I am a reader. I’ve always been a reader. I learned to read around age three, according to my mother. She told a story of being on the way to Florida (oh look, another Disney reference) and suddenly I started reading the billboards and road signs. For months before this, she’d thought that I had memorized my favorite books from her reading them to me, but apparently I was actually reading them.

As I got a little older, I found escape in the adventures of Laura Ingalls, Trixie Belden and The Babysitters Club. To me, the characters in books were friends. I felt as if I knew them and I could see just how their personalities could fit into my own life. When a series ended or I couldn’t get my hands on the next book, I would just start over at the beginning to keep the feeling of having my “friends” in my life.

This love of reading and connecting to characters in books has remained as an adult. Though my tastes have matured somewhat, I still connect with the characters in a book and love nothing more than to close the cover (or shut down the Kindle app) wanting to know what happens to my friend next.

I recently was offered the opportunity to review Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems by Rhoda Janzen. A friend told me I just HAD to read it, as she had read Ms. Janzen’s earlier book Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home and had loved it.

Now I’m one for starting at the beginning, but life has been busy and my original intention of reading the earlier book kept getting pushed back until I finally caved and just started reading the newer one. My friend was right. I was pulled into Ms. Janzen’s story immediately and true to form, walked away wanting more from her. Rhoda is now a friend and I want to hear more tales from her life.

In this book, the author shares about her struggle with breast cancer, her romantic relationship with a man she’d just begun dating a few months prior to diagnosis and her evolving faith and relationship with God. While each facet of her story was enjoyable and her voice is laugh-out-loud funny, I connected most with her tales of finding faith within a Pentecostal church. Having spent time in a Pentecostal church as a child, I can only begin to imagine how jarring that experience was at first, coming from a Mennonite background.

If you enjoy an author with an irreverent and humorous voice, I highly recommend this book. It addresses some of the more serious and somber points of life in a way without actually being serious and somber. I closed the book having been given some wonderful reminders of what faith truly means, while having a few good belly laughs along the way and walked away with a newfound friend.

 Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review, but opinions are my own. Affiliate links are included in this post.

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Our Day Out With Thomas

by Shannan on October 2, 2011

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind! Starting with our weekend away in Lancaster, PA for the Day Out With Thomas event and other fun local attractions (a whole series of posts about that bunch of awesome coming this week) and continuing through the SheStreams conference last weekend, I’ve been an on-the-go gal. Finally this weekend I’m finally getting a few minutes to digest all of the excitement and settle back into routine.

On Friday afternoon, A came home a little early from work and we set off on our adventure. It’s only about a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive to the Lancaster area for us, so unlike our Disney road trips, there was no need for an early start. The boys could barely contain their excitement, as they knew we were headed off to visit an old and dear friend – Thomas the Tank Engine.

We checked into the hotel for the evening (more coming about that later) and grabbed a bite to eat. I was bribed into taking the kids for a short swim in the indoor pool/water playground and then brought them back for bed. We needed to get some rest before our big day!

They were up with the sun, as usual, and we headed toward Strasburg, ready for an exciting Day Out with Thomas.  Our first stop was the Choo-Choo Barn, which was a perfect warm up for our upcoming train rides. It was too cool for just a paragraph, so it’s getting its own post tomorrow.

After spending some time marveling over the awesome model train layouts and popping into the Thomas store there, it was time to head up the road for our turn to ride the True Blue Engine! While the boys have seen and ridden Thomas once before, the excitement level when they first laid eyes on him this trip was the same. “There he is! It’s the REAL Thomas!”

He's a really useful engine!

We arrived on site around 11:30, but weren’t scheduled for our turn on the train until 1:45. We picked up our tickets and decided to venture across the street to the Train Museum as our first stop. If you attend a Day Out with Thomas event in Strasburg, DO NOT skip this museum. While it is not part of the event itself and is an additional cost, it is well worth the expense if you’ve got train lovers in your family.

After checking out all the engines, coaches and train cars on display at the museum, we strolled back outside to spend some time enjoying the Day Out with Thomas extras. The hand cars are probably our #1 favorite thing to do, beyond riding the train itself. The best thing about the cars if you ask the boys? Bumping each other. Go figure.

Catch me if you can, big bro!

Once they had their turn there, it was almost time for the train! We walked around for a couple more minutes while we waited for the line to open up for our session, deciding what we were hitting next and then got in line for Thomas, just in time for the sky to open up and pour on us.

A little rain couldn’t dampen our spirits though! We still climbed aboard with a spring in our step and settled in to a coach that the boys decided was “Clarabel”. If you attend a Day Out with Thomas event, be sure to take advantage of the photographers who wander through the train snapping family pictures. While the prints are a little pricey($20 for 2 4×6 prints with novelty cardboard display frames), if you’re like me, pictures that include everyone are few and far between.

Excuse my drowned rat I said, the sky opened up on us right before we boarded.

Once we finished our Thomas ride, we had about an hour left to take advantage of the other events that were offered on site as part of our tickets. We took a spin on the mini steam engine (so cool!!), got Thomas tattoos, spent a little time playing on the train and Mega Blocks tables that were set up under the big tent, and of course, did a little souvenir shopping. There were other train rides, plus photo opps with Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt, however we choose to skip these due to lines and the time crunch.

D's getting inked!

Coolest little mini steam engine!

We finished our day with a second train ride on the regular Strasburg Railroad steam train (not included in our Thomas ticket), which was the perfect way to relax for a few minutes before heading back to the hotel to change for dinner.

Told you someone needed a little downtime before we went back to change...

The Day Out with Thomas events are definitely a crowd-pleaser for families whose children love Thomas or any kind of train. There is plenty to do that is included in the ticket price, plus lots of other extras at-cost. My only complaint was that the free offerings closed at around 3:30. I wish we’d had more time to squeeze in a little more! I hadn’t realized that when I decided to do other things first. I am so happy that we had another chance to spend a day with Thomas. Once again, we made memories that our boys will treasure forever.

Interested in attending a Day Out with Thomas Event yourself? Visit the Day Out with Thomas website to see dates through the end of the year (it will return to Strasburg in November) and keep checking back for information about next year’s tour!

Disclosure: We received free tickets to the Day Out with Thomas event in Strasburg, PA in exchange for this post. All opinions are our own.

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Team Umizoomi Preschool Math Kit Review and Giveaway *Closed*

August 15, 2011

As much as I am in denial that K is starting Kindergarten in a few weeks, to be followed by D next fall, I have been working as much as I can to get them prepared for school. They’re both home with me all day, so we rely on workbooks, computer games and educational TV […]

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Pretty Neat Review and Giveaway

March 14, 2011

Organization is something of a dirty word around my house. I get one area cleaned up, and by the time I get through the next one, the first is a disaster zone again. I’ve never been one to claim to be domestic, by any means and I came by it honestly. I grew up in […]

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Tassimo T20 Brewbot Review and Giveaway – Closed

December 16, 2010

Here’s the post where I admit my addiction to coffee. Shocking, right? I sorta kinda have to start my day with coffee (or some other form of caffeine) or I am seriously not a fun person to be around. Besides the addiction, I find nothing more enjoyable than relaxing with a latte…or cappuccino…or some other […]

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Virtual Holiday Extravaganza for Toys for Tots – Giveaway – Closed

December 13, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was invited by some of my favorite Philly bloggers to join them in a fabulous fundraiser for Toys for Tots. Unfortunately, due to timing and logistics, I wasn’t able to join them at the Holiday Extravaganza on December 9th, but instead I, along with several other fabulous bloggers, was given […]

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iGo Charge Anywhere Review and Giveaway – Closed

December 10, 2010

Anyone who has spent even five minutes at a conference with me this year knows I have battery issues. Between tweeting and obsessively checking email and taking pics, my battery drains within a few short hours. When I met the people from iGo at the Type-A Mom conference back in September, I was seriously impressed […]

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Back to School Fun from RoseArt & Board Dudes

September 20, 2010

Our Fill The Backpack campaign is coming to an end, but many of the goodies inside will be tons of fun throughout the year. As hubby spent a couple of years at the Art Institute after high school, anything in the realm of art supplies are always a big hit around here. The fun items […]

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Leapfrog Leapster Exporer and Tag Reader

September 19, 2010

We had loads of fabulous companies donate their products for our Fill The Backpack campaign. I will have to say that one of my favorites would be the products that we received from LeapFrog. I have reviewed products from the Leap Frog lines before and once again, they have produced happy kids and a happy […]

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Marmaduke on DVD and Fill The Backpack Giveaway #2

September 15, 2010

One of my favorite memories as a child was reading the comic strips in the Sunday paper with my grandfather, grandmother, dad or whoever else I could sucker into getting into a chair for some snuggling and giggling. Marmaduke was always a hit. Every week, that big, lumbering Great Dane would find himself in another […]

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