Wednesday, October 8, 2014

back to school 2014

After an amazing summer of unusually warm temps the mornings start to turn cool and it's time to go back to school.  18 years with Blondie and she will not be joining her siblings in the annual Back to School front door photo session....she gets to sleep in and start College later this month!  So my nest is 1/4 less full.......

Our Jelly in the Middle started 11th grade this fall. She gets her own room and her own car this school year as Blondie moves on to college and will not be featured in our annual Back to School photos!!  Jelly is happy she can get herself to school on time this year and not have to rely on big sister to drive her. This is a big year for Jelly as she now takes the "top spot" as the oldest sister living at home. 

Sugar is in the middle of Middle School this year. In my opinion, the ickiest of school years. She gets to move into Blondie's room while Blondie is away at college. I think this is a good year for her to have her own space. 

 And last, but certainly not least, is our Mr. Mr. (who no longer wants to be called the Prince). I love his puppy dog feet in these photos! No doubt he has quite a bit more growing to do and I do predict he will be the tallest of our 4 kids. We are blessed to have boys in our neighborhood that he plays with frequently although he does love his sisters too. 

I have 4 kids in 4 different schools this Fall....but 3 kids living at home and each will have their own room. New season....always a new season....looking forward to what this one will bring. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

peanut allergy and peanut challenge

My "Jelly in the Middle" daughter has been allergic to peanuts her whole life. We are hoping she will outgrow this someday. We discovered this "allergy" when she was a toddler. Her face would get a red rash whenever she ate a peanut butter granola bar and within a half hour she would get sick. 

Her pediatrician referred us to an allergist as this could be life threatening. She tested positive for severe peanut allergy and we were told she could suffer anaphylaxis (throat swelling, difficulty breathing) with exposure to even a minute amount of peanut, peanut flour or peanut oil. From then on we made sure she had an Epi-pen (shot of epinephrine) in our car, my purse, her school, church and home.

A small child uses the EpiPen Junior, then as she gets older moves up to the regular EpiPen

We soon discovered EpiPens only had a 6-month shelf life (this was 14 years ago). We would need to replace the EpiPens in our car, my purse, her school, church and home every 6 months even though she had never shown any signs of anaphylaxis. We had to stock the EpiPens "just in case" because "she could die."

Skeptical me: ...hmmmm....really? I don't remember kids being allergic to peanuts when I was growing up and now suddenly every other kid has some type of allergy? And you want me to pay $25 for a two-pack of medicine (I'll need 2 or 3 two-packs) that only lasts 6 months, 'just in case', and need to be stocked in multiple locations, then thrown-away and repurchased Every 6 Months? Is this some sort of conspiracy?

Mommy me:  ...well, ok then, I can't Not stock them because "what if" something happens? I can't let my kid Die.

Taking her to Restaurants and sending her to School, Field Trips and Birthday Parties suddenly terrified me.

I became "that" mom who would call ahead:

"Are your fries and chicken strips made with peanut oil?"  
"Do your chips contain peanut oil?"  

"Do you have a peanut-free table in the lunch room?"

"What type of ice cream are you serving? Does it contain peanut oil?"
"Are you serving cake? What store did you purchase it from or if you made it which brand mix did you use?"

"Are you serving candy? Will the kids be washing their hands after they eat the Snickers?"

Not. Fun.

Jelly did a great job of avoiding peanuts. She obviously didn't want to die and her mom made sure that she knew that was a possibility. (Yes, she will need therapy, won't we all at some point?)

So this sweet girl coped with very little exposure and no life-threatening emergencies.
Even recently when she accidentally ingested peanut by taking a bite of a peanut M&M before realizing what it was.  

Yes, that happened.  

She quickly spit it out and brushed her teeth. We were on vacation and I remember giving her Benadryl and just watching her for the next hour praying I wouldn't have to use the EpiPen. Nothing happened except an itchy mouth.

Then more recently she had another accidental ingestion and again, just an itchy mouth, no sickness and no swelling. So off to the allergist we go to see if she has maybe outgrown this allergy?

Nope. Her skin test tested positive again but our allergist said the fact that she accidentally bit into peanut two times and didn't have a reaction is more conclusive than the skin test. So this summer we started her on a Peanut Challenge.

After years of conditioning to Avoid Peanuts At All Costs she was now being asked to put peanut flour in her mouth, then a tiny piece of mashed up peanut, progressively larger amounts throughout the day, all in the care of the allergist's office. This is the new thing! If she was 3 years old today, they would not tell her to avoid peanuts at all costs. They would get her on a peanut challenge and expose her a little bit each day to peanuts! My, how times change.

During the challenge her face got a red rash and her mouth got very itchy but no swelling. She progressed through the first challenge well. We were sent home with a "prescription" of peanut M&Ms (if I could only be so lucky!) and she was to eat one in the morning and one at night. 

We went on a summer vacation trip to a warm resort where we were going to bike, hike and swim every day so the doctor told us to cut her dose down to one peanut M&M per night because the hotter you are and the more exercise you do, the quicker the peanut travels in her blood stream and some kids get more of a reaction after exercising.  We gave her just one peanut M&M per night and each night she had horrible stomach aches until the third night she got sick. I called the allergist and he told us we were probably going too fast and we need to cut back to 1/4 of an M&M, could I do that? Cut a peanut M&M into quarters?

Sure, I can do that. As long as I get to eat the other 3/4 each night (which I did).

So far so good. Stomach aches are getting better but she does have a watery mouth and feels very nauseous. She hates peanuts and wants to quit this whole process. But if we quit now, she could have a worse reaction down the road. After years of avoidance, we now have to keep her exposed daily. This is her current "prescription" - tiny pieces of peanut sitting in our fridge:

When she finishes this prescription we will head back to the allergist office for Peanut Challenge #2. To be continued....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

my girls never did that - normal elbow xray

so this happened.
a few days before the First Day of School....
wearing worn out flip flops
running down very steep driveway

stunned silence
from both mother and child

mother's he ok? is he ok? is he ok? 

child lungs gearing up for that 
one biG  

Oh! he's not ok!

Triage mode
bloody toes
both feet
both ankles 
both knees
one hip
one arm

Where does it hurt?


More Ice
Comfy Couch

Concussion watch
I hope that arm's not broken 

Nah, it couldn't be broken...
he stopped crying.
He does not want ANYONE 
or ANYTHING to touch his arm.
But it's not broken.
He's not crying.
After about a week of him being fine except the whole Do Not Touch My Arm thing, I brought him in to the pediatrician. His wonderful, experienced pediatrician retired recently so we booked an appointment with the 'next available.'  The first thing the nurse did was grab his arm and take his blood pressure - yes, that arm.  And I sat there all mute like I'm not a helicopter mom, go ahead and torture him, you know best.  

This was exactly when I should have said something because she seemed surprised by his wincing. Ohhhh, I'm sooo sorry, let's try the other arm, no wonder your blood pressure seemed a bit high!

Then Dr New-Young-Expert-on-all-things-Kid took a look and suggested an x-ray since he shouldn't still be in pain after a week.  

"Hmmm...he has a fractured elbow. See that piece right there on his elbow has completely sheared off" - 

Is it going to float around his body?

"No, the tissue is holding it in place right now but he might have to have surgery to put a pin in there. I'm so sorry. Let's put him in a sling and I want you to see an orthopedic doctor asap."

That's so strange...all his pain is in his arm and wrist not his elbow"

"The elbow affects the whole arm"

My girls never did that.
*Boys* do this all the time. No biggie....right?

but surgery?
a pin?

He doesn't even have a Really Cool Story.
it was just 
the driveway
and flip flops

The next day I received a voice mail "Just wanted you to know the the radiologist looked at the xray and it's Normal. Have a good day."

Commence Helicopter Mode
No, not the receptionist,
not the advice nurse,
I would like to speak to the doctor please.
Oh, she's left for the day?
Let me leave a message.

Less than 5 minutes later I receive a call from the doctor.
This is where I do not want to seem like I'm complaining because the Very Best Thing in the World is when a Doctor is wrong about bad news!!!  I mean, this is a Miracle. A Christmas Miracle.
In September.
A Back to School Miracle.

So please remember to get second opinions. 
Doctors obviously don't know everything. No matter how much authority they assert when using words like "surgery" "pin" and "fracture."  And maybe they should not evaluate xrays if they don't know what they are talking about.  I would have been fine with her saying, "the radiologist will evaluate these tomorrow, we'll let you know."

Trust that small voice in your head. Mine was saying, This does not make sense...if his elbow is fractured, why is all the pain in his forearm and wrist??

She suggested he continue wearing the sling and keep our appointment with the orthopedic doctor. 

The next day we waited over an hour in the waiting room before the orthopedic doctor called us in to look at the x-rays of a Normal Elbow. "That is not a floating piece of elbow bone, that is little boy cartilage that will harden into bone as he grows and matures. He has a painful bone bruise down his forearm and wrist. He does not need a sling. He needs to go outside and play. He'll bounce back soon" says Dr. Xray-Expert-Who-Is-Sorry-Not-Sorry-We-Waited-an-Hour-for-something-we-already-knew.

Who is smiling in all of this? 
The ones who are getting paid?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

mitral valve clip surgery

2014 my stylish pretty momma

How does my momma continue to look better each year? She endured open heart surgery in 2011

sold her very large beach house in 2012 

and moved to a golf community in 2013 

She updated her entire house and grew the prettiest flowers on the block. She makes me feel lazy and tired and sometimes I look at her and just want to take a nap. She mostly inspires me and encourages me and gives me hope for the future. 

The 2011 heart surgery fixed a lot of things but for some reason her leaky valve wasn't fixed. It has steadily been getting worse and it was either another open heart surgery (like anyone would elect to go through that again) or a ground-breaking less-invasive Mitral Valve Clip Surgery. You have to go through a lot of interviews and hoops to be approved for this surgery and my mom was lucky #9 at her hospital.

Look how brave she looks! That is her Faith in Action.

If you're interested in how this surgery works, by all means check this video out!
But if you're like me and believe "if God wanted me to the see the inside of my body, he wouldn't have given me skin", then you might want to skip it.

"Interventional cardiologists created an alternative to open heart surgery by developing a mitral valve clip. To alleviate mitral valve regurgitation -- a condition where the heart's mitral valve does not close properly, allowing blood to leak back into the heart - cardiologists insert a catheter into the patient's groin that travels up into the mitral valve. The clip is fed through this catheter, where it finally grasps and tightens the valve's leaflets -- effectively preventing blood from leaking. The clip remains in place while the catheter is removed, the entire procedure taking approximately two hours and recovery a few weeks."

post surgery 2014

We were told that the surgery can last from 2-6 mom's went fairly quickly. The way the surgeons were so excited about this 'less invasive' 'easy' 'wonderful' surgery my mom was expecting to be dancing the next day. If you've ever been on a breathing tube and put to sleep for surgery, you know that dancing may not be on the agenda quite so soon. However, they did get her up and moving and into a chair that evening and the following evening she was released from the hospital!! Yes, she had heart surgery and went home the next day. Truly amazing!!  

coming home the next evening

The following week I took my momma in for her follow-up appointment. She told the doctor,  "I thought I would feel better instantly. It's finally dawning on me that it wasn't like going in for a pedicure."  Haha! No, momma, it is a less invasive option as far as heart surgery goes but it definitely is not as casual as getting a pedicure. 

It gives me hope...the doctors are super excited about the possibility of using this type of procedure for fixing other areas of the heart and not having to do so many open heart surgeries (which are extremely hard on the patient and a very long recovery time). 

Gosh, by the time I'm 85, maybe they will have a drive-through where I can order a zap of heart healing with a latte on the side?

Thank you momma for being Brave and giving us more time with you!

Thank you Mitra Clip inventors - your genius astounds me.

Thank you Surgeons - your skill is a blessing.

Thank you hospital staff who took good care of my momma and looked the other way at the 2-visitors per room rule.

Thank you family for helping mom through this surgery.

Thank you friends for praying - truly cherished!

Thank you God for healing and wisdom and progress.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creative Memories Roller Coaster

(A quick background in case you've missed the thousands of times I've mentioned this:  I have been with Creative Memories for the past 20 years - the last 8 of which many of us lovingly refer to as the "crazy train" or an even better comparison - a Roller Coaster. I finally had enough of the craziness and released my team in 2011 to pursue leadership with somewhere else (Thirty-One Gifts) - yet always hoping that CM would get it figured out and I could come back.)

When I found out CM was launching an entirely *new* company in January of this year, I came back to the "new, improved, free-from-several bankruptcies Ahni & Zoe by Creative Memories" naively thinking the emotional roller coaster was over.  

We started off great - Ahni & Zoe by CM was actually awarded the coveted Ethos Award for 2014 Best Product Launch from the Direct Sales Industry! I just knew we were on to something big...and after 8 years of ups and downs and stomach-clutching hairpin turns, I was starting to think that maybe just maybe "I've earned a life-long ride on the calm, cool lazy river."

So I jumped in with both feet - literally stepping down *again* from Leadership this time with my Thirty-One business so I could come *back* to my first love and find my *passion* - helping others get their photos off their devices and into their lives. I actually thought I was doing something noble.

Life was good! I was sooo excited!! (Except if I was CEO, I would have kept bookcloth album covers and some card stock, but for the most part I really loved their streamlined Fast2Fabulous product line.)  From January to May I sold over $8,000 in photo albums and supplies, was blessed by lovely ladies who joined my team, promoted to Unit Leader, earned an i-Pad Mini, helped my customers complete albums of love, held Dream Board workshops, enjoyed my own albums, and earned an all-expense-paid trip to a sunny Marriott spa and resort...I even floated down a lazy river...

Our CEO praised us for persevering through "tremendous head winds."  One of the windiest days was in February with the sudden departure of CM's co-Founder Rhonda Anderson. Seemingly overnight she surprised us all by abruptly announcing she was leaving Creative Memories and launching a very similar product line over at Heritage Makers. Suddenly I was inundated with requests to leave CM, join Rhonda's team, and get rich quick! It was all under the umbrella of the Youngevity company (think Amway) - we could sell photo albums, digital albums, vitamins, mineral makeup and essential oils! Oh joy! No, Thank You! 

I mean I had just come back to CM, I was all about Simplicity. I was also all about launching Ahni & Zoe by CM - I mean isn't that what we had been waiting for? To get out from under the mistakes of the past?  Besides I couldn't understand Youngevity's career plan and I really wasn't interested in selling vitamins along with my scrapbooks. I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box apparently because thousands of Consultants followed Rhonda over to her new company within days...(did they even look at the career plan?)...I guess it didn't matter - many were strategically placed onto teams to develop and promote leaders quickly. Rhonda has recently been recognized by Youngevity for having the "Fastest Growing Team in the World." I just wish she would have told me she was leaving and taking everyone with her before I gave up my Thirty-One Directorship to help her launch this "brand new" Ahni & Zoe company, but whatever, I'm not bitter. Haha.

So that was when the jolting feeling hit me - when *my* dream, *my* passion rounded another hairpin turn. I started hearing the familiar click-click-click sound a roller coaster makes as it takes its time climbing a Very. Steep. Hill.   Hmmm...I thought I was on a new track? Yet realizing I was actually on the same Crazy Train...and maybe nothing had changed. 

So many seemed excited to follow RA on this new venture and I just felt extremely hurt. During the first bankruptcy CM had somehow lost all of the Retirement Funds of their leaders and drained them completely empty. This was money that I had set aside every month from my commission checks into what I was told was a Financial Security Plan through the Home Office. Later we find out it was changed to a Rabbi Trust without our knowledge and completely drained dry. Thankfully I only set aside 5% during that time and lost around 10K but many leaders had 6 figures in there and were actually at retirement age when they found out they had no nest egg. I won't even get into the Home Office employees who lost everything during the employee-owned stock days... while the former CEO cashed out with millions.  

Wait. You thought we were talking about a Scrapbooking Company not Enron, right? Are you confused yet?

So then I thought...well, maybe it's a good thing that RA left and thousands of Consultants with her. They didn't like the direction of Ahni & Zoe. I still believed in the product, our mission and the small, committed group of women who remained. We could change the world! One album at a time! My energy was renewed. Now I was determined not to fail because I didn't want someone else to determine my destiny. And what really had changed? Just many thousands of our sales field had left, we were out of debt, we could still rise from the ashes....

So I put my head down and "Shared the Love" and earned Ahni & Zoe's very first Incentive Trip!

Are you a believer in signs?  Three things happened on that Trip that gave me the Gut Feeling that Something is Up:

The first *sign* - I had a layover in Denver and I got stuck there....broken down plane and ALL other flights overbooked. It was like a bad dream. I could not *get* to my all-expense-paid Incentive Trip!! Are you kidding me??  So I sat in the Denver airport for nearly 2 days waiting on standby for each plane taking off hoping to inch my way closer to Texas. Denver is significant because it just happens to be where my Thirty-One Senior Executive Director lives. Denver is also where I chose not to attend a LeadHERship Retreat with Thirty-One because I was too busy launching Ahni & Zoe. And Denver is where Thirty-One was having their National Conference in 2014. 

The second *sign* - when I wearily checked into my airport hotel room that United airlines so graciously provided, they assigned me to room in "To Thirty-One!!" I just remember lying on my bed looking up at the ceiling and asking God "What are you saying here?...Why am I stuck here?...Is this *just a coincidence* Lord? Or is this a significant Universe shift that I should be paying attention to?"

The third *sign* that Something Was Up - when I finally did arrive at the beautiful Marriott Spa and Resort the CEO was nowhere to be seen. I finally asked about him and was told, "He couldn't come. He's doing CEO things." Hmmm...what could possibly be more important than encouraging and rewarding his top leaders in the field? There were only 31 of us who earned the trip (yes, "31" I'm not making this up...was that sign #4?)  I thought maybe he would at least have a video message or Skype us or ??  But nope. Crickets....

Either very rude (which he's not) or like I said Something is Up.

Sure enough a couple of weeks later our CEO holds a Conference Call and tells us that we are financially at the end of our rope and we are no longer in the care of the Bankruptcy Trustee but we are now in Receivership. Which means that the Receiver will be trying to find a Buyer and if he can't, we will have no other choice but to shut down. (Wait. Bankruptcy? Trustee? Receivor? Didn't you tell us that we were *free from the constraints of the bankruptcies*? We were a *new company* with *unlimited potential*? 

Some people can handle roller coasters. 
Some thrive on the adrenaline and the excitement.
Some don't need to know what's around the next bend.
Some call that Faith.

I call that "they must have had a secure childhood."

This is me on a roller coaster...(the little guy in the front row Freaking Out): be continued

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First selfie

I know that selfies are all the rage right now but this is really nothing new...the above photo was my first selfie taken in 1976. I was 11 years old. I was on an airplane flying home by myself from my grandparents house. I was using my Kodak Instamatic so you can guess what happened as I discretely tried to take this photo...."KLICK" or "KLUNK" whatever embarrassingly loud sound that box makes. Oopsie...nothing to see here....

Of course, I couldn't see it until months later when we finally got around to developing the FILM, otherwise I might have retaken a better photo. Maybe. There was that embarrassing clunking noise to consider.

In the 80's we used mirrors for selfies. My BFF Lisa G thought I was taking her photo, but really I made sure I was in there too - yes, my first sneaky selfie.  Apparently it was normal for us to carry our wine glasses into the restaurant bathroom....what?!  Lisa G was my down-the-street-neighbor. One year older and much cooler than me but she let me tag along and she also didn't mind playing Barbies with me, teehee.

This was how she got a group selfie in the 80's...just hold the camera up really high:

Mirror selfies were difficult taken at night because we had to use Flash. Of course, we mostly partied at night so we had a lot of these who-the-heck-is-taking-the-photo photos (in this one it was Lisa G): 

That's me (on the right) with my Duran-Duran haircut and Miami Vice peach buttoned-up-all-the-way-to-the-neck so you won't notice the cigarette and drink in my hand, long string of pearls, huge round white earrings....

Oh, yes, shaved hair around the ears (I'm on the left)...I was into the Cure, Stray Cats, the Vandals, Dead Kennedys, Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and the Smiths...and my other BFF who also happens to be named Lisa (on the right) had every single 8-track (I'll explain later, kids) of Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. 

I met Lisa W. in 6th grade, when I accidentally spilled a can of Coke in my desk and she helped me clean it up. (What 12-year-old sneaks a Coke into class and thinks that's a good idea? Me apparently).  Here we are at school:

I know what you're're thinking "Wow, Donna Lyn had the coolest overalls!"  I know, right? They were a brand new pair and I wore them on the Last Day of School so you know they were Super Special to me because I lived in Seal Beach, California so it was probably pretty darn hot on the last day of school! But I will suffer for fashion. Always.

Lisa W. had one drawer in her room that was filled with Lip Smackers (the jumbo size was the only size they used to come in and they were COOL!!)  I used to go over to her house and smell every single one. Often. Fruit Punch and Dr Pepper were my favorites.Lisa W's dad was a sheriff and she was a good girl but she loved me anyway!

And you know what? She still does! I recently had the opportunity to see both of my Lisa's in person and it was just like old times (well, without the Lip Smackers, cigarettes and you know...)

I love these ladies!! They have been through a lot with me and know everything about me. I moved around a lot as a child so finally taking some roots in Seal Beach and keeping these friendships means the world to me. 

And, look! We even got a selfie:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back to blogging....

My Hero has expressed disappointment that I haven't been blogging much lately. Apparently he enjoys checking in on our 3 girls and a prince while he is gallivanting serving around the world. So while he texts me photos like this:

I'm out and about taking photos like this:

1 Tween and 2 Teenagers in the house.

They do not want me to post photos. 
They do not want me blogging about...much, if anything.

There comes a time in a girl's life (and I'm assuming it will come in our prince's life as well) when they hit Middle School and suddenly Everything Becomes a Very Big Deal. I respect that. I remember hating surviving Middle School - what was then called "Junior High" - I can't imagine having a mother post photos and rants during my awkward years. 

But an even Bigger Deal is High School. This past year having a Senior in the house has been a true roller coaster ride! My girls are pretty private. They are pretty and they are private. They don't post endless selfies or tweet about every moment of every day. I respect that too.'s just me and my Creative Memories Soap Opera ("as the CM World Turns") which I already blog a little bit about on my blog. And all the dashing here there and everywhere surviving suburbia:

indoor soccer


more basketball...different nights....oy!


and Cheerleading

3 girls and a prince
4 sports
2 cars
 1 mom
1 super dad who also gets deployed (Reserves) quite frequently and likes to check on the Blog

Isn't that what our scrapbooks are for?