WFMW – Educational Computer Games

WFMWIt’s been so long since I’ve blogged, I feel quite out of practice. Is there such a thing as Dead Air on a blog? We were traveling yesterday and completely missed posting our weekly Parenting Tip. Some people would have blogs in reserve and wouldn’t let something as trivial as flying across the country cause a slip in posting.

Those people don’t live in this house.

I’m also drawing a complete blank on today’s Works for Me Wednesday post.

Educational computer games.

With five children, a programmer husband, and several computers in the home, you can be sure we have invested money in educational computer games.

Some of Our Favorite Educational Computer Games

Crazy Machines – In this game you build imaginative machines, turn cranks, rotate gears, pull levers, create unique contraptions. You also experiment with gears, robots, explosives, and more in your own virtual lab. The early levels are fairly easy but the game gets progressively harder. All the children have taken a turn at the game, although Joshua is the one who truly enjoys it. He received Crazy Machines 1.5 for his birthday.

crazy machines crazy machines 1.5

Jumpstart Typing – We have gone through several different typing programs in an attempt to master those oh so important typing skills. Joshua and Rachel agreed that the Jumpstart version (although we have a much older one) is their favorite.


CluefindersThe Learning Company makes a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade level of the Cluefinder game as well as some other versions. The older children especially enjoyed Cluefinder 5th Grade. Amazon describes the game: The adventure begins with the ClueFinder kids shipwrecked on a mysterious island. Two of their teammates are trapped in an underground hideaway, and the ship’s captain and crew are missing as well. It’s up to the rest of the gang to find their friends and get off the island- all before a monstrous volcano blows its top. To solve the mystery and save the day, kids help the ClueFinders complete activities and collect the strange CrypTiles that will unlock the island’s secrets. The ten activities cover math, social studies, reading, critical thinking and science. Sounds like fun to me.

Reader Rabbit – there are probably dozens of Reader Rabbit games, and I think we’ve accumulated almost all of them over the years. We’ve played preschool, phonics, math, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, etc. As the computers advance (shifting from Windows 95 to 98, XP and beyond) we occasionally update our stock of Reader Rabbit games. Recently I had the older children go through our EXTENSIVE collection of computer games, weeding out the ones that don’t work on our current computer or are dull and rarely played. The Reader Rabbit cds remain consistent favorites.

Do you have an educational game your family enjoys? Leave a comment and share titles. After all, Christmas is right around the corner and I need all the help I can get. :)

For other great ideas, go to Rocks In My Dryer


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Pruned Branches

This morning I was reading from the gospel of John, chapter 15, in which Jesus teaches His disciples about their foundational purpose in life: to bear spiritual fruit. I was struck by the fact that, as a branch, there is no easy path available to me that avoids hardship:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” — John 15:1-8

Notice that the branch that bears no fruit is cut off and thrown away, and even the branch that does grow fruit is pruned. From a branch’s perspective, it might be preferable to grow lots of leaves and shoots, but from the vineyard owner’s perspective, high-quality fruit is desired. As I continue to live my life for God, I am becoming more open to the idea that God may prune me to make me more fruitful for him.

My Sweetie
I think Kathy makes those steps at the end of the Sunken Gardens look quite pretty.

One classic example of pruning in my life was when I squandered my ROTC scholarship, and served three years as an enlisted soldier to earn money to go back to school. The Lord pruned away some of my irresponsibility and wimpy selfishness, and built in me a sense of honor and faithfulness that He knew I would need to glorify Him.

College of Knowledge
How gracious our Lord is, to let me return to the College and finish school after the Army!

Pruning can take different forms, I think, but I suspect a lot of pruning has to do with subordinating our desires and plans, and instead serving God’s purposes. As we’ve walked (quite literally, today) down memory lane, we’ve had many opportunities to think about the actions and reactions that we (and our classmates) have made over the last 15 years, that brought us to the place we are today. It has been fun to laugh and remember and catch-up with some old friends, and to see what God has done in their lives since we were in college together. Some of the pruning has been uncomfortable, but as I look at the fruit in my own life, and in the life of our friends, I begin to understand God’s purpose and plan: to give glory to the Father.

Jodi and Alan's Great Kids
Of course, some are more fruitful than others.

It was truly a delight to visit with Jodi and Alan and to renew our acquaintance with their delightful children. Thanks, beloved friends, for sharing your family with us and for glorifying our Lord by raising your kids so well!

Alan and Jodi
Good friends, beloved by the Gardener

Tim, Project 365

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Rainy Virginia

I have been told that this area of Virginia hasn’t had any rain since July. That all ends now and really, what better way to make Washingtonians feel at home than serve us Starbucks with plenty of rain. The Starbucks I had to pay for, but the rain was on the house (car, hotel, campus, college students, and on and on).

Did we bring umbrellas? Of course not. In Washington it mainly drizzles or mists, it doesn’t actually RAIN. Here we got a massive downpour lasting pretty much the entire day.

Did we walk around the campus, reminiscing about our college days?
Did we stroll down the old parts of town, admiring the beauty?
Did we buy the $22 umbrella in the college bookstore?
No, but it was a near thing. :)

Thankfully we are here for several more days and the weather is supposed to clear up by the end of the weekend. I’m sure we’ll enjoy that stroll down memory lane sooner or later. Meanwhile we visited with old friends, looked at hundreds of old Intervarsity pictures, made plans to see other alumni, enjoyed couple time, ate out, shopped, got soaking wet, and went to an Inter-Varsity Large Group meeting.

The Reunion Weekend is going well!
Even with the rain.
We miss our children and entertain people with stories of their antics; it helps us feel like they are close by.

Pictures coming.
Hoping for sunshine tomorrow.


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Duracell or Energizer

When you set out on a trip, you just never know who the Lord is going to place in your path. I’ve flown next to silent businessmen, focused on their newspapers or laptops, elderly women who chat about their grandchildren, college students heading home on break, moms with little ones, and everything in between.

I have never, and I mean, NEVER sat beside a fellow traveller who stores his AA batteries IN his ear!!

smile, you're on candid camera

Duracell in one ear and Energizer in the other.Yikes!

This young man celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday and was flying home to visit friends and family in New Hampshire. He slept most of the flight (Tim said I couldn’t sneak up and take pictures without his permission) but we had a lovely chat during the landing. He had suffered from a collapsed lung six months ago and still had a bad cough. I told him I had five children and they would NOT believe me if I didn’t have a picture of his ear, um, shall we call it, art.

Do not look at this picture if you are squeamish.
I’m serious. It kind of freaks me out a bit.

Okay, but I warned you.
pinkie action

“What will your Mom say?” I had to ask my body pierced companion. “Has she seen your ears yet?”

“No,” he laughed. “She’ll be surprised.”

Ah, yes indeed. A very interesting young man, far more intriguing than the beautiful young woman sitting across the aisle on the next flight. I found it amusing to pair them up in my mind; what a couple they would make, I fancied briefly.

My next thought was sobering. God looks at our heart and not on our outside appearance. He cares about our soul, not our adornments. We look at a person’s hair, clothing, and accessories and we arrive at judgments and conclusions. If she does not know the Lord, the woman in expensive boots, cream sweater and gold jewelry is just as lost as the lip, nose and ear pierced, “residentially challenged” traveler from the first flight.

Jesus was born in the rudest of accommodations, and died while men gambled for his clothes (which were, apparently, His only possessions). Yet He is the Prince of Peace, the King of Glory. Surely we must learn to see like God with the eyes of our hearts, rather than looking on outward appearances as the world does.

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to who you belong? James 2:5-7

Lord, help me to recognize the lost and be bold in bringing Your light into their lives. Give me wisdom to know how to reach out in love and truth.

Project 365 – Day 298

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WFMW – Diet and Exercise

WFMWTim did an excellent job of handling the blog while I was off playing Cranium with the girls. Now if I can just get the keyboard back (he has a surprisingly strong grip) I can write this week’s Works for Me Wednesday post.

Since I’m reaching the end of my Reunion Countdown, I thought I would share a few of my diet and exercise observations. Chime in with your own tips on the subject, I still have a little ways to go to reach my goal, and love hearing how other people are winning this battle.

Reflections on Diet and Exercise – Keys to Losing Weight

  1. Move More/Eat Less – I know, this is so obvious I shouldn’t even have to say it, but I have been really surprised to find out how true this actually is.

    There was one point in my life when I was doing aerobics 4 times a week (The Firm – weight training and cardio mixed) and walking 5 to 6 days a week. I did NOT lose weight. My body did tone a bit but it was incredibly slow. I was not eating very well. It wasn’t until several years later when I completely “cleaned up” my eating that I began to really lose weight. I cut out sugar, wheat and flour as per Kay Sheppard’s food addiction program. This was a total lifestyle change and took away almost all of my uncontrollable food cravings and overeating. I lost 65 pounds in six to eight months. It was an incredible blessing and joy to lose this weight. I am so thankful the Lord blessed my hard work with such stunning results.

    As time went one, however, I was unable to lose the remaining 25 pounds that I had originally targeted. I’ve been stuck at this same weight (fluctuating 5 or 7 pounds) for over two years. It has been frustrating to be in a plateau for so long. Argh! Combining an aggressive exercise routine with a restricted calorie plan has been the only thing enabling me to finally shed the weight again.

    This plan is very mathematically and physiologically based. I exercise 600 calories/6 days a week and burn off 3600 calories weekly. I limit my eating, reducing my calories by 500 a day or 3500 calories a week. Potentially I can lose 2 pounds a week pursuing this program.

  2. new haircut

    Got my hair cut and highlighted today. Hooray.

  3. Find an exercise partner – I love reading a magazine while I exercise. I have even figured out how to hook up my portable DVD player (the one the kids use in the car) to the elliptical machine. Add earphones and I can enjoy a movie while I power out an hour’s workout. However, over and over it has been my family’s support and a friend’s companionship which has motivated and encouraged me in my exercising.

    I remember one week when I was tired of going to the YMCA. I had already been there several times and I was feeling bored and burned out. Julee (my wonderful friend and exercise partner)) invited me to join her in a workout. We ran intervals on the treadmill (okay, she ran while I jogged). Next we moved to the stairstepper for a short workout and ended our time on the elliptical. The next day we put in a long, sweaty hour on the elliptical machine. By the end of those two days, I was rejuvenated and ready to work out on my own again. Whenever we can, Julee and I sneak in walks around our neighborhood.

    Meet a friend at the club, start walking regularly with a neighbor, get your family to ride bikes. Do what it takes to surround yourself with active, energetic people who support your goal of being healthy.

  4. Calories count – ouch! Every day I log on to and record my food. It’s boring and occasionally tedious, but it keeps me totally accountable for what I’m eating. My eating has shifted over this past month as I have watched the numbers in my food journal. For example, I have a breakfast pancake I make almost every morning. After recording the information each day for a week, I decided I would rather save some fat and calories by cutting out one of the eggs. Instead of two eggs, I use one egg and two egg whites. Simple change, doesn’t affect the recipe yet cuts calories.

    It turns out all those magazine tips are on to something –

    select chicken instead of beef
    switch to lower calorie condiments
    use salsa and mustard to season food
    measure snack foods (don’t eat blindly)
    watch portion sizes
    drink water to help during hungry times
    don’t eat late at night

  5. Oregon beach

    The Oregon coast is gorgeous! What a beautiful beach.

  6. Record Your Information – keep track of your progress. Fitday and My Calorie Counter are both free and calculate calories, fat, protein and carbs in the food journal section. Practicing this discipline for at least two weeks will reveal patterns in your eating, show you areas that are available for positive change, and provide an amazing reality check on the quantity of food you’ve been eating. It will also encourage you to see the progress you are making.

    I have an Excel spreadsheet where I record my food totals, exercise data (types of exercise and calories burned), and my weekly weight. It takes only minutes to input this information and results in a snapshot of how I’m doing each day.

I wish I had taken my measurements at the beginning of this month long program. It would be interesting to see how I’ve done in that area. Of course, when I’m feeling fat and flabby, pretty much the LAST thing in the world I want to do is measure myself. Shudder.

I can, however, report on my weight loss. As of day 26 (I weigh on Fridays) I had lost 7.2 pounds. Not only that, but I’ve gained the confidence that I can work hard and make a positive change in my body.

Now to be careful not to blow it all during our Homecoming weekend. :)

If you have lost weight and kept it off, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, tips and advice. Leave a comment and share with us all.

Visit Rocks in My Dryer for other Works for Me Wednesday ideas.

Duckabush Blog Works for Me Wednesday entries.

Several weeks of Tuesday Parenting Tips.

Project 365 – Day 296

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