The crazy life of the ClarkClan. Living a life of grace through Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Food Rating System

My kids like to eat. I don’t usually have a problem with them being super picky. They all have something they just don’t care for, and I try not to make a big deal out of it. So I thought it was funny when Ben and Rebekah came up with a food rating system last night during dinner. They are going to rate our dinners according to this scale.

  • ***** Five Stars – Awesome meal! Can we have this again tomorrow night.
  • **** Four Stars –we like this, we could eat this again
  • *** Three Stars – just okay, nothing great
  • ** Two Stars – edible
  • * One Star – barely edible
  • No stars – YUCK! We don’t even want to take a second bite.

Last night our meal was a green salad, (baby spinach, kale, chard & carrots. I the opened some Tuna and put some on their salad along with baby tomatoes. Both Ben and Rebekah rated this salad as a three. Ben told me if I had taken the tuna off, it would be a five star.

Tonight we had a meal consisting of a vegetable soup that was chock full of vegetable and  Scottish oat scones. Ben and Rebekah decided that this was a five star meal. In fact everybody liked the soup and said I should make it again.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Small Changes: Revisited

I have written a lot about small changes I have been trying to make this year. I knew that if I tried to change everything that I wanted to change in my life all at once, I would fail. I have found that really , it does work, as long as I make one small change at a time and don’t expect perfection.

I have also found that some of the things I wanted to change are just not going to work out for me. The main one being getting up at 5:00am every morning.  I thought about all the things I could get done if I just got up earlier in the morning. So I began setting my alarm two minutes earlier until I was getting up at 5am. What I found was: I JUST CAN’T GET UP THAT EARLY! There, I said it, I tried for over a month. I just do not get enough sleep. My alarm rings at 5:50. That is what works for me. I  can get up and be ready for my walk at 6:25am.

Getting up at 5:00am would require that I was in bed between 9 and 9:30pm every night. This is not possible for me. There are nights that Scouts do not end until close to 9. There are nights my husband does not get home from work until 9 or later.  Many reasons why I can’t be in bed by 9:00pm, the main one being, our life is still continuing at that hour and I cannot just go to bed so I can get up to be by myself in the morning.

It really bugged me that I could not work this out. I talked to my sister about it and told her I felt like I had failed. She gave me a different perspective. She said to look at the situation as,”I didn’t fail, I just learned how much sleep my body needs to function well.”

I have decided that I am not going to fret over not being able to get up earlier. There are times that even 5:50am does not work well, especially after playing a 9:00pm softball game the night before. But I have also learned the power of taking a nap, even a short one, to rejuvenate myself during the day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review–Simplified Pantry

 photo tn_zpsd0054245.jpg


Simplified Dinners

 photo sp_sidebar_lg_zps684e1145.gif 

I like to cook. I like to make a nice dinner. But, lately, it seems that all I can do is throw something together haphazardly or even just grab something ready made at the store or the kids favorite, cheap, taco place. This is where the e-book Simplified Dinners comes to the rescue.

Mystie Winckler has created a system to simplify the dinner planning/preparation process. It is not fancy. But it does provide a way to cook healthy, well-planned meals without much effort. The secret is in the master grocery list and recipes that can be adapted in multiple ways for variety.

The Simplified Dinners e-book starts off by giving the premise of the system. Then it introduces the master grocery list and ends with a wide variety of recipes with multiple variations.

The idea of the system is that you keep your pantry stocked with the items from your master grocery list.  Then you make up a simplified menu naming a main dish and a side. This way you have a plan for dinner, but you also know you have all the ingredients without making a special trip or buying special ingredients.

I have used this system for over a month now. It is working very well. The Simplified Dinners e-book contains many recipes from Mystie Winckler. Her family must eat a lot like we do, so everything we tried was well-liked by my family. 

During the first two weeks, I used the master list from the e-book exclusively. Then as I got used to using her system, I changed the list to reflect our eating habits. It is working just as well as the original and I plan to continue using this system until life slows down for our family.

Along with the Simplified Dinners e-book, Mystie Winckler also offers Simplify Dinners Gluten-Free, Dairy Free for $12.99 PDF.

Paperless Home Organization.

 photo book_cover_zpsea3c0ac1.jpg

This next e-book from Mystie Winckler intrigued me from the first time I heard the title: Paperless Home Organization. I couldn’t wait for the book to come in so I could see how she set up this system and decide if it was feasible for me.

I will admit, I have a lot of technical gear. I have a laptop, smartphone, e-reader, and more. I use all this technology, but I tend to get the feeling I could do more with it. This book showed me how, and it works!

I loved her detailed descriptions to help me set up my e-mail to make it work for me. Then I found a few new apps for my smartphone to help me while I am out and about and with my shopping list. Mystie introduces Evernote, an app for any smartphone that is the heart of the paperless system.

Evernote is easy to pick up, but also a very handy tool to use for organization purposes. My best use of this app came when I took it to a sports meeting at my daughter’s high school. I was able to take pictures of the hand outs and file the digital work and then file it away in the Evernote system for retrieval when I need it.

Another app, Remember the Milk rounds out the program. All of these programs and apps work in sync to create a system of organization that is portable and easily retrievable from just about everywhere.

This e-book has opened my eyes to the vast uses of technology for my everyday life. No more missed appointments  or forgetting what I need at the store. I am working hard at remembering to use the electronic tools and I am getting better.


I would recommend either of these books to others I know. They are practical and down to earth. I love, love learning how to use the electronic organization tools that I knew could work for me, but had no idea how to get started.

Many of my Schoolhouse Review Crew mates reviewed these products as well. Click on the banner below to read what their experiences were.



 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day Out

Saturday, Matt and I had a day out together. Last week was his birthday, and as his present I told him I was taking him to the Southern New Mexico Wine Festival.  We walked around, sampled wine, ate green chili enchiladas, sampled more wine, listened to music, and just basically had a great time being together. After the festival, we did a little bit of shopping and then ended the day eating at a fabulous restaurant we had never eaten at before.

It was a nice day out. We get so busy working and running kids here and there that it was nice to relax and be together, just the two of us.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review—Joyce Herzog Learning in Spite of Labels

 photo joyceherzog_zps3c5942dd.jpg

Joyce Herzog has written and published many different educational materials. Her website contains the many different educational products she has authored and published. She has taught learning disabled and elementary students for over 25 years. A sought after speaker, she speaks at homeschool conventions and seminars. Her educational materials fit with many homeschooling philosophies including Charlotte Mason, relaxed homeschooling, and  '”real” book learning.

 photo LearninginSpiteofLabels_zps646b6f6f.jpg

Joyce Herzog has written and published many different educational materials. She has taught learning disabled and elementary students for over 25 years. A sought after speaker, she speaks at homeschool conventions and seminars. Her educational materials fit with many homeschooling philosophies including Charlotte Mason, relaxed homeschooling, and  '”real” book learning.

Learning In Spite of Labels gives practical strategies for working with children with learning disabilities. It focuses on the child as an individual, first, then on finding effective ways to work with that child. 

ClarkClan Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was like sitting and getting advice from a veteran teacher. I found the wisdom that Joyce Herzog dispensed to be effective and practical. The tone of the book was positive. She focused on utilizing kids strengths as well as building up weaknesses.

Very practical, easy to implement teaching hints and strategies impressed me the most. I have a father who taught Special Education for 20 years. The advice Joyce Herzog gives in her book is some of the same advice my dad has given to me over the years. I would share some of what I was reading with him and be able to discuss ideas and ways of dealing with problems.

I have a daughter who has been diagnosed ADHD, as well as friends children and children I work with at church. I absolutely agree with Joyce Herzog in advice to have structure and discipline. This is what I have found to be the most helpful for my daughter as well as for others I have given the advice too. It was nice to have what I already do, backed up as a good thing to try. I also learned new ideas to try such as allowing her to make mistakes as long as it doesn’t endanger herself or someone else.

In all, I found this book to be very informative and engaging. I have read and re-read it during this review period. I liked how Joyce Herzog looks at a child as a whole person and not just a set of problems. She also focuses on the whole person as far as physical, emotional, educational and spiritual. I like her focus on scripture in teaching your child.


There were many products from Joyce Herzog that the Schoolhouse Review crew were able to review. Visit the Crew Blog and read the reviews for those products.

 photo Disclaimer2_zpsff718028.gif

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let the Desert Bloom

Here are a couple collages of different flowers that are in bloom right now. The colors and variety are simply amazing!

Pink yellow flowers

yuccas and rellow

Monday, May 13, 2013

Talent Comes in All Forms

There are times that my kids just make me shake my head in wonder. Sometimes I wonder in amazement of their insight or their memory. And then there are times that I just shake my head and say, “You must take after your father because I would never have done anything like that!”

Saturday night Rebekah comes up to me and says, “Hey mom, look what I can do! I can blow up this balloon with my nose.” Then she proceeded to put the opening of the balloon in her nose, plug the other nostril and blow it up. I stood there just shaking my head, then snapped a picture and said, “You are your father’s daughter.” Then she said, “Well, Ben showed me how.” I turned to Ben and he quickly said, “I didn’t want you taking my picture like that.” So here is Rebekah with her new “talent”.

Rebkekah blowing balloon with nose

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring Fever

It is late Spring. Temperatures are getting warmer. Spring sports are over, other activities are slowing down or over for the summer as well. Because of all this, my kids think they should be done with their school work as well.

This week we have been slogging through. I have been pushing Ben and Rebekah to get their work done. To give them some incentive I have been trying to do something fun, outside, as a reward for working hard. One day we went to the small zoo in town. One day we went with friends to the skate park.

I find that taking small breaks when the weather is beautiful and spring fever is at its highest is very effective. I do have some trouble bringing Rebekah back on task, but I just consider it good practice for her for later. Life is not always run by a strict schedule and learning how to deal with  interruptions for fun and then getting back to work is a good challenge for her.

Because of the different homeschool products and curriculum we review, we are going to be doing some school throughout the month of June and then pick it back up again late July, early August. With just Ben and Rebekah at home for school now, it does not take very long to get done, if we knuckle down and do it.

I am excited by the prospect of a slower, but worthwhile summer schedule. We just began a Geography review  from Memoria Press that we will be working on. Ben and Rebekah love maps and learning countries so this is not going to be too challenging for them. We will be getting an excellent writing curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing. The last plan for Ben and Rebekah at the moment is to also continue with their math.  Sarah has summer work as well. Even though she is attending a Christian School now, I received an e-mail with English work to be done over the summer and turned in for a grade the first day of school. I am quite impressed. She has to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and complete five pages of work. The work is a pretty in-depth analysis of the book. No multiple choice questions here, it is all short answer/essay. 

Two weeks and Spring Fever will be over and Summer will begin for us. I am going to be tough on my kids and push them through till Summer work begins.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review–Homeschool in the Woods

 photo HSitW-NewLOGO-website_zps0d8de564.gif

Home School In the Woods Publishing is a company established by the Pak Family. Amy Pak, mom the of Pak family, was looking for a way to teach history to her kids and make it interesting, She was afraid her kids would find history boring as it had been for her during school. She began by creating timelines and then finding classic and realistic timeline figures. Since that beginning the company has grown and offers a variety of history timelines, activity paks, activity based World and U.S. History studies, Lap Paks and more.

 photo 20thCentury-Combined-Web_zpsfb2ecf7e.jpg

The 20th Century in America Lap-Pak is a jam packed study on important events, discoveries and culture during the 20th Century.  This is a complete “all-in-one” study. It includes a printable booklet with all needed reading material.

The projects are what make this study come alive. There are 22 projects included in this lap-book. They incorporate a wide variety of skills such as creative writing, drawing,and research. The masters are detailed and ready for printing. There are also detailed instructions for putting each project together as well as instructions for assembling the entire lap book.

The 20th Century was a decade filled with vast changes. This lap book chronicles those changes with projects focusing on a single topic. Accomplishments in Architecture and Various Medical Advancements are studied. Authors and their Literature are explored. Research authors such as Laura Ingalls Wilder or L. Frank Baum and others. Discover various movements within this century, such as the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Suffrage movement.

ClarkClan Experiences

We are a history loving family. Ben (11) and Rebekah (9) were just completing a study of American History. So when this review came out I decided it would be a great way to reinforce and review the history of the 20th Century.

One of the strengths of this study is the amount of detailed information included in the printable booklet. We were able to read a section, then work on the project for that topic. Some projects we could complete in a day, others took several days. We usually worked on this lap-book about 3 days a week.

I quickly found that printing the projects ahead of time made life a lot simpler. If I tried to print while we were working, it was a mess and I ended up frustrated.

The projects include very good instructions on putting them together. By reading, looking at the diagrams and pictures, even the most complex project goes together easily. Each project is different. The fashion project, looks like a closet. The medical advancements project is shaped like a needle. Some projects have the information printed on it, such as the Movements booklets. Others, such as the Wars project require the kids to write a mini-report.


This Lap-Book has been a study in contrasts for us. I (Mom) was excited to get started. I thought the projects looked fun and the history was fascinating.  We would read the history portions out loud together, then work on the project. What I realized using this study was why I do not normally use Lap-Book type projects: my kids are not very excited by them.

Ben did each project as asked. He said he preferred to just listen to the information and tell it back to me. Coloring, cutting,and gluing are just not his favorite things.

Rebekah, who loves to color, cut , glue etc. had a hard time with this Lap-Book because she, should I say, marches to the beat of her own drummer. She does not always like to follow directions, or she plows ahead without listening to instructions and made mistakes so I had to re-print some things and have her do them over.

I think this is a very well put together, well thought out study. I was disappointed that my kids did not particularly enjoy it. I kept up with the study hoping they would get into it, but really they only had sparks of interest.

I would recommend Homeschool In The Woods Lap-books to anyone who has 1.) either never done a lap-book before, or 2.) already know they enjoy lap-book type studies. This would be a great study for the first-time Lap-book user. It is very thorough and detailed, yet includes great instructions for putting everything together. It would also be a great study for a seasoned Lap-Book user because it includes a wide variety of projects and makes it easy for mom to teach a fascinating history unit.


The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed three different products from Homeschool In The Woods. Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought about their products.

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif