Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me

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My friend and fellow Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Kaylene wrote a pretty awesome blog about me today.  I love Kaylene – both her kind heart and caring nature make her someone you just admire and aspire to be like.  I was honored that she wrote about me today – which you can read here:  http://www.memorymakermom.com/ – but I thought to myself – even with all this blogging, is there stuff you don’t know about me?

Well, yeah.

So, I thought I’d share some little known outside of my immediate family facts about me.  It’s not like I’m that interesting, but I thought it would be fun if you got to know me better!

1 – My favorite movie of all time is the Shawshank Redemption, followed VERY closely by the original Arthur.

2 – I have only one spot on my entire body that is consistently ticklish, but you have to hit it just right in order for the tickle to kick in.  Oh – and it’s behind my knees.  How freakin’ weird is that?

3 – When I was 18, I took a job working for a drag racing group that was going to be fined if they didn’t hire more women.  They gave me the “racing” name of Ghia Garland on their books, but they wouldn’t let me touch the race car.

4 – The best thing I ever did in my life was pursue having children, long after infertility tried to kick my ass.  I lost five children to miscarriage, but the three amazing daughters I have were well worth the heartache I suffered.

5 – One of my most favorite foods in the whole world are Grandmom Holak’s potato and cheese pierogies, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am I didn’t work harder at learning how to make them while she was still here to share her wisdom.  Go visit your Grandmom – today.

6 – My first ever celebrity crush was Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees.  My second was Barry Manilow.  Don’t judge.  I was never much for the pretty boys – I needed personality.

7 – My second happiest place on earth?  Italy.  And not necessarily for the food.  I’d love to buy a house and retire there someday.

8 – I hate the beach.  I hate sand in my shoes, in my hair, in, well, other places besides my shoes and my hair.  I could sit on a deck and watch the ocean from now and for the rest of my life.  But I don’t want to sit in the sand.  Blech.  Oh, and while I’m hating on the beach, I saw Jaws six times.  I’m lucky I can still use a toilet without going into full body shudders from the fear.  I am NOT swimming in the ocean.

9 – My favorite color is green.  Ironically, it is probably the color I have the least of in my wardrobe.  It’s so hard to find a green that looks good on actual human beings.

10 – When I grew up, I wanted to write the Greatest American Novel.  I just might someday.

When Battening Down The Hatches Isn’t An Option

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You know the motto – “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”

Think it applies to your mailman?  Think again.  It belongs to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.  The Old Guard.

These are the dedicated soldiers who stood out there, braving the ravages of Hurricane Irene – as they have done with other hurricanes before – to stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.  Never leaving their post at Arlington National Cemetery, the brave and devoted members of this proud brigade marched dutifully past the tomb, keeping their post as they have done for every second of every day since 1948 – regardless of the weather conditions.

As you clean up from the storm today, picking up the tree branches, lamenting your lack of electricity, remember these soldiers.  They braved the storm, they manned their post, they did us proud.

Hurricane Preparedness For Those Of Us Who Don’t Get Hurricanes

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Hey there, Jersey!  It looks like, based on the most recent forecast, we have a big old bullseye painted on our coast, and Hurricane Irene looks like her aim is pretty darned good.  We are in no way unfamiliar with big storms, but in these parts, it’s usually a Nor’easter that dumps a few inches of snow that causes the run to the grocery store and the gas station.  So what do we do in a Hurricane?  As a 10 year resident of Florida, and survivor of many hurricanes – and near misses – here’s what should be going on at your house:

1 – Forget the French toast.  I’m not sure why, but anytime snow is predicted, Jerseyans run out and get French toast ingredients – eggs, bread, and milk.  In a snowstorm, though, we usually don’t lose power – just the ability to run to the store.  In a hurricane, however, you may not have regular cooking abilities if you lose power.  Skip the French toast ingredients and focus on foods that you can open and eat out of the can or package, or pick up a few things you can cook on your grill.  Don’t forget – if you don’t have a manual can opener, now’s the time to buy one.  If you don’t have any power, an electric can opener isn’t going to do you much good. 

2 – Let There be Light! – but skip the candles.  Your best bet in a power outage is going to be flashlights, so stock up on them and make sure you have plenty of batteries.  You can also find some battery operated lanterns in the camping department of most stores, and they can be quite handy as well.  Candles are not your best option, especially if you have small children.  Keep in mind, strong winds have the ability to blow open your windows – open flames like candles love when that happens – your blowing curtains give them something to latch on to.  Skip the candles if you can.

3 – Start Saving Ice NOW! – You’ve got a couple of days notice before the storm actually hits, so start emptying your ice trays or your ice storage drawer in the freezer.  Place the ice in Ziploc bags that you can use to keep things cold in coolers if you do lose power for an extended period of time.  Even if your fridge loses power, with a good stash of ice, you can keep things like milk, juice, and other cold staples on hand.  Keeping things in coolers will also help you keep your fridge closed, protecting your perishable foods a while longer.

4 – Water, Water Everywhere – But unless you’ve got some bottled water or stores of tap water, you won’t have any to drink.  There is always a possibility that drinking water sources could be compromised.  Under normal circumstances, you might be instructed to boil your water, but if there’s no power, that’s not an option.  Have plenty of water on hand for yourself and your family – at least enough for two or three days.

5 – Remember That Water Thing? – If the storm looks like it’s going to be intense, consider filling your bathtub with water.  You can use the water in your tub to flush your toilet or wash your face in the event that your water service is interrupted.

6 – Tape The Windows? – The short answer is, ummm, no.  While taping your windows may do a small bit to keep larger shards of glass from blowing all over in the event that your windows do blow in, the protection it offers is minimal, and you will spend from now until you hang your Christmas decorations trying to scrape the tape off the windows.  If the winds are predicted to be serious, you are going to be in much better shape if you nail plywood boards up.

7 – Let’s Go Play In the Puddles! – NO!  You crazy kids!  As tempting as it is in the heat of the summer to go out and play in the pools of water that may collect as a result of 5 – 10 inches of rain, you are not going to see the danger that may lurk beneath the water.  In one of the first big hurricanes we rode out in Florida, a family decided to go out for a walk when the sun first came out, and wandered through a puddle of standing water.  Under the water, a live electrical wire was hidden, and the three members of the family were all electrocuted.  Avoid the temptation; stay safe.

8 – Do I Need a Generator? – Probably not.  Are they great to have if your power is out?  Yes.  But chances are good that your power won’t be out THAT long.  The generator is an expensive investment, and you’re going to have to store it when the storm is over.  Put some thought into when the last time you could have used it might have been.  It may be something you can do without.

9 – LISTEN – If your local emergency services tells you to evacuate, LEAVE.  If they tell you to stay indoors until the brunt of the storm passes, STAY INDOORS.  If they ask you to stay off the roads unless it’s an emergency, remember that a RUN FOR RITA’S WATER ICE IS NOT AN EMERGENCY!  Stay tuned to your local news channel on the TV or radio (grab a battery operated radio and batteries); make sure your phone is charged so you can get email or Twitter notifcations.  Check with your local municipality – many police stations send out Twitter or email alerts. 

10 – STAY SAFE!  Use your common sense.  If it seems like a bad idea, it probably is.  If the professionals are telling you to do something, it’s probably a good idea to do it.  Don’t take unnecessary chances – and you’ll be here to ride out the next storm!

Perfect Preschooler Park Time!

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It’s the time of year when most moms and dads are running around, picking up back to school supplies, buffing up the back to school wardrobe, purchasing the perfect back to school shoes.

But if you are a mom or dad with a preschooler, who doesn’t need any back to school stuff because they aren’t in school yet, head to Walt Disney World!

Because most of the families with children are just starting back to school, and hesitating to have the kids miss those precious early days back, you’ll find the parks less crowded and the lines a bit shorter – perfect for those sometimes impatient preschoolers! 

Although free dining often offered during this time of year may make it a little tougher to get those cherished dining reservations, we’ve often found at this time of year that we can get last minute reservations for character meals – like ‘Ohana for breakfast or Crystal Palace for dinner.  I love that the lighter crowds make it possible to grab a special meal at the last minute, when I know that my preschoolers were well rested and ready to eat!

I’ve also always found that the characters have a few extra seconds to spend with my littles at this time of the year.  With the lines a bit shorter, and not as many children clamoring for character attention, they’ve just always seemed a bit more attentive to the children going through the line.

 

You can also usually find the Photo Pass photographers – who I think are awesome any time of the year – will snap a few extra candid shots if there aren’t lots of others waiting for character or camera time.  I’ve gotten some of my favorite pictures this time of year!

This is a great time of year to see what your child is ready for!  Because the attraction lines are not as long as they are during other times of the year, if you get to the front of the line for something and your Tiny calls a time out, you haven’t lost that much time if you have to step out of line and skip the attraction.  And speaking of losing time, while I’ve never been a big fan of leaving the theme parks to head back to the hotel for nap time, I was always more inclined to do it in late August/early September, when it didn’t seem as crowded to take a bus or monorail back for some R and R.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year – to be a preschooler at Walt Disney World!  Take advantage of lighter crowds, shorter lines, and fewer children!

Happy Birthday, Brighid!

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My initiation into the sorority called Motherhood was on August 24, 1991.  I had been in the hospital for over a week with pre-eclampsia, and with my kidneys beginning to fail, my eyesight becoming compromised, the doctor decided it was time to deliver my daughter.

I was only at 31 weeks, and she had failed pretty much every test they gave her.  She was way too small – even for 31 weeks, and she didn’t seem to be passing any of the tests on the Bio-physical profile.  The doctors gave me odd prognoses – girls do better than boys (but we didn’t know yet if she was a girl).  It seemed to be a wait and see what she brings once she’s here.

And then there she was.  2 pounds, 10 ounces.  On room air within the hour.  Squirming and squiggling, and ready to meet the world. 

They whisked her away, and because I was so sick, it was a full 24 hours before I got to see her.  They took a picture for Jim to bring to me, and we had her baptized in the hospital, just in case things went bad.  But they didn’t.  She did awesome.

She was tiny, but she fought hard and came home earlier than they expected – then we expected.  I think you could have tipped me over the day I went into the hospital to visit and they told us to bring the car seat back the next day!

At 31 days old, they sent her home.  She was a whopping 4 pounds, 4 ounces of determination.

And now she’s 20.  From such tiny beginning to such a beautiful young woman.  Don’t get me wrong – she’s been a teenager – you know the kind.  Teenage girls give you a complete understanding of why some species eat their young – and you wonder why we didn’t think of it first.  But she’s done things I would have been terrified to do.  She went away to college.  She went away to Ireland.  She lived the Disney life and worked in the Disney college program. 

She’s played hard; she’s loved hard; and she’s learned hard lessons.

But it all makes her who she is today.  And that makes me proud to be her mom.

Things I’ve Decided Since Nearly Dying

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Aren’t you supposed to get a whole new perspective on life when you come dangerously close to not having one anymore?  Well, I don’t think my entire outlook has changed, but I have thought some new thoughts; I’ve evaluated some things – the way I do them or don’t do them; and I’ve examined life as I knew it to see if it was working for me.  These are the things I’ve decided:

  • I probably don’t need makeup every day.  I’ve skipped going into the pool with the kids because of leaky mascara.  I’ve opted out of spontaneous trips places because I wasn’t made up.  So, is it that important?  No.  I’m not even that scary looking without makeup!

Alright, maybe a little scary without makeup!

  • I love potato chips and cream cheese, but I don’t eat them anymore because there is no fat in pretzels.  While I don’t think it’s a good idea to make this old favorite snack a daily staple, I think I can certainly splurge now and again and have potato chips and cream cheese instead of pretzels.  It will make my heart happy.
  • Dr. Nestor Veitia is, far and away, the best doctor I will ever have.  I’ve met an awful lot of doctors now and through the years, and I can say, without a second of hesitation, Dr. Veitia is one of a kind and amazing.

  • Not all of my irrational fears need to be dismissed.  I have an irrational fear of driving near trucks.  I don’t like them next to me or in front of me; and if I am between a truck and a guard rail, my heart races.  I think some irrational fears are okay to embrace.  This shall be mine.
  • Water sucks.  I don’t like drinking water.  But even more, I don’t like lemonade.  Since my options while I await removal of my kidney stone are rather limited, I’m drinking water.  But I don’t like it.  And I doubt I will learn to.
  • I love my family.  I don’t always like them, and I don’t always like their behavior.  I may not stifle that feeling as often as I’ve done in the past.  But I know, no matter what, I will always love them.

 

Mine! They’re All Mine!

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I make no secret of my love of Starbucks lattes.  They have been a daily staple, part of my every day routine, as important as the good morning kiss from my husband and the goodbye kisses dropping the girls off at school (okay, maybe not THAT important).

So when Starbucks came out a while back with the card registration program – where you register your Starbucks gift card and you get things like free syrups – I was thrilled!  Imagine when the program was revamped, and my newly minted Starbucks gold card was now bringing me the reward of a free drink after every 15 drinks!  It was like a visit from Santa every three weeks! 

Today, when I got home to check the mail, I’m sure you heard me SQUEE with delight when I found not one, but TWO of the magic free drink reward cards waiting for me!!  It rarely happens that I would get two at a time, and I could barely wait to run out the door and use one!

Then Jim read the cards.  The second card is not mine :-(  Not only is it not mine, but it belongs to someone who doesn’t live on my street, doesn’t have a similar name, doesn’t have the same house number.  He just happens to live in my town.

And the post office just assumed it was mine, and sorted it into my mail.

UGH. Of course, now I have to find the rightful recipient of the magical free drink card so that he can SQUEE with delight.  But perhaps it’s an indication of my undying dedication to my beverage company that the post office – one of the largest in South Jersey, BTW – would automatically sort the Starbucks free drink coupons into my mail. 

Only one free drink today :-(  Oh, the humanity.

With Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust, Many Things Are Possible

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Many years ago, when we lived in Orlando, I got a phone call from a friend in New Jersey.  She was coming to Orlando, all expenses paid, and was hoping to catch up with me.

How wicked awesome, I thought!  A fully paid trip to Orlando – theme park tickets, accommodations, airfare!  What do you have to do to score a vacation package like that?

I had not yet heard of Give Kids the World.  I knew, of course, that seriously ill children were often granted wishes to visit Walt Disney World, but I had no idea that such a place like the Give Kids the World Village existed.  When my Jersey friend finally did arrive, I learned that she and her family had been flown down to celebrate what may have been a final vacation with her granddaughter, who had leukemia.

I was overwhelmed by the information she shared about Give Kids the World Village.  I was bowled over by her description of the fairytale like atsmosphere and the amazing people who volunteered at the Village.  And I knew that somehow, I wanted to be a part of it all.

Throughout the years that we lived in Central Florida, I often visited the Give Kids the World website to browse their wish list, and Brighid and I would gather some things and deliver them to the Village.  It felt like something so small, but then in 2009, when I became a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, I felt like I had bonded with a group of people so amazing, so magical, so filled with pixie dust that they would understand my love and passion for the children at the Village.

We were small but mighty that first year.  We raised in the area of $1500, which we donated to be used in a memorial garden.  The day that we made our donation, we were fortunate enough to be granted a tour of the Village.  We visited the salon, where beautiful princesses are created.  We stopped by the ice cream parlor, where even for breakfast, ice cream is an option.  We saw the cozy cottages and the awesome playgrounds.  There was nothing here that would make anyone think this was a place for sick kids; it was a place for kids – with everything a child could dream that would transport them away – even for just a short time – from the daily routine of doctors, nurses, needles, and medicines.

The mantle has passed on, and my Mom friends are still doing all they can not only to raise money for this wonderful organization, but to bring attention to the incredible work they do.  We want you, in some small way, to feel like we felt when we toured the Village – where we were not only impacted by how happy a place they have made it, but where we were overcome with sadness in seeing the number of stars that blaze a trail in the skyin one of the buildings in memory of every child that has passed through the Village.  We want you to know how many of us were reduced to tears as we stood awkwardly silent in the chapel, where so many Moms and Dads stood before us, praying for the lives of their precious children; and thanking God and the Village for the chance to be a normal family – if only for a week. 

I have personally known children who have visited the Village through the years.  Some are grown now, possessing just a fading memory of a childhood where innocence was replaced with illness.  Some will remain forever children, as they were taken Home to bloom in the gardens of Heaven. 

But all of them – and their families – will have treasured memories of the magic, the memories, and the pixie dust that they shared in one incredible week at this amazing place.

We would love it if you joined us in supporting the magic and the memories created by Give Kids the World.  Please consider “Liking” our Facebook page, and share it with your friends, so that even more people become aware of the Village and the amazing work they do.  Visit the page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/DisneyFansGKTW and click “LIKE” at the top!

And if you can, please consider making a donation to the Village through the webpage my friends have established.  With faith, trust, and pixie dust, many things are possible.  There’s a smile to be had with every dollar that is donated.  There is nothing more magical than that! http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/DisneyFansGKTW/reunion

Freedom For the West Memphis 3 Today??

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I first became aware of the tragic story of the murders of three young boys from West Memphis, Arkansas through the HBO documentary Paradise Lost.  The program chronicled the horrific murders and mutilations of three 8 year old children and the process by which the community and the legal system very publicly convicted three teenage boys who were the types of kids who just didn’t fit in with the Bible belt community to which they belonged.

The murders occurred in 1993.  The convictions swiftly followed.

And Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin have sat languishing in prison for all these years.  Their adolescence is gone.  Their chance at a normal life is gone.

And there was no evidence they were guilty.

Through the years, others have been suspected – including John Mark Byers, father to one of the victims; and most recently, Terry Hobbs, stepfather to another victim.  DNA evidence has indicated that hairs found at the scene – in the shoe laces used to hog tie the three boys – could belong to Hobbs and a friend of his.

But there is NO DNA evidence implicating any of the three teenagers found guilty.

The tide of public opinion ebbs and flows.  Even some of the families who were adamant in their belief that the three teens were guilty have come out publicly asking for the West Memphis 3 (as the teens came to be known) to be set free and the real killers found.

And it may happen today.

I’ll be watching for news; praying that the boys – who have lived all of their adult lives behind bars – are not forced to admit guilt in exchange for freedom; and hoping that the investigation into what happened to Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch, and Michael Moore continues.

It’s time to find peace for the six families who lost sons that day in Robin Hood Hills.  Let’s hope it happens.

Real Housewives Just Got a Little Too Real for the Armstrong Family

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Sigh.  Admittedly, I love reality TV.  I can sit for hours and watch the Amazing Race, American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen.  But I’ve never been a big fan of the Housewives.  I’ve seen a few episodes here and there – mostly when the Jersey girls were brought on – but it never “caught” me.

I think there’s a lot to be said for keeping some things private.  But in the land of reality TV, “private” is one of those words that your Mom would wash your mouth out with soap for saying.  The more private your moments, the more we want in to see them.

I’m not sure Russell Armstrong is the first reality TV “character” to commit suicide, but in light of the very public breakup of his marriage, accusations of spousal abuse, and recent revelations that all was not truly golden in his Beverly Hills pockets, I imagine Russell will be one of the infamous – a casualty of our need to know too much about people we don’t know who have things we’ll never have and live in homes grander than we have ever dreamed about.

I hope there is a way for his young daughter and two young sons to get through the high price reality TV has cost them.  Isn’t it always the children that suffer the greatest from the decisions we make as parents?  Keep them in your prayers – they will surely need them.

What does this do to the Real Housewives franchise?  I imagine that’s one stock that just went up.  We just can’t turn away from those train wrecks.