Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Lessons of a Sunday Stroll


Time for the Lord. Time for family. Time for a stroll.

We have had a tradition in our family for some time now of Sunday family time after Mass.

Whenever our calendar is clear of commitments with extended family, service events, and community events, we rotate through our family, with a different person choosing what we will all spend the afternoon or evening doing on a family date.

Today, was my daughter's turn, and she chose for us to go for a walk at a local nature preserve.

We had not been to the location in a while, so, when we arrived, my daughter ran over to check on the wheel - something we spied some years ago at the base of a big old tree that the kids like to play on.

We noticed that the wheel has been swallowed by the tree trunk a bit more.  Such a curious thing... I am still meditating on what it speaks to me about...

We also noticed how very green and full some of the maples were at the preserve.

It struck us, because the maple leaves by our house have already begun to turn colors and be stripped by the wind.

Seeing the maples at the entry to the trail so filled with vibrant free still reminded how everything has its season - and even within the same season, different individual things (and people!) grow and change at different paces.

There is beauty no matter what - in foliage, children, grown ups, walk with our Lord... 

Then, as we strolled along, my youngest played catch along the trails with Daddy.

I thought about my boy's latest passion and how our Lord gives each of us different interests and talents.

Embrace the gifts God gives us. I thought. Go with them and see where God will take us as I do.

Along the trail, a swampy area caught my eye. It was not awe-inspiring, but had its own quiet beauty. A bit of color here. A reflection there. Texture. Depth. Breadth. Bareness and beauty all mixed together.

Much like life. Everything woven together by God's glorious design.

Next up along the trail, we came upon lean-to's that my children and friends have added to over the years.

We were again amazed at how the huts have withstood the test of time and countless storms.

Those branches placed together - strength in unity.

United with our Lord, we are strong.

Juxtaposed to the strength, just next to the huts was the brokenness of a tree that had obviously fallen in a recent storm.

My younger two immediately turned the "bad" of a fallen tree into the "good" of a new nature's jungle gym piece.

But, once they climbed up the tree and were headed back down, one child began to get a bit nervous, cautiously trying not to slip... Meanwhile the other child waited behind, dancing no less.

Fear and joy. Trepidation and patience... Persistence.

And steady footing came again.

And silliness, too...

Through the paths' ups and downs we walked - much like we walk our journey through life.

Along the trail, we spotted this - a 1/2 and 1/2 leaf - a reminder to slow down and spot the unique beauty of this world.

For it goes quickly... as does each moment...

How is our oldest almost as tall as Daddy already?

What do the Heavens have in store for us?

And what beauty awaits us around the next corner?

Only the Lord knows.

He knows the plans He has for us. The hope.  The future.

We are so very blessed.

Praise be to God for all the gifts He bestows on us.

May we each take some time today to give thanks to our Lord no matter where we are.

And, if you think of it, may you be inspired to take a Sunday stroll on an upcoming Lord's Day.  It is so blessedly refreshing!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

More Bible-Based Fiction for Kids {A Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Review and Giveaway}

Which books have been keeping my youngest child smiling and turning pages?

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5), and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) by WorthyKids Books - two books we are reviewing today and - at the bottom of this post - sharing a giveaway for.  (Actually, the giveway includes ALL the books in the series to date!)

The Best of Both Worlds

Because of the way The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) are written, they can be read as stand-alone books or read in order of the series, which means you get the best of both worlds depending on the type of reader you are - a good single read or a whole series to enjoy!Like other books in the The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series, Books 5 and 6 are also filled with adventure, fun, and Bible history - making another "best of both worlds" a reality: the fun of fiction with the truth of real Bible story facts!

This two-in-one plus is actually the mission of The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls author M.J. Thomas.

As the true story behind the fiction stories goes: Thomas is a dad who could not find a book that balanced faith, adventure, and education. So, he decided to begin writing his own time-travel adventure stories for his son in order to help him and other children discover the Bible and grow in faith while immersing themselves in engaging fiction.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series that resulted, Thomas certainly met his mission! My youngest child thoroughly enjoyed when we read Books 1, 2, 3 and 4 together in the past and was excited to read Books 5 and 6 on his own!

Ideal for Children to Read to Selves or for Families to Read Together

The books are perfect for kids like my son to read on their own (as happened for my son this time) or for families to enjoy as read alouds (which has happened for us with earlier books in the series.)

Each softcover book is about 120 pages long and divided into 14 chapters. The font is a decent size and black-and-white illustrations help children imagine the characters and plot as they read along.

The books also each contain a page that refers you to where in the Bible you can read about the things that occur in the book and are good at weaving fiction together with true Bible stories.

My Son's Thoughts

Here is what my son had to say about the books:

I wanted The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls, because I have read the rest of the series and liked it. Mom used to read them to me, but now I read them to myself. They are easy to read.

In Book Five: The Shepherd's Stone Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank find a map of their Uncle's house and go into a throne room that they had always thought was a pantry. There, they find a crown in a harp.
Uncle Solomon comes and the crown fits on Peter, because it was the crown of David who was also a kid. So, Peter, Mary, and their dog put the crown and harp in their adventure bag and hear a lion's roar. They go and unlock the door where the lion is and get a scroll.
Then, they go back in time where there are three wolves. So, Peter and Mary climb up a tall tree and Hank stays behind.
David gets the wolves away with his sling. Then, they introduce themselves and Peter and Mary sleep in David's tent.
They wake up the next morning and hear a horn. David knows what it means and goes home, because his parents want him to send food to his brothers. 
Peter and Mary go with David and also meet his other brothers who are mean to him.
David goes to the battlefield, and they want to take a shortcut. So, they do, but it is through a valley of darkness and death. There, they meet a bear an scare it off.
David gets to the camp and gives his brothers food.
Then, there is Goliath, and David wants to fight him. He goes to the king's house, tries on the king's armor, and it does not fit.
David is going to fight the next day, and Peter and Mary see a man in black and go spy on him. They find out that he's going to sneak up on David and attack him when he's focused on Goliath. So, they were going to go warn David, but the archangel tells them that they cannot, because they cannot change history. So, they don't tell him and plan to fight him (Satan) themselves.
So, David fights Goliath. He kills him. Then, Satan sneaks up behind David and more adventure continues.
In the end, like in all the books, the kids solve the mystery of the scroll and go back to modern times.

(I dare say, my son's narration of Book 5 was one of the longest narrations he has ever offered me.)

He also said:

In Book Six: The Lion's Roar, Peter Mary, and Hank are at their Uncle Solomon's house. In the house, there is a weird lion that roars and the kids grab a scroll and go back in time to ancient Babylon.
They get there and they see an idol - a fake god. They go into the place and a crow squawks, "Bow." Then, the high priest walks in and tells them to bow. They don't, so he goes to throw them in jail, but Michael the Archangel comes down to protect them.
Then, Peter, Mary, and Hank are chased down by the high priest, and they run to the hanging gardens to meet Michael. After they meet him, they also meet a person who is an Israelite.
Peter, Mary, and Hank go back to the Israelite's house and meet Shadrach. Then, they meet Daniel, and he gets thrown into the lion's den, because he was praying to someone besides the king.
At night, Peter and Mary try to push the rock that covers the den aside to see if Daniel is okay, and the high priest comes and pushes them in. 
Michael the Archangel is down there and protects Peter, Mary, and Daniel.
In the end, they figure out all the words to the scroll, and the kids get teleported to modern times.I liked this story, because it was entertaining. I knew the Bible story already and liked seeing how the author told it. It stayed true to the Bible while making it eventful and fun.  It also reminded us to trust God.

My son then concluded his thoughts as follows:

I have a question for the author: When will the series end? When will they meet their parents again? 
I recommend these books for kids from second to fourth or fifth grade to read on their own or for families to read together. They are family friendly.
You can learn about the Bible and history and have fun reading. I want to read more in the series! 

As you can tell, the books engaged my youngest son, and he remembered a lot after reading them. Thus, I would recommend them to others.

In fact, my daughter is not reading Books 5 and 6, and a friend borrowed earlier books in the series from me. 

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5), and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) are like other books from the same series by WorthyKids Books: engaging and educational, mixing adventure-filled fiction with true Bible stories to bring Bible history alive in a wholesome way for today's kids.

Learn More

Books 1 and 2

See what we thought about other books in the series.

Books 3 and 4

Enter to win sign copies of the entire books series!

Enter here!

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Read the reviews!

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Engaging Entertainment without Electronics! {A Brain Blox Review}

Open-ended play. Brain teasers. A way to keep hands busy while listening ears tune into read alouds and audiobooks. We have appreciated 
Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks by Brain Blox as a way to enjoy all of these things and more since receiving an awesome 200 plank package of them for review. 

We've also gone straight to the ceiling with fun!

What Are Brain Blox?

Brain Blox, in a nut-shell, are child-safe and environmentally-friendly, open-ended blocks that use balance, friction and your creative brain to build structures, create designs, and solve puzzles.

More specifically, they are inviting New Zealand pine wood planks that are:

  • 100% natural
  • non-toxic
  • free from stains, paints, dyes, and chemicals
  • precision-cut
  • sustainably-sourced

Plus , they require no magnets nor connectors of any kind and are just plain old fun!

Why Choose Brain Blox?

Brain Blox foster smiles, imagination, and learning as they provide countless hours of engaged play and STEM activities.

From our experience, Brain Blox encourage kids and adults alike to build towers...


 and more... 

With Brain Blox, you can create chain reactions, make mazes, meet challenges, and solve brain teasers... 

You can imagine something and, then, build it!

All the while, 
Brain Blox can help strengthen your brain's development by naturally incorporating hands-on math, physics, and engineering concepts into building while encouraging problem solving and reasoning abilities and improving dexterity and spatial awareness.

When you are using Brain Blox , you inevitably get creative, test ideas, experience cause and effect, strengthen perseverance, and let loose your imagination.

Plus, if you use 
Brain Blox with others, you tend to build cooperation and social skills while you're having fun!

So, yep, though seemingly simple, 
Brain Blox are brilliantly designed to encourage you to turn off screens and engage in hands-on, constructive, imaginative play and learning! 

What Did We Think of Brain Blox?

Since our Brain Blox arrived in our mailbox, they have taken up regular residence in our living room, and my children and I have been reaching for them regularly.

My oldest son, 13, said:
I enjoy Brain Blox. I think they are good for children of all ages, because they are enjoyable and can be used to create structures. I especially liked trying the brain teasers.

As you can see from the photo above, he also liked helping spot his baby brother as his brother tried experiments!

My 12-year-old daughter said:

I liked Brain Blox for playing when my mom was reading boring stuff and when we had Together Time. 

What did I do with them? I did a couple challenges, but mostly just built - even to the ceiling!

I like Brain Blox because they are sturdy, they are made of real wood, and they come with a bag to carry them.

You don't have to do a certain thing with them, but can use them for whatever you want.

I also like the pirate video that has one of my favorite pirate songs in it.

My youngest son, at nine, has a blast building. He said:

I liked Brain Blox because they are very good when you are listening to something being read or to just do something with your hands. 

I did challenges and built ships. I especially liked stacking them up high.  We touched the roof! 

I think children from ages 6 to 13 - like my older brother - would enjoy them. They would be safe for little kids, too, because it would be pretty hard to choke them. 

I will add that adults like Brain Blox, too.  At least I do!

I appreciate their simple yet inviting design, how they keep hands busy during read together times, and also, how they inspire imaginations during open-ended play.  

I also love how 
Brain Blox can be used for brain teasers with free ideas online.  

Further, I have found them quite handy to grab as an educational manipulative when reviewing multiplication and other concepts and love how they bring my kids together!

So, in summary, I'd say:

Brain Blox may seem like just a box of wood at first glance, but there is just something about the precision-cut planks that captures imagination, invites play, and encourages engagement. In a word, I think Brain Blox are brilliant! I'd recommend them to anyone.

At home, or out and about with the included carry bag, 
Brain Blox are loads of fun!

Learn More

If you ever run out of ideas for Brain Blox, there are loads of FREE PRINTABLES and ideas available to jump start you in continued fun!

Fifty-five Homeschool Review Crew families have been getting creative with Brain Blox. Find all of our reviews, including some video reviews.

You might also enjoy clicking over to the Brain Blox website, where you will find free kids' journal printables, videos, and freebies. You might also enjoy our recent review of another Brain Blox product: Fun Family Chess.

Plus, of course, you can connect on social media:

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