Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Monday, October 24, 2011

North Star Games - Wits & Wagers

Alright game lovers, we've got a new one to add to Family Game Night. Wits & Wagers Family!  If you're familiar with the original Wits & Wagers, you'll appreciate this simplified version that families can enjoy together. On the other hand, if this is the first time you've ever heard of it, let me begin by telling you what's included, and the basic rules.

First of all, here's what's included in the set:

150 question cards
5 dry erase answer boards
5 dry erase pens
5 large Meeples
5 small Meeples
1 dry erase score card
1 full color rules

Time to play, so decide how many people are playing. 3 to 10 may play, and you can play individually, or in teams. Next, after setting up the scoreboard in the center of the table - or floor - wherever you're playing, everyone takes turns guessing an answer from one of the question cards, and writing it on a scorecard. After everyone has guessed, the scorecards are sorted in numerical order from smallest to largest - all of the guesses are always numbers.

Time to make your guess! Take one of your Meeples and place it on the guess you think is the best answer, and that doesn't have to be your own. After everyone has placed their Meeple on the boards, flip the question card over and reveal the answer. The winner is the one who guessed closest to the real answer without going over.

The winner, or winning team, is the one who scores 15 points first. Super fun!

What we think...

We really like this game. The suggested age range is 8+ , but we found that our 6 and 7 year old were able to play as well. Because the idea is to guess the closest answer, there is a bit of leeway. It does help that the girls can read and write too.

And, everyone in the family found questions to identify with, whether it was "How many colors of Froot Loops are there?", or "How many Disney princesses are there?" We all had fun learning new bits of Trivia.

Sound fun? It is! Go get one and play it tonight!!

NorthStar Games - Wits & Wagers
Ages: 8+
Price: List Price is $19.99, but right now Amazon is offering it for the low price of $15.23 Nice deal, don't miss out :)

** I received a free copy of the game Wits & Wagers in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

See what my crewmates had to say about this game here -

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but Autumn has arrived here in the Midwest, in all its splendor. The crisp days, changing leaves, and shorter days provide all the inspiration I need to grab a hot cup of tea, and curl up with a good book. And, have I got a good one for you this month!

If you're looking for a little reading material that offers suspense, intrigue, romance, and inspiration, I think Refuge on Crescent Hill is just what you're looking for. I was blessed to receive a copy to read and review this month, and I'm excited to share my thoughts with you. But first, allow me to share a little snippet from the publisher...

Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow but what she finds is an empty mansion 150 years old. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?

When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, Camden wonders what really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town--and her life--forever.

Has your interest been piqued? Good. Now, I have to be honest with you, initially, as I was looking over the basic plot, I wasn't sure how much I would like this book. I enjoy the occasional suspense story, but, it seemed as if parts of the book might be a little spooky for me.
I kept an open mind however, and dove in.

Guess what? Couldn't put it down! Some books take FOREVER to get going, but within the first pages, I was hooked.

The first few chapters introduce all of the main players, jumping back and forth between their respective situations. We meet Camden Bristow, a struggling photographer who finds herself without a job or even a place to lay her head. Feeling desperate, she embarks on a trip to Ohio and Crescent Hill, the mansion where her loving grandmother Rosalie lives. It was Rosalie who provided the only love and stability that Camden ever knew.

Our next player is Alex Yates, a young man working as an economic developer in the very same Ohio town as Camden. When the two meet, we soon find out that Alex is dealing with his own skeletons from the past.

Every novel needs a dangerous character, and author Melanie Dobson generously provides us with two ;)
Edward Paxton and grandson Jake kept me on edge as they plotted and schemed to get to the bottom of the secrets surrounding Crescent Hill. Up until the very end, These characters kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered how far they would go to achieve their purpose.

And then there's Stephanie, a college student writing a research paper on what else? Crescent Hill! Her interest in the subject reaches beyond the paper though, and it isn't until the final parts of this story that we see how her role ties everything together.

I won't give away all of the plot, it's just too good, and I'm hoping you'll read it for yourself. That said, I enjoyed how the author developed the characters. She brings them from their individual places of brokenness and heartbreak, but it's only as they seek guidance from the Lord that they find wholeness and purpose.

My thoughts...
 Great book!! I found it engaging from start to its satisfying ending. It provided everything you could want in a good novel, something for everyone you might say. Through it all, the Melanie Dobson used the story and characters to point the reader back to God.
Add this to your Fall reading schedule or Book Club. I bet you'll love it too!

You can check out more about the book, Melanie Dobson ( including information and pictures of the mansion that inspired the creation of Crescent Hill ), and more of her books at her website.

Now for a bit of exciting news. Beginning October 30, Refuge on Crescent Hill will be available on Amazon Kindle for FREE!!! Yes, you heard right! This will only be available for one week, so don't miss out! Make sure you take advantage of this wonderful offer :)

Happy Reading!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apologia - Educating the Wholehearted Child

Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life! Wholehearted Christian Home Education for Ages 4-14

There's something about an Apologia book that feels like coming home. I realize that sounds corny, but, in this age of technology, with every computer and digital device available, I still love reading an actual, physical, great, big, good, book. And Apologia never disappoints me.

I admit it, I'm terribly biased. I love their books. Educating the Wholehearted Child  has been no exception. This resource for homeschooling parents soothes my spirit every time I pick it up. Why? Because it is so Christ centered. The entire book is filled with the rich words from scripture, and as I drink it all in, I not only feel encouraged and inspired as a homeschooling mom, but my spirit is lifted, and I feel my perspective put back where it needs to be.

I want to tell you a little of what you'll find inside the book, but first a few words from the Apologia website:

God did not forget to include "school" in his biblical design for raising children&mdash:home education is a natural expression of all that God intended for parents and their children. Clay and Sally Clarkson's Educating the WholeHearted Child is about rediscovering God's original design for the family. What you'll find in this book is a homeschooling model that makes sense. It's an approach that is based on sound biblical principles of nurture, discipleship, instruction, and learning. Newly revised and significantly expanded, Educating the WholeHearted Child is about much more than homeschooling; it is about life. Effective Christian homeschooling must begin with the sure foundation of a Christian home, and the Clarksons' uncomplicated, common-sense approach to life and learning will provide you with the tools you need to experience God's abundant blessings for your family.

Alright then, let's get down to it. There is so much to this resource, and I wish that I had both the time and space to delve into it all. I don't, but that's okay, because then you'll just look forward to reading this one yourself :)

 In the introduction and the first chapter, the authors talk about the decision to homeschool. They provide a list of biblical reasons to homeschool, they compare the experiences of attending public school vs. homeschooling, but at the end, they admonish the parents to make sure that they have counted the cost of this decision, and are certain that this is the right path for their family. I really appreciated that!

Moving on...The book is divided into 4 sections.

Section 1.) HOME
This part of the book includes determining what are the most important priorities of a christian home, how to answer those who disagree with your decision to homeschool, legislative questions and answers, and various ways to add character development to your home education.

Section 2.) LEARNING Here you'll read about various teaching methods, and the importance of tailoring your approach to your child's needs. You'll learn how to make your home an inviting place to learn, and how to create discovery centers. You'll also learn about your childs' learning style, and overall, how to disciple him/her.

Section 3.) METHODS
Learn about MANY different ways to teach and encourage learning of the Bible, the three R's, as well as music, nature, history and more. One of my favorite parts of the book!

Section 4.) LIVING
What are the respective roles of the homeschooling father and mother? What are your priorities? What does your school day look like? How will you,or how do you, keep order within your home? Where can you find support in this homeschooling journey? You'll find out answers to these questions and more in section 4.

Every chapter has a little paragraph here and there called In Our Home. I like these a lot, because the Clarkson's give us little snippets of homeschooling as they do it in their home, kind of a tips and techniques kind of thing.

Another aspect that I find appealing is the margins of each page that contain various scriptures, quotes, and other useful information. They have wasted no space! ;)

At the end of the book is a delightfully lengthy appendix of resources to check out. There are also quite a few planning forms, some for chores, book reports, daily lesson plans, and general biblical values.

I cannot say enough positive things about this book. There are many good resources available for the homeschooling parent, but, Educating the Wholehearted Child is at the very top of my list as a MUST HAVE book. This is a book that, if you're anything like me, you will refer back to again and again, because believe me, you won't get it all the first time around. What are you waiting for? Go get a copy! :)

Educating the Wholehearted Child - third edition
Price: $22.00

*Note: I received a free copy of Educating the Wholehearted Child in exchange for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.

Read what other crew members have to say about this excellent book here.

Friday, October 14, 2011


What's for dinner? In my house, that is often the dreaded question. I can't tell you how many times I have made a personal vow that *this* week I would finally get myself organized, and have my weekly meals planned out, freeing me of that chore. Yet, day after day, week after week goes by, and still I struggle.

Well, imagine my relief when I found out that I would have the opportunity to try out a meal planning website that also is designed to keep a family's budget under control. And that's just what E-mealz is. Want to hear more? Good, let's talk.

E-mealz works with grocery sales, seasonal discounts, and even special diets to save you time and money. They do all of the prep work for you, putting together the meals and shopping lists for you. It doesn't matter if you have a sizable family, or if there are only two of you, there is a plan for you. Do you have special diet that you need to follow? E-mealz has plans for gluten free, low carb, low fat, even vegetarian. It doesn't even matter where you shop, because there are plans that use 5 of the most popular nationwide grocery stores, as well as plans for any store. There are sample meal plans you can take a look at, and you do have the option of switching meal plans once every 3 months, should you decide the first plan you tried isn't the right one.

When you visit their site, look over the plans and choose the one that best fits your family. Each week, a new menu will be available to download and print off. All you need to do is go shopping! Should you happen to miss printing off your menu, don't worry, each week's menu is available for 2 weeks.

So what does this cost? E-mealz bills you $15.00 for every plan you choose (by debit or credit card). I like how the website puts it..."Your mental maid for $1.25 per week..."

Our thoughts...

I really love the concept of E-mealz. The program has done all of the heavy lifting for you, all of the planning, right down to the shopping lists and even the aisles where you'll find the groceries. And, by planning according to sales and seasonal products, it helps so much with the budget, which is definitely an issue for our family.
That being said, this program just wasn't  a good fit for our family. We have four different people with several different dietary needs, and one particularly picky eater, which made it difficult to find more than two meals per week that everyone could enjoy together.

For most families though, I think this is a great way to solve the issue of meal planning on a budget, and I recommend you head over to E-mealz and see what they have to offer.

Price: $5.00 per month, billed $15.00 every 3 months

** I received a free 3 month subscription to e-mealz in exchange for my honest review of the program.

Read what other crewmembers had to say about e-mealz.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cooper and Me

Do you know any little ones who have a few butterflies as they anticipate starting school for the first time? I have just the book for you to read to them.

Cooper and Me  is a cute little rhyming story written by eleven year old Alexa Peters (co written with her mom Monique Peters), about a young girl who would much rather stay home with her dog Cooper, than go to school, where dogs aren't even allowed. With the encouragement of her family, and a special surprise from Mommy, the little girl discovers that school might not be so bad.

Bright colorful pictures ( illustrated by Alexa herself!), will engage children as they read this book.
But there's more to Cooper and Me than the story alone. At the end of the book is a first day of school journal, and a "Learning Together" section to help kids deal with feelings of anxiety, and general questions about the story.

We liked this book. My emerging readers enjoyed reading it aloud, and I liked having the back pages to use for discussion afterwards.
 Very cute, go see for yourself, but first...

About Cooper and Me:

Cooper and Me was illustrated by 11 year old Alexa Peters and co written with her mother, Monique Peters. The idea was inspired by Alexa's own experiences on her first day of school. A talented young artist and writer, Alexa wanted to give back to others  in a meaningful way through her art. Starting at a very young age, Alexa created illustrated stories about her daily experiences, and from the pages of her sketchbooks came the idea for her first book, Cooper and Me.

Through rhythmic verses, Cooper and Me tells the story of a young girl who is nervous as her first day of school approaches. She is frightened about leaving home and doesn't want to go without her best friend , her dog Cooper. Fortunately her mother finds the perfect solution to help the little girl overcome her fears- a small replica of her beloved pet she can take to school with her. In Cooper and Me, the story of a child's fears about starting school has evolved into a timeless tale about overcoming separation anxiety and trying new things-basic emotions all people experience throughout their lives-but this time, written by a child, for children.

The story behind Cooper and Me also offers an inspiring example of families working together to help others. In addition to helping young children gain emotional resilience and confidence through their books, Alexa and mom Monique wanted to go beyond that to help less fortunate kids. Their search for an organization to which they could donate a portion of the proceeds from the Cooper and Me book led to a charitable alliance with the Happy Hearts Fund, founded and run by Petra Nemcova, the supermodel who was directly affected by the tsunami in Thailand. Happy Hearts improves children's lives through education and sustainable programs in natural disaster areas.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services

mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I

only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Always Ice Cream

Calling all girlie girls!!! You will not want to miss this review, because it's just for you! Sorry boys, we'll catch you next time  :)
I want to tell you about this really neat site created specifically for girls that we had a chance to review over the past month.
Always ice cream. Mmmm, I love that name, don't you? And I love their tag line too, which is...

Yummy. Maybe I should have eaten something before I sat down to write this. Oh well, anyway, as I said, this site was designed solely with girls aged 7-12 years old in mind. You might expect to see a lot of pink, and well, yeah there is ;), but there is so much more to this site than frou frou. It is, as the website describes itself, smart fun for girls. Okay, so what does that mean, and what will you find here? Glad you asked.

There are a lot of fun games that girls will love, love, love, like Pet World, where they may 'buy an egg', care for it, and wait for it to hatch. What it will hatch into is a surprise. (Our first egg hatched into a tortoise, which we named Larry.) There are all kinds of treats, activities and accessories which may be purchased with 'scoops'( get it? ice cream? scoops? :)), which are earned for playing learning games and watching educational videos.  You can even buy super fancy homes for these virtual critters. This was probably the favorite of my little girls, but there's more.

Visit mini world, where your little darling may choose a pretty place to live, which might be a cozy cottage, or a big, beautiful mansion. Again, using 'scoops', purchase different pieces of furniture, 'paint' them any color you want, design the room to fit your fancy, and even bring your pets from pet world to live there. My little lovelies always clamored to play with this one too, adding hearts, butterflies, and varying shades of pinks and purples to the walls and furniture. Pretty.

That covers some of the fun aspects of Always Ice Cream, now let's talk about some of the educational activities you'll find. Math, Language Arts, Geography, Music, Science, you'll find all kinds of learning games that cover these subjects. And guess what? They're fun! Does your daughter need help with addition? Practice her drills here. Language Arts? No problem. Play Melting Scoops (which plays like hangman), and guess the word before the ice cream melts. Practice Geography by clicking on the correct states as the names are displayed. (I love that one!) Make learning to type fun by clicking on the ice cream cones as they slide by. You can choose from slow, medium or fast speed. I found myself playing with that one to improve my own typing skills- hee hee.

That's not even all of the fun games offered here. There is a christian section that quizzes your bible knowledge with some fun multiple choice questions. Parents will also appreciate the Internet safety section, which helps teach 'nettiquette', and online safety.

Safety. As a parent, I really appreciate the dedication to safety that Always Ice Cream has shown on their site. They have been certified by the Privo Privacy Assurance Program, so they are in compliance with the standards of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). There are no ads, which could lead to questionable sites, parents are sent frequent reports regarding their daughter's activities, profile, progress, among other things. All content is monitored and moderated carefully.

Always Ice Cream also offers a social networking feature that is optional, when you sign up, you can decide if that's something that you want your sweetie to join. As I just mentioned, there are lots of safeguards in place to protect your child, as for us, we chose to skip that part and stuck to the games and learning activities.

What else? Well, there's so much fun to be had here, and I can only provide so much information in this little review, I just have to suggest that you trek over to their site, and try out some of the fun for FREE, and see what you think. Should you decide that yes, this would be a nice addition to your online activities, there are several membership options...

1.) Try a monthly subscription for $4.99 /month, with your first month only $.99

2.) 2 months membership - $9.98

3.) Annual membership - $29.99

4.) Lifetime membership - $99.99

Oh, and parents get a free membership with each subscription, so they can manage their daughters account.

So, our thoughts...We love this program! I found myself sneaking on so I could play!  There is so much to do and learn here, and rather than being a program where each of my daughters was doing it solo, we were often crowded around the computer and enjoying the videos, word games, and all of it really, together. This is a great resource to have if you have girls within this age range. Two thumbs up all the way!

***I received a free lifetime membership to Always Ice Cream in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Always Icecream

For girls only :) Age: 7-12 years

Read other crew reviews of Always Ice Cream -->

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reclaiming Lily, by Patti Lacy

I would like to begin by challenging anyone to pick up this novel and not put it down before reading the entire thing! *Wink*. That was the most difficult task in putting together this review, that is, having to put it down.

In the first pages of the story, we take a trip back in time; to 1990 in Eastern China. A young pastor, Andrew Powell, and his nervous wife Gloria,are waiting with bated breath to see if they will in fact, be bringing home the child they have been waiting so long to adopt.

Through a series of frustrating events, they are told a baby is not available, but then they see her, the lovely little girl that Gloria knows in her heart is the child that God is placing with them. Their Joy.

Nearly a decade later, the Powells are dealing with serious behavior problems with their daughter(Joy), when a new and troubling issue presents itself with the introduction of Joy’s birth sister, Kai.

The Powells and Kai struggle to develop a relationship as they deal with huge cultural differences, and very soon after the reunion between the two sisters, an urgent medical issue as well.

Reclaiming Lily is an excellent book, with several unexpected twists ( which I would love to share with you all, but then there would be no need to read the book, and you really must! ). I frequently felt that I was reading a true story, as the author did a marvelous job weaving together the story and characters. The cultural differences were presented so well, and each character was portrayed with great honesty and empathy. The ending ties the whole story together in a very sweet way, which I'm sure will lift the spirits of everyone who reads it.

About the author:

Patti Lacy graduated from Baylor University with a BS in education and completed master's-level courses in English at Indiana State University . She taught at Heartland Community College until May 2006, when she resigned to pursue her passion of writing. The author of three previous novels, Patti is the mother of two grown children and lives with her husband in Normal , Illinois .

For more about Patti and her other books, visit her website at
Want to buy the book?

Check out the blog tour for Reclaiming Lily, and see what other bloggers have to say about the book.

**I received a free copy of the book Reclaiming Lily in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Story Of Noah’s Ark:Storybook and Wall Clings

This month, I had the opportunity to read The Story Of Noah’s Ark: Storybook and Wall Clings, (written by Lori C. Froeb, and illustrated by Luana Rinaldo) with my family. Let me begin by sharing a little excerpt from the book:

The story of Noah and his ark is one of the most beloved stories in the Bible. With this deluxe set, kids can use the wall clings to recreate the awesome scene of all the animals boarding the ark. As they read about Noah and his adventure, children can stick the vinyl clings on any painted wall to retell the story. The clings peel right off, so kids can rearrange them however they choose.

The bright colors immediately drew us in, and we were eager to dig into this book. I love the sweet illustrations of Noah and his family, which will appeal to kids of all ages Winking smile. Now, my little ones, who actually aren’t quite so little anymore, are busy little readers, and instead of reading this aloud to them, I enjoyed listening to *them* read *me* the story. And, it proved to be a good reader for their  reading level. But, the really fun part for us was the wall clings included with the book. The little ladies had a delightful time decorating various walls throughout the house with these cute little animals, and Noah of course. They would even make a nice wall decoration to go with a Noah’s Ark nursery theme. They stick and peel off easily too, unlike other things that my charming sweeties have found in the past and stuck on the walls, but, that’s a post for another time.

The Story Of Noah’s Ark: Storybook and Wall Clings is a book our family heartily recommends, and I hope you’ll pick up a  copy for yourself!

** I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.