Why I Take Ticks Very Seriously

One spring evening, when my youngest daughter was 2, my husband came home from work and asked if Little A had a sunburn on her face. I thought we must have missed a spot during her squirmy sun-blocking session, and I didn’t think much of it until the next day. It looked almost like she had been whipped in the face with something, but I knew that hadn’t happened. We gave it a couple of days, but the blotchy, rashy patches on her face didn’t go away, they seemed to fade and brighten, and they became more pronounced. And she was a little cranky and warm. When I finally brought her to the pediatrician, several days after her “sunburn” appeared, her doctor walked into the room and knew immediately that it was Lyme disease. Wow. Holy shit, right? 2 years old with Lyme disease and we had only been playing in our own back yard! She started antibiotics, and we avoided the outdoors while I hunted for a solution to our tick problem. I was obviously afraid of more tick bites and more Lyme disease for the rest of the family, but I was also concerned about chemicals being sprayed where my kids play (or anywhere for that matter!) Luckily, I found a non-toxic company to help. Pure Solutions sprays an organic, non-toxic solution all around our yard and our property stays tick free! (BONUS- it also kills mosquitoes!)

MB PS Lyme info pic final

Since Little A’s diagnosis of Lyme disease in 2011, I have learned more than I ever cared to know about ticks and tick borne illness. Even the coldest New England winter won’t kill off all the ticks, and deer aren’t the only carriers of “deer ticks.” Mice, chipmunks, squirrels and other small animals carry them around- so even if you have a fenced-in yard, you aren’t in the clear!

We’ve partnered with Pure Solutions this month to bring you important information about ticks and keeping your family safe from tick-borne illness. Watch our FaceBook for more tips and stay tuned for a podcast in the coming weeks! Please like, share and comment with any questions you might have!

Happy (and safe) spring!

M

 

Because I Just Can’t Get Enough of This Video!

I keep finding myself watching this video every time I check a text or get a call. And my friends and family are telling me the same. So, with Little A’s permission, I am sharing it with you. I hope it makes you smile!

 

PS- I regret that I was holding my phone the wrong way… I was operating in stealth mode so I wouldn’t interrupt her groove.

 

5 Genius Ideas for Chore Charts!

My kids don’t mind helping around the house, but there is no routine- I have to ask them to do each thing I’d like help with. “L, please empty the dishwasher.” “A, please put your toys away” Feed the animals, bring your laundry down, dust your room, make your bed, brush your hair!

We’ve tried a few things in the past, but nothing has stuck. A few cute ideas have popped up on my screen lately, so I think it’s time to try something new. Here are my top picks for great Chore Charts!!

1. Clipboard & Velcro from Just Between Friends

Clipboard & Velcro Chore Chart from Just Between Friends

Clipboard & Velcro Chore Chart from Just Between Friends

This one only requires a few supplies and looks like it will come together really quickly. I love that they can be hung easily or carried around the house. I know Little A would like the concrete action of moving the chores from “To Do” to the “Done” side.

2. Post-it Note Printable Chore Chart from Tatertots & Jello

Post-It Note Chore Chart from Tatertots & Jello!

Post-It Note Chore Chart from Tatertots & Jello!

I think this is my favorite. I’m usually not super fond of playing with our printer, but my kids have an odd fascination with Post-Its and I think this will go over really well!

3. Simple Chore Chart from My Name Is Snickerdoodle

Simple Magnet Chore Chart from My Name Is Snickerdoodle!

Simple Magnet Chore Chart from My Name Is Snickerdoodle!

This is definitely easy and effective for younger ones, but at 16, L might be offended if I make a chart like this for her.

4.  Printable Chore Chart From The Gilded Pear

Printable Chore Chart From The Gilded Pear!

Printable Chore Chart from The Gilded Pear!

This one takes the least amount of effort and still looks great! Just choose the color you want and print!

5. Popsicle Stick Chore Chart from Everyday Commotion

Popsicle Stick Chore Chart from Everyday Commotion

Popsicle Stick Chore Chart from Everyday Commotion

This one is also great- I think Little A would love moving the sticks and seeing her progress, but the board is a bit bulky.

Which ones do you like best?

4 Tips to Avoid Having Friends Who Suck the Life Out of You

If you are reading this post, you probably have a friend or two that suck the life out of you.  GET RID OF THEM! (Gasp!  Horror!)  If you haven’t ever removed a friend from your life, it sounds so scary.  I remember the first time it was suggested to me that I remove someone from my life, it was a very long term friend…  I thought, what?!?!?!?  How is that even possible?

It’s a really tough concept to wrap your head around, but nobody else can cause you pain.  You are in charge of your own feelings.  You can choose to feel happy, sad, stressed, any emotion really.  When you begin to realize that you can control your feelings and emotions, it is pretty easy to not allow people to suck the life out of you.

 

Shutterstock image

Shutterstock image

 

When I gave birth to my first child, I suddenly saw a few people in my life for who they really were and knew they couldn’t be in my life anymore.  Ugly, life-sucking opinions came out.  Disrespectful drop-ins without a call first, and awful, rotten things said behind my back about my parenting decisions.  I was miserable, yet so blissfully in love and happy at the same time.

A brilliant life coach asked me why I was putting up with these people who constantly made my life miserable.  I thought it was such a strange question and honestly it took months for me to understand what she meant.  I began by taking baby steps.  I decided to build a wall around myself when I had to deal with this small group of people and not let their comments hurt me.  Once I wrapped my head around the concept, I began to stick up for myself little by little and something funny happened: By sticking up for myself, I felt a shift and unknowingly changed the dynamic of our relationship.  Some didn’t like it all and our relationships ended.  It was beautiful!  One other relationship “got it”.  She understood what had happened and worked hard at making our relationship better.  It was the perfect outcome.

I started small.  There were two friends that added nothing but negativity to my life.  It was shockingly easy to let go of those friendships.  Once I got the taste for letting go of negativity, I cleaned house.  There were some major life-changing people I removed from my life, some were expensive, time consuming and emotional, but worth every single penny, minute and feeling.

I tend to volunteer my time on various boards and commissions.  I am involved with my children’s schools and deal with a lot of people at my job.  We all encounter difficult people and sometimes we have no choice but to work with them on certain projects.  That is when you have to build your little wall and not let them get to you and move on when the project is complete.

My husband and I have created what we like to call our “happy bubble”.  We check in with each other on certain people and places that are either in or out of our happy bubble.  Lately we have let some real crap into our bubble and it’s time to clean house.  It’s been a while since I have had to, but life got busy and I got  a little sloppy.

Four tips to keep life-sucking people away from your happy bubble:

1. Go with your gut.

We usually can feel it when somebody won’t add anything positive to your life.  I have ignored that little gut feeling too many times.  It’s not worth it.

2.  Don’t feel bad about your decision.

Letting a friend go is usually what is best for both of you.  Let. It. Go.

3.  Be clear.

The “break up” doesn’t have to be a big emotional scene.

Just be clear and unemotional.  You could say something like, “I think it would be best if we went our separate ways. We don’t seem to agree on many things and I respect you too much to continue to disagree.”  There are lots of ways to let somebody know in a civil manner that you don’t want to be friends.

4.  Learn the signs of life-sucking people and avoid!

Most toxic, negative people have the same traits.  Learn them and run in the opposite direction when you meet them.

Life is just too short to walk around unhappy, stressed, and miserable because of the people you surround yourself with.  The people in your life are there because of choices you have made.  Make better choices and you will see wonderful things happen.

 

Getting Down to Business With Rosie Pope

In honor of National Poison Prevention week, Tide and Gain asked Rosie Pope to chat with fantastically cool mom bloggers like Jenn and me! (I’m sure it had a little something to do with this.) To be clear- we did not receive any compensation, but we did get the opportunity to FaceTime with ROSIE POPE and she is all kinds of awesome. Like, I want to have her over for tea and let our kids make messy artwork once a week awesome. She is sweet and genuine and really REAL about being a mom and an entrepreneur. If you don’t know who Rosie is, check her out here.

We had a lot of fun chatting and we even set up our screen to record the FaceTime interview, but we didn’t get the audio!!! (QuickTime, it really is not cool that a new screen recording, defaults to no audio!) So, while we have this adorable screenshot for you, we don’t have the fun video we had planned.

I'm pretty sure we were laughing at boobie jokes. We are super classy.

I’m pretty sure we were laughing at boobie jokes. We are super classy.

Instead, I’ll tell you all about it! We asked Rosie for her favorite advice for moms and here’s what she said:

“Remember, it’s all about phases! There will be different things to balance at different stages.”

She went on to explain that as much as we all love (some more than others) the sweet newborn phase, we would never make it out of those first few months if we didn’t all know that that phase doesn’t last forever. I can tell you, the same goes for terrible two’s and threenagers, homework hell, tween angst, etc. This woman is a sage.

Another bit of wisdom that Rosie really seems to take to heart is that (and it’s totally tweetable!):

“You can’t find balance alone” 

We all need a little help to keep things in balance. I know I need some down time on occasion, or a few hours to finish work that otherwise would be interrupted too many times to count, and I cherish the mom and dad friends of mine who host playdates, or drop their kids with me to give Little A some playtime- and me a few moments to focus. Same goes for my amazing husband, my 16 year old sweetheart of a daughter and countless neighbors and friends with whom we trade favors and rescues.

When conversation turned to National Poison Prevention Week, Rosie got down to business with really practical advice. With specific regard to cleaning products, Rosie points to Tide & Gain’s safety campaign slogan “Up, Up, and Away”

Keep all cleaning supplies – including laundry pacs – Up, Up and Away seal pacs up, store pacs up and keep pacs away.

But, it’s the advice that Rosie shares from her experience working with families and her own children that really hit home for me-

You may have heard when you were baby-proofing that you should get down on your child’s level and look at the world through their eyes. Most parents and grandparents apply this technique when child-proofing outlets, sharp corners and breakables, but Rosie reminds us to KEEP DOING THIS at each phase. When your first child starts to crawl and the house is baby-proofed, your worries are few. When baby #2 crawls into older sister’s room and finds legos and marbles, it’s a different story.

Even as a mom who gives out parenting advice as part of her daily life and work, it surprised me how strongly this last bit of advice struck me, it is that important-

Be aware of the risks in other people’s homes. Don’t be afraid to ask other parents and educate your kids.

Of course I feel comfortable asking friends and other parents if they have guns in their homes. I know there are no drugs, cigarettes or alcohol within reach of my children and their friends. I know that the few homes where I leave Little A for playdates are aware and careful of her allergies. But I have NEVER asked another parent where or how they store their cleaning supplies or taken a walk around with eyes peeled for cleaning products or other potentially dangerous chemicals. So many parents- great parents!- wouldn’t think twice about leaving the laundry soap out while they put away the rest of the groceries. Or perhaps they ask an older child to dump the dirty hockey bag into the washer while they get dinner going, and the laundry pods are left out absent mindedly. It is so very easy for accidents to happen- and even if your home is chemical-free, most homes are not. If we are comfortable enough to leave our child in the care of another person, we need to feel comfortable asking about what dangers might be in the home. And giving information or a reminder about keeping kids safe.

Please share this with your friends and family and tell us what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Why Aren’t These Vocal Smoke Alarms For Sale?!

Somehow, this video of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s investigation of smoke alarms from 2004 has made a resurgence today on Facebook. It is alarming (no pun intended!) and extremely moving. It caused me to spend over an hour searching online to find a product.

In case you didn’t click the link above, or can’t watch it right now, the video shows Hank Phillippi Ryan meeting with families of fire fighters and filming nighttime testing of their smoke alarms, with frightening results. None of the children wake to the sound of the beeping alarm. OH MY GOD- they sleep right through!!! In the second half of the video, they test a (then) new kind of alarm- a vocal alarm that allows the parents to record their own voice- calmly but urgently calling their children to wake up and evacuate the home. ALL of the kids wake up and all but the child in his crib leave their rooms! By this time, I feel a bit shaky- quite emotional. seriously- I WANT THIS ALARM!!! Like, now. I’ll pay $100 and I want 2. Immediately.

Poking around online, I see that they are not currently for sale. I read several papers, including this very official study from 2006, that demonstrates the same outcome. In fact, the median time to awaken was 20 seconds in the voice alarm group compared with 3 minutes in the tone alarm group!!

WHERE THE HELL CAN I GET ONE?!

This Dateline video from 2013 features a doctor/researcher from a children’s hospital who also points to the child’s name and parent’s voice as important factors in waking the child quickly. The alarms we have in our home do have voice, but it is not my voice or my husband’s, and they certainly don’t call our the names of my children. Where is the study that shows my kids will wake up to this strange voice quicker than the beeping alarm?

I did find lots of old comments from people saying things like “well, wouldn’t the parents wake up and run to the kids anyway?” so, maybe there wasn’t enough interest in the personalized alarms until now. After seeing the videos, I’m guessing everyone I know will want one if it means their kids will wake up and get out in the event of a fire. Would you want one?

photo credit: Push and hold to test weekly via photopin (license)

Yummy oooey gooey black bean brownie recipe!

I am on a mission to get more protein in my children’s (especially my daughter’s) diet.  They won’t eat very many green things and are super picky.  I think most kids with food allergies tend to be picky, and mine are no different.

I have been trying to master this black bean brownie recipe for weeks but up until today they tasted like….  well… beans!!

I adjusted a few things this morning and it was a hit!!  They are SO GOOD!!!

 

black bean brownie 3

 

Here is my super easy recipe!!

 

Ingredients:

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  ( I use Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I also broke up a nut free chocolate bar for the topping and added nut free butterscotch chips)

Throw all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender to puree, except the toppings.  I added a touch of water to the blender to help it along.

Black bean brownie

Grease a pan (I used a glass pie plate) and pour in.  Place your toppings on top.   Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.  Let cool.

Dig in and enjoy!!!

-J

black bean brownie 2

How to Not Build a Closet (Or, as Babble Titled it, Do We Unconsciously Pressure Our Kids to Grow Up Straight?)

I’m honored to be published again on Babble.com. This is an important topic and I’m anxious to hear about your thoughts and experiences, so please read, share and post in the comments!

❤M

 

We Fell in Love Online

I know plenty of people who have successfully found love through online dating. I even know some folks who have grown their families by starting the adoption process or the search for a sperm donor online. It never occurred to me that we would fall in love online, but we did.

To complete our family, I had envisioned a picturesque sunny day- our whole family walking into a shelter and playing with pups until the perfect little girl- playful, sweet, tough, but not mean- would shine through the rest. That never happened. Instead, as I dreamed of the pitter patter of little paws and the giggles I knew I’d hear as my children played with our future family member, I stumbled onto petfinder.com and shared pictures of cute canines with my husband (who wasn’t yet 100% on board.) On the third or fourth night I spent this way, I literally fell in love at first sight with the cutest little brown-eyed face- and I couldn’t get her off of my mind. Andy felt the same tug at his heart and I jumped at the chance to make something happen.

AllYouNeedIsLoveAndADog

It turns out, this sweet girl was a rescued pup, staying with a foster family in Tennessee. The rescue organization was really helpful. We all wanted to make sure that this pup was placed with the right family. We had 3 children and 2 cats and needed everyone to be happy and comfortable. Not only did they send photos and video via email, but Ginger’s foster mom and I had several phone conversations and then we received more video footage. Because she had been in a foster home, the organization was able to tell us a lot about her temperment and confirm that she was good with cats, small children, and other dogs.

On November 19, 2011, we drove to NH to meet the truck transporting Ginger and the other dogs who were rescued from high kill shelters. She instantly became part of our family- snuggling and playing with the kids, enjoying long walks and hikes and eliciting endless giggles from ALL of us with her silly antics and playful personality. My son would snuggle her after a long or hard school day and feel better about whatever had been bothering him, and since we lost Josh this summer, she has helped us all through. She’s extra snuggly when she knows we need the extra love and she’s silly and playful to make us laugh and smile. I can not say enough how thankful I am to have this sweet pup as part of our family.

This dog never runs out of kisses!

This dog never runs out of kisses!

If your family has a little more love to share and you’re thinking of adopting a dog, consider adopting through a rescue organization. Check some out here or use Petfinder, Rescue Me or Adopt A Pet.

-M

A little love reminder…

Do you ever catch yourself looking at somebody you see every day, a little differently? Tonight, my husband said something that was kind of funny in a dry, sarcastic manner. I looked at him without thinking and for whatever reason I found myself gazing at him finding him extremely attractive.

I think he is attractive in general but I feel like most of the time I don’t actually see him.

I go through the motions of life, busy with four kids, a business, a dog, a few gerbils, a guinea pig, writing children books, a blog/radio show, family and friends. Most days I am blinded by getting to the next activity or “to do” thing on my list.

Then there are times like last tonight where a small glance turns into a full on, full of love moment.

 

image from Shutterstock

image from Shutterstock

We got a lot of snow these past few weeks (life in New England). My husband has been out snow blowing and shoveling our businesses most of the time (small business owners). The kids and I have barely seen him. He came home last night and taught my oldest son how to play a Beatles song on the guitar.  My heart melts when I get to enjoy moments like that.

I love that my kids love the same qualities about my husband that made me fall head over heels in love with him so long ago.

He still gives me butterflies when I see him.

It was such an unexpected treat to really see the guy I fell in love with 25 years ago.

Happy Valentines Day!