Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review of Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

The great "what if...".

What if my life looked like this? What if my job was this?  And so on ... we all inevitably question where we are at and what that means for us down the road.

What if you could actually love the life you are living right now?
In life, there is the ideal: fulfilling work, thriving relationships, financial security. Not to mention an orderly and beautiful home and children who never misbehave. And then there's reality: frustrations, illness, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. We can wait around for our circumstances to change and in the process miss the goodness right in front of us. Or we can choose to love our actual lives, right here and now.

In this entertaining and insightful book, Alexandra Kuykendall chronicles her nine-month experiment to rekindle her love of her ordinary, actual life. After wiping her calendar as clean as a mother of four can, Kuykendall focuses on one aspect of her life each month, searching for ways to more fully enjoy her current season. By intentionally adding one thing each month that will make her jump for joy, she provides a practical challenge you can easily replicate in your life. With humor, poignancy, and plenty of personal stories, she shows how a few small changes can make this crazy-busy life one of holy contentment.

Loving My Actual Life was a fun, easy read. Each chapter is broken down into an area of life that Alexandra Kuykendall spent a month focusing on with great intention. For example, chapter two is the morning routine and chapter four is health and chapter nine is passions. Once in the chapter she explains the need, the experimented approach and followed by a diary dialogue of the good, the bad and everything in between from that month. The chapters close with what was learned, things that she'll keep in her life after and finally questions for reflection. The end of the book wraps up with thoughts and suggestions to lead the reader in implementing their own experiment. Very valuable.

It is a great set-up for group study or discussion as well as personal growth. There are also quotes and scriptures throughout.

Kuykendall has a lighthearted, companionable voice. Her life feels connectable and real. Even though I am way out of the young children/mothering stage I remember those days well. The beauty often lost in the doubts and fears. The creativity and simplicity often lost in the chaos. The author portrays this well. No matter how diligent she is in her new assignment, somewhere along the way life happens to derail her. A friend is in need. A child is sick. But the key to her progress was having a plan to fall back onto as soon the days straightened out again. I think in our lives that's where we fail. Without an intentional plan we succumb to the waves and torrents of life. That is true of anyone - mother or not. Woman or not.

Although, I feel it safe to say that the targeted audience for this book is definitely women.

I found, even though I am not a young mom, there were a lot of truths I could pull into my own life. She challenged me to re-evaluate my relationships, my health and my sense of adventure. There was tremendous value in this book. A definite recommendation. It would make an excellent gift too. The cover is beautiful. The content is light and easy to follow, with great nuggets of depth. And the message is timeless.
Bloom where you are planted.

Pick up a copy for yourself or for a mom you know. You won't regret it.

A pdf excerpt from the book is available on the Baker Publishing's page.

Alexandra Kuykendall  is involved with MOPS International, Mothers With Preschoolers. She is an author and editor to MomSense Magazine, Connections Magazine and the MOPS blog. As the mother of four young children, she continues to refine her mothering identity. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Derek, and their daughters.
Also check her out at her blog, For Every Mom.
Book available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbooks, Chapters and other fine retailers.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Video Game Review of Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance

Today is a treat. I have the opportunity to review a video game for young kids. What a different experience from my usual - books and movies. I had to call in reinforcements to help with this one though - my generation ... and my personality ... have me lacking some basic "gaming" skills.
So you get two reviews for the price of one today. Mine and my teenagers. (I colour coded the two so you could keep track of who thought what.)

The Aetherlight is an action adventure game that is constructed as a Biblical allegory. Much like the way the Narnia Chronicles have inspired and engaged readers for generations, New Zealand Scarlet City Studios, partnered with American Bible Society, is hoping to invite a generation of gamers to interact directly with the Bible and its powerful story.

Tim Cleary, an Australian Youth Pastor set out to design a game to bring the scriptures to where the kids were at. Online. Its a new generation our kids are living in and as parents we need to offer them as many opportunities as we can to touch, hear and feel the Living Breathing Word of God. I'm all for that! 

As a parent, that sounds like a great way to use up some of my kids "screen time". My kids are almost all grown up with only one left still at home in high school and two on to college. However, I always felt better when my kids spent time on electronic devices that had more to them than just "playing".

So, why not let your kids "engage with the Resistance as they begin their immense task of restarting the Great Engines to drive back the fog and find the Great Engineer. This adventure will take (them) throughout the entire land of Aethasia, from No Man’s Landing, through the Snowmoors and Giant Seed Forest, right to the Ends of the Earth Falls!" (Quote taken from the Scarlet City Studio website.)

From my perspective, the game was complex and confusing to start with. It took me quite some time to figure out how to move and make anything happen on screen. Thankfully, it took my kids all of a split second to recognize it was a point and click game. (If you don't know what that means, ask your kids.)

However, the creators of the game wanted the kids to be interacting with the content and other users more than that so they blended the point/click experience with an RPG format. This basically means that your child becomes one of the characters in the game and can choose how they interact with the on-screen activities.

The basic concept seemed to be an adventure set up where your character is given challenges to accomplish. This involves finding items, building useful tools and contraptions, and fighting off the Automatons, the bad-guys army.

Overall, I was frustrated by the experience of the game, constantly thrown in battles while I wanted to be focused on the discovery of missing items. However, once my son took over the keyboard, I realized there was so much more to the adventure. Due to his already competent gaming skills, he knew where to move and how to engage deeper aspects than the obvious. The game came alive. He discovered for me that you could invite others playing the online game into your battles to help you. You could join theirs. You could chat with other players asking for info or help. You could also change your clothing and personalize your player.

Wow, who knew?

Basically my kids thought the game was fun and interactive. It had a few quirks that slowed down the progress of the players, such as the flee button and the slow transition from world to world. However they didn't feel it would stop them from playing.

The game is targeted to pre-teen aged kids. This is due to the vocabulary and the violence I imagine. The violence was not extreme for a video game. It had bothered me a bit at first, seeming so unnecessary. My son assured it was tame and fit the story well. As a parent I would just say that it is very cartoonish violence. Your player in involved in a battle with a robot. You swing and thump it with a pipe or shoot it with a gun until it breaks. However, you take turns at hits, allowing the robot then to fire at you or thump you with a weapon. My player took several canon balls to the stomach. That is what I meant by unnecessary.  Even a woman in a wheelchair gets thumped by a metal pipe several times. This perhaps was my biggest concern.

There is a lot of reading involved. The characters give orders through bubble chats. If you have a reluctant or slow reader, a parent might need to sit with them to get the full meaning of the game. However my son, very proficient with games managed to play quite well without reading any of the bubbled information. (Not sure that is a positive??) The reading component is how your child engages with the scriptures. Perhaps if you progress through the game farther than we did you will find other ways to bring the Biblical content in.

Overall, I would allow my kids to play this game as young kids. It was engaging and entertaining. The content is clean and the chats are protected. There is a parent dashboard allowing the parent to control certain aspects of the playing experience for the child, such as password resets, disabling the chat options and blocking access to the game itself. This is good to know.

I give Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance a thumbs up! So do my teens. 

Please note that Tyndale has a companion bible available in store and online, the Aetherlight Bible for teens.

Go check it our for yourself!  

I received a copy of the game free of charge from BuzzPlant in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to only give positive feedback.