Archive - May 2016

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» Review: Santa Cruz Organic Agua Fresca
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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

» Review: Santa Cruz Organic Agua Fresca

We recently had the opportunity to try out Santa Cruz Organic Agua Fresca drinks. The light and refreshing drinks are vegan, gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Certified. And the ingredients are super simple,  water, organic juice/fruit purée and a bit of organic sugar.  Aqua Fresca is currently available in three yummy flavors—Pomegranate, Mango Passionfruit, and Grapefruit.

I chilled the bottles and had them waiting for two of my kiddos to try out after a long day at school. They really enjoyed the light taste and just the right amount of sweetness. We also made popsicles, and they turned out great!

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At $3.40 a bottle, and sometimes on sale at Kroger, I have a feeling we will be turning to Agua Fresca many times as the long hot Summer continues!

Check out our instagram post to win 2 bottles of Agua Fresca to try yourself!

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I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program (greenmomsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily re ect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

» 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 Bongos and strolled around for a couple of hours. Definitely a great way to enjoy an evening without heading to a park.


2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring

This was definitely the perfect Orlando car. My co-worker Johnna joined me as I zipped around town and we both felt pretty fancy. It’s just a FUN car. Quick pick up, very responsive… and obviously, a convertible. The feature we enjoyed the most. The car also looks slick, so we turned lots of heads. Or maybe that was Johnna… she’s cute and single.

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#messyhairdontcare

Things we loved:

Style – The photos say it all. The exterior and design is great and will definitely turn heads. And it’s kind of adorable too. Like a mini luxury item that tucks neatly beside other cars. We could park almost anywhere, no space was too small. Even with it’s small interior, the design is creative to still allow cup holders and a glove box.

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Zip – As expected, this car can go. The Orlando streets can be a little busy at times but this car didn’t have any problems. In addition, Sport mode came in handy when we needed that extra get up and go.

Safety – I was honestly a bit nervous at first. The Miata is very small compared to my normal mini-van. But I was quickly as ease after realizing there were blind spot alarms. This really helped with the limited visibility when changing lanes.

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Conclusion

The Miata was FUN. Especially for this momma who is used to being a taxi rather than a stylish gal out on the town. It was easy to handle, fast and good-looking. What more could we have asked for? I will say, I’m glad I packed light. There is only room for two carry-on size suitcases in the trunk. And literally nothing else, unless you stick it in your lap. But the Miata is all about zipping around and having a blast… not carrying capacity. For those with long commutes, this little car could bring lots of joy with the top down, especially with the 36 hwy EPA est. mpg.

» 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 constantly reminding them to speak with respect. I say it so often that in a meeting just the other day, I instinctively began telling a coworker, “Did you mean to say, “Yes, sir” there?”

As I’ve said these words to my kids so many times, I’ve also found that they work for my own heart. In so many situations, I’ve seen that I need to follow the advice I give to my children. These are some of the principles that my wife and I work to drive home with our kids that translate incredibly well to adults, too.

You don’t have to like what I say, but you need to speak kindly.

Oh, how this would change the tone of a disagreement.

“Love is patient and kind…” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:4

You did the right thing, but you did it with the wrong attitude.

The Bible talks about this one.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – Paul, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

All ideas are not good ideas. If anyone has told you that, they were lying. Adulthood gives us more freedom…which isn’t always a good thing. Tons of options are within your capability of going after…but don’t just chase something because you can. Maturity exercises restraint.

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:23

We all help out around here. Even when it’s not our mess.

Teamwork makes the dream work. And if you want to endear yourself to someone, help them out with a mess they created.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Paul, Philippians 2:4

Trust me because I love you. Not because you think what I’m saying is 100% true.

I know that some of the coaching I’ve given out to my peers isn’t believed because they think it’s true. But hopefully they trust what I’m saying because it’s coming from a heart of love.

I may be upset with you. But I haven’t and won’t stop loving you.

This needs to be verbalized more often. It creates safety and security. Unconditional love is love that doesn’t require the other person meet a certain condition to be “worthy” of love. In other words, I don’t stop loving you because you messed up…my love for you isn’t conditional.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – Jesus, John 13:34

Complaining won’t get you your way.

” Do everything without complaining and arguing…” – Paul, Philippians 2:14

Play nice. She’s your sister. She’s not going away.

If we’d learn how to work well with others, our organizations would be a lot better off.

If you want to have good friends, you’ve got to be a good friend.

Take that one to the bank.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” – Solomon, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

» 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 breakfast.

If you guys can refrain from hitting and being awful to each other for one week I will take you to the Frozen yogurt place for DINNER, and let you have as many toppings as you want.

(this plan was doomed to fail from the start)

With eyes full of delight they agreed. Within five minutes they were BACK AT IT AGAIN. My benevolent words were still hanging in the air. They should have been giggling and considering which of 1,000 tasty topping they would choose. But no. They were in full heathen mode, minus one who was sobbing and begging the other three to stop.

On a normal day I am quick to address the behavior, offer choices, redirect. But in this moment I just stood, let my mind escape the scene in front of me. As I was standing there Psalm 130: 3-4 came to me.

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
    and that’s why you’re worshiped.

Even in the Old Testament, hearts were being prepared for Jesus. Hearts were bent toward a God who forgives. A God who would send His own son to give the ultimate gift. So what does this mean right now, for me, for these children I’m trying desperately to raise well?

It means taking advantage of moments of chaos. It means showing them what grace, forgiveness and love looks like when they don’t deserve it. I started to think through what this might look like in light of the ice cream incentive that they obviously were not going to earn. And honestly, how silly I was for offering such a thing in the first place. I let everything sink in for about 3 days until finally I sat them down on the couch for a talk after school.

“Hey guys,” I said, “remember when I offered you an ice cream dinner in exchange for good behavior?” They remembered. “Do you think you earned that? Were you good enough?” With heads low, two said no, one said nothing and one said YES! because there will always be that kid.

“Well what if I told you that despite your choices, I want to give you the ice cream anyway? What if I said I want to give you the ice cream based on my love for you and not what you can do for me in return?”

An unexpected reaction came from one child. Tears, “no mom, we don’t deserve it. We don’t, ” she said. The others looked at her like she was crazy and tried to quiet her.

I asked her if she would accept it, even though she felt she didn’t deserve it. She nodded. It was strangely quiet. And here’s when I told them something I want them to carry into every aspect of their spiritual lives.

“Guys. Jesus came for you. He was the only way, he was the plan throughout the Bible. He gave himself as a sacrifice for you even though you can’t do anything in return for him. Sure, you can try your best to be good, you can follow the rules, you can honor him with your words and actions… but you’ll never be perfect enough on your own.”

“It’s impossible!” One shouted in that moment.

“Yes.” I agreed. “In your life you’ll make bad choices, you won’t be perfect. But Jesus paid it all long ago when he gave his life for yours.”

Nothing you have done or ever will do can change that. Forgiveness, grace and salvation are yours if you accept them.

“And also know this. Just as God extends grace, which is receiving something we don’t deserve, and forgiveness… I will always extend grace and forgiveness to you. This will always be a home of 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances. My love for you is fueled by the deep love I received and accepted when I was 5 years old.”

So who wants to go for ice cream?

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19

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{Friends, I don’t always think clearly, or calmly… but I’ve been making an effort to look and listen for God’s precious words. I believe that if we are watching and listening, we will hear him speak into our chaotic moments.}

» 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

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal