May 2018 photos

Here are the rest of my pictures from May. The little boys built this castle in the sandbox one day. Mr. Sweetie found his Ecuadoran flag (from Let’s Go Geography) and flew it from the top turret.


One Tuesday evening near the beginning of May, a car crashed in the paddock across the road from us after a 6-hour high-speed chase. The boys (and some of the rest of us) spent a lot of the next two hours watching the police tracking down the driver, who had taken off on foot, and the tow truck loading up the car, which was escorted by the police back to town. The really amazing thing about this crash was how the fence of the paddock was flung up and over our cow who was standing just inside the fence; the car passed a meter behind her.


On a sunny day, we can see these mountains, the Paparoas, from the girls’ bedroom window. This was a rare clear sunrise, with snow on the mountains.


We find Goofball sleeping in the most contorted postitions!06-IMG_4566

Mr. Intellectual and Mr. Diligent rebuilding the fence destroyed by the car.


Esther likes to raise bread in front of the stove in the living room. Goofball paid no attention, but Grizzly was very suspicious of it—maybe she could hear the yeast working in the bowl?


Simon bought another car in May, a Suzuki. When the neighbor asked about it, I said, “My son is a mechanic. Need I say more?”


We see a lot of rainbows here! This was one I could see one afternoon from my kitchen window. The end of the rainbow is at the edge of the paddock we use for our cow, where the car crashed.


We spent a weekend in late May in Canterbury, and one of our days over there I took the children to Kaikoura. We enjoyed watching abseilers at work on the cliff faces.


This house surprised us. During a cyclone a couple of weeks after we moved, a new slip came down and filled the house with rocks and dirt! Some of the walls were bulging out.


We also spent a few minutes at Gore Bay, where the boys tried to move a log into the water.33-IMG_4604

We played on the playground for a few minutes, and Mr. Sweetie climbed his favorite net.


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Book Review—Joey


About the Book

Title: Joey
Author: Jennifer Marshall Bleakley
Genre: Inspirational, Memoir
Release Date: May 8, 2018
The heartwarming true story of a blind horse named Joey.

My thoughts:

A horse story for adults? This idea was quite intriguing to me when I read the sign-up information for Joey, so I looked into the book a bit farther. What I saw made me want to read the story. I was not disappointed—this is an incredible account!

The account of the founding of Hope Reins, the ranch, which is in North Carolina, is very interesting. The story of how the ranch was founded and how God provided what was needed to build it and keep it going is interwoven with Joey’s story, as well as the stories of the people who volunteered there and cared for the horses.

I found it fascinating to read about the various solutions the staff of Hope Reins came up with to help Joey. I had never thought about what it would be like for a horse to go blind. It was also incredible to read about how he helped children who came into his life. I had never heard of equine therapy before, but it makes sense that hurting children would be helped by helping hurting animals. And, it wasn’t just children that found help and healing; some of the adult volunteers did, as well.

This is a book for horse lovers—but not just for horse lovers. This is also a book for anyone who likes to read about the different ways God works in people’s lives, and it is a book for people who care about hurting children. I highly recommend this true story.

I received a free copy of this book from the author; all opinions are my own.

The Author’s Synopsis:

At the height of his show career, this beautiful Appaloosa’s majestic stature, strength, and willingness to work made him the perfect partner. But when an injury cost Joey his show career, he moved from one owner to the next, ultimately experiencing severe abuse and neglect. A rescue group found Joey nearly dead from starvation—and blind.

Then he came to Hope Reins—a ranch dedicated to helping hurting kids who had been abused, emotionally wounded, or unwanted. By teaching these children to care for rescued animals, the Hope Reins staff were convinced they could reach kids with love and hope and show them that we are never forgotten by God.

But could the financially struggling ranch afford to take care of a blind horse that no one else wanted? Could Joey somehow learn to trust people even though the world had hurt him so badly? And what would happen—to Joey, the kids, and Hope Reins—if they failed?

A true story of friendship destined to become a classic, Joey will touch your heart and reveal the power of finding light in the darkness.

More Information About This Book:

  • When a blind horse named Joey meets a struggling ranch owner dedicated to helping troubled kids, the result is a story of friendship, faith, and overcoming–and ultimately, a tale of how God always cares for the cast aside and uses them for His glory.
  • Joey is an inspirational memoir-like read that delights readers with a story about finding healing and restoration in the unlikeliest of places.
  • What a blind horse can teach you about overcoming your past and living fully in the life God has called you to have.
  • An unlikely story of God using a blind horse to bring healing and restoration to hurting children.
  • A percentage of the author’s proceeds from her book, Joey, will go to supporting Hope Reins which pairs hurting kids with rescued horses.
  • God said “you’re worthy” when the world said “you’re worthless.” Joey, an inspiriting story of finding healing and restoration in the unlikeliest of places.
  • The Hope Reins ranch set out to save these horses, but in the end, the horses saved them.
  • How the story of Joey saved the ranch… and taught the most valuable lesson.
  • Joey… your family’s next read
  • Let God wake you up to life lessons learned in unexpected places!

About the Author:

Jennifer Bleakley graduated from Florida Southern College with a degree in biology and was planning to apply for medical school when her best friend’s father died of pancreatic cancer. Walking through that experience with a family she had loved for so long left a permanent mark on her heart, and she soon realized that God was calling her to stand alongside other families facing similar heartbreak and loss. Jennifer earned a master’s degree in counseling from Nova Southeastern University and began working at the local hospice in St. Petersburg, Florida, as a child and family grief counselor. It was a job she loved deeply and one she continued doing until she and her husband started a family.

When her husband’s job required the family to relocate to Raleigh, North Carolina, God began awakening in Jennifer a long-forgotten passion for writing. She began journaling—recording evidences of God’s hand at work in her new season of motherhood. Her journal morphed into a blog, and she still writes regularly about glimpsing God’s grace in her daily life at
Jennifer now writes curriculum and devotionals for her local church, is a contributing author for Treasuring Christ curriculum and She Believes online Bible studies, and leads a community women’s Bible study. She loves introducing children at her church and in the community to Jesus, helping them discover his goodness. Even though she once asserted she was much too introverted to be a public speaker, Jennifer has found that God’s grace is big enough even for lifelong introverts, and she now delights in speaking to audiences about his extraordinary grace at work in our ordinary lives.

Guest Post From Jennifer Bleakley:

One October evening I stared into the eyes of the most unusual looking horse I had ever seen—his black and white spotted coat resembled that of a Dalmatian; his soft pink lips were chewing at some invisible morsel; and his charcoal eyes seemed to peer into my very soul.

And although I’m not what anyone would describe as a horse person, I was completely captivated by this horse.

I inched closer to him, compelled forward by some unseen force, until only a thin rail separated us. He stared at me. I smiled. Can a horse register a human smile? I had no idea, but I smiled anyway. The founder of the horse ranch was telling our small group about the ministry she had started—a ministry that pairs rescued horses with hurting children to help them find true hope and real healing. I listened to her words, but my eyes never moved from the horse. He looked at me as if he could read my every thought. As if he knew exactly why I was at the ranch that night. That I had been feeling a bit lost, struggling to find myself—my calling—in the midst of a new season of life. That I was on this tour in the hopes that I might find answers here—maybe even a purpose.

He bent his head toward the railing just inches from my resting hand. His eyes now level with my own, the setting sun reflecting brilliant hues in the depths of his eyes.

How beautiful, I whispered as my fingers reached toward him.

“And our Joey here is completely blind…” I heard the woman say. “He was a former champion…injured…sold…abused…abandoned….

The fragmented sentence floated around the picturesque scene, but the words just didn’t make sense. Surely the woman wasn’t talking about this horse? Not the one who could see into my soul. Not the black and white beauty who knew all my secrets with just one look?

The woman handed Joey a carrot. His greedy lips taking the treat from her hand, leaving it free to scratch him behind the ear.

“But Joey was rescued and now he lives here,” she continued, “Where every day his determination and blind faith, point hurting kids to hope. Kids who have also known abuse and abandonment. Kids who see Joey choosing to live, choosing to learn, choosing to trust, and realize that maybe, just maybe they can too.”

Tears flowed down my face as I watched the horse nuzzle the woman’s hand. A blind horse leading people to see hope. The phrase swirled around my mind, before settling in my heart.

I had gone to the ranch that day looking for a purpose. Thinking that I could volunteer—use my long forgotten counseling degree in some way. Thinking that time spent here would ease the transition from full-time mommy to mother of school-age children. However, days after meeting the horse his eyes still haunted me. His story still captivated me. And so in spite of knowing very little about horses, and having never attempted anything like writing a book before, I sat down to write about a horse named Joey. A blind horse who was helping me find my way home….

Click here to purchase your copy.

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To enter a fun giveaway, click here.


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Children, May 2018

I took a lot of pictures of my children in May. I braided Little Miss’s hair for the first time! It’ll be awhile before I do it again, though. Her hair is still so short!


Grizzly on top of Mr. Imagination.


After Mr. Intellectual built a bridge for his engineering course one day, Mr. Sweetie built his own version.


Little Miss wanted me to take a picture of her with her baby.


Esther tormenting Goofball.


When we were in Canterbury a few weeks ago, we stopped for a few minutes at Gore Bay. I tried to get a print-worthy picture of the children. The light was wrong, though. In person, this was lovely, but a camera just can’t pick up what the human eye can.


And then, I got these goofy faces!


We tried again at Hurunui Mouth, with a bribe of some feijoas for cooperation. This one turned out decent.


I think we’ll try again sometime.

And, one last picture. This is one Simon needed taken for his apprenticeship. He was supposed to have a picture of himself in his safety gear for doing a job. The job he chose to illustrate involved welding, so here he is decked out for that.


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Product Review—The Critical Thinking Co.

When we had the chance to review something for The Critical Thinking Co.™ recently, I asked Mr. Intellectual to look over the choices with me, as this looked like products he would enjoy but no one else in the family would be interested in. Sure enough, he was very interested in Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha. He loves mysteries and puzzles, so this was perfect for him.


The first thing I had Mr. Intellectual do was study the Forensic Evidence Lessons, since he had never learned much about that topic. There were lessons about anthropology, arson, ballistics, counterfeit money, death investigation, document and handwriting analysis, and fingerprints. After he spent his spare time for a day or so studying this, I gave him the first part of the mystery to solve.

In Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha, A Whodunnit Forensic Mystery, you are given a scenario, and have to figure out what happened and who did it. Students first get a brief introduction and a map of the area in which the incident happened, and the police report for the case. The police department was called to a fishing cabin, where they found a shed in flames, a body, and a lot of money. After studying this initial report, they are to ask for the witness statements they think might be helpful, and whatever other reports might help them figure out the case. They aren’t given a list of what is available—they have to figure out what to ask for based on the crime scene report! I found it a bit challenging to know how to guide this investigation, since I knew the whole story already but didn’t want to give any information away prematurely. It’s laid out very well, though, and I really appreciated the checklist of all the documents I had available to give him. The instructions are quite clear.

Mr. Intellectual spent about 7-8 hours on this project, not counting the time spent on the forensic evidence lessons. He pretty much knew who did the crime by the four-hour mark, but it took a long time to work out the details and figure out possible motives. Recording all the supporting evidence meant a lot of thinking and writing, which was very good for him.

See all the pages he had to work through:


A few tips if you want to use this book: Buy the digital download rather than the physical book. You’ll want to be printing a lot of pages anyway. Print single-sided rather than double-sided, because it will be a lot easier to spread things out in front of you and compare notes. Also, it would be a good idea to do this in groups or teams so you can have two minds thinking about it. I asked a question once or twice to get him thinking in a different direction so he could solve the mystery, but as I said, since I knew the answers, I had to be very careful how I worded it. Having a partner who didn’t know would have been good, but none of the other boys was interested.

This made a great project during a week that we took off school a few weeks ago. It’s intensive enough that it would have been hard to fit in during a normal week, but makes a nice change-of-pace for a break. Incidentally, during that week a car crashed across the road from us in a high-speed police chase. Studying the tracks to see exactly where the car went gave the children some hands-on practice in forensics.

My final opinion? I would have preferred a scenario that didn’t involve murder, but I felt like this was valuable practice for my boy in searching out the truth of what happened, and thinking logically about evidence that he found. I know he really enjoyed it, and it was good for him.

One last thing to mention: I was given two offers to share with you!

Free Critical Thinking Puzzles!
A $75 Value! Delivered weekly to your inbox. Choose PreK – Grade 8. Sign Up Now!
Special Offer from!
Free Shipping + 15% Off Any Size Order! Use Coupon Code: TOSCREW18. Expires 12/31/2018.

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April 2018 Pictures

Ok, time to finish cleaning out the folder of pictures from April. This first set was taken on our way home from Timaru over Easter. We came home via Arthur’s Pass, and I couldn’t believe the colors on this mountain side, which was, I believe, somewhere near Porter’s Pass on the way to Arthur’s. I know we’ve driven past this mountain a number of times, but somehow the light conditions made it just glow, even though the sun wasn’t hitting it.


This was a cloud front we saw. The upper part of the sky is actually a thick cloud, even if it doesn’t quite look like it here.


A few minutes later, it started raining, and poured the rest of our way home!


I often make a batch of “fudge”, with peanut butter, carob powder, coconut oil, and flake coconut. Mr. Diligence loves to cut it up for me so that he can eat some of it, and this time he was clowning around pretending he would eat the whole thing!


Little Miss refused to take her nap this day, and for about the first time in her life she just fell asleep on the couch when she was looking at a book!


Mr. Imagination loves the cats!


This is what I saw in the living room one morning. She told me afterward, “Mommy, I was enjoying that book.”


When some friends from Canterbury came to visit on weekend, we walked down to the river. The boys, of course, had to throw stones.


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Several years ago, we got a book out of the library titled, Six Dinner Sid. Sid was a cat who had six homes. He had to keep up six different personalities, but he also got six different dinners, had six different beds, and had six different people who doted on him.

Our cat Princess has been away a lot of days lately. She decided about the first of April that it was time to wean her kittens, and ever since she has been very nasty to them, and sometimes to us when she’s upset at the kittens daring to exist in her presence. Some days, we wouldn’t see her until late afternoon. When we got home from our weekend trip on Tuesday evening, she was missing, and we didn’t see her again until Saturday morning. By then, I was figuring that either she had met with a sad end, or had moved in with someone else.

Saturday morning we were sitting in the living room having family worship when someone spotted Princess outside! We let her in, since she had been gone so long, even though we don’t normally pay attention to the cats during worship. A few minutes later, the neighbor who had taken care of the animals while we were gone came over. She had a newspaper clipping for us:


Now we know where Princess is spending her days! And the moral of this story is? You can’t own a cat!


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Walk in the Hills

We spent last weekend visiting friends back in Canterbury. Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day. The boys wanted to go hunting and set lines for eels at the creek down the hill from the house. The girls tagged along behind them, and Gayle and I followed the girls. We spent a couple of hours going up and down the rugged hills, and over the creek several times. It was so nice to be outside in that beautiful, peaceful setting, in the sunshine!


Simon’s bow and arrows were popular!


The boys lost a couple of arrows. Here they are looking for one, unsuccessfully.


The only thing they caught when hunting was some geese who live near the woolshed. They caught four altogether, and I was glad when they decided to let them go unharmed.


After a few crossings, the boys started chopping down branches to make bridges for us. At one crossing before that, however, Gayle offered to carry me across so I wouldn’t get wet, since I can’t find my gumboots (they got lost when we moved). I apprehensively said he could, so he picked me up, stepped into the creek—and suddenly sat down on the bank! His foot had slipped. My foot got wet, so I just walked across without worrying anymore about cold, wet feet. It was pretty funny, but I was just as glad no children were within sight at the moment!


We climbed the top of this ridge to get above the ravine where the creek was.


The farmer whose family we were visiting came in sight as we started walking along the hill, driving a small herd of cows with his dogs.


One last bridge.


The boys stood in the water to form a human hand rail for us older folks.


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The girls moved back into their bedroom a week ago, after only a week and a half out of it. They are really enjoying having a beautiful new room, rather than than the old room with its horrible pink and purple walls. It now looks quite beautiful! Here are a few pictures of the process of building. This first one was taken by one of my boys, who said, “Safety first!”



By Saturday night, the room was painted!


Little Miss got into some glue, and our friend had just finished cleaning her up when I grabbed my camera. That hat!


Sunday afternoon the boys took advantage of an empty room to play games. It was also warm; since we insulated it, it’s probably the warmest room in the house.


The girls moved back in Tuesday afternoon, after Esther finished painting the trim. In case you wonder what it looked like before, there is a picture in this post.


Esther found the wardrobe in the corner out in the carport when we moved in here. She needed a closet, so decided to strip and refinish it. The project took a lot more time than she anticipated, but she’s happy with the result.

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Product Review—PandaParents

I have a little girl who loves doing school. She is only three years old, but she badly wants to do school just like everyone else does, and is thrilled when I print her a page to do. When PandaParents asked for people to review their program, MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS, I showed it to her. She wanted me to print it out immediately so she could get started that night, and wasn’t real happy when I told her she had to wait till it was sent to us. Ever since we got it, she has been wanting to do her “new school” almost every day. One Sunday night when I was putting her to bed and she was overtired, she cried that she “had to do her school” and therefore couldn’t go to bed yet! Of course, I let her know that she was definitely going to bed right then, and had to wait till morning to do school, and then Gayle and I had a chuckle about the latest excuse for prolonging bedtime. Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

Each month of MESSYLEARNING has a storybook and a video of the same story being read, and then a lot of activities to go along with the story. These activities teach concepts such as patterns, shapes, sounds, and numbers.

We were sent three months of the program. I did not use A Jolly Jingling Journey, because we don’t do Santa Claus. I did look over it a bit; basically the story is about a little boy dreaming about going to the North Pole and meeting Santa Claus.

The first month we did is titled Mommy Baby. The story has to do with a child who doesn’t want to go to bed, and she and her mother play a game of Mommy and Baby–(“Are you Mommy’s little mittens? I am your little mittens.”) and so on. In the activities, several letters of the alphabet are introduced. There are activities that test comprehension and retention of the story, and others that talk about emotions and feelings. One section of pages discusses animal’s tails, what they look like and how they are used. One page matches animal mothers to babies, and some talk about big and little. There are also pages for matching pictures to silhouettes, and objects to their shapes. I was really surprised with how well Little Miss did on this one. I had her cut out the objects and glue them to the shapes, and even though her cutting skills still need some improvement she remembered the shape of the object and matched them all correctly. Toward the end of the book is a project of coloring and cutting out shapes and glueing them together to build a panda. Little Miss isn’t quite ready for this one, so we didn’t do it.








The other month we did is titled Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound. This story involves a skunk searching, through the four seasons of the year, for a good home. I don’t think the seasons mean anything to Little Miss yet; she couldn’t seem to grasp that concept. She loved doing dot-to-dots of a few letters, though, and coloring the S’s in a grid to make a path for the skunk. She did very well with the pages of matching animals to their homes and to silhouettes. Farther on, there is a project in which you are to make a picture of a sailboat by cutting and glueing shapes. I think she’ll be able to do that.







This course is fun for little ones who are begging to do school. For us, the timing was perfect, since I don’t have much suitable for a three-year-old, but have one who needs to feel like she’s doing the same kind of things the older children do. One thing that would have made it a lot better would be to have a physical copy of the book. There are so many pages to print, in color, that it would just be a lot nicer to have a workbook to use. Also, the instructions often suggest using stickers to cover pictures; it looks like these will be included in print versions, but obviously we only had pictures to cut out and glue. We did do some of the activities on the screen, but I don’t like to do that very much. For this age, I really prefer a hard copy. I liked all the practice Little Miss got with her fine motor skills. She has done a lot of tracing, coloring, and cutting with this program. I’ve been letting her glue the pictures she cuts out into a notebook, so we have somewhat of a record of what she has done at this age. I do think that for most children 4 or 5 would be a better age to do these books. There are a number of concepts that she wasn’t able to grasp yet, as I mentioned above. Maybe the best way to use it would be to use part of it as a preschool program and then again in a couple of years as a kindergarten program! It introduces a wide variety of concepts.

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Product Review—Kids Email

We were recently assigned to do a review of Kids Email Safe Email for Kids, and given a one-year subscription. I wasn’t at all sure we needed it, because when my children wanted to email someone I just let them use my gmail account. We were put on the review team, however, so I signed the four up who are in school this year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results, and may just end up paying for this service after our year ends.

Kids Email

Kids Email was started in 2009 as a safe way for children to email. Parents have the control over what happens with the child’s account; there are many settings you can tweak so that your child can only use it the way you want them to. All incoming and outgoing messages can be sent to your inbox, and you can set it so that only letters from approved senders are visible to your child (you have to approve a person the first time they send something). You can also set particular times or days when the program can be accessed, if you wish. There is also a filter watching for bad language. We had to laugh at one email that Mr. Imagination got from a cousin. The cousin was listing the baby animals on their farm, and one item in the list was 250 CENSORED. We knew from the context that it was chicks, and of course we knew it was the kind of chicks we approve of, but I was happy to see how the filter works.

Here is what I see when one of the boys gets an email from someone I haven’t previously approved:Kids Email screenshot

One feature that my boys have loved playing with is the ability to draw pictures. They use the computer mouse, and can choose the size of line or dot they want, and the color, and draw whatever they want to. That is good eye/hand coordination! When they are finished, they simply attach the picture to the email they have written. I have heard some complaints that there aren’t enough colors, but otherwise they are very happy with that part of this email.

Here are a couple of the pictures they have come up with. This was at the beginning; they are getting a little more skillful now.08-IMG_441910-IMG_4423

The boys also like that they can choose the background for their inbox. There are a number of pictures to choose from; I think all of them chose either the wolves or the horses. For girls, there are some princess-type pictures, too. These just make it more fun!

Kids Email screenshot 2

Another thing I really like about it is that it gives some of the boys a lot of practice in typing. They do typing courses, but this forces them to make up what they are typing as they go, rather than copying. I type what the younger ones dictate, but the older ones have to do it themselves, and then I help correct spelling so that the recipient can understand what they get! One problem we have run into, though, is that there doesn’t seem to be an autosave function. I might be missing something (it’s not unlikely), but if the page is accidentally reloaded, everything that has been typed so far is gone. Once, I was helping someone send an email that took a long time to write, and the internet blinked off, which it often does here. The email was lost. That usually brings tears of frustration, even if I help them redo the letter.

This program also grows with the children. When they are young, their address is, but when they are a bit older, you have the option of changing to, if they want a more adult-looking address. Children who use the address have the option to have an incoming email read aloud to them. This worked the first time or two that we tried it, but after that it didn’t; probably my old computer was the problem. I like the idea—it’s another way to get children to practice reading as they follow along!

Overall, I am very happy with Kids Email. This is one review product that I didn’t think we needed, but I’m now glad we got it. Because of this, I have incorporated writing an email a week into each of their schedules, which is something I had wanted to do but never got around to doing. So, Grandma, aunts, and cousins get to hear from my children a little more! On the other hand, some of my boys aren’t too happy about it. They would rather not have to type something out of their heads, but rely on me to write letters when they want them sent.

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