Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Beech-Nut Organic: Baby's 1st Foods & Beyond! #RealFoodforBabies #IC #ad #FPIES

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Beech-Nut. I received a free coupon to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”
I am really excited to introduce you to the new Beech-Nut organic baby food line! Beech-Nut prides itself on providing baby food that doesn't include anything that you wouldn't feed yourself. Their slogan is "This is not baby food.  This is real food for babies™." and I couldn't agree more.  As you know, our youngest has FPIES and when she was starting solids, it was a real struggle to find an affordable pure baby food on the shelves for her.  Yes, I do believe in making baby food for your little ones, but I also like to find a baby food brand that I can rely on to supplement the food I make at home. Also for her FPIES, we have to trial each food separately and it was so much affordable and efficient to buy a small jar of just that food off the shelves rather than buy and make it at home. Beech-Nut was the ONLY widely available and affordable brand that I found where the ingredients were just what it said on the front, no fillers or additives. So, I'm really excited that they have boosted this up a notch by making an organic line of their baby food!
Not only does Beech-Nut have pure ingredients, but they also use a process very similar to the process moms, like me, use at home to make baby food.  They don't add in any extra water or artificial additives to make sure all those very important nutrients stay right where they belong, in the food. Also, just like their naturals line, their organic baby-food line comes packages in clear glass jars.  The organic line is also USDA certified which assures you that the food inside is free of GMOs. 

I visited our local Babies "R" Us store to checkout the selection of Beech-Nut organics.  There was a really great assortment of "just" and combination foods, including organic apple, raspberry & avocado, organic banana, cinnamon & granola and organic butternut squash, black bean & cumin. Also, they were on sales for a great price! They also had two type of variety packs available for purchase that were filled with fun combinations and packages nicely for gift-giving. We decided to try out the Pear, Pumpkin and Pineapple organic food.  This is a perfect combination for Savy Baby as she is FPIES to many foods and these are three of her safe favorites! Now, you may be thinking that baby food is only for little babies, but that's just not the case at all.   Savy Baby recently turned 18 months old and loves to feed herself.  Sometimes, we like to give her a jar of baby food, like this one, instead of applesauce in a bowl and let her practice using her spoon to eat it.  It's a fun way for her to learn to use a spoon as well as a delicious combination that's better than boring old applesauce! She really loved the taste and smooth texture of it and even asked for more. Other ways that we also use the Beech-Nut organic baby food is baking it into recipes for added nutrients in place of oils/fats and freezing it in popsicle molds for a fun frozen treat!

I highly recommend if you have a little one on the way or in your life, you check out the new Beech-Nut organic baby food line. If you still aren't convinced, you should be by knowing that Beech-Nut was awarded Product of the Year in the baby category for its 100% naturals and organic lines, as selected by more than 40,000 consumers in a national; representative survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres.  
Get out there and buy some today! It is widely available at retailers across the country including Kroger, Babies “R” Us, Wegmans, Price Chopper, Wakefern,,  Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, Stop & Shop, Giant Carlisle, A&P, Pathmark, Albertsons, Hannaford, Raley’s, Meijer, Nugget Market,, Harris Teeter, Shaw's, ACME, Shoppers Food and Cub Foods. Click here to locate a store nearest to you!

GIVEAWAY! Visit the Beech-Nut site and leave a comment (be sure to leave a valid e-mail address) below telling me which organic food combination excites you! You will win a coupon for a free Beech-Nut product!

Giveaway ends 5/22/2015 at 3 pm CST. Contest entrants are only eligible to win once per sweepstakes, per household as part of a campaign sponsored by Influence Central and must reside in the United States.

Follow Beech-Nut on Social Media!
Beech-Nut Facebook:
Beech-Nut Twitter: @BeechNutFoods

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Show and Tell: A to Z #preschool #elementaryschool #teacherresource

Every Friday, our oldest (5) has to bring in something from home for show-and-tell.  We are lucky enough that his school allows him to choose between two different letters. Still, I find myself struggling to find something that fits for many of the letters. So, in an effort to help parents and/or children easily locate an item for show-and-tell, I have put together a cumulative list by letter.
-Digger Truck (construction truck)
-Dump Truck
-Fortune Cookie
-Firetruck (Engine)
-Golf club
-Hula Hoop
-Ice Cream
-Jigsaw Puzzle
-Jelly Bean
-Killer Whale
-Magnify Glass
-Mickey/Minnie Mouse
-Nutcracker (unused in case of nut allergies)
-Nose (fake clown nose)
-Nine (of something)
-Phone (technically telephone)
-Snow-globe (plastic)
-Teddy Bear
-Tarantula (fake of course!)
-Violet (color or flower)

Feel free to comment below any additional items you would like to see on this list!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Make a Quick and Easy Family Dinner Tonight with Hamburger Helper! Free Ground Beef! #helper #freebeef #ad

We all know what it's like to be a busy on-the-go family! You know the story. Mom and dad get home from work, the kids have practice and/or a game in an hour and you need to get dinner served and done in less than an hour! On those nights when I just need something quick, easy and delicious to feed my family, that's where Hamburger Helper comes in! All you need is a box of your favorite Hamburger Helper, ground beef and a few pantry essentials you are all set to have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Right now, Hamburger Helper is offering a free ground beef rebate (up to $8.06)! Just take a trip to your local grocery store and pick out your three favorite Helper products and a pound of ground beef, then visit this link and claim your rebate!
Our store had a huge selection of Hamburger Helper products.  I chose three flavors that I thought our family would enjoy: Tuna Creamy Pasta, Whole Grain Stroganoff and Whole Grain Cheeseburger.  I also purchased a one pound package of ground beef.  Total cost (with the Hamburger Helper Rebate) is less than $6! That's dinner on the table for under $2.  Budget and family-friendly!
We decided to make their Whole Grain Cheeseburger Macaroni for dinner on a Friday night.  Friday nights are pretty crazy for us as everyone is tired from the week and our oldest has T-ball practice just an hour after he gets home from preschool.  So, this was the perfect quick and easy family dinner to make. I just browned the ground beef, then added in the rest of the ingredients (sauce mix, water, milk, noodles) and let it simmer until the noodles were tender. I steamed some broccoli as the perfect compliment and dinner was done! The kids absolutely loved it and gobbled it up in a matter of minutes! Absolute success!
About Hamburger Helper:
Helper has always been a value brand—we launched in the 1970’s to help consumers, like you, stretch their dollars while also enjoying a delicious and hearty meal. We are demonstrating our value again, in a new way, with free ground beef!
Not only does Helper help you stretch your dollar, but all of the hamburger varieties, use one pan.  It’s that simple, one pan prep!
I recommend you take advantage of the Hamburger Helper Rebate and make your family a quick & easy value meal tonight!
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Planning a Family Vacation (or Not) #FPIES #FoodAllergies #Disney

Before our youngest was diagnosed with FPIES, planning a family vacation just involved the usual stuff. Plane tickets, car rental, hotel, and spending money. Now that she's no longer a baby and eats a combination of specific solid foods (no corn, soy, dairy, rice, wheat, rye, oats, etc.) and special formula, even thinking about planning a vacation freaks me out. My initial thoughts are:
1. Where can we go? It can't be too rural in case she has a reaction.  It can't be somewhere that doesn't have adequate healthcare. It must be somewhere that a hospital is close by and we can easily reach by car just in case.
2. How do we get there? If we have to take a plane, then I have to figure out how to pack her food that will keep through airports (security, yikes!), plane rides, etc. Then, I have to think about EXTRA food just in case, and even more EXTRA food, just in case again. Not to mention that she requires formula and bottles and her formula has to be refrigerated once opened.
If we take a car, I have the same worries. She can't eat a restaurants, so add on the additional issue of worrying about restaurants having a "no outside food" rule and refusing to serve the rest of our family (yes, this happens).
With both options, I have limited space (or carry-ons allowed), so that's another dilemma.
Best bet? Rent an RV...time consuming and expensive....not to mention, our middle child tends to get carsick.
3. Where do we stay? It has to be somewhere with a decent kitchen. Since we have to prepare her meals ourselves, we need at a minimum a mini-fridge and microwave.  That's basically like the "roughing it" version for us! Ideally, we would have a full size fridge and stove so that we could buy stuff when we get there and not have to ship and/or carry tons of frozen/perishable food with us. Basic hotel rooms are out. Again, added expense.
4.What do I need? Well, besides obvious stuff, I need plenty of her special formula (and then some) as well as the note from her doctor explaining her condition and information on the closest hospital.
5. Fears! What if she has an acute reaction mid-air or in the middle of nowhere and needs medical attention? What if we can't find a restaurant that will allow us to bring in her food? How will my other kids feel about her and the impact she has on our family vacations, despite our best efforts to blend her in with the rest of us? What if she has a reaction and the hospital we take her to doesn't know anything about FPIES and questions it and refuses to give her what she needs immediately?
After a good bit of research, we have come across a few options.
1. Walt Disney World: This is the number one vacation destination in the United States that caters to food allergies.  This is the ONLY place I have found that is known to be able to serve FPIES kids safe food without cross-contamination issues. It's also one of the most expensive places in this country we could go on vacation....
2. Rent an RV: In this scenario, the good thing is that RVs have kitchens and we could easily prepare and travel with everything she needs. It saves us the hassle of having to find accommodations with kitchens.  However, it's still expensive to rent one, and so is the gas.  And there is that whole "What if it breaks down in the middle of nowhere?" fear.
3. Vacationing Close to Home: This would involve renting a cabin (in a not so rural area), or hotel suite somewhat close to home (under 2 hours). Honestly, this would be fun but for me, it seems a bit pointless to pay to sleep somewhere else close to home. Definitely more budget friendly and feasible for us.
4. Stay-cations: Right now, this is the ideal situation for us.  It requires only a little bit of daily prep of meals to bring with us and by night time we are all nestled back into our home. It's also the most cost-effective.
So, there ya have it.  When it comes to have a child with a rare food intolerance syndrome (FPIES), planning a family vacation is extremely complex and stressful.  Hopefully she will start to outgrow it by the time she is 3-4 and we can start planning vacations more easily.  Until then, it's likely Disney or home. 
Read more about our FPIES adventures here.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sometimes Blood Is Nothing More than a Biological Link. #divorce #reallife

All my life I have heard people say the phrase "Blood is thicker than water" in reference to the importance of respecting family ties and family coming before all others.  At 31 years old, I have learned that this simply isn't something which isn't always the case.
A little background about my life:
I am an only child.  When I was very young, my parents divorced and by the time I was 7, they remarried other people and lived 400 miles apart from one another. This meant, that I spent the school year living with my mother and stepfather and school holidays and summer vacation with my father and stepmother.
The man my mother married is an amazing, loving, patient and kind man who didn't think twice about loving me as his own child.  Honestly, I could fill a novel with the respect and love I have for this man.  He stepped into the role seamlessly and effortlessly and never looked back.  I have always felt like he loved me as though biologically I am his. He was the father figure that every little girl needs in her life.
On the other side, the woman my father married is not this way. For as long as I can remember (back to age 5 or 6), she treated me like something that was just a nuisance. It started with her saying things like "Why are you crying for your mommy?!" the first summer I spent away from my mom (again I was 7).  She would tell me lies. I'll never forget the moment they sat me down on the couch to tell me the "truth about my parents divorce". Every moment I can recall, she would force me to speak poorly about people I loved and cared about. During one of the first summers I spent with them, I refused to eat anything hoping they would just send me home to my mom.  This led to cold shower punishments and hurtful name calling.  It wasn't just me she was nasty with, it was anyone whom she felt threatened by.  It was the neighbors, especially if I wanted to spend time at their house instead, or my father's workers because ordering them around made her feel superior. Her behavior continued as I grew up.  I learned to "survive" my time there by just agreeing and pretending to be someone I wasn't.  I wasn't allowed to like country music or talk about my school. When I became a teenager, I decided I wanted to spend some of my summer like my friends and stay at my mom's house half of the time so that I could feel "normal". My stepmother's response? She called me a bitch on the phone (I was 14).
When I graduated high school, they drove the 400 miles to be there, but not without saying to me "You're brainwashed by your mother and that's why you are going to college in that state instead of ours." And to drill this point home more, they refused to help me financially with school. After college, I moved across the country and didn't tell them until afterwards because I knew they wouldn't have anything nice to say. I met my now husband and only took him there a few times, praying they wouldn't scare him away. On the night before my wedding, my father called me crying at 2 a.m. because she was angry and lashing out at him about something with my wedding.
A few months and "incidents" later, I made the decision to stop calling them. Why was I putting so much effort into being treated so awful? I hung up the phone early February 2009 and not once in the last six years has it rang (my # hasn't changed). Since then, I've made no effort to contact them. Why? Honestly, it isn't because of all the hurtful things this woman said and did to me over the course of my lifetime. It is the fact that while all of this was going on, my father, the man that I am half of, my originally designated protector in life, someone that I love so deeply, just stood there and watched and allowed it to happen and even participated. That asshole and coward, stood there like there was nothing he could do about it. He let her do all of it to his child, his ONLY child for over 20 years. Not once did he stand up to her on my behalf, not one single time and I'm not sure I'll ever forgive him.
It's been over 6 years.  And not a single year have I regretted this decision.  It wasn't a decision I only made for myself, it was for my new husband and our future children. Because never, ever in my lifetime will I allow my children to be exposed to this woman. I am their protector, just as my father should have been mine, and no one will hurt my children like that woman hurt me.
And this is how I have learned that sometimes blood is nothing more than a biological link
I believe this:
“Being genetically related doesn't make you family. Love, support, trust, sacrifice, honesty, protection, acceptance, security, compromise, gratitude, respect and loyalty is what makes you family.” ~Unknown

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Are You an Organ Donor? Online Registration for Every State #donatelife #organdonor #savelives

On Facebook, I follow a page of a little girl who received a heart transplant at 45 days old.  She falls into the lucky category of successful transplant recipients.  Her mother recently posted this article to the group and it made me wonder how many people out there don't know how to become an organ donor but want to? How many know don't realize how easy it is to do and how it can save a single or multiple lives upon their death?
Personally, I know I am a registered organ donor because I want my organs to help as many people as possible in the event of my death, whether timely or not. I feel like it's such an easy thing to give back to our society when I no longer need my organs.
Registering to become an organ donor can be done by simply checking the box when you first obtain or renew your state driver's license.  If you don't need to go into your local Department of Motor Vehicles anytime soon, you can do it by logging onto your state's organ donation registry website. It takes just a few minutes to complete. Once you register, no one can override your decision. This is a decision that you decided to do with your body upon your death. Yes, it's awful to think of your family grieving over the loss of you, but what if you could bring another family the gift of life? It would not only benefit the other family, but provide your family with a shimmer of light in all the darkness. One last selfless act that will help others long after you are gone. To me, it's the obvious choice!
Ready to Register? Below is a list of the online registry sites for all 50 United States as well as Washington, D.C. 
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico 
New York 
North Carolina 
North Dakota 
Rhode Island 
South Carolina 
South Dakota 
West Virginia 
Washington, D.C.
I encourage you to sign up as you could save a life even after yours is over.  Please share with your family and friends and encourage them to sign up as well.  Just a few minutes can give some days, months, years and much more! 

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Friday, April 03, 2015

Shaving Cream Easter Egg Activity! #Easter

A few days ago, I came across another blog that had instructions for dying Easter eggs using shaving cream.  Last year, I decided to try out the Kool-Aid method and we loved it. So, I was really excited to try something new this year! Also, our son came home with a fake paper egg he had painted in preschool and I was able to ask his teacher where she got them and pick up two dozen of them at the local Walmart.  Since every year, I despise the task of hard-boiling eggs and I didn't want to have to throw away all the eggs because the shaving cream would go through the shell and make them inedible.
-1 Can of Shaving Cream (1 can per a dozen eggs)
-Food Coloring
-Multiple Baking Pans ( I recommend glass or disposable aluminum)
-One Dozen Paper Eggs
Squirt about an inch of shaving cream into a baking pan.  Put a few drop of different colors of food coloring into the pan.  Use a butter knife to swirl the shaving cream and food coloring around.  Then, just place the egg in there and roll it around until its fully covered. Let dry aside for a few minutes and then wipe off the shaving cream.
The kids really loved doing this and had a great time getting the eggs all covered.  I admit that going into this, I thought it would be less messy than the cups of dye approach, but both our nanny and I agree it may have been more messy.  It didn't matter, because all three of the kids could easily participate and had a great time! I highly recommend this for any age. Check out our finished products below! Happy Easter!
-Make sure your work surface is covered with a plastic tablecloth or paper bags.
-Give the kids plastic spoons to move the eggs around and swirl the colors.
-Buy the sensitive shaving cream so that it's easier on their skin and less odor.
-Just put a few drops of each color and swirl just a little.  Don't mix too much or you'll get a solid color.
-Don't let the eggs sit too long before wiping off the shaving cream or you'll get water spots.
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I Just Want My Kid to Eat Pizza and Cheeseburgers! #FPIES #FoodAllergies

Most days, I can easily deal with our youngest having been diagnosed with FPIES and having to avoid a ton of major food components including wheat and dairy.  However, a few days here and there every month, I struggle.
Sometimes it's triggered by little memories, like when we could easily spontaneously go out to dinner as a family. Sometimes, it's caused by much greater thoughts like "What if this lasts forever? How will she ever safely go to a child's birthday party and feel normal?" No matter what causes the struggle, I find myself wishing very loudly inside my head "I just want my kid to eat pizza and cheeseburgers!"
I remember with each of our older two, getting excited when they passed that one year mark and could eat meals anywhere and drink regular milk. The freedom of not having to worry about if we were going out over lunch because we could just order them something off the menu.  This time around, that freedom doesn't exist.  It's been stripped from us without even a warning.  In order to go out, we have to pack a full meal and since most of it's homemade and perishable, it's not like we can spend the day running errands and then stop at lunch somewhere.  When we visit anyone, it's like packing half the kitchen because I don't want to be an hour away and run out of food for her. Never came are the days of just grab a few diapers/wipes and go. Those little freedoms we so easily took for granted with our older too have yet to come.
 And no, my feelings about her having FPIES aren't always as specific as " or cheeseburgers", but they are much the same. I often deal with the burden that something I did during labor and her birth likely caused this (there is a correlation between the broad-spectrum antibiotic I had during her labor/delivery and FPIES.) Something I did has cost us financially and emotionally as a family. I hate the feeling that I'm drowning in a sea of special formula, doctors, medical bills, insurance claims and can't get up for air. I'm tired of watching every crumb that hits the ground or reminding our older children not to leave snacks and milk cups around. On the really hard days, I get to the point of frustration and I think "Why can't she just be normal?!"
I know we are very lucky. On the spectrum of kids diagnosed with FPIES, she is on the more easily manageable end.  We are lucky, because there is a very good chance by 3-4 years old she'll start outgrowing FPIES, maybe even sooner. We are extremely blessed to have an amazing support staff of family, friends, doctors and specialists alongside us on this journey. Other than FPIES, our sweet little girl is healthy, intelligent and full of life and most days that's how I feel.
This blog is about me being able to be real with all of you. The fact is some days are harder than others.
Thanks for listening!
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