August 22, 2016

Wee, It's Time for the Dawn Farm Jamboree

Kids will find lots to do at the Dawn Farm
Jamboree. From bounce houses to climbing
walls, music and more. AND it's all free!
I drove by the sign yesterday so I know that "it's time for the Dawn Farm Jamboree" wee... A few years ago we attended this fun, local event. The kids loved it, and more importantly it is FREE!

On September 11 from 1:00-6:00 p.m., stop by the Dawn Farm (6633 Stoney Creek Rd., Ypsilanti) for a free event for the whole family. Find live music, hayrides, a petting zoo (OK you can pet all the animals on the farm), pony rides,kids activities, a rock wall, a silent auction and so much more.

Of course if you wanted to donate any money towards the organization, I am CERTAIN that they wouldn't turn it away as their mission is to provide individuals with alcohol and other drug addictions recovering success!

August 21, 2016

Blaze Pizza Opens in Ann Arbor

Tonight, the family was invited to a sneak peek of the new Blaze Pizza  (3500 Washtenaw Ave.) opening in Ann Arbor tomorrow. My son is fairly picky, so I never know what he will eat. He loved it though and even left a video testimonial on the Ann Arbor Mom Facebook page!

Checking out pizza at Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza Ann Arbor.
We found the make your own option to be the best option. It allowed each of us to customize our pizzas. The pizzas all finished cooking within 2-3 minutes of one another too.

Aside from the food, what did we think? We think it's going to be a big hit in Ann Arbor. The location is ideal for a quick meal too. We arrived shortly before the skies opened up and rain fell sideways, so my kids were both thrilled to see the restaurant alter its layout, closing the exterior door and opening the inside one! It converted the space to a much larger one. The place was packed too, which I assume will be the typical lunch rush scenario. It was a bit noisy, but that was likely due to the excitement of those of us dining as well as the staff. They shouted cheers several times while we were there too.

The staff was exceptionally friendly as well. It was clear several were learning their jobs, but despite the rush, everyone smiled. It was a great test run for their grand opening tomorrow and free pizza day Tuesday.

Today we each made our own pizzas, my husband and I shared a salad and my daughter even tried a s'mores pie. The kids would not try the lemonade or agua fresca beverages, but I very much enjoyed those! They were refreshing and tasty.

So how do you get your Free Blaze Pizza? Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, is inviting local diners to try one of their custom-built pizzas for free on Tuesday, August 23 from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. The promotion will benefit Food Gatherers, too, because if Blaze Pizza can give away 1,000 free pizzas on Tuesday, they’ll donate $5,000 to Food Gatherers! So be sure to stop in an enjoy Pizza Day, all you have to do is show up, eat some delicious pizzas and give back to a great cause.

Convertible doors on the new Blaze allow
the doors to open and close for open air seating.
The cool atmosphere was a lot of fun for the whole family. 

Choosing their own toppings on Blaze Pizza was a big hit!
 My favorite part was choosing which toppings I would like on my pizza. I'll admit though, it's a bit overwhelming. I suppose that is a good reason to come back. There were 6 or 7 types of sauce, MANY types of cheese (mmm, cheese), many meats and tons of veggies. The Blaze Pizza menu is pretty spectacular for sure. They even offer gluten free, vegetarian and high-rise dough options! We enjoyed the simple crust. It was thin, crispy and so perfectly cooked.

The wood fired grill was entertaining to watch for a few minutes too.
The kids thought it was pretty cool.

Mmmmm, Blaze pizza was a hit!
 My son is already making plans on when to go back, he even asked about bringing a friend. For just $7.95 per pizza that is very manageable, and honesty my kids probably could have split a pizza. They did enjoy bringing the pizza boxes home though and I would not have crushed their spirits tonight by denying them their own pizza! Look at those happy smiles.

Thank you Blaze Pizza for inviting us to the Sneak Peek tonight!
Stop by the new Blaze Pizza in Ann Arbor (3500 Washtenaw Ave.)  or, if you are running short on time, you can even place your pizza order online!

August 16, 2016

Save Additional Heartache, Be Prepared for a Health Emergency Ahead of Time

Last Saturday I made the call that will forever change my life. While on the way to Mackinaw to drop my son off for a week of scouts, I called my mom so my son could say goodbye.
"Good morning mom, how are you?" She has terminal cancer, multiple myeloma, so this is a common way for me to start a call. Her answer was also pretty common when she said, "I'm OK" using a downward inflection to indicate that she really wasn't.
"What's wrong mom?"
"I know there is, what's wrong?" I did not yet know she was having difficulty speaking.
"Well, lijcsaef jnvjan n hjbhjvj nbn v."
I thought, that since I was in northern Michigan, the phone might have been breaking up. So I asked again, "Can you say that again mom?"
"Well, lijcsaef jnvjan n hjbhjvj nbn v."
At this point, my voice started to increase a bit and get edgier. "Mom, something is wrong. Are you OK? I think you might be having a stroke!" Her cancer though does weird things to her body. Sometimes when her electrolytes are off she does this, so I wasn't sure yet. Typically she just sounds a but drunk, and not like she is making up words, but I needed to know more.
"I am fine" She said.
"Mom I don't think you are, can you tell me how you feel?"
"Oh I know. But, Lijcsaef jnvjan n hjbhjvj nbn v."
"Mom, mom you are having a stroke. Lift your arms, are they both lifting equally" My intensity had risen so much that my children were now awake, a bit more aware of what was happening and also concerned. My mom had also begun to increase her intensity. 
As I am beginning to realize what's happening, I cannot remember the other stroke symptoms to ask about (facial droop with a smile) but I KNOW I need to call 9-1-1 only I am in Northern Michigan.
"Mom hang up the phone and unlock your door. I will call you right back. Please answer."
I immediately try my husband who should be home, then call her neighbor. Her neighbor Barb answers and immediately leaves for moms apartment. She is the one to call 9-1-1. Within minutes the ambulance is there and I am talking to the paramedic on the phone. Unfortunately I was likely the last person to speak to my mom (around 10:30 the might before) and they can not guarantee that we have caught her stroke within the first three hours, so there is little they can do except to rush her to the hospital.
The acronym FAST then flies through my head, but I and the paramedics are fairly certain it is a stroke. I am eternally grateful that she answered the phone; I would not have worried about her for a few hours since she often doesn't answer right away. The chemo has been tough on her and she gets tired easily lately. Sometimes too she just doesn't hear the phone.
Since Saturday though, things have been hell. Mom intermittently seems to know, or not know,  me and my brother. We are not yet sure who we will even get back. The stroke, a massive one, affected the left side of her brain, which means she has weakness on the right side of her body and much of her ability to speak is gone. 
Mom is now limited to saying yes, no and um, with other words popping in and out of her brain at random times. A friend of mine who is a speech therapist suggested I ask concrete questions of her though. That way could better gauge her understanding. So this morning when I arrived, I asked her:
"Do you know who I am?" (of course she says "Um, yea.")
"Am I your relative?"
"Um, yea."
"Am I your daughter?"
"Um, yea."
By now she is firmly reminding me of the movie Rain Man. I believe she will soon tell me what time Judge Wapner comes on, but I continue my questioning. I am still not sure she knows what she is saying so I try the technique Julie told me about.
"Is the door to your room open?"
(without looking) "Um yea."
"Do you know where the door is?" Can you point to it?"
"Um yea."
"Is the light in your room on?"
"Um yea."
By this point I am thinking perhaps she does know so I ask a couple trickier questions.
"Is it raining in your room?"
"Um yea."
"Is my shirt pink?"
"Um yea." 
My shirt is navy blue and clearly is is not raining in her room. 
Now I don't know what to believe, but I do know that asking yes and no questions is not likely to get me any closer to the answers I ultimately need. 
Later I show her photos. She seems to perhaps know who the photo is when I show her my brother at age 5. She's not sure about the grandchildren though, and I feel fairly sure she doesn't know me. When I show her photos of my grandma however, her mom, she starts to cry. I know she knows who that is, and I feel a bit better that perhaps my mom is still in there. I cry with her. Both tears of joy, as well as tears of fear, frustration and sadness. This is not how she wanted to live and for the life of me, I can not understand why a terminally ill cancer patient is being killed little by little. Her humanity is being stripped away and everything she never wanted is being forced upon her. 
My brother and I will get through this. With MM we knew she'd die. The horrific transplant she went through failed and she did not go into remission. We knew, that at some point, we'd be calling it quits. I have yet to speak to the oncologist, however the chemo that she is on is one she is repeating. She did not do well on it initially, and she has had several deadly side effects with it in the last couple of months. At this point, I am feeling that with this last scare, he is likely to take her off chemo and the cancer will win. That is for another day though. For now I have to focus on her and making the best possible plans for her future. My brother and I have to be good stewards for her.
So when the rehabilitation physician came in to speak to us, we knew what she'd say. I don't think either of us was ready to hear it though. "Your mom will never live alone or drive again." My stubborn, bullheaded, giving mother always said she did NOT want to live like this, and here it is. 
It took a bit for it to sink in, however today my brother came in determined to turn in her leased vehicle early.He will feel better getting something done before he goes home to South Carolina. The call went as expected. They would not speak to us since neither was on the account. I jokingly said he should let them speak to her. After all she would likely answer like this:
"Hi Mrs. S., is it OK if we speak to your son/daughter?"
"Um yea."
We went back to her apartment to pull out her purse, check-book and other financial information. Luckily I had the will she had done in 2003.She had put my brother and I on her bank account years ago too, so that should help, right? Today though, when we went to the bank, they could not fidn the signature card that I know what done. Which means we don;t have the necessary access to her account. 
I know we will get it, but the additional steps we will need to take will add time, energy and undue stress on both of us before we can get it done. Clearly she is in a semi-vegetative state and cannot care for herself, and within the wishes of the will she indicated her wishes. I just did not need this today. 
So today I wanted to offer this bit of sage advice...
Dear Friends Young and Old,
I wanted to share some thoughts that EACH of us needs to take care of. PLEASE have this information available for someone you love.
1) Gather passwords, user names and pin numbers to important online accounts. Put them on one master list and keep it in a safe place. 
Don't assume your loved one knows or remembers your passwords or user names. Besides, when you change a password 15 days earlier there is NO WAY your loved one will know that. My mom changed several passwords recently when her account was hacked. 15 days ago precisely.
2) If you live alone, or yous spouse has ill health, fill out a bank signature card adding someone to your bank accounts. ALSO don't assume the card is always current. Accounts change. UPDATE, update, update. 
If something happens and your connection can't get access to your accounts (like you thought), it really sucks. I KNOW I went into the bank and signed a card. My brother actually sent one from South Carolina. We don't know why the bank does not have the signature card but it's not there. Now we don't have legal access to her accounts!
3) Send IN any medical power of attorney forms. They are no good sitting in your pile of paperwork at home. 
I found my brothers power of attorney form, witnessed and notarized for him, but not signed by my mom, sitting in a pile. Actually I found 4 copies of the form that the various hospitals sent. I MAY have one that was submitted when she was at Karamanos for her transplant, however EACH time she goes into the hospital or medical facility I will need a copy of that form.
4) Have a will AND power of attorney AND a living will. Just a will alone is not a whole lot of good when you are in a vegetative state. 
My mom created a will using cheap software. Thankfully she had it witnessed and notarized, so that SHOULD make things a bit easier, but the one paragraph dropped into the will about my "brother and I having and getting access" will not stand up unless it was part of a separate document. Now we will need to hire an attorney to get anything done.
5) Have a master document that contains all your bills, account numbers and account information. Then please put it in a safe place. 
I have the credit card info and her cell phone so it's a bit easier to make calls on those, I also have access to her email on her cell phone, which helps. The biggest challenge though is with the OTHER accounts. So now I have to wait for mail and bills, and I will be constantly checking her mailbox at the apartment. No one needs the stress of paying their own bills AND someone else, but the added stress of having to actively track down information is a lot to handle. 
I'm sure there will be more tips that I will remember later, but this is my current list for you... PLEASE don't make it harder for your loved ones than it already is. While my husband and I are not perfect, I do have #1, #4 (which covers #3), and #5 complete. #2 is kind of irrelevant if the other paperwork is filled out and you have a spouse. Please, please, please help those you love and take care of this information for them ahead of time. it will save them a lot of time, energy and heartache in the long run.

August 15, 2016

Is Miss (first name) Less Respectful Than Mrs. (last name)?

Is having your children call an adult by
Miss (first name) disrespectful?
 I have fallen into that trend, which only
becomes a problem for me when characters
like SNL's Mr. Bill become my
mental image of the person in question!
As the start of the school-year is just around the corner, I wanted to re-share this article that was originally published on What are your thoughts on this?

Mrs. Mayrend?”

Standing there, I look astounded, glancing over my shoulder wondering, “who are they speaking to?

Mrs. Mayrend?

It hits me that the Mrs. in question is ME. It’s kind of a weird feeling, but better than being called “Zach or Gabby’s Mom.” But frankly, Mrs. Mayrend is my mother-in-law and hearing the name Mrs. Mayrend makes me feel old. (With no disrespect to my mother-in-law.)

I’m not sure how it began, but several of my neighbors called themselves Miss So-and-so to my children. “Miss Julie would like to know if you’d like to come and play?” they’d ask. So I just fell into line and started referring to myself as Miss Tammy. It wasn’t until I read a friend’s Facebook post where I started to question my choice. He vented that through age and wisdom he’d earned the right of being called Mr. (last name) and dammit he was going to get that respect from his children’s friends!
Maybe my mom was laid back, because she also had several of my closest friends call her Pat. That’s not to say she didn’t go by Mrs. Jex, in fact she did at school and also as my scouting leader. It’s just that I heard her say often enough, “Call me Pat.”
I recognize that a title teaches children to be respectful, so maybe in my convoluted mind I thought, “Well adding Miss before my first name (even though Miss is not accurate as I am married) still allows friends of my children to give me that respect.” It really wasn’t an issue though, until my son began kindergarten.
It seems it is becoming more common for individuals to change the norm, going by Miss T or Mrs. B. Especially if their names are challenging or possibly just because they want that title. Miss T is my daughter’s teacher, who is married, and Zach’s teacher had a difficult name and must have said at one time that she could be called Mrs. B, because some children did call her that. My son used her full last name, though.
This has been bugging me for quite some time. What am I teaching my children if I allow them to call someone Miss So-and-so? I try asking the parents what they would prefer to be called, and many have responded with Mrs. K or Miss Jenny are fine - unless I am totally missing some hidden resentment signs they are hoping I just “pick up on.” When I coach I go by Coach Tammy, Coach or Coach Mayrend, but why do I NOT like Mrs. Mayrend?
This perplexed me enough that I finally asked friends what their opinions were. Overwhelmingly I was told that to call a married woman anything but Mrs. (last name) would be a grave injustice and not respectful. One friend said she felt very strongly about it being that way, but never said why. Mostly, though, they agreed that calling another adult by anything other than Mrs. (last name) was not respectful. Only two others felt otherwise with one saying she didn’t mind one way or the other and the second saying she’d actually preferred to be called by her first name and not Ms. (last name).
So what do you think? Is it any less respectful to go by Miss (first name)? Does adding any term before the first name add any level of respect?
I’ll admit though, the only time I feel odd about Mr./Miss (first name) is when I hear a name like Bill. It brings a whole different mental image to mind!

Where are the best family photo spots in Washtenaw County?

Some of the best places to take photos of 
your family are found alongside the road. 
Here my daughter is enjoying playing 
among thousands of yellow flowers.
I think one of my favorite things to do during the fall, is to take outdoor photos of my children. I actually search for unique, but beautiful locations to capture the moments. Maybe it's the changing of the leaves or knowing that we're about to be concealed in darkness for the next four or so months, however I instantly get the "itch" to grab the camera and get snappy! Feeling a little unsure of your skills behind the camera lens? Don't worry.

"Try to capture natural moments and true personalities in a relaxed setting and don't worry about a perfect portrait, that's what professional are for," said Kimberly Kratzer of Captured Memories by Kimberly. "Find one small area where you can capture your child's photo. A nice tree, a colorful fence, a small area within a park. You don't need much space to create beautiful moments that you'll have for a lifetime."

Still intimidated getting behind the lens? Here are some tips to get you started.

There are many roadside farms
stands and cider mills
throughout Washtenaw County
where you can snap some
wonderful family memories! 

  • Be Candid: Sometimes the best and most cherished shots are not of your child's face, but of them in the setting, walking away from you, or absorbed with something in the setting. The beauty of digital photography is that you can delete what you don't want to keep, so just keep snapping until you find that one glimpse into your child's life. 
  • Action is Key: Many digital cameras have an action setting used for sports, if the light is good, switch to the action setting and let it fly! Rapidly snapping photos guarantees you'll get at least one great photo or a fun succession of action that can be used for the scrapbook! 
  • Get at the Child's Level: Standing above children distorts their image. To get realistic proportions, get on your knees, sit or crouch to their level while taking their photo. 
  • Zoom Zoom: Eliminate the clutter in the background of the photo by carefully considering what is behind your kids - It will mean a clear, crisp, clean photo you will have forever. 
  • Timing is Everything: Check the light. The best time to take photos outdoors is the first or last hours of daylight or when the light is soft, warm and diffused. Bright sunlight will increase the chance that your children are squinting and may create a harsh lighting effects and strong shadows or washed-out complexions. 
    Each year we like to visit Dixboro General Store
    for great photo opportunities for the family!
So where can you go to capture some great images? Everywhere really. Keep your eyes open when driving, you'd be surprised at what you'll find. To get you started however, here are some of my favorite locations to take photos of my children. (In no particular order!)

Gabby enjoying a quiet morning at
Independence Lake in 2009.
  1. Wiard's Orchard (Ypsilanti) 
  2.  Jenny's Farm Stand (Dexter)  
  3. Parker Mill (Ann Arbor) 
  4.  Prospect Park/Frog Island Park (Ypsilanti) 
  5.  Hudson Mills (Dexter)  
  6. Domino Farms (Ann Arbor) 
  7.  University of Michigan Law Quad (Ann Arbor) 
  8. Bandameer Park (Ann Arbor) 
  9.  Barton Dam (Ann Arbor) 
  10. The Arb (Ann Arbor) 
  11.  Matthaei Botanical Gardens (Ann Arbor) 
  12.  Dixboro General Store (Dixboro) 
  13.  Areas throughout Depot Town (Ypsilanti)  
Zach Mayrend gazing at the
river at Parker Mill in Ann Arbor
So where are your personal favorite locations for family photo ops? Do you stop somewhere along the road when you see a picturesque back-drop? Where do the colors and setting best capture your family? Where should I head next for fun photos? It's supposed to be beautiful fall weather this weekend, so get out there and get snappy; years from now you will be glad you did! 

Content originally published on