Embracing a Healthy Family

Zondervan's Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women Review

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women

As a mom to three girls, it's important to me to help my daughters' faith grow. There are many avenues in helping to assist in achieving that goal and one in particular that I like, are devotionals so I was thrilled to be able to receive Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan to review. The book is charming from its physical aspect with it not being too large to having a beautiful cover along with built-in ribbon book marker. The beginning page offers an entry if providing the devotional as a gift. There is a nicely written introduction for those that are new to devotionals providing a great way to start with an open mind to read each day's inspiring words. The beauty with the Bible is its timeless and a devotional provides a complimentary way reinforce what we learn.


As we took turn reading it daily, we found we really enjoyed each day's Scripture and devotional. Every day, my 15 year old would come and tell me what she learned and how it tied in to each person whether it was Ruth, Mary or another prominent female from the Bible. She likened how the stories were suitable to something she had already faced in her short little existence. On the site, you can take a look inside to see how nicely it has been put together and how easy it is to read whether you are young or older.

Another aspect I enjoyed about Zondervan's Beloved 365 Devotions for Young Women is the fact that although it is a devotional geared towards young women, it isn't one that tries to take the modern spin on feminism and run with it. It's one in which helps the young woman to see how they fit into the world in a Biblical viewpoint by using Scripture to empower each of us in every day life. I believe we are present to compliment one another and utilizing a devotional is a wonderful daily reminder on how Scripture can enrich our day to day lives. Having a silent moment to take a break when times are troubling or trying, or even when times are good, is a great way to remember why we should always have gratitude. Daily devotionals are superb for this.

As we progressed through each day, it's clear that Zondervan has geared the verbiage towards a modern word. Take Day 141 for example, "if you spent much time inside a school, a large group of people, or even just on social media, you've probably witnessed your fair share of bullying." Noting not only a current issue that is in the news, even though it's an issue that has been around probably since the beginning of time, but also calling out social media since this is the newest weapon for bullying. This helps to drive home the message as when one can relate to what is being conveyed, it has more of an impact. 

Every day touches on a key part of life that a young woman might be able to relate to or possibly will at some future point. If they aren't able to, they will be able to reflect upon what they read and utilize that information on helping them make the right decision. I think it will arm them in being better prepared and understanding how to emotionally take charge of situations. Day 192, for example, reinforces that sometimes things happen for reasons that we may not understand but God will bring us through it. That is always something to remember. Each day is filled with key points that will help us build a stronger bridge of love with God.

Overall, we enjoyed the Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan. We felt it was perfectly sized to take on the go or to have next to you without taking up a large space, the built-in bookmark allows you to never lose your space, each page is short, concise and easy to read and it provides an excellent message of Scripture to inspire the reader whether it's an issue they might be facing in real time or just something that will inspire them to help someone else or to prepare for something in the future. Each message is written in a modern way so the young woman can relate to it easier. My daughter enjoyed reading it and didn't object to reading it daily. I bought my oldest one a devotional years ago and think it's a great tool to have for any child and adult to not forget such an important rule which is to be grateful. It also provides an opportunity to have a conversation with God and to reflect daily with something that might be going on with the young woman's life when she might not feel she has anyone to turn to other than God. 

Christmas is coming and this would also make an excellent gift!

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Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women {Zondervan Review}

Adorable Utilization of Vacant Building Sites: Pocket Parks

I admit that I've never heard of pocket parks until I visited my sister in a small town tucked away near the Illinois border but still in Indiana. In this small little town that once had an overnight guest that would later become one of the most important presidents in the history of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is a downtown area trying to revitalize it's small little place in a county that was once a vital hub. A town holds many fascinating pieces of history and is there for the taking if you have the time to see what is unique and hidden. Towns like Princeton are rich in history but hidden by obscurity only due to an apathy towards history in my opinion. There are many interesting factoids that could lend an 'aww' or an 'ah ha' if only given a moment. One of the newer features that caught my eye as I tried to find remnants of the past removed and now converted into pocket parks nestled neatly between two other buildings in the downtown area is a growing trend. 

These pocket parks are also known as parkettes, mini-parks, vest-pocket parks and vesty parks. No matter where you reside, they are fun and some are quirky. They are a hub for photographers given the beauty and natural features provided as a free resource. We weren't the only ones who partook on a journey for photographic excellence as we had to wait our turn if we wanted one of the more beautiful pocket parks so we settled on this gem right next to the best pizza place in Princeton called Susan Bobe's Pizza if you are ever in the area.

Here are some more of my favorites:

A Belated Halloween Post

This year was the first year in a few years that our children were able to trick-or-treat thanks to the weather cooperating. A few past years of really cold weather that swooped in just in time to put a damper on the event coupled with rain caused one of my children to catch a cold. A cold wouldn't normally be a big deal unless your one with a compromised immune system or asthma induced by colds. We spent a few days in hospitals and emergency rooms after such occasions so whenever the weather proves to be less than stellar, we sit it out. They were beyond delighted to take their costumes out and impress others more so because the two oldest picked out their costumes and helped to piece mill them together.

Alice didn't require much as I can admit, I wasn't in the mood to sew a costume mostly due to time restrictions. The Mad Hatter, on the other hand, allowed us to have some creativity as we perused through different shops to put a maddening costume. From Amazon to Ebay to the local Goodwill store, we were able to create this in a modest way of spending under $50. The bonus was a jacket and a pair of slacks she could rewear if she opts to.

The two younger children were the brilliant creation of their mother, my daughter. She is an amazing creator of many things and sewing is one of her vast talents. She made the circus ringleader costume as well as the lion shirt her son is wearing. I'm quite proud of her achievements and on a side note, she can bake a delicious and beautiful cake!

Lisa Tanner Writing: Balancing Diapers and Deadlines Online Course Review

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines

All of us moms are in need of some helpful guidance and advice at times. What if you wanted to start a business or already have one and are struggling? I know I've been contemplating starting a business for years but never really wanted to believe I had the time with three kids, working full time at times and homeschooling. Time management is a skill that takes practice if you don't have it down already which is why I was happy to review the online course by Lisa Tanner Writing titled Balancing Diapers and Deadlines. I was particularly interested in reviewing this course because Lisa is a mom to eight and has her own freelance business! Her life learned experience resonates with timely practical advice throughout the course.
Lisa Tanner Writing

The course is broken up in units and lessons:

  • Welcome to Balancing Diapers and Deadlines
  • Building Your Foundation with the Basics
  • Minimize Your Decisions
  • Minimize Decisions: The Annual Meal Plan
  • Sustainable Growth
  • Growing a Business with Your Kids Around
  • Boost Your Productivity
  • Closing Thoughts

I found the information contained throughout each unit and lesson helpful. Some I already practice, perhaps in a different way but I did pick up valuable time management tips that will definitely help me stay on track while I try to complete my novel I've been writing for ten years. I think particularly for newer parents or those that are sticklers to schedules, Lisa's advice to alter schedules during times of sickness or appointments are words to heed. We don't always have to stick to preset schedules and by allowing flexibility, as Lisa states in the Making a Plan of the Day lesson, "our days run more smoothly."

In another lesson, A Day for Each Child, I liked the basic idea to allow one child to have mom's undivided attention and provided the other child(ren) flexibility to gain more independence but I honestly don't think it would work with my kids. Granted, I should try it before saying so, but my youngest would absolutely melt down if we did! I think it's a good idea since you can encourage your children time to explore what they want, gear lessons to meet their needs and to foster independence which I feel is sorely missing in many of the younger generation. There are also nice downloads to supplement the lessons as well as additional resources.

Keeping the House in Order reminded me to let my kids do their chores without going back and redoing them. She also keeps it real with practical advice such as your floors don't have to be so clean that you can eat off of them. I could never be one of those people that have to have everything in order and drive everyone around me crazy with being so neat and clean so Lisa's lesson reminds me that I don't have to be 100% all the time. For the unit Growing a Business with Your Kids Around, Lisa breaks up the lessons into age groups as well as special needs children which allows one to skip over if there isn't a specific age group it applies to. I really liked getting your older ones involved with your business venture by giving them tasks such as internet research, taking pictures, proofreading and more. What better way to instill a sense of importance and excitement in your children than when they help you? This would be ideal with my kids as they love positive feedback and they love to help me.

There are many lessons for each unit and I only discussed some of them. The course is full of sound advice and opportunities to gain some extra time in your life whether you have your own business, want a business or just want some time for a hobby or me time. I do recommend Lisa Tanner Writing online course titled Balancing Diapers and Deadlines.

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Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Lisa Tanner Writing Reviews}

St. Bartholomew's Eve from Heirloom Audio Review: Great Historical Adventure Adapted from G.A. Henty

St. Bartholomew's Eve

Sometimes taking a different route from learning is a nice break away. I know my girls enjoy when we do something different from traditional books, television documentaries and movies and even online learning programs so listening to St. Bartholomew's Eve from Heirloom Audio was a nice break to our evening family time. I am a fan of G.A. Henty and have been since I started homeschooling and his books were a part of the very first homeschool curriculum I purchased. The audio contains over two hours of wholesome Christian entertainment that encourages them to utilize their imagination and set themselves back in history. It was a bonus for me as my family was from that time period so I was able to really understand and relate to the time period and the persecution of Hugenots.

St. Bartholomew's Eve

The story centers around main character,  Philip Fletcher, who is visiting his family in France from England. It's lively and the actors portray each accent perfectly allowing the children to really feel they were there. The actors are even some you might have heard of such as Brian Blessed, Elizabeth Counsell and many others. We listened to audio one on a road trip and I enjoyed it. My girls did too but not my husband but I think it's because he's not really big into history and doesn't really understand that homeschool part of different learning opportunities. This audio is adapted from G.A. Henty's book, St. Bartholomew's Eve. 

Heirloom Audio Productions

The story is exciting and full of almost non-stop adventure and drama and my youngest particularly loved how often God was mentioned as well as the Christian theme. She liked the music and was okay with the fighting as she is pretty mature and understands the struggles in fighting for what is right. I think in this time and age, it's an unfortunately timely reflection of the persecution that is now occurring. This audio provides the leaders of tomorrow an insight on what it's like to fight for what you believe in.

Philip proved to be our favorite mostly because I'm half English and have quite a bit of French in me. I liked how the story provides examples of not giving up and putting one's faith in God. In one of the events, they are outnumbers trying to hold a fortress in spite of being outnumbered. They prayed to God and a plan came into fruition allowing them to win. You have to listen to the audio to find out how they overcame this and many others events leading to the win for Christianity.

Follow Heirloom Audio on social media:  FacebookTwitterGoogle+Instagram. Heirloom Audio provides good quality Christian entertainment for kids by as their mission, is to engage the listener's imagination by taking them back in time. Take a look as there are many other products to continue your children on an adventure! This is a very professional adaptation that will not disappoint.

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St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}

Brinkman Adventures' Season 6: Underground Rising Digital Review

Underground Rising Season 6 Brinkman Adventures

I remember growing up and listening to old audio recordings of shows my dad would listen to when he was young. I found them interesting and loved how they made me use my imagination to see how main characters looked, placed appeared and how people might have looked during emotional times. This review of Brinkman Adventures' Season 6: Underground Rising reminded me of the times I spent with him since it's all audio. The digital story starts as two sisters visit their grandmother, Omie as she preferred to be called, and she tells the story of her time during WWII. Lynn VanKersteren, Omie, immigrated to Canada from Holland and tells the story based on true accounts of her and her husband's life in Holland during World War II. 

Part I: Dutch Resistance

Part I is all about the Dutch resistance which was important in helping the allies during WWII. As the war progressed and Germany invaded and took over Holland, brothers Hans and Reng, Omi's husband, began working to resist them. They even helped the Jewish people who stayed behind. The entire episode details what they did and the danger they submitted themselves to in order to resist. Some audios are hard to understand when either utilizing foreign actors or actors attempting to speak in the accent needed but this was not the case with Season 6: Underground Rising. As a bonus, if you check out the Real Stories page for Season 6, you will see many photographs, supplemental stories and facts as well as a great sounding recipe for Oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) and they look good!

The next episode was called Dutch Underground Part 2 and left off from the last episode. They even provide a recap of the last episode and a parental recommendation to listen with parents if under the age of 10. The story continues with the right amount of dramatic music, sound effects and continues with actors that are easy to understand. It's really done in a great manner invoking emotions and the imagination while providing a great historical look into what life was like as part of the Dutch resistance. 

Twice Born Fly and I Wonder Why

The next episodes, called Twice Born Fly and I Wonder Why touches two different stories from a Godly aspect. It also has the same type of dramatic music, easy to understand vocal actors and a sense of being there with the story. It provokes the imagination to conjurer up what the characters look like such as Jack and Louis. Details about places like the Factory added to the story line. I Wonder Why is the story about 11 year old Samantha  who long with her family leaves for India. It brings the listener into a world believing they are watching it with the trials and tribulations they endured. It teaches about God and love with their work in the orphanage. They even touched on asthma which my 11 year old was happy about as she has asthma and she feels it's often a neglected disease.

Free Burma Rangers Part I and Part 2

The next and final two episodes are titled Free Burma Rangers Part I and Part 2. This tells the journey of Dave Eubank from boyhood to his Green Beret career. These episodes teach about Burma and their long continued fighting. It's a story of a kid who grew up in a missionary family and grows up still helping others. Part 2 details how he and his wife, Karen, worked to help the people of Burma in a time of desperate fighting and killing.

One story includes how 400 Burmese soldiers were coming after a village. Thanks to Dave's Green Beret training, he and his Free Burmese Rangers were able to protect the village. It's a story filled with God and faith.

I noted the Real Stories above and really recommend reading the page either before or after or even both after listening to the audio as it provides great information to the story.

My children enjoyed listening and found Part I and 2 of the Dutch Resistance was their favorites and I agree. They were lively and being that we're WWII fans, it really appealed to us. Season 6 should appeal to anyone given the Christian based theme behind each episode. They are professionally done with high quality sound affects and a great alternative to allow young ones to conjure up images versus watching it on a TV or computer.
Brinkman Adventures

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Brinkman Adventures Season 6 Reviews

CashCrunch Games CashCrunch Careers Review

Cash Crunch Careers

Trying to figure out what you want to do when you grow up is a difficult question whether you are young or young at heart. My girls, although still a bit young, ponder the idea on what they want to be including myself as I return to the job market which is why we all were happy to take the CashCrunch Careers survey from CashCrunch Games. It's an easy way to look at areas that might be of interest from a career perspective. The survey is not terribly long so even my 11 year old didn't mind it. From the My Locker screen, you have access to Dashboard, My Profile, Careers Report and have the option to change the password and log out. Once the survey has been completed, it provides an analysis of your core skill sets and provides a report that details possible careers/jobs.

For the Career Match, work styles and attributes to careers are used based on 10 years of research conducted by the US Department of Labor so the data is reliable and current. One of the sections titled Motivators and De-motivators was interesting and spot on for all three of us. The one above is for my 15 year old daughter. The way that the match up of jobs appears is really helpful as they utilize characteristics/inherent traits divided up into categories to look at jobs that you would enjoy, be good at and eventually excel at. From over 13 years in the pharmaceutical industry and experiencing job burn out, I can testify how important it is to enjoy your job as once the job is no longer fun or enjoyable, it's pure misery just to show up.

The best fit jobs are provided in 20 top categories with a number of jobs within each category. There are also videos and college links provided to explore further career options and educational paths. When my 11 year old took the survey, her Career Attributes were also spot on as she's very direct, driven and a leader as shown above in the screen shot. Her Matching Jobs were the same of mine and my other daughter but if you drill down to each umbrella of jobs, there will be varying ones that might be more suitable for each person. For myself, I drilled down further into the Public Relations Manager role and I was able to review various information about this particular career as well as attributes, abilities, work values and skills that match well with this occupational choice.  The second tab provides colleges that offer degrees in this path as well as information about the college. The accompanied videos are nice in providing an overview on what the job is and what they do. I really liked the video and the entire CashCrunch Careers website provides both type of learners an opportunity to read and see valuable career videos.

Overall, it's a fun exercise to have your children or even yourself try out to prepare for the future. Learning is all about exploring and there isn't a reason to not start out earlier exploring what one might want to be when he or she grows up. I had a user error and had to contact customer service and the response time was amazing! I enjoyed taking the CashCrunch Careers survey by CashCrunch Games. I would recommend taking the survey and exploring what might be a great fit for your older child or even an adult in the family.

Cash Crunch Games

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Also, read what others on the Crew thought about the survey and their experience:

CashCrunch Careers {CashCrunch Games Reviews}

See it. Stream it. Google Chromecast Streaming Media Player is a Must Have

See it. Stream it. Google Chromecast Streaming Media Player is a must have for any family regardless of how techie one might be. We love our Google Chromecast with the ability to watch movies, shows, live TV, YouTube or streaming photos from all your family's devices. This is a really cool feature as we have multiple devices and at anytime, it's possible for us to want to show each other what we are watching or to look up something. We often will bring up YouTube to watch something which makes it really convenient versus having to go to the computer and huddle around it. The versatility is amazing and I love having so much entertainment control in one feature as the Google Chromecast Streaming Media Player. It's also beyond easy to use and we have helped our budget by eliminating cable!

It's easy and it's portable! Just plug it into your HDMI port on the TV and power away with your phone. Another great feature is you can still use your phone while streaming on the TV. You're not limited either as it works with over 2,000 other apps such as Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV and HBO NOW. Google Chromecast also allows the user to start streaming via your voice with such commands like, "OK Google, play The Crown from Netflix on my bedroom TV." It's that easy! We use ours to watch YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime as well as various programs that can be viewed via apps like Drive Thru History for our homeschooling family. 

The Google Chromecast Streaming Media Player can make any TV a mega-entertainment TV too! No need to buy a new TV or one that has it build in! One of the things that I like about this is it is portable and can go with you especially when you are on vacation and are settling in for the night and prefer to watch what you want at the hotel versus their limited programming options. I don't stay overnight without it. It does have high speed wireless connectivity too so no extra cords and it's compatible with HDTVs.

Check out the Google Chromecast Streaming Media Player and not only save money by cutting the cord to cable but have fun with all the options in entertainment! It's portable, inexpensive and versatile. 

A couple of disclaimers:

  • There might be subscriptions to view some content such as Netflix and Google Home, Chromecast and compatible content required to cast to a TV using Google Home.
  • Web-based services and content require high-speed internet.

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Teach Sunday School Books of the Bible At-a-Glance Review

Books of the Bible at a Glance

Teach Sunday School has a great way to teach the Bible with Printable Books of the Bible "Summary Sheets."  We utilized this as a supplement to studying the Bible.  These are perfect prepared Bible lessons for parents and Sunday school teachers. We reviewed Books of the Bible At-a-Glance which are one page cheat sheets summarizing each book in the Bible into an easy read document. I know my youngest, 11, has difficulty at times understanding the Bible which one can't blame her considering there are 66 books that were written by 40 different authors. The big questions we are all taught to answer of the who, what, where, when and why are provided in a quick easy way.

Each printable includes:

  • Book title
  • Book number and placement
  • Author
  • Date Book was written
  • Time period covered
  • Claims to fame
  • Famous stories included
  • Most famous versus
  • Important points about the book

I admit I have not read the entire Bible and as a person who did not grow up in church or with parents that read or encouraged reading the Bible, it's been something I have picked up along adulthood. I know if I had these one page summaries, it would have really helped my understanding of each book I was reading. I think they are great to use before reading a book, when taking a break as well as after reading a book to re-read as a refresher. They are really wonderful summaries for each book. For this review, I'm going to reference one of the earlier pages covering Deuteronomy. Each page has the same format so it's easy for the student to understand the component of each summary. 

The "AT-A-GLANCE" section provides the book number, the author and timing. The description of the timing really helps to understand how it fits into each book of the Bible.

The next section details the "CLAIMS TO FAME" and the "FAMOUS STORIES INCLUDED" as well as "MOST FAMOUS VERSUS" In the case of Deuteronomy, it covers the most famous person, Moses, and his death.

The final portion of the one page summary lists the "Important Points about the Book". I really enjoyed reading each of these and so did my daughter. It really helped to reinforce what she read and to ensure she understood the key points. 

The Books of the Bible At-a-Glance is a PDF printable providing quick access. You or your student(s) can read it online or print it. If you have a student that enjoys coloring, you could print it in black and white and have them color different parts of the page. Another key aspect is satisfaction guaranteed! Try it out without risk if you don't agree it's a great supplement to teaching the Bible. I would highly recommend it them for any age and I think it would be ideal for a Bible school too.

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Books of the Bible At-a-Glance { Teach Sunday School Reviews}

David C Cook and Case Makers Academy's Forensic Faith for Kids Review

My youngest is a HUGE fan of Corgi dogs so when this review was presented, I jumped. She also is very interested in learning more about God which this book provides an excellent resource in diving into critical thinking. David C Cook and Case Makers Academy sent us Forensic Faith for Kids to read along with great online activities. This book is important to me because in today's society, there seems to be bigger pushes in denying God. The book, along with the online activities, draws the kids into thinking deeper and for themselves. I liked how they pressed upon not just taking another person's word for something even if they provide a compelling heart felt opinion as to why their way of thinking is right.

Forensic Faith for Kids

Throughout the book, there are various "extra's" such as: Dig Deep - Visit the Online Academy, CSI Assignments, various black and white illustrations as well as questions that make the cadets think a bit further in applying what they just learned from a Christian point of view. It's really a great book in applying the Bible to a story that is appealing to children while directing them in a non-obvious educational way to them. The fact that it had Bible versus, references to the Bible often and facts about Corgi dogs, really brought my cadet's interest in full circle. The book is not the only fun feature of this review as noted above, there is an online academy.
The Case Makers Academy is full of fun activities for children. The young cadets have an opportunity to work with Daniel, Hannah and Jason as they learn how to become detectives with Detective Jeffries. There are fun downloadable activities and videos to watch, and at the end, they can print off a certificate. The three sections include:

  • Cold-Case Christianity for Kids - Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective. This has eight chapters and a Postscript on how to be a detective along with downloadables that compliment each chapter. Above are two screen shots of the sheets that can be printed. They are a lot of fun and more importantly, they teach cadets on how to really think about things and investigate further instead of taking things at face value. Critical thinking is vital in so much. One of the things I really like about this review was the reinforcement of resisting "philosophical naturalism." The Adult Leader Guide was also helpful in providing information to help guide my little cadet further. The website is easy to navigate and it's colorful which is appealing to children. Each chapter is short and gets to the point in what the cadet needs to learn.
    • God's Crime Scene for Kids - Investigate the Case for God's Existence. This is set up similar to Cold-Case Christianity for Kids with eight chapters and a Postscript. They are short and concise videos with accompanying downloads to really enhance each chapter's lesson.
    • Forensic Faith - Become a More Reasonable Follower of Jesus is just like the other two lessons within the Academy. The first photo below shows my cadet watching one of the chapter's videos. The second photo shows her reviewing the download available to print.

    Overall, my daughter really enjoyed this book and thought it was "very cool!" I would recommend this as I think it's done in such a fun way and brings critical thinking to the forefront which is something that I think is needed more in educational products. I love that it's also Christian based. 
    David C Cook and Case Makers Academy has a win with Forensic Faith for Kids in our family!

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    Forensic Faith for Kids {David C Cook  and  Case Makers Academy Reviews}