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.

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:

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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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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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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Coloring Books for Adults?! #stressrelief #fun

Do you ever find yourself picking up a crayon and coloring a book along with your children? When you do, do you find that you instantly feel relaxed and happy? Recently, I sat down with our two oldest to do some coloring and then, before I knew it, I carefully coloring a picture of Mickey Mouse right beside them.  It was nice to take some time to do something that didn't require a lot of thought and just came naturally. I am not an artist by any means, but I do enjoy coloring inside the lines of a picture.  
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This led me to do a quick Google search and I found this article posted in October 2014 by Huffington Post, about how coloring isn't just for kids. The article states "When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. "The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.""
After reading this, I decided to look into coloring books made for adults and I came across tons of awesome ones on Amazon.  Here are some of my favorites that I plan on purchasing and putting on my Amazon Wish List!
Also, since you are an adult, go ahead and get yourself a fancy pack of gel pens to do all your coloring!
I highly suggest you stock up your home library with a few of these for the next time your toddler drives you crazy or your boss treats you poorly.  They are great way to destress at the end of a long, hard day! They also make fun and unique gifts for everyone in your life. Enjoy!

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