Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tips on dealing with a food allergy in kids

A few weeks ago my middle son, Chris, suffered a pretty severe allergic reaction to something that he consumed.
You can click here to read more about that.  Let me just say that it was scary as hell!

So, this is what I have learned in the past 19 days -, seriously.

It's absolutely amazing how our bodies react when we consume food.  What this has done was really opened my eyes to the fact that we need to consume more whole foods.  As a family, we are pretty good at this. We adhere to an 80/20 rule, where the vast majority of our foods are whole foods, not chemicals or processed foods.  That doesn't mean that we don't consume those types of foods; we just limit them.

But, maybe we need to limit them more...

Here is where we are at - we have eliminated all gluten, dairy and soy from Chris's diet.  Holy crap!, soy is in EVERYTHING!!  *sigh*

I'll share what Chris will be eating today, as an example of different options.  Please keep in mind that my child does not have a nut allergy.

Breakfast - 1/4 cup of dry oatmeal with 1/2 a banana.  The oatmeal is cooked with water, not milk.
                  8 oz of almond milk
                  1 egg scrambled, salt & pepper, made with coconut oil
Lunch - (this is packed for school)
                  2 celery sticks, cut
                  bottled water
                  turkey sandwich made using Udi's white sandwich bread (this is gluten, soy & dairy free)
Snack -      2 celery sticks with natural peanut butter and raisins
Dinner -     Spaghetti - noodles will be made with a spaghetti squash, sauce will be made using garden                             tomatoes, basil, garlic cloves, onion, and meatball will be made with ground beef and egg (no  
                  bread crumbs).

Really, it's not that bad.  We've switched him from soy milk to almond milk, have had to use Udi's bread for portable sandwiches for school and all I really have to do when planning out our meals (I do it for 2 weeks at a time) is to check to see if Chris needs an alternative to what we are planning on eating.

It has also meant that he cannot have most condiments.

Here are my top 10 tips for dealing with a new found food allergy -
1) Eliminate all suggested foods immediately.  Talk to your child about what will happen to them if they consume any of the foods that you are eliminating.
2) Check ALL food labels prior to consumption.
3) Stick with whole foods like fresh fruits, veggies and meats until you get a game plan in place.
4) Limit processed *free* foods.  (an example of this would be - we use Udi's bread to make his sandwich, we have not purchased any other gluten, dairy or soy free processed foods)
5) Go on a filed trip to your local grocery store, with your camera phone in hand.  Snap photos of items, ingredient lists and prices.**
6) Keep benadryl with you at all times.  Or, if you have been prescribed an epi-pen, keep that.
7) Water is key during the first 48 hours after an attack, drink lots and lots of water.
8) If you're told to eliminate 'dairy' don't just assume that lactose free milk is fine, the allergy may be to casein, whey or lactose - all are found in cow milk.
9) Talk to your doctor about scheduling a blood draw allergy test to pin point exactly what your child is allergic to.
10) You're not alone.  There are many sites on-line with recipe suggestions and that can answer your questions.

There are people out there that will help you, like say, if you find yourself at Whole Foods trying to find a suitable birthday cupcake substitute and you've been reduced to tears because soy is in everything!  I've found that my local grocery store carries many of the same foods as Whole Foods, for less.  Do your research, don't assume that you have to go to a "health food store" in order to get what you need.

**Aldi, which is our main grocery store, does have many gluten free and dairy free options now, which is great!  Unfortunately, they contain soy.  But, given that we don't consume much processed foods, finding a suitable substitute has not been too time consuming or too much of a strain on our food budget.

This whole experience has made us keenly aware how important what we choose to put into our body for it to use as fuel in order to nourish and sustain really is.  We are choosing to pause longer and really look and what we are putting into our mouths, and what it's purpose really is.  It's not about filling up.  It's about nourishing and sustaining.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Decade

We sang 'Happy Birthday' to him this morning while he ate breakfast.

"I'm a DECADE old now," he beams.

Yes, yes you are.

10 years ago today I went into work, like any other day.  There were "emergency" plans in place between my co-workers if I should go into labor while at work.  I was working until I went into labor.  

None of those plans were used on this day, 10 years ago.

Nope, I calmly drove myself to the doctor's office after lunch.  Was told to go to the hospital after he examined me (which I did after I drove home, packed a bag, dropped off a steam cleaner and called your dad to let him know that I was in labor).

You weren't due for another week.

I arrived to the hospital, walked in with my bag, and checked myself in.

I then called your dad again, told him that it was going to be a while, don't come up yet, that I'd call him when you were closer to being born.  He had class that night, something important was going on in that class too, I don't recall what.  But, I knew that it was important that he be there and seriously, you were not in any rush to be born.

I know now, because it really wasn't your time.

And, because I've shared your birth story before, I'm just going to link it here and here and a little bit here  and get to the good stuff...

You are an awesome kid!

You are wicked smart and funny

You know way too much about Pokemon

You love Da Bears and am a rabid White Sox fan

You like to ride your bike and play with your friends

You are really good at baseball

You are super creative, building insane creations with legos and drawing up detailed plans for stuff - firework displays to rearranging your room

You hate watermelon

...and popcorn

You have your Dad's eyes

...and hair

You idolize your older brother

You are a loving older brother, yourself

You dearly miss Kitty

You self corrected your pigeon toe walk that we didn't catch and now have to wear inserts in your shoes. You can't run fast or kick fast.  This has hampered your ability to play baseball and swim competitively.

You love to talk and tell stories and corny jokes

You like making waffles with your dad on Sunday mornings

You are learning how to write cursive

You like Nerf gun and Light saber fights

You can make friends with anyone

You know how to carry a conversation

You make a mean grilled cheese (I always burn them)

You like watching The Simpsons & Malcolm in the Middle

You try to sleep with your door closed, but I always open it up because it messes up the air flow upstairs

You hate putting away your laundry and have been punished more times than I can recall for this

You want to live in a hotel when you get older

You are 10 years old today.  Those years have flown by!  You take on challenges and have a strong sense of self.

I'm proud to be your Mom
1 Year Old

2 Years Old - you still look the same!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Show Me The Way

It's going to be a busy weekend over here in Educational Anarchy land.

Tomorrow is my 12th wedding anniversary.  But, that's not why it's going to be a busy weekend.  Tomorrow is also my going to be 15 year old and going to be 10 year old's family birthday party...oh, and we are going to Sky Zone on Sunday...oh, and tonight, I have a children's re-sale to go to...and I need to make gluten free-soy free-dairy free brownies, and pick up cupcakes on my way home from the re-sale.  Shit!  I forgot about food for the party tomorrow...there's something else, but I don't remember...

You get the point

But, back to this anniversary thing.  So, I've been married to THIS GUY for 12 years

I am constantly being reminded of how lucky I am to be married to THIS GUY by my father.  And yep, I realize that I did good.

Here's the thing though, marriage is work.  But, that is likely not anything you are hearing (or reading) for the first time.

I recall being asked to list like three important things or sage advice or something like that...pearls of wisdom? about marriage for a bridal party game a few years back - here are my pearls:
1) Communication is key.  And I suck at this big time.  I'm one to answer with one word when I could spill a mountains worth.  It's my failure and it's something that I'm working on.  But, this communication thing...HONEST's key.
2) In the words of Fat Boy Slim - "I have to celebrate you baby, I have to praise you like I should."  I don't speak ill of my husband in public EVER.  Here's the deal, it's no one's business.  My husband is a great guy and if there is something that he is doing or saying or whatever, that I find irritating or insulting or whatever, that is between him and I, and no one else.  This is difficult for me because I'm a competitive ass.  So, when I'm in a situation where people are gossiping and bad mouthing their husbands I totally want to join in.  I normally just walk away, though.  It's not worth it and I try not to focus on the negative or bad, because there is so much good.
3) And, for yet another song reference, Styx - "Show me the way."  I am constantly trying to improve, to change and to grow.  My husband is a real life example of this for me.  It's so easy to stay, to not change and to think that nothing is going to get better.  Because, like marriage, change takes work.

Communication * Praise * Change

On August 23, 2012 I married this really awesome guy

And, my life is better because of it

Don't mistake me, I'm not saying my life is 'easy', I'm saying it's better.  I don't live in a fairy tale where woodland creatures follow at my heals.  Though, right now I'm trying to hunt down a field mouse that got into the house, but that's not what I'm talking about.  You see, I was put here to be the best me that I can possibly be, and my husband helps me do that.  I'm a better wife because of him, I'm a better mother because of him and I'm a better person because of him.

When he introduces me to people, I am his wife, the writer.

I don't even do that.

He gets me, when I don't even get myself.  And that, that is pretty awesome.

*Show Me The Way was our 1st dance song
*Praise You was our introduction song

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Officially a Toddler

Back in early June we went on vacation out West.  While on the road it became apparent that Will was becoming irritated by his bangs being in his eyes.

At this point, he was 15 months old.

He also hadn't had a haircut.

With a small sewing scissor I chopped his bangs one evening, early on in our trip.

Fast forward to last week, and I'm about 60 feet in the air waiting in line with Cody and Chris to go on a water slide.  I was not wearing my glasses and, well, I was about 60 feet in the air.  I looked down and noticed this adorable little girl running around by where the water slide we were about to do on dumps you out into a pool.  I mentioned this to the boys.  They both informed me that it was Will.


This was not the first time he was mistaken as a little girl.

This was the first time that I mistook him as a little girl, though.

That sealed the deal, it was time to get his long, curly, light brown hair cut.

I was not happy about this AT ALL.  For me, it would signify the end of babyhood.  He would officially be a toddler.

This growing old stuff sucks!

I had originally kicked around the idea of having my mom cut his hair.  As she was planning on coming up in July, I kind of figured that she could do it.  My mom is a beautician, she's owned her own salon and worked for many years while I was quite small at one called Beverly-Woods in Chicago.

My moms business card from the salon she owned in Oak Park.  Her name is not Fran, BTW.

My mom cutting my hair

I kind of figured that it would be a neat little generational memento thing to do.  Unfortunately, my mom was unable to travel here in July.  I figured that was my "out".  It's not meant to be, obviously.

Obviously, not.

So, not only did Will get his first hair cut, he also enjoyed his very first sucker.

I was a mess!  I no longer have a baby.  He's a toddler.

This getting older stuff sucks!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today is Tuesday

In two weeks, on Tuesday, September 2nd, my 9 year old son would have started his school year.

In two weeks, on Tuesday, September 2nd, my 9 year old son would have attended his very first homeschool co-op group for this homeschooling year.

Last week, on Tuesday, August 12th, we came to the decision to enroll Chris into school.

This came after months of talking, feeling feelings that suck big time, more talking, phone calls and touring schools, followed by more talking.

And, the feelings, they are still here and they still suck.

Chris seems to be doing fine.

I'm not.  Not right now.  Not right this minute.

Yesterday, on Monday, August 18th, my 9 year old son, Chris, started the 5th grade.

I dropped him off at school.

I picked him up from school.

...and he's doing fine

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I share a lot via social media.

Between this blog, my Facebook pages, Twitter, Pinterest and now, Instagram I'm pretty plugged in.

Here's the deal, I know that I'm not alone.  I know that no matter what is going on in my life someone else has experienced the same thing or something similar.  Good, bad or indifferent.

Also, my family of origin is spread out all over the world.  I use social media to stay connected with them and for them to stay connected with me.  Between photos and quick updates, it's a wonderful thing, in my opinion.

But, this sense of community that exists is amazing.  I have a very limited "friends" list on Facebook specifically for that reason.

I can pose a question regarding tongue tie and get immediate responses.  The same is true when recently dealing with a food allergy.  Or when I was stuck in my van with my ignition not wanting to turn over.  My Uncle from New York called me on my cell phone to walk me through the steps to try to start my van!  

I get advice on family activities and restaurants that are worth checking out, and ones that are not.

And, for me, it works.  I know that it doesn't for everyone, and that is fine.  

Friday, August 8, 2014


We are in the middle of a pretty crazy allergic reaction over here in Educational Anarchy Land.

My 9 year old has been consistent with getting a nasty headache once a month that would land him in bed for the day, but would be better by morning.  I didn't really think anything about it.  It would leave as quick as it would come.  I made a mental note of it and just figured I'd bring it up at his yearly.

Not this month.

He returned from Texas about three weeks ago, got a headache upon return, vomited and then was better by the morning.  The vomiting was a concern.  But, since it didn't continue and left as quick as it came, I wasn't too concerned.  That was until yesterday when he experienced yet another headache that landed him in bed.  Two headaches that close together with vomiting during one is cause for concern in my books. Throw in a fever spike last night and I'm calling the doctors office at 8pm to get in as quickly as I can.  The concern of neurological issues is scary. Especially since I have epilepsy.  Especially since I searched WebMD.

I was able to get him into the doctors today, which was wonderful.

By the time we got there, though, hives started to break out all over his back, legs and arms.  Bug bites were ruled out, these were hives.  He was having an allergic reaction to something.  Specifically, to something he ate.  And his body WAS PISSED.  He was sustaining a fever at 102.3 and couldn't focus, complaining of dizziness.  

We are pretty strict about food consumption in our home.  We don't consume cow milk.  We try to stay organic.  Our soy milk is GMO free and we look for that across the baord.  We eat balanced meals that are protein heavy with adequate serving sizes and limit all junk food.  If we consume sugar, it's sugar.  Not artificial sweeteners.  Not chemicals.

Chris has always consumed soy milk.  Not soy formula.  Soy milk.  We started him on it instead of cow milk.  Yes, I know there are better dairy substitutes out there.  We like it because of it's protein content per serving.  And yes, we are willing to entertain another option if it turns out that he has an allergy to it.
But, because he's always had soy milk, he's developed a dairy sensitivity.  He can consume some dairy based foods, just in moderation.  Yogurt is a good example.  

So, the big three, for food allergies, are dairy, gluten and soy.

On Wednesday evening Chris was in charge of making dinner for us.  His choice - grilled cheese sandwiches with french fries.  Sourdough bread slathered with butter and melted Munster cheese.  Oh, but wait!  On Thursday morning he had his regular daily serving of soy milk, 8 ounces of it.  BAM! BAM! BAM!

And Thursday afternoon is when he started to complain of a headache.  Actually, let me back up a bit.  That morning he was acting weird.  Like frigidity and unfocused.  So, there are warning signs.

So, where are we now?  Elimination diet and then reintroduction of each of the big three to see if we can determine which food he reacted too.  Sugar is being cut out as well.  My bet is on either dairy or the combination of the other two while diary is present.  If we cannot pinpoint which is the culprit, when we return to the doctor in two weeks for his yearly he'll be given a multi panel allergy test ... all foods, including fruits and vegetables and then environmental agents as well.  I almost cried with the receptionist at the doctors told me the base price for this test.  $3,600.00.  *deep breath*  She then called the company that they go through to confirm that my insurance was part of their plan, and it is.  We won't have to pay the entire amount, we'll have to still pay, but not the entire amount.  We would have a precise read on what exactly he's allergic to, though.

Right now the hives are spreading.  They have moved to his trunk area and up his neck and to his face. They've also moved to other parts of his arms.  He is on benadryl to help with the hives and aleve for his headache.  He's craving apples and complaining that the water tastes like it's been siting outside with lemons and limes in it for like 3 days.

The doctor advised us to keep benadryl on us at all times.  Just in case.

You know what?  It could be worse.  It could have been a neurological issue.

I'm counting my blessings tonight and truly contemplating "let food by they medicine".              

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Chose To Breastfeed When I Failed The First Two Times

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week.  Here is some additional information if you are interested in finding out more:
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
Breastfeed Chicago
La Leche League International 

Look for local events promoting breastfeeding as well.

*Disclaimer - I realize that people have the power of choice.  Whether that choice is made through necessity or willingness.  In no way is this post written in an attempt to bash women who do not breastfeed.*

How did I fail at breastfeeding?  Well, I really didn't fail.  With my now 14 year old I could only nurse him while I was on maternity leave.  The day care that I had enrolled him in did not accept breast milk and insisted on formula.  At the time I was more interested in safety and security and I made the decision to enroll him in a day care that did not allow breast milk to be brought in.  Now, looking back, because everything is clearer in hindsight, I realize that I had other options available that may have allowed me the opportunity to pump and supply milk AND I realize that in fact, you don't need a separate refrigerator to store pumped breast milk.  So, I nursed for 6 weeks and then forced weaned my child to supplement him on formula.
When my second son was born five years later the necessity to breastfeed was more from an economical perspective than really anything else.  Formula is fricking expensive!  But, I suffered from intense postpartum depression that required me to take medication that eventually dried up my supply.

In both instance I felt like a failure.

I felt like I wasn't a woman nor a mother.

It sucked.

Because, here is this act that I can do, I'm capable of doing, supplying my child with milk and yet I can't.

A year after my second son was born I went in for a mammogram and was told that I had dense breast.  And, it was possible that this was the cause for my inability to continue nursing my 2nd son, not the medication.

I wasn't buying it.  Though I kept in the back of my mind as a way to ease by pride.

When my third son was born eight years later I had read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and attending a few LLL meetings.  I had read Beyond the Sling and scoured every breastfeeding and holistic sight for information.

I WAS going to breastfeed my son.

And here's the thing, I had the knowledge, I was educated in the matter but, what I think really made the difference was that I WAS going to breastfeed my son.  I wasn't sending my child to day care.  I wasn't in a situation where I needed to stop nursing for any reason.  I WAS going to do it.

I was determined, and I made up my mind.

And, let me tell you the first week SUCKED!  *pun intended*  At our first follow up appointment 24 hours after discharge from the hospital I brought the possibly of being tongue tied to the doctor.  She checked it out and said "Huh?  I think you may be right.  Here is a referral to a specialist."   A specialist whom we couldn't get in to see until a week later.  I was nursing literally 24 hours a day because my child was not getting enough milk at each feeding.  I was sleep deprived and cranky.  And, I felt like I was a failure.  I felt like maybe I wasn't designed to nurse my children.  Sleep deprivation will make you think some crazy ass things, let me tell you.

I found solace by reaching out on Facebook, to other mom's whom I knew were either breastfeeding or had. I re-read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  I made calls to my LLL leaders and spoke with the Mother's Help nurse at the hospital I delivered at.  I threw out all the advice I got that did not align with me being able to breastfeed my son.

When we went to our appointment at the ENT, she gave us a run down of what tongue tie was and what it was not.  I knew he was tongue tied.  When she looked at the underside of him tongue, she confirmed it to be the case.  The best part, she was able to snip the tie right there in the office.  The first time my baby nursed after the procedure he fell asleep within minutes because he had gotten more milk in that moment that he had at any of the other nurslings prior to that.

He was full.  He was satisfied.  He was happy.

I thought that if I could nurse for three months, that would be fantastic.

At three months I though that if I could nurse for six months, that would be fantastic.

At six months I though that if I could nurse for nine months, that would be fantastic.

My third son self-weened one week prior to his first birthday.  With the introduction of solid foods around that time, his desire to nurse diminished.

I wasn't a failure.

I was a woman and I was a mom.

My body did exactly what it was designed to do and I was delighted.

Here are the top 5 reasons I chose to breastfeed my third son when my first two attempts didn't work out.

  1. Promotes Emotions Health - having a documented case of postpartum depression looming in my background I seriously did not want to go through that again.  Studies have shown that there is less postpartum anxiety and depression in woman who breastfeed than in those who formula-feed their babies.
  2. Costs Less - holy cow is formula expensive!  
  3. Gut Health - have you ever swallowed an SOS pad?  Neither have I, but that is a pretty graphic representation of what happens to your babies gut when you introduce formula.  And, gut health is so important for a number of reasons, the least of which is having a healthy immune system.  
  4. Bonding - skin to skin contact and the time it takes for a baby to nurse helps them to feel safe and secure.  It helps them to realize that they are loved and that they will be taken care of.
  5. Mothering Hormones - breastfeeding releases a whole score of awesome hormones and helps chemical reactions to take place in you.  It's like a high.   
Always do what is right for your family, no matter what others may think.  

5 months old

Friday, July 18, 2014

{Indian Boundary Line Homestead Bounty} GREEN BEANS

Welcome to my garden

My green beans are coming in right now.

I delayed planting our garden until after we returned from our trip out west.  I did start the starters on Memorial Day and entrusted my grandfather-in-law to baby them while we were gone.  He did a wonderful job!

So, now my green beans are coming what?  Personally, I don't care for green beans (whatev', I'm a corn girl!).  I grow them for my husband and my boys.  But, since the plan is to have as much food on our dinning room table for Thanksgiving come from our garden, I need to start prepping these babies.

There are a few different ways to preserve green beans.

I like to freeze them.  It's super easy and quick and I have the freezer space for it.  I like to use quart size zip lock bags (this is about what we would consume for a normal dinner).  I label the bags with the date that I processes them and then put them in the drop down storage baskets that are in my deep freezer FIFO style (first in, first out).  For Thanksgiving, we will be using two of these quart size zip lock bags to feed everyone that we are anticipating will show up.

Here are the steps that I follow to prepare my green beans for the freezer:

  1. I wash my green beans in cool water
  2. I cut off the ends of the green beans
  3. If they are sting beans, I remove the string 
  4. I cut the beans into bite size portions
  5. I blanch the beans
    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil
    2. In a large bowl add cold water and put to the side
    3. Put the beans in a single layer into the boiling water for 3 minutes
    4. Pull the beans, strain and then add to the cold water in the bowl
    5. After the beans have cooled, drain the water
  6. I lay all my blanched beans on a dish towel to dry off
  7. Once dry I pack them into quart size zip lock bags, leaving about a 1 inch head space at the top of the bag.  I don't over pack the bags, trying to only add enough to serve five people.
  8. I make sure that I squeeze as much of the air out of the zip lock bags as possible.
  9. I then put the bag of beans in the freezer.
I use beans preserved like this within 8 months of the date on the bag.  Typically, they don't last past March because we have eaten them all.  Looks like I'll have to increase my bean plantings yet again next year.

Another way to preserve your green beans is by canning them.  You will need to use a pressure canner to process your green beans.  I simple water bath boil will not work as botulism is a risk factor. (This is why I freeze my beans.  I do not own a pressure canner).

Yet another way to preserve your green beans is by pickling them.  I have not tried this yet, but if my garden produces an overabundance of green beans, I may give this a whirl.
SO, why is it okay to use a hot water bath to process pickled green beans but not to simply can them? Because vinegar is an acid and that reduces the need to pressure can to prevent botulism.

Another way to preserve your green beans is by dehydrating them.   I just want to note here, that dehydration is a method for storage.  Foods that are dehydrated need to be re-hydrated prior to consumption.  Here is a handy chart for re-hydrating items.

Dehydrating is WAY different than baking!  So, here is a yummy looking recipe for Crispy Baked Green Beans Fries that I am dying to try out.

So, I'm interested in knowing what bounties you are harvesting this week?
What are you planning on doing with them?
I hear that adding bacon to green beans is AMAZING!  Have you tried it?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Westwards Ho! {2014}

We went on a family vacation in early June out West.  I just wanted to share what we did, where we stayed and what we liked/disliked.
We were gone for 10 days total.  I think that I'm going to highlight each day in a separate post.  We will see how this whole thing evolves...not sure yet. 

You can read more about planning, packing, leaving and where we traveled on Day 1, here.  

You can read more about our travels on Day 2, here.

Let's move on to Day 3:

South Dakota
We left our motel in Keystone early on Saturday to head back to Wall, SD to head into The Badlands.  Our plan for the day was to bike The Badlands.  It would be one of two biking stops on our route.  Actually, bike-able locations, I should say.
We entered The Badlands and turned right at the fork in the road and headed down the Sage Creek Rim Road...word of advise, don't.  Not that it was bad!  Just, you are heading in the opposite direction of the visitor center.  Plus, it's unpaved and the dirt is red.  We were trying to figure out why cars were covered in red dirt while we were driving along I90 in South Dakota.  Well, we found out that day.  

If you do happen to turn onto Sage Creek Rim Road, this is what you will see.  Again, it's pretty impressive. Especially seeing the shear drop of grasslands from the north in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland to the rocks of The Badlands.

We spent about an hour joke.  In this one spot, just marveling over it all.

We headed back to the main loop and to the visitor center. 

I, was on a mission.  I needed to get my National Parks Passport stamped and I needed to purchase a stamp for it.  

We walked though the little museum at the visitor center and then ate lunch outside on the grassy area.  This was the view behind us as we ate. 

While we were there they were doing construction around the visitor center.  There are picnic spaces, but they were blocked with construction gating.  There is also a really neat resturant right next to the visitor center.  I think that it would have been neat to have dinner there and see a sunset.

After lunch we got our bikes ready.  There was a storm coming in and we needed to beat the rain.  It was going to be a short ride of 10 miles (it turned out to be 8 miles in the end).

The cool thing about biking The Badlands was being able to see everything up close.  It's one thing to drive your car through the area, it's a whole other thing to bike right up against it.  It was really cool.  I would suggest it as an option for anyone who is up for it.  
We biked from the visitor center back northwest along The Badlands Loop Road to Norbeck Pass.  On the way back to the visitor center we stopped at the Saddle Pass Trail where the boys and Dave hiked and climbed while Will and I hung out with the bikes (Will was sleeping).

On our way back to Wall we saw a bunch of cars pulled to the side of the road and slowed down to see what was going on. 
*Side note - if cars are stopped, you should stop too.  Chances are, there is something pretty cool happening that may require a camera to capture*

This is what was happening:

We then headed back into Wall and stopped, again, at Wall Drug.  It really is that cool of a place. 

On our way back into Keystone we stopped in Rapid City for dinner.  Like I mentioned in Day 2's post, Keystone is a tourist trap, nothing bad, that's just what it is. 

We then headed back to the motel for a short stop before heading back out to go to the night viewing at Mt. Rushmore.

It was a little foggy when we arrived, but at this point it was either go and chance seeing something or not go at all.  I wanted to get some photos of the monument at night and to be honest, this was my only chance.  So, we headed in and it did clear up!  

So, that was our Day 3 of our trip out West. 
Entrance Fees - The Badlands $15 for 7 days; Mt. Rushmore $11 (parking) for the year. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Westward Ho! {2014}

We went on a family vacation in early June out West.  I just wanted to share what we did, where we stayed and what we liked/disliked. 
We were gone for 10 days total.  I think that I'm going to highlight each day in a separate post.  We will see how this whole thing evolves...not sure yet. 

You can read more about planning, packing, leaving and where we traveled on Day 1, here.

Let's move on to Day 2: 

We left Jackson, Minnesota early on Friday morning.  Earth Inn Motel, where we stayed in Jackson, did offer a few selections for breakfast.  Again, I picked lodging based on the fact that were were just using it to sleep and shower.  Continental breakfasts were perks.  And, I wanted to stay within our budget of $1,000.00 for lodging for the entire vacation.  
Dave had heard somewhere that cleaning the windshield with newspaper would get all the bugs off, so prior to getting back on I90 we filled up the gas tank and he gave it a whirl.  It actually did work.  And, here is why
Guess what I have in my van now?

South Dakota
We stopped at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Chamberlain, South Dakota for lunch.  It's a really nice rest area by the Missouri River off of I90.  It has a neat museum, tons of tourist information and nice areas to picnic.  Plus, there were trails to walk and large open grass areas for the kids to run.  This was about 3 hours into our drive to Wall, South Dakota.

Wall Drugs 
Why?  Because I was told by multiple people to stop at Wall Drugs while planning this trip.  I had it marked down as our touristy thing to do for the day and a nice break from the drink.  Dave, when told what we were doing, was unimpressed.  But he changed his tune once we arrived.  It is pretty cool.  It was a nice stop about 2 hours after we stopped for lunch in Chamberlain on our way to Keystone.  We got out, walked around, did some shopping, grabbed a snack and then headed back to the van to continue on.

We then made our way into Keystone, which was where we stayed for two nights.  The plan was to see the night lighting of Mt. Rushmore on the first night but heavy fog made that not happen.  Instead we drove around Keystone and scouted out places to check out prior to leaving.
One thing that we noticed over and over again was "Holy Terror" signage all over the place in Keystone.  We would find out on Day 4 what that was all about and it's pretty fricking funny.
While in Keystone we stayed at the Econo Lodge.  It was 10 minutes from the parking lot of Mt. Rushmore and 20 minutes from Crazy Horse.  We did have to double back to Wall, South Dakota (about a 45 minute drive) to get back to The Badlands, but it was used as an excuse to visit Wall Drug, again.
Our first night in Keystone we ate at Peggy's Place.  Let me just note that Keystone is a tourist trap.  Nothing bad, that's just what it is.  It's also expensive to eat there.  Peggy's was the least expensive choice option (but, was still expensive for over $50 for five people).  I think, though, out of all the options in Keystone, this is your best bet.  An even better idea would be to stop in Rapid City before heading into Keystone (we did that on Day 3).
View of mountains from our motel in Keystone

So, Day 2 of our trip was mostly taken up by driving from Minnesota into South Dakota and getting settled into our motel room in Keystone.

Crunchy Hair Weeks 5 & 6 No Poo and Then Back

So, on week 4 of my No Poo experiment dandruff hit and it hit BAD.  I tried soaking my scalp in coconut oil three separate times that week to no avail.  *sad trombone*

And then I was stuck all of week 5 with dandruff head, very slick hair that smelled like Mounds candy bars.  I like coconut, just not smelling like it.

Here is a quick recap so far

  • I stopped using commercial shampoo and conditioners on Monday, May 26th
  • I am currently using baking soda to wash my hair
  • I am using raw ACV as a conditioner
  • My hair is *still* ... fine scalp on the other hand - DANDRUFF

You can read about Week One of No Poo here in addition to the recipes I'm using here.  Week Two of No Poo is recapped here and Week Three No Poo TRAVEL EDITION can be found here and my thoughts on baking soda and high altitudes

That brings us to Week 5...week 5 sucked.  I mean, dandruff sucks.  

Which brings me to Week 6.  I now am dandruff free and back to using shampoo.  

If I can find a good alternative to commercial shampoo that will not lead to me having dandruff, I will try it.  I'm not dealing with dandruff, though.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014


On more than one front people, really.

But, in this case, without power...electricity...nah-dah

See, on Monday evening we were hit with a DERECHO (aka - serious kick ass storm).

We were at friends enjoying dinner when the first line of storms hit.  And they hit hard...and then let up.  And, I was thinking "Yep, totally over-predicted THAT for ratings."  We left to head home around 8:30pm.  I had the boys with me while Dave went to a friend's house to hang out for a bit.  We all readied ourselves for bed with showers and what-nots when I received an Emergency Alert on my phone that there was a tornado warning in the area.  Again, I didn't think anything about it.  I get these alerts for flooding all the time and we are no where near a river or creek or any other kind of water where we would personally be effected.  So, I put the boys to bed and then headed downstairs to turn on the TV to check in on the weather.

and beeping

The Emergency Alert system took over all the channels on the TV and there was in fact a tornado warning for our area.  The second line of storms was about to hit.  Once the screen cleared I switched to the weather channel, which was covering the hurricanes near Florida, but I watched the scrawl at the bottom for local updates.  Then, again...Black, White and beeping.  But, this time, the tornado sirens started to go off a few blocks away.  I opened the back door and head a freight train coming.  Now, I live by train tracks so this is nothing weird.  But, there was no light to accompany that sound.

Do you know what a tornado sounds like?

I ran up the stairs and woke the boys up, told them to get dressed, put on shoes and head for the downstairs bathroom.  To go, go, GO!
I grabbed Will from his crib ran down the stairs, grabbed my purse from the ledge, and dragged the dog into the bathroom with us.  Then, the rain started to hit the house and the wind picked up.
I told the boys to get into the bathtub.  I handed Will to Cody and ran back out of the bathroom to grab blankets to cover them with.  There is a window in the bathroom, I figured if we were going to get hit that the window would break and send glass everywhere.  I needed something to cover the kids.

So, we sat there.

Cody and Chris in the bathtub
Me and Will on the toilet
Slayer on the floor between us

Will cried
And I talked to the boys.  And said that as long as the lights stay on we are okay.  They are probably going to flicker, but that is okay.  We are going to be okay.  Do you know why I had you put your shoes on?  In case a tornado hits we need to be able to walk around outside after it clears and there is going to be a lot of stuff on the ground.  We need to keep our feet safe.  Do you know what a tornado sounds like?  It sounds like a freight train coming down the tracks.  The storm is going to be heavy and then there will be a calm and then it will get heavy again.  We stay in here until the sirens stop, and then just a little longer to make sure it's okay.

The whole time I'm texting Dave to stay where he is.  Not to leave.  That we are in the downstairs bathroom.
Do you know what sucks?  Sitting in the bathroom with your kids during a storm with tornado sirens going off.  It's terrifying.  Because really, what in the hell am I going to do?  Why in the hell did we buy a house without a basement?  

The storm hit, the power went out, there was a calm and then the winds shook the house and then, then it was done.

We sat in the bathroom a little longer.  I checked my phone for updates.  And like clockwork, the tornado warning was lifted at 10:40pm.

We had to use the flashlight on my phone to make our way around the house.  I put Chris and Cody back to bed and then Will back in his crib.  I had to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star a few more times to get him to nod off, but, eventually he did, gripping his puppy.
Slayer on the other hand was not happy, not one bit.  She laid on the landing of the staircase in protection mode.
I walked the house for a few minutes.  Made sure all of the windows were okay.  Opened the back and front doors to see if I could see anything, and I couldn't.  It was pitch dark out.

Cody was woken up by a leak in his ceiling.  The horizontal rain must have worked it's way in under the shingles and water was dripping on his bed.  It stopped after an hour.  Water also came in through one of Will's windows.  We are going to have both looked at this upcoming week.

I honestly expected that power would be restored by the time I woke up on Tuesday.  By 5:30am we were still without power.  By 6:45am I received word that Dave's work was shut down due to no power.  Cody, he still had summer school.  The area just to the west of us had power.  It seems like everything east didn't.

By 1pm I was getting irritated.  I just wanted a time frame.  ComEd was saying that it was assessing the situation.  By 4pm reports were stating that it could take up to 3 days to get power back up because of the widespread outages and damage.  I felt better knowing that.  At least we had a time frame now.  I hate uncertainty.

We were actually quite fortunate, really.  We had no significant damage to our home or property.  We had the inconvenience of being without electricity, (coffee maker, microwave, washer, dryer, vacuum, electric start stove top...) but the fridge was staying cool and we figured at the very least we could move staples to the deep freezer and load it up with ice.  We were at the tail end of our grocery run, so there were not a lot of perishable items anyway.  We were charging our phones through our vehicles.  We were able to get updates and stay connected.

We decided to go out to dinner and pick up some extra flashlights on our way home.  We had planned to pick up ice, but forgot.  Not a big deal as Dave needed to charge his phone and said he'd drive to the furthest gas station to get ice and then come back.  Charged phone in hand.

As we came into town (1/2 of which had power, our 1/2 did not), we noticed houses that originally didn't have power having lights on.  And as we turned down our street we could see our mail box, the street light was on.  And when we came into the house, we saw this

In the 21 hours that we did not have power at our home this was assembled

In the additional time that Dave's work was shut down for not having power restored, this was started

Because the fans weren't spinning, this became quite apparent and needed to be dealt with

And just to break it all up, I lead Chris's Cub Scout Den on an 8 mile bike ride

*No photo of that.  I was busy trying to catch my breath.*

Once I was able to get a time table of approximate return I felt a lot better.  Glorified camping I could deal with.  Actually, what I dislike about camping (bugs, not having my bed, or other normal conveniences) were available.  Plus, the weather was really nice and the AC wasn't needed.
Will's diapers were in the washer when the power went out, they needed to be line dried.  Slayer is shedding right now, note the tumble weed tufts of hair accumulating on my carpeting.  That standing water was as bad as we had it.

Once our power came back up I sent word out via Facebook that whoever was still without power could come on by if they needed to.  I was quite fortunate to be offered the use of a generator, which when I thought about it, we really didn't need, but it was nice to be offered.  It's nice to have friends like that, ya know.  

You know what, I really wouldn't have been able to make it during frontier times.  At least not with the knowledge of modern day technology.  Though, something like being on Frontier House seems appealing to me, there is no way in hell I'm up for that.  Actually, maybe I could do it.  I mean there is a set time frame...but, 6 months, that ain't no 21 hours.        

Raging Waves Waterpark *Welcome to Summer*

My family and I were invited out to visit Raging Waves, Illinois' Largest Waterpark, as part of their Blogger Day event.
Let me clear the air here...we WERE a Deep River Waterpark family.  Key word here - WERE.  Enough about Deep River for right now, let's talk Raging Waves.

We arrived around 10:30am on a Saturday.  I think that it took us about a solid hour to travel, which isn't bad.  There was ample parking and no line to get into the waterpark.  I don't know how normal this is, but I'm just noting it.  

We met with the Director of Marketing, the General Manage as well as with the owner, Randy, to talk about Raging Waves and what they offer and what they do.  
The one thing that really struck me was how Raging Waves was a 20 year dream in the making for Randy. That it is, in fact, his "Disney World".  That safety, cleanliness and friendliness are priority.  I noted that, and nodded my head, but it wasn't until after I was in the park for oh...15 minutes...that all of that came out in actions, not just words.  
How many times have you been asked by a lifeguard at the end of a water ride if you had fun or if the ride was enjoyable?  No, really...think about many times?  
I was asked at the end of every water ride I went on - EVERY!  There was absolutely no indication that I was a blogger, that the potential for this review was going to occur, nothing to tip off the lifeguards (or any of the other employees) that I was live tweeting or facebooking about my experiences while there (#welcometosummer).

That's just how they are trained.  Actually, more specifically, those are the type of people Raging Waves hires. I think that says a lot about a company and who they are allowing to interact with their customers.  
So, that is friendliness...lets move on to cleanliness.  When we went to Disney about 7 years back we opened and closed that park.  We were going to get our monies worth!  As we were walking out there were employees vacuuming the streets.  If you have ever been there, you know what I'm talking about.  No litter, people always cleaning, obsessive and detailed.  Same thing here.  See that photo above, with the bucket of water and scrub brush.  Do you know what that young lady is cleaning up?  I don't know exactly either but she was one of a handful of employees there that day with buckets and scrub brushes cleaning, everywhere.  Everything at this place was immaculate.  Sitting areas, bathrooms, sidewalks and walk-ways, the rides, eating areas...everywhere.  Nothing was in bushes or in the landscaping or even the parking lot.  
Safety is next and this entails a photo of its own:

  • Raging Waves has clear tubes for use in their lazy river so that the lifeguards can see everything.
  • Water ride tubes are solid. 
  • They require 28 hours of initial training for lifeguards and 4 hours each month for continued training.  We were told that a handful of lifeguards were let go that day because they didn't meet their monthly requirements for the month of June. 
  • Life vests are available for use.  They are throughout the park, and come in different sizes.  
  • Lifeguards on the lazy river scan every 10 seconds (it looks like something similar to a High School Poms routine) and then have 20 seconds to react to a situation.  They also do a proactive body scan of their designated area before they switch with another lifeguard at their location. 
Some other things that I found out were

  • The water PH is kept at 7.4, which is the same acidity of the human eye so that your eyes don't sting when you open them under water.
  • Each water attraction has it's own water filtration system so ensure that if an issue arises at one slide it would not shut down the whole park.
  • The go above and beyond the required readings for PH levels each day, averaging between 11 & 12 during their operation hours each day.
  • And, Chris' question of "how many gallons of water are used each day" was kind of answered - it takes 1.3 million gallons of water to charge the park each day.
My favorite water ride was the body slide, PJ's Plummet where the speed reaches 38 mph!  Though it was hard to pin point which water ride was Cody or Chris's, as they enjoyed the entire park, their answers went between the body slide, PJ's Plummet, and The Boomerang.  Will enjoyed relaxing on Dad while making his way along the lazy river, Kookaburra Kreek.  But seriously, it's hard to pick with 17 waterslides to choose from!
I really liked how many of the water rides are family focused, allowing you to ride with multiple people in one tube or raft.  

In addition to the water rides, Raging Waves offers a HUGE sandbox and beach area near the wave pool (which, by the way, has tons of seating available in the shade), as well as a pedal tractor course and a zip line (available by appointment only, though).
Lets talk food.  I like food, I don't like junk food though.  Raging Waves has healthy options and options for those with dietary restrictions.  They had hummus people, HUMMUS!  Fruit salads and wraps where available, too.  And, I was really happy to see that they serves Hebrew National hot dogs.  They have the standard food options too, burgers, pizza, chicken sandwiches...the fries - AMAZING!  Beware though, their drinks do not come with lids or straws (think pool filter problems), just so you know.  Also, if you have like mega food issues/allergies, just call ahead and speak with them.  They will allow, with advance notice, outside food to be brought in.    
If you are planning on going with a larger group, want some privacy or want to guarantee seating (though really, not an issue) - they do offer cabana rentals as well.  
And, they have entertainment at the 5th/3rd stage as well.  
Speaking of entertainment, this season they are featuring the High-Diving Adventures of Sinbad with an 80 foot dive to capture the Golden Pineapple.  AND - during the 3rd and final show of the day, he lights himself on fire!  FIRE!!

Raging Waves is located in Yorkville, IL on IL-47 just south of I-88.  There is ample free parking available, though if you want to be really close to the gate entrance you can pay $7 for that.  Their season runs Memorial Day through Labor Day.  You can purchase tickets on-line or at the park.  
They offer full day admission as well as discounted after 3pm admission.  You can find out more about ticket pricing here.
Use Promo Code 14RW157 to save up to $25 when purchasing online (limit 5, $5 off each ticket purchased, cannot be combined with any other promos or discounts).
If you are a Costco member, there is an awesome deal going on where you can purchase 2 admission tickets and 2 tube rentals for $39.99.  
There are currently 4 days remaining on a Living Social deal for Raging Waves.  You can get weekday admission for $15.00.
Also, 5th/3rd Bank has vouchers available for $5.30 off admission.  You can obtain the vouchers at your local 5th/3rd Bank.  

Raging Waves also offers their Plunge Into Fitness program to local schools, homeschoolers, and youth groups.  As a homeschooling family we participated in their Plunge Into Fitness program this past school year.  Chris received a free admission voucher for completing 25 hours of physical fitness from February 17th -April 11th, outside of his regular PE requirements.  As his teacher, I also received a voucher.  Now I just need to hop on that Living Social deal to get tickets for Dave and Cody so that we can return soon! But, any school, homeschooler or youth organization can participate in this program.  They will have information for the 2014/2015 Plunge Into Fitness program up and available by the beginning of February 2015. 

But, let me get back to what I mentioned earlier about Deep River.  We are a scouting family and Deep River has done some wonderful events for the Scouts and we have been loyal customers, returning each summer for over the past 5 years.  And to be really honest, I don't want to dis Deep River because of that. 
It's the same distance, driving wise, as Raging Waves.
They both offer discounted admissions on the back half of their operation days.
And well, that's where the similarities end to be quite honest.  


They are not just words.  It is through the actions of all the employees from the owner, Randy, to all the Directors, all the way down the line.  

It is through actions that we see sincerity and truth, not words.  

We loved Raging Waves!  We can not wait to go back and are really hopeful to be able to do so before their season ends.  With two very active boys and schedules to go with them it's going to be hard to fit it in, but we are going to try.  Hopefully we will see you there, too.  

You can find out more about Raging Waves here:
Website -

Thank you Raging Waves for this opportunity!    

*the opinions are mine alone and I was compensated for this post with admission and meal tickets for my family and I to attend the Blogger Day at Raging Waves*.