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Friday, November 30, 2012

Stop listening to the horror stories.

When I went back to Pennsylvania this summer, my friend Vanessa and I had sent out a mass invitation to everyone back there to try to get together - sort of an informal class reunion. On July 1, we got this message from one of our classmates, Kelly:

Hi amy & vanessa -saw the post u were in town,would hv loved to have met up w/you girls today but I was just diagnosed w/breast cancer & am having a double masectomy on Tues. Please, if you haven't had a mammo yet, please schedule one. I just went for my 1st & am thanking God I did. Its early stages & they are hoping I don't need radiation, let alone chemo. Hv a safe trip back Amy & hope to catch you next time. Xoxo

Kelly graduated with me, so she is my age. I was stunned to get this message from her - because obviously, if this could happen to her, it could happen to me as well. Luckily, her cancer was caught very early and she is doing great now - and I am so incredibly thankful for that.

A few weeks ago, she posted a link to an article about mammograms. Unfortunately, for some reason, the article now seems to have been removed, because I can't find it anywhere. I have tried the link, I have searched for it, I have done everything that I know to do, and it looks like it's gone. Basically, it said that many women do not get mammograms for one ridiculous reason:

Because other women scare us away from doing it.

Seriously? I had never thought about it before. But think about it - when you hear the word "mammogram" what do you think? I know I generally don't think of "a slightly uncomfortable test that only takes a few minutes and could potentially save my life". Instead, I think "OMG it's a boob smasher! It hurts! It takes the 'girls' and flattens them between these freezing cold plates like they've been run over by a truck! It's horrible! It hurts! It's the worst. thing. ever."

Why do women do this to each other? Why do we scare our sisters, our daughters, our best friends - out of getting a test that could save their lives?

Here are some interesting statistics according to breastcancer.org:

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. 
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. 
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers. 
  • In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

After reading that now-missing article, doing some research, and talking to Kelly some more, I decided to take action for myself. It's no big secret that I don't have health insurance - which has been the other factor that has prevented me from getting a mammogram sooner. But I had heard about random programs where they could be provided for free. So I started doing some digging - and in less than 5 minutes, I found a program in the state of Kansas. I called the number for information, answered a few questions and found out that I am eligible for a free mammogram and pap smear. I called to make the appointment, and got it set up within less than 2 weeks - had it not been for the Thanksgiving holiday, it probably would have been quicker than that.

I went for the pap smear on Monday, and thought that I was getting the mammogram at the same time - which is why I had planned to write this post then. But, there was a slight breakdown in communication, and the mammogram had to be scheduled on a different day.

Today was the day. I went for my first-ever mammogram - and I did it for a couple of reasons.

1. Because I'm *cough* over 40, and I needed to get it done.
2. To see just how horrible of an experience it actually is to have done.

Let me tell you - relatively speaking, it's probably one of the easiest medical tests that I have ever had done. Ever. The technicians were friendly and amazing and funny, and they made it so easy.

The scans themselves? Painless. Completely and totally painless. I'm not going to lie and say that it was  comfortable, because it wasn't. But it didn't hurt a bit.

Basically, I had to strip from the waist up and wipe off my deodorant. They gave me a gown to wear while they explained the machine and how it would work. Then the one technician got me into position - and no, it was not weird to have someone maneuvering my breast around to get it into the right place. They're boobs, plain and simple. They've been seen by dozens of doctors and nurses before and the tech sees dozens of them every day (not to mention that she has 2 of her own) so I was not embarrassed at all. She got my left one positioned on the plate (which was not that cold), lowered the top plate a bit, scooted things around a bit to get the perfect shot, lowered it some more, I held my breath, and the xray was taken and the top plate lifted. This process was repeated 3 more times, for a total of 4 scans (2 on each side).

All in all, the whole process took maybe 15 minutes, and I was back out the door and on my way home.

Fifteen minutes. Less time than it takes to get a shower on some days.

Some women claim that it hurts so much to have a mammogram. They talk about it as though it is the most painful and horrible thing that they have ever experienced. Maybe I was lucky that it didn't hurt a bit. I've heard that those of us who are *ahem* well-endowed have it easier with mammograms, and that it does hurt more for women with smaller breasts. But still - isn't a few minutes of being uncomfortable worth it?

Maybe it hurts some women a bit - but think of how much having undetected cancer hurts. Think of the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation. Think of the anguish of watching a loved one have to go through all of it because she was too scared to get a mammogram to detect it earlier.

Luckily, Kelly's cancer was caught so early that she didn't have to go through chemotherapy or radiation. Her right side was loaded with microcalcifications and a biopsy tested positive for beginning stages of cancer. She wasn't eligible for a lumpectomy because there were so many spots, so she chose the double mastectomy. She will be monitored forever through MRIs because there is no guarantee that it won't return - but for now she is cancer-free, because it was caught so early. Imagine what her life would be like if she listened to the horror stories and put off getting it done. Her story might have a very different ending.

So please, if you don't pay attention to anything else that I ever write, pay attention to this. If you are a woman who is 40 or older, and you haven't gotten a mammogram, go get one. It's easy. It's painless. It's not scary. And the next time someone tells you that it's horrible, or painful, or terrifying - ask her if she would rather go through 15 minutes of uncomfortable or years of surgeries and treatments because someone scared her out of doing such a simple test early enough to make the treatment easier.

Right there - the most important reason of all for me to get it done.
Because I love my family - and I will do anything in my power to
be here for them.

Kelly - Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story with me, and allowing me to share it here. You are an inspiration to me, and I would not have gone and gotten this done if it wasn't for you. So I thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Annual Seasonal Greeting Feud

Here's something else that started from my own personal wall, but I figured that I'd go ahead and share it here as well - with a few minor edits that I didn't think of the first time around.

OK, people – it’s not even December yet, and I’ve already had enough of the bickering between the “Merry Christmas” people and the “Happy Holidays” people. So here’s my take on what I believe is a completely stupid and idiotic argument……

If you know me well, or if you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I love everyone. If you've just started stalking me, it's something that you'll learn fairly quickly (like NOW). Seriously. I do. If you’re on my friends list or in my life in any way, shape, or form, it’s because I want you to be there. I don’t give a crap what you celebrate or don’t celebrate, or what you believe or don't believe, as long as you are a good person.

So, if I happen to say “Happy Holidays” it’s not because I’m anti-Christian. But at the same time, if I say “Merry Christmas” it doesn’t mean that I am anti-anything-other-than-Christian. “Happy Holidays” can include Advent, Hanukkah, Diwali, the Winter Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, my birthday (because we all know that’s a holiday), Martin Luther King Day, the Chinese New Year, and *gasp* EVEN CHRISTMAS!!!!! Isn’t Christmas a “holiday”??? So if someone says “Happy Holidays” doesn’t that INCLUDE Christmas?

(Yes, I realize that there are even more than that, but you get the idea.) *

Get off of your damned high horses and stop fighting about something so stupid. Quit looking for reasons to be offended. It’s a holiday *season*, people. Quit forcing your beliefs or non-beliefs on other people. Your beliefs are yours. My beliefs are mine. I may or may not agree with what you believe, but that doesn't make either one of us a better person than the other, and it doesn't make one of us wrong and one of us right. Being a Christian doesn’t make you better than anyone else, and not being a Christian doesn’t either. 

Just be nice to each other, for crying out loud. It’s not that hard to do once you stop trying to pick fights with each other. I swear some of you people and your petty arguments make my kids look like angels – and we all know that they’re far from that 99% of the time.

*(This is NOT the time to say "oh, but you forgot to mention ________ and _________." I know I didn't list every single holiday. That's not the point, ok? The point is that there are a ton of holidays just in December and January, ok? I don't think I have to list every single one from around the world in order to make my point.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The randomness that was my day.

Holy wow. This has been a super productive day.

I managed to get up a little bit earlier than usual (ick) and got all of my bills paid (yay) before I took the boys to school, and then I took off and headed out for my walk that I promised myself. It was a chilly 30ish degrees when I left the house, so I had to bundle up a bit - but it was beautiful and sunny and it felt so incredible to get back out there again.

I always wonder how this tree stays upright...

Winter wheat poking through the ground...
Always the height of fashion *snort*

Old sign

Part of "my" trail. It's so much prettier when things are green.
 6.23 miles and a quick shower later, and I got my act together enough to go get gas in the van and go pick up The Dude so that we could go grocery shopping. We decided to head to a discount grocery store, and at the same time met up with a friend who was collecting coats for the homeless - so we both got rid of some stuff that's been gathering dust in our closets. Bonus!

It might not look like a ton of groceries, but it's more than 3/4 of what was on my list for the month, and it only cost about $124 - by the time I get the rest, and with the odds and ends that I'll have to pick up throughout the month, we might get by with only spending about $200 on groceries - definitely a score at the grocery store!

On the way back home from the grocery store, I decided that I was going to splurge a bit. I don't drink very often, but lately I've been in the mood for some wine so I stopped at the liquor store. I wandered up and down the aisles before I picked - and yes, I picked these based solely on their names.

I'm a little lot more twisted than I what I usually
admit to on here. Don't judge.
I also managed to get a bunch of laundry done, make some cookies for the kids' lunches, and get a Christmas tree. Granted, the tree is still on the front porch, but at least we have it in our possession.

8 feet of fabulous, wonderful-smelling, glorious

And finally - another one to add to the "my kids can sleep anywhere" files...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Questions and Answers

For the new people who are just starting to read my ramblings, every now and then I ask people on my facebook page to ask me questions, and then I answer them. It's fun to do and sometimes sparks some really interesting conversation.

So these are the questions that were asked tonight (oh, and I copy and paste these, so if there are typos, they're not mine!)..... 

Brad asked:  When is The Dude going to do another guest blog? Nor that there is anything wrong with UR posts. I just really like hearing what he has to say. As much awesome craziness comes out of UR head, he's got U beat in random craziness dept. Also, I'd like to see another "deeply personal" blog. The last one U did was great & I'm ready for another peek inside the woman that is Non-Stop Mom!! 

As for The Dude doing a guest post, we've been tossing that idea around for a month or more. He's willing to do one - it's just a matter of forcing him to sit down and do it. Maybe if enough people started nagging at him.... *hint hint* Seriously though, he is an awesome writer, and I would love to have him do one soon too.

The "deeply personal" posts - yeah, I don't do those very often. They can really take a lot out of me, and it's usually when something has been brewing for a while. However....I know I keep hinting around about this, but Friday will be a much deeper post than usual. I'm collaborating with someone on it, and it's an important message. So watch for that one for sure.

Laney asked: As a Mom, what do you think your biggest success has been? Your biggest failure? 

Good questions!

Let me start with the biggest failure, because it's always easier to criticize ourselves than it is to say something positive. What's ironic is that I was just thinking about this today. I honestly think that my biggest failure is that I couldn't save not just one, but two marriages. My kids went through hell throughout both divorces, and it still makes life difficult at times. I wish that they didn't have to go through that - but they did and I can't change it. The only thing that we can do is to move forward.

Which brings me to the biggest success, and I truly think that would have to be that I finally allowed myself to fall in love again. Finally allowing those walls to come down and to show both my strength and my vulnerability has made me a better person, both for myself and for my kids. I can now show them what a real honest-to-goodness relationship is supposed to look like, and that's something that they haven't really ever seen from me.

Kristie asked: You already have the work of ten normal people every day - I don't know how you do it, but its awesome! Any tips on how (logistically) to work in time for the beautiful walks you take those pictures of? If you go in the mornings does it help keep your energy up? And thank you so much for everything you share. You've brought much laughter and inspiration to my husband and me! :) 

First of all, thank you so much for the kind words - I really really do appreciate them so much! As for the time for the walks, I seriously have to schedule it. I put them in my datebook and I work everything else around them. I've been slacking lately and haven't been out for a couple of weeks, but I'm going tomorrow no matter what happens. I do try to go first thing in the morning because if I don't (like today) I get distracted and then I don't go. I do feel so much better when I go (after I get over the initial pain from my joints) and when I go regularly.

Wendi asked: When you do your monthly grocery shopping, do you do a meal plan for the month first, or do you just wing it? And what is your monthly food budget for you and 5 hungry ones?

Perfect timing - I'm sitting here with my grocery list in front of me, because tomorrow is the day! I try to plan out meals for the month. I figure the days that I have to cook (when all 5 kids are here) and plan a meal for each of those. I don't usually plan a meal for the nights when it's just me and the younger two because we'll eat leftovers or sandwiches, or make something super-simple. Having the older 3 kids here only half of the time significantly cuts down on my grocery bill. Once I have the meals laid out on the calendar, I make my grocery list, and then go through my cupboards and cross stuff that I already have off of the list. So far it seems to work fairly well - as long as we stick to the menu. I also try to stock up on the staples - macaroni & cheese (*barf*), canned tomatoes/sauce, spaghetti sauce, tons of flour and sugar, etc.  I can usually do it for under $300 - but I buy very little prepared food and make *almost* everything from scratch, which is way cheaper.

Jenni asked: How do you handle the kids getting violent with each other? My girls have been doing this more and more lately and it's driving me crazy. 

Million dollar question right there. It seems to be getting worse with all of mine too, and sometimes seems totally unprovoked. About the only thing that has worked so far is physically separating them and distracting them with something. Make one go get something (make something up) out of another room and make the other one go pick up [insert random object] off of the floor. Anything to get their minds off of beating the crap out of each other.

Jennifer asked: What are some of your easiest go to recipes for a quick dinner? I struggle figuring out meals...... 

The kids love macaroni & cheese (*barf*) and fish sticks. It doesn't get much easier than that, but I think it's gross. The other easy ones *looking at my list in front of me*....sloppy joes, burgers, tacos. I've also started *trying* to make 2 meals at a time when I have the stuff available. If I'm making a chicken pot pie, for example, I'll try to make 2 and stick one in the freezer. Then sometime in the future when I know I'm going to have a crazy day, stick it in the fridge the night before then just pop it in the oven the next night and BAM. Supper. So much easier, but it does take planning.

Sandi asked: How do you maintain your friendships? I only have two kids and am frustrated that I've lost touch with many wonderful friends. 

Facebook is my lifeline. I hate to admit that, but it's the truth. It's the best way for me to keep in touch, but at the same time, I don't have a lot of local friends. Geographically, most of my closest friends are about 30 miles from here so it's hard to just "pop in" to visit. I'm also in a mom's group (of course it's on facebook) for local moms and the group organizes playdates and such - but again, I don't live in the city so it takes some planning for me to be able to attend those.

Greg N Jessica asked: Do you have any picky eaters? Tips on getting one to eat? I have one on the spectrum and he. eats. nothing. It's driving me insane. Do you an The Dude go out on "dates"? If so, where have some of your favorite "dates" taken you/led you to do? 

Ugh. They are all so picky. I hate it. I don't know what it is with kids these days because when I was growing up, we weren't allowed to be picky. We ate what was on the plate and we didn't get an option. To some extent, I'm the same way with my kids though. I make supper, and if they refuse to eat it - that's their problem. Keep in mind - that's only if they *refuse* to eat it. If they try it and legitimately don't like it (I can tell when they're faking) I will get them something else - usually leftovers. If they're just being stubborn, I don't bargain with them. They aren't going to starve to death if they refuse to eat one meal - and usually they end up eating at least part of it by the time the meal is done.

As for The Dude and me going on dates - it doesn't happen very often, but occasionally we do. Our dates are usually during the day when the kids are in school though. Sometimes they're as fun and exciting as going grocery shopping together! Seriously though, we try to at least go out to lunch about once a week or so. We're on a mission to try all of the local eateries in town (instead of the chain restaurants) and we have found some wonderful little places to go to. Sometimes, we get to go out at night by ourselves, but that's very rare - between his work schedule and my kid schedule, finding the time to go and do anything alone is hard. Most of the time, we end up on family dates with all of the kids - and we have a blast!

Amanda Diane asked: Any tips on potty training? I have an autistic 6 year old boy and a NT 4 year old boy. Neither are even slightly interested in the potty or anything to do with it. Yay me. lol 

That's a toughie. I have no idea what to tell you other than (and you probably know this already) try to find something that's going to "click" with each one of them. Let each one pick his own potty seat or chair or whatever he wants to use, and pick what kind of underwear he wants to wear - things like that. Make it as much their choice as you can. And I would also suggest talking to their pediatrician to see if he/she can give you any ideas. Good luck!

Jennifer asked: How badly did The Dude curse you for photoshopping his Cowgirls jacket? Also, If you could have one thing for Christmas, what would it be and why?

Haha! I hadn't posted that picture on here yet, so you just gave me the perfect excuse to do it! He's said some pretty mean stuff and has threatened to "get even" with me - but he hasn't made good on his threats yet. I'm sure he will at some point though. I can't help it that his team sucks....and got stomped trashed trampled beaten by the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. I guess all of that trash talking finally caught up with him. Darn.

Now, one thing for me for Christmas. Honestly, you have me totally stumped there. I really don't want anything. But if money were no object, I would love to get back to Pennsylvania for a few days over Christmas break to spend some time with my parents. However, since that's not going to happen we just have to start saving our money for TMOART:13.

Kim asked: So do you have a quilting machine or a regular sewing machine.. The one you use for your quilting contraption..lol 

That is just a regular sewing machine. It sits on a platform that moves along the quilt in order to do free-form quilting. I have a video of me actually doing it....somewhere. I just need to find it and post it.


So that's it for this round of questions. Always remember, you can ask me just about anything. If you stray into "forbidden territory" I'll let you know. But honestly, that territory is pretty small.


Now, on a totally different note - I would like to ask that you keep Sam and his family in your thoughts and prayers. He is in Jared's third grade class, and he has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I just found out about this last night, and I don't know any other details other than the family sent out a request for extra prayers tonight. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for his family right now.....so please, say a prayer or send a happy thought or do whatever it is that you do for this little boy.

A delay and an ooops...

The delay...

So I've been hinting around for a few days about something really big and important that I was supposed to do today.

Yeah, well, the best laid plans....blah blah blah.

I went to do it as scheduled, and there was apparently a big breakdown in the communication, and it actually wasn't scheduled. So it's now scheduled for Friday morning. But, that's actually a good thing - because between now and then I'm going to have someone else who has done the same thing help me to write the post about it. And it's going to be really really awesome.

No, I'm not going to tell you what it is yet - because this is something really big and it's a really important message that needs to get "out there" - so I want everyone to be anxiously awaiting it. Evil of me? Maybe. Hopefully it's effective as well. I'm not usually the type of person who says "oh look at me,  I'm going to post something fabulous" but I really believe in this and I really want to get the word out there - and so does the person who is helping me.

So Friday - it'll be posted. I promise.

Now for the ooops....

The other day, I posted pictures from our Thanksgiving feast. And then a day or two later, when I was going through other pictures, I realized that I didn't post any of the pictures from the preparations for the feast - and some of those are classics. So.... here are some of them. Just because.

Now THAT's an onion!

The infamous peanut butter pie.

Potatoes with a little bit of garlic.

Prepped and ready to go.

That moment when you realize that your brilliant idea of covering your
23.5 pound turkey with the lid to the roaster overnight just
isn't going to work.

"Snap one more picture of me, and I'll wrap this lid around your face.

All of it just sitting there, ready to be cooked.

"Mom! When's the turkey going to be ready???"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Story of Us

It has been a year - exactly one year ago today was the day that The Dude and I went on our first date.

But there is so much backstory leading up to that night that I thought that I would finally share all of it now. We've hinted around about it before, but I have never really spilled all of the details.

My second husband and I split up in May 2009. I knew at that time that it was over and that there was no turning back as far as that relationship went. I was done with it, and as far as I was concerned, I was done with relationships entirely.

But, as time went on and after my divorce was final in January 2011, I thought that maybe I was ready to put myself out there again. So I half-heartedly set up an account on one of those *cough* wonderful free online dating sites. I messaged back and forth with a few guys, and even went out on a few dates, but none of it felt right. And after my ex unexpectedly passed away, I suddenly realized that I was NOT ready to be dating. I had way too many emotions to work through at that point. So I quickly hid my profile on the dating site, and promptly forgot about it.

Months passed, and my mental state improved. I don't know if anyone really knows just how deeply his death affected me - but it did. There were a lot of unresolved issues, and there were many things that I had to learn to accept before I could think about moving forward with my life. Finally, I felt like I was there.

So in about mid-September or so, I unhid my profile on that site. I tweaked it a bit, and added a few more pictures along with more disclaimers - for instance "I am NOT a booty call", "I will NOT send you naked pictures", "I have 5 kids with 3 different fathers, so if that bothers you then you need to move along because it can't be changed" and other things like that. Buried in the midst of my profile was a little blurb that said something to the effect of "I don't go to the gym, but I do try to walk/jog several times per week and I'm currently training for my second half-marathon - there's a story behind that, so if you'd like to know it, just ask".

Anyway, more messaging back and forth with various guys, more dates that never went anywhere, more idiots who only wanted a booty call or naked pictures, and more morons who wanted to just jump straight into a relationship.

 Somewhere around mid-November, I decided that I was done with even attempting to meet someone. Either that site was useless, or I was an idiot-magnet, or something. But I was done with it. I decided that instead of just hiding my profile, I was going to delete it for good. I was looking around for the 'delete' button and I couldn't find it anywhere. Then I got distracted and had to walk away from the computer again.

When I came back to the computer a couple of hours later, I was downright disgusted to see that I had another message in my inbox on that site. I seriously almost deleted it without even looking but I thought no, that would be rude, and I might as well read it. So I sat down and looked. I looked at the guy's profile first and thought "hmmmm.... he's cute" and so I opened the message fully expecting to see another "hey baby" or "wanna chat" looking at me.

Instead, his message read something like "They say curiosity killed the cat. I'm not feline, but I'd love to know the story behind the half-marathon".

I sat back in my chair, surprised. Here was a guy who obviously actually read my profile and paid attention to it - and he knew how to capitalize the appropriate words and didn't type in text-speak. I figured that it wouldn't hurt to message him back before I deleted my profile.

I think we messaged back and forth until about 4am that night.  And the next night. And for several more after that. We talked about so many things in those messages - and it was so easy.

Neither one of us can remember for sure how long we messaged back and forth like that, but it was somewhere in the 1-2 week range - and then we decided to meet. Thanksgiving was coming, and so he asked me what my schedule with the kids was like for the next few days. I told him (figuring that if anything was going to scare him, the multiple holiday custody arrangements that go along with having multiple kids with multiple fathers would) but instead he suggested that we just meet at Burger King the day after Thanksgiving so that I could bring Daniel with me and he could play in the playground while we talked, and I would not have to pay for a sitter. Surprised by his willingness to work around my schedule, I agreed.

So, on November 25, 2011 we met face to face for the very first time. We sat and chatted and watched Daniel play for probably 2 hours or more. Then he came over to my house the next day to watch a movie, and we ended up talking (yes, talking) until 4am.

It took a few weeks for me to get up the nerve to agree that this was what I wanted. I went into it saying "no relationship" and just kind of found myself in one. But I vowed that it wasn't going to get serious. Seeing each other exclusively was fine - but no, it wasn't going to be serious.

Five months into it, we admitted that we loved each other. And here we are a year later.

Yeah, we kind of like each other.
And this might be one of my favorite pictures of us.

Had to gross out the kids with this one!
It hasn't been the easiest year. We've definitely had our ups and downs, but we've been able to work through all of it together and we've come out stronger than ever each time. We still talk about everything. We don't make major decisions without discussing them first. We have been brutally honest with each other, and have hurt each other's feelings plenty of times, but at the same time the honesty is what keeps us strong as a couple. It's something that I've never had the chance to experience before, and I have to admit that it is amazing. We've made it through major holidays with extended family, a cross-country road trip with the kids, massive catastrophic mechanical failure in my van, health issues for both of us.....all of that on top of the typical stress that I deal with on a normal basis with the kids and school and custody.... and we still like love each other.

He's still the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think of when I fall asleep at night. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I see him walk into the room and he can still make me melt with just a look from him.

I don't know what I did to deserve a man like him, but I'm not going to argue.

Happy anniversary, babe. I love you!

Friday, November 23, 2012

It was a feast...

It took lots of work, but we had ourselves an awesome feast yesterday! We ended up having 8 adults and 7 children here, and had to do some slight rearranging of furniture to make enough room for everyone, but it was so worth it.

Hey, wait! Where's my table?!?!?

Why, of course....it's in the living room.

I have to admit - probably one of the best turkeys that
I've ever made.

What's not to love about a guy willing to don a
Santa apron and get to work in the kitchen?

Let the feast begin!

Carnage in the kids' area.

Help doing the dishes.

Getting my 'baby fix'.

I got to relax a bit afterwards (notice the socks?) and watch the
Redskins beat the Cowgirlsboys.
Loved. that. game. LOVED.
We had a great time. It was pretty low-key - just lots of food and talking and playing with the kids. And lots of dishes. And - better yet -  lots of leftovers.

The Dude stayed here the night before and last night so that he could help me get everything ready and then help clean, and this morning he stayed here and hung out with the kids while Alex and I went downtown to help his Scout troop get their Christmas tree lot up and running.

The strangest part about the entire holiday so far? Yesterday - Thanksgiving Day - we had the windows open in the house all day long. We had the heat turned off - and it wasn't just because the oven was going non-stop, but it was because it was a warm and gorgeous day. Then I woke up at 7am today, and it was 60 degrees inside the house, and (I think) only in the high 30s or low 40s outside. We were freezing at the tree lot! Talk about a difference.....

As for being thankful? I can't even begin to list everything. I have an amazing life. I might not have money for a bunch of extra stuff, and I might not have a big fancy house or a new vehicle, but I have some pretty cool kids and an amazing man who loves me (in spite of me) and life is just good. Period. The Dude and I were talking about how this is our "last first holiday" together - but I'll go into that more in a few days.....

Right now - I think I *might* attempt to go to bed early. I do not have to get up for anything in the morning - so maybe, just maybe, I can actually get a little bit of sleep tonight.

Ha. Right.

(Oh, I hinted around on my facebook page about a lot of stuff coming up in the next few days. Some of it is goofy, some of it is sappy, and some of it is really important. And that's all that you're going to get for hints. You'll just have to wait and see. So there.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm the mother of a teenager.

How did that happen? It's just not possible. No way. No how.

But yes, officially at 7:25pm on Sunday, November 21, 1999 Ex1 and I welcomed our Sarah into the world. I had a difficult pregnancy with her, and that continued right through the delivery and the first few months of her life, but somehow we survived. I can't believe that it's been 13 years already.

She has grown into an amazing young woman. She is smart and funny and athletic and artistic. She is caring and compassionate and always looks for a way to help others. I am so incredibly proud of her.

Of course, at the same time - boy, do we push each other's buttons. She is truly my mini-me, and because we are so much alike, we do spend a lot of time fighting. But I love her with all of my heart and soul.

We just did cake and ice cream as a family last night, but I'm planning to take her out at some point in the (hopefully near) future - just me and her, no other kids or anyone. And Ex1 and I went together and got her a phone - I wasn't thrilled about the idea, but with her sports schedule and everything else that we have going on in our lives, we think it's time. Hopefully we don't end up regretting that decision!

The Dude lighting the candles on the traditional

"Wow, there's a lot of heat coming off of the candles, Mom!"
Yeah, wait until you're my age, kid.

She thought long and hard about her wish...

Don't let her kid you - she really does like him.

I have to admit - I got all sorts of emotional when I was looking at the
"13" birthday cards at the store.

Me and Mini-Me

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So, uh, yeah....about last night....

Wow. That's the first word that comes to mind at this point.

When I sat down to write my post about judgmental people and food stamps last night, I had NO IDEA what was going to happen. None. I figured it would get a decent amount of hits, probably a few more comments than usual, and that would be it.

Almost from the moment I hit "publish" - it went crazy. For real.

Just to give you guys an idea of what I'm talking about....on any given day, my blog usually gets about 150 views. Some days, if I don't post anything, it's as low as 30-40 views. On a good day, it's around 200. Until today, my most popular post ever had a total of 1191 views - and it's been posted since July.

This morning, about 14 hours after I posted that post, it moved into the top position, and surpassed an entry that's been up for 4 months. As of right now, it has over 6200 views and is still climbing. There are well over 50 comments from people (that I still have to go back and respond to - give me time!) and the comments are still coming as well.

Those numbers aren't huge to "big bloggers" but to me - and my little tiny baby blog - it's totally overwhelming. My phone - which controls my internet access - has been lit up all. day. long.

I want everyone to know that I have read every single comment - on the blog, on my facebook page, in my inbox, on my personal profile, on twitter - I've read them all. I just simply haven't had time to respond to everyone yet.

But I would like to clear up a few things really quick while I'm thinking about it...and I'm going to include some links that tell more of the "backstory" for the new people here....

I am NOT currently receiving food stamps. Financially, yes, I am eligible to do so. Honestly, I would love to get them at this point - however, because of some *ahem* hiccups in the system and the refusal of certain individuals to send me paperwork that I requested from them several times, my kids and I can not receive that type of assistance any longer.

I do not currently work. My second ex-husband passed away shortly after our divorce. Because of this, my youngest son and I receive Social Security. We get enough to live on and to put some aside every month. We don't live in the lap of luxury, and some months are really really tight - but we make it work. I think after everything that my kids and I have been through in the past few years, they deserve to have me 100% of the time. I will get a job when the time is right. Until then, I do a lot of crafty type stuff to make a little bit of extra money here and there.

For the most part, my life is an open book on this blog. There are a few taboo subjects -

  • We do not talk about exactly where we live. We're in Kansas, and that's all that you need to know. If you recognize our location from the pictures, please don't say anything publicly about it. Had I known when I started that there were going to be so many people reading this, I never would have used pictures of my kids. So don't reveal our location.
  • For the love of chocolate, do not use our last names! Do not use anyone's last names! That one should be a no-brainer.
  • Don't use the name of the kids' schools if you happen to know them. Again, duh.
  • I don't do politics. I leave that up to The Dude. If you don't know who he is, you'll figure it out sooner or later.
  • Pretty much everything else that you might want to know is found in the "About Me" tab at the top of this page. Or just ask me. I don't bite.....hard.

Now that we got all of that out of the way...........

The rest of the day was spent doing the usual. Tons of laundry, lots of cleaning, bathroom scrubbing (*gag*), and general running around trying to get ready for the impending holiday. Yep, it was a total purple bandana kind of a day. I finally got my grocery list ready so that I can go to the store tomorrow morning (hopefully before it gets swamped) and get the last few things that we need for dinner on Thursday and then I get to clean some more, start some of the cooking and baking, and wait for the older 3 kids to come home so that we can *gasp* celebrate Sarah's 13th birthday.

Yikes. It's after midnight. I'm officially the mother of a teenager.

OK, I'm going to go cry now.

Monday, November 19, 2012

You got a problem with my food stamps?

I can't contain myself on this one anymore.

There's a story behind it. A lot of us bloggers/facebook page admins become friends sort of "behind the scenes". We add each other to our personal facebook pages and get to know each other and we have a great time and whatnot.

Anyway, there's this awesome chick behind The Klonopin Chronicles that I have gotten to know better recently. She's really cool and you need to go check out her page and her blog when you get a chance. Because I said so, that's why.

Anyway, she posted an image on her personal page, and it really hit home from me.

Klonnie shared this from a page called Cheaper than Freaking Therapy - I don't know if the admin behind that page was the original creator of the image, but that's where it came from to the best of my knowledge (please, if you know that I'm wrong, correct me).

Anyway, I shared it on my personal profile as well, because it's no big secret that once upon a time in the not-so-distant past, I was on food stamps. And I took a lot of criticism, both from people I knew and from total strangers. When I posted this, it sparked some discussion about various perceptions of people who use food stamps, how they dress, what they drive, and what they purchase.

It's been bugging me. It really has.

Probably the main reason is because I was that person. I was the person buying food for my family with food stamps. I also used to be a case manager, and dealt with people who had to jump through hoops to get them - or worse yet, got them and abused them.

I am not so naive that I would believe that no one abuses the system. I know that it happens. I've seen it happen, and I've busted people for it in the past. But I've also seen so many people who have been so unfairly judged for whipping out that EBT card to pay for their food.

So, in order to get it off of my chest, here's some more food for thought in addition to what's listed in that image up there.

You see her buying junk food and you just can't believe that she would do that with food stamps.
Maybe, just maybe, her child's birthday is coming. She's been saving her food stamp money for the past couple of months in order to get some cake, ice cream, chips, candy, and soda so that finally, her pre-teen daughter can have a birthday party and invite her girlfriends over for a sleepover and they can pig out on junk food all night, just like any other kid their age does. Maybe her daughter will finally feel as though she fits in with her peers.

Ugh, she's buying so much processed food. Look at all of that frozen crap that she's buying - she should be cooking "good" food instead of buying that crap!
Yeah, in a perfect world - I agree. However, I also know that when I was working 2 jobs and trying to take care of my kids on my own, I didn't always have time to make those wonderful home-cooked meals from scratch. I did it as much as I could. But there were days when I was so exhausted that I couldn't see straight, and so I grabbed a frozen corn dog and a pop tart for my supper at 1am after I got home from my second job and inhaled them and went to bed. I hate to tell you this, but sometimes convenience and sanity wins over good solid nutrition - and everyone is guilty of it once in a while. While you see her purchasing "crap", you don't see that she actually has meals already prepared and in the freezer at home - but sometimes, she just needs something easy to nuke and eat so that she can take care of the kids' homework and laundry and spend quality time with them instead of cooking.

OMG - she has a smart phone! How can she afford that if she has food stamps???
Like the image up there suggests, maybe it was a gift, and the giver pays the bill for it so that she can stay safe from an abusive ex-partner. Or maybe she bought it used off of craigslist (like I did), and doesn't have cable or internet at home (like me), so the phone is her only connection to the outside world. She uses it for all of her internet access so that she doesn't have to pay a separate bill, yet she can take it with her and feel safe when she is traveling with her young children.

Her car is nicer than mine!
Maybe it belongs to a friend. Maybe her brother loaned it to her. Maybe she already owned it before her world fell apart and she lost everything that she had except for the car and what she could fit into it when she left. Sure, she could sell it and get something older - but this one is newer and dependable and she knows that she can count on it to get her to work and get her kids to the doctor when they need to go.

Her purse - is that a Coach bag? OhMyGodSheIsTrulyEvilForHavingThatBag!!!
Again, maybe it's a knock-off. Maybe she found it at a yard sale and the seller didn't know its true worth before tossing it in the "Everything's $1" box, but while she was trying to find some decent "new" clothes for her and her kids, she found it. Or, maybe it was a gift from her husband - yet another expensive gift that he bought her to try to make up for the fact that he beat the hell out of her a few days before.

I've seen her house before - it's bigger and nicer than mine is!
And your point is what? Do you know for a fact that she owns the house? Maybe she's renting it from a family member. Maybe it was left to her when her grandmother passed away. Maybe it was approved for low-income housing and she's paying rent based on the income that she gets off of her 2 jobs. Maybe she and her abusive husband owned it, but now it's in the midst of the foreclosure process and she is saving every penny that she has so that she can get a place of her own and move out of it and get to a place where he can't ever find her again.

And here's another explanation that I bet 95% of people don't even think about....

Maybe the food stamps aren't even hers.
Maybe she's shopping for her elderly aunt who is disabled and can't get out of the house easily. Her aunt gave her the list that she had made and her EBT card and sent her to the store to get what she needs - because if someone can just do the shopping for her, she can take care of herself. Or maybe she's a home healthcare provider and she's shopping for one of her clients who is terminally ill. Maybe she's shopping for her father who has slipped through the cracks of the system and isn't getting the pension that he has waited on for years.

My point is this: Unless you personally know the individual using the card, and you know for a fact that he/she is abusing the system, keep your judgments to yourself. Some people are lucky enough to never need assistance to get out of a tough situation in their lives - and some of us aren't that lucky. Sometimes we need help. It happens. Every person has a story, every person is different, and every person has a right to live his/her life without being judged by total strangers.

Because to put it quite bluntly, judgmental people suck.

(Note: To those people who commented on the above image on my personal profile, this is NOT aimed at you at all. I'm glad that conversation remained civil. Some of your comments just reminded me of things that were said to me in the past by strangers - and a few friends at the time - but I am seriously not aiming this at anyone in particular. Please don't be upset with me.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another project done.

So it wasn't a huge project, but I've been putting it off longer than I should have - and since this one actually has a deadline, and other people involved, I figured that I'd better get off of my butt and do it.

Yep that is ONE ROW of a quilt. However, I have no idea what the other 4 rows are going to look like, because I'm not doing them. Random people across the country are going to do the other rows, and I'm going to do rows for their quilts.

I'm participating in this thing called a "Row Robin" - basically, there are 5 quilters in a group. We each make a row, however we want to make it. Then we mail our row to the next person, and she adds a row to it, and the she mails it to the next person who adds a row, etc. We can say that we want to go with a certain theme, or color scheme, or whatever - but each person gets to add their own interpretation to the next row. And eventually, we get our quilt top back with 5 rows on it.

I've already received the row from the person before me - hers is a "rustic fall" row, so I get to dig out fabrics that go with that theme and then create a row to add to hers before I send it on to the next person. I've never done one of these before, so I'm really pretty excited.

The only thing that I still have to do with mine is type up the directions, because I want everyone to use the same pattern, but different fabrics so that it ends up like a crazy quilt - because, well, I'm crazy.

I'm also hoping to get this done and packaged up tonight so that I can walk it to the post office tomorrow, since I've been totally slacking in that department lately. I need to get back out there and do it, especially with the impending holiday overeating that I know I'm going to do.

We'll see how well that works.....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Random shots

The past few days in pictures......just to get caught up a bit.

Newest project, for a quilting swap thing - yes, I know it's
not a square yet....

A random itty bitty rainbow on the way to Sarah's game.

That's my girl, and that's a point for us.
Unfortunately, we didn't get enough points.

On our way to school this morning. Too bad I still had the settings
on the camera adjusted for basketball or it would have been clearer.

This one actually appeared to be about an 8-point.

Such a beautiful morning.

The boys got their prizes for selling fundraiser stuff.
Alex got a wig, among other things.

Of course, Daniel had to try it on.

I can't let them have all the fun, can I?