Fab Friday Five

It's Friday, I'm exhausted, and I may or may not be going to a mud bog tomorrow that I really don't want to go to because it's only going to be in the mid-40s tomorrow.  Blech.

Have great weekend and enjoy the rest of this day!

SkylineArtEditions.com - Love, $25.00 (http://www.skylinearteditions.com/love/)
purchase this print >> here
I love these flowers and the colors and the single word.  Awesome

2 Little Penguin Chicks Original ink/watercolour by wildsunart
Print no longer available for sale, but credit is given to >> This Etsy Shop
Cute chubby little baby penguins!

Tuscany in spring Val D'orcia Siena
picture credit >> here
Tuscany in the springtime....oh my, how I'd love to be there!

Wild Rice Salad recipe >> here
Look at this!  It's wild rice, celery, craisins,and nuts with a sweet and tangy dressing.  Looks delish!

I can tell today is going to be a "does not play well with others" kind of day.



Convos With My Kid

A quick update on Dave (because he pointed out to me that I hadn't updated on him lately and I thought I had).  Dave's hair is growing back on his head and his face.  It's ultra soft (I mean ULTRA soft).  At first it was light...like really light....light gray or blonde maybe.  But now that it's been growing for a bit, it's starting to darken.  His facial hair appears to be a similar color as it was before.  His body hair is just now starting to come back in and is itchy, of course.  In terms of energy level, he feels back to normal.  He's feeling more and more like himself every day.  He has said that now that he's beaten cancer, it's time to start taking better care of himself...eating better, drinking more water, and exercising.

And now...my silly little love muffin, who officially became "preschool age" yesterday on her fourth birthday.  She got to have breakfast at Waffle House with Grandma (complete with dessert), mini cupcakes at school (the teacher told her she could have two), got to jump in the massive puddles at home with her rain boots and rain coat on, got at almost hour-long bath after puddle-jumping to get clean (and warm), and got to watch one of her shows on a school night while having her favorite go-to meal for dinner:  cheese sandwich (not grilled) and BBQ chips.

My way of commemorating her 4th birthday was to give her her very first dose of REAL cold medicine!  I've been waiting for that day for four years!  She woke up today with no snot dripping down her face, no boogers crusted to her face, and much less stuffiness than yesterday.  Triaminic and I are going to have a very beautiful relationship!

A Lesson on Jokes
A:  Mommy, I'm going to tell you a joke.
M:  Oh, you learned a joke at school today?
A:  No, but I'm going to tell you a joke.
M:  OK, go ahead.
A: ....... put a goat in a tree! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
M:  Well honey, that's not quite a joke, but it sure is something silly.
A:  Mommy, I'm going to tell you another joke!
A:  ..... put a chicken in a rain cloud! HAHAHAHAHA!
A:  ..... put BBQ chips on a sandwich! HAHAHAHAHA!
A:  ..... put a house on top of a bird! HAHAHAHA!!
A:  ..... put a dolphin on top of a cat! HAHAHAHA!!!
*and on and on and on for four miles*

A Lesson on Style
M:  Look Aria, new panties!  They're a new style for you...boy shorts.
A:  Why am I wearing boy panties?
M:  No honey, they're not boy panties...it's just a style name, that's all.
A:  Mommy, I love this new style!!
A:  *singing to the tune of Style by Taylor Swift* I never go out of style, I never go out of style!  These panties never go out of style! We never go out of style!

A Lesson on Space Objects
A:  Mommy! Did you see that red thing in the sky?  What was it?
M:  No honey, I didn't see it.  Where did you see it?
A:  In the sky, out the big window in the front [of the car].  Did you miss it?
M:  I guess I did.  Maybe it was an airplane.
A:  No it wasn't an airplane!  It was in the sky and then it fell down over there *points to the trees across the street*
M:  Well maybe it was a bird.
A:  Birds don't fall!
M:  Well...maybe it was aliens!
A:  Ugh!  No mom, it wasn't aliens!  It must have been a space rock!
M:  Oh, like an asteroid? *thinking to myself "she has no idea what that even is...*
A:  No, it wasn't an asteroid.  If it feel from the sky, that means it was a meteor.  Meteors fly around up in space and then fall to earth.  Sometimes they fall into the oceans.
M:  Who taught you that?
A:  I don't know.  Mommy, look at those birds!
(she tends to be like the dogs in the Disney Pixar movie UP...." ......squirrel......")
M:  *under my breath* Probably stupid Star Trek.

A Lesson on Shells (continuation from previous story, actually)
A:  Mommy, look at those birds!
M:  Yes honey, I see them.
A:  They're flying away really fast.  They must be trying to get home and out of the rain and snuggle up in their nests with their families.
M:  That's exactly what they're trying to do!
A:  Mommy, do you know what my favorite kind of shell is?
M:  *that's not a topic that usually follows birds*  No honey, I don't.
A:  A sea star!  That's a shell from the water that's shaped like a star!
M:  That's true.  But it's not really a shell.  A sea star is a creature that lives in the water...it doesn't have a shell.
A:  Oh.  Did you know that some shells sounds like the sea?
M:  I did know that, but how do you know that?
A:  When you pick up a shell and put it to your ear and listen, you can hear the waves from the ocean.  That's so cool!
M:  That is really cool, isn't it?  You know, Grandma used to have a really big shell a long time ago that you could hear the ocean in.
A:  But she doesn't anymore.
M:  No?  How do you know that?
A:  Because I've never seen it in her house before, that's how.
M:  Well maybe it's put away somewhere...we'll ask her about it next time we're over there.
A:  Mommy, guess how many cupcakes I had today?
(again........ "......squirrel.......")


(FYI:  My next book review will be on Everything I Never Told You  by Celeste Ng and will be headed your way in the first half of March).


Fab Friday Five - Charity Edition

As most of you know, I'm deeply rooted in the idea of helping others.  Most people do this through spreading their faith and trying to convince everyone in the world to believe in Jesus (whatever happened to America being the place for freedom from religious persecution, eh?).  I, however, believe that the best way to help people isn't to tell them who they should or should not believe in, but to make sure that they have the means to achieve a healthy and happy life.  To me, that means to make sure every living thing (human and animal) has access to shelter, food, water, clothing, medicine, and education.  (I mean, obviously animals don't NEED clothing and education, I know that...don't be rude!)

There are a ton of charities out there that help provide all of these things.  Some are very well known while others are only known by a few.  Some do great things while others only claim to do great things.  There are also a few that are half-and-half...they do some really great things, but there's also a lot of controversy surrounding them as to where exactly all of their money goes.  If you're thinking of getting involved with a charity, search for them on Charity Navigator.  This website rates charities on several different aspects including how much of their collected money goes to help their cause and how much money their executive officers are paid.

My favorite kinds of charities are the ones that you can do something to help right from your home (even though it would be AWESOME to be able to volunteer to go help build a school in Ecuador or somewhere equally deserving) and also, as selfish as this will sound, charities that accept your help without having to explicitly give a lot of money.  The fact is, I just don't have that much extra to money to give.  I do what I can (I donate a dollar every time I check out at PetSmart), but I just can't financially afford more than $20. 

So here are some of my absolute favorites!

your birthday can change the world!
Give up your birthday for the gift of clean water HERE
CHARITY WATER is one of my favorites.  They've got a 4 star rating on Charity Navigator (97/100% ...84% of all collected monies goes to the support of their projects and only 7.5% goes to pay the administrators)

Charity Water build wells and other necessary devices to help provide clean water to impoverished areas.

You can do just like this picture says:  raise money for your birthday (through a digital fundraiser on their website) and they take that money and put it towards a project.  Once completed, they'll send you photos of the project as well as a GPS location.  Now I know some of you are cynics and are saying "That could be any old picture of any project....your money went to pay for the CEOs new desk"  and that's fine if you think that...but I like to see the good in people (call me naive) and I believe that they wouldn't do that.

Project C.U.R.E - Kits for Kids
This charity - Project C.U.R.E. - also has a 4 star rating on Charity Navigator (97/100%....98% of what they collect goes to their programs and 0.3% goes to administrators)

Project C.U.R.E. provides medical resources to all areas of the world in need.

This is my absolute favorite charity!  My favorite program with Project C.U.R.E. is Kits for Kids.  I think it would be a great project for a workplace, school, or church to do together as an organization.

Here's how it works:  Order some bags (pay $5 shipping/handling), fill the bags with medical and hygienic items kids (and babies) need such as bandaids, toothbrushes, bar soap, hand sanitizer, childrens tylenol, and antibiotic ointment.  Then you mail the bags back to a collection center (last time I checked, they asked you include a $10 donation to help with the international shipping charges but I don't see that now).  You can then track the location of your bags with an included tracker tag.

You can get most of that stuff at the dollar store!  What an awesome way to help others!

Project C.U.R.E. also accepts donated medical supplies from medical facilities to send to clinics in developing countries who don't have regular access to things like culture swabs, IV kits, scalpels, and sterilization supplies as well equipment items such as IV poles, ultrasound machines, and surgical instruments.

Charity Miles donates money to your favorite charity for every mile you walk, run or bike. | 25 Free Apps That Are Making The World A Better Place
Charity Miles app
Charity Miles is this app that you can get on both the Apple App store and Android Google Play store.  The way it works is simple:  You pick a charity to support (with such known ones as ASPCA, Wounded Warrior Project, and Habitat for Humanity).  Then all you have to do is walk, run, or bike (with your phone on you, of course).  For every mile you go, Charity Miles donates money to your selected charity.  Bikers earn 10 cents for each mile and walkers/joggers/runners earn 25 cents.  From what I can see, however, it only works if you're actually outside moving.  Several reviewers I found online mentioned that they run on a treadmill and it doesn't log any miles as the app uses the GPS in your phone (so you have to have location services turned on for the app) to see how far you've traveled.  So it's not GREAT, but every little bit helps!

Donate books to schools in Africa
Books for Africa (another 4 star charity with Charity Navigator) accepts books, computers, and school supplies and sends them to villages, schools, and struggling universities in Africa to promote literacy.  They accept books from preschool level and up, including textbooks and vocational books (except music) along with paper, pens, and world maps.  They don't accept magazines, books about American history, or cookbooks/wedding planning.  They will accept french books and french dictionaries (as a large part of Africa speaks French).  They will accept bibles, but ask that they be mailed in a separate box marked "religious" and will distribute them when specifically asked.  They also won't accept murder mysteries with derogatory terms in the title.  All you have to do is mail some books to Atlanta (or drop them off in Atlanta or St. Paul, MN).  That's it!  They do ask that you also give 50 cents along with each book you send to help cover cost of shipping, but it is not a requirement.

Warren the Charity Bear - a free teddy bear pattern from Shiny Happy World
Sew and stuff an easy bear to give to children
I've always wanted to help volunteer at the Children's Hospital of Georgia right here in Augusta, but every time I look at their website, they're not accepting volunteer applications.  And after having spent a little bit of time there with my coworker's family, the want to help is even greater.  One thing that can be done to help out is to sew this easy little bear (his name is Warren the Charity Bear) using the pattern from the link provided in the caption under the picture.  You sew and stuff a bear and then bring it to your local hospital (or homeless shelter, or shelter for abused women and children, or an orphanage, or anywhere with kids in need) and give it away.  It may not be able to actually HELP the child, but it will offer them some comfort as they endure whatever it is they're going through, whether it be chemo, or surgery, or not having any bears of their own because they don't have a home.  There are a ton of other easy patterns out there for other stuffed animals for this same purpose.  I don't have a sewing machine, but I could hand stitch these if I needed to!

Have a good weekend...and think about doing something great to help your fellow man, whether it be right here at home in the community or somewhere on the other side of the world.  
It doesn't matter...just do some good!


Convos With My Kid

It's amazing how, when I really get down to thinking about it, my kid does an awful lot of silly things in just one week's time!

Below is a legend...because I realize that some of these conversations will have taken place with people other than me, and it'll just be easier this way :)
M-Me     D-Dave     G-Grandma     P-Papa     W-Uncle Will     J-Aunt Jill

A Lesson on How to be a Diva
A:  *singing along with her new Doc McStuffins microphone* I feel better, so much better, thank you Doc for taking all the ouchies away........
*finishes singing*
*everyone claps and claps*
A:  *sings again*
G:  Thank you doc for taking all the...
A:  *stops singing* No Grandma! YOU DON'T SING!
A:  *continues singing from the beginning*
nobody claps this time (because we already clapped, of course)
A:  CLAP!!
*everyone starts clapping*
A:  Clap LOUDER!
A:  *notices Jill is busy laughing instead of clapping*  Jill, you didn't clap.  CLAP!!
(repeat x3)
J:  Oh my God, make sure you put this in your blog! (check!)

A Lesson on Valentine's Day
M:  How was your Valentine's party at school today?
A:  It was good.  It was somebody's birthday, so we had cupcakes with blue icing.  Look, I got it all under my fingernails.
M:  Oh goodie.  Did you get a lot of Valentines in your treat bag?
A:  Yeah, but the teacher didn't pass out my valentines.
M:  Are you sure honey?  They passed out everybody's.
A:  Well mommy, they passed out everybody else's bud didn't pass out mine.
M:  Well honey, that can't be right.  That doesn't sound right.
A:  No mommy, it's right.  They were on the counter with everybody else's and they just didn't pass out mine.
M:  How do you know?
A:  Because there isn't a sucker in my treat bag and my Valentines had suckers, so they didn't pass them out.
M:  Well honey, you wouldn't have gotten one of your OWN Valentines...they were for all of your friends.
A:  I know mommy, but they didn't pass out mine.  I just wanted one of my suckers!!
*looking through her treat bag at home later*
A:  Oh look mommy, they DID pass out my Valentines....I have one of my suckers!!

On a side note from the above Valentine's Day convo....some parents are just plain dumb.  It is more than fine for you to feed whatever kind of horribly-inappropriate candy to your kid that you see fit.  That's fine.  But DON'T introduce that kind of candy to MY kid.  My 4 year old does not yet need to know about full-size blow pops (the ones with the gum).  My 4 year old absolutely cannot eat Laffy Taffy or Now-n-later.  Be reasonable with your candy choices when providing candy for children.  It's not hard.  Let your common sense kick in and choose a candy/snack that is appropriate for the collective age....not just yours. (And thank God there were not any live animals given to the kids this time!!)

A Lesson on McDonalds
A:  Why did daddy call?
M:  To remind me to check your food before I leave the drive-thru (I hate that they don't spell it "through"....drive mes nuts!) to make sure it's correct.
A:  The last time daddy and me went to McDonalds, my burger was wrong.  They had mustard, pickles, and ONIONS on my burger! Gross!
M:  Oh, that is gross! Sometimes that happens, honey.
A:  Yeah, it happens a lot because they're such idiots at McDonald's.

Other things that occurred with Aria this week:
1.  She had a melt down when she came downstairs on Sunday after her nap and realized that I had taken down the Christmas tree (shut up, don't judge me!!) without her....she then proceeded to tell me, over and over again, how I hurt her feelings by doing that.
2.  We surprised her with a trip to the movies to see Paddington (super cute, FYI) and all we got at the end was "But I wanted to go somewhere with a playground!" .... ungrateful brat!
3.  Aria had blue frosting on the cupcakes at school on Friday, had a blue icee at the movies on Saturday, and wanted a blue slushie at Chili's for dinner that same night.  On Monday night....her poop was blue.  Like...BLUE! (also...she was EXTRA wired on Friday and Saturday from all that extra sugar she's not used to!)
4.  Aria came down the stairs and found her new Barbie convertible....10 minutes later, Barbie convertible comes flying through the kitchen with Barbie, Cookie Monster, Minnie Mouse, and a Madagascar penguin all riding together.  Three of the four were buckled in, at least...even though Minnie was living dangerously and was actually riding outside of the car.

Have a great Thursday!
(unrelated Throwback Thursday side note:  I totally just heard a coworker say "all that and a bag of chips"!)


Pardon The Mess!

Don't get your panties in a twist...I'm revamping the look of the blog!  It's a work in progress, so please be patient!

What day is it?    .....     




Back at the beginning of the year, I had mentioned that instead of making resolutions, I was going to adopt challenges for myself throughout the year.  One of those challenges was to read at least one book every month.  I figure the best way to keep myself accountable to that challenge is to do a book review when I finish a book.  I started a few books in January, but I haven't really had any concrete time to sit down and READ!  I spend most of my day doing two things:  working and driving.  I can't read when I'm at work except at lunch, but I can certainly listen to an audio book in the car while I'm driving! I listened to this book via the Audible app...thank you technology!  I mean, come on....nothing makes driving (or sitting in awful Grovetown traffic) go faster than listening to a book!  I have also found that I drive a little slower while listening, probably because I don't want to get to where I'm going for fear of having to stop listening to the story.

I'll admit I'm not a literary genius...and I was never really good at analyzing hidden themes and symbolism and all that jazz in all my literature classes...but I feel like I can grasp a pretty good concept of the book, even if I miss all the underlying "gems" that are the real reason as to why I like a book or don't like it.  In my honest opinion, I'd prefer a book where those sorts of things are not explicitly spelled out.  I like knowing that a book touched me on a subconscious level without fully understanding HOW it did that (ignorance is bliss).  I don't really care about all that.  I care about if the writing was at a level I prefer, if the characters were relatable, and if the story was entertaining, engaging, and enjoyable.  Sometimes I really hated in high school when we would spend so much time dissecting the elements of a story rather than talking about the content.  There were times when I found the story quite enjoyable, but the constant talking about it and all the hidden meanings really put a sour taste in my mouth for it.  I think that's why I STILL don't like the Scarlet Letter.  I read for the same reason people watch movies:  I like to be entertained.  Sue me if I don't care about the necessary literary aspects...but I just flat-out don't care.

Anyway!  Review!
Purchase at Amazon >> HERE
Just a few sentences in the description of this book made me want to read it:  "Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . ."

I mean, come on!  Who wouldn't feel like they NEEDED to read it after reading that?  Even if you're simply driven by the desire to find out what was written in the letter, you're still going to be drawn to it!

The entire book takes place in one week in Sydney, Australia.  There are several main characters that, in one way or another, are intertwined in the same story.  I tell you this so that you don't all of a sudden feel a little lost when, in the first couple of chapters, you're seeing different stories...one involving the Berlin wall.  The main characters are women....wives, mothers...who are all seemingly normal but all have something extraordinary occurring (or occurred) in their lives.  The characters are so well-developed that I feel like I've always known these women.

The course of each character's individual plot line really examines how even the strongest of women, deep down, has weaknesses.  And at times when those weaknesses are exposed, it takes a great deal of inner struggle to put on that brave face and keep pushing through your day as if nothing has changed.  And that's one reason why I loved this book:  it really showed REAL human relationships and struggles that can happen in every day life....they're not just a bunch of characters who, even though it's never described, are rich and have everything awesome happen to them and everything always works out.  Because guess what?  It doesn't always work out and it does take a struggle to survive in this life.  Call me a pain, but I feel like it's unfair to read all these book with this ladies who came from rich backgrounds and have everything handed to them on a silver platter.  Life rarely works that way and I find it refreshing to read a book that examines that.  

One thing I really took away from this book was missed opportunities, whether good or bad.  Throughout the book, I kept thinking to myself "oh, I wonder what would have become of this character if they'd done that differently"  Maybe it's an actual theme in the book, I don't know...but I found myself really paying attention to the details on the decisions these women made and why they made them.  I especially found myself drawn to the idea of good people vs. bad decisions.  Can a good person make an incredibly bad decision?  Can a good person make a bad decision that impacts another life?  In everything that goes on in the news, we wonder to ourselves: "What kind of person would do that?"  The truth is:  any sort of person.  Good people CAN make horrible decisions, just as terrible people CAN make great decisions.  This book examines that at it's core.

By the end of the book, most everything has been resolved and the loose ends have been tied (with the exception of one, but I didn't care much about her anyway).  The Epilogue is quite possibly my favorite part of the story (partly because it confirmed something I had been thinking throughout the book) and offers different perspectives on "If this hadn't happened..."

A beautiful story.  The first book by Liane Moriarty I have read, but I'll definitely read some more! Give it a read, let me know how you felt about it!

What I'm currently reading:

Reading in my (minimal) spare time at home
Reading on my lunch breaks at work

Next month's book I'll be listening to in the car


Fab Friday Five

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Happy Friday, guys and gals!  It's been a relatively uneventful week...which is just great for me!  The highlight of my day will be finding out if I've worked over enough this pay period to duck out a little early today.  That would be ideal!

Orange + cardamom + almond cake with orange blossom yogurt (recipe >> here)
Oh my goodness...I came across this cake this week and was re-pinning it based off just the name and picture!  I hadn't even looked at the recipe before deciding that I absolutely had to save this cake (and share it with you, of course)!  It's made with almond flour instead of regular flour, so it's gluten-free for those of you who worry about that stuff.  One of the comments at the bottom talked about using mandarin oranges, as they are sweeter.  You'll have to convert °C to °F, however, but that's easily done (you can do it with Google, by the way).  If you make it before I get a chance to, let me know how awesome it is!!

lol :)

Whimsical little charm - I also just watched "Out of Africa" so giraffes and zebras may be at the forefront of my mind ;)
This is very sweet. :: Strength elephant necklace

These necklaces, by dogeared (buy them >> here) are so beautiful!  The necklaces themselves are ultra simple...but the meaning behind them is just wonderful.  How nice to wear something that truly means something to you (or that someone else wants you to remember) rather than to wear something just because it's pretty and "on trend"?  I think these are wonderful and could easily plan on giving them as gifts to some wonderful ladies that I know!

If you are a real chocoholic, love cheesecake and are an Oreo addict, then there is only one solution for you, the decadent Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Oreo Crust.
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Oreo Crust (recipe >> here)
Holy moly y'all...look at this cheesecake!  It's Oreo crust, chocolate cheesecake filling, chocolate ganache on top, and chocolate curls as garnish.  It looks ultra-awesome!!

Let's all take a minute and rejoice in the fact that the Fifty Shades movie is FINALLY here (even if I still disagree with the casting choice)! 

Have a great Friday the 13th (yikes!) and a wonderful, loving Valentine's Day tomorrow!

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Convos With My Kid

I was reading that successful blogs often have "series"...recurrent blog entries of the same theme.  I already do one series with 'Fab Friday Five', but I think I've come up with my second series...'Convos With My Kid'.  She's a wealth of interesting topics and says some of the most hilarious, but often times enlightened, things!  On a side note, I think she's close to stumping me with her questions and I better brush up on my knowledge!

So, without further ado...

Conversations with my 3 (almost 4) year old lately....

A lesson on anatomy
M:  Daddy told me you had some of his cereal for breakfast today.
A:  Yeah, it was good.  It went into my tummy and then it's going to come out of my pooper.

A lesson on modesty
during her first big girl shower
M:  *peeks in curtain to make sure she's getting all the shampoo out of her hair*
A:  No mommy, close the curtain! You can't see me naked!

A lesson on recognition
D:  Aria, look at this cool bottle (*shows Aria a beer bottle shaped like Buddha*)
A:  Daddy, is that you?

A lesson on birds of prey
A:  Mommy, what are those birds up there?
M:  I think they're vultures, honey.
A:  Vultures?  Well what do they eat (the most important part of learning about new animals is knowing their diet apparently)
M:  Vultures eat dead animals.
A:  Eww, that's gross!  How did those animals die?
M:  Sometimes they die because they're super old, sometimes because they're sick, and sometimes because they get hit by cars.
A:  Yeah, and then the vultures eat them.  I think dead animals are gross, but vultures think they're yummy.  MMM!

A lesson on the weather
A:  Mommy, are those rain clouds?
M:  Yes, they are.
A:  But it's not raining.
M:  That's correct.
A:  Why aren't they raining yet?
M:  Because they're not ready to rain yet.
A:  Why?
M:  Ugh...because sometimes rain clouds just aren't ready yet.
A:  Look, I see those clouds moving!  I bet when they move over there (points across the road) then they'll be ready to rain.
M:  Maybe...
*later on same car ride*
A:  Look mommy, those rain clouds are moving away, and it didn't rain.  Why not?
M: Well, I'm not sure honey.  I guess those clouds just didn't want to rain today.
A:  Then they're not rain clouds, mommy, just grey clouds.  How do you know if grey clouds are rain clouds?
M:  Um.....I don't really know honey.

A lesson on Heaven (and priorities)
M:  Aria, do you understand what happened to that little girl [on that Star Trek episode we just watched]?
A:  Yeah.
M:....so, what happened to her?
A:  She died.
M:  That's right.  And then where did she go?
A:  To Heaven.
M:  That's right.
A:  But we're not ever going to die.
M:  Well honey, as sad it is, everybody dies eventually.  But not until they're super super super old.
A:  But I'm not going to die.  I don't want to go to Heaven.
M:  Oh honey, some day, a LOOOOONG time from now, like when you're 100 years old, you might die.  And honey, you definitely want to go to Heaven.
A:  But they don't have toys in Heaven.
M:  Sure they do!  They have more toys in Heaven then you've ever seen.
A:  OK...but I bet they don't have my shows, so I don't want to go.

Have a pleasant Thursday!

so true


Best Present Ever

By now everyone has heard that, on Friday February 6th (my 30th birthday), just before noon, my husband found out he was CANCER-FREE!

He called me at work, just before noon, and the following ensued:
D:  Hey honey, I know you're not really having the greatest of days, and I know that you hate to cry at work, but I'm going to have to make you cry.
A:  Um, OK.
D:  Dr. Sadek called me.  [his hematology oncologist]
A:  Oh God. [already preparing for bad news because whenever doctors call you, it's never good]
D:  He said that after looking at the PET scan, it can be determined that there are no more cancer cells anywhere in my body.
A:  [already crying, so speaking in a whisper] That is so good....so good.....

My poor front desk coworker didn't know what was going on (and probably didn't hear me whisper about it being good), so she called mom up to check on me.  Mom comes around the corner, I'm blubbering, but giving her the 'thumbs up'...which normally for me would mean "I'm not really OK, but as far as anyone is concerned, I'm fine."  I quickly scrawl on a post-it note "no more cancer cells anywhere" and then she's crying, too.  Pretty soon almost everyone at the front desk is getting teary.

Needless to say, I was pretty unproductive for the rest of the day!!

People keep saying to me that God is working through me (because of everything I was doing to help my coworker and his family in December with their little baby while going through what Dave and I were going through) and is shining bright on me.  All I have to say to that is....well maybe....because the only thing I've really been needing from the Big Guy is to hear that we're finished with this whole cancer mess...and now I have that, and we found out on my birthday.  So thanks, Sir, for gifting us with that awesome, AWESOME, news.

Now if a girl could just get a vacation! Ha!

Have a great Monday, folks!

50 BEST Thanksgiving Printables! I Heart Nap Time | I Heart Nap Time - Easy recipes, DIY crafts, Homemaking


Fab Friday Five

It took all damn week, but Friday is finally here.  Incidentally, today is my 30th birthday.  Happy birthday to me.  You know what I want for my birthday?  A FREAKING BREAK!

Moving on...


I may have literally laughed out loud when I saw this yesterday!  I think it's a combo of the saying and the picture behind it...especially if you read it in your head with a burly sort of British accent.  Hilarious! 
If I could have a day...or two....or a week.... (maybe on an abnormally large boat that just happens to be covered in sunshine) to do absolutely nothing except read, that would be fantastic.  No responsibility.  No chores.  No parenting.  No cooking.  No schedule.  No work.  Just me and some books.  Yeah, that would be ideal right now.  Somebody, anybody, please feel free to secretly book me a cruise :)

20 Easy and Cheap DIY Ways to Enhance The Curb Appeal

The top image closely resembles the current state of the side of my house (except for the gutters...gosh I really need to get some stinking gutters). The bottom picture is almost exactly like how I want it to look.  For people who garden....how long (and how much money) would this take?? I mean, not the planter box under the window, just the ground stuff.  I want it.  I want it all.  Maybe I need to start now so that it's not so dang hot when I'm out trying to do something and then I get so discouraged by how hot it is.


I saw this yesterday and the very first thing I thought was "Oh, I need to send this to Jacki!!!"  So Jacki...if you're reading this....this one is for you today :)  I love that our communication generally consists of silly, often times inappropriate, pictures!  Those are the best kinds of texts to receive!  **For anybody that doesn't know...Jacki is my very very very best friend!  We've been friends since 7th grade...that's 18 years!**


I do LOVE to cook...but I HATE to come home and cook dinner after an 11 hour day (from the time I leave to the time I return is often times 11 hours, especially if I have an errand to run).  Dave was off yesterday, so I knew that I didn't have to come up with an actual meal for a change...what a treat! Aria said she wanted a cheese sandwich and bbq chips.  That was easy, but I'd really have preferred no preparation at all.  So on the way home, I said "Hey Aria....instead of a cheese sandwich, would you rather have McDonalds?"  thinking to myself...what sort of kid would pass up a happy meal??  Well, apparently mine will.  She said "no mommy, I just want to have a cheese sandwich at home."  I mean, OK, that's how you know you're winning at parenting...when your child says "no" to McDonalds...but seriously kid! I wanted a dang cheeseburger that I didn't have to do any work for at all besides open the wrapper!  So cheese sandwich at home it was....and she wanted lettuce on it, too (another pat on the back for winning at parenting).



Here are my birthday plans:
Work all damn day
Leave work early to get to the tag office before they close at 5 to renew my tag (because I procrastinated)
Pick up Aria on my way to the tag office (and subsequently find a way to handle her at the tag office)
Go to the grocery store to get all the ingredients I need for my birthday cake
Get home probably around 6 and cook dinner (skirt steak stir fry...mmm)
Tomorrow morning:  make my own birthday cake 
Tomorrow evening:  family dinner ... the only good part.



After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen & establish you. 1 Peter 5:10
I'm no religious at all...but I feel like, in this moment, a bible quote is seriously needed!

Have a PHENOMENAL weekend y'all!!


Results Explained

Dave went for his PET scan yesterday.  He had asked the doctors last week if he was going to have to drink the barium contrast again, and they both said that he would just get some radioactive glucose injected...no drinking.  Well....they were wrong.  He had to drink three little dixie cups (WAY less than last time), but it was warm.  Dave informed me that he drank it like a champ, though!  After the scan, they gave him a CD with his scan images on it, but we haven't looked at it yet.

I had asked him to see if he could get a printout of the CT reports from both his pre-surgery CT scan and his most recent CT scan.  I figured if I had something to read and flip through, I might be able to understand it better.  And whatever I didn't understand, I knew I could ask any of the numerous medical people I work with to help explain some of the unfamiliar terminology.

Below are some passages from the reports (C1 - 1st CT scan done pre-surgery, and C2 - 2nd CT scan done post-chemo) with translations and pictures.

Liver mildly enlarged, measuring 17 cm in length, with subcentimeter hypodensity lesion in the right hepatic lob too small to accurately characterize.
--translation:  The liver is mildly enlarged with a very tiny (less than a centimeter) lesion (dark mass) on the right hepatic lobe that is so small it cannot be characterized as anything.

2 enlarged hypervascular left para-aortic lymph nodes measuring 1.7x2.0 and 1.9x2.1 cm.
--translation:  2 lymph nodes on the aorta are enlarged to approximately 2 cm.

Impression (translation:  summary)
Left para-aortic nodal metastases.  No other findings of metastatic disease in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.  Mild hepatomegaly with subcentimeter hypodensity too small to accurately characterize; however, it is favored to represent a tiny cyst.
--translation:  Cancer has metastasized (spread) to the para-aortic lymph nodes (lymph nodes around the aorta), but not anywhere else. The liver is swollen a little and the lesion on the liver is suspected to be a tiny cyst.  (Note:  The aorta is not just an artery that surrounds the heart, but it also extends down into the main body cavity....so "para-aortic lymph nodes" are not, in fact, anywhere near the heart.  Just FYI.)
para-aortic lymph node group, just under the LEFT kidney

Other interesting things noted in C1:
Small fat-containing umbilical and left inguinal hernias
--translation:  some small internal hernias, but nothing to worry about
Minimal degenerative changes of the thoracolumbar spine
--translation:  he's shrinking in stature
Mild bilateral gynecomastia
--translation:  swelling of the breast tissue (upon further research, I learned that this is common with hormonal imbalances due to testicular cancer)
And the best phrase that I'm sure he's going to love:  extratesticular enhancement

Within the abdomen, there is normal appearance of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, bilateral adrenal glands and bilateral kidneys.
--translation:  the liver and all subsequent area organs look normal (no mention of previous swollen liver or lesion)

There are enhancing and enlarged retroperitoneal lymph nodes at the level of the left kidney measuring 1.5 cm and 1.8 cm in diameter, relatively unchanged since the previous exam.  There is no new lymphadenopathy.
--translation:  2 lymph nodes in the retroperitoneal space by the left kidney are measuring 1.5 cm and 1.8 cm and are thus only a little smaller than the time of his last scan.  There are, however, no NEW enlarged lymph nodes (in the abdominal area)

Impression (translation:  summary)
Stable retroperitoneal lympadenopathy.  No new lymph node enlargement.  Mild gynecomastia.
--translation:  lymph nodes that were there before are still there, but there aren't any new nodes.  Breast tissue still swollen (further research said it would take a while for his hormones to balance out after surgery and may result in continued swelling.)

This picture depicts the entire "retroperitoneal space"....note that the aorta (in red) and para-aortic lymph nodes (nodes are green) are included

So the confusion with the results last Friday was this:
One doctor kept saying there was no mention of the aortic lymph nodes, but there was an area observed by the left kidney that was most likely calcification.  The other doctor kept talking about the retroperitoneal nodes that were less swollen than before and more testing was needed.  But nobody told us that the "para-aortic lymph nodes" and "retroperitoneal lymph nodes behind the left kidney" were the SAME lymph nodes.  Turns out...the aorta is located within the retroperitoneal space...and the lymph node group called "para-aortic" is located just under/behind the left kidney.

Definition of the retroperitoneal space
"The retroperitoneal space is bounded by the posterior parietal peritoneum anteriorly and the lumbar spine posteriorly. The retroperitoneal space contains the kidneys, adrenal glands, pancreas, nerve roots, lymph nodes, abdominal aorta, and inferior vena cava. The retroperitoneal (or lumbar) lymph nodes are the regional lymph nodes for the organs of the retroperitoneal space, and also for the testes, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus (which are embryologically derived from the retroperitoneum). The retroperitoneal nodes are divided by the aorta and inferior vena cava into three groups: those lying to the left of the aorta (left para-aortic or left lumbar group), those lying between the aorta and inferior vena cava (interaortocaval or intermediate lumbar group), and those lying to the right of the inferior vena cava (right paracaval or right lumbar group)."

After having been able to read the reports myself and have the terminology explained by other medical people who AREN'T oncologists, we have learned that the two lymph nodes that were swollen to about 2 cm each before the chemo are, in fact, still swollen, but have reduced minimally in size.  We were told that, with seminomas, its possible for lymph nodes to remain swollen even after all the cancer cells have been killed.  The PET scan he had yesterday will determine if there are any more cancerous cells alive and kickin'.  The tumor board will discuss his case and decide if his lymph nodes still might have some residual seminoma cells, or if they're a teratoma, or if they are just swollen.

(Fun fact:  A teratoma is one of those tumors that is often seen on TV when they tell a person that they were a twin in utero and their body absorbed the other twin.  But that's not just what a teratoma is.  A teratoma is a tumor that is made up of all kinds of extraneous tissue cells without having to have absorbed it from a fetus.  A teratoma may be found to contain multiple types of tissue cells, including specialize organ cells, bone, hair, etc.)

Lessons learned:  always get a copy of the report.  Even though you're not a doctor, you may be able to understand the report better than if a doctor is standing in front of you and all of a sudden throwing out words like "kidney...teratoma...lymphoma..."  Those scary words aren't necessary until AFTER the reports have been looked at.  

I don't know about Dave...but I'm a little less stressed knowing what I learned today.


Hey Sunday....

Sorry this is a few days late.  See, here's the deal: I didn't really feel quite like writing on Friday.

Dave had a doctor appointment on Friday morning to review his labs and his CT scan.  His labs were all great...white cell count was high, platelet count was high.  The tumor markers weren't back yet, so we don't really know about that.

His CT scan showed (from what we could understands) that his swollen lymph nodes in his abdomen have disappeared.  They do, however, want to take a closer look at a lymph node behind his left kidney.  On his first CT scan the day before his surgery, they had mentioned a lesion on his left kidney that they thought was most likely a cyst or a calcification.  Now they are suspecting its a lymph node and they want to be 100% sure that's it not cancerous.  So Dave has a PET scan scheduled for tomorrow at noon to do a full body scan, looking at ALL of his lymph nodes.  They're going to inject him with glucose and tracers and see where, if at all, it migrates to.  Apparently cancer cells metabolize sugar at a much higher rate than normal cells...so if a lymph nodes lights up real bright, it may be cancerous.  The doctors are pretty sure it's still either a cyst or calcification, but it could also be a teratoma (a benign tumor that can, whenever it wants, turn malignant).  After his PET scan, his entire case will be brought to the tumor board over at Georgia Regents University for review.  The board will consist of several oncologists and urologists from both GRU and the VA.  We should know something by the end of the month what they decide he's got going on.

If it's just a cyst or calcification, no big deal.
If they suspect a teratoma, they'll do a biopsy to see what's really inside.
If it's benign, they'll just monitor him closely.  If the teratoma changes in size at some point in his life, then he'll have surgery to have it removed.

So for now, we are just hanging out in limbo...waiting.  We were not told that he's cancer-free, but we also weren't told that he still has cancer.

You know...when you've got uncertainty, it's nerve wracking,  but to have doctors tell you that they still don't have any answers and they also have uncertainty....well there aren't too many more things that are more awful than that.

Moving onto something a little more non-horrible.

Tips on growing peonies. Good to know that my non-blooming peonies are not necessarily a failure!
Tips for growing peonies >> here
I seriously want to grow some peonies.  I've heard they're difficult to grow here in the south, so I'm sure I'll manage to kill them...but what if they live! They'd be beautiful!

Buy mesh bags from dollar store and fill with downy unstoppables then place in linen closet for fresh smelling towels and sheets all the time!

What a great idea to keep that horrible smell out of the hallway linen closet! What makes that smell, anyway? I mean, the sheets that are put in there are fresh from the dryer...so why doesn't the closet smell like a dryer?
Babies 'R' Us Travel Pal Car Organizer - Babies R Us - Babies "R" Us
I desperately need some organization in the backseat! A container to put all of Arias artwork in when it comes home from school.  A container to collect all her socks in when she takes them off on the way home.  A container for her snack trash.  Just a bunch of containers!

So cute!!!
Look at this sweet face!
I want one of these...a comfy room full of lots of cushions, a projector, and a fireplace.  Just give me a ton of fluffy blankets and I've found myself a home!

This was supposed to be a double batch of Fab Friday Five....but I hate typing on the iPad.  So 5 it is.  

Have a happy week folks...hope it's a great one!