Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Open Letter to Discouraged Mamas

Dear Mama,

Have you had a difficult day?  A challenging night?

Have you wondered why God gifted you a husband and children, when you are apparently are ill-equipped to effectively fill your calling as wife and mom?

So much undone, right?  So many people and things needing your attention...  So little energy or patience left for any of it.

Yep, I've been there.

Are you tired? Worn?  Depleted? Discouraged?

Perhaps even frustrated and a bit angry?

Have you ever felt that there is too much to do and too little day to do it in?  Too many things and people needing your attention and not enough of you to go around? Much less enough of you to do so and to get a sound portion of sleep.

Do you ever just feel like, I simply cannot do all this by myself anymore?

Well... you're right.  You cannot.

And you don't need to.  The Lord God is your help.



Cry if you need to, but as you do, cry out to Him. Ask Him to help.

Give everything over to Him, confident that in your distress and sorrow you can call upon His name.  He is gracious and merciful and is there waiting for you.

Mama, trust me on this.  You are not alone.  I've been in a similar spot as you and I can attest: He is there - even amidst the mayhem of motherhood.

Perhaps especially amidst it.

He is wise and loving.

He knows everything you need, and, sometimes, all you need is a deep breath and a reset.

So, go on.  B-r-ea-the. 


Ask Him to fill you with grace and strength.



Thank Him for loving you and entrusting you with so much.



Ask Him to cast evil away from you and to restore you.

Thank Him for all the blessings in your life... For all the things vying for your attention... For all the people you are surrounded by daily.  Especially those you may be most exasperated with...

Thank Him for the very things you are discouraged about, frustrated by, feeling hopeless about... 

He puts nothing and no one in your life without equipping you to deal with it - and to do so with supernatural strength.

That's right, Mama.  Supernatural.  Not Super Mama strength.

Count on it.

And br-ea-the.


Pray.  Ask to be filled with His strength.

Recognize joy does not always equate to outward happiness and that even when carrying crosses, joy can exist.

Tap into that joy again, Mama.

Let it permeate you. Let it seep past every bit of negativity you may still be feeling and fill you.

Be filled with gratitude. With grace. With giving things over and offering them up.

Then, if there still remains a proverbial cross is in front of you, just pick it up.  Take it and Follow Him. 

That may be all you can do today, and it is enough. It is a path to holiness. 

Yes, embracing your cross of the day as you follow Him.  THAT is enough.

Just to trust.  Just to share in His love.  Just to depend on his mercy.  Just to take a step forward.

It's enough.

Oh, Mama, you may want to, but you simply can't do everything.  But you can can do one thing - follow Him.

Choose to do that in this moment.

Christ will strengthen you.  I know this to be true. 

Br-ea-the.  Trust.  Love.

With love and prayers, 

A Mama Who's Been There
(maybe like five minutes ago)

Enjoy Family Fun at King Richard's Faire

Huzzah!  King Richard's Faire is in it's 37th season and offers such fun for families! 

We were able to go again this year with thanks to complimentary promotional tickets, and, again, came away from our day in Carvershire happily tired. 

My children look forward to the live, interactive entertainment at King Richard's Faire each year- especially the jousts!  In fact, this year, my youngest was so eager to 
escape into the woods at King Richard's Faire that he was literally doing his own voluntary mental math several times a week from the day he saw our tickets come in to the day we actually went to the Faire.  Witnessing his countdown anticipation was fun.

Of course, even more fun was actually going to the Faire and - surprise- having him be selected as an audience volunteer.  The entertainer he helped had such wonderful humor and rapport.

Fun for All!

Having been to the Faire for a number of years, our family has come to know and love specific performers.  A couple of those were missing this year, but there were new ones guests could enjoy including the Royal Musicians Accordion Tom, Music the Gathering, and Three Pints Shy and Up In Arms, an acrobatic/juggling performer.

Enjoy we did!

My husband said: 

"Our family is fortunate to have a Renaissance Faire with such a long tradition so close to our home. Jacques the Whipper is a perennial favorite of ours along with the joust to the death."

My oldest son (12) said:

"I really like King Richard's Faire.  One of my favorite things is the jousts.  We watch every single one each year.  This year, I go to be a squire holding something for a knight.  I was happy.

I was kind of sad that Daniel Duke of Danger was missing, but happy that Jaques the Whipper was still there. 

I also liked the guy my brother volunteered with."

My daughter (11) said :

"I enjoyed King Richard's Faire again this year.  Some of my favorite shows were Jacques the Whipper and the joust. 

I hope Daniel Duke of Danger comes back next year! I like the acrobat they had this year, too. 

I also liked the fries." 

My youngest (8) said:
"I like King Richard's Faire.  One of my favorite things is the jousts.  I like how they brought Sir Geoffrey back this year!

My second favorite thing was the food! The hotdogs are big and mine was wrapped in bacon!"


As always, I enjoyed the performers, but, more so, relished witnessing my children have such a delightful day in Carvershire.  Giggles, grins, rapt attention, outdoor time, and exercise walking around soaking in the fun are all part and parcel of a fabulous time at the Faire, and I appreciate it all!

Our family had fun watching performers...

... savoring some food, and taking in the atmosphere of the glen with all the games, ridesartisans...

...musicians, and merriment. 

Indeed, there is plenty of merriment at the Faire! At every turn, there is fantasy, fun, and wonder as you encounter the King Richard X and Queen Anne III and their court, nobles, and not-so-noble  subjects...

minstrels and musicians...

 acrobats, stilt walkers, giant puppets...

wenches, muddy beggars, and more

With admission, you can freely visit any of the eight stages of live entertainment and the jousts, where a few hundred actors, singers, dancers, stage combat pros, acrobats, and puppeteers sweep you away into the (planned) mayhem and merriment of Carvershire.

In between, you can also enjoy games and rides, shopping in the artisan areas, or having a bite to eat.  For, while the entertainment is the main focus of the Faire, undoubtedly, many love the giant pickles and turkey legs, mead and cocktails, strong man tests axe throwing, handcrafted items and more.  

Plan Your Visit

Fall always seems to get busy, so is it sure is fun to "escape your reality at THE New England Renaissance Faire" as the King Richard's Faire folks say.

The 2018 season runs through October 21 on weekends and Monday holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., tucked away on 80 acres of enchanted forest at 235 Main Street (Rt. 58) in Carver, Mass. 02330

Tickets are $32 for adults (12+) and $16 for children ages 4-11 and can be 
purchased online or at the gate.  Children under 4 are free, and there is free parking.

Discounts can be given to groups of 25 adults or more and private parties can be accommodated (birthdays, vow renewal ceremonies, weddings). Groups may make reservations by emailing

Costumes are welcome and appreciated. In fact, costumed guests tend to be in the majority, not the minority, of the crowd.

Our family did
 not opt to wear costumes this year, but have in the past, and you can, too.  Wear one there or rent costumes for all ages and sizes right inside the front gate at Seams Like A Dream. And, remember, this is a Fantasy Faire not a medieval/renaissance re-enactment so...anything goes! Be prepared to see it all -  from Monty Python, to Harry Potter, to Game of Thrones, to DC/Marvel superheroes, to all kinds of cosplay.  The flavor of history mixes with the fun of present day creativity at King Richard's Faire!
Visit King Richard’s Faire on  social media on 
Facebook, on Twitter and Instagram @KRFaire, and on Pinterest as well.  You can also reach call 508-866-5391 or email

Be sure to note the
special contests and events which take place every Saturday (and some Sundays) which add to the fun! 

Also note, there is no outside food or beverage allowed in the Faire unless cleared by the office first, so eat a big breakfast before arrival and have some cash on hand for food in case you get hungry at the Faire.  (There are GF/V/LF options available.)

Finally, in case you did not notice in our pictures, King Richard's Faire takes place in the woods, and, although Carvershire is well maintained for safe and enjoyable Renaissance fantasy fun,  there are tree roots and weather to contend with, and the bathrooms are porto-potties (ones with running water!) So, dress and plan accordingly. 

Disclaimer:We received free promotional tickets in exchange for this honest review.  We were not required to write a positive review nor were we compensated in any other way.  All opinions we have expressed are our own family's.  We are disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Learn the Classical Art of Persuasive Speech {Review}

Wow!  Sometimes timing is everything!

{Affiliate links may follow.}

Shortly after my family and I joined a local Christian speech and debate club, I was offered a chance to review Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric (complete program) by Roman Roads Media.

At that time, I had not previously heard of Roman Roads Media, which also offers two subscription programs that other Crew Review families have been usingPicta Dicta Natural World or Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder.  However, immediately upon perusing the Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric page on their website, I knew Roman Roads Media was a company I wanted more familiarity with.  Their curriculum on persuasive speech from a Christian lens was just what I needed to enhance my own learning.

Yes, I did just say "I".  

Although Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric is meant for high school students, I wanted to review it for my own edification and so that I could better assist with our local speech and debate club.  For, although I have a strong background in drama and education - and even made a living as a public speaker at one point  - I have little background in logic and debate and felt Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric would help me step up my game.

That it doing!  So far, I'm only partially into 
Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric's 30 lessons and already thoroughly impressed with what an informative, robust, yet digestible rhetoric curriculum it is!  Moreover, I love that it takes an unashamedly Christian worldview.

The complete curriculum surely s helping me hone my understanding  of how to be informative in truth, powerful through moving others towards goodness and virtue, and elegant by using delightful verbal beauty.  Surely, this understanding will help me help the students in our local speech and debate club, too.

They Aren't Kidding When They Say "Complete Program"

Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric (complete program) is just that - complete!

The program came to me  packaged with its very own sturdy tote bag - a touch that I appreciated and one that made me think how Roman Roads Media takes its teaching to heart - ensuring even its products - which teach truth and beauty - are packaged beautifully and can stay organized and neat at home or on the go.

It consisted of:

  •  a thick hardcover textbook:  This meaty text is close to 400 pages with 30 lessons, spread over 7 units with introductory materials, an appendix of speech texts, an appendix of speeches within the Bible, a Glossary-Index, and Works Cited included.  That may seem almost too hefty, but trust me, it the layout is user-friendly and the content excellent!

Wide margins with images, Key Concepts, Famous Orator highlights, etc. make the text visually appealing.  Sections in each chapter for "Thinking deeper", "Developing Memory", "Reading Further", and "Notes" encourage depth.  And, well-written, clear, and relatively concise text explains everything you need to understand Rhetoric.

  • a spiral bound, soft-cover workbook: Details.  Details.  Details.  Not only does the workbook help you hone into details with clear though and no fill-in-the-blank filler, but the design of the workbook includes two favorite details I appreciate in such materials: spiral-binding and plenty of white space!  As you write out answers to each exercise, you do not have to fuss with trying to keep the workbook open since it is spiral bounce and lays flat beautifully.  You also have plenty of lined spaces for writing answers and wide margins for any notes you might want to add. The workbook also includes speech judging sheets.

  • a regular bound softcover answer key: This contains optional one-and two-year course schedules, answers to all the exercises in the student workbook, and answers to the exams. It also stands above many other answer keys I have seen, because it provides ideal answers for every question from the workbook.  There are no "answers will vary" - just good, solid, complete-sentence answer examples!
  • a shrink-wrapped exam-pack:  This handy stack of nine pre-preprinted loose 3-hole punched exams would come in handy for anyone taking thi course for credit that does not want to deal with printing and punching papers
  • a 4-disc video course: Clear, crisp video with eloquent presenters make this 18-hour video course an appealing component that compliments the text and workbook.  There are tow videos for each lesson from the text - one "lesson" and one "application video", like this:

There are also nine pre-exam videos to ad with studying.  It is recommended that student watch the video lessons before reading text lessons.  I found it worked well for me either way around.  I could read the text while out and about and view videos when I had quiet time, with one reinforcing the other no matter which order I was able to use them in.

Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric

It is also recommended that you keep a commonplace book of quotes.

 Roman Roads Media
Roman Roads Media

Traditional in its approach, thoughtful in its design, and wholly pointing to what is true and beautiful, Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric truly is a complete program!

Would I Recommend It?  You Bet!

Roman Roads Media

My elementary and middle-school aged children are not yet ready to to glean all the benefits of this Rhetoric program, but as I make my way through the classical art it teaches, I cannot wait until they are old enough to learn directly from the program.  Until then, I a happy to be learning myself, so I can sprinkle bits of knowledge here and practical tips there.  I have no doubt that going through the program materials myself will help me be a better speech and debate mom!  I also have already found myself recommending the program to local parents of high school students.

By the time you finish the program, you will have prepared and delivered 5 speeches:

  1. one designed to produce a particular emotion in listeners
  2. a forensic speech of accusation or defense
  3. a political speech urging hearers to do or not to do a course of action
  4. a speech of praise
  5. a free choice final topic

You will also develop a comprehensive and practical understanding of rhetoric, having studied examples from some of the greatest speeches in history and Scripture and focused on theory, imitation, and practice of persuasive speech.  Further, you will do all this from the a Christian worldview, grounding yourself in truth and beauty as you practice a timeless art that you can use to affect change.

Roman Roads Media

Without question, I consider Fitting Words Classical RhetoricI  I would also be interested in checking out more of the Classical curricula they offer as highlighted here:

Read more reviews!

Find Roman Roads Media on social media:

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dig Deeper with These 2 Bible Biographies {A Review}

Have you been searching for easy chapter books that engage children in Biblical biographies, challenge them to apply lessons to their own lives, and easily support learning activities such as mapping, timelining, copywork, memory work, and more?  

Then, check out Matt Koceich's Kingdom Files series from Barbour PublishingI have just read Who Was Jonah? and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? and recommend them!

What is the Kingdom Files Series?

Kingdom Files is a series of juvenile biographies written by Matt Koceich which are designed to introduce kids to heroes of the Bible.  Each book is set up in a similar fashion with:

  • a Fact File that lends itself nicely to exercises in mapping, outlining, timelining.

  • an Action File that offers a kid-friendly narrative in an easy-to-read font with plenty of white space and black-and-white illustrations.

  • gray Clues boxes throughout the narrative that highlight thought-provoking details.

  • a Power File that takes the familiar story of a Bible hero and extends it through highlighting specific lessons and suggesting ways we can apply the lessons to our own lives.  This section also offers Bible verses for memory.

All this is packaged neatly in a paperback of less than 100 pages.

Great for Developing Readers

My daughter with dyslexia typically struggles with chapter books, but happily made reading the narrative portion of Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? to me an August-September goal for herself.  So, whenever we have a few minutes to ourselves, we've been cuddling up and doing just that - having her read me the story.

It's been great!

My daughter is already quite familiar with Mary's story, but was curious how this particular book would tell it and has found the layout and content of the book to be at a "just right" level for her for her growing reading competency.  She's breezed through some of the text and surprised us both tackling big words on other pages.

We've also both enjoyed the Clues boxes as things I read to her as a break from her reading to me.  I especially appreciated how the ideas in these boxes inspire short conversations and highlight virtues, as well as, sometimes, Biblical parallels.

I also like how the Power-Up's at the end of the book extend the narrative story, challenging us to think more deeply and apply lessons from Bible heroes to our own lives  They make the book a biography, Bible study, devotional, and self-help book in one!  Love it.

My daughter liked the book as well, although she did ask me why so many parts of the story she knows as Mary's story are missing.  I explained to her that the Kingdom Files books focus just on what the Bible says about certain people, not on what has been handed down via Tradition.  Thus, this book sticks to Mary's journey through marriage, motherhood, the loss of her son, and his resurrection - telling Mary's story as found in the Bible.

When I asked my daughter what she thought of Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus?, she said:

The reason I like Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? is that you can just read the story, and the little clues can go on the side, so you don't have to read them until later. 
Or, if you want, you can just read the clue boxes to find out about some virtues and facts about Mary and how she trusts in God.  The Clue boxes are easy to find, because they are highlighted.
You can also read the Power Ups.  They tell you how to take Mary's story and incorporate it into your own life.  They also include memory verses.  I like how the memory verses are written out and are not just a short note of the Bible chapter and verse, like "Luke 1:46".  Instead, they have the whole verse written for you so you do not have to look it up.
I like the Action File part of the book the best.  Mommy likes the Power Ups the best.

My daughter is absolutely right about me liking the Power Ups!  In fact, I am thinking about using the ones from this book as family studies next May since it is a month dedicated to Mary.

Familiar Characters, Wonderful Lesson

My daughter has succeeded so well with 
Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? that I plan to encourage her to read Who Was Jonah? next.  Thus, I decided to keep the Jonah book as a special one for the two of us to read together before letting either of my son's read through it.   Of course, though, since I knew I would be reviewing the book before my daughter would have a chance to read it to me, I did quickly pre-read it myself.

In doing so, I was impressed by how 
Who Was Jonah? goes beyond the simple episodes of Jonah's life that most children find highlighted in Bible storybooks and dives a bit deeper into the full story of Jonah as told in the Bible and how it applies to our own lives.  It truly takes Jonah out of the whale's belly and into relevance for life today.

Who Was Jonah? and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? are written so that an 8-12 year old can read, enjoy, and learn from them.  They are also written, I found, so that a parent reading along can be reminded of truths and pushed to live our callings better.  Yes, most certainly,the Spirit whispered to me, reminded me, convicted me, and pushed me more than once as I read these wonderful Christian biographies that I would recommend for any family seeking to deepen their understanding of how Bible heroes can illuminate everyday living.

Learn More

See what other Crew Review families thought about Who Was Jonah? and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus?.

Read the reviews!

The Kingdom Files series currently includes 6 books about Bible heroes and the series website offers free printable game sheets and educator reosurces related to them.

Author Matt Koceich also writes Biblical fiction, which my family has enjoyed.


 You can find 
 Barbour Publishing on social media:

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross with Kids

It's no secret that my family likes to celebrate the liturgical year in our domestic church - and sometimes out and about with friends.


Last year, we did both for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th.  We enjoyed a simple meal at home and an easy, yet engaging, nature hide-n-seek game outside with friends.

Enjoy a Simple Symbolic Meal for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

In the morning I put together a simple symbolic meal for breakfast, which we lingered over chatting about the history of the feast day, the meaning of the cross, and more.  

We also read related excerpts and stories from Saints: Lives and Illuminations and Angel Food for Boys & Girls, Volume IV.

For our meal, I knew I wanted three symbolic things:

  • red foods and drink to remind us of God's sacrificial love for us.  
  • basil because tradition holds that sweet basil grew over the hill where St. Helena found Holy Cross and in Greece the faithful are given sprigs of basil by the priest. 
  • something that could be made into the shape of a cross that could be taken apart.

Looking at what I had in our cupboards and fridge, I ended up serving red juice (for Jesus' blood shed on the cross for us)...

...cherries (to remind us of Jesus' heart), salad greens (to remind us of the hill where the True Cross was found by St. Helena) and eggs with basil (the eggs to remind us of our new life through Jesus Christ since eggs are a symbol of new life and the basil to remind us of traditions for this feast day)....

...apples (which continued the red symbolism but also hearkened back to original sin and Jesus' triumph over sin),and toast put into a cross shape (which we could take parts of, much like people took parts of the True cross).

We also decorated with a red cloth (again, symbolic of sacrificial love), a globe with a crucifix atop it (because the cross of triumph is usually pictured as a globe with a cross on top to remind us of the triumph of our Savior over the sun of the world)...

... and an image of Jesus overlaid on the cross (to remind us of how the cross - once an instrument of torture and death - became the instrument of our salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection).

Enact St. Helen Finding the True Cross by Playing a Nature Cross Hide-n-Seek Game

Later in the day, friends met us at a local park where we continued our fun and learning.  

There, I set up a blanket with a few candles, a globe, a cross, and a copy of Story Library of the Saints.  

Then, after praying and chatting with the children about the Exaltation of the Holy Cross a bit, I challenged them to go find natural materials that they could make a cross with while I read them the story of Helen of the Cross from the Story Library of the Saints.

After that, I marked one cross with red - as our "True Cross", then, had the children take turns hiding that cross and two others...

while the other children hid their eyes...

...then went our to seek the "True Cross" just like St. Helen did.

We played round after round of our this easy Exaltation of the Holy Cross hide-n-seek game, enjoying ourselves so much!

It's such an easy game to prep and play, reminds children of the story of the cross, and gets them up and moving, too.

I encourage you to try it!

If you're looking for other ideas, you might enjoy:

Celebrate the Memorial of the Exultation of the Cross with Food, Reading, and More!

Have a wonderful Exaltation of the Holy Cross Day!

O God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son should undergo the Cross to save the human race, grant, we pray, that we, who have known his mystery on earth, may merit the grace of his redemption in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


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