Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Holiday Bucket List: Morton Arboretum's Illumination #Giveaway {Part One}

Each year, my family aims to experience and enjoy life together during the holidays, placing less emphasis on the gift aspect and more on togetherness. This is part one of a series detailing some of our favorite Chicagoland destinations during the 2014 Christmas season. Be sure to scroll down to the end; one of our favorite places is giving away tickets!

Destination One: Morton Arboretum's Illumination

It's back, and it's even better than last year. Definitely worth braving the wind and other winter elements, the Morton Arboretum's Illumination doesn't disappoint. Illumination is a family-friendly walk that spans a mile of the paths at the Arboretum and showcases the astounding beauty of the trees, enhanced and light up with beautiful, glowing lights.

But Illumination, said John, the show's designer, isn't any old light display.

And we couldn't agree more with him. As John the designer lead a tour of Illumination, giving us a behind-the-scenes peak into the making of this holiday must-see, we marveled at the care of design and the intricacies of the show.

This year's Illumination features include some favorite from last year -- hugging a tree to set it aglow and singing to the trees to make them light up and dance with different colors are still mainstays on the Illumination path, much to my youngest's sheer delight. {We could barely pull him away from the microphone!}

New this year, and by far our favorite, was the section of the path displaying a light show that seemingly danced along with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's four musical arrangements, respectively named for each season; we happened to catch a little glimpse of this one, and all eyes were glued to the show.

A few other new surprises are in store at Illumination, too, but I'll save those for when you see them in the person.

A few words of the wise for enjoying Illumination: Don't let the chill in the air keep you away, but do prepare well! While there are warming stations along the path, and hot chocolate is available to warm hands and bellies, a simple jacket and mittens likely won't cut it if the weather keeps trending with temperatures well below seasonal averages. I would recommend warm coats, snow pants, boots, scarves and mittens for the whole family or group attending. Don't try to par it down. You can always unlayer while there.

As far as walking goes, put on your walking boots. Our boys, now five and seven, walked the entire path just fine year and last year as well. If you're bringing a little one, I'd suggest doing what my friend Stephanie did during the behind the scenes tour; she wore her toddler son in a backpack carrier.

Also, don't let a beautiful dusting of snow keep you from Illumination. My husband John and I mused with John the designer about how beautiful it must be to see some of the stops along the path with a cover of snow coating the lights. John the designer said he knew it would be pretty spectacular.

Would you like to take the family to see Illumination? The Morton Arboretum is kindly and generously giving away a set of four tickets to one person here! Fantastic!

All you need to do is simply fill out the easy rafflecopter below, and you'll automatically be entered to win!

Illumination is open now through Saturday, January 3, 2015. Check the arboretum's website for more information on times and ticket prices.


Destination Two: The Marriott Theater for Young Audiences Wizard of Oz
photo credit to
Photos courtesy of Mark Campbell Photography
Families looking for a little holiday adventure in their own backyard can follow the yellow brick road to the Marriott Theater this holiday season and sing along with Dorothy and her friends as they sing and dance their way to the Emerald City.

The Marriott's Theater for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire is featuring this one-hour musical rendition of the classic movie now through January 4, 2015, and it's a highly entertaining production aimed at the whole family!

The storyline pretty closely follows that of the movie, and features many favorite songs like Somewhere Under the Rainbow and Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. And because this show is geared toward children, signing and clapping along isn't just allowed; it's encouraged!

I'm not sure if it was my boys' having another year under their belts of if it was the high level of engagement in this fast-moving production, but both kiddos, ages five and seven, say through the entire show, happily watching and singing along!

The characters were highly animated and personable, and the costumes, music and scenery were perfectly paired, making this show one of my kids' absolute favorite in recent years!

My oldest thinks readers should know that the Wicked Witch of the West was fantastically scary; however, he also wants readers to know he wasn't scared, but that he thought some younger kids might need a hand to hold or lap to sit on during that time.

My youngest son wants readers to know that the show was a little scary at times, especially the tornado part, in which the lights are turned out and one of the cast members twirls around a "tornado" with a spotlight shining on it. He also wants you to know that Toto, the real, live dog in the show, is an adorable addition to the production.

Both boys really enjoyed the question and answer session with the cast afterward, and my youngest liked that someone asked how the tornado worked and the cast member explained it. {It then became less scary for my tender-hearted boy!}

For a schedule and tickets, please visit The Marriott Theater's website.

Stay tuned for the next destinations, complete with a giveaway later this week! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Orphan Sunday 2014: In Whatever Way He Calls

“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – Radical by David Platt.
What's true for author David Platt has also been true for our family. Before we hosted Eta last Christmas, orphans were still numbers ... sad statistics that made us pause momentarily.
Our hearts have been broken in a way I cannot explain since these numbers became names: Eta, Nauris, Alina, Julia, Viktors, Viktoria ... the list goes on.
Today is Orphan Sunday, a day of advocacy for orphans and orphan care. We know, because you are here, that you already care. We know you want to help. We are in the same boat; we want to help. We want to push back on the darkness.
One of the ways we feel our family has been asked to push back that darkness is by hosting and adopting orphans. Right now, we are preparing to host M, a 12 year old from Eastern Europe, with the open heart to adopt her and her toddler sister, G.
Today, this Orphan Sunday, will you help in whatever capacity you can? Here are four ways you can help from the comfort of your home! Choose one or choose all!

!. Simply share this video and share with others. 

Orphan Sunday 2014 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

2. Commit to praying for a specific orphan or family adopting {you could totally choose us!!}.

3. Share one of the New Horizons for Children kid's pictures before hosting matching for Christmas closes tomorrow.

4. Participate in our raffle for a beautiful necklace created and donated by my generous friend Bethany Seaton Aubin of Oxford Bright.

It is our deep hope that our friends will choose one, and commit, even just for this day, to using your voice, your resources or your talents, to advocating for orphans and orphan care.

Raffle Info:
If you'd like to participate in the raffle, simply comment here that you'd like to purchase a ticket with cash or check or simply send the amount via paypal to adopt {at) ajustlove {dot} com, and our boys will be sure to write your name on the raffle ticket.

We'll pick a winner to receive the necklace this Tuesday, November 4, John Worth's birthday!
Here are the ticket details:
One raffle ticket for $6
Two for $10
Three for $14 {the ages of both girls put together}
Eleven for $32 {John Worth's 32nd birthday is November 4}

Thank you, friends, for caring. May God Himself bless your faithfulness to movement in whatever way He calls you!