How to Help

I hate natural disaster movies. I am terrified of them.

A movie about a serial killer? I can handle that. A demonic possession film? No problem! But, when it comes to films about natural disasters taking out whole towns, I can’t watch it. It becomes too real.

For many people these events have become very real over the past few weeks as first Hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma hit in the southern United States and the Caribbean, respectively.

hurricane irma 1

Photo of St. Martin courtesy of MSNBC 

Beautiful islands were utterly destroyed. Homes, resorts, hospitals, businesses all left in rubble after Irma’s wake.

This is absolutely heartbreaking.

It was just a few years ago that we were at St. Martin and St. Thomas enjoying these tropical paradises, and now they are torn apart.

With Irma sweeping through Florida now and aid finally arriving in the Caribbean islands, we are getting a good picture of what little is left.

Almost total damage to the island of St. Martin that’s only source of income is tourism.

On the island of Tortolla, there were reports of looting and people turning on one another in order to obtain precious resources.

With all of this going on, many of us are sitting back wondering what can we do to help?

Unfortunately, in today’s landscape it is easy to find people who set up scams praying on people want to assist.

MSN has this great article on how to help but also how to avoid scams.

One of their biggest suggestions is to go to the website Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.com) to do a search to see how the charity is rated and how they spend the money they raised.

However, there are some well known places that you can donate to that are going to aid in relief efforts:

For those that want to travel to the areas affected to lend a hand should check with their local Red Cross or Salvation Army to see how to do this.

Only time will tell how long it will take for these places to recoup what has been lost and to get back on their feet. But, even giving just a little will help.

Especially on this day in United States’ history when our country was changed forever with the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center, Pentagon and Somerset, Pennsylvania, it is a good way to do something to make a horrible historic day a little more positive.



Fall is in the Air

IMG_2454

I love autumn! It is my favorite season out of the whole year. I am obsessed with pumpkins. I love Halloween and we were married, take our vacation and our daughter was born during the season.

One activity that makes me think about fall is going apple picking.

Simmon’s Farm in McMurray, Pennsylvania is a little under an hour away for us. For years, we have been visiting the farm during the fall either to go apple picking or to enjoy some of their other autumn activities like a corn maze, pumpkin picking and more.

However, this was the first year that Lily has gone apple picking. And I think it was a success.

IMG_2437

The way it works is that you pay for what you pick. You can choose different amounts like a half bushel, a bushel, etc.

We decided to pick a bushel because I love to make apple sauce and it takes a lot of apples. (I might end up doing a video and sharing the recipe for my homemade applesauce in the near future.)

Since we went during an early part of the season only two types of apples were available, gala and I want to think it was Golden Delicious. We decided to get a half bushel of each type.

IMG_2432

While of course it is nice to have the delicious apples to enjoy, one of the biggest benefits is doing the actual picking. Lily loved it and was able to see where her food comes from and learn about how apples go from farm to table.

The day was perfect and we couldn’t have asked for more.

What are one of your favorite early fall activities that you like to do with your family? Leave a comment below!


Soaking Up the Last of Summer

FunInTheSun

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over. It seems like it was just Fourth of July and now kids are going back to school and Halloween candy is making its appearance on store shelves.

We try our best to do everything on our “Summer Bucket List” but inevitability we realize that we can’t get everything done.

This year was especially difficult because our weather was more rainy and cooler on Saturdays, the days that we usually go and do our adventures.

After trying for about a month, we finally made it to the Soak Zone at Idlewild park last weekend.

Idlewild_and_Soak_Zone_logo.svg.png

Included with a ticket to Idlewild park is Soak Zone, a small water park.

While we had been to the rest of the park through this year, we hadn’t been to the water park portion.

When I say it is a smallish water park, it is by no means tiny. There are about five different areas in the water park.

SoakZoneMap

Map courtesy of Idlewild

Soak Zone includes an awesome wave pool (which is where we spent most of our time), I think four water slides (it could be more), a lazy river type attraction, a little kids play area and a bigger kids play area that features a dump bucket with a bunch of kid sized water slides, plus a stand alone dump bucket.

When we first arrived last Saturday it seemed like it was going to be a little cool and very cloudy.

However, luck was on our side and it became pretty sunny and warm and we made it out before a storm hit.

Personally, my favorite place to spend time was at the Wowabunga Wavepool.

Lily could swim around and splash between wave sessions, and when the waves began, we sat on the “beach” and let the waves rush up on us.

Lily seemed to really enjoy the little kids splash area.

The pool is only about one foot deep and features tubes that spray water up and down. Kids even have the option of turning a valve that controls how much water sprays out.

We had such a wonderful day full of lots of family fun and memories.

We sure tired out Lily by spending almost four hours splashing around.

IMG_2267

We finished the day off by taking a ride on the carousel and grabbing a quick lunch before leaving. Lily was asleep before we hit the main road to home.

IMG_2275

Did you get to do a lot on your “Summer Bucket List?” Leave a comment below.


Eclipsing Hope

eclipse_solaire

Photo courtesy of Pix Geek

Unexpected changes that seem to blot out the light can be scary or they can be a thrilling adventure.

For example, today the cosmos will host a unique event, a total solar eclipse (cue the Bonnie Tyler music).

While we will only see an 80 percent eclipse where we live, we will still be able to experience the event.

Leading up to the eclipse, I have been reading about a lot of people traveling to different destinations to find the optimum viewing location, it made me do some thinking.

A few weeks ago, about a month actually, I had shared that I had lost my job as a newspaper reporter after the paper I was working for was purchased by another company.

When this happened, I went through all the emotions of grief (anger, sadness, loss of hope, etc.). Here I was suddenly flung into an unknown situation against my will.

So for a few weeks I felt like I was in the eclipse part of this situation.

However, for the past few weeks I feel like I have transitioned to the other side of the eclipse.

I have realized how blessed I am to have the opportunity to follow my dreams of being a children’s book author and eventually middle grade novelist as well as continue my love of being a blogger.

I think that sometimes it becomes difficult to trust when things happen that it is actually a gift. We can’t see because the sun is being blocked out. But, once things seem to get back to normal or, for most of us, the new normal, the hope returns and we can then again see the silver lining of life’s situation.

Have you experienced any difficult life situations that have made you better for it? Leave your comments below.


More to the Mouse

DisneyRocketsThursday

Many people go to Walt Disney World or set sail on the Disney Cruise Line to escape reality. Let’s face it, the real world can be an ugly and scary place.

For me, this is the main reason why I return to the various Disney properties time and time again. I want to escape.

Another benefit of going to the parks time and time again can be because you can apply the Disney principles to your everyday life.

A lot of different corporations implement the Disney management style to their businesses.

But on a smaller scale, what if you could apply the Disney principles to your everyday life?

For myself and my family, we look at the world through the lense of Christianity. Others might look through a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or other spiritual lense, and that is the great thing about Walt Disney World. Walt Disney was very careful to not exclude any religion in his films or vacation properties.

However, if you are of the spiritual faith there are some books available that can marry the two together.

One book that I really enjoyed is “Faith Trust and Pixie Dust” by Mark I. Pinsky.

faithtrust

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Pinsky, who is a religion journalist, according to the book’s Amazon listing, wanted to take a deeper look at one of the biggest influences on children: Disney.

Each chapter looks at a different film and the biggest message it tries to impart on the viewer.

For example, “Dumbo” looks at a mother’s love while “Robin Hood” looks at tax rebates.

This book does not really have a Christian leaning, or any other denominational leaning. It is more a look at morality and the Disney influence.

For anyone looking for a more direct approach to Chrisitianty and the Walt Disney World vacation, check out “A Christian’s Guide to Walt Disney World Resort” by Jeff Chaves.

ChristianGuideDisney.jpg

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Unlike “Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust” this book definitely is geared toward the Christian denomination.

This is sort of almost a “Bible study” type of book that takes a look at a Walt Disney World attraction, attaches a Bible verse to it, a little bit of details about the attraction, how it can connect to Christianity and questions for further discussion.

For example, Space Mountain, located in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom, the author uses the verse “God is Involved in Every Detail of Our Lives” — Matthew 10:30-31.

It further tells people to look out for the Earth that is shown at the end of the coaster and how God is involved in everything that goes on on Earth.

There are then four different questions that can help develop a deeper discussion of the connection between the two.

This format continues through the rest of the book.

Two books that go together well that combine one of literature’s most beloved characters, as well as a bear that has been a part of the Walt Disney World family for many years is “The Tao of Pooh” and it’s companion book “The Te of Piglet,” both by Benjamin Hoff.

These two books explore Buddhist principles through the lense of Winnie the Pooh and his fellow Hundred-Acre-Woods neighbors.

I have only read “The Tao of Pooh,” but I really enjoyed it.

The author interacts with the characters and uses many of their stories that are told in their books as an example of Buddhist teachings.

Hoff even talks about the different personalities of the character factor into the principles as well.

I really enjoyed these books because they are an easy way to learn about what is Tao and offer a different perspective on life.

Obviously, these are just a sampling of these types of books that are available out there. There are lots that look at the connection between spirituality and Disney. A simple search will bring up many of them.

Is this something you are interested in, or do you prefer to keep everything at an entertainment level when it comes to Disney? Leave a message in the comments below.


Game On

20668529_864314790937_1010684583_n

Being a parent means that it can be difficult to find time to go out on a date. But, it is still important to make time for taking a break from being a parent and just focus on being the two of you.

While we don’t go out that much, we have started making date time on Fridays by playing a board game while enjoying some wine after our daughter has gone to bed.

This is the perfect solution because we don’t have to leave and we get to dive into our collection of board games, which doesn’t cost any additional money.

Boardgame3

Depending on what types of games you like to play, you could spend all evening playing or just an hour. For us, we usually like to find a game that takes about an hour and half to play.

When you are looking for a new board game it can be difficult to figure out which game you want to play because there is a huge selection available both in stores and online. Here are just a few of our favorite selections.

betryalhouseonhauntedhillboardgame

Photo courtesy of Amazon

“Betrayal at House on the Hill”

We really enjoy this game a lot. The premise is that your character (or characters if you are just playing with two people) have stumbled upon this house. You take your time building the house by drawing room cards and laying them down.

Once you draw too many “haunt” cards, that is when the fun really happens.

Depending on what card was drawn, what room you were in and who drew it will decide on what “story” in the book you will follow.

The final part of the game is following the instructions and watching the scenario play out.

Depending on how long it takes to draw the final “haunt” card, the game can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

MachiBoardgame

Photo courtesy of Target

“Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City”

If you are a fan of the computer game “Sim City” then you would like this game.

You spend time building up your city, winning money based off of what business you put in your town and trying to make your city bigger than your opponent’s.

What I really like about this game is that there are different ways to play and different strategies on how to win.

Plus, having a little friendly competition makes it extra fun.

mysterium2

Photo courtesy of techartgeek.com

“Mysterium”

If you are looking for a game that will test your mental connection as a couple, then you will want to try Mysterium.

In this game the set up is sort of like the game Clue. You have to find your suspect, the weapon and the place where the murder happened.

However, one of you is the ghost and the other person is a psychic. It is up to the ghost to use beautiful cards of fanciful images to try and relay this information to your partner. You can’t say anything, but just give them the card and they to try and interperate it to solve the case.

These cards can help you see if you two are on the same wavelength.

These are a few of our favorite board games to play on our date night. But, you don’t need to have in-depth games to play. Just a simple round of a card game or even video games can make a quiet night at home more exciting.

Boardgame1