Monday, March 31, 2014

Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture {Crew Review}


Media Talk 101, a ministry founded by Phillip Telfer to add a Biblical perspective to the use of media in our society, has produced a thought-provoking documentary called Captivated DVD. The movie retails for $16.95 at the website (I see that there is a $6.45 study guide as well, but we did not review it).  It is definitely designed for adults to watch, but I think it makes a great topic for discussion with teens.

The movie examines five aspects of media usage:

Consumption – This part of the movie examines the amount of media that surrounds us

Content – This part examines the content of media. Being a history geek, I really enjoyed learning the history of the motion picture industry’s ratings. Did you know that in the 1930s the Hollywood elite set up a code of content which was meant to stem the public’s outcry for censorship and regulation of movie content?  Here is a screenshot of part of that code:  

captivating hollywood's self regulating code 1930

This self-regulation was in place until 1968, when the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating system was put into place.  Until that time, there had been no “R” rated content.  Wow.

Here are a couple other quote that I found worthy of contemplation:

captivating you would let these people in your house

captivating communism

Captivity – This section discusses the various philosophies that are promoted in movies, TV, music and video games.  Are we slaves to media and the message?  Have we taken entertainment and made it our god?  Where do we turn to satisfy our needs when we are hurting and hungry for guidance?  This section was very convicting!

captivate the lord hates violence

This section also discusses the new addictions that have popped up into our culture – online gaming addictions, internet addictions,etc. Do you have a son/ nephew/ husband who LOVES gaming (especially violent video games)?  I will admit that we have allowed these types of games to creep into our house  I know that we need to discuss this with our boys and that this will lead to some hard discussions and decisions, but I think it is important to discuss.

But the movie goes beyond bashing the latest version of Modern Warfare and its kin.  Angry Birds…Farmville….Friends with Words…..they all can captivate us and distract us.

Battleground -  Army Chaplain Major Phil Willis gives a powerful testimony as he compared the danger of insurgents in Iraq -- many of whom were friendly during the day, but used grenade launchers in the evenings to attack coalition forces -- with the battlefield that is part of American pop culture.

Freedom-  This final section provides some inspiring first-hand accounts of those who have thrown of the chains of media and are experience freedom to live in their lives in a whole new way with those they love.

I did get the impression that this DVD was anti-media, but as I continued to watch, I began to see the reasons why.  For me, it is about choices and making wise choices about what we allow into our house.  We have gone through seasons when we allowed shows into our house (we don’t have broadcast TV or Cable) that I would be embarrassed, to be totally honest, to have on if Jesus knocked on my front door.  The thing is, as a follower of Christ, Jesus is with me all. the. time.  He already knows what I consume, what my family consumes, what we write off as being insignificant (“you boys know we don’t talk like that, right?”). 

My recommendations & thoughts:  I’ll admit that I was brought to tears when I watched portions of this.  It was very convicting! I think this is an important DVD to watch as a family, especially with high school teens.  {As a matter of fact, I am thinking about ordering the study guide and including this as part of my 14yo’s health class – mental and spiritual health are definitely topics we want to address.}   Will it make you cut the cable and throw out your DVD collect?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If nothing else I believe it is important to discuss these issues with our kids.

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014



I am having a really fun time this semester as I am getting comfortable tutoring the high school level of Classical Conversations Challenge II. 

One of the things that I love about this program is that God is at the center of everything – and it is one of our goals to see through our studies that our seminars and coursework are not just related to one another in an interdisciplinary way, but that they point back to a Creator – the One True God. This graphic from Classical Conversations website shows how the Challenge program for middle and high school is designed to fit together:

Classical Conversation educational model


I like to imagine the Lord is sitting in heaven delighting when we see His hand through patterns and innate particulars of nature and ourselves.  I imagine these discoveries and light bulb  moments bringing a smile to his face as we understand that He has showed himself in all creation.

Two interesting YouTube videos have floated across my screen recently that make be believe even more in a Creator.   This first one is about music.   Here, Bobby McFerrin demonstrates our innate music abilities:

Did catch what Bobby said after his demonstration?  “What’s interesting to me about that is… regardless of where I am … anywhere … the audience gets that. It doesn’t matter… it’s the pentatonic scale for some reason.” 

“For some reason” has meaning to me.  We are created to love God and be loved by Him.  Worship is one way we can show love to God.  We can worship him in our actions and thoughts, and we can worship him in music.  The reason we inherently “get” music is because I think God put that ability in us for a specific reason – to enjoy music, worship God and delight in his creation.

The other fun videos that I watched with Ben tonight have to do with Fibonacci Numbers (and Lucas Numbers – I’d never heard of those before!)  Vihart has made a series of 3 amazing videos called “Doodling in Math.”  Here’s the link to the first one:

God, the creator of everything, designed nature with a plan. A beautiful plan.  A discoverable plan that reveals Himself.  I believe that God wants  to be discovered in the natural world so that we can learn about Him.  If God has designed the natural world so well, he has designed us just as well, just as beautifully, just as good.  Well, even better than the natural world, because we were made in His imagine (Genesis 1:27).

"For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God."--Romans 1:20 NLT

This is just one reason why I believe my Christian faith and science are not mutually exclusive.  Science is an investigation of the universe and its properties which have been put in place by The One True God.  When we investigate the world, we learn more about Him and we can grow in faith and confidence that His plan for our own lives is equally as well thought out and beautiful.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to reflect on these truths because of our dialectic discussions in Classical Conversations.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos {Book Review}


Last fall, the boys and I were blessed with the opportunity to read and review Annie Tipton's first EJ Payne book, Diary of a Real Payne Book 1:  True StoryLuke and Levi absolutely loved the story and all of EJ's crazy antics.  There was no second guessing when we were offered an opportunity to review Book 2: Church Camp Chaos.

This second in the series (I peaked at the end pages and saw that #3 is planned for September 2014), picks up EJ and her family and best friend Macy enjoying their summer after 4th grade.  Macy is worried that that this is her last summer in dinky Spooner, Wisconsin, and she and EJ are determined to make their first time at over-night camp, Camp Christian, the best week of their lives.

There is, of course, a little drama in EJ's life (besides the usual sibling drama between EJ and her little brother Isaac "Space Invader"), and EJ tries to use her detective skills to figure out why her parents are acting a little strange.  Fortunately, a little quiet time at camp and her dad's Bible remind her that God's Plan is greater than  EJ's worries (Jeremiah 29:11). In this, EJ models faith and strength to face whatever might come her way.

Not only do I like the faith message presented in this story, but I love how EJ is a regular imaginative child.  Her imagined adventures bring delight to my boys.  I keep asking them why they like EJ's stories so much, and they just cannot put their finger on it.  I suppose that they love reading EJ's diary entries (which precede each chapter) and they love seeing how EJ's imagination turns regular events into awesome kid adventures.  They boys are hoping that September comes soon so they can continue to enjoy EJ adventures. 

This book is available at Barbour Publishing for $4.49.  It is also available through Amazon.

Thanks to Barbour Publishing for a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All comments and opinions are my own, and I was not required to give a positive review.  I am disclosing this in compliance with FTC regulations.

All prices are accurate as of publication date.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Phone Dump

Wolf rank. Check.  (Feb. 2014)

Valentine cookie from my boys. 

Really, truly, cat was sleeping and the bowl of glow-the-dark eggs tipped over. Not staged at all. Well, except that one egg under Tiger's chin. Luke said it was begging to be there because then Tiger would look extra adorable.  He was right.

Levi's art project. Most beautiful thing ever. 

Luke's pencil drawing of trees. Love the shading. Love the hill in the background. This reminds me of an Ansel Adams prints of aspens.

In the meantime, my SAD (seasonal affect disorder) is just beating me up. I am tired of being cold. Seriously, I've get ski socks on and  a blanket over me and my feet are still cold. We went to celebrate grandma's birthday this weekend at it was a blessed 56* and it felt so amazing. Now it is back to the 30s. I just want to sleep until it is 80*.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Last Court of Honor


The beginning of January brought our careers in Boy Scouts to an end.  Luke had crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in November, where he was welcomed into our troop by the adult leadership and the boys themselves.  Then, after a delay because of weather, both boys participated in our troop’s last Court of Honor as Boy Scouts. 

Ben was awarded his Life rank.  I’m so glad that he pushed through and was able to achieve this distinction.  No, it is not an Eagle;  I had always hoped to be the mom of an Eagle Scout (or two or three), but God’s plans for our family are better than my own.


It is good to reflect on where Ben has come from his first Boy Scout Court of Honor.  He used to have such a hard time thinking of something to say when asked questions about the merit badges or achievements.  He spoke so tentatively – and certainly with a different pitch in his voice.

But Ben, who is a lot like me, has come out of his shell quite a bit at these events.  I’m so proud of him.

I’ve always loved the tradition of receiving the mother’s pin…

…And likewise I have always been grateful that fathers have the honor of awarding the achievement badge.

We haven’t left boys’ adventure programming altogether.  Our entire troop has just moved on to associate itself with a different organization.  As a committee and group of parents who are wanting to raise our boys up together, we all believed that God was leading us in another direction from where the Boy Scouts were headed.  Oh, it was a hard thing to do…to leave the well-walked path and start with something new.  But, our group has already been blessed with additional young men who are now interested in our new program.  We are now free to teach the boys additional skills, such as hunting and marksmanship (yes, gun safety and rifle skills).  We are encouraged in our new relationship with our charter organization, who desires to be more intentional than just signing a charter renewal each year. 

Much about our group hasn’t changed – the boys still pray during meetings, we still offer a Bible-driven, Christ-centered program.  We will still do our own versions of Summer Camp with unique trips and adventures. 

We are grateful for this new adventure.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Egglo Glow in the Dark Easter Egg {Crew Review}


Egglo Entertainment ( has introduced a new product to help children understand the meaning of Easter.  The suite of products has positioned itself to take advantage of a child’s fascination with all things that glow to teach the Easter message that Jesus is the Light of the world.

For this review, I received the following products:

Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs ($9.99) –this is a dozen plastic pastel Easter eggs.  They come apart into to pieces so you can put treats in them.  I found the plastic eggs to be a bit more durable than plastic eggs we’ve purchased in the past few years.  They open in half the length of the eggs, and since the two sides are not attached, Levi enjoyed putting them together in various color combinations.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book ($9.99) – This 40-page soft cover book is the story of three cousins who find a glowing Easter egg in the attic.  The egg contains a scroll message that leads them on a trail to find more clues to learn that Jesus is the focus and reason for Easter.  The children travel to exotic locales as the eggs transport them from the bottom of the ocean, Egyptian pyramids, and Easter Island. 

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (audio book download, $2.99) – This is an audio recording of the entire book The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure noted above.  It lasts approximately 30 minutes.  The reader’s voice is pleasant, and he reads at a conversational pace to keep children interested.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide (download, $14.99) – This is a 62-page book that gives churches ideas on creating a family-friend event using the Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs as an Easter egg hunt. If your church or neighborhood is interested in hosting an evening Easter event using the eggs, than this might be of some help to you. They have some unique, themed ideas for snacks.  They also have some object-lesson teachings to introduce the idea that Jesus is the Light. However, the bulk of the book (43 pages) are reproducible invitations, coloring pages, and posters.

Another item that some reviewers received was the Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls ($4.29).  These were not in my package from the company, but I did want to mention them.

How we used the product:  Levi was very excited to have glow in the dark Easter eggs.  I mean, what 8 year old doesn’t like to grab a flashlight and see things glow in the dark?  On the Egglo website, they suggest three ways to ‘charge’ the reusable Easter eggs – natural sunlight, lamps and black lights:

Sunlight: 20 minutes direct exposure
Black light: 30 minutes direct exposure
Fluorescent: 40 minutes direct exposure
Incandescent light: 60 minutes direct exposure

Honestly, we’ve had a hard time getting the eggs to really charge.  Sunlight (free and easy!) had been our first choice, but our efforts have not produced much phosphorescent glow. I will have to try sunlight again in the spring, when we can set the eggs out on the lawn & the sun is stronger;  perhaps the tinting and gas in the double pane windows was preventing a good charge.  We don’t have a decent black light, so that was out.  My last option was using the compact florescent (CFL) bulbs we have in our lights. 


After sitting under a CFL for a about an hour, this is our result:


I was pretty happy! But you’ll notice that I really had to get the light close to the eggs.  Any other time I tried to charge the eggs with just a standard ceiling light height, the charge was faint and did not last for more than about 15 minutes.  This charge definitely lasted for about an hour at this intensity.

Levi and I cuddled up one wintery afternoon to read the book The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure story book.  At a basic level, the story is a scavenger hunt for three children (and dog Zeke) to find the real meaning of Easter.  Bible verses are sprinkled throughout as the children are magically transported across space and time to exotic locales.  In the end, the children learn that the greatest gift of Easter is Jesus, the true light of the world.  This makes their nighttime Easter egg hunt with glowing eggs even more special.  

I have mixed feelings about the book.  While I thought the theme and message of the story is worthy, I was disappointed by the illustrations, which are cartoony.  I personally prefer it when publishers are able to acquire hand drawn illustrations compared with computer animated art.  Secondly, I could tell that Levi was not fully engaged in the story.  I’m not sure if he felt too old for the story or if the storyline felt too forced;  regardless of the reason, the story felt a bit too long and drawn out for the message, in my opinion, and he has asked me not to read it to him again. 

As I mentioned above, the program guide is primarily for a large group event.  Several snack ideas (healthier and not so much!) are included, such as creating Easter egg cookies (with a cross on them) and empty tomb snacks. In addition several object lessons are included and we used one idea to illustrate the difference between light and darkness:



Luke  showed up for this object lesson – who doesn’t like a fort and flashlight (the boys even asked if we could keep it up until Friday night so they could sleep in it!). 

My recommendations & thoughts:  The boys and I like the idea of celebrating Easter with glow-in-the-dark eggs.  Having this product has challenged us to think about Easter in a new way – I mean, who does an egg hunt at night?!  But to communicate the importance and central point of Easter, the Egglo Eggs are really a fantastic teaching tool.  I appreciate the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure and think that it could be used effectively with children;  I know my kids did not quite click with it, but then again maybe it was the time of year.  I’ll pull it out again as we get closer to Easter.

I do plan on passing information about the program and Egglo Entertainment Glow in the Dark Eggs to the party planning people at my church.  It would be a great twist on our traditional Easter celebrations and I know the kids would really love a low-light hunt with flashlights and glow in the dark eggs.

egglo graphic

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mastering 5th Grade Math {Crew Review}

. has put together late elementary through high school math courses and they sent some Homeschool Crew members Mastering 5th Grade Math - Volume 1 - Essentials of Fractions: ($15.99 for physical DVD; also available for $14.99 as download)

Suggested for grades 4 though 6, the first volume of Mastering 5th Grade Math will provide your students clear explanations on the nature of fractions and how to begin using them.  There are 16 lessons in the first DVD which cover the basics below:

Table of Contents – Volume 1
Lesson 1: Review of Fraction Concepts [View a Sample] [Worksheet Sample]
Lesson 2: Writing Fractions as Words
Lesson 3: Finding Factors of Numbers
Lesson 4: Finding the Greatest Common Factor
Lesson 5: Finding the GCF of 3 Numbers
Lesson 6: Prime Factorization [View a Sample]
Lesson 7: Equivalent Fractions [View a Sample]
Lesson 8: Renaming Fractions    
Lesson 9: Simplifying Fractions, Part 1
Lesson 10:
Simplifying Fractions, Part 2
Lesson 11: Review of Improper Fractions
Lesson 12: Review of Mixed Fractions
Lesson 13: Writing Mixed Fractions as Improper Fractions
Lesson 14: Writing Improper Fractions as Mixed Fractions
Lesson 15: Thinking of Fractions as Division
Lesson 16: Writing Whole Numbers as Fractions


The Product:

I received a physical product for this review, and it is comprised of two discs – the first disc has each lesson ready to play on a laptop DVD player or DVD player.  The second DVD has a copy of each of the 16 lessons in mp4 format plus PDFs of printable worksheets (2-3 per lesson) for each lesson and a set of keys.  The mp4 format makes transferring the video lessons to an tablet or portable device very easy;  I’m not very techy, so I’m not sure what sort of software you need to open an mp4 file – but my Windows 7 laptop opened and played each video without difficult.  As a matter of fact, I ended up using this second disc exclusively, because I was able to play the lesson with my son and print of his worksheets without swapping discs out.

How We Used This Product:

Luke has only a general knowledge of fractional parts – our current math program hasn’t really introduced much more beyond the concept of fractional parts of something and general fractions like 1/2, 1/4, etc.

Therefore, we used Mastering 5th Grade Math - Volume 1 - Essentials of Fractions as a primary tool to teach the concepts of fractions (not for review or reinforcement).  Following the program’s directions, Luke and I watched a DVD lesson and then he completed the two to three worksheets that correspond to the lesson.  Usually Luke and I stopped the DVD mid-lesson and worked several problems ourselves, then finished the DVD lesson as a ‘check’ and reinforcement of our good work. To help build retention, Luke completed the worksheets over 2-3 days.

The instructor of the program, Jason Gibson, does a great job of defining new terms (by actually writing definitions on the dry erase board), which is something I’ve grown to really appreciate over the past year.  It is important to learn the ‘grammar’ – or vocabulary – of new subjects and topics. I really appreciated that Jason breaks down the topic of fractions into incremental steps which build upon one another.  Luke was easily able to handle the math concepts introduced because he was never asked to complete so many new manipulations at once that he was overwhelmed.  While some people might view this as a “too slow” approach to math, I find it to be the most flexible way to teach math.  It is much easier to move through material when it is presented piece-by-piece than to try to slow down and break apart multi-step programs.
The worksheets also take this step-wise approach and gradually increase in difficulty.  For example, the questions Luke answered for finding greatest common factors increased in difficulty from worksheet 1 – finding GCF of 4 &8 – to worksheet 3 – finding GCF of 28 and 35.

Luke and I have worked through the first six lessons in   Mastering 5th Grade Math - Volume 1 - Essentials of Fractions throughout the course of this review.  I went ahead and watched several of the other lessons and found that Jason does a really thorough job of explaining the basics of fractions throughout this DVD set.   I really appreciated the way Jason explained improper fractions [screenshot below]:

My recommendations & thoughts:

If Volumes 2-4 of this Mastering 5th Grade Math series is as carefully laid out as the first, I think this would be a great, cost effective (approximately $65 for the whole year) math program for learners who need concepts broken down into manageable pieces.  This would be a great program for someone who likes visual presentations of material, but may not want to get into too much hands-on/ manipulative work.  Additionally, if you have a child who is scooting through math at an accelerated rate, these DVDs might provide you, mom, the assistance you need to help explain concepts clearly and efficiently and give you some reassurance you are not leaving any gaps in their learning. also provide Schoolhouse Review Crew members with some of their other products: Amazing Science, Volume 1  and Algebra 1: Volume 1.

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

{Wordless Wednesday} My Smart Cat

How Tiger lets us know he is ready to come back inside:

He hops on the railing of our front porch, leans over and stares at us through the side light window until we come over and let him in. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Motivated Moms {Crew Review}


Our family has experienced significant employment and academic changes that have affected the rhythm of our house.  We are entering that phase when everyone has somewhere to be and ‘homeschooling’ is more outside the home than inside – at least, it feels that way!  I admit, I am easily distracted by all the things we need to do and there are (embarrassed moment here) areas of my home that are not as tidy as I’d like them to be.

Routines and systems that worked so well in the past have been left behind.  Intentions for new systems and schedules have been discussed and promised. I have to admit, I have been all talk with nothing to fill the gap. 

Motivated Moms ( has recently filled the lack-of-a-plan family chore system for me.  I was given a one year Motivated Moms Ebooks ($8) to download and give it a try.

Motivated Moms has taken the guess work out of scheduling chores.  They have taken lists of daily, weekly, monthly and periodic chores and scheduled them all out for you. All you need to do is print it out, and check it off.  {Yes, boxes to check for those of us who love and need the thrill of checking something off!}

The ebooks come in a variety of styles:

  • half page or full page
  • with Bible reading or without;
  • Daily or weekly chore list
  • colored border (the purple and blue) or black and white

For this review, I chose the colored, daily, half-page chore list with Bible reading.  You can see samples of all the varieties at the Motivated Mom website.

Our course, you’ll need to download the product using a PDF viewer (such as Adobe).  The only other tool you might want is a binder for keeping it all together.  I ran down to Staples and chose a pretty one that would certainly be noticed and not ignored in a house full of males:

2014-02-25 15.33.50


How This Product Worked For Us:


  1. The variety of chores is just awesome.  Everything from vacuuming, dusting, and wiping. Cleaning down appliances, light fixtures (honestly, who remembers to do that on a regular basis?), clipping children’s nails, and – best of all – pamper yourself. 
  2. I loved the extra place to write down dinner plans. I don’t always use it (because sometimes there isn’t a plan!), but having the place is making me think more intentionally about meal planning a few days out.
  3. I appreciated that Saturdays and Sundays were not full of chores.  This is the problem in my life – I tend to put off the little jobs until the weekend, then feel cheated out of down-time and family time.  Using this system has helped me to see this flaw in my system and appreciate following a different schedule.
  4. I liked being able to see “daily” versus “periodic” chores.  It has helped me to think about how to share all these jobs with the boys so that we can work efficiently.
  5. I like that the schedule is already customized to the dates of 2014. I don’t have to sit down and write out dates on the top of a generic schedule. This means I cannot reuse the system in 2015, but I can work $8 into our budget each year.
  6. I love that I have a pretty binder to put the pages in.  It brightens my kitchen (and mood) a bit while in the doldrums of winter! (I know the binder is a personal choice and not part of the Motivated Moms purchase, but it was fun to HAVE to buy it and add some pop to the counter.)


  1. Testing printing my daily half-sheet planner revealed that I could not print it out two sided. I wish this could be an option to save trees!   Also, the binder I purchased at staples (the 8.5x 5” size) has just a one-inch binder ring in it, so only about half of the year fits into the binder because I could only print out pages on one side.  Just an FYI.
  2. The font is really small on the half-page size sheet; I’m guessing it is about a 9pt font.  Even though I printed out a test page from the Motived Moms website, I didn’t realize how small this would be to view on a daily basis.
  3. I do not use a printed-out day planner, so I realize now that a week-at-a glance might have been a better choice.  Since I like to give the boys a bit of chore-consistency through the week, the week at a glance might make my job of chore planning a little easier – I could do it all at once on one sheet of paper for an entire week – and definitely same some trees.

Here’s an example from a recent day:

2014-02-25 15.40.47

Each of my boys knows their color, so I circle or dot  chores by their color (blue/ green/ orange).    It has become easy for them to see their color and do their job.  On this particular day (above) I went in a filled in our daily schedule – it was a vacation day, so much of this information wasn’t on our Google calendar, which is my main go-to for scheduling and reminders. 

Here is a larger sample of a day and how I use it in general:

Capture MoMom

Overall, this is a system that we are working into our day and routine.  It is helping me get us all back into the routines we had well established over the past year and a half. I am even attempting cleaning tasks that are not normally part of my routine (like cleaning lights).  I love that the lists are already made out for me, and I get to experience the joy of checking off boxes. I’m not sure I’ve found the exact style that works for my family, and I am tempted to try out the iPad/ iPhone app as well as the weekly planner.

Remember also that if an electronic version might work better for you, Motivated Moms offers an Android and Apple app ($7.99/12 month subscription).

Mo Mo picmonkey

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting.