point is that if we all start responding to the situations and people right in front of us, then helping others will become a habit and the world will become a better place!

Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts about my time with Lindy at the Thirty-One convention!

Don't know what Thirty-One is? Check out Lindy's web page here!

Shark Week Fun for the Kiddos

Shark Week 2014 begins on Sunday, August 10th.     Here in New Jersey, Shark Week is very popular.  I live near the Jersey shore in the Matawan area where there was a shark attack almost 100 years ago in 1916.  The town of Matawan even has a Shark Week festival for kids the first week of August. 

For the younger kids, the Discovery Channel shows can be scary so here is a roundup of some kid friendly ideas and activities for fun during Shark Week:

Light Hearted Ways to Enjoy Shark Week

FREE Printables from In All You Do

Shark Week Snacks from A Few Short Cuts

Great Roundup from A Day in Your Shoes

Round Up of Easy Shark Week Crafts

Free Printable Shark Facts from All For the Boys

I love these Footprint Sharks from Glued to My Crafts

Shark Week Lap Book FREE Printable from Frugal HomeSchool Family

Shark Party Ideas from Chickabug Blog

FREE Printables for hosting your own Shark Week party from Pretty Providence

Shark Week Humor

If your idea was featured in this post, please grab an "I've Been Featured" button and display it proudly on your blog!  You can get the html code for the button on my Buttons page

Need more Ideas?  Check out my Shark Week Pinterest Board!

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