Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper

  The Curious Christian is a book that really took me by surprise last year. It is a totally unique book about the role of curiosity in our lives. Barnabas Piper takes a long look at what curiosity is, how it shapes us, our relationships and our walk with God.

The book starts out with a look at how we tend to grow up and leave our curiosity behind. As we strive for maturity, we often lump curiosity in with other childish traits. We really need curiosity in our relationships, our church and for ourselves.

I loved that this book is more than just ideas, but is really very practical too. He addresses curiosity in books, media, nature, and music. And ultimately, how our curiosity can grow and shape our relationship with Christ.

I found this book really challenging and interesting.

I received this book from B&H Publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Magic Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc. REVIEW

I am so excited to have the chance to work with The Pencil Grip, Inc. again! Last time I was able to review their excellent Thin Stix. They have since become an art staple in our house. It was a no brainier to try their new markers, Magic Stix.

I was most impressed by their claim that you can leave the cap off of these for seven days before these dry out. I feel like cap loss is pretty much inevitable in my house, so we will be testing that claim someday I'm sure. These marker are completely odorless, totally washable and perfect for a variety of projects.

My kids used them to make special Christmas presents. They made bookmarks for our pastor, friends and grandparents. I laminated the bookmarks when they finished and the colors are still super vibrant. The sweet pictures they drew really pop.

I even joined in the fun and colored! I am picky about the markers I use and I loved these. They aren't too dry, you don't feel like they scrape along the paper. They are wet, but not so wet that the leave holes in the paper after a few passes. You can build up the color and they even blend a bit. I really like the sturdy plastic case that they come in. It is not a throw away case, but really does help keep them organized.

Having quality art supplies in the house seems to boost creativity almost instantly. When the products work like they should and are a delight to use my kids keep coming back to them. We might need to upgrade from the 12 pack to 24 pack soon.

If your family could use a little creative fun, give these markers a try!

 Thanks to The Pencil Grip, Inc. for providing these in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Strictly Briks

My son is a lego building fanatic. Since he was old enough to snap those little pieces together, he has been unstoppable. Strictly Briks offers hundreds of unique building materials that you simply cannot find elsewhere.
Having trouble finding baseplates? No problem, they carry every color and shape and size you can imagine- they even have stackable plates! They have silicone briks that bend and flex, Creatorz briks, that let you snap together on any side. Basically, they carry anything you might need to jump start your creativity and imagination. Instead of just providing what you need to make a specific set, Strictly Briks provides the pieces to make anything you can dream up. 

We recently got to try some of the pieces out thanks to Tryazon. One of the highlights was this Brik Buster game. It was a blast and had the kids laughing hysterically. Think Jenga with legos. First the kids build the tower, then each person knocks out a brick. The goal is to keep the tower standing. I think half the fun for the kids though, was watching it fall.

If you have a lego lover in your family, I recommend checking out Strictly Briks!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Peaceable Kingdom Games

This weekend we had a really fun time trying out Peaceable Kingdoms games, thanks to Tryazon. Have you heard of cooperative games?  Cooperative games focus on bringing kids together to solve or complete a common goal. They encourage teamwork and problem solving. We love games in our house. We tend to be a competitive family, which is fun-- until it's not. These Peaceable Kingdom games are such a great change of pace!
My favorite game of the three we tried was Sunny and Stormy Day. This game and book encourages families to share how they are feeling. The book follows Max as he has good and bad parts of his day. In the end it shows families how they can start a tradition of sharing their emotions with the heart bag. Inside the heart bag are three tokens, sunny- to share something good in your day, stormy- to share something that made you sad and rainbow- to share something you are looking forward to. The book says "Identifying, naming and talking about feelings builds emotional intelligence. The Sunny-Stormy sharing activity helps kids learn empathy, compassion, resilience and courage." 

After you read the book, there is a fun game for the kids to play. There are three ways to play the game, each with its own level of difficulty. The first way to play is a face-up matching game. This would be perfect for younger kids, a great fit for 3 year-olds! The next way is a face-down matching game. My four-year old loves playing this with her brother. The third level uses the same tiles, but has four moon tiles in the mix. If you reveal a moon tile you must put one piece of the puzzle together. The goal is to find all the matches before the puzzle gets put together. Again, because this is a cooperative game, they are working together towards the same goal. I love that younger siblings can be involved and play the easier versions with older kids. At the same time, there is a genuine challenge in the harder games that makes older kids think and work together.

I think this would be an awesome gift for any family with young kids. It's not just a game, but a launching point for family traditions. This is a game that works with a variety of ages and skill levels. All the pieces are well made, sturdy material. They are not flimsy cards, but made to be played with. The book has a soft cover that might not hold up well with frequent reading, but the colors are bright and bold and the illustrations are fun.

 The other two games that we enjoyed were Hoot Owl Hoot! and Race to the Treasure! The owl game has the kids working together to get back to the nest before the sun comes up. I enjoyed making strategies with the kids to get the owls back. You can change up the difficulty by adding more owls to get back to the nest. As the game gets harder you really do need to work together to get all the owls back. This is an engaging game for many ages!

Race to the Treasure is the final game we tested. This game is intended for ages 5+, but with a little guidance my younger child caught on too. In this game kids are working as a team to beat the ogre to the treasure. They create a path from the start to the finish. You must pick up three keys along the way.
 I love hearing kids work out which way the path should go to pick up the keys and make it to the treasure! My older child liked this game the best and it definitely resonated with his mathematical mind. 

All three games are excellent quality, with clear, easy to understand instructions. I was really impressed with the reasonable prices for the games. I am sure I will be grabbing a few more of these games for other families on my Christmas list! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks - My First Letters *REVIEW*

Channie's My First Letter for Pre-K - 1st

My daughter began preschool a few weeks ago, and she takes it very seriously. she loves sitting down and working on her letters and numbers. I knew these workbooks from Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks, would be great. The My First Letters book has been wonderful practice for her.

The book goes through the alphabet, A to Z. Each letter has three pages of work. One page for tracing the capital, one for tracing lowercase and the third is a practice for both capital and lowercase. The first two pages have a picture to color, A is apple, B is boat and so forth. There is an instructional example at the start of the page showing how to form the letter. At the very end of the book there is practice for numbers 1-9 as well. There are 80 pages in entirety.

I appreciated that the spaces for tracing and writing were very generous and wide. The large areas to write make it easy for her to see what she is doing. She also really enjoyed the coloring aspect and had fun putting her own flair on each picture. In the photo above, she is coloring a worm in the apple. I thought it was also helpful that the same picture is used for both the upper and lowercase. It just helps solidify that even though they look different, they are the same letter. The paper is sturdy, the lines easily seen and instructions clear.

This is a pretty basic workbook, but sometimes that's really just what you need. It is straight forward, effective practice that helps kids neatly write their letters. When she gets a little older, Channie's also makes a cursive book, some other handwriting books and even a math book.

To find out how other families feel about this workbook or other products from Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks - click the banner below.

Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks {Reviews}

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Around our House Week 35

The fireplace is going, the leaves are in the lawn, it is definitely feeling like fall!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls from WorthyKids/Ideals - REVIEW

Spending time reading together is such a treat for our family. We love discovering new books and recently I read them The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls  by M.J Thomas from WorthyKids/Ideals. Have your children ever wondered what it would be like to be at creation, or what the times of Noah were like? These books follow two kids as they travel back to Bible times and discover those things for themselves.

In the first book we are introduced to our main characters, Peter and Mary. These siblings have come to stay with their Great-Uncle Solomon for a month. 9 year-old Peter is sure that nothing but boredom is in store for them. A month without television, fun or friends.

They soon find that their uncle's home offers some pretty interesting mysteries. Solomon is positive that he has discovered evidence that will prove that the Bible is true. He has uncovered sealed scrolls and a secret legend,

"The scrolls contain the truth you seek. Break the Seal. Unlock the scroll. And you will see the past unfold. Amazing adventures are in store for those who follow the lions roar!"

Unfortunately, Solomon cannot open the scrolls, only the chosen one can. Peter and Mary are very intrigued by this mystery. One night, they are awoken by a lion's roar and find themselves and their dog, opening a scroll.

They are transported back to the very beginning of creation. Peter and Mary float in a black, formless void. It isn't long before they hear a voice command light into darkness. The next day the voice separates the sky and water. Peter and Mary find themselves swimming for their lives, but are saved by the angel Michael. Michael tell them that they must follow three rules while they are there, 1. They must solve the secret of the scroll in seven days or be stuck there, 2. They cannot tell anyone they are from the future, 3. They cannot change the past.

They have little time to worry about translating the scroll, because God commands the earth to have dry ground. The children realize how hungry they are, luckily God commands the earth to produce vegetation next. Before long he sets the sun and stars in the sky as well. He makes the animals and eventually Adam and Eve themselves. All the while, Peter and Mary swim with dolphins, ride rhinos and try to decipher the scroll. They even encounter Satan himself, who comes to tell them lies. Finally, on the last day they solve the scroll, "God created everything!" and they go home. There is more adventure in store for them though, they have only opened the first scroll.

In the next book Peter and Mary find themselves going back to the times of Noah. They quickly discover that this is not a friendly land, when a mean boy and wolf confront them. In fact, it seems everywhere they look, people are unkind and unhappy. Over all the city there is a Dark Ruler who is in control.

Luckily, Michael and God come to their aid. Michael reminds them of the rules and tells them to solve the scroll. They follow some animal footprints to the ark and meet the first kind people, Noah's family. Noah and his whole family are working to put the final touches on the ark before the rains come. Peter and Mary get to help with chores and planning where the animals should go. Even while exploring the ark, they are trying to solve the scroll so they can go home.

Just before the rains hit, they realize they need a hinge for the boat. Peter and Mary head to town to buy one. After purchasing the hinge, they find themselves face to face with the Dark Ruler. He turns out to be Satan himself, still trying to ruin God's plan. Satan locks them in a dungeon and goes to tell his lies to Noah's family. Michael saves the kids and they all head back to the ark.

As the rains begin to fall, they thwart Satan's plans and solve the scroll. Soaking wet, the kids return to Great-Uncle Solomon's library and read in the Bible what happens to Noah.

I read these books to my almost 7 and 5 year-old. I first spent some time explaining that these are fiction and just a fun way to use our imagination to think about what the real-life Bible times were like. We are actually reading through creation right now, and the last thing I wanted was for them to get confused about what was true and what was fictional.  Even though the books don't necessarily have anything unbiblical in them, they are very much fantasy. I thought the second book took more liberty with the story of Noah, making the Dark Ruler (Satan) someone who lives in pyramid and rules the town. We talked about how while Satan probably didn't wear a black cloak and live in a pyramid, the Bible does talk about him as the ruler of the world.

My kids thought the books were interesting and pretty fun. It sparked a lot of good conversation about what they thought those times were like. We had a really great talk about a part of the second book, where the characters ask Michael why God isn't helping them, and Michael explains how he actually had been, they just hadn't noticed. It was a great picture of how we sometimes don't see the hand of God in a situation, but he has it under control. I also really liked how many of the questions Peter and Mary asked different characters, were questions I knew my kids were wondering. My kids favorite character was the dog! Peter and Mary have a dog who is also a part of the story, and my kids loved him.

I think these books are a fun way for parents to engage with their children in some Biblical conversation. Older children can read them independently, but I really enjoyed reading them as a family. These are a great way to go on an adventure together, solidify their Bible knowledge and have some quality family time.

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The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. {WorthyKids/Ideals Reviews}

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