Back to My Regularly Scheduled Program

So I know it's ONLY December 15 (yeah, only) but I'm already making a New Year's resolution - I need to blog more.

I go to bed each night with all these bloggy ideas running through my head but since my JOB that pays me REAL MONEY is all about the writing of many, many words every day the last thing I think about at the end of the day is this blog. (I'm sorry blog. It's not you, it's me.)

So I'll try to do better next year. Hell, maybe I'll even do the NaBloPoMo in January where I write a post every single day. We'll see how I feel on January 1.


Here's what's happening in my fishbowl lately.

First, I have to say this: I am so sick and freaking tired of people who are assholes about food allergies.

I said it.

And I'll say it again, this time with feeling:
Stop being an asshole when it comes to food allergies.

Don't tell me that I need to "step it up" and bring my own food to school events. Because if there's one thing food allergy parents do EVERY SINGLE DAY it's step up. We spend our days worrying about our kids and what they're eating and what their friends are eating at the lunchroom table and if we're going to get THAT CALL from the school telling us our kid is having an allergic reaction.

So don't freaking tell me to step up. And don't tell me that the note sent to all the room moms at school with a "safe snack" list isn't relevant to you because your kid doesn't have a classmate with food allergies. It's called food allergy education you cold-hearted dimwit so maybe you need to educate yourself on just how serious (and deadly) food allergies are because I guarantee one of these years your kid WILL have a classmate with food allergies and if you're educated you won't seem like such an asshole.

And when I post something on my Facebook page about peanut butter and how I think it should be banned in classrooms with peanut allergy kids, don't tell me I'm wrong. Because you know what? I'm not wrong. I'm 1000% right and it isn't something that is up for debate. Your kid won't die if they don't eat peanut butter but my kid could die if she does. So shut the hell up already.

[Wow. I feel like a million times better right about now. I guess I needed that mini-rant.]

Next, today was one of those days where I wasn't sure how things were going to end up.

See, I got a phone call last week telling me that my annual mammogram had "differences" when compared to last year's scan and I needed to come back for a second diagnostic mammogram. Not the phone call any woman wants to hear if I'm being totally honest.

And so I spent the better part of the past week wondering what the hell was going on. And I will admit I did a few self exams in the process just to make sure I didn't feel anything weird. I Googled "follow-up mammogram" and "second mammogram" and various other search terms. I WedMD'd it. (I also just made WedMD a verb but whatever). And I tried to keep telling myself to stop worrying so much already.

Today was my "diagnostic screening." I took my mom with me.

After sitting in a tiny little nook wearing only a pink "cape" and my jeans for nearly 30 minutes, I was finally called into a screening room. (While I'm on the subject...let's talk about this pink cape. Seriously people. Can you give a girl a little dignity please? "Take off everything from the waist up and put on this pink cape that ONLY ties at the neck and flies open at the slightest movement so that you have to cross your arms in front of you lest you flash the next person who walks by." Yeah. So totally awesome. They could at least toss us Mardi Gras beads as they walk by.)

Anyway....I had an awesome tech (is that what they're called?) doing the screening. She explained what they were looking for (HELLO??? Why can't they tell you that when they call you???? Would have saved a lot of anxiety!!) and she even showed me the two scans so I could compare them.

Long story short: calcifications were the issue and they were microscopic (and actually had to be magnified in the scans). And from last week to this week a few of them even seemed to disappear. The radiologist said I need to come back in six months for another mammogram but that it wasn't anything to worry about.

Huge. Exhale. Here.

So my takeaway is this: get your mammogram ladies. NOW.

And that my friend is what's happening in my fishbowl right now. Only 10 more days 'til Christmas and for the first time in forever I'm not feeling totally overwhelmed or stressed about the holiday. I'm sure that will change soon.


Sometimes It's the "Small" Things That Make a Difference

It's been one of those days.

You know, the kind where you already feel like a chicken with its head cut off running around like a madwoman trying to get everything done and then you get a phone call telling you that you need to come in for a second mammogram next week because the radiologist noticed a change from last year's mammogram and how does Monday at 9:30 work for you?

That's the kind of day I'm having.

I freaked out about the whole second mammogram thing for about 10 minutes then I called my mom and my husband and texted my sister. And Googled it. And now I'm better. (Yes, I did Google "second mammorgram" because that's how I roll. Move on.)

I also might have eaten a bowl of ice cream for lunch.
But don't tell anyone.
It's our little secret.

Then the FexEx truck stopped in front of my house and delivered this:

Yes my friends. It's finally here.

My Erin Condren life planner has arrived.
I can now plan my life for 2015.
And this little delivery from FedEx made me day.
Go figure. 

In this all-digital age it might seem silly to some to be SO FREAKING EXCITED about a paper calendar but OHMYGOSHYOUGUYS I'm totally excited.

I love calendars.
I love writing things down.
I can't keep track of my life on my iPhone's calendar.
I. Just. Can't.

But this beauty?
Oh hells yes.
Bring on the planning.
I even bought all new colorful pens.
I'm weird like that.

[And just in case anyone out there is considering ordering their very own life planner, I have a really cool "refer a friend" code: https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/tracicurth0212]

Oh and just because, here's a little disclaimer: No one asked me to write this post about my new life planner. I'm just really excited about it and wanted to share my day with all of you. You're welcome. :) 

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go fill in my life planner.


Elf on the Shelf Returns

So, Walt is back.

Walt would be our Elf on the Shelf. The bane of my holidays. The elf sized thorn in my side.

You get the idea.

I don't like the elf. He only exists to taunt me and challenge me to remember to move his freaky little self every night. Because you know, I don't have enough things to remember. Now I have to remember to move the elf and keep the magic alive.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Look, I'm not a Grinch.

But I honestly want to punch someone in the face every year when Walt returns. Specifically the genius who thought a $30 creepy elf was a good idea for keeping kids in check during the holidays. I was doing just fine on my own up until a few years ago thankyouverymuch.

But no. Everyone (OK, not everyone...but a lot of unfortunate souls) have been dragged into this whole Elf on the Shelf debacle.

There are Pinterest boards dedicated to "fun and creative" things to do with/for your elf.

Make it stop.

I consider it a win when I remember to move the damn thing before the kids wake up in the morning. There's no way in hell that I'm going to add powdered sugar, mini marshmallows, or toilet paper crafts into the mix.

Our elf is very, very boring. You can normally find him hanging off the 7-foot-tall Eiffel Tower in our living room, or sitting in a bowl in the dining room, or lounging on a wreath in the bathroom. That's about it. Sometimes we get crazy and he hangs in a stocking all day.

Last week the husband forgot to move the elf and the kids were dismayed to find him still in the bathroom, still sitting on a wreath, still creepy. So I made the executive decision to MOVE THE ELF DURING THE DAY. And when the kids were outside I moved Walt to another room.

Let's just say the kids were freaked out. "HOW CAN WALT MOVE DURING THE DAY??!?!?!"

Kids, I have no idea. Maybe he has his days and nights mixed up.

Thankfully the elf has corrected that problem. Then the other day we had the brilliant idea to have Walt deliver a Lego Advent calendar to the kids.

Now they want more gifts from Walt. "Dear Walt - Do you think you can bring us another present?"

Um, not likely.

Emma wrote Walt a note last night asking if he knew "Diamond" - the Elf that has taken up residence in her 2nd grade classroom.

"Walt" responded that he "doesn't know Diamond" but he "has seen her at Santa's Workshop." As I re-read that sentence this morning I realized that I had inadvertently turned Diamond into a stripper Elf on the Shelf who works at a strip club named 'Santa's Workshop.' Oops.

It's funny if you think about it.

The kids have drafted yet another letter to Walt with more questions. I think perhaps Walt might show up with his arm in a sling tomorrow morning so that he can't write any more notes.

On the bright side, I only have to remember to move the stupid little elf for three more weeks.


If You Can't Take the Heat, Change the Rules

Here's a thought - if you have volunteered to serve as a representative for a school or organization and you can't handle criticism, questions, or anything that isn't rainbows and unicorns....perhaps it would be best if you just stayed home and avoided people.

Because when (for example) a parent asks a totally valid question on (for example) a school's Facebook page that was (for example) touted as a "place for [School's Name Families] to connect and stay connected" (redundant much?)....I'm thinking the first reaction of a person who is OH-I-DON'T-KNOW the PTO president (just for an example) isn't to lash out with a negative response.

One would think that a reasonable person who is (for example) the "leader" of a school organization that is supposed to be for parents (coughPTOcough) would reach out to that said parent an offer a sincere apology and then leave it at that.

One would also not expect a member of the school's STAFF to publicly lash out at a parent on said Facebook page and make false accusations.

Just throwing that out as an example of HOW NOT TO ACT.

But perhaps the funniest thing I've seen today is when a person who is in a volunteer position with a school group changes the settings of the school Facebook group so that only "positive," "supportive," and "informative" posts are allowed. All the rest - individualized concerns and complaints - MUST be directed elsewhere and will be banned from the page. Because Big Brother is now approving all posts just so they can guarantee that only posts about rainbows, puppies, and unicorns will make it through the filter.

If you have a real concern or a suggestion - like for example about offering nut-free candy at a Halloween party - your negativity will be relegated to the "rejected" posts pile because HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY AUTHORITY.

I have a great suggestion - find a new person to lead.


Not All Doughnuts are 'The Same'

Today was the annual "Muffins for Moms" at the kids' school.

The name is a fake-out as there are no muffins, just doughnuts. However, it wouldn't be as cute to call it "Doughnuts for Moms" and they already have a "Doughnuts for Dads" in the spring.

Anyway, Olivia always enjoys this event because she can eat a doughnut - which is a rare thing for her thanks to her food allergies. (Food allergies are real jerks, ya know).

The school always ALWAYS ALWAYS has a 'nut-free' tray of doughnuts at this event. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

Except for this year. Today we walked into the cafeteria to find several trays of doughnuts, none of which were marked "nut-free."

I asked the volunteer (who is also a PTO officer) about the lack of "nut-free" doughnuts and was told "We looked at them and determined they are all nut-free." So apparently the PTO officers became food allergy experts overnight and can sense nuts in doughnuts. "None of them were made in peanut oil and they don't have nuts on them."

Girl, please.

Food allergy parents do better research than the FBI and it took about TWO SECONDS for me to spot the doughnuts that were COVERED IN NUTS. So yeah the whole "they're all nut-free" declaration was a big load of B.S.

I searched the trays until I found a frosted doughnut that I felt was safe for Olivia - (1) because it was far away from the nut covered doughnuts, and (2) because I trust the bakery that made them. However, I'm still sitting here at home, mildly freaking out about the fact that she ate a doughnut.

And so once again I emailed the principal and his response was that they DID in fact purchase a box of nut-free doughnuts AND he personally made the "nut-free" signs for that tray but in his absence another school employee THREW OUT THE SIGNS AND MIXED UP ALL THE DOUGHNUTS because she DECIDED THEY WERE ALL THE SAME AND DIDN'T HAVE NUTS.

Oh. My. Freaking. God. Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Seriously. What the hell? Who does something that STUPID?

Just because she thought they all looked the same she also thought she had the right to make a determination about the safety of all the doughnuts?

No. Just a million times NO.

There are no words for the level of stupidity displayed by that school employee.

No. Words.

I just can't.

I can't imagine why this person thought that it would be OK to mix "nut-free" doughnuts in with all the others?

Hey, clue phone..it's for you: If something is clearly marked NUT-FREE then that means it is NUT-FREE and SHOULD NEVER BE MIXED WITH ALL THE OTHER FOOD.


In the meantime we've been invited to attend tomorrow's Muffins for Moms event (for last names M-Z) where the principal "guarantees" there will be a nut-free tray that is clearly marked. I don't see that happening.

As it is, I'll be sitting here continuing my mild freak out about the doughnut I let Olivia eat. Only three more hours until they're home from school.


O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! You're Up Before Thanksgiving!

Yes, that's right.
Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you.

We decked the halls yesterday.
Our Christmas tree is UP.
And it's only November 17.

Sue me.

OHMYGOD! You're combining the holidays! How will the turkey know that it is for Thanksgiving??? It's the end of days. The zombie apocalypse is near.

Give me a break. (Also, do you see how excited Emma is? Priceless.)

Yes, this is the earliest we have EVER put up our tree. Normally the tree goes up the day before Thanksgiving or ON Thanksgiving morning. And it comes down on December 26 or 27. Why? Because by that time I'm sick of looking at it.

Yeah, bah-humbug. Whatever. 

We have always put our tree up early. And by "we" I mean me and Kevin. We started doing it that way in 2003 when I was huge and pregnant and due on January 3, 2004 and I wanted nothing to do with taking a tree down in January. So....we figured if it was up by Thanksgiving we could take it down RIGHT after Christmas.

And so, our tree tradition was born.

As for yesterday, we were discussing decorating over our morning coffee and I said "ugh...I don't even want to think about it" and he said "let's do it today." And I said OK, sure.

And now it's November 17 and we have three Christmas trees up in the house (and decorated!) and the other snow globe and snowman displays are up too. The only thing we didn't do (for fear of looking TOTALLY INSANE) was decorate the outside of the house. THAT can wait.

Now, on the day before Thanksgiving we can take the kids to the movies and enjoy a relaxing day. And on Thanksgiving morning I can enjoy my coffee and the Black Friday ads without thinking about decorating.

And, I can take it all down on December 26 without even the smallest pang of guilt.


One More Thing Wrong with Common Core

I'm going to make this very simple - I am not, nor will I ever be, a fan of Common Core.

For those of you who don't know what Common Core is, it is the new way to teach our kids.

According to the "official" website for CC: The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). 

Also, it sucks.
A lot.

Common Core is horrible. The math is ridiculous. I have two college degrees and normally I can't figure out how to do basic math problems my kids bring home. Thankfully my fifth grader is a math whiz and doesn't need my help.

This year both of my kids are using the 'Journeys' reading book from the Common Core curriculum. To say that the book is horrible would be an understatement.

This is what my SECOND GRADER was reading today:

Note what it says: "Bear is STUPID..."

Bear. Is. Stupid.

Will someone please explain to me in what universe should we be teaching our kids to use the word STUPID?

Bear. Is. Stupid.

When Emma reached that line of the story she said, "Mommy I'm not going to read that line. It's not a nice word."

Where is the educational value in the word "stupid"? Is this part of the "high quality academics" that Common Core is trying to teach our kids?

I can't be the only one who thinks using the word "stupid" in a story for school is wrong.


Mid-week Annoyances

I woke up today in a mood.

Shocking right?

I am blaming the midterm election on my current mood, which is 'meh.' I'm feeling totally disillusioned by the results of the election - across the board, not just in my home state of Ohio. Which yes, is THE swing state and will be THE battleground for president again in 2016.

So I'm already in A MOOD today when I check my email and see a message from someone and it contains the following: "make a note to do this every month TFN."


I actually had to Google "what is TFN?" because I have no clue WTF 'TFN' means.

Now I'm not stupid. And I am OK with emails that have EOM in the subject line because I know that means "end of message" and it saves me from having to read a long email. 

But please for the love of all that is holy, don't use things like TFN in emails that are sent my way. Use words.

I like words.

FWIW, TFN means 'till further notice' which apparently was too many characters for the person who composed the email to actually type.

Here's the thing - I speak English. I like grammar. A lot. And I don't speak text or bingo.

So unless you and I have the kind of email relationship where we can comfortably end our messages with smiley face emoticons (and there are only a few people in that category), please don't send me email messages with bingo-speak in them.

Don't use TFN in an email to me.

Like ever.


The Tooth Collector

Emma lost another tooth Friday night. It had been loose for a while but the fact that she hit herself in the face with a ball helped a lot.

Here's the thing about me and loose teeth - I can't handle it. It's a good thing Kevin has no issue pulling teeth out because if it was up to me the kids would be walking around like extras in The Walking Dead ... loose teeth hanging out all over the place.

It wouldn't be pretty.

I hate loose teeth.
Want to gross me out? Wiggle a loose tooth. 
The thought of pulling teeth out makes me queasy.


I save the kids' teeth.
Every single one of them.

I'm totally serious.

When Kevin played tooth fairy Friday night he came into our bedroom and said "where do I put the tooth?" To which I replied, "Open that small jewelry box and put it in there with the rest of them."

With. The. Rest. Of. Them.

Yep. That's my tooth stash.

One would think I'm some sort of midwestern Voodoo priestess with all the baby teeth stored in that little jewelry box. Those few teeth in the pic (sorry about that pic if you just ate) are the tip of the tooth-berg.

I have no idea why I keep their teeth. It started innocently enough with keeping their first lost tooth. But now I'm all "omigod I can't throw them out!"

Because you know, they'll come in handy centuries from now when someone wants to clone my kids.

Oh and those pennies stashed in there with the teeth? Yeah those would be pennies from the years they were born. To put in their shoes on their wedding day.

Honestly I'm totally weird. I know it.

So back to the teeth. I suppose I need to start throwing them out rather than saving them. I mean what the hell am I going to do with a bunch of random baby teeth that aren't even separated into "Olivia" and "Emma" piles?

"Here kids! I saved all your baby teeth when you were little. Merry Christmas!"

Yeah. I don't think so.
Must. Let. Go.
Time to toss the teeth.

But first tell me - do you save your kid's teeth?


How to Fail at Leadership

Clearly today has been "a day."

Aside from the fact that this is the third blog post I've written today I also would like to eat ice cream straight from the container and drink a very large bottle of wine. At the same time. Which would probably be really gross.


I've been sitting here thinking - what would a good leader do when faced with an issue like food allergies at school?

A good leader would (1) set up a meeting with ALL THE PARENTS of kids with food allergies at the school, (2) listen to the concerns of those parents, and (3) formulate a plan that would include ALL THE KIDS at the school when it came to special events and/or parties.

A good leader would never tell a parent they reacted the way they did because they were still mad about something that happened a month ago. (Oh and that "something" was advocating for the safety of a child and questioning the leader. Yeah. Really super bad evil stuff ya know.)

A good leader would never accuse a parent of something that never happened. Repeatedly accuse the parent of something that didn't happen.

A good leader would not take offense when a parent contacts the school principal to voice her concern.

A good leader would call that parent and set up a meeting to figure out plan.

A good leader would not send a private Facebook message that falsely accuses a parent of something and in the next breath says "hey, will you help us?"

And when the parent says "I would have helped you if today's events never happened and you hadn't shown your true colors, but since today did happen there is no way in hell that I will ever help you and thank goodness my child will be done at that school in June"....

...a good leader doesn't respond with "Ok, sounds good."

Leadership fail.

More Food Allergy "Fun"

So today has been one of "those" days when I really just want to punch something. Or someone. Or both.

After my post this morning about the Halloween party at school...well let's just put it this way:

The initial response from the PTO president was followed by many other not-so-nice comments and accusations from other parents.

My favorite: You're being mean and unfair to the other kids. 

OK. Let's just stop here for a minute.

Advocating for the safety of ALL KIDS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES is not being "mean" or "unfair" to other students and for you to think that it is just shows how stupid you really are.

But I think perhaps my favorite tidbit from the whole day was when the PTO president emailed me to tell me that she acted like she did because .... wait for it ... SHE WAS MAD ABOUT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED IN SEPTEMBER.

Yeah. She was MAD AT ME because I DARED to question her decision to serve chocolate chip cookies during a school event therefore leaving kids with food allergies no safe snack.

Let me repeat. She was MAD AT ME for advocating for my child and emailing the principal. And so she basically told me to go to hell in the school Facebook page.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

My response to her was this: I can't even fathom being angry at a parent for advocating for their child's safety. I just can't.

I was also told that "other parents" didn't take their kid's food allergies as seriously as I did and that my "level of concern" was making it into a "big issue."

Um, hello?

In case you missed the memo food allergies (all kinds) are a big issues. They're a big issue that can kill. But you know because other parents are "less serious" about I should be too.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

Oh and then she asked for my idea for school events and food so that they could "vote on it." My suggestion? Always have a nut-free alternative on hand OR just don't pass out food items at certain school-wide events.

The response I got in return: Sorry we can't come to a compromise but feel free to contact other [PTO] officers in the future. 

I think it's safe to say that the PTO can kiss my backside.

Food Allergies and Halloween Parties

I am so angry right now and my hands are shaking so hard that I can barely type.

Once again I am dealing with stupid people who have no idea what it is like to have a child with food allergies.

The school's PTO president asked for parents to donate candy for the school-wide Halloween party.

I offered this suggestion: For any parent looking to donate a bag of "peanut free" candy please note that chocolate candy bars are not safe for kids with peanut allergies. This includes Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers, plain M&Ms, and even mini Hershey bars. They all contain a peanut warning - whether it is "processed in the same facility" or as an ingredient. Even if a candy bar has no nuts in it they are normally not safe for anyone with peanut allergies. Nut free candy includes: Dum Dum suckers, Charms suckers, Smarties, Skittles, Starburst, Dots, Tootsie brand candies, Junior Mints, Lifesavers, etc. If you want a list of nut free candy you can find it at this link (scroll to page 11): http://snacksafely.com/snacklist.pdf

And this was the response I received via Facebook: Two of my children have choked on hard candy (i.e., not breathing and Heimlich Maneuver), so I don't see most of the listed alternatives as safer options. I asked for issues to be presented as SPO agenda items and have had no response, so we are going with what was decided at last night's meeting, which includes any candy as long as it does not have peanuts as an ingredient.

That response was from the PTO president. 
The. PTO. President. 

Her kids can't handle "hard candy" so my kid with a life threatening peanut and tree nut allergy is filed under "too damn bad" and "sorry about your luck." 

Just once I would like a parent of a child without food allergies to WALK IN OLIVIA'S SHOES. I would like them to cry over cookies that can't be eaten. I would like them to go to a friend's birthday party and NOT be able to eat the cake and feel left out and "different." I would like them to go trick-or-treating on Halloween and NOT BE ABLE TO EAT MOST OF THE CANDY. 

I want them to cry over not being able to eat something because that particular food item could cause them to go into anaphylaxis. I want them to feel different. I want them to feel scared.

And then I'd like them to tell me how it feels to be left out. To be excluded. To be treated differently because their body decided to revolt and treat peanuts and tree nuts as the enemy. I want these people to understand just how upsetting, frustrating, and SCARY a food allergy is. 

What I don't need is other parents telling me that I'm being "mean" or "unfair" to the other kids in school because I'M TRYING TO PROTECT MY CHILD. 

What I want to say to those parents is this: HOW DARE YOU? How dare you accuse me of being "unfair" to your child. 

You know what is unfair? It's unfair that my child can't enjoy that cupcake your kid brought in for her birthday. It's unfair that my kid has to carry EpiPens with her EVERYWHERE and that we have to tell her that she can't eat things she likes. It is unfair that my daughter could eat a cookie, cupcake, cracker, or candy bar and go into anaphylaxis and be rushed to the emergency room. It is unfair that food allergies are life threatening. 

My job is to advocate for my daughter and quite frankly I don't give a damn if you think I'm being "mean" or "unfair" to the other kids. 

In this day and age with the prevalence of food allergies I think it is about time that school parties stop being about the food and the candy and start being about the kids. All of the kids. Not just the kids who can eat the candy and cookies.