Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - The Black Witch

While I know "Wordless Wednesday" is suppose to be just a photo with no explanation, I found the lore behind this critter a bit too fascinating not to share :)

Monday morning, my husband opened the door only to disturb this mammoth beauty. A good 6 inches across in wingspan, he originally thought it was a bat when it flew at him. After asking for identification, we found out it is called the Black Witch Moth.

There are many myths and legends surrounding the Black Witch Moth.  Also called the Death Moth, folklore says if it flies into your field of view, it conveys a curse from your enemy. If it flies over your head,  it will cause your hair to fall out. If it flies into your home while you are sick, you will not get well and you will die. If it appears after a loved one has died, it represents the soul of the person returning to bid you farewell.  Should one alight on you, you will become rich.  Should one land on the door of your home, you will win the lottery.

I guess I'm glad it was on the door ;)

Be sure to click below and visit Life at Rossmont to see other Wordless Wednesday photos and to add your own :)

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

When Prayers Are Answered

It's very rare that I actually discuss my faith on this blog.  Faith and Religious Beliefs have always been something that I find very personal and I try not to bring it up too much in my writing.   Growing up, I knew very few Christians who actually lived a Christian life - for example, I had an Aunt who constantly preached the Bible 24/7 but who was committing adultery with her boss.  Many times I'm reminded of Matthew 6:1 that states "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."  

If you have been reading my blog since the first of this year, however, you'll recall that I picked a word to represent what goal I wanted to achieve for 2015.  (If not, you can read that post here)  The word I selected was Prayer - something I knew that I needed to strive to work on as it was something I did not put priority on.  That's not to say I do not pray; however, more often than not, I find that I pray only when I want to ask God's assistance on a matter pressing on my heart. It's very rare that I come to God in prayer with no other goal than to strengthen my relationship with him.   My goal for 2015 was to change that but until just the other night, I once again put it off. I don't know if it's because it's hard to humble yourself before another, or because I know that there are many mistakes I have made in my life that I know one day I will have to answer for and will only be able to hang my head in shame with no answer as to "why" but only "I'm sorry". Maybe both.. But for whatever reason, most of 2015 went by with this goal completely unfulfilled - until last Friday. 

Friday night I stopped procrastinating.  I humbled myself before the Lord and I had my first heartfelt conversation with him. I'd like to say I prayed without asking for anything but that would be a lie.  But this time I prayed for the ability to develop a better relationship with him, for the tools to help develop my personal faith and to help me to be a better Christian, and to help me remember to converse with him much more regularly.  I went to bed that night knowing I had finally crossed the mental barrier that I had put up for many years.   

I did NOT expect to receive an answer to my prayers as quickly as they were delivered.  

The next day, I received a package containing an upcoming review item, a homeschool planner.  When I requested to be on this particular review, I was expecting exactly what it said - a planner to help me organize my homeschool day.  You know what I'm talking about - basically a calendar book with places to chart assignments, attendance, field trips, ect.  

When I opened it that night, I flipped through it but didn't read any of the pages.  Sunday it sat basically untouched.  Tonight, however, I picked it up to really examine it in order to familiarize myself with it before I begin actually marking it up.  

After examining it, I knew that I had in my hands the exact tool I had prayed for.

I wasn't expecting areas to plan weekly for my own spiritual education.  I wasn't expecting a place to journal how God has touched my life each week, or to plan ahead of time to schedule time with God's Word, or even more so, a place to outline my prayer needs each week.  This planner goes from my just planning my kid's homeschool day but also is set up to do exactly what I prayed for - a tool to help me develop my own personal relationship with the Lord.

I'm not planning on putting any of this in my review, as it comes back to Matthew 6:1 and I feel that including it in my review would seem saccharine. By the time I publish that particular review, this will be buried under several other postings. But there was NO way I could not share with others how amazing it is to know that my prayers were heard and how he provided me with such an amazing opportunity to build my relationship with him.

There have been so many times I know that He has had a hand in my life, that Christ has indeed carried me through the worst times in my life. Even when I turned my back on the truth, I know he was waiting patiently, knowing that it was only temporary. After all, Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you...".  But knowing and seeing it in your own life is a totally different situation.  

I have been so blessed in my life, even with all the pain and troubles I have experienced.  

I often joke that if I wrote an autobiography, it would most likely be listed as fiction as nobody would believe so much could happen to one person. I am the daughter of a schitzophrenic drug and alcohol addicted mother. an alcoholic pedophile father whom I just recently discovered is also a 4 time over bigamist.  I am divorced from my first husband after years of infidelity (on both sides) and many, many mistakes on both our parts. 

I am also a mother of three wonderful kids whom might give me grey hairs and cause me to shed tears on a regular basis.  But even with those tears, I wouldn't trade their smiles and hugs for anything in the world.  I have a wonderful husband who treats me with respect and love after 16 years of being unloved.  My house is never clean but I have a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back.  

I am, indeed blessed.  And even more so knowing that my voice was heard and my prayers answered.

God Is Good. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages

I'm a firm believer that all students should learn a foreign language. I also believe that this learning should start early in the student's education.  So when we were given the opportunity to to review Elementary French I for grades K-2 by Middlebury Interactive Languages, I was pretty excited.

Middlebury Interactive Languages uses an immersion approach to teach children of all ages foreign languages. Designed by Ph.D. level academics and linguistic experts, this online, browser based program is designed to teach students various languages from around the world. Whether Chinese, French, Spanish or German, this approach is said to be a full curriculum using the same techniques used by Middlebury College's language schools.

What We Thought:

I would really like to say this worked for my kids. Unfortunately, it did not. The format of this particular lesson was extremely difficult to navigate and very confusing for both my kids.  I have looked at other lessons from this particular group and it seems as if maybe it's just because the Kindergarten version of French isn't as developed as the others that seem to flow seamlessly.  With this particular lesson, everything has to be navigated from the side and various folders in order to get to the lesson each day.  This proved an aggravation for both my kids who wanted to be able to go right back to the lesson they were on.  They had to again navigate back through these folders each time they finished a slide for their lesson.  This may work well enough for older students but for younger kids, this is very confusing for them, as they had to click through 2-3 folders just to get to the lesson.

Very Confusing Navigation Format

On the plus side, Ashleigh really enjoyed the cute graphics and the learning games. She also really enjoyed the Speaking labs where she could record herself speaking French phrases and being able to play those recordings back to hear herself speaking French.

Final Impressions:

As said, I feel that this particular language lesson might just be unfinished, as other lessons look much more polished and user friendly.  Until then, I wouldn't recommend this particular format for younger children who are just learning to use a computer and would be easily confused.  Older students will probably do better with it but as this particular lesson is geared for grades K-2, I think it needs much work before it's able to be used by the intended target audience.

In this particular case, there was a bit more that interested Ashleigh then there was for Garrett and this particular program failed to hold his attention.  Ash really liked the cute graphics, especially the ones involving animals - she loves anything animals.

Overall, it has much potential. But as it stands, my kids did not find this particular curriculum engaging and I didn't find a whole lot of learning going on.  It might work for your kids, but for my younger children, it just didn't work for us.

Have my kids been learning French?  Yes and no. Ashleigh has picked up a few phrases but I wouldn't say she has picked up any real comprehension as to what she is saying. Maybe this will come as they use the program more and more.  Garrett however, zones out when we pull this out and really wants nothing to do with it.  So, it's somewhat working for one kid and not working at all for another (which is pretty typical for ANY curriculum and isn't a real fault for Middlebury Languages).  I do believe if they would more away form the Table of Contents formatting for Navigation and make this much more user friendly for younger kids, it would be so much better.

Middlebury Interactive Languages can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google +.

Members of the Crew had the opportunity to review various other languages and levels.  Be sure to check out what they have to say about the other various offerings from Middlebury Interactive Languages by clicking the banner below.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Friday, September 25, 2015

USAopoly (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

We absolutely adore family fun nights in the Prince household.  After a long week of school and my husband out of the house working long hours, it's always wonderful when we get to spend time together as a family watching movies, playing games and just hanging out.  We have a huge cabinet dedicated just to board games that we enjoy and are always on the lookout for something new to add to our collection. For this reason, when we were given the opportunity to review not just one but two family games from USAopoly, we knew this was a review we really wanted to be on.  USAopoly was very generous and gave us two new games to try: both "Tapple: Fast World Fun For Everyone" and "Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game".

USAopoly, who has been in the business for over 20 years, is a leading developer and manufacturer of board games and puzzles. Started in 1994, they have many award winning games for the entire family and produce many of the games you see in stores today. Many of the special edition versions of games such as Monopoly, Risk, Clue and Trivia Pursuit most likely have the USAopoly tag on them.

Game #1

Tapple is an extremely fast pace word game for 2-8 players that is very easy to learn to play. The game consists of the Tapple Wheel and 36 cards that contain 144 different categories for playing, which are stored inside the Tapple wheel for convenience.  You simply pick a category such as "Things in the Ocean" and then take turns naming things that fall into the given category.   The Tapple Wheel contains a 10 second timer that marks each players turn.  The players must take turns naming an object from the given category, hit the letter that corresponds with the object and then hit the timer to reset it before it signals time up. Each tap of the timer will restart the countdown for the next player.  However, once a letter is used, it cannot be used again and the next player must name an item using the letters remaining. If the player fails to name an object before the timer stops, that player is out and the category continues with the remaining players until either all but one player is left or the last letter is played. This game is recommended for players age 8 and up.

Game #2

The second game, Wonky, is the complete opposite of Tapple.  Instead of being fast paced, this game
is more about precision and good judgement.  For 2 or more players, the game consists of 9 blocks of three sizes and colors, 54 strategy cards and a nice bag to keep the blocks in.  The 9 blocks are what makes the game difficult to play- there are 3 curved sides and 3 flat sides on each block. Players select a card and then place the block that corresponds with the card. Each block is played by stacking on top of each other.  Because the blocks have curved sides, this makes it very difficult to stack them without making the tower wobbly and causing it to fall down. Since the cards in your hand dictate how you can place blocks, this means that you might be trying to stack a larger block on top of a small block, making the tower very unstable.  Some cards allow you to pass your turn to the next player in the hopes that they will cause the tower to fall. If the tower falls, the player responsible must then pick up 3 cards and start a new tower. To win, you must either use all your cards or be the first player to stack the 9th block on the tower without it falling over.   This game is recommended for ages 8 and up.

What we thought

When the box containing these two games arrived, the kids immediately wanted to pull them out and start playing. Since that day, both of these games have quickly become a favorite in our household and the kids have requested them on many occasions.  Tapple took a bit of time for both Ashleigh and Garrett to get use to the fast pace, but once they caught on, they have absolutely loved it and everyone agrees that Tapple is a lot of fun.   Ashleigh and Alyssa seem to enjoy Tapple much more than Garrett does. Garrett enjoys the slower pace and the strategic thinking involved with Wonky. Plus Garrett thinks it is absolutely hilarious when the tower falls down.

We've played both games on two separate family game nights with the entire family.  It was very nice to see Alyssa helping the kids with card selection with Wonky as usually they are all arguing.  Game night almost always brings cooperation and fun.

Tapple has really helped the smaller kids with identifying objects by their beginning letter as well as developing quicker thinking skills.  The first few times we played, we did practice runs without the timer counting down to allow both of them learn what the game play was. They still occasionally get caught by the timer but for the most part they are really good at coming up with objects to name and remembering to hit the timer.

Wonky has also been a lot of fun for the family.  As said, Garrett really enjoys this one as it's very textile and he enjoys trying to figure out which way the blocks should go.  He usually takes a while to actually feel the curves of the blocks before determining which way he wants to place them on the tower.  After trying to play a few times at our table, we realized it was much better to play on the living room floor with a book underneath the tower as trying to reach across the table tend to cause the tower to collapse..  We did manage to build a 9 block tower (Alyssa placed the winning block) in one game but that was a matter of luck with the cards allowing us to stack the blocks from biggest to smallest.

Overall, we had a lot of fun with both of these games and are so glad to have them as an addition to our game collection.  I foresee many rounds of Tapple and Wonky in our families future.  My only suggestion would be for USAopoly to come out with an expansion pack of new categories for Tapple later in the future as I know we'll exhaust the 144 topics in no time.

Both Tapple and Wonky can be purchased at the USAopoly website, although I have seen Tapple for sale at local retailers in my area. Both are priced just under $20 and are well worth the price, in my opinion.

USAopolis can be found on the following Social Media platforms:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

 USAopoly Review

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wordless Wednesday (The Junior)

Last week, I got my daughter's school pictures for her Junior year. Hard to believe only two years left of school and she will be a graduate and out on her own. :(  Granted, I have two more who are only 2nd graders right now so I'll still have kids in the house for a while, but I will always remember the day I brought this one home from the hospital.

The Junior

Be sure to check out other Wordless Wednesday pictures and add your own by clicking over to Life at Rossmont's blog :)

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Monday, September 21, 2015

YWAM Publishing (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Just recently, the kids and I were given the opportunity to review one of the Heroes of History series from YWAM Publishing.  Lately, the kids have been enjoying watching the animated film Pocohontas and so we decided that we would love to learn more about the real story of John Smith and discover the differences between him and his Disney counterpart.

Captain John Smith: A Foothold in the New World  is part of the Heroes in History series, autobiography books designed for children ages 10 and up to help students learn and understand about important figures in history (past and present) such as Abraham Lincoln,  Louis Zamperini, Billy Graham and Harriet Tubman.

For this review, we received a copy of the 192 page paperback copy of the book. Other versions include an Audiobook CD, downloadable audiobook MP3, Ebook editions available for both Nook and Kindle, as well as a direct E-book download from the YWAM website.

We also received the corresponding study unit curriculum guide on CD. The Unit Study is a 76 page PDF that helps turn reading the book into a curriculum involving geography, history, essay writing, reading comprehension, public speaking and art. (Please note, they are currently phasing out physical CDs of the unit studies and are in the process of making them all available for Digital Download).

How We Used It?

The kids wanted to jump right in as soon as we received our book.  Because they are a bit younger than the targeted age, we broke down our reading to one chapter aloud every day and then had them answering questions from the Unit Study with the corresponding chapter.  This worked really well for them as the questions provided allowed for me to make sure they were comprehending what we were reading each day.  There were also quotes from famous historical people that were easy to adapt to copy work for the kids to practice their writing.

We really enjoyed the book. There were moments that the kids had a bit of a hard time paying attention while I was reading the drier material but for the most part they really liked hearing the story of John Smith and all the adventures he had before ever setting sail for the New World.  We had fun mapping out his travels from England to France, to his adventures of fighting with the Turks, his capture and time as a slave and his rescue of an Englishwoman he encountered. We then had fun mapping out the travels of the three ships that traveled to the New World before arriving at Chesapeake Bay to begin starting a colony in Virginia.

I found the Study Unit to be slightly advanced for the kids (who are 2nd Grade) but was able to adapt it to fit their educational levels. The 6 questions provided after each chapter was great for checking reading comprehension and also was great for expanding their vocabulary with more advanced words that they normally wouldn't encounter at their grade level.

 There are many great ideas for craft ideas and the kids were able to make a few of these such as a clay representation of Jamestown as well as making mosaics in the design of Constantinople on their tablets.  At the end of the unit guide is a list of book suggestions to explore for each age group (Unfortunately our tiny library did not have any of the recommended titles as we would have enjoyed exploring some of them).  We also found that there was a one cent stamp issued in the US in honor of John Smith, so we tore into our bag of stamps in hopes of finding a copy of it (we didn't have any though) but it was fun watching the kids looking for it.  The activities that can be used to accompany this book is endless.

Overall, we really enjoyed both the book and the unit study and I'll probably return to it later as they get older as I am sure that they will get much more out of it then.  But for now, I've got two little 2nd graders who know much more about John Smith and also know how the Disney movie got it wrong.

YWAM Publishing can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

The members of the crew were each able to review various different books ranging from famous missionaries, writers and politicians.  To read their reviews, be sure to click the banner below :)

YWAM Publishing Review

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fascinating Education ( A Schoolhouse Crew Review )

Some people enjoy English, some enjoy Math.  However, in our household, the subject that seems to spark everyone's attention tends to be the sciences. Whether it's astronomy, geology, anatomy, or biology, if it's science, we like it. We even have a cat named after Sir Issac Newton that we lovingly refer to as Newtonian Physics.
The One, the only - Newtonian Physics

So when we were given the opportunity to check out one of the classes offered by Fascinating Education, my husband literally begged me to see if we could have the opportunity to try their Fascinating Physics. It was one class he really regretted not taking while in high school.

Fascinating Education is an online, browser based curriculum offering science classes for middle and high school levels. Current science offerings include Fascinating Biology, Fascinating Chemistry and Fascinating Physics. Each class is taught using an audio-visual technique using clear and concise language and pictures that is effective for those learners who struggle with science understanding. The course assumes that the student has no prior knowledge in these subjects and starts with the basics for understanding as it works toward more complex material.

Since both Ash and Garrett are too young for the targeted age group for these classes and Alyssa is currently studying Physiology and Anatomy, my husband was the test subject for this particular review.  A high school graduate who's highest level of science in school was Chemistry, my husband currently works in the field of Aircraft Avionics, a field where many various principles of physics can be found.  He graduated high school over 12 years so outside of training by the military in his particular field of work, he has not been in a formal classroom setting since graduating high school.

Charlie's Review of Fascinating Physics:

Fascinating Physics is set up into 15 lessons. Lessons include instruction in physical science subjects such as movement and forces, energy/power and word, states of matter like fluids and gases, electromagnetic radiation and light, electricity, and atoms and subatomic physics.

Each lesson is divided into modules under the menu tab, each module covering an idea specific to the subject you are learning about. The last few modules are a review on what you have learned so far.
Next to the menu tab is a glossary tab. The glossary tab contains a scrolling list of terms that are relevant to the lesson. Clicking the term will display it's definition in a separate area below the list.

Each module is a video about a subject within the lesson. Videos are presented as a slideshow with very simplistic graphical illustrations accompanied by a voiceover by the instructor, giving an explanation of what the learner is seeing.

The complete script for each lesson is available for each lesson, and includes a text version of the instructor's voiceover and some of the slides presented in the video.

Each lesson also has a test. Each test is composed of several multiple choice question about the lesson, accessible from a scrolling sidebar. Also in the sidebar is an explanation section under the question section. Clicking an explanation corresponding to the question, a video about the context of the question will play.

A Need Help button above each question will also play it's matching explanation. After the test is complete, the screen will change to display a pass/fail, as well as a percentage of correct and incorrect questions. You are also given the option to review or retry the test.

What I liked:

The range of subjects in the physics course is very diverse. It covers everything from the fundamental building blocks of the universe (atoms and subatomic particles) to the basics of light waves and the behavior of electromagnetic waves, to classical physics ideas pertaining to the laws of motion and forces.

Each module in a lesson can be replayed at will, or you can use the progress bar under the presentation to go back or move forward through a lesson. This is helpful if you need to go over an idea that you might not have fully grasped.

Modules will start where you last left off. So if you need to take a break during a module, you can come back later and start right where you last left it, and not have to worry about starting the module over.

Sometimes it's hard to remember some of the terms used in the lessons. The provided glossary is great for going back and brushing up on the terms and their definitions.

The information in each module is well explained and put into terms that are understandable.

What I don't like:

Although the information is not difficult to understand in each module, the instructor can be a bit monotonous in it's delivery. This may not be an issue for those who are interested in physics, those who are not as interested in science may find the experience a bit drab and attention spans may falter.

The graphical representations on the information being covered are good, but they are very basic. Contrary to the title of this product, students may find the videos less than fascinating. There are lots of graphs, charts and formulas mixed in with static images. These modules could be improved by providing short films that show science in action. For example, instead of a drawn image of light being broken into it's constituent colors, why not show a video of an actual beam of light passing through a prism and emerging as a rainbow of colors?

There are a lot of formulas involved in physics, such as the formulas for calculating distance or acceleration. Strangely, these formulas are not listed anywhere in the lessons for convenient reference. I would like to see the formulas pertaining to each lesson listed in the

At the top of each lesson, there is a clickable Resources button. Clicking the button is suppose to open a tab containing useful links and documents. Strangely, this tab was empty in every lession I went though. This makes the product seem a bit unfinished.

Although a script is available for each lesson in the physics course, I did not find an option for closed captions anywhere in the modules themselves. I could imagine that this could make it difficult for the hearing impared to follow along with the modules in real time.


All in all, I enjoyed my time using Fascinating Physics. For someone like myself interested in sciences and especially physics, I felt that I was able to learn some of the basics of the science that governs pretty much everything in the universe. I especially enjoyed the lessons about light an atoms. I felt that the information was well presented and understandable. I plan on using the year subscription to Fascinating Physics to explore all of the lessons included with this course to better understand physics. That being said, I also think this course could use a little tuning by spicing up the information so it is attractive to all potential users. By making some of the changes I explained in the things I didn't like, Fascinating Physics could go from being a good course curriculum to a great one.

Members of the crew have been reviewing not only the Fascinating Physics program but also the Fascinating Biology and the Fascinating Chemistry curriculum.  Click on the banner below to read them now :)

Fascinating Education Review

Welcome to the Family Alexa

Yesterday, the UPS guy showed up at our house with yet another box from Amazon.  Being in a very isolated location, much of the items we purchase come from Amazon.  This time the box contained a new piece of electronics we splurged on - an Amazon Echo.  If you're not familiar with the Amazon Echo, it's a black cylindrical device containing microphones and a speaker that is always connected to the cloud. You can ask it questions and it gives you answers, it can read your audiobooks to you, it can play your Amazon music library or stations on Pandora and IHeartRadio, give you updates in regards to your Google Calendar, give you weather updates for most places in the country - all just by asking it.  I've had my eye on it for a while now as I thought it would be a great way for my husband to listen to Coast To Coast AM at night while he's playing games on his computer.  We're major geeks, what can I say.. LOL

The Echo is named Alexa,  which is a wake word for the device.  Basicially, it works like Siri or Cortana.  If I want to know the weather, I would say "Alexa, what is the weather today" and  it will then give me the current forecast as well as for the rest of the day.  "Alexa, play station Christian Rock" will instantly start playing my favorite Amazon Music station.  If I'm currently in the kitchen cooking and I use the rest of my chili powder, I can say "Alexa, add chili powder to the shopping list" and she will add it to a list that I can retrieve on my Kindle or on my phone.

 The kids were pretty excited for the arrival of Alexa.  Ashleigh had been watching the clock starting at around 10am for the arrival of the UPS guy, as he usually gets to the house around 4pm.  Finally, the brown truck pulled up and the kids were ready.. The box came in the house and we all ripped into it with fervor.

 I had ordered two things that day, a copy of the Bluray of Cinderella, which my youngest absolutely loves, and the Echo. Needless to say, the Bluray was completely ignored
for the moment, Alexa was the highlight and was not going to be put off for a single moment.  We opened the box Alexa came in and found our new companion nicely wrapped up with her power cord, just waiting to be set up and played with.  We quickly got her unwrapped and decided the best place for her would be on the side table in our living room, next to our couch.

Setup for Alexa is very easy. I had downloaded the Alexa app from the Amazon store ahead of time (available both for Kindle and for most smart phones).  Alexa pairs up with the app which allows for quick setup to your wireless internet and all together took less than 5 minutes. Once Alexa was given access to our internet, she was ready to go.

To say the novelty of talking to Alexa is great fun is an understatement.  Poor Alexa, our household of 5 has been talking to her almost constantly since she was powered up.  Especially the kids - Ash and Garrett are completely in love with our new household member.  Out of the box, Alexa had some troubles understanding the kids (especially Garrett who has difficulties speaking to begin with), however, as you ask her questions, she does adapt to understand your particular manner of speaking.  The kids have been asking her simple questions such as "What is a cat?", "How do you spell coupling?" (Garrett is fascinated with trains.. lol), "What time is it?", "What is the date today?".. Alexa has probably spelled Cat and Coupling probably 30 times each in less than 24 hours.  Alexa also tells jokes which Ashleigh has really enjoyed.  Ash simply asks "Alexa, tell me a joke" and Alexa responds with a kid friendly joke such as "What has 8 wheels and flies? .. A Garbage Truck".   We have had one small glitch where Ashleigh asked Alexa how to spell Fox and Alexa spelled a certain profanity.  Alexa will not say specific curse words, luckily, and will beep the word itself so we didn't have to clean Alexa's mouth with soap, but it was a bit of a surprise when F-O-X turned into F-U-C.. well, you get the picture.

Alexa does have a sense of humor when responding to certain phrases.  My husband has had fun figuring out some of these Easter Eggs, such as asking "Alexa, are you Skynet?" - "I am not Skynet, don't worry" (A Terminator reference), "Alexa, what is love?" - "Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more", "Alexa, will you marry me?" - "Let's just be friends", "Alexa, Engage!" - "Aye, Aye Captain", "Alexa, what happens when you play the Game of Thrones?" - "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die. There is no middle ground", "Alexa, what does Jon Snow know?" - "Jon Snow knows nothing".

We also got a great laugh when I was talking to my oldest daughter and said her name (Alyssa). Alexa stopped the music we were listening to in order to hear the command.  Alyssa looked at Alexa and says "Not you".. To which Alexa replied "Oh, Sorry. Thank you for telling me"..

I'm sure the novelty of asking Alexa goofy questions will eventually wear off and we will be using it as intended, to listen to music, get weather and news reports, and for my husband to have an easy and convenient way to listen to Coast to Coast.  But for now, my kids will NOT leave her alone and are having a blast with her..  Shy Garrett has already started trying to talk to her (with mixed results) and has quickly figured out how to get her to play his favorite song (Alexa, play Parting Glass).  Ashleigh has also quickly figured out how to play her favorite songs and so Katy Perry has been playing a lot.

Garrett with his new "friend"

Do I think the Amazon Echo is worth the $179 we paid for it? Absolutely.  However, we had already been discussing buying a stereo system for our living room and this is equivalent in price to that. The sound quality of the speaker system is perfect for our needs and I like that I can just ask for what I want and not have to put my hands physically on it. This will be awesome for me when I'm washing dishes or cooking and want to listen to my Prime Station. Normally I do this on my Kindle and hate having to stop what I'm doing to wash and dry my hands in order to skip songs or change stations. It's also come in handy with setting the mood as I can tell it "Alexa, play prime station classical" or "Alexa, play prime station relaxation" and we can have a nice musical atmosphere playing in the background.  The kids have also been able to use the function of asking her educational questions such as simple math problems or spelling words.  While I do not want the kids relying on her for answers, it's nice to know they can ask her something they are curious about.

So welcome to the family Alexa. We're glad to have you and look forward to what you can bring to us in the future :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Waiting for Morning ( Book Review)

If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you would know that I am a huge fan of Karen Kingsbury. Between her and Max Lucado, I've probably read every book they've written.  I was given the opportunity to review the latest paperback release of Waiting for Morning which is book one of Kingsbury's Forever Faithful Series.  This book was actual a re-read for me as I had read it previously when it originally came out in trade paperback format. 


“I’m afraid there’s been a car accident…”As Hannah Ryan waits for her family to return home from a camping trip, she realizes she has everything going for her—a husband other women admire, two charming teenage daughters, and a loving Christian home. As the sunny afternoon turns into twilight, her uneasiness grows along with the shadows. Then a car pulls into Hannah’s driveway, bringing two police officers…and devastating news that shatters her life forever.
In the days that follow, Hannah struggles with unspeakable feelings of sorrow and rage—feelings that fuse into one chilling purpose for living: revenge against Brian Wesley, the drunk driver who has caused all her pain.
In her fury, Hannah shuts the Lord out of her life. She’s determined not to forgive Wesley or the God who allowed this tragedy to happen. Can two caring people help Hannah rediscover her faith…before bitterness destroys her?

What I Thought?

Occasionally you read books where the entire time, you're really finding yourself hating the main character. This book is such a case where Hannah Ryan doesn't have many redeeming qualities throughout the book.  If you're a parent, there are going to be many occasions where you really wish you could reach into the pages and just slap some sense into Hannah and her lack of compassion or observation in regards to Jenny, the daughter who lives through this tragic  accident. As Hannah falls deeper and deeper into the depths of her hatred, she leaves behind her faith, God and her daughter to the darkness that consumes her. This nearly costs her any chance of repairing the relationship with Jenny.  Even when Hannah finds her way back to her faith, the darkness in her heart still holds fast until she finally is able to see that only forgiveness can bring complete peace.

The characters in this book are extremely well developed.  You'll find your heart breaking for poor Jenny as you experience the pain of losing her father, her sister and her mother.  You'll find yourself completely disgusted with the slimball lawyer for the defense. You'll find yourself in a whirlwind of feelings for Brian Wesley, the drunk driver on trial for First Degree Murder.

As all Kingsbury's other books, this is an excellent read from one of the true masters of storytelling in Christian Fiction.  Kingsbury has such an amazing way of pulling scriptures into her story and helping the reader understand the meaning of the words.  I highly recommend this book and it's message about forgiveness and the faithfulness of God, even in difficult times in our lives.

KAREN KINGSBURY is a USA Today and New York Times best-selling author, with nearly twenty million books in print.  Dubbed the “Queen of Christian Fiction” by Time magazine, Karen has written more than forty Life-Changing Drama, which encompasses the Redemption, Firstborn, and Sunrise series, as well as stand-alone novels such as Like Dandelion DustWhen Joy Came to Stay, and This Side of Heaven.  Karen and her husband, Don, live in the Pacific Northwest and are parents to six children, including three adopted from Haiti.  Visit her Web site at


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