Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Fuzzy Water

Our family has been learning a lot of new things about living a more natural lifestyle.  We desire to be a little closer to our roots and create a more simple existence.  With that desire has come a lot of information.  It's like a tidal wave at times.  The most recent "new to us" discovery is water kefir.

I have the most amazing friends that are so willing to share their "different than mine" knowledge.  It is such a blessing to be surrounded with such passionate and caring people.  Recently, our family was struck by a stomach bug.  My poor, little guy got it the worst.  I actually stayed up the entire night with him as he vomited his way through to morning.  It was horrible.  What helped him in his recovery process?  Water kefir, and a good friend willing to share her supply.  (Hop on over to her blog, Think on These Things, to learn more about how she makes water kefir.)

What is water kefir?  Water kefir is a fermented, probiotic beverage made from kefir grains or a powdered culture.  The grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship.  It is packed with vitamins and is an excellent immune booster.

As my little guy went throughout the night ridding his body of fluid I had him slowly start sipping the water kefir.  At first he couldn't even keep down a sip, but within an hour  he started keeping it down for a while and was slowly able to drink more and more.  By morning the vomiting had ended, and he spent the day sipping his "fuzzy water" as he likes to call it.  It made him feel better, and it was all he needed to help him down the road to recovery.

Since then, my other two came down with the same bug, and we kicked it out using "fuzzy water".  Having the water kefir has been a tremendous blessing.  Today, we began the process of making our own.  Soon, it will be a staple in our home.  We are joining in the centuries old tradition of fermenting water and juice with kefir grains and sugar.

Another of my wonderful friends wrote a very thorough and informative series on making the best choices we can for our families in regard to food.  This is a timely topic and really provides some thought provoking as well as helpful information to help us make informed choices when we feed our families.  It gets harder and harder to feel good about the food we purchase and consume.  I am certain you will enjoy reading her series, The Switch at her blog, Where My Treasure Is.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Road Trip Therapy

There is nothing, I mean NOTHING, like a road trip with a good friend.  I am feeling blessed in so many ways.  The Lord has been teaching me abundantly lately, and for the most part I have been receiving the lessons with open and willing arms.  It is so freeing when we just go with the flow and do not force life into our own skewed idea of the way things are supposed to be.

That being said, I am learning to let go.  Let go of my ideals.  Let go of my agenda.  Let go of my expectations.  Let go, and be free.  What is more fitting than a road trip with no real agenda?  Part of it is planned, loosely.  As a Seventh Day Adventist woman that resides in Michigan I am richly blessed to have an amazing church camp.  This weekend marks the first of three weekends this month that Camp Au Sable will host Women's Ministries.  It is an amazing opportunity to feed your soul.  Women, Adventist and not, gather from all over Michigan and beyond to fellowship together.  We eat, we laugh, we cry, we worship, we learn, we connect, and we grow.  There is so much beauty at Camp Au Sable, in the natural surroundings as well as the people.

So, the Women's Ministries Weekend is the planned part.  Well, loosely.  Normally I am packed and ready to go by now, but alas that is not the case for me with this journey.  I just determined when check-in is last night, and I've no real clue what the real topic of the weekend is, or what the seminars are, or what the schedule is, or what the special plans are, or what I want to do in my spare time.  I mean nothing.  I just made my packing list last night.  Last night!  Our washing machine is broken and will not be fixed until next week, so I still have to go out and do laundry.  This is SO not me!  But, I am okay with it and just going with the flow.  It is almost surreal.  It's like I'm looking in from the outside wondering who it is that I am.  In years past I would be so stressed in this circumstance.  Not now.  It is what it is, right?  It will all work out.  It always does.  No biggie!

So, the super unplanned part begins when we leave Camp Au Sable for our return journey home.  Guess what?  Not going home!  WOO-HOO!!!  This mamma needs a break, and my best gal pal and I are taking one.  You have no clue, or maybe you do, just how much I am looking forward to a full 24 hours to do just as I please.  See, we extended our weekend through Monday evening.  Yippee!  What do we plan to do?  I am really not sure, and that is uber cool!  Will we leisurely browse through a used book store?  Will we eat lunch while gazing out at Lake Huron, will we lounge around at a hotel as long as possible, will we find a cool cottage somewhere, will we, will we, will we?  I have no clue, and it is SO beautiful.

My time has been consumed with illness, school lessons, house cleaning, errand running, bill paying, cooking, and the slew of other things that have landed in my lap.  Responsibility has reigned, so I have spent ZERO time planning for my much anticipated extended weekend of freedom.  How refreshing!

A quote worth pondering:

God is looking for imperfect men and women 
who have learned to walk in moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit. 
Christians who have come to terms with their inadequacies, fears, and failures. 
Believers who have become discontent with ‘surviving’ 
and have taken the time to investigate everything God has to offer in this life.

Charles Stanley

May your weekend be richly blessed, your soul wonderfully fed, and your spirit lifted high.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Captivated Movie Review

Captivated Movie Review

Phillip Telfer, a former youth pastor, founded the ministry Media Talk 101 in 2005 with a mission to teach media discernment.  His journey of public speaking and ministering to the youth of today has led to the production of the Captivated DVD, a thought provoking and inspiring movie that challenges the viewer to evaluate their relationship with media in their everyday life from a Christian perspective.  The evolution of technology is explored as well as the science behind brain development and the effects of technology from a neurological standpoint.

Having raised seven children to adulthood and currently rearing a third batch in the emerging generation I can plainly see the dramatic difference in technology availability and use just between these two groups of children.  It was noticeable between the first two age groups in our family, but it is glaringly evident between the last two age groups.  I currently have children between the ages of four and twenty-eight.  I have had to learn loads in the technology realm since my first B.A.S.I.C. computer class in junior high; nearly all of it in direct relation to raising children in a media saturated world.  I still remember the scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly travels back in time and the television is brand new.  When he is asked if they have a television he replies that they have two.  The reaction is that it's crazy.  Of course no one has two televisions!  Now, just look at the typical American home.  We have two televisions, and that makes us odd; not because we have two, but because we have ONLY two.  Most homes in the United States have multiple televisions.  They are everywhere, and it is uncommon for the children in our home not to have televisions in their rooms.  (Our older batches of children did have them in their rooms.  Lesson learned.)  In fact, as mentioned in the movie, there are more televisions than people per American household.  Is it just me, or is that just plain crazy?

In today's world media encompasses so much more than television.  We have smart phones, laptops, the internet and wi-fi, social media with Twitter and Facebook and a slew of others, i-pods and i-pads, x-box with wi-fi, and the list goes on.  It's everywhere we go, and we even carry it with us.  Am I the only one that finds it refreshing to eat in a restaurant that has no television hanging from the wall or ceiling?  It's a wonder we can even sleep.  How can we rest with this constant stimulation?  Just in my lifetime we have progressed from a single, black and white (gasp), television, Atari (that we didn't get until I was in high school), and a corded phone in our home to multiple televisions, home computers, the internet, smart phones, and wi-fi.  The implications of that alone is mind numbing.

As a parent that longs to provide an enriched environment for my children finding a healthy balance and relationship with technology can pose a great challenge at times.  I thought I had it all figured out when my older kids were growing up, then the playing field changed.  With the younger children now in my charge one of my biggest concerns in relationship to technology use is brain development.  Through the interviewed experts in Captivated the Movie we learn that children under the age of two should watch no television and abstain from the use of technology like smart phones and i-pads and such.  This is not the first time I have heard this concern mentioned.  However, it is a timely reminder for me.  I have seen the effect of the increased technology use on the wee ones in our home, and it prompted me to action.  Watching the DVD was a healthy reminder and an encouragement that I really was taking a step in the right direction for the healthy brain development of my beautiful children.

I have seen the signs of addiction and withdrawal in relation to our three-year-old and my Kindle Fire.  It still seems weird for me to call it that.  I mean addiction?  Really?  Yes!  The most disturbing fact that I learned while viewing Captivated the Movie is that video game addiction parallels gambling addiction.  That is just frightening to me and a real incentive to remain conscious and purposeful in our use of technology as a family.  Currently there are no dedicated gaming devices in our home, and I do plan to keep it that way as long as we can.  Maybe forever.  Is that possible?  I am not sure, but I plan to do my best to provide an enriched environment that provides lots of physical activity in the outdoors with hopes that real life, live and in living color, will be more rewarding than a virtual "reality".

The personal testimonies in the movie are encouraging and offer a challenge.   What about a media fast?  It is suggested that we take an assessment of our media usage and determine if there is something that we are putting above all things that may be hindering our real life relationships as well as our relationship with God.  If we determine that there is, then do a media fast.  This can be done as an individual or as a family.  It may not be easy, but it will surely be eye opening.  It may even be life changing.  Personally, my heart longs for the time when families gathered together in the evening and played music, sang, and read together.  We have actively been working toward this ideal with more active time together doing hands on and involved activity and less time in the passive pursuits involved in the world of media.  Viewing Captivated the Movie reinforced my belief that this is truly what is most important.

Through the various experts, personal testimonies, and the interwoven message of a life focused on a biblical world view, Captivated the Movie is a timely message for today's culture and a gentle reminder to use the bible as our spectacles to determine what is good and what is harmful.  It is a call to accountability, and an encouragement to stand apart using discernment and wisdom.   There are over two hours of extras included on the DVD with extended interviews as well as a word from the producer himself.  Captivated the Movie is a wonderful resource for education within the home as well as ministering to friends and family.  It is priced at just $16.95 with FREE shipping and the option to add a second for sharing for just $5.00 more making it an economical way to reach out to family and friends.  We highly enjoyed it in our home, and I know others will surely be blessed my this ministry.

Captivated Movie Review

"See to it that no one takes you captive
through philosophy and empty deception..."
~ Colossians 2:8

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Focus on What Matters

Anyone that has poked around The Zoo Crew, even the slightest little bit, surely has discovered that we are living a life a little less ordinary.  Life has a way of catching us off guard, turning us on our heels, and sending us in a whole different and unexpected direction.  I am not saying this is bad, per say.  It does however pose some challenges.  As the years have gone by we have learned more and more how to respond more effectively and transition more quickly to our new found place in life.

I have learned to pray more; more often, more fervently, and more specifically.  Life is SO MUCH easier when I start my day with prayer and bible study.  It is AMAZING the difference this one act can make on the quality of my day.  Beginning in prayer sets the tone for the day, and it centers my focus.  I am more conscious of my purpose and much more aware of what is truly important.

Listen to my words, Lordconsider my lament
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
 Psalms 5:1-3

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  
 Phillipians 4:6-7

Our newest transition involves two beautiful girls and a headfirst dive back into active homeschooling.  We have learned some things along the way, and we are working on making a safe and stable home for the entire family.  This means some trial and error has taken place, and we have had to learn a new way of living.  One thing that we do is to begin and end our day with biblical focus.  The kids love it, and it brings us together as a family.  So, not only am I beginning my day in the bible, but the children are as well.

Currently, we are reading the book of Luke.  We have traveled our way through the Old Testament over the last year, learning lessons through our previous curriculum. We loved it and look forward to more in depth study in the future.  Now, we are beginning the day with me reading an entire book from the bible.  Then Harmony reads aloud a complementary bit from another source reinforcing what we just read and helping her to grasp the scripture more fully.  All of the kids enjoy this part of our day, and it sets a nice tone.

I share this with you to demonstrate that we are focusing on what is important and cutting a lot of slack in other areas.  The biggest lesson that I have learned is that there are seasons in all of our lives, and the areas of most importance change with those seasons.  Through it all our foundation, our relationship with Christ, holds the highest importance.  It matters not if we travel the valley, climb the hills, or rest on a plateau.  Our connection with Christ is our life force.  It is our purpose; our guiding light.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: 
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- Ephesians 6:4

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, 
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- Mark 10:45

For our family it has become essential to get back to the basics, find our center, and focus on the core.  Your basics, your center, and your core are very likely different than ours.  What it means for us now, during this season of our lives, is to slow down and focus on the basics.  We are learning to lean on Christ, respect ourselves and others, and to live life with an others focus instead of a self focus.  It is more challenging than you might think.

What does this mean for our family?

Aside from putting Christ first in our daily lives, each day we keep the same "schedule".  This means we try to have the same flow throughout each day.  The exact time on the clock may not be the same, but the order in which we do things is consistent.  This fosters a sense of security and stability for the kids, and it is remarkable the effect it has on their behavior.  This becomes completely evident when we stray from it too long!

You see?  I am really not a schedule person.  I am a total unschooler at heart, and I LOVE freedom!  However, the most important thing in the happiness, well being, and educating of my children is by far for me to maintain a consistent schedule.  This means 24/7, even on Sabbath!  UGH!  I do it kicking and screaming all the way, but each time I get too "relaxed" with my approach I am quickly reminded of the error of my ways.  So, we keep a schedule of sorts, and the kids thrive in knowing what to expect next.  

He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand, 
but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
- Proverbs 10:4

In regard to "academics" I have also discovered that there is a season for things of a school nature as well.  We follow a basic outline, but it changes greatly based on our current circumstances, the needs and desires of our children, and even the weather.  Yes, the weather!  Life is seasonal, and learning is life.  So, it makes perfect sense that what we learn flows with the seasons.  I am excited for spring this year for possibly the first time ever.  We are on land now, and we have young children, and this winter was C-O-L-D.  We have projects waiting to be done, and we have children desperate to be outside.  This year will be my first year purchasing rain coats.  We will be outside rain or shine, as long as it is warm enough, all spring, summer, and fall for the first time ever in my life.  The land will not wait for us.  It will do its thing whether or not we are outside and active, so if we want to achieve the plans we have we need to work diligently.

In academics, now is a time for us to explore writing, reading, and math with excitement and interest, not drudgery.  I strive to create an environment rich with opportunity for learning in order to foster natural curiosity and interest.  So far, so good.  The difference is that we are fitting these core subjects in AROUND the things that foster character and family bonding.  Things like cooking, household responsibilities, playing games and doing puzzles, free play, writing to friends and family, doing kind deeds, and being helpful.

Trust me.  There was a time when I could not have approached life in this manner.  I was too busy washing the dishes and folding laundry to focus on the character building opportunity before me with my children.  Our unique circumstances have fostered a new desire for this batch of children currently in my charge.  I am more concerned about their heart, their soul, and their spirit.  I recognize that all those other things, the academics, will come in their own time, naturally.  They need not be forced, and it is all learning, all connected, and all important.  Sometimes we just need to adjust our focus.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mango Languages Review

Mango Languages Review

Our family has had the opportunity to use the beta version of Mango Languages Homeschool Edition.  It had always been my plan to learn Spanish with Avery.  We've done little things over the years using board books and using some phrases that I've managed to hold onto over the years.  It’s been a slow dipping of the toes into the shallow end of the language pool for us.

Now that the girls are here, and we've plunged head first back into the deep end of homeschooling, our approach of learning Spanish as part of our homeschooling journey has taken a little consideration on my part.  Mango Languages has been a great tool in helping me explore how we will implement foreign language into our homeschool.  I still haven’t fully decided exactly how we’ll go about it over the long haul, but we have been enjoying our sampling of the beta version of Mango Languages Homeschool Edition.

Accessing the Mango Languages online is a breeze.  Once we selected Mango Passport Spanish (Latin America) it took its rightful place in Harmony’s personalized profile page under her membership spaces.  She loves seeing her picture there!  All she has to do is click the link, and she’s off learning Spanish.  She easily picks up where she left off during the previous session.  It’s fun to hear her come out and say, “I know how to say good night in Spanish!”  She then proceeds in telling me, “Buenos noches!”  Every time she uses the program she practices what she's learned on us or asks us if we know how to say a certain word.  Through her exploration of Spanish we are all increasing our knowledge of the language.  It definitely has given her a little confidence boost and something to be proud of.  We’re not carrying on conversations yet or anything, but she is being introduced to another language in a very comfortable, easy to learn, non-threatening way.

Just for fun, I took the pre-test before having Harmony begin the journey of learning Spanish.  I absolutely love the way it’s set up.  The fact that you actually hear the word being spoken, and you can repeat it as many times as you like, makes it really easy to learn to speak the language properly.  There is even a feature that would allow you to speak into the computer and have your pronunciation analyzed, but unfortunately we do not have a microphone for my laptop.  This feature is very appealing to Harmony, and I may try to figure that out on our end for future use.

Mango Languages Review

Mango Languages Homeschool Edition in beta form has many fun and useful features available.  We primarily stuck to just using the actual language curriculum due to the age of the children in my home, but there is much more to offer the more experienced and/or older learner.  Mango Languages is designed for use by individuals age six through adult.  There are over 60 languages available to choose from with learning features that include things like progress assessments, built in journals, discussions, and wikis, collaborative learning spaces, eNote messaging, and chat rooms, and so much more.  In the future there will be the added features of enhanced tracking and progress monitoring, including seat time for students and parents, goals and personal lesson plans, and a resume and portfolio builder.

Mango Languages Homeschool Edition is offering the following introductory pricing:

1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total                   
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total                   
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total               
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total
6 or more subscriptions receives a special group rate

More information on pricing and group rates is available on the website.

You can also learn more about Mango Languages via:

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