Raise Your Hand

Hey Readers,

Just a head’s up that Theresa Romain is out guest mom on Monday (Labor Day in the U.S.), and she will have her five-year-old daughter, Little Miss R, with her. Little Miss R has graciously agreed to answer any and all questions you might have. Start thinking today about the questions you have. Post them here, and I’ll re-post for you Monday or post them Monday. Little Miss R will answer!

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A Letter to My Sons

First of all, pull up your pants. No one wants to see your underwear. Okay, now we can get started.

Boys, there are a lot of messages out there about what being a man means. Or at least about what being cool is, I’m not sure anyone’s as concerned with being a man in popular culture as they are with fitting in with the most desirable crowd. Which seems to often have something to do with bad posture and disrespecting women or authority, but I guess that’s nothing new.

Belittling others to elevate yourself, calling attention to anything different and mocking it, seems to have become part of the definition of masculinity. Using your strength to overpower others and to push them down seems to have become part of the Be A Man mantra. That isn’t what your strength is meant for. Your strength is a gift, and you can use it to build. You can use it to lift up. Be a man who creates. A man who empowers and emboldens others. That’s a man with true strength. A man who doesn’t fear difference, but learns from it. A man who is so strong, he’s happy to celebrate the strength of other people.

Sometimes I think society seeks to absolve you of any wrongdoing, and that does you no favors. So I’ll tell you right now: You’re responsible for your actions. You’re responsible for how you treat others.

I don’t care what a woman wears, what it covers or what it doesn’t. What rumors you’ve heard about her. What she does or what she doesn’t do, you will treat her with respect. You will treat her like a human being. And please, please don’t let your friends do differently.

If you treat a person with disrespect, it’s not because of what they’re wearing or how they talk or who they love. It’s because of something in you. You have to take the responsibility for the way you treat people, and for the consequences of that treatment. So treat everyone with kindness, with love, don’t be afraid to put others before you. Because love is the greatest, so act with love.

If you see someone, a girl or a boy, in a situation where they might be hurt, help them. If you can’t help, call the police. Call me. I don’t care if you’re somewhere you weren’t supposed to be. I don’t care if people are drinking. Too many people stand by and watch as someone is assaulted or raped, and that has to change. It has to start somewhere.

That’s where you can use your strength. That’s where you should use your strength. To protect. To stand up for what’s right.

It’s good to be smart. Don’t let anyone make you feel badly about that. Study and learn, and never stop learning.

Women aren’t accessories, they aren’t objects to use as a right of passage. You will treat women with respect. All women. See above.

Sex doesn’t make you a man. Respect yourself. Yeah, you heard me. Don’t do anything just because someone tells you to. Sometimes things feel good, but it doesn’t mean they’re right. Very often the right thing, isn’t the easy thing.

Stand firm in your convictions and don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with. Be a leader even if it means walking away from your friends.

There’s no shame in emotion. There’s no shame in being who you are. That’s the strength we were talking about before. That pack mentality, the idea that you have to conform yourself to fit a societal idea of what being a man is, comes from weakness and insecurity. Don’t reshape yourself to look like everyone else. Not when you were born to stand out. Not when you were born to be more.

Yes, other people might not understand. They might not like it. But it takes people who are bold enough to be different to change the world. And in the end, you’ll be better off being you.

The world will be better for having you in it. Mine already is.

This letter sounds like a challenge, and that’s because it is. Life is a challenge, but I know you’re up to it. I’m not saying these things to you because I believe you would ever be terrible to anyone – I don’t. I think you’re perfect. I think you’re wonderful. But these are things that have to be said. They have to be, because bad things keep happening. And if no one acknowledges it, how will they get better? If no one asks their boys to stand up and be men, and change some of the idea of what that means, then how will it change?

I’m only asking you to change the world, that’s not so hard, right?

But it’s only because I know you’re that extra sort of special.  Only because you’ve already changed me. Because having you both has made me better. Stronger.

And I love you. Always.

Mom

23 Ways to Save Your Sanity

Facebook is a fascinating amalgamation of… stuff. There’s all the daily mundane posts, the pictures and the advertisements, the political/religious/other lightning rod topics, videos, jokes, virtual train wrecks…  But every now and then, a little gem pops up and you find yourself absorbing every word, going yes…yes.  That’s what happened a week or so back when a friend posted the following list.  As I read along, it was like someone was giving me a cyber hug, and I just knew i had to keep the sharing going. Fortunately, the lovely ladies at Mommy Made gave me the green light to share 😉

Without further ado…here you go: 23 Ways to Save Your Sanity

  1. Lower your standards for cleanliness and order.
  2. Did that? Lower them even more.
  3. Your house will never look like a magazine spread, period. Embrace that.
  4. No matter how many baskets you buy to contain toys, they will always be visible. Embrace the Toys ‘R Us/ frat house-chic decor.
  5. You can never have too many popsicles in the freezer. How many bad moods have been fixed by a simple popsicle?
  6. If you can’t change them, change your perspective. For example I read recently– probably on Satan’s website Pinterest– that toothpaste is great for cleaning things like faucets. So now when I go into the bathroom every day and see toothpaste splatter all over the bathroom faucet I think about how my children have done half the chore of cleaning for me. How considerate of them! Then I wipe it off while cursing.
  7. Those chores that no one ever wants to do. Decide if you would rather do it yourself, badger your child to it, or let it go. If you are confused about what to do, see Number 1 on this list.
  8. No one cares what is stuffed under your child’s bed, why should you. Unless it is old food. In that case, you should get a dog.
  9. If you have boys, your bathroom will always faintly stink like pee. Invest in some Febreeze and count down the days until they move out and you can go visit them and pee on their bathroom floor.
  10. Don’t buy white furniture. Unless you enjoy screaming at your children every time they go near it.
  11. However bad a situation might seem, one day it will be funny. I have a few for which I am eagerly awaiting for the funny to kick in. Any time now….
  12. When your child is a young teen there will be nothing more embarrassing than your very existence. Use this to your advantage. Start planning early.
  13. Do not paint any walls in your house with flat paint.
  14. Be okay with letting your kids stumble sometimes. Whether that is turning in an assignment late because they didn’t do it or wearing an outfit so hideous you have trouble looking at them without laughing.
  15. Noise cancelling headphones are great for blocking out whining, bickering and the endless episodes of Sponge Bob.
  16. Socks do not have to match. Every day is Crazy Sock Day at my house, which is infinitely better than Crazy Mom Day.
  17. The crayons will break and it is okay to throw them away rather then save them to make some sort of craft that involves the hair dryer. In fact, I give you permission to not feel guilty about all the crafts you know you will never do.
  18. Your children will not die from eating the occasional hot dog or frozen pizza. And by occasional I mean more than you are really willing to admit.
  19. If your children are driving you crazy arguing with each other, start an argument with them. Then your children will bond over their mutual hatred of you and be quiet.
  20. Children do not appreciate top sheets or high thread counts. Buy neither.
  21. Homework time is the worst time of the day. Help your kids and yourself by having a designated time and a quiet place to do homework. Preferably in a neighbor’s home.
  22. Just say No to ironing.
  23. Last, but not least, a glass of wine and some really bad TV makes everything seem a little better.

See? How awesome is that?  Which is your favorite? For me, I think it’s probably 8. Or 9. Or then there’s 11…

If you’re inclined, go check out the fabulous ladies at Mommy Made: https://www.facebook.com/MommyMadeCraftsAndRecipes. They’re got a great page going there!

And…let’s see if we can turn 23 into 30, 35, 40….surely there are more ways to save our sanity!

The big 4-0

100_2299I’m not there yet, I just turned 39 in May, but that big birthday is looming. It’s funny how certain numbers can freak us out. I remember 25, in particular was difficult for me. I’d had everything planned out that I would meet my would-be husband in college and I’d be married by 24. Yeah, that didn’t happen and when that 25th birthday rolled around, I was in a funk. Silly when you think about it now, but then it was difficult. In any case, with that big 4-0 looming I’m doing what most people (women? do you think men do it too?) do before a “big” birthday, I’m planning all the ways I want things to be different. You know like before 40 I’ll be the new and improved Robyn.

Come on, I know y’all do that too. So here’s my list.

Spiritual – I want to be better about making my spiritual life more integrated into my daily life and not just a church day thing.

scale_upload-lHealth – this is probably the biggest for me and well the same damn thing I was struggling with at 29 before that big 3-0 birthday. (oops, but in my defense I got married when I was 30 and then, well, fertility treatments made me gain all the weight I’d lost in that 29th year…let’s pretend I’m not still carrying that 60+ lb gain around today, ten years later!) It’s not just about the weight though. I’m an inconsistent exerciser. Always have been. Once I find something I like I can stick with it for a while, but if something changes to shift that around, I have a hard time getting back on track. I’m currently in one of the “find something I like to stick with” phase. I need to just get up on my treadmill and get it over with. Also, in this category is my family’s health – I’m responsible for feeding most of the people in my family so it’s up to me to make sure I plan and make healthy meals. I’ve gotten lazy with that the past two years and I need to get back to my meals planning and cooking, it just works better for all of us.

Personal – I’m frump girl. Remember that from My Big Fat Greek Wedding? I love that movie! But man, I could so relate to her when she said that. Being a work-at-home mom means I don’t have to really fix myself up much. I mean I get dressed (most days) and even put on shoes and brush my teeth, but my hair ends up in a wad on top of my head and make-up only gets put on if we’re heading to church or I’m going to a writer function. I don’t even really fix myself up most of the time on the rare occasions The Professor and I have a date. Often because it’s a last minute – my mom offers to watch the girls so we can go see a movie kind of thing. But I would like to make a bit more of an effort with myself, try to look my best or at least look groomed.

Parenting – I think this will probably be an ongoing to-do for me, for all of us, I’d wager. Most parents (the non meth-making in the bathtub variety) strive to be better. We want to be gentler, kinder, more nurturing. I want those things. I think most of the time I do an okay job, but lots of times I could do better. It’s those moments, I want fewer of. I know I’ll never be perfect at it, but I’ll know I’m successful if my girls feel about me the way I do about my own mom.

100_0282The lazy factor – okay I don’t know if it’s just laziness or if there’s more to it, but damn somedays I just don’t even want to get up off hte couch. Granted I sit for my job so there’s that. I’m used to sitting. I like sitting. And some days dealing with the girls is enough to make me want to just get horizontal. But its those days that become a problem – I don’t exercise, I don’t do dishes, I don’t cook, I’m so wrapped up in how exhausted (and stressed) I am that I just sit and let life zoom past me all the while my house is falling apart around me and laundry is eating the bedrooms. Okay that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’m sure you know what I mean. I hope you do, at least, otherwise, I’m a slug and I just admitted that to all of you.

So there you go, my would-be, personal to-do list before I turn 40. Do you make such lists before your birthdays? 

And I have to do a little self-promo because I have a new book out. So let’s all look at the pretty cover together and we can ooh and ahh. You can go here to find out more about the book.

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The halcyon days of summer (or Dear lord when do they go back?)

Today is the last official day of summer.

IMG_1110Oh, sure, we still have the weekend to plow through, but down here in central Texas, today is meet the teacher/see your classroom/discover your new best friend day. Which for me marks the end of summer (despite the fact that we’re still facing two and half months of brutal heat).

The end of summer is a bittersweet time, full of poignant sorrow and lost hopes. It’s the time when I look back on the kind of mother I wanted to be this summer (fun, engaged, entertaining, inspiring) and am forced to face what an abject failure I was. Three months ago, I was sure this would be the perfect summer. I’d carefully scheduled my deadlines. I’d cleaned off my work plate. This was going to be the year where we swam and did science experiments and had reading time every day. We were going to make ice cream from scratch, damn it.

My fantasies of summer perfection were like brightly colored Jolly Ranchers left on the dash board on a 112 degree day. They started out beautiful but ended up a sticky mess no one wanted to clean up.

Here’s the list of things I wanted to do this summer:

  • read and do math for 30 minutes each day
  • garden with my kids
  • play at the park
  • bake cinnamon bread
  • teach my children to be more responsible pet owners
  • go swimming at least twice a week
  • spend less time working (so as to enjoy my time with my children)
  • bake chocolate eclairs (there was a reason this seemed like a good idea. I promise.)
  • set a good example for my kids by exercising consistently
  • enjoy every minute of our time together

IMG_0185There are more things on the list, but it’s getting long enough it’s starting to look ridiculous.

Maybe I shouldn’t be disappointed in myself for not accomplishing all that. My deadlines got pushed around. I had work that had to be done. And, sure, I tell myself that even on the days were I had to turn on the Wii so I could get work done, at least I don’t have to work outside the home. It’s hard, but we made it work.

Of course, now, facing these last few days of summer, my heart is heavy with the things we didn’t do, the fun we didn’t have, the memories we didn’t make and the pictures I never took. And maybe I just don’t like endings.

My dear boy is entering kindergarten on Monday. That’s just three days away! I will be the mother of a preschooler for only three more days!

It was hard when my daughter went of to kinder. It felt like a big threshold, but at the time I had no idea how big. Now I know. I know how much he’ll love that kinder teacher. How he’ll write her notes and draw her pictures. I know how fast this year will go and how long the days will seem without him here. Counting bus time, they’ll both be out of my sight and my care and my company for eight hours a day! And the hours at home will zip by. And before I know it, it’ll be him going into the third grade (like she is this year), and I’ll still be wondering where the time went and whether or not I enjoyed it enough.

I friggin’ hate that phrase “Enjoy every minute!”

It fills me with panic and fear. Am I enjoying it enough? Am I????

On the bright side, any minute now, they’ll start fighting over something. “He kicked me in the stomach!” “She just bosses me around like I’m nothing!” And I go into the other room to check for internal injuries and step on a Lego and curse them both. And then two hours later, after my son has repeated my curse word, my husband will ask, “Where did you hear that word? Your mother and I don’t talk that way.” And that’s when I’ll think, “Dear lord, when do they go back?”

Guest Mom Amanda Brice on Food Allergies

Today’s guest mom, attorney and author Amanda Brice, is covering a topic that literally makes my heart race and my breath shorten as I write this sentence! Like Amanda, I’m the mother of a child with a serious allergy, so serious that a bite of the wrong food could be life-threatening. Living with this possibility all the time is not easy. Thanks for listening to Amanda and for trying to understand what families like ours go through. And if you deal with serious allergies in your household, just know that you’re not alone. –Kieran

“References that include everything from Snooki to Chewbacca will have you laughing out loud.” – Romantic Times

“It’s good, frothy fun. Like a hot chocolate with a marshmallow and lots of sprinkles on top. I defy you to read this book and not laugh out loud. It’s full of wit and humour.” – Bookish Trish from Between the Lines blog

Mmm…hot chocolate with marshmallows and sprinkles… But in our house, that marshmallow will be egg-white-free and the chocolate safe from cross-contamination with nuts.

Reviewers tend to agree that one of my strongest points as a writer is my humor, and I do love writing funny. But I’m not going to be funny today because the subject of today’s blog is no laughing matter, and that’s food allergies.

Perhaps it’s an unusual topic for a blog titled “Peanut Butter on the Keyboard,” but the photo at the top of the website makes clear that kids can make messes. It’s all cute until those messes put others at risk.

Recently Hollywood has taken to getting cheap laughs by making fun of food allergies, the parents who deal with them, and the kids who have them.

Nick Jr. was in the crossfire of food allergy parents this past spring when their Nick Mom programming (that begins at 10 pm EST, so presumably kids should be in bed, but that’s only 7 pm on the West Coast and I don’t know about your kids, but mine are wide awake and watching Nick Jr. at 7 pm) featured a highly inappropriate skit called “Taking the ‘Food’ Out of ‘Bake Sale’” in which a bunch of moms guffawed about how put-upon they are with all these fad diets today. The video in question had a bullying undertone, implying that families are overreacting to nothing.

This summer, the Smurfs 2 movie also jumped on the “all these crazy parents are overreacting” bandwagon by including a scene mocking an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, a potentially fatal reaction, for cheap laughs. Shortly before a character ate a corndog that had been cooked in undeclared peanut oil (after which he reacted and was rushed to the hospital), his stereotypical helicopter parents, in true caricature style, made their demands clear – his diet must be organic, BPA-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, food-free. The implication was that parents were just making up food allergies – everything needs to be peanut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc, because of overreacting parents. They were not just making sure all the kids in the party scene could eat the cake. They were making sure everyone laughs at the gluten-free-peanut-free-vegan-cake-made-with-love as if to say “how hilarious it is that kids these days need all this special food?!” Insert audience eyeroll here. Ho, ho, ho, barrel of laughs!

Even if the ingestion of peanuts was inadvertent rather than bullying, when did poisoning a child become a comic moment? It was an unnecessary scene, making fun of parents and their kids in what was supposed to be a nice family movie.

I know it might seem like it’s not that big of a deal: “It’s a joke. Relax.” But that’s the point. It’s not. Not to kids who have to deal with food allergies every day. Kids who constantly have to inspect everything they eat so their throats don’t swell up and they die can’t just relax. Nor can their parents.

Sadly, it seems that the only way to get many people to change their mind about their belief that the food allergy epidemic is blown out of proportion is for them to experience it firsthand. Time columnist Joel Stein learned the hard way that it’s real. Having previously written a piece that began “Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special,” he blamed the epidemic on over-reporting. A year later, his one-year-old son suffered anaphylaxis to tree nuts: “sneezing, then breaking out in hives, then rubbing his eyes, then crying through welded-shut eyes, then screaming and finally, vomiting copiously at the entrance of the Children’s Hospital emergency room an hour after eating his first batch of blended mixed nuts.” Believe me, this is the worst type of eating crow.

The recent death of a girl at summer camp (as a result of eating Rice Krispie treats cross-contaminated by peanuts) underscores the seriousness. This is why it is completely reprehensible to make a joke out of a kid needing an EpiPen.

You wouldn’t joke about a kid having cancer. Or autism. Or using a wheelchair. So why is this acceptable? It’s not a lifestyle choice. It’s a health concern. A health crisis, I would argue. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), this potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children under the age of 18. That’s roughly two in every classroom.

A 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that there was an 18% increase in food allergy between 1997 and 2007, although there is no clear answer as to why. Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. Every three minutes. Reactions to food can range from a mild response (such as eczema, stomach cramps, or an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe a potentially deadly reaction.

I know the stereotype is that food allergy parents are overprotective. And maybe we are. But that’s because we have to be vigilant. And we’re not unreasonable. I know people like to joke about our crazy demands, but I promise you that we don’t expect you to provide special food for our children at your private party. We just want to know the ingredients so we can make our own decisions. In fact, most food allergy parents I know are among the most low-maintenance party guests around. Not only do we bring our own food and help chaperone, but we help you clean up afterwards!

As for school-sponsored events, we encourage you to consider alternative treats. To quote the excellent article A Mom’s Perspective: A Guide to Registering Your Food Allergic Child for Kindergarten, is “it really so much trouble to substitute an unsafe pretzel with a safer brand that costs the same and was available at the same store? I wondered how resentful they would be if someone handed their child a homemade cookie baked with arsenic!”

Meet Ballerina Girl and Monkey Boy.

AmberAlexWagon

Ballerina Girl is anaphylactic to tree nuts (those are all nuts that grow in trees, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts – please note that although peanuts tend to be the big allergen you here about the most in the media, it’s not actually a nut – it’s a legume; tree nut allergy is different, but no less dangerous), gets hives from sesame seeds, an itchy sensation when she eats raw mango (although cooked is fine), and eczema from eggs.

Although we avoid all of the above, the ones we are most vigilant about obviously are the nuts. Hives, itching, stomach pain – all of that is uncomfortable and we don’t want to inflict unnecessary suffering on her. But the fact of the matter is that you don’t die from a single accidental exposure, whereas with nuts she could. It is life-threatening.

Even worse, a child doesn’t need to eat one of their allergens to have an anaphylactic reaction; contact with another child or an item that has been exposed to the allergen – such as might occur when a child shares scissor or a pencil sharpener and then rubs his eyes) can sometimes be enough to trigger onset.

Monkey Boy fortunately doesn’t have any allergies. However, he does have a milk protein intolerance and a rice intolerance. (Yes, I know. A half-Asian kid who can’t eat rice. Who knew?) Ingesting any amount of dairy in any form (not just milk, cheese, and ice cream, but casein, whey, and other forms that we have to check carefully on product packaging) or rice can cause hours and hours of severe cramping and screaming, and occasionally vomiting. For months we just thought he had colic. Well, colic is a catch-all term that refers to a baby who screams and you don’t know why. Turns out in his case it was because I was breastfeeding him and inadvertently poisoning him with my own diet. We now diligently avoid rice and dairy to keep him from pain, but thank goodness it won’t kill him.

Ballerina Girl carries an EpiPen because of her potential for anaphylaxis. We also keep pre-filled spoons of Benadryl around. We don’t need to take such precautions with Monkey Boy (and it wouldn’t make a difference anyway, since his is an intolerance rather than an allergy).

Although the word “allergy” makes people think of stuffy noses, a food allergy is actually an immune response – your body mistakes something in food as harmful and attacks it. It can affect your entire body, not just your stomach or sinuses. Symptoms may include:

  • Rash, hives, or itchy skin

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden drop in blood pressure, trouble swallowing, or breathing (CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY)

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. When anaphylaxis presents, the primary treatment is injection of epinephrine, such as with an EpiPen  or Auvi-Q.

The most famous food allergy is peanut allergy, but the Big 8 allergens that the FDA requires food manufacturers to list on labels also include tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat. These eight foods account for an estimated 90% of all allergic reactions.

When a food irritates your stomach or your body can’t properly digest it, that’s an intolerance. Symptons include:

  • Gas, cramps, or bloating

  • Heartburn

  • Headaches

  • Irritability or nervousness

The most famous food intolerances are Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and lactose intolerance.

So…what should we as parents do? For the record, I support food-free classrooms, but not nut-free schools. (Unless there is no separate cafeteria and the children must eat in their classrooms, in which case I support nut-free schools, such as at my daughter’s preschool.) Removing the food completely from the classroom is becoming a more widely accepted accommodation as children with severe food allergies are protected under 504 plans as qualifying under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In an ideal world, I’d love to have all nuts and peanuts eradicated from the face of the planet, but I know that’s not happening, at least in this lifetime. Besides, while most anaphylaxis is the result of nut and peanut allergies, and most other allergies present in more moderate (though uncomfortable) reactions, some children are anaphylactic to milk or fish or shellfish, just as an example. So are we going to pit seriousness of children’s allergies against one another? If all allergenic foods are banned, what would the children eat? Therefore, I support learning to reduce the risk (such as keeping food out of the classroom entirely) and practicing good hygiene (teeth brushing and hand-washing with soap and water – allergens are proteins, not germs, so use of hand sanitizers is not sufficient), rather than outright bans.

However, if your child does attend a nut-free school, please abide by this policy. It was put in place to protect, not to cause hardship. There are many nut-free snacks and lunches your child can bring instead of PB&J sandwiches. Snacksafely.com recently released the 2013 Safe Snack Guide, which is a list of commonly available commercial snacks intended as a guide for schools, organizations, sports leagues, clubs, parties, play dates, and other events where snacks may be brought in the presence of people with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and/or eggs.

Peanut butter derives much of its taste from the roasting process. There are a number of other spreads available at the store that use a similar roasting process and taste remarkably similar to peanut butter, such as sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter. Similar doesn’t mean “exactly the same,” so you might need to ease your child into it. Simply mix ¾ peanut butter with ¼ alternative spread when lunching at home, and then change the proportion to more of the alternative spread over time.

Voila! Simple, and it will do so much to help your kids’ allergic friends. Even if your school doesn’t have a nut-free zone, you may decide that you prefer the taste of one of these peanut butter alternatives. And we can all breathe easier knowing that everyone is covered.

Or if you’re in the mood for homemade, I list some of my own favorite recipes on my “Extras” section of my website. Just because a food is “safe” doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. Each of the recipes on my list is devoid of the Big 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, shellfish, fish, wheat), so if you don’t have those allergies or have other ones, you may need to substitute.

You see, I’m not just an allergy mom, but the heroine in my YA mystery series also has food allergies. I wrote the first book, in which my heroine suffers a reaction after the villain switches her “safe” Pad Thai with the regular kind, before my daughter was even born. At the time, I just thought that it would be an interesting and topical subplot, because as scary as the thought might be, food really can be used as a weapon in this way. In fact, the book was published two months before my daughter ever suffered her first allergic reaction to nuts. Although I’d done research when writing those scenes, nothing could prepare me for the firsthand experience of watching your child’s face swell, the itching, the coughing, the wheezing, the gasping, and finally the vomiting. There is nothing scarier than not knowing what to do for her or how to help her.


Amanda Brice lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband, a 3 ½-year-old daughter, and a 20-month-old son. An intellectual property attorney for a large federal government agency, she combines her love of writing with her legal career by speaking on basic copyright and trademark law on the writers’ conference circuit. A two-time Golden Heart finalist, she is the author of three books in the Dani Spevak Mystery Series, and has a YA time travel romance series beginning this fall with 1816 Candles. You can learn more about Amanda and her books at her website.

Disney Princesses

Okay, moms of girls. You knew this was coming, right? Baby Galen is obsessed with Disney princesses. She wants to read about them, wear them, dress up as them, and talk about them all the time. So I’ve been educating myself on the Disney princesses–mostly not by choice but because when you have only one topic of conversation, you don’t have a lot of options.

So, Disney princesses. Let’s chat.

Cinderella. She’s the most famous. She’s Baby Galen’s favorite because she wears blue.

cinder

Pros: She is kind to animals.

Cons: She’s a bit of a pushover.

Snow White. She lived with 7 dwarves, which is a little strange and difficult to explain.

Pros: She’s resourceful enough to get away when threatened.

Cons: She cooks and cleans and waits on 7 dwarves.

Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). She has three fairy godmothers.

Pros: Um…

Cons: Um…actually, I don’t know much about Aurora because I saw the movie when I was little, and Baby Galen doesn’t care much about her and hasn’t watched the movie all the way through.

Jasmine. She’s an Arabian princess.

Pros: She’s smart and brave and doesn’t care about social class.

Cons: She can be a little sexier than I’m comfortable with.

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Belle. She’s the one in Beauty and the Beast.

Pros: She loves to read.

Cons: Am I the only one who thinks it’s odd she falls in love with an animal?

Rapunzel. She’s my favorite. She has really long hair.

Pros: She’s strong and independent and handy with a frying pan. Also my favorite line: “You broke my smolder.” And my favorite hero, Flynn. I want to marry him.

Cons: The poor girl was kidnapped and raised by a witch with some mental issues. Scarred for life?

Ariel. She’s a mermaid.

Pros: Curiosity, I guess?

Cons: She will do anything for Prince Eric, even leave her family, sell her soul, sell her father’s soul…

Tiana. She’s an American princess.

Pros: She’s smart and has a great father for a role model.

Cons: There’s a lot of voodoo in the movie, which makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Pocahontas. Indian princess?

Pros: She’s really in tune with nature. A green Disney princess.

Cons: Pretty sure this movie is nothing like how the real story went.

Mulan. We haven’t watched this one yet, and I saw it too long ago to remember anything other than she dresses like a man to fight in a war.

Merida. We haven’t watched this either. There’s a scary bear. And I just can’t add one more princess to our repertoire.

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Who’s your favorite and least favorite Disney princess?

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a three-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com

Awkward First (play) dates

I have been blessed with children who have never met a single stranger. Like, ever. We have made friends at the playground. In other countries while on vacation. While stranded at the airport. They just make friends. And sometimes they want to keep these friends. Which means we exchange phone numbers and–if one or the other of the kids won’t let it go–then we schedule a play date.

Emily, the mom, wants her kids to have tons of fabulous friends and fun play dates.

Emily, the writer, and introvert wants to hang out at home with my cats and my Nook.

I’m going to be honest here … I thought I was done with this first date thing when I got married. I never realized that once my kids came along, I’d be doing it all over again, meeting up at parks, pools, and bounce-house-R-us in the hopes that the chemistry between the kids will be magical and that parent is someone I can talk to with a minimum of pain. And my kids are young, so I usually tag along and we almost always meet in some public place.

That first play date with a new kid (or family) is exactly like a blind date. Sometimes, you meet that other mom and the scheduled time of the playdate just flies by. You have things in common, the conversation is smooth and–most importantly–the kids get along. You walk away convinced you’ve met your new best mom-friend. Other times, things feel clumsy and you struggle to find anything to say to that other mom. And then there are those playdates that go really, really bad.

Don’t believe me? I’ve had playdate that ended in tears (thankfully not mine). I’ve had to fill the awkward silences with mom’s who are even more introverted than I am. I’ve had to explain what I write and sometimes justify it.

“Oh, you write romance novels? Like that trashy 50 shades thing?”

“Um, no. Less trashy and wildly less successful.”

Or even better: “Oh. You write. Books.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t read books.”

“Thanks okay. I’m not going to quiz you later.” (‘Cause I never want people to feel awkward.)

A few minutes later. “I read Wuthering Heights in high school. I hated it. Do you write books like that?”

“Um, no. Less literary and wildly less successful.”

And you might think that would be the low point in the awkward first dates. Sadly, no. I’ve two first play dates (in public) where  I did everything in my power to keep my kids behaving okay but where the other kids behaved so badly, strangers talked to me about curtailing the kids behavior. (Why me and not the kid’s mom? I have no idea.) But let me tell you, it’s awkward. And horrible. (And why do strangers think it’s okay to come up to anyone and criticize how kids are behaving?) When it comes to parenting, I try not to be judgmental, so when I’m out on a playdate, unless a kid is doing something dangerous, I’m not going step in. And it feels really horrible when a stranger does it. I mean, can you imagine being on a romantic first date where a stranger walks up to the table and starts haranguing your date. You want to just sink into the floor.

What’s the worst first playdate you’ve ever been on?

Or better yet, what are your tips for avoiding bad play dates?

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Emily McKay, aka. Hippy Chick mom,  lives and writes in the Texas hill country. She has two kids, two dogs, two cats, and 9 chickens.  She loves movies, food, yoga and books. And eggs. Lots and lots of eggs.

Her 2012 release, The Farm just won the Rita for the Young Adult romance.

The Gift of Life

This is not the blog I’d planned to write tonight.

Someone I know died last weekend.  Her name was Dana. She was young, kind, creative, the kind of person so full of life that when she walks into a room, everyone notices. She was also giving birth to her first child.

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I first encountered Dana via Facebook, where she ran a jewelry business called Purdy Little Things by Dana. She and her husband would conduct these flash sales, where she would post an item and what quantity she had availablel, then the first ones to comment would get to buy. She had awesome girly bling!

I got to know her a little better when she became pregnant, after two years of infertility struggles. That’s all it takes to grab my attention. There’s a sisterhood of those who experience infertility and miscarriage, and we all cheer each other on. Dana found out about her pregnancy on January 1st, the perfect way to start a new year. And she was so happy! It was a dream coming true, and Dana threw herself into her pregnancy with the same unbridled energy and joy she applied to every other aspect of her life. She started blogging, and I’d sit in the privacy of my home and read her words. Hers was not an easy pregnancy. As the months went by—and she and her husband learned they were having a little boy—she began to struggle with diabetes and preeclampsia.  But she was so filled with love and anticipation she took it all in stride, even blogging about all those icky little realities of pregnancy that no one really talks about. She was raw. She was real.

Dana’s Pregnancy Blog: http://purdylittlethings.wordpress.com/

On Mother’s Day she wrote: I took time on Mother’s Day to reflect on what this day will soon mean to me…..for the rest of my life.  And then I cried.  I have waited my whole life to become a mother, and now, it is slowly happening as our sweet baby grows inside of me. 

Over the summer, things got worse. Not critical, but bad enough that she was admitted to the hospital, where she spent ten days before her blood pressure spiked and the doctor decided it was time for Baby Z to make his big arrival. Dana was whisked down to Labor and Delivery—her adorable husband blogged that it was time. All good. All happy. A dream about to come true.

Then something went horribly wrong. Baby Z arrived, but Dana didn’t make it. She died during childbirth, from an incredibly rare (1 in 20,464) complication, amniotic fluid embolism. I’d never heard of it, but I know now it’s devastating. Few women survive. Those who don’t, usually are gone before the medical staff even realizes what’s happening. A few minutes. Three…four. And she was gone, leaving this world as she gave the gift of life to her newborn son.

And I’m so haunted by that. I’m haunted by the fact that Dana lost her life in the same instant her dream came true. In some ways, there’s comfort in that. She was filled with joy to be giving birth. I like to think that she had no idea what was happening, how very wrong things were, that she thought it was all part of delivery. I like to think that her last breath was one of wonder and joy and anticipation.

In the past few days, I’ve given a lot of thought to the gift of life. I’ve watched as her small town has wrapped her husband and baby boy in their arms and infused them with a different kind of gift, of life, that of community and compassion.

Memorial Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Yourpurdylittleheart

The outpouring of support has been beyond beautiful, friends and strangers alike doing whatever they can to help. Money has been raised.

Fundraiser: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/cjv2/bringing-home-baby-zander

Baby supplies have been donated. Diaper drives are happening all over town. Enfamil has pledged to provide a box of diapers for every week that Baby Z needs them.

News Story: http://m.firstcoastnews.com/localnews/article?a=323740&f=1351

The gift of life. I sit here now thinking about how very precious it is, and how each of us has the power to give that gift every day of our lives. Childbirth may be the most exquisite act, but it’s not the only act. A hug, a touch, an ear to listen. They’re all incredibly powerful. I remember once when we were in a marriage enrichment session, I was asked what I’d like to my husband to do. My first response were things I wish he didn’t do, but I was redirected to respond in the positive, what DID I want him to do. And one of the things on my list was…smile at me. As simple as that. Smile. Because when he does, this place inside me comes alive.  It’s why I don’t send my daughter away when she slips into bed beside me at night, because she’s told me how warm and safe it makes her feel, how connected. Alive. I can give her that gift, over and over and over. And we can all smile at the clerk in the grocery store or the stranger walking down the street, the harried mom at the soccer field…the frazzled dad trying to quiet a baby. And we can reach for a friend and hold them if they need to cry. And listen. Those are gifts we can all give.

And that’s what I ask today, to go give the gift of life, to someone in your family, a friend, a complete stranger, and to think of Dana and Shane and sweet little Baby Z. He’ll  never feel the warmth of his mother’s smile or the gentleness of her touch, but he will feel the gift of love. Her friends and family will make sure of that.