Friday, July 30, 2010

Nerf N Strike Stampede!

A few days a go the good people at Smarty Pants sent my 9 year old "J"a Nerf N Strike Stampede Blaster. He was to review it...do some surveys, and then he gets to keep the gun AND he gets a $20 gift card to Hasbro Toy Shop.

This dang gun was SOOO much fun!!! I had a blast playing with it! I was running around the house shooting ANYTHING that moved! It was great! It is by far the best nerf gun EVER!!! When I was finally done playing with it, I let the kids play with it...but I must say...WOW!!!! When this Nerf Gun comes out, it SHOULD retail around $50. BUY IT!!! It is a BLAST!!!!!

Thanks to the people at "Know it all, Smarty Pants" too!!! This was a fantastic review opportunity for ALL of us!!!!

Lucky Girl Design Studio!

A few weeks ago you may have noticed that Nebraska Hockey Mom got a new look! You're right...you are not seeing things! I won a drawing for a new blog makeover from...I THINK...Simply Stacie. I won that drawing before I started keeping track of my winnings and who I was winning from. Anyway, the drawing was for a new blog makeover and it was a total Godsend. It was PERFECT timing. I had just decided to move my reviews and giveaways over from the Nebraska Fillemans blog, to the Nebraska Hockey Mom blog so that my family wouldn't have to see reviews all the time, when all they really wanted to see what my family! Though...I would love for you to follow and subscribe to both if you feel so inclined!!

Anyway....the blog makeover was done by Tonya Riggs at Lucky Girl Design Studio. I knew she must be wonderful with a name like Tonya! :-) And it is even spelled right!!! :-) She did a fantastic job! She was very thorough on figuring out what I wanted. I am SO new to blogging...I honestly didn't know WHAT I wanted or needed, so I kinda gave her the reins and said, GO! And she WENT!

She was awesome too in that I asked her to make a couple small changes, and she did without any complaint. I felt bad asking her to make these changes since I wasn't technically paying for her service...but she did them and I love my new blog look. If you haven't noticed, it is a cross between being a Hockey Mom and a Breast Cancer Awareness Advocate! My two passions!!!

What she did for my blog SHOULD have cost me $100!!! But...I got it for FREE!!! A big thank you to Tonya Riggs at Lucky Girl Design Studio AND to Simplie Stacie (if that is who I won it from...I think it is...), for this GREAT gift! It couldn't have come at a better time!!!!

Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel

If you want to make a little extra on the side, you might want to apply for the Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel. They are currently accepting applications! Not everyone qualifies for the program, you may be placed on a waiting list, like I was, then accepted for the program when they need people in your area.

What is Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel?
Once you are chosen to participate, Nielsen sends you all the information and the scanner FREE. You scan your purchases from your shopping trips, then upload that information to the Nielsen website. This earns you points that you cash in for all kinds fo goodies and gift cards!

If you decide you do not want to continue with the program at anytime, you can return the scanner at no charge! There are no obligations. You can work at your own pace and on your own schedule.

Go HERE to apply!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Balloonatiks: The Collector's Edition Children's DVD Review


I was recently sent the Balloonatiks: The Collector's Edition children's DVD. The paper that they sent, said I won it...but I don't remember entering the drawing. Either way...it was very interesting to say the least.


I am not quite sure what to say. I will start with the low down on it. It consists of 5 ordinary teens who are transformed into rubbery, shape-stretching super hearoes who take on any of the evil-doers taht dare to threaten Hot Air City. Their names are: Flator, Squeeker, Airbrain, Sparky, Bouncer and Leaky. Apparently this is their first animated comedy-adventure, but they have two paperback books out, a series of comics and games and a website. The DVD features the voice talents of Mark Hamill, Debi Derryberry, and Billy West. The theme song was even written by Ray Parker Jr!


I can honestly say I had never heard of Balloonatiks until I got it in the mail. I can't say I was missing much...but in my kids defense they did like it...and it IS a children's DVD...so I am not supposed to be thrilled by it I guess. It was like any other super hero cartoon...just with very interesting, never before seen characters!


So all in all....it was a good experience...it kept the kids quiet for 30 minutes. They seemed to enjoy it...and that is all it takes to make it good in my book!!! So...thumbs up!!!


Buy It: You can purchase it through their website which is linked above, or you can go to Amazon. The purchase price is $14.95.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pinecone Research...last chance to get in on registration before it closes!!!


Would you like to earn a little extra money?
.
Right now, Pinecone Research is once again accepting new registrations! You have to hurry, though, they ususally fill up quickly!
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I LOVE Pinecone Research!!!

They pay $3 for every survey completed and I get my money into my paypal about 24-48 hours after...I believe they also will cut checks. The surveys usually take 10 minutes or less. You don't always qualify, but it is worth it when you do!

If you are not signed up to do online surveys with Pinecone Research you may want to sign up now!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Traveling to the Southwest anytime soon?

Do you like to travel? Or are you traveling to the Southwest any time soon? My family blog has a lot of locations that are great to visit! On our recent trip to Arizona, we did quite a lot...the Grand Canyon, Bedrock City, Walnut Canyon, Lake Powell and several others! If you would like to see pictures and learn more about those places, go to my family blog at www.nebraskahockeymom.blogspot.com.

I am posting a little bit each night...so we haven't gotten to the Lake Powell stuff yet...so keep checking back on that blog if you want travel ideas!!!!

Mamaroo Giveaway!!!!!

Would you like a FREE Mamaroo??? Don't know what a Mamaroo is??? Head on over to A Mom's Balancing Act Blog for info on it, and how to win it!!!!!

Good Luck!!!!

Hockey Candle Fundraiser

The boys are doing a Hockey Fundraiser! If you like candles....you might like these!!! They are great candles...and it would help defray the enormous costs of hockey!!! Thanks in advance! The due date is July 31st. Jeff just gave me the info....booger! Such a man thing! Anyway...just wanted to let you all know!!!

Click anywhere above for the list of candles!!!!

First Things First, by Kurt and Brenda Warner


Kurt and Brenda Warner


I was not asked to review this book....but I just read it...and I have to say it was INCREDIBLE! I was VERY impressed by what a quarterback and his wife could write!! These two people are on top of their game, literally!!

For those of you who DON'T know....first...crawl out from under your rock....second, Kurt Warner is the former quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. I say former because he SAYS he retired this year...we will see...maybe it will be like a Brett Favre thing. Anyway...his wife Brenda and him, sat down and wrote this book. Not about his career, not about the money they make, not even about football...but about the crazy life they lead as a family, how they cope, etc. They have 7 kids and they talk about how they handle discipline at the different age levels...how they handle couple time...how they handl...just life in general.

It is no secret that Kurt Warner is a Christian, which makes this book all the more appealing to me...but even if you are not a Christian, this book would be awesome for you. It covers so many different areas....as well as gives a glimpse into their history, etc. If you have ever been a Kurt Warner fan, by all means...this book is for you. I originally bought it for my dad....he loved it, and passed it on to me to read. I look forward to buying this book for my brother in laws for Christmas! It truly is a neat book, and I have no doubt that no matter the stage of life you are in...this book will amaze you! Definitely a good read!!!!

Get Ready With Freddie DVD review and GIVEAWAY!!!


Get Ready with Freddie is a great tool from the Home Safety Council that helps kids and families to be prepared! It is really cute. Freddie is the flashlight...and he is also the narrator. It is a short DVD that helps kids to know the importance of being prepared. As a parent it is important to watch it with your kids, because I actually learned something from the DVD too! Especially in this part of the county, it is important to know when it is "ready to stay" and "ready to go". It is always important to be prepared wherever your "safe zone" might be. For example....lets be honest here...how many of you ACTUALLY have bottled water, flashlights, battery operated radio and canned food in your "safe zone" in your house? My "safe zone" is under the stairs. I have NONE of that stuff! In the old house, I used too...but I never got around to stocking this house with that stuff. It is also important to have stuff like that in your car...or at least in a duffle bag or backpack by the door...or in the garage, so you can grab it if you have to go somewhere safe. It may seem a little silly at first...because the chances that you will have to use these things is probably slim...to hopefully none. But....if you DO have to use this stuff and Freddie's advice....you will be SO happy that you have that stuff. It is ALWAYS better to be prepared, than to be unprepared.

These DVDs are in English AND Spanish

Now...the giveaway!!!!

I have THREE of these DVD's to giveaway! So 3 lucky Hockey Mom readers will win one of these DVD's!!

MANDATORY ENTRY:

*You MUST be a Hockey Mom follower to enter this drawing. Just click to the right of the page under followers....EASY!!!!!

EXTRA ENTRIES:

*Tell me why YOU think it is important to be prepared and share with us HOW you prepare (1 entry)

*Be a Hockey Mom subscriber (2 extra entries)

*Take my button and post it on your blog, leave me a link so I can find it! (3 extra entries)

*Blog about this, make sure you send me the link (5 extra entries)

GIVEAWAY DEADLINE: When I have a 30 followers...I will do the drawing!!!!

HAPPY PREPAREDNESS!!!!!!!

Bruder, Safe Toys Made in Germany review


Bruder Toys sent me a DVD to view about their toys and how they are made. I have to say I was very impressed. I would have liked to have gotten my hand on one of their toys to feel and see for myself...but this DVD was fascinating. Have you ever watched "How is it made" on cable? I think it is on the Discovery Channel? Anyway...this DVD tells us how Bruder got started, all that good stuff, and how their toys are made. It is very interesting!!!
The toys are made in Germany, and made under the most up to date conditions which are continuously inspected during production for quality and functionalism. They comply with the European and US safety standards for toys and have been provided with the CE seal of approval. Their slogan is "Just like the real thing." After seeing everything that they make and how they make things, I would have to say, I agree. They painstakingly make mini versions of the real thing. They are very tedious about basically make a miniature of the real thing....and turning it into a toy. They have Ladder Fire Trucks that actually spray water, garbabe trucks that actualy have moving parts to dispose of the garbage, etc. The list could go on and on. I have to admit....watching this DVD and watching the kids on the DVD play with the little mini versions of what we see on our roads, made me want to get down in the dirt with them and play too!!!! And it isn't like these are little matchbox trucks. These are BIG! Most of them are about half the size of the child playing with them. That's what makes them so fun...with all their moving parts, etc.
If you have a husband, uncle, grandpa that works with trucks...or even policemen or firemen....garbage men....jeep men....you name it, Bruder has it....but what a great present that would be for the boy in your life. If grandpa is a fireman....how fun for him to have a firetruck just like grandpa's! Make sure you check out their website at www.brudertoys.com. You won't be sorry!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bummis Cloth Diapering Review

The next and final installment in the Mom Bag! I will be having some giveaways of products that were in the Mom Bag coming up...so stay tuned!!! I will have other products coming up for giveaway soon too!!

Okay! This next item is a Re-Useable Diaper! It is from Bummis.com. I don't know if you ever tried cloth diapers before....I have. The ones I tried were messy, and to me...not worth it...so I moved to Pampers. This cloth diaper is TOTALLy different!

If these were available when my 11 year old was born, I think things would have been different. These are fantastic!! Here are some points:

-It's re-usable

-It's one size (8-35 lbs)

-It's soft and silky...truly!

-It absorbs a great amount of liquid very quickly (rayon from bamboo absorbs 70% faster than cotton)

-It's very easy!

-It's very easy to wash!

-It's really cute!

-It's made in the Tots Bots factory in Glasgow in TOTALLY ethical conditions

-It's environmentally friendly!

Why would we want to use re-usable diapers though?

-GARBAGE!!!! Every baby in cloth diverts at least a ton of garbage from landfills! A TON!!!!

-MONEY!!!! Even 24 of these diapers will save parents around $2000 per baby!!!!

-EASE!!!!! They are easy to use and wash...and if you use with flushable liners, there is even no reason to RINSE your diapers!

*************SECRET***************This is going to be one of my giveaways coming up....stay tuned......don't miss out on this one!!!!!!!!!

-Remember....EVERYTHING I write in my reviews is 100% my opinion! These product were offered to me to try and review if I chose...no compensation was given.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mom's Package Reviews

Onward we go with more of the reviews from my Mom's Package! I have to tell you, I have had SUCH fun going through this stuff! It is ALL spectaclular!!

I am going to focus on stationary tonight! I don't have any pictures, but I will be sure to give you the links to these wonderful places!!

#1
The first one I will focus on is The Celebration Shoppe.
The Celebration Shoppe offers custom print invitations and table decor for over 50 collections. They also started creating printables to help the hostess round out the tablescape with coordinating cupcake picks and wrappers, favor tags, placecards, napkin rings and more!

#2
Paperspring
Paperspring has custom made cards for all of your special moments!
Baby announcements, birthday invitations, thank you cards and much more!
Paperspring seems to be fantastic!
-There is FREE shipping on EVERY order,
-fast and easy personalization with instant online previews,
-premium quality eco-friendly paper,
-best printing practices in the industry,
-and extraordinary service and 100% customer satisfaction guarentee!!

I must say...I am impressed!!!

#3
Tiny Prints
Their slogan is "Joy in an envelope!"
This company has hundreds of Birth announcements, birthday invitations, party invites and many more to choose from!
I didn't get much more info than this...but their products look very cute!

#4
Expressionery.com
I got the most info from this company. They have been around since 2005.
You can make your product your very own with their on screen previews and multiple font choices. They offer thousands of note cards, custom stamps, memo pads, labels and other products. They sent me a bunch of notecards that were beautiful, and the paper is thick and nice to write on. I really enjoyed them. They also sent me a stamp that has butterflies on it and says, "A Happy Family, Starts With You". I LOVE it. I LOVE stamps...I LOVE making people smile and so I LOVE to stamp all over things I send people! So this has been great fun for me!

I really appreciated all of these products that were sent! I hope that you learned something new from this review.

Remember...all of these thoughts were mine and mine alone. I was only given the products to possibly review truthfully. And that is what I have done.

Master of Arts in Teaching degree online from USC

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of USC. All opinions are 100% mine.


program information

So...recently I got to thinking....I am not getting any younger...and when all of the kids are away at school...then what? I have a degree in Business and I also have my RN. But...my RN isn't here in Nebraska, and I haven't been keeping up with continuing education, so I would have to go back to school....clinicals...the whole thing. I REALLY don't want to go into business....and I don't want to have to GO to school when the kids are all in school, I would like to hop right into the workforce again. So...that means I have 3 years before Major goes to school, and so I have 3 years to get my masters in...something. I was looking on line and I have found quite a few places that I can get that masters. USC is just one of many.

The USC Rossier School of Education’s MAT@USC offers current educators and aspiring teachers the prestige of earning a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from an elite research university with the convenience and flexibility of studying online. There are a lot of reasons to earn your degree on line. Here are some highlights:

• Highly interactive online learning combined with field-based experiences

• Groundbreaking tuition reimbursement program

• Accelerated program you can complete in as little as 12 months

• Tuition reimbursement and scholarships

• MAT@USC Student Blog, hear insights about the program from actual students

• Rossier and the MAT@USC were awarded by AACTE for innovative use of technology in education

• Technology video that introduces the interactivity of the program

• First cohort of the MAT@USC graduate in May


-Earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from an internationally renowned research institution with a 100-year history of educating teachers to be agents of change.

-A School of Education which has been ranked #22 in the United States, and #9 among all private universities by US News and World Report.

-An innovative combination of highly interactive online learning with field-based experiences in your local area.

-A groundbreaking tuition reimbursement program designed exclusively for MAT@USC graduates.

-The opportunity to learn from distinguished USC faculty recognized for their contributions to modern education.

-Full USC student status and benefits, participation in commencement ceremonies and free lifetime Alumni Association memberships.

-The opportunity to become part of the elite USC Trojan Family.

Visit my sponsor: Master of Arts in Teaching degree online from USC

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mom Package, No-Spill Cup review and New Mom Rebalancing Drops Review

Onward we go with the reviews of things I got in my Mom's package!!

Remember...I was not compensated for any of these reviews. The reviews are my own words and my own feelings!


The first thing is the Nuby No-Spill Cup! It is brillant! I love it! Major goes through his sippy cups SO fast, I am ALWAYS in need of new ones. I was ecstatic when I received this. He has used it and he loves it...and so does mommy! No spill is right! A little about it:

-The spout is made of soft silicone designed to prevent drops and spills.

-Has a pressure sensitive Vari-Glo which regulates fluid intake with sucking action of the child. When the child stops sucking...the valve closes...BRILLIANT!

-The cup is made from clear, break resistant plastic.

-BPA Free

All in all, it is a fantastic sippy cup! I would DEFINITELY buy one...and should I need another one, I most definitely WILL buy this same one! Definitely worth the money!! A+++ recommendation!! My kid is HARD on things....and he has yet to hurt this one!!



NEXT....IntelliCeuticals Herbal Supplement, New Mom Rebalancing Drops!


I am a mom...but not a NEW mom. I am about 1.5 years out of that mode....so I have NOT tried this. But let me tell you a little bit about it.

-It is an herbal supplement

-Supports the health and hormone levels of mom after childbirth

-Contains Don Quai root, Dill seeds, and Ginger root

-Not recommended however, DURING pregnancy...strictly for the hormonal balance and vitality AFTER childbirth.

-Contains no gluten, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives

As a mother of 4, I can say that had I known about this product after ANY of my pregnancies, I would have given it a try. Anyone who has had children knows how hard it is to get your body back into it's normal self...and that includes hormones. The hormones are going WACKO after childbirth...they aren't quite sure what to do. It sounds like this product can redirect them though, sooner rather than later. Can it help with postpartum depression? I don't know...great question. But I think it is worth a try. It is herbal, so your risks are small. Post partum depression is caused to the hormonal fluctuations though, so it may help. Hard to say. I think it would be worth a try though.

Like I said, had I known about this product, I would have given it a try. As soon as I have another baby, or one of my friends has one...they will try it (because I am not having anymore babies), and I will let you know then for sure, how it works!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Boogie Wipes Review and Clearaway Cradle Cream

More MOM's free stuff I received! Remember....

I received NO compensation for ANY of these reviews! The good people at Mom's just have spoiled me with fun things to try and review should I want to.

A couple things I also received in the package that I will not review at this time is a gift certificate to Mabels Labels and LisaLeonard. I have yet to use the gift certificates and I don't want to review them until I see their products. As soon as I receive products though, I will let you know! But...I just wanted you to know how much I was spoiled with this huge box that was sent my way! Such fun!!!

They sent me a package of Boogie Wipes! These are gentle saline wipes for stuffy noses...they are made with natural saline....and dissolve boogies (mucus) caused by colds and/or allergies. They provide an extra soft, hypoallergenic and alcohol free alternative to a dry tissue or regular baby wipe!

They didn't send me a lot of info on these wipes, other than what I wrote above...but they really do work great! I really like them!!! Whether or not this cheap mamma would buy them...that is another story. I might buy them if I had a really good coupon for them...but I don't believe I would pay full price. Not because it isn't a fantastic product, because it is....I am just a cheap mamma!

The next product is Clearaway Cradle Cream.

Again, my kids are no longer in need of this, therefore I have NOT tried it. But if you go to their website, which I linked above for you, you will see some testimonials that are hard to pass up. I have always wished they had something for my children's cradle cap which they ALWAYS had and they ALWAYS had it awfully. The doctor's always said, "There is really nothing you can do about it." I would have LOVED knowing about this product then! A little about it:

-It provides much needed moisture to your baby's tender scalp

-Reduces the appearance of dryness and flakiness

-It is 100% natural and has Almond essential oil in it, Marigold, Gotu Kola and Heartsease, all of which are herbs and oils in therapeutic dosage.

-This product conatins no harmful petrochemicals, sodium lauren sulfate or paragens.

-It is also not tested on animals and has no animal products.

Check it out for yourself....but from the sounds of it and the looks of it, this product is wonderful!

MAM Anti-Colic Bottle Review and Soother Review


I was sent a package while I was gone on vacation. It was from Mom Magazine which is presented by Pregnancy and Hot Mom's Club. Over the next few days I will be reviewing the items that were in my "welcome" package.
I received absolutely NO compentsation for any of these reviews...infact, I was told I didn't even HAVE to review...but if I wanted to, I could...and I want to!

The first thing I received was the MAM Anti-Colic Bottle. My kids have outgrown bottles, so I didn't try this myself...but let me tell you about it.

-It has a leak proof cap.
-It has a Patented silky soft nipple which feels like mamma's breast. This makes the transition from breast to bottle easier.
-It is easy to hold because it is slim and has wide openings at both ends for filling and cleaning.
-BPA Free
-It is ideal for reducing colic due to its vented base which controls milk flow and balances air pressure.

The company seems to be very knowledgable and state of the art. They work hard on perfecting their products and testing them for functionality and making sure they are medically safe and sound.

Being a former nurse and a very careful parent, after reading the info they sent and seeing the bottle first hand, I would highly recommend this bottle to any parent about to transition their baby from breast to bottle.
The next thing I have is a Mam Start Orthodontic Binki...or Soother as they all it. Again, my kids are out of that stage...barely, but they are...and unless God has a joke ready to dish out, we won't have any more in that stage. Anyway, we didn't try it out ourselves...but again, after reading about it and seeing it first hand, this looks like an awesome binki and very similar to the ones that I always used for my kids. Let me tell you a little bit about it:
-Silk Teat
-Natural Latex
-Extra tiny size for 0+ months
-BPA Free
-The perfect start for newborns.
-Extra small and lighweight design.
-Good for the skin thanks to air holes and MAM's unique inside surface.
-Bright and fun motifs inspired by today's popular culture.
-The knob is easy to hold.
-the shield is curved for comfort.
The orthodontic MAM nipple is ideal for your baby's jaw and teeth development. It individually adapts to your baby's mouth. MAM soothers are always in the right position.
-MAM's patented Silk Teat is silicone with a difference: it's silky soft. No other silicone feels softer. Thanks to the anti-slip surface the soother stays easily in your baby's mouth...also available in Natural Latex.
-MAM Soothers are recommended by dentists and orthodontists.
So...as you can see....after reading all that and seeing it, feeling it, for myself...I would agree...that these soothers must do a fantastic job at what they are supposed to do...soothe.....

Blog Hop

Bassgiraffe's Thoughts Thursday Blog Hop

Bassgiraffes Thoughts is having her first bloghop! Spread the word!!!!

THE RULES
1. Please follow the hosting blog- bassgiraffe’s Thoughts
2. Please visit as many blogs as possible.
3. If someone visits your blog please visit theirs back, but I know that we don’t like all blogs we visit so don’t feel obligated to follow back if you don’t want.
4. Family friendly blogs only, please.
5. You will need to link to your blog post that has the above blog-hop button. Without a post it makes it harder for people to have a proper place to comment and let you know they stopped by.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Daily Sunblock

Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Daily Sunblock
Review #1 of 2

I was given the opportunity to reivew Tidal Labs' Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Sunblock. According to Tidal Labs, this is a breakthrough liquid sunblock so lightweight that you won't believe the excellent sun protection it has. It has a water-light texture that spreads easily over the skin and absorbs quickly. It provides a smooth, non-greasy finish that works alone or under makeup. It also contains Helioplex technology for superior broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.

I have only used it for a few weeks, but so far, I agree with what the paragraph above says. It is very light weight, and it spreads easily over my face and absorbs very quickly. My foundation still spreads just as well over my skin with or without the sunblock...almost like it was never put on my face in the first place.

I did notice that if it says, "Shake well before use", on the bottle, you should do it. The first time I used it, I failed to do that and I did notice a difference in application. After that first day, I was sure to shake it well before use and it made a big difference. It smoothed over my face beautifully and very smoothly. I only use about a dime size amount on my skin daily, so I could see where this product would last a long time. You get a lot for your money.

I was able to use this while on vacation to the southwest. My body burned a bit....but my face never did. So clearly the sunblock portion of it works just fine. It states taht it is SPF 70.

It also gives an even, non-shiny finish. It is waterproof, sweatproof(which I need!), non-comedogenic (won't clog pores), oil free and PABA free.

I have to say I am really liking this product so far. I will let you know after using it for another week or so, how I feel then. So far, so good!!!
Stay tuned for my FINAL review! There will be a giveaway!!!!!

If you are interested before my final review you can get a $2 coupon at http://www.neutrogena.com/suncoupon.

Would you like to review products, too? Then go to http://giantwavepool.com !

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free for review purposes from Tidal Labs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Solo Cup Company Second Annual Online Photo Contest!!!


Love winning great prizes? Then don't forget to enter the Solo Cup Company second annual online photo contest with a grand prize of $5,000 for the best photo featuring Solo products! You'll be able to enter your favorite photos at www.SoloCups4ever.com until August 6th. In addition to the grand prize, two $1,000 runner-up prizes will be awarded at the end of the contest. By entering, you'll also have the chance to win daily and weekly prizes of gift certificates and Solo products- a great way to extend the fun of summer well into the fall!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shades of Morning, book review



Book: Shades of Morning

Summary:
Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness.

Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned. As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?

Author Bio:

Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Stanford University, Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California.

Interview Questions

for Marlo Schalesky, author of Shades of Morning

1. Marlo, your newest novel, Shades of Morning, features a 15-year-old boy with Down syndrome. What inspired you to choose that particular disability?

Andy did. And he did it one ordinary Sunday morning at church. I went not expecting to see anything different, or special, or extraordinary. But God had other plans. And so did Andy.

In the middle of the third song, a noise came from the far side of the church. A loud noise. Strange, awkward, and off-key. Then, it grew louder. I furrowed my brow. Was that someone singing . . . badly?

I stood on tiptoes and peeked toward the sound. And there was Andy. His arms were raised, his eyes closed. And he was singing to his God for all he was worth. Andy, in his middle teens, with blond hair, thick glasses, and small ears. Andy, with Down syndrome and a grin on his face big enough for the angels to see. Andy, shout-singing with all his might through that radiant smile.

That moment changed me. It showed me that beauty is found in unexpected places, and that God’s gifts in our lives are often wrapped in awkward, off-key packages. I witnessed something beautiful, something wondrous that day, and it made me see that so often the hard things in life, the things we want to hide away, to forget, to cover up, can be transformed into things of beauty in the hands of God.

And that’s how Shades of Morning was born – in those moments while Andy worshipped and I was left breathless by the wonder of it.

2. The main character, Marnie, keeps a box full of pieces of paper where she records her regrets. Why do so many believers struggle to let go of their regrets?

I think there are two reasons. First, as believers, we are keenly aware of the cost of our sins and mistakes to the One we love. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. So we wish we could have done better, chosen better, lived in a way that would always bring honor to God. But of course, we haven’t and we didn’t and we won’t. Not always.

And that’s when the little whispers of fear set in – whispers that tell us that we missed God’s best for us. That if only we’d done better, chosen better, lived right, then we would be the people God wanted and be living the life He wanted too. But now, the whispers say, it’s too late. Our mistakes are too great. Now we can never live God’s dream for us.

Hogwash! There’s a reason that our enemy is called “the accuser of the brethren” – it’s because those whispers are not from One who loves us, calls us, transforms us. They are lies from the one who accuses. They are meant to paralyze us and keep us from following Paul’s example in Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV), “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

We are called to press on.

3. How can we find forgiveness and healing from those past regrets?

This is the important thing: God calls us to repent, not to regret. And that’s what we need to do. All of us have made mistakes, have chosen poorly, missed opportunities, done things we wish we’d never done. But we don’t need to dwell in regret. Instead, simply confess, repent. move on. It’s like riding a horse. If you keep looking behind you, the horse stalls, wavers, gets confused. You have to keep your eye on where you want to go. Repentance keeps you looking forward. Regret causes you to keep looking back.

And worse, a bigger problem with regret is that it denies the primary power of God – the power to transform anything in our lives to His glory. It says, “This is too much for God.”

But the God who transformed an implement of execution, the cross, into a symbol of salvation has proven that He can transform anything – past, present, or future – into something that points to His glory. Think about that. Before Jesus, the cross was a symbol of horror and disgrace and misery. It was the most horrific way to die a criminal’s death. But after Jesus, it became a symbol of redemption and wonder and love. If God could so change the meaning of the cross, He can also transform those ugly things in our lives for His glory.

So, we need to take off the band-aid and expose our regrets, repent of them, and simply leave them in the hands of God, looking forward in expectation of His transforming power, even when that transformation seems impossible.

We have to stop locking away these parts of our lives from God’s touch, and instead allow Him to take them and transform them.

4. Regret often keeps us from going deeper in our relationship with God. How does Marnie’s relationship with God change during the course of the book?

Regrets will shape you if you give them the power, if they become what you treasure in your heart. And that’s exactly what happens to Marnie. She hides from her regrets by locking them away. She doesn’t think they can touch her there. But instead of being free from them, she’s really just carrying them with her.

That’s how it is with us. When we lock away these parts of our lives from God and ourselves, we are really just hiding them in our hearts, making them our treasure.

Marnie learns that she has to face her regrets, confess them to those she hurt and to her friends, and only then can she be healed of them. And with healing, she finds that can see God’s presence in her life and how He’s been working in beautiful and wondrous ways to transform those regrets into something new and good in her life. But as long as she hides her regrets in her heart, she simply can’t draw close to God and experience the power of his healing touch.

For her, and for us, it’s about trusting God enough to face regret and let it go, to believe that God can take anything and make it beautiful. To believe that God truly does forgive our sins and forget them. And that He can take our mistakes and remake them. That’s what the cross is all about. That’s what life in Christ is about too.

5. Marnie had her life neatly planned out, and all of her plans were turned upside-down when she becomes the guardian of her 15-year-old nephew. As believers, how should we react when life doesn’t go according to our plans?

It’s a running joke in my household that my plans exist solely for God’s amusement … so He’ll have something to chuckle about as He leads my life in ways I never dreamed. I gave my life to Christ when I was in college, and apparently He thought I really meant it, because as it turned out, that was the end of me making life plans and having them work out like I wanted. And the one thing I’ve learned from it all is to wait and to watch, because I know that when life doesn’t go according to plan, that’s when God is working with power.

I’m reminded of the story of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Talk about plans going awry from the moment the angel showed up. She had a nice, quiet life planned. But then she’s pregnant out of wedlock, she has to take a long donkey ride and deliver the baby in a barn, the only story we know about him growing up is that he about gave his parents a heart attack by staying in Jerusalem without their permission, and then of course. Then he starts his ministry and becomes homeless and hated by the elite. And as if that isn’t bad enough, Mary has to watch her son die on a Roman cross – the worst death known to those people at that time.

And yet, it’s in that horrific moment, in that moment that encapsulates the very epitome of what it means for plans and hopes to go awry, to die – in that moment we find the most incredible, wondrous, breathtaking act of God of all time. It is the moment of redemption, of glory, of splendor, of the answer to all the prayers and hopes from the beginning of time until now. It is at that moment that we find the salvation of all mankind.

There, at the precise moment when all Mary’s hopes died. When all her plans came to nothing. That was the moment of answer. It was the moment of glory.

I think it may always be that way. That there, at the very place where our dreams don’t come true, where our expectations are shattered – that is where God is standing in the greatest power. Those are the moments, the places that change the world, where we find a depth and wonder deeper than we ever dared to dream.

Because, this I know for certain: the life God gives you is not the life you dreamed. It is the Kingdom of Heaven lived through you. It is wondrous. It is incredible. It is unexpected. And it is found at the foot of the cross.

6. As Marnie discovers, beauty is found in unexpected places, and God’s gifts to us are often wrapped in unexpected, and maybe even awkward, packages. Can you share an example of this from your own life?

The biggest unwanted, unexpected package in my life has been a 20-year journey through infertility and miscarriage. When I got married, I planned to have the number of children I wanted to have, when I wanted to have them. I had plans! But you know how my plans turn out … yep, God was shaking His head saying, “I don’t think so.”

And so began a journey that has been fraught with questions, doubts, pain, and some amazing miracles.

Now, as I look back, I see that just about every deep and meaningful thing I’ve learned about God, I can point to my journey through infertility and say, “Yeah, infertility taught me that.” It taught me that I’m not the god of my life. God is. It taught me there are things I can’t control, can’t achieve, no matter how hard I try. And sometimes I must choose to live the life God has given me, with love and hope, (and joy!) even when it’s not the life I dreamed.

Infertility taught me that God calls me not to the pursuit of my dreams, but to love. “Love one another,” Jesus says. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, those are just a few of the things that God taught me through the journey of my own unwanted package of infertility and miscarriage. My hope is that Shades of Morning will reveal the same truths and more to others as well.

7. Another theme found in the book deals with the regret and fear tied to miscarriage, something you’re familiar with. How did you get through those painful experiences, and how can we reach out to women who have lost a baby?

Yes, miscarriage has certainly been one of those awkward, painful packages for me. I’ve had six miscarriages, and they’re devastating. I mostly got through them the ugly way – by struggling, wrestling, crying out to God, and by sitting at my computer and playing solitaire while the tears streamed down my face. But for me, that’s what it took to face the pain and disappointment and go through it, so I could come out in a new, different place. A place where I could see God more clearly.

As I mentioned before, I think that’s the key – not to hide from the pain or bury it, but to lay it at God’s feet and go through it, struggling, wrestling, crying – whatever is needed to get through to a new place of understanding about God, yourself, and what your life is really about.

As for others, I think the most helpful thing people have done is to simply mourn with me, to let me know they’re sharing my sorrow and disappointment, so that I wasn’t standing alone. Then, they found out if I needed to do any procedures, because for some of my miscarriages I had to go into the surgery center. Then, friends brought meals, volunteered to look after my other kids so my husband could come in with me, etc. Afterward, those same friends invited me out to a fun chick-flick movie and coffee afterward. They didn’t act awkward or try to avoid mentioning the baby. They were just there for me, like always, being a friend.

On the other hand, the less helpful people focused on trying to make me feel better by coming up with excuses for why God may have allowed this miscarriage, or giving me reasons why the miscarriage wasn’t as bad as it may seem. “You’ll get pregnant again soon,” they’d say. Or, “It’s good that it happened earlier in the pregnancy.” Or, “This baby just wasn’t right.” Then, they followed it up with stories of others who had gone through miscarriage later, or got pregnant right away again. But this approach, while meaning well, really only serves to convince people they shouldn’t really be feeling as bad as they are. It tells the woman she should skirt the pain, deny it. It’s really not that bad.

My real friends have shared my sorrows. They haven’t tried to diminish them.

8. Your books always feature a surprising twist at the end. Without giving the ending away, what can readers expect when they turn the last page?

My hope is that readers will catch their breath in wonder and say, “Ooo, that’s cool. That changes everything!” Personally, I love stories with surprise twists that tie into the overall theme of the book. So, for my books, my goal is to have a twist that reveals a deeper meaning in the story. I want to surprise and delight readers not just with something they didn’t see coming, but with something that allows them to see and experience the characters’ journeys in deep ways.

In the end, my real prayer is that when readers catch their breath at the ending, they’ll also catch their breath in wonder at the mystery and beauty of our vivid God. I hope the vision of Him will take their breath away. At its heart, that’s what the surprise twist is all about. That’s what Shades of Morning is all about.

9. Where can readers learn more about you, Shades of Morning, and your other books?

I hope readers will visit my website at www.marloschalesky.com (or www.VividGod.com) and check out the excerpt for Shades of Morning, various audio and TV interviews, resources, and other helpful information there. And, I’d love for people to sign up for my e-newsletter, which I put out a few times a year (or whenever there’s exciting news like a book release!). You can sign up on the front page, right hand column of my website.

I also invite readers to visit my blog at www.marloschalesky.blogspot.com. About once a week I post news and hopefully helpful info on rekindling the wonder in our walks with God.

I’m also on Twitter and Facebook. On my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky), we focus on deeper living for everyday people.

MY TAKE:

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I am usually stuck in my ways as far as authors go. I was not familiar with this author, so I wasn't absolutely sure how it was going to be. I am a bit picky with my books.

The book started as a mystery....and honestly...up until the last page, it continued to be a mystery. Just when I think I figured it out...I realized that I didn't. It definitely kept me on my toes...and that is hard to do sometimes. I am usually pretty good and figuring things out...but this one...didn't figure it out.

Her writing style is great and easy to read. She did jump around a bit from past to present...but as long as you were REALLY paying attention, you would catch on. But if you weren't really paying attention, it was easy to get lost suddenly.

Out of 5 stars, I would give it 4. I really enjoyed it. It wasn't however ALWAYS a book that I felt I couldn't put down...sometimes it was. Sometimes I couldn't wait to start the next chapter...but other times, I was ready to put it down for the night.

I would recomment this book to just about anyone...men included as it did give a great message throughout the book. The MAIN message came at the end of the book...and it was a great message to wait for!

Thank you to Multnomah for providing this book to me to read and review.

*I was given no compensation for my review, and the book was provided for free from Multnomah Printing Press. The opinions on this review are strictly mine and mine alone.*