Thursday, November 3, 2016

It's More than Just a Game

Our beloved Cubs won the World Series!

This season has been a wild ride and one for the record books.  Our family has followed every step of the way and today we are celebrating the first championship in 108 years with millions of others!  A day we'll undoubtedly always remember.

Our family bleeds Cubbie blue.  I have cheered for the Cubs as long as I can remember and have ensured my kiddos will pass the love of the Cubs on for generations to come.  It is so much more than a game:  it's tradition, passion, and family togetherness all rolled into one.

Each April our house is abuzz with the new season.  We dust off our gear on opening day and cheer on our favorite players and curiously check out the new additions.  The backyard is filled with, "The Star Spangled Banner," play-by-play announcing, a rousing rendition of, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and, if we're lucky, "Go Cubs Go."



It's tradition and just a normal day around our house from April to October.  It is how I will remember my oldest boy's childhood.  We knew he was going to be a die-hard Cubs fan very early on.  He'd sit through countless games each season and take it all in.  When he was a a toddler we welcomed a new member to our family:  his imaginary friend Derek Lee.  That guy went everywhere with us.  By preschool he had changed his name to Geovany Soto and spent hours catching in his paper plate mask, bib, shin guards, and crocs.  He now loves all things Javy Baez and Kris Bryant and aspires to be a Chicago Cub himself one day.






All of our kiddos cheer on our beloved Cubs.  They pride themselves on knowing the names of the players and follow along almost as carefully as their older brother at times.  A trip to Wrigley Field is a celebrated occasion and they've all taken to saving up money for a Cubs ticket there next season.

It is so much more than a game:  it's creating memories.  It binds us together.

This year has been magical from start to finish.  It all began with a trip to spring training where dreams really do come true.  A young boy, who idolizes so many players on the team, had the opportunity to get up close and personal with his heroes.  Photos, autographs, and simply soaking it all in was a dream come true.

       
The whole family got into the spirit and cheered on the Cubbies in Wrigleyville West.  We could sense that something was brewing then and all of the kids wanted in on the action.  They all had the privilege to meet some of the Cubs young stars up close and snag some autographs.  They have become prized possessions in this house.



Our Cubs enthusiasm has stretched from the mountains, to the prairie, and to the ocean white with foam.  Everywhere we went we took our Cubs gear and took a picture.  Deep down we just knew this year was going to be special.


 Our boys saved money to take a trip to a game at Wrigley Field in July.  We saw the Cubs beat the Mets in a spectacular game and topped it off with a trip to Portillo's.  A new tradition has begun.


Late this summer we vacationed in Colorado while the Cubs were in town and took in a wild game at Coors Field.  They didn't win, but it was a crazy night and one we'll always remember.  My whole family was there and we cheered our hearts out despite the cold weather and rain.


In early October we moved.  The last night in our home was spent watching the Cubs in game one of the NLDS.  We had a party and the Cubs won.  Seems like a fitting end to our time there.  Since then, we've settled into our new home and spent many nights biting our nails and cheering for the Cubs. To celebrate the postseason, I found us all a matching shirts, which we quickly dubbed our lucky shirts.  We all wore them when they won the NLDS and NLCS.  Everyone put them on for game six of the World Series and look what happened!  You're welcome, Cubs!



It all came down to one game and it turned out to be a game for the record books.  Surely it will be a legend passed down to many generations of Cubs fans.  Some of us kept on those lucky shirts, dirty and all, while others opted for another "lucky" shirt.  Whatever the combination, it worked.


It was a late, late night, but one we wouldn't have missed for anything.  Our hearts were racing and our blood pressure was rising, but in the end, we came out on top.  Today the Cubs are #1 and our family will have stories to tell for years about the amazing run of 2016.



Our love of the Cubs is much, much more than a game.  It's a common interest that takes us all over the country and brings us together right here at home.  We cheer, we hug, we high five, we strategize and reminisce at the dinner table.

Our love of the Cubs has been passed down from generation to generation.  Through the good, bad, and the ugly we stick by our boys of summer.

The family that cheers together, stays together.  

Go Cubs Go!  This was the year!









Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A New Beginning

This summer will be the fourth anniversary of the creation of my blog.  I remember starting out on this journey simply wanting to share my voice in a community of people who were able to relate.  I desperately wanted to have something for myself.  Ultimately, I wanted to feel relevant and heard.

You see, at my house, my voice often gets lost in the mix of four kids and a husband.  For a person who likes to be productive and feel purposeful, this can be a challenge.  For many years I have questioned whether being a full-time mom was right for me.  I've searched repeatedly for something to do outside of the house to not only generate income, but to feel valued and noticed.  To have some tangible reward for doing my job.

After many, many years of tossing ideas around, engaging in small side business ventures, and striving to find just the right thing, I opted to create my own business.  A legitimate business.  Paperwork filed and all!  For the past six months, I have been a business owner.

I am so excited to be the proud owner of a business I feel truly fits my personality and strengths.  A mom-centered, organized, helpful service called the QC Busy Bee.  The idea of this business is simple:  making life simpler by helping others get back some of their time.

I cannot tell you how many times I have thought to myself, "I just wish someone would come and take care of (fill in the blank)."  These thoughts are what drive my business model.

To most employers, my resume would probably illicit some eye rolls and belly laughs.  It would probably read something like this:  "I have acquired some great skills over the years staying home with my kids.  I can cook some seriously delicious meals, create a budget and manage the finances, efficiently grocery shop, plan some amazing vacations within a budget, plan fun events and parties, bake without nuts, and multi-task with the best of them."

Well, to this employer, these skills are extremely valuable and they are the very services we offer to our customers.  As we continue to build our customer base and receive feedback from the community, more services will be added.

For the most part, we are only able to serve customers living within the Quad Cities, but there are a few, such as family-friendly meal planning and planning a customized vacation, that can span all geographical areas.  

Creating a business of my own has offered me the opportunity to take control of my future and work toward a goal.  Just like anything else it will take time to grow and blossom, but I am looking forward to the challenges and rewards that lie ahead.  It will take a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it.

What starts off as a small idea has infinite potential to grow and I look forward to the journey.  I have adopted a new motto:  "The only thing standing between you and your dreams is you."  It's time to get out of the way.

If you're short on time and need some help, we're here to help!  Contact the QC Busy Bee today at qcbusybeeconcierge@gmail.com or 563-484-9402.


     


Monday, October 19, 2015

Souper Sunday

Fall is upon us and this October our family is so excited to be cheering on the Cubs this post-season.  The game times have wreaked a bit of havoc on my dinner schedule, but some early prep work has paid off.  We've managed to eat on time and watch our beloved Chicago Cubs!

The night of the one game wild-care match-up, we enjoyed some delicious Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup.  I'm always on the prowl for new soup recipes to add to my Souper Sunday collection and this one was a winner.

I found this recipe on Damn Delicious and adapted it a bit.  If you are looking for something on the healthier side that's easy to make, this is your soup!  Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

1 T. olive oil
1/2 rotisserie chicken, cut into pieces
salt and ground pepper
2 T. unsalted butter
1 1/2 t. minced garlic (found in a jar)
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. half and half

Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat.  Add garlic, mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until tender.  Stir in thyme.

Whisk in flour until lightly browned.  About one minute.  Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf, and chicken.  Cook stirring constantly until slightly thickened 4-5 minutes.

Let simmer for 20-30 minutes until all vegetables are cooked.  Add half and half and heat through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.





 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Nut-Free Fall Treat: Apple Crisp

The dip in the temperatures today sure makes it feel like fall has arrived.  The little lady and I decided to stay snuggled up in our warm, dry house today and naturally, bake something yummy!  Today we opted for one of my favorite fall treats:  apple crisp.

My mom always made amazing apple crisp and I must admit, I have been able to follow in her footsteps.  This yummy dessert is nut-free and the topping is so delicious you'll have a hard time stopping at one piece.

So, from our house to yours, here's our version of apple crisp.  Enjoy!

Apple Crisp

6-8 apples (4 cups), peeled and thinly sliced
1 c. sugar
3 T. flour
1 t. cinnamon

Topping
1 c. quick oatmeal
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
2/3 c. butter (not straight from the refrigerator, but not too soft)

In a bowl, mix the apples, sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix oatmeal, brown sugar, flour together.  Chop the butter through the mixture.

Lightly spray or rub oil in a pan.  Put in apple mixture, sprinkle topping mixture on top and back for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Top with Cool Whip or vanilla ice cream.

*May also substitute cherry pie filling or rhubarb for another yummy option



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Managing a Nut Allergy is NOT Fool-proof

A few years ago I wrote this post about our life managing our son's peanut and tree nut allergy.  With a new school year around the corner, I always find myself feeling a little nervous and weary about his safety at school.  We are fortunate the school he attends has become much more accommodating since our initial struggles, but it still doesn't take the anxiety away about the potential for a slip-up to happen.

You see, despite our best intentions, managing an allergy is simply not fool-proof.  We learned this lesson the hard way this summer and it has caused my anxiety level to increase a bit more than normal as we enter this school year.

We spent a lot of time on the road vacationing this summer.  With this brought meals in hotels and restaurants and though we check labels and ask questions, one evening we had an unfortunate mishap at the hotel happy hour.

As usual, we scanned what was available for people to eat:  fruit, cheese, vegetables, chips, salsa, and some canisters of various cracker mixes.  We scanned the mixes and noted that one very obviously contained a tree nut, the second was questionable, and the third contained Goldfish crackers.  They also had a few bowls of candy-gummy worms and Reeses Pieces.

We avoided the obvious dangers, Reeses Pieces and snack mix containing the nuts, and opted to let him munch on the Goldfish crackers and some pineapple.  Seemed like a safe choice.

After a bit we realized we had a problem.  Our son began to complain the outside of his mouth was itching and burning.  One look was all it took to know he was having a reaction.  The red, itchy rash quickly spread all around his mouth and he then told his stomach was upset.  Both tell-tale signs of a reaction.  When he said his throat felt funny and made a squeezing motion with his hands, we decided it was time to administer his Epi-pen, give him Benadryl, and call 911.

This was the first time we had experienced a nut reaction since the original incident when he was only 20 months old.  My husband administered the Epi-pen and though our son may have been scared, he was very brave.  The ambulance came and took him to the local ER where he was monitored for a few hours to make sure he had stabilized.

Later that evening he returned with my husband to the hotel.  He handled it all very well and we were relieved all turned out fine.  All-in-all, we followed the emergency plan.  We were prepared and had his Epi-pen and Benadryl on hand, so we were able to treat him in a timely manner.

While I can't say we are happy it happened, we were relieved (once it was all over, of course!) all went smoothly.  We all know what to expect now and our son did a fantastic job communicating the symptoms he was experiencing.

This unfortunate event really goes to show how diligent we have to be.  We learned a few lessons from this experience.  We should have asked for a new bag of Goldfish crackers to be opened rather than taking them out of the canister and wiped down the table with a disinfectant wipe before eating anything.

We still aren't sure if the container was cross-contaminated or the table had some nut residue on it.  Either way, this experience solidifies the importance of advocating for his safety at school and all of the small steps it takes to avoid him coming into contact with his allergens.

I'll give my little PSA regarding allergy awareness and safety at the beginning of the school year.  If your child has anything containing nuts for breakfast, please have them wash their hands with soap and water before they head off to school.  If your child has a student in their class with a nut allergy, please be respectful and follow the school's nut-free policy without complaint.

It's the little things that make a huge difference.  We all wish this wasn't the reality for our kids, but it's the hand they've been dealt.  By being mindful and working together we can all do our best to cut down on the risk of exposure and, if all goes well, avoid an allergic reaction.
    

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Kid-Friendly Recipe: Taquitos

There are times in life when we have a bit too much on our plate and activities we enjoy get pushed to the side.  My blog is one of those activities.  I am so thrilled to have recently made the decision to step away from a commitment that was sucking up my time and energy, which will allow me to get back to the things I really love:  trying out new recipes, baking, DIY projects, projects for my kids, and more!

To get things rolling again, I want to share a taquito recipe my kids have come to love.  It's quick, easy, and budget-friendly.  My kids can be a bit picky at times, but they devour this finger food recipe.  Let me know what your family thought!

Taquitos

1 pound ground beef
1 clove, garlic
1 cup salsa, more for topping
2 t. chili powder
Shredded cheddar cheese
Flour tortillas
Olive Oil

Brown ground beef and garlic.  Add chili powder and salsa and heat through.  Place a few spoonfuls of the mixture in tortillas and add some cheddar cheese.  Roll up and place seam down in a square baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Continue until all meat is used up (I usually make 8 taquitos).  Brush with olive oil and bake in the oven at 400 for 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown.  They should be a little crispy and easy to pick up!






Monday, February 9, 2015

Allergy Awareness: Please Help Be A Shining Light

Next week we are heading to the pediatric allergy clinic in Iowa City with our little guy.  It's been a few years since we've taken him to the allergist so we are all a bit anxious about what is to come. Since his allergy is severe, we do not have to take him to be re-tested each year as it is unlikely much will have changed.  It sounds strange, but I am relieved we only have to do this every few years.

When testing for allergies, the doctor performs a skin test where they put a liquid substance on his skin and watch for a reaction.  At our first appointment, back when he was 20 months old, they had to wipe it off soon after application.  The reaction to the peanut quickly spread up his back, where it was originally placed, all the way to his ears.  They generally wait ten minutes:  this took no longer than 2.

A few years later we participated in a family allergy study at the Children's Hospital in Chicago. They opted to not even do the skin test since his first reaction was so bad.  Instead, they just completed the blood test and I was so thankful he didn't have to experience it again.

At our last appointment, the allergist applied the substance to his forearm.  Within minutes he had a huge raised reaction.  When it continued to expand to the size of a ping pong ball, we asked for it to be wiped off.  No fun for our little guy.

Unfortunately, peanuts are not his only allergy.  Several tree nuts and shell fish are also on the list. We will see how Iowa City will want to proceed.  These appointments are hard, as they cause much discomfort for him and I know he feels much anxiety about the process.  Heck, I do, and they're not touching me!

Visiting the allergist every few years is a minute part of his care.  Keeping track of any change, even if it is for the worse, helps us manage his allergy on a daily basis to the best of our ability.  We also always hold on to some hope these appointments will lead us to an opportunity where he can be treated for his allergies.  There are many trials going on all over our nation and worldwide, but all in an experimental stage and not readily available to everyone.

These appointments also confirm, from a medical standpoint, that his allergy is real and something to be taken very seriously.  As silly as it sounds, there are many people in this nation who believe food allergies are made up.  They scoff at the idea of nut-free classrooms and schools, imply parents of children with allergies are being overcautious, and make tasteless jokes about people suffering from this serious, and potentially deadly, problem.  It sickens and infuriates me.

I am not one to be shushed on this matter.  In fact, I am quite outspoken.  I am willing to educate people and advocate for not only my son, but others in his position.  When it comes to life-threatening food allergies, ignorance is not bliss and when I come in contact with people unwilling to understand the seriousness of his condition, I press harder and bring the level of education and awareness to a whole other level.

While I don't expect those who haven't walked in our shoes to fully understand, I do hope they are willing to look outside of their own desires and see the big picture.  It is time for the insensitivity in this nation to stop and for the narcissistic behavior to end.  Food allergies are real, the rate of people affected continues to rise, and people can (and have) died from them.  It is no laughing matter and those who drag their feet and do not accept the seriousness of this condition frustrate me.

If you've made it this far, thanks for staying with me.  I am going to challenge you to be a light in the life of people who must manage this condition diligently each day.  Next time you hear someone complaining about nut-free snack lists, classrooms, or activities, speak up.  Be a voice of support and empathy.  Positive influences outside of those living with a food allergy are needed.  If each person who complained was met with one of support for these children and their families, it would begin to make a difference.

My son is an amazing young boy who happens to have life-threatening food allergies.  He is kind, loving, creative, and thoughtful.  He should not be defined by his food allergy and excluded from activities because of it.  He should live in a society of acceptance and one of empathy and kindness, rather than one of hostility and cruelty.

We have been blessed with a wonderful support system of family and friends.  My son's peers have rarely viewed the modifications made for his allergy negatively.  Sadly, at times, it has been the parents who have struggled.  Since preschool, he has been blessed with peers who have been aware of the dangers of his exposure to nuts and very protective of him.  I hope, as he grows older, this continues.  I pray the lights in the children continue to shine and the next generation is filled with kindness and acceptance of those who may be a bit different than them.