Heirloom Audio review (guest post)

I have a guest review to share today from my older boys. Munchkin and Seahawk will each be sharing their thoughts on the newest production from Heirloom Audio, which is called St. Bartholemew’s Eve. They’ve been listening to this as their history lessons for the past couple of weeks, and this review is the final assignment for that “unit.”

There might be some overlap because both boys are reviewing the same thing, but I wanted to make sure to let them both have a turn. I’m not changing anything except their grammar and punctuation as needed (which wasn’t bad). 

Munchkin (12 years old)

St. Bartholomew’s Eve starts with a boy named Philip. He is in France talking about the Huguenot cause with his aunt. They go riding.

Next, Philip is training to sword fight. He also learns to use pistols for extra protection in battle. His cousin tells him that it is time for battle. The battle is long, but The Huguenots eventually retreat.

Now, they go to the city to rescue Philip’s friends. They meet a boy named Argento. He shows them where the city officials live. They capture the president and other city officials. They give the president one hour to come back with Philip’s friends. After Philip’s friends are safe, he warns the president to not harm anyone else in the city.

Another battle ensues, and when the Huguenots are on the verge of defeat, Philip fires his pistols and the Catholics retreat. He then hears word that the president is harming people in the city again.The Huguenots lay siege on the city, and Philip goes in to rescue Argento. Philip then notices that there are X’s on the doors of all the Huguenots. He then goes to rescue Argento’s parents.They disguise as Catholics, but are captured and rescued by Philip’s friends. They escape. When they arrrive at the chateau, there is a battle. The Huguenots win. They escape. Then they go to Paris to make peace with the king, but are betrayed and slaughtered.

I liked St. Bartholomew’s Eve. Of all the audio dramas so far, it has been one of the best. My favorite part where they meet Argento. I liked this part because I like Argento.

My least favorite part is the beginning.I didn’t like the beginning because it was not exciting enough.

There are my thoughts about St. Bartholomew’s Eve.

Seahawk (14 years old)

Phillip is a British nobleman. He is in France meeting his cousin about the persecution of the Protestant Christians in France. They are in the middle of a war with the Catholics over the right to worship God in the way they deem correct. He and his cousins are the commanders of the Protestant Huguenots.

Our story begins with Philip talking to his aunt. She then sends a servant to fetch his cousin while they discuss the Huguenot cause. He and his cousin then go riding.

Philip stays with them for several months while he practices fighting and strategy. Some time later, he and his cousin hear word that Huguenot city has been oppressed, so they ride to meet the other officers in a small town in the north of France. In this meeting, Philip, his cousin, and several other officials of the Huguenot army are making plans to meet the prince in a town outside Paris to organize an invasion of the city. However, on further examination, this proves more difficult than anticipated, so Philip proposes another plan. Instead of attacking Paris, attack a Catholic stronghold in the west of France where there is a high population of oppressed Huguenots willing to take up arms to help recapture their city from the Catholics.

They go on to win several battles and are then called to Paris to make peace with the king. While all of their major leaders are at home the next night, the Catholic soldiers mark the Protestants’ doors and massacre them all. Philip and his friends get away with the exception of his cousin. 

I like this one kind of a lot. It has a very similar feel to In Freedom’s Cause, and that is one of my favorites. What I mean by “similar feel” is the order that things happen and the way they are framed. In this one, it is a lot of leaders interacting with each other, and more of them making plans as opposed to just chaos. I like this versus the other Heirloom stories because you can connect with the characters more easily and see the way they think. It helps you be able to predict where it will go, and it is fun to see it play out. For example, somewhere in the first disc there is a scene in which Philip and his cousin are lying in hospital beds. One of the higher ranking officers walks in to congratulate them for their success in battle. He also knights them both. Knowing Philip from having listened so far, me and Munchkin paused the CD and tried to predict how this would go down. We predicted that Philip would decline the knightship and he did. 

One of my favorite things about these is it’s a fun way to learn important historic stories. I think that all of them have their strengths and weaknesses but they are very well done as a rule. 

 

St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}
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Forensic Faith (book review)

I love forensics. When I was a young teenager, I’d watch Forensic Files with my mom. As an adult, I watched CSI (Vegas and NY; didn’t like Miami for some reason) with my husband. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any of those shows, but I still have that ingrained interest in the topic. So when I heard the title of the book I’m reviewing today – Forensic Faith for Kids – I was intrigued. 

This book, from David C Cook and Case Makers Academy, was an interesting read. We read it out loud together during our daily lunch break; this way we could read the book without interrupting the school day. It tells the story of a group of kids (their ages aren’t specifically stated, but they seem to be about middle school aged) who are part of a detective group in their local police station. They learn a variety of detecting skills from their mentor, Detective Jeffries. This character is based on the author’s real-life mentor of the same name. Author J. Warner Wallace is a cold case detective who has shared his knowledge on such shows as Dateline. He is also a former atheist, and he now uses his background as a criminalist to write books proving the truth in Christianity. Forensic Faith for Kids is his fifth such book.

During the baseball team car wash fundraiser, a dog shows up out of nowhere. There’s no sign of an owner. The only clue is a name, Bailey, on its collar tag.  

At church, Tiana tells her friend Hannah about a new friend named Marco. Marco believes that Jesus was “just a prophet.” He even has a book to back up this belief.

With the help and guidance of Detective Jeffries, using forensic science, the kids will solve the mystery of the dog and discover more about Jesus. Because the book was written by a cold case detective, it follows the real steps one must go through in order to solve any mystery, and it does so in reasonable detail. Besides showing the required actions in the story itself, there are callout boxes explaining different investigation terms and why they’re important. Sprinkled throughout the book are also “CSI Assignments,” which include scripture to read and critical thinking questions. This is in addition to the illustrations, each of which is captioned with a line from the text.

The book is unusual in its writing in two ways. First, it’s written in present tense (Jason asks, as opposed to Jason asked). This isn’t unheard of, but it is definitely rare. The second thing I’ve only ever read before in Choose Your Own Adventure books, and that is that it’s written in second person. This simply means that “you” are a character in the book. While that perspective was different, I think it’s very effective in this format – namely, because it’s challenging kids to explore their own faith and learn to defend it, putting them right into the book is very clever.

When I asked the boys their favorite parts of the book, Seahawk said he liked the CSI Assignments. Munchkin and Small Fry really liked the pictures. I liked how it took a potentially difficult, boring subject and turned it into an engaging story for kids.

Blessings,

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Forensic Faith for Kids {David C Cook and Case Makers Academy Reviews}
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I Know It (math review)

I’ve been working with Small Fry (6 years old) on a new math website called I Know It. From the creators of Super Teachers worksheets, I Know It is a completely online program offering supplemental math lessons for kids K-5. 

Even though it’s designed to work as extra practice for your child’s main curriculum, we don’t actually have one right now, so we’ve been using as a main math curriculum the past few weeks. Because Small Fry is only in first grade, that’s been okay; seeing the program in action, though, I agree that it would be best as just a supplement.

F2DB91CA-328F-496E-9B58-712280CA633FSetting up the account was really easy. It was just a matter of entering my son’s name and grade. Everything else was automatic, specifically the available lessons.

When you go to the site and log in, there’s a little pop up from which you choose the student who is using the site. Once you do that, the pop up closes and age appropriate lessons are available. 

You can assign specific lessons to your child or just have them choose from what’s available in their grade. I tried the assign method to see how we liked it, but in the end decided it was better to choose a lesson on a day to day basis. If you have upper elementary school students who can work semi autonomously, though, that would be a great tool to keep them from having too many choices and therefore not being very efficient with their time. Another reason assigning didn’t work too well for us was because my son doesn’t read independently yet (he’s still working on CVC words). Since I was sitting right with him during these lessons, I could just select the lesson I wanted him to work on that day. 

Once I’d logged in and selected a lesson, the questions would start right away (one at a time). I read the question aloud to Small Fry, and he would answer it on his own. There are lots of different types of questions: fill in the blank, multiple choice, q & a. One thing I appreciated was that on the questions that required a typed answer (all numerical in the first grade level), the website used its own keyboard rather the standard iPad one. This made it a lot easier to focus as Small Fry wasn’t distracted by the letters. 

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When the student answers the question correctly, a positive word shows up in green and the robot mascot did a little animation. This changed from question to question, though there were some repeats. 

Each week, I received an email from I Know It detailing what was worked on. It spelled out exactly how long he spent on the lessons, how many questions he answered, and the names of the lessons completed. This wasn’t super important for me since I helped my son each day, but if you have an older child working largely on his own, this information would be invaluable – especially if you live in a state that requires curriculum reporting. 

We have had a very positive experience with I Know It. Small Fry enjoys the lessons, he’s getting good reinforcement on age appropriate concepts, and it doesn’t take too long to get through a lesson (8-10 minutes for 15 questions). But don’t just take my word for it; click the banner below for more reviews. 

Blessings,

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Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade {I Know It Reviews}
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Rescue Me! (Book review)

Like it or not, superheroes are all the rage these days. And thanks to the “Marvel cinematic universe,” I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. So why not capitalize on that? This is exactly what The Captain Sun Adventures is all about. 

There are currently three books in the Captain Sun series, and we’ve had the pleasure of reading Book 1, Rescue Me! What Superheroes can Teach Us About the Power of Faith. This softcover book is primarily a comic book/graphic novel, but it also includes really good devotionals for kids. 

The book is divided into 8 chapters, each with 3 pages of comic story and one devotional. The devotional pages are designed to look like a newspaper, so they keep the feel of the book intact and are not at all distracting from the story. Each devotional follows the theme of the chapter it’s a part of. 

The book dives right into the action; the origin story is very limited and told in an almost flashback style. The citizens of Capital City are being enveloped in darkness, and no one knows why. They do, however, know that Captain Sun has always been there to save them before, and he’s nowhere to be found now. 

Like any good superhero, Captain Sun does come to their rescue, though. And like any good superhero story, Rescue Me! has a good villain in Black-Out, the guy causing the darkness. The battle at the end of the book is a good read, and (spoiler alert) isn’t resolved – it’s comtinued in the next book. (I assume it is, anyway, due to it not being resolved in this one.) 

It’s easy to focus on the superhero part of the book, but I think the devotionals are actually more important. They fit well in the superhero-comic theme of the book, but have great content too. For example, at the end of chapter 1 (the origin story I mentioned before), the devotional is called “Origin a Story.” It talks about our origin as humans, how we were created in God’s image and why. It tells kids about sin and God’s plan to save us through Jesus. Each one has superhero themed questions to get kids interested in the devotional too (who is your favorite superhero? How did they become a superhero?), as well as a Bible verse supporting its point. You could easily make this verse into a memory verse or copy work for your children as they read the book.

At the end of the book is a list of more intense questions for parents and children to discuss together. For each chapter, there is one question from the comic and one from the lesson. 

Munchkin (12 years old) and I both read this book. We thought it was a pretty fun read, and it didn’t take long to get through. Of course, you could easily extend the read time by making it into lessons rather than just recreational reading, but we just read it (independently of each other). Munchkin specifically mentioned to me how he liked the flow of the story; one scene led into the next quite seamlessly. 

Are you a children’s ministry director? Captain Sun also offers a free VBS primer pack. I haven’t looked at it closely, but I wanted to mention it because I think that’s a pretty cool thing for them to give away. You can download the “blueprint” on the website.

Make sure to click the banner below to learn more about Rescue Me! What Superheroes can Teach Us About the Power of Faith.

Blessings,

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Rescue Me! What Superheroes Can Teach Us About the Power of Faith {The Captain Sun Adventures Reviews}
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Jonah and Mary (book review)

A few years ago, Munchkin (who turns 12 this week) loved to read. Recently he’s been exploring other ways of expressing himself and finding his interests though. He currently enjoys drawing maps from memory. Through these other explorations, I don’t want him to completely abandon reading, though, so when the opportunity to review a book or two comes up, I always ask him if he’s interested. When it came to Who was Jonah? and Who was Mary, Mother of Jesus? from Barbour Publishing he said that he was definitely interested, so I’m going to leave the rest of this post to him.

Who was Jonah?

This book is about 80 pages and the type is fairly large, so it was easy to read. As you might guess from the title, it is a biography of the Biblical Jonah. It starts right before God tells him to go to Nineveh. It drops you right into the action, and follows the same action as is in the Bible right up until the end. It has Bible verses to help support what the author is saying. 

This book was pretty good. I found it fun to read. I’ve read another book by this author (Matt Koceich) before, and I really liked it, so I thought I would like this one too and I was right. I really like biographies, so this was a good book for me.

Who was Mary, Mother of Jesus?

This book was a very similar length and format to Jonah, but it’s all about Mary. It starts by explaining Mary’s special role in history, including the prophecy from Isaiah 7. The “real” story starts in chapter 2, where Mr. Koceich talks about the census and birth of Jesus. Each chapter takes a memorable Bible story (the wise men, 12 year old Jesus at the temple, the wedding in Cana, Jesus’s crucifixion) and explains Mary’s role in each. Like the Jonah book, it gives Bible verse references throughout to support what is being said.

I liked this book too. It was interesting to read familiar stories from a slightly different point of view. It wasn’t quite as fun as Jonah, but I still enjoyed it a lot. 

What Both Books had in Common 

In each book, there were little bits of extra information sprinkled throughout in gray boxes labeled “Clues.” These were mostly things that show God working in the life of both the subject of the book and how we can apply that today. For example, in Mary, one of the Clues says

Mary’s song reminds us to always praise God, for He is worthy. God gives us grace. He fills our hearts and always keeps His promises.

At the end of the main part of the book are “Power-Ups.” These are short (2 page) devotions based on the life of the person whose book it is. Each one includes a memory verse. 

Other Stuff

These two books are part of a series called Kingdom Files. So far, there are 5 books in the series: the two I reviewed, Jesus, David, and Esther. Each one is $4.99. I would like to read them all at some point.

Blessings,

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and Munchkin 

Kingdom Files {Barbour Publishing Reviews}
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Bumblebee: a birth story

EE0671B2-D9E2-4FCB-AC8F-5E8463F42369My csection went great. Much better than my dream the night before, in which everything was going wrong. The anesthesiologist was amazing! And my doc got a cyst removed from a sensitive area while I was already numb, so that’s good.

55F1DD34-1124-4AB8-9EE4-268D0BC0434AWe got bumped back by almost an hour because there was a 34 weeker delivering at my time. Vaginal, but the NICU team was needed for him/her and they like having them on hand for csections too, so we waited. I haven’t heard yet how that baby is doing, so maybe keep the family in your prayers. 

They had a designated picture taker for us, and he gots of good ones using my iPhone throughout the entire procedure. I got a few minutes of skin to skin in the OR, which was a first for me and I loved it.

F5C1A0DC-DFBF-488B-B797-BE54D41DA512I spent  2 hrs in recovery eating ice chips, then got moved up to the mother/baby unit where we’ll be for the rest of our stay. I was a bit dizzy from lack of sleep and quite itchy on my face from the anesthesia, but rest and IV meds took care of those. He’s nursed successfully three times now, by just 13 hours old (as I write this at 2:15 a.m.).

Weight: 7lbs, 4 oz. He’s the exact middle of my kids in this regard.

Length: 19.5 inches

Time: 1:20 pm

Apgar: 9, 9

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Blessings,

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Color Blind

Several years ago, when we first took the big kids to the eye doctor, Munchkin was diagnosed with an astigmatism. It turns out that this is very minor, and is easily correctable with glasses. He’s worn them since he was 5. Just this year, we let him switch to contacts. It was quite a learning curve for him, but it’s been really good. He’s super happy with them, and now has the benefit of being able to see during dance class and performances when the kids go back next month. His astigmatism is so minor that the eye doctor (a different one than the one who first gave the diagnosis) was comfortable and able to prescribe him “spherical” contact lenses.

color blind testSeahawk had a different diagnosis, and one that is a bit more unusual. We were told way back then that he is red/green color blind. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t see in color (as a child version of me thought when she heard “color blind”). It just means that he can’t see certain combinations of colors, and some colors may not look the same to him as they do to a person with regular color vision. A couple of years ago, I went over the Ishihara Color Blindness Test with him, more for my own curiosity than anything else. In case you’re not familiar, it’s just a series of images. If you can differentiate the designs (mostly numbers) from the background, then you have regular vision. If you can’t, then you’re color blind. Seahawk couldn’t see any of the numbers. I found that absolutely fascinating, because I didn’t have any trouble seeing them at all. I believed him when he said he couldn’t see anything there, but at the same time I couldn’t comprehend it. The numbers all seemed so clear to me!

Because this has been such an interesting diagnosis for him, we told people (especially grandparents and other close relatives) right away about it. My dad was the most interested/concerned. He always wanted to be able to do something to help Seahawk see colors better, but what?

Grandpa was watching TV one day and saw a piece about how a man had invented a “cure” for color blindness completely by accident. I don’t know the full story, but apparently the guy was trying to invent some other kind of lens and when he gave it to his friend to try out he was told, “It doesn’t work for [that], but these are still amazing! I’m color blind and can see things in a completely different way now.” The inventor had no idea his friend was color blind, so this was quite a shock to him, but he rolled with it and started marketing the glasses. My dad heard about them and immediately decided he wanted to get a pair for Seahawk. It took him a while to save up the money (he’s retired), but he did it, and just a couple of weeks ago brought the glasses to us for Seahawk.

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He never told Seahawk that he was planning to buy him a pair, or that that was the reason he was coming to visit. (Living two hours away, the visits can be pretty sparse sometimes.) He bought the other kids regular sunglasses on his way so that it would be less “out of the blue” for Seahawk to get a pair. With everyone’s glasses on their faces, we went outside to try them all out. Seahawk took one look at Grandpa’s truck with his new glasses on and was instantly confused. “I thought your truck was purplish…” It’s actually dark blue. For the first time ever, while wearing these glasses, he was able to see the color for what it really was. We all just stood there quietly while he processed what he was seeing, and the moment he did was pretty magical. “Wait a minute… are these color blind glasses?!” He was pretty excited to be able to see true colors for the first time in his life.

Seahawk has never been much of a glasses wearer (the eye doctors always say that he could benefit from reading glasses, but I know from experience that he won’t wear them so we don’t get them – the eye doctors are okay with that because his vision isn’t that bad), so he doesn’t wear his color blindness glasses all the time. But there are times when he really wants to see the true colors of things, and he always wears them then. These include activities such as watching movies, going to the duck pond, playing Jumanji (the game uses red/blue “hidden messages” with a decoder), and more.

Will and I – and especially my dad – are so glad that Seahawk can now see in true color!

Blessings,

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The Opera: Orfeo ed Euridice

I wrote recently about our trip to see La Cenerentola (Cinderella), and now I want to talk about when we saw Orfeo ed Euridice (or-fay-oh ed yoo-reh-dee-chay). If you read the Cinderella post, you’ll know that we took Small Fry to see that show. For Orfeo, we took the big kids (Seahawk, age 14, and Munchkin, age 11). We thought this would be a great one for them because it was advertised to be a combination opera and ballet, and they dance ballet.

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The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the oldest on the planet (excluding the Bible), and has been the basis for many, many things over the years. Let me give a short rundown, just in case you’re unfamiliar.

orfeo 1Orpheus is a demi-god in mythology (meaning he was the child of one god and one human). He was in love with Eurydice, and on the way to their wedding she gets bitten by a viper and dies. Orpheus, in his anguish, finds favor with the gods and they tell him that they will allow him to go into the underworld and save her. But there’s a catch. There was always a catch with those guys! He’s not allowed to look at her during their trip back. If he succeeds, she will rejoin him in the land of the living and they will have a long and happy life together. If he fails, she will be pulled back to the underworld, essentially dying again. They get all the way back to the opening, and Orpheus, so excited to have made the journey successfully, turns to look at his beloved only to discover that she hadn’t stepped out yet. Because she hadn’t completed the journey fully, she is pulled back to the underworld.

orfeo 2This is the basic story that Orfeo tells, but there was a bit of a twist at the end. I won’t worry too much about spoilers since the opera is no longer “playing.” After Euridice is pulled back to the underworld, Orfeo sings songs of great sadness and eventually Amor (Cupid) comes to him with good news. Love conquers all, and he has heard Orfeo’s anguish and knows that he is truly in love with Euridice. Therefore he is overriding the other gods and allowing Euridice to rejoin Orfeo back on Earth.

For this opera, we arrived early enough to the theater to participate in the pre-show, where an opera expert gives a short (30-minute) lecture on the play and the composer. It was really interesting, and especially good for the kids to get some background on what they were about to see. They got a bit of history (both fictional, in the history of the story, and fact, in the history of the composer) in addition to just having a better grip on the story before it even started.

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The combination of opera and ballet was stunning, and the sets and costumes were gorgeous. This was one that I wasn’t entirely sure about when I found out that Will had bought tickets, but after having seen it, I’m so glad he did! We both agreed after seeing Italian Girl, Cenerentola, and Orfeo that Orfeo was our second favorite. (Italian Girl still wins in our books, and Cinderella came in third despite being my favorite fairy tale.) The kids loved it too.

Blessings,

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