September 30, 2016

He Will Collect {Five Minute Friday}

It's another Friday--and not just any old Friday, but the last one of the month--which happens to be the last DAY of the month. I can't believe that October begins tomorrow, can you? But as it IS Friday, it's time for my weekly Five Minute Friday post! I was stumped for a little while on today's word...
He Will Collect {Five Minute Friday}

To collect. 
To gather.
To me, the words are really inter-changeable. Both refer to the same thing.

Tonight as I was thinking about this word, I started thinking about how God promises over and over in the scripture that one day He will GATHER His people. Sometimes it feels like we are scattered here and there. Evil surrounding us. Hearts broken. Despair running rampant. Like God has forsaken this world. 

So I found a wonderful verse that really captures this...
“For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will GATHER you." ~ Isaiah 54:7
Nature and Verse: Isaiah 54:7

It's a promise! God has promised that although it seems like He's turned His back on the world He created (and honestly, He does say over and over in the scriptures this will happen to those who are disobedient and rebellious like the world at large), He has greater plans for the future. 

In His incredible mercy, He WILL gather His people to Him. He will COLLECT His people. Collect, a child gathers precious items. Like we collect and gather the things that matter most to us. The treasured things. The things of high personal value. 

He WILL gather us to Him one day.
It's a promise from God.
Rejoice in this and eagerly await that day!

Want to Join in?

I hope you and yours have a blessed weekend and kick off to the new month of October! Unlike last weekend, fall is actually here! I just love the cool weather and foggy mornings. We've had the loveliest damp autumn days lately. I was so happy to pull out my jeans again! This is really my most favorite it yours?

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September 28, 2016

Live the Adventure with The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions! {Product Review}

Once again, we have had the chance to review another audio drama from the fabulous Heirloom Audio Productions--this one taking us to Ancient Egypt in The Cat of Bubastes! I love all things ancient Egypt, so I looked forward to another awesome adventure like all the other ones before.
The Cat of Bubastes by Heirloom Audio Productions : Product Review

About The Cat of Bubastes

The Cat of Bubastes is the SIXTH installment of the Heirloom Audio Productions family of audio dramas based on the classic adventure books by G.A. Henty. This adventure takes us to Ancient Egypt where we meet Prince Amuba and his mentor Jethro--slaves who were captured by the Egyptians and taken to the city of Thebes, where he was put under the house of a priest of Osiris. Over time, he becomes friends with the family and learns a lot about the Egyptian religion and that of a mysterious people living in Goshen. They soon find themselves overcome in a murderous plot against their Egyptian friend that will test their loyalty. Through it all, they will find the beauty of God's providence. 

The audio drama is voiced by an all-star cast including Brian Blessed (Star Wars, Tarzan, Robin Hood), Anthony Daniels (Star Wars), Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who), Elizabeth Counsell (The Chronicles of Narnia), Russell Boulter (Ben-Hur), and John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones). 

Emmy-Award winning composer John Campbell contributes a fabulous original soundtrack. With full movie sound effects, this isn't just any old audiodrama--it's an ADVENTURE! 

The Cat of Bubastes is a 2 CD set (2 1/2 hrs of story) for $29.97 and comes with instant access MP3 download. You will also receive the following bonuses:

*Official mp3 Soundtrack
*Downloadable Study and Discussion Guide (47 page)
*And an Inspirational Verse Poster

Perfect for ages 6-100+, this is a high quality production, you don't want to miss!

Our Thoughts About The Cat of Bubastes

The boys are always happy to begin these audiodramas. They liked the name of this one and that it was going to be in Egypt. We really like things related to Ancient Egypt, especially their obsession with their gods/idols. The story is another great one and I love the way the events of the story link up with the history of ancient Israel as slaves in Egypt. Also the mention of a certain well known Egyptian prince (I won't spoil it!! It is easy to see why this story is one of the favorites in the GA Henty collection! If only they would turn it into a movie...but then I think that about ALL of the ones we have heard so far!

We used both the actual CD's and the Mp3 recording (a bonus included in a larger package--or available for purchase by itself), but found the mp3 to be frustrating, for as soon as we paused it, it would start back at the beginning again instead of where we stopped, and we couldn't get it to go to where we wanted it. It might have just been the Kindle doing it, because we've never had that happen before with mp3's from this company. I also looked over the Study Guide and Discussion and pulled some comprehension questions, as well as a few "thinking further" questions to help us internalize the story more. It's so handy to have that available just right on my Kindle.
Example of what the Study Guide includes.
The boys can't decide if this one is their new favorite or not, because they just love them all! I just appreciate having something to listen to that provides, not just history and a great story, but teaches about courage, faith, love, and strong Christian values!

Would We Recommend This Product?

I will always recommend this product to every family. The quality is superb--it's always like closing my eyes and listening to a movie. The stories are very exciting for the whole family--the adventure, the drama, and yes, the humor too! It is a 2 hr audio spectacular for everyone to enjoy. Not only will your family learn more about history, but they will hear stories of faith and courage! Having the Study Guide to go with it, makes it even more valuable--and that's just one of the lovely bonuses that come with your purchase.

Want to Know More About Heirloom Audio Productions?

We have had the pleasure of reviewing The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions. These have always been a win for our family, and this story was no different. Make sure you visit other crew members to see their thoughts on this delightful product!
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
You can stay on top of the latest and greatest from Heirloom Audio Productions with these social media outlets:
Facebook * Twitter * Google+ * Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial 
We just love the Heirloom Audio Productions audio dramas and eagerly await any new one released!
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September 26, 2016

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning {Product Review}

I am always on the lookout for programs that will provide independent learning opportunities for my boys. Baby Britches especially appreciates being able to work on things on his own. When I had the chance to review Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning, I hoped that it would provide some great independent practice of his new reading skills--strengthening them in the process.
Ultimate Phonics Reading Program~ Produce Review

About the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is a software download from Spencer Learning. It was designed to teach better reading--especially to those struggling readers of any age--with difficulties like dyslexia or other challenges. Removing the fluff and focusing on the phonics rules and methods, the program gets to the heart of the matter of reading skills.

This is an accelerate reading program for beginning and struggling readers of all ages. The program removes the habit of word memorizing (sight words anyone?!),  guessing, and skipping. With just a few hours of time each week, the results will be impressive! It's designed to be suitable for anyone from beginning readers and those learning ESL, to the struggling readers with dyslexia or autism.

This program is a SOFTWARE DOWNLOAD requiring you to be running Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP; or for Macs, OSX 10.5.8 or higher.

I reviewed this software download with my youngest son age 6.

What Were Our Thoughts?

The program was very easy to download to my computer, and even though it was on my older laptop, it didn't take very long at all to install. A few days after the installation, I was given the license key which was easy to add to the program. The program definitely is for the early reader, or an ESL learner with its very basic set up. It introduces sound, then simple words for basic phonetic practice, followed with simple sentences for reading. All of the sounds and words can be hover over to HEAR the phonics or actual words. There is the option to look ahead to further lessons to find the lesson you need for your child. The program is absolutely an independent option, as there isn't anything that ISN'T available for hovering to hear the sounds. That makes it very nice for children/adults struggling to still read the words, who might usually need assistance.

I know that the program prides itself on no fluff, but for us, we don't mind fluff. And we actually really like fun programs for teaching this type of thing. This program was like just endless words--like automated flashcards really. I know that flashcards are good, but they are more just for review use in our family, not something to use as a primary teaching resource. The program was actually rather...boring in my opinion. My youngest didn't seem to mind though. He just liked the independence factor.

Another thing...ahem. The voice for the program sounds just like BEN STEIN on Ferris Bueller's Day Off and I just couldn't STAND hearing it. Fortunately, headphones can be used. But really I would have expected less of a monotone--more interesting voice to do this program. It is partially what contributed to the "boring"ness of it.  But I also know this might JUST be me talking! So take it with a grain of salt! LOL

And because I think hearing it in action will help you "see" how it works, I took a video of Baby Britches using the program:

And here is him working through the sentences...

Will we continue to use this program? 
Because it's a simple download for my computer and Baby Britches can use extra help--even with it being "boring"--yes. I plan on having him continue to use the program for about 10-15 minutes during our school day for extra reinforcement. I also love that I can search for a phonic blend and jump to it. This is what I plan on doing to match our reading curriculum. We just learned "ea says eh" like bread and weather. So tomorrow I will pull up the "ea" sound and let him review it. (with headphones. LOL)
Can use this to do a search for the sounds you are looking for

Would I Recommend Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?

Yes, with reservations. As it's advertised, this is not a cute fluffy program. It is a tool for helping children learn their phonics with tried and true repetition units. If you want something that "doesn't beat around the bush" and just gets down to the heart of the matter--learning the phonics, then this is a great program for you. If you want something for your child to be able to work on independently for extra phonics work--then yes! If you are wanting it to be colorful, game-like, and fun...not so much. It is absolutely a perfect SUPPLEMENT for any beginning reading program.

This is a download, which means you can use it anytime, whether or not you have internet available. It doesn't appear to take up much room which is something I appreciate.

Want to Know More?

We have been reviewing the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning the last several weeks. You have seen our opinion on the program, but why not check out what some of the other crew members thought about it?!
Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
If you want to know more about the program or Spencer Learning, make sure you follow them on these social media outlets:

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September 23, 2016

Five Words {Five Minute Friday}

Can you believe it's already Friday again? My dad flew in for the weekend so he could take care of some business stuff related to their new property here. So we are enjoying the time with him before he flies out again on Sunday night. Because it IS Friday, it's time for another 5 Minute Friday post. I found the theme for this week a bit harder than the last two weeks, but I will give it a go.


It's Friday and tomorrow is my Sabbath, so I start thinking ahead to my special time extra focused on God. And I come up with five words that I keep in my heart to help me in my daily walk with Him.

Wait on the Lord.
Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! ~Psalm 27:14

This is probably the hardest command God gives us. To wait for things to happen in HIS time, and not our own. But it definitely helps me build the much needed patience.

Trust that God knows what He's doing.
But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD... ~Psalm 73:28

Oh this one is nearly as hard. I think of all the times when I just throw up my hands, because what's happening in this life, makes no sense, or overwhelms me. So I just have to keep my trust in the one constant. God.

Hope in the Lord.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

I have a hope for the future that nothing on this earth can take away. It's because of this hope that I can get through the trials that life throw at me. I know my future. I know the plans God has. Nothing in this world is better than that.

Believe that All things work together for good to them that love the Lord.
But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. ~Galatians 3:22

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

I don't have much to add to that. I just have to BELIEVE that what God has written WILL happen. Believe that it's true. Believe that God is in control. That He follows through on his promises...

Shield of Faith.

Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. ~Ephesians 6:16

I lift my shield of faith every day to fight off the fiery darts of the adversary. It's when I don't gird myself through daily Bible Study and meditation that I falter. So I must lift my shield and keep it steady.

I hope that you and yours have a simply fabulous weekend. It was the first day of fall yesterday, but it still feels like summer at 90+ degrees! I'm so ready for fall!!!
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September 22, 2016 A Safe (and FUN!) Email Service for Kids {Product Review}

My boys don't have access to a computer for much more than online assignments, but every now and then, I know they have wished for their own email to send messages to their grandparents and friends. I also have wished they had one for some of our online curriculums, but because of my personal experiences with so many email providers, I did not want to sign them up with any that I have used myself. When I learned about with their powerful and safe email for kids, I knew that this would be a great review for us and looked forward to trying out our Annual Subscription. Powerful and Safe Email for Kids (Product Review)

About is a safe and powerful email resource for your children. Offering top of the line filtering and settings for you to use on your child's email accounts, they promise that your child will be able to use their email safely. With options for mail monitoring, time restrictions, block senders, approved contact lists, a mail queue to catch unapproved contact emails, no ads (ever!), and the option for GPS tracker on the KidsEmail app, this isn't your "normal" email service provider. Your child's safety is first and foremost in their priorities. 

The subscription service to this website is available as a monthly and annual subscription (best price!) with a 30 day free trial option. 

We were blessed with an annual subscription to this email service which was used by both boys--ages 6 and 10.

Our Thoughts on was very very user friendly and I had no trouble at all getting my two boys set up with their email accounts. I appreciated the extensive list of approved settings for their email--which can be individualized, or set for ALL users. 

This includes the following options found in "Safety Settings":
*option to receive and/or send email to contact list only (yes or no)
*option to allow child to edit their on contact list (yes or no)
*send parent a copy of incoming/outgoing email (yes or no)
*allow images, links, or attachments (with option for more specific settings in these)
*option to allow bad words in received email (yes or no)
*add tagline about it being a kids email with safety features to emails
*option to send email sender a notification of their mail going into a mail queue for approval

There is also the ability to limit the time your child can access their email account which can be customized by child or for whole group:

We had issues with this because it kept trying to change our time zone, so it wouldn't let the boys log in some mornings saying we were in a restricted time. I had to tweak this a few times. I hope it will be a bug that can be worked out.

You can also set up a special background screen for your child--or let them pick their own. I guessed what my boys would like--but they ended up changing it once they logged into their own accounts.
a few of the options
A unique and excellent setting--especially for the teens is the "Ground Child" option where you can set up a suspension of use for the email and it will send them a message that this is part of their grounding consequences.
Once you have set up a contact list, any other emails that are sent to your child, will be going into YOUR mail queue, where you get to approve or block the non-approved contact list emails. Here is an example of an email I sent from one of my non-approved for their contact list emails:
We only had one problem with an email that went straight to their inboxes, without hitting the mail queue, but it was still from me. I just sent it from one of their online curriculum. Because this WASN'T the way it was supposed to work, I emailed their customer service with my concern. They answered right away that they would look into it, and continued to check back in. It apparently happened to other of the crew members from the SAME website, but last I checked they weren't sure why or how it was happening because it couldn't be replicated. While I know I personally sent this email to the boys, I would be concerned if it happened again. BUT KidsEmail does NOT give out their list of emails to anyone or any other service, so I highly doubt that it will happen as just random emails sent out. Even the administrator emails FROM KidsEmail that they sent to test, went into my mail queue, so we think it was some kind of fluke.

A few special aspects of the email for kids itself--the kids can use the PAINT option and attach custom drawn pictures with the paint tool. My boys LOVED drawing pictures for their grandparents and sending them. 

You can see where it has been attached below!
There is also the option for a received email to be read aloud to your child. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get that option to work, but if it DID work, I think it would be great for my youngest who can't read very well yet. 

Another option is that this email service is compatible with tablets and devices--even having their own app for android and iOS. I added the app to my Kindle and the boys LOVE using it, as it is easier for them to log in, has more emoticons, and has an "add photo" option where they can attach a picture they take. The boys found it very very easy to navigate, however, they don't like that it won't let them just start a NEW email. It will instead "reply" to whomever they last read. On the laptop, clicking "write email" opens up a new draft for adding your own contacts. 

As of right now, the boys BOTH love having their own email, and take great pleasure out of sending their grandparents emails every morning--and even more pleasure in receiving emails. Because we don't allow computer use beyond school, I set up a checking email time for them at the beginning and ending of each day, which works perfect. 

Both have just one complaint--they would appreciate it if the PAINT option would SAVE whatever their current drawing is. I had MUCH wailing and gnashing of teeth when they accidentally forgot to hit "attach to email" and then they lost their hard work. 
All in all, I appreciated how I could customized every setting for the boys and that I knew they would only receive mail from approved contacts. I hate ads, and I love that they don't have to worry about them. I am not concerned that someone is going to get their emails without my approval, because of the failsafe of the mail queue for non-approved contact emails. Sure there is always the chance that a hacker may get it--but that's true for anything. I feel much more confortable with my boys using this email service that any of the ones I have ever used--no matter how strict of filters you can set up.

Would I Recommend

I absolutely would recommend this email service to anyone with kids and teens looking for a safe option, that allows parental monitoring and filtering. I also appreciate that your child can shift to a teen login and subsequent more grown up email address (kmail instead of kidsemail) while allowing you the same safety precautions. The price at just $2.99/month for an annual subscription is worth every penny--especially since it is valid for up to SIX email accounts! I will definitely be considering continuing our subscription after it has completed next year--particularly for my oldest. I encourage you to do the TRY IT FREE FOR 30 DAYS option(no CC is required for trial!) to see how it works for you!

Want to Know More?

We have been enjoying our Annual Subscription service to! We reviewed the email for a kids login, but several of our crew members reviewed the Teen login as well. I hope you will check out and see what the rest of our crew thought about this product! Annual Subscription
If you want to know more about, I encourage you to follow them on these social media outlets: 

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September 16, 2016

Oh That They Would Listen {Five Minute Friday}

Ah. Here we are at another Friday evening. Aren't you so glad that the week is over? I know I sure am. I am heading into my Sabbath now and am so thankful for the rest. As I said last week, I am continuing my participation in the weekly 5 Minute Friday series at Heading Home. Won't you join me as I spend 5 minutes writing about this week's theme?
Oh That They Would Listen {Five Minute Friday}
When I think of the word LISTEN, I think of the fact that it's an ACTIVE word, even though you are silent. So LISTEN is to be completely engaged on something with all your heart, mind and body. Some refer to it as active listening.

It's hard for humans to really do active LISTENing. We are easily distracted by sights, sounds, and even our own thoughts. How much of a conversation we really miss because we are not devoting ourselves to LISTENing. 

If we have trouble LISTENing to our own selves, is it any wonder that we struggle to LISTEN to God? Time and time again, we can read that we must have the ears to hear His word. That He will talk to us if we would just LISTEN! 

There is a scripture in Psalm 81 that I think really just sums it up.

"Oh that My people would would LISTEN to Me, that Israel would walk in My Ways..." ~ Psalm 81:13
What follows next, and what is really the theme of the whole chapter is the blessings that God would shower down upon the nation if they would only LISTEN to what He (God) had to say and do it.

Last week, I mentioned how God promised to HEAL our land if we turned to Him. Turning to Him requires LISTENING to what He has to say.

Unfortunately, man doesn't want to hear what God has to say.
So he refuses to listen.

Want to Join in?
I hope you and yours have a simply marvelous weekend. It's a spectacular harvest moon outside and the night is just fabulous. I love the changing from summer to fall, don't you?
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September 15, 2016

Printable and Online K-12 Tests, Activities, Lessons, and {Product Review}

One of the things I appreciate the most about having access to online programs, is the ability to find things to supplement what I am already using in our homeschool. We don't really grade, but I still like to do assessments on the subjects we are covering, but not all of our curriculum comes with them. I could create them myself, but with my Help Teaching Pro Subscription from, I have been enjoying the ability to have access to all types of assessments ready to use. I have been reviewing this website over the last few weeks, to see how it helps me in the teaching of my children.


The Help Teaching Pro Subscription from, grants you access to all of the printable and online tests, activities, lessons, and games the site has to offer. Their online library contains pre-made tests, worksheets, and activities covering all K-12 subjects, early childhood, and even AP materials. Their Test Maker walks you through creating custom assessments, and supports a variety of question types and formatting options--including over 1,000 images from their library or custom uploads, and advanced equations for math and science questions. There is an additional platform available of a Test Room, designed to administer online assessments to groups of students or individuals. 

I was given the Help Teaching Pro Subscription for one year, focusing on elementary level materials, specifically for first and fifth grade.

September 13, 2016

Getting Started with French {Product Review}

I have always enjoyed learning about languages, and I wish it had been possible for me to start a foreign language when I was younger. I took German in high school and then as a freshman in college, and a girlfriend attempted to try to teach me and another girl French when we were seniors. I have learned odd ball pieces of Latin and Spanish and I LOVE listening to friends converse in another language--I'm very envious of their ability to do so. We have been working on Spanish here in our home, and the boys are doing well it. When I had the opportunity to review Getting Started with French from Armfield Academic Press, I decided to keep it for myself to try!

About Getting Started with French

Getting Started with French is the newest in a line of beginning language books for homeschoolers and self-taught students of any age. It joins Getting Started with Spanish and Getting Started with Latin, as an option for students desiring a more laid back approach to learning a new language. With its unique approach of teaching just one-thing-at-a-time, it allows the student to learn at home without access to a teacher. The course is designed to be self-explanatory, self-paced, self-contained, and inexpensive. Whether you have a French teacher or not, this book avoids making beginning French more difficult than it actually is. 

Getting Started with French is a text with 172 short lessons that can be completed in just a few minutes, making it ideal for the student who needs something not time consuming. The book also provides a website for downloading the audio lesson helps that go with each lesson so that the student can here "real" French. All the answers to the exercises are in the back of the book.

I reviewed this book myself, having no previous French in my background.

What Were My Thoughts?

When I received this product, I started at the beginning and learned about how the book was designed to be used. I learned that it had one main teaching concept: teach one concept at a time in order for the student to master it before moving on to the next one. In regards to pronunciation (the toughest part of learning a new language), the book provides a website with free pronunciation recordings in mp3 format to be downloaded. It's great that the recordings were made by a native speaker from Paris, France. There is also a pronunciation chart at the back of the book to reverence. I liked the notation that the lessons were short, and that there really wasn't any quizzes or tests.
Educational Goals
Because there wasn't a "workbook", I decided I would record the lessons and exercises in a composition notebook. I am silly about pens and colors, so I picked one color for my vocabulary and one color for all my notes. LOL. And then I just gave it a whirl. I pulled up the mp3 files on my Kindle, and sat cozy on the couch and got started.

Got the MP3s on my Kindle, the Text, and my Notebook
After getting going for a few days, I realized that I could knock out 5-10 lessons easily in one sitting, so I slowed down and just snuck a lesson into my day here and there. They really were just short--maybe about 5 minutes sometimes. I liked the way that they were written. In a standard lesson, you have the new word, meaning, pronunciation tip, and then any notes regarding the gender or things to remember, and then exercises. 

I like the way the exercises were repetitive so I could practice what I had just learned over and over. It was great to have the mp3 so that I could see if my guess of the pronunciation was anywhere close to the actual one. (usually NOT! LOL) I especially appreciated it on the method for the "r". Oy, I had to listen to that one over and over. I also like that there are additional files with a commentary from the authors to help you out even more if you need it.

Using it as a self-taught program, I think it's very handy. I don't know if I would use it for any child that is under middle school as the self-taught aspect is geared more to a student that can work very well independently, practicing on their own. I would go over the exercises and then walk through the house practicing my words. LOL. The boys cracked up because they said I was speaking jibberish. 
I think I would like to have a workbook to go with it--or printable worksheets or something. If I had this for a student, I would see about creating some for myself using the exercises as help.

I look forward to getting to the stage of learning how to say useful phrases. I plan on trying it out on my friend who is nearly fluent in French. :)

Will I continue to use this product?
Well since it's for me, yes. I think it's fun and will be a short, quick, and easy for me to stay up on.

Would I Recommend Getting Started with French?

I would definitely recommend it for any adult looking to gently learn a new language on their own. I also think it would be good for students who are capable of studying very independently. I wouldn't be comfortable using it for students younger than maybe 7th grade.

Want to Know More?

I have been working through Getting Started with French from Armfield Academic Press over the last several weeks. You have read my review of the book, but why don't you check out other reviews from the team to see how successful they were with it!
Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}
If you want to see the latest news in what they are working on, make sure to connect with Armfield Academic Press on Facebook!
I think I will enjoy having this book to play with and eventually pass on. It's fun to have something that is just for me for a change in our review products! LOL!

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