Embracing Imperfect 2015-07-28T15:34:23Z http://embracingimperfect.com/feed/atom/ Gina <![CDATA[Blue Man Group Ticket Giveaway! #DareToLive]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20776 2015-07-28T15:34:23Z 2015-07-28T15:34:23Z As I wrote, on July 16 and 17th, I attended Blogger Bash 2015, an event at Pier 60 for bloggers and brands to meet and greet. A few months back, we were surprised by the announcement that we’d get an exclusive showing of Blue Man Group just for attendees. Now, I always love a great show in New York City, but I had no idea what

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Blue Man Group Ticket Giveaway

As I wrote, on July 16 and 17th, I attended Blogger Bash 2015, an event at Pier 60 for bloggers and brands to meet and greet. A few months back, we were surprised by the announcement that we’d get an exclusive showing of Blue Man Group just for attendees.

Now, I always love a great show in New York City, but I had no idea what to expect. After all, the ads show those blue heads staring at you with bugged out eyes and splashes of color. I got the idea it had something to do with music and fun, but was pretty clueless. I was not the only blogger to feel that way either.

But after the show, let me tell you – I RECOMMEND THIS SHOW TO EVERYONE! I laughed and applauded so hard. Some of the crazy things that happened during the show involved paint, marshmallows, Twinkies and Viagra-like ads.

Blogger HeyThatsMike onstage helping create art at the Blue Man Group Blogger Bash performance

Brave blogger HeyThatsMike gets ready to be a human paintbrush. No kidding.

 

Something like a half an hour in, I had to pee but I HELD IT IN FOR 45 MINUTES – no easy feat considering one of the gags they pulled on the audience at the end. (I’m not telling, that’d just ruin it!) No way I was missing whatever was coming next – and it truly was a “whatever.” Part of the magic of The Blue Man Group is that they play to the audience – we were involved multiple times and two “volunteers” were dragged onstage to participate in the shenanigans. Never mind the time time the Blue Man walked on the seat backs in front of me…and I was up in the orchestra!

And IF you go, I beg you, have one person in your party show up late ;)

Creative Director Randall Jaynes taking questions at the Blue Man Group Blogger Bash Q&A

Creative Director Randall Jaynes did a Q&A for us.

 

Here are some facts you may not know about The Blue Man Group:

  • There are about a total of 75 blue men.
  • The original 3 people who started the group now would not qualify for the very strict physical requirements of becoming a Blue Man.
  • 25-year Blue Man Group veteran Randall Jaynes told us, “You don’t ever nail the final character,” when asked about how much practice they do. “I’m practicing tomorrow.”
  • He also told us it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 years to learn a scene.
  • The people in the front seats need ponchos. Yes, just like at Sea World. And let me tell you, they barely got splashed compared to the VOLUNTEER.

BLUE MAN GROUP TICKET GIVEAWAY

I’d have to say that Blue Man Group was one of the most fun and entertaining shows I’ve every been to and that’s why  I’m so excited to be hosting my own Blue Man Group Ticket Giveaway! This is a wonderful family show and the company has been gracious enough to give my readers the chance to win 4 tickets to the Blue Man Group Show of your choice! Tickets must be used between September 8, 2015 and June 8, 2016, and are valid for ANY of these locations:

  • New York
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Las Vegas
  • Orlando
  • North American Tour

The winner will be mailed a certificate and you will need contact the rep for your tickets 2 weeks before your desired show. This contest ends at midnight 8/6/15.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blue Man Group Blogger Bash Selfie

Our selfie. Do you see me? Top tier in the back? No??? I’m shocked :)

 

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Gina <![CDATA[Beauty, Relaxation and Great Brands at Getting Gorgeous]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20716 2015-07-27T21:24:05Z 2015-07-27T21:24:05Z This month has been quite hectic. It began on Wednesday with a trip to New York. After meeting my roommate, Michele from Just 2 Sisters 2, we hiked downtown for a hummus lunch and then it was off to Getting Gorgeous with Restylane Silk 2015 Event on Wednesday July 15, put on by Audrey McClellan and Vera Sweeney. I saw this dynamic duo speak last year at iRetreat

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0727-gettinggorgeous2015

Me and my roommate, Michele. And she was awesome.

This month has been quite hectic. It began on Wednesday with a trip to New York. After meeting my roommate, Michele from Just 2 Sisters 2, we hiked downtown for a hummus lunch and then it was off to Getting Gorgeous with Restylane Silk 2015 Event on Wednesday July 15, put on by Audrey McClellan and Vera Sweeney. I saw this dynamic duo speak last year at iRetreat and they are just amazing! Teaming together, these two best friends partner to work for great beauty brands and share their tips with you and me. Some of the brands represented this year include Spa Chicks on the Go, who were there giving manicures, Chobani, who make rBST-free and non-GMO yogurt for their Chobani TotsTM line, Stokke, who make such amazing and innovative baby gear I *almost* wanted to have another baby just looking at their line.

There were some brands that were just a right fit for both me and my blog, so here goes:

KeVita

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What’s KeVita? it’s a Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan, gluten free drinks that include sparkling probiotic drinks. Right up my alley and I loved it, but it was totally different. What I liked is that it’s not super sweet – can’t stand super sweet juice or sparkling drinks.

Trollbeads

trollbeads

Squee!!! I loved that we got to pick a Trollbead with a lovely leather bracelet. This was probably one of the best take aways from getting gorgeous. It took me forever to pick just the right bead and my arms are little, so the rep had to make an extra knot for me, but I love this bracelet! It completely fits my style and taste and it was a lovely surprise, because I’ve been wanting a leather bracelet! Check out the new and simply stunning Copper Collection on their site.

The Backyard Food Company

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Love hot & spicy foods? Love jelly too? Then the Backyard Food Company is for you. Co-founder Matt McClelland was there sharing his wares, and they were so good. He told us they were 70% locally sourced . The company began by growing their products in a backyard test garden and are looking to produce their products in a commercial kitchen, while keeping the test garden for inspiration.

BALI Intimates

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It turns out that BALI Intimates has this wonderful comfort line of bras called Comfort Revolution. They had four models out and, after getting measured (turns out, I’m right on the money with my size, yay!), we had to select one to receive. This was the hardest part of my day! All 4 bras were made of breathable material and all had different uses and features. I’m super fussy and find bras very uncomfortable but the fabric was so soft and irresistible. I can’t wait to get my bra!

Liquid Oxygen

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Liquid Oxygen is a 3 step product made to fight acne and is good for all skin types. It’s paraben- and fragrance-free, BPO free, non-comedogenic and is not tested on animals. From their website: “It’s clinically proven to be effective from Day One” and is effective on all skin types. They do not use Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO) which can dry out your skin but instead use beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). Please review their FAQs to see if this product is appropriate for you.

GIVEAWAY

 

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I thought I would treat my readers to a little mini-giveaway. Today, I’m giving away the Liquid Oxygen breakthrough kit in a TSA friendly and pretty pouch for traveling. I’m also throwing in a 25% off coupon for BaliIntimates.com, good through 8/31/15, and a few other beauty surprises just for you! Join the contest below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Gina <![CDATA[Teaching God’s Design for Sex with Passport 2 Purity]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20748 2015-07-24T15:44:28Z 2015-07-24T15:44:28Z It’s a battlefield out there for a Christian mom. Everywhere you look, there are images telling your kids that sex is good, waiting for marriage is foolish and mistakes can easily be undone. And raising two daughters with learning disabilities – one who is still embracing her childhood even as she blossoms into a woman’s body – can literally make you feel like it’s “game

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gods design for marriage

It’s a battlefield out there for a Christian mom. Everywhere you look, there are images telling your kids that sex is good, waiting for marriage is foolish and mistakes can easily be undone. And raising two daughters with learning disabilities – one who is still embracing her childhood even as she blossoms into a woman’s body – can literally make you feel like it’s “game over” before you’ve even started.

But if you are a Christian  mom, you have one thing in your corner: Jesus. There isn’t anything He can’t help you get through, including do what you can to teach your kids good values. And the only way you can do that is to make sure your kids know what He says sex, purity and the pursuit of romantic love. That in itself is a task and daunting to many parents. How do you teach your children God’s design for sex and marriage?

passport 2 purity

That’s why I was so happy to get the chance to review “Passport 2 Purity,” a biblically sound teaching tool that is meant to be shared with your child over the course of a getaway weekend. This 8 CD set also comes with a journal for your child to complete, a “tour guide” book to lead parents and kids through the exercises, digital MP3 files of the content and a checklist for planning your getaway. The guide even includes strategies, pre-planning and a guide to make the most of your weekend, from what you can do as an activity, the itinerary for the program and a suggestion to purchase your child a present to make it special.

So what’s in the CDs? Pretty much everything your child needs to know to manage growing up from a kid into a sexual being and remaining safe and inside God’s plan for sexuality. Narrated by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, cofounders of FamilyLife®, an international ministry to families and marriages, and accompanied by teens and tweens dramatizing different situations to help keeping kids pure, this training talks to your kids as if they are already teens. Passport 2 Purity contains a track for boys and another for girls. I listened to the girls track, which covered puberty, periods, and even leg shaving! It gave me great ideas for things to do with Amelia. I thought this was one of the best tracks specifically for my kids – the earlier tracks were too mature for them, but this was right on the money. I suppose it helped that it started with a girl and her mom discussing “ew” and “giggle” topics beforehand.

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“Passport to Purity” is rich with scripture references, too, supporting God’s design for sex and marriage. There is even an optional session which teaches about some of the more difficult issues boys or girls deal with today. The sessions cover a parents-only discussion, about how running with the herd can get you into trouble, purity as a destination and all the questions kids have about dating. That’s a big help!

Finally, the journal ends with a 25-day “The Journey Continues” section for your child to pursue on her own, with scripture and teachings. This is not only a great gift to teach your child about God’s design for sex and marriage, but also to teach the about the Supremacy of Christ in her life and how to dig into the Bible to learn how to live a good life.

Sound intriguing and helpful, but you’re wondering when you can actually get in the car for a weekend getaway? If it’s not possible, never fear – you can still use Passport 2 Purity at home as a teaching tool. Just have your kids listen and go through the journal and projects together. Passport 2 Purity regularly retails for $39.99 but right  now, you can get 25% off this getaway kit by using the promo code PASSPORT on their website.  This promo code is good through 8/31/15 only – so don’t wait.

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This set can make teaching your tween a little easier and set them on the right path. I recommend you listen to all the CDs first, though, because of the sensitive nature of the topics, to make sure your child is in the right age frame.

How do you teach your children about purity and God’s true design for sex and marriage? Would Passport 2 Purity help your family? Share your thoughts!

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Gina <![CDATA[Eating Out With Your Kids: These Restaurants Get it RIGHT]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20737 2015-07-23T15:35:01Z 2015-07-23T15:22:10Z This week social media  has been abuzz with the story of the “awful” parents who were eating out with their kid (toddler) and let her scream for 40 (or 120 or 4) minutes in a diner, prompting the establishment owner (or “hero”) to go all drill sergeant on the poor child, screaming at said child in order for her to shut up. Following that, the mom posted (as

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eating out with your kids

This week social media  has been abuzz with the story of the “awful” parents who were eating out with their kid (toddler) and let her scream for 40 (or 120 or 4) minutes in a diner, prompting the establishment owner (or “hero”) to go all drill sergeant on the poor child, screaming at said child in order for her to shut up.

Following that, the mom posted (as we social media savvy moms are wont to do) about the awful treatment, which then made the diner owner unleash a host of profanity on the mother’s page, calling the child an “it” and all kinds of venom. In fact, I’ve seen more inappropriate profanity from this diner owner but thank God for “delete” right?

My take? I feel like the age of “everything that does not perfectly agree with my opinion is offensive” has now come to business owners. I heard this owner defend herself and she was so shaky and uncertain that I can only surmise she was either lying and not very good at it, OR was taking a huge gamble and worried she might find herself out of business.

Or both.

As the mother of a child who has autism and has been known, on occasion – or rather, often – in her toddlerhood to have some outright ugly tantrums, I take offense at this. Seeing this story laid out on Facebook, I think one of the things that has me the most concerned is that while I saw NUMEROUS people support the business, I saw no one question the length of the tanturm. “It was 40 minutes of screaming” was AUTOMATICALLY assumed to be right. I did, however, see lots of people question the mom, who said it was 10 minutes – and another diner said it was only 4 minutes.

Seriously, if you can’t sit in a diner for 4 minutes without having a kinipshon over a kid in your restaurant then perhaps the diner business is not for you. Would you flip if someone had an epileptic fit? A man made a woman cry and run out? How about a fire truck pulling up nearby? Would that set you off too?

The mom further claims that she had no idea who this person was screaming, meaning the owner did not come over, introduce herself and in any address this issue politely.

It’s enough to make any parent want to just STAY HOME.

But as an advocate for families with kids with special needs, eating out with your kids is something your family should be able to do without fear of “retribution.”

Now if you want to have a kid-free establishment (you know, like a bar or nightclub or grown up only restaurant), go ahead and do that. Or just jack the prices really high, we won’t come.

But if you are in the service business – service meaning you serve your customer’s interests, not “I’m serving my need to make money/not work for anyone else/own a business/etc.”, then customer first has always been the only acceptable option.

Because if you lose that, you will lose business and patrons – and some very savvy diner owners might open up right next to you, with a great big “KIDS WELCOME” sign. And you can’t fight that.

Not every restaurant is like that. In defense of the service industry, here is a list of places where we were treated like royalty when eating out with our kids even if one of them was having a tantrum or making “those noises” that you kids with special needs sometimes make to show their joy. The amazing staff (especially wait staff, they are wonderful considering their pay is so low) of these places treated our children with dignity and respect, even IF our kids were allergic to the food and not eating it.

  1. Outback Steakhouse
  2. LongHorn Steakhouse
  3. Buffalo Wild Wings
  4. Red Robin
  5. P.F. Chang’s
  6. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
  7. Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  8. Bonefish Grill
  9. KC Prime (yes, a fancy schmancy grown up steak house!)
  10. Bube’s Brewery
  11. Fireside Tavern
  12. Fegley’s Brewwerks
  13. Every single restaurant in Hershey Lodge

These are just off the top of my head – there are many more. We dine out a LOT. Don’t get me wrong – diners are a bit of a different animal, at times. When she was a baby, we often brought Amelia to our diner breakfasts, but not Zoe until she was much older.

As for the parents, I’m not sure why they were distracted for a few moments. Figuring the bill and tip? Looking for a wallet they couldn’t find? Taking an emergency call from work? Who knows?

What I do know is that sprouting angry profanity all over Facebook is not a decision that smart professional business owners make. Can you argue that?

Of course, you should be smart. Don’t go to places during happy hour, live concerts, etc. If there’s a long wait, ask for a small snack for your child. Give your phone to your child if they are getting antsy. I’m not saying to be reckless and irresponsible – you have the choice to make things better or worse, that’s true.

And one final story. A few years ago we went to Great Wolf Lodge in North Carolina for a conference. We got there early and went into a somewhat empty restaurant for a bite and to regroup. Zoe was “off” thanks to a long drive and by the end of lunch, had a massive melt down on the floor. The waitress came over and discretely asked if there was anything she could or that Zoe needed – a glass of water, perhaps? I was apologetic and embarrassed but she reassured me. With great sensitivity in her eyes, she told me not to worry and to definitely take my time. Her main concern was that Zoe was ok. That lady is a hero in my eyes. She made sure that eating out with my kids was a pleasant experience even if the worst happened.

THAT is the kind of customer service that paying patrons should get, pure and simple. Whether you are with a crying child, a disabled person who speaks loudly, a person in a wheel chair, an elderly person who can only walk very slowly, or anyone else, you deserve respect when you’re paying for food. I’m wondering now if we have lost this last frontier of dignity.

GIVE A SHOUT OUT:
What restaurants have treated your family kindly when you dined with your children?

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Gina <![CDATA[How to Make an Impression at Blogger Bash 2015]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20711 2015-07-22T12:26:10Z 2015-07-21T15:48:18Z I’ve been really quiet on the blog lately and it’s not just because it’s the lull of summer. Thursday and Friday I was in New York for a great blogger event, Blogger Bash 2015. Last year was the first Blogger Bash event and this year? Well, let’s just say the team did a phenomenal job. I think everything that was a bit confusing last year

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blogger bashI’ve been really quiet on the blog lately and it’s not just because it’s the lull of summer. Thursday and Friday I was in New York for a great blogger event, Blogger Bash 2015.

Last year was the first Blogger Bash event and this year? Well, let’s just say the team did a phenomenal job. I think everything that was a bit confusing last year was completely cleared up – the team really listened to the attendees and not only fixed some things, but went above and beyond! I learned a lot, so here are my top 7 ways to make an impression at Blogger Bash – or any other conference you’re going to attend!

1. Stay late at the events.

True to my nature, I like to be the LAST one standing at any party, even now. At a blogger event, this is not because you want to make sure to have the delicious desserts (although that’s a good reason) or to speak to ever single vendor (I never recommend that), but instead you get to a place where barriers come down. I was almost as tired as the reps during Suite Sweet, so when I sat to make some toy bracelets to learn how the Strand Bands worked, it was more just to relax. I ended up talking to a lovely young rep who was, unbelievably, getting married the next week. It was the best time, as we shared wedding planning tips and rings stories. We didn’t talk work, just dished – I sharing my memories and telling her to relax, she sharing her excitement and showing off her beautiful engagement ring. That’s where it’s at – building a relationship just by being yourself and sharing your own stories.

2. Know your tag line and brand.

So from the “mom-blog” days through recently, I never really had a tag line until a few weeks ago (I uncovered it at an iRetreat branding session). It was so new that it took me a while to get it out without tripping over it. And even though it took until last summer to come up with my blog name, it really resonated for people and it describes me to a “T”. So get busy crafting a tag line to describe your blog and making sure your card and hashtag really encompass you.

disney infinity

3. Invest in your blog.

Ok, yea, this was something I did BEFORE the conference, but I recommend you take time to think on it before you go to Blogger Bash next year. I invested a lot in this new design, which I’m thrilled with, but I didn’t expect to shell out more than a few bucks for business cards. But then I wanted everything to match, so I rehired my designer to make the cards and went with her suggestions on a print house. BEST. DECISION. EVER! I got lots of compliments on my business card and they were worth the extra money I spent over those “fast print” DIY houses.

4. Talk to new people.

One thing I love about blogger conferences is that it’s an opportunity to meet new people. Sure, go sit with the people you know but sit with people you don’t know too! Get on the Facebook list and meet the strangers in your hotel, then get to the event together. Get a roommate you don’t know. Sit for lunch between someone you know and someone you don’t know. If you are on line or in a session next to someone else alone, strike up a conversation. Take it from a formerly shy person: you can do this!

me and snoopy

5. Don’t feel badly about yourself.

So at every giant conference, there will be a time where you feel snubbed. I can tell you from my experience last week, that odds are THEY DIDN’T MEAN IT AND HAD NO IDEA THEY DID. People are exhausted from events like this, whether they are event planners, presenters, reps, bloggers or keynotes. This happened with 2 people I thought snubbed or forgot me, who later struck up a conversation..I even got a hug. An event like this, on it’s own, is overwhelming and exhausting, but when you add it to whatever else people had on their agendas, from other events to a family back at the room dying to see NY, they may not recognize you in the moment. Don’t lose heart – you may have made an impression at blogger bash and other events without even realizing it.

6. Do what you want.

On day 2, I went to a session and discovered I was way too tired to even grasp a thing that was said. I usually feel badly about missing *anything* at a conference, but I thought about it and realized that I too wiped out to sit in a class. I was also interested in doing other things, so why not? I know that sounds simple, but the frugal gal inside me always wants to get every penny’s worth. This time, though, I refused to feel guilty and went about making the most of my time there.

minions

7. Do what your friends want.

A blogging conference is not, however, a solo venture. It’s much more interesting and fun if you can get together with someone and go around with someone else. At this year’s conference, there was an ebb and flow that worked very well for me as I went around with and without my roommate, a local blogger, bloggers I rarely see, people I’ve never met and more. The more I went with the flow, the bigger our group seemed to get – not too large or too small, but just right for sharing Ubers and long walks. Don’t be so married to your agenda that you can’t go with someone else’s.

bloggers

This year’s Blogger Bash was one of the best events I’ve been to. Not only did Charlene Loach, Joey Fortman, and Laurie Schacht bring together some of the biggest names in the business for amazing keynotes (Care Bears, the Peanuts Movie and Disney Infinity), an amazing and very helpful (and hardworking staff) and a huge assortment of toy and other brands to the Sweet Suite as well as brands for women in the expo, they also provided a stunning venue, an accessible location and and a dazzling array of sweets, cocktails and rich food to fill us up. I’m not surprised. When I roomed with Charlene back in 2011 for the first SheStreams, she filled me full of great info on which conferences were good, bad or ugly. That kind of know-how is the reason this conference was so great.

And it’s also why I’ll be back to make an impression at Blogger Bash 2016! See you there…

 

 

 

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Gina <![CDATA[Missing the Beach? Sands Alive Glow Has You Covered!]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20693 2015-07-14T19:41:55Z 2015-07-14T19:18:56Z When Sands Alive reached out to me to review their Sands Alive Glow set, I was thrilled – as were my kids. They couldn’t get in the box FAST ENOUGH. In fact, two weeks ago my kids were all set to leave on vacation. They were DYING to go – LITERALLY. So much so that I found my daughter with her feet in the Sands Alive

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girl and sands alive toy

When Sands Alive reached out to me to review their Sands Alive Glow set, I was thrilled – as were my kids. They couldn’t get in the box FAST ENOUGH. In fact, two weeks ago my kids were all set to leave on vacation. They were DYING to go – LITERALLY. So much so that I found my daughter with her feet in the Sands Alive box, pretending she was at the beach! (I didn’t have time to get a picture because my husband freaked out, pulled her away and vacuumed the carpet faster than you can say, “son of a beach, Batman!”)

I was a little more laid back about the whole thing. I mean, how can you resist getting your hands on cold, cool sand that you can fashion into anything? Feet, hands, whatever!

They were so jazzed about this toy they actually COOPERATED! When ever does a 12 year old cooperate with a 9 year old??

girls play with Sands Alive

That elusive skill of siblings embodied: COOPERATION!

Later, Amelia pushed Zoe aside and took a turn of her own (it couldn’t last forever…).

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But the real proof of how much they loved this toy came on one of our last day of school. Now my kids love school and the last week was kind of a free-for-all-of-fun, so they really wanted to go. But they ALSO had a brand new toy they loved! The solution?

2 girls play sands alive

Put on those backpacks and play! Yes, and they played right until the time the bus showed up at the door! But hey, they were ready to go!

So, About that Review…

As you can see it was a hit with the kids, but they loved playing with the light and glasses separately from the sand, rather than together. It does glow – but I think Amelia was expecting the sand itself to change color. That said, this is a nontoxic way to color the sand, rather than drenching it dyed chemicals – no thank you!

And speaking of nontoxic, what is Sands Alive made of? This is from their website:

All 100% Natural, Organic – Non Toxic Ingredients. It is primarily made of natural sand and a natural food grade binding agent. The ingredients in Sands Alive! are the patent to the product, so they cannot be shared with the general public. The main ingredients is Natural Sands.

In my quest to embrace the imperfect, I can live with that! And what about allergies? Glad you asked. Here is their statement on testing:

The product has been tested for Canadian Risk Assessment/Toxicity and passed. It was tested by using 1814 grams of this sand, (maximum amount of sand in a single consumer product) which may come in contact with the skin and/or smaller amounts that may occasionally be ingested and/or may rarely contact the eyes as single exposure events. None of the ingredients in this sand would be expected to cause a sensitization (allergic) reaction in the vast majority of exposed individuals. There is a remote possibility that one or more individuals in the general population could exhibit a sensitization (allergic) reaction on contact. Such an event, while expected to be rare, cannot be absolutely ruled out. None of the ingredients in as much as 1,814 grams of this sand are banned or restricted for use in consumer products sold in Canada.

No Seashells, Wheat, Gluten, Oats, Diary, Nuts or Latex are in Sands Alive! The product does contain glycerin.

So an extremely rare allergic reaction – which almost sounds like a “must put in” to deal with the possibility of reality. In addition, they claim it is safe if ingested and that it contains a germ and bacteria resistant formula (that is proprietary) so no bacteria grows in the sand. They also claim they are the only compound in this marketplace that can guarantee this.

Sands Alive

Despite my husband’s woes, clean up was fast and easy. (It’s not like actual sand that gets into everything.) It can go far, through, so recommend you play on a table and keep most of the sand in the box. However, it has no smell and is infinitely more friendly than some other, stinkier molding products – and it’s gluten free!

The Sands Alive play sets are priced from $20-30 at Toys R Us online, so this is an affordable toy for kids and for presents. They suggest age 3+ for their toys but say the sand is safe for all ages. Learn more about Sands Alive at their FAQ page.

I’m giving Sands Alive Glow a 4.5 out of 5 for a fun, nontoxic toy.

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Gina <![CDATA[Save Money with Your Prepaid Wireless Phone at Giant Eagle]]> http://embracingimperfect.com/?p=20676 2015-07-15T10:26:53Z 2015-07-13T18:38:23Z Let’s face it: you love your prepaid wireless phone. It’s easy, affordable and it’s a no brainer that that’s the phone you’re getting for your grade school child who (maybe) loses things from time to time. Don’t have a phone yet? Feeling behind the times because of it? I totally know that feeling. When I first started going to blogger events, I was a work at

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Let’s face it: you love your prepaid wireless phone. It’s easy, affordable and it’s a no brainer that that’s the phone you’re getting for your grade school child who (maybe) loses things from time to time.

Don’t have a phone yet? Feeling behind the times because of it? I totally know that feeling. When I first started going to blogger events, I was a work at home mom with a landline. There was absolutely no way I could justify the high cost of getting my own phone when I was hard pressed for budget to feed my kids real food, buy nontoxic products and invest into therapies that help them thrive. My husband had a smartphone paid for by his job, so I could not simply add on an account. And $80 plus dollars a month for a phone that I’d only use at conferences a few times a year? No way! But how would I handle a conference? The answer was a prepaid wireless phone – a perfect fit for me! You can get an awesome phone like a TracFone® for a great bargain, and you are also not chained to a burdensome contract, don’t have to freak out (or tack on extra insurance monthly payment) should the phone be lost and don’t have to lay out lots of money for a monthly plan you don’t need.

Plus, this is an ideal first phone for a kid! A few weeks ago, I talked about getting a phone for my daughter for the 7th grade. A prepaid TracFone® or NET10® would be an easy and worry-free solution so my daughter can get me in an emergency. Amelia is pretty responsible, but every now and then something goes missing from her schoolbag for a few days, and she’s had her share of lunch gear. Sending her to school with a $700 phone? Not going to happen.

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“Who wants a phone of their own?” “Me! Me!!”

Prepaid wireless was the simplest, most affordable way for me to get out on the road during my few conferences per year and is the perfect accessory for new and aspiring bloggers. No contract. No monthly bills. No credit checks – that’s a good thing for those of us who won’t qualify for a regular smart phone! And you can even keep your phone number, so no new cumbersome number to memorize. When you’re getting your feet wet in this field, you don’t want to spend a lot of money for something that you’re not going to use!

Best of all, it’s easy to refill cards at your local grocery. We hit the grocery store no less than 3 times per week for fresh produce, so it’s a no-brainer to add things to our cart. With all those trips, I’d use any excuse to accrue points through my loyalty card – and right now, the timing is perfect! From now through 7/29, Giant Eagle is running a promotion to help you out with your prepaid services. Until 7/29, get a coupon good for $5 off your next shopping trip when you spend $25 or more on participating prepaid wireless products. Visit your local store for details and check out those wireless cards by the gift card end cap or near customer service.

But that’s not the only benefit – you can also earn fuel rewards on all prepaid wireless products that your purchase there, to the tune of 10 cents for every $50 you spend. You may even be eligible for extra rewards through your credit card for grocery purchases.

Love it – save money with rewards, fuel points and NO ridiculous monthly bills. My lucky girl may actually be getting a phone of her own!

Buy Prepaid Wireless Cards at Giant Eagle and SAVE : Thru 7/29, Giant Eagle is featuring a coupon good for $5 off your next shopping trip when you spend $25 or more on participating prepaid wireless products.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Giant Eagle. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Gina <![CDATA[Recovering Autism with Biomed]]> http://mom-blog.com/?p=2692 2015-07-09T13:25:11Z 2015-07-09T12:00:07Z Looking back is a good thing, sometimes. You need to see where you’ve been to understand how far you’ve come. This is an article I originally posted on December 13, 2010, before our journey had really started. The photo above was taken a few years earlier at Zoe’s 3rd birthday. Those two photos are within a short span of each other. On the left, before she blew

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Looking back is a good thing, sometimes.

You need to see where you’ve been to understand how far you’ve come. This is an article I originally posted on December 13, 2010, before our journey had really started. The photo above was taken a few years earlier at Zoe’s 3rd birthday. Those two photos are within a short span of each other. On the left, before she blew out her candles; on the right, after eating the cake. I remember this birthday clearly because shortly after the photo on the right, she was so upset she had to be put to bed, and all the kids went home while the grown ups filled up their wine glasses. She missed a portion of her own birthday. Mama guilt like that is not easy to forget!

Yet if I had *just* opened my eyes, it’s clear that the meltdown was maybe not the influx of people and sensory like we thought, but the influx of gluten, dairy, soy, dyes (that cake is BRIGHT GREEN), and sugar and God knows what else. It took almost no time at all after clean eating for her to last through an entire birthday party, even if it was not her own.

Without further ado, here is my post from just a few months before we started changing their diets, when we embarked on biomed to help my daughter stop having horrible birthdays.

So this all started a while ago. I had a friend from when I used to live in the Poconos who cured her son of all kinds of disorders just by realizing that he had extreme allergies to most of what he ate. We talked a number of times but frankly, I was so naive I didn’t believe Zoe had autism for a long, and I didn’t think sensory issues were a big deal because I’d seen amazing progress from therapy. I blindly thought things could only get better on their own. Besides, my friend’s children had allergies issues, my kids had disorders.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

OK, go ahead, laugh at my expense.  So many people had no idea what autism is, for pete’s sake, they can’t even figure out what causes autism, why some kids get it while others don’t, why it affects boys more often, etc. I’m not alone in my cluelessness and I worked for many, many years to be hopeful and optimistic.

The thing is it’s become a ridiculous amount of work to get Zoe…well, anywhere. It’s a battle for her to wear a shirt, never mind a coat, even in cold weather. Sleep is a nightly battle…don’t even recall the last time I slept all the way through. And she’s in no way ready for kindergarten, much less full time school!

Then, 2 years or so after that last talk with my Pocono friend, a bunch of things started happening. First, my daughter’s aide tells me about melatonin. Then my pastor tells me he used to be a vitamin guy for years and knows what supplements do what, and even recommends a few. Next, my neighbor tells me she’s going to a DAN doctor, something, believe it or not, I’ve never even heard of! (UPDATE: DAN = “defeat autism now”, and DAN doctors are those who take an in-depth and usually biomedical approach to relieving the symptoms. Doctors no longer refer to themselves like this. They are now integrated with MAPS: The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs.) A few more weeks go by. Zoe gets harder and harder to get on the bus, owing to her refusal to wear a shirt or a coat as it gets colder & colder. Sleep is nearly impossible. My ability to create solutions reaches new heights of creativity but saps my energy.

Then this week, as my mind is broadening to find new solutions, I am contacted by someone from my daughter’s school who has lots of ideas for me after reading my blog. AND this weekend met more people who told me great things they heard about taking children off dairy, and how spaghetti squash can replace our house’s staple of wheat pasta.

In addition to the challenges with Zoe, we are now having issues with Amelia. Dietary? I don’t know. Zoe’s sleeplessness can be keeping up Amelia. It’s one of those things it’s easy to forget: how is this affecting my other child?

So we begin, gently, with a few more supplements, and replacing dairy. And look, the supplements have already arrived! Wish me luck.

 

Today, we know that food caused so many of her struggles, and were easy to fix and heal completely. She sleeps just fine, she wears clothes even alone at home and I have no problem dressing her for winter either. If only I had seen what was right before my eyes, but I guess I have to be content that it’s all in God’s good time.

Join me at:
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Gina <![CDATA[Living in Joy While Standing in Crap]]> http://mom-blog.com/?p=11512 2015-06-26T21:10:22Z 2015-07-02T12:00:02Z   This post was originally published in January, 2014.  As we wrap 2013, I can’t help but admit it was a craptastic year. As a blogger and professional, things went well, but other than that? Financial crap hit us I don’t know how many times. And the kids? Oh man. I often feel like we are back to where we started. I have no hope

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This post was originally published in January, 2014. 

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As we wrap 2013, I can’t help but admit it was a craptastic year. As a blogger and professional, things went well, but other than that? Financial crap hit us I don’t know how many times. And the kids? Oh man. I often feel like we are back to where we started. I have no hope on some days, and please don’t even ask me about this school year. It’s been hard, challenging, painful. And there has been PLENTY of unpleasant poop to deal with too – figurative and literal poop.

And those are the things I can talk about; know that there is more.

But still, I feel…I don’t know. I feel GOOD, really good. I know that in my history I’ve had incidents where less than a fraction of the stuff we’ve been through in the last 12 months brought me nothing but agony. This year, though?

It’s ok. It’s all OK.

Then a friend shared this post about how God plans for some people NOT to have a wonderful life and it upset me. Not because there weren’t truthful aspects to this article about REAL Christian suffering – God’s plan for some of us to have to bear the visibly gut wrenching stuff – but because it was a dark and depressing take for believers who do suffer “things no one should have to.” It’s all about the painful part and how little  or no joy is meant in this life, but I disagree. I believe God means for  joy to be in our Earthly lives.

You’re thinking I’m an optimist.  Maybe I am now, but not naturally. I spent many years of my life courting and loving angst and darkness. I believed it made me a better writer. I’ve had LONG dark nights of the soul, I’ve battled all kinds of things in my innermost mind that I knew were off, even at the time. I’ve had depression, a brush with death, extreme fear, hypochondria. I’ve known listlessness and how pain can make you feel alive when you are dead inside. So calling me an “optimist” is way too easy.

I’ve come to understand things in 2013 that I would never have grasped in those earlier years. As I read that article about Christian suffering, I kept thinking about was the apostle Paul. This author of most of the New Testament letters never met Jesus while he was alive, only years after He’d left this Earth. Still, he had visions that were so profoundly moving that nothing could take him off the path of faith in Christ, nothing could stop him from talking about “joy” – not prison, not being severely and regularly beaten (2 Cor. 11:23), not being shipwrecked, nothing. And yes, he suffered. In 2 Cor 1:8, he writes, “…we despaired even of life.” Some of Paul’s writing took place in prison, one in particular that, as I understand, also had some nasty issues. Picture a 2000 year old prison with several inches of toilet waste around your feet.

Holy crap! I mean, oh joy?

Yes, Jesus did promise that if you are a Christian you will suffer in this life. Some will suffer what we think is more, some will seem to suffer less. Some people probably think I’m lucky, others probably pity me, and I can bounce between the two extremes myself on some days. But when the crap hits the fan around here, I know it’s for my good:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. -Roman 8:2

Christians should cling to God’s promise that ALL WILL BE WELL. And I don’t mean you’ll be cured, or terrible things won’t happen to your kids, or you won’t lose your home or job. That terrible earthly crap and more can and will happen. It will be more than you can handle, because God wants to make sure you are hanging onto HIM alone. But God’s promise to believers: that you are saved, that you can’t be lost and that the God who created EVERYTHING has something amazing waiting for you, is worth the joy of present suffering.

It’s sort of like autism poop. When I’m faced with the most toxic, smelly, rash-inducing crap from my darling daughter, I know that her system is detoxing. It’s awful and a bit frightening, but her body is cleansing itself from the bad stuff. Along with it might come nasty behaviors, too, but it’s cleansing the way for all good things ahead.

That’s bad enough, but the apostle Paul rejoiced while standing in other people’s crap. {shudder} Good grief, the stench! He must have been suffering other unpleasant stuff too. You’d get all kinds of nasty things standing in poop and piss from strangers all day: rashes, diarrhea, fleas. I see what Zoe gets from a little contact with poop – his skin must have been raw and nasty. He had that “thorn” in his side as well, some affliction – whatever that was, he struggled with it daily.

But the more you study his words, the more you can actually see him smiling when he writes of joy, because he knows this is God’s good will. He knows this will sharpen him into the man God wants him to be. He knows that when it’s all over, the suffering will end for all time and be forgotten in an eternity of joy.

It’s God’s will that my kids are where they are. That we’ve had this financial difficulty. That the school year has been challenging, to say the least. That we are still dealing with toxic poop. That, plus all that “other stuff” is going on is His will too. It’s my job to find God’s will and do it, with all my choices as a parent, a wife, a woman, a writer, a Christian.

And it’s my choice to do it all in joy, just like Paul, even when I’m, well, pooped!

Read more about Paul’s joy through crazy circumstances here.

 

Originally published Jan 1, 2014.

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Gina <![CDATA[Five summer getaways every special needs kid should have]]> http://mom-blog.com/?p=3565 2015-06-26T20:52:22Z 2015-06-30T12:00:50Z I was compensated for this post by SocialMoms on behalf of Alamo; all opinions are my own. I’ll admit it, we are theme park people!  With 2 kids with learning disabilities who need extensive stimulation, what’s better?  When it’s time to get away for the summer, we go where kid activities are at a maximum.  Here are our 5 favorite summer getaways: Universal Studios, Orlando: I LOVE this

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I was compensated for this post by SocialMoms on behalf of Alamo; all opinions are my own.

I’ll admit it, we are theme park people!  With 2 kids with learning disabilities who need extensive stimulation, what’s better?  When it’s time to get away for the summer, we go where kid activities are at a maximum.  Here are our 5 favorite summer getaways:

  1. Universal Studios, Orlando: I LOVE this park. Last time we were there, we had a A BLAST. Yes, we got gluten free food. Yes, we had meals with characters. Yes, we had early disability access to rides, disability parking and 3D rides. Go to BOTH IOA and Studios and eat at CityWalk. I can’t recommend it ENOUGH.
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  2. Hershey, PA: Yes, I live in PA, so we did this visit about a year ago.  A great time was had! First, I recommend you go late summer because some of the hotels have outdoor pools and it’s a bit north of me, so it can be chilly. Totally swimmable, but you have to ease in.  Now, chocolate and dairy are off our menu, but back then it wasn’t.  If your kids are fans of chocolate, this is a fun place.  You can take the tour at Chocolate World and go to the theme park as well.  Hershey Park has a ton of rides for preschool aged kids, so it’s a great time for kids who want to ride but aren’t big enough to get on the big coasters.  There is also Hershey Gardens, which features an awesome Butterfly Garden, which the kids will love!  We’ve stayed at Hershey Lodge and off at the local hotels, but if you stay at the Hershey Hotel or Lodge, you get tickets included with the cost – and free chocolate! Grownups, don’t miss the chocolate martini menu.

    girl and giant hershey kiss

    She wishes it was the real thing.

  3. Indoor water park: As I recently blogged, Great Wolf Lodge has an awesome water park but the beauty of it is that it’s all indoors!  This was great because during our stay it rained ..and rained and rained.  We’ve also been to another park, Coco Beach, in New Jersey.  A water park is great for special needs kids, and an indoor one is even better: not only is inclement weather not a problem, but no one has to worry about sunburn!  These parks also come with other activities (arcades, and Magiquest at Great Wolf), so your entire vacation is in one place with no travel other than getting there. We love that!
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  4. A day at the aquarium: We’ve been to Tampa Aquarium, Sea World of course, many mini-acquariums in Florida, and we have tickets for Adventure Aquarium for this summer (courtesy of our Coco Beach stay).  What kids doesn’t love an aquarium?  Many exhibits are indoors, so there’s opportunity to take cool off breaks while you watch the trainers work with and talk about the larger sea animals.  I also recommend finding aquariums that support marine life, like recovery aquariums as they are doing good work and do not in any force their animals to perform.  Your kids will think they are just having fun as they sharpen their knowledge in marine life!
    Adventure Aquarium
  5. A day (or week!) at the beach: Once again, water sports are the way to go with special needs kids.  We used to do Clearwater/St. Pete’s in Florida, but we are worried about lasting damage from the spill.  Next year, we will be checking out North and South Carolina coastlines and I am looking forward to it!  Before last year, Zoe was terrified of sand, but something happened last summer as she looked down at the sand. It was this weird, new, cool substance (like moon sand or something), and we could barely get her to take more than 2 steps onto the beach because she sat down and played with it!  Collecting seashells, learning to jump in the waves, building sandcastles, and chasing away seabirds, watching the sun go down over the ocean, followed up by a shrimp dinner…what better way to relax and have fun with your kids this summer?  Just don’t forget the sunblock.

So those are my 5 “must do” getaways.  We are going back to Disney this year, but I’m looking forward to exploring new parks and coastlines in the Carolinas next summer.  As always, if you have special requirements for your children, call ahead and find out amenities, costs (if extra), and options for your family so you can have a great summer!

 

Originally posted on 5/23/2011.

 

 

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