They Serve Bagels in Heaven

I received a free review copy of “They Serve Bagels in Heaven” through the Intro NYC Blogger Network for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Irene Weinberg writes the love story of her lifetimes (yes, that “s” is intentional) with husband Saul following his death in a car accident that she survived. The narrative is told through both her voice and his, a collection of the sessions she has with mediums and healers. It is the process of how she comes to live beyond Saul’s death and live out her life purpose…one she determined following a violent death in another lifetime.


So, where do the bagels come into play? Well, I admit that I snatched up the opportunity to read this book because I thought it would be a light-hearted story about how Saul let Irene know all was well and that he was still able to get a bagel in Heaven (that perhaps was a memory of something they shared). This book’s message wasn’t a funny recollection of the crispy yet chewy treats my husband and I enjoy together, yet it was a more serious account of Irene’s healing. And that’s okay if it is something you are looking for. Me, a new mom, kind of struggled through some of the book, yet got the underlying message…bagels, whatever your “thing” is, that filter will be in your Heaven / your soul, whether the living or deceased can take comfort in knowing love can carry on after death.

This read was definitely filled with descriptive narratives and plenty of reasons to believe in something greater. It was moving and beautiful for healing a hurting soul. Recommended for anyone going through the loss of a spouse or anyone needing to be reminded of the power of true love / hope for tomorrow.

You can read more and purchase They Serve Bagels in Heaven on Irene Weinberg’s site, . You’ll also find her on Twitter @bagelsinheaven

Three Ways to Prepare Kids for New Experiences

For many kids, we are embarking on the end of the school year. It’s a time to say good-bye to friends and teachers. Our kids will be spending time at home and maybe catching some Vacation Bible School throughout the summer, but you might be sending your kid to summer camp or to a new sitter for the summer. With this in mind, I put together a few tips to help kids prepare for new experiences.

Three Ways to Prepare Kids for New Experiences

1. Give them the details. You’ll want to cater the amount of details you give to your child based on their age and understanding; however, if they know what is going to happen, it will make it a lot easier. When our kids go to VBS with my parents, I tell them what week of the summer it will be / show it to them on the calendar, tell them what church it will be at / do a drive-by of the location if they haven’t been there before, and remind them that Pappy will be doing the prayers and Grammie will be leading crafts. This lets them know a general idea of what is about to happen so that they aren’t just thrown into the mix of kids and can expect the number of days they’ll be away from us.

2. Set rules and expectations. Just like when you prepare a new meal, you expect that your child will give the new experience a try. Even if you ask them to just give it 30 minutes, let your child know that you want them to give it their best shot and that you’ll be proud of them while they try the new thing. Remind them that there are rules that they’ll need to follow, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have fun.

3. Talk about the Familiar. Perhaps you’ll want to read a book like Ally-saurus & the First Day of School to give them an example of a new experience and how it can turn out differently than they hope yet not be so bad. Or maybe talking about another time they did something new and how proud of them you were / a new friend they made / a fun craft they did will help.

Sure, these tips won’t make it absolutely 100% without tears, but should alleviate some of the struggles as your child (and you!) embark on a new experience. Good luck, and come back and tell us what worked for you.

Have I ever mentioned that I was a PK (pastor’s kid) and moved a lot in my life? That means I went to a lot of new schools, attended a lot of church camps / Bible Schools and had to make new friends. While this doesn’t make me an expert at advice for new experiences, I hope my life lessons will help your child! 


You can pick up a copy of “Ally-saurus & the First Day of School” at book retailers (suggested retail price is $14.95). It is written and illustrated by Richard Torrey and published by Sterling Children’s Books.

With colorful illustrations that expertly capture the diverse personalities of Ally and her classmates, Ally-saurus & the First Day of School encourages young readers to embrace their differences while also preparing them for new experiences, such as a big move, a new summer camp, or, as in the book, a new school. Add in a charming heroine, a delightful surprise ending, and Walter—a boy in love with his bright, yellow lunchbox—and you have a fun and hilarious read-aloud story that will leave children eager for more of Ally and her imaginative new friends.

Source: Barnes and Noble
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Language Adventure

When I was in high school, taking a second language was a requirement for only two years. At this point, I probably know as many words in French (my language of choice) as my kids know words in Spanish and Chinese (thanks to popular kids’ television shows). But I am never afraid to flex my language muscles when giving the kids reminders to say please and thank you by asking them to say it in French or Spanish. Recently, I took the big kids on a language adventure as we read two new books by Abigail Samoun.

The pair of books from the Little Traveler series by Samoun we were asked to read and review were “How Penguin Says Please!” and “How Tiger Says Thank You!”. Both take readers around the world teaching them how to say “please” and “thank you” in seven languages (plus English). There’s the more common French and Spanish, but also included are Russian, Arabic (another semi-familiar language in our home due to Greg’s faith), Hindi, Mandarin, and Japanese. Samoun is kind to parents in providing the pronunciation guide for each language, too. (I am so thankful for this because sometimes I guess and sound like a fool, dhanyavaad, Abigail!)

Not only do the books take children on a language adventure, but illustrator Sarah Watts has drawn scenes from the countries along the path of the animals’ travels and a map to put a geographical lesson spin on the read, too.

Both books are produced by Sterling Publishing and retail for $6.95. They are board books and I think that they would be great gifts for any child ages 0-6. “Onegaishimasu” check out How Penguin Says Please! and How Tiger Says Thank You!, “Arigato”! (Please and thank you in Japanese.)

How Penguin Says Please
Source: Barnes and Noble
How Tiger Says Thank You
Source: Barnes & Noble
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Sleepy Kitty and Sleepy Puppy

Part of our bedtime routine is to read books with all four kids. Sometimes it is a struggle to get the big kids to do the whole “PJs, potty, and brush teeth” deal in a quick fashion. They do enjoy a asking for all.the.things right at bedtime. So, it’s no surprise that they had schema for Sleepy Kitty and Sleepy Puppy, two new bedtime story books on our shelf.

Sleepy Puppy
Source: Barnes & Noble
Sleepy Kitty
Source: Barnes and Noble

These two photo books share the story of a kitten and puppy who are trying to stay awake. Like my kids, they want “one more” ‘lil bit of attention before they shut their eyes and catch some zzz’s. The big kids (ages 6 and 4) were able to read the books to the twins (who are too young to appreciate the adorable photos of cats and dogs). Both books quickly became a favorite and we read them over and over a few times (oh, the sneaky way to extend bedtime) the past few nights.


Sleepy Kitty tells the story of mischievous kittens sneaking in requests before bedtime while Sleepy Puppy tells the story story of rascal puppies begging for more time in their day. Both are brought to us by Sterling Publishing and are available for a suggested retail price of $6.95. The fact sheet I received suggests these board books are for kids up to 3 years old; however, because my big kids still like to grab a picture book (especially ones they can read the words in), it’s on our shared shelf and not just in the nursery. Pick up this pair for your next baby shower – and tell the mama it will come in handy when their firstborn refuses to just go to sleep. (Both books are available at book retailers and through Sterling Publishing.

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A Dozen Cousins

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A Dozen Cousins
Source: Sterling Books


Up until recently, Arianna was one girl in the “next generation” of cousins. She’s still the only girl on my dad’s side of the family (with three other boys), but I am not convinced that bothers her…especially after reading A Dozen Cousins as a recent bedtime story.

From Sterling Children’s Books:

What’s life like for one little girl with TWELVE male cousins? Not easy! When Anna’s mischievous family comes for a visit, there’s never a dull moment. They put a lizard in her hat, read her secret diary, and even use her skirt as a teepee. But when push comes to shove, would Anna have it any other way? Loaded with infectious humor and detailed illustrations, A DozenCousins (Sterling Children’s Books, February 2015) will have families large and small smiling along with its ever happy heroine and her big, boisterous boy family.

A Dozen Cousins, written by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Sam Usher, is a delightful story about Anna, one girl with twelve male cousins. The boys (love how diverse they are!) come for a visit and are up to typical boy fun. Mischievous ‘lil ones, they are!


My kids loved the hilarious illustrations in this quick read and laughed along with me as we identified with things our girl “among the boys” has been through. It was a great bedtime story and one I’ve been asked to read again, just in the few days we’ve had it.

Even better, we found out that this book was autobiographical about author Lori Haskins Houran who “grew up with tons of cousins”. Illustrator Sam Usher takes Lori’s story and pairs it up with adorable drawings up Anna and her cousins.

This book will be available through Sterling Children’s Books in February 2015 for a suggested retail price of $14.95; however, you can win your own copy to share with your ‘lil ones right here. Good luck!

A Dozen Cousins


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Source: Sterling Books


I am staring at my phone, praying for adult interaction. I want it to buzz or ding or light up with a friend’s face. I’m craving something to do as I stare out the dining room window at the gross winter day. And I am expecting my phone to give me that. I feel alone even though my Facebook friends list is over 400 people and a “whopping” 1400+ follow me on Twitter. I’m ignoring the fact that there are photos that could be scrapbooked, booties that could be crocheted (if only I’d learn), or freezer meals to make. I just want someone to say they like me or something I’ve posted.

Maybe I am suffering from what author Orianna Fielding describes as ‘digital overload’ in her book, unplugged: how to live mindfully in a digital world. I was sent this book because of this blog, but quite a few people in my life would probably say there was some divine intervention that placed it in my hands. Maybe so. But I have excuses for why I crave my technologies — I moved to a town where I know a handful of people (thanks to the internet, by the way) and am “too far” from some of my closest friends and family to see them in person like we used to; several of my college and post college friends live in other states – we have to stay connected; and I have family all over the country. How can I not want to be connected? Alas, I read the book and found some helpful information in it.

Orianna gives tips like:

•                    DO NOT sleep with your smartphone.

•                    Meal times, whether at home or in a restaurant, are a unique opportunity to connect with family, friends, and loved ones – NOT our smartphones. Keep them off the table.

•                    Create a “sanctuary space” – a digital free space at home where you can reconnect with yourself.

•                    Use every opportunity to get up from your desk and walk away from your computer/smartphone.

•                    Talk to your co-workers in person or on the phone rather than always sending them an email.

•                    Stop and look around once in a while!  You can’t experience life through a 2” backlit screen.

•                    Physical contact is important. Engage your five senses and touch things other than a digital device.

•                    Experience the moment and capture it in your mind, tech-free, instead of always reaching for your smartphone to take a picture.


I don’t disagree with her – these tips definitely have a place in our “being ‘on’ 24/7” world, and that we need to “manage digital overload and find a more mindful way of living”. As I read the book, I quickly realized I was guilty of 4 of the 12 signs of digital overload (plus several others I don’t want to admit I am) and need to make a point to have more in person interaction. Seriously, I’d rather see people than just interact online, but I lately I’ve felt not many people want to meet up and grab a cup of coffee or just be together (several “parties” I’ve hosted recently where 2 people show up make me think this!). At the same time, I do cherish my online community, so it’s a give and take.

unplugged has sections on the three areas of our lives that technology has impacted us (live, work, and play) as well as ways to get over the overload (pause/disconnect, reconnect, rewind, reset). There are very helpful tips throughout the book (in addition to those above), even ways to get around feeling like you have to be connected for work (guilty), actually go to lunch, and poignant thoughts (sitting is the new smoking – you can tell that to my sciatic nerve). You’ll find a digital detox plan (I won’t be doing this yet, but am glad I’ll have it on hand) and even retreats for those most deeply in need of unplugging.

Let’s all start with something simple, though. An hour a day, put your phone on silent. Leave it behind and see what happens. (Last time I did this, my husband was headed to to the ER with our kids in tow, oops…) And maybe together we can prepare for 24 hours of unplugging (March 6-7, more details on What do you think?


Unplugged will be available from Sterling Publishing in February for a SRP of $14.95, or you can enter the giveaway below to get a copy now! (Ends 2/1 at 11:59 PM.)



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Back in October, just after I announced I was pregnant, we were sitting in the pool at Disney and my cousins left me with all the kids and hopped over to the bar for a drink. Admittedly, I was a little sad – not because I was left with 6 screaming and splashing kids (one who was repeatedly kicking me in the stomach) plus the two in utereo, but because I would have given anything to have a sweet, fun [non-alcoholic] drink along with them. If only I had taken my copy of MOMOSAS along as a guide to come up with a fun drink I could have asked them to bring me back.

Source: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Source: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

MOMOSAS (Fun Alcohol-Free Drinks for Expecting Moms), by Paul Knorr, is a book filled with over 130 non-alcoholic drinks for anyone who might be like me and want a fun drink without the alcohol (expecting moms, nursing moms, supportive dads, people in training, people abstaining).

With everything from Punchless Piña Coladas and Virgin Banana Daiquiris, to smoothies, shakes, sparklers, and spritzes, pregnant women can finally enjoy happy hour instead of sitting on the sidelines for 9 months.

I love the names (and tastes) of these drinks. Yeah, many of the names are a bit baby-based, but that is pretty much all I have on my mind these days anyhow. Doesn’t a Pitter-Patter or Smooth Delivery sound good? I mean, I know it’s cold out there in Pittsburgh today, but sometimes kicking back and relaxing with a fun drink can warm up these cold days, right?

You can find these fun recipes in MOMOSAS by picking up the book (published by Sterling Publishing) for a suggested retail value of $12.95 – a nice addition to a “Congrats” card for the newest expecting mama in your life, right? (Here it is on Amazon.) BUT, I’ve been given a copy to give away  and  a recipe to share with you!  (Scroll down for the giveaway – it ends 1/18 at 11:59 PM and there are options to enter daily.)


1 Part Lemonade

1 Part Apple Juice

Splash Grenadine

Shake with ice and strain over ice in a tall glass.

Pooh Bear Page 81

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Time for a Bath

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My ‘lil Burghers love to take baths, but maybe yours do not. Getting dirty is fun, but getting clean isn’t always something they enjoy, right? InTime for a Bath, the bunnies your children may know from Phillis Gershator and David Walker’s Time for a Hug show kids how much fun the activities leading up to and including taking a bath can be.


The storyline of Time for a Bath runs through the four seasons, playing in different environments like mud puddles or summer sunshine causing melty ice cream. (The seasons really make me miss summer on days like we’ve had here in Pittsburgh the past few weeks!) If a ‘lil bunny can have all this fun getting dirty and then cleaning up after, your ‘lil ones sure can, too.


At $9.95 (suggested Retail Value), this book is geared toward kids ages 3-5 (or even a ‘lil above – Arianna’s 6 and giggled through). It is part of Sterling Publishing’s Snuggle Time Stories, books that fit well with bedtime.


You can find more books from author Phillis Gershator and illustrator David Walker by visiting their links, too.



And with this? Mama is off to enjoy a quiet shower while the kids nap and all the other adults are out of the house. Ah!

Demanding Dudley

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“Say please.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Pardon me! Is that how we ask for something we want?”

If you are saying these things daily (over and over again) like Greg and I do, perhaps it’s time to introduce a picture book from The Wiblets
collection that will teach your children about respect and the right way to get what they want. Our kids heard about 4 pages of Demanding Dudley before they realized the message we were trying to get through to them.


It was that powerful that they knew right away what Dudley’s mama was going to teach them about how screaming and stomping does not get you the apple juice you want. Does it mean they took the message to heart and haven’t screamed or cried or stomped or yelled to get something they want, but it does mean that they think a little more about where those actions get them (the stairs for a ‘lil timeout!). But, all we have to do is remind them of Dudley:

In the case of Demanding Dudley, The Wiblets take on issues of thanklessness and impatience. Children will see the harmful effects of such negative behavior through the example of Dudley, a young Wiblet who forgets the value and importance of “using his magic words.” Dudley and his mother discuss the hows and whys of self-control and gratitude, ultimately demonstrating in a positive light how kindness and patience can go a long way in making and granting requests. After reading and discussing the story of Dudley with their children, parents can make use of the positive trigger question, “Are you being a Demanding Dudley?” in order to establish an immediate understanding with their child if and when the lessons taught by the book have been forgotten.

(From The Wiblets Press Release)

And you know what? I was actually supposed to share this info with you over a month ago, but the kids. Those kids of mine. They “stole” the book from my review pile and were “reading” it to each other to remind themselves (and their imaginary students) of how to ask for the right things. When I asked for it back to remind me of the colorful pictures and [adorable] text tone to show Dudley’s emotions, they told me they appreciated me asking with my magic words. Dudley taught them some big words,  not just the magic ones! Mom win.

If you’d like your own copy of Demanding Dudley, you can visit or get a copy on Amazon for around $11. If your kids like Dudley, there are other Wiblets ready to teach them lessons through books and games on their website.


Twelve Dancing Unicorns

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When I was growing up, I remember having a fairy tale book and reading Twelve Dancing PrincessesTo be honest, I loved the story, but the fact that the sisters were locked up at night and not allowed to go out made ‘lil me mad. When I received a copy of Twelve Dancing Unicornsthe same love and madness washed over me.

Twelve Dancing Unicorns

In this gorgeously illustrated take on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, author Alissa Heyman had my kids and I in awe. Her words, along with Justin Gerard’s illustrations, tell the story in the light of the princesses being unicorns and the soldier as a brave little girl who sneaks to the magical gardens the unicorns inhabit at night. In the end, the unicorns are freed from the kings chains and “watchful” guards thanks to the little girl’s bravery and problem solving.

Twelve Dancing Unicorns is one of the few “long” picture books my children have sat through and truly listened to. And at the end? They both understood the moral – have a good heart and don’t do things selfishly (as the king did). At five and three, they got that. It made them sad that the unicorns were chained up, but I watched their eyes light up as the ‘lil girl accompanied the unicorns to a land where jeweled fruits (their favorite, the golden apple) and fairies and lush gardens abound, and knew they were getting the meaning of letting others live true happiness.


You can find this gorgeous book (put it on your holiday shopping list!) at for $14.95.

I’ve posted this review as part of a month-long blog tour about the book. Follow the Twelve Dancing Unicorns blog tour tomorrow on Jumpin Beans:


This story came at a great time for our family. Last week, we lost my grandma after a few years of suffering from various ailments. She was ready to let it go and be in Heaven, but was holding on for all of us. Once we finally told her it was okay, that we’d see her again, you could tell she felt released, just like the unicorns and princesses. What a beautiful coincidence.