Gluten-Free Dining at Disney – New App Review

Last year, my younger child was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Despite it being hereditary, thus far he’s the only family member with it.  It’s very important for those with Celiac to eat a gluten-free diet.  Even though Jordan ate gluten (some days exclusively) for all of his 7 years, we learned his body was reacting negatively to it and causing him to not absorb nutrients from food.  So, his meals have to be free of all gluten products.

We have a trip to Disney coming up later this year.  It will be our second trip after learning of his diagnosis.  On our February trip, we had pretty good experiences at the full service restaurants we went to.  Most were able to cook special GF items (GF Mickey waffles FTW!) or tell us what items were already GF that we should try.

One night I was tired (Princess Marathon weekend, and I was running) and just wanted to eat a quick dinner at the pool.  I went to the counter service line and asked what they could do that was GF because nothing on the menu looked like it would work.  The chef rummaged around the freezer a little and came up with a frozen package of Udi’s hamburger buns and announced he could have a burger with fries, but the fries would take a little while because she had to heat up the separate fryer.  I told her burger = good, and skip the fries because he doesn’t like them.  I was able to substitute chips instead.

That worked out well, but I really don’t feel like taking that chance all the time.  I’d like a little more knowledge about what’s GF safe and what should be avoided.   I use a Disney dining app (not by Disney) extensively.  What if they had a GF version?  Well, that company didn’t make one, but a quick search of the app store brought up an app called Gluten Free Disney Dining by Calypso Kid.  I figured for $1.99 it was worth a try.

Net net, I was quite pleased with it and think it will be a great tool before and during my vacation.  I put together a little video to talk about my experience in more depth and why this app is so important.

Just LOVING that thumbnail shot.  Trust me, the rest of the video is better.

How have you managed your food allergies at Disney?

 

Showing Our Disney Side

Right now, Disney Parks is running a great campaign that is totally up the alley of the Pixie Dust Girls. It’s called “Show Your Disney Side” and it’s something that a lot of people are having a great deal of fun with.

Everyone has a Disney Side- that fun-loving adventurous spirit that comes out to play when you’re feeling the Disney magic! In our house, I’m not sure we have a side other than our Disney Side!

We were selected by Mom Select and Disney Parks to host our own Disney Side party. We received a lovely kit to help make our party even more special. We printed out invitations, did some crafts from Spoonful,  had a photo booth, and made lovely snacks.

Sully Cupcakes!

Sully Cupcakes!

We also watched FROZEN, newly out on DVD.  That was pretty much the highlight of the night for me.

frozenWell, except for one other thing.  We were able to do something at our Disney Side party that made it awesome.  You see, I’ve always been jealous of all the “You’re Going To Disney” videos out there.  In our house, it wouldn’t work to do it as a surprise.  I mean, we go at least once a year, and the kids love planning as much as I do.  But this time, we had the chance to do something that meant as much to me as it did to the recipient.  A friend of Sarah’s, can you believe it, has NEVER been to Disney.  She’s always wanted to go, but for whatever reason, her family hasn’t been able to work it.  This year, we planned to go for Thanksgiving, and thought the time was right to bring a friend for Sarah.  Of course, she wanted it to be this friend.  We got to give her the surprise of her life, and boy was it awesome.  It truly brought the spirit of Disney Side home to me.  I can’t wait to for her to explore her Disney Side and for us to see the parks through her eyes.

On behalf of everyone here, we CANNOT WAIT!

The “Special” Treatment on Disney Cruise Line

Earlier in the fall, my family was invited to be on the “Disney Magic Re-Imagined” media sailing. Since so many people asked me what’s it’s like to travel with a special needs child on Disney Cruise Line, I put together this post to give you an idea of what to expect and how to make your cruise as successful as possible for your whole family.

For the junior cruiser, the biggest draw of the ship is probably the kids clubs. These are the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab, and they were among the newly “re-imagined” areas debuting on this cruise.  In the Oceaneer Club, kids aged 3-12 will find Andy’s Room from Toy Story (climbing, slide and trampoline), MARVEL’s Avengers Academy (video games and the chance to become Iron Man), a Mickey Mouse Club section (interactive play), and Pixie Hollow (drawing and princess/Captain Hook costumes).

IMG_0595

Hamm showing his #disneyside

Connected to the Club is Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, also geared to children 3 to 12 years, where kids can play games, perform educational experiments and enjoy a wide variety of supervised activities throughout the day. The Magic also has a nursery for younger guest, and older kid hang out/socialization areas, but based on the age of my son (7), our experiences were solely at the Club and the Lab.

IMG_0596

The big screen in the Oceaneer Club

One of the things I was most curious about was how these clubs accommodated children with special needs.  Since my son is on the spectrum, we don’t take a smooth-running vacation for granted.  We don’t know how he will react to new things and for the sake of those supervising him and the other kids, we want to do everything we can in advance to make sure that he can have as great a time as we do.  We also have an older child with food allergies, and while she’s old enough to fend for herself, a lot of the kids coming into the club aren’t, and that can be a source of concern for many parents.

IMG_0591

We all want to play in Andy’s Room!

I got to take a tour during the Open House, which is the only time parents are allowed in to see all the fun.  To answer some of my questions,  I had the chance to speak with Gabe, the Youth Activities Coordinator in the Oceaneer Club about how they work to make sure the ship is as accommodating as possible for all needs.

All aboard for Marvel's Avengers Academy

All aboard for Marvel’s Avengers Academy

I learned from Gabe that:

*Each kid in the club wears an RFID bracelet, much like the Magic Bands in the park.  Only people authorized to pick up your child can do so, which gave me extra piece of mind.

*All cast members who work in the kids clubs are required to take disability awareness training two times a year.

* The youth facilities are all wheelchair accessible, with the exception of the slide in the Andy’s bedroom section of the Oceaneer’s Club (just no way to do that as you can see in the picture below).  However, one of the pluses of the new layout of the clubs is it allows them to keep track of the kids in the spaces better than before with the old floor plan.  Kids are able to freely and safely move in between the two spaces which keeps everyone happy.

Where the slide exits

Where the slide exits

* Counselors are trained in use of EpiPens.  All of them.  Every kind.

* Kids can eat meals in the club but no outside food or drink is allowed.  Based on my experience in getting special meals for my nut allergic child, they have plenty of food on board to suit most any diet, and they are knowledgeable about ingredients and preparation methods.

I asked Gabe to tell me from his perspective what’s the most important thing a parent can do to ensure that a child has the best possible experience in the Club.  He said that when you are registering your child online for the clubs, make sure you provide as much detail as possible.  Not just a diagnosis or label, but truly tell them who your child is.  They read these forms, and take notes.  They want to maintain the environment you have at home, so if you have a way of redirecting your child or encouraging them to maintain a standard of behavior, let them know.  At the start of every cruise, there is an open house.  Go.  Talk to the cast members in the club.  Ask them questions.  Tell them about your child.  They want your child to love it as much as the next kid.

For us, we have a child who must be holding something – a stuffed toy, a book, whatever.  They don’t want outside toys in the clubs (believe me, there are plenty in there!) but for us, they just asked that we label the toy and be aware that it could be lost (we were ok with that!).

IMG_0597

So much stuff to do here!

If you can’t figure out how to give this information this online, call Disney Cruise Line and the cast members who man the lines will figure out how to convey that information.  Bottom line – they want to do whatever they can to make sure the Club experience is a great one for your child.

IMG_0587

Jordan can’t believe he’s playing right next to Chip!

For us, the Disney Oceaneer Club was a happy and safe place for my son.  During dinner our first night, all I heard was “IS IT OPEN YET?!?” He was quite happy to eat a quick meal, but he really wanted to get back and play.  Apparently, there were several visits from characters that had him in a tizzy.

IMG_0605

Old friends reconnecting in the nursery area

He gravitated more to the Club (more traditional character based programming) than the Lab (entertainment for older kids) and was quite happy to spend his time coloring or wandering around in a dress-up costume.  Whenever I would go to the Club to pick him up, the cast members around him always had a funny story about something he had done, and seemed to genuinely enjoy their time with him.  Jordan made some friends there, but had no problems being in the club alone.

Dressing up in Pixie Hollow

Dressing up in Pixie Hollow

One of the counselors said that some kids don’t even know that they are at sea, and I believe it.  The Club is a wonderland of fun for any kid, and can certainly be an amazing place for kids with special needs.  To book your stay or for more information on Disney Cruises visit www.disneycruiseline.com.

Disclosure: Your mileage as a parent may vary – these are my experiences only and you should work with Disney Cruise Line to make sure your child’s special needs are taken care of to your satisfaction. Disney provided travel for me and a guest to experience the Magic.  All other expenses were my own.  

SAVING MR BANKS – a review

Last night, I got to see a preview of the new Disney film SAVING MR. BANKS.

mr banks 1

Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.

When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.

For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.

It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

Inspired by true events, “Saving Mr. Banks” is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen—and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it.

banks 2

This is a movie that I have honestly been waiting to see since September of 2012 when I got an email from the Disney list that production had started.  So many great actors.  An inside look at the making of a film classic.  A really unique story that I can totally relate to…

I mean, what writer doesn’t feel like her words are her own, and no one else should be able to do what they want with them?  I totally understood why Mrs. Travers would feel nervous about assigning the rights to someone else and losing control of characters that she regarded as family.

So when these two creative forces get together, it’s quite the fight.  One that neither side is prepared to lose.  Walt has promised his daughters he would make this movie, and he never goes back on a promise to his girls.  Mrs. Travers will not budge when it comes to the beloved Mary Poppins.  Heads butt.  Compromises are made.  Eventually, a movie happens, and that’s where this story lives.

banks 3

There are also flashbacks to Mrs. Travers’ childhood as Helen Goff, the daughter of a well-meaning alcoholic father who can’t seem to do the right things for his family.  You see the hard life that she had and how it shaped both her and her writings.  Colin Farrell plays her father and he hits all the right notes, making you feel the pain that Helen did every moment he is on screen.  You can look into his eyes and see exactly what he is feeling.  His daughter deserves better than him, but he can’t help his addictions.

SAVING MR. BANKS

Emma Thompson is getting raves her role which are totally well deserved.  For me, the biggest thrill was Tom Hank’s performance as Walt Disney.  I legitimately forgot at times that he was an actor, and just soaked into his performance as the man behind the Mouse.  Paul Giamatti also has a wonderful turn as Mrs. Travers’ driver.  My favorite moment was when she showed him she was listening to him all the time she was complaining about her trip to LA.

My other favorite moment was when Mrs. Travers walked into her hotel room and found it filled with all the Disney swag you could ever dream of.  Needless to say her response was not the same that mine would have been.

I took Sarah to see it, and at 14 she’s probably just the right age.  Younger, sure, but it’s not a kids movie, and it carries a PG-13 rating.  Nothing bad in there, you know, but it’s definitely got some subjects that would bore younger kids.

For the rest of you, GO GO GO to see this film.  You won’t regret it, and if you’re like me, you will be fantasizing about walking through Disneyland with Walt himself long after the movie ends.

In the meantime, check out this making of featurette about the music used in the film.  If you’re seen MARY POPPINS, you will know it well and even may find yourself singing along.

 
SAVING MR. BANKS opens in limited theaters on December 13, 2013 and opens wide on December 20, 2013.

Pixie Dust Girls at Sea!

Earlier in the fall, I had the opportunity to travel with Disney Cruise Line on the reimagined Disney Magic.  This ship is truly amazing.  We had a great time and I can’t wait to share all our adventures with you.

All About for Disney Magic!

As you can see, all the Gersteins were able to attend, which made it even more special.  Even little Donald made it on board!

To get my trip recap started, here’s a short clip of me speaking with Lisa Migliorati from the Walt Disney Imagineering team.  Lisa has been involved with the Disney Magic reinvention from start to finish, supervising the refurbishment at the shipyard in Italy.  Here, I got the chance to ask her a few questions about what on the ship is most amazing to her and what it was like to take this beauty out of the water and make it even better.

Let me know what you’re most interested in learning about and I will make sure I cover it in a future post.

Disney Announces Changes to the Guest Assistance Card

It’s no secret that one of the things that keeps bringing my family to Disney World time after time is the thought and care that they give to how they treat their guests.  Since in my party we have two guests with special needs (food allergies and ASD), that care becomes even more important.  It means that I can go on a vacation and not have to worry about things that other guests might take for granted.  Will my daughter get sick from her meals?  Will my son have a complete meltdown because he is terrified of the “stretch room” on The Haunted Mansion?  With the assistance of the cast members at Disney Parks, I’ve been able to relax and enjoy myself and know that my family will be taken care of.

Jordan and his Grandmother taking on the monorail at WDW

Jordan and his Grandmother taking on the monorail at WDW

One of the things that has helped us in the past was Disney Parks’ Guest Assistance Card (GAC).  I found out about the card when I asked the cast member at Haunted Mansion about the availability of a baby swap on the ride.  She looked at me a little strangely and explained that everyone could ride the ride so no, they didn’t offer it.  I sighed, and explained that my son freaked out when we took him in the stretch room and I didn’t want to go through that again, even though he loved the ride in the end.  She told me that we could ask to skip the stretch room and get on through the handicapped entrance which was located next to the exit.  She then proceeded to politely ask me if we had any “issues” – I volunteered that my son had special needs and was quite sensory sensitive.  That was all she needed to take me through the ins and outs of the GAC.  I walked over to City Hall as she explained and obtained one.  We didn’t use it that much as the lines weren’t horrible, but we did find ourselves needing it on Peter Pan’s Flight, as for some reason I cannot explain, the Fast Pass line freaks him out, but he can get on through the exit.

Never did we use it as a “cut the line pass”.  In fact, we felt pretty darn guilty in some cases, like when we got on Dumbo after 5 minutes when other people were waiting for 30 minutes.  Believe me, I’d rather wait 30 hours for Dumbo and have a kid who wasn’t affected.  We were never happy about the reason we had the card, but we were always so very grateful.

Earlier this year, a story broke, a rumor really, of a disabled guide who hired him or herself out to “rich Manhattan moms” so they could take advantage of the GAC and cut the lines with their families on spring break.  No one ever identified the guide, nor did any “moms” step up.  But unfortunately the story was out there and people started saying that the GAC was the subject of a huge amount of abuse and Disney was going to evaluate the program in the long term.

This week, I started hearing from fellow special needs parents about the phasing out of the GAC program.  Some people were alarmed, and rightly so – the GAC allowed them to have the experience that they never thought possible with their special needs kids.  The thought of having to wait on long lines with kids who simply don’t have the tolerance or coping mechanisms to do so is pretty frightening.  I remember a trip where we waited on a line and found him kicking and biting other kids, which is not a usual behavior for him!  What do you do if that has to be your norm.

I received the following from one of my Disney contacts and wanted to share it here.  Until I get there and experience it for myself, I cannot say that this will or will not work for my family.  What I do know is that when I have reached out to Disney cast members for accommodations for my kids, I’ve always found them helpful and supportive of our needs.  I hope that the Disability Access Service Card continues to provide that experience to families. I’m certainly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they will continue to reach out to members of the special needs community to hear our feedback about how the new DASC works for us.

After careful consideration, we will be replacing the Guest Assistance Card with the new Disability Access Service Card on Oct. 9 to create a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities. Until Oct. 9, we will continue to use Guest Assistance Cards. We look forward to sharing more information about the Disability Access Service Card as we get closer to implementation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How will the new program work?

The Disability Access Service Card will offer Guests a return time for an attraction based on the current wait time. Guest Assistance Cards will continue to be in effect until Oct. 9. We look forward to sharing more information as we get closer to implementation.

Did you ask for feedback in developing the Disability Access Service Card?

We are engaging disability groups, and Autism Speaks was instrumental in providing feedback as we developed this new process.

Why are you doing this?

Given the increasing volume of requests we receive for special access to our attractions, we are changing our process beginning Oct. 9 so that it creates a more consistent experience for all our Guests while providing accommodations for Guests with disabilities.

Who will be eligible for a Disability Access Service Card?

Our goal is to accommodate Guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities).

Will Guests on wish trips also use Disability Access Service Cards?

No. Guests who are visiting through wish-granting organizations will have access through a separate program.

What should Guests do if they have concerns?

Guests should contact Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.

 

Disney Infinity is HERE!

IS IT AUGUST 18th YET?  That’s something we’d been hearing most days from Jordan.  The smallest member of our house has been talking about little else besides Disney Infinity since we attended Disney Social Media Moms earlier in the year.

Recently, we ventured into the city to get a sneak peak at the new game.  In case you have not heard of Disney Infinity, think of it as a massive online world where your favorite Disney characters come to life, interact with each other, and travel around amazing virtual worlds.

 

1184761_10151959434228054_909054315_nHe was a little nervous taking the train.  Not sure why, it’s only a train, but still, he was nervous.  He was pretty worked up about the whole trip in general, which was fine because we were confident the experience would deliver.

We arrived at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center just before 3pm.  When we checked in, we were given name tags with our “character team” on them.  Our team was “Peter Pan” – not sure Jordan could have been happier.

IMG_0826

Right before 3pm, we were led upstairs to experience the game for ourselves.  There were several areas set up for the event = there were the game consoles themselves, a Radio Disney DJ booth in front of a huge replica of the Disney Infinity Toy Chest, and sketch artists – more on them later.

IMG_0821

We were able to find an empty console manned by one of the cast members who had been on the creative team for the game.   His name was Marcus, and unfortunately for me, he didn’t come with the game.  He was super smart, fun, and most of all, patient with Jordan as he explained how to play the game.  First, they picked a character for Jordan to be – out of the 20 or so, he picked Sully.  Not sure why, but he was rather insistent on the big monster.  Next, they switched out the character that was in the game for Sully.  You got to see Sully magically “appear” in the world.  Then, Marcus showed Jordan how a hex-disc could bring in Mickey Mouse’s car for Sully to ride in.  That was quite a bit of fun.

After playing for a good 15 minutes, Jordan decided to let me have a turn.  I told Marcus I was a little worried about Jordan being overwhelmed by the game, which I suspected might have been the case at the loud and pleasantly chaotic event.  Marcus reassured me that you start Disney Infinity at a very simple place and unlock different features and options as you go.  That helps you grow with the game – not everything is available at once so it’s hard to overwhelm yourself.  That also works for moms like me who DON’T play video games and have no clue what to do, but really really want to play a game like this.

Sidebar – it’s not that I can’t figure out this game or any other.  It’s that I’m afraid that if I started, I would never stop.  Sim City and I had that kind of unhealthy relationship back in the day and I’m not eager to revisit that.

So, Marcus kept walking me through the game, even when Jordan came back and pitched a fit because he wanted to bring home a Mario stuffed animal.  That was one of those, dude, keep an eye on the prize moments when he needed to be reminded we were bringing home an Infinity starter pack which was WAY COOLER than a Mario stuffie.  Marcus, you had the patience of a saint.  I, thankfully, had red wine, and was able to deal with the fitful boy.

IMG_0815

We also had a great time with the sketch artists.  There were about 5 of them set up at easels on the other side of the event space.  When the artist asked Jordan if he wanted a Lightning, like on his shirt, or a Mike or Sully, he answered no, he wanted Figment.  The artist. very politely and a little under his breath asked “Where did that come from?”  Hearing his request, another artist called Jordan over saying that she could indeed draw a Figment for him.  Jordan was thrilled and I can say we are going to frame that for his room.  We all decided to get in on the fun - Sarah got a Mike from Monsters Inc and Daddy got a Sorcerer Mickey and I got a Minnie Mouse.  All suitable for framing!

We were able to bring a Starter Pack home from the event.  The Starter Pack is platform specific (you must buy the one for your gaming system – XBox, Wii, PS3, etc) and comes with the Infinity base, the game CD and 3 characters (Captain Jack Sparrow, Sully and Mr. Incredible).  The base is the only element of the game that is specific to the gaming system.  Every other game component can be moved between systems, so if your friend has a Wii and you have an XBox, you can still get the Disney gang together to play Infinity.

Now that we have had the game at home and have been playing with it, you may wonder what’s our verdict?  The good news is the game totally lived up to the hype.  Jordan can play it at a simple level, and hopefully the more he plays it, the more settings and toy boxes he will unlock, sustaining his interest in the game.  I bought some additional characters for him for his birthday (Mater, Lightning and Violet) and that will probably hold him for a while.

I’d recommend Disney Infinity for kids who have some experience with complex game environments.  It would be hard to come into this with no idea what you are facing.  Of course, once you do immerse yourself in this world, you’ll be amazed at the way the characters perform and interact with each other.  It’s really meant for kids 6-11, but it’s one game where boys as well as girls can be equally engaged.  If you’re thinking of it for a holiday gift, definitely consider getting a few additional characters besides the 3, especially if you have a girl.  May I suggest my doppleganger Mrs. Incredible or her daughter Violet?  That was my main issue with the starter kit – it came with 2 men and a monster and no females.  But that is easily rectified.

Have you experienced Infinity for yourself yet?  What did you think?

Disclosure: I received a Disney Infinity starter kit to fascilitate this review.  All opinions about the product are mine and mine alone.  

 

 

 

Walking the Walk

One week ago today, I was lying on the ground of Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island after having completed a 26.2 mile walk through NYC.  During the night.  In a bra and tiara.  HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 4.57.16 PM

I was a participant in the first ever MOONWALK NYC.   Moonwalk is an event that has taken place throughout European cities for several years.  This was the inaugural event in the States, and I am pleased to say I was a part of it.

It all started when I saw a post on my friend Amy’s blog.  Geessh, that sounded crazy.  Insane and goofy.  But as I read through it, while I was totally in agreement with my original sentiment, I started thinking this event might just be for me.

First, it was crazy.  Walking through the night on the streets of NYC in a bra?  Thankfully, there was a wonderful charity element involved.  Monies raised from the Walk were going to support the Memorial Sloan Kettering Breast Examination Center in Harlem.  A place where most women come without insurance.  I thought of my friend Julie, who received such great care at Sloan.  I thought of how this wasn’t a cause that was asking me to get political or choose sides.  It seemed just right.

I DMed Amy on Twitter asking if she was really going to do it, and would she want someone like me by her side.  Yes and hell to the yes I believe were her answers.  I went to the site and signed up, before I could think myself out of it.

All told, it was about a month before the walk that I signed up.  The Walk started emailing me training plans and I saw I was already behind.  Ok, I figured, no worries.  I spin, lift weights, do all sorts of cardio – I’ve got this.  More on that later.

So, onto fundraising.  Not necessarily a strength of mine.  The organizers asked participants to try and raise at last $150.  I figured, I’ve got that, I’m going to set a goal for $500.  I sent an email out to some of my contacts, talking about how I was doing this in Julie’s memory and asking for their support.

26.2 miles. Power Walking through the streets of New York City. Overnight. In my decorated bra. All to raise money to make sure that people affected by breast cancer get the care they need, no matter what.

This is no ordinary marathon. And…this is no ordinary fundraising request!

On Saturday night, July 20th – I’ll be embarking on an incredible overnight Walk… and yes – I’ll be doing it in my bra!

The MoonWalk NYC is an inspiring event that will be debuting for the first time in America after fifteen successful years in London (oh those crazy Brits!). Since it began, the MoonWalk has helped to contribute over $123 Million toward vital breast cancer related programs abroad. Together with thousands of other men and women, I will be walking through NYC overnight to spread awareness and help raise critical funds for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in their goal to provide access to care for all patients living with breast cancer.  This is an amazing resource – 80% of patients there are uninsured, but are guaranteed support and guidance. Since it opened in 1979 the center has screened more than 200,000 women for breast cancer – for free.

Can you imagine someone finding a lump and not being able to afford cancer care?  As a woman, a wife and a mother, it’s heartbreaking and I want to do what I can to help as many others not face that fate.  

This cause is so dear to my heart, thanks to my dear friend Julieann Moroch.  We lost her to heaven on April 5, 2011, but we will never forget her smile, her heart and her caring spirit.  It is with her spirit by my side that I plan to walk - wearing something pink and sparkly as she would have insisted.  Maybe even a tiara.  It was Julie’s way.  
 
In all my workouts over the past month, I’ve been thinking about walking…26 miles…through Manhattan…overnight.  IN A BRA.  I know, it’s totally crazy.  But I know someone who wouldn’t have thought so.  I’ve been looking for some way to pay tribute to the memory of Julie and the bright light that she was for so many of us.  The idea of this walk is something that I know she would have said HELL YES to.  Julie never sat out – she ALWAYS danced.  She inspired me to live every day to the fullest, to always wear lipstick, and when you have a choice of a color, make it pink.  I miss her every single day and I am honored to complete this walk in her memory.

Within a few hours, I had reached the goal I set.  I increased my goal 3 times, eventually overtaking it again, raising over $1800 for the cause.  I was blown away by the generocity and support of my friends.

Now that I had put it out there, I guess I had to do this, right?  The materials for the walk talked about decorating your bra, but I received it only about a week before the race.  Not being a crafty sort, I covered it with some glitter and stickers, and asked my mom to attach a feather boa to it.  I knew there would be some other amazing looking bras out there, but mine was truly good enough.

I arrived on Randall’s Island to start the race around 9pm.  Amy met me soon after – my favorite text ever was to tell her “I’m next to the pink people on stilts”.  We marveled at the scenery, and then wanderred around the tent, not wanting to eat anything but instead sipped on water and availed ourselves of the porta potties.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 10.46.11 AM

 

At 10:30pm, we were off, ready to wander the streets.  We were a loud and giddy group, hiking around in our undergarments.  We did about a mile or two on Randall’s Island, then we crossed the bridge into the city for the main walk.  On the way over the bridge, I noticed a woman kicking a soccer ball around.  I ran closer and closer and realized it was Brandi Chastian.  Completely freaking out, I asked Amy if she would run ahead and take our picture.

1077664_10151904145038054_2074042224_o

You know, just a couple of soccer moms on a stroll.  Do not start comparing your abs to hers.  Trust me, it will leave you in tears.  Brandi was lovely, gave me a cheer when I called myself a soccer mom, and stopped dead in her walk for the perfect picture.

The Walk took us down the east side on the river till about 59th street, when we crossed onto 2nd Ave.  That’s when the crowd thinned out, and it became more and more weird as we were intermingling with Saturday night revellers.  We trudged on, walking briskly and stopping at some of the rest stops on the way.  Yes, there were rest stops and there were just enough as they seemed to come up right when we needed them.  My only complaint was the water was luke warm, and that wasn’t working for us.  We did stop at a gas station on Canal St to get a cold bottle of water and that felt damn good.

Was it an easy walk?  No, and I suppose training would have helped both my comfort level and my time.  My feet kept swelling, necessitating several “shoelace breaks”.  I spent a fair amount of time walking on the west side with my hands on my hips because my arms were so tired.  I think Amy could have kept a fast pace, but she was kind about keeping to my pace as I strolled the west side.

Our breaks became longer at the 23rd and 79th street stops.  On 23rd I realized my blood sugar level was crashing and even though I wasn’t hungry at, what, 2 am or 3am, I did have to eat something if I was going to keep going.  And go we did, crossing over into Spanish Harlem at 7am, daylight, in those outfits…just imagine some of the comments we got from the early birds.

By the time we crossed back over into Randall’s Island, I was capital D-O-N-E, but we still had three miles to go.  We had to go to the right for 2 miles, then wind up right back where we were for another mile.  That is where my brain lost it.  LEFT is the finish line.  IT IS ILLOGICAL to walk right for 2 miles only to have to go left for another mile.  But we did it, with me bitching and cursing all the way.

The last mile was truly the longest, but I have never been so happy to see a sign as I was to see this one.  I almost kissed it.  With my mouth open.  With tongue even…

969169_10151903992948054_803847071_n

From there it was .2 miles through the stadium and to the finish line.  I was pretty pissed that we completed in just OVER 10 hours.  It was minutes that could have been shaved off to keep us from double digits.

1003714_10151901651163054_2096877963_nIt was actually less time than this, as I wanted to cross the line first and get my damn medal.  I have never been so excited to get a medal as I was on this day.

1075798_10151901653768054_103852192_nBut of course, before that Amy and I had to have some fun on the way to the finish line.

116883-066-013h

116883-066-014h

116883-066-015hTell me, was this victory not sweet?

116883-066-016hSing it with me, WHAT A FEELING!

One week later, I am still a little sore in my feet, but I am so proud of Amy and me for making this  happen.  I am secretly thinking about next year (don’t tell Amy yet, she’s going to want to start thinking about bra decorating ideas) and planning to start the training regimen early (and actually complete it).  I’m so grateful for the support of so many.  My friend who contributed to the cause.  The amazing volunteers who at every point in the walk stood up and applauded us, shouting words of encouragement.  It was the guy at mile 18 who looked at me like I was every inch the badass that I am and said simply, “You got this,” that gave me the inspiration I need to indeed, get this.  Thanks to Amy who put up with me for over 12 hours, bonding us like no other experience could.  You can read her recap on her blog, Selfish Mom.

Now, I am off to soak my feet.  Again.  And dream of Moonwalks to come.

 

 

 

 

Delivery Man Delivers!

Really exited to be one of the bloggers showing this exclusive preview of DELIVERY MAN.  In the film, Vince Vaughn plays an affable underachiever looking for his purpose in life, when he finds out he’s fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them want to meet their biological father.  DELIVERY MAN stars Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders and Chris Pratt and will be in theaters November 22.

Check out an exclusive preview -

 

“Like” DELIVERY MAN on Facebook: Facebook.com/DeliveryManMovie 

 

Follow DELIVERY MAN on Twitter: @DeliveryManFilm

 

Follow DELIVERY MAN on Pinterest: Pinterest.com/DeliveryManFilm

 

Follow DELIVERY MAN on Instagram: DeliveryManMovie

 

DELIVERY MAN releases in theaters on November 22nd!

We’re off to Disney Social Media Moms!

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 6.16.54 AMI am so happy to say that TODAY we are on our way to Florida to experience the wonder and magic that is Disney Social Media Moms.

Disney Social Media Moms is an invite-only professional conference for families to experience the magic of the Walt Disney World resort.  It allows moms (and a few dads) to form real world relationships with people we may only know from their blogs or Facebook.  It’s a jam-packed 4 days weekend of thrills, surprises and wonder.

I’m a repeat attendee, so I know there is some wonder ahead of me.  Still, there are so many surprises up the sleeves of the amazing team that puts this shindig on.  I have no idea what to expect.

Here are the things we simply must do this trip:

1. Down Time!  Funny I should put that first!  The conference is taking place at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and that is where we will be staying as well.  When I was a kid, I always dreamed of staying on property, and the only place I could imagine would be right for me was the hotel that the monorail went through.  The Magic Kingdom resort area is breathtakingly beautiful, and I am not ashamed to say we need to just sit around and soak it all in for a while.

2. Expand Jordan’s ride tolerance – I really really want to get him to try a “bigger kid” ride this trip.  After watching a Disney video, he’s decided that should be Splash Mountain, and he wants to ride it FIRST.  I think that *might* be a bit scary for him, so we’re going to work our way up to it.  Maybe we’ll start with Goofy’s Barnstormer first.  Actually, since we’ll be in Epcot as our first park, the revamped “Test Track” should do the trick.

3. Experience the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival – at least the eating part.  I’m not much in the garden, but you know my love for the kitchen.   I’m not sure if it’s a new edition or if it’s always been there, but they have over 15 booths around World Showcase featuring seasonal specialties and foods from many nations.  If it sounds to you like the Food and Wine festival, that’s what I’m thinking too.  I’m also thinking my tummy is a little rumbly right now just thinking about it.

4. Get Jordan a haircut at the Main Street barber shop.  I’ve been so busy prepping for this trip and with everything else going on in my life, I’ve neglected my son’s hair.  He can not only get a haircut, he can get colored gels and castle confetti in his hair, and I assure you he will talk about it for months.  Note to parents of girls – they do really cute updos there as well, with the gels and confetti, for a fraction of what Bippity Boppity costs.

5. Get Sarah social!  A lot of the families coming to the Celebration have kids around her age.  I would love to see her find a friend she connect with, much in the same way I have connected with so many amazing women at previous Celebrations.

Now, off to final packing preparations!  I look forward to reporting on the conference from Orlando.  If you want to follow the goings-on through Twitter, the official twitter account is @disneysmmoms and the hashtag is #disneysmmoms.