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Holiday Combo Set (includes 12 Week Holiday Planner for Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas series - $12.95 with code: HOLIDAYPEACE - exp 10/10

Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas {a 12 week series}

Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas - 12 weeks to get your heart and home focused on Christ | hosted by RaisingArrows.net with SheriGraham.comKnowing Jesus should bring a peace to our lives that surpasses all else.  Celebrating His birth should be a beautiful time of sharing the Light of the world with others.

Yet, as the holidays approach many people fall apart, Christians included.  We get wrapped up in all the busyness of the season and forget to let Christ’s peace reign in our lives.  We worry about holiday meals, presents, relatives, and keeping sane through it all.

This year, I could easily get “too busy” and lose my peace and focus in the process.  Our family has some traveling to do, some decisions to make, and I’m due with baby #9 just days before Christmas.

Back in 2008, I purchased The 12-Week Holiday Planner. {affiliate link}  Our daughter, Emily, had passed away earlier that year, and I was due with baby #6 on Christmas Day.  Having that planner was such a blessing to our entire family.  Now it has become a tradition at the beginning of every October to get out the green binder that holds my 12-Week Holiday Planner and purposefully plan so I can stay focused on WHY we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, rather than muddying up the season with stress.

This year, I would like to invite you to join me in preparing for Christmas with the peace of Christ at the forefront of your planning as we journey through The 12-Week Holiday Planner together!

Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas - a 12 week series from RaisingArrows.net and SheriGraham.com

Sheri Graham, co-author of The 12-Week Holiday Planner, will have her Holiday Combo Set on sale today through Oct 10, 2014.  When you use coupon code:

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you will receive the entire set for $12.95.  This set includes The 12-Week Holiday Planner, a Holiday Open House guide, Homemade Gift Mixes ebook, a Christmas journal, and a Thanksgiving Planner!  (This coupon code is exclusive to Raising Arrows, so be sure to send your friends and family to this post to get their own set!)

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas - 12 weeks to get your heart and home focused | hosted by RaisingArrows.net along with SheriGraham.comThe 12 week series will begin on October 5 and will be hosted here on Raising Arrows, with Sheri Graham as the guest writer.  Sheri is a homeschool mom who loves to blog about homeschooling, homemaking, healthy eating, home business, and more. Her desire is to provide encouragement to the Christian family, touching on matters that are close to her heart. Sheri sells a variety of ebooks on homeschooling and homemaking, as well as publishing books in print and Kindle formats.

Let’s start preparing!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR HOLIDAY PLANNER
and join us on October 5th!

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - Our Experience and How Our Club is Set Up | RaisingArrows.net

If you follow my Facebook page you’ve probably heard me mention Keepers of the Faith.  My girls have been a part of a local group since we moved to the area a few years ago, and we have all really enjoyed the fellowship and projects.

I had a reader ask me to talk more about Keepers, so I thought I’d write a post and explain how our group works and how you can form a group or find a group to participate in.  Please, keep in mind, my experience is unique because all Keepers groups are unique due to their autonomous nature.  Also, keep in mind this post is specifically pertaining to the girls club and not the boys; however, much of the same information applies to the boys club.

How Our Keepers of the Faith Club is Organized

Leadership -
Our group does not have a “leader” per se.  One person always emerges as the organized one, but all the moms in the group have input, as do the girls.

Planning -
The moms get together a couple of times a year to discuss the next 6 months of projects. Typically, we have previously discussed with our girls some of the projects they are interested in doing as a group so we can bring those to the table.  We choose the project, who will lead it, and where the meeting will be held.

The moms have a private Facebook group to send out messages, share photos, and remind people of meeting dates and anything they might need to bring.

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - How Our Club is Organized | RaisingArrows.net

Meetings -
We meet once a month in one of our homes or at a local church.  We open with prayer, the club Bible verse (we have chosen to learn it in another version), and the mission of Keepers of the Faith.

Usually, we have a Character Lesson that fits well with the skill we are learning.  When we worked on American Sign Language, we had a Character Lesson on Attentiveness.  At Christmas time we worked on Charity.  Keepers of the Faith have their own booklets for each Character Lesson, but we don’t always use theirs.  There are a lot of resources online that can be used for free.  Typically, the mom leading the project also leads the Character Lesson.

After that, we start the monthly project.  Each project has a certain set of skills the girls are to learn.  Sometimes all of the skills can be learned in a meeting, and sometimes the girls have to go home and finish up.

For instance, a few months ago, we did Plastic Canvas.

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - How Our Club is Organized | RaisingArrows.net

The mom in charge taught all the stitches, but to finish the project, each girl had to finish 2 different plastic canvas projects.  We only had time for 1 that day, so it was up to us to finish at home.

I will talk more about this in the next section, but I also want to mention here that because Keepers of the Faith is parent-led and autonomous, each family has the choice of what equates completing a project.  I could have chosen to make that one project the fulfillment of the requirement to complete the Plastic Canvas badge, but I knew my girls were capable of doing more, and my 9 year really enjoyed it!  (In fact, she received MORE plastic canvas and project books as a birthday present!)

Meetings last about 2 hours.  The girls ages range from 6 to 14.

How We Handle Multiple Ages -
We are a small group, so we haven’t seen much of a need to separate the girls out by age.  Yes, we have different skill levels, but we really haven’t had much trouble coming up with activities that are suited to all age levels.  The girls are welcome to work on other badges at home, so we try to keep the monthly meetings to projects that are good for everyone.

Keepers of the Faith Club for Girls - How Our Club is Organized | RaisingArrows.net

Some of the moms have chosen to award their younger girls with the silver badges and then work through the book when they are older and receive a second badge in gold.  This means the younger girls can work at their level and still be rewarded for their effort without needing to complete the entire project at the same level as the older girls.

Awards -
We have chosen to buy the actual pin badges and put them on the sash.  There are sites that have patches that coincide with the different KOF projects, but I wanted the ease of pins, so that’s what we went with.

You don’t have to award with badges, but I’ve found the girls are highly motivated by the badges and the Awards Ceremony we have a couple of times a year.

Our Awards Ceremony is not a huge to-do either.  We just can’t seem to coordinate a night that allows for a major celebration, so we will often do it at the same time as our monthly meeting and have snacks afterward.  We only do an Awards Ceremony when all the moms feel it is time.  Each mother is responsible for tracking and purchasing badges to hand out at the Awards Ceremony.

Cost -
Our club itself has no dues.  If an individual project requires an investment in supplies by the hosting mother, then she lets everyone know the cost for that project (usually via the Facebook group), and we come prepared to pay that amount per child participating.  I don’t think it has ever been over $3.

You will need a handbook for each girl.  There are also Companion Notebooks, but we have chosen not to purchase these.

The badges also cost, but you only purchase those on occasion, and you can choose to cut costs by going through a 3rd party that sells the project patches at a cheaper rate.  You will probably want to purchase or make a sash to put the badges on.

You can buy a Keepers t-shirt, but it isn’t necessary at all.  We do not require our girls to dress alike at meetings.

There are Leadership Materials you can purchase if you would like to start up your own club.  These are good to have if you’ve never been a part of a Keepers Club and need some help figuring out how to get it off the ground.

You might also want to check out the Club Locator to see if there is a KOF club near you, but keep in mind, not all clubs register, so there might be one near you that isn’t on the map.  Ask around!

Can’t find one?  Start your own!

How to Start Your Own Keepers of the Faith Club

At Home, On Your Own -
Buy the handbook for each of your girls, and work through them on your own.  This would be a great addition to your homeschool!

Find Others to Join You -
Look to your local homeschool group or your church to find other moms and girls interested in joining you in a more club-like atmosphere.  Purchase the Complete Starter Kit, set a meeting with the moms, and start planning!

Remember, this is YOUR club!  You can make it as structured or unstructured as you like.  Our group has done very well with a more low-key approach, but your group may need something different.  You may get large enough to split off into age groups, or you may want to meet more than once a month, or you may want to have a more structured meeting that is planned out more than 6 months in advance.  Any or all of these are totally appropriate!

Have more questions?  Feel free to ask me (I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability), check the FAQ at Keepers of the Faith, or contact Keepers directly for more help and information.

Brand New DrinkBands & You Could Win!

Win the Brand New DrinkBands on RaisingArrows.net!Guess what came in the mail the other day?!  Some fun new goodies from DrinkBands!  DrinkBands now has PERSONALIZED bands, so your family members can have their name AND their favorite color on their glasses!

Personalized DrinkBands!

DrinkBands is also pleased to present CAMO BANDS!  My family was super excited about these!  My daughter even got creative photographing them (shown in the photo below are 3 of the 5 designs).

Camo DrinkBands!

There are 5 camouflage patterns in all:

Camo DrinkBands!

I know you can’t wait to get your hands on these new DrinkBands, so how about a fun giveaway?  There will be 2 winners – one winner will get a set of 9 regular DrinkBands that are personalized, and another winner will win a set of 5 camo DrinkBands!  Giveaway ends this Friday, so hurry!

(Reading this via email?  CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway!)
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Our Newest Addition – A Puppy!

First, a story…

Once upon a time, I had 2 children and one on the way.  My husband decided to bring a black lab puppy home as a hunting/family dog.  His name was Scout.

It should have been Houdini.

Or Naughty.

Ty had come off a 2 year deployment, and before he went back to work, he had all the time in the world to spend with the dog.  However, once he went back to his civilian job, the dog became a terror.  He jumped on our table breaking my favorite sugar bowl (which Ty replaced this past Christmas).  He snuck out of the pen no matter how airtight we made it.  He howled from his crate all night long.

One evening, while Ty was at work, and it was raining, and I was supposed to be heading to a La Leche League meeting with my new little baby girl, the dog escaped again.  And I yelled at him as he ran down the road –

“I hope you get caught by the dog catcher!”

Yes, I did.  I was done.  So done in fact, that I was thankful when shortly thereafter, we moved to a rental that didn’t allow dogs and we had to give him away.

That was almost 10 years ago.  That was almost 7 kids ago.

So, let’s just say that getting a puppy is a pretty big deal, and I had some pretty big stipulations.

#1 The hunting/family dog had to be a smaller dog.  (as in, not a monster lab with a monster tail that knocks small children – and sugar bowls – over)

#2 The dog had to be trained – not by me, not by my husband, not by our children.

#3 The dog had to be cute.

This little guy met all those stipulations…

Our Newest Addition - a Puppy named Kip! | RaisingArrows.net

His name is Kip (named after Kipper the Dog – an all time favorite cartoon around here).  We chose a one syllable name because it is easier to use out in the field when hunting.  It also couldn’t rhyme with “NO” – for obvious reasons.

He is a true tricolor French Brittany – a fairly rare find.  French Brittanys are smaller hunting dogs.  Not as small as a Cocker Spaniel, but smaller than their American Brittany cousins.  I really didn’t think I would like the ticking on him (the small spots on the white part of his coat – also sometimes called “roan”), but when I saw his daddy, Reux, I decided all grown up, this dog would end up looking pretty classy.

And frankly, the pup chose us.

Daddy holding our newest addition - a puppy named Kip! | RaisingArrows.net

(Get a load of that cute guy holding the puppy!  Did you know that’s how he snagged me in the first place?  He was holding a puppy. ;) )

Kip was the one puppy out of the litter that followed us around.  The one who looked at us when we talked.  The one who captured our hearts.  So, we loaded him up and took him to the trainers.

Yes, I said the trainers.  (Remember #2?)

We do not want a hunting dog that hangs out in a pen all day.  We want a family dog, but having a family and hunting dog is a tricky combination.  We took Kip to a man who will train him in basic obedience and later in the year, Kip will go back for hunting training.  This takes the pressure off of me (I have enough trouble potty training children, let alone a dog), and Ty (who needs to spend his extra time focusing on the children rather than focusing on teaching a puppy to behave), and the children (who have attention spans about as long as a puppy).

We will still need to reinforce all that Kip is learning, but we are not starting with a blank slate

or a broken sugar bowl.

Welcome Kip!

Welcome to the family, Kip!  We are looking forward to many fun years at home and in the field!


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Weaning from the Screen

I mentioned in my Week 16 Pregnancy Update, that we were needing to wean from the screen because I had used movies and streaming video and iPad games to “babysit” the kids during my bout with morning sickness. After a week of really cracking down, the whining and asking and falling on the floor in a heap of “I’m bored” was almost *almost* completely nipped in the bud.

Several of you asked how I went about this, so this post is my answer to that question.

Weaning from the Screen | RaisingArrows.net - How we went from excessive TV and computer time back to a more reasonable approach.

The way we ended up with too much screen time is a sordid affair.  I have a house full of boys.  Rowdy, rambunctious, jump on mama’s bed when she feels nauseous little boys.  They are awesome, but without our usual daily routine, they were BORED.

No really, they truly were bored.

I don’t typically like that word, but frankly, when kids are used to a certain routine and that routine suddenly becomes NOTHING, they feel a little lost and need something to fill that space.  For boys, that something is rarely quiet or calm.  Thus, the electronic babysitter.

Weaning from Screen Time | RaisingArrows.net

**NOTE:  This photo is how we do family movie night – a projector and laptop with the movie projected onto a blank wall in our living room.  This is the projector we own.**

The last straw was the day my 5 year old asked every 5 minutes if he could watch a movie on the iPad.

Every. Five. Minutes.

I was finally coming out of the First Trimester Fog, and I knew we needed to go back to our usual Movie Days (more on what Movie Days are in a second).  After 15 times of telling him no, I realized watching movies had become part of his daily routine and he had no recollection of this Movie Day thing I kept spouting off about.  And really how dare I change up the routine of every day movie watching without explaining myself!  So, we had a quick Family Meeting where I explained the finer points of that vague notion we once called Movie Day.

Now, I know you all know this, but here’s my disclaimer…
These are the Roberts Family Movie Days.  They are guidelines we feel comfortable with.  They are not a set of rules YOU have to follow.  The real issue here is to have guidelines.  Your children need to know WHEN screen time is appropriate.  It may be something as simple as “after school work is finished” or “between 4-6pm” or whatever you like.

Movie Days are Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  Wednesdays and Fridays are Roberts Family Movie Night.  Saturday is Computer Time for everyone (only my oldest 2 children have weekday Computer Days).

Exact computer time is based on age:
My littlest guys get 15 minutes.
My middles get 30 minutes.
My oldest kids get an hour on Saturdays (they get 45 minutes on their alternating weekdays).

Everyone is also allowed to watch a movie or two on Saturday.

Another major aspect of this schedule is the fact that if we are gone any of these days, there is no “banking the time.”  If you miss a day that you usually have Computer Time on, you don’t get to have that time the next day to “make up” for it.  If we aren’t home on Saturday, we don’t automatically make Sunday a Movie Day.

Are there exceptions?  Of course!  We are a family and sometimes these sorts of rules get broken in favor of family life.  It’s ok. ;)

So, once we established that we were going back to our typical Movie Days, I was able to remind the children of the day of the week and keep a lot of the asking for screen time at bay.  My 5 year old asks every day, “What is today?”  I tell him the day of the week and then he asks, “And what do we do on that day?”  I usually give him a quick run-down of the day and then get to the real answer he’s looking for…

“Today is not a movie day.”

At some point, I want to get a calendar made up that has Sunday – Saturday with all the screen time written on it (with pictures for my non-readers), but that has yet to happen.  I’m still too foggy for that. ;)

A Day In the Life + Sheet Cake Recipes

I’ve been reading Plain Faith by the Eash family with Tricia Goyer.  It’s been one of those books that has been hard to put down.

While reading it, I realized what was really fascinating to me was their daily life.  In fact, I enjoy reading about the daily life of other homeschoolers and homemakers across the globe.  There is a connection there that is beautiful on so many levels.

I thought perhaps my readers would enjoy a weekly look into our life.  Sort of a Day in the Life of…

A Day in the Life | RaisingArrows.net

What do you think? Great! Let’s go…

The photo above is my bed.  It has become my Command Central of late.  Even though I feel better in the first trimester than I ever have, I’m still not 100% and I have to stay out of the kitchen and rest a lot.  I try to make the bed and then use another quilt to cover up with so at least the bed looks somewhat done up.  You can see in the photo above, the Legos from the little people who climb in bed with me, and my menu planner so I could add the grocery list into Cozi for Ty to shop on his way home from work.

I don’t particularly like running the house from bed, but you do what you have to do.

A Day in the Life | RaisingArrows.netAs soon as school is over or while I’m napping, my middles like to play together.  They are 16 months apart and even though they are a boy and a girl, they still love to play together.  They listen to radio dramas, play “house”, build with Legos, and put together plays to perform for the family.  Lia is always barefoot it seems and Keian always has holes in his jeans.

A Day in the Life | RaisingArrows.net

My oldest daughter (age 13) has been making a lot of muffins lately.  I will send her links from Pinterest to try and she’ll pin them on her boards.  This particular day, she popped open the iPad and found an applesauce puffs recipe I had sent her so that we could use up some biscuit mix that had been left here by Ty’s mom (we hardly ever buy biscuit mix anymore and much prefer our own biscuits – Sky High Whole Wheat Biscuits & Elvis Biscuits – but I don’t expect grandparents to make things from scratch for this many people!)

Of course, we had to double the recipe.  Very few recipes are something we can eat “as is”; thus the reason I started collecting Large Family Recipes here on the blog.  The muffins turned out really tasty and the children were happy to have a sweet treat with lunch that day (which happened to be frozen pizza – eek!)

We had been cleaning much of the day because I actually felt well and knew Ty would appreciate a cleaner house.  We also had tons of laundry to get through.  We now have 2 washers and 2 dryers – a set upstairs that I use and a set downstairs that the children use.  I wash Daddy’s, Mommy’s and the little boys laundry upstairs.  The boys wash downstairs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (including any towels we’ve used) and the girls do the same on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Isn’t it funny how laundry changes depending on where you live?

We’re also dealing with a teething baby.  At 16 months, Creed only has 4 teeth, but I can see 2 more popping through and the proof is in his biting and gnawing on things more these days.  Thankfully, he’s not fussy!

A Day in the Life  | RaisingArrows.net

The photo above was taken at a graduation party we attended at Ty’s cousin’s house.  One thing Ty’s cousin is known for during holidays and celebrations are her sheet cakes.  She doesn’t do fancy cake decorating, just plain and simple sheet cakes that turn out amazing!  She inspired me to grab some sheet cake pans of my own and not worry about how fancy a cake is.

A quick word on pans – many sheet cake pans (also called jelly roll pans) are aluminum.  I prefer stainless steel.  Norpro is a great company to buy from to get stainless steel pans.  The one shown above can be purchased here.

All of the following recipes are family recipes from Ty’s side of the family.

Sheet Cake Recipes - pumpkin, chocolate-cinnamon, & almond! | RaisingArrows.net

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
(shown above)
4 eggs
2 c. sugar (we use organic cane sugar)
2 c. flour (we use unbleached)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder (we use aluminum free)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. oil (we use coconut oil)
2. c. pumpkin (use your own or 1 can)

Frosting:
1/2 c. stick butter
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla (you can make your own!)
1 lb powdered sugar

Beat eggs in large bowl.  All oil and mix well (if using coconut oil, make sure it isn’t too hot or eggs will cook!).  In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, soda, baking powder and salt.  Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin.  Add to the egg and oil mixture and mix well.  Pour into jelly roll pan and bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes.  Frost when cool.

For frosting, mix together powdered sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and butter until a good spreading consistency.  Store cake in refrigerator.

Almond Sheet Cake with Almond Frosting
1 c. butter
1 c. water
2 c. flour (we use unbleached)
2 c. sugar (we use organic can sugar)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Frosting:
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. milk
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring butter and water to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in flour, sugar, eggs, sour cream, almond extract, salt and baking soda until smooth.  Pour into a greased jelly roll pan.  Bake at 375° for 20-22 minutes or until cake is golden brown.  Cool for 20 minutes, then frost.

For frosting, combine butter and milk in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add sugar and almond extract.  Mix well.  Stir in walnuts, if desired.  Spread over warm cake.

Chocolate Cinnamon Sheet Cake
2. flour (we use unbleached)
2 c. sugar (we use organic cane sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
2 c. butter
1/4 c. cocoa
1 c. water
1/2 c. buttermilk (we buy buttermilk powder in bulk from Azure)*
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (make your own!)
*If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by adding 1 Tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice to 1/2 c. milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Frosting:
1/2 c. butter
6 Tbsp milk
1/4 c. cocoa
4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. chopped nuts (if desired)

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In a saucepan, melt and bring to a boil the butter, cocoa, and water.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Bake in a greased jelly roll pan at 400° for 20 minutes.  Frost while hot.

For frosting, bring to a boil butter, milk, and cocoa.  Remove from heat and add in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Add nuts if desired and pour over cake.