It's not my fault

I have a collection of quotes that I've been saving since I was in seventh grade.  More than twenty years and thousands and thousands of quotes and this morning I heard my new Favorite Quote Ever.




There.  Maybe that conveys how much I love this quote.

Because this quote applies to any person in any situation.  It applies to families, churches, communities, neighborhoods, friends, countries...from the smallest collective of people all the way up to the largest—each of us can apply this quote.
"This may not be our fault, but as a faith-based community, it is our problem."
How good is that!!!

And for all the easily-offendables,  if you want to simplify it to just community, it still applies.

As a family, we constantly have outside circumstances that affect us and what better response to teach our children than this?

This may not be our fault, but as a family, it is our problem.

This concept and mindset is SO GOOD to me because it's accepting that yes, I am a part of this group and yes, I am willing to do the work that needs to be done because this collective of people in this group—my family, my church, my community, my country, or the global-community as a whole—matter to me and they deserve help in making things right and making things better.

This concept screams integrity to me and you all know that it's my hope to become the kind of person where this word, Integrity, would be one of the predominant themes you would see at my funeral.

I don't do resolutions.  I always have a list of goals in my head that I'd like to work toward but I don't put them on a time-table or hold off until the new year to commit to action on them, but it's January and it's still so early in the year that I think I'll make an exception.

This will be my goal this year.

In the big and the little issues that I run into each day, I will train myself with this response.

This may not be my fault, but as a Christian, it is my problem.

When my kids come home in bad moods or have problems with others that are affecting them, I will remember

This may not be my fault, but as their Mama, it is my problem.

Us Mamas do that already, don't we?  Why not apply that elsewhere!

We have homeless living in our cities, we have children living in filth and abuse, we have elderly who can't afford the medicine that they need, we have a nation that is crippled by fear, anxiety, and misinformation.

This may not be my fault, but it is my problem.

I hope you'll read these words and let them into your heart, too.  This is the mindset that will get us over that hill.  This is the mindset that can reconcile differences.  This is the mindset that can make us great again.  Whatever is affecting you or those around you, close the gap between you, stop looking at them as someone you don't know or don't like or don't have anything in common with, they're a part of this community with you.

Their issues may not be your fault, but it is your problem.  

Let's step up and find a way to fix it together.

SPEC-tacular Christmas Lights!

Last night our family made a trek across town to visit Garvan Woodland Gardens to enjoy their Holiday Lights show.  We were especially excited about this visit because I received a new shipment of Holiday Specs 3D Christmas Glasses to test again this year.

If you'll remember, I had the privilege of testing these fun glasses last year, too, so when I got an email from the company asking if I wanted to try out some of their new specs, my immediate answer was "Of course!"  But this year, I knew we needed to go bigger.  And I'm so glad that we did!

When American Paper Optics sent us kits to test both this year and last year, they hooked us up!  We received more than a dozen paper spectacles, in total three pairs of plastic-framed specs (two from this year and one from last year), and even some strings of lights to test them with.  Since they were so generous with us, we decided to share that generosity as well.  Our family picked out our favorite designs to keep and then we shared the love to kiddos at the gardens as well so that they could enjoy the lights in a whole new way.

Kids "lit up" (punny, no?) as we stopped them to give them a set of spectacles and show them the magical transformation from regular Christmas lights to a string of snowmen or reindeer instead!  I'm not sure which was more fun, testing the designs out for ourselves, or seeing the wonder on the little faces as kids experienced it for the first time.

Our littlest one was quite impressed with them, too!

And The Husband made sure to give me a "wow" shot with his glasses, as well!

But seriously, these spectacles are so much fun!  While it's hard to capture in pictures (especially in dark conditions when you're shivering and trying to hold your camera, the spectacles, and a much needed cup of hot chocolate, they just transform the scene into something fun and fantastic!.  

The Snowmen Glasses
The Candy Cane Effect
And for anyone who thinks that money doesn't grow on trees...I have some Holiday Spectacles that prove otherwise!

My Banker Husband said that these spectacles most convey to him what Christmas means.  
And for ease of picture taking, I did have to snap a few shots without the spectacles.  Apparently the auto-focus on my camera doesn't play well with others.  And apparently I am not the photographer that my mom, sister, and my boss are!  

But pictures are never quite as breath-taking as real life is anyway, so at some point you have to put down the camera, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and people around you.  

Speaking of those people, wanna see their face light up?  Grab some Holiday Specs (especially for the little people in your life) and take them on a holiday adventure that will truly stand out!

Merry Christmas from our crazy family!

Through All of It

This week has been a hard week.

So many of my friends and family and even just acquaintances or strangers I see on social media have been struggling this week. There's hurt and there's sickness and there's death and there's just so much pain in the lives of others.

As I was getting ready for work this morning, Colton Dixon's Through All of It was playing through my head and there was such a conflict of feeling in my heart as I listened to it.  This song is one of my heart songs.  A heart song, for me, is a song that just connects to me at any point of my life, no matter what I'm going through.  Sometimes I hear my heart songs and I sing them with joy at the top of my lungs and am grateful for all that God has given me and done for me.  Other times I sing them with a heart full of hurt for whatever trial I'm going through.  Take Farther Along, for instance.  Sometimes I'm the one singing "Cheer up my brother", and sometimes I'm the one being reminded "we'll understand it all by and by".

But it's always interesting to me how the words of these songs can have different meanings, depending on my life's circumstances.

I have won
I have lost
I've got it right sometimes,
but sometimes I did not.
Life's been a journey—
I've seen joy, I've seen regret—
oh but you have been My God
through all of it.

Today as I hear that, I wanted to close my eyes sing it as an anthem of praise for God's care for me.  But I overwhelmingly felt it in my heart as a prayer and a cry for God's mercy and peace for others.  Because too many of you are hurting right now.  And it seems selfish to sing it any other way.

When I was in college I heard a sermon that connected with me.  It was preached out of Psalms 57, which was written as David fled Saul and hid in a cave.  At the beginning of this chapter David is crying out to God and telling God of his troubles and his fears and his worries.  But by the end he is singing praise for God and his faithfulness.  David was still hiding in the cave even as he praised God, but he knew that God would be beside him because He had always been beside him.

In this sermon, the preacher made the statement that everyone we know is either going into a cave, in a cave, or coming out of a cave.  Such is life.  Hard times abound and if we're not dealing with them, it's because we've just dealt with them or we're about to.

But here's the thing, these hard times that we go through—this pain and difficulty that you are facing right now—this is your story.

This is your story.

This is the testimony that God is giving you to share with others in their hard times.  Today's challenge is also tomorrow's reminder that you've got this.

You've got this.

Not only are you stronger than you think, not only do you have so many loved ones giving you all of their strength and support, but you also have the strength of The Almighty behind you.

As constant and continual as the difficulties are, God is even more so.  He literally is our Champion.  He fought and died for us even though we are not and never will be deserving of such love and sacrifice.  In the big and the little and even the unknown, God's got this.

God's got this.

He won't fail you, and even though it may seem that He's far away sometimes, He is always there.  He's never been late.  He's never left you alone.  He's never given up on you.  Don't give up on Him.

Don't give up on Him.

Right now, you're hurting and you're overwhelmed and you're doing your best to trust him; you're reminding yourself of His Faithfulness.  Take a breath.  Close your eyes.  Listen to this song.  Find peace in it because soon enough you will be singing it to others.  God's going to get you through this.

And this is who You are
more constant than the stars up in the sky
all these years of my life, I,
I look back and I see You
right now I still do,
and I'm always going to.

You have been my God through all of it

So be strong and courageous! 
Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. 
For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. 
He will neither fail you nor abandon you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

Crystal Wash Product Review

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It's occasionally been both questionable and debatable as to whether I'm an adult.  I can be crass and juvenile and all sorts of things that are "unbecoming of an adult".  I jokingly used "explosive diarrhea" in conversation at work yesterday without batting an eye.  I wouldn't have thought anything of it had my boss not been a bit taken aback by it.  The same boss that I hid behind a wall to jump-scare earlier this week.  I have the body of an adult, but it's not often that I actually feel (or act, I'm told) like an adult.

But alas, I have arrived.

I am officially a full-fledged adult.

I have a 7-seat SUV that is littered with my children's crushed animal crackers, Pokemon cards, empty water bottles, and—for some unexplainable reason—dirty socks.  But this does not make me an adult.

I pay bill after bill after bill and am actually reasonably caught up on current events and torments, but this does not make me an adult.

What brought me into the realm of actually being an adult?  I realized it when I got excited about a laundry product.  And then I got to test that product, and now I'm sharing my thoughts and experiences about that product with you.

And let me get this out there to begin with, I sought this company out.  I found their product on a blog and was intrigued by it (to be honest, they hooked me with the promise of "save hundreds per year".)

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Cause seriously, I'm all about saving money.

So I went to the company's webpage, and I found that there was more to these than the promise of saved money.  These pods have been proven to be as effective as laundry detergent and sanitize as well as laundry detergent.  Plus they don't use chemicals, dyes, perfumes or any of that stuff, they use SCIENCE.  (Insert inner-geek squeak here).  They used minerals that have anti-biotic and antibacterial properties (borrowing their wording) to develop bioceramics that both disinfect and deep clean your laundry.

I continued to research this product and googled reviews from customers who had tried the product, but having two kids (one in diapers), a husband, and two pets (one requiring over-priced prescription food) I just wasn't sure about forking over $60 on the promise of saving so much more.  Perhaps I've been reviewing products too long, I've gotten used to trying things out and then telling others how much I love (or don't love) them.

So I decided that I wanted to product test these, too.  I shot the company a proposal via email and was pleased to get a positive response back from them.  The following week, I had the product in my hand and soon-after in my washer.

After a week and a half of testing and some pretty smelly loads of sweaty laundry, I couldn't be happier with the Crystal Wash Laundry Pods.  Honestly.  They're not a miracle product that suddenly eliminates any need for pre-treaters and there will be some items (as there typically are with traditional detergent) that you have to re-treat and wash again.  But these clean my laundry just as well as those expensive little Tide pods I've been using for the past two years.

Wanna see some proof?

Here you go!

Ehxibit One

Beckett's cute little Fire Truck romper got tossed to the side after a hasty and unexpected change of clothes as we were walking out the door.  The curdled milk that he had thrown up on it sat on the outfit for days.  It smelled delightful when I discovered it.  (read with extreme sarcasm)  Typically I would hit it with some Dreft pre-treater before tossing it in the wash, but this was in my very first load of laundry with the Crystal Wash pods and I wanted to see if it would come out both looking and smelling clean.

It's not easy to tell based on the pictures, but there is dried milk between the top two snaps, this came out without problem and the smell was 100% gone.

Before (left) and after (right)

Exhibit Two

Exhibit two is one of Jason's t-shirts.  He is forever getting grease spots, food stains, and sweat all over his clothes.  I'm told that all three are just a part of being a man.  But it makes doing laundry less fun (particularly when you pick up a shirt and can both feel and smell the sweat, but that's neither here nor there.)

This particular shirt had some food splatter on it that I suspected was barbecue sauce.  Again, I did not pre-treat the stain at all because I wanted to see how effective the devices were.  And again, I was pleased.  The stain almost completely came out (I really had to look to find it) and the smell of all that The Husband accomplished in this shirt was gone as well.

Before (left) and after (right)

Exhibit Three

I never realized how hard it is to take a picture of a grease stain before.  In the left picture you can see a dark line across the lower left side of the pocket and if you look carefully, you can see a large grease stain over the mid-to-right lower side of the pocket.  In the after picture on the right, the dark line is still there (I have no luck with these car-related rub stains with regular detergent and pre-treater, either), but the large stain of olive oil is gone.  

Before (left) and after (right)

Exhibit Four

And finally, to make sure that each individual in the household is represented, below is one of Ty's smelly, filthy play shirts.  For those of you who have boys, you know that on active days they have this smell that mixes sweat and wet-dog and is sprinkled with an even less pleasing unidentified odor.

This shirt REEKED.  It was also covered in stains of food, dirt, grass, and who knows what else.  In it went into the laundry, and out it came.  Noticeably cleaner, but still needing some pre-treater and a second wash.  I should have taken a third picture to show it all clean and back on a hanger now but I forgot.  
Before (left) and after (right)

The Results

Again, I'll say that this isn't some miracle product that will magically eliminate every laundry headache that you've grown accustomed to battling for the last X number of years of your life.  Those will still be there, but Crystal Wash is every bit as good as regular laundry detergent and it truly is going to save me money.  

I was paying 31.7 cents per pod for the Tide+Febreeze Pods that I was previously using.  For 1,000 loads (the life-span of Crystal Wash), I would spend more than $300.  Compare that to the regular price of $59.99 (stay tuned, I have a discount for you!), and I'm saving more than $250.

Here's the math.

Added Perks

Not only has Crystal Wash eliminated the expense and the mess of laundry detergent for me, but it's also pleasantly reduced the smells in the washer for me.  You know the smells.  Maybe you leave that load of laundry in the washer a little longer than you intended...three days longer to be exact, or maybe it's just been a while since you've run the clean cycle on your machine and you forgot to leave the lid open when you moved the clothes to the dryer, your washer (and the clothes washed in it) start to get that smell.  The oily smell of a washer that needs to be cleaned or the stink of clothes that sat, wet, in your closed up machine for days.

I opened my washer last night expecting to be hit in the face with that smell from the clothes that I washed on Sunday.  (Don't pretend like you don't do this, too).  Instead, no smell smacked me in the face, it wasn't until I picked the clothes up and sniffed them that I could tell they definitely needed to be rewashed, but even then the odor was not nearly as strong as what it was.

And I believe this goes back to a theory that my dad shared with us a few years ago.  There are a lot of petroleum based products used in liquid detergent and liquid fabric softener, over time the oil in these products builds up in your machine and this build up develops that smell.  What if those same oils are building up in our clothes over time?  That is, after-all, why it's recommended that you use little to no detergent with fleece materials (fun fact for the day).  Using dry detergent cuts back on those smells (which is why I alternate to dry detergent periodically), but the bio-ceramics in Crystal Wash will help eliminate those smells, too.

Long story short, I like them.

They clean my clothes well and without chemicals, they save me money, they make my clothes smell clean (note:  clean is the absence of smell, not the presence of a "clean" fragrance), and I had nothing to lose in trying them.  And that's not just because I had the privilege of product testing them, it's because they have a 60-day money back guarantee.  

If you're even considering these a little bit, I recommend that you try them.  These not only make laundry easier on me, but they make it almost fool proof for The Husband and The Oldest Boy.  There's no worry about too much or too little detergent, there's no mess to clean up or empty box or bottle to throw away.  It's just two softball sized plastic pods that I put in the washer and leave there.  When I run a load I log into the handy little app (does your detergent have an app?) and I press the washing machine and it tracks for me how many more washes I have left until I need to "recharge" the bioceramics (by simply leaving them in the sun for a day) or replace them (after 1,000 washes).

It gets better

If you're interested in trying Crystal Wash, now is the perfect time!  The company has shared a link with me that will earn you 20% OFF your purchase, plus you still have the 60-day money back guarantee.  

But if you try them, please do me a favor and let me know so I can follow up with you and make sure that you like them.  I hope you're as pleased with them as I am.

If you have questions about this product, please feel free to ask me, I'd be happy to share my thoughts and experiences.

I received this product in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I was not given monetary compensation for this post or any other posts made in relation to the Crystal Wash company or product.  The results, opinions, and experiences are my own and are not influenced by the company or any other entity or individual.  

More than you realize

I've been seeing the same few ads on Facebook lately.  They're not interesting, they're not relevant, and they are getting kind of annoying after seeing them over and over again.

So today I just clicked "Hide Ad" to get rid of it and noticed that Facebook had a message where I could change my advertising settings.

Always one to give feedback, I clicked on the link and I was amazed to see how much Facebook had learned about me.  I'm Tech-Savy so I know that every app I connect to my Facebook Account teaches them a little bit more about me.  I also know how much my computer tells Facebook about me every time I access their website from my phone or computer.

So I was completely unsurprised to see myself in the following categories:

          Gmail Users (my logon is a gmail address, so that was a given)
          Primary OS Windows 10
          WiFi Connection
          All iOS Devices
          3G (US)
          Primary Browser: Chrome

I thought it was interesting, but—again—not surprising that I was in these groups:
          iPad Air 2
          iPhone 5S
          All Mobile Devices
          Smartphone Owners

And given that I had it listed on my profile, I wasn't surprised to see current and past employers and schools listed on this page, too.

The things that did surprise me, though, are the things that I never even considered that a company would keep tabs on or take time to get to know about me.

Lifestyle & Culture

          (08-12 Years) Parents with Preteens
          (01-02 Years) Parents with Toddlers
          Away from hometown
          Away from family
          US Politics (Very Conservative)
          Likely to Engage in Politics (Conservative)
          Photo Uploaders
          Technology early adopters
          Family Based Households

News & Entertainment

          The Big Bang Theory
          Science Fiction Convention
          Fan Convention


          Nathan Fillion (Well of course, has he ever made a bad show?)

Travel, Places & Events

Here Facebook has made note of the town that I live in, the county that I live in, and even the fact that I live in the county seat.

As both a millennial and someone who piddles and fiddles around with gadgets and technology, I'm not at all surprised that tabs are being kept on us.  Knowing that every little decision we make can be used in advertising and marketing doesn't at all surprise me, but seeing the categories that I've been lumped into just simply based on what I share, like and comment on...that kinda brings things home to me.

And it makes me think about my witness as a Christian, too.

I'm grateful and proud that some of my labels are "Christianity" and "Very Conservative" and "Family Based Households".  How humiliating would it be if my labels were associated with inappropriate websites or secret behaviors?  What if Facebook was telling advertisers things about me that I wouldn't even tell my closest friends?  How would I feel if I stood before everyone I knew and had that list scrolling behind me for everyone to read?  I didn't find anything embarassing on mine...but I also didn't have a Facebook page back before I was a mom.  My teen years weren't documented on social media.  A good portion of my mistakes (thankfully) haven't been immortalized through the internet.

What would our kids marketing tags say?  What will they say when they're our age?

Maybe now is a good time to stop thinking about what to say on Facebook and start thinking about what our Facebook says about us...

Merry Christmas from us Crazy Cats!

Starting off the Christmas Season with some merry wishes from those crazy cats: Jason, Ashley, Ty & Beckett.

A Trekkie Christmas | Make it So

We have a new favorite Christmas Carol at our house now. Even The Husband in all his Scrooge-ness had to smile in merriment as we watched this video below.