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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back-to-School Time: Thoughts from an Allergy Mom

Back in May I talked about how I had attended the Food Allergy Resource & Education Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. I talked about how excited I was about all the knowledge I had gathered and how excited I was to share all of that with all of you and help to spread what I had learned to the masses.

I did. I talked about those things. I even wrote one post explaining food allergy basics and talked about how excited I was to write about more things... and I was super, duper excited.

Then I didn't write about the things that I learned at the conference. There were two reasons for this:
  1. I took a step back from the excitement and realized that this blog has never been about dry lists of facts and numbers. This blog has always been about bits of me - faith topics, recipes, my life as a mom, and yes even bits of our journey as a family working through food allergies. As such, I took a step back and started to re-evaluate the information I wanted to present here. The result of this train of thought is what you'll see in posts like this one and the post I wrote about Ricky Gervais and Bullying a few weeks ago.
  2. So what the heck has taken so long to come to this conclusion and frankly - write much of anything at all? Well... it's been a beautiful, sunny, rain-light summer here in New England and we've been exploring the seacoast, local museums, parks, free concerts, and all sorts of other wonderful kid-friendly activities. My kiddos are 4 and 2, the older child heads off to 3-day-a-week preschool in the fall, and quite frankly - living in New England I am stuck inside due to bitter cold for way too many months of the year. As such - I took advantage. And it's been glorious.

But now here it is, mid-August and back-to-school time is upon us. I have come to think of these things again because I am about to send my son off to a "real" school for the first time without my watchful eye making sure his hands are wiped, his surface is wiped, and the ingredients of the foods of the 3 people closest to him are checked. I have been in touch with the school nurse and it's incredibly likely that his classroom will be peanut/treenut free. This is certainly a reassurance, but it's not what's consumed IN the classroom that scares me - it's what's consumed before kids get there that does.

I'm more nervous about kids eating peanut butter on their toast or bagel BEFORE they get to school than I am about a package of Austin peanut butter crackers entering the classroom for snacktime.

So what series of events transpired that led me to come back to this topic? Two things:
  1. I have a number of friends who keep sunbutter on-hand so that if they are coming out with us for a picnic lunch, they can give their kids sunbutter & jelly sandwiches and keep my little guy safe. This is awesome and I am more than a little appreciative that they do this. However, it occurred to me the other day while I was making sandwiches for an excursion with the kiddos - if Will is ever eating at their house and I don't have a lunch for him, he likely can never eat a sunbutter and jelly sandwich at their house. How many of us while making a nutbutter & jelly sandwich have used the same knife for both jars? I know I have (much to the chagrin of my husband, who hates seeing nutbutter streaks in his jelly jars) - and what sparked this train of thought while I was making sandwiches was that I had just talked to a mom whose daughter has an allergy to sunflower seeds. We use sunbutter. If her daughter is ever at my house, I can't offer her a plain jelly sandwich as a substitute.
  2. Thinking ahead to when he gets to the age of dating as was sparked by an article I was reading in Allergic Living magazine. In addition to discussing "the birds and the bees" with Will, we also have to make sure he understands that for him - kissing can trigger a reaction if he's not careful. Protein from allergens can linger in a person for hours - not even tooth-brushing can get rid of it - if a significant other doesn't avoid the protein all together while dating Will, they'd have to avoid smooching for several hours, brush their teeth, AND consume an allergen-free meal before locking lips. Talk about conversations you're not normally thinking about when you have a 4-year-old... but how old are kids before they start kissing each other? I think I was 6 or 7 when a little boy wanted to kiss me on the playground - clearly nothing crazy, just a peck... but for Will a peck from a little girl who had a peanut butter smear on her bagel that morning could cause him to break out in hives. It's incredibly rare - but it's still possible.

Thankfully, we do have an allergy plan in place and will be working with the school nurses. We've been assured that the staff are all EpiPen trained and are educated in the signs of anaphylaxis. We're (slowly and as he's ready) handing ownership of Will's allergy over to him - he's starting to speak up for himself in restaurants and letting the waitstaff know that he's allergic to peanuts & treenuts. When they pretend to go places, he always asks his sister "Do you have my epipen?" and they "pack" their "shot" from their doctor's kit before they go to the "grocery store" to buy "peanut free and almond-safe" (he's not allergic to almonds) snacks. He has started asking me to make sure that things he's eating at the store on sample are safe and I make sure that he watches me read labels. We've been stressing with him everywhere we go that he should only eat food that Mommy and Daddy give him and never, ever share food with someone else.

What's my point here? Well I have two points (and apparently thinking in "twos" for this post).

The first point that I'm driving at is that if you're not an allergy parent but you are a parent - please take a few seconds and educate yourself (if you don't already know) about cross-contact. Because we are all part of each other's villages and should look out for each other, it's important that we teach our kids how to keep each other safe as part of a community. Kids that have peanut butter for breakfast should thoroughly wash their hands, make sure none of their breakfast gets on the clothes they're wearing that day, and brush their teeth thoroughly after eating. When you're having "the talk" with your kids, make sure that they understand that at some point they could date someone with a food allergy - and discuss how they can keep that person safe (and that causing anaphylaxis is not a preferred means to get back at someone who breaks up with them). A couple of short reads that you may find helpful are:

And if you've got a kiddo that you want to help educate on food allergies so that they can be a support for their friends, Disney & Mylan have partnered together to write this adorable little book called "Show & Tell Scout" that is wonderful for explaining to kids all about food allergies, why other kids can't share or trade food, and how to work together to protect each other and still all have fun. You can read the e-book for free by clicking here.  I got a printed copy at the FARE Conference and my kids love it.

We're all a part of the same village and we should be working to protect each other. I don't write anything here in this post that I don't do myself out in the world. In fact, last week I had packed almond butter and jelly sandwiches to take the a park for a picnic. For a while we were the only ones there, but as my kids were going in between sandwich and splash-pad frolicking - another family arrived. I looked at the smearing of sandwich goo all over my kids' faces and immediately went over to the other mom. "Excuse me," I asked, "Is your daughter allergic to almonds? My kids have almond butter and my son has food allergies, so if she is I get it and I'll keep my kids contained and thoroughly wash them up before I let them loose again."

Not only was she appreciative that I asked (even though her daughter wasn't), she also immediately closed the container of nuts she herself was snacking on (that I hadn't even seen, it was behind her) and put them away until we left.

At the end of the day - I've learned - no one wants to see a child get hurt. And if you're not insane, demanding, or rude about it, everyone wants to protect each other's children.

My second point is one that I think may ring a bit truer to all of us, and that's the bizarreness that is releasing your kids into more and more levels of independence. For us it's food allergies, but for you and your family it may be something else. Maybe your child is on the autism spectrum, or has a learning disability, or some sort of physical limitation, or is overly bold and risk-taking, or whatever thing YOUR kid has that's a part of who they are - we all as parents have that "thing" that makes us nervous to let our kids just... go. Be themselves. Experience the world and learn and make mistakes and figure things out for themselves. To take the risks they need to take to learn and accomplish great things and impact the lives of others (hopefully in positive ways). They cannot do that if we keep them under our protectful wings forever, and the LAST thing I want to do is to keep my kids forever underwing. They don't want that, and I want them to be successful enough people to get out of my  house and be their own people. Maybe come back home for dinner on Sunday if they live within a reasonable drive.

So while I sit here nervous about the dangers that Will might encounter in the real world - much as every other parent is, just my nervousness is slightly different than some others - I think about the importance of him needing to do it himself. I recognize that I can talk to other parents, educate them and the community, and work to do what I can to make the world a little bit better, safer, and easier for him. It's why I write about food allergies here on this blog; I want to raise awareness at the level that I can, so that it can then trickle down to kids and neighbors and communities.

But at the end of the day, going to school and getting out in the world is going to be what makes him figure out how to do it for himself. The world is a big, crazy place and it's hard to be an adult. Being a kid, though... being a kid and yearning for that independence, striving for it while knowing that you still have the safety net of your core family at home...

...that's what makes people grow into some of the best adults.

Enjoy the big, crazy world. William Silly-um.