In a League of My Own

I still remember the first time I played volleyball. It was at a party hosted by a grade school friend.  I can’t remember which friend, and I very vaguely recall a fancy house, lots of food and a swimming pool. But I vividly remember the volleyball court. Because I spent the entire day there! I was hooked. And I couldn’t wait to play on an actual team in high school!

Unfortunately, my body had other plans. One day in middle school, I woke up to a left knee that wouldn’t straighten. It was stuck at almost a 90 degree angle and would not move no matter how hard I tried. As if middle school isn’t awkward enough on a normal day! While still going to doctor after doctor for tests to try to figure out the cause, the problem also moved to my left wrist and ankle. The doctors finally gave me a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (mainly because they didn’t want to say “We don’t have a clue.”). I was told I would most likely improve as I entered adulthood, but there was a chance that my joints could continue to get worse and that I would end up in a wheel chair. Not a fun “wait and see.”

Months of physical therapy did nothing, but suddenly the problem disappeared just as mysteriously as it appeared and I awoke to a perfectly functioning knee. But it didn’t stay that way. For years, a wrong movement would easily send me back to hobbling around or wearing a wrist brace. It sadly happened frequently enough to keep me off of any high school sports teams. *Cue sound of dreams shattering.* But my desire to play volleyball didn’t end. As hoped, my joints did get better. But my knee has always remained a problem.

Although my JRA improved in adulthood, I would eventually find out that wasn’t the only autoimmune problem I would have to deal with. Those of you who are long time readers know my medical woes (You can read more about that HERE if you’d like.). But in the fall of 2014 (about the same time I stopped writing here!)… I felt sicker (than normal) and was going down hill fast. I had been bitten by another tick and I believe that’s what sent me spiraling down again.  My immune system cried “UNCLE!” and freaked out/shut down. I hid it on the outside, but my insides were an absolute wreck. I remember getting the call from my doctor while watching my son’s Saturday morning basketball game because she didn’t want to wait until Monday.  It was a scary time. At first I was sad. Sad that I felt my body was just too tired to fight any more. But as I started treatment and prepared for surgery (a second tonsillectomy!), I got mad. Mad at all I’ve had to miss out on from being ill so much. I told myself that when I got back on my feet again, I was going to do all the things I’ve always had to put off because of my sucky immune system!

Fast forward  to March 2016. I won’t go into all the ups and downs and treatment it took to get me there, but the important part is that I had made it an entire year without landing myself in the hospital! That was a big accomplishment for me! I proclaimed it the “year of no fear” and if I wanted to do something…I promised myself I would JUST DO IT. And the first thing on the list was to sign up for a volleyball league! I may not have been able to play in high school, but now 30+ years later I was going to play on my VERY FIRST SPORTS TEAM!!! I heard my teen say one day, “I think my Mom is going through a mid-life crisis or something because she’s going to play volleyball.” Maybe he was right since that month I also went ziplining, repelled off a cliff, went snorkeling (I don’t do well with being in the water with sealife!) and chopped off a foot of my hair!

I may have called it the “year of no fear” but that didn’t stop me from being TERRIFIED about playing. I mean starting volleyball at my age with a bum knee probably isn’t the smartest decision.

I didn’t know a single soul playing in the league, which I oddly found comfort in. It was nice to go somewhere and not be known as the “lady who’s always sick.” Don’t get me wrong, I love that my friends care and ask how I’m feeling…but it was nice for a change to be able to completely hide that part of me away. And just simply be a teammate!

The league was described as recreational, but as I saw more and more players introduce themselves in the Facebook group, I realized my definition of a rec-league may be different from others. Comments such, “I’m a little rusty. It’s been a few years since I played at a D1 college but I’m looking forward to getting back on the court!” sent me into a mini panic attack. I was tempted to post, “I look forward to putting you all to shame with my extensive church picnic and family beach volleyball experience!” but decided my humor may not be well received.

The day of the first game, I was so nervous that I got dressed and was ready to go 2 hours early. I was convinced I was going to embarrass myself and that my knee was going to freeze up and that I was stupid to be trying this at my age. I paced around for a while and then had the bright idea that I needed to put on make-up. Because nothing screams CONFIDENCE like sweaty mascara running down your face!

I arrived to the game and confirmed my suspicions that I probably had the least volleyball experience and the most life experience (a.k.a. oldest!). BUT I didn’t humiliate myself during the game and had the BEST TIME ever. All my serves went over and I even got high fives from my teammates for some good hits. I have no idea if we won that game.  The score didn’t matter because I was just trying to win at the game of life.

The second week was even more fun because I didn’t have the nerves to deal with before hand.  BUT – there’s always a but with me isn’t there – the third week it all fell apart.  About 10 minutes into the match, it happened. I lunged for the ball (OK, it was more like a big step. Actually just a normal step. Maybe even a small step.) and I felt a pop in my leg. I know what you are thinking. My fear of my left knee freezing came true! But nope. It was my right calf. I don’t know much about anatomy, but I knew pop=bad.

I went to the ER and found out I had ruptured my gastrocnemius. That’s a fancy word for my calf muscle. They had to put on a cast and when they were finished, I had a realization. I couldn’t get my leggings back on over it…so I had NO PANTS TO WEAR HOME! The nurse left the room and came back in holding up a pair of “post surgical panties.” You know, basically mesh booty shorts! I guess the look on my face must have said “you’ve GOT to be kidding me!” because she instantly said, “Umm…I will look for something else.” Luckily for me – and everyone else in the ER – she found a pair of hospital pants, so I didn’t have to leave with my derriere waving in the air like I just didn’t care.

True to form, I couldn’t just have a “normal” injury. The injury carried a risk of a DVT, and with my Lupus clotting disorder and history of having a blood clot, the doctors decided I needed to be on blood thinners. Lovenox shots in my belly to be exact. Whoever named those is evil because there’s nothing to “love” about getting shots in your belly! The day I started the shots, my leg started feeling much, much, much worse. At first I chalked it up to one of those “has to feel worse before it feels better” situations. But after a few days of excruciating pain and being too miserable to move or have anything touch my leg, I finally called the doctor to see if that was normal. It wasn’t. Turns out the thinners were doing their job too well and I was having excessive bleeding from the injury site. After another week, I was finally back to “normal” pain. I had to go for weekly sonograms and trips to a hematologist to make sure my veins were ok. I really do seem to be incapable of having a run-of-the-mill medical issue. I always give the doctors a nice challenge I suppose.

I was on crutches for a month. The last time I was on crutches I was 17 and I thought it was tough then. Being on them 30 years later was a hundred times worse. The most ironic part though? The “bum knee” that kept me from doing what I wanted when I was younger was now the same knee that was forced to entirely SUPPORT me. I guess that’s how life works too: you sometimes to have to rely on the weakest part of yourself to get through some of the tough times!

I had several more weeks of physical therapy after I was off crutches, so I missed the rest of the regular season. I was a spectator at all of the games though. While I sat and cheered on my team, I watched them all get better and better. Those who were “rusty” at the beginning found their groove. The more I saw them gain their confidence, the more I lost mine. I realized how little I knew about the game.

By the time I was cleared to play, it was playoff/championship week. I was so worried about re-injuring myself, I couldn’t even focus on the game. But I made it through and we ended up coming in second place in the league for the spring season. Even though I had to sit out most of the season and go through quite a bit of misery, I didn’t for a second regret playing because I had a blast. Plus at least I had a “cool” injury story instead of my usual idiotic injuries like those described in my Top 20 Dumbest Injuries.

The summer season started the next week, and we had a few new players join our team. Things instantly got much more intense. Strategies were discussed, player rotations were set, techniques were critiqued, things were more serious. And I was still standing there thinking, “I’m just still trying to figure out how the hell to set the ball!” Needless to say, the first game of the summer season was a disaster for me. I was so stuck in my head with thoughts swirling around about making sure I didn’t hit one handed when bumping and didn’t carry the ball when spiking and let the setter hit the second ball and and call it if I’m going to hit the ball and – oh yeah – don’t get hurt again. I was my own worst enemy that game and couldn’t do a darn thing right. I walked off the court after the game and wanted to quit. I thought I should have just stuck to being the team cheerleader.

But I didn’t quit. I grabbed a ball and walked over to the corner of the gym and spent an hour practicing against the wall. And I came back the next week and the next and the next. I made it through the entire season (with no injuries!). It didn’t feel very recreational any more though. Most of my teammates were supportive of each other, but I definitely noticed more eye rolling, sighs and snapping at each other. We finished the summer season in second place again, and with almost twice as many teams as the spring season.

The good thing about having a lot of strong players on your team is that you win a lot. The bad thing about having a lot of strong players on your team is that they want to win even MORE. And that led to a hurtful bump in the road for the upcoming fall season. One of our players decided to disband our team and start a new team. She is taking 4 of our teammates with her, leaving 3 of us behind basically up the creek without a paddle. Or more accurately up the court without a team. I’m not stupid; I know “forming a new team” means “we think we can do better without you.” And I’m not going to lie, that stung. Not just like a little bee sting either. More like an entire hornet’s nest full of stings.

At first I was sad. Sad that I am one of the weaker players. Then I got mad. Mad that someone was trying to take away my fun. And then I remembered how long I had waited to play on a volleyball team. And I got determined. Determined to figure out a way to continue playing. And then I got excited. Excited for the chance for a fresh start to get back to the thrill I had those first 2 games before I got hurt. When it wasn’t about whether I won or lost. It was about making up for lost time. And about telling my illness to kiss my ace!

_________________________________________________________________________

P.S. My 2 remaining players and I are forming a new team for the fall and have found enough new players to round out our team (plus another teammate who isn’t playing this fall because of travel will be a sub for us when she’s in town.) so I WILL be able to continue playing.  I’m even going to be the captain! When I told the boys, Eric said, “You should be captain. You are good at yelling.” While I gave Eric the stink eye, Greg added, “Uh oh. I think she’s going to practice captaining on you.” I think they are confusing captain and coach, but it still made me laugh.

P.P.S I don’t fault my former teammates for wanting to win more by forming a more competitive team. And I also don’t fault the little part of myself that (unrealistically) wants to beat them. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

How To Get Inside the Teen Brain & Stop Medicine Abuse

Have you heard of dextromethorphan abuse? I hadn’t either.  Unfortunately, a lot of teens have. Only they probably call it DXM, Dex, Triple Cs, Syrup Head or even Skittles.

DXM is an ingredient found in most over the counter cough medicines and is a safe medicine that alleviates coughs…when used appropriately! Some teens, however, take excessive doses of DXM to get high. The side effects from cough medicine abuse aren’t pretty and include vomiting, hallucinations, loss of motor control and inhibited breathing and heart rate. When combined with other substances such as drugs and alcohol, it can be very dangerous and even lethal.

I recently attended a forum as part of the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign called “Inside the Teen Brain: Is There an App for That?” It was very informative and I’m thrilled to share this important information with you all!

The brain of an adolescent is only about 80% formed.  During this time, the young brain has more excitatory synapses than inhibitory synapses.  Darby Fox described this phenomenon perfectly with the simile, “Teen brains are like Ferraris with no brakes. It is our job as parents to be the brakes for them.” The information in this post will help all of us know how to push that pedal on the left and see those brake lights while our teens are trying to floor it!

The Stop Medicine Abuse prevention campaign started 3 years ago and the insights are helping us get inside the teen brain! The fear of social consequences emerged as a leading motivator in preventing teens from abusing cough medicine. Teens described the unpleasant physical and social consequences of their peers who get high on DXM in terms such as “sloppy,” threw up,” “acting like jerks,” and “nobody wants to be around them.”

Stop Med Abuse info 1Much is reported about “peer pressure” in teen friend groups.  And while that can lead to bad decisions, it can also keep teens in line by preventing them from doing something that is considered uncool.  And many things about DXM abuse are just that – uncool.  The campaign uses the negative perception of DXM abuse and teen’s fear of social disapproval to make DXM more undesirable.

The specific target audience for prevention of DXM abuse is teens between 14 and 19 who have considered using DXM to get high but have not yet tried it. When teens are curious about DXM abuse, because they have a friend who has tried it or heard about it in pop culture, they look for more information online. The goal of the campaign has been to figure out how to bring strategy to life in a way that educates the “fence sitter” teens without exposing those who know nothing about cough medicine abuse.  They have accomplished this by targeting teens WHILE they are searching online for information on DXM.

This award-winning effort (WhatisDXM.com) has used real-life testimonials, games, apps, and bait-and-switch videos to interrupt teens’ searches and change their perceptions of this behavior. And most importantly, teen abuse of OTC cough medicine is at an all-time low. The abuse rate is about 1 in 30, which is down from 1 in 20.  That’s fantastic progress but that means there is still a teen in about every class abusing cough medicine, so the effort needs to continue in full force!

In response to the question “Inside the Teen Brain: Is There an App for That?” Yes, there IS an app for that.  No, you can’t actually get in there and disable the “teen ‘tude” or use it to figure out how to get them to clean their rooms, but the DXM Labworks App has taken an interactive approach that gets inside the teen brain to show the effects of couch medicine abuse.  Stop Med Abuse App 2The app is a video simulation appropriately using robots as a play on words for the common reference to a DXM high as “robo-tripping.” In the app, teens have to complete tasks while (virtually) under the influence of DXM.  One “task” is to keep the robot from puking, which is one of the most common side effects of cough medicine abuse.  As Jimmy Fallon would say, “Ew!” Each time the teen is unable to complete a task, he or she loses a “robot friend” in the app to simulate the social consequences in real life.

The premise behind techniques such as the robot app is if you make an educational message engaging, the teens will soak it up and pay attention. Since teens are spending an average of 7 minutes on these types of PSAs, this technique is definitely having an impact!

  • Teens have been exposed to the integrated campaign in the digital space 525 million times.
  • Teens have directly engaged with the campaign’s content online (viewed, shared, clicked, commented) more than 21 million times.
  • Teens have visited the website one million times.
  • The apps have been downloaded almost 300,000 times.

I know what you are asking now.  As parents, how can we help our teens if we find out they are considering abusing cough medicine?!?

  • First, we need to make sure they know we understand it isn’t easy being a teen and we will always be there for them if they make a mistake.  If we are solely punitive, they won’t come to us for help or with questions.
  • Risk messaging has to be credible – don’t spout off scare tactics if you don’t have facts to back them up.
  • Disapproval should be focused on the behavior and consequences, not the teen. The abuse is bad; the abuser is not.
  •   Make it a natural, open conversation, not a lecture.  Also pick the right time.  If you try to have a chat right before they are going out on a Saturday night, they won’t hear you.  You will sound like the grown-ups in the Peanuts cartoons!
  • Don’t generalize by saying things like, “Don’t do it. There are consequences.” Give them specifics they can relate to such as, “Cough medicine is designed to suppress coughs so if you take too much, it will suppress additional things in your body like your heart rate and breathing.”

Whew.  As parents of teens, the worry of what could happen is overwhelming at times.  But try to remember that teens who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs! So keep those communication lines open! Plus we have great educational programs such as Stop Medicine Abuse to help us keep our kids on the right track!

Stop Med Abuse info 2

Check out the links below for more information:

This blog post is sponsored by the CHPA’s Stop Medicine Abuse educational program. I was compensated to attend the event but all opinions (and teen stress induced gray hairs) are my own.

7-Day Switch Up & The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Cleaning Your Floor

Tracking Pixel

Thanks to Viva® Vantage® for sponsoring this post and for helping me clean up my messes!  

We sometimes have an odd way that we clean our kitchen floor. We turn it into an ice skating rink, except instead of ice, we cover it with water and instead of skates, we use paper towels.  Yes, paper towels!

I pour a bunch of water all over the floor, wrap the kids’ feet in paper towels and let them slide around the room until the floor is (mostly) clean and (mostly) dry.

We don’t do this often because it tends to end in someone wiping out or getting out of the designated “skating area” and soaking the adjoining hardwood.  Plus, the scooting usually causes the paper towels to rip pretty quickly so we end up going through multiple rolls!  But when I DO let them do it, it’s always a lot of fun.  Until the tears and/or yelling begin.

When Viva® Vantage® asked me to try out their paper towels, I thought I’d give it the floor skating test.  The boys were already asleep so I did the test myself.  No wonder the kids laugh so loud – skating around the kitchen was quite entertaining (and I didn’t even fall)!  And the best part: I didn’t have to keep rewrapping my feet because the paper towels stretch, so they didn’t rip!!  I only went through a small part of one roll during my test.  Score!  Speaking of score, maybe I should give them hockey sticks next time they skate the floor clean.  Or maybe not.

I shared this idea recently with some fellow bloggers at the Viva® Vantage® 7-Day Switch Up Party.  It was a great event where we learned more about Viva® Vantage® while having loads of fun!

Viva Vantage 1

We started off the day by decorating glasses with paint pens.  Getting to sit around and “color” was pretty fun, even though my glass was the equivalent of a stick figure to the Mona Lisa masterpieces around me.   Viva Vantage Glass Paint

Next we prepped food while learning some great uses for Viva® Vantage®.  I never knew I could put a paper towel under a cutting board to keep it from slipping on the counter.Viva Vantage food prep

One of my favorite tips was using the paper towels as a colander,   especially because it seems like my colander is always dirty when I need to use it! Viva Vantage colander

It wasn’t all work and no play, of course.  We got to devour all the yummy food.  Nom nom nom! viva vantage food

Then it was back to work again.  Doing dishes!  But the great scrubbing power of the paper towels made cleaning a piece of cake.  I for one hate using a nasty old sponge that’s been sitting around. With the sponge-like absorbency of Viva® Vantage®, sponges can be a thing of the past!Viva Vantage dishes

We were all sent home with rolls of  Viva® Vantage® to do our own 7-Day Switch Up. My favorite feature of these towels when using them at home – besides the fact that they STRE-E-ETCH – is that they don’t leave any icky lint behind when cleaning glass or mirrors.  Viva Vantage group

I invite you to kick off your own “7-Day Switch Up” by visiting http://bit.ly/1T3mdFX for a Viva® Vantage® coupon to purchase and try the product yourself. After experiencing the stretchy-strength and great scrubbing power of Viva® Vantage®, return to the website to dish about your switch and enter for a chance to instantly win a $100 gift card!

Here are some 7-Day Switch Up tips:

  1. Ditch the bulky colander in favor of a paper towel. Place veggies and fruit on a sheet of Viva® Vantage® paper towels under a running faucet to function as a strainer; the stretchy-strength will keep the towel intact when wet.
  2. Keep lettuce fresh longer by wrapping a paper towel around a head of lettuce to soak up excess moisture.
  3. Hand wash and dry wine glasses and other stemware using the cloth-like texture of Viva® Vantage® paper towels for a sparkling finish.
  4. Replace the need for a vegetable scrubber by using the great scrubbing power of Viva® Vantage® paper towels to properly clean mushrooms, potatoes, etc.
  5. Need to chill white wine quickly? Don’t dilute it with ice; wrap a damp paper towel around the bottle and put in the freezer to chill rapidly.
  6. Slip a damp paper towel under your cutting board to prevent it from shifting while slicing and dicing.
  7. Need to get that grime off your stove? The great scrubbing power of Viva® Vantage® paper towels allows you to clean the toughest messes and restore your kitchen’s shine.

Thanks Viva® Vantage® for sponsoring this post and inviting me to participate in this campaign (and par-taaay!).  While this is a sponsored post written on behalf of Viva® Vantage®, all thoughts and opinions are my own! Photo credit to Big Bash Photo.

 

Why You Should Never Tell Anyone They Are Too Old To Trick-or-Treat

I will never forget the last time I went trick-or-treating.  It was the year it finally happened – my Mom said I was mature enough to be trusted to wear my Dad’s army uniform as my costume!  I was giddy with excitement.  I had looked forward to those words for a long time.

I was going to wear a real army uniform.

I was going to wear a real army uniform that belonged to my Dad.

I was going to wear a real army uniform that belonged to my Dad who died when I was 3.

It had been 10 years since my Dad passed and I only had one clear memory of him: sitting in bed with him watching Perry Mason, which was our nightly ritual.  My only other vivid memory of my toddler years was that of walking into our church’s sanctuary, as I’m sure I did most Sundays, but this time everyone turned to stare.  I saw tears running down many cheeks. I grabbed my Mom’s hand tighter as I suddenly felt very scared.  And sad.  But I didn’t understand why.  I had no idea at the time what “funeral” meant.   Ten years later I understood all too well.

Since I had so few memories of my Dad, I cherished any connection I could feel with him.  He wore his uniform many, many times and now I would get to wear it too!

When Halloween arrived, I could barely contain myself until time to trick-or-treat.  This was going to be the. most. epic. costume. ever.  I  meticulously tucked all of my hair into the hat, smudged my face and carefully put on the uniform.

I was fully grown to my current height of 5’8″ in 7th grade and in that authentic uniform, I could have easily passed for an actual army recruit headed off to boot camp.  But I wasn’t.  I was just a kid who was proud to be closer to my Dad for an evening.  And excited to get candy, of course.

I met up with a friend who lived in my neighborhood and we had started our door to door quest, when it happened.  She happened.

We rang the doorbell at a house and before we could even get out any words, the lady across the threshold scoffed, “You are too old to trick or treat!” And slammed the door.

We stood there in silence – the huge grins that had been there moments before were instantly wiped away.  The magical evening I had anticipated was ruined.  I no longer felt pride in parading around in my Dad’s uniform.

I felt stupid.  And embarrassed.

You see, up until that very moment, it had never crossed my mind that I was too old to trick or treat.  Not once.  But after that night things changed. I stopped doing “childish” things.  Because the last thing one needs during that already awkward tween to teen stage is feeling ridiculed.

My Dad’s uniform never left the closet again.  I never went trick-or-treating again.

All because of one slammed door.

All because of a two cent piece of candy.

I welcome any age to ring my doorbell on Halloween.  Most are just looking for a treat, and a few might even be looking to play tricks.  But maybe, just maybe there’s one with a reason that All Hallows Eve is more of a hallowed eve.  One who has more to her story.

One who feels like she’s trick-or-treating with her Dad for the first time.

 

Pizza Pasta Recipe That Everyone Will Love

Hillshire Pizza Pasta
Thanks to Hillshire Brands for helping me share this recipe by sponsoring this post via the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. All thoughts, opinions and yummmmms are my own.

My kids all have very different taste buds so most dinners range from a solo whine to a full out chorus of complaints.

When I cook something that all 4 will happily eat, bells and whistles sound and fireworks go off.  This meal is one of those rare moments.

Since it is a family favorite in our house, I thought I’d share it with you!

We actually refer to it as Panther Pizza Pasta because it is my go-to dish for the high school football team pasta dinners.  I triple the recipe but always bring home an empty dish!

The beauty of this recipe is that you get the entire food pyramid in one dish!  Plenty of protein from the sausages, beef and pepperoni, bell peppers give you your veggie serving, pasta for grains, dairy is taken care of by the mozzarella and the tomato satisfies the fruit group. Yes, a tomato is botanically a fruit regardless of what the supreme court ruled way back when! 😉  Mushrooms are really none of the above, but they are still good for you.

This is one of those recipes that I usually don’t measure ingredients but I did this time…just for you!  You can use different “toppings” every time you make it – it will seem like a different dish and you’ll never get tired of it!

Pizza Pasta
Author: 
Recipe type: One Dish Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces Rigatoni
  • 36-48 ounces Spaghetti Sauce*
  • 3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • ½ pound Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage
  • ½ pound Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
  • ½ pound Ground Beef
  • ½ pound Pepperoni Stick
  • 2-3 Bell Peppers
  • 1 pound Mushrooms
  • Other pizza "toppings"
  • 1 Additional cup of Mozzarella Cheese, if desired.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta per directions for al dente.
  3. Dice Peppers and Mushrooms.
  4. Cut half of Smoked Sausage and Pepperoni into small chunks.
  5. Cook Hot Sausage and Ground Beef in a skillet on medium-high until brown.
  6. Add chunks of Pepperoni and Smoked Sausage and add Peppers and Mushrooms.
  7. Cook until Peppers are soft.
  8. Drain.
  9. In a large pot, combine the Rigatoni, Spaghetti Sauce*, Meat/Veggie mixture and 3 cups of Mozzarella Cheese.
  10. Cut other half of Smoked Sausage and Pepperoni into slices.
  11. Put in large casserole dish and top with Mozzarella Cheese and sliced Smoked Sausage and Pepperoni.
  12. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  13. *Make it a bit saucier than you think you should...because it dries out some when it bakes.

*You may notice that there is no pepperoni in the photo…because I missed that item on my shopping list.  Oops!  But just goes to show there are many variations for the recipe, right??

Hillshire Ingredient Collage with text

I shopped for my ingredients at Safeway.  Did you know they have eliminated the need for paper coupons with their J4U program?  I always have good intentions when it comes to couponing but I either (1) forget to bring them with me or (2) try to use them after they have expired.  With J4U, you can get eCoupons linked to your Safeway card that will be deducted from your bill.  No paper, no cutting, no organizing! No brainer!

Hillshire coupon

Now go check out these other great recipes in the Hillshire Brands and Safeway Blog Tour! I am definitely making the zombie and mummy ideas for Halloween!

I Know Everything – Teen Driver Safety Week #JustDrive

Teen Safe Driver Week Infographic 5
Disclosure: FAAR is compensating me for promoting I Know Everything and they provided me with statistics and research data but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was honored to be asked by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility to help promote their program for Teen Driver Safety Week.  I Know Everything is a program designed to encourage conversations between parents and their teens to help teens stay safe while behind the wheel.  Please check out my public service announcement below – otherwise known as my first ever vlog! (And don’t ‘cha just loooove the screen shot it chose for the video preview?  Duck face gone wrong?? Also, if it is just a blank screen when you press play, expand it to full screen.)

Please take time this week to have conversations with your kids.  Below are the four questions to get you started.  Perhaps ask one per day and then make up your own! Would love for you to comment with the scenarios you come up with!

Teen Safe Driver Week Infographic 1

Teen Safe Driver Week Infographic 2

Teen Safe Driver Week Infographic 3

Teen Safe Driver Week Infographic 4

The I Know Everything survey results show why these conversations are crucial:

  • 25% did NOT know how to handle a passenger who is drinking in the car
  • 27% do NOT know how to safely get home when their driver has been drinking
  • 38% are NOT sure how to handle a friend distracting them while driving
  • Half (53%) of teen drivers say sometimes they find themselves in a situation behind the wheel they are not prepared for.

And I know I said it in the vlog, but it is worth repeating…Motor vehicle crashes remain the number one killer of teenagers ages 15 to 20, even though underage drinking and drunk driving among teens is down across the nation.

Even though it is illegal for people under 21 to drink any alcohol and drive, one-third of all teen drivers killed in vehicle crashes had a .01 BAC or higher in 2011.

Everyone shares the road – teens, adults, law enforcement, first responders – and we believe this education effort will save lives, making the roads safer for all.

Stay safe out there and #JustDrive.  Nothing else!

I Got Tricked, But You Could Get A Treat #FrozenCostume #Giveaway

When Jimmy was a toddler, he became quite obsessed with Halloween.  One day he announced that he wanted to have the scariest house in the neighborhood.  I took that challenge and ran with it.  I started stockpiling terrifying and gruesome décor.

November 1st became my “Black Friday.”  I’d be up bright and early ordering discounted items online and waiting at the party store when it opened to clear out their clearance section.

I finally had to curb my enthusiasm for buying all things Halloween – because my storage room was full (and my bank account empty!).  But we still look forward to the most spooktacular day of the year.

After shopping for all things scary, I prided myself on being the bravest “Mummy” around, but once when I reached in this bin to grab a decoration that was under some costume capes, I was turned into a total scaredy cat!

What do you think had me so terrorized???

No, it wasn’t the monster hand that frightened me.

It was something

much,

much

scarier.

The not-so-scaredy cat, Mushu, wasn’t startled at all.  He was just annoyed that I woke him.  That’ll teach me to make sure it is JUST black capes before I stick my hand in next time…


Filed under the “things I never thought I’d have to say” category…

“Don’t hit your brother with the cat!!!!!”

Don’t worry, it isn’t Mushu.


Mushu may not have been afraid when I reached in the bin, but I think he met his match.

I always loved the “spot the differences” game.


Brownie really enjoyed this scratch behind the ears.

She just didn’t know it was going to cost an arm and a leg.

She still owes us the leg.


Notice anything unusual in this “Trunk or Treat” photo?  No, not the flying white witch.  Or the giant cockroach.  Or the freaky looking face to the left of Greg (although I don’t remember that being there when I took the photo…hmm…).  Check out Eric’s “bag” for collecting his candy.

Yes, it is an empty ravioli box.  Not decorated, not disguised, not even tucked in flaps.  Just a ravioli box.


Buying a costume for trick-or-treating is always a highlight of the season but some costumes can cost an arm and a leg (and not the kind used for Brownie’s back scratch!).  I’m sure one or two of you has heard of a little movie called Frozen.  😉  I’m also sure it will be THE costume of choice for most of the younger set this year.  My kids are unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how many times I’ve avoided hearing “Let It Go”) past the Frozen infatuation.  While they are more into chilling thrilling zombies than chilly silly snowmen, I know many of you are knee deep in Elsa-and-Anna-land, so I’m teaming up with Kandoo and some of my favorite bloggers on Instagram to co-host an epic Frozen Halloween costume giveaway. What Elsa could be better? (ba-dum-ching) And there’s a gift card prize too – for all the thawed boys and ghouls.

Frozen IG Contest

We’re giving away three Frozen Halloween costumes and a $100 Amazon Gift card! I can hear the squeals from here!

Frozen IG Contest Prizes

Enter Now!

Complete the form below to enter. Four winners will be chosen to receive one of the prizes. Must be 18 years of age to enter. Giveaway ends at Midnight on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

Be sure to Instagram your kids in their favorite Halloween costumes using #FrozenHalloween. We’ll see you there!

Whether you’re trying to potty train your toddler or you just want your older kids to wash their hands every time, be sure to visit Kandoo for great tips, tricks and products for naturally clean fun!

Momopolize received no compensation for sponsoring this event, and is not responsible for the delivery of the prize. Prize delivery is the sole responsibility of Kandoo.

Portions of this post were previously published in Mc-Boo-n-isms. Click here to see more of our Halloween fun.

 

Check Out a New Way To Check Out #PayWithMyPhone

verizon softcard photo 1
Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Verizon Wireless and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The Softcard related content is provided by Verizon Wireless. All stories and opinions are my own.

I have a confession: I have check-out-a-phobia.

Even if I am 100% sure that my balance is paid off and/or I have sufficient funds in my bank account, I am always convinced that my credit or debit card will be denied when I’m paying at a store.  Always.

My fear stems from two nightmare trips.  To Costco.  Yes, COSTCO!  Yes, Costco BOTH times!

The first time was my fault.

While paying for a huge cart full of wonderful “necessities,” I swiped my debit card, entered my pin, 5978*, and then it happened.  The dreaded message flashed on the screen.  “Incorrect. Try again.”

I followed the instructions and tried again, pressing 5978, but harder this time.  Incorrect.

I entered the numbers very slowly and deliberately…5…9…7…8.  Incorrect.

I could feel my face getting hotter and hotter and I’m sure I was as red as a beet.

Even though I KNEW I had entered my correct pin I kept frantically trying to enter it over and over. And over.  Incorrect.  Incorrect.  Incorrect.

As I looked behind me and saw the line stretched to the back of the store (or so it seemed), I wiped my sweat covered brow and admitted defeat.  The cashier cancelled my transaction and painstakingly slowwwwwwly re-loaded the items into my cart.  I stood by the cart for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for Jim to come with backup funds.

About a minute before he arrived, I realized the problem.  I had loaned Jimmy my debit card.  And I had borrowed Jim’s card.

I was entering MY pin correctly.  But it wasn’t MY card!  I should have been entering JIM’S PIN!!!  I wanted to hide in a corner for a week but I had to relive the embarrassment all over again when I explained to Jim what happened.  I felt like such an idiot.  Oy Vey.

The second time wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t make it any less humiliating.

My long time readers may remember when I hosted the community outreach event “Trick or Treat, Give Me Something Good To Eat.”    What I never did tell you was that the day of the event, I had a last minute panic that the enormous mound of donations I had in my living room wasn’t enough.  I left early for the event to fill up a cart at – you guessed it – Costco.

This time when I swiped my card, the cashier gave me the raised-eyebrow-judgy-Judy look as she said “Your card has been declined.”  My jaw dropped and I’m sure my eyes were as big as saucers.  Of course, I prolonged the agony by asking her to swipe it again.  And again.

Just like the first story, I had to stand there while she cancelled my transaction and slowwwwwwwwwwwwwly re-loaded the items.  So there I was, standing by my cart – again – avoiding eye contact with the exceedingly long line of people behind me (because there’s ALWAYS an exceedingly long line at Costco!).

This time instead of calling Jim, I called my bank.  And found out my card number had been stolen.

I wanted to shout out to the cashier and everyone else in the store “Hey!  It wasn’t my fault! I had money in my account!  Really!!!” but instead I was a tad more subtle – I just loudly repeated portions of the conversation with my bank such as “CARD NUMBER COMPROMISED” and “ACCOUNT FROZEN FOR SECURITY REASONS” to make myself feel slightly less embarrassed.  Very slightly.

Jim ended up coming to the rescue again with his debit card. And he actually entered HIS pin number…so it worked!

I still get the shakes every time I enter Costco.

verizon softcard campaign banner

Recently, compromised accounts have been in the news a lot, fanning the flames of my check-out-a-phobia!  The most recent I’ve heard about is the millions of card numbers stolen when Home Depot had a huge data breach.  WTOP just published 5 Ways To Protect Yourself from Data Breaches, and #1 on the list states “Any technology that avoids you having your credit card in your hand in a store is safer.” verizon softcard ready to pay

That’s where Verizon’s Softcard comes into play!  Softcard™ is a mobile wallet!  It is an app that lets you pay with a tap of your phone, save with special offers, and store loyalty, membership and rewards cards.

With Softcard, you can add eligible payment cards to pay for purchases and get all the benefits and protections you would with your physical card, or setup a prepaid account and add money to it with your preferred debit card, credit card or U.S. bank account.

Softcard also holds offers and stores loyalty cards, so you can get savings and loyalty points without having to carry around a bunch of cards and coupons.

I must admit I was a bit leery about security at first. Although I’ve never actually lost my phone – there are usually a dozen times a day where I THINK I’ve lost it.  I wondered if I did lose it, what would happen to my payment information??  But once I found out Softcard not only has a security pin number, but also a “Remote Wallet Lock,” my worries were eased.  One phone call or visit to a website instantly locks the entire mobile wallet.

There is a Referral Program which will give you up to $150 in Amazon gift cards for friends who activate ($10 per friend).  Plus your friend will get a $10 gift card too! And here are offers for Softcard users (terms may apply):

  • Get $1 back on each purchase of $1 or more up to $50 per month with Serve credit (ends 12/31/14)
  • If you sign up for “My Coke Rewards,” your first 3 Coca-Cola drinks are FREE. After the first 3 free drinks, if you buy 10 more, you get another 1 FREE (ends 12/31/14)
  • White House Black Market – $20 off $80 (ends 10/31)
  • Chico’s – $25 off $100 or more (ends 10/31)

There are over 200,000 locations where Softcard can be used and you can search for locations by zip code.  Go check it out!  How many locations are near you?

*No, that isn’t my real pin! :)

Invisible Illness Week: Thirty Things You May Not Know About My Illness(es)

30 things you may not know about my invisible illness mod

This week, my fellow sick bloggers and I were asked to answer 30 questions.  And by sick, I don’t mean “Dude, your blog is sick, yo.”   The questions are for “Invisible Illness Week.”

Hopefully the answers will help spread awareness of problems caused by chronic illnesses that are unheard of.  And unseen.  An invisible illness is one that may wreak havoc on the patient but to the rest of the world will elicit a response of “but you don’t look sick!”

1. The illness I live with is: I have two – Chronic lyme and lupus.  I won’t give them the power of using capital Ls in their names.

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: “Lucky” ’07.

3. But I had symptoms since: Possibly since I was in middle school. My doctor thinks when I couldn’t straighten my knee for months in 6th grade (and was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis after they couldn’t figure out why) that it could actually have been when I contracted lyme.  I teeter between believing that theory and thinking that it’s crazy.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is:  I’ve had to accept that I may need to cancel plans at the last minute.  My symptoms are more unpredictable than the weather and they can come and go like a storm system.  I always have to be prepared to take cover (under my covers) when hurricane lyme throws me for a loop (or lup?).   I hate inconveniencing others so backing out on something at the last minute makes me cringe.

5. Most people assume: I’m fine.  Because that’s what I tell them when they ask.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Feeling hungover.  At least with a real hangover, you get to enjoy yourself the night before.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Scrubs.  I watch TV to zone out and forget about my medical problems, so I don’t want serious medical shows that remind me of them.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My computer.  I can plop it on my lap and stay connected via social media even when I’m in bed all day.

9. The hardest part about nights: Both lyme and lupus are the ones that “party” at night.  Staying asleep is always a challenge.  It’s a big complaint of many patients, but I don’t know the cause. Terrible night sweats is one symptom that interrupts a good night sleep for me but even when that goes away temporarily, deep sleep is difficult. I can’t remember the last time I slept for 8 hours straight.   As I’m typing this, it is 2am.

10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins: This varies.  It has probably been as high as 30-40 because the dose of many supplements is more than one at a time and more than once a day.  But then I get tired of taking them, rebel and take none.  Right now I’m taking none and I can tell it’s taking a toll.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: Used to be the biggest skeptic.  I still fight with my skepticism when my doctor mentions some new and wacky sounding treatment, but I’ve learned that the alternative treatments are necessary and beneficial. And expensive.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible.  I like being able to seem “fine” when I’m out in public.  I don’t want to be known as the pitiful sick lady.

13. Regarding working and career: There’s no way I would have the energy or cognitive function for a full time job.

14. People would be surprised to know: How much time I have to spend in bed.  When I’m out, I look fine – and for the most part, I AM fine at that moment.  I’ve learned what I need to do to “plan” for outings – how much rest is required before so I can make it through without showing any symptoms.  Unfortunately that means many hours of resting before and after, plus staying home a LOT when I’m not up for putting on a façade.  Some people comment on how busy I am, but would be shocked to find out how little I am actually able to do on a daily basis.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: The type of Mom it has turned me into. I always wanted to be June Cleaver, not Peggy Bundy.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Hmmmm.  That’s a tricky one.  It’s easier to list what it prevents me from doing, not what it’s enabled me to do.  But I guess it has allowed me to be able to say I’m one tough cookie.  Multiple doctors have commented on my high tolerance for pain.

17. The commercials about my illness:  I don’t think there are any.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Being spontaneous. I feel like I have to plan out every minute task or activity based on how much energy it will require.

19. It was really hard to have to give up:  Now here’s the easy question. I had to give up wanting to be the “do-it-all” Mom.  Deep down I’m the annoying Mom who wants to pack heart shaped sandwiches on Valentine’s day and  make personalized hand-stamped Christmas cards and thinks I have to bring made-from-scratch desserts to pot lucks.  I love being room Mom, team Mom, PTA Mom…Super Mom.  But really what I am is just Super Tired.  I forget to even pack lunches many days and I haven’t sent Christmas cards in 5 years. But I DO still bake from scratch on occasion and can’t help but say yes when a coach or teacher is asking for help…knowing my body will make me pay the price later. I’m my own worst enemy.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Blogging!

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would:  just do all the normal things that most people take for granted.  Take a long shower without the heat wiping me out.  Go grocery shopping AND unload the groceries without needing a nap in between.  Make dinner without a foggy brain causing me to forget ingredients or burn it.  Oh, and I’d also run and run and run some more.  I can remember the exhilarating feeling of running full speed.   Now some days just walking is a chore.

22. My illness has taught me: To prioritize what’s most important in my life.  I’m still not good at saying yes to the right priorities.  Too many days I spend all my energy on the wrong ones because I am terrible at saying NO (as shown in #19). But I do try not to sweat the small stuff as much.

23. One thing people say that gets under my skin is: That chronic lyme doesn’t exist.  I don’t understand how thousands of people can report the same ongoing symptoms, yet part of the medical community treats us like we are insane.  One big reason I hesitate to talk about my problems with lyme is that I know there are people out there that don’t believe it is a real thing.  And on top of that there are people in the lyme community that don’t believe I have lupus.  They attribute all the problems to lyme (you’d think after being doubted themselves, they wouldn’t doubt others).  While many of the symptoms of lyme and lupus are very similar, I have a few that are specific to lupus.

24. But I love it when people: Force me to occasionally accept help.  I will say I don’t need it when asked, will almost never ask for it and generally hate being the helpee instead of the helper… but every once in a while it seems to come when it is needed most.   During a particularly fatigued week, a friend texted me “I’m dropping off dinner on your porch in 20 minutes.  No argument!” I hadn’t told her I was having a rough week, but it was like she had some way of knowing that my fridge was empty and the menu choices that week had consisted of “who delivers.”

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  God thinks I’m a badass.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Well, I will first answer with what I DONT like to tell them.  I don’t like to tell them too many details about my journey because they don’t need to hear a worst case scenario.  I do tell them to talk to their doctor about every single weird symptom they may be having.  Nothing is too small to mention because it may help connect the dots for a complete diagnosis and determine the best treatment.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How it has turned me into an academy award worthy actress.  I amaze myself at how well I can hide how miserable I’m feeling sometimes.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: When I was first diagnosed, I got a PICC line for IV antibiotics put in my arm.  I got a blood clot (thanks to a Lupus related disorder) so the doctors had to put a new PICC line in my neck (my Frankenstein era). The doctor restricted my activity so a friend came by multiple times, picked up my DIRTY LAUNDRY, took it to her house and brought it back clean and folded. That’s true kindness to let me literally air my dirty laundry.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Of #17.  These illnesses aren’t in the mainstream media.  But they need to be. Now that I have a voice through my blog that can reach many, I feel like it’s my responsibility and duty to talk about it.  Even if I have to figuratively air my dirty laundry to do it.

My 5 year old maturity level is making me chuckle at the fact that I just said doodie

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Thankful.  Hopeful.  And vulnerable.

And while I intend to start discussing lyme and lupus more online, I still find it hard to talk about in person.  So if you see me in real life and ask how I’m doing, let me continue to answer “fine.”  My version of fine just happens to be different from yours.

The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Cleaning Your Kitchen Floor

Thanks to Viva Vantage and Walmart for sponsoring this post and for helping me clean up my messes!  

We sometimes have an odd way that we clean our kitchen floor. We turn it into an ice skating rink, except instead of ice, we cover it with water and instead of skates, we use paper towels.  Yes, paper towels!Viva Vantage floor

I pour a bunch of water all over the floor, wrap the kids’ feet in paper towels and let them slide around the room until the floor is (mostly) clean and (mostly) dry.

We don’t do this often because it tends to end in someone wiping out or getting out of the designated “skating area” and soaking the adjoining hardwood.  Plus, the scooting usually causes the paper towels to rip pretty quickly so we end up going through multiple rolls!  But when I DO let them do it, it’s always a lot of fun.  Until the tears and/or yelling begin.

When Viva Vantage asked me to try out their paper towels, I thought I’d give it the floor skating test.  The boys were already asleep so I did the test myself.  No wonder the kids laugh so loud – skating around the kitchen was quite entertaining (and I didn’t even fall)!  And the best part – I didn’t have to keep rewrapping my feet because the paper towels stretch, so they didn’t rip!!  I only went through a small part of one roll during my test.  Score!  Speaking of score, maybe I should give them hockey sticks next time they skate the floor clean.  Or maybe not.

While I was “skating,” I had a bright idea. I need a fun, cute yet simple treat idea for Eric’s football team.  The texture of the paper towels reminded me of a football so I decided to really put their stretchiness and durability to another test by making them into candy pouches!

Now I’m not a super crafty person, so they aren’t fancy!  I’m pretty good at the ideas, but I’m too impatient during the execution.

FOOTBALL SHAPED CANDY POUCHES

Supplies NeededViva Vantage candy pouch supplies

  • Paper towels
  • Brown paint
  • Sponge brush
  • White out tape
  • Double sided tape
  • Candy

Instructionsviva vantage football drawn

1.  Draw a football outline just slightly smaller than one sheet of the Viva Vantage select-a-size roll.  (A template would make it a more precise football shape, but – you know – impatience.)

viva vantage football in progress2.  Paint the opposite side of the paper towel.  (You’ll notice I didn’t do that and realized the paint was covering my outline. I had to cut out the football and then paint it, which was harder than painting the uncut paper towel.)

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for a second football. viva vantage finished empty

4. Once the paint dries, add white out tape “stitches” to both footballs.

5. Use double sided tape or glue around the inside edge of the two footballs to attach them together, leaving one end open.  (You may need to trim the edge if the two footballs don’t line up exactly when you tape them together.)

6. Add candy to the pouch through the open end.

7. Use double sided tape to close the end.

Voila – you have a candy filled football!

The Viva Vantage paper towels are strong enough that I’m not at all worried about the candy busting through! I like them so much, I’m glad I bought the jumbo pack at Walmart.

While I do get compensated if you click a link in this post, all stories, crafts and opinions are my own!


If you are looking for some quick funnies to read, click here for some McQNisms such as “Don’t get the water gun wet!”

Don't ask me about my kids or I will Momopolize the conversation!