Saturday, November 22, 2014

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book GIVEAWAY

I love picture books that don't contain any words.  Books like this offer a child freedom to use their own imaginations and create their own stories from what they see in the pictures.  Often times, their elaborate tales are much more than would have been conveyed through a few sentences on a page.  I was recently given the opportunity to read Mark Ludy's book "Noah:  A Wordless Picture Book".  
I would dare say that most people, whether Christian or not, have heard the Biblical story of Noah and the account of the flood.  To most people, this is a familiar story so I was intrigued as to how it could be made into a picture book and still convey the Biblical story. The book's synopsis made me curious to review it too.  
God wanted Noah to build the biggest ship the world had ever seen.  The future of humanity depended on it.  How would his wife respond?  What would the neighbors think?  Was it even feasible?  This lavish reimagining of one of the greatest stories of all time will fascinate children and adults alike.  Nuanced and playful, yet meticulous in following the Biblical narrative, Mark Ludy's world-class art digs deeper than the Sunday-school tale of cuddly animals, exploring Noah's relationship with his family, the natural world, God - and a formidable engineering challenge. Immerse yourself in this stunning wordless epic.  Whatever your age, you'll never read this story in the same way again.  
The first thing I noticed about this book was the incredible artwork.  Ludy's drawings are incredibly detailed and beautiful.  They almost look life-like and realistic and you want to touch the pages to see if you can "feel" the art.  Every single aspect of the drawings shows meticulous detail and design.  There are single page designs and two-page folds to help you craft the story as you flip the pages.
This little guy (our 9 yr old) LOVED this book.  He grabbed it up immediately when it arrived and has spent days looking at it.  He has even "read" me the story using his own imagination and creativity to narrate each page.  He was already quite familiar with the Biblical story of Noah so it was so much fun to hear how his mind crafted the story using the provided artwork.  Some of his creativity was pretty funny too such as what he thought the animals were saying in the pictures and he had some pretty unique thoughts on what Noah was doing in some of the pages too. We have truly enjoyed watching him use this book and hearing him "read" this book aloud.  
This page in the book really spoke to me.  I grew up in a Christian home and am very familiar with the story of Noah and the flood (which by the way I believe happened just as the Bible describes it).  To be honest, I've never really thought much about how Noah's wife was impacted by what Noah did.  After looking at this picture awhile, I couldn't help but think about how Noah's wife must have felt through it all...the ridicule of supposed friends, watching her husband labor and work so hard, did she wonder if he was crazy or did she trust him and what he was doing, did her heartache knowing what was to come through the flood and how everything they knew would perish, etc.  It is amazing that a wordless picture book can bring to mind such a time of thought. 
Of course, one of Wyatt's favorite parts of the book is the hidden treasure on each page.  On the back cover of the book, it shows a picture of a little mouse named "Squeakers".  Then it tells you to try to find Squeakers on every page of the book.  This is a lot like those "Where's Waldo?" books where you have to find Waldo in a haystack.  Well, Squeakers can be a challenging little booger to find too!  It's not as easy as you think but it is so much fun to try to find him.  Wyatt and I even had challenges to see who could find him fastest (although it turns out Wyatt had already found him on every page except for 2 by the time he challenged me...little stinker)!  Did you see Squeakers in the picture above?
Yep, that's him hiding in the grape bowl eating grapes!  The really fun part is that he doesn't look the same on every page.  He might be big, little, a sketch, a cartoon mouse, etc. so it really keeps you on your toes to find him.  We still haven't found him on a couple of pages but we are all still trying.  Let me just tell you, some of those two-fold pages have some serious details on them!  

This hardcover 64-page book is a must have for families, for church libraries, would make a great gift for a children's minister or student minister, and for school or local libraries.  You can read more about the book here or purchase it below.  
The sweet folks at FlyBy Promotions are already in the holiday spirit of giving and they are offering one of my readers their very own copy of this book.  For your chance to win, simply enter on the form below:
"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Schlitterbahn Water Park at South Padre Island

We are blessed to live not far from South Padre Island here at the tip of Texas.  Over the summer, as part of the Mom's IceChest Challenge, we enjoyed going to Schlitterbahn for the first time and the kids still talk about how much fun they had.  As parents, we love how family-friendly the entire park is and how many different activities they offer for various ages.  The children's playarea is especially fun for little tots who might not be able to enjoy waterslides.  The indoor wave pool is incredibly fun and a great place to come float around and ride the waves indoors.  They have several food kiosks throughout the park and even offer a full scale restaurant if you prefer a sit-down and be served meal.
Since our kids are 13, 11, and 9 they mostly wanted to ride the waterslides.  We rode every waterslide at the park and loved it.  The kids loved the ones with lots of curves and fast water and our oldest loved the big drops.  Our 13 and 9 year old both did BoogieBahn which gave them the opportunity to be a "surfer" in an enclosed, outdoor area.  David and I both enjoyed the indoor wave pool at the end of the day and enjoyed just grabbing floats with the kids and relaxing and riding the waves.  It was such a fun and memorable day with the kids and we look forward to more opportunities to experience family-friendly fun at Schlitterbahn in the future.  

You can experience the Valley's premier entertainment destination on Texas' island jewel too. This beach paradise features a 221 room resort hotel, indoor waterpark, full service restaurants and more. Enjoy 11 world-class attractions, roar down twin water slides, feast at the Shrimp Haus full-service restaurant or kick back and relax on the beach. Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Resort is the perfect combination of family adventures and state-of-the-art attractions, right on Texas' favorite beach. Experience the beach atmosphere, unique mix of attractions including a great carousel and the award-winning Torrent river system. Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Resort is the perfect Beach Holiday. Book Yours Today!
Another special feature of Schlitterbahn is that they have a hotel connected to their waterpark so you can easily head back to the room and rest when the family gets tired and then walk back to the waterpark when everyone is rested up and ready to go again.  Head over to Schlitterbahn's website to check out all their great features and book your family vacation now to beat those winter blues!  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Why Do We Call it Christmas?" DVD GIVEAWAY

We love VeggieTales and were really excited when Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, came out with the "What's in the Bible" DVD series.  With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, I wanted to share with you a fantastic and fun way to teach children about the true meaning of Christmas.
If you ask adults what Christmas is all about you might get responses like:  holiday shopping, stress of getting it all done before Christmas, decorations, gift giving, cooking, hosting holiday parties, etc.  If you ask children what Christmas is all about you might get responses like:  Santa, gifts, being good so you get gifts on Christmas Day, decorating a tree, etc.  However, what Christmas is really all about is Jesus Christ!  Thanks to "Why Do We Call It Christmas?" children can easily understand the real meaning of Christmas.  
Join VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer along with intrepid newsman Buck Denver and all his friends on an amazing journey into the world's most popular holiday!  Sure, you know the Christmas story but do you know the story of Christmas?  Don't miss this whimsical, educational, Christmical party to end all Christmas parties as Buck Denver asks....Why Do We Call It Christmas?
This cute video last approximately 1 hour and it will keep your kids entertained and engaged the entire time.  We plan to show it to our children's ministry at church (Preschool - 5th grades) in a few weeks and we know they will love it.  Our 3 kids LOVED this DVD even though they already know and understand the true meaning of Christmas.  They have watched it 7 times already and said they still aren't tired of it!  The only issue I had with this DVD is that it talks about Christians celebrating Hanukkah.  Our family's personal choice is that we do not celebrate Hanukkah but at the same time, we are a family that teaches our children a Biblical worldview and so this was a great discussion point for us as a family.  It's certainly not a point that would keep us from watching this video or even sharing this video but it is something you should be aware of before you show it to your children or others.  This DVD addresses such topics as:

  • Where do we get the word Christmas?
  • When was Jesus born?
  • What do Christmas trees have to do with Jesus?
  • Who is St. Nicholas?
  • What is Hanukkah?
  • Who is Emmanuel?
  • The story of Luke 2
You can check out the official website here and even watch a trailer of the movie. You can also follow "What's in the Bible" on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to stay up to date with the latest products, sales, and creative ideas using this fantastic Biblical series.  Thanks to FlyBy Promotions, one of my readers will receive their very own copy of "Why Do We Call It Christmas?" DVD.  For your chance to win, simply fill out the form below:
Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned product for review purposes only.  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own personal thoughts and opinions.  Your results and experiences may vary from mine.  No monetary compensation was received.  FlyBy Promotions is providing the prize for this giveaway and is responsible for prize fulfillment. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

10 Things you can do to save time and money this holiday season

Let's face it....we are watching the calendar as the countdown to Christmas gets closer and closer.  Thanksgiving is only a few days away and Black Friday shopping looms.  With the approaching holidays, most people begin to feel stressed about money, worried about time and how they will get everything done that is on their lists, and they start to lose the joy of the Christmas season.  So today, I want to share 10 simple ways to help you save time and maybe even a little money too!

1)  MAKE LISTS ~ Go ahead and make a Christmas gift list for everyone you need to purchase gifts for.  That way you aren't buying duplicate gifts or leaving someone else. It will also save you time (and gas) while shopping because you may be able to knock out a couple of people's gifts at one store instead of running all over town trying to buy gifts individually.  This trick also works when it comes to preparing holiday meals.  Make a list of who is bringing what to holiday meals and that way you don't end up with 4 sweet potato casseroles and 3 people bringing rolls.  It is also helpful when guests arrive so you can already have a plan for where to put food.  You can just mark items off as they arrive and then when the lists is marked off, you will know you are ready to eat. It takes the guesswork out of holiday meals too!  

2)  52 WEEK MONEY CHALLENGE ~ When I first heard of this idea, I was so excited.  It is a pretty simple way to save money and save around $1,400 in a year!  You can read all about how the challenge works here.

3)  TRAVEL TIP - This is a fantastic traveling tip especially if you are traveling with kids during the holidays.  As you prepare to pack for your trip, lay out each outfit (underwear/bra, socks, shirt & pants) and then fold them all up together and put them in a gallon size ziploc bag.  Trust me, even a man's adult XL long-sleeve shirt, a pair of men's bluejeans, a pair of wool socks, and a pair of boxer briefs will all fit into a gallon size ziploc bag when folded nicely.  We did this kind of packing when we went to Peru on a mission trip and could only carry 40 lb. backpacks for a month long trip and it worked splendidly.  Not only will you be able to fit more in each suitcase if you pack this way but you also don't have to worry about clothes getting wet during travel.  If you have small kids, this idea works beautifully because each day they just pull out one ziploc bag and "ta-da!" they have that day's outfit all more guessing what they need to find in their suitcase to wear!

4)  DITCH THE EXPENSIVE RAZORS ~ Holidays are a time when everyone wants to look their best.  Instead of buying those expensive razors, razor blades and shaving products check out "Dollar Shave Club".  They offer several different razors and shaving products online.  You simply choose which blade style you prefer (you get a free handle too) and they ship it right to your door and you get to choose your own delivery schedule.  Subscriptions start at less than $10.00 per month and there is no fees, no commitment, and you can cancel anytime.  They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee too.

5)  MAKE YOUR OWN WRAPPING PAPER ~ Instead of buying those expensive rolls of wrapping paper take a few minutes and make your own.  You can use brown craft paper and put stamps all over it or let the kids use paint and put their handprints on it.  Save the comics from the newspaper and use those to wrap gifts for kids.  You can even take the Target shopping bags and use them to wrap holiday gifts.  The red target symbols make cute Christmas paper!  Not to mention, people love that you thought "outside of the box" and made the package special.

6)  USE SAVINGS APPS  ~ It is worth it to download a couple of savings apps to use while you shop.  A lot of stores now offer digital coupons that you can easily access from a mobile device while shopping too.  I use the Target Cartwheel app and the Walmart Savings Catcher app every time I shop in those two stores.  Every penny saved is a penny that helps!

7)  THINK HANDMADE ~ Rather than rushing out to the local store and buying a generic Christmas gift, consider making something handmade.  There are lots of handmade gifts that can be made for more than half of what you would spend buying a gift at the store and again, people love and appreciate a personal touch...especially in today's busy society! If you aren't real crafty, you can always check out Pinterest or if you need Christmas ideas, you can start with my Creative Christmas Pinterest board to help you get started.

8)  SHOP ONLINE ~ A definite time saver is shopping online.  You don't have to spend gas, you don't have to take time to get all dressed up and look good to hit the town and you can use online coupon codes to save even more money too.  Of course, Amazon is one of my favorite sites to shop online at and if you are an Amazon Prime member you can get FREE 2 day shipping on tons of items!

9)  BE FLEXIBLE  ~ As much as a well-laid plan can be organized, things are going to happen and plans are going to change.  Be flexible enough to roll with it when they do and don't let it steal your joy or ruin your "spirit".

10)  KEEP IT SIMPLE ~ Don't try to keep up with the Jones' and remember there is only one Martha Stewart - and we aren't her!  Don't put more pressure on yourself than you have to and don't get caught up in the competitive spirit to be the best of the best at the holidays. I can almost guarantee you that your family and friends want you to enjoy yourself while they are having a good time too.  Things don't have to be perfect to be memorable, fun, and special for your family and friends this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Growing Up Social GIVEAWAY

I'm going to take a shot in the dark and assume that we are not the only family that struggles with the use of electronics in our home.  While we want to be the kind of parents that really limit our kids electronic time and closely monitor all their activity on them but if I were honest I would have to admit two things.  One, they spend way more time on their electronics than we would prefer because we as parents aren't disciplined when it comes to controlling this (and we like our digital entertainment too) and too often use them as "pacifiers" so we can get things done without interruption and two, while we do closely monitor their activity on them a few things have slipped by us and been found out later.  So needless to say, I was very excited to have the opportunity to read "Growing Up Social" by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane.  
Children today are no longer playing hide-and-seek outside or curling up with a good book - instead they've been introduced to a world of constant digital entertainment through television, video games, and mobile devices.  And while technology has the potential to add value to our lives and families, it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child's emotional and social development.
In Growing Up Social, Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane will empower you with the necessary tools to make positive changes - starting today!  Through stories, wit and wisdom, you'll discover how to take back your home from an overdependence on screens.  Plus, you'll learn the 5 A+ skills that every healthy child needs to master:  affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention.  
 I have to admit, I find a lot of good and positive aspects of electronic devices.  Obviously, I'm a blogger and love my blog community and the friends I have made through blogging.  We use electronics often in homeschooling, educational games and apps, reading ebooks, etc.  We also use it to watch documentaries and educational shows that correlate with what we are studying each week.  Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow us to keep in touch with family and friends who live 1,100+ miles away.  Our mobile devices allow us to text easily and even FaceTime with our families.  So, I can list lots of positive aspects of digital entertainment.

However, there are lots of negative aspects of digital entertainment too and certainly a lot for us as parents to consider.  What I loved about this book is that it is not bashing digital entertainment or written to make you feel guilty about using digital entertainment.  In fact the authors state "This is not an anti-technology book.  Technology is here to stay, and we believe you can find positive ways to utilize it for your relationship."  

A few things written in this book that I loved were:

  • "Many people would like to think that violence in video games, movies, and television do not affect children.  The reality is that your child is affected by everything he interfaces with."
  • "Once parents have agreed on a rule, the entire family needs to be made aware of it.  Unspoken rules are unfair rules.  A child cannot be expected to live up to a standard of which he is unaware.  Parents carry the responsibility for making sure children understand what the rules are."
  • "When I hurt other people by my words or my behavior, I have established a barrier between that person and me.  My hurtful words or actions push people away from me, and without apology, they continue to walk away.  The child, teenager, or adult who does not learn this reality will eventually end up alone."  
  • "Begin with an honest inspection of how you use screen time in your own life and with your children.  Parents who constantly check and use phones and tablets in the presence of their children are contributing to their children's overuse of the screen.  You hold in your hand a golden opportunity to teach your child how to master their screen time - by learning to master your own."
As you can see, Growing Up Social,  addresses much more than just the impact of digital entertainment on children and families.  It also helps equip your child to be relationally rich in a digital world, replaces mindless screen time with meaningful family time, establishes simple boundaries that make a huge difference, and learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things done (so the electronics no longer have to be the babysitter).  
The sweet folks at FlyBy Promotions have offered one of my readers their very own copy of this fantastic new book.  For your chance to win, simply fill out the form below:
This promotion was sponsored by FlyBy Promotions and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. I received products in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% her own, and they are based only on personal experience using these products. No monetary compensation was received.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

When Calls the Heart DVD

Saturday afternoon we got a package from Edify Media and I was SO happy that it contained the next DVD from the When Calls the Heart DVD series.  When Calls the Heart is inspired by the best-selling books by Janette Oke and they are produced and directed by Michael Landon, Jr.  
About the Movie:
Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), a young woman of privilege, is working as a teacher in a prairie town in the Western Frontier.   Things were starting to get serious between local Mounty Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) and the high society teacher, but the appearance of a woman from his past, threatens to end the relationship entirely.  Meanwhile, Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin) has become the adversary of the most powerful man in Coal Valley.  A mining accident that killed her husband is finally being investigated, and the owner of the mine will doing anything to stop Abigail from finding out the truth.

My Thoughts:
This episode, Rules of Engagement, picked right back off where the last one left off and from the start it contains new drama, new characters, and a whole new plot to the on-going story.  Without giving away too many details (because I don't want to spoil the movie for you), this one adds some very unexpected twists and turns.  To be honest, this DVD series feels a little like a Christian "soap opera" but I love it and the story is so engaging.  I love the newly developed "relationship" between Mountie Jack and Elizabeth and when a new man comes to town, Abigail becomes intrigued. Of course, the ongoing saga with the mine explosion and loss of all those men, has a plot that just keeps getting thicker and thicker.  And in true, When Calls the Heart fashion, Rules of Engagement ends with a cliff-hanger on several levels.  I have a love-hate relationship with how these movies end.  I love the suspension and not knowing what happens next but I hate how long I have to wait to get the next DVD!  

When Calls the Heart series is a movie you can feel comfortable watching together as a family and it has very family-friendly content.  There are a few kissing scenes but there is no vulgar language or intense violence.  Our family loves this DVD series and we all enjoy watching it when the next episode comes.  You can learn more about the movie on the website or watch a trailer for this show here.
Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned DVD for review purposes only from Edify Media.  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own usage and personal thoughts.  Your experience and opinions may vary from mine. I received no monetary compensation for this review.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Harvest Snaps "Shake the Season"

Recently I shared about Harvest Snaps and their healthy and delicious line of snacks foods. In case you missed it, you can read all about it here.
Just in time for the holiday season, Harvest Snaps have released a brand new line of holiday flavors.  They now offer great flavor combinations that are nutritious and delicious in Cinnamon & Brown Sugar, Coffee Toffee, and Salted Caramel!  You can be the hit of your holiday party and feel good about offering your guest a healthy and delicious snack too.  

Best of all, you can WIN some great prizes with their "Shake the Season" game.  They are offering a wide variety of prizes and it is a simple and fun game to play. I played it this morning and won some digital downloads for my phone!  You can try your "shake" for a chance to win, by clicking here!  

Don't forget you can grab a bag of your favorite flavor of Harvest Snaps at your local Target and you can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest products, sales, and specials.  

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own personal thoughts and opinions.  Your results and thoughts may vary from mine.