September 17, 2015

#GIVEAWAY: New DVDs - LEGO Star Wars, Dear Sofia and Halloween Mickey

The mail has been fun the last few days . . . a couple of exciting DVDs for the boys in this house!

First - LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles

I'm personally going to set this aside and save it for our 4-5 hour drive down to Houston in December for our belated 2015 family vacation. The boys will be so excited that those hours can stretch out for what seems like days, but with this DVD they'll easily be captivated for an hour and a half of that. (It's on sale at Amazon right now for just $11.98 and remember, it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts.)
After headstrong Luke nearly delivers the good guys into Palpatine's clutches, Master Yoda and the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi unearth the Holocrons -- last remnants of the secrets of the Jedi -- to further Luke's training. But Darth Vader also seeks the Holocrons, and he'll stop at nothing to get to them first! Meanwhile, courageous superclone Jek-14 comes out of retirement to help bolster the Rebels. Share all the action-packed thrills of these interlocking, intergalactic comic adventures, and enjoy a whole new universe of fun!

If you have girls, you might be more interested in Dear Sofia: A Royal Collection. I thought this DVD was extra special because in it, Sofia interacts with all of the Disney princesses - Jasmine, Mulan, Belle and Tiana!
For the first time ever, you'll find four of your favorite Disney princesses on one dazzling SOFIA THE FIRST DVD! Join Sofia on a daring adventure with Mulan in the Kingdom of Wei Ling, soar through the skies with Jasmine on a magic carpet ride, and learn important lessons about friendship and life's true gifts from Belle and Tiana. Packed with endless fun, enchanting music and heart -- plus two more magical episodes -- DEAR SOFIA...A ROYAL COLLECTION is a not-to-be-missed celebration of the princess power in YOU!
But it's no fun if everything has to wait months to be enjoyed, so we will most definitely be breaking out the new Mickey's Monster Musical just in time for Halloween.

My little one still has a soft spot for Mickey, and I'm sure not trying to make him outgrow that anytime soon. He's also my sensitive, slightly (or rather frequently and extensively) fearful one, so I'm glad to introduce Mickey and monsters in a fun way that will make him enjoy Halloween a little more rather than hide from everything that goes on.
Put on your favorite Halloween costume and get set for a spooktacular full-length adventure! Visit the creaky castle of kindly "Count Mickula" and help your Clubhouse pals solve a puzzling riddle: Who, or what, is making a curious clanging, banging noise? With the right Monster Mouseketools and help from YOU, this mystery will soon be history! Then, enjoy two more exciting episodes as you search for pirate treasure with Captain Mickey and don your dungarees for delightful fun down on the farm. Packed with singing, dancing, laughter and surprises, MICKEY'S MONSTER MUSICAL is a high-spirited treat that can't be beat!
And here's the good news for you . . . I'm giving away a copy of the new Mickey's Monster Musical DVD.

Enter now! Please leave a comment with your email address for each of the ways you enter.

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  • Checkout Mickey's Monster Musical on Amazon and tell me what other Mickey DVD your household would love to have!

  • Giveaway will end at midnight on October 1, 2015. Winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond before the prize is passed on to the next eligible winner. 

    This post was sponsored and I received a FREE copy of these DVDs in return for posting.

    August 24, 2015

    Why Don't We Just DO It?

    Photo courtesy of Instagram user, yaro2191

    If you follow my personal Facebook page – not the official Melissa Stuff Blog Facebook page, but my own personal page  . . . which would mean that you're my friend and probably already have an idea of how I tick anyway, you know that a certain topic has weighed heavily on my soul for months now.

    Post after post, in reflective moments, has centered on love and relationships and honesty. As you can imagine, there's a reason for that. I grew up in a world where there was a lot of truth, or some form of truth, and there was a lot of supposed justice. But many, many times there was a profound lack of love. And I think when you live in a vacuum where real, true love is not the norm, you don't even realize how lacking in love your world is.

    Let me pause here and say, that while my family was not perfect, this description was actually not true of my family at all. In fact, I think my first exposure to love that stuck no matter what you did was in my immediate family. But outside of that protective, loving cocoon was a world that didn't even like me a lot of times. It sure didn't like people who looked different, talked different, didn't follow its list of dos and don'ts, or didn't participate in acceptable group behavior as dictated by the ordained leadership. As I became a teenager and looked around, I realized how hurtful that behavior was to so many people. And when I came back from college trying to feel out my own identity and get my feet underneath me as an adult, I personally found myself on the ugly end of that judgment and the snide comments and the vacuum of true love.

    For a long time, I allowed those experiences to convince me that God wasn't loving. He was just. He was holy. He was a disciplinarian. But He couldn't be loving. Because the people who taught me about the justice and the holiness and the judgment of God weren't loving. They knew all about God and what He was like and they said that they wanted to be just like Him, so surely He must not be very loving either.

    And I walked through life with a wound I didn't even know I had. But not knowing it was there didn't keep it from affecting me and the way I made decisions and the relationship, or lack thereof, that I had with God.

    And then somewhere along the way I decided I was going to figure it out for myself. I was going to set aside all the things that I had been taught. All of the dos and don'ts. All of the attributes of God that someone had drilled into my brain. Instead, I wanted to get to know Him for myself. I wanted to read the stories and learn for myself about His choices and His motivations and His approaches. I wanted to walk through life and see what my personal experience was with Him. 

    Several years later, I find myself older, hopefully wiser. I know I see life differently. I see a God who is the epitome of I Corinthians 13. Instead of it being a list of behaviors I should hold myself to and condemn myself for not measuring up to, I found it was a list of what my Savior was really like and of how He really saw me and treated me. Eventually that list in I Corinthians became something I wanted to be more like myself. I wanted to treat other people the way I had been treated.

    Then came the most confusing part… people I loved and respected and looked up to - people I know love Jesus - thought I was crazy. I suddenly had an influx of opinions on my choices and how many chances I gave people and who I let close to me. There was abundant free advice on who I should cut out of my life and what behavior I should no longer tolerate and the consequences I should mete out for certain behaviors. 

    One of the songs that is popular right now has a chorus that says:
    Love like I'm not scared.
    Give when it's not fair.
    Live life for another.
    Take time for a brother.
    Fight for the weak ones.
    Speak out for freedom.
    Find faith in the battle.
    Stand tall but above it all.
    Fix my eyes on you.
    Who do you know that loves like they're not scared? Or gives when it's not fair? There's a few who choose to live their lives for others. A select group who takes time for a brother here or there. We love to sing the words, but do we even make an effort to live them?

    Please don't misunderstand, I don't have all the answers. All I can say is I try. I try to choose the loving thing. I do my best to give people grace even when it's not fair. My goal is to be a little bit better at it each day. But I fail every day. The people I love and live with day in and day out could tell you how often I fail at this. They could paint a picture for you of just how miserable my execution of this is at times. All I can do is my best each time I have a choice to love no matter what, to forgive even when I feel like shutting the door and walking away, to extend grace and make a peace offering in the face of anger and vilification. And when I fail . . . again . . . I get up and try  . . . again. 

    I'm stubborn and independent and, hmmm, maybe feisty is putting it nicely. All traits that I thought were weaknesses - and they most definitely can be - but I sang in worship at Watermark yesterday about how God has a plan and knows the plan for us before we do, and wondered if he didn't make me stubborn, independent and feisty because He was going to call me to do something that would go against the grain, and people I love and trust would tell me I was wrong and I would have to learn to look to Him for the truth and not them. 

    Anybody with me? Ready to actually love like we're not scared, give when it's not fair, live life for another, take time for a brother, fight for the weak ones, speak out for freedom, find faith in the battle, stand tall - but above it all - fix our eyes on Him?

    Why don't we just DO it, instead of pretending singing about it works just as well?

    August 16, 2015

    6 Helpful Hints for Taking Kids to Hurricane Harbor (Arlington, TX)

    This summer has been a big change for our crew. It's the first time since my boys were born that I haven't been free to take them places, go swimming and plan lots of fun stuff for them. They attended a local summer program where they had a lot of fun and stayed super busy . . . and also dealt with a full-on bully, but that's a story for another time.

    Since summer is quickly screeching to an end - the boys all start back to school Monday morning - we decided to take last weekend and go to Hurricane Harbor. Just before we loaded up, I quickly searched to see if I could find any information on families and the park. Alas, it was not available. So I thought I would create a post with that kind of information and if you have anything to add, please leave a comment and I'll add it this material.

    1. Take advantage of special offers for entrance fees. 

    We actually had FREE season passes to Hurricane Harbor because of the timeframe we purchased our Six Flags season passes. If you keep an eye out, they offer a special Gold pass usually in October that includes a Six Flags season pass, a parking pass, a Hurricane Harbor season pass and a parking pass - all for about $60 each if you buy 4 or more. You honestly can't beat the price. If you go twice you've paid for your pass - currently, individual adult tickets are $51 if you buy them online ahead of time . . . plus it's good for Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park of the current year and then all of the next year.

    In addition to that, there are several dates over the course of the year where you can bring a friend FREE on each pass or pay a discounted rate ($14.99 or $19.99). We try to take advantage of these times each year and take friends with us to the park. We've honestly made some of our best memories this way.

    2. Take a cooler with drinks, lunch, snack and more drinks. 
    Last weekend the temperature was seriously around 107, so we picked one of the hottest days we could have gone. Overall we didn't struggle too much, but we found ourselves really thirsty. You can't carry anything into the park so we each took a drink and drank it while we walked through the oven of a parking lot and had everyone finish before we entered the park. If necessary, you can use your Six Flags plastic refillable cup and get discounted drinks inside Hurricane Harbor. (Or ask for FREE waters.)

    Then at lunchtime we trekked back out to the car and really enjoyed our ICE COLD waters and light, healthy lunch. We just made sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips, applesauce and squeezable yogurt that we froze so it was just melting and perfect around 1 p.m. Plan for it to be ridiculously hot and sunny though. Most of the kids didn't seem to care, but the adults huddled under the hatch of our Honda Pilot. And a couple of the kids actually sat under the tailgate of the truck in the shade there on their towels.

    When we left the park, the kids were hungry and thirsty again. We ate almost all of the leftover snacks - specifically more applesauce and yogurt with a few cookies thrown in. Since we were leaving we did allow the kids to have Cokes at this point, but not earlier when it could have contributed to dehydration instead of preventing it.

    3. Ride the biggest rides FIRST or LAST.

    We try to arrive just as the park is opening and we know we have to head for our favorite, "BIG" rides immediately. It's the shortest time you will wait and sometimes you can get in 3-4 rides before most of the people coming even make it into the park. Around the middle of the day, we spend more time in the lazy river and the wave pool, or even relaxing in one of the 1.5 ft. splash areas so the kids can roam a little more freely without fear of losing them. Then after about 5 p.m. people begin to trickle out of the park and you're able to ride more of the rides with less of a wait again. Depending on the age of your kids, you may not make it this long at a water park, so definitely ride your favorites very first thing.

    4. Be prepared - sunscreen, water shoes, beach towels, goggles, etc. 

    I know this sounds like a given but you would be shocked what you forget or realize you never even thought about once you arrive. I sunscreen the kids at the house as they are getting dressed to avoid standing in the blistering heat of the parking lot or trying to hang on to them once we're inside the park and they're raring to get in line for their favorite ride. (P.S. Don't forget yourself. I was the ONLY one who got burned last weekend because I covered everyone else and only managed to get "some" of my own parts!) As usual, you need to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours - and don't forget after lunch when everyone is dry and it will go back on the easiest.

    It may be a water park but the ground is HOT in many places. Flip-flops are hard to keep on during the rides or while wading through shallow water, so water shoes really are the best option. If you don't have a choice you can wear flip-flops and carry them when necessary but it becomes a significant pain. You'll note a whole parking lot of flip-flops at the entrances to the lazy river, but you can't be shocked if your pair walks away from there either.

    We use beach towels to and from the car and to protect the seats on the ride home. They also come in handy as mini picnic blankets and shade covers at times. Bring extras if you have them. Someone always seems to get one soaked or dirty and need a backup.

    My boys love to swim under the water. No surprise all of the water is extremely chlorinated at Hurricane Harbor - it's all you can smell when you walk up - and I am sure the level of ahem, urine, in the water is off the charts. So my boys typically wear goggles if they're actually swimming and not just going down a slide.

    Use a product like Swim Spray to help get this strong chlorine concentration out of skin and hair. Instructions say to get wet in the shower and then spray yourself. We spray while we are still wet from the pool water or even right before we get in the shower, and it has made a tremendous difference in how truly clean our children smell after their showers. It's great to feel like you can leave the pool behind once you get home and clean up.

    5. Mark a central spot where everyone knows to meet up.

    We took 4 adults, a 14 year old girl, a 10 year old girl, a 9 year old boy, 2 - 8 year old boys, a 7 year old girl and a 5 year old boy. So clearly this group wasn't able to split up into groups of two or three, but we did split into a couple of different groups at times. We put our towels and beach bags with sunscreen and goggles on a table where we all started out, so that if all else failed we knew where to meet back up. The only thing of value we left at the table was our keys which were in the bottom of our beach bag. We've never had an issue, but there are lockers that you can rent for the day for about $15.

    6. Keep an eye on your kids . . . a CLOSE eye.

    I know to some degree this goes without saying, but at the same time sometimes we get busy or overwhelmed or distracted. Hurricane Harbor is not the time or place that you can afford to do this. There are lifeguards all over, but when the areas are packed - specifically, the lazy river and the wave pool get so full that it is almost wall-to-wall people - at that point, it is extremely difficult for them to see everyone in the water clearly. On top of that, when there are so many people, you are constantly, legitimately bumping into others but that open up the possibility of people pretending to accidentally rub on one of your children. And if you have opposite gender children with you, the bathroom situation gets really tricky. We were just separated for a brief time from the adult men in the group when my 5 year old decided he desperately needed to go to the bathroom. I walked him over and waited for him outside while trying to conscientiously keep an eye on my other children. After several long minutes, he re-emerged from the bathroom in tears. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he didn't get to go to the bathroom. I asked him why and he said all of the bathrooms were taken and there wasn't one for him. {sigh} Thankfully, it was only a few more minutes before one of his older brothers was available and could take him to the bathroom. Just give it a little thought ahead of time and decide how you're going to deal with these kinds of things before you find yourselves caught up in the moment and having to scramble. It will really make life more enjoyable for both the adults and the children.

    HAVE FUN! Your littles ones are growing by leaps and bounds every day. The activities you choose today are becoming the memories of the future. What will they remember about their childhood? How much fun they have? Or how frustrated you got? How silly you could be to make them laugh? Or how much you complained about the little things?

    What's your best tip for taking your kids on outings like this?

    I was provided with a FREE sample of Swim Spray so that I was able to test it.

    August 7, 2015

    Back to School - 20% Off Label Daddy

    This summer has flown by. I can't believe my boys start school a week from this coming Monday . . . and this year, ALL of my boys will be in school for the first time. Be still my little momma heart, my baby is going to be in Kindergarten. I never dreamed we would actually make it here, to this point. People warned me it would fly by but it seemed never ending in the moment. And now here we are and it's happening. I'm so proud of my big boy - all three of my big boys are doing so well and growing so big.

    As I prepare for all of the boys to go back to school, I am flying through labels. Labels on clothes. Labels on shoes. Labels on school supplies. Labels on sports equipment. Labels on personal items that sneak their way into school - books, sunglasses, hats, electronics, etc. If you use labels like I do, this is a deal for you - 20% off Label Daddy labels. Use code USFAMILY20 at checkout.

    I can swear by these labels. I have used them for camp, to differentiate between toys and personal belongings here at the house, and every year on school supplies. They're washer/dryer safe for your clothes and shoes. They're microwave and dishwasher safe for your dishes. They are extremely durable and don't wear off or fall off without a LOT of work by the child. Yet, I have successfully peeled off labels that have been stuck to an item for more than a year without any residue or difficulty. They have a special laminated coating that gives them extra protection. And the labels are made here in the US and shipped directly to you.

    Your kids will love that you can choose your own designs. They can pick from a ton of colors, sizes and logos including Disney, Marvel, and professional sports teams. No matter how unique your child, they can create a label design that fits them perfectly.

    Coleman Family AdventureFest in Irving, TX - August 21 to 23, 2015

    My poor boys - because I started a new job just before the beginning of summer and it has consumed an enormous amount of my time, we really didn't have a "normal" summer. I haven't taken them swimming once yet (although we are going to Hurricane Harbor this weekend in 107 degree heat). We didn't go on vacation (but we have one scheduled this fall). We just didn't do the things we have typically done every summer for as long as they can remember.

    So when I heard about the Coleman Family AdventureFest that is coming to the Irving Convention Center the weekend of August 21 - 23, I knew it was something I wanted to do with my boys. Taking place both inside and outside the convention center, the adventure-themed activities and celebrity visits by Herschel Walker, Philippe Cousteau and more will fascinate my boys. They can try archery, building and launching rockets, play fishing games, test robotics, experience a virtual zip line, climb a rock wall and more.

    Coleman is sponsoring the event, and it actually made me more interested in the event because we use their products regularly, especially when we go camping. I trust that this event will be done well simply because I know Coleman is behind it.

    Activites begin August 21 from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. and then continue August 22-23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is FREE for kids 6 and younger. Everyone else is $12, but you can save $2 by going through this link. All of the activities are included in the cost of admission.

    You can go to for more information and to purchase tickets ahead of time. Or you can follow @FestAdventure on Twitter as well to stay updated on all the details of the event.