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Happy Happy!

December 25, 2011 1:33 am | 16 Comments

Yes, we’re still alive and kicking here in FL. Graham turned FIVE this week and things are crazy as always. Hope to be back to blogging one of these days but in the mean time, happy holidays!

Casey

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It all started innocently enough with an email several months ago from Michele. She and her husband JR would be in Orlando in October and asked if I wanted to meet up. Hells yeah I did. Michele is one of my favorites and that coupled with the opportunity to ditch my family was all I needed to say yes. As it turned out, Jen would be making the trek too. Double score. And Sprite was to accompany her mom. A Disney Trifecta!

The plan was to meet up on Monday at Epcot for a day of frolicking and fun. We have been making several times monthly trips to Disney since we bought passes but this was my first kidless trip since having kids. I was beyond excited and decided to stay over Sunday night to avoid the Monday traffic rush.

When Sunday finally rolled around, it was rainy and dreary and I was a little stir crazy to get out the door. Jamie suggested I head out early and I barely heard him over the sound of my car squealing away. The thought of an empty hotel room just waiting for me to lounge in was more than enough motivation to make it through the rainy two hour drive.  I put the pedal to the metal and happily rocked along to some grown up music.

I got to the hotel and something was odd. There were only two other cars in the parking lot and the place felt a little like the Hotel California. There were winding hallways leading to more winding hallways and when I finally found my way to the check in desk, the creepy check in dude asked me if I was staying alone. This was probably a standard question but in my head, I could imagine him chopping my limbs into tiny pieces and burying them around Orlando.

After I got to my potential death chamber room, I texted my peeps to let them know I’d arrived safely. I heard back from Michele that they were hanging at their hotel and I was welcome to come over. A little while later, I knocked on her door with two six packs of beer. Apparently, that is the secret handshake to becoming fast friends with JR.

After the initial meet and greet, I informed Michele and JR that I am a lightweight and can no longer hold my beer the way I once could. That didn’t stop me from trying. A couple of beers in and I informed my hosts that I would be cabbing it back to my hotel when we were done hanging. We spent the evening drunkenly (at least I did) laughing away and having a great time. Michele and JR are good eggs and I look forward to the opportunity to throw back a few with them again. When my six pack was empty, Michele summoned me a cab and I returned to my creepy hotel. Leaving my car keys behind with former internet strangers and new found drinking buddies.

Suffice it to say, I survived the overnight and got my car back the next morning when Michele picked me up.  But don’t think I wasn’t a teensy bit worried when she was a few minutes late. I imagined her hot tailing it around town in my mommy mobile doing all sorts of sordid things. But she pulled though and we headed off to Epcot to meet Jen and Sprite.

Disney with bloggy pals was a blast. We spent the day competing for Sprite’s affection (though this was my third time meeting her so I had a secret advantage). We waited in lines and rode some rides. We chatted about blogging and kids and life like we were old friends. I tried to keep my Disney claustrophobia at bay (seriously, it was PACKED) and Jen got to accompany me to the parking lot as I got turned around and lost my car. Not a very good track record for me, being without my car twice in one day.

And that, my friends, is the story of the time I left my car with internet strangers. Strangers no more, I now consider Michele and JR real friends, as I have with Jen in the years since meeting her. Thanks for the great time, guys. Here’s to more like it down the road. Now has anyone seen my car keys?

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Splat Mountain

September 14, 2011 11:03 pm | 21 Comments

Jamie took Graham on his first Splash Mountain ride over Labor Day weekend.  They are seated in the third row but this isn’t about them. Look at those crying kids in the front. Jamie told me that after the ride started, the parents were freaking out that the lap bar never went down on the kids. It was jammed up and they couldn’t lock their kids in and there was nobody around to stop the ride. So they were freaking the hell out and Jamie had his arm out the whole time thinking he was going to have to catch some random kid that came flying by. He is the real hero of this story.

Anyway, they were just fine and when they got to the end the exasperated mom found an attendant to tell them what happened. They were all “Oh. We just added those lap things like three years ago to make people feel better but they don’t actually do anything. The ride has been here 25 years without them.” So those poor people thought they were going to lose their kids the entire time and it was all for nothing.

Can you even imagine? I’m so glad it wasn’t me but I have been laughing my ass off at these poor people. Obviously I am only laughing because I knew things worked out fine. Does that mean I’m dead inside? And is that Casey Anthony in the last row?

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Where did we leave off? Summer kicked my ass big time but I survived and nobody got murdered. I’m counting that as a win. And I have actual photographic evidence that the kids are starting to get along.

We finally sold our old house. After an intense few months (those people were ASSHOLES) and a shitload of money lost, we are finally rid of it. It is best to remember that we did it for the children, not the piles of money we threw away. There is less anger if you think of it like that.

Last week, poor Elliot bolted out of her room to get me. She went in there to get dressed and found a DYING, TWITCHING MOUSE NEXT TO HER DRESSER. So she scrambled onto her bed to regain composure and then bravely came to get me. We have no idea how that fucking thing got in her room but Daddy took it outside to “find it’s family.” In the dumpster. Blech.

Lucky me killed a black widow spider on the pool pump last week. I’m not sure who I pissed off to deserve this shit but nature is definitely out to get me.

Graham is finally over his fear of death spell and is no longer laying around waiting to die. Which is good news because at 4 1/2, he could be waiting awhile.

He is, however, still waking up at night. The conversations range from superheroes to Disney trips and anything in between. A few weeks ago, after being up with him for THREE HOURS, the conversation went like this:

“Mommy is tired Graham, I need you stop talking and go to sleep.”
“Why do you always say that? How can I POSSIBLY KNOW which mommy you are talking about? Why don’t you just say I’m tired instead?”
“…….” (reaches for pillow to commence smothering)

Elliot is mostly a great sleeper but she has her moments. The other day when I thought I had finally gotten her back to sleep, she popped her head up and said “Who let the dogs out? Who who who who?”. Adorable but not so much at 2a.m.

Night times are challenge for sure. But the day times have been oh so much better. Our somber, rarely happy, frequently enraged boy has turned into a sweet, snuggly guy who I just can’t get enough of.

Sure, we have seen glimpses of Angry Graham, mostly when he has been exposed to chemicals of some sort. I’m still waiting on that bubble I ordered for him to live in.

Which brings us to school. Our new preschool has been amazing about minimizing the amount of toxins the kids get exposed to. I’m talking changing cleaning supplies, removing markers from the classroom and even the teachers not wearing perfume to school. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Last week, Graham started the afternoon speech program at the local elementary school. On those days, I pick him up from preschool and drive him over. He got in trouble both days for trying to hit the teacher and refusing to do anything they asked. Then he was an overall jerfkace when I picked him up each day. I corresponded with the teacher to see what it could be and she assured me that no, there were no perfumes or odors on the class. She seems like a tough cookie and I could tell she is annoyed with my kid (and thinks I have a bratty kid who I don’t discipline). Understandably so when he acts like that so I want to know why. Yesterday at dropoff, I smelled it, heavy perfume from one of the two teachers in the class. Perfume is an instant trigger for both of my kids and they go from zero to asshole instantly. So, I had to do the uncomfortable and email his teacher to say that not only was I sniffing her, I smelled an offending odor and could she please cease and desist on that shit. Talk about awkward. She hasn’t responded to my request yet and I see her today at 1. Shit. Shit shit shit.

This year is the first time I have ever experienced a car line. It is exhilarating stuff, really. The fact that a teacher actually buckles and unbuckles my kids in the car and I don’t have to fight them through any parking lots is pure bliss. The downside is the waiting. You have to get there pretty early to get a good spot in the front, so early we go.

The days where I have to pick up Graham from speech are a different story. The elementary school car lines are insane. I’m talking arriving twenty-five minutes early and the line is already out to the main road. Yesterday was the first day of project “screw the car line”. I parked a mile away and rode a tandem bike to get my kid. Oh yes, I did. And I rocked that damn thing. No, you may not see a picture.

So, that’s the update in the land of HAGAY. We are getting there. How’s you?

I heard something about Stacy being the new go to gal for random. Check her out!

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I’m rejoining the Spin Cycle this week after almost a year long hiatus. Sorry Jen. It’s not you, it’s me. Really. Food has been a major culprit in my absence so this week’s topic of “food” seemed pretty dead on.

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When we last talked about food over at HAGAY, I was spewing a dye-free lifestyle on the world. Which I totally stand behind but we’ve since added a few (hundred million it seems) other no no’s to the list. We are currently gluten, casein, soy, artificial dye and preservative free PLUS we are on a low phenol/salicylate/amine diet. When I say we, I mean Graham and Elliot since I am a coward and do not practice what I preach. I have my own health concerns and should really be following the same restrictive diet but I have yet to do so. Shame shame, I know your name. It’s Casey.

In addition to their limited diet, my kids also suffer from chemical sensitivities. That means cleaning products, paint fumes, gas fumes, new carpeting/construction smells, perfumes, perfumed soaps, shampoos, sunscreens, CHLORINE, the list goes on. It manifests itself a little differently in each kid but there is no denying the symptoms that come on when they are exposed to such toxins. Which sucks because hello, people dump perfume on by the gallon before leaving the house. And preschools try to be proactive and Lysol the shit out of their classrooms. All things that a normal child would be fine with but my poor kids are far from normal.

When people ask about the kid’s allergies, I see it as an opportunity to inform them of the unhealthy food supply we feed our kids by the pound-full. By the time I get to talking chemical intolerance, my mouth is talking a mile a minute. As I talk, I can see their eyes grow big and their mind start to say “cuckoo cuckoo, that bitch is CRAZY”. And I am crazy, but I have seen firsthand what the effects of toxic (and some not so toxic) foods and chemicals can do to a child. I have spent countless hours reading and rereading the medical research on on the subject. I have earned a PhD from the College of Google.

My kids have what’s called a Phenol Intolerance. Just a brief exposure to any of the above mentioned toxins and we’re in for a few days of hell. In addition to the chemical phenolic compounds (food dyes, perfumes, chlorine, fumes), phenols are in most foods too, foods otherwise considered healthy. The biggest offenders are tomatoes, grapes, apples, berries, cucumbers, citrus, bananas. Vinegar, vanilla, lemon juices, cinnamon and most spices used in cooking. Pretty much anything with flavor is off limits for them. Symptoms from eating offending foods (for my kids) are: difficulty going to bed and staying asleep (read: UP ALL EFFING NIGHT), hyperactivity, aggression (fighting each other violently), dark circles under the eyes. Graham gets really mean and defiant and he can’t sit still. He walks around with his fists bunched up all day and will hit us if we come in his path. Elliot turns into Linda Blair and gets headaches. She gets a swollen, itchy rash if any perfumed soaps or fabrics touch her skin. She is still recovering from wearing a hand me down dress over a week ago because the dress was washed in scented detergent. I get the urge to get in my car and drive. But I don’t, because I know their behaviors are the chemicals talking. I try to calmly buckle down and wait it out, but it’s hard. I have the same allergies and get restless leg syndrome and insomnia if I eat tomato sauce or dairy for dinner. It is seriously crazy shit.

I’m not exactly sure why my kids are so sensitive to all of these things but I have some theories. They both had prolonged antibiotic use (from both having ongoing ear infections early on) which weakened their immune systems and they haven’t fully recovered. Graham is more sensitive to things but they definitely both react. They are genetically predisposed to the food sensitivities because everyone in my family seems to have them.

There are only a few things we can do to limit their symptoms. I send their own hand soap and cleaning supplies to camp when they go. We have a salt water pool at home which doesn’t seem to affect them but other pools do. We usually avoid highly chlorinated pools but I let Graham go in the splash park at Busch Gardens this week.  He is still reeling from the effects of the chlorine and his behavior has been horrible. We give the kids nightly Epsom salt baths to help their bodies release the toxins. We recently started using a product called No-Phenol to help them process the phenols but I’m not sure how well it’s working. We put GABA-magnesium cream on them daily to help and give them amino acid supplements that naturally help their bodies process toxins. The rituals are crazy but necessary. Because he has the same gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms as kids on the autism spectrum, Graham sees a DAN doctor for guidance with his supplements.

So, their diet is seriously limited. Pears and thickly peeled Golden Delicious apples are the only two fruits they can have. I make their own “ketchup” out of pears, brown sugar and citric acid. I scour the internet for safe recipes to make that won’t make them crazy (BTW, here is an awesome meatball recipe where you can hide vegetables in and they won’t even know! I know!). We make batches of pancakes and waffles to freeze in advance. We supplement the shit out of them to make sure they’re getting enough nutrition and I buy every cookbook containing ideas to sneak nutrition into them with their limited diet. I join the Facebook groups and newsgroups on the subjects and benefit from other people’s wisdom. We are still working out the kinks in their diet and it seems like we have more bad days than good but we are getting there slowly but surely. In the meantime, I maintain that I’m not crazy. You believe me, right?

Some GREAT resources for limited diets (all three have cookbooks available to purchase):

The Feingold Diet

The Failsafe Diet

Nourishing Hope

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On Dying

July 15, 2011 3:27 pm | 18 Comments

“I DON’T WANT TO DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”.

It is 4 a.m. and we are in the middle of another all-nighter. I awake to the sound of sobbing and race down the hall toward him. He is curled up in the corner of his bed, rocking back and forth. He tells me again that he doesn’t want to die, that he is just laying there waiting to die. He asks how much longer we are going to be his mommy and daddy. When are we going to die too? He doesn’t want that either.

It’s enough to rip my heart right out of my chest. I try to comfort my baby boy but I can’t. Tears are streaming down my face too and I tell him he’s not going to die for a long, long time. Mommy and Daddy aren’t either. I sit there in the dark room with the sound of Graham sobbing and the gentle hum of the fan in the background. I rub his back and try to assure him that he is going to live a long, happy life. I tell him he has nothing to worry about. He eventually falls back asleep while my mind races. This scene is repeated in similar formats at least twice a week.

At four-and-a-half, my boy has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He worries about the “what if’s” and sees the bigger picture. Clearly, a thinker and I’m proud but I’m also scared shitless.  He’s too smart not to call my bluff on some of life’s bigger questions.

“Don’t put that checker in your mouth, Graham, it could get stuck in your throat.”

“Then what will happen?”

“I would have to help you get it out”

“What if you didn’t help me?”

“I would, I would help you get the checker out of your throat.”

“But what if you DIDN’T?”

“You wouldn’t be able to breathe.”

“Then what would happen?”

“Uh… ”

“What Mommy? What would happen if I couldn’t breathe and you didn’t help me? What? WHAT WHATTTTT?”

The simple answer never suffices, I always have to tell it like it is. And then he’s up at 2, 3, 4 a.m., worried about dying and thinking about the consequences of all of the dangerous things I’ve warned him about. He’s scared of a stranger taking him from his mommy and daddy, of a fire in the house where he won’t be able to get out, of being stuck underwater and not being able to breathe. The list goes on. I’m scared of all of these things for him but I dare not say it out loud.

The problem with these all night cry-fests is that we don’t have the answers to give him. He knows that we’re his mommy and daddy and it’s our job to keep him safe. We talk about the reason we have rules like holding a grownup’s hand in the parking lot and why it’s not ok to ever swim without a grownup present. We practice fire drills to make sure they know how to get out of the house if the real deal ever took place. We talk about all of the “what-if’s” for different situations and how to handle them, in hopes that preparedness will help ease his mind. It doesn’t.

Jamie and I are both Atheists. It is by no means something I’m ashamed of but it is also not something I shout from the rooftops. It makes people uncomfortable to hear our different opinion on religion and I try not to rub it in. But we also have a solid belief that we don’t believe and that is the way we choose to raise our family. This puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to Graham’s fears because I don’t have an answer to give him. I can’t tell him he will die and go to heaven and everything will be just peachy because I don’t believe that. There have been so many sleepless nights where I’ve wished I could just promise Graham an afterlife and get back to sleep but it’s just not that easy. And so, we read the Atheist parenting books to look for good suggestions. We try to practically prepare our kids for life without scarring them in the process. It hasn’t been easy. In the meantime, we alternate nights on the couch so we can be there to comfort them when they need it. Let’s hope they get through their fears before my back gives out completely.

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We went to Superhero Night at the local baseball stadium this week. The kids got a kick out of meeting their favorite superheroes but Graham nearly shit his pants when he saw a Storm Trooper. All in all, a good night.

Yesterday, Jamie came across this picture on Reddit. Of our kid. We have no idea how it got up there but she was quite the hit. Today, she made Digg. The funny part is, the Storm Trooper was actually trying to get Graham who was hiding on the backside of that pillar. He knew better than to fuck with SuperGirl, she would have chewed him up and spit him out.

Uh, sure kids… that’s the real Batman! (I had to ask Batman to put down his beer so he didn’t spill it on my kids.)

Who would your money have been on? I’ve seen  SuperGirl throw a tantrum and there’s no doubt she’d be victorious against any enemy….

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Saying Yes

June 1, 2011 3:25 pm | 21 Comments

One simple word can make or break their moods. It can make or break mine too. I’ve been trying to be more cognizant of this fact and give in a little bit. Meet them in the middle. Say yes.

Yes to the cheesy horsey ride at the mall turned a tantrum filled afternoon around.

Yes to playing superheroes transforms Clark Kent into Superman himself.

An early morning trip to the park before school..

To chase pretend bad guys away (Captain Hook, Darth Vader, Emperor Zurg)

Afternoon swims, popsicles after dinner, jeep rides around the block, water balloon fights, bubbles in the tub, just one more book before night night. So many smiles in response to a simple yes.

What have you been saying yes to lately?

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Hi, I’m Casey. It has been two months and four days since my last blog post. I could list a bunch of shitty excuses (Disney Trip, Elliot got her tonsils out, Elliot’s birthday, I got my period a couple of times, it’s summer in FL and we like the pool, a blade of grass moved on my street), but you don’t really care about those. Let’s just focus on me being back, shall we?

Jamie got all excited on a recent date night over the below menu item. Apparently being “boned tableside” is not the same thing he was expecting:

Why, fortune cookie saying maker uppers, why?

I picked up a “lifesaver” board game for the kids the other day at a thrift store. You know, shit like stranger danger and fire safety which I though would be good for them. It was only after I got the game home did I realize that there are some soul searching questions included in the game:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is the answer “yes, please”?

Is Disney making their princesses with penises these days? Belle has an impressive, uh, unit, wouldn’t you say?

The nastiness that was Elliot’s tonsils. She handled the surgery like a champ and is back to being a fearless superhero-loving hilarious kid.

We shelled out the cash for season passes to Disney so it’s gonna be a sweaty assed, magical summer.

That’s all I’ve got for now. May your days be full of cannonballs and endless swimming. Or at the very least, tableside boning.

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We are ill-equipped to be raising a daughter in the land of princesses. And believe me, those fucking princesses are contagious. To my delight, Elliot continues to wear her brother’s outgrown superhero shirts but the princess world is creeping in. The girls in her class have the princess sneakers and backpacks and shirts and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, dunno how to keep them at bay.

So, I’ve been giving in but only in baby steps. Elliot has a few tiaras and plush princess dolls. She loves anything sparkly and I can’t deny her SPARKLES. I’ve been steering her toward fairies because somehow fairies are less offensive to me than some princess ho who sits around all day waiting for some man to come save her… I dunno. And fairies can fly.

Last night, I was reading a Cinderella book for the first time and Elliot got PISSED. At some point, I told her the chick in the blue dress was Sleeping Beauty (oops) and she would not accept my retraction. Being the last book before bed, I wasn’t up for the fight so I had to replace “Cinderella” with “Sleeping Beauty” throughout the book. And now I have to keep up the lie.

This is going to be tough since we’re taking our first ever trip to !!!DISNEY!!! next week with the kids. Fingers crossed we have an awesome time and not a continuous stream of meltdowns. I applaud Disney for being allergy friendly though, we have several gluten/casein free meals lined up around the parks.

Have I ever mentioned that my kids go to a Jewish preschool? We’re not Jewish but we all go to Shabbat every Friday and the kids celebrate the Jewish holidays at school. We celebrated Purim (which is kind of like a Jewish Halloween since they get to dress up and get treat bags and stuff) last week.  The kids LOVED it, any holiday that you get to dress up like Strawberry Shortcake and Luke Skywalker is ok in their book.

We got some awesome strawberries at the farmers market last weekend. As I was cutting/washing them to make jam, Jamie walked by and let a huge one rip. Instincts took over at that point and I fucking NAILED him in the face with a strawberry from across the room. Maybe next time he’ll keep his ass shut.

Oh my fucking GOOOOOOOOOD, our new neighborhood is heavily populated with barky fucking dogs. We have one too but stick a shock collar on her ass when she’s outside to prevent her from pissing off the neighbors. I can barely focus on writing this paragraph since Barky McBarkster is at it again. Why do people leave their stupid barky dogs outside to become everyone’s problem?

Am I the only one who weighs myself pre and post poop? I like to see what my excrement tips the scale at and believe me, I’ve had some record breaking doozies.

Graham’s behavior has continued to be awesome. His teacher commented on how great he’s been the past few weeks and she didn’t know we were supplementing him so it’s great to have proof. They do still have some sibling scuffles but they’re manageable vs the cage death matches they used to have.

During a recent tiff, I lectured the kids on loving each other and how it’s their job to protect each other and be best friends.  I asked them to tell me what I meant by that. Elliot piped in with  “If you see a crocodile, run away and tell a grown up.” Thank God they understood the point I was trying to get across.

Visit Keely Freely.

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