Tylenol – How We Family

I have received information from the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.

Tylenol - Stephanie Click - stephanieclickThere are some things that are staples your entire life. You know, those items that were used on you as a child and now, you use them on your children too. That’s because they are trusted. They have stood the test of time and we know that when we call them to action – they will be there!

One of those items in my life is Tylenol.

We are not pill takers in our house. It’s odd, because we will all – kids and adults alike – comment several times that we don’t feel well before we ever reach for something to assist with the discomfort. One of the reasons that I love Tylenol is that it covers a whole host of aches and pains! It covered them when I was a baby and it still helps today.

I don’t like to try “fly by night” medications on my family. That’s not a risk that I care to take … so thank goodness for brands with longevity (60 years for Tylenol) and a commitment to my family (and yours!).

At Christmas, it’s easy to think that brands only care about their profit and not about your family. If you need your heart warmed, spend a few minutes looking at the #HowWeFamily campaign. It will restore your faith in humanity! Because, really, nothing says Christmas like families coming together!

I’d encourage you, this Christmas, to take some time to reflect on what you love most about the holiday season. Reminisce about where you got some of your favorite ornaments; take too many photos; watch the classic movies that you haven’t seen in years … do it all!

Carry On Dream Duffel Review

Carry On Dream Duffel ReviewWe were very excited to travel to Las Vegas this summer for Piper’s dance nationals. Prior to this, we competed for four summers in Florida. Luckily, we’ve always been able to drive in years past, so we welcomed a trek to new territory!

Not being able to stack suitcases and bags and duffels galore in the back of my over-sized SUV had me in a bit of a panic.We always tend to throw stuff in the car on the day we leave … things we see that we’d forgotten about, but notice on the way out the door. Getting on a plane knowing I had to have EVERYTHING … it was daunting to consider.

For four years, we had relied on our Dream Duffel to keep us organized. Truthfully, I rarely even opened it between competitions – I just left it zipped and knew that everything was inside! If you don’t take anything out, then you know it’s still there, right?

Over time, I’ve had a small, medium, and large Dream Duffel. (Here’s my original Dream Duffel review when we got our small.) I sold my small after one season and regretted it immediately. Immediately, I say.

Rewind to June 2015.

Carry On Dream Duffel Review

Photo Credit: DreamDuffel.com

Our flight to Las Vegas was on United Airlines. The medium duffel could be checked through as a normal piece of luggage. (Check your airline for size restrictions.) My plan was to take the costumes and dance shoes and place them in carry on bags, then take our clothes, toiletries, etc., and put that in the Dream Duffel. There was no way on God’s beautiful green earth that I was risking any airline losing that Dream Duffel complete with costumes. While the air staff took 3 days to locate the duffel in Tinbucktoo — we would be hung out to dry.

Then, ultimately … I decided that I really didn’t want to lug the big duffel all over Sin City. Plus, we were adding on a few days at the end of our trip which meant having to rent a car (truck/SUV) with a large enough cargo space to allow for the Dream Duffel, our luggage (4 of us), and the luggage for a set of grandparents (2 more people)!

See how this is adding up and becoming more overwhelming?

So, for a few days I lamented on how we might cope with not having a rack during competition. (We’ve never NOT had one.) Then I found out that we had 4 dances one day and 5 the next …. URGH! There was no way I wanted to handle quick changes without my best friend, the Dream Duffel.

One of the youngest girls on our team performed in just a few pieces and had the carry-on Dream Duffel. I had looked at it, talked myself in and out of it — many times. Then my best dance mom friend up and ordered one. She encouraged me to do the same. In my heart I know that this helps us both justify the purchase, and I fell right into the trap.

The carry on arrived with one day to spare and I was giddy to see if  I could actually fit all 9 costumes into the bag just for this one trip. It took a bit of thinking, but I did it!

This duffel is roomy-er than you would think with it’s size. The Dream Duffel website says that you should be able to fit 1-3 costumes inside. For regular use, I’d guess that’s pretty accurate. You’d be hard-pressed to fit more than 4 in it with hangers and all.

To pack for our trip with 9 costumes, this is what I did:

1 – I put all of our costumes in gallon Ziploc bags. (If you have bigger costumes, then you could use the bigger ones.) I put everything needed for the piece in the bag except jewelry and shoes.

Carry On Dream Duffel

2 – Then, I put the bags in the bottom of the carry-on Dream Duffel. (Make sure all the air is out of the bags!)

3 – I folded the Dream Duffel garment bags just like they came when I got them – basically in quarters. I put them on top of the Ziploc bagged costumes.

Carry On Dream Duffel

4 – Finally, I put the hangers on top.

I still had enough room to add a pair of tap shoes, a rolled-up make-up bag (this one I’m linking to comes in 11 patterns), and a rolled up jewelry organizer!

It worked great!!! I can’t say enough about this duffel. Although, this isn’t how you would want to use it every weekend, it worked awesome in a pinch! We plan to use this for our convention duffel (when we aren’t competing all of our group dances) or when we do an optional competition with just our solo or a few groups. We still have our large and medium duffels as well – I can make an argument to keep them all. They are fabulous and all of them are worth the price.

***Affiliate links used for Amazon purchases only.

Sirius XM Holly, We Will Miss You!

Sirius Holly Christmas MusicEveryone has that certain something that makes them happy. Or at least I hope that they do. Something that they look forward to with wild expectation. One particular event or season or action that makes their heart fill with anticipation because you know the joy that will come along beside … for me, that “thing” is Christmas.

Christmas – the times leading up to and the actual day itself – was a truly joyful time for me when I was a little girl. I can still feel the crispness in the air as we drug the Christmas tree into my grandparent’s basement and up the stairs of the split-level house into the living room. Filled with colored lights that blinked in an oddly non-rhythmic pattern and ornaments made mostly by hand, it was a beautiful sight to my eyes.

My grandmother would make divinity and fudge. It would be the only time all year that she would make anything that resembled a dessert. The radio (covered in grease) that sat by the stovetop would play Christmas songs all day on radio station WLLS. I would sit at the bar on the stool that didn’t have all the week’s daily newspapers piled on it and take in every moment. Even as a child I savored all that went on at Christmas, and I knew that these moments were fleeting. A holiday that I loved so much would be over just as quickly as it began.

Sirius Holly Christmas MusicThese memories are so special to me. They are the same ones that I keep in my mind and try so diligently to recreate for my children. If nothing else, I pray that Christmas will be a time that they recall as larger-than-life and beautiful and magical.

I remember a time about four years ago, my husband, Don, was driving – the kids and I as his passengers – were singing away to Christmas songs on Sirius XM’s Holly station. After about an hour, Don said “I can’t believe that the kids know every word to every song that comes on.” I took that as the highest compliment, since we always begin listening to Christmas music the day that it begins playing. Trust me when I tell you that we don’t adjust the dial from Holly. It doesn’t happen even for a second.

Our family life has had its same share of life’s ups and downs like everyone else. We’ve lived in the land of plenty and in the land of nothing. But, regardless of any year’s circumstances, the music has remained the same. It’s the link from my childhood to my children, and is a huge part in the legacy that I hope will go on for generations to come.

Sirius Holly Christmas MusicThere are a lot of people who will have less this year in our area. Houston has seen an enormous number of layoffs and company’s folding in the wake of this oil crunch. Because of that, my eyes are probably a little more skeptical of corporations and businesses that seem to take advantage of the little guy – especially at Christmas.

One of those companies is Sirius XM. I’ve had Sirius since 2008. In fact, we have it in both cars and love it. We aren’t much on talk radio, so we have the “Mostly Music” package. As part of the Mostly Music package, we’ve always had Sirius XM’s Holly and various other channels of Christmas music as a perk during the holiday season. Yesterday, I found out that the service agreement has changed this year and Holly is no longer part of the deal. The only way that we can get Holly for the holidays is to “up” our subscription to the highest level.

I know that to most people, they would just shrug and move along. But, to me, this seems like another greedy ploy of a big company to give you less benefit for the same cost. And, to do that with something Christmas-related is a truly “Bah Humbug” moment for me.

christmas-post-3I pay for Sirius on a yearly basis. My subscription doesn’t renew until April. I nearly cancelled my satellite at the first of October when I realized that this was an expense – even on a yearly basis – that wasn’t really necessary for us anymore.  The only – and I mean only – reason that I didn’t cancel was because I knew that the Christmas music would be on soon. I couldn’t imagine a Christmas that the kids and I weren’t singing along at the top of our lungs to Sirius XM’s Holly.

So, thank you Sirius for the 8 great years. You’ve ushered in some amazing family memories, but I have to call it quits. I hope the few people you have that “up” their subscription just to listen to the great Christmas stations that you offer pays off. But, some of us can’t double the amount we pay – even if we wanted to …

Merry Christmas, Sirius. I’m so sad you fell into the trap. You will be missed by everyone in my family.

Halloween Through the Years!

As we embark on Halloween this weekend, I thought it might be fun to take a little walk through some of our family’s most favorite Halloween costumes!


Sweet little baby Avery. Being the first grandchild on both side has perks and one of those is that you have 20 Halloween outfits. Pajamas, costumes, bibs, tops/pants … one for every occasion. Avery was a puppy for Halloween proper, we took him around to see family and close friends. Of course, we went to Sears for some quick photos. What a precious little puppy!



Welcome to Captain Feathersword from the Wiggles. Avery missed out on Trick or Treating, because he had a 3 day old sister! (The bottom picture was actually taken in the hospital. The good captain came to visit his mom and brand new baby Piper!) Avery did go to the Halloween party at daycare and I can assure you that his candy intake from that event alone was sufficient!


Firefighter Avery and Minnie Mouse hit the mall for Halloween in 2005. If I remember correctly, it was really cold outside so we opted for an indoor experience. (We were still living in Tennessee where they actually have seasons.) They kids had a ball and were so stinkin’ cute! And, yes, that is chocolate dripping down off of Avery’s chin.


Our first Texas Halloween. Lightning McQueen and Dorothy braved a wet and sprinkly Halloween to hit the houses in our neighborhood. This was the first year that they could both get the concept of “walk to the door, ring the bell, say ‘trick or treat’, say ‘thank you’, come back to the sidewalk”. It took a few houses, but they finally got it and were so proud!

This was also the year that we had a blow up ghost on our porch. From then on, everything that was inflatable and set in your yard for decor was a “ghost” according to Piper. So, by Christmas, when all the inflatable Santa’s were out in full force, you can imagine how many “ghosts” she was happy to see!


2007 is, by far, my favorite Halloween! We had just moved into our house and were getting settled. Back in the spring, I found these awesome Dora and Diego costumes at a consignment sale. They were perfect! What I didn’t take into consideration is that a costume that fits a 3 and 4 year old in the spring, will probably not fit them in late October. Funny enough (and as is still the case), the kids just grew taller and not wider … which makes for a Jersey Shore version of Dora and Diego with their matching crop tops and exposed bellies!!! But, oh my stars, they were so cute!!!


2008 is another banner year for the Click kids. This year, Don made this awesome Wall-E costume for Avery. He made it completely from scratch – handpainted, lettered, the works! Piper was Tinkerbell. We bought spray glitter for her hair and she insisted that we use the whole can. I’m absolutely certain that you could see her sparkling from outer space!


Bumblebee and Princess Piper hit the streets in 2009. For all the years of Flower Girl dresses that Piper has, this is the only one that ever transformed into a Halloween costume. This Bumblebee is the most expensive costume we ever bought. I must have had a moment of weakness and caved in.


I tried with my whole life to get Piper to be the girl in Mario – what’s her name? Peach! (Thanks Google) But she had her mind made up that she was going to be a purple witch. This picture is her mean face. And, let’s admit it, Avery is pretty much the cutest Mario ever.


This was the Halloween that almost didn’t happen. Don was really sick during this time and was actually in the hospital on this night. (He was there for 9 days!) He felt like resting, so we ran home and got changed in time to make a few laps around the block with Piccachu and Pinkalicious!


We looked all over the earth for this Tron costume. Literally. I came in a men’s size, but not a boy’s size. I finally found it on Ebay and oh the joy!!! As for little miss Rapunzel – she looked so odd with blonde hair! But, so cute!


This was another year that I loved – Harry Potter and Hermoine! Avery was a dead ringer for young Harry and MANY people have told us that all they can think of when they watch the first Harry Potter movie is Piper because she reminds them of Hermoine.


Robin Hood and Dorothy (round two) headed out on a gorgeous fall night to trick-or-treat with their friends (also brother/sister). They enjoyed trying on a different neighborhood for size and were overjoyed to find that several people were giving FULL-SIZED candy bars! Yes! Score!

So there you have it — what will 2015 hold? I’ll report back :)

Happy 11th Birthday, Piper

Happy Birthday PiperHappy birthday, 11 year old Piper. Where has the time gone? You are so far from being my baby girl now. I feel like I’ve blinked and it’s been 11 years.

You have changed so much throughout this year. You’ve become so independent and responsible. Rarely do I do anything for you anymore – you’ve got it all down pat. You are organized and meticulous about everything. It’s been so amazing to watch you grow in this way.

There is so much of me in you and I have yet to decide if that’s a blessing or a curse! You expect everyone to be as dedicated and committed as you are to the task at hand. Disciplined and determined, you are a fireball when your set your mind to it. I love seeing that trait in you and know it will serve you well in leadership.

Happy Birthday PiperI can always count on you for a great laugh. You are so funny and extremely quick-witted – you always have been. You are fast on your feet with one-liners and it cracks me up.

Here are five of the things that I love most about you at this age: (1) Your “why not me” attitude. You are fearless enough to jump in and try anything once. (2) I  love watching you when you are learning something hard – you chew the side of your mouth. That’s how I know that you are really having to concentrate. (3) You write on your white board each night about what’s coming up the next day – birthdays, special events, etc. It makes me happy that you celebrate each day and truly look forward to what it holds. (4) I love how you love the Lord. You pray the best, most sincere prayers and it makes me know why Jesus loved the children so much. I hope you always remain so genuine in your faith. (5) Finally, your commitment to dance. It’s never comes second. You never complain about anything – hard classes, long hours, stiff competition – you take it as it comes. You have moments that you are disappointed in yourself, but you are so good about turning it around and using it as fuel for whatever is next.

Happy Birthday PiperYou are coming to the end of your elementary school days. When I write to you next year, you will be in junior high. I’m savoring the part of this year that you truly have left to be a little girl. I hope you savor it too. Play with your dolls, your art sets, and your workbooks. Be little. Push your imagination. Relish creativity without the limits you’ll have later on.

I hope this year passes at a snails pace. I’m so thankful for every day I have with you. God has blessed me with the honor to be your mom and I don’t want to miss a second of it! This is YOUR big day — enjoy all it brings!

Proverbs 3:15 says “She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” I know that this verse is true, especially for you!

I love you so, my beautiful girl,


Sale: iPhone 6, iPhone 6Plus

gazelleDoes it seem impossible to get an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus on sale? It’s your lucky day! Now, you can get an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and take up to $40 off the current listing price!

I absolutely love my iPhone 6. The camera is amazing and I love the bigger size. (Truthfully, I wish I had gone with the iPhone 6 Plus when I purchased last year!) But, the phone itself is really a step up from the iPhone 5 I had before.

Shop at Gazelle beginning September 24th starting at 9:00am and you’ll be able to get an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus for up to $40 less than its current price, and if Gazelle doesn’t have the one you want, you can pre-order it!

Here are the details:

  • The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be on sale and available for pre-orders
  • The sale will run 9/24 through 9/30
  • You will be able to get up to $40 less than today’s prices
  • You’ll also be able to pre-order the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus if it’s not currently in stock at Gazelle
    – Product will ship when available (approx. 2-3 weeks)
    – 30-day guarantee honored upon product receipt

Get the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at a great price by shopping Gazelle 9/24 – 9/30!

I have used Gazelle several times in the past and have had no issues. This is a great way to get a “new-to-you” phone at a great price!

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Macy’s Presents: Back to School Shopping Party!

macys.com/btseventsSchool is back in session and being the mom of a tween girl, I can tell you – we are both wanting to enjoy the latest fashions. We love Macy’s because they carry all the brands that we love – fashion, shoes, make-up … it’s all at Macy’s.

When I was contacted about supporting Macy’s Back to School Shopping Party, I was an instant “Yes!”. So what is this party that you are invited to for free? It’s a must-do! Celebrity vlogger, Lindsey Hughes will share her favorite styles for the new school year. What’s a great party without food? Enjoy sips and sweets, a DJ, mini manis, and a photobooth while you are there! Plus, score a free Lindsey Hughes signature totebag with any $35 purchase in mstylelab!*

The event closest to me is at Macy’s Memorial City – Houston, TX – 8/29, 2pm (Featuring Lindsay Hughes herself!). There are events all over the US. For more details on this and other events at your local Macy’s, log onto macys.com/btsevents.

Macy’s, the largest retail brand of Macy’s, Inc., delivers fashion and affordable luxury to customers at approximately 800 locations in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as to customers in the U.S. and more than 100 international destinations through its leading online store at macys.com. Via its stores, e-commerce site, mobile and social platforms, Macy’s offers distinctive assortments including the most desired family of exclusive and fashion brands for him, her and home. Macy’s is known for such epic events as Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks® and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, as well as spectacular fashion shows, culinary events, flower shows and celebrity appearances. Macy’s flagship stores including Herald Square in New York City, Union Square in San Francisco, State Street in Chicago, and Dadeland in Miami and South Coast Plaza in southern California are known internationally and are leading destinations for visitors. Building on a more than 150-year tradition, and with the collective support of customers, employees and Macy’s Foundation, Macy’s helps strengthen communities by supporting local and national charities giving more than $70 million each year to help make a difference in the lives of our customers.

Event subject to change or cancelation. *One per person. No refunds or exchanges. While supplies lasts.
This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Competition Dance: Expenses in Year 4

Well, it’s that time again in competition danceCompetition Dance. We’ve finished year four  and it’s time to break out the spreadsheet and total our expenses.

This year was very different for us. One – we stepped into the world of conventions and Two – we traveled far for nationals. Both of which really added to the bottom line!

Cutting to the chase – Is it a lot of money? Yes. Is there a way to do it cheaper & at a high level? I don’t think so (or not by much).

Here are our grand totals: (Click on the year to read a post on the specific expenses)
Year 1: $8,356.27 – 2 dances
Year 2: $13,565.75 – 5 dances
Year 3: $10,641.91 – 8 dances
Year 4: $18,905.29 – 9 dances

TUITION: The tuition at our studio is $300/month for unlimited classes. That is industry standard in our area. We pay tuition 10 months of the year on a company contract for a total of $3,000. We do have a deal where we can pay upfront prior to the start of the season and get a $500 discount. Most months we pay close to $1,000 in fees not including tuition, so it’s nice to have that out of the way!

CHOREOGRAPHY/CLEANING: We pay a choreography fee for every dance – group, solo, duet/trio. Group dances are $800 or $1000 and divided among the group; solos are $500; duets are $550; trio are $600. Piper competed in 1 solo, 1 duet, and 7 groups. Our total for the year was $3,600.

We typically clean solos once a week for 30 minutes. Our duet was an oddity because it was a junior and a teen dancing together. We didn’t make the schedule for a set weekly cleaning, so we cleaned substantially less than everyone else. Groups were cleaned roughly 2x a month, but what I love about our studio is that group choreo fees also cover the cleanings. It’s great to have that built in!

COSTUMES: We tried a little bit of everything with costumes this year. We did catalog. We did basics and embellished with tons of stones. We did custom. We did off the rack from Macy’s. Like I said, we tried it all. Honestly, they all looked great on stage. Some were more pricey than they should have been, but you live and learn, right? All in all, we spent just over $1,100 on costumes. (If you are in the market, I sell ours!)

Competition DanceCOMPETITION/CONVENTION FEES: This is a major chunk for us, so I’m going to split this into 2 parts: competition fees and convention fees.

(1) Competition fees: We have the option to go to competitions and/or conventions on our off weekends. We have our favorites and tend to go to the ones that are on our end of town. Solos typically run $100-110 and duets/trios/groups run between $55-65 each. You can hit up a competition fairly inexpensively in the grand scheme. We did 5 competitions last year – two as a full company taking every dance, and 3 on our own just taking our solo and twice the duet. Our competition fees came in at $1,400.

(2) Convention fees: Conventions are a different animal. First of all, you can’t just go and compete your solo – you must pay the workshop fee regardless. Our workshop fees ran between $225-295 per convention. Then, after that, you pay for dances that will compete. (Same pricing as competitions). As you can see, these weekends can turn expensive right off the bat sometimes going as high as $700-800 per weekend.

We did 5 conventions. One, we only competed our solo. At two, we only did groups. Another two, we took everything! Our convention fees topped out at $3,000 – more than double our competition fees.

The catch is that your dancer gets to also do the workshop. I’m not completely sold on conventions. But, that’s another post altogether!

p-n-jonneshaConventions can also get expensive if you stay at the hotel overnight. We did not stay the first convention and quickly decided that from then on we would. Piper dances in junior and teen groups which make for late competition nights on Friday and Saturday! Sometimes awards wouldn’t end until close to midnight. By the time we drove home, got settled in bed, and had to be back at the hotel for 8am workshop classes the next day – we met ourselves coming and going. We split a room with another dancer/mom which helped tremendously, but we still spent another $1,000 on hotel even with that!

PACKING UP: I am still absolutely in love with my Dream Duffel. They are so great and such a lifesaver. I now own a medium, large, and Carry-On duffel. (Carry-On duffel review coming soon.) They are well worth the money and their accessories are second-to-none.

TRAVEL: This was huge for us this year. We did a convention in Dallas and a convention nationals in Las Vegas. It was a lot for our family, I’ll admit. But, you have to be a bit savvy. We ended up staying at another hotel in Dallas that was close-by and where we had points. It was a bit of a pain to drive back and forth, but well worth it. Most families after the weekend was over stated that they spent nearly $1,000 on that weekend trip. (Hotel rooms often mean eating out all weekend. It’s much better if your hotel is near a mall or within walking distance of a variety of restaurants.)

With nationals being in Vegas, everyone was vying for flights. One would think that with gas prices dropping this spring – that flight prices would also drop. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Those that just went “mom and dancer” were getting a bargain at $350/seat. Our whole family went, so we used a combination of points and miles and called it our family vacation for the year!

The convention hotel was just a typical strip hotel. I searched and found a Hilton Vacation Club hotel that was connected by a mall (about a 5 minute walk) for the same price. The catch was that it had a kitchen! We ate all of our breakfasts and lunches in the room. (We packed a lunch for Piper and sent it with her each day.) That really helped the bottom line!

Using miles for flights and eating in the room helped costs tremendously. We did go to a show and called in favors from friends for other things. Overall, we finished nationals with a bill of $4,000 not including entry fees.

Next year, we are back to doing a competition nationals and for the first time, we are staying in state. I’ve noted in previous years that nationals has been a $3,000 trip for us. I anticipate that being close to the same this year as well, even with staying in state. Dancing in multiple age divisions means that Piper will dance nearly every day and at all times of the day, so we will most likely need to get a room (or rent a house) for the week. If that’s the case, the only real savings on nationals will be fuel, so I’m just dropping my budget for this week slightly!

Competition DanceSo, here we are, four years later, over $50,000 invested in a tiny little dancer. I can think of so many things that $50k could do for our family. But I also think about a statement Avery (my son, the most supportive brother ever) said right before we left for Vegas “Think of how different our life would be if Piper didn’t dance!”

It would be SOOOO different.

We’ve made incredible friends. We’ve traveled and had some great vacations/trips.

We’ve also seen a child start from scratch and hone a passion for an art. We’ve seen her form friendships that will be lifelong. We’ve seen a work-ethic develop that most adults don’t have. We’ve seen some beautiful performances from her, and we’ve seen her work her tail off to recover from upset.

… and still, to this day, Piper has never said “I don’t want to go to dance.” She aches to go every day and if she had her way would be there every time the door is unlocked!

The money is tight, and gets tighter by the minute it seems. But we’ll continue to make it work. Because, like Avery said, I can’t imagine our life without Piper dancing. And, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that she can dance for as long as her dream is alive.

Inside Out Movie Review

Inside Out

We were so lucky to see Pixar’s newest animated movie Inside Out last week. Our screening took place on June 9 – my son’s birthday. He’s 12, but don’t let that fool you – he’s a huge Pixar fan! All of us were itching to see this newest creation by our favorite film-making team.

As always, the short at the beginning – Lava – was amazing. Lava is the story of a volcano that is in the ocean all alone. It’s a heart-wrenching musical tribute to living life searching for love – knowing it’s close, but so far away. Bring a tissue and prepare to be moved.

Inside Out is an instant classic in my opinion. Is it as good as Toy Story, Nemo, or Cars? I’ll leave everyone to their own thoughts, but it is great. The character development is quick, the animation is impeccable, and the voicing is spot-on.

In this movie, the main characters are the emotions that live inside your head. We are led to believe that there are little “people” that control our joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear. They interact with one another and through their interactions, we respond and thus create our memories. It’s such a fun concept and is truly unique!

What I love most is that this story, in true Pixar fashion, speaks to parents and children in different ways:

As a child, they can completely relate. Good days and bad days with parents and with friends. Moving across the country and the fear/feelings that brings. New school. New house. Even if kids haven’t faced those things personally – it’s presented in such a way that every child (and adult) can grab hold!

As a parent, it made me really reflect on what my child’s core memories are. If 5 memories that shape their life fell out of their mind right now, what would they be? But also, what is their sadness button? What makes them anxious? What brings them immediate joy?

This movie took me through all of my emotions – I laughed, I reflected, and yes – I cried. I loved it. It’s a great summer movie.

My recommendation – best for school-aged children. A definite go-see.

Happy 12th Birthday, Avery

acc-2Good morning, sweet boy! Happy Birthday!!! Today you are 12. My eyes fill with tears as my heart swells knowing that today we get to celebrate you and all you bring to our family.

Here are the 5 things that I love most about you!

1. Your spirit: You are such a compassionate, old soul. You love well and to the fullest – it is inspiring, actually. You hurt for others and carry their burdens. We need a million of you in this world.

2. Your sense of humor: The great thing about you getting older is that your sense of humor is developing as well. When you laugh, you laugh with your whole self. It cracks me up and is so infectious. You get dry humor like no other 12 year old I know. I love that you are the first to laugh at yourself … that trait will get you FAR in life!

3. Your pride: When you are really proud of yourself (as you should be so often), you have this little grin that you do. It’s probably something that very few people notice and I love that too. Often I see it when our eyes meet. It’s my favorite thing.

acc-14. Your brotherly love: I would like to think that I’m your sister’s biggest fan, but I can honestly say that you have me beat. You are so proud when she does well, and you are so upset when things don’t go her way. I wish every sister could experience what Piper has had her entire life in you. She is so lucky!

5. Your selflessness: You are a giver. I find myself being very careful these days. You will always make sure others have before yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s dessert or school supplies! You are constantly saying “No, no — you can take it. I’ll get something else.”

Let’s face it, I could write 1,000 things that I love about you. It’s an endless list. In my lifetime, there’s nothing that I’ve loved more than being a mom. You have made that job exceptionally easy. Are you perfect, no. But, goodness knows that I’m not either. You, however, have made navigating the road far less rocky than others that I’ve seen. I’m so thankful and grateful for God putting you with me. You, Avery Click, are a blessing far greater than anything that I deserve.

Happy Birthday, Avery C.
Your mom

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27