Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The 7 Minute Life Review

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

As a highly disorganized person, I am always looking for something that will help me to become more organized. Since the Schoolhouse Review Crew hasn't asked me to use and review a personal assistant, I decided to try the next best thing: The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner. This spiral-bound, 270-page daily planner sold by The 7 Minute Life is marketed as more than just a daily planner; the website says I can change my life in just seven minutes a day.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner works under the premise that people typically have an attention span of seven minutes and can only remember seven pieces of information at a time. The planner opens with 14 pages of instruction. You can also watch a 12-minute video to learn how to use it. Now, I don't have a lot of free time. I like my instructions to be concise and simple. Fourteen pages was just a bit too much for me.

We are also asked to perform a self-evaluation of priorities and purpose. I've got to tell you, if I'm looking for organizational aids, I'm not usually interested in evaluating my life purpose or my strengths and my weaknesses. I've taken spiritual gifts assessments. I know these things. I want to organize my life. That's it. I've got three jobs. I homeschool. I have a junior who is dual enrolling but doesn't yet have his license. I have a daughter who helps teach dance classes on Tuesday but has her own classes on Thursday. I assist with youth group on Wednesday nights and have my own Bible study on Thursdays. God is my first priority, then my husband, and then my kids. Though most of what I do revolves around my top three priorities, I still have to work. I enjoy my job immensely, and thankfully I am able to do it in and around all of the other things. So, priorities are in order. I need to organize. At this stage of my life, simplifying isn't really an option. All of the things on my list need to be done. I don't think I'm doing anything that is superfluous. Things that aren't important simply don't get done here.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

The daily progress reports allow you to track your daily contacts—those people you attempt to contact. I can also give myself points for various contact activities. Like I said, I want simple. I don't want to add another thing to do, especially one that has no value for me. In my job, I have two people I contact on a daily basis. In my life, those contacts change on a daily basis—sometimes zero, sometimes a few. There is no rhyme or reason. When I think of someone I need to call, I usually just write the name down on an index card. When I make the call, I throw away the card. I'm not sure why I'd want to keep track of people I tried to call. There is a section for choosing three people to connect with. While connecting with three people every day is a great and wonderful thing, I hate talking on the phone and don't have a lot of time to visit. I email or text as I think about people; most of the time it is just one sentence to let them know I've been thinking about them. 

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

There's a section for appointments—this is a section I use. But I don't use the "What I Spent" section. I've got a checkbook for that. I don't like the unfinished tasks section; it depresses me to see what I haven't finished. Likewise, the question at the bottom makes me feel guilty: "Did I do what I said I would do today?" Let's look at the rest of that green box. I am supposed to write how many hours I sleep, minutes I exercise, minutes I reflect, and minutes I read. Most days I will only have a number in sleep. Some days I'll have some reflection if I count Bible, which can also double for reading, but there are days when they'll be blank. Besides the fact that this gives me something else to have to keep track of, it makes me feel like a failure when I see blanks or low numbers. There is a section on the next page of the daily progress report for thank you notes and one for voice mails. I'm not going to send a thank you card, let alone three, every day, and I have no need for writing down my voice mail messages. They are saved on my phone. 

The last section I haven't mentioned yet is the "What I will do … 5 before 11" section. This is a doable section for me. I am simply supposed to list five simple tasks that can be completed without having to spend an hour each on them, things like organizing a drawer, dusting the bookshelves, cleaning the glass on the French doors, etc. Accomplishing these tasks among the bigger tasks of the day give me a sense of pride.

The 7 Minute Daily Planner is $24.95. Many other products and videos are available on the website.

While many folks have used this and have changed their lives through it, I simply don't have the time for all of the different tasks that are contained within it. I want a planner that just allows me to list my job-specific tasks, times when the kids need to be somewhere, and appointments. The 7 Minute Daily Planner is not for me.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Heirloom Audio Productions - Under Drake's Flag Review

Analytical Grammar Review
After a summer of fairly heavy reviews, I was looking forward to being able to kick my feet back and listen to a great story. Heirloom Audio Productions has created a wonderful audio version of G.A. Henty's novel, Under Drake's Flag. This is not your typical audio book, however. This is audio theater. The story is told with more than just a narrator; there is Ned, Mr. George, Gerald, Sir Francis Drake, Master Holyoake, Master Taunton, and others. Each character has his own voice. Each scene has its own music and sound effects.

The story follows the adventure of Ned Hawkshaw who leaves the comfort of his home to become part of legendary hero Sir Francis Drake's crew. Along the way, he must face an angry sailor, an angry shark, and the equally angry Spaniards. His faith is tested, and he learns to trust wholeheartedly in God even though it might mean he'll die. The scene with the shark was probably one of the most riveting (for me) in the whole CD. It was performed very well, and the music included was perfect to add suspense to the scene. The scene when Ned and Gerald are facing certain death at the hands of the Spanish for not recanting their faith was very realistic. I could almost see it unfolding before my very eyes. I could feel the dankness and darkness of the prison. I could sense the boys' fear. I understood the anger Ned felt at having his father's sword melted and made into an instrument of torture. The only thing I didn't like about this production was the accent of Donna Anna. It just didn't sound truly Spanish; it sounded like an English person faking an accent.

This particular story is ideal for ages 6 to adult and is two hours' worth of entertainment on two discs. The two-disc set, which I received, comes with a prayer and a short study guide. A more complete study guide can be downloaded to expand upon the ideals and the history contained within these discs. The small study guide that comes with the CDs includes questions about each chapter (there are 19), vocabulary, and three Bible studies: Godly character, True Manhood, and Confessing Christ. There are several options available for purchasing this program. A downloadable MP3 is available for just $20. Those who purchase this will also receive the study guide and the printable prayer. For $29.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling, you can receive the two-disc set, the downloadable MP3, the study guide, and the printable prayer. The best offer, as described on the website, is the family four pack which includes four copies of the CD sets for $99.97. This offer has some freebies to go with it: an e-book copy of Bill Heid's book Echoes of the Dragon's Drums about Sir Francis Drake, the MP3 download, the original G.A. Henty story as an e-book, a two-lecture MP3 set about the life of Sir Francis Drake, the discussion and study guide, the printable prayer, a 30-minute DVD behind-the-scenes documentary about the production of this audio drama, and, finally, unlimited access to Under Drake's Flag membership website.

I started listening to the story in the car with my kids as I was driving, but they very quickly asked to turn it off. When they were younger, we only ever listened to Adventures in Odyssey on CD, no other audio drama. They got used to movies and video games. They are not as impressed with audio drama as I am, unfortunately. Heirloom Audio Productions did a wonderful job with this, however. I didn't get to listen to it with my feet kicked back, since I was always driving while I listened to it, but I did get to listen to a great story. I highly recommend this product!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ever Wish You Could Have a Do Over?

Do you ever wish, as a parent, you could have a do over? Not everything, but just certain things? I don't want to start over at the very beginning of each of my kids' lives, but I wish I could fix the mistakes I made as a parent.

I know. Every parent makes mistakes, and most kids turn out just fine. God is gracious and will help our kids become the people He wants them to be. However, I can't help but feel some remorse for the things I have done that have fostered attitudes like anger, selfishness, and rudeness.

Do you think I'm being too hard on myself? I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't. I've been in the car with my kids and listened to them, for the umpteenth time, bicker over insignificant things or ask each other to stop humming because it was irritating them. They fight over who is going to sit in the front seat. Why? It isn't that amazing.

We are all born sinful. I get that. But I believe that if I had stayed silent more often than I expressed my opinion or remained calm more often than I groaned out of frustration I may have helped my children to be more peaceful. The attitudes that I display are more often than not learned by my kids.

I wish I had had a crystal ball when I was pregnant. I could have seen how my kids were going to turn out. Don't get me wrong, they are great kids, but there is this undercurrent of entitlement I wish wasn't there.

All the little sarcastic and caustic comments I made when they were little about seemingly insignificant things went straight to their hearts. They heard me say them, and they learned that it was okay. I helped to water the seed of sin. I am guilty, and I must ask forgiveness.

They are teenagers. They have learned the habits. Those things are ingrained in them. What can I do now? Will it do any good to work on my own anger and selfishness at this point? You betcha!

When we turn from our sinful ways, people around us are changed. It may not be a noticeable change at first, but they will realize there is something different. I have found myself lately looking to give people the benefit of the doubt, to believe there is another layer of the story than what appears on the surface. Joe isn't being a jerk just to be a jerk; there is probably something going on in his life that is causing him frustration.

If I show more love towards others, then perhaps my children will show more love towards others (even their siblings). If I find a more constructive way to work out my frustration than with my words, perhaps they will have more peace.

I wish I could do over the parts when I got so mad that I yelled. It was usually over really stupid things. I wish that I could do over the parts when I said something not-so-nice while I was driving. I have no right to judge.

I realize now that as a parent we often have to do things that go against what comes naturally for the sake of our children. If you aren't a parent yet or are expecting, please heed this warning: Your children will be like you—in the good and the bad. Do what you must to prevent the sin that is within you spilling over into your kids. Fight the urge to spew venom when someone cuts you off. Fight the urge to be negative. Life is too short. The time we have with our kids is too short. Those formative years are even shorter.

Of course, for all of our greatest efforts, our kids will still have weaknesses and sins in their lives, but do what you can to keep from giving them yours. I will strive (through prayer) to become more Christ-like, to give my kids an example they can follow, a mom they can be proud of. Hopefully, this will help them to be parents who are positive and peaceful and selfless.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Savannah, Georgia: Not What I Expected

We spent the past weekend in Savannah, Georgia. Having moved to northeast Florida in 2012, it has been on our list of places to visit. Since all five of us went, the number of affordable choices was limited. There are many quaint B & B's, but they typically only have rooms for two and are quite expensive. Therefore, we stayed at the Comfort Suites on West Bay Street. This hotel is not recommended. While the staff was extremely friendly and the room was comfortable, it was located across from government housing. It was two blocks past the historical section of town. While we were checking in on Friday night, a youngster from the neighborhood asked if he could come in. The clerk told him no, and he proceeded to throw something against the glass before he left.

John and I took a walk, while it was still light outside, to River Street. I was expecting a beautiful, scenic stroll along the river. While there were some cool buildings and side streets, I didn't think it was beautiful or scenic. I felt like I had to keep looking over my shoulder, especially once the sun went down. 

On Saturday, we decided to tour the town via the Old Town Trolley. The concierge gave us a discount, which we were extremely grateful for as the tours are nearly $30 per person. The trolley takes a 90-minute, narrated, winding route through the historic district, stopping at 15 places along the way. At each stop, passengers have the opportunity to stay on or get off and enjoy the attraction, be it a house, museum, church, or shopping area. One of the beautiful churches, built in the Gothic style, was The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

During the tour, various spots that were used in popular movies were pointed out, including the bench where Forrest Gump sat while he waited for the bus and the home where the shooting took place that is referenced in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We drove past the pub where Julia Roberts saw her husband, Dennis Quaid, eating dinner with another woman in Something to Talk About.

There is one home in Savannah that wast the first on the East Coast (if not the nation) to have whole-house plumbing, and one house was built mostly out of iron (to show others how wealthy the owner was).

The Juliette Gordon Low birthplace is located here. She was the woman responsible for founding the Girl Scouts.

The city is built around 22 existing squares (there were originally 24). Some have statues of people instrumental to the history of Savannah, including James Oglethorpe. Some of these people are even buried in the squares underneath their statues.

One of the places we chose to eat while visiting Savannah was Leopold's Ice Cream on West Broughton. Sandwiches are served here, as well as ice cream. Leopold's is rated the third best ice cream in the country and the fifth best in the world. The owner's father started the business in the early 1900s, and when he (the son) was old enough, he left the business and became a movie producer (Sum of All Fears, Mission: Impossible III, The General's Daughter). In 2004 (I believe), he came back and reopened Leopold's, using the same secret recipe. The history is very interesting, and the restaurant is full of movie posters and clapboards from the movies he played a part in producing. The ice cream is delicious, too!

We had dinner on Saturday night at Paula Deen's The Lady and Sons restaurant. Once we were seated, we were served garlic cheddar biscuits and corn bread pancakes. For our meals, the menu had several options, including a buffet for $18.00 that includes salad fixings and an ever-changing variety of Southern favorites. On our buffet, there was fried chicken, pot roast, lima beans, collard greens, green beans, macaroni-and-cheese, cheese broccoli, candied yams, garlic mashed potatoes, rice, spoonbread, and fried fish. Dessert was a choice of peach cobbler, banana pudding, or butter cake.

The Lady and Sons is pictured below. It is a three-story building re-purposed to house a restaurant and store. There is a great deal of re-purposing going on in this town.

Two of the places we frequented while in Savannah were The Peanut Shop where they have all different flavors of peanuts to sample and Savannah's Candy Kitchen where they give out free praline samples. Oh, my goodness!

I'm glad we went to Savannah. If we hadn't, we'd always wonder what it would be like. It wasn't really what I expected, though. There were some interesting things, and I think I would have liked to have toured some of the old houses. I did enjoy the history I learned on the trolley tour. I do recommend that. Just try to get them to reduce your ticket price, especially if you have kids. I guess I was thinking this historic town would be more like Colonial Williamsburg and less like Philadelphia. I don't like the city feel. I want to be steeped in history. I don't want to have to worry about mine or my children's safety.

If you plan on visiting Savannah, my biggest recommendation is to stay within the historic center. Don't stay in a hotel or B&B beyond Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to the west or Broad Street to the east. There are some upscale hotels on River Street and Bay, as well as some B & B's on East Oglethorpe.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Being that it is summer and we've reviewed some fairly intense products, I jumped at the chance to listen to a product for a change. Wizzy Gizmo is a company that has created some Bible resources for children. This is another reason I asked to be on the review. I don't feel like we have enough Bible study or reading (or listening) in our house, so this was an opportunity to learn more while we were out and about. We received Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything? This CD presents the story of Genesis from an extremely unique perspective in just 36 minutes. It retails for $14.99.

Wizzy Gizmo Review

Professor Wizzy Gizmo starts up his Gizmovision machine, and the Bible comes to life. The kids who are listening to the Bible story gain a firsthand account of creation. The CD is intended for ages 4-12. My daughter, who is 12, felt like this was a little bit childish. Of course, she is a strong-willed almost-teen who has developed a taste for things are a bit more young adult in their age level. However, this audio drama is perfect for the younger crowd. It is engaging and entertaining. The way creation is portrayed in this CD with the sound and music and descriptive narration almost made me feel as if I could see it and hear it myself. I did feel as if there were some corny things in it, but, again, it is great for elementary and preschool children. Some vocabulary words are defined during the various segments, which I thought was ingenious. Not many children's stories do this. Silly songs are also interspersed throughout. One of our favorites was about mangoes. We sang this repeatedly after we listened to the CD, especially in the produce section of the grocery store.

Though this audio drama is geared towards ages 4-12, I also listened to it with my 16- and 14-year-old sons. They felt they were beyond the level of the story as well, but we ALL loved the soundtrack that was included at the end of the story. It was almost as if the music didn't fit the rest of the CD; it was that good—good enough that 16- and 14-year-old boys enjoyed it! We listened to the music more than once. I'm glad we are able to keep the CD because I'll be listening to this music when I'm tired of hearing the same songs played on the radio. Some songs had lyrics, and others were instrumental.

This is an excellent homeschool resource for Bible learning! It presents the Bible story in a memorable way, and it is accurate. They present the facts as they are written in Scripture. I hope that Wizzy Gizmo produces more stories like this. Though my children are older than the age range of this product, many children will benefit from this Christian education resource.

Some other products available from Wizzy Gizmo that the Crew reviewed and which you can read reviews about are:

Fast Track Bible Pack: New Testament
Book One: Who Created Everything?
Book Two: In His Image

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