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» Business + Pleasure in the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5
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» FWD: Advice for Kids That Works for Adults
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» Ice cream Gospel
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» REVIEW: Circle with Disney
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» Mama Goose
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» Chattanooga: 3-Day Family Vacation
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» FWD: How My Special Needs Parenting Confuses Most Of The World.
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» This is life, facing our daily disasters
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» Atlanta: Three-Day Family Vacation
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» REVIEW: E-hydrate – Natural support for the whole family

» Business + Pleasure in the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own. This was my first trip to Orlando that didn’t involve plans to visit a certain mouse. And I have to say… that made me a little bit sad. BUT, going there to represent One Orphan at Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit was definitely the next best thing (btw: Thanks Carlos Whittaker for representing Nashville well!). I did take some time to visit Universal’s City Walk and Disney Springs. And oh my goodness! Did y’all realize that Downtown Disney has morphed into Disney Springs? It’s huge! Tons of restaurants, shops and free entertainment. We enjoyed an authentic Cuban dinner at[…]

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» FWD: Advice for Kids That Works for Adults

[This article was originally written by an old friend, Ben Reed…It’s used here with his permission. Ben and his family live in California, where he currently serves as Small Groups Pastor at Saddleback Church. Ben blogs at benreed.net] I tell my kids things all of the time. Over and over. And over and over. If there’s one thing I can say is always true about parenting, it’s that I repeat myself constantly. If there’s one thing I can say is always true about parenting, it’s that I repeat myself constantly. It never, ever sticks the first time. Being from the South, in our family we value manners. We teach our kids to say, “Yes, m’am” and “No, sir” as a way of respecting adults. I’m[…]

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» Ice cream Gospel

After a few weeks of turbulent behavior that manifested itself in name calling, hitting and excluding I was at my wits end as a parent. My kids were in chaos mode. I attribute much of this to the end of the year craziness that is public school, but it was far exceeding what I was willing to write off as typical behavior. Those of you that read my blog regularly are probably thinking… is her house always in chaos mode? Yes. It is. Four kids, jam-packed together in age will do that to you. And then there’s trauma… So. In the midst of my frustration I thought that giving them a wildly indulgent incentive would curb some of their misbehavior. I pitched the deal during[…]

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» REVIEW: Circle with Disney

Disclaimer: The folks at Circle with Disney kindly provided us a security unit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Currently, we don’t have a huge need to censor the Internet from our children. They don’t have devices and all screen time is closely monitored. However, we realize it won’t be that way forever.  Our nine year old has begun to use the computer for school and has also talked about saving money for a used iPad. We’ve even realized, after chatting with friends who have older children, that we also have to be concerned about our children’s visiting friends and the devices they bring. Enter Circle.

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Circle with Disney (which is actually square shaped) does so much more than just turn the Internet on and off in the home at designated times. We’ve had ours for two months, so I’ve figured out how it works best for us. To be clear, this is not a router, it’s a device that connects to your router and acts like a gatekeeper to all devices on your network. Even visiting devices. (take that sneaky friends!)

Set up

One of the best features is that everything, including the initial set up, is controlled through your iPhone app (Android is supposed to be coming soon). That’s it. No need to set up different time limits and restrictions on each device. If you already have Kindles with FreeTime, you know the headache I’m talking about. Imagine having to set that up four times on four different devices.

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Doing the initial set up for all devices can still be time consuming depending on how many devices there are in the household. An added bonus is that you receive push notifications on your phone anytime a new device is added to the network. If your children’s friends are over, you can easily add any restrictions to their devices the moment Circle sends you a notification.

Parental Controls

Set time limits on internet-connected activity

  • Set a daily overall time limit
  • Set a daily time limit for a particular app, website or category of content.
  • Set a bedtime

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Circle is designed so that each person in your house has a profile with their device(s). From there, you can set different limitations, for instance: you can allow three hours of online activity a day, but only 30 minutes of that can be YouTube and no activity after 8pm. You can also choose to block YouTube altogether or even the newly-debated app, Snapchat. The limits are across all devices so that an individual can’t do 30 minutes of a game on their iPad, then jump to their computer for more.

Content Filtering + Ad Blocking

You can use pre-set content levels for each family member, from Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult or None. From there, you can customize to meet your needs.  For example, with the “Kid” level, Club Penguin, Disney and Minecraft are allowed, but if you prefer to disable Minecraft, you can do so with the flick of a switch. Depending on the level you choose, it will block websites, they provide a long list of categories. You can even spare yourself from content that you don’t want to see. If there’s a site that’s blocked but is acceptable for your child, you can manually grant access to that site.

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In the Content Filter settings, you can turn on Google safe search, YouTube restricted mode, and Ad blocking. This didn’t cut out ads 100% but it’s definitely better than nothing.

Insights

The reporting under “Insights” shows you how long each family member spent online each day, week, and month, going back one month.  You can see which sites were visited, and which sites were blocked by the content filters.  From there, you can easily unblock a site, if needed.

Pause the Internet

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Yep, that’s right.  You can pause the internet for everyone, or for a certain family member, or for a certain family member’s device. So if Bobby has been told to come to the table for dinner, and won’t turn the Netflix show off, you can pause the Internet for Bobby. There are a variety of ways to assign devices so you can just pause the Internet for all the kids in the house or parents as well if you catch yourself checking your phone during family game night.

Conclusion

For $100 and no subscription fee, I think Circle with Disney is well worth it. We’re  looking forward to seeing the device staying current and get better with time (we’ve noticed a few App updates since we’ve received ours). The app is super easy to use and I love the ability to pause the internet on the fly without having to know how to set up a guest network on my router.

However, there are some things you need to know before purchasing your unit. The Circle does not give any control for games (apps) that don’t rely on the Internet so parents must still be mindful of time spent on screens. For those of you who have kids with iPhones, Circle does not control or account for 3G/4G activity. Circle Go is in product development and is supposed to be the solution for this problem. Additionally, Circle does not have control over phone calls, texts, or social media activity.

Buy Circle with Disney

» Mama Goose

This is a trying several months, turned Facebook post, turned blog post. It’s often difficult to determine what is shareable in the world of grief, trauma, loss and adoption. I mention those things because they are all wrapped up in adoption and also exist outside of adoption. Grief and trauma in any form has to be handled carefully. As parents we need to protect our children, but we also have the responsibility to help others feel… not so alone. So I’ve started sharing, with few details and in return I hear sighs of relief echoing through my little world. I hear, I’m so thankful your day looks just a bit like mine. There is strength in numbers, and strength can often come from numbers. Just[…]

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» Chattanooga: 3-Day Family Vacation

The countdown has begun. We’re now about four weeks away from Summer break. I don’t know why, but we’ve never thought about visiting Chattanooga until now. In fact, Chattanooga recently made the list on Thrillist.com of America’s 8 Most Overlooked Small Cities. We had the chance to visit last month during Spring Break and now we know why everyone is talking about Chattanooga. Chattanooga is a short two-hour drive from the Nashville area. The perfect distance for a weekend getaway. There is plenty to do for adults and kids alike so it was an easy choice to spend the first three days of our Spring Break vacation enjoying just a taste of what Chattanooga has to offer. Day 1, Afternoon The Chattanoogan Hotel We chose[…]

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» FWD: How My Special Needs Parenting Confuses Most Of The World.

[This article was originally written by Mike Berry…It’s used here with his permission. Mike and Kristen Berry are raising 8 amazing children (photo above), all of whom have been adopted. Their blog Confessions of An Adoptive Parent exists to offer hope for families in the trenches.] As adoptive and special needs parents, our style of parenting can be quite different from most parents. Because of our children’s traumatic pasts, there are reasons why we do the things we do, expect the things we expect, and redirect the way we redirect. My son’s coach meant well. He really did. His fatherly instincts told him to comfort my son and try to remedy the situation by loaning him his gloves. The temperature at game time was a brisk[…]

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» This is life, facing our daily disasters

Yesterday I was walking through the house when I discovered that our 1 year old pup had eaten an eye off a of stuffed penguin. Thirty minutes later Elliott couldn’t find a decent pencil because the same pup had chewed the erasers off of pretty much every pencil in the house. First of all, these kiddos need to pick up after themselves or we are going to have a sick dog on our hands and second, perhaps some chew toys would be an appropriate purchase at this juncture. But I wasn’t necessarily thinking either of those things in that moment. Instead I smiled and thought, this is life. Of course we have a pup who chews everything, and one day when his days have passed and[…]

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» Atlanta: Three-Day Family Vacation

With the spring school semester coming to a close, many of you are already thinking about Summer vacation. During Spring Break, we wanted to get away but didn’t want to drive too far. Atlanta is within the four-hour window; the furthest we were willing to go. The kids were pretty cranky in the car but the fun activities and attractions snapped them out of their bad moods pretty quickly! Atlanta has a lot to offer so consider this a quick snap-shot of our trip in a city filled with family adventures. Day One Afternoon: World of Coke I remember visiting the World of Coke during my high school years. I had fun then, but they have definitely upped their game in the last several years![…]

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» REVIEW: E-hydrate – Natural support for the whole family

I recently had the opportunity, through Moms Meet, to review E-hydrate natural electrolyte and protein products with my kids. We sampled the Protein on the Go (for mama), the natural drink mixes for kids and adults and the kids version of Protein on the Go. Protein on the Go (adult version): I love the convenience of Protein on the Go. The protein shake powder is already in the little bag and you simply add water, shake and presto… you have a shake ready to go. This would be ideal to throw in your gym bag or purse for a post workout replenish or a snack at work. The shakes tasted great and surprisingly, there were no lumps after shaking. Electrolyte Drink Mixes: I was pretty excited[…]

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