Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let's Help Get Gia for Carson and Benjamin!

My friend, Cindy of Vegetarian Mamma, informed me a short while ago about a need their family has for a service dog to help their boys, Carson and Benjamin, with their life-threatening food allergies.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew I was going to blog about it and give you all the chance to help by either giving donations or by helping spread the word. 
These dogs (provided by Angel Service Dogs, Inc.) are amazing!  I've seen service dogs in action, both for the blind and for a girl who is a fragile diabetic, and let me tell you - these people literally could not live without the service these dogs provide.  They are worth their weight in gold and then some!  They help save lives, and I'd love for my friend to be able to get this amazing dog (Gia is the name of the dog they are trying to get) for her sons!
Please take a little time to read over the Gimme 5 Campaign info below (written by Cindy), and please donate if you can!  If nothing else, please help spread the word for this worthy cause!  Thanks so much! :)
Did you know that giving a tax-deductible donation as little as $5 can help two energetic boys and their family have some peace of mind in their fight against life-threatening food allergies?

Carson (age 6) and Benjamin (3) both live with life threatening food allergies. Benjamin was diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts and almonds, as well as asthma in November 2011 at only 18 months old. Benjamin also has a dairy allergy as well as a severe gluten intolerance. Benjamin's asthma complied with his life threatening allergies puts him at extremely high risk. Carson was diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy to almonds in November 2012 at age 5. Since then our daily lives require emergency medicines in tow at all times. We are never more than an arms length away from the life saving medicine. Going out to eat as a family has been severely restricted. We currently have two places that we trust. Trips to stores include avoiding isles with peanuts, the bakery and other high risk areas. When we do get invited to birthday parties, it takes multiple conversations with the party planners to ensure there are no nut products to be consumed. As you can see each part of our daily life needs to be mapped out cautiously. It brings a lot of stress an anxiety to precious young boys, who should be carefree.

For the first time these activities are within our reach with the help of an Allergy Alert dog from Angel Service Dogs, Inc. (ASDi) named Gia. An Allergy Alert Dog will add another “defense” against peanuts/almonds that we, as parents, can’t provide. This dog is being trained to sniff out peanuts/peanut oil and almonds/almond oil on items such as a shopping carts, bowling balls, movie theater seats, playgrounds, play areas and common places others would take for granted as being “safe.”

Your donations for Gia will be used to train Gia, fly Carson and Benjamin's family to Colorado to meet Gia, and have an intensive 10-day training. Any funds received in excess will go to ASDi™ and will be used for training other dogs for families in need.

Your $5 donation is tax deductible. Donations in smaller or larger amounts are accepted.

Your donations can be made via check to:
Angel Service Dogs, Inc.
3815 Highview Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80908

Click HERE to donate via PayPal and read more of our story.

Please LIKE our Facebook page to stay connected with us!

Thanks for helping us! Please share our story with your friends and family!

Questions, please contact: Cindy@vegetarianmamma.com

Let's do what we can to help get the word out for Cindy and her boys! :)  Thanks!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy 13th Anniversary! {An Open Letter To My Hubby}

My dearest Aaron,
Happy 13th Anniversary!
Wow!  I can hardly believe it's been 13 years!  Do you remember the day we got engaged?  I do!

The day we got engaged, July 3rd, 1999.

I remember your horror that the weather wasn't cooperating - the sky was grey so the sunset wasn't as pretty as you wanted.  I remember how mortified you were that there were dead fish on the beach and you couldn't find the perfect spot to kneel to propose.  I remember being confused when you slipped the ring onto my finger while we were just kinda standing there, side by side, you being unsure of what to say and me nearly flinging the ring into the lake when I pulled my hand away suddenly because I had no idea what you were doing or what you'd just done with my finger! LOL :)
It seemed like everything went "wrong", but it couldn't have been more perfect.  Why?  Because it was our moment.  It was our time.  And the only thing that mattered was that you wanted me to be with you for the rest of our lives, and that made the moment more than amazing - it made it ideal and romantic and magical.
Speaking of romantic and magical, I love the time we get "just us".

At a local beach in August, 2008
We don't get alone time much.  Normally it's a trip to the grocery store while Grandma and Grandpa watch the kiddos, and I can't remember the last time we had a night away together, but time is time.  I don't mind if the kids tag along, but moments where it's just us are rare enough to be savored and appreciated to the millionth degree.  We will definitely have to work on getting that alone time soon! :)
I am so thrilled to have you in my life!  I know I am not the easiest woman to love some days (I do have a redhead's temper), but you love me despite all my faults, and I couldn't be more thrilled!

January, 2013
You've stuck by me through thick and thin, through my diagnosis with Fibromyalgia, through so many things.  You've been my rock when I wanted to wilt, you showed me how to become a Christian and I know that you will be there for me now and always.  I love that!  It makes me feel so secure.  Thank you!

Thank you for being the man that you are.  Thank you for being the spiritual leader in our home.  Thank you for being an involved Daddy and loving husband.  Thank you for working hard to provide for this family.  Thank you a million times over for letting me know that I'm beautiful to you, that you love me despite all my faults and for being there when I need you.  Thank you for loving me.

I love you so much and don't know what I'd do without you!

Happy Anniversary, Hubby, and here's to many more years to come!

Love you, now and always,
Xs and Os,

(For those of you curious as to how we met, click here for the story.)
P.S. I finally found a picture on the PC of us on our wedding day! :) Here it is:


How did you meet your spouse or fiance(e)?

What is your engagement story?

What is your favorite memory since becoming a couple?

If you're not married or engaged, what are some things you are looking for in a relationship?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Marvelous Moms Link-Up {Wrap Up}

~*~ Welcome To The Wrap Up Of ~*~
Over Mother's Day weekend, I hosted a link-up called "The Marvelous Moms Link-Up" where I shared a post about a mom in  my life each day, and gave you a chance to link-up something "mom" (i.e. your mom's favorite recipes, open letters to a mom or someone like a mom in your life, pictures of your mom, a Mother's Day post) via the link-up.  I started Saturday with an open letter to my twin sister, Lynette, shared an open letter to my mom Sunday and I ended with an open letter to my Granny yesterday.
Today, instead of doing features, I thought I would just share the link-up one last time and encourage you to go through it, one by one, even if it takes you awhile to get through them.  Why?  Because there are posts in there that will touch your heart and change your life.

Oh, sure, there are some fun crafts and recipes that I want you to see, too, because they are great.  There are also some more light-hearted posts, but then there are the ones that will bring you to tears and remind you of your own mother or of what you want your daughter to grow up to be.  There are posts that will inspire you and make you think.

Each of these posts are worth a read, and I dearly hope that you will take the time to read them.  You won't regret it. :)

I sincerely hope you all had a great Mother's Day weekend.  I hope that you got to honor a mom or be pampered a little if you are a mom.  I hope that those of you missing or grieving the loss of your mother's know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.  I hope that those of you who are blessed enough to still have your mother in your life will let her know how much she means to you before you no longer can.

Thank you to all who linked up.  I couldn't have done this without you!



Grab A Badge!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Marvelous Moms Link-Up {Day3}

~*~ Welcome To The Last Day Of ~*~
In honor of Mother's Day, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the moms in my life and give you the chance to do the same via a link-up (see details below).  I started Saturday with an open letter to my twin sister, Lynette, shared an open letter to my mom yesterday and I will be writing my last one today.  If you wish (and I sincerely hope you wish), you can link-up anything "mom" (i.e. your mom's favorite recipes, open letters to a mom in your life, pictures of your mom, a Mother's Day post) below until 11:59pm EST tonight.  I hope you will grab a badge and join in the fun! :)
Today, I am going to be highlighting another mother who has always been there for me...and my mother - my Granny.
Dear Granny,

Happy Mother's Day (a little late), Granny!

Granny and my nephew, December 2008

How can I ever tell you just how much you mean to me?  You have always been there to listen, to guide, to help, to love, to pray.  What would I do without you?
You are not only an amazing grandma, but you are an amazing great-grandma, as well!

Granny and some of her great-grand kids, June 2009

Did you ever dream that that day would happen, the day you became a great-grandma?  Did you ever imagine that you'd be the great-grandma to 8 and counting?  Did you ever think that you'd get to see them grow-up and be a part of their lives, and pray for them and hear their amazing stories?  Did you ever dream that you'd get to take walks with them and tell them stories about their grandma and their parents?  I hope some day to have the same privilege as you, knowing that I've been able to observe the best of the best do it in you, hoping that I can do it half as well as you do.
I so love the times we get together, especially holiday times.
Family Christmas, 2008
Do you remember making Pecan Rolls together for the first time?  Do you remember decorating sugar cookies together?  Do you remember putting together relish trays and me sneaking those delicious homemade pickles of yours?  Do you remember how Grandpa used to tell us to blow on the Christmas tree so that the lights would come on?  Do you remember each of those amazing, miraculous and timeless moments like I do?  I know I will never forget them, and that I relish sharing those memories with my own children! 
Did you ever think there would be a day when you would be holding a great granddaughter who had your first name as her middle name?
Granny meeting her namesake for the first time, September 2010
I can only pray that she grows into half the godly woman that you are!  I will continue to remind her as she grows that she was named after a wonderful, godly woman who loves her very much and who wants her to live for the Lord with all her heart, soul and mind!  I will remind her that you want her to be the amazing woman that God intends for her to be...and that she can look up to her godly heritage and follow the example given to her by her grandma, her great-grandma and even her great-great grandma.  What a precious gift of legacy she has!
I love you, Granny, and always will!  Knowing that you are there, that you pray for me, that you pray for my family, that you will pray with me over the phone at any time, day or night, means the world to me.  I am so thrilled that my children get to know you!  I am so thrilled that you are my Granny, and I am so grateful that you have loved me unconditionally from the moment you found out I was coming into this world and extend the same love to my children.  I am so blessed.
Thank you for being such a good example of wife and mother and grandmother to me.  I thank God for you daily, and pray that we will have many more years together yet!

Love you "a bushel and a peck",

Now It's Your Turn!
Grab A Badge!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Marvelous Moms Link-up {Day 2}

~*~ Welcome To Day 2 Of ~*~
In honor of Mother's Day, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the moms in my life and give you the chance to do the same via a link-up (see details below).  I started yesterday with an open letter to my twin sister, Lynette, and I will be writing another today and one last one tomorrow.  If you wish (and I sincerely hope you wish), you can link-up anything "mom" (i.e. your mom's favorite recipes, open letters to a mom in your life, pictures of your mom, a Mother's Day post) below.  It should be a lot of fun, and I hope you will grab a badge and join in the fun! :)
Today, I am going to be highlighting another mother who has been there for me since before birth, my mother.
Dear Mom,

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Mom and Dad, Christmas 2012
You are an amazing example of what a wife and mother should be, and one of my best friends in the whole wide world.  Do you even know how much I love you and look up to you!?!?!?!  Words cannot express it adequately, but I will definitely try.
I remember the day I went into labor with Stephen and you drove down to be with me and help me through it all.  I couldn't have done it without you.
When my mom became a grandma for the first time, October 2002
You didn't tell me to buck up or coddle me.  You simply stood by me (literally), assured me I could do it and helped me get through it all, even when things got hairy.  I knew you were praying for me, too, and that meant the world and helped all the more.
I can't help but look back on the pictures now of the times you first got to see and hold each of your grand kids for the first time.

Grandma and my niece, September 2006
What went through your mind?  Did you think about when the doctors told you you'd never have children, only to have God bless you with 3 and now you were holding one of your babies' babies?  Did you think of how amazing God is to allow you the privilege to be, not only a mom, but a grandparent?  I can't even imagine the awe of that moment now, but one day I hope to experience it for myself, and I hope you will be around to relish in that moment with me, too.
I am so thrilled to have a mother I can call friend, but who will also tell me when I am wrong.  You don't judge, you don't hate, you love with all the love you have and then some and let me know that you will be praying for me and are always ready and willing to talk.  I love that most about you; that you pray for me and my children (for all of your children and grandchildren) daily.  It means the world to me!
I love that I can go to you about anything.  I love that you are always there.  I love that you show me the unconditional love of God and are still my godly example of not only a good Christian, but a loving wife and mother worthy of honor and praise.  I will always see you as a Proverbs 31 woman worthy of my admiration.
As I look on all the blessings God has given you, as you call your family, I can't help but smile.
The whole clan, April 2012
God gave you the desires of your heart when He gave you children, and then multiplied those blessings when He gave you grand babies.  May you live to see your great-grand babies, and may they get to know the amazing woman you are.
I love you, Mom, now and always!  You make me laugh, you make me feel loved beyond words, and you are my dearest friend.  May your Mother's Day be as amazing as you are!

Hugs and kisses,

Now It's Your Turn!
Grab A Badge!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Marvelous Moms Link-Up

~*~ Welcome To ~*~
In honor of Mother's Day, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the moms in my life and give you the chance to do the same via a link-up (see below).  Over the next 3 days, I will be writing open letters here to them, and you can link-up anything "mom" (i.e. your mom's favorite recipes, open letters to a mom in your life, pictures of your mom, a Mother's Day post) below.  It should be a lot of fun, and I hope you will grab a badge and join in the fun! :)
Today, I am going to be highlighting a mom who I've known since before birth, my twin sister, Lynette.
Dear Lynette,
I remember the day you first became a mom.

The day after my niece was born, September 2006.

What a day that was!  Hard and fast labor that you were quite sure you weren't ready for, but you did it and a beautiful little girl was born!  You did great, and I was so proud to be able to tell people that you were not only my sister, but my twin.  And you made me an aunt again that day, too! 
You are not only a great mommy to your daughter and son, but a wonderful aunt to your nieces and nephews.

Aunt Lyn with her nephews and daughter, July 2009.
No one can say you don't love them.  It's written all over your face!  You've always treated them like your own kids and loved on them and helped them and watched over them.  Thank you for being that kind of mom and aunt.  It is so good to know that I have you to rely on if I need someone.
Though you don't live just down the street anymore, I look forward to the times we can spend time together, and so do my kids.

Aunt Lyn with her niece, April 2013.

It is so nice to be able to see you and laugh and joke and talk.  I miss talking with you the most.  Phone conversations and text messages just aren't the same, ya know?
Anyway, I just wanted you to know how much I love you and how glad I am that you are my sister!  I also wanted to say, "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!" (Yes, that was shouted with confetti and the whole works! :) ), and that you are a mom I look up to in so many ways.
I envy your ability to teach effortlessly.  I covet your wit.  I love that you are not afraid to express emotion when it's needed without being embarrassed.  I relish the fact that you can make me laugh until I cry and make me feel loved beyond words.  I enjoy the fact that you will pray with me when I need someone to pray with, and let me cry on your shoulder when I need to.  I am thrilled that you never tell me what I want to hear, but are always honest with me and tell me like it is, like a good sister and friend should.  I am overjoyed that you serve the Lord and love your husband unconditionally and stand by him, your family and your ministry together.
I am glad that God saw fit to not only give me a sister, but a twin.  That is a special gift indeed!

Us, Spring 1979

God bless you, sister, and know that I love you, now and always!  If you ever need anything, I'm just a phone call (and a few hours) away!
Hugs and kisses,

Now It's Your Turn!
Grab A Badge!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

{Guest Post} Ditching Diabetes

Awhile back, I received an email from a woman who asked if she could share an article about how to ditch diabetes with you all, and I told her that would be great!  She originally submitted the article to be used for March, but (since I already had guests lined up) I couldn't use it until now.  I think the information is invaluable and worth the read, though, no matter what month it is. 

My maternal grandfather suffered from type 2 diabetes for several years before cancer claimed his life, my grandmother suffers from type 2 now, I have several friends and other family members with either diabetes (type 1 and 2) or (like my middle kid) hypoglycemia or even borderline low blood sugar (like me).  As you can see, this is a subject I am passionate about, too, and I hope you will join me in welcoming my friend and leaving her some comment love below for taking the time to share this important information with us.
Please welcome
 Carolyn of Full-On Fit!

Carolyn is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being.  She is an avid cycler, golfer and has been known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor.  Check out Carolyn’s blog at Full-On Fit!


I can’t help but wonder if the designation of March as National Nutrition Month came as a result of the overwhelming decline in motivation to keep New Year’s resolutions as the year progressed.  So many people begin the year with the best intentions of clean eating and daily exercise.  Sadly, most of those same people have thrown in the towel before spring has even sprung.

Healthy habits are not birthed out of a once a year goal.  Rather, they are the result of a change in lifestyle cultivated from daily decisions and behaviors.

I recently committed to walk alongside my family in the battle for better health after one of my 13-year old cousins was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Her diagnosis and ongoing struggle gave me pause to consider what I could do to help my family wage war against this all-too-prevalent disease.

Clean Eating:
1. Limit processed foods

So many packaged foods are laden with chemicals and preservatives these days.  I try to keep my meals consisting of fewer and fresher ingredients.  Nowadays, I try to live by the mantra, “if it’s not fresh enough to go bad in 1-2 weeks, don’t eat it.”

2. Go organic whenever possible

Though eating organic is more expensive, organic foods are much higher in nutrition and lower in pesticides.   Consult the “dirty dozen” list to see which foods are highest in pesticide content.

3. Shop in season

Seasonal foods are fresher and often less expensive than their greenhouse counterparts.

4. Serve salad as a staple

A word of caution regarding salad dressing: this is where fat and calories often hide.  If your family can’t live without their favorite dressing, encourage them to dip their fork into a small side of dressing before spearing the salad.  This will drastically cut overall fat and calories.  Here is a great and healthy salad dressing you can make right in your own kitchen:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
½ tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Yum!

Fitness Fixes:
1. Clean aggressively

Make daily chores part of your regular workout.  Try vacuuming with more gusto or blast some tunes and dance around while you dust!

2. Rake, jump, repeat!

Enlist your kids to help you rake the yard.  After piles are made, take turns jumping in them.  You’ll burn double the calories as you rake and play.

3. Go the extra mile

When shopping, park your car in the farthest possible space from the door to get in some extra steps.

4. Group it

Try group fitness classes or enlist your friends to workout with you.  Social support provides both motivation and accountability.  Some great classes we like to do are Zumba and Yoga.  Doctors from Syracuse’s Orthopedic Center explain how yoga can benefit all kinds of people by increasing flexibility, balance, joint health, bone health, posture, and even the ability to regulate stress and emotions.

You can connect with Carolyn at the following locations:


Thanks again for joining us, Carolyn!

Here's your badge, if you'd like to use it.

For more information on Diabetes and what you can do to help raise awareness, become an advocate and/or help find a cure, please contact the American Diabetes Association.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Food Allergies: Fact or Fiction

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently, my dear friend, Caroline of Grateful Foodie, brought to my attention an article that was written about how parents of kids with food allergies need to "relax" because most kids outgrow their allergies, and maybe they should just feed them the offending foods so they can "outgrow" them quicker (You can read Caroline's reaction to the piece here.).  Needless to say, the article in question came across as a mother having a hissy fit because she couldn't send cupcakes to school for her kid and a bit heartless, so she (and Daily Breeze which hosted the article) did issue an apology (read Caroline's response here; my response is underneath the apology article), but it seemed a bit insincere and a lot "too little, too late".

It also left me wondering, "Do people REALLY think that food allergies are something that is made up?  Do people REALLY think that food allergies are just a 'make you feel ill' or 'give you a little asthma' or 'take a shot or take some Benadryl and you're fine' kind of thing?"  Unfortunately, the answer for many people is a yes, hesitant for some, maybe, but still a yes.

People don't know that food allergies kill.  Don't believe they can?  Check out these:
It is real people.  We may not like it.  We may want to not believe it because it seems so insane that something as harmless as a PB&J or a glass of milk or a peanut can kill...but it can. 

We do NOT get the right to tell a parent that they cannot be terrified out of their minds about their child being given a food they are allergic to.  We do NOT get to tell them to "man up" or tell them that they are depriving their kids of the "joys of childhood".  We do NOT get to tell them that they are paranoid.  We do NOT get to tell them that they are crazy or overprotective.

To them, food can be a weapon...a deadly one.  Each time they try something new, they know they are putting their kid's life in their own hands, despite avid label reading, despite all the precautions, despite all the fail safes.  They know that things can go south in a hurry, and they are as prepared as they can be for that.  You do NOT make their job any easier by telling them to "relax" or to just "take a chance".  The only way they CAN relax is if they KNOW that YOU believe in the seriousness of the food allergies, understand the risks and will help keep their child SAFE, too.

Do you realize that you telling them to "relax" and just "give the kid the food" so that they "don't miss out" is like you telling them to give their child a loaded gun, encourage that child to point it at their head and pray it misfires?  Can you not see that?  I can see that some of you cannot, and that saddens me greatly.

Why do we think that we have the right to belittle their very real fears?  Have you ever seen a child go through an anaphylactic event?  No?  Read/watch these:
Still think they are something worth mocking?  Still think they are something worth downplaying?  Yes, I know that medicine is getting better, that medical response times are improving, but there are times when these things STILL fail...and that is reality that these parents must face EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Do yourself a favor.  Get educated.  Here are some places to start:
And please, if you have kids with food allergies in your kids' classes or in your family or even just in your community, get to know the family.  Ask questions.  Spend time with them.  You will find that they are parents JUST.L IKE. YOU.  They just have to worry about food, too.

And don't fall into the trap that all food allergy-friendly food is gross and tasteless.  It's not.  Most of it can be quite good (Hey, a bad recipe is a bad recipe - that has nothing to do with ingredients or lack thereof, so don't blame taste on anything other than recipe design.).  Check out my blog, Natural and Free, for some good recipes  (some of which are top 8 free or mostly top 8 free or can be adapted to be so) as well as some of these great places:
The ball is in your court.  Don't fail your community here.  Food allergies are REAL and deserve your respect, compassion and time.  Ignorance is not bliss...It's deadly.

What is a good food/other allergy website that you know of?

If you could ask a food allergy family one question, what would it be?

Do you believe that food allergies are real or do you think they are exaggerated?

For those of you who don't know me, I do NOT have food allergies nor do my children and I am so very grateful for that, but there are food intolerances that I face and food allergies run in my family, and I have dear friends with children with food allergies or who have food allergies themselves with reactions ranging from IBS symptoms to hives to anaphylaxis (other allergies run in the family, too, ranging from medications to seasonal with the same variation in reactions).  To see my reasons why I am such an advocate, other than because it is the right thing to do and it affects the people I know and love, read this.