Officially The Crazy Cat Lady – Name The Kittens Contest!

We have just expanded our home by eight feet.  As in little cat feet.  A trip to the Animal Orphanage in Voorhees, NJ showed us what we have heard over and over – it is kitten season.  There were so many kittens looking for homes, and once you go in there, you truly want to cry to walk out with just one.

Jim told me to choose between the two that we had been playing with.  I couldn’t.  I went back to the car and sent in backup.  Eilis took her turn.  They were in there a really long time, and I knew that meant she couldn’t decide either.     I honestly figured they would come out and we would go home and talk it over.

We didn’t.

They came out with two.  And in the blink of an eye, we went from a one cat, two dog home to giving the cats a definite advantage over the dogs.

Meet our kittens.  Nameless and No-name.

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Baby Boy

Baby Girl

 

I am running a contest on the blog.  Make a comment and leave suggestions for names (one boy, one girl). I’ll send you a prize!

 

Children’s Claritin Saves the (Play Date) Day!

Claritin-Mom-Crew As a recently chosen member of the #ClaritinMomCrew, I was super excited to be asked to host a play date where I would have the opportunity to share my “I’m not worthy” adoration of Children’s Claritin.  My youngest daughter has allergies to, well, life in general, and there are many times where Children’s Claritin has made it possible for us to have a good time outside. Because of Granuaile’s allergies, playing outside among the grass and trees for an extended period of time can become problematic, so I organized our play date to have some outdoor components and then a fun indoor activity.  My kids love to see the results of their own garden, but weeding and maintaining a large outdoor garden is tough for kids with allergies.  Our play date solution?  Container gardening! Our garden begins with canvas over the door shoe organizers.  The kids were able to choose from a selection of vegetables, flowers, and herbs to plant in the organizer.  Everyone got to get a little bit dirty, as we filled the pockets with soil, and then the kids labeled their pockets in the organizer with their names and the type of plant they were planting.  Not only was this a fun activity to see the kids working together to build this garden, but not having to sit in the grass or worry about churning up allergens made it a great activity for kids with multiple outdoor allergies! Bq76bRQCIAAD7Pq Even container gardening helps work up an appetite, so for the next fun activity, we built our own pizzas!  Using store bought pizza crust, homemade sauce, and a variety of toppings, the kids had fun choosing their favorite pizza flavors and then tasting each other’s creations when they were done!  There were some YUMMY pizzas! Claritin Mom Playdate 2  Claritin Mom Playdate A long day of gardening and slaving over a hot stove nearly done, the kids all hopped into their bathing suits for a bit of hot tub relaxation.  I always turn the temperature in the tub down to 95 degrees for kids, and it was just the right temperature to play in the bubbles and do lots of giggling. Everyone went home with a Claritin goody bag, filled with coupons for a purchase of Children’s Claritin, which really made this whole day possible, plus note pads, tissues, hand sanitizer, and water bottles.  As the garden grows, we’ll bring the children the things they planted to they can enjoy the “fruits of their labor”! It was great to share ideas with other moms of allergy sufferers and to see the kids enjoying themselves despite some serious allergies in the group!  We’re going to do this more often!

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*Claritin has provided me with some of the items as a member of the Claritin Mom Crew to share with my friends and blog readers.

Dance Mom Did It

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Have you seen this show? Abby Lee Miller spends the whole show screaming at small children, telling them and their “stage mom” Moms that they’ll never be good enough to be contenders, children cry, moms threaten to quit, and they all come back again next week.

One mom, Kelly Hyland, now says that Abby Lee Miller forced her daughter to see a psychiatrist.

Yep.  It was all Abby Lee.

I’ve seen this show a handful of times, and I can’t sit through a whole episode.  It hurts me to see these kids get screamed at and belittled, but it hurts me even more that the moms not only sit there and let them have it, they come back for more.

My oldest daughter was a competitive Irish Step Dancer.  There was a time when I sat in a parking lot, listening to a dance coach yell at the children while they danced.  We didn’t go back.  Did his school win a lot of awards?  Did a lot of his students go to the world championships in Ireland? Yes to both.  Did I want my kid coming home crying from dance class? I did not.

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When I saw the article today about Kelly Hyland accusing Abby Lee Miller of causing her child to have panic attacks, and then further accuse the reality show “Dance Moms” of exploiting (Really? A reality show exploiting someone for ratings? Who knew?) her child by shoving a camera in her face during these anxiety episodes, I had to shake my head.

For sure this child lost a small piece of her sanity under the direction of Abby Lee Miller, but really? Kelly Hyland owns this one.  You’re her mom.  It was your job to say, “You know what? I don’t like the way you’re being treated, and it’s not worth whatever amount of money this TV show is paying us.  Let’s go.” She didn’t.

For the record, Hyland’s children are no longer on the show, but she did file a $5 million lawsuit in February against Abby Lee for her treatment of the kids.

Who holds her accountable for the treatment of her kids?

So What CAN’T You Do on a Cruise?

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Cruising is my favorite kind of vacation.  You can enjoy the four corners of the world in small, bite sized chunks.  I push cruising to anyone who asks (and even people who don’t), and I am always touting the best things about cruising. So here’s the question most people always ask back – What can’t you do?

I had to think about this.  You really can do a ton of stuff, but there are some things you might want to be aware of if you’re embarking on your first cruise.  So here’s my list of things you CAN’T do on a cruise:

EXTEND YOUR PORT STAY

I assumed most people would know that when the ship sails, you’d better be on it, but honestly, this is a great question.  If your activities cause you to miss your set sail time, you’ll be on your own to get yourself to the next port of call.  The cruise line may be able to help arrange transportation, but you will have to pay the all expenses.

GO ON A PICNIC IN PORT WITH FREE SHIP FOOD

Some veteran cruisers will tell you that you can order a room service sandwich to take with you on excursions so you don’t have to pay for a meal. Or head to the buffet and grab a few extra pieces of fruit to take to the beach with you. That may end up being the most expensive free picnic you’ll ever enjoy.  Fines can soar upwards of $5,000 for taking food off of the ship, introducing produce or meats and cheeses to foreign soil.  Don’t risk it.  Enjoy the local cuisine, or head back to the ship when you feel the hungry coming on.

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GO HUNGRY

I’ve had conversations with people who have said they don’t want to cruise because they don’t do a midnight buffet on cruises anymore.  While it’s true that most cruise lines have done away with the nightly midnight food fest, you can get food on a cruise ship around the clock. Room service is always available, and there are lounges with snacks, deck parties late into the evening, and even late night pizza or burgers.  If you go hungry while on a cruise, you are wandering around with your eyes closed.

NOT VACATION YOUR WAY

Some people want to find a chair by the pool on Saturday and stay put until they have to go home the following Saturday. And some people don’t know you can do that on a cruise. You can board your ship, find your deck chair, and still have your cheeks in the seat when they kick you off a week later.  You do not have to leave when the ship is in port, you don’t have to go to any of the shows, you don’t have to dress up and go to dinner.  This is your vacation – have it your way.  Cruising gives you that flexibility!

Ready to book your cruise? Just remember to take me with you!

 

 

The Sad Business of Dying

MedsMy family has always been exceptionally lucky when it comes to medical insurance.  Jim had a great job with a company that not only offered free healthcare benefits, they were the best healthcare benefits money could buy.  We never paid a copayment, deductible, or a percentage of treatment.  No money ever went out of our pocket for prescription drugs or durable medical equipment.  Everything was always covered, everywhere we went.

We no longer have that insurance, since Jim’s retirement due to disability from that awesome job.  However, we are lucky enough to still have health insurance coverage.  Gone are the days when everything medical was handed to us.  My last kidney surgery was not going to be performed unless I showed up at the surgical center with $500 to cover my percentage of the procedure.  The medications I needed following the multiple procedures cost us more than $100 out of pocket – a huge discount over what they would have cost if we had no insurance at all, but at the same time, that $100 is a big chunk of money to families struggling already to make ends meet.  Let’s not even speak of trying to come up with $500 to unblock a kidney – ridiculous.  What if a family doesn’t have that money?

I read an article today in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the family of Luis Rodriguez.  Diagnosed a year ago with acute myeloid leukemia, Luis and his family just made the bittersweet journey to Florida, where Luis will live out his final days surrounded by family after losing his home of 13 years due to the cost of his illness, combined with his inability to work and his wife’s need to cut her hours back to care for her dying husband.  This family went from being comfortable, able to provide things for their children, enjoying life to losing their home and barely scraping by – all due to illness.

I don’t claim to know the answer.  I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare, but this isn’t about politics.  There is a huge business in treating sick people – from the doctors and hospitals to the drug companies and pharmacies.

Maybe dying should be more about dignity and less about dollars.

 

It’s expensive to be dying.  It’s an expense so few of us are prepared to take on.  The bank doesn’t necessarily care that you have cancer and can’t go to work when your mortgage payment is due.  Walgreen’s doesn’t want to know that you have a life insurance policy that will more than cover your prescription medications when you die – you have to come up with the money now if you want to die comfortably.

Even if you can afford the medications you’ll need, Medicare and Medicaid aren’t going to cover the rest of your bills.  Sure, you might qualify for Social Security disability, but you’ll have to live at least three months to see it kick in, and by that time, many families are already drowning in debt.

 

 

 

Moving on Up – Our First Shot at Vertical Gardening

If you’ve never heard of vertical gardening, two things are clear – you’ve never lived in a small space with little or no yard, and you’ve never done The Land boat ride at EPCOT.  Originally, vertical gardening was done out of necessity – with no real property on which to plant a proper garden, geniuses with green thumbs opted for containers that could somehow be stacked or hung, taking up minimal space for maximum produce.  We did it out of pure lazy.  Plus, it turned a blank wall into something almost artistic!


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We’ve done traditional gardens before, and our first year in this house, we planted a huge bed in our backyard.  After battling bunnies and squirrels, neighbor’s cats and kids, we gave up.  It was so much work for so little return.  Discovering vertical gardening not only minimizes the risk of half the residents of the Enchanted Forest chowing down on your salad before you pick it, but it’s MUCH easier to plant!

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You start your garden with a shoe organizer – the kind you can hang over your door.  You may luck into one at a thrift store or a dollar store, but we bought canvas organizers at the Container Store for less than $10 each.  If you can’t find canvas, you can absolutely use vinyl or plastic, but you’ll want to punch three or four holes in each pocket for drainage.

When thinking of what to plant, you’ll want to keep in mind that you won’t be able to stake things up very well – like tomato plants.  Lettuces work well in this type of garden, as does kale, some edible flowers, and anything you can think that will grow up or in a cascade as opposed to needing additional support.  We planted a lot of herbs – chocolate mint, two kinds of basil, oregano, and dill among them.  I also put in a couple of marigolds to act as a repellent for some animals and insects, and at the very bottom, we added a petunia, because I love them.

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This is our first attempt, but the kids had a great time planting, and since it didn’t take a huge amount of effort to dig holes and plant the garden, we were finished before anyone got bored.  We used the over the door hooks to hang the organizers over our fence, but we added rope for additional support.

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We’ll see how things go over the next few weeks.  We may lose everything, but for a minimal investment, we had some great family fun!

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Expect the Unexpected – Unique Must Haves in Your Car For a Road Trip

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I have a good sized list of things I like to have in the car with me, but there is definitely a list of MUST haves when we embark on a road trip – especially with the girls.  There’s the list of typical things – and you can find them in a blog I wrote for Family Travel Magazine here – http://www.familytravelmagazine.com/moms-merry-miles-must-haves-in-your-car-before-your-road-trip/ – this is my most standard go-to list.  It’s all stuff that can make or break a good road trip.  But to really make sure you’re all set, you may want to pack an extra bag with some of these great things to have.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser – What? I’m on vacation – you want me to clean? Well, no, but you might have to.  I use these magical cleaning miracles for everything from stains on clothing to ink on the leather seats in the car to barbecue sauce on the rugs in the back seat.  You don’t want to leave home without him!

Desitin Ointment – Oh, now she’s just crazy! First, she wants me to clean on vacation, now she wants me to buy diaper rash ointment when I have no babies. Or diapers. YES! Get a tube of Desitin! Not only is Desitin great for chapped or chafed skin (and really, us Pooh sized people get chafed in areas we don’t like to talk about), but it has so many other uses, you will be sorry you didn’t buy stock when you have infants! Containing zinc oxide, Desitin is great to useto take the sting out of insect bites and sunburned skin, but you can also use it to prevent sunburn in the first place.  You’ll find zinc oxide in things like calamine lotion, so a little dab’ll do ya if you get a touch of poison ivy.  You can even use Desitin as a treatment for dandruff! I keep a small tube in my glove box for emergencies.

Blanket – We have children who have raised whining and complaining to an art form. It never fails, whenever we hit the road, someone is too cold. It may not be all of them, but it is at least one of them, all the time. Rather than have the driver passing out from heat stroke trying to make the children suffering from frostbite happy, have a blanket handy. Oh – and if you want to stop for an impromptu picnic or a quick visit to the beach, you’ll be ready.

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Coupons – I don’t get the newspaper, but my stepdad picks up three different papers each day.  On the weekends, that means he gets three times the coupons. The leftover coupons he gives us usually means that I have a bunch of fast food or chain restaurant deals that help me keep my spending in check on a road trip. There are coupons for free sandwiches if you buy a drink at fast food locations or free appetizers if you sit down at a chain joint. That’s money I can use on a nicer hotel or an extra souvenir!

What are your must haves on a car road trip?

 

Planes, Trains, Automobiles – How Will You Get To Your Summer Vacation?

There are loads of things to consider when you plan your summer vacation –  where you’ll go, where you’ll stay, what activities you’ll enjoy, and what your budget is.  But one of the biggest questions is always – how ya gonna get there?

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Let’s get rid of trains right away.  Not that trains are not a great way to travel, but it’s highly unlikely that the train is going to get you from the point A where you want to start to the point B where you want to finish.  In most cases, you’re going to have to get to your train station, then from your destination, get where you want to go.  Renting a car, using a taxi, bumming rides from friends and relatives are all options, but they can add to the expense of your train fare, which, compared to other options, is really not inexpensive.  For what it costs to put you, your family, and your car on the Auto Train from the north east to the Orlando vicinity, you could almost stay an extra week at a value resort at Walt Disney World!

Planes are a quick fix.  If you are traveling more than a day’s drive from home, and even more so if you are solo or couples only traveling, air may be the way to, umm, fly.  You can get to virtually anywhere in the continental United States for under $500 and in less than 6 hours.  An early morning flight can have your butt on the beach or your cheeks in the seats of your favorite theme park attraction by lunch time!

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Driving is the method my family travels most often.  The biggest advantage is that it allows some flexibility.  We lay out a basic itinerary, but whether we are driving to Orlando or cross country, we might stop in to visit friends on the trip or even make a field trip to see a local sight we might not have otherwise made a trip to go see.  For a larger family, driving also usually works out to be less expensive.  My family of five would pay about $300 each to fly to Orlando.  I can drive round trip for a total of just under $500.  That leaves me $1000 to spend on Dole Whips, light up balloons, or a new Dooney and Bourke (just a suggestion).  To find out how much it will cost you to get to your destination, check out the AAA fuel cost calculator at http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/fuelcostcalculator/

No matter how you travel this summer, stay safe, travel light, and save that extra luggage space to put all those great souvenirs!

The Hundred Foot Journey – A Taste to Whet Your Appetite

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I cannot wait for this movie – which arrives in theaters on August 8th.  A young, untrained chef from India and his family set up a competing restaurant directly across the street from one of France’s great chefs (Helen Mirren).  The story that unfolds is both beautiful AND full of flavor!

To help get you ready for the movie, enjoy this delicious potato recipe (diet be damned!).

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And while you are waiting for this to cook, enjoy the official trailer, which you can find at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv1JSQJKRXs

 

Disney Social Media Moms – On The Road in Philadelphia

1393513_10152138253778297_5151995707477833798_nYesterday, I attended my very first Disney Social Media Moms Conference.  What an awesome way to be baptized in the “real” social media community! Pixie Dust, Pin Trading, Practically Perfect in Every Way!

The atmosphere was really like a celebration – fun balloon bouquets, table centerpieces that were adorable and social media geek-tastic, and the most amazing goody bags ever assembled.

CenterpieceThe morning was set to begin early, with registration starting around 7:45ish.  Because I live about 45 minutes away, and traffic at that time of day is a total crap shoot, I stayed the night before at the Crowne Plaza hotel in King of Prussia, where the conference was being held.  So glad I did!  We had terrible storms overnight the night before, and some of the local roads by my house were still pretty bad from the weather.  I rolled out of bed about 6 AM, and headed to the lobby at 7 AM to see that people were already beginning to arrive!

Not long after, the crowd had gathered to check in.  There were Disneybounders, moms in mouse ears, moms in Maleficent ears (ears? horns? what the heck are they?), and moms sporting Disney Veras and Dooneys – everyone was showing their Disney Side somewhere.  For as close as the quarters got, everyone was so chatty and friendly!

Registration Waiting

There was time once inside to admire the decorations, meet some new people, and try to snag a FastPass+ to meet Gary Buchanan – Disney’s Social Media savant (there were none available, but I waited in the line, which I’m pretty sure was double the wait to see Anna and Elsa at the Magic Kingdom).  I got to meet people I had only met online, and quite a few Disney Parks Moms Panel fans came over to say hello.

Jedi Duck The conference speakers gave awesome tips on making the most of your mobile phone by using it for video, making sure you tell a story, and even being the best you that you can be.  The most powerful message, however, came from Maria Bailey of BSM Media and Mom Talk Radio.  She encouraged us to look our children in the whites of their eyes when we speak to them, and I have to admit, as a mom who works, goes to school, and manages a house, I’m usually talking to my kids while doing something (okay, a few somethings) else.  We need to take that time, connect with them, let them know we are there, present, and attending to them.  These, after all, are the greatest thing we will ever create – no matter how creative we are.  Love this message.

For a first experience, this was a great start.  It wasn’t so overwhelming that I felt out of my element, but there was some great content and there were some awesome people.  So glad I received this invitation, and I hope I get to do it all over again next time!

Krispie treat