Payin’ It Forward With Pumpkin #AJO

It's Pumpkin Season at Dunkin (coffee, iced pumpkin coffee, and pumpkin donut)

~ Photo Provided by Dunkin Donuts through Tilson PR~

Nothing quite says fall like Pumpkin!  So I was super pumped when my friend Teresa over at Making It All Work invited me as her plus one to sample some delicious and fabulous fall treats at Dunkin’ Donuts this past Tuesday!  I have to tell you it didn’t take much persuasion as I’m a lover of all things pumpkin and it turns out pumpkin is what was on the menu!

We arrived and were greeted by  Maru who asked us if we’d downloaded the Dunkin’ Donuts app yet?

Um… but of course!

dunk

Apps rock!

Especially when they give away free stuff and this particular app does just that! Not only does this app give you special offers, it also helps you find the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts!  AND it doesn’t stop there…  you can also buy a Dunkin’ Card and pay for your purchases and/or buy gift cards to send to your family and friends for the holidays!  How cool is that?!

I know very cool right!

After we discussed the app we met Maria the store manager!  I was so impressed to learn that Dunkin’ Donuts actually allows its staff the creativity to come up with a donut of their own.  Maria’s particular store, located at 4012 Armenia Ave in Tampa, came up with a Latin infused Guava filled donut topped with a vanilla cream icing and toasted coconut.  I’m not a huge fan of Guava, but I have to say it was really good!

dunk2

My mouth was watering and my taste buds were dancing when Maria started bringing out all of the pumpkin items.

First we sampled their new Pumpkin Pie Donut

Pumpkin Pie Donut & Coffee

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

This was one of my favorites donuts, filled with a pumpkin pie flavored buttercream and then topped with a white icing and sprinkled with graham crackers!

Next we sampled the pumpkin donut and their little pumpkin counter parts the munchkins!

dd

I was begged to bring home some of the pumpkin munchkins by my little one who informed me I was “The BEST mom EVAH!” as she sat and ate them!

Win!

Oh wait…

Did I tell you we also got to try their different pumpkin coffees?

Pumpkin Beverage Line Horizontal Lifestyle

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

I couldn’t make up my mind which was my favorite:  The Pumpkin Iced Coffee or the Pumpkin White Chocolate Latte!  I guess, because the weather can run hot and cold a little further into the season I could go with the Latte on the cooler mornings and the Iced Coffee when it gets sunny and hot!

My all time favorite thing pumpkin is Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Muffin!

Pumpkin Muffin

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

I must have one of these bad boys every year when pumpkin season rolls around!  As a matter of fact I may end up going out and getting another one today!

If for some reason you’re not in a pumpkin kind of mood, but you want something a bit more hearty for breakfast Dunkin’ Donuts also offers the Angus Steak Big N Toasty!

Angus Steak Big N' Toasted

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

We were given samples of this sandwich and I can tell you a few of us took a second sample because they were really tasty!

We chatted with Mura about the things we liked the best and then thanked her for the opportunity!  As thank you for coming out she handed us each a swag bag with a lb of coffee, a cute DD mug and a $20 gift card inside!

I didn’t think much about the swag bag till later that night when a friend sent me a link to an article about a young girl name Alyssa O’neill!  My heart ached for her family and as I read on I couldn’t hold back my emotions when I learned Alyssa had suffered a sudden seizure which had ultimately taken her life. SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy) is a fear of mine and a fear for most parents of children with epilepsy, but  for this family it had become a reality.

The day before Alyssa passed her parents had received a text from their daughter about wanting to try a Pumpkin Spiced Latte and unfortunately it never came to pass, but in an effort to remember their daughter they bought and paid for 40 Spiced Lattes which were given out to strangers.  They only asked that #AJO (Alyssa’s initials) be written on the cups and that they tell the people who received them about Alyssa’s story.  Moved by this others began to pay it forward and #AJO went viral.

Immediately after reading the article I thought of the gift card I’d received and the next morning I headed out to my local Dunkin’ Donuts.  I pulled the manager aside, shared Alyssa’s story, and asked if I added a little money to the gift card could they mark it with #AJO, retell Alyssa’s story and pay it forward.  The manager agreed, I thanked her and headed home feeling like I had helped Alyssa’s family in some small way tell the world about their daughter!

ajo

I am deeply, deeply  sorry for the O’neill’s loss as no parent should ever have to bury their child, but I’m also thankful for their simple act of kindness!  People, including myself, were moved by Alyssa’s story and began sharing pictures on twitter and Facebook.  Now a simple act of kindness to remember their daughter has become a movement!   #AJO pay it forward has gone global and attracted the attention of news networks, talk shows and celebrities.  Your daughter can never be replaced, but her memory will help so many others including my own daughter, by bringing attention to Epilepsy and SUDEP!

~While I was invited to sample these products, the review and opinions on them are my own.~

Disney Should Stand With Special Needs Families And Continue To Create Magical Memories

I remember the first time we took Meg to Walt Disney World! It was for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, she was 4 months old and I was really nervous about the trip.  Meg had started having seizures just three months prior and we had spent so much time in and out of the children’s hospital they had begun to know her by name.  It was our first trip as a family and  I remember talking to her epileptologist and asking him if we should go?  Where were the hospitals?  What if she were to have a seizure at the park?  How would we handle the people around us?  Our epileptologist reassured us Orlando had great medical care for children with epilepsy “just go… enjoy yourselves!”  So we decided to go with our family, who had originally planned the getaway!

I remember arriving late and being so nervous, so full of anxiety!  The parade had already started so we made our way through the crowd and found a spot where we could see.  Erich had picked up Meg and there were these big, bright, illuminated toy soldiers marching towards us.  I glanced over  at my daughter, so content in her daddy’s arms, and I could feel my throat start to tighten and my eye begin to well, she was so beautiful and she was smiling!  I wasn’t sad!  For the first time, in our short journey, I felt like everything was going to be okay!  For that brief, but precious moment I could let go of all the fear and anxiety and just fully submerge myself in her joy!  Tears streamed down my face as the parade came to an end and we made our way to the hot chocolate and cookies stand.  My  husband looked at me and I didn’t have to say a word, he embraced me and even though we were standing in the middle of thousands of people we shared a special moment, just the three of us!

Eleven years later,  we are more informed about epilepsy and aren’t quite as nervous or scared about taking trips to Disney!  We now know with most parks or venues we can always call ahead to find out where the medical facilities are located and what their protocol is in the event of an emergency.  We know seizures can be scary, but we also know Meg’s seizures can be managed with the right combination of meds and her epilepsy should never prevent us from getting out and enjoying life.

Lately there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Walt Disney changing its Guest Assistance Card Program.  Our family could easily benefit from this program, being my daughter has epilepsy and I suffer panic attacks, but we choose not to use it!

Why?

Not because we don’t need it, but rather we’ve always felt there are other families who need it much more than we do, but knowing the program exists is comforting!

I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by the poor choices of a few and outcries of others who don’t fully understand the negative impact they’re having on special needs!  They don’t realize how their actions  can and will change the system in place that has worked so well for so many special families.  It is so important for Disney to send a strong message that they stand with special needs as they’re such a huge force and really set the standards and pave the way for other corporations.  In my heart I feel Disney will do the right thing and continue to make magical memories while still providing accommodations to special families.  As for us, we take each day/moment as it comes and try not to sweat the small stuff!  We see every day and milestone as a blessing and are thankful for those who don’t join the lynch mobs, take the time to educate themselves and fight for the rights of others.

Disney Meg1

Back to School with Special Needs

back to school

If you’re child has learning delays school didn’t necessarily stop at the beginning of summer for you.  Maybe your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and while you made plans to have a fun summer you also made plans to work towards your child’s IEP goals?  For example, our daughter went to ESY (extended school year) to help her retain and work on emerging skills in math and reading.  In addition, we joined summer reading programs and visited her school reflex math website almost daily.

Going back to school can be a stressful time for parents as we try to get everything our kids need; the school supply list, the back pack, the lunch box, the drink bottle, the new shoes, and uniforms can all put a dent in the wallet and then there’s getting your kid(s) back on a decent sleeping schedule and finding out when the school will have Open House.  It’s enough to drive you to drink!  Well, if you have any money left over to spend on it, but I digress!

When a parent of a child with special needs prepares for the new school year there’s a little bit extra to plan for and that’s what I wanted to focus on.  Our daughter lives with epilepsy which is a disorder that affects 65 million people worldwide, 45,000 of which are children, under the age of 15, living right here in the United States.  Epilepsy is a diagnosis usually given to someone who has 2 or more unprovoked seizures and a seizure, in its simplest term, is an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain.

The first thing we prepare for our daughter’s return to school is an “Emergency Information Sheet” and we make 10 – 12 copies so every person who comes in contact with our daughter has one.  On this sheet I include her name, a recent picture, medications, allergies, first aid, emergency contacts and a brief description of a typical seizure for her.  Basically I put everything I would want the school or a paramedic to know, to take care of my daughter, if for some reason they couldn’t reach me.   This is a quick reference so I would try to make it no longer than two pages.  Parenting Special Needs Magazine also offers a “Get To Know My Child” form you can find if you click the following link  –> 19_about_me_forms.

Emergency Information Sample (PDF)

Emergency Information Sample (Word)

If your child has rescue medications, like our daughter has for her seizures, call a meeting with school administration and the school nurse to find out what forms you and your child’s doctor will need to complete in order for the school to be able to administer that medication.   Also, find out where your child’s medications will be stored and who will be trained to administer them.  Some schools allow for medications to be stored in the classroom as long as they’re locked away. Another important question to ask is who administers your child’s rescue medications in the event the school nurse is off or on a school trip and are they trained. Our daughter’s rescue medication is rectal which might be uncomfortable for someone who hasn’t used it before.

I was really upset to hear about a school my friend’s son attends, not far from my daughters,  giving her a hard time about having two children accompany her child around the school, even going so far as to tell her she was stifling her child’s independence.  Quite frankly, I was disgusted!  A seizure is no joke and can happen at any time, even to a child who hasn’t been diagnosed!  Our school witnessed my daughter suffer a 15 minute seizure in the classroom and knew immediately the importance of safety and getting help! I have to give our school credit as they made the two child rule a classroom policy so as not to make my child feel different or singled out and the kids were none the wiser, epilepsy wasn’t even mentioned.

This leads me to a question we’re often asked…

How to discuss epilepsy with peers?  We’ve always been very open about our daughter’s epilepsy, we feel the more people know the safer our daughter is!  I found a book when our daughter was entering kindergarten called “Taking Seizure Disorders To School” and instantly fell in love with it!  It explains epilepsy in a very kids friendly way and even helped me discuss epilepsy with her cousins.  It’s not to long and it asks things at the end like “are seizures contagious?” We usually send it in to the teacher and ask her to read it to the kids so they know what is happening and what to do if our daughter has a seizure.

taking seizures to school

Another thing we like to do is call an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting at the beginning of the year to discuss and/or amend our daughter’s goals for the upcoming year.  It also gives us a chance to meet any new team members (if there have been staff changes) and communicate what we expect from her teachers.

We strive to make our daughter’s learning experience as normal as possible, while making sure all things are in place to keep her safe.  It is so important to stay involved and keep open lines of communication with your school.  Get to know your state as well as local laws when it comes to your child’s education and safety.  If there’s something you don’t know research it or ask another parent!  Knowledge is power and knowing your child’s rights is very important!

ben frank

5 Tips For Summer Safety

summer safety

  • Stock up on sunscreen and bug spray - Unfortunately, along with the warm summer months comes sunburns and those pesky little bloodsuckers.  We live in Florida, so we usually use sunscreens that are at least a factor 50.  As for Mosquito spray, if we plan on being out early morning or late afternoon we keep a bottle of Off Skintastic handy.
  • Water Safety -  This is a big one for us as our daughter is epileptic  and water can pose a big danger.  It doesn’t mean she can’t swim, but we do have to be smart about it!  Our Meggers is never in the pool without one of us and always wears a life jacket with a groin strap if we go boating out on a lake or in the ocean.  Did you know it take only a few unattended moments and a couple of tablespoons of water for a child to drown?  Sadly, drowning happens all to often in our state and in most cases  it could’ve been prevented! NEVER leave your children unattended around water, even if they’re strong swimmers, as accidents CAN and DO happen.  Make sure your children have the proper water safety devices they need and have them take a swim and/or water safety class to help them understand why water safety and rules are important in keeping them safe.
  • Stay Hydrated -  Our bodies are made up of 70% water and if you are planning on being out in the hot sun you need to make sure you drink plenty of water.  Make sure you drink at least 8 or more glasses of water and keep a few sports drinks around as they replenish electrolytes and contain carbohydrates that can prevent sugar levels from dropping.
  • Weather Updates -  If you live in Florida you know summer storms can pop up at a moments notice.  Check the weather before you head out for the day, if there’s a forecast of afternoon thunderstorms you might want to make your plans for earlier in the day and then maybe do a movie or indoor activity in the afternoon.  We signed up for weather alerts from our local news station that are emailed to our cell phones.  Another option, download a weather app to your smart phone to keep track of impending weather while you’re out and about.
  • Medications - As I mentioned our Meggers is epileptic and we have meds we need to keep with us at all times.  I’m still looking for a convenient med carrier to take to theme parks, but in the mean time I’m lucky because I’m able to carry the majority of Meg’s meds in my purse.  However, some meds have to stay cooler and I find a small soft lunch tote works great for this purpose.  I will often wrap an ice block in paper towels and put it in a Ziploc baggie to keep the tote cool.  We always like to make sure we have at least two or three days worth of meds with us, that way if we have an unexpected overnight stay we’re prepared.

My Summer Treasure

IT’S SUMMER Y’ALL!

How do I know this?

The kids are out of school, all the stress I was feeling about end of year IEP’s and whether or not  Meggers was moving on to 5th grade is over.  *phew* Not to mention the fragrant smell of BBQ and suntan lotion in the air and the pool is a nice temp for swimming with daddy!

Does anyone else hear the Dirty Dancing soundtrack when you look at this picture?

“Now I’ve… had… the time of my life…”

summer fun

Oh, and  there’s this…

summer table

summer crafts have officially exploded all over my dining room table!  Not that I’m complaining!  I love it when my baby girl gets creative, after all she’s my little treasure!

Which brings me to my new favorite song for the summer so far…

Treasure by Bruno Mars!

Nice Segue!

Thanks!

I’ve always loved anything with a vintage 70′s funk sound and this song will definitely get me twerking shaking my booty!

So come on…

Crank it up and lets dance!

Biannual Blogathoning My Way Back Into Blogging

I’ve been MIA from my blog lately, just wasn’t feeling it for whatever the reason,  so what better way to get back into it?

Join a Blogathon!

WHAT?

Yes… you heard me correctly!

I think I’ve officially lost my mind, but I’m going to give it a go and see if I can get my creative juices flowing again!

So, what is a Blogathon or better yet what is the “Biannual Blogathon Bash”?

Well it’s a weekend of endless blogging, not necessarily writing, it can also be getting your blog in order.  For a better explanation click HERE.

So, what are this Florida girl’s goals for this Blogathon?

  1. Get my blog in order -  There are a couple of topics I’ve been wanting to cover and organizing that content will be a big part of what I’m working on this weekend.
  2. Working on the aesthetics of my blog -  Be honest what do you think about the overall look of my blog? Leave me a comment!
  3.  Meet new bloggers -  Yep that means if you comment below I’ll be visiting your blog too!
  4. Rearranging my banana hammock –  Not as sordid as it sounds… It’s the place where I keep the other blogs I like to visit and it’s outdated and due for a dusting.
  5.  To self host or not to self host that is the question?
  6.  Should I stay or should I go – Weeding out and re-categorizing old blog posts!
  7. Use fewer exclamation marks -  I’ve become obsessed with them!

DOH!

See there I go again, I can’t help myself!

Arrrgh…

This goal might prove a little challenging.

Okay, that does it for now, I think I have my work cut out for me this weekend!

I’ll close with a big thank you and nice to meet you to the organizers.  Thanks for the awesome badge and fingers crossed this is the push I needed to get back to doing what I love!

Biannual Blogathon Bash

Epilepsy The Thief

seizure

Epilepsy is a thief! It steals my daughter for minutes that seem like hours and renders me helpless.  It brings fear!  Fear of losing her, fear she’ll be bullied, fear of letting go, fear she’ll be treated as less, but…

epilepsy has taught me we are fighters, we are stronger than we thought and we will NEVER give up or lose hope!  We are determined to keep educating and searching until a cure is found and epilepsy is locked away for good.

Epilepsy is heartbreak, but it is also happiness in the people we’ve met who we might never have known without it!  Epilepsy is seizures, fears, tests, surgeries, medications, statistics, stigmas, tears, but it will not… it can not break me!

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