Thursday, 7 April 2016

Blokus {game review}

(this post contains affiliate links)

I have been intending, for a looooong time, to share with you about some of our favourite games around here.

We are a family who LOVES games, and I am sure there are other families out there like us - always looking out for new games to enjoy!

I am going to start with our most recent addition - one that we got for Susie for her birthday.  Susie is one of our children who especially loves games - particularly ones involving logic and strategy. She's very much like me, in that sense.

She's very much like me in many ways, but that is another story.

Susie was 9 this week. NINE. (We differ in age - definitely - add another nearly THIRTY years to mine... yikes) Last year of single digits. And yet, she seems so much older than that in many ways.

Again, another story.

Back to games.

I asked her what she would like for her birthday, and she thought she'd love a new game. I researched a few options, and she liked the look of this one.






Good choice, Susie. Good choice!

It wasn't one I was at all familiar with, but the rating on Amazon was fab, and it looked like our kind of "thing".

So, what is it?




I'm guessing the pronunciation is block-us - as in trying to block?

The game consists of:

- a special playing board - a grid with ridges you can place tiles in. (You couldn't play it without the board.)

- 4 sets of coloured, clear tiles, of various shapes, made up of squares.

- an instruction booklet

It's a simple game with one simple "move" - place your tile on the board touching ONLY at a corner with another of your tiles. It sounds simple, but the further into the game you go, the harder it gets! You can have your tile touch the edge of a different coloured tile, but not of the same colour.

That's it.

Simple!

You can play with 2 to 4 players. Rule play is slightly different with 2, 3 or 4 players. If there are only two of you, you have two sets of coloured tiles each, with a set order of play, rotating through the colours. If there are three of you, you split the third colour (red), but we played it without doing that, and it still worked.

Best, and most challenging play, is with 4 players.

For all the games I review, I am going to give you a list of Pros and Cons. I will also tell you why we loved it, or not!

So, why we love it! It's different every time you play. There is a compelling desire to get your pieces down and fit them in SOMEWHERE. You end up sitting and saying "I must be able to get this down?"  As you play it more you realise certain pieces are harder to place further through the game, but because it varies each time you play, sometimes you end up placing tricky pieces further through the game, even when you couldn't another time. I guess you could say we love it because of the endless possibilities?  We also love it because any child who understands the basic rule could play it. We haven't tried yet (because every time we've played the older children have all been wanting to play!), but I even think my nearly 6 year old could play, although the box says 8+.

PROS - bright; fun; engaging; challenging

CONS - lots of pieces that could potentially go "Missing", and the game wouldn't be so good without them all there; no bag to keep the game pieces in once you take it out the box



This is us playing with three. As you can see, the pieces only touch at the corners of the same colour.




This is the birthday girl playing. Smiling Susie.





This is us playing again in the evening, with 4 players. You can see here that pieces are now touching along the edge of OTHER colours, but not of the same colour. 

I find the game rather therapeutic and pretty. Lots of coloured pieces, fitting together neatly. This, from the lady who loves sorting newly sharpened pencils, by colour. 




Another couple of great points. It's not overly expensive. I wouldn't say it's a cheap option, but it's certainly not extortionate. It's currently just under £18 with Amazon Prime.

Another plus is, that, although it is only 4 player, you could easily turn it into a "tournament" type game play, with knock out rounds leading to a grand final. That way, everyone gets to play, but the best players get to have an equally challenging opponent for the final. Win-win! (because we all know that it can be a little frustrating playing with a younger child who hasn't got quite the same strategy and logic skills!...)

So, there we have it!  Blokus - a fab game for all the family, that's easy to learn and simple to play. What's not to like?

(I'm thinking I may come back and do a star rating for various aspects of each game I review, but that's too much for my sleep deprived, Mummy brain right now.)

If you have played this before, please share what YOU think, in the comments! 


Monday, 4 April 2016

Digging for gold {how to make the most of Church, when you don't always get to listen}

It was happening again.

I was at a Church meeting, and my baby needed my attention. Not just my baby, but my toddler. And then the next child up.

If you are also a mother with small children, I can guarantee one thing - when you go to Church, you don't always get to hear all of the sermon. In fact, sometimes you may do well to hear anything at all!

The thoughts of "Why do I even try?" can so easily try and push into your mind.

It would be very easy to become disheartened, and discouraged, but we mustn't allow that to happen. We need to to look at the situation with the right perspective, and yesterday I was reminded of WHY I have the perspective I have.

What is it?

Well, for a start, we don't just go to Church to benefit ourselves. We should be there, first and foremost, to worship God. It's about giving, not receiving. We also should be there to receive teaching. But, when we have children, we are also there to TRAIN them to sit. That, invariably means that we don't get to concentrate, in order to try and teach the CHILDREN to concentrate!

What I try and consider is that if I just take ONE thing away with me, that I can remember and put into practice in my life, or encourage someone else with, then it's been worth being there. In the moments between telling a child to sit quietly, and sit still, we hopefully get to hear SOMETHING of the sermon! I pray that the Lord will give me a "golden nugget". Just a little precious truth to take away with me. That's my "golden nugget" perspective!

Well, I was at a special Easter convention yesterday, where there were three sermons. One in the afternoon, and two in the evening. Needless to say, by the time we got to the third one, I heard little. I had just the baby through the first sermon, and that was my "golden nugget" moment. I actually was able to take away several things from THAT sermon.  The next one I heard even less, with my toddler there too (the first sermon my hubby had looked after the children, the second sermon was HIM preaching, so that didn't happen!), and by the third sermon my three year old had also come out the back! Quietness just wasn't happening, as they were tired and it was into the evening. I was so glad to have taken something away from the earlier sermon!

But, the moment that gave me joy was when I was able to so very quickly apply what I HAD heard. Speaking to various friends who I met at that Church, I was able to refer back to the sermon we had just heard, when trying to encourage them in their lives. THAT is what God wants. He wants us to hear and to put His Word into action - to be able to apply it to our lives, and to encourage each other with it. God's Word is LIVING! It's powerful. It's able to teach and guide us. It's certainly not something that should go in one ear and out the other, never to be thought of again.

Better still, the verse then came up in my everyday life in the days that followed. More opportunity came to apply those words to my heart and life, and the Lord engrained it further into my mind. He is faithful and good, and His word does not return void.







Take heart, fellow mother of small children.  Try and listen out for that "golden nugget" when you are in a Church service. Amidst the training of small children, which is very time consuming and can be distracting, we CAN take away precious truths and apply them to our heart and lives!

(I know this isn't a long post, but I am desperately trying to get back into blogging, even if my posts are short. Life isn't quite returning to the way I had hoped, as fast as I would like - a whole lesson on its own....bear with me, please? I trust that my words, though few, will still bless someone's heart, as much as the Lord blesses them to mine)

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Never underestimate {the power of a good example}

As a mother, I love the precious little moments where you simply have to stop and smile.

They happen pretty regularly. They are truly one of the highlights of being a mother.

Moments when my heart is so full it could burst, filled with the joy of parenthood. If you are a parent, you'll understand.

I had one of those moments the other day.

Susie had been helping me in the kitchen (she's only 8, nearly 9, but one of the BEST helpers in the universe, I reckon. Yes, I am biased, but even still....), but she got called away to another job. So, I was left washing up with no-one to help me dry up.

Or, so I thought.

Until my little 2 year old, Tabitha, came up to where I was, grabbed a tea towel, and enthusiastically began to dry up!






I didn't ask her.

I didn't even show her how to do it.

She just did it, all of her own volition.

But, DID someone show her how to do it?

Well, yes, they DID! I showed her siblings how to help, and she watched ME drying up, and her SIBLINGS drying up, and she just copied them.  She learnt by EXAMPLE.

I know it can work they other way, and I often tell my children to be careful what they do, because little eyes are watching. However, this was one of those heart-throb moments when you remember that they DO see the good, and they DO copy it, too!

Our role as a mother isn't just to correct and train, but it's also to be a good example. Not just in how to keep a house, but in our other behaviour, too.

If we are loving, affectionate, caring, tender, compassionate, helpful, and the many other things we SHOULD be, then there is a high chance of that good rubbing right off on our children. Only the Lord can do a true transforming work in their hearts, but He can use our good example as a means of drawing their hearts to Him. We are called to be Christlike, and little eyes are watching to see us put that into action.

So, whatever we do, day by day - whether it be something ordinary and mundane, or something more important - we must never underestimate the power of a good example.



"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Galatians 6:9

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Be still.... {a message made for mothers}

I was browsing through Instagram last week, as I do. It's such an inspiring place with all the visual impact that comes from the pictures shared.

I saw a picture shared by Rebecca from Grace and Salt ink. It was very nicely showing off her lovely inkDori's (one of which I have), and the words on the journal said simply "Be still and know that I am God". (Psalm 46:10)

As you may know, I have a gorgeous little boy who is now 4 weeks old. Having a baby, and more particularly if you feed them yourself, you are forced to sit down on a regular basis, and sit still.

It's not a natural thing for a busy mother to do. We always have something we can be doing - especially if you have little ones, or if you homeschool like I do. Even if you don't, there are school runs and after school clubs. Mums, by their very definition, are active and "on the go". It's just who we are.

But, this verse reminded me of both a spiritual and a temporal truth.

It's GOOD to be still!

Physically, sitting still to feed a baby gives me the chance to rest. It makes me stop from everything else around me, and JUST SIT. It's bliss. There's no denying it. I love those moments where I get to bond with my baby, and put my feet up. Yes, I am often doing other things (like supervising school work, directing the children in their chores, or talking on the phone), but sometimes I just take the time to read, rest, and pray. Especially in the night, many people are prayed for in those still moments.

Everything else simply HAS to stop, because feeding my baby, which is something only I can do, MUST be done. It's an imposed stillness. If I didn't take that time to be still, my baby wouldn't thrive. He'd quickly let me know he wasn't happy, and he'd end up suffering from my neglect.

Our spiritual life is no different.

We NEED to make the time to "be still".

Why?

It's in those times, when we make everything else stop, and still our hearts before God, that we KNOW He is God. We are aware of His incredible attributes, and His wonderful nature. We truly KNOW He is God when we tune out the clamour of our everyday lives, of the world that surrounds us, and when we focus on HIM.

Mothers can be so busy listening to our husband, children, friends and other "voices" that we can neglect the time to just listen for what GOD wants to say to us. Stilling our minds and hearts, and finding God's voice in our lives.

It may be time spent in prayer. Something I MUST do more of.

It may be time reading His Word.

It may be listening to a sermon, or simply resting and meditating on how much we have to be thankful for.

But, whatever it is, we should take heed to these words if we want to know God better.

Be still.





(pen: Staedtler Noris Club double ended fibre tip
white writing: masking fluid with a paintbrush
background: watercolour wash)






(I listened to these albums during labour again, and this remains a favourite of mine.)


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

I'm back! {I should have said I was GONE!}

HELLLLOOOOO!

I feel terrible.

I should have formally announced that I was taking a break from blogging, but I didn't really PLAN it. It just kind of happened.

It went a bit like this.

I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I had so much I was trying to do that NEEDED to be done.

Then, I was passing on some advice to a sweet lady who was also feeling overwhelmed. Someone had said to me that it's easy to try and do things that are GOOD, but aren't actually the BEST thing for you at that time. Nothin' wrong with the THING, just that it's not best for that season.

I passed on the advice, then had a revelation.

I needed to take the advice for MYSELF!!

I took a FB break. It was just something else I didn't need to be thinking about. (I'm still not on my "normal" account. I had to set up another with the bare bones of necessity, because of groups I was in relating to school work we are involved with on the internet - but, I hope to get back soon....)

It then led to be me taking a general internet break. Which included the blog. It was something else that was GOOD, but not best for me in that season.

I have missed it more than the other internet related things. I love connecting with other Mums, but I just needed to connect with the Lord, and with my family.

I should have just let you all know, but that is how hard I was finding things. Just getting up the mental "togetherness" to write a blog post was beyond my capabilities at that time.

Truth.

For me to admit I was overwhelmed was a big step on its own. I'm a "get on with things" kind of gal, but I had to just acknowledge that I couldn't. And STOP! Rest. Have a break.

It's done me the world of good. It's been a help to body, mind and soul.

But, I'm keen to get back. Blogging helps me to thing about what I am doing, and to sift through my own learning and life. If it can help others at the same time, all the better, right?

So, what have I been up to??

I have to start with the most important thing, really....

I've had a baby.

I really must type up my birth story, but THAT is a whole 'nother story, not for today,

Suffice to say, he has arrived.

Yes, he.

Ezekiel Timothy Cordle - just a touch over 7lb 2 oz - born 16/02/16 at 6.30am. (After a looong night - but, I said, that's a whole other blog post!)

Enough of the gibbering.  Here he is...


Freshly newborn. Can you smell that sweet newborn smell?





I think he was a day old here. He's been so alert!





Sleeping...




More sleeping...



Oh, and more sleeping...





Just this last weekend he started smiling, too. Look at THAT for a smile! 





Mummy and Ezekiel.




I love this one. Tabitha had been so excited about the "baba". This was the evening after he was born. Look how pleased she is! SOOOOO precious. 




And this is when we went for a walk when he was about a week old. Yes, he's tucked in there in my Moby sling. All snug in my coat. 

Sorry about that. Got a bit carried away with pictures of a cute little boy.

I have sooo much more to share about what I have been up to, but I just wanted to say a "hello", and launch back into the blogosphere. 

Art and lettering.

Scripture writing.

Journaling Bible.

And, most of all I can't wait to share again what God teaches me as I walk daily with Him. 

I've had some really hard days in the last year, and especially the last 6 months. Really hard. I was soooo tired, emotionally, physically and mentally. 

Ezekiel's name literally means "God strengthens".

We chose it because that is how I got through this pregnancy. By God giving me the strength I need. (And, by the by, after the delivery I had, the name meant even more... more of that another day!)

I am so thankful for my faithful heavenly Father, who gives me the strength I need every day, unfailingly. As the hymn writer penned


"He gives me strength from day to day, without Him I would fall"


My verse for this year was Psalm 73:26. God is my strength, and He is my portion - He is EVERYTHING I need. He is sufficient. He is God. How could I want or need anything more?

I wanted to make a graphic but my photo editing program I use is acting up tonight. I remembered I have the verse on a special notebook I have (more about THAT in another blog post, too), but a shout out to the source, to give proper credit - Rebecca at Grace and Salt Ink, and her amazing lettering.





So, this is me - back. By God's grace and strength I hope to pick up where I left off, and continue to encourage other wives, mums, and women who seek to follow after Christ in an everyday way.

I can't wait to share with you about the things that I love and have learnt.

Be back soon!







Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Long Story Short {children's Bible book FREE on Kindle today!}

(this post contains affiliate links)



I have been meaning to share about a book we got recently, but today I have prompted to tell you RIGHT NOW. Why? Well, a book by the same writer is FREEEEE on Kindle today, so here's me telling you!

Recently, our poor Susie had an accident when riding a scooter, and got a nasty gash above her eye. What started out as nasty, but treated with glue, turned into something nastier. She got a swelling above her eye that wouldn't go down like normal swelling, then she got a raised temperature and became quite poorly a week later.

I took her to the Dr, who sent her to the paeds ward in the hospital. It transpires she had an abscess, which then needed a hospital admission and surgical intervention to clear it.

Very kindly, the Church we were visiting when it happened (they have a games evening for children), sent a gift to Susie, to wish her a speedy recovery.

It was "The Gospel Story Bible", by Marty Machowski.





It's a fab book. It goes through the many stories of the Bible, at a level suitable for children. More to the point, it brings "the gospel" into each one. It points them to Christ, and tells them of their need of the Saviour.  What better story book can you have, than one that makes THAT application for boys and girls?

I highly recommend the book, and there are 156 stories, which is LOADS! I worked out, with our 4 day week, that there are nearly enough to do a whole year of devotionals to tie in with our school day!

You could use it in Children's Ministry, too. There is even a Bible curriculum with printable PDF resources, suitable for all ages of Sunday School. ( I could only find it in the USA)

Well, what I found out today, is that she has written OTHER books, and one of them is FREE on Kindle today!

Long Story Short.

No, I'm not about to tell you something briefly.

It's the title of the book!

This is a family devotional, again bringing the gospel clearly into the stories. It is based on the Old Testament, and points the children towards Christ through it all. It seems like it's also really good, and I can't wait to use it with the children.

Of course, if you read this when the offer is gone, you can still get it as a hard copy, from Amazon USA, and from Amazon UK.

But, today (and I don't know how long the offer will last), it is free both on Amazon.com  and Amazon.co.uk , so not only on one side of the Atlantic! (which does happen! - and usually the OTHER side of the Atlantic)

Now come on... WHO doesn't like something for FREEEEE????

Better still, a good quality Bible book for children?

Perfect combo, in my opinion.

Now, go off.  Run as fast as you can to your device of choice and get it ON there!

And, if you are too late, consider buying the hard copy, because these are books worth having in your home, as you raise your children for the Lord. (See the carousel below)



Monday, 21 September 2015

Love is free {lessons from Cinderella}





On Saturday I watched the new Cinderella movie with my children.  That was a quite a feat for me. I got my jobs done in time to sit down and watch a movie! It was Abi's birthday, and her birthday treat, so, of course, I wanted to enjoy it too.... aherm.

I really enjoyed it, as "fairytales" go. It was well made, and more than anything else, it wasn't all lovey-dovey. I liked that the main theme was "courage and kindness".

Courage to do something different. Not always doing what "has always been done". Realising the right thing can sometimes go against the norm.

Kindness. It's always right to try and show kindness. It's not always EASY, but it's the right thing to do. You can even find someone to be really obnoxious and mean, and still show kindness. Look at how Cinderella turns around and says "I forgive you" to her step mother, whilst still having the courage to walk away from a horrible situation.

That's the obvious and predictable lesson from the movie. It's a good plan in life - courage and kindness.

It's a good plan as a Christian.  The courage to do what is right, and to follow after God and His ways, even if no-one else is doing it. The willingness to show kindness, even if a situation or a person seems not to deserve it. "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another".  It's a spot on, Biblical principle.

But, no.

That is not what *I* took away from it.

One little thing that Cinderella said got me thinking.

"Love is free"

Why, yes, Cinderella, you are so right. Love IS free!

But, it doesn't always mean there is no cost involved.

That's what got me thinking.

The Biblical pattern we have is to love unconditionally. Our love is given freely, as the powerful verse in Hosea reminds us


"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely:"
Hosea 14:4  

If we are to be followers of Christ, we need to love freely, as He loves us. Despite our backsliding and sinful failings, He loves us freely. 

But, there is a cost involved in loving. 

It doesn't necessarily cost us financially, in a literal sense, but in many other senses, there is cost

It will cost us time. We need to be willing to give of our time, to express our love to others. 

It will cost us self. We need to be willing to give up our selfish desires, when we extend love to others. 

It will cost us emotionally. We need to be willing to give of ourselves - heart and soul - to others, so that we may end up feeling totally spent, in making sure our love is expressed to the ones we love.

It will cost us because love should be sacrificial. It literally means that it costs US. 

We give up of ourselves in order to extend love to someone else. 


"And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you;"
II Corinthians 12:15 


It's NOT about a fuzzy feeling on the inside, however. In fact, sometimes in order to show love to someone else it can break our heart on the inside. We may have to do or say things as we give our love freely, that hurts us and makes us fall apart in ways people will never see. It may not be reciprocated (see the rest of II Corinthians 12:15 for the reality check on THAT one... go on, look it up....)

But, we still love freely.

We need look no further for our example than the Lord. Freely, He loved us.  Freely, He GAVE. He have up His very life - His body broken, on the tree. Assaulted, hurt, despised, rejected of men. 



"freely ye have received, freely give."
Matthew 10:8 



Loving.

Freely.

How do I love? Do I love freely enough? Do I extend my love sacrificially and spending all of myself, in order to freely give that love.

Yes, love is free, but we need to be willing to count the cost.