A Food-Free Halloween Treat Guide {Teal Pumpkin Project}

A couple of weeks ago, Ashton Kutcher tweeted this:


And my heart skipped a beat. Why? Because people are starting to catch on to the Teal Pumpkin Project.

As a mom to a small child with profound food allergies, I get a little terrified around the holidays.  Halloween is the beginning of a challenging food season for our family.  Seasonal treats are everywhere, and impossible to ignore.  As a healthy adult who tries to avoid sugar and can’t tolerate wheat, I find it hard to abstain. It’s an issue of willpower for me. But for my son? It’s a matter of life and death, or at minimum, a trip to the ER. All that separates him from a potential terrible reaction is our vigilance and the respect of strangers.

I would like to say my son is part of a small group of children, but he’s not.  Food allergies in children have increased exponentially in the last 15 years, and now 1 in 13 children has some form of diagnosed food allergy here in the U.S.  Those numbers are only rising.

Peanut allergies get a lion’s share of the food allergy talk, as it should.  Some people are so sensitive to peanuts that even a trace of peanut dust can kill them.  Unfortunately, peanuts are not the only food that cause deathly reactions from trace amounts.  Wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, oats, cinnamon, bananas, peppermint, and many others are just a few that have serious consequences for those who are allergic.

Because we want to keep our kids safe, but also include them, we are joining the Teal Pumpkin Project this year. Here’s how you can join us:

  • Paint a pumpkin teal, and put it on your doorstep with your other pumpkins. Kids with food allergies know they can come to your house and get a safe treat, and THEY WILL!
  • Offer trick-or-treaters a choice of candy or non-food treats. Kids with food allergies are often singled out for something they can’t control, and feel excluded and embarrassed because of their allergies.  Giving all the kids a choice makes it easier for them to be safe during Halloween festivities without shame.

I know some of you amazing, non-allergy friends want to participate but might not know what give out instead of candy.  This is a new-ish thing, so I’m putting together a handy little guide to help you navigate your Teal Pumpkin Halloween.


Please feel free to grab this image and share it!  Keep it handy and ask questions here or over at FARE. They’re the geniuses behind #tealpumpkinproject and we are so happy to support this awesome movement.

Also, don’t worry about getting the color exactly right or painting it pretty. The message is the most important part! Thank you for keeping our kids safe this season

Funny Tricks and Food-Free Treats,

Our janky teal pumpkin. As it turns out, I'm much better at cooking the food than painting it.
Our janky teal pumpkin. As it turns out, I’m much better at cooking the food than painting it.


7 Speedy Self-Care Hacks for Busy People

I loathe the term “self-care”.  I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but now as a mother, I super dislike it.  I support it. In theory.  Taking breaks to rejuvenate and come back to life as a better person? Sign me up. A massage? Sign me up twice. A long hike in a forest? I’ll get my boots! A getaway with my husband?  TELL ME MORE.

The ideal setting for the best self-care ever of all time.

But here’s the thing with self-care.  It doesn’t always look like a massage or pedicure or magical trek through the woods alone with only your (greatly neglected) journal and a Lara Bar to keep you company. And it almost never looks like a relaxing, kid-free trip somewhere else with my husband because it’s expensive and takes many elements of planning and, uh…it’s expensive.  It could happen, but the reality of securing childcare, paying said childcare, going on the trip, taking time off of work, paying for lodging and food and travel?  It’s pricey and time consuming.

The bottom line is this: Self-care can sometimes feel like a privilege instead of a necessity for mental and emotional health.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a committed relationship, a single person, a parent, a single parent, a grandparent, a circus performer, totally bankrupt, rolling in Kanye amounts of cash, worked to the bone, a teenager or college student, whatever.  YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.  Instead of carving out an hour, a day, a weekend, or any other difficult amount of time, focus on small things.  It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or spendy.  Taking care of yourself can be simple, free, and take 30 seconds or less.

  1. Pee first. Whatever you have to do, it can wait 30 seconds while you pee.  Screaming kid?  I get it.  Pee first.  You have to start dinner right this minute? Pee first.  You need to take a call? Send it to voicemail and call right back after you pee first.  Because peeing is important to your well-being.
  2. Slip off your shoes and feel the grass.  When was the last time you slipped off your shoes during your lunch break and stood in the grass?  Never?  Well, start now.   Let your kids play at the park or in your yard and sip your coffee with your shoes off for a minute. Enjoy the way the grass feels between your toes and the soft earth beneath you.
  3. Breathe on purpose.  Just take a deep breath, okay?  Not because you “need” it, but because it feels freaking wonderful to expand those lungs and breathe in deep, then exhale fully. (10 points if you take a deep breath while you pee barefoot. -10 points if you do that in a public restroom.)
  4. Massage your hands. Before bed, when you need a minute to refocus, or just because you like soft hands.  Grab your favorite oil or lotion, and be sure to gently pinch the soft spot between your thumb and pointer finger for extra relaxation.
  5. Add fruit to your water. Your toddler didn’t finish his apple slices?  Toss a few into your water bottle or pitcher.  Slice up a lime or orange while you’re at it and toss those in, too.  If you’re feeling super fancy and have it on hand, add a mint leaf or two.  Stimulating your taste buds can help keep your mind clear and connected to your body.
  6. Quote it. Find a short quote or poem. Read it. Twice. Return to it when you need to fuel your spirit.
  7. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Or sunbutter. Or almond butter.  Or Nutella.  You probably need the protein or chocolate fix. Go ahead and do that now.

If all else fails, drink that extra cup of coffee, or turn up your favorite music and dance. Or hide.  Yep, sometimes straight up hiding can be self-care.

Oh, and if anyone has any ideas about how we can abolish the term “self-care” and replace it with something more fantastically fun, go for it.  Let me know.  We will sprinkle that phrase like glitter from a unicorn.

Take good care,


Supporting Simon: Empathy for Autism

Friends, meet Jessica.  We met over 15 years ago as teenagers, bent on changing the world for the better.  Over the years, we have remained dear friends and are happy to have sons just a year apart.  Last year, Jessica’s youngest son, Simon, underwent a long process of therapy and testing which finally culminated in an autism diagnosis.  I asked her to share Simon’s story here.  She graciously complied. In a conversation last week she said, “Could you imagine someone telling us all we would encounter now, 15 years ago? We wouldn’t want to even open our eyes to the future. Yet here we are and we are thriving!” And that is why I wanted her to share.  Life keeps going.  We are stronger and braver  and bigger than our diagnosis, disease, and dysfunction. We have access to hope and healing, even if we have no cure (yet). I’m proud to call this woman a friend.
        Its been close to four months now since D-Day: the day we received the package. A package full of the numbers, paragraphs and codes. The package that labeled my dear son Simon as a boy who was autistic.
Simon and Jessica
        I was expecting this, but I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotion that followed, seeing it all in black and white on crisp smelling paper.  The heavy blue folder filled with advice on teeth brushing, sensory processing, oh and a list of lawyers to contact should our school district not be cooperative.
        What is NOT in the big blue folder is how to handle your relationships. How to talk to people you know as well as strangers about your sons neurological differences. Nor was there a guide titled “Emotionally Processing Your child’s Diagnosis and Letting Others Know How They Can Be There For You”.
        One can find a million articles on autism and plenty of them start with the “37 Things You Should Never Say to a Parent of an Autistic Chilld”. I struggle with these articles, not because the content isn’t true, because it leaves people feeling paralyzed and fearing they will say the ‘wrong’ thing. So, they either avoid the topic all together in order to avoid saying anything hurtful or, perhaps, say nothing at all.
        After doing a bit of self care in the last few weeks, I was truly blown away by some of the truths in Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability and especially, how Empathy helps propel us into relationship and away from shame.
        With much of this truth, in addition to realizing how I personally process grief, I can look back and tell you exactly what I needed in this time. I needed a cozy, safe space where nothing I said, or felt, was perceived as wrong and held against me. A space where I could scream, freak out, ask “why”, followed by more crying. In this space, the nights would feel long and dark and alone. This space is grief. It is real and evolves each and every day. Some days laughter comes back for a moment only to be followed by more tears. Eventually, the tears flow less and less frequently.
“To every person walking through a major life-changing situation, you need to allow this space in your life to exist.”
        To everyone else who is watching from the outside looking in, you need to simply choose to sit in that space with that family for a moment. There is no need to fill up this space with empty works. Simply let them know that they are never alone. It can be liberating to acknowledge that nothing you can say verbally will change the grief and trauma they are experiencing. Instead of filling space with words, YOU simply hold the space and share it with them.
        On our way home from the Cleveland Clinic with that big blue folder on my lap, my husband and I cried and remained quiet without any music playing as we drove. We let the silence and sound of our tears be our song. We pulled into the driveway to find our fantastic neighbors in the driveway.  They knew the diagnosis was possibly coming that day, and not even a minute out of the car they were there with open arms and tears to match ours. They listened to the few words I could utter and instead of filling the air with ‘I’m sure it will be fine….or my nephew is autistic and doing great…’  They chose to inhabit the space with us and be in it too.
        An hour or so later, we’re trying to just get back to our day and a friend had told me she wanted to bring something by. Truth be told, I wasn’t up for any visitors but something in me also really wanted her there. I knew she was coming clear across town and she pulled in the driveway and when our eyes met, it was like she understood what we had just underwent.  Her hug was compassionate and gracious. She also did not fill the air with ‘Gods got it under control….everything will be OK…’ because she wasn’t actually certain of anything in that moment.  What she DID do was hand me a six pack of beer for Joel…fruit snacks for my kids and flowers for me. She also handed me a card and it wasn’t filled with words of empty flattery or ‘Only special Moms get special kids…’ – what it was filled with was ‘You are not alone. We love you.’ She joined me in my space. She brought a little light in.
        I could go on about the beautiful conversations, hugs and acts of kindness sent our way upon, during and before Simon’s diagnosis. What I am most grateful for is those who chose to sit with us, look us in the eye, wipe our tears and cry a few of their own. If you’re unsure on how to be there for a friend who is going through something you do not fully understand, just go and be with them or practically love on them.  It is as simple and dropping off a coffee or a little bouquet of flowers and a hug.  Never under estimate the power of a hug.
Miller Fam
Jessica and Family
        In four months, we may have a gained a diagnosis that will likely effect Simon forever. We have also gained a support system of Grandparents, teachers, therapists, and a new found surge of power within my husband and myself. This gives us courage on hard days and helps us see the progress. Even progress many would regard as trivial, is a big deal for Simon. Simon is growing, learning, and understanding more of his world every day. Ultimately we are so grateful to all who have helped us and are still helping us process this new way of life.
Proud Mother of three fantastic sons and one exceptional Simon,

I’m A Shi**y Friend. {A Letter From An Overwhelmed Mama}

Dear You,

I am a shitty friend.

For 33 years, I showed up. I checked in when we missed connecting for too long. I saved  hard earned pennies to go to music festivals, embark on international adventures, and attend weddings, funerals, and graduations. Sometimes, I  hopped in my car and drove all night just to hang out with you because I missed you and I could. We cracked jokes. We talked deep for hours. We threw parties and planned adventures and surprises. We walked every step of our treacherous, joyful, fearful, conflicted, soul-seeking journey together. We shared sacred space in our hearts. Even when distance and difficulties stretched out between us, we always made our way back to each other


We became family.

I wasn’t always consistent. In fact, I can be a total jerkfaceasshole. And I really hate the phone, so that was never my strong suit. But you knew when your phone rang and I was on the other end, I would be 100% yours the whole time.

I wasn’t perfect. But I was all in.

When I got pregnant a few years ago, dynamics shifted dramatically. I puked my guts up for six months, and it took every ounce of energy to keep my part-time job and be a nominally decent human. I birthed an amazing baby who suffered a stroke, survived, and was given a life-altering medical diagnosis that made the most normal things ridiculously difficult. We were all thrust into chronic survival mode, became overnight experts on the medical system and waged a wild war to keep our baby alive and thriving. I was attached to a breast pump for almost two years. In truth, I have almost zero recollection of most of my mom-life. My brain and short-term memory have taken a blissful hiatus in order to continue the essential act of living. But of the sparse, dream-like moments I manage to recapture, I am painfully aware that I have been a shitty friend to you.

I’m sorry.

Motherhood has been magical and transformative. It has changed me in a million wonderful ways. It has also been an indescribable nightmare. PTSD, PPD, and PPA in addition to the normal physical/emotional/psychological challenges of new motherhood almost wrecked me. You listen with compassion and want to understand what’s happening. You want to be with me every bit as much I want to not be so alone in this. But there are no words for the challenges my family is facing. There is no way to bring you all the way to the core of this experience.  I can barely handle the pressure of it myself. I’ve had to hang on with all my might to keep even an ounce of that free-spirited, bright-spark, I-will-do-anything-for-you friend that you love. I know you miss her.


I miss her, too.

My grace, my energy, my bright spark – it all goes to my son and partner right now. I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.

And here is my present day reality: If there is something left after all of the doctor’s appointments, therapies, fighting insurance companies and working during naptimes and early mornings and late nights to alleviate the unbearable financial burden this stupid syndrome has placed on our little family, I unapologetically take it for myself. Because I can’t do life if I’m an empty husk inside.


I miss you. I miss my freedom. I miss being someone you can count on. I miss showing up on your doorstep at 1AM to hug you when your heart is breaking and laughing until we’ve completely forgotten how we started to begin with. Those days will come again. In the meantime, that grace you posses…the ability to navigate life and stay connected and keep things moving so well with your own set of challenges? Yeah, that. Your super power. I could really use a little bit of it now. I know it’s not fair to you because I am not an equal partner in our friendship during this season.  But I need you anyway.


I’m on my way back to myself. I’m on my way back to you, too. I promise. It’s slow progress, but it’s happening one tiny step at a time. I still love you and you still matter to me, maybe now more than ever before.

And I’m still (always) all in.

Thank you for staying.


Your Shitty Friend



Dani’s Brain Tumor and Newborn Baby – #TinyTriumphs

This is Dani and her gorgeous two-year old daughter.  Days before Dani was scheduled to undergo major brain surgery to remove a benign but growing tumor, Dani discovered she was pregnant. Faced with an unimaginable choice, she opted to continue with her pregnancy and put the brain surgery on hold.  I hope you are as inspired by her determination, recovery, and healing in the face of (too many) massive obstacles as I am.

From Dani:

“This morning I came barreling down the stairs with my daughter in tow as well as a tote bag, purse, diaper bag, breakfast, and keys while walking down my steep driveway to my car. Ready to start my hectic day. I saw myself in the reflection of my car window. This mom is a human camel, and proud to be one too!
To explain, a little over a year ago we weren’t sure I would be able to walk down the stairs unassisted. In 2012 I was diagnosed with a “benign” brain tumor called an Acoustic Neuroma. It had grown with me over the years until it took almost all my hearing in my right ear, balance, and extreme vertigo was setting in. My new husband and I rushed to specialists who advised me to have surgery almost immediately. It was finally scheduled, and I was hopeful that all would be back to normal soon.
Four days before my surgery, I felt compelled to take a pregnancy test – which came back positive.
I had to have this surgery.
I wanted to be a mother.
I had no idea how this was going to work. My doctor gave me the go ahead to monitor my brain tumor during my pregnancy and postpone the surgery. There was not a lot of research on my situation, so we really had to rely on a hope and a prayer. As we inched up to 7 months, it became clear that the brain tumor had grown significantly. It was hard and painful to write. I became bound to a wheelchair and walker.
Dreams of a water birth were dashed. It was too dangerous to have my daughter naturally, or even with partial anesthesia in my C-section. I was placed under general anesthesia and my daughter was born at 38 weeks, which was an accomplishment in itself.  I was moved to ICU and she was transported to the nursery. I was able share two months of determined breastfeeding with my perfectly healthy baby girl, and I finally had my long-awaited surgery.
Two brain surgeries and over a year of therapy later, I can say my greatest gift is my wiggly 2 year old who challenges my balance every day!”
Dani, your resilience and optimism are absolutely inspiring. Many wishes for continued healing and recovery.


Do you have a #tinytriumph you want to share? Do you think your moments of victory might inspire other families to keep going? Do you want to find out how to contribute?  Click here to learn more.