Family time fun at Busch Gardens

We had so much fun that day at Busch Gardens being outside and playing, from my 8 year old to my 18 year old.

How is your Summer going? Ours has been a mix of great fun and some quiet indoor days. I am not a super outdoorsy person and I definitely feel guilty when I am not out and about with the kids, doing outdoor activities.

Yet, most of my kids are pretty content to watch movies and play online, so while that mitigates my guilt, I still feel it IS better for kids to be outside, being kids, whether that is just going to the pool or running around the neighborhood.

Just recently, we all got off our electronics though! I had a “Mommy and Me Meetup” at Williamsburg, Busch Gardens. This ended up being a fantastic opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy time with my children.

Note: “I attended an event on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Busch Gardens. I received free admission to the park as a thank you for participating.”*

Once we got there, we had an awesome breakfast buffet and meeting. I loved how the Busch Gardens team prepared for our kids. They know little kids need to have stuff to do, and the tables even had paper and chalk for drawing and little buckets with toys.

Busch Gardens Breakfast

Busch Gardens Breakfast

While the kids were eating and playing, Stacy from Mom Central Consulting and the Busch Gardens Team gave a fascinating presentation about how our children are described as the generation of digital natives. We heard about a study of 900 Moms, which showed that most mothers struggle to find a healthy balance of indoor and outdoor play.

I totally agree. I know I ran around outside crossing our little creek and climbing around in the woods as a kid. I wish my kids had more natural outdoor fun, but where we live now it just is not as easy. I have to worry about safety and neighbors, and the kids want to play video games.

 “According to a just-released survey of nearly 900 moms conducted by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Busch Gardens®, kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as playing tag, riding bikes, and exploring nature, and these activity levels increase only slightly on the weekends to a little more than two hours.”

It is almost as though, as parents, we really need to work to help our kids play outside and have that old fashioned fun. And some days I do try hard to set up more outdoor play. But, it really is work for me though I know it is worth the time to get.

With the meetup focus, we heard about how Busch Gardens is trying to help fill that need for outdoor natural fun for whole families. It makes sense. They have over 100 acres of lush land at this location. They have been voted the world’s most beautiful theme park for the past 23 years! I took a few photos from the The  Aeronaut Skyride because the trees and foliage are just gorgeous.

The Aeronaut Skyride

Anyway, Busch Gardens wants to share that “Fun Grows Here”

outdoor fun clip

they have a kind of triple play of gorgeous nature, animals and rides. So, any family can find their niche while enjoying being outdoors together.

The Aeronaut Skyride

I think that is fabulous and I love that Moms and Dads can have the fun also. My kids love it when we play with them and this trip made it so easy to just go play outdoors!

It was, overall, such a relaxing, enjoyable experience. At the beginning of the day (and at the very end) we had some rain showers. I freaked out and figured we’d have to go home, but there was no lightening and the kids could have cared less.

girl at Busch Gardens with Umbrella

A teeny bit after I calmed down, the sun popped out and the weather was fantastic most of the day…and no one got sunburned.

We got our maps and those of us with smart phones had the Busch Gardens App, which is great because it shows where you are, directions to rides and such and even updates the showtimes around the park. It proved to be a useful App.

The older kids got to run around on the roller coasters and thrill rides, while we did some of the younger kids things, marked as KIDsiderate with our youngest:

Kids roller coaster at Busch Gardens

and then we all met up, throughout the day, to do some rides together, watch some shows, have some treats and check out the animals.

The pompei ride at Busch Gardens

The kids on the Pompeii ride

Dad even found a new ride he liked:

Europe in the air ride


As we walked through the park I did test some of the employees {grin} I knew I would be writing a review and I wanted to be able to share the truth of our experience. I had been told that the Park employees with animals were friendly and if I asked, would tell us all about the animal. So, we talked to several park employees who were with animals. We first hung out with the sheep in Scotland and learned tons about the baby sheep and border collies and Clydesdales. My daughter was so into that!

girl and Clydesdales at Busch Gardens

I was impressed with the employees knowledge and willingness to chat with us. We also went to the pet shenanigans show, and I liked how after the show, people were encouraged to come up and talk to the people and visit with the animals.

Pet Shenanigans show at Busch Gardens

Again, my eight year old enjoyed that very much. We also spoke with a woman with the most adorable little owl and she gave us so many facts, Emma could write a report.

Busch Gardens Owl

The roller coasters were my teenagers favorites and they rode those over and over, as the wait times were not bad at all. My children declared Griffon® the “best ride ever”.

Griffon Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens

One thing they noticed was that many of the coasters and thrill rides like the Battering Ram and Da Vinci’s Cradle had accelerometers on the rides, and they were curious to do some of the educational activities when they came back again.

I loved it that I did not push them to do the educational stuff, yet they became curious and want to follow up for themselves. Now, THAT’S natural learning.

I hear that Busch Gardens is homeschool friendly, with many new homeschool opportunities coming up.

For example, they have a Launch Into Physics: The Mars Mission program where kids can learn about momentum, acceleration and g-forces.

I see that this Summer there will be NASA Exploration Days (Aug. 2 – 3) and they have ongoing Conservation programs. You can check out their website to read about how to do Behind the Scenes Tours with groups of 15 or more. As a homeschool Mom, I will be keeping a watch for these things!

Anyway, we meandered through the park and ate crazy good ice cream cone sundaes in France and fat pretzels in Germany (the pretzels in Germany are the best get yours there). I felt like a kid myself.

ice cream at Busch Gardens

As a parent, it is so much fun to watch your kids enjoy themselves! I got a kick out of doing some old school rides like the bumper cars…


and the carousel…

Busch Gardens carousel

Haha! We made Big brother go with us

and we planned our day to culminate at the Celtic Fyre® a show with singers, musicians and Irish dancers, which was so enjoyable and a great end to the day.

I didn’t have time to do everything. I missed taking the Rhine River Cruise, which sounds beautiful. Next time around, I want to try the Escape from Pompeii® and Roman Rapids®. There is so much to do!!

I know that this trip is something all of my kids that went with us will remember forever. It was just that fun and doing it all together made for a great memory.

You can find more information on the Park on the Busch Gardens website. You can also follow Busch Gardens Facebook. An upcoming event that looks great is the return of IllumiNights: A Busch Gardens® Encore.

So, that was our experience. Here’s to enjoying outdoor fun as a family! #NaturalFun and #MC.

The Waterproof Bible

Heather —  May 15, 2013

waterproof Bible

Waterproof Bible

A Waterproof Bible?

Just after Easter this year, I ran away from the snow in Virginia and headed to the beach off the Georgia coast. Right before I left, I got a fabulous review item in the mail from Bardin & Marsee.

So want to guess what I got that turned out to be so great? I bet you’ll never guess.

It was a Waterproof Bible, an ESV version that included the New Testament, the Psalms and Proverbs, to be exact.

Weird, right? I love it! I got my waterproof, durable and sweet pink Bible from a company that specializes in rugged Bibles. You can find all kinds of information, including pricing on the website,

They carry many different versions, for example, the KJV, NIV, ESV, NKJV and NLT. And every Bible is 100% waterproof inside and out. They are made from synthetic materials for longevity and extreme conditions. The pages have a nice, study feel to them. They are not too slippery or thin and the cover feels very solid and durable.

I took mine on my travels and I was pleased with the size. It fit easily in my tote, so I could keep it out of my main luggage and with me, making it easy to use often. I did miss the Old Testament, but the entire Bible is available also, I just did not get that one and the slim size of this one does work well.

I left my main Bible at home and did not have to worry about losing that. The synthetic pages of this waterproof one can be written on as well, so I started up with new notes.

I brought the Bible to the beach with me and purposefully treated it a bit roughly, just to see what would happen. I did not submerge the Bible, as I read many people have done. That made me nervous! Apparently though, I totally could have and it would dry up just fine.

Waterproof Bible at Beach

Waterproof Bible at Beach

I did get mine a bit wet and full of sand. The moisture dried off quickly and all the sand slid right off. I also was able to stick it in my beach bag without worrying. I can imagine this Bible would be super handy to have in many circumstances.

I love mine and definitely highly recommend the Waterproof and Outdoor Bibles!

waterproof bible logo2

Visit the Barden & Marsee Publishing website to find out more. You can also find them on Facebook.

@WaterproofBible #MosaicReviews

*I received the Waterproof ESV New Testament in order to facilitate this review. I have given my opinion.

my short hair

Time to examine my thoughts on my experiment with Weight Watchers 360, the online version of Weight Watchers. First of all, I want to stress that this is my opinion. While the site and the mobile apps had interesting and useful features, I just did not use them very much and I never felt like I enjoyed the online community.

For example, I had a lot of trouble finding all my foods in the online food tracker and I rarely could get the barcode scanner to scan my stuff.  I also joined a group in the community, yet never got more than one message from the group. I think I was supposed to visit the group site more and chat up people. I am just too introverted and busy to mess with that.

As I am already on the computer as a blogger and involved in forums, I suspect I personally need to get away from the computer and spending time online in order to really change my lifestyle. As I mentioned in Day 7 of my Weight Watchers Diary, I feel like using the fitbit to keep you honest about your true exercise habits and being more active on a daily basis will help me more than just watching my food intake and changing some habits. All of those together of course, are great, but I already know much of what WW 360 is telling me, I am just not DOING the things. I did just notice that Weight Watchers looks like they are promoting a new item that will track your movements, called the activelink. Interesting. I may have tried the Weight Watchers 360 too early.

Anyway, if you are interested in using Weight Watchers and Weight Watchers online, I really recommend doing a trial of the online version but also visiting a local weight watchers group. You can see if you really need to be in a physical group for support or if the online fits your lifestyle. You can also do both an online and local support group at the same time, and the cost varies depending on what you choose.

I do like the Weight Watchers magazine, so I ordered that. I like the recipes and the how to prepare food videos that are available on the ipad app, that is part of the WW 360.

So, I guess my final thoughts on this are that they do have some really useful information, especially on how to prepare food in a healthy manner and how to make changes in your habits. Yet, I did not feel supported by the online forums and I didn’t love the food tracking app available for smartphones.

In the end, I think Weight Watchers 360 has lots of good information and decent apps, but I need more live accountability, myself.

Right now, there is a two week risk free trial showing up on the Weight Watchers site. So, now would be a decent time to try and see what you think!!

*I received a complimentary 3 month subscription to Weight Watchers Online.“People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.”

Veggie Tales

The Little House that Stood

Join Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and some new piggy friends in a parable of ‘The Wise and Foolish Builders’ from Matthew 7 in the new Veggie Tales, The Little House That Stood.

My daughter enjoyed this one, and when I asked her what she learned, she immediately replied that she learned “to follow God’s Word and build on a firm foundation.” So I guess she got the point of the story!

I managed to sit through it as well {grin}. It was cute. I am always watching with a critical eye, I admit. I liked two of the pigs and was annoyed by one. It is always good when the stories actually teach your children decent values. Overall, I liked the plot and basic theme of making good choices, by following the “Master Builder’s Handbook.”

The second video seemed to be placed because of Easter, with a Humpty Dumpty story. I didn’t enjoy that one as much as the first, mainly because I agreed the mayor needed a break!  Yet, it also kept my daughter’s attention and she seemed pleased by the happy ending.

Take a look at their website. They have tons of resources for parents, a discussion guide, coloring pages, and more.

You can also watch for fun stuff for your kids at Veggie Tales on facebook, or follow them on twitter.

AND, I get to give one The Little House That Stood DVD away!

Just leave me a comment telling me who you want to win the DVD for ~ OR who your favorite Veggie Tales character is! I will choose a winner on March 15, 2013.



“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Little Angels Prayers for Everyday by Roma Downey

Little Angels Prayers for Everyday by Roma Downey

Remember your own bedside prayers? This book, Little Angels Prayers for Every Day, by Roma Downey with Illustrator Lisa Reed, brings back memories of some of my favorites.

This is so sweet for children ages about 2-6, in my opinion. Through this series, which teaches about God’s love, children can derive comfort and have their own special book!

Little Angels Prayers for Every Day offers children their own handbook of prayers. With likeable characters, such as the twins Alex and Zoe and their guardian angels and plenty of rhymes this book will be a nice gift for little hands. I like that the book is a padded board book, with 32 pages and a smaller size for young children. (6.25 x 7.25)

There are over 50 simple prayers for children to identify with and enjoy. The rhyming prayers start with morning prayers and continue throughout the day.

The book includes prayers for specific times, such as prayers to ask the Lord for help or guidance. Relevant Bible verses are included on many pages. I really think this is a good book for little ones to pore over.

We will be sending ours to a special little cousin!

See more on the website, on their Facebook page, on the author’s twitter or even on youtube.

Want to win a copy? Just leave me a comment letting me know who you want to win this book for!

I will draw a winner on March 15, 2013.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Children's books, Faith, Children's Books

Well written Children’s Books

I just got an email about this and wanted to share~ we have some of these and they are very well written and discuss issues important to children with a Christian perspective. Things like, why does Dad not have a job to why should people have faith. Here are some:

Select Seasons of Faith picture books are just $5 each. That’s 50% off! Choose from the following titles for your little valentine:

  • The King’s Daughter
  • The Red Boat
  • The Prize Cake
  • Saying Farewell
  • Race with Midnight
  • Braving the Storm
  • Seventy Times Seven
  • You Can’t Come In

Sale ends February 14, 2013! Online:

Just a solid series of books. The illustrators vary, but they are usually cute. This would be a real heart gift! 

You may also want to look into their devotional magazine for kids, called Keys for Kids.

My daughter loves these. They do ask for a donation, but they also offer a free subscription (one per family).

*I am actually not an affiliate, I just like these:)

CBH Ministries

CBH Ministries

Ryken’s Bible Handbook Review

Heather —  February 6, 2013

Ryken's Bible Handbook, Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, Bible as literature, Bible Reference

A great addition to a home library.

Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, James Wilhoit , Hardcover, 672 pages, Trim Size 5 1/4 x 8

One of the fun things for me in reviewing faith based books is finding out things my husband knows and never mentions! Yes, my husband went to Wheaton and I love asking his opinion.

When I received this book my husband picked it up and mentioned that Philip Ryken is currently the President of Wheaton College.

I found it interesting, that one of the authors of this Bible Handbook is the president of Wheaton. (although, psst, he was not yet when this book published)

I became curious about Ryken’s history. Turns out, Ryken’s father is Christian literary scholar and Wheaton professor, Leland Ryken, and Philip Ryken graduated from Wheaton College with a double major in English literature and philosophy. He also received a Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1992, and a Ph.D. in historical theology from Oxford in 1995.

After learning all this about the authors, I understand better why they would write such a Bible handbook, a Biblical reference that looks at each individual book in the Bible as literature, while also looking at the Bible as a whole, complex piece of literature full of literary genres, from the poetry of the psalms to the story parables.

This is a reference book that is extremely detailed, yet somehow fun to read! The reference goes through each book of the Bible, all 66. It is very easy to pick it up as you are studying a particular book of the Bible and just glean a little bit more about what you are reading. You also can just read the entire book as a book, it is so fascinating. I like how the authors break everything down into bits of information.

The beginning portion looks at how the Bible functions as a whole piece of literature. What the main storylines and themes are. You’ll look at the big characters. For example, God is the chief protagonist. (no surprise there, right?)

The main section is where you will go through the Bible book by book. For example, in looking at the Book of Esther, you will see an explanation on how Esther is a unified narrative, with a single main plot.

You will see the structure and unity of the story in (of) the Book of Esther. Little sidebar extras mention the “numbers” that are important in the story of Esther (i.e. 10 banquets). You get a rundown of the key places and characters, key doctrines and themes, tips for teaching the book, a quick overall overview and a lesson in what a “Hero” story is. As you finish up, there is a portion that describes the “Contribution of this Book to the Bible’s Story of Salvation in Christ.” This is a great bit of wrap-up, I think. Finally there is a bit on applying the book and some quotes that offer other’s perspectives on this book. In about eight pages, you can learn so much about what to look for in the book of Esther.

This is done for each book of the Bible. Some are, understandably much longer than the Book of Esther, yet still not ever boring.

In the back, you’ll find a one year Bible reading plan and about 15 pages of colorful maps.

I really recommend adding this book to your library. Five stars from me.


*I received a copy of this book to review from Tyndale House Publishers.



Weight Watchers Diary Day 7

Heather —  February 6, 2013
food, cake, family birthday, butternut squash, snacks

The past few days have been a weird mix of doing well and totally failing!


Weight Watchers Diary — Login Day 7

Well, I have been doing pretty awful on my Weight Watchers challenge. I have been relying on the Weight Watchers mobile app, and that just isn’t helping me stay on track. It did not help that in the past few days, we had the SuperBowl and a family birthday.. Those two events ruined my plans to be cautious with eating.

On the bright side, prior to the SuperBowl and making a (fantastic) Ina Garten Carrot Cake, I did make a really good roasted butternut squash and parsnip casserole. It was very low in points due to the vegetables, and I was proud I tried parsnips.

Overall, though, once you have an IPA, your food budget is pretty shot. The day after, I also talked to a friend who uses a FitBit and swears that is a great item, so I am going to look into that. I need to increase activity. I know I cannot just count on reducing calories to get fit again. I am in my {ahem} 40’s, and accidental calories really count these days.

So, to help succeed the rest of this week, I plan to

  • login to the Weight Watchers online–no use counting on the app, I need more support, maybe some chat?
  • add some activity. Anything is something
  • think about going to a WW meeting. I’m not super thrilled with this online stuff. I like the recipes and knowing the points and serving sizes but that’s not stopping me from overindulging.
  • Read up on the FitBit

Anyone have any ideas? Thanks!

“I received a trial of the Weight Watchers 360 program to facilitate this review.” “People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.”