7.16.2014

The One Where I Give Lame Excuses for Not Blogging


You know what? It's summer. So I guess that means I'm on summer break from my blog?

No?

OK. In all honesty I think about writing here a lot. Most of it happens just as I'm about to fall asleep and I have these great ideas for a post and then BAM! The "Simply Sleep" pills kick in and I'm out like a light. And then the next morning I have no recollection of any of those great ideas.

It's summer. Which means the kids have been sitting on their butts for weeks eating bon-bons and watching repeats of 'Jessie' on the Disney Channel all day long.

OK. Not really.

Summer has looked a lot like this: leave for OBX vacation on the last day of school, get back a week later, kids start two weeks of summer religion classes (yes, I am THAT Catholic mom) in addition to starting their Friday morning golf lessons, then it's the Fourth of July week and nothing gets done around here, and then Olivia has a week of basketball camp. And now it's July 16 (Happy Birthday to my husband!) and school starts up again in a little more than a month.

The kids have been busy. I've been busy - you know, working and driving them all over town. Anyone who thinks working from home is a piece of cake should try it in the summer when the kids are home EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE MY JOB. A lot. And I LOVE MY KIDS. A lot. But I won't be sad when August 21 comes along and they get on the bus and head to school all day, five days a week.

Speaking of work...I'm coming up on the three year anniversary of when I escaped from hell the grasp of the Green Polyester Trolls and let me tell you how much happier I am. I love what I'm doing now. And that's what matters.

And as we head into the last month of summer ... I need to take some time for myself every day and blog more. I miss my blog. (Although, it is somewhat unlikely that anyone else misses it. Is there anyone out there reading this? Hello?)

Anyway...here's to a wonderful last month of summer break!

6.23.2014

The Post Where I Vent About Food Allergies and Insensitive Jerks


There are many things in life that annoy me.

Bad grammar. Overuse of exclamation points. Tailgating drivers. Slow drivers. Brown M&Ms.

And, people who refuse to understand the seriousness of food allergies.

It's been almost three years since Olivia was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame.

In those three years I have become a food allergy advocate for Olivia (and for all the other kids out there who were dealt this very unfair hand). I read all the labels. I do all the research. I warn the waitresses about Liv's allergies. I demand that they tell the kitchen about the allergies. I worry that something might get past the defenses and I'll have to EpiPen my 10 year old in the middle of a restaurant (or my kitchen).

I hope for a cure and know that one might never come.

And I shake my head in total disbelief every time I hear someone say "what's the big deal?" or "it can't be that serious" or "how can YOU still eat peanut butter if Olivia is allergic?"

Let me explain it all again....

The "big deal" is that Olivia has three very serious food allergies. Has she ever experience anaphylaxis? No. Does that mean she'll never go into anaphylaxis? No. She could eat something tomorrow that she's eaten before and JUST LIKE THAT I could be grabbing my EpiPens and calling 911 at the same time.

We do our best to avoid all the known allergens - peanuts, tree nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, coconut, and many many more), and sesame. We avoid restaurants that aren't safe. We avoid ice cream shops where there's a risk of cross contact or cross contamination. We have to tell Olivia "no" and then comfort her when she cries because she can't eat the same dessert everyone else is eating.

We think back to all the times pre-diagnosis when she would eat peanut butter and then wake up vomiting in the middle of the night. We think about how lucky we were that she never had anaphylaxis after eating peanut butter pre-diagnosis. I think about the time we took her to a hibachi restaurant for her 7th birthday and how sick she felt that night (presumably from the sesame seeds that we didn't know were dangerous). We think about how many times she could have had an allergic reaction at school with NO EpiPens in sight. We always think about the "what if" moments.

We don't allow Olivia to eat anything made with peanuts, tree nuts, or sesame. Nor do we let her eat anything that is processed in a facility where those allergens are present. We ask questions at the bakery, we order "nut free" cakes knowing in the back of our mind that there is always a small risk that something got through the "nut free barrier."

There is never a guarantee that something that says it is "nut free" is truly nut free. Mistakes will be made. It's often a matter of putting our faith in the labels and trusting that they're accurate.

Do Olivia's allergies mean we don't keep peanut butter in our house? No. We have a jar of it in our pantry, within Olivia's reach. She doesn't touch it and we do our best to not eat it when she's home. We don't keep nuts of any kind in the house, but there are items in our pantry and freezer that she can't eat. And we make sure that she avoids those items. And (OHMYGOD) yes, sometimes I eat peanut butter. When Olivia is home. And I make it a point to not touch her or anything she is using in the kitchen.

And it's not just peanuts and tree nuts that are an issue. We also have to deal with sesame which is a sneaky bastard. I can only buy Panko bread crumbs because there is a sesame risk in most other bread crumbs. We don't order from certain pizza places in town because they use sesame seeds on their crust.  Sesame doesn't have to be listed as an allergen according to the FDA because it's not one of the "big 8"...so there's a big guessing game involved with sesame.

I read the label of every food item I'm buying at the store that I know Olivia will be eating and do a small victory dance when I find something "safe" that I know she loves (like powdered sugar doughnuts).

It's all about the labels and avoidance. It's how the world of food allergies work. If you eat pecan pie on Thanksgiving, Olivia will not give you a kiss. If you eat a peanut butter sandwich you can't play with Olivia until you wash your hands. If we have almond chicken with our Chinese take out, keep it away from Olivia's food.

We all have jobs to do to keep our food allergy kids safe.

And this includes dining establishments. There are restaurants where I am 100 percent comfortable taking Olivia because we know they are safe and take food allergies seriously. There are also restaurants where we won't dine (Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A) because they are not safe for Olivia's allergies.

When I can visit a restaurant (or other dining location) and have a conversation with the wait staff and/or kitchen staff about Olivia's allergies and receive an intelligent answer in return, then I know we will come back to that establishment.

When I question a dining establishment about their food safety and possible cross contact issues and I'm told that food labels are essentially "fake" and only exist because the LAWYERS MADE THEM DO IT...well, let's just say I go into my Mama Bear mode and I will do whatever it takes to protect my daughter. Including bringing safe food into that establishment until they change their policies and procedures.

Also, I want to punch them in the face.
Hard.

I don't expect a 'peanut free zone' everywhere we go with Olivia. Hell, our own house isn't 100 percent peanut free. But what I do expect is respect and civility and understanding and compassion.

To anyone who thinks food allergies aren't a big deal and that my requests for food labeling and a reduction in cross contact in the kitchen is stupid, imagine you have a food allergy.

Put yourself in Olivia's shoes for just one day - and make it a day when you're at a friend's birthday party and everyone else is eating cake and ice cream and you can't eat it because the cake is from an "unsafe" bakery and the ice cream has a "processed in the same facility as" warning. Imagine how you would feel. Left out. Singled out. Different. Now multiply that by EVERY SINGLE DAY. Then maybe you'll understand what it's like to have a potentially life-threatening food allergy.

Don't tell me that my child should eat somewhere else. Don't tell me that food labels aren't real. Get educated and start working to protect kids with food allergies. Otherwise, you're just a big jerk.

6.17.2014

Summer


It's that time of year again - summer vacation!

We spent the first week of our summer vacation in the Outer Banks. It was a much-needed vacation after the #WinterFromHell that we had here in northwest Ohio.

My OBX vacation consisted of waking at 5:30 a.m. to see the sunrise every day (just look at it...I guarantee you'd be up that early too!). Then I drank coffee on the deck of our beach house, sat by the pool reading and drinking tropical drinks, and walked on the beach collecting shells.

Oh, and I ate a lot of seafood.

It was relaxing and gorgeous and wonderful.

And now I'm back to the reality of work and the kids taking religious education classes for the next two weeks, and golf lessons, and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. ;)

But you know what? I'm OK with all of that. I love that I have a job where I can work from home (currently I'm sitting at my kitchen table surrounded by papers and notebooks and Laffy Taffy while the kids play in the basement). Reality isn't so bad when you love your job!

It seems crazy that we're already halfway through June, but times flies when you're having fun. Or something like that. And so for the next two months I'm going to enjoy being a short order cook at lunchtime and hanging out with the kids.

Plus, in less than 60 days we're headed to Disney World!

Happy Summer.

6.03.2014

Someone Should Take Away My Blogger Card

Honestly I suck at blogging.

This is apparent by the complete lack of posts for almost a month.

Also, I have no good excuse. I haven't been sick (well, OK...I was sick for about a week). My computer wasn't broken (oh the horror!).

I've just been really busy. (Aren't we all?). And, I didn't have anything to blog about. (GASP!)

The kids are finishing up the school year - thanks to the never-ending winter they had two extra days added to the end of the year. So instead of being done TOMORROW they have school until Friday.

Yeah. The school board added TWO EXTRA DAYS so the kids can (1) have field day on Thursday, and (2) have a "fun day" on Friday. Thankfully the kids won't be at school on Friday - they'll be in a car traveling south(east?) to the Outer Banks. So suck on that school board.

Seriously though...they added two extra days of school so the kids can PLAY. What does that prove? Wouldn't it have made more sense to do one extra week back in April of "school until 4 p.m." so they were actually DOING WORK?

Nope. Let's have field day and "clean out your desk and we're going to watch a movie" day. Yay school.

Speaking of summer vacation (I was, kind of)....I cannot wait until Saturday when we are at the beach. I need a week to decompress and relax and just exhale.

So happy end-of-the-school-year to all of you. Here's to a great summer. I promise I'll write more.

Maybe. ;)

4.27.2014

A Little Bit of Inspiration - Water for Runners


Today was the Glass City Marathon here in Toledo.

As has been the case for as long as we've lived in our house (I think), the course for the full marathon snakes through our neighborhood.

This year the kids decided they wanted to go out and cheer on the runners, just like we did last year. We didn't make any signs, but when they arrived at the intersection the runners would be crossing one of our neighbors enlisted the kids to help pass out water to the runners.

As the girls passed out small cups of water from the "unofficial" water table, I stood on the sidewalk, cheering on the runners.

At one point Emma decided to head across the street to "get closer" to the runners. Suddenly I heard Kevin say "there's a firefighter running in full gear."

I looked up from my phone just in time to catch this moment:


...and then this...


And I heard him say "thanks sweetie" and he kept on moving.

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the local news, the Toledo Fire Department lost two of their own in an apartment fire in January. So I thought this firefighter might be running in his full gear to honor those fallen brothers.

Tonight, I saw this story on our local ABC affiliate - the firefighter taking the water from Emma is Brian Hackenburg from the Perkins Township Fire Department. He ran 26.2 miles wearing 42 pound of turnout gear...and he was doing it to honor the memory of his fallen brothers.

He finished the marathon in 5 hours. And he was still wearing his full turnout gear.

Amazing.
And inspiring.

How I Spent My Sunday Afternoon (Alt. Title: My Life as a Reluctant Dance Mom)

You see that line up there?

Maybe you're thinking it's a line for the hottest concert in town?

Maybe you'd be wrong.

That my friends is the line to buy tickets to the dance recital.

Yep. You heard me.
A line.
To buy tickets.
FOR A DANCE RECITAL.

You also might be thinking "oh lovely blue sky, it must be a nice spring day."

Again you'd be wrong.

The temperature was about 46 with a VERY COLD wind out of the east. So it felt like 41 degrees.

My Sunday afternoon was spent sitting in that line, freezing my butt off wearing my winter coat, gloves, and a fleece blanket.

All so my sister and I could get "really good" seats in the "Golden Circle" for our daughters' dance recital next month.

Call us crazy but we weren't the only ones. We were joined by many other "crazy" moms and some even less sane people who actually CAMPED OUT OVERNIGHT to buy tickets.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.
People camp out for tickets.
To a dance recital.

To say that was crazy would be a huge understatement.

And yes, before anyone starts the whole "but you CHOOSE to sit/stand in that line"...yes, I realize this. But it doesn't mean that I think it is in any way, shape, or form NORMAL. Because it isn't normal. It will never be normal.

There has to be a better way to sell tickets for a dance recital that doesn't include standing in line for hours.

You know there is this nifty thing called The Internet. And you can buy and sell tickets on it. Using a computer or a smart phone. From the comfort (and warmth) of your home. I'm pretty sure that would alleviate all the drama and insanity around recital tickets. 

And yes, I'm sure I could still get "OK" seats if I just waited until the next dance class. But trust me when I say the auditorium where the dance recital takes place is the same theater where they show Broadway-style shows in this city and if you aren't close to the stage you can't see your kid's face. And after a year of lessons and costumes and rehearsals, I'd like to see my kids' faces when they dance.

Which means every year I have to submit myself to the insanity that is the DANCE RECITAL TICKET LINE.

And it will make me stabby every year. Which is why I suck at being a 'dance mom.' As much as I LOVE watching my kids dance .... I am not made out for the whole recital-backstage-dance-mom-ritual. It's just not in my DNA.

But I will keep doing the waiting in line for recital tickets because this is for my kids and they love to dance.

And that's what it's all about.
My kids.

Dance on my friends.
Dance on.

4.21.2014

#IWantMyNerdHQ Update and Final Push!


“Being nerdy just means being passionate about something, including everyone - the coolest people on Earth are passionate and therefore nerdy about something whatever it is, whether it's sports, or gaming, or technology, or fashion, or beauty, or food, or whatever.” - Zachary Levi

I kinda sorta love that quote.

I told you in my previous post that I'm a nerd. Always have been. Always will be. And I'm totally OK with that. I'm a Disney nerd, a word nerd (also known as a grammar freak), and a book nerd.

Whatever. It's all cool.

And that guy up there...Zachary Levi (a.k.a. Flynn Rider and Chuck)...well, he's a self-proclaimed NERD and he runs an organization called The Nerd Machine.

The Nerd Machine sponsors the NerdHQ during San Diego's annual ComicCon event. This year's event is scheduled for July 24-27 at Petco Park in San Diego. And...it's a FREE event. As in totally free.

NerdHQ gives fans and celebrities an "intimate and engaging experience" that is unlike any other in the Nerd Universe.

In addition to the cool fan-and-celebrity interaction, NerdHQ also raises funds for Operation Smile - the international organization for which Zachary is an ambassador. To date NerdHQ has raised $415K for Operation Smile!

That's right. NerdHQ has raised almost HALF A MILLION DOLLARS for Operation Smile.

So...here's what I'm asking you, my faithful nerd readers, to do: Donate just $5 to #IWantMyNerdHQ so that Zachary and The Nerd Machine can put on a successful NerdHQ in July and raise even more money for Operation Smile.

It's that easy.
Just $5. Or maybe $10. Or if you're feeling really generous...a little bit more.

Why, you might ask, should you donate anything to NerdHQ?

Because this: NerdHQ costs money to organize and getting money via sponsors isn't the best way to do it. So, NerdHQ is asking you and me to donate money to help fund the event and in return you will be part of the #NerdHQArmy and your name will be placed on the Nerd HQ Wall of Honor at the event this summer in San Diego.

And so...long story short....

If you want to donate to NerdHQ (and you know you do) go here.

That's it.
Oh, and you have until 11:59 p.m. on April 25 to donate. 

And if you're feeling so inclined you can also tell your friends, family, coworkers, and fellow nerds about NerdHQ and all the good work they do. And if you're into the whole social media scene...follow Zac on Twitter @ZacharyLevi and follow the Nerd Machine @thenerdmachine.

And you can check out the indiegogo link here. You'll find answers to your questions and more information about NerdHQ and why they do what they do!


And that's it.
Be a nerd.
Help Zachary Levi do great things.

Disclosure: I am part of the #NerdHQArmy through the #ENMNetwork. That's all. 

4.13.2014

On Being a Nerd and What #IWantMyNerdHQ Means


OK I'm going to admit something here on my blog.

I am a nerd.

There. I said it. What a weight off my shoulders.

Back in the day (you know, when I was much younger) being a "nerd" was not a cool thing to be. People made fun of nerds. And most people equated being "a nerd" to reading too much or being too smart. (Both of which are totally cool by the way).

I'm pretty sure I've always been a nerd. When I was younger you would usually find me in my room reading. (See we didn't have computers or the Internet back in the stone age, so we had to read. Books. Made out of paper.).

And I loved school. A lot. Heck, even after I graduated from college I worked for a mere six months before deciding that I MISSED COLLEGE AND NEEDED TO GO BACK. And so I went to law school so I could READ MORE. Like 2,000 pages of legal text a week more.

I am a nerd.
And it's totally cool now. 

Now, I'm a nerdy person about other things. Like Disney. That's right friends, I'm a total Disney nerd. If you need to know some obscure trivia fact about Walt Disney World, I might be your girl. If you need to know how plan a trip where you won't lose your mind or your kids' college fund...call me.

Speaking of Disney...(as I do on most days)...one of my favorite Disney animated films is Tangled. Love me some Flynn Rider "smolder."

And...Zachary Levi - Flynn Rider himself - is a self-proclaimed NERD. He even created an organization called The Nerd Machine and it sponsors the NerdHQ during San Diego's annual ComicCon event. This year's event is scheduled for July 24-27 at Petco Park in San Diego. And...it's a FREE event. As in totally free.

NerdHQ gives fans and celebrities an "intimate and engaging experience" that is unlike any other in the Nerd Universe. [Zac is also the star of 'Chuck'...so if you aren't a  Disney person you'll know him from there too. But why aren't you a Disney person?]

In addition to the cool fan-and-celebrity interaction, NerdHQ also raises funds for Operation Smile - the international organization for which Zachary is an ambassador. To date NerdHQ has raised $415K for Operation Smile!



So...you're probably wondering "Hey Nerd Girl...what does all of THIS have to do with ME?"

Well, here's the details: NerdHQ costs money to organize and getting money via sponsors isn't the best way to do it. So, NerdHQ is asking you and me to donate money to help fund the event and in return you will be part of the #NerdHQArmy and your name will be placed on the Nerd HQ Wall of Honor at the event this summer in San Diego.

And...well, if NerdHQ is successful then Zac and his nerd celebrity friends will be able to put on a great event that will raise A LOT of money for Operation Smile and you can say "Hey! I was a part of that." And that's pretty darn cool.

The goal is to raise $1 million by April 25. As of today (April 13) the total amount raised is: $254,352. Which means we have a long way to go in the next 12 days. 

So here's the info...If you want to donate to NerdHQ (and you know you do) go here.You can donate as little as $5 or as much as you want.

That's it. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, and fellow nerds about NerdHQ and all the good work they do. Follow Zac on Twitter @ZacharyLevi and follow the Nerd Machine @thenerdmachine.

And you can check out the indiegogo link here. You'll find answers to your questions and more information about NerdHQ and why they do what they do!

Get in touch with your inner nerd (you know you have one) and help The Nerd Machine put on the best NerdHQ ever. And if you would be so kind...please tweet out this post, share it on Facebook, or Pin it. And, follow #IWantMyNerdHQ on Twitter too! 

Oh..and this just in - when the campaign reaches $333,000 EVERY person who has donated $5 or more will automatically be entered to win a visit from Zachary Levi. As in...LIVE and in person. OK...let's imagine this shall we (nerd moment alert)...you will be having dinner with Flynn Rider. Once the winner has been chosen all the funders in that area will also be invited to meet Zac (after he's had dinner with the winner and a guest!).

So as if you needed more incentive to donate to #IWantMyNerdHQ...there's that. Dinner with Zachary Levi. Excuse me while I go swoon.


Seriously? What are you still doing here?
Go donate now.

Disclosure: I am part of the #NerdHQArmy through the #ENMNetwork. That's all. 

4.02.2014

Sing Into Spring Giveaway!

The 'tween' CD set!

Anyone who knows me is fully aware of my Disney "geekness" ... I love all things Disney, including the music. So imagine my excitement when I found out about the "Sing into Spring" giveaway that I'm hosting. It's all about Disney music and you're going to love it! (So will your kids).

My girls are big fans of Disney Channel - especially shows including Austin & Ally, Shake It Up! (which is no longer on Disney Channel), and even Teen Beach Movie. The one thing that all these shows have in common is great music. As much as you try to resist, you have to admit that the catchy lyrics and toe-tapping music suck you in.

I found myself dancing and singing along to some song off the Austin & Ally soundtrack the other day. With my kids, of course. (Thankfully no one has any video or photographic proof of my "dancing.")

My youngest also loves Sofia the First and Jake and the Never Land Pirates - two more shows (with a preschool and kindergarten viewer base) with great music.

And then there's Frozen - even if you haven't seen the movie you know the song "Let It Go" and your kids likely know the lyrics by heart. 

Which brings me to the topic of this post ... I'm giving away two different sets of CDs featuring music from hit Disney Channel shows and the Academy Award-winning film Frozen. That's right...I'm going to pick TWO WINNERS in this giveaway.

The prizes? Well they're really awesome! The first prize is the "preschool set" of CDs - Doc McStuffins soundtrack, DJ Shuffle, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and the Frozen soundtrack. The second prize is the "tween" CD set - Austin & Ally soundtrack, Disney Channel Play It Loud (featuring songs from Shake It Up, A.N.T. Farm, and more), Teen Beach Movie soundtrack, and the Frozen soundtrack.

Entering the contest is easy-peasy! Just use the Rafflecopter form below (and be sure that you do the 'mandatory' entry which is leaving a comment on the blog post!). That's it! I will choose one winner for each CD set at random and you will be notified via email (by me) if you won.

So if you (or your kids) LOVE Disney music, enter today! 

Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary collection of Disney Music CDs as part of Entertainment New Media Network. Giveaway is sponsored through the network by 'the view from my fishbowl' with prizes provided by Walt Disney Records. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway