Blog Year in Review {2015}

Hi Friends and Family!

Well, we are halfway through January already, and I am just working on this post about last year. We didn’t blog much this past year because “Be still, and know that I am God” was definitely on my heart. There is always something exciting about a new year, but I think any day can be a fresh start. That’s something I learned from being still.ūüėČ So we are excited for what all of 2016 holds for us, and you too! Thank you, our precious readers, for hanging out in this virtual space. Here’s a look at the past year on our blogs:

We didn’t quite blog enough to have a good top 10 and bottom 10 from our blog this year, but we still have 20 posts for you. Here are 20 blog posts from this year, the Top 10 posts from our family blog (the one you’re reading!), and also the Top¬†10 posts from our review blog. We don’t get many views on our review blog even though we have giveaways (hello, free stuff, people!), but again,¬†we are equal blog post opportunity bloggers. We love all of our blog posts equally! :p

Top 10 from Our Family Blog

  1. 31 Days To An Organized Christmas
  2. Book List 2015
  3. Summer Reading Programs 2015
  4. Traveling with Kids
  5. Homeschool Supplies We Love and Use Daily
  6. Australia Trip 2015 Recap
  7. Christmas Lights in the East Bay
  8. Gift Guide: Series Chapter Books (Fiction)
  9. My Norwex Experience
  10. What Do We Have Hair?

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Top 10 from Our Review Blog

  1. When Calls The Heart
  2. Nichole Nordeman – The Unmaking
  3. Christy Nockels – Let It Be Jesus
  4. Michael W. Smith – Sovereign
  5. Philz Coffee Truck
  6. We Choose Virtues: Parenting Cards
  7. Hillsong United – Empires
  8. NIV Bible for Teen Girls
  9. Passport2Purity Getaway Kit
  10. Strong & Kind by Korie Robertson

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What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Happy New Year!

Christmas Lights in the East Bay

These are a few places we like to visit to see lights. You will have check their social media pages or website for more updated information, like the¬†days and times the lights are on. Christmas Light Finder is one site to find info as well. (Thanks for the tip, Anita!) You can also use California Christmas Light too. Maybe I’ll add some pics in the future, but I thought this would be useful for anyone who doesn’t want to drive aimlessly around looking for just one or two houses with lights (or one string of lights :p ). I am sure there are more I am unaware of…for now.:) Share you favorite spots below! P.S. I know there are some great places in San Francisco and the Peninsula as well…another post for another day perhaps.ūüėČ

Livermore Lights‚Äč (season 3 winner of The Great Christmas Light Fight) – http://www.livermorelights.com/¬†*NOTE: The address on the website is to the parking lot that looks over to the house. The owner actually comes out to interact with the audience now. The viewing is no longer from your car because they have to close the street due to so much traffic. Make sure to wear warm clothes and/or blankets, and/or bring some hot cocoa.

Deacon Dave’s House of the Dove is also in Livermore Рhttp://www.casadelpomba.com/

Widmer World in Pleasanton (was featured in The Great Christmas Light Fight) – http://www.widmer-world.com/

Christmas Tree Lane (a block of houses on Thompson Ave) in Alameda – https://www.facebook.com/christmastreelane/ and http://www.yelp.com/biz/christmas-tree-lane-alameda

Crippsmas Place (50+ homes) in Fremont –¬†http://www.crippsmasplace.org/


**MOVED TO TRACY**
The “Star Wars” and “Frozen” theme lights
¬†that was in Newark on the corner of Ruschin Drive and Lafayette Avenue (also featured on The Great Christmas Light Fight) is no longer there anymore…okay, the house is there, but the owner has moved. He is now in Tracy. If you don’t want to drive out to Tracy, just show this on the big screen and turn the AC on, maybe just a spray bottle to have some mist…or more if El Nino decides to show up.¬†https://www.facebook.com/TracyLightShow/
Light show from 2014 (Newark): Star Wars – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5dfpe_-Lgg¬†and Let It Go –¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLphb8s0W88¬†:::
Light show from 2015 (Tracy):

Other old related posts:
https://joyceandnorm.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/christmas-lights-2012-part-1-of-2/
https://joyceandnorm.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/christmas-lights-2013-friend-edition/

Gift Guide: Children’s Christmas DVDs

We thought we would throw some DVDs into the mix. I *think* some of these are available to stream, but you can make sure to have them on the list of movies to watch for next Christmas if you decide to buy them. Since we don’t own a TV, we don’t own a ton of DVDs, but we do check them out from the library and watch them at family members and friends’ homes.ūüėČ Thanks family members and friends!:) And all that to say, there are lots of Christmas movies we haven’t seen yet. We would love some recommendations!

Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas, Saint Nicholas: The Joy of Giving, The Little Drummer Boy, The Ultimate Christmas Collection¬†– What’s not to like about talking vegetables? :p Every show has a great lesson for the kiddos (and adults) to learn.¬†There are a few other Christmas DVDs, but I don’t¬†think we have watched them before. You can find a PARENT GUIDE to the themes of all the VeggieTales DVDs on their website.
saint nicholasdrummer boy

What’s in the Bible Christmas –¬†I love this DVD because we get to see how all these Christmas symbols came into being. The tree, candy canes, stockings, Santa Claus, the word Christmas. It does talk about the¬†background of Saint Nicholas, so depending on what emphasis your family has put on Santa and your kiddos, be prepared for questions. THIS POST on the What’s in the Bible? website¬†gives a good review of what the DVD covers.

The Promise: Birth of the Messiah¬†– We got this DVD two years ago, and it is still one of the girls’ favorites for Christmastime. There are some pieces of the real Christmas story¬†that we usually don’t discuss or see as often when we think about Jesus’ birth. You can read a more DETAILED REVIEW of this DVD on our review blog.

A Charlie Brown Christmas¬†– Definitely a classic, but beware if you haven’t watched this one in awhile, remember that they do use the words “stupid” and “blockhead” quite a few times. I think the girls mentioned this in passing one time, but otherwise, it has gone mostly unnoticed.

Mickey’s Magical Christmas – (Mickey’s Christmas Carol) – This one is not available on DVD anymore, but it is a compilation of some older Mickey Christmas films, but is shown as old videos in a “current day” setting when they are snowed in at the House of Mouse. The whole casts of Disney movies are there to help a friend find Christmas joy again. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is one of the features in this movie.

The Polar Express¬†and¬†The Original Christmas Classics Gift Set¬†are also great. The girls haven’t watch The Polar Express and it has been years since we checked out the book from the library, but I watched it with my students when I taught PreK.

Coming soon will be a gift guide for non-fiction books, Christmas books, and books on our to-read list! I already share the books I have enjoyed reading each month (although I still need to give an update for this month), so check out the complete book list HERE and some of the monthly updates HERE.

What Christmas movies do your children enjoy watching? What did you enjoy when you were a kid?

Gift Guide: Easy Reader Books (Fiction)

Here are some more teasers from Melody about easy reader books. Some of them may be not-so-easy, depending on your kiddo’s reading skills, but I think anything that has the Levels or Steps listed on the books are fairly good books for those are starting to read.


Henry and Mudge¬†– These books are about a boy named Henry and his dog Mudge having adventures together. They are like best buddies. Even though some people don’t like Mudge at all, Henry still loves his dog, no matter what.

Annie and Snowball¬†– Henry’s cousin Annie loves fancy things.She also lives next door to Henry, which makes it easy¬†to play together and having fun. But wherever adventure is, so is Annie!

Amelia Bedelia¬†– Amelia Bedelia, a funny girl who mixes up her words quite often, makes readers laugh with her comedy stories. She doesn’t mean to mess things up, but wherever and whatever she does, she’s Amelia Bedelia. There are¬†also a series of¬†Young Amelia Bedelia books.
amelia bedelia

Mercy Watson РMercy Watson is a pig that lives as part of the Watson family. She follows the Watsons everywhere. Even though trouble follows her everywhere, the Watsons still accept that Mercy is their pet, even though it brings attention to their door.

Frog and Toad РFrog and his friend Toad love playing and making friends together, every day. They are always there for each other, no matter what. But no matter what the problem, it always turns out good in the end.

Katie Woo РKatie Woo is about her living her life.

Fancy Nancy РFancy Nancy sure LOVES being fancy! No matter what event she goes to, or which problem she faces, she always does it in her very own way. Always.

Young Cam Jansen Р Cam Jansen and her friend Eric are known for solving mysteries everywhere they go because Cam has a fantastic memory in her head. But the real reason they solve mysteries is because of teamwork and friendship.

Lotus Lane¬†– The Lotus Lane girls – Kiki, Coco, Lulu, and the new girl on the block they’re not so sure about – Mika, each have their very own traits to use in a very special way. They each have their¬†own diary including their stories.

Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe¬†– Missy loves doing things her own way – the super duper royal deluxe way. Whether it’s meeting the president or getting her own pet, she always puts it up with her fashion sense.

I was going to share some other easy reader books, but I think there may be too many to list. Step Into Reading has some great ones that will draw kids in since some of their books are from popular shows and movies like Paw Patrol, Wild Kratts, Inside Out, and Frozen. I Can Read! books are similar, but I think they do not have as many that are from shows and movies. Berenstain Bears and Paddington are ones young kids will recognize. Scholastic also has Leveled Reader books. Clifford and Magic School Bus are some fun ones that they have. DK Readers are popular as well. This the route if you have Star Wars, superheroes, Chima, or Lego Friends fans in your house. I can probably go on, but we’ll stop there for now.

Read more about easy readers here:

Coming soon will be a gift guide for non-fiction books, picture books, Christmas books, and books on our to-read list! I already shared the books I have enjoyed reading each month (although I still need to give an update for this month), so check out the complete book list HERE and some of the monthly updates HERE.

What easy reader books do your children enjoy reading? What did you enjoy when you were first starting to read?

Other Gift Guide Posts:
–¬†Series Chapter Books (Fiction)
Chapter Books (Fiction)
More to come!

Books I’ve Read {November Update}

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

own your life 20151208_173911

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love¬†by Sally Clarkson – Living in survival mode and working to simply get through the day can be stressful. This is a great book to give you the pep talk you need to guide you on the path to intention and purpose. I think I have watched one too many webinars with Sally because I could “hear” her soothing voice talking to me through the words on the page. She is the mentor that many of us need to gain encouragement and motivation to get through our days of mundane tasks, but also to remember our dreams and to find rest of our soul.

Strong and Kind: And Other Important Character Traits Your Child Needs to Succeed by Korie Robertson – Times are changing, and sometimes I am a little puzzled if it is changing for the good. I know a lot of good things are still happening, and there are still lots of good people, but¬†I am feeling like values¬†are not aligning with actions. I think Korie has better words than I do to share the thoughts on really teaching our children the virtues to help them be world-changers. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible to guide our children toward being strong but kind, as well as learn to be honest, compassionate, patient, joyful, loyal, and humble. CLICK HERE for a¬†few other thoughts I had on the book.

READING
Looking forward to reading these books in December. Anyone else want to join me?

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Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference by Crystal Paine
Raising Uncommon Kids: 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids by Sami Cone
A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman

Have you read any good books lately? What are your favorite kinds of books to read – mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, cookbooks?Book List 2015To check out the books on my book list, you can READ THIS POST or visit our Amazon store.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Gift Guide: Chapter Books (Fiction)

After compiling this list of chapter books, I see that the girls read a lot more series books than non-series books. Even some of the books on this list are books 1 of 3, which makes them technically series chapter books. But we’ll leave them here for now. :p Melody wrote a little snippet about the books, so check them out and let her know your thoughts about them.

chapter books

Holes – This book is about Stanley Yelnats being wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t do. He is sent to Camp Green Lake, where boys are sent to dig holes five feet wide and five feet deep. Stanley knows the Warden, the camp director, is looking for something….but what?
holes

The Secret Garden (Classic Starts) – After Mary Lennox’s parents die, Mary is unwillingly sent to her Uncle Craven’s house in England where she finds it quite mysterious. She hears screams, shadows, frightened people….what’s next? What secrets will she reveal? Find out in The Secret Garden.
the secret garden

Charlotte’s Web¬†– Wilbur is sent to Fern’s Uncle Homer’s barn, where his life is chaotic, but he loves every minute of it. He even makes a spider friend named Charlotte! They go through times of joy, love, and laughter together. Join him and Charlotte as they learn from their bonds of friendship from each other along the way.
charlottes web

Because of Winn-Dixie – India Opal Buloni moves to southern Florida, where she and her father, pastor of Open Arms Baptist church, adopt a lovable mutt named Winn-Dixie, named after the place where he was found. Join Opal and Winn-Dixie as they make new friends in their new town.
because of winn dixie

Alice in Wonderland (Classic Starts) РAlice jumps into a hole one day, and finds herself in another world, Wonderland, where animals talk and where playing cards are palace gardeners. Alice even changes from three feet tall to seven feet tall!
alice in wonderland

Black Beauty – Black Beauty is sent from master to master until he finds the best one. His life is perfect…until it is torn apart. His master has to move, and he is forced to move. Again. Finally, he finds his master he always wanted. Join Black Beauty as he has a perfect, despairing, and loving life, year after¬†year of his life.
black beauty

One Crazy Summer РDelphine, Vonetta, and Fern are sent to Oakland, California to live with their crazy mother, who abandoned them, for twenty-four days. Join Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern as they feel the joy and sorrows of being sisters. (There are two other stories about the Gaither Sisters.)
one crazy summer

The One and Only Ivan РIvan, the gorilla, lives in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. His best friend, Stella, lives with him. Stella has had an injury from many years ago from her circus days, where they forced her to do tricks. Little does Ivan know that will change his life forever.
the one and only ivan

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything¬†– Ruby Lu’s life changes forever when her Chinese¬†cousin Flying Duck immigrates from China to her very own house! At first, she thinks immigration is a little bit scary. Flying Duck and Ruby play together. Now everyone thinks she isn’t scary anymore, except for Emma. They’ve always been sort-of friends until now. Can they fix their friendship before the summer ends?
ruby lu

Begin¬†– Growly, a bear cub, is off to be a grown-up bear cub. But first, he has to prove his worth by setting out beyond his village. He ends up looking for his grandfather’s long-lost friend who disappeared over the Precipice many years ago. Can he find the friend (C.J.) and get back in time to receive¬†his rightful place in his village? (There are two more stories about¬†Growly.)
growly

I’m sure we’ll be adding to this list, but two other chapter books we like to read are¬†Harriet the Spy¬†and¬†Stuart Little.

Coming soon will be a gift guide for non-fiction books, early readers and picture books, Christmas books, and books on our to-read list! I already share the books I have enjoyed reading each month (although I still need to give an update for this month), so check out the complete book list HERE and some of the monthly updates HERE.

What chapter books do your children enjoy reading? What did you enjoy when you were in elementary school?

Other Gift Guide Posts:
–¬†Series Chapter Books (Fiction)
More to come!