Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Week in Pictures from Our Nest

What a crazy busy week this past one was.  So many HUGE events going on that I would have to write a minimum of SIX posts to get it all in. So I will just post a week's worth of pics (mostly unedited from the iPhone) and give story captions. 

B has been invited to play AAU Basketball this Summer. Practice started last week. 
We haven't been at the same gym twice. 
P.S. We are accepting any and all donations and fundraising ideas toward this cause.

Look who made the National Junior Honor Society!!! He only thought my pride was in his athletics. I was crazy ecstatic when he brought the invite letter for this home. His installation is next week. More pics to come.


Miss K's 1st Grade Field Trip was at the Tulsa Air & Space Museum. Daddy Crow and I both got to attend as chaperones with her. He learned exactly what it was like to handle/chase four 1st graders. 

Beautiful Feet Dance Company held its 16th annual dance recital last Thursday night. This is our little ballerina's fourth year to perform. Oh so sweet. I caught this picture backstage in between my emcee lines. 

Me & Miss K after the recital.

On Saturday we drove a few short miles from my house and visited the Blue Whale on Route 66. My Moma was in town for the weekend. We enjoyed a lunch of KFC and explored for about three hours. 

Miss K's art masterpiece was selected for display at the Broken Arrow Schools District Wide Art Show. The piece is a circus/clown themed piece colored with block crayons. Below is a closer view of one of the clowns. She doesn't know this, but I used to collect clowns when I was a little girl. 


I captured this shot as we were leaving the art show. This is outside the Administration Building at the Broken Arrow NSU campus. I am so proud of my kiddos and their accomplishments. They are growing so big and their light shines so bright every day. 

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Amazing #SpiderMan 2 Review & Giveaway

I don't know about you, but one of the most anticipated Summer 2014 movies around my nest is The Amazing Spider-Man 2! It releases on May 2. I have a 13 year old son and his Daddy/my husband, who are HUGE movie buffs. The cast which includes:  Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn,Campbell Scott as Richard Parker, Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker, Colm Feore as Donald Menken, Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich
and Sally Field as Aunt May, promises action and villains and a few explosives will give your family a thrill.

We've always known that Spider-Man's most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2™, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead. Take a look at the trailer.

Pretty AMAZING, huh? But, we all know that no man is eternal, not even Spider-man. My family had the opportunity to review a  discussion guide for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It is a great resource for families to discuss a range of important themes that include the relationship between personal choices and destiny, living a life that counts, sacrificing yourself in service to others, and the nature of power. This guide will help parents start (or continue) conversations with their children that will inspire them to think outside themselves and challenge them to live lives that matter. The conversations that will result from using this guide will reveal that even the most explosive summer blockbuster can leave lasting, positive impacts on its young viewers.

I have included the discussion guide in this post. Feel free to right click/save so you can challenge your child(ren) to live a life that matters.

Throughout the discussion guide are Bible verses and discussion questions that encourage feedback on topics such as power, time, choices, destiny, and sacrifice. All while affirming the value of an individual. In a world full of  fake heroes, it is important for us as Christians to teach exactly that, all of these Super Heroes are fake. The only Super Hero that has ever laid down his life for us was Jesus Christ, he is the only one who offers eternal life.

Now, who wants to bring home an AMAZING Spider-Man 2 Prize Pack (t-shirt, paper mask and phone case)? Just enter on the easy Rafflecopter form below.

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Rufus and Ryan Celebrate Easter! A Book Review

The 4-Crow's blog uses affiliate links, please see the Disclosures Policy page for more details.

Last September, I introduced to you the preschool book series of Rufus and Ryan by Kathleen Long Bostrom. Do you know a child ages 2-5? Teach a group of kids this age at church? This series is the perfect book to add to your library. It's even perfect for the young readers in your household.

In the third book in the series, Rufus and Ryan Celebrate Easter!, four-year-old Ryan and his stuffed monkey, Rufus, learn about the meaning behind the Easter. They celebrate with colored eggs and Easter baskets but learn that Easter is really a day to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, God's son. Author Kathleen Bostrom brings a delightfully light touch to the text as she provides an introduction to a holiday that most children experience long before they understand why. And children everywhere will relate to the idea of explaining their surroundings to their favorite companions as they go about their daily activities.

Each story is about 150 words, using age-appropriate vocabulary and themes. My daughter, age 7 is able to read the entire book herself. I definitely can relate to the relationship between a child and her doll/companion. My own daughter was explaining to her American Girl Doll what it meant to have Jesus in your heart just a few days before her Salvation Day- Easter 2013. What a joyous day!

This is a must have book for any household that has young children/young readers. Especially if you are looking for books of faith to help your children understand the true meaning of Easter. Also, be sure to check out the other books in this series, Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!, Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers, and coming in September 2014 Rufus and Ryan Give Thanks

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Halo Heaven: My New Favorite Site for Dress Up, Accessories & Craftiness

The 4-Crow's blog uses affiliate links, please see the Disclosures Policy page for more details.

Last Friday the mail lady brought a box to our door. A box for me to play with and Miss K to wear. A box from my new favorite site- Halo Heaven. Halo Heaven is a place to get all of your party and dress-up accessories at wholesale prices without buying the wholesale bulk. 

They sent Miss K a pettiskirt, fairy wings, a tiara, a wand, a set of bows and a ribbon halo. Talk about a box of treats. We had so much fun playing dress up and taking pictures. She is preparing for her annual ballet recital this week so we had a great excuse to get into costume, hair and makeup. I love these moments. It was hard not to share all 40 or so pictures in this post, she just radiated cuteness and beauty. 

Halo Heaven is running a CRAZY sale right now. I mean CRAZY. Use code CRAZY50 to get 50% off your order. (Sale does exclude items in the custom embroidery dept, halos, wands, gift cards and log furniture.) Also, there is free shipping on orders over $30 in the continental U.S. 

I absolutely adore their blog. They have such creative ideas. Right up my alley. And ALL of the supplies are carried on their site. What about making a tutu Easter basket out of one of their tutus? Click on this link to see what I am talking about. 

Whether you have a boy, girl or just a hankering to get crafty, you can get all of the style and accessories from one place, my new favorite place: Halo Heaven

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Teacher Appreciation 2014: May 5-9

It's that time of year again. Time to THANK A TEACHER! If you can read this post, you better be thanking a teacher. Even if you do not have children yet or children who are not old enough to be enrolled in a school district. What? I bet you didn't know you could do that. Yes, you can. If you live in a community that houses a school, join your school's PTA (Parent Teachers Association). In my school district it's a $6 membership fee, which goes to local, state, and federal chapters. Your membership even comes with benefits. You decide how active you want to be. PTA is dedicated to empowering parents to make a difference in the education, health, and safety of America’s children. Since 1984, National PTA has designated the first full week in May as a special time to honor the men and women who lend their passion and skills to educating our children. Our TEACHERS!

This year's National Teacher's Appreciation Week is May 5-9. For those of you rushing around still thinking of ideas of what to get those incredible, hardworking, snot nose wiping, shoe tying, sock finding teachers, I am going to show you a few things that my kiddos have sent to the AMAZING teachers in past years. (Sorry, I can't show you 2014 gifts, the teachers stalk my blog like kids on Christmas morning.)

Now keep in mind these are the incredible people that deal with your beautiful and wonderful children that you labored so hard to get into this world only to send off to school for 6-10 hours a day to enrich their minds and nurse their boo boos. You want to make these gifts special. Mine are always on the frugal side, but from the heart. I like to send something every single day with my elementary student because she has only one teacher, then I send one thing to her specials teachers. For my son, he has six teachers so each one of them get a special token of appreciation.

What teacher doesn't need a cute pair? I hand sew each bead on with TLC. I found the cute printable at this site

This is my go to for the multiple teacher, specials, the Principal, secretaries and the nurse. Who am I kidding, this is my go to for about any gift. I absolutely adore this printable. Super easy and inexpensive. You can get an 18 pack of assorted M&M's at Wal-Mart for $10.98, that averages .61 each.

Clorox Wipes. 
Not exactly personal, but on every teachers wish list and every parents mind. 

Dry Erase markers. Do you know how many of these a teacher uses each year? And on a teacher's salary every gift of these is appreciated. Love this cute printable. Can be used for so many ideas. 

And finally this is my all time favorite gift for my kids to put together. This drink carrier is stuffed with the teacher's favorite snacks & drinks. It is decorated with my child's art/homework from throughout the year.

To see other ideas that I have put together over the year visit me here and here. Also, be sure to follow my Pinterest board. What ideas are you planning this year? 

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Teen Boy Gift Idea Because I am That Moma

I am that Moma.

Sometimes, not on purpose.

The Moma that sends a creative gift to a birthday party.

I had to do it yesterday, with my 13 year old son.

I promise, I did not do it on purpose. I forgot to pick up the iTunes card while I was out during the day and had absolutely no cash on me. Panic moment. He couldn't go to the party without a gift. It was time to improvise.

His friend was turning 13, and I just so happened to have picked up a box of 18 M&M's (teacher's appreciation week is coming up). So what did I do? I opened the box, took five packages out, doctored the box up a little and edited a printable that I used last year for teacher appreciation on PicMonkey. The printable I found on this site. So fun! Then I wrapped it all up in saran wrap and it was ready to go out the door. I did struggle with how to sign the card. I polled my Facebook friends, I received lots of fun answers.

We decided on:
Your friend, Braden


It's actually a perfect gift. What teen boy doesn't like to eat? Doesn't like candy? Doesn't like their own private stash of candy?

I bet those M&M's don't make it through the weekend.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Testing, Testing and more Testing. It's Time to Fight the Tests. #OklaEd

It's been in the news. Our children are coming home talking about getting prepared. Some are already feeling the anxiety. They feel the pressure. Here are a few of the thoughts that are going around in the heads of our students in grades third through twelve:

If I don't do well our school gets a bad grade.
If I don't pass I don't get to move on to 4th grade.
Am I going to graduate from high school?

My children are in 1st grade and 7th Grade. My first grader isn't exposed yet to state testing, but she is assessed as part of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA)- the very one that will retain 3rd graders this year if they do not pass.

My 7th grader will be taking the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) somewhere between the dates of April 10-22 (I received the email this morning asking for test volunteers for his school site, anyone?). He will be tested in Math, Reading and Geography.

After all the state mandated tests are completed our schools will once again be "testing". I use quotations here because this testing isn't real. Our students will be testing future used test equipment and test questions. This is flawed on so many levels. The students know its not real, so they aren't going to try. The students are essentially FREE labor. Our Oklahoma State Department of Education is so worried about instructional time, but yet these students are being randomly selected out of their classrooms to take these mock tests that do not mean anything.

My 7th grader did one of these Field Tests last Fall. The equipment didn't work, he was counted absent in the class he was supposed to have been in and had to go to the office to get a slip. This is unacceptable. He will be OPTED OUT of any future Field Testing. It is my right as a parent to see that this happens. It is every parents right.

Opting out of the OCCT is not an option at this point. It can have huge repercussions to our school districts. What we must do as parents is contact our legislatures. SB 1654 will eliminate all test not mandated by Federal law. Only two tests are mandated: English and Math.

As parents, we must be informed, Broken Arrow has formed a Parent Advocacy Task Force, attend these meetings. I attended last night's meeting with Broken Arrow's District testing coordinators, RSA (Reading Sufficiency Act) Director, Elementary Instructional Specialists, and the Executive Director of Elementary Education as guest speakers. Also, special guest speaker Principal of Jenks Middle School, Rob Miller- who writes the blog A View From the Edge.

I never thought that I would have to become so involved in my children's education. I just thought volunteering as home room mom, being artsy craftsy at parties, and helping with homework would be enough. It's not. I am beginning my journey for the advocacy of students in our great state. I have much to learn. Much to invest. We must fight the tests, Oklahoma.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Do You Get Us in Your Inbox?

There are multiple ways to read my blog and get alerts that a new post is up. One of my favorite ways to be alerted to new posts from the blogs I love to read is via email. Of course I still follow these blogs on ALL of their Social Media sites, but I tend to miss a lot of updates if I am not just sitting on top of my computer. Who has time for that?

Did you know that you can get my blog posts via email? On the right side of my blog, under all of my Social Media icons is a box that says Get Us in Your Inbox, then you enter your email address in the box and will be told to check your email to confirm subscribtion.

Once you have confirmed, every time a new post goes up with a story of living, laughing, learning, and loving from our nest you will know about it! Also, you will never miss a review and giveaway opportunity again! How awesome is that blog feature? Now what are you waiting for, go sign up!

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sparkle Egg Book Review & Giveaway

The 4-Crow's blog uses affiliate links, please see the Disclosures Policy page for more details.

One year ago tomorrow, March 31, 2013 was Resurrection Day- Easter Sunday. My little girl, then age 6, woke up singing the song "Oh Happy Day", little did we know that morning that this celebration day of Jesus rising from the dead and walking on Earth again, would turn into her Salvation Day. She asked Jesus into her heart later that evening. (entire story at this link)

The commercialism of Easter is all around us: the new clothes, the candy, the fake grass, the Easter bunny, even the Easter eggs. As a Christian parent, I do not forbid my children to participate in events such as egg hunts and when I was a first time Mommy 13 years ago, I paid the $5 for the Polaroid memory with the bunny. But, I DO make sure my children know why Easter is celebrated. I use the Bible and I absolutely love finding and reading books that teach my kids life lessons pertaining to our faith.

One of my latest finds is The Sparkle Egg by Jill Hardie. This book is about forgiveness. FORGIVENESS. Jesus Christ's ultimate sacrifice of dying on the cross was exactly for that reason. He loved us so much that he was willing to die so that we could live forever.

In the book, Sam, the character of The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas  , (which I wrote about here and here) discovers the gift of Easter through The Sparkle Egg. "Readers of all ages will relate to the unshakable guilt Sam experiences when he chooses to lie to his parents to avoid disappointing them, and rejoice as he makes one final decision, to accept the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ."

To aid Sam in accepting the grace of God, his parents help him make a special craft- The Sparkle Egg. After he decorates it they have him write/draw something he feels bad about and put it inside the egg. On Easter morning what he finds when he opens the egg is the true gift of Easter.

Miss K making her Sparkle Egg- a little thing I like to call GlitterPodge. 
The final result. Such wonderful creativity. The wooden cross and the bakers twine.
(symbolizing Christ's blood, and when accepting forgiveness being washed white as snow)

Just like the Sparkle Box, which was recently announced as a finalist for the 2014 Christian Book Award in the children’s book category (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association), I adore the illustrations in this book and of course the life lesson for young and old about grace. This is a must have for any library. I also must say, that any time there is an extra activity involved with a book such as making a craft or filling a box with good deeds, the book and life lesson becomes that much more engaging for young readers.

One of my readers is going to blessed with their very own copy of this book. Who wants it? Enter on the easy Rafflecopter form below.

Written by Jill Hardie
Illustrated by Christine Kornacki
Available now!
Hardcover with jacket, 10 x 10, 32 pages
ages 4 to 8

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Ideals for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I will receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. U.S. only. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Alone Yet Not Alone Book Giveaway

The 4-Crow's blog uses affiliate links, please see the Disclosures Policy page for more details.

In August of last year, I wrote this post about the book Alone Yet Not Alone: Their faith became their freedom by Tracy Leininger Craven. I have been approached again to give another copy of this book away.

On July 13, 2014 the movie based upon this book will be released. You may have even heard of the controversy surrounding the same titled song performed by Joni Eareckson Tada which was nominated for an Oscar, and then the nomination was rescinded.

The story is actually inspired by a true story, which her grandmother Leininger first told her when she was young after tracing their family’s genealogy. This story made a strong impression on Tracy as a child, and she actually wrote the first draft of Alone Yet Not Alone at the young age of 9! Of course, the content has changed a bit with this published version, but one thing has never changed for Tracy – the picture of the two young sisters torn from family during their tender years and despite all obstacles, they do not forsake their faith in Jesus Christ and never “lose the song of their hearts.”

I am inspired to make sure that good books get into the hands of as many people who will read them. Especially Young Adult books. Summer break is only 10 weeks away!!!

Enter on the easy Rafflecopter form below. I am also running this on my FB page.

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Disclosure: Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Alone Yet Not Alone book via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. This prize is sponsored by and will be delivered to winner by MEDIA CONNECT // A Division of Finn Partners. I am not being compensated for this post by product or by monetary means. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." Open to U.S. only.
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