Just This Side of Crazy: Me, Not the Kids

by Jennifer Wieland
The young ones

Today there won’t be a recipe. Nope. Today there is going to be a larger peek into my life and the everyday craziness I see. You see I decided to write this while I am sitting here exhausted. I should probably be napping since the three young ones are still asleep but I’m not. Instead I am trying to do work for the blog that I am having to retype and re-read over and over again due to said exhaustion. I suppose I should also probably be cleaning but, well, again said exhaustion is making that not even an option.

I know what you are thinking at this point. Isn’t she always talking about how tired she is or how her kids didn’t sleep? Yes! Yes, I am. You see I have three of my six children with my current husband. My nine-year-old, Luke is a high-functioning Autistic child with SEVERE A.D.H.D., some mild O.C.D. and massive sleep issues. My six-year-old, Jackson is very high functioning Autistic. He only has Aspergers. To go with that though he also has A.D.H.D., severe speech problems, anger and aggression issues, sleep issues and depression to top it all off. Finally, there is my one and only daughter, Ellie who is four years old. Up until this point, we believed that Ellie only suffered from fairly minor speech delays. This summer though has been starting to worry us. You see, she started becoming more aggressive and more sensory driven. Okay, maybe not a big deal. Maybe she is just mimicking her brothers. Hey, it could happen. Then she started no longer sleeping at night. I mean she will fall asleep between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. only to wake up between 10:00 p.m. and midnight, wide awake and rearing to go. Waking up everyone in the house to play with her. So then she stays up until 4:00 to 6:00 a.m. If it’s after 5:00 a.m. I won’t even attempt to lay down. I know I will sleep through the alarm and I can’t have that. I have to get my husband and my oldest up and out the door to the train for work. So why don’t I lay down after I get them off to work you ask? Well, by then the other kids are getting up and despite the fact that it’s only been a few hours my four-year-old will also be back up between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. rearing to go again.

Luke, Jackson and Ellie my three youngest kiddos.

Luke, Jackson and Ellie my three youngest kiddos.

This is the vicious cycle of little to no sleep that my life has become this summer. I have not been able to do as much with the kids as I wanted. You see, being this tired means I get sleepy behind the wheel and I fear driving with them even short distances if my lack of sleep is particularly bad. My life and ability to function has not been this bad since Luke was about Ellie’s age. He can stay awake for days without prescription sleep medication.

So why don’t we put her on medication you ask? The thing is she has already been taking either Melatonin or OZzzz’s Sleep Aid for Children. When we first noticed the problems we got the okay to start her on the same things that Jackson uses. Those have been a life saver for us with him and were working with Ellie briefly. Now though she does not respond to them at all. The other issue I have is that I am kind of burying my head in the sand to a degree. I know, I know, it doesn’t help anyone but if I bring up the things she has in common with the boys they will want us to go to our Neuropsychologist for testing. I love my kids more than anything in this world and I wouldn’t change any of them. I know if she gets a diagnosis similar to her brothers that I will do what I have done each time. I will adjust, adapt and do everything I can to give each of my kids the best shot in life. It’s just so frustrating though to think that another one of my kiddos may be starting with more of a struggle ahead of them than they should have to face. I will also find a way to pay for all of the medications and therapies we have on a single salary. Who knows, maybe our medication management psychiatrist will give us a group price break or something or maybe I will win the lottery and then be able to afford the best of the best treatments for them. I suppose though that I should buy a ticket first.

So what does all this mean? It means that we will continue to be the nutty house on the block that never seems to sleep. The one with the loud mother ranting at people who never listen to her. The one with some kids stuck in emotional loops here and there that the neighbors sometimes get to enjoy. The house where six and nine-year olds are just learning to ride bikes because their motor skills were not up to par until then. We’ll be the house with a four-year girl who believes clothes are irritating and is running around in nothing but underwear. We’ll continue to be the house that makes the block interesting and it’s all led be me, the head nut trying to keep my sweet sanity any way I can.

Ten Things I Learned at BlogHer ’13

by Jennifer Wieland

BlogHer ’13 was my very first blog conference and just so happens to be the big kahuna of blog conferences. People come from all over the world to attend and for a few days we get to get some help with our blogs in learning sessions, talk with companies and P.R. people, meet our virtual friends, make new ones, get a ton of swag and have a lot of fun! It was 2-4 days for most people depending on special events you signed up for or were invited to attend. It is one non-stop, wild and crazy ride filled with parties and amazing speakers and did I mention swag?

Welcome to BlogHer '13

I learned so much about blogging from so many great an amazing people but I also learned things about myself, my life and things in it. So here goes….

The Top 10 Things I Learned at BlogHer ’13

      1.  Bring a large wheeled bag. Trust me your neck, back and legs will thank you for it! (Again, did I mention the swag?)
      2.  It was exciting to step outside of my comfort zone and just walk up to someone and strike up a conversation! I now know I can leave my comfort zone and be okay.
      3. Don’t be afraid to ask other bloggers that have more established blogs questions. They don’t mind answering questions and they are willing to help out a newbie blogger.
      4. BlogHer really needs a session called Blogging for Dummies that breaks things down to very fundamental levels for people who are just starting. I mean like S.E.O means search engine optimization and that no-follow links are the way to go.
      5. Even if the conference is in your hometown it’s still a better idea to stay at the hotel rather than commute back and forth each day. A) You need a place to drop things at, to change clothes from day to night if you want to (hotel bathroom or car not such a good idea) and the events start VERY early and run late so if you have to commute that shortens your sleep time even more. B) Who wants to go home each night and face children still up and running around, dishes, garbage that needs to be taken out, etc.
      6. Dress for comfort but be presentable. You do not need to wear heels and dresses if that is not you. Some people get fancy at night and some just stick with their day clothes.
      7. I am in need of a personal trainer, gym and new diet plan. (Carrying what felt like 50 lbs. of swag everyday is a lot of work!)
      8. I need a new phone! Now! Desperately! I tried to submit a tweet for a contest late yesterday afternoon and missed the deadline because my phone would not tweet for some idiotic reason. If I could have thrown the phone in the Chicago River from one of the hotel windows I would have. My reception also stunk.
      9. Did I mention the swag? Oh, yes, I did. It was immense and I was only invited to one special event and signed up for another special event. I had heard it was a lot but, ones mind does not comprehend it until one actually lives it. The companies there hand out so many things and run so many giveaways that everyone leaves with stuff. My favorite thing? The $100 Bed, Bath & Beyond gift card I won from Windex Touch-Ups.
      10. BlogHer knows how to throw one hell of a conference and parties!!!

In case you are curious I did meet Ree Drummond. She was very nice!


I saw Queen Latifah but did not get a picture with her. Austenland was a hilarious movie that would be great for a girl’s night out! Wilton was amazing and I was so excited to be included in the same group as some amazing bloggers!

Welcome to Wilton


Conference Craziness!!!

by Jennifer Wieland

This Thursday through Saturday I will be attending my first blogger conference. It is the BlogHer’13 Conference and luckily for me it is in Chicago. I have been looking forward to this since last year when I bought the ticket for it. I have been alternating between bouncing-off-the-walls excited to near panic attack. As I read advice from other bloggers via their blogs, twitter and emails I am thankful that I have been given some help along this crazy, chaotic path of blog conferencing!

I have been spending the last few days trying to get things into some semblance of order here at home. It’s not going well. So I am just going to have to trust that my parents and husband can handle it and that the kids aren’t to nutty for them and that none of them have gone missing while I am away. The young ones are excited to get to hang out with Nana and Papa sans Mommy and I have to admit that my parents do have some fun stuff planned for them. I though am not used to being away from them. I am also no longer used to having adult conversations for three straight days and nights or trying to sell my ideas in the business world. This is where the panic attacks come in. I just need to breathe through the nerves and remind myself that I can do this. My recipes are good, my photography is getting better along with my writing and I can be as good at this as push myself to be.
It’s kind of like that first day of high school or college. Will I fit in? Will I make friends? Am I going to be the girl with nobody to sit with at lunch? I feel a bit more secure after talking with and reading other newbie conference bloggers that I am not alone with these thoughts.

Now there are many fun and fabulous things that I am excited about. I have been invited to a special event on Thursday before the official kick-off of the conference at Wilton Headquarters with 14 other bloggers. There are also lots of companies I am anxious to meet with. I will also be there learning from those who have gone before me into the blogosphere. I get to attend a movie screening Friday night and there will be lots of amazing speakers and guests. Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman, will be one of the keynote speakers. As a baking blogger, I can tell you that she is kind of my blogging crush. 🙂 I also found out today that Queen Latifah will be attending! Seriously, how cool is that?

As you can see this is going to be a crazy, jam-packed, fun and wild ride for a few days. I plan on blogging from the conference to share what it is like.

Wish me luck!

A Few of My Favorite Things and a Recipe Too

by Jennifer Wieland

With Mother’s Day next week I thought I would share some of my favorite things with you in case any of you are looking for some different ideas for Mother’s Day gifts for the moms in your life. I have come up with a list that I think covers lots of varying tastes.

Maybe if I am really lucky my husband will also read this. You see my husband is someone who always needs help with buying me gifts. I usually end up having to email him a list of things I want and he picks one and tells me to order it. I like the surprise of a present though so if I am ordering it there is no surprise. He also likes to spend a lot and I am a simple girl (think daisies over roses). Unless I want a new appliance of some sort (yes I have asked for appliances as gifts) I am a really cheap date.

So now on to the gift ideas…

Food Gifts

Gabriella Chocolates & Confections Shop

This Florida based chocolate shop makes these amazing toffee and dessert truffles! They are so unique and so addictive. The best way to describe them is a cake pop meets truffle. They are huge! (12 truffles is 1.8 lbs.)  You can definitely cut them in half or quarters and share with friends. I have tried numerous flavors but my favorite is the Cinnamon Swirl Streusel Cake Truffles.  Some of the other flavors are Mocha, Coconut, Red Velvet, Dark Chocolate and Lemon Citrus. Right now through May 10th enter coupon code CHOCOLATE to save 15% and orders over $50 ship free.

Photo from Gabriella Chocolates & Confections Shop

Photo from Gabriella Chocolates & Confections Shop

Sweet Addiction

My husband and I love toffee! It is something that we always try if it is available and we have tried a TON! Last year when I was at the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show there were a lot of toffee makers there. As a true connoisseur I did my duty and sampled them all. Sweet Addiction’s toffee really stood out from the rest for me. The name really does a perfect job to describe it because it is so addicting. This is made by hand from a family in Chicago and it’s from an old family recipe. The toffee comes packaged in silver tins with ribbons and can be ordered by the pound. They also make small favor sized orders too.

Photo from Sweet Addiction

Photo from Sweet Addiction

Pitaya Plus

I know from reading this blog that many of you probably think that I am just a sugar junkie. I’m not going to lie… I am. I do though have enough sense though to balance the sugar out with healthy foods. I have been on a smoothie kick lately. Trying different ingredients to make a really healthy smoothie as part of my breakfast. I found out about Pitaya Plus because they had a Living Social deal. Pitaya (aka dragonfruit) is really good for you. It is a low sugar/low carb fruit, it has antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and omega-3’s. In other words it is one of those super fruits. Pitaya Plus is also certified organic. I have bought the smoothie packs from them (you get 30 for $99.99) and they are really good. They suggest using the smoothie packs in smoothies, bowls or cocktails. You do get recipes to try with your order.

Photo from Pitaya Plus

Photo from Pitaya Plus

I do have a smoothie recipe to share with you using the Pitaya Plus. Isn’t the color pretty?

Strawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie

1/3 c. vanilla almond milk
1/3 c. Dole Peach Mango Orange juice
1 scoop frozen strawberry kefir
5-6 frozen strawberries
1 pitaya plus smoothie pack

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until combined.

Strawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie

Jewelry Gifts

Pearls by Laurel

Let’s be honest. At this time of year everyone is selling mother’s rings and necklaces. They all are very similar in my opinion and I have never been a huge fan of them because everyone seems to have one that is a mom. I like things that are different or unique. That is why when I saw Pearls by Laurel’s mother’s bracelet I immediately wanted one. It is a Swarovski pearl and crystal bracelet. You can customize up to six colored pearls for $29.95 and the bracelet comes in five sizes so it will be perfect for the mom in your life. (You can have up to 12 but pearls 7-12 are an extra $4 each.)

Photo from Pearls by Laurel's website

Photo from Pearls by Laurel’s website

Bradford Exchange “My Hero” Autism Awareness Personalized Pendant Necklace

For all of the moms out there with children on the Autism Spectrum here is a lovely gift for them and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Autism Society. The heart pendant looks like puzzle pieces and an autism awareness ribbon hangs from it. On the back, it is engraved with I wear this ribbon for my hero, (name).

Photo from The Bradford Exchange

Photo from The Bradford Exchange

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