What EXACTLY Did You Do?!

Well, among other things, I had another birthday. In January. I like to think I’m ATOP the hill, looking down the other side, deciding how long I’ll hang out up here before I head over it. Makes perfect sense to me.

Anyway, my new age is NOT the focus of this post. This is actually about how I got healthy, on my own terms, flying by the seat of my pants. Since so many people have asked me “What exactly did you do?” I thought it best to simply tell the world. Not for vanity’s sake, not to flaunt success or a new and improved look, but to help people who may have been/or are suffering from the same issues as I. However, before I tell my story, please make note:

I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NUTRITION SPECIALIST, FITNESS EXPERT, HOMEOPATHIC HEALER, LIFE COACH, VOODOO CONJURER, OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN A WOMAN WHO FELT PHYSICALLY SHITTY FOR A LONG TIME AND DECIDED TO MAKE SOME DIETARY ADJUSTMENTS TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.  

So here is how it all began…

Several of the women in my family suffer from chronic diverticulitis (me, two of my older sisters and a paternal aunt before she passed). If you don’t know what that is, please Google it for a proper explanation. The best I can give you is that it’s a condition that causes your colon to become really angry to the point of trying to evict you from your own body. I had four horrendous, extremely painful attacks. Three of them required hospital stays of anywhere from 5 to 8 days. So. Not. Fun. Although, the first time I was in the hospital (May 2013), I did manage to find a bit of humor in it and write a couple of posts. You can read them here and here. By the third time, it was no longer funny. After my last hospitalization, I was told my only option was to have surgery to remove the diseased section of my colon causing so much havoc. Despite knowing the doctor was a straight-shooter–one of my sisters required the same procedure years ago to cure hers—I was still reluctant. Why? I am not your average patient. My body doesn’t like medications. Particularly, antibiotics and painkillers. To date, I am allergic to FIVE of the most commonly prescribed pain meds, and SEVEN “go-to” antibiotics. And when I say allergic, I mean rash all over, throat closing, anaphylaxis inducing. Yes, all of them can kill me, just like a bee sting or severe peanut allergy can do to others. So when I am in the hospital, I have to be in a special unit, monitored 24/7, because, to date…there is only one pain killer that actually controls the pain and one antibiotic the docs are certain won’t cause a reaction. OH…and my veins are not very friendly to IV’s either; they enjoy causing them to infiltrate. You can look that one up too, because I can’t even explain it. All I know is, it’s extremely painful….especially when you are going into anaphylactic shock simultaneously. Having survived all that, I, albeit reluctantly, decided to go through with the surgery and have 10 inches of my colon resected in July 2015.  I was ‘cured’ right? Umm….no, not quite.

And so it goes.

After the healing/recovery process, which took about 2 months….it seemed as though my digestive issues were a thing of the past. Not so fast, though. Around February 2016, I began to feel pretty bad again, noticed I was carrying extra weight and was no longer comfortable in my clothes. I do not own a scale, so I wasn’t sure how much I weighed exactly. However, by the end of April, I visited the doctor for a checkup and discovered I was the heaviest I have ever been, at 128 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, unless you take into consideration I am only five foot one. In addition, I was tired all the time, experiencing abdominal aches followed by extended periods in the potty (sorry, TMI) almost immediately after every meal, and general heaviness in my stomach regardless of what I ate. ALL.THE.TIME. And mind you, I was only consuming soups, salads, and in general, following a pretty healthy diet. Of course, I am thinking… “WTF?!”. By the end of May, I was pretty fed up with the way I felt, because that directly impacted my ability to exercise, which would have, no doubt helped me lose the extra pounds. Unbeknownst to anyone, I looked to the all knowing Google gods for help. Little did I know, typing in the simple phrase “foods that cause problems for people with digestive issues” would change my body, spirit and ultimately, my lifestyle in the most positive of ways.

A little backstory on me…. I was a vegan for a few years in college. Being an animal lover, my reasons were understandable. Unfortunately, that was in the 90’s, when the benefits of such a diet were largely unknown, and maintaining it on the budget of a poor college student, proved to be completely impossible for me. Lack of education for the proper way to go about getting the needed nutrients led to severe anemia, and I became quite sick.  Out of desperation, I reverted back to a more traditional way of eating, reincorporating red meat, poultry, dairy, etc.. as it seemed to be what my body craved in order to heal. If only I’d known then, what I know now. Hindsight, right?

Back to present day. After a bit of research, I decided to eliminate dairy from diet completely, as it seemed to be at the top of every list of “problematic” foods. Within 10 days, I felt a huge difference. My body began to change, inside and out. My belly was no longer bloated, I had more energy, and the chronic stomach cramps after meals were subsiding. But I wasn’t done. As the result of my research, I had learned more and more about the positive benefits of a vegan diet, and opted to give that a try again, in my own modified way, ditching all meats, with the exception of fish/shrimp. And for good measure, I also traded white carbs for whole grains, and stopped consuming alcohol. Being a bit more salty, both in personality and in palate preference, sweets have never been a problem for me, so sugar was the easiest to kick to the curb. That was mid-June 2016. Now keep in mind, I haven’t mentioned incorporating exercise…yet. Because I didn’t do that on a regular basis until September 2016. So the “before and after” photos below, are the product of dietary changes exclusively. The ones on the left were shot in April 2016 and the ones on the right in August 2016 by Jamie Fisher at FishyFoto, although the body transformation only took a total of TWO MONTHS…mid-June to mid August.

    

Needless to say, I am now a very firm believer that positive health and body changes start with a commitment to eating a cleaner, more simplified diet. As for exercise, once I got my energy back…. I began doing Reformer Pilates a minimum of once a week, at Clara’s Room, which has done wonders for the lengthening and strengthening of my muscles. Especially the core ones in my lower abdomen, I presumed lost forever when the doc sliced through them to rid me of the angry section of colon! So I guess my point is… I am 10 months in, 24 pounds lighter, stronger than I’ve ever been and feeling better physically than I did when I was in my 20’s… and I am 45 years old. And I can say with complete honesty, that my intention really was to find foods that agreed with my body, rather than to lose pounds, which is probably why I have been able to stick with this way of eating. It rectified my abdominal discomfort, restored my energy and allowed me to pursue an exercise regimen that works for me. All of that combined, makes me feel good, which goes back to my original goal. Mission accomplished. The weight loss was just a side effect 🙂

730 Days, and the Dropping of Shoes

Hello, my name is Nancy and it’s been 2 years since my last blog post. Oops.

Seven hundred and thirty days is a really long time to put people on hold. But I did it. What can I say? Life happens… unapologetically. And a whole lot of life happened to me, as I am certain it did to y’all too. So there.

I’m not quite sure why today is the day I’ve decided to dive back in. Nope, can’t say that, because it’s a lie. IT’S BEEN TWO YEARS, THAT’S WHY! Also, I’ve missed y’all, and my soul is longing to over-share. As usual, I am spinning multiple plates on several sticks with one hand, and juggling bubbles with the other. Don’t ask what my legs are doing. They have a mind of their own, and have been carrying me from coast to coast on a semi-regular basis for a bit.

About this life thing. If I’ve learned nothing else in the past 730 days, it’s that just when you think life is grand, and you prepare to kick off your shoes and relax. Don’t. Of course, one shoe may drop to the floor, landing spectacularly in a glorious spot.  It’s the other shoe dropping that you must be concerned about. Without going into much any detail, I’m currently barefoot–one shoe landed nicely, the other hit with a thud, bounced up and is hovering in a cloud of uncertainty above me and I’m–on my knees, praying for a miracle. Or to win the lottery. Actually, both if I’m being honest. All for truly selfless AND selfish reasons simultaneously.

Cancer sucks, is all I can say. And so does socialized medicine. 

No, I don’t have cancer, nor does The Man, The Beans or any of my blood-relatives, that I am aware of (hint: I’m always the last to know of any family business). However, two of my dearest friends, whom I consider more family than friends have the awful disease. One lives in Toronto and was diagnosed in early 2016, with Stage 4 tonsil cancer that had spread to his neck, shoulder and a couple of lymph nodes. Thankfully, not to his lungs, liver, or brain. He and his team of doctors immediately decided upon the most aggressive form of treatment: 7 weeks of radiation and 4 rounds of chemotherapy simultaneously. I went to visit assist in caring for him in April, during Week 4. What an eye-opener. I realized that week how very little I was told about what my parents endured while fighting their own cancers before they passed away. Feeling powerless is not something I enjoy, and I was rendered powerless, beyond simply being present and available to do anything necessary, making fun of him so he would laugh, and keeping his spirits up high on the most positive of clouds. But as of 6 weeks ago, I am happy to report that my Maple Leaf brother has KICKED CANCER’S UGLY STAGE FOUR ASS!! Just one more set of scans to go, in November, and he will likely be declared the Champion of Cancer Ass Kickers. You probably already know I like to fix things, and people. So I despise not being able to eliminate, or destroy utterly ridiculous shit that happens to good people whom I love with my whole heart. If I were a superhero, I would want my power to be the ability to cure those ‘incurable’ diseases that afflict so many…including my ‘sister from another mister’, Grace, who got both amazing and horrendous news within days of each other. She has breast cancer…and is expecting her second child, a baby girl, in January. WhatTheActualFuck?! A lumpectomy has been done, but the remainder of her treatment will have to wait until Baby Girl arrives. So at the moment I’m struggling with being mad at God. Yes, I said it. On January 10th of this year, the day after I turned 44, I was ordained as a ruling Elder at my church, and here I sit, madder than a wet hen at my Heavenly Father. What a conundrum. Praying for a miracle from above while wrestling with anger towards the very One who can heal. My apologies, God. I’m only human, and YOU designed me this way. Prayers please. Lots of them. Thanks in advance. I’ll be in church in 4 short hours, after I’ve napped and this is published, lest you think I wont be praying too.

Now let’s see, what else happened in the last 730 days? Hmm. A list might be the easiest to follow. Besides, I’ve heard people enjoy reading lists. Who knew?

  1. The Man worked on a crap ton of projects. Both big budget features (Concussion, The Hateful Eight, Joy), small indie films (Burnt; Trumbo) and a couple of cool tv gigs (Hello…BLOODLINE!!). He is currently working on another big one, set to release in March 2017. Think magical, musical, Disney….Beauty.  There, you’ve got it.
  2. Sugar Bean started a YouTube channel, turned 15 and we had a surprise party that we somehow managed to keep a secret from her. Then she turned SIXTEEN and we had not one…but two celebrations to mark the milestone. She also got her driver’s license. Which is nearly impossible to do in California, and basically turned me into a basket case for a bit. Now I totally dig it, because she is an enormous help whenever I ask her to run an errand or pick up/drop off her sisters.
  3. Butter Bean learned to play the violin and performed in several talent shows both at church and at school. She also turned 11 on St.Patrick’s Day while we were visiting New York City in March 2015. She had our traditional birthday cake for breakfast from Carlos’s Bakery…you know, The Cake Boss place. It had to be done. End of story. Then we spent the day allowing her to dictate where she wanted to go and see, as it was our first time in New York as a family. So we did ALL the touristy things. I went with an itinerary in hand, wearing an imaginary name tag that said “Julie-Cruise Director”. Little did we know, it would definitely not be our last trip to the Big Apple. She also turned 12 five months ago, but she was away on a school trip for her birthday, so we had to celebrate when she returned. All I can say is that she seemingly morphed into a tweenager overnight. Attitude and all. We’ve had the necessary talks about body odor, periods, boys, makeup, inappropriate attire, social media…you name it. To quote Glennon Melton, “Sweet Fancy Moses”….more prayers, please.
  4. Sweet Pea is still a mama’s girl. She turned 9, then 10, without much pomp or circumstance. And she is still my baby. THANK GOODNESS. She is girly, and sassy and loves to play PokémonGo with me. Yes, me. She also returned to gymnastics, took classes at the intermediate/advanced level for about 3 months, then took 6 months off, and is now back at it and on one of the teams at the facility where she trains. Watch for her on the Olympics in 8 years. Or at least getting a college scholarship based on her ability to flip and stretch like a human rubber band defying gravity. The Man and I would be super happy with that.

Now that you’re caught up on the basics of what the Tribe has been up to, I guess it’s time for a report on me, huh?

  1. I turned 43 and 44. Enough about that. Especially if you’ve read this post.
  2. I had major surgery 13 months ago yesterday, to rid me of a pesky little genetic issue known as diverticulitis. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Wait, do I have enemies?
  3. Before I had the surgery, and while The Man was basically working around the clock, The Beans and I went home to Bama for a visit for the first time in 5 years. We had a blast seeing family and basking in the sun on the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores. You can check out some of our vacay adventures in this video on Sugar Bean’s YouTube channel.
  4. I successfully created, crowd-funded, co-exec produced and co-starred in a web-series entitled THE BAR, that premiered on September 15, 2015 and can be viewed here on YouTube. So much of my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears went into this project. I would love y’all to pieces if you watched and shared it with everyone you know. Seriously. Oh, and there’s a blog about it here and a Facebook fan page here.
  5. I am currently co-authoring a book that is being considered for publication by a very well-known publishing company. Can’t say more than that without your signatures on an NDA at this point. When I can I will. In the meantime, here’s a picture of me and my co-author, Kit Wallace-Coblentz, owner of Blue Eyed Entertainment.  Big things are coming. Just wait.

    me and kit

    photo by FishyFoto

  6. I am also co-writing a feature script about my life as a teenager growing up in a small Alabama town. Based on true events. Don’t worry, you’ll recognize your characters once it’s made and on a screen somewhere 🙂
  7. I have been both a blonde and a brunette in the last 730 days. See for yourself.
Nancy_Minkler-88sm

photo by Tiffany Rose

               AC:DC headshot

WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

        8. We made a lateral move to a slightly larger house, as we had just outgrown the one we were in. The time it took from the moment we found the house, filled out the application, got the approval, and moved in, was exactly 2 weeks, and it was in the midst of all the end of school year activities, AND the deadline for the delivery of the first draft of the book I mentioned in #5 above. All of that nearly put me in the dirt. But God always has a plan, and I’m still here. Waking up breathing, day after day… blessed be.

        9. In the last 2 months, I have eliminated all dairy, red meat, poultry, white carbs, and alcohol from my diet completely. I do eat fish and shrimp on occasion, but mainly stick to a plant and fruit based diet. My body’s response to this? I’ve lost 20 lbs. No shit. 128 in March, 108 now. I’d post before and after photos, but I think I just did?

       10.  I shot swimsuit photos yesterday for the first time in 16 years, along with a ton of other head shots, including the one above, with Jamie Fisher from FishyFoto. No, I will not be posting them anywhere, as I have no desire to pursue a career as a swimsuit model at the age of 44, and the height of five foot one. They are for The Man’s eyes only. 

       11.  The Man, The Beans and I had our FIRST EVER family photo shoot also with Jamie, so I plan to send out Christmas cards this year. I know, I know. Several people will think they are being Punk’d when they get theirs. But here is a sneak peek 🙂

FishyFoto -MinklerFamily-15708 copy

12.  Since July 3, I have been to NYC and back to LA three separate times. Twice by myself and once with The Beans. Why? Because The Man is the chief of our tribe, and that’s where he’s working right now, on that big project I mentioned earlier. We miss him so much it hurts, and if The Beans weren’t in school right now, we would all be there together. Unfortunately, all we can do is visit. And FaceTime (Thanks, Mr.Jobs). So I am single-parenting…no, bi-coastal parenting I guess…until his return.

13.  Oh, and last but not least, I’m having a NYC love affair…. with The Man. Just check out my Instagram and search for the hashtag #kissingallovernyc. It’s among the best highlights of the past 730 days for me!

I guess that’s all for now. I’m not promising I will post regularly, but I promise I won’t wait 730 days before the next one. How’s that? 

Hurling Jello

If only my jello looked like this!

If only my jello looked like this!

 

You knew it was bound to happen, right? After all, it wouldn’t be fair to leave you hanging with just a list of the 5 Best Things About Being in the Hospital.  And, given the fact…

I’m. Still. Here.

…with nothing to do but read, write, play Criminal Case on FB, watch really bad television, and give The Man the stink eye when he shows up to have ‘lunch with me’ and brings a sandwich and FRENCH FRIES for himself, knowing I can’t have even one!  Whaaaatever. Karma is a bitch, and she’s my BFF. So there.

Anyway, I’ve decided to comprise a list of The Worst Things About Being in the Hospital. Notice there’s not a number attached, as I really can’t say how long this list will be. I’ve been here 6 days now. Could take a lil’ bit. So, pour a glass of wine or grab a fruity cocktail, maybe some chips & guacamole…or one of the other 8,472,931 edible things I can’t have…sit back, relax and enjoy!

In no particularly order, I present to you my idea of the worst parts about the forced hiatus from my life. Ta-da!!!

Food and Beverage Commercials- Believe me, I understand the power of advertising, but have you ever noticed how many commercials on television are food/beverage related? Probably not, because unless you are in the hospital on a liquid diet, you can choose (or not) to have anything that happens to flash on that screen. At first, I thought I was just sensitive to it, because I’m starving. Uh…no. I counted them. During one commercial break, there were 5 spots: one for chocolate, one for burgers, one for chips, one for Jello (isn’t that ironic?) and one for Applebee’s. I let the last one slide, because my friend Maribeth is the star 🙂 The last time my nurse came in to check on me and ask if I needed anything, I told her she could call the networks and politely instruct them to temporarily suspend the run of any and all food/beverage/restaurant commercials until I get sprung from this joint. She giggled.

I was dead serious.

Vampires- I know, I know…phlebotomists. Yes…I respect the need for them in the hospital. After all they are specialists at what they do. However, it doesn’t make me loathe their 4am, needle-wielding,  wake-up calls any less. Perhaps if all of them looked like Robert Pattinson, or the guys from True Blood, I would be less grumpy about the visits. Okay, that’s a lie. Anyone that wakes me up just to stick me, drain me, and leave me is never received with open arms regardless of the time of day. Oh, and overall…their bedside manner SUCKS.

Noises- There are more than half a dozen separate sounds I can hear at the moment: my IV pump, the air conditioner (very noisy), the nurses relaying chart information, the lady next door yelling “Somebody help me, I gotta get up!” (I think she may be in the wrong unit, if catch my drift), the hospital PA system announcing a “Code Pink” (it’s a drill, I asked),  an alarm on one of the elderly patients’ beds that plays the tune of “Old MacDonald” incessantly and various other beeps, bells and dings. It’s maddening….even with my DOOR SHUT. I will admit to the temptation of actually recording it. After all, The Man does post-production sound effects for film, and this stuff would be GOLDEN to have in his sound library. Then I remembered about the french fries.

Sheets and Pillows- Now before you go thinking I’m some diva, requiring Eygptian cotton, 5000 thread count (do those even exist?) sheets, and goose down pillows like the ones at a 5-star hotel….don’t. Totally not me. I followed The Dead in college and am perfectly happy sleeping in a tent with an air mattress, covered with a COTTON SHEET and a pillow that just doesn’t run from its pillowcase. The pillows here are covered in plastic, and I understand why…but I don’t have to like them, do I? The only thing that irritates me more than having my bed linens wrinkly and in a bunch is feeling little ‘pills’ on them. It happens on…you guessed it…50/50 poly-cotton blend fabric. And wouldn’t you know it….the place designed to keep me bedridden and resting uses these sheets! For the love of all things holy….that’s why 100%, no-iron, cotton percale sheets exist. Get a clue, hospital admin people.

Bathing- I’ve been here 5 nights and 6 days now, and had 2 showers. All the days in between, I smelled like a dirty hippie. You know why? Because bathing myself with basically one arm is almost impossible. You see, I have this pesky IV in my left arm and they put it right in the bend of my elbow (big fat, juicy vein there) so I can’t bend my arm. Plus, to take a shower it has to be wrapped in plastic and made waterproof with tape that MacGyer would die to have in his tool pouch. Medical tape is the first cousin to Duct Tape, I believe. Seriously. And forget about washing my hair. Just couldn’t happen. So what do you think is at the top of my “To Do List” once I get out?

Peeing every 20 minutes- Since I was beyond dehydrated when I came in, I’ve had constant fluids running through me the entire time. And between The Liquid Diet (see next item on list) and the fluids, I haven’t peed this much since I was preggo with Sweet Pea. Up and down, up and down. Every 20 to 30 minutes. It’s exhausting, and painful, given the nature of my illness.  Again, I understand the benefits, but I thought I was supposed to rest here. Hello, catheter anyone?

The Liquid Diet- Remember how I talked about loving Jello in this post?  Well, you can forget all that BS. Because I’ve got a bit of strength back now, and I’m fairly certain the next tray that comes through my door sporting a fancy little plastic dish full of that translucent, colorful shit is going to be hurled at the wall. That goes for its equally nasty friend gelato too. Maybe I can say I was redecorating, and I thought the walls needed some modern “artwork” 🙂

Luigi, please go back to chasing Mario, will ya?

Luigi, stick with your partner Mario and go back to your day job, will ya?

***On a serious note though, the MOST EXCRUCIATING thing about being here is missing The Beans. The hospital will not allow the littles to come up and visit. Sugar Bean barely made the age requirement herself, and only came once, on Saturday for about 15 minutes. I think seeing me here spooked her and I didn’t press her to come back. If all goes well, I’ll be out this afternoon, have my babies in my arms and go back to life as usual in a few days. Okay, maybe not ‘as usual’, since that got me here in the first place. I’ll be making some adjustments so I can continue to entertain y’all with the adventures of my life from anywhere but here!

 

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You’re shacked up where?

redcross

Hi ladies and gentlemen, it’s The Calibamamom, coming to you LIVE from…

a hospital bed!! 

It’s true. My colon got angry at me, decided I needed a vacation, and promptly made me sick. REALLY sick. So my travel agent  doctor booked me a nice room at a nearby hospital for a few days . Since my only connection to the outside world at the moment  is my laptop, and I’m hopped up on pain killers and antibiotics, I thought it might be fun to highlight some of the best things about being here. I mean, overall it sucks, but there are some advantages (wink, wink). Especially if you are a sleep-deprived, SAHM to 3 Beans, a dog, and 3 lizards. Oh, and wifey to The Man.

Here’s my Top 5….

1. Ass-baring, one size fits none, gowns.  Talk about a fashion statement!  They snap at the shoulders, and tie in the back. However, even if you connect all the ties and snaps in the right places, chances are your ass will still be hanging out. Which is convenient if your nurse happens to be a little moody. You can just roll over and tell her to kiss it! Oh, and don’t get me started on the weird little pictures/icons printed on the fabric. I mean where do they find this stuff?

2. People at my beck and call…with the push of a button. So far, all of my nurses have been awesome. Although it would be way cooler if they were all insanely gorgeous, male models who walked around in nothing but scrub pants. But I suspect that might slow the healing process. People would be having heart attacks and strokes left and right, in an effort to extend their stays. I might be inclined to fake a coma myself.

3. Jello. Red is the best flavor in my opinion, but here they alternate colors/flavors. So far I’ve had red, green and orange. Just waiting for the yellow, blue and purple to show up so I can give ’em a gold star for supporting The Rainbow. Oh, and they give you a free pass to have as much as you want, especially if you are on that marvelous ‘clear liquid’ diet (see photo below). If only they knew how to make the jello “electric”. Perhaps I should give them the recipe. That would be super fun, right?

Yummy, huh?

Yummy, huh?

4. IV pain meds every 3 hours…Woo-hoo!!! Need I say more? If you want to fly high, and be pain-free–or at least not give a shit that you are in pain–the hospital is THE place to be. Of course if you are like me, and allergic to all the really good stuff, it’s always fun to watch the doctor try to figure out what to give you. Every time I’ve been in the hospital could have been filmed as an episode of  ‘Mysteries in the ER’. True story.

5.  Rabbit-turd ice. You know what I’m talking about right? The ice that’s so fun to crunch, and is only available in hospitals and select fast food places like Sonic Burger (FYI…they sell it in bags). Give me a bucket of that ice, and I won’t bother you for hours. I once checked into buying one of those ice machines for my house, but it turns out they are pretty expensive. Who knew?

Anyway, I’m here for a few days, so this probably won’t be my last post from the M*A*S*H unit, so stay tuned!!

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