Tag - Reviews

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SWAP Socks: Mismatch for a Purpose
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Mother’s Day Gift Guide: 2015
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REVIEW: Ogrill 1000 (Portable Grill)
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REVIEW: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC)
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REVIEW: Nashville’s Adventure Science Center
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REVIEW: Wilderness At the Smokies Resort (Gatlinburg, TN)
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REVIEW: Surprised by Motherhood (book)
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REVIEW: Disney’s Disability Access Service Card
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REVIEW: An Amish Second Christmas (book)

SWAP Socks: Mismatch for a Purpose

WHAT ARE SWAP SOCKS?

SWAP Socks are purposely mismatched socks that come in packs of 4. They serve as an eye-catching, wearable statement and reminder to support the movement to end preventable blindness. In the process, they spark natural conversation about the privilege of sight, which so many live without. Each (HIGH QUALITY) pack gives you the freedom to swap styles around, and create 6 unique pairs to choose from. Each pack sold funds an eye care service for a person in need.

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WHY VISION?

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HOW?

SEVA, SWAP Socks’ partner organization, works to build local eye care personnel and partnerships to provide comprehensive eye care services in 22 countries. This is completed through eye care exams, low-cost eyeglasses, medication for eye infections, and eye surgery. Restoring vision is more than just seeing clearly, it allows a quality of life that will lead to heighten economic productivity across many communities.

WHY WE LOVE SWAP SOCKS

1. I got to speak to the founder of SWAP Socks and hear about the first-hand experience he’s had with helping treat blindness. Their mission is noble and their passion is great. You can even follow some of their more recent adventures on the SWAP Socks blog.

2. If your husband is like mine (or you are like me!), finding a matching pair of socks is nearly impossible. No more wasting time on looking for a matching pair. In fact, there’s no matching sock to throw away when one goes MIA to the couch cushion or behind the washer and dryer.

3. Great quality.

4. SWAP Socks makes buying socks for Father’s Day cool again. (Use code 25OFFNEW for 25% off new orders!)

5. Girls can enjoy them, too!

6. Lastly, our obvious connection with blindness/visual impairment softens our heart to this issue.

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How to Find SWAP Socks:
swapsocks.com

facebook.com/swapsocks
instagram.com/swap_socks

Mother’s Day Gift Guide: 2015

On Sunday mornings I typically spend a bit of time at the computer checking email, writing and sometimes checking for deals online. As I opened my gmail account this morning I was reminded, by every retailer I’ve ever purchased from, that Mother’s Day is coming and I should hurry up and order a robe, skin care or a candle for my deserving momma. This got me thinking about what I wanted for Mother’s Day because I’ll be honest, gifts are part of my love language. I love mother’s day, and my birthday… and my anniversary. You get the picture. I don’t actually love that about myself but hey, can’t change it now!  Back to the robes and candles… My initial reaction to the wares proposed online was one of annoyance. So cliche’, like dads and ties or football phones. However, if my sweet babies showed up bedside on Mother’s Day morning with arms full of candles and robes I would be elated. That’s just how moms are. We devour anything our kids give us. Handwritten notes, dandelions planted in clumps of dirt, necklaces made of painted pasta. Riches I tell you, riches.

So the list I’m about to give is really for you Dads, who are married to moms. Because candles and robes are nice but thinking outside those lines is even nicer. Click on bold links to view products.

31 Bits jewelry: 31 Bits really takes the Uganda bead/Give back model phenomenon to the next level. Their pieces are gorgeous and expertly curated. A piece of 31 Bits is something to be treasured for years to come. Check out their Mother’s Day gift pairings and also this little gem of a deal I found on their sale page: Garland Glam bracelet set ($15!)

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Sseko Designs Sandals: I have had my Ssekos for quite awhile now and they are still a go-to, especially when I travel. The straps can be changed out easily for different colors and patterns. One pair of sandals that can change colors, patterns and styles with ease… perfection. Tack on the fact that the Sseko model gives women a chance to earn income and pursue an education and you’ve got double perfection. Read about two new Mother’s on the Sseko blog, just in time for Mother’s day!

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Fair Trade Tea, Coffee and Chocolate from Equal Exchange: This one requires very little description. Delicious Tea. Chocolate. Fairly obtained and traded. Here are a few suggested products… and a tip! Sign up for their email list and you’ll receive a coupon for 10% off and free shipping!

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Fair Trade Gift Set ($45) Contains coffee, chocolate and tea.
Chocolate Collection Gift Set ($30) Variety of fair trade chocolate
Variety of Tea from Tea Collection (prices vary)

Journaling Bible: Journaling Bibles have really become popular this year. This is largely due to the fact that we women enjoy making something beautiful. Doodling, drawing and creating while reading passages in the Bible is freeing for us, it brings us joy and helps us pull out the beauty in God’s word. These Bibles are literally sold out everywhere with the soonest ship dates in late June. However! I did find one after much searching. (Click here) UPDATE: I found an NIV version in the depths of Amazon:NIV Journalling Bible

– Writing Utensils, here are a few that work well:
Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils
Pigma Micron Assorted Colors Pen Set

– Lettering handbook
The Art of Whimsical Lettering (also available on kindle)

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Check out this post by Homespun Sprout

REVIEW: Ogrill 1000 (Portable Grill)

The Goodbye kids are counting down the days, Summer vacation is almost here. We have lots of plans that include lakes, fishing, car trips and camping. Camping, while a staple of my younger years, is relatively new to my husband and kids. I’ve spent the last few months gathering the supplies and equipment needed to make camping as a family of 6 an enjoyable experience. (Full list coming soon!)

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One of my latest pieces of gear is the O Grill. The O Grill is a well-designed portable grill powered by either propane or butane canisters. Here is what I love about the Ogrill thus far:

– Lightweight: We have the O Grill 1000, it weighs 18 pounds
– Design… yes it’s pretty
– Cooking surface: The cooking surface is level and everything cooks very evenly, it also allows plenty of surface space to cook for a large family.
– Fold and Go: The legs and top fold in and lock in place with ease
– Size: Perfect for a picnic table top, it doesn’t take up much room.
– Ease: It is incredibly easy to set up and use. I simply attached the 1 lb. propane canister,    turned the dial to light and hit a button. There are no matches, lighters or multiple attempts needed.

I have nothing but praise for this portable wonder. I’m looking forward to putting it through a long summer of park cook-outs and camping trips.

For more information on the Ogrill check out their website. Or find best prices on Amazon.

REVIEW: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC)

Disclaimer: The folks at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry very kindly provided our family admission for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Keeping with tradition, the Goodbye kids and I hit the road over Spring Break and trekked down to Charleston, SC. How we love the Lowcountry! We had the opportunity to check out a new adventure on this trip, The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. The Museum has 9 very hands-on exhibits: The Art Room, Medieval Castle, Garden, Water Room, Pirate Room, The Market, Raceways, Infant/Toddler play space, and an outdoor area and Fire truck.

My kids, who range from 3- 7 1/2 years old, chose the Water Room, Raceways and the Medieval Castle room as their favorite activities. Raceways (ramps and golfballs!) and the Water Room are both very sensory experiences with water to touch, sounds to make and active play. And we loved seeing the poster for Water Missions International featured in the Water Room.

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The Pirate Room and Medieval Castle allowed the kids to really get into imaginary play. I thought we would never leave the castle!

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The Market gave the kids a chance to live out their desire to scan, bag and shop at the grocery store. ALL BY THEMSELVES. They were delighted to discover that the scanner actually worked, along with the cash register and payment system.

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The Outdoor area and Art room were interactive and fun as well.
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The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry was a great experience overall. The kids were able to explore Lowcountry history and culture while participating in lots of sensory and imaginative experiences. If you are in the Charleston area, or visiting with kiddos this should definitely make your list of things to do. We can’t wait to visit and play again!

Parents of children with special needs, disabilities or sensory issues:
The best areas for Lola were the raceways, water room and the market. The Art Room workers brought her mounds of play dough and cookie cutters which was great. She enjoyed de-stressing a little and just taking a break from all of the movement. The museum is very accommodating, even providing a sensory friendly time twice each month.

Lola had some trouble with the medieval room. Lots of steps and low ceilings, places where ducking or crawling are necessary but I think with a little more lighting or color to identify the steps (I have already e-mailed this suggestion to the kind staff at the museum), she and others could navigate a little better. The Children’s Museum is open before hours from 10:00am -12:00pm the second and fourth Sundays of every month for children with special needs and their families to visit the Museum for FREE. Children are able to explore and play in the Museum without the crowds and over-stimulation. How about that! If you’re interested, registration is required, click here for more information.

 

REVIEW: Nashville’s Adventure Science Center

During the snowpocalypse charade that happened this month we found ourselves with days upon days off school. Once the roads were clear and school remained closed the goodbye kids and I really started to lose our minds.

To avoid total meltdown we loaded up in the van and headed to Nashville’s Adventure Science Center. I haven’t taken the kids in years and I was excited to see many new attractions and experiences. Our daughter Lola is legally blind and isn’t always able to fully participate in museum or center settings. We did not find that to be the case with the Adventure Science center. There were many instances were information was projected in large print and the hands-on activities were plentiful.

The large play structure that takes up the entire middle (and three floors!) of the Science center allowed the kids to explore music, sound, texture and even crawl and climb their way through the human body. My children were literally crawling through the chambers of the heart, talk about Kinaesthetic learning! This was huge for Lola, instead of struggling to look at a diagram or picture of a spine she was able to climb down one.

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The kids also enjoyed the woodworking area. They were free to choose their own materials and build whatever their minds could think up. They loved the the opportunity to use real tools and feel creative independence. Best part? You get to take your creations home!

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There is so much to do and see at the Science center, I’m barely scratching the surface here! After woodworking we enjoyed the planet/space area with LARGE scale planets and solar systems as well as a chance to experience walking on the moon. Then we headed upstairs and went through the digestive system. Just be prepared for the real-life sounds that accompany that experience. My kids found them to be excellent and hilarious.

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The Adventure Science center has a great membership plan. It was $100 for our family for an entire year. This was both affordable and cost-effective for us. The membership cost was actually less than the cost of 2 visits for our entire family. We have already made a second visit and discovered even more things to love about the Science Center. An additional membership perk was the access to free or discounted admission to 300+ science and technology centers around the country. For more information on the Adventure Science center click here.

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REVIEW: Wilderness At the Smokies Resort (Gatlinburg, TN)

It seems so appropriate, on this very snowy day, to share what we did on the last Nashville snow day. We Nashvillians aren’t really snow people. So after enduring days of school cancellations and snow and ice accumulation the kids and I jumped at the chance to get out of town once the roads were cleared. We live about 3 1/2 hours from Gatlinburg/Sevierville so it has definitely become our weekend getaway choice whenever the opportunity presents itself. There is so much to do and see as a family. We have our favorite spots like the Donut Friar, located in The Village Shops, and after this trip we have a new favorite place to stay, Wilderness at the Smokies.

Wilderness at the Smokies is a water park resort. They have both an indoor and outdoor water park area. The indoor water park area features 3 raft style water slides, a wave pool, regular pool, toddler water play area, washout mountain kids water play area (our favorite!), surf rider and a huge indoor/outdoor hot tub. The kids and I enjoyed swimming in and out of the hot tub area while the snow fell on our heads.

We left daddy at home during this spur-of-the-moment “cure our winter blues” trip and while it felt a little crazy managing the four with water around we still had a wonderful time. Because our kids ages range from 3-7 we spent most of our time at the Washout Mountain attraction. It has two kid friendly slides, waterworks, climbing structures and exploding geysers. I was able to position myself at the front while my kids ran wild. It was very safe for all of them. Wilderness does furnish life jackets so we took advantage of those as well.

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Special Needs Accomodation: When booking our room, the staff placed us in the same building as the indoor water park. This allowed us to stay in the building and have a shorter commute to the water park. This was huge! Lola had a great time on on the Surf Rider attraction. Because Lola could not see the boundary lines or navigate if she were to fall off the board they positioned a staff member on each side of her. I was so pleased to see them happily accommodate her and empower her to do the same activities as her sighted siblings.


We stayed in a studio suite and really enjoyed the rustic styling of the room. The ceilings are super high and there is a small kitchen area located in each studio suite. This made the room really functional for us as a family. The resort also has dining options and an arcade area. We did leave the resort one morning for our donut run and a trip to the outlets, which are super close, but it’s definitely a place you can just park the car and stay awhile.

The best thing about traveling alone with four kids to an indoor water park in the winter? They are so tired by bedtime from all the splashing and swimming that everyone sleeps solidly through the night. I didn’t hear a peep and got a great nights sleep! Bliss.

We can’t wait to head back to Wilderness at the Smokies and tackle the big slides and outdoor water park with daddy. It’s such an affordable getaway, as the water park tickets are included in the nightly room rate. If you are ready to cure your winter blues check out their spring break specials, because at this rate it’s still going to be snowing when Spring break rolls around in a couple of weeks.

 

REVIEW: Surprised by Motherhood (book)

Now that I’m a seasoned mom I have a few inside secrets I share with moms to be. Not tips and tricks, because let’s face it, every baby is different and sometimes a new mom just has to figure out what works for her. Instead I lean over and whisper, “Don’t be freaked out, but right after you have the baby your belly will literally feel like jello. It will go away though so don’t be freaked out! Like for real. You can kinda pick it up and move it around a little.”

This is just one of the things that totally caught me off guard after having a baby. I went into cold sweats wondering “so this is my new stomach… forever??” Erica with her bowl full of jelly. Thankfully it firmed up just a few days later but in an effort to educate I now share this little tidbit with my expecting friends.

It’s probably strange that I go around whispering this into pregnant ears but I have always felt that the glowing mystery of pregnancy needed to be tempered a little. In the midst of the miraculous event that pregnancy is, there is also a bunch of weird stuff and emotional stuff and even gross stuff. One doesn’t need to be scared, just prepared.

After reading Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom I’m thinking that Lisa-Jo Baker probably agrees with that sentiment. However, preparing for birth and preparing for Motherhood are two very different things. Birth is often empowering, a rush of adrenaline caused by bringing forth life. And then. Then. You are driving home from the hospital with a live person in the backseat. Completely dependent on you.

This is where Surprised by Motherhood picks up. Lisa-Jo’s words echoed every thought, every word I’ve felt growing into my motherhood. And she did it without offering parenting advice. Grace, love, prayer and perspective were the themes in this book. Her journey to motherhood is filled with sorrow, loss and redemption and though it is nothing like my own, I found so many parallels in the challenges of raising strong-willed boys and relying on God just. to. get. through. the. day.

If you are needing a huge helping of grace and truth spoken into your motherhood or motherhood-to-be I highly suggest picking up this book. Read it with your friends, laugh and cry with them. Seasoned mamas, pick up this book, read it and pass it on to a new mama, struggling to fit into her new skin. And Lisa-Jo says that the best compliment to this book is chocolate cake, so grab some of that too. Encouragement and chocolate go hand in hand.

I became a mother in four very different ways, I also have two babies in Heaven. For more on my path to motherhood check out Becoming Mommy part 1 and part 2.

REVIEW: Disney’s Disability Access Service Card

  • Hollywood Studios Light Display
  • Carribean Beach Resort
  • Frozen!
  • Mine Train!
  • Gaston's Tavern
  • Tusker House Breakfast
  • Everest

After one year of planning, making reservations and saving money our family made a grand visit to Disney World. We knew this would come with some challenges so we did our best to plan ahead, especially where Lola’s needs were concerned. She really had a great week and we were impressed with how the Cast Members (Disney employees) responded to her.

We were given a Disability Access Card, which I will refer to as the DAS card. This is a new system for kids and adults who aren’t able to wait in lines without great distress. Lola’s blindness and sensory issues make waiting in line very difficult, meltdowns etc. Trust me, we did the 40 minute wait for Buzz Lightyear without the DAS and it was a quasi-disaster.

The DAS card is basically waiting in line while out of line. To acquire the card you simply stop by the customer service area at the front of the park, explain the disability and why it makes lines difficult. We were asked very little questions and it was a very smooth process. They took Lola’s picture and printed out a little card with her name and photo on the front.

To use the card you simply hand it to the cast member at the front of each ride and they write a return time on the card. The return time is the current wait time minus 10 minutes. So if the Mine Train wait was 70 minutes our return would be an hour later. We were able to ride other rides with short wait times, eat a meal, take in the Christmas decor or rest a little. We also utilized fast pass so DAS wasn’t necessary with all rides. The cast members were always friendly and although the pass was only for 6 people they had no problem allowing more family members to ride with Lola. We were also allowed to sit in the very front for events like the Frozen Sing Along.

In addition to finding success with the DAS card we also found the characters and cast members quick to pick up on Lola’s extra needs and respond appropriately. For example, the characters recognized Lola’s need to get super close and to touch their costumes. They would take her hand and put it on their nose (Mickey) or bend down toward her face. We typically didn’t mention her eyes, but it was clear they realized that her experience needed to be slightly different.

Lola was also chosen to take part in a few shows. We were hesitant at first but once we informed the cast members they were sure to guide her and give her extra cues, no problem. Lola even played the part of the Beast, dancing with Belle as the story was told.

IMG_0538We had a great week at Disney, celebrating our family and spending time with extended family. We hope to return again in a few years to relive all the fun and excitement. Despite the changes to the disability system I still give Disney a thumbs up in this department.

REVIEW: An Amish Second Christmas (book)

About Tricia:
This is my second season reading and promoting with Tricia Goyer. I have grown to love not only her books, but her story. Tricia is mom to 6 children and has 2 grandchildren as well. Her heart for mentoring teen moms and families has led her to encouraging and supporting women via her books and speaking engagements. The love and support she felt from those around her gave her the fuel to eventually co-found Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Montana.

An Amish Second Christmas:
I am currently reading An Amish Second Christmas which is a series of 4 novellas folded neatly into one beautiful book. Tricia’s contribution is the fourth novella, Christmas Aprons. Each story features strong women, faith and a little bit of romance as well. As an extra touch there are recipes that accompany the book, making this an excellent book club option. Full of interesting and accurate details about Amish life and beautifully described snowy settings, An Amish Second Christmas is the perfect book to usher in the Holiday season.

You can find An Amish Second Christmas at Amazon (kindle version for those who love e-reading!) and other major retailers.

Giveaway:
An Amish Second ChristmasThanks to Tricia you also have the opportunity to win either An Amish Second Christmas OR A Christmas Gift for Rose. Two winners will be chosen at random and announced on Thanksgiving day. Comment and share in the box below to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Winners have been picked at random. Congratulations to Angela Huber, winner of An Amish Second Christmas and Jennifer Smith winner of A Christmas Gift for Rose.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal