Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A TOS review USAopoly

 USAopoly Review

If you're like me, you sometimes run out of ideas for Family Fun Night. Playing the same old games for the 430th time seems to lose its appeal, and yet you want more interaction with your family than just a movie night provides. It's especially hard to find a game that will entertain a wide range of ages like we have in our large family. That's why I was excited to review two new games from USAopoly
We were sent two games: Tapple:Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game.

 USAopoly Review

Tapple is a game of wits and speed that keeps you quick on your feet, racing against the timer and your opponents. The board game looks like a wheel with letters from the alphabet on individual "tappers". The Tapple wheel has 20 letters surrounding the base. The six missing letters are Q, U, V, X, Y and Z. These are the least common letters words begin with in English. To begin the game, you receive a card with a topic. Topics can range from "Capital Cities" to "Pizza Toppings". You and your opponents must come up with words under that topic beginning with those letters. If you use "A" on your turn, for example, you would press the "A" tapper. No one else can use the letter A for that round. You have 10 seconds per turn. If the timer beats you, you're out of the round. Whoever wins the round receives the game card, and the player with five cards first wins the game. Tapple is a lot of fun to play, even for the younger children. Caleb is 7 years old. He is reading well, but does not always spell the best. In this game, all he has to know is the first letter of the word he's thinking of. The speed part of the game makes it more enjoyable and more competitive for the older kids. We've played Tapple many times now and have enjoyed it a lot. Everyone has had fun spending time together and competing against one another. One of the best things about this game is that it isn't limited to how many people can play at a time. We can all play at once, no one is waiting for a round to be over before they can play, and there are no game pieces to argue over!! This is a big deal for a family our size, usually. I have seen Caleb and Castle even get it out and make up their own games with the fun board. Of course, Castle isn't spelling yet and doesn't even know his letters, but he loves the timer and pressing down as many letters as he can as quickly as he can!

USAopoly Review

The other game we received was Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game. Wonky is a stacking challenge game, and so much more. The game comes with nine colored blocks of three different colors and sizes and a deck of playing cards to direct the game. For example, a playing card has two components: color and size. So if you have the card that marks the green, mid-sized cube, you would play that card then place that cube.The next player would stack another cube on top of yours, building a tower. Sound easy enough? Think again! The cubes are not perfectly shaped cubes... as you would expect each piece is WONKY and has a slight angle to at least one side, making them harder to stack! Another fun element to play is the bonus playing cards. Some cards reverse play, or remove an opponent's block! Whoever can stack the blocks the highest or runs out of cards first wins the game. There is an element of difficulty in this game that I wasn't expecting, but even the youngest of the kids was enjoying it immensely. Are you kidding? My kids can deliberately set traps for their siblings? They love it! It does seem to take a really long time to end the game, however. When people are repeatedly knocking the tower down or removing opponents' blocks, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. We had to flip our discard pile over three times before our game ended the first time! :)

USAopoly has provided my family hours of entertainment already. I can't wait to enjoy more of their fun, engaging and family friendly games in the future!
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 USAopoly Review

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

A TOS Review: YWAM Publishing

YWAM Publishing Review
In today's day and age, it's harder and harder to find people you are comfortable having your children look up to that can give a godly example and point them to Christ. That's why I am so thankful for these books from YWAM Publishing called Christian Heroes: Then and Now. The family and I had the honor of reviewing the Betty Greene: Wings to Serve and Unit Study Guide.

YWAM Publishing Review
Betty was a small town girl from Washington. She grew up in the early part of the 20th century with heroes such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.  Her greatest dream was to learn to fly. Through years of hard work, willful determination and the support of her parents, Betty got to go to flight training school at the age of 20. With her experience, she then became one of the first female pilots in the military through the WASP program.
Betty had many daring adventures and changed the persona of women pilots everywhere all over the world. Although this was her dream to be flying, her greater dream was to use this gift of flying to honor the Lord and help missionaries all over the world spread the gospel for Jesus Christ. When news of how she felt and what her great dream was became known through a magazine interview, she was approached by a man who wanted to start a new mission program with exactly this goal in mind. She was honored to be one of the founding members of Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Betty was surrounded by many great christian men and women including Grady Tolbert, Nate Saint and Cameron Townsend. All these men are well known in the Christian world as men who worked hard, striving to spread the message of the gospel
 With Betty's help, MAF along with the help of Wycliffe Bible International reached many tribes for the Lord in remote and hard to reach areas of South America, Sudan, Kenya and many other areas all over the world.
Along with the book to review, we also received a unit study guide on cd-rom. This study guide gave us a lot of opportunities to expand our learning on Betty Greene, World War II, early flight expeditions and flight missions. The comprehension questions were deep and insightful, making my kids really think about what impact Betty's life had on furthering the causes she was involved in.
The essay questions were wonderful. My son Canon wrote a report on how Betty's tenacity changed military life for women everywhere. He learned about how many women worked hard and didnt give up even when it was obvious the general population was against them pursuing the goal of military piloting. He also was able to cite specific incidents in which her determination and ability to face frightening situations with a very calm demeanor saved lives.
My son Caleb got to learn about wind direction and force by building a wind sock and hanging it outside of our home. He also got a little sewing experience through it! :)
They both got the opportunity to learn more about different kinds of airplanes. I let them choose their favorite plane from the story, search it up on the internet, print out pictures of it, and then draw it to the best of their ability. After drawing it, they had to tell me what kind of plane it was, when Betty used it, and where she used it. This was a great learning tool for them the see and learn about the many remote areas in which Betty traveled and why she had to use certain types of planes to get those get to those places.
YWAM puts out very high quality non-fiction books that are entertaining for all ages. I'm so glad we got to read about Betty Greene, and I'm looking forward to buying more books from this wonderful company!
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YWAM Publishing Review

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Coming Soon...

So...what are you doing Super Bowl Sunday?? Well, I won't be watching football this year, that's for sure!! Chloe and I are going to see "Wicked" at Juanita K Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts in Springfield!!! I am just a little excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2015

My Baby Boy...

I remember the day so clearly, it is hard to wrap my brain around the fact that it was fourteen years ago. I was tired. I was irritable. I had decided I was done. No, really. DONE. My little man was a week overdue, and I couldn't see my feet. I had dealt with nausea and vomiting for 9 months - practically every day - and the swelling began 3 months in. I was so excited to meet him, but really, it was just about being done with the pregnancy that day.

My boss, Cindy, was a great gal. She was fun, smart, supportive, a career mom, but happy for me to want and be able to stay home. I went to her office at lunch and told her I thought I would just start my maternity leave the next day. For all intents and purposes, I shouldn't really be there at that point anyway, since I was a week overdue. I figured she'd completely understand, give me a hug, and I'd be on my way.



"Yes, Ammy. No."


I didn't know what had just happened. She went on to explain that they couldn't get anyone to cover for me. The bank was shorthanded and there really weren't any good applicants to replace me. I guess that should have made me feel better, but in my emotionally fragile state, all I heard was I was still pregnant, and I had to keep working. Indefinitely. Possibly forever. (Dramatic, much? Oh, yeah.)

Well, I went home that evening so upset. I cried and I cried. I told Kelly it wasn't fair. My body hurt. My head hurt. I looked terrible. I didn't want to do this anymore. I couldn't get comfortable, and I didn't know what to do. He kissed my head and sent me to rest. He really couldn't have done any more than that. I was inconsolable.

A few hours later, I woke up I decided to take a shower. Within a few minutes, the contractions began. They came and went for a little bit, then really got going. I woke Kelly, we headed to triage. He decided now would be a great time to fill up the truck...I was a little frustrated with him at this point!

When we got to triage, they decided fairly quickly to admit me. My first call...was to Cindy!! I was NOT going to be at work in a few hours! LOL! She just laughed and said she'd come check on me that evening...then she said, "Oh, and you're welcome!" I was confused, then she said, "A good cry is a great way to get labor started! You were so mad at me, I knew you'd go into labor tonight!" I just laughed and said she was right!

There is so much more to this story. How I was determined to have no pain meds. How I fell asleep AFTER the pain meds and Kelly left for lunch. (Another frustrating moment!) How I could hear Ariel and Jackie and Niki bickering and pushing to hear at the door, making me giggle mid push. How if I ate one more ice chip, I'd become an ice chip. So many memories.

About 18 hours later, my beautiful baby boy was placed into my arms. We had a BUNCH of people there - Mom, Ariel, Aunt Trudi, Jackie, Phoebe, Niki, and many more. But Kelly locked the door and wouldn't let anyone in for a while. He got on the bed right beside me and we just took him in. We were so enamored from the get go. This little guy, Robert Connor Quinn, had come in his own time, in his own way. No amount of planning or preparedness had gone how we expected. And so it has been from then on out. Connor has his own way of doing things, and he is not to be swayed by anyone's timetable.

Connor was a natural born leader from the time he learned to walk. He is analytical, inventive, courageous. His enthusiasm for a project will have his brothers lining up to be his workmen as easily as if he were the pied piper. He has unlimited ideas and strength to see many of them through. He amazed us from the beginning, and he continues to amaze us today. I can't tell you how much I love this boy - young man. Fourteen years have truly gone by in a flash. I love the depth of our conversations at times. I am in awe of his convictions. I am thankful for his determination. More than anything, I am proud to be his Mom.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Flight School Review

I had the opportunity to meet a nice young man at the SHEM Convention this spring. His name was Jason McIntire. Connor had returned to his booth multiple times to visit with him and gaze longingly at the game he was hoping I would purchase that day, Settlers of Catan. He was very engaging and I enjoyed visiting with him. Through our conversation, I told him that I blogged and wrote curriculum reviews. He told me that he was a writer, and he asked me if I would be interested in reviewing for him sometime in the near future. I told him I would love to, and I looked forward to hearing from him. So though I'd never read any of his previous works, I was excited to see what kind of book he would send me.

Flight School Cover

Flight School (Elisha Press, 2015) is the second book about the Rivera-Sparrows, a newly blended and homeschooling family. The sequel to The Sparrow Found a House, the adventures continue for the children Ben, Chris, Jessie, Katie and Moe. As the older children are on the brink of adulthood, career choices and their walks with God may take them down very different paths. But the bond of family is not easily broken, and a life built on a firm faith in the Lord can lead to amazing encounters.

Having never read the first book, I wasn't sure how easy it would be to get into this novel. I could tell at once that the first story must have dealt more with the characters of the parents and how the two families became one. However, I was quickly pulled into the family dynamic - two stepbrothers that are best friends, two sisters with seriously different personalities but complementing each other beautifully, a fun loving little brother, a wise grandmother, and two parents doing their best to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Ben and Chris are spending their final summer after graduating from homeschool to share in each other's passions. Chris is secretly hoping that Ben will fall in line with his own dream of Christian film-making, but Ben's pursuits are taking him down the path of college and Washington D.C. - not to mention a lovely friend with big ambitions. While attending a film course, the boys meet Galen, and he and Chris strike up an immediate friendship encompassing their vision for creating a mini film over the summer. With Chris finding a new partner, Ben is happy to follow through with his internship with a conservative Congressman and learn more about the law and see if his talents can take him to the top.

Katie and Jessie have a lot to do this summer with Mom and Sarge's announcement, and they both spend time seeking the Lord to mold them into His image. Katie's talents can lead to a sense of pride, but Jessie's humble heart can always bring her back to the right choices. They are blessed to spend time with their Mullerite friends (a made up people group who will resemble what you may know as Anabaptist) who live close by. While Jessie is growing closer to her Plain living friend, Chris brings his new buddy Galen home for the summer to work on filmmaking. Galen, a fun loving, yet somewhat brash young man, may have his sights on his new friend's little sister. Pulled between the two boys and their completely opposite personalities - not to mention the excitement of writing for the film - Jessie has much soul searching to do.

With the guidance of the adults in their lives, the kids have many choices to make - in just one summer. How will it all play out? I really want to encourage you to read this book. It is not often that I can recommend a book to virtually anyone. Jason's writing skills are very strong, and you truly feel like you know this family at the end. His biblical insight and the way he molds the characters with godly life lessons is a breath of fresh air. I love to read all kinds of literature, but sometimes feel let down by some Christian fiction that are only loosely Christian. There isn't a doubt where these characters find their wisdom and grace - from the Father above.

Jason is a homeschool graduate who helps run the family business. His favorite pasttime of writing looks to be shaping up as much more than a hobby. His ability to draw in an audience and impart godly wisdom throughout the story is sure to bring him to the front of Christian fiction very soon. I am thrilled to share this find with you - I hope you check it out!

***Today Elisha Press is announcing the release of a sequel to The Sparrow Found A House - and to celebrate, they're giving away signed copies to four randomly-selected winners. You can enter the giveaway here, or go ahead and order the book  on Amazon. It's $2.99 for the Kindle version, or $9.99 for the 256-page print edition.***

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A TOS Review: Dig-It! Games

Dig It! Games Review

Learning about ancient cultures has always fascinated me. I love my modern conveniences, but there is something intriguing about discovering how different people groups lived throughout history. South and Central American culture is something that I have enjoyed learning about since Connor and I studied world cultures when he was in early elementary, but never had I learned such interesting and exciting things as I did through this review. 

Dig It! Games Review

Dig-It! Games sent us Mayan Mysteries to review. Mayan Mysteries is an online interactive learning adventure for your pc. You have the opportunity to learn about Mayan customs and history while embarking on an adventure with the characters archaeological professor Alex Quinn and his niece and nephew. There is an infamous thief, Ladrone, who is out to steal priceless Mayan artifacts, and you and the team have to figure out how to stop him. Through this game, you are introduced to fascinating history, map and memory skills, secrets behind the Mayan calendar, the Mayan math system, and so much more.

While playing this game, I was intrigued with how much a person can learn while playing simple games. There is an I Spy type game where you have to find hidden items in pictures. These items are things that the Maya would have used in everyday life. While helping a child sell items at his father's market place, you have to learn about the Mayan math system. 

There is a lot of reading, but it is not a typical history book entry. Most of the reading is written in a way where you are having a conversation with someone either from the time of the Maya or someone on a dig site. Either way, it's like someone is sharing information with you about their way of life, or a discovery they have made, so it is much more interesting than a bunch of facts set before you to memorize. Conversational learning is one of my favorite ways to grasp history. 

After reading these sections, you have a group of questions to answer. There are points to be earned, and an even bigger incentive - looters are out to get you if you answer incorrectly! It's pretty fun to watch your jeep pull away in success, and pretty frustrating when your are caught!

Dig It! Games Review

Overall, I think Mayan Mysteries is an intriguing way of learning about this time in history and this ancient people group. I have to admit, I haven't used video games for school time much in the past. Of course, we've had different spelling and vocab games on the computer over the years. And there have been many math games we've delved into. Not to mention that certain building game that my boys could spend literally hours on every single day...but this was completely different than any other site we've used in the past. Never before have I seen a video game that brings history to life - not only to life, but brings you right with it. While playing the game, your child is integrally involved in solving the mystery and saving the day - something that my boys get very excited about. 

I am excited to see what other games Dig-It! Games puts out there in the future. Immersing children in this game builds within them such a varied skill set that I can't imagine any child not enjoying their school time in this setting. I plan to use Mayan Mysteries even more this school year - we haven't solved what Ladrone is after yet, so don't spoil it for me if you beat us!

Dig It! Games Review

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Dig-It! Games Review

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