A Letter to My Children on Their First Day of School

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Dear Children,

There are few things in life that I hope for you as much as I hope that you have a wonderful time when you go to school.  I hope that you make new friends and are able to enjoy your old ones.  I also hope that you are successful and that things at school make you happy.

I realize that things can be rough and this year I wanted to give you a few pointers to help you out.  I wanted to share with you a few things that you need to be armed with as you walk inside those doors each day.

First, I want for you to find it in your heart to be kind.  You might not like someone and someone might appear to be mean to you, but there is probably a reason that they are acting like that.  Do I think that it is good that they are mean to you?  No, but I do think that it is good to attempt to be the better person.  You do not know what is happening in that child’s home.  You do not know what they live through and chances are there is someone who is being mean to them.

Second, choose your friends wisely.  Even if you are nice to everyone, everyone does not have to be your friend.  Choose your friends that are like you and that you enjoy being around.  Make friends with people who are really your friends and forget about those who are not.  By the way, I do not think that this is easy but I do believe that it is something that can really help you in life. (Yes, even I, still struggle with this one.)

Third, try to stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves.  Kids everywhere are going to be picked on.  Do not fall into the temptation of picking on them too.  Try and say something nice for them or to at least get others to stop.  No one likes to be picked on even if they are a good sport about it and laughing along.

Fourth, remember to always try your hardest.  Perfection is not important as long as you are giving it your all.  Try your hardest in all areas of school, even those that you do not like, because you never know where that might lead you.

And now a little bit of my hopes and dreams for each of you:

Andrew, I hope that 7th grade rocks for you.  I hope that you are able to make some new friends and enjoy more fun times with your old friends.  I hope that you have a year that is exciting and challenging and that you find new interests along the way.  I hope that you can find happiness and continue to have that strong sense of self that you show.  Above all I want you to know that I love you and that you can come to me if there is a problem.  I know that jr high can be tough but remember that what doesn’t break you can only make you stronger.  Know that I am praying for you each day and that I am hopeful that you are going to have the best year yet.

Althea, keep that sweet side that makes you as gorgeous inside as you are on the outside.  Remember to continue to be kind and generous with your amazing little spirit that I know you have.  I hope that 2nd grade brings you lots of new joy and that you are not too upset about being put in a new school.  Going to a new school can be really tough but I have no doubt at all that you are going to be successful this year.  You are an amazing little girl who people can not help but fall in love with.

Huxley, on your first day of kindergarten remember that I am always with you and thinking about you.  I hope that the year brings new friends and allows you to have a great time with old ones.  I want you to be successful in school and to learn all of the things that you need to know to be successful in life.  I also hope that you are not too disappointed when you learn that there is more to school than recess and PE.

Adeline, while today is not your first day of preschool that day will be happening all too soon.  Where has my baby girl gone?  You are growing up into the most amazing little girl and while I am sad to see that time as a baby end, I know that you are going to love preschool and making new friends.  I hope that you really enjoy your days and that you are never sad when mommy is leaving.  Remember always that I will be back to get you and that I am never very far away.

For all four of you, I want you to have the best years ever so that you can continue to smile and have joy.  I want you to have friendships that last a lifetime and knowledge that you get to share with your own children when you are an adult.

Love Always


PS Remember when you see mommy cry that I am not always sad, sometimes I am filled with so much love, admiration, and joy at who you are that I can not hold back all of the emotions that are welling up inside.

Summer Solutions…Keeping Your Child Engaged in Learning All Summer Long

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Summer Solutions offers you an amazing chance to keep your child engaged in their learning all summer long.  They offer you workbooks that you use with your child for a few minutes each day that will help them retain their learning.  I was able to check out quite a few of their books and I wanted to share with you my thoughts on each one of them and the experiences that my children and I have had this summer.

I am excited for the new school year to see if they really retained more this summer than in previous years.  I have one child who has always retained even without summer work and one child who has struggled.

For Huxley Who Just Finished PreK


Huxley just finished up with 2 years at PreK.  I was actually quite surprised by how much he knew and all of the things that he could do within the Summer Solutions workbook.  He enjoyed the lessons and practiced learning many things including how to write which was helpful.  The lessons were definitely age appropriate and are something that I feel would make great worksheets throughout the beginning of the school year if extra work is needed as well.

For Althea Who Just Finished 1st Grade

With Althea some things were different.  In fact we picked out a few different workbooks so that we could work on different skills with her.

SS 1.1

Level 1 Common Core Mathematics was something that she really excelled with.  I will admit that I was pretty surprised as I know that math is not her strongest subject.  She actually uses Simple Solutions (a classroom tool that is very similar to Summer Solutions) in her classroom so I think that this is what allowed her to do such a great job with the common core math problems.  I will admit that a parents guide would have been helpful with common core since it is something that I honestly do not know that much about.

SS 1.2

The Level 1 Common Core English Grammar is something else that I have appreciated being able to use.  It has been nice to be able to see where my daughter struggles.  Most of the things that I have worked with her are that she needs to slow down and follow directions.  This is something that is going to be helpful overall in her ability to do work in school and bee successful throughout her education.  I am thankful that I chose Summer Solutions to help me this summer with all of our goals.

SS 1.3

Since Althea really needs extra practice with math I love that I have had the Level 1 Mathematics workbook to work on with her as well.  We switch around between the different books so that she is never bored.  I did offer a reward for each workbook that the kids finish so I am sure that this is inspiring all of their additional summer work.

SS 1.4

The Level 1 English Grammar and Writing Mechanics book was the one that I decided was not quite right for what she had learned.  We have used some of the lessons but since she was so confused on others, I took it as meaning that she was not being taught things the way that they were in this book.  We talked about things but I did not want to confuse her or cause more harm than good so I went ahead and allowed her to take time off from this one.

SS 1.5

I have to admit that the Level 1 Reading Comprehension has been one of my favorite workbooks to use with Althea this summer.  It really has been able to help me pinpoint where she is not comprehending things and to be able to work with her on those skills.  This has allowed me to offer her unique guidance that she would not have had otherwise.  I am excited that she has also taken up letter writing and has a few pen pals that she has enjoyed sending letters and fun gifts to this summer.

The Level 1 workbooks all seem to have fallen in line with the things that Althea has been learning and she seemed up to speed on them all.

For Andrew Who Just Finished 6th Grade

When it comes to Andrew I have to admit that he was not very interested in summer learning.  He is very smart but there are definitely things that he could improve upon like his study skills.  So I decided to use this as a way to offer him an incentive to do well at something.  So I told him the other day that he had until the end of September and that I would offer a monetary reward for each of the workbooks that he had completed based upon the effort that I saw him put forward.  There were a few times before this offer was made that I saw a lot of quickly paced work that he did not seem that interested in completing.

SS 6.1

Level 6 Common Core Mathematics caused me to have a lot of concern for the children in our school district until I realized that part of the issue was Andrew.  Andrew has not been taught things completely in common core so this was not the way that he was taught for all problems.  Before I realized this I was a little panicked about our schools since he is in all advanced placement classes and seemed to be getting a lot of answers wrong.  After working through the problems that he missed together it seemed like he really picked up and started doing better.

SS 6.2

Since Andrew is really smart, he has never really had to study.  That’s right he is a lucky kid who has managed to make it through most of his schooling without putting in those extra hours of effort.  That being said,  I know how important studying is going to be as he gets older so I encouraged him to complete the Level 6 Study Skills workbook.  He is learning how to study with this one and that is something that makes me really happy.  I know that he is learning skills that he is going to need in high school and college.

SS 6.3

Another area where I have seen Andrew struggle is with his grammar.  He writes really well and is super creative but he makes a ton of grammar mistakes when he is writing.  I really like this workbook for these issues and it seems that he is really picking up things from using it.  I hope that this helps him to improve his writing for his 7th grade year.

SS 6.4

The Level 6 Problem Solving book is another one that seemed to be really great for Andrew.  This book allowed him to work on problems that he was used to solving and he really seemed to enjoy it.  In fact I think that this might have been his personal favorite this summer.  It seemed to be the one that he reached for when he was allowed to choose the workbooks that he was going to do by himself.

SS 6.5

Level 6 Common Core English Grammar is the final workbook that Andrew had this summer.  This one was nice because it covered all of the additional English grammar stuff that was not covered in the other one.  I appreciate that is really learning how to do things better, including how to follow directions and read things thoroughly.

I will admit that there has been a bit of concern for the overall state of the education system where we live after watching Andrew not know some of the things in these workbooks while being in advanced classes.  This was a huge concern for me but is not something that I am overly worried about because I feel like the workbooks allowed him to catch up over the summer.

Final Thoughts — Summer Solutions Can Help You Bridge the Gap Between Your Child’s Learning Over the Summer

I believe with my whole heart that everyone should check out Summer Solutions for their children.  These workbooks are amazing and a great way to maintain that your children do not end up losing what they learned over the summer.  The whole purpose of these workbooks is to help your child maintain the things that they have learned.

Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival — A Look Back at 2014 and This Year’s Ticketing Options #Phases2015 #SeeYouatPhases

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Surviving Flash Floods, Seeing Amazing Music and Art – All Possible with Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival


Music and art lovers from around the United States traveled to Danville, IL for the first ever Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival from September 11th-14th. While many were greeted with less than desirable conditions, the spirit of the festival was like being among a group of your closest friends and family.

Torrential Storms Leave Problems that Organizers Were Quick to Try and Solve


Starting on Wednesday night organizers allowed the first patrons to enter the park. Due to intense storms that included torrential downpours, many of the campsites were left underwater. Campgrounds had to be moved and changed based on the areas that were able to support the weight of vehicles and campers. This did cause there to be a few times when gates were closed and attendees were unable to enter the park, but festival promoters and staff were working non-stop to make every effort possible to have the areas safe and ready for those entering.

Despite having Mother Nature be against them, festival promoters chose to make it their mission to have the best festival conditions possible. This included trucking in several tons of gravel and sod while using equipment to dig out and move mud. Helicopters were even brought in to hover close to the ground in an effort to help dry the ground. The efforts were not left unnoticed and many festival goers could be heard talking about everything that they were seeing take place.

While it is expectant that festival promoters would do what they could to make things safe and comfortable for the attendees, it was surprising to hear about how the entire community of Danville came together. In a press release issued by the organizers, it was mentioned that the Sheriff’s Department, Mayor’s Office, and Visitors Bureau were among the groups that were providing assistance to the organizers to ensure that everyone had a safe and comfortable festival.

Many festival goers were bussed back and forth from their cars that were parked at the Vermilion County Speedway and the Vermilion Regional Airport. Co-founder Barry Shear stated “The rain came in pretty hard and left sections of the park underwater, making things very challenging. We are so grateful for the cooperation from area officials, who have been working around the clock with us. Most of all grateful to the fans who have been so patient while trying to enter the park after traveling great distances. This festival is for them. THEY are the festival. THEY are the community we have strived to create at Phases. The whole concept of Phases of the Moon doesn’t exist without them. We are doing everything we can to continue to get everyone in here as quickly and safely as possible. And it seems to have worked. That’s all that matters to us at this time.”

The Sweet Sounds of Music


From the time that artist in residence David Gans opened the festival with an intimate show that was enjoyed by festival goers old and young alike to the final moments when he closed the festival with the Rumpke Mountain Boys there was no stop to the amazing music that was seen.


Highlights of the festival included top notch performances by nationally touring headlining acts including: The String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, Railroad Earth, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, and Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

One of the things that was so amazing about the festival is how the different performers were perceived. Many times when watching the crowd you could not determine whether those in attendance were listening to one of their old favorites that they had been following for years or a new band that they were hearing for the first time.

For many the top show was the amazing Lunar Conspiracy Landing that was curated by the String Cheese Incident. It was amazing to see the many different artists interacting together to create some amazing music and have the performance of the festival. The performance of “Bad Moon Rising” with JJ Grey and Bill Payne (of Little Feat) was a favorite of the weekend for many festival goers. Vince Herman, the Mofro Horns, Sunshine Garcia, and Andy Thorn also graced the stage during the show.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals put on a show that was filled with light, love, and soul. It was so strong that you could almost feel her passion radiating from her during the set. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was another favorite full of high energy and a lot of fun for those who were dancing in the crowd.

Widespread Panic put on shows that were filled with power and kept fans wishing for more despite the frigid temperatures that they were experiencing during the show. Even the late night sets had a lot of festival goers in attendance despite the fact that at times it reached to temperatures below 40 degrees.

Along side these well known acts were many amazing bands and artists that gained an instant following of new fans. Among these were The California Honeydrops, The Brothers Comatose, Sam Bush Band, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, and Clare Dunn.

During some time spent talking with Clare Dunn it was easy to forget that she was a performer as talking with her was like talking to an old friend. She was very gracious about her performance at the festival and about her fans. Coming from very humble roots she brings something new to the stage and a performance that brought about many new fans, including those who were not traditionally fans of country music.

The Sanctuary


While there was so much musical talent where POTM seemed to go above and beyond was all of the additional things that were taking place on the festival grounds. There was a Santuary area that offered workshops, yoga classes, healing massage, and even a sound immersion experience.

The Sanctuary had a full schedule and line up of events. Many festival goers raved about the fun that they had at the yoga classes. One of the best things about these is that there was yoga available for beginners, families, and even those who had been practicing for years.

Spiritual healing was also taking place during the festival. Along with the spiritual healing came amazing healing through the power of touch and massage. There was a great massage area where attendees could sign up for a time to come back and enjoy a great massage.

Workshops made it possible for festival goers to learn new things. There were workshops available on many different topics. One could learn how to become more independent and have more confidence, how to hula hoop, and even how to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Crescent Moon Kids Camp


The Crescent Moon Kids Camp area featured art supplies and games for children of all ages. Children and families could be seen at the camp throughout the weekend. There was a very popular tire swing, an area where children could express themselves creatively, a small area for dress up, and even circus performers for entertainment.

Thanks to the dress up area and props children could pose for some crazy photographs for their parents. Then they could take a turn with one of the many hula hoops that could be found lying around in front of the camp tent. Children were even invited to participate in the parade with the circus performers on the last day of the festival with these props and toys in hand.

One of the best possible quotes from the festival occurred when 3 or 4 year old boy dressed as an astronaut saw the performers on stilts. He started jumping up and down and running to get a closer look, yelling “look at the big humans.” It was an adorable moment that witnesses would be sure to remember for years to come.

Sharing the Need to Give Back and Become Involved

Participation Row offered festival goers a way to give back with The Conscious Alliance, Head Count, and Love Hope Strength among others. You could easily become a marrow donor, register to vote, donate food, and help spread the word about cleaning up after yourself and protecting the environment while attending the festival.

Throughout the Phases of the Moon Festival The Conscious Alliance was on site collecting canned goods and non-perishable food items to distribute to food banks in local Illinois communities. In exchange for donating 20 items one could receive a limited edition festival poster.

Head Count was on site as well. One could sign up to vote in their tent or with one of the many volunteers who were walking around the ground with clipboards in hand. They could be seen educating people about their right to vote and the freedom of choice that voting allows everyone to have.

In today’s world it is hard to believe that you can easily save a life with something as simple as a bone marrow donation. Love Hope Strength has made it their mission to attend music events and get people registered as bone marrow donors. Samples can be obtained with a painless mouth swab. It’s amazing to think that swabbing your mouth at a festival can lead to saving a life in the future.

From Tradition to New Age – A Look at the Art of Phases of the Moon

The art that could be seen included many amazing and skilled artists, photographers, and artistic performers. There were different various art shows as well as live art happening. Plus there were a number of amazing large scale art pieces that could be seen throughout the festival grounds.

With so many performing artists on hand there was no end to the places where you could see performances. Sometimes it was possible to catch a performer joining a band on stage. Other times you could catch performers in the crowds. The Nomadic Circus was a treat for those who were interested in something a little out of the ordinary.

Laser lights, fires, hula hoops, and many unique contraptions were used in conjunction with music to entertain the crowds who were hoping to see something that they had not seen before. On many occasions it was not unusual to see someone who was walking through the performing arts stage stopping to take a look at a performance that was happening at the time.

Visual arts could also be seen throughout the festival grounds. From time to time there were art galleries or showings in different tents at the festival. There were also many amazing art sculptures. One of these was done by Nature Dreamweaver and was a unique circular stick structure that you could sit in the middle of while enjoying some live music.

In addition there were many Guildworks creations throughout the festival grounds helping to separate stage and tent areas while leaving festival goers with a little something extra to look at. Art lovers could even watch artists create some amazing pieces of art and paintings, some of which could be purchased during the festival.

The Spin Art Crew was even on site to power the Charon by Peter Hudson which was an amazing site to see. It was a huge wheel with skeletons on it that seemed to dance as the human powered zoetrope moved. Many lights and creative light up exhibits were also evidenced throughout the festival grounds for the enjoyment of the attendees.

It was a well rounded experience and one that will be sure to leave a stamp on the hearts of those who were in attendance this year. Depsite the problems with weather and having gates closed many festival goers could be heard talking about how they were excited to be headed back to Danville for the second Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival next year.

Are You Ready for 2015???

One thing is for certain after the amazing time that I had with my family at the 2014 Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival, I am excited to check out what they are going to offer in 2015.  If you have not purchased your tickets yet then you need to get on the ball so that you can see me at Phases.

General Admission — Full Event

This year things have changed a bit on ticketing.  In fact you are going to have to purchase your camping and parking passes separate from your tickets.   When you purchase the General Admission tickets you are gaining access to the festival grounds from Friday October 16th, 2015 through Sunday October 18th, 2015.   You also gain access to the late night shows.

They are on Phase 3 now of pricing and tickets will run you $179.95 or you can get set up on a 3 payment plan for payments of $80.95.

Saturday + Sunday — Weekender Pass

The Saturday + Sunday Weekender Pass is going to allow you access to the festival grounds on Saturday October 17th and Sunday October 18th, 2015.  Camping is also not included in the weekender pass so you will have to purchase that separately.

VIP — Full Event

One of the biggest advantages of VIP camping is that you get next to car camping for free with this option.  That means that you are going to be able to camp next to your car without the additional charges that are included with the regular ticketing.  You are also able to get into the grounds a day early on Thursday October 15th starting at 4 pm.  VIP ticketing also includes up front viewing stages, meals, drinks, showers, private lounges, group campfires, VIP gifts, and discounts on alcohol.

VIP Passes start at just $524.95 or $190.97 if you choose to go with a payment plan.

Camping Passes

Camping passes are sold per vehicle.  Early entry camping passes can be purchased for $79…these allow you to enter on Thursday instead of waiting until Friday like the general population of the festival.

Next to car camping is $55.95 and allows you to park next to your car so that you do not have to carry all of your gear in.  (TIP:  If you are taking children this is something that I would consider necessary.)

Tent only camping is just $29 but you will have to carry in all of your gear.

Reserved Camping Sites are already sold out, so unless they release more this is no longer an option for you.

RV Ticketing

If you are planning on bringing an RV then you are going to need special ticketing for that.  RV Reserved is already sold out like the Reserved Camping.

RV Unreserved is primitive so you will not be able to hook up to any power.  This camping is going to cost you $259.95 per spot.

RV in VIP is still available but you have to call and make special plans to be able to take advantage of these camping spots.  To put in your request you can send an email to ticketingsupport@potm.us.

Ticketing Add – Ons

There are a few ticketing add ons that are special upgrades that you can take advantage of.  These include the following two options:

Camping Gear Rental from Get Outfitted is available to you.  This is a really cool program that I have not used but find to be something that you would find super handy if you were staying in one of the camping spots that are not by your car.  You can choose from a number of packages to reserve the camping gear that you need for the festival and make your life a lot easier, you even get to avoid the majority of the packing.

Shower Pass is something else that I have not seen before.  The Shower Pass is coming soon and will offer you unlimited showers during the festival for $29.95.

Where to Order?

You can order your tickets online or you can pick them up at a local ticket outlet that offers them.

Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival — Line Up Additions Announced #Phases2015 #SeeYouatPhases

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Have you seen the newest additions to the 2015 lineup for the Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival?

If you haven’t I have got to share with you the great bands that have been added to their already amazing line up.

Warren Haynes and The Ashes & Dust Band

Warren Hayns

Most people know who Warren Haynes is.  This addition has many fans cheering as they are hoping to hear old favorites and new music now that he is performing with a new band, The Ashes & Dust Band.  As a grammy award winning artist, Warren Haynes can offer you something that other artists can not.  He can offer you a fresh take on some of your favorite music and even more.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (spotlight and artist interview coming this week!)

Karl Denson

One of the highlights of Phases of the Moon 2014 was getting to meet the legend Karl Denson.  He has such a vast and exciting music career that it was really amazing to sit down and chat with him about what life was like on the road and more.  He was so warm and welcoming that he made me feel right at home during the interview even though I was probably a little starstruck.  His musical achievements have included more than just performing with his own band, he has actually performed with bands from around the world including The Rolling Stones.

Additional Artists Added

There were a few additional artists that were announced in this level 2 line up as well.  They included Birdcloud, Blaine Cartwright, and The Dropper.

We all know that Phases is really going to be rocking this year and I am super excited to see what all of the music is going to have in store for us.

Endless Hours of Fun with the Blast Zone Big Ol Bouncer

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

I have to admit that I have always wanted to own my own bounce house.  Something about a bounce house is just so fun that it made me want to jump on and go for a spin.  The thing is that I had just not bought one because I could not figure out which would best meet my family’s needs.  Then I saw the Blast Zone Big Ol Bouncer and knew instantly that my search for the perfect bounce house was over.  I thought I would share a short story with you about how as a mom the Big Ol Bouncer is my saving grace.

blast zone 1

Moms Everywhere Unite, You Need a Little Bounce in Your Life

As a mom of four children I often find that someone is always crying and at least two kids are always fighting.  I go crazy during the day listening to them cry and scream all of the time.  Thankfully now that I own a great bounce house I am able to just let them jump that energy out.  Yes, that is true they literally bounce all of the time and when they are bouncing no one is crying and no one is fighting.  Now I will also admit that as a busy mom of four I rarely have time to exercise like I should.  I would have never guessed that bounce houses could be such a great workout either.  You are going to love the toning and weight loss that you see from simply jumping around and having fun.  Word of warning….jumping in a bounce house is much harder than it looks and it does require a bit of athleticism.

blast zone 2

How to Choose the Perfect Bounce House for Your Family — 5 Tips You Can Really Use

Choose a Bounce House that Will House Your Whole Family

One thing that is great about the Big Ol Bouncer is that it offers you twice the standard square foot space as other bouncers.  This means that my whole family can bounce together and we are not packed in there too tight where it would hurt the bounce house.  We are also not close to breaking any weight limits.  So make sure that you pick up a bounce house that your kiddos are going to be comfortable jumping in.  Had I purchased a regular size bounce house, which I contemplated before doing this review, I would have been disappointed because the four of my children would have never been able to bounce together.  It just would have been too small.

blast zone 3

Look for a Brand You Can Trust

I am sure that you have all seen the YouTube videos of bounce houses breaking while people are in them.  I was excited to work with Blast Zone because they are one of the top rated brands for inflatables.  I love knowing that we have a great brand and one that I am not going to be worrying the whole time while the kids are bouncing.

blast zone 4

Choose a Bounce House with Added Safety Features

Finding a bounce house that has all of the safety features that you are looking for can be tough.  I love that the Big Ol Bouncer has a secure closure on the net and that the bounce house has nice tall sides.  Even when my kids accidentally bounce into the walls, they just tumble right back onto the bounce area.  Safety precautions are important to me with this type of toy because of the potential for accidents.

blast zone 5

Look at the Power Source for the Bounce House

One of the things that we really love about the Big Ol Bouncer is the fan and how it works.  It is a nice high quality fan and it stakes into the ground so that you do not have to worry about accidents.  The bounce house also has a ton of stakes so you can be sure that it is secured as well.  I love that there have not been any issues with the fan nor have I noticed it making any weird noises even after prolonged bouncing.

blast zone 6

Check Out the Warranty

Now when I have been looking at other bouncers I was surprised by how many of them did not have warranties.  Thankfully Blast Zone offers you a full one year warranty on the fan/motor and the inflatable.  This means that you have got nothing to worry about for a full year which is something that I really appreciated.

blast zone 7

As moms we all struggle to find the things to entertain our kids.  Now if you are feeling extra adventurous or just love water sports then you should check out all that Blast Zone has to offer by following this link:   http://www.blastzone.com/shop/pc/Inflatable-Water-Parks-c3.htm.  The brand also has a full line of commercial bounce houses which you can check out through this link if you have considered owning your own business: http://www.blastzonecommercial.com/shop/pc/home.asp.

Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead #Dead50

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Recently I was asked to write about what the Grateful Dead meant to me for the Campfire blog as one of the Summer Camp counselors.  I will admit that the music of the Grateful Dead has meant more to me than any other music and has carried me through so many of the events in my life.

I described a defining moment in my life where I understood that the music of the Grateful Dead was more than just music.  That even occurred as I listened to the song Ripple which is still my favorite song to this day.  I was not lucky enough to get tickets to any of the Dead50 shows which left me saddened.  However I was blessed enough to head to Park West on Friday night for the opening show of the three day run to see it on a live feed and to see Leftover Salmon play the set breaks and the after show.  It was a great night full of memories that I will treasure and a certain sense of a new beginning that I will not let go.

I know that many Deadheads were upset with the announcement of Trey as the addition to the band.  I think that this sadness comes from a front man of any other band being put into Jerry’s spot.  For me, I chose to look at it in a new way.  I looked at in the way that without the music of the Grateful Dead there would not have likely been Phish, because admittedly their music and their scene was greatly influenced by that of the Grateful Dead.  Trey was not there to replace Jerry.  This is the first thing that you have to remember.  Trey was there to be Trey to try and reverently respect the music of the Grateful Dead and to really give the fans his own spin on the songs.

I personally think that Trey was the best possible choice.  I might be biased since I love Phish.  The symbolic passing of the torch between old and new, generations past and generations to come…a perfect melting pot of what was and what is yet to become.  The remaining members of the Grateful Dead know that this is the end of the road for them.  Their long strange trip has reached its end, but that does not mean that it is the end of the scene and the music.  There can never be another Grateful Dead.  Their journey is one in its own and it has been an amazing journey that has touched so many lives.  I do not believe that any other band has brought together a group of people in the same way that the Grateful Dead have.  People from all walks of life flock to them.  However I believe that you can find new music that you can become a fan of as well.

For me, the closing of this first night with the encore of Ripple made me feel as though my trip had come full circle.  It has been a long strange trip for me as well.  I married way too young and had my first son.  For months we contemplated over names, me wanting to name him Jerry, his dad eventually won out on this fight.  I can still remember listening to the music of the Grateful Dead in the delivery room and for a month while I was in the hospital on bedrest with nothing to do.

The music of the Grateful Dead is what kept me sane during that time.  When I got my first divorce it was Touch of Grey that reminded me that I would survive this part of my journey.  During college I became very interested in the sociological impact that the Grateful Dead had on its fans and followers.  I was lucky enough to have a sociology professor who believed in me.  She allowed me to have an entire semester course where I got to research and write about the impact that the music of the Grateful Dead had on its fans.  I loved working in that environment and getting to meet so many wonderful Deadheads, some of whom I am still friends with to this day.

Years later I would make another poor choice in choosing a mate and would go through a second divorce.  Again it was the music of the Grateful Dead that kept me moving forward and knowing that I was worthy.  When I felt like no one else in the world believed in me, I was able to gain inspiration and love through the music.  To simply say that I am a fan would be so misleading.  The music of the Grateful Dead has literally guided  me through my life.

When I met my soul mate and we found out that we were expecting a baby girl, it was no question that she would be named after one of our favorite Grateful Dead songs.  Althea seems to embody the song for which she was named after.  I tried for months to get tickets to tonight’s show in hopes of having her see her song sung live, but as of now it looks like we will be sitting on the couch cuddling as we await what I think is going to be played.  Shane and I also had an amazing connection to the song Doin’ That Rag which has since been our song.  So much of our life has been influenced by the amazing music that I am very emotional as I see it all coming to an end.  We will always have the songs to cherish but there simple will not and can not be another Grateful Dead, a band that embodies this spiritual connection to their music that has the power to change your life.

From the bottom of my heart I am so grateful for everything that the band has meant to me over the years.  Much love and let’s remember that the music will never stop.

Phases of the Moon Music and Art Festival 2015 Lineup Announced #Phases2015 #SeeyouatPhases

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

A short while ago the Phases of the Moon Music and Art Festival announced the exciting 2015 line up and I sure hope that I will be able to be in attendance this year.

Phases logo 2

Last year I was very fortunate that I was a part of the media team for the first year of this exciting festival.  I really had the time of my life even though the weather was some of the worst that I have seen at a festival.  The promoters did an amazing job and I will share more with you in a follow up recap where I can show you some of the amazing things about the festival that I have enjoyed.

Some Things You Need to Know

Of course before I share the line up with you there are some things that I think that you should know.

**The festival has been moved from Danville IL to Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, AR.  (Although many festivals have taken place on these grounds it is one place that I have not previously been before!)

**The festival is taking place October 16-18. 

Lineup Announcement 1.0

Now here is the good stuff.  You are going to see some amazing bands and a few that are family favorites in this house.

STS9**The Disco Biscuits**moe.**Yonder Mountain String Band**Lunar Conspiracy Landing**Beats Antique**Xavier Rudd & the United Nations**Leftover Salmon**Brett Dennen**Lettuce**Lake Street Dive**Rusted Root**ALO**Papadosio**The Werks**Wookiefoot**The New Mastersounds**Everyone Orchestra**Larry Does Jerry**The Motet**Dirty Dozen Brass Band**Larry Keel Experience**Pimps of Joytime**The Bright Light Social Hour**Kung Fu**Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band**Earphunk**Turkuaz**Andy Frasco & the UN**Pink Talking Phish**Mingo Fishtrap**Cabinet**The California Honeydrops**Poor Man’s Whiskey**Pert Near Sandstorm**The Giving Tree**Roadkill Ghost Choir**Samantha Phish**The Brothers Comatose**David Gans**Rumpke Mountain Boys**Sophistafunk**Spoonfed Tribe**Head for the Hills**Mountain Sprout**Spoonfed Tribe**Head for the Hills**Dirtfoot**Horseshoes & Hand Grenades**Family Groove Company**Old Shoe**The Coop**Wood and Wire**Dustbowl Revival**Good Gravy**The Ballroom Thieves**The Hillbenders**Jon Wayne and the Pain**Levon Helm Tribute**Indubious**Useful Jenkins**Henhouse Prowlers**Afternoon Moon**Gypsy Moon**Strung Like a Horse**Heartbyrne**Earl & Them Mouth**Pigeons Playing Ping Pong**Roxy Roca**Rowdy Shadehouse**The Way Down Wanderers**El Dub**James Jones Trio**Coyote Union**Charliehorse

As you can see, this year there is definitely going to be a little something for everyone with a vast array of different styles of music.


Isn’t Life Hard Enough??

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

We as moms have it tough.  In fact, while many non-moms won’t agree, I would say that we have the toughest job that there is.  We are completely responsible for making sure that our children are well cared for and that they have everything that they need in order to grow into healthy and successful adults.  One thing is for certain, mom bashing needs to end.

I don’t usually make posts about this stuff but lately there seems to be more and more mom bashing from moms who are supposed to be on our side.  Seriously, if you can not stand up for other moms then how the hell do you expect us all to make it through the day.

Earlier this week, a Florida ICING store manager was caught mom bashing in the worst way.  She posted a picture of a mom babywearing her child and then blasted her for her choices as a mom.  I personally do not feel that the mom has a need to defend herself.  I have a 7 year old who I still occasionally wear sometimes when she is tired.  However this mom was wearing her 5 year old and had her toddler in a stroller.  The manager did a few things that I feel are completely unacceptable.

She posted a picture of someone else’s child online on social media without her permission!!!

That’s right, she took it upon herself to snap this picture which was distasteful.  However when she chose to post that picture on a social media website without the mother’s permission it went in a completely different direction.  I am seriously appalled by this happening and it freaks me out to think about someone posting pictures of my children without my permission.

However that is just the start of this.  She used very crass language and demeaned the mom for her choice.  Then she admitted to being a step parent.  Isn’t being a step parent hard enough?  Why would you ever question or judge another mom’s decision to raise a child.

Can’t We ALL Just Get Along!!

I will admit that I have a diverse group of mommy friends.  I have friends who are far harsher than I am.  I have a tough love approach sometimes that might seem harsh to other moms.  I have mom friends who vaccinate and those who do not.  I have mom friends who breastfeed and those who could not.  I have mom friends who babywear and those who choose not to.  I have mom friends who cloth diaper and those who think that cloth diapering would be gross.  I have mom friends who stay at home and those who work full time.  I have mom friends who feed their children only organic foods and those who often feed their children processed and/or fast food.  I have mom friends who pierce their infant’s ears and those who never would.  I have mom friends who had natural unassisted home births, those who have had c-sections, those who have had minimal medical interventions, and those who have had the full treatment with meds and epidurals in the delivery room.  I have mom friends who are devout Christians and choose to take their children to church each week and those who do not believe in God.

You know what the beauty of this is?  That we can all get along.  I do not have to worry about my mom friends chastising me for how we are different.  In a world that seems to pray on differences, my mom friends and I have found a support and love for each other based on the common grounds that we are moms.

So let’s rally together.  Let’s stand together as moms in love and admiration rather than choosing to chastise and treat one another poorly.  In a world where there are few things good going on, let’s be a light to one another and stand in the amazing sisterhood that brings us together as mothers.  We are all just trying to be the best that we can be and if we work together that is only going to help us all to be a bit more successful in the end.

New Mexico Style Hormel Chili Cheese Baked Potato Cup

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Living in the Southwest is a fantastic region for food diversity. In New Mexico, we love our green chile and pair it with pretty much every single thing we eat. When we have Hormel Chili for dinner, that doesn’t change. Whether we enjoy some chili dogs or some Frito pie, topping it with some diced green chile is a must. My family wanted something fun and different and so we took a simple idea and added a is delicious. Baked potatoes are hearty and versatile. And who doesn’t love cheese? So, the Hormel Chili Cheese Baked Potato Cup was born.

It was really a basic concept of a delicious baked potato that we often have with grilled steaks. Our baked potatoes often have several different toppings. Cheese, sour cream, onions, bacon, green chile, and of course Hormel Chili. It is fun to build the baked potato how the kids want it, but sometimes a whole potato is way too much food for their little tummy, and our own. So, we decided to downsize and came up with this easy to make recipe that are individual size portions that still pack all the awesome flavors of the toppings. Grab your coupon and save $1 on Hormel Chili and follow these simple steps with just these few ingredients and your troops will be screaming for more!

New Mexico Style Hormel Chili Cheese Baked Potato CupNew Mexico Style Hormel Chili Cheese Baked Potato Cup

The ingredients for this recipe ae very few and can even be made fewer depending upon your tastes. Start with these few items to begin:

  • 1 can Hormel Chili (with or w/out beans)
  • 2 ½ cups hashbrowns (frozen thawed or fresh)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • ½ cup sliced green onions
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup bacon bits
  • 1 can diced green chile (optional)


  • Now that you have all your ingredients, get ready by greasing up a muffin tin with canola oil or coconut oil. Preheat your oven to 350 and gather your ingredients. (*Hint: toss your muffin pan in the oven about 5 minutes before you start building your cups.)
  • In a small saucepan, empty Hormel Chili into pan and heat on low-medium heat until slightly bubbling and turn off. Leave the Hormel Chili covered on the burner to keep warm.
  • In your muffin pan, fill each cup about half way full with the hashbrowns. Drop a hearty spoonful of the Hormel Chili on the hashbrowns in each cup. Top the Hormel Chili with about ½ Tbsp of diced green chile and ½ Tbsp of bacon  in each cup.
  • Bake in your 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove your pan and sprinkle with the sharp cheddar shredded cheese. Then, return your cups to the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and melted.
  • Remove the cheesy chili cups and set aside to cool for about 5-7 minutes or until able to handle with utensils when removing.
  • Serve alone on a plate or with your entrée and let the troops add the sour cream and onions as they desire.
  • Grab a fork, dig in, and wait for the compliments to flood your ears!

This easy New Mexican twist on a traditional idea is definitely a fun way to mix things up this summer. If you wanted, using aluminum as a buffer, we could easily throw this on the grill next to those juicy steaks we spoke about at the start. Hormel chili gives the Potatoes that perfect and signature spice that only Hormel can give. Adding the green chile makes it our own here in New Mexico. So, give this recipe a try, leave us some comments, and if you have any other ideas, feel free to share! Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Be sure to swing by Hormel’s Website .

As alwasy be a social butterfly and check out Hormel on Facebook  and of course save yourself some money by grabbing your Hormel on Facebook.

Summer Camp Music Festival Guide — 10 Things Every Dad Needs in His Backpack at Summer Camp @SummerCampFest #SCamp15

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure
As a father and follower of the music scene, it is important to be well prepared to ensure that both you and your kids have a great and memorable festival. I have found that stuffing the following items in my backpack reduce trips back to camp and keep everyone happy in most cases.

Water and Juice

 I carry a CamelBak backpack and will stuff some juice boxes or pouches in it in the case of sudden misbehavior. If we sit down and have a drink we can generally diffuse the situation.

Glow Sticks

 Who doesn’t love glow sticks.

Protective Ear Wear

We need to protect our kids from damaging their ears so they can have a long future of enjoying music and continuing to create a positive experience at music festivals.

Small Toys, Playing Cards, or Dice

Preferably something cheap that they have never played with before. This will keep their attention longer and won’t be a tragedy if they lose it while you are watching a band.


A brief game of Minecraft or Jetpack Joyride can often times allow you to finish that concert that your kids have obviously become bored with.


Insect Bands

Wearable insect protection will ensure they are not devoured by insects causing an uncomfortable and long bedtime.


We need to keep them from getting a sunburn to prevent the aforementioned long bedtime.


Don’t forget to grab lots of pictures of the memory that you shared.


Make sure to protect this as my kids seem to take delight in ensuring that gets lost.


Something like peanuts or a snack mix is perfect. Something that won’t be messy or be crushed in your backpack.
Most of all, have patience which will help you have a great and positive experience that you and your kids will never forget.
This post was written by Shane Walton for Simply Shawn N Jenn.  (I have to admit that I am pretty proud that my hubby included sunscreen on his list.  He’s a keeper!)