“Shhhh. They Don’t Know They’re Learning” DVD List…for home or travel!

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I know a lot of parents try to tough out traveling without using technology, but sometimes you just need to switch on the DVD player for sanity’s sake. Having logged over 130 hours on road trips or plane rides with one or both of my kids since 2014, I know a little bit about traveling with kids. (plus we have another 30 hours+ worth of traveling planned for later this year), and sometimes turning on a DVD is just the best option for everyone. It tends to reset the atmosphere, gives some peace and quiet, and helps the time pass more quickly. Even though Tater gets carsick while reading or coloring in the car, she does fine watching shows, so I make sure to stock up on quality shows.

But, not all DVDs are created equal. I try to make sure that the DVDs we have in the car for traveling are educational, but also fun and enjoyable. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning! Here are my top picks for Educational DVDs to pick up for your next trip (or even just to have around the house!)

(My kids do have plenty of non-screen time during our travels as well…check out some of my DIY travel games for road trips, and my simple DIY Travel Lego Tray!)

Toddler and Preschoolers

  • Leapfrog Letter Factory
    • This is such a great show for kids who are learning their ABCs. Both of my kids were able to learn and practice their letter sounds. Junior still asks to watch it on occasion, because it’s entertaining, even though he already knows the letters.
  • Leapfrog Math Circus
    • This is another wonderful Leapfrog DVD, that teaching counting by 10s.
  • Leapfrog Math Adventure to the Moon
    • In this DVD (can you tell I love Leapfrog shows for little kids??), children are introduced to skip counting, which is a major foundation for multiplication.
  • Meet the _____ series
    • Meet the Letters, Colors, Numbers, and Shapes are four of my top DVDs for little kids. Much like the Leapfrog series, they introduce kids to learning in a fun, engaging, and sing-songy way.

Young Grade School (K-4th)

  • Wild Kratts
    • This popular PBS show teaches kids about all about animals. The fast-paced cartoon action is enough to keep all the kids entertained.
  • Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
    • I grew up playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on the computer, and enjoyed watching the cartoon version. Both kids love these DVDs, and will watch each episode over and over. Tater spouts off trivia about geography, history, natural wonders, and science. It’s adventure mixed with information that keeps my kids enthralled.
  • Liberty’s Kids
    • This is a cartoon take on Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. It’s fast paced, exciting, and includes all the episodes that teach about the American Revolution and incudes the lives of such historical figures as Benjamin Franklin (the main character voiced by the legendary Walter Cronkite), Paul Revere, and George Washington.
  • Popular Mechanics for Kids
    • This is a fun series for hands-on science learning. Tater didn’t like some of the “gross” episodes about reptiles and bugs, but she loved the rest of them.
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
    • Do you know how adorable it is to hear your 3 year old singing Conjunction Junction?! Too adorable. This DVD includes all 46 of the Schoolhouse Rock! songs on one disc. My kids love rocking out to this DVD. In fact, it’s in our car’s DVD player as we speak.
  • The Magic School Bus
    • With the exception of a few “millions and millions of years” dinosaur episodes, this entire series is really great. I used to watch it when I was young, and learned so much about science. My kids have the entire series on DVD and really enjoy it.

Do you have a favorite educational show? Let me know in the comments!

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Cookbook Review: Country Cooking From a Redneck Kitchen

I love Southern food. Biscuits and gravy and coleslaw and macaroni and cheese and anything that comes out of a cast iron skillet I just adore. I can tell what state you’re from just by listening to you talk for a minute…extra points when I pinpoint which part of the state. So, it’s no wonder that I really enjoy southern cookbooks.

Francine Bryson is the author of the bestselling cookbook Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen who has won more than 200 baking competitions. She also was the runner up on the TV show The American Baking Competition. Francine just came out with a new book, that actually isn’t about baking…though there are a few pie recipes in there. Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen shares recipes for Francine’s favorite appetizers, main dishes, BBQ favorites, and sweets.

The chapters in this cookbook are:

Redneck Whatnots
-featuring recipes like Chili Cheese Dip, Deviled Ham Dip, Buttermilk Salad, and Grits and Bacon Fritters.

Yardbird
-these are chicken recipes like Hot Fried Chicken, Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup, Slow Cooked Hawaiian Redneck Chicken, and Chicken and Dumplings like Mama Made.

Burgers and Bryson BBQ Favorites (And Other Picnic Table Must Haves)
-Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Burgers, Granny Style Mac and Cheese, Oven Honey Ribs, Bacon BBQ’d Baked Beans, and Fried Corn on the Cob

Meat, Meat, and a Li’l Meat
-Pork chop casserole, Cheeseburger Pie, Squirrel Pot Pie (yes, squirrel…this is a redneck cookbook after all), Beef Crunch Bake.

Sunday Suppers
-Southern Fried Catfish, Yankee Pot Roast (Southern Style), Shrimp and Grits, Chicken Pot Pie

Enough to Feed a Crowd
-Daddy’s Church Gathering Chili, Mama’s Tuna Casserole, Daddy’s Chicken and Rice, Holiday Whole Roast Ham.

Sides, ‘Taters, and ‘Maters
-Corn Fritters, Creamed Corn, Green Beans from Nana’s Kitchen, Real Southern Collards, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Mashed ‘Taters, Rice and Gravy, Fried Green Maters, Fried Okra

Sweets and Treats (Francine’s baked specialties)
-Peachy Praline Pie, Aunt Fanny’s Buttermilk Pie, Mama’s Lemon Meringue Pie, Red Velvet Cake, Oreo Brownies

Holiday Baked Goods
-Strawberry Custard Trifle, Upside Down Apple Bacon Pie, Fruitcake that Ain’t Heavy

Breads and Rolls
-Buttermilk Rolls, Pimento Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Banana Nut Bread, Peach Bread

This cookbook has recipes for everyone. It’s very down to earth and features dishes you would find in probably any home in the south. Aside from squirrel and catfish (sorry, just can’t do it), there were many recipes I look forward to trying. The only thing I would have loved to have seen were more photos of the dishes. There were 60 photos and 125 recipes.

*I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Four Years Later…

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Junior turns 4 next week. It’s been four years. Nearly half a decade. 1461 Days.

And yet it still feels like yesterday.

I’ve shared a little bit about Junior’s birth story, and the difficult and painful months leading up to his birth with the death of a parent among other trials, followed by the difficult and painful months after his birth as we came to learn about the reality of having a special needs child.

The last four years have been a roller coaster, and it’s changed me. In some amazing and wonderful ways, and some not so great ways. I’ve learned unconditional love, compassion, empathy, and the value of taking nothing for granted. But, I’ve also experienced grief, overwhelming days, anxiety about his future, and exhaustion. I try to accentuate the best parts of our journey, but some days, weeks, and months are just hard. But, would I change anything about him? Not a thing.

The ups and downs of having a special needs child are impossible to explain unless you’ve been there. The little milestones keep us going…the one year old who can finally turn to the sound of his name being called. The two and a half year old who sleeps through the night for the first time, the almost-4-year old who can make it through an entire dinner at a restaurant without having a meltdown, and asks for juice instead of grunting for it.

Some of these little milestones were years in the making. It took a year of speech therapy after receiving his implant before Junior could even hear the “Sh” sound, and another 18 months before he could actually say it. It took 2 years of occupational therapy to get him to sit still in a chair coloring for just 3 minutes. Three years of auditory verbal therapy before he could string together a sentence.

But, they say the harder you have to work for something, the more satisfaction it brings. The joy on his face when we turn his “ears” on every morning is like a new miracle each day. Every new word he utters makes me proud, and gives me hope. I must have dozens of Junior’s renditions of You Are My Sunshine, Blessed Assurance, and Amazing Grace recorded onto my phone because I just can’t get enough of hearing him sing.

Four years ago, I could never have imagined this path we were about to take. This world of deafness, cochlear implants, AVT, SPD, OT, audiologists, sleepless nights, and behavioral screenings. Of love, joy, hope, compassion, and contentment.

Because four years ago, this little boy turned me into the person I was supposed to be. His mom.

Happy birthday baby boy.

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Recipe: Simple Weekday Dutch Baby (Baked Pancake)

dutch baby I’ve mentioned in the past that my husband is the breakfast-maker in our home, but only on Saturday mornings. He makes up a big batch of pancakes, waffles, or French toast, and we eat them throughout the week. Once we run out, the kids have toast, cereal, or oatmeal. I’m great at making dinners (and even breakfast for dinner!), but hot breakfasts just seem so complicated for a weekday morning, especially since our mornings are filled with homeschooling, therapy sessions, and doctor’s appointments, so A.M. time is at a premium.

One of our favorite breakfast restaurants serves German Pancakes (also called Dutch Babies), and after craving them while pregnant with Junior, I knew I had to find a way to make them at home. I found a recipe and tweaked it a bit to suit our tastes. It’s ridiculously easy, and Tater could literally eat an entire pan on her own. It’s perfect for busy mornings, since prep time is less than 10 minutes, and it can be on the table in less than half hour.

Baked German Pancake (Dutch Baby) adapted from Melissa d’Arabian
serves 2-3
(unless you’re my daughter, in which case it serves 1)

-3 TBS Butter
-3 Eggs
-3/4 C all-purpose flour
-3/4 C warmed milk (I use coconut milk, and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds)
-4 TBS white sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract

-1 lemon cut into wedges for serving
-coarse sugar or powdered sugar for serving

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
-In a blender, add eggs, flour, milk, sugar, and vanilla and mix until well combined.
-Place butter in an oven safe 12″ pan (I use a 12″ cast iron skillet) and place in the oven for 3 minutes, or until butter is melted.
-Pour batter into the pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until top is slightly browned and pancake is cooked through.
-Remove pancake to a platter and slice into 6 pieces. Sprinkle coarse sugar or powdered sugar over the top and serve with lemon wedges.

Check out my Family Favorite Recipes

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Book Review: Having a Martha Home the Mary Way

As a homeschooling mom to two young kids–one with special needs–I know how hard it is to keep the house clean day after day. In fact, most days I go to bed with toys on the floor and dishes in the sink. It’s like a never ending cycle…Clean, cook, laundry, clean, cook, laundry…throw in almost-daily therapy and doctor appointments and homeschooling, it never ends! I grew up in a spotless home. My mom was Mrs. Clean, so my expectations for a clean house have always been set very high–but, alas, I was not gifted with the Efficient Cleaner Gene (I think that’s an actual thing), and it seems like I have to work three times harder than most people to get half the result.

Sarah Mae is a funny and down-to-earth lady who shares her own struggles with keeping the house clean in her new book Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, and how she changed her attitude about cleaning. Instead of looking at housekeeping as drudgery and toil, she began to look at it as a way to bless her family and to show them love.

Mary and Martha refer to the biblical women who were entertaining Jesus at their home one evening. Martha was running around trying to get everything done, while Mary was sitting with Jesus, just enjoying Him. Martha chastised Mary, while Jesus commended Mary for spending time in His presence. However, both women had important roles–in this fallen world, things turn to chaos pretty quickly if we’re not constantly cleaning up our living spaces. I know in my house, two days of not cleaning results in about a week’s worth of extra work! But, at the same time, sometimes choosing to just “be” with God and/or our families is the “best yes”. Sarah also shares that taking care of our homes can be a manifestation of taking care of our hearts.

Sarah Mae has taken the best aspects of both Mary and Martha in Having a Martha Home the Mary Way. The book is based on Sarah’s blog series entitled 31 Days to Clean. The book is broken into 31 chapters, one chapter per day for a month. Each day starts with a short story about Sarah’s cleaning journey, where she introduces the goal of the day, why it’s important and tips for achieving it. Then, there is a Mary Challenge, a devotional area and scripture relating the cleaning goal to nurturing our soul. Finally comes the Martha Challenge–the actual cleaning or organinzing task of the day, along with step by step instructions on what to do and how to do it.

This book is written with the assumption that the reader needs to get organized. It doesn’t have a full day cleaning schedule, and the “task a day” is mainly just to get your house purged and heading in the right direction. If I only did the Martha Challenge everyday, my house would be an absolute disaster because it doesn’t include “regular” cleaning. Some of the Martha Challenges include cleaning out the bedroom closets, cleaning out the bookshelf, purging toys, and cleaning out the refrigerator. I still need to do dishes, laundry, and regular cleaning every day to keep the house looking halfway decent.

The Mary Challenges focus on getting your heart in the right place. It’s about getting you to understand that cleaning doesn’t have to be a necessary evil–it can be a way to thank God for His blessings and being a good steward, and also to show our husbands and children that we value their comfort.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I didn’t love some of the references to laziness at the beginning…insinuating that a messy house was caused by laziness. (Though at the end of the book she says that being tired and being lazy are totally different and only we can judge our own hearts.) I know for me, I’m in a season of life where a spotless house just isn’t going to happen. I don’t sit down until after 8pm most days (collapsing exhausted onto the couch), having spent the day working hard trying to get everything done, but the house still isn’t up to my standards. I did like how she brought the “heart” into cleaning. I had never considered that cleaning could show love, and I appreciate that perspective.

*I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.