Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Restaurant Review: Muffins on Main

When I heard that a little muffin bakery had opened within a 5-mile radius of my home that was peanut & treenut free - I had to check it out with my little guy. It's a rare treat to be able to take him to a bakery that's safe for his food allergies and so it seemed like a great opportunity to have a Mom & Son Date. Off we went. 
Muffins on Main is a small, simple coffee & muffin shop in the center of town. You can tell that the shop owners want to keep it that way; they (very proudly) do not have WiFi, they have seats for 10 people, and their menu is extremely simple: 10 varieties of muffins & scones, coffee (dark/medium/light), tea, cocoa, and juice. That's it. They have found a focus and you can tell that there is a lot of effort in making sure that they excel at it.

The Good:

The muffins were VERY tasty. My son had decided before we even arrived that he wanted a blueberry muffin and found them in the case as soon as we walked in. I chose a French Breakfast muffin (flavored with nutmeg and then dusted with a cinnamon sugar), and we paired our muffins with a dark roast coffee and a fresh-squeezed orange juice. After we finished our initial order, we brought home 3 more blueberry muffins, a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin, a cranberry orange muffin, and a cranberry white chocolate scone as well.
Let's talk about the food itself first. The muffins were wonderful; they were moist and cakey, left behind few crumbs, and had awesome flavors as well. The scone had that biscuit-like texture and buttery flavor without being too dry, which is always a challenge with scones and Muffins on Main did NOT fail at it - to my scone-picky preferences, it was about as close to perfect as a scone can get. We had 2 muffins that survived the first day, and I am happy to report that after staying in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for 2 days, the muffins held up well and were still delicious.
All smiles after picking a blueberry muffin!
The dark roast coffee was tasty as well and it pleasantly lacked that "burned" taste that some dark roast coffees can have. I also thought it was a nice touch that they have vanilla infused simple syrup as an option for sweetener. The fresh-squeezed orange juice was also great; I stole a sip of my son's (Mom has to check on these things) and it was perfectly sweet. Whatever oranges they're using are the perfect kind for juicing and serving; my son is juice picky and he downed all of it quickly and asked me if he could have some more.
I LOVE that they don't have WiFi. After sitting there with my son for a half-hour, you can tell that they are trying to create a small-town bakery/coffee shop culture. There were regulars who came in that they knew by name, they engaged everyone who walked in with pleasant conversation, and there is a sign up encouraging people to free up the limited seating when they finish their muffins. They do NOT want their shop to become a place where people come to settle in and get work done - and I can absolutely appreciate that. It was incredibly refreshing and fit well with the bright, wooden, simply rustic and charming atmosphere achieved with the decor.
Customer service was also wonderful. When the baker overheard me talking about my son's allergy, she ran from the back to remind the staff that the outside gluten-free varieties were not safe for my son. The two women working the register were engaging with my 4-year-old son and all smiles to everyone who came in. When I ordered my son's juice, they offered me a second empty glass to make it easier for him to handle without spilling and without my having even thought of it or asking. They were helpful at the end when I ordered my to-go box of goodies and answered all of my questions both in person and on the phone with cheerful demeanors and a willingness to help.

The "Meh":
There is no BAD about this place which is why I am just calling this the "meh" section instead of the "bad" or "cons" section. Both things I'm about to list here have caveats attached to them.
Nothing meh about this picture...
...except people who waste muffins.
First is the parking. Muffins on Main does NOT have a parking lot, so once you find the place (easy to do) you'll have the park on the street. The good news is that while parking directly in front of their shop is very limited, there is PLENTY of GOOD street parking in a 1-2 block walk from their front door. Further, Westford (I discovered) does a great job of clearing these spots of snow (we went 2 days after 4-5" of snow fell and all of the spots in the center of town for parking seemed to be cleared and wide). So... yeah, they don't have a parking lot but there's plenty of street parking - "meh".
Second is the size of the muffins. The muffins are $2 each and are not that much bigger than standard muffins that you make at home. I somewhat expected the size of the muffins in a muffins shop to be closer to what you'd get out of an at-home "jumbo" pan, but alas that was not the case. Having said that - they are a little bigger than what you'd make at home and certainly better quality/taste; very fluffy, moist, tasty and well-risen, beautifully shaped muffins are what you get from Muffins on Main. While the price-tag is higher than what you'd get from chain places on lower-quality, bigger muffins - they're better muffins, and from my perspective they're safe for my son to eat. So again - "meh". (Note - the scones were also $2/each and were about average scone size - but above average scone taste.)

We ABSOLUTELY plan on heading to Muffins on Main again (and again and again). It's the perfect place to have little family dates and in the spring we'll grab muffins and then head over to eat them on Westford Common. I highly recommend heading over if you appreciate muffins, coffee, and simplicity (and a double recommendation if you have peanut/treenut allergies and are looking for a safe little place to get a coffee/baked good).


Muffins on Main is located at 40 Main Street in Westford, MA and can be found online at

I was not at all compensated or requested to write this review and I have no affiliation to the folks who own/operate the bakery other than I went there once and gave them about $20 of my money in exchange for delicious baked goods & beverages. 

Friday, December 2, 2016


Sometimes I wonder if there will be a time when my family will want to take our annual vacation to someplace other than Walt Disney World.

Then I realize that it is a magical place, a place where childhood knows no number, where dreams can come true, where comfort comes in many ways, where encouragement is boundless.

Maybe to you this sounds far-fetched. Maybe to you Disney is just a big corporate monster who use impeccable marketing to suck dry the wallets of those who are too weak to withstand the forces that are at work. Maybe Disney is something you avoid on principle, or maybe you think it's just too corny. Maybe you think that the stories that Disney presents are unrealistic fairy tales and you want to protect your children from the stereotypes perpetuated in every Disney film.

Or maybe none of that is you. Maybe you're just indifferent to Disney. Maybe your thoughts on Disney are different than what I've listed or you have no opinion whatsoever. Or maybe like me, you have found the magic at work in Walt's timeless kingdom. The heart of a man who was known for calling his employees to perfection, wanting to make sure that all of those who walked through the gates of his theme parks were able to relax, be or become children, to make the experience worth the money that they doled out at the ticket window.

The first time I went to the Magic Kingdom as an adult I was skeptical. I had only been one other time in my life at 17 years old and the only memory I had was blisters from jelly sandals and getting yelled at by a grouchy dad while clapping at the doll-acrobats with friends as we were stuck on "It's A Small World". At his insistence we arrived at the park for the opening ceremony and we waited outside the Main Street Railroad station, staring upwards waiting for the train to arrive that would signal the opening of the park.
Me at Epcot pre-kids: 2010

As Casey came down the track, as the faces of so many favorite characters came into view, as the early 1900's-era dancers sang out the refrain of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da" while Mickey waved to the onlookers below, as streamers and confetti and fireworks came popping out of strategically placed locations - I froze. I watched. I got chills.

They had me at "Here comes Casey comin' down the track..." 

Over the years until we had kids, Steve and I enjoyed many magical moments over the years at Walt Disney World theme parks. Getting close enough to the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth night show at Epcot to feel the heat of the fireball on our faces. Overcoming my life-long fear of heights on the Tower of Terror. Getting giddy with excitement waiting in line to meet the Genie and bouncing like a child when I saw him pop out of a box in the "Move it, Shake it, Celebrate it! Street Party". Inviting friends to join us for trips not once but twice and making memories there with them as well. Discovering the wonderful world of Disney cuisine and making sure we planned our meals around a stop at the French bakery in Epcot.

Then... the kids came. That was when we really started to see what is meant when people say Disney is "magical".

If you want to know what magic is - I mean really and truly - you need to see things of wonder through the eyes of your children. The first time they see Santa in the mall and make your mind up for you about whether or not you'll incorporate him into your Christmas celebrations. The first time they see fireworks light up the night sky. The first time they really understand what happens when they begin to tear back wrapping paper on a birthday gift. The first time they look up at the skies during a snowstorm and let the flakes fall and melt on their faces. The first time they realize they can gain speed on their tricycle by pushing back with their feet and then lift their feet up to let the breeze hit their face. The first time they throw an armful of leaves in the air.

And if you're insane like our family - the first time they go to Disney world.

Meeting Mickey for the 1st time
We thought for certain that the first time our shy guy saw Mickey Mouse he would cling to our legs, curl into our shoulders, and maybe even cry. Instead the first time we stood in a meet & greet line to see the Mouse he stared intently at Mickey, patiently waiting for his turn. As soon as the words "Go ahead, Will" left our lips, he quietly and with determination made his way to Mickey Mouse and opened his arms for a big hug. Tears came to our eyes as we watched all of our little guy's inhibitions melt away and he hugged and got excited for character after character like they were old friends.

Our daughter has never been one to sit still for anything. She's constantly moving, always looking for something to climb or listening for music to dance to or chasing after her brother or imagining something that lets her move about freely. The first time we brought the kids to the "Festival of the Lion King" show, she was completely mesmerized. Her high-gear motor was brought to an abrupt halt as she listened to the songs, watched the "tumble monkeys", stared at the fire-spinner, and was enraptured by the various dancers.

Or maybe the time that Will eagerly ran to Chip & Dale during the "Move it, Shake it, Dance it, Play it! Street Party" and then a day later I had to follow him through a crowd as he hunted down Pluto to dance with him at a holiday dance party. Or when Evie only opens herself up to see Sofia the First, confessing to Sofia that she is "so special" to her, rubbing her arm and hugging her only to politely decline every other character she encounters with an air high-five and a blown kiss. 

Maybe it's the way that chefs treat my 4.5-year-old son like an adult as they talk to him about the foods he likes when they come out of the kitchen to discuss his food allergies with us. Maybe it's the way that cast members treat Steve and I like joyful children when they see us pushing a stroller with napping actual children inside of it.

Maybe it's the excitement you feel when you're picked for the Indiana Jones show or one of the shows in Epcot or one of the participants for the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor show (which Steve has done the first two and I've done the second - twice).

The look on your kid's face when they see the "Eiffel Tower" and recognize it from their monthly "Little Passports subscription, and thank you for bringing them to see it with a look of wonder on their face. Even your explanations of it not being the real one can't ruin that moment as they look and tell you "No, no - that's the Eiffel Tower... it's RIGHT THERE."

This is me cursing myself for not getting an embarrassing
picture of my mother squealing like a child when she saw
Winnie the Pooh. Instead, this is us that day
in front of the Grand Floridian Christmas Tree.

Maybe it's the way my own mother - who had never met a Disney character in her life before she came to a character breakfast with us - squealed with delight when Winnie the Pooh and Tigger walked into the room. And the way she casually dismissed it later like it was "just excitement for her grandchildren" and laughed when I called her on it. And the way her face lit on on the way to said breakfast when she saw Cinderella's Castle for the first time from the monorail - because the wonder of Walt Disney World knows no age limits.

Or perhaps it's the customer service. The way a cast member will chase you down with a full bucket of popcorn after you spill your almost empty one or they give you 2 "FasterPasses" and $10 on the rare occasion when you've been let down by their service or when they see that you're getting frustrated on the phone with an airline so they give your kids tiaras/hats/stickers to entertain them or when - just because you were nice to them - they ask their manager to give you an uber-FastPass to be able to do a kid-switch on a popular ride without waiting in line.

Or the way you feel the first time you watch that opening show at the Magic Kingdom with your kids on your shoulders, hoping they can feel the magic as the fireworks explode after the countdown to open the gates.

Even going to one of their local ice or stage shows is a sight to behold, with costumed characters' mouths moving, perfected choreography, and making sure that Disney Magic is accessible to those around the country who may never have the opportunity to make it to one of their theme parks. The faces of the children when Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and the rest of the Disney favorites come out from behind curtains and wrap the audience in their favorite songs, stories, and fantasies of the Disney "universe".

I get it. I get that whatever Walt Disney's original intents of the experience provided to his customers were may or may not still be there. I get that Disney overcharges you for waters (but let you bring your own into the parks) and the price of park admission is incredibly high and that you can get Disney t-shirts so much cheaper at Walmart, Target, or JCPenney. I get that they seem to be taking over all of the things with their hands in ABC, ESPN, Star Wars, Marvel... etc.

And I honestly don't care. 

THIS IS MAGIC! Pure magic!
This last trip, my kids who normally either get incredibly excited for or politely decline with an air-high-five interactions with characters both physically recoiled at the sight of the boisterous Drizella (one of Cinderella's wicked stepsisters) bounding around the room. "Mom! I don't like her! She's MEAN!" my son declared - loudly. When she reached our table, I ran interference and quietly said to the actress "The kids are nervous". She nodded, looked at the kids, put her hands on her hips, and declared "Well! It's a good thing I'm good at this!". She toned down her volume, gently approached the kids, gave me a hug, and went on her way.

Normally when this has happened at a breakfast - usually with Evie with a character that has come up behind her - the character actor/actress has given the child space and does not return to the table.

Not Drizella. She kept making sure she stopped at our table every time she walked by. She talked with the kids, checked in with them, asked if they'd seen Cinderella, made sure she was near us when the Prince walked into the room, and by the time we were ready to leave she had Will out of his chair on the floor with her checking out the knee-length bloomers she wears as part of her costume, comparing them to his shorts. Evie was even willing to give her a real high-five by the end of the meal.

Disney Magic.

I subscribe to it, I believe in it. On small levels like imagining at home in princess dress or watching movies with microwave popcorn to large levels like watching your kid melt into Cinderella's eyes when she asks if he will give her a kiss (then yelling at his 4-year-old self for the missed opportunity when he doesn't).

Disney... please... take my money. Thank you for using it remind me of the childlike parts of myself. Thank you for creating nostalgia and joy in the heart of my husband. And thank you for helping my kids uncover and grow parts of themselves with every interaction.

Here's another $20. Just take it for existing. Seriously.

(Disclaimer: No, Disney did not pay me to write this post. They didn't ask me to - I'm not a famous blogger, I have an average audience of 80-100 reads per post - and they don't need to. Enough people buy into what they're selling on a daily basis that people like me write about it anyways. Would it be nice if they saw this and invited me to a Disney Bloggers or Social  Media event - sure - but it's not likely to happen. Let's be honest. Maybe they'll send me a coupon for a free Tsum Tsum or something though... nah, that won't happen either. Free Dole Whip? Churro? Mickey ice cream bar? No? Ok, I'll stop now.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Top 5 Things I Won't Miss About the Toddler/PreK Phase

In approximately a week and a half I'll begin the process hated by parents everywhere of training my child to use the toilet and no longer urinate and defecate at will in their pants. Seriously - have you ever heard a parent say "Boy, I can't wait to start potty training!" because I certainly haven't.

Potty training is tedious, frustrating, and boring. I would rather wake up every 2 hours to nurse again, and I've already shared my thoughts with you all about babyhood and not missing it.

But... since kids can't crap their pants forever... here I am, getting ready to potty train my daughter - the more headstrong of my two children - and release her from the chains of the diaper.

And this has got me thinking. I LOVE this phase with my kids. They're adorable, they play together really well, they haven't gotten a verbal filter yet so some of the things that come out of their mouths are hilarious, they're discovering how things work and how to navigate the world and take healthy risks. They're at the perfect age for short day trips and still nap in the car allowing us to take longer adventures sometimes. And the best part - they still think I'm cool and awesome, and so there are pretty much endless snuggles, hugs, kisses, high-fives, and silliness abounds.

There are things, however, that I won't miss about this stage. And so I give you, in no particular order...

1. Diapers - Since I've already opened this door, I might as well close it. I've managed to find decent diapers at a good price at our closest Aldi's, but I'm still spending $37.47 for 216 diapers for one kid each month. That's $449.64 in diapers for an entire year - and I just recently found them at that price, which means I had been paying more than that. So let's say $500-600/year on diapers for ONE kid, and for Evie's first year of life I was diapering 2 kids. Go on and vomit now on how much I've spent in diapers, and if you've got more than two kids go on and vomit twice. Do you have any idea what I could be doing for FUN with $500-600/year with my kids? Like... a lot of things. that's what. Never mind that there's very little appealing about wiping up a behind full of squished, disgusting poop that either I didn't smell or a kid didn't alert me to right away and is now smeared all over their behind rather than being in a nice neat little patty with simple wiping required for cleanup. As much as I hate potty training, it's temporary and then I won't have to worry about diapers again.

Pro Tip Find a "family restroom" with a single
toilet and a mirror. Entertainment!
(as long as they don't lick it...)
2. Wiping Behinds in General: My 4.5-year-old son started potty training when he was 3 and recently has gotten tall enough (he's a little guy) to be able to stand up to pee at the toilet or at a little kid urinal. This has given him more independence in going to the bathroom and along with this more confidence. Mom, however, has not let go of the reigns when it comes to wiping his behind after a number-2 evacuation. I just... I don't quite trust his balance to reach back to wipe his bum without falling in the toilet yet. But he has a knack of knowing the exact wrong times to sneak into the bathroom to drop a deuce... like when I'm in the middle of washing dishes or my personal favorite - changing his sister's smooshed, disgusting, poopie diaper (because she can never have an easy poopie diaper when her brother needs to take a crap). Yes, I look forward to the days of not needing to assist in the bodily waste process on a regular basis, saving those efforts for the times when they're sick and can't quite make it to the bathroom in time.

I'll add to this that I also won't miss when going to the bathroom outside of the home becomes a family parade affair. I was standing outside a public restroom in Ogunquit this summer while waiting for my husband to come out and struck up a conversation with a mom who was waiting for her son. She wasn't with him. He was just going to the bathroom. I put that one in the "things to look forward to" column, even if she was standing outside the door yelling in to make sure that he was OK. She wasn't trying to juggle several small kids in a small stall knowing all the while that a line was accumulating outside the door, listening to you repeat the words "don't - NO - do not touch that!" several times in an increasingly impatient voice with every repetition.

"Most Likely to Need a Boogie Wipe"
3. Snot: Another fantastic way to pay for my kids' post-high school training/education would be for a quarter to drop out of the sky every time I hear some variation of the phrase "Mom, I need a boogie wipe". Now look, I'm lucky in that both of my kids have always been great about actually blowing their nose and not just inhaling it back into their heads, and they're good about asking for a wipe as soon as it drips halfway between their nose and their mouth so it's not getting all over their face. But at peak cycle during a cold - especially if both of them have it - I hear those words at LEAST 25 times a day. Or more. I've never really counted. It's a lot. So I patiently wait for the days when they are tall enough to reach the tissues (and I trust them not to make a disastrous mess of tissues everywhere) and blow their own nose on their own time.

4. Everything Is Dangerous: My 4-year-old son is a fairly compliant child. If you tell him something is dangerous and he shouldn't do it, he tends - and always has - to retain that information and avoid the thing like the plague. As such, he's never gone through my purse and I'd never had an issue leaving it in reach. My 2-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is the kind of kid who needs to learn and investigate things for herself in order to be satisfied - she is the "let me check and see" type of kid. As such things get pretty... heart-attack-inducing sometimes. I now need to put my purse on a high shelf at home because I walked out of the bathroom the other day to find my 2-year-old daughter had gone into my bag (a punishable offense alone for many reasons) and went to the bottom of it, got out the EpiPen, removed it from its medical bag AND its plastic storage casing, and when I walked out of the bathroom had removed the safety cap and was trying to reinsert it where it belonged (and by the way - touching the EpiPen is also a punishable offense because of the seriousness of misuse). This same child several days later had managed to reach high up on the counter (again - touching things on the counter without permission is a punishable offense here because they can't see what they're reaching at yet and may get hurt), pull down a bottle of gummy vitamins, remove the "childproof" cap, and begin to eat them (she's fine).

There will be a time when my children will know not to touch a stove incorrectly, be able to discern medicine from food, respect our private spaces like purses and special keepsake boxes, not write on each other with markers, how to properly handle a knife, and just generally not be a menace to their own safety. That time is not now... but when it comes, it will be nice to not constantly feel like at some point today I'll be calling 911 or taking a trip to the walk-in or ER.

"Evie... you need to give her boobs."
5. Lack of Filter: I sometimes love the things that come out of my kids as a result of not having a filter yet... BUT. Last night while drawing, my 2-year-old daughter announced "Mom! I'm drawing you! I made you a vagina!" To this my 4-year-old son looked over and said "Mom, she did, she drew
you a circle vagina... Evie, you need to give her boobs." When we're at home I tend to have a little more grace with this; they're little, they're learning about their bodies, and the last thing I want is for them to be ashamed of their bodies or to think that their bodies are weird and horrible. But there's also a line for appropriateness that we try to teach them... vaginas and boobs are private parts, kids, and we don't just go parading them around, so please don't ever draw those on your school work because they're special private parts. Or when my kids watch out the window of a Burger King at someone parking their car near ours and then waits until the drivers come in to say as loud as they can "Hey Dad! Those guys did a very bad job parking... they're not even in the LINES!!" Look... guys... it's not that adults don't giggle like kids at the words "vagina" and "penis" or mutter under their breath "Geez... what a horrible parking job..."... it's just that we have filters now. And so we're not used to this lack of filter that you all have. So while the penis/vagina/butt talk and humor kind of makes me laugh a little bit, I am going to continue to pray daily that you don't start shouting it out in the middle of Target - which, by the way, thanks for (so far) not shouting those things out in the middle of Target.

Crap... there was that time you asked me rather loudly if Mickey Mouse was a boy and did he have a penis... never mind.

Look, I know that each phase as their things that you worry about or won't miss or don't want to deal with - I won't even get into the things I'm already worried about for the teenage years. And while these things are annoying, frustrating, and heart-attack-inducing - this is certainly an incredibly sweet phase that I am enjoying the heck out of and it may end up being my favorite once they're all grown up. The fascination, the snuggles, the sweet voices, the tiny hands, the crawling into bed with me at 5:00 AM and going back to sleep curled up with a little one in my "spoon"... it's an amazing stage of life and overall - I love it.

But let's be honest.

Diapers are seriously the worst.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Stop It

I'm going to preface this entire post by saying that I do not support either of the two major party candidates. I just don't. I think that they are both wonderfully suited for jobs other than the one that they are appealing to all of us to pick them for.

That's important, because I really and truly do not want any comments about why I should or shouldn't vote for one or the other - everyone reading this post has already made up their minds. There is very little that's going to sway people to go to the other side at this point - and 20% of registered voters either plan on or already have voted ahead of the scheduled election on November 8th. So... save that, put it in your pocket, and wait to persuade each other for the next election.

Now. I have something important to say.

Everyone needs to stop. Myself included - but we all need to stop.

Did you know that Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are human beings? Real ones. With spouses. And jobs. And children.

And mistakes.

Because none of us have ever made mistakes, have we?

And here's where I need to tell all of you to stop again. I don't want to hear "But we're not running for the President of the United States" or "But we're not in the public eye" or any of that business. I've said those things too and recently I realized how incredible wrong and horrible and judgmental all of that is.

They are human. They are sinners. They are imperfect.

There's a story in the Bible about a woman who is surrounded by people with stones in their hands. She's on the ground and everyone is about to stone her because she's committed adultery - in those days a crime punishable by death, not just a messy divorce or breakup. Then Jesus shows up and the way the story plays out the woman gets to walk away without a single stone being cast.

" he stood up and said 'All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone... When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up and said 'Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?'" (John 8:7-10)

Everyone - put your stones down. Just stop it. You are not perfect either, and there are so many more ways to point out that a person is not qualified or preferred for a job rather than attacking their character. And yes, I understand that character is a huge part of what makes a president - but find a way to say it that allows a person to grow, change, and improve. You can condemn a behavior without condemning the person, and as incredibly hard as that can be sometimes - and believe me, people feel SO strongly about these two candidates that it's hard for either set of supporters to not tear the one they don't support to shreds - it's important. At the end of the day Donald Trump is a person. At the end of the day Hillary Clinton is a person.

And stop it. Stop it reader. I know right now you're saying "No, they're a monster". Stop it. Seriously stop it. Both candidates have had their behavior incredibly sensationalized in an effort to draw your attention to the strengths or weaknesses of one or the other. That's the way the media works, it's what they get paid to do. So stop it.

The world of social media has made it so much easier to depersonalize people, even people like presidential candidates who were already fairly distant from us. Prior to social media, most of us would have to wait for the news three times daily or a mailing or attend one of their rallies or town-hall events or hope they'd show up at our local diner and shake our hand. More than I can ever remember, it's gone beyond the candidates just attacking each other - we are attacking the candidates viciously and if anyone dares to disagree with us: we are attacking each other.

We are forgetting that we are all people, and we are forgetting that all of us - even those who seem the most vile - need to be loved.

"You have heard the law that says 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I say love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike." (Matthew 5:43-45)

OK, OK. I'm almost done. So we're all human, we're called to love our enemies... that just leaves one more thing.

One of these two people is going to be the next President of the United States. That's the reality, whether we like it or not. One of them is going to win. One of them is going to swear on the Holy Bible to protect, honor, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And we're all going to have to live with that. We're all going to have to spend the next 4-8 years with this person as the one who will be running our country. Then we'll have to start this process all over again. Because that's how it works.

In the meantime we need to not implode on ourselves as a country. It is in our best interest to unite together, to remember that we are ALL children of God, to pray together for each other, for our leaders, and for our country. We have to pray for peace, for understanding, and most importantly - we have to pray that we can all learn to first act in love rather than fear, in hate, in anger.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." (John 13:34-35)

Listen - when November 9th hits and we know definitively who will be entering the Oval Office next January, we have a choice. We can either unite together and pray for our next President of the United States, or we can continue to focus on that which divides us and make those divisions even deeper. I for one will be choosing to pray for our next leader. To pray that person will be surrounded with men and women who will have the country's best interest in mind, that their hearts will be open to hearing the advice of those around them, that they will be measured and reasonable and compassionate in their responses and actions. That they will do their best to be good stewards of the finances God has blessed this country with. That they will do their best to come to the aid of those in need - the orphans and widows of the world. That they will see past the differences of the people who live in this country and focus instead on what unites us.

And yes, I know your candidate will and theirs won't. All of you stop it.

Neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are a Savior, and it's time we stop treating them as such. They are people. They are flawed. They need our prayers, they need our encouragement, oh - and they need our prayer.

No matter what the outcome of the election is.

"I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lies, Guilt, Freedom, and Love

When we found out that we were pregnant with our second child, I immediately started to pray for another son. I just felt like my heart was wired to have 2 boys, that God did not wire me to be the mom of a daughter, and that having that extra person to wrestle with  - especially during the hours of the day that Daddy is at work - for my firstborn would be absolutely perfect.

At 16 weeks, we had an ultrasound done due to some complications I was experiencing with the pregnancy. I told the technician that I knew that sometimes at 16 weeks you could tell the gender, and that if anything was obvious she didn't have to hide it from us because in 2 weeks we were going to find out anyways. There was a point in which she stopped the wand and pointed out on the monitor something she thought she saw: "Look at this," she said pointing at the screen. "Now, it's early to tell, but that certainly does look like something doesn't it? But don't start decorating yet, wait until your next ultrasound because I could be wrong."

I didn't start decorating - but I did start picking out and discussing names with my husband. Names like "Matthew" and "Xander" and "Dexter" and other names that you call a boy. I was over the moon with excitement because we were going to have another little boy! ANOTHER BOY! I was going to be one of those Moms of Boys who were always lamenting the troubles of having boys - but I was never going to lament, because BOYS!!!

Evie - 12/2013 ultrasound
Two weeks later, the full workup ultrasound happened. While my incredibly active baby flipped and flopped and the tech somehow managed to get all of the measurements she needed, she looked also for the gender indicator.

"Right there!" she declared. I looked and saw nothing. Nothing at all. Two chunky little spread eagle thighs that she had frozen on the screen.

"Right there what?"

"You're having a little girl! Look at that, see - one, two, three - those three little lines show me that you're having a girl."

...and my heart sank. There would be no "Matthew Dexter" puttering around my house (it was the name I had decided on even though there had been no agreement yet with my other half). There would be no addition of testosterone to the fold.

I feigned excitement. "Cool! A girl!" I said (or something like that). I buried my disappointment and just prayed that the remainder of the pregnancy go well, that the hematoma I had would resolve itself and cause no harm on my little girl. We prayed over a name for her and scoured baby name books (because we didn't like any of the family names we had as first names for a daughter) and waited. At 28 weeks or so - the day before we found out the hematoma had indeed resolved itself - we landed on the name Evangeline, which means "bearer of good news".

Yet here I was, disappointed that I had a daughter growing in my belly. And the first few months of her life she just cried - the child that refused to believe she was a baby, was stubborn and independent and determined from the day she was born. Not only had God given me a daughter - He had given me a daughter that was every mother's wish to their own children: she was just like me.

Somewhere around Evie's first birthday as her personality was really starting to form and that independence was forming into an active, bouncing, exploring toddler who was the best companion her big brother could have ever asked for... the guilt set in.

How could I have EVER questioned God's judgment in giving us a daughter? What kind of mother am I to have been disappointed with any sort of healthy child growing inside me - especially when I didn't think I could have one successful pregnancy, never mind two? What would my daughter say if she ever found out that I was disappointed that SHE is my child and that I didn't get a "yes" answer to my prayers of another boy? Why would I think that anyone other than who God gifted to our family would be a better friend and sibling to Will than our Evie-girl? 

I spent the next year wrestling with this guilt, this doubt of my worth as a mother in ever questioning the gift of my bright, bold, loving, loquacious, adorable, wonderful daughter. Anyone who has ever dealt with "Mom-Guilt" or "Parent-Guilt" knows that it can be some of the heaviest, most self-doubt creating, horrible brands of guilt that exists. It's like the glitter of emotions; once it covers something or enters your heart, it's near impossible to get rid of it - and when you think it might be gone you find more that's even more impossible to remove than the glitter you thought you already got rid of.

There were a few times that I would be watching my daughter in some sort of moment, something that was showing how she was growing and developing into this absolutely wonderful little person, and I would feel that gut-punch of guilt again at the doubt I had when she was still in-utero. So many times I would hold back tears because the guilt would come out of nowhere, in a wave, and I wouldn't know how to contain it.

Then one night as I was making dinner somewhere around my sweet Evangeline's seccond birthday, my guilt seeped through enough that my husband saw that something was wrong. I confessed to him these waves of guilt I would feel, that I hated that part myself for ever doubting God's plan in our daughter, that I wished I had never felt that way.

"D," he said, "I think it's time to let that go. Do you love your daughter?"

"Well... yeah, of course, I mean... look at her - she's Evie."

"Then? Let it go, D. You know God has. And I don't ever doubt that you love her. So? Let it go."

We prayed together that night about it. I prayed about it for a while after that and I know that Steve did too. I know this because at some point the guilt just... disappeared. I hadn't noticed it at all, but it had just withered away and disappeared like dust on a windy day. There was no second thought about it until the other day when I was laughing and giggling with my Evie on the couch and I got this overwhelming wave of emotion - but it wasn't guilt. It was joy, it was wonder, it was love. Then again a few days later as I listened to her telling me a story in a language structure that no 2.5-year-old should have yet. Joy, wonder, and love.

These moments kept happening again and again and again. Joy. Wonder. Love. Joy. Wonder. Love. It was during one of these moments that it hit me: the guilt was gone.

God had taken the guilt off of my shoulders and opened my eyes to the wondrous gift of our little girl. He removed that weight of self-doubt and instead opened my heart to experience that which He wants all parents to experience with children. Joy. Wonder. Love.

In that realization I felt so much freedom. Freedom to enjoy my daughter, to focus on building my relationship with her, freedom to experience the joy of having a daughter and the freedom that comes with having confidence that God's plan is indeed better than any plan we could imagine. 

Moms... Dads... Parents... we all experience guilt in our parenting, am I right? Sometimes we snap at our kids when we lose our patience or we forget about something that we said we would do or we don't pay as much attention as we feel like we should or whatever other list of things we beat ourselves up over in any given moment or day or week. We forget to have grace with ourselves, to remember that we are human and imperfect, that we will never be able to be one of those fictional parents that have been created by society as the flag-bearer of perfection in parenting.

We also forget that when parent-guilt sets in, when we start to experience self-doubt, when we hear those whisperings that we have somehow failed and that because of that failure we cannot be the parent God has called us to be - we forget that those words, those feelings do not come from God. We forget that those are lies, that those feelings are not the truth, that those are things that come from the Enemy. John 8:44 tells us of Satan that "...He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding on to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he speaks, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." 

Lies of self-doubt are not of God. There are plenty of kinds of healthy guilt that DO indeed come from God - but that weighty, paralyzing, self-doubting, inescapably burdensome guilt is not. That is not the kind of guilt meant to make us grow, to repent from our sin and become closer to Him. Rather, that is is the kind of guilt that further divides us from God and brings us off of the path He has set for our lives. We need to be able to recognize when our guilt - especially that horrible parent-guilt - is not of God so that we can pray, combat it, and be released from it. Only then will we be able to hear the Holy Spirit work in our hearts and do the work in our parenting that God has called us to do.

Evangeline - "bearer of good news".

And here I thought that good news she brought with her was just that we chose her name the same time that the hematoma was one... turns out it was so, so much more than that.

Joy. Wonder. Love.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: Every Day with God (A VeggieTales Book)

**Contest is closed and we have a winner!! Stephy has been notified - please stay tuned for future contests and read the review below for information on how to get a copy of this wonderful devotional!**

About a year ago, I started a search for a bedtime devotional that I could read with my son. I looked through bookstores, I searched online, I asked other moms... what I found were some really cute, really engaging devotionals for children but nothing that really fit my son's personality.

So when the opportunity came up to review the Every Day with God: 365 Devos for Boys (or Girls) VeggieTales daily devotional book - I took the opportunity. Will has recently gotten a bit more interested in VeggieTales thanks to some music CD's and Spotify streaming music we've been listening to, so I thought that this might be a good way to engage him a bit more in the process.

Turned out it did.

The devotionals are short (only about a paragraph long), use simple language that kids can understand, and ask easy questions which is perfect for the 4-year-old who is trying to calm down at bedtime. Each one has a scripture presented in a translation that makes it easy for my kiddo to relate to it and a prayer starter that is a great segue into the nightly prayers that we were already doing together. There are illustrations on each page that repeat throughout the book of one of the VeggieTales characters, but they're cute and it gives my son something to look at besides words.

Another added bonus to the way the book is presented: the first letter of each devotional is larger than the rest, bold, and a different color from the rest of the text. Whenever I've read with my son, the first thing he does on the page is point out the letter and either identify it or ask what it is, repeat it, and then we make the sound together. As if the simple language and easy questions weren't enough, the simple format of the page makes it another great tool for engaging your preschooler in conversation.

Kids feel that they need to identify with things, and my kids have decided that one of the things that will define them is their gender. The first thing that Will ever said he wanted to be when he grew up was "a man", and so I was not surprised that he became very possessive of the devotional when I told him it was a "for boys" devotional. Having said that - do not be fooled by the title; if you decide to purchase or receive one of these as a gift or, oh, I don't know, win one in a blog giveaway and you have kids of multiple genders in your home - worry not. The devotionals themselves are as gender neutral as they can get; they have a key scripture, a discussion of how the scripture applies to and can be lived out in their lives, and a prayer starter. This could make it a great devotional for a family devotional time as well if your kids are all younger and not quite into the "well that's my thing and this is their thing" possessiveness phase yet. I cannot speak for the "for Girls" version of the devotional as I haven't seen it personally, but I would imagine it's quite similar in its format and delivery.

The best thing about this - or any devotional book really - is that it allows the parent to sit and pray and talk about God with your child. Very quickly my son wanted to have his devotional and prayer time by himself with whatever parent was putting him to bed and we had to separate out each kid's prayer and devotional time. It's brief, but even that 5-10 minutes with your child talking about God, praying, and spending 1-on-1 time together can have such an impact longer term.

Or... so I've been told. I mean, my kids are only 4 and 2, but I've heard that longer-term impact is achieved by early beginnings.

All of that to say - I definitely recommend this devotional if you've got little ones at home. The recommended ages from the publisher say ages 4-7, and I would agree. My son doesn't answer the questions very in-depth now when we read, but I can imagine that over the next couple of years as we go through and restart every year his answers will change, mature, and have different insights that are age appropriate. Definitely click on the links at the end of this post to check it out if you're looking for a simple, approachable, and engaging devotional for your family (that's also reasonably priced! $10 or less!).


You could enter to win your own copy!! Entry is VERY simple. All you have to do is...

1. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook and comment below that you did.
2. "Like" this post on Facebook or Twitter and comment below that you did.
3. Comment below with your favorite daily devotional or scripture or ritual that gets you through the daily grind. 

That's up to 3 entries per person to win your very own copy of this adorable devotional for your kiddo or a family with little ones as a gift. Go on and enter! Winner will receive a copy from FlyBy Promotions of EITHER devotional - "for Boys" or "for Girls" - you just have to let me know when I announce the winner.

UPDATE - DEADLINE EXTENDED!! Contest will be open until 12:00 AM on Wednesday, October 12 and winner will be announced no later than 12:00 AM on Friday, October 14 on my blog's Facebook page. I'll contact the winner as well. 

Links for your reference: 

Every Day with God: 365 Daily Devotionals for Boys

Every Day with God: 365 Daily Devotionals for Girls

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

At the Playground

Sometimes in New England you get beautifully warm days. Days that are not hot, but certainly not the chill that makes you want to wrap a sweater snugly around your shoulders. These are the perfect days to enjoy the fall in New England; the perfect days to take in the changing leaves, to breathe in the smell of the season, and to enjoy what the fall has to offer.

Incidentally, this year my mom has arranged a lengthy visit that also coincides with the best season in New England - which allows us to bring her along to show her some of the cute places that we've discovered over the course of the summer. Yesterday I decided that after dropping Will off at preschool, my 2-year-old daughter and I would bring her Nana to Twin Bridge Park in Merrimack, NH. It's a small park with some smaller trails that are perfect for little ones and with this year's drought, the rocks that are normally covered in water from the brook that flows through there are exposed and lend to some simple rock climbing too. When I saw the weather for yesterday - sunny, high 60's, no rain - I knew it would be a good morning for a walk.

As it turns out, this park also includes a large, castle-like playground.

When we pulled into the parking lot, my 2-year-old daughter launched into her requests. "Mom, can we go to the playground?"

Not wanting to just stand around a playground wondering which turret my daughter had disappeared to in a given moment, I said "No, Sweetie not today. Mommy and Nana want to go for a walk and so we are going to go for a walk."

This back-and-forth continued into the first several minutes of the walk. Finally I realized I needed to make the woods a playground - and fast - or this wasn't going to let up and the walk was going to drive me crazy.

"Hey - did you know that God made these trees? And that water over there? And the rocks?"


"Well, He did. He made all of the things in the woods. This is God's playground. We're in GOD'S PLAYGROUND. So see, we're already at the playground!"

Within 5 minutes my daughter was jumping off of railroad ties with Nana and chucking acorns and rocks into the brook. Not another word was spoken of the playground until we were leaving and it was back in sight again - and when I told her that we didn't have time because we needed to go get her big brother at school, she let it go.

Look, playgrounds are beautiful, wonderful things. I have many a memory of swinging high and jumping off, of trying to climb up hot metal slides and figuring out the best way to slide down without burning my legs, of pretending structures are forts and hiding out with my friends. I watch as my kids declare their favorite small play structure at a local playground their "Bucky" (it's a pirate ship from one of their cartoons), climb up slides, hang from bars, and laugh with joy as they swing on the swings. The advent of indoor playgrounds means my kids get to experience the joy of inflatable slides more regularly than my generation ever did. I love a good playground and my kids do too.

Sometimes, though, we need to take the time and look at what was created well before an engineer ever took pencil to paper and designed a set of monkey bars.

God created the heavens and the earth and everything that fills it - including us. For me, the place I have felt closest to God is when I am sitting at the side of the sea; the quiet whisper of the waves, the cool of the water, the gentle touch of the breeze, and the vastness of width and depth of the ocean. For those who love hiking, standing at the top of a mountain taking in all that God created below them is where they feel closest to Him. There are so many places in the world that show the beauty and wonder of the nature that God created, so many things to discover and explore. One of my kids' favorite shows is "Dinosaur Train", and at the end of every episode the paleontologist says "Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries". I LOVE this - God has placed so many things in nature that even if you go to the same place every day there is always something new to see, explore, observe, and wonder at.

So this little girl who so desperately wanted to go to a playground stood at the edge of a little pool of water yesterday, tossing different sized rocks in with different forces. Some of the rocks created such a splash that droplets of water came up and tickled her face. Then Nana threw a REALLY BIG rock, and the splash was so big that a bit of mud got on Evie's face, Mommy's pants got a little wet, and everyone laughed. When the tossing of rocks got boring (briefly, it's actually amazing to me how long kids can just stand there throwing rocks into water), we paused and looked at the pool and saw some tiny fish swimming around. She climbed on rocks and picked up sticks bigger than she was and jumped off of boulders and looked down from bridges into the brook below.

We had so much fun together and experiences in nature are things that no manufactured playground can offer. We are wired to discover, to delight in the world, and to share in all that God created. There is joy to be had when we open our eyes, our hearts, and are willing to stretch ourselves to let God give us the gifts of His handiwork.

Get out into God's playground today, find where He pulls your heart, and enjoy all that He has created.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Book Review: "Night Night Farm" by Amy Parker

Every night we read to our kids and have since they were old enough to have an established nightly routine. We put on pajamas, we brush our teeth, we go potty and change diapers, we read a story, we pray, and then we read one or two more stories before we ultimately tuck-in. Whenever an opportunity arises to add a book to our bedtime collection, we are usually quick to jump at the chance. So when FlyBy Promotions offered up a chance to review Amy Parker's "Night Night Farm" - I quickly volunteered.

We were already familiar with Amy Parker because we own her book "Thank You, God, For Daddy" which is a super adorable tribute to a child's dad. It's one of my favorite books to read with our kiddos (because, well, they have an awesome dad). As such I had a feeling I wouldn't be disappointed with "Night Night Farm"; I was right.

This is my favorite picture.
I can't get enough of this baby horse!
The book is a wonderful way to help your child wind down and get ready to go to sleep for the night. Parker takes her reader through a farm and says good night to all the animals before ultimately saying good night to God. The book is written in such a way that it makes it easy to involve your children in the story; as you meet each animal to say good night, page ends with the sound of the animal ("Oink Oink, piggies! "Moo Moo Cows!" etc.). I don't know about you, but my kids love to make animal sounds and they love to get involved with the stories that we read. The language is beautifully simple and it is written in a classic rhythm that makes it easy to read and keep your tired little ones focused.

From an artistic standpoint, the illustrations done by Virginia Allyn are wonderful. The colors are bright, the expressions on the animals are adorable, and the details are incredible. You can follow a pair of mice on each set of pages as they make sure all the other animals are in bed before they come out to play while everyone's asleep - and the things they are doing on each page are just cute fun and another way to get your kids involved in the story. You can have them look for the mice and tell you what they're doing as you read the book together. While Parker's writing is certainly wonderful, engaging, simple, and perfect for small kiddos - it's the illustrations that are a real winner for me. There's always something new to find or look at every time I open the book.

Sheep counting sheep!
My favorite part of this book, though, is how easily you can make it a part of the nightly routine. If your routine, like ours, includes praying with your children - this is the perfect book to read right before you pray. In the final pages of the book, Parker talks about how God has made all the animals - and us - and say "night night" to Him. I have found that this provides a great segue into our family bedtime prayers - "A great way that we can say good night to God is to pray". Because I have found that anything that aids in making the bedtime routine smoother seems to get my kids to settle down and go to sleep easier - this is a huge win for me with this book.

If you are interested in getting a copy of this book, it is available on Amazon for - get this - ONLY $6.01 (at the time of this post). To get your own copy you can click here OR... OR...

Yep, I'm giving one away. 

Thanks to the fine folks at FlyBy Promotions, one lucky winner can get a copy of "Night Night Farm" delivered right to their door FREE of charge. To enter, you can do one or all of the following:

1. Comment below with your favorite story to read with your kiddo(s).
2. Comment below in a separate comment below with your favorite story that you read as a kid.
3. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and comment in a separate comment below that you did. 

The giveaway will end Wednesday, September 7 2016 at noon and the winner will be announced on Thursday September 8 2016.

You will not be sorry if you either purchase or win this book - it's well written, it's engaging to kids, the illustrations are wonderful, and it's a great addition to your bedtime routine. I definitely recommend this book to you if you have kids and are looking for an easy way to incorporate relating to and learning about God into your day-to-day routines.


"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

"There is No Life I Know..."


When I was 7 or 8 years old, hearing that name and seeing the face of Slugworth would send chills up my spine. Slugworth was the Severus Snape of my generation; the man in the glasses who got in the face of children and attempted to bribe them in order to get them to turn over the secrets to the wonders of the Everlasting Gobstopper. I felt like he was pressuring me when I watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"; I could have been in the shoes of Charlie Bucket in that alleyway, having those beady eyes, that sharp voice, and that pointy chin getting in my face attempting to bribe me to turn over one of the candy industry's most mysterious secrets.

And much as you struggle internally that ultimately Snape is good, so it was with me for Slugworth when you discover that the eccentric Willy Wonka has actually hired this man to discover which of the children was the most pure, the most able to take over the world of whimsy and deliciousness when he passes on. The point of the Golden Ticket contest was a hope for Mr. Wonka, a hope that he could find the RIGHT person to take over for him when the time came for the maker to meet his Maker.

Because you see, being "The Candy Man" wasn't about making money to Willy Wonka.

Being "The Candy Man" was about bringing joy, about bringing warm feelings, about allowing your imagination to run free. The keys to the kingdom could not be just handed to anyone who wanted to make money, to someone who was good with business, or to someone who thought they knew what was best for a company. It had to be given to someone who saw the good, someone who wanted to bring light to the world, someone who knew the value of joy.

This afternoon I opened up Twitter and the tweet fourth from the top read "Gene Wilder, Star of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', dies at 83".

Suddenly, in that moment, I was sitting on the floor of the living room staring wide eyed at the television as Gene Wilder sang to me about a world of Pure Imagination.

"There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination..."

My sister Dawn especially loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when she was a kid. She never tired of the movie, and as she grew older she held on to oft referenced quote:

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams..."

Those who have known Dawn a long time know that she has strived to overcome anxiety and is now - in my proud, big sister opinion - a rock star. She is an artist, she is a writer and a published author, she is a production coordinator and helps other artists display their work proudly. It has taken her a long time to get to where she is and she works hard to keep going and trying to continue to better herself, gain confidence, and above all else - never stop dreaming.

When she was in her late teens she had an opportunity to meet Gene Wilder. I remember her excitement leading up to the event - it was infectious. You couldn't help but be excited for her as the days ticked down to the day that she would meet the man who played a whimsical character on a screen and present his book for his signature. She wanted to thank him for playing the role of Willy Wonka, for the way he looked into the eyes of Veruca Salt and seriously told her that WE are the music makers and WE are the dreamers of dreams.

For much as Slugworth could have been talking to me in those moments - Willy Wonka might as well have been talking to Dawn.

Just this past Saturday, Dawn was going through some old things and came across that old copy of Mr. Wilder's book. She posted it on her personal Facebook page (this is her art page) and said "Oh, Mr. Wilder, you will always be the most beautiful sparkling soul with whom I've held hands. Perhaps the most surreally moment of my life. Will never forget what you said to me while I teared up trying to speak."

When I asked what it was that he said (because it was not my life-altering moment to cherish), Dawn replied: "It was about the 'dreamer of dreams' quote. I was trying to say how much it meant to me. But I was really anxious back then & couldn't quite talk over my shaky tears. He held my hands in his hands and told me I was the dreamer, he could see my dreams, and that I shouldn't be scared anymore."

Two days later, Mr. Wilder passed away.

At the end of the movie as Charlie Bucket gently places his Everlasting Gobstopper on Mr. Wonka's desk. Quietly, and almost imperceptibly, Willy Wonka says as he placed his hand over the Gobstopper, he says "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

Without a simple sentence - a good deed - my sister Dawn might not be who she is today.

It is rare, so rare, that the simple kindness of a celebrity can make a difference. What Mr. Wilder did for my sister that day, with that one simple act of patience and kindness, made an incredible impact on her life. When Robin Williams died, I was shaken because his movies and his characters were so a part of childhood. It was a strange feeling to me to feel that way when he died.

Today I shed tears at the passing of Gene Wilder, a man whose good deed indeed shone in the weary world of someone who I love and care for, a world that is shining today because of a candle he lit so many years ago. Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:15 that people, when they light a lamp, put it where it can light up the whole house and do not hide it under a basket. I do not know how Gene Wilder was in his day-to-day life, I do not know his faith, and I did not research him for the purposes of this post. What I know is that in a moment where he could have passed over my sister as a star-struck fan, he saw her nervousness and chose kindness, patience, and forever made a difference in her world.

That is truly the light we need to be to others.

Thank you for caring for my kid sister, Mr. Wilder, if even for just a moment. May your elevator ride to heaven be as beautiful as you ever imagined.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Website Review & Give Away:

I recently was given the opportunity to do a bit of shopping at and share my experience with you all as well as share some information about the products that they offer and some deals they have going on right now. I was looking for a gift for a friend anyways, so I decided that it was meant to be and took FlyBy Promotions up on their offer to do so.

Let's start with the "negative" parts of my shopping experience (because let's be honest - whenever people read reviews they really want to know the good AND the bad). The first thing that shouldn't be a surprise to much of anyone is that in some cases, their prices don't even come close to meeting Amazon. For example, the book that I purchased for a gift ("My Great Big Veggie Storybook") retails for $14.99 at Family Christian whereas on Amazon it runs for just over $10 and on it runs for $10.99. And yes - I did price-compare even though I had a coupon in my hand to shop on someone else's dime and not my own. This is important to know for future purchases; however - and I'll get to why in a moment - depending on your situation and your personal views when it comes tho shopping, it may still be beneficial for you to shop at over another retailer.

The second "negative" thing (and this will be good for you to know in the event that you win the giveaway that I shall detail out below) is that the voucher that I received did not spell out certain exemptions that it could not be used for. As such I ran into a bit of an issue at checkout and had to call into their customer service line to order my items (I also chose an additional item that I'm going to preview, pray over it, and give away to a person in the near future). Additionally, the coupon did not indicate that it would not cover the shipping charges and so even though the total - including shipping - did not meet the total value of the coupon, I still paid $4.47 out of pocket. Because the intent of the purchase was for gifts, however, I did not have any issue with that.

That was all the negative, however, and now I shall share with you the positive parts of my experience.

Having never heard of before - or their retail stores - I was skeptical of the quality of their website and selection. When my husband and I used to lead the youth ministry at our church, we would frequently purchase from and so I was familiar with that; I expected far less when I entered in the address for FamilyChristian. What I found, however, is that seems to be competing directly with (I could be wrong, it just seems that way). In reality they had a wonderful selection and I had many items to choose from while looking for my gifts. Their website was incredibly easy to navigate and I had no problems getting around and finding items. Additionally - they are having a site-wide Buy-One-Get-One-50%-Off sale on many of their media items which meant that my preview-and-give-away purchase was half-off as well. Bonus!

Customer service: When I called about the issues I was experiencing at checkout, there was minimal wait time on the line and the customer service rep that I spoke with was very helpful and kept me on the phone until the issues were resolved and my order was placed. At checkout, I chose "economy" shipping which was standard USPS Media Mail and took about a week to arrive. The packaging was protective (sturdy box and packing tissues for the remaining space in the box) and the items I received were not damaged at all. Friendly, helpful people, receiving product in a reasonable amount of time, and packaging that doesn't risk the integrity of the product - all three of these are big customer service wins in my opinion.

What I especially appreciated about is that they are a non-profit venture. According to their website, their mission is to help orphans and widows in need (James 1:27) and if you read through their "about" page - they have given to several organizations around the world in an effort to do just that. While their prices are closer to full list/suggested retail price, I am more comfortable paying that price when their profits are not going directly to their pockets - but rather to help others. For some people knowing that their dollars are not just going to the pockets of a corporate executive makes a difference in where they spend their money - so I wanted to make sure that I highlighted that here.

If you are a part of a church, bible study, or ministry who tends to buy books in bulk (or just someone who really REALLY likes to buy things and spend lots of money on books and such), offers a frequent buyer program called 1:27 Rewards. As you make your purchases through their website, your dollars accrue and for everyone $100 you spend you earn $5 towards a future purchase. By joining you also receive an email letting you know about deals, get additional coupons, etc. If you are one to tend to buy in bulk, this is an advantage that has over other websites.

So - bottom line: Would I shop here again? Because I so infrequently shop for books, bibles, etc. these days and considering that though they have higher prices their profits are going to a good cause - yes, absolutely I would. In fact, I have a birthday coming and if I get any birthday money, I've got my eye on this gorgeous NIV Compact Bible that would be MUCH easier to bring to my small group or my mom's group than my big, at-home NLT Study Bible.

And now it's time for a GIVEAWAY!!!

Do you want to check out for yourself? Want $25 to put towards a new bible, some gifts, or books for your kids' library? Great! I've been given the power to give away a $25 voucher to to one super-lucky winner! Here's how you can enter this giveaway:

  1. Share the link and leave a comment below.
  2. "Like" my blog page on Facebook and leave a comment below indicating you've done so (if you already "like" my page, just comment on that below).
  3. Comment with one item from that you'd buy with your $25 gift card.

Up to 3 entries per person (see guidelines in the disclosure below for who is qualified to win) and I'll close the entries on Tuesday, August 23 at 12:00 PM EST with the winner announced no later than Thursday, August 25 at 3:00 PM EST. NOTE: You MUST comment on the BLOG POST and not on the Facebook Page or Post in order for your entries to count!

Good luck (and happy shopping!)

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.