Friday, February 26, 2010

An Award And Awkward!

I've been MIA this week.  Again.  Honestly, sometimes there aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do.  I've been busy with a project that I'll tell you more about very soon.  In fact, it has to do with a giveaway, so keep your eyes peeled! 

An Award

Kathy and Seashell from Two Hands Full Of Daisies gave me the following award:

Thank you very much!  I'm so flattered that you would pass this award on to me!

Here are the rules:

List 10 things that make you happy. (try to do one of those things TODAY!)

Tag 10 bloggers that brighten your day.

Make sure to link back to the person that tagged you!
Ten things that make me happy:
  1. My family
  2. The end of winter (if it ever ends)
  3. Reading and writing blogs
  4. Music (see my player at the bottom of the page for some of my favorites)
  5. Cooking/baking
  6. Survivor and pizza on Thursday nights
  7. The ocean
  8. Family road trips and vacations
  9. Watching a good movie
  10. Reading a good book
I'd like to pass this award to these 10 bloggers (who always make me happy!):
  1. My Farmhouse Kitchen
  2. Conquer The Monkey
  3. Better Than Cured
  4. Cut and Dry
  5. EG&C
  6. Magical Places On Tuscany's Coast
  7. Matty's Thoughts
  8. Peeling An Orange With A Screwdriver
  9. Running With Letters
  10. Stir-Fry Awesomeness
If you haven't visited one or more of these bloggers, click on the links and check them out!  They're all very friendly!

NOTE:  While I was copying and pasting links, I realised that I didn't have some of my bestest blog buddies on my blogroll.  I can't believe I overlooked that!  If you are a follower and you aren't listed on my blogroll, please bring it to my attention.  Also, if you're a new follower and I haven't dropped by your blog to say "Hi", please tell me!  I try to stay on top of these things, but I do occassionally miss something.  Don't be shy, leave me a comment or send me an email and let me know!

Also, I'm having some major computer issues.  It seems that I need to click on buttons multiple times before my computer recognizes them.  If I've left the same comment on your blog two or three times in a row, that's why!   If anyone can recommend a good virus scanning program, I'd appreciate it (I have McAfee).  I'm not sure I have a computer virus, but something is certainly wrong.


Have you ever had one of those moments when you wish you could suck the words right back into your mouth?  Maybe you said something you wish you hadn't, or something you said was misunderstood.  I've done it more times than I like to remember.  Here are a few things I wish I hadn't said.
  • At a company potluck luncheon, I warned a coworker not to eat the brownies.  I told her that I had seen other people spit them out.  That was when she told me that she had brought them.  It was a family recipe.
  • I was looking at a stack of sales brochures a friend had picked up when she was shopping for a new car.  I commented that one particular car was really ugly.  It was, of course, the car she had just ordered.
  • My boss and coworkers surprised me on my birthday with a cake that one of the women in our office had made.  Just before it was removed from the box, I said "I hope it doesn't have anything green on it" (my birthday is the day after St. Patrick's day).  It ended up being covered in green plastic shamrocks.  The paper plates and napkins for the cake were also covered in shamrocks.
  • A friend of mine was taking me on a tour of the house she and her husband had just bought.  She told me they wanted to do a lot of painting because the previous homeowners had made some terrible color choices.  When she showed me the bathroom, I told her I would paint that room first because it looked so bad.  It turns out that the bathroom was the only room they had already repainted.
How about you?  Ever put your foot in your mouth?


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Today, at 10:30 am, my son turned 17.  I still remember the day he was born like it was yesterday.  We were at a family birthday party when my water broke.  He was a few days early, and being our first child, we were a little unprepared.  My husband had to make the 30 minute drive home to get my bag (which wasn't packed, I was procrastinating) before we could head to the hospital.

After an agonizing night of pitocin assisted labor and a last minute decision to perform a c-section, we were rewarded with this little guy. 

Hours after he was born.

Just before we were discharged (a rare picture of me).

With daddy on his first birthday.  He has a bigger car now.

The time has gone so fast.  Here's my little guy today, with his girlfriend.

 Happy Birthday, seventeen year old!   


Friday, February 19, 2010

The Worst Birthday

My son has a birthday coming up.  He'll be 17.  Last year, when he turned 16 and got his drivers license and his own car, I didn't flinch.  This year, I'm feeling a bit more melancholic.  I guess it's starting to sink in that he's racing toward adulthood at warp speed.  Where did all that time go?  Did I make the most of it?  I hope I did.

I've been thinking a lot about his worst birthday, especially after reading Tracie's latest post at Stir-Fry Awesomeness, where she posts about her son's birthday and her life ten years ago (it's a great post, stop by and read it if you haven't already).  I didn't want to share the story on his actual birthday, I'd rather reserve that day for a happier post, so here it is.

Foreword:  Brevity is not one of my strong suits.  While I did not intend for this post to be a mini-novel, it has become one.  I appreciate your taking the time to read it, despite it's length.

February of 2000 was a hectic time for us.  Our daughter was three months old and still in the NICU.  Between my husband and I, we were covering the morning, early afternoon and evening shift at the hospital while also trying to spend as much time as possible with our six year old son.  It wasn't easy for any of us. 

As it got closer to his birthday, we started talking about what we could do to make it extra special.  In past years, in addition to a family party, we had let him choose a friend or two, and we would go out to dinner and maybe an arcade.  We decided this was the year to have a full blown kid party.  We would invite all of his classmates as well as a few other kids.  We figured it would be about 35-40 kids, altogether, celebrating his seventh birthday.

Our house isn't well suited to entertain that many kids, so we opted to reserve the playroom at our local McDonalds.  They told us that us that they would provide a choice of a hamburger, cheeseburger, or chicken nuggets plus fries and a drink for each child for x amount of dollars (I don't remember how much it was anymore).  They would also supply a birthday cake, a birthday crown, and a special Ronald McDonald birthday plate our son could keep.

For weeks before the big party, if we weren't at the hospital, we were involved in some party related activity.  There were favor bags to be picked up from the party supply store, toys to be purchased for the favor bags, invitations to buy and address, and gifts to pick out for the birthday boy.  Each day our son grew more excited and we grew more exhausted.

When I addressed the party invitations, I specified "regrets only" on the RSVP line because we couldn't handle the stress of the phone ringing every night.  When you have a very sick child in the hospital, the last thing you want to hear is the phone ringing.  Your blood goes cold and your adrenaline starts pumping at the sound of it.  Hospitals don't usually call to give you good news.  Looking back now, I don't know why I didn't ask my mom to handle that for me.  I could have put her phone number on the invitations and had her give me a daily count.  I don't know why I didn't think of it then.

A few people called to tell me their child/children wouldn't be able to come, but I also received a few calls from mothers who wanted to know if it would be alright to bring younger or older siblings.  I couldn't bring myself to say no, although each extra child added to the number of party favors we would need to make as well as the number of meals from McDonalds.  We felt as if things were spiraling out of control.

Two days before the party, one of the doctors at the hospital told us that they wanted to attempt to take our daughter off the ventilator and see how she would do breathing on her own.  She had been doing well on the ventilator setting that was the equivalent to room air.  They felt she was ready.  When were they planning to do this, we enquired?  In two days, the day of our son's birthday party.  There was no way we could ask them to consider a different day no way we could change the party.  We would have to find a way to make it all work.

Monday morning, the day of our son's party and the day our daughter would breathe without a tube in her throat for the first time.  Mr. Willoughby had taken the day off work, so together, we delivered our son (who wasn't feeling well) and three dozen birthday cupcakes to school and then headed for the hospital.

The nurses were already making preparations for the extubation when we arrived at the hospital.  There was a flurry of activity around our daughter's bed, but we were told that we could stay in the room as long as we stayed out of the way.  The plan was to remove her breathing tube and then place her in an oxygen tent to breathe on her own.  Previously, we had been told that she would be placed on a nasal cannula, so we were confused.

The procedure didn't take long.  First, a nurse carefully removed all of the tape that held the breathing tube securely in her mouth.  After that, the tube was removed and she was placed in the oxygen tent.  The doctor called us over right away so we could, for the first time ever, see our daughters face unobstructed by tape and tubes.  It was an emotional moment.

For hours we sat and watched her oxygen saturation fluctuate on the monitor.  We were encouraged to reach into the tent and stroke her arms and talk to her.  Eventually, though, it was determined that she needed some sort of supplementary oxygen and she was given a nasal cannula.  The good thing about it was that we were able to pick her up and hold her since she didn't need to be confined to the tent.  Still, though, the monitor showed she wasn't getting as much oxygen as she needed.

A portable x-ray machine was brought in to diagnose the problem.  It revealed that she had a collapsed lung.  They increased the amount of oxygen she was getting and told us not to be discouraged, that there was a possibility the lung would re-inflate without intervention.  We were instructed to pat her back gently to loosen any mucus.  As long as she didn't drop too low, she would be re-evaluated every 30 minutes to determine whether reintubation was necessary.  The nurses and respiratory therapists were upbeat and encouraging.  They told us not to worry if she did need the tube reinserted and that it was pretty routine to make several attempts at breathing without the ventilator before it was successful.

Eventually, we had to leave.  We had no choice but to hand our daughter over to a nurse and head for home.  It was an hour long drive and we needed to pick our son up from my parents' house and get to McDonalds before the party guests arrived.  It was painfully difficult to walk out of that room.  We felt like we were abandoning her, even though the nurses insisted we weren't.

When we arrived at my parents' house, our son was lying on the couch with a pillow and blanket.  His head was warm and he wasn't feeling well.  We considered cancelling the party, but he wanted to go whether he felt good or not, so after a quick trip home to pick up party favors and birthday gifts, we headed for McDonalds.

We got there about 30 minutes before the party was to begin.  They had already put up a "reserved" sign on the door and closed the play room.  The manager greeted us and went over all of the preparations.  When I asked her how we should handle the children's food orders, she told me to "play waitress" and write each child's order on a sheet of paper and then turn it over to her.  I had no idea I would be in charge of taking the orders, and it was the last thing I wanted to do.  She hadn't left me any options, though, so instead of doing the smart thing and ordering the same meal for all 40 kids, I agreed to take individual orders.

At first it wasn't too bad because I asked each kid what they wanted to eat as they walked through the door.  Soon, though, there were too many kids walking in at the same time for me to take each order.   I had to chase all over the play room to make sure I had asked everyone.  Some kids made it more difficult by asking for "no pickles" or "extra ketchup".

When the food was brought to us, the special orders weren't marked so I had six or seven kids complaining that their burgers were wrong or they had the wrong sauce for their chicken nuggets.  Another half dozen complained that they had the wrong drink.  Mr. Willoughby ran back and forth to the counter to exchange what we were given for what was ordered.  Some of the moms offered to help out, but I guess I wanted to feel in control, so I turned down their offers.

Once the kids were all sitting down to eat, Mr. Willoughby slipped out to call the hospital and check on our daughter.  She was still on the nasal cannula, but things weren't looking very good.  They expected that she would be back on the ventilator before the night was over.  It was depressing news.  Despite what they told us at the hospital, it felt like a setback. 

Things were depressing at the party, too.  While other people's children ate their food and played, our son sat quietly and  picked at his food.  He didn't feel well enough to eat or play with the other kids.  It broke my heart to see him sick on the day he had been so looking forward to.  I could only hope that he would perk up when it was time to open his presents.

There was a bright spot to my evening, though.  One of the moms at the party was a woman I had met in the NICU.  Her son, also a preemie, had been in the bed across from our daughter.  We had become good friends in a short amount of time.  Her little guy had already been discharged from the hospital and I hadn't seen her in a few weeks.  She gave me a huge hug and dragged me out to the parking lot.  In the back seat of her car she had a gift for me.  She handed me a huge casserole in a disposable pan as well as several bags of salad and a loaf of garlic bread.  It was dinner for a few nights with no clean up.  "It's nothing fancy, but I thought you could use a break," she said.  She had been in my shoes.  She knew.

When we walked back inside, it was time to open gifts.  The amount of presents was staggering, and to be truthful, a little sickening.  No child needs 40 gifts on their birthday.  Although it hadn't been my intention to give a big party just so my son would get a ton of gifts, it felt greedy to me.  There was no way I could start handing the gifts back to the kids that brought them, though.  Instead, I sat next to my son and handed him package after package to open.  He was polite and managed to muster some enthusiasm for each toy and remembered to say thank you each time.

After "Happy Birthday" had been sung, and the candles had been blown out, Mr. Willoughby began hauling gifts to the car while I served cake to 40 now tired and cranky kids.  I couldn't wait to get out of that place and go home.  It was truly one of the longest and worst days of my life.

We checked in with the hospital before we went to bed.  Our daughter was still fighting to stay off the ventilator.  There was no guarantee, but she was holding her own.  Overnight, though, things changed and she had to have the tube put back in.  We went through that, sans birthday party, four more times before she could successfully breathe on CPAP, and eventually a nasal cannula.

The manager of our McDonalds told me they had never had such a large party in the playroom before.  The next time I went into that same McDonalds I noticed they had posted a sign that said they no longer offered birthday party packages.  I think our party was the reason for that decision.  I still have nightmares about it.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One Of Those Days And A Video To Make You Think

So far, it's been one of those days.  It started when I woke up this morning with a wicked case of heartburn (I had a piece of bacon last night, sometimes the grease doesn't sit well with me).  After popping a Zantac, the burn was gone, but it was replaced by stomach cramps.  I still managed to get through my morning routine, but it slowed me down.  I kept trying to pick up my pace, but that seemed to make things worse.  It reminded me of a little iron trivet that my grandma used to have in her kitchen.  It said "The Hurrier I Go, The Behinder I Get".  That couldn't have been more true for me.  I nearly shattered a bottle of perfume while frantically blow drying my hair at the last minute.  I dropped the jar of jam on the floor while I was making my daughter's lunch and I spilled coffee creamer on the counter when I refilled my coffee.

We got a light dusting of snow in the early hours of the morning, so I wanted to leave a minute or two early for school in case the roads were slippery.  In my haste to get out the door, I slipped and fell on the back porch steps.  I reached out to break my fall, but only ended up hurting my hand and my arm.

After dropping my daughter off at school, I had to stop at the supermarket and pick up a few items.  By the time I got there, the stomach cramps were killing me.  The smell of the rotisserie chickens added to it, making me feel nauseous.  I could barely stand the thought of walking through the meat department, but I had to get a package of sliced turkey.  The woman who stocks the lunch meats just happened to be unloading a case of the Oscar Mayer turkey that is on sale this week.  She's very friendly and wanted to talk about lunch meat with me, comparing the brands and telling me which was the best value for my money.  Ugh!  Who wants to think about, much less talk about, sliced meat when you've got stomach cramps and you're feeling queasy?

Eventually, I made it home and braved the back porch steps (without falling).  I tracked snow in which melted into a puddle on the wood floor, left my keys hanging from the exterior lock without realising it, and slammed my finger in a cabinet door.  On the bright side, sipping on a Coke has made me feel much better.  I'm still cursing the bacon, though.

A Video To Make You Think

My brother and I have been exchanging emails with links to songs and interesting videos.  He sent me a link to this video, recently, and it's been stuck in my head ever since.  I thought I'd share it with you.  It's a little bit "new age", but it makes you think. 

From youtube:  "This is a video I directed for spoken word artist Mipham. Mipham records albums, runs marathons and just happens to be a Tibetan Buddhist Lama."

Let me know what you think.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Tidbits

Technically Speaking

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that of my technical difficulties are over.  I have been reading and commenting on blogs without any problems this morning.  I haven't done anything differently or changed any settings, but everything seems to be working.  Let's hope it lasts.

Raking It In

We live in a small town so there are far more teenagers looking for jobs than they are jobs available.  Especially considering that so many adults are currently out of work and willing to take jobs that were formerly done by teenagers.  So when my son's girlfriend was looking for a way to earn some extra money, she looked into jobs that can be done online.

I'm always skeptical about work from home opportunities so I did a little research.  I spent some time googling the names of the companies that promised to pay for online help to see if the were legitimate or scams.  In my search, I came across a website that investigates and reports on the very same subject.  It's a pretty interesting website with lots of information.  There are also links to the websites that have been found to offer legitimate paying jobs.

I told her about the website and some of the jobs that looked worthwhile.  She got started working for a few of them right away, and suggested I give it a try.  I've been pretty busy lately, but I figured it couldn't hurt to see what it was all about.  I signed right up.

Here's how it works.  This website is basically a discussion site.  There are hundreds of different topics for discussion and can choose any one, or as many as you like (cooking, television, movies, music, etc.).  You can start your own discussions or join discussions others have started.  That's it.  All you have to do is chat with other people and you get paid.  The pay scale isn't clearly defined, but you are apparently paid more for long posts than for short ones.  There are a lot of rules you have to follow, too, to keep your posts from being deleted (no duplicate posts, no flaming, etc.).  Apparently, the website pays it's members which increases membership, and therefore attract more advertisers.

So once I figured out how to start and join discussions, I got involved in as many as I could.  In between working on other things, I popped in and posted something.  I wouldn't go so far as to say it was fun (some of the discussions were literally lowering my IQ), but it was interesting.  Your earnings are updated every 24 hours so I was excited to see how much money I made. 

I hope you're sitting down, or at least bracing yourself against something when I tell you what was posted to my account.  Are you ready??  Wait for it.......seventeen cents.  Yes, you read that right, several hours of posting added up to the whopping total of seventeen cents.  So if you don't hear from me for a while, I'm off on an indulgent shopping spree or relaxing on a tropical getaway with my loot.

~~To be fair, I spent a few minutes here and a few minutes there while I worked on other things.  If you have the time (and the inclination) to sit for longer periods of time chatting with people, you may be able to earn more.  If you'd like more information, email me at

Seen Around Town

Every day when I'm driving through town I see signs that make me laugh.  I've been hoping to find enough of them to fill an entire post, but since they change so often, I thought I would post a few before I forget about them.  I'm sorry that I don't have pictures, but I'm really bad at driving and zooming at the same time!

Our local ATV dealer also has a penny candy section.  There is a sign near the road that says:  "Old Fashioned Candy Helmets".  I understand that they sell candy as well as ATV helmets, but the sign makes me wonder what a candy helmet looks like.  Is it a helmet made of candy or a helmet you should wear while eating candy?

The dentist office has a huge banner plastered in front of the building that says "Professional Dental Tooth Whitening - In office only".  Does this mean you can't have it done in the parking lot?

A restaurant in town has a sign out in front that says "Voted best crab legs in town".  I'm sure they are.  It is the only restaurant in town that has crab legs on the menu.

And finally, this isn't from my little town, but from the state Facebook page: "Remember its Free Fishing Weekend, Statewide, February 13-14, 2010 - Now’s the time for everyone to try their luck at catching the big one. All Michigan fishing license fees are waived on inland and Great Lakes waters (fishing regulations apply)."  Whoo Hoo!  Free Michigan.  Unless you have ice fishing gear, the only big one you'll be catching is frostbite.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Odds And Ends

Technical Difficulties

I've been having some technical difficulties over the past few days.  I'm having trouble accessing some of your blogs.  I'm also having a problem leaving comments on some of the blogs that I can access.  For some reason, the comment area will not recognize that I'm signed in.  It happens sporadically, so sometimes I can leave a comment, sometimes I can't.  I don't know if it's blogger or my computer that's causing the problem, but I am trying to get it worked out.  In the meantime, I haven't forgotten you!


I've been busy with a few projects so I haven't posted a new blog in almost a week (I have still been reading your blogs, though).  I should be back on track within the next few days.


I am planning a giveaway very soon and I'm pretty excited about it!  I don't want to let the cat out of the bag just yet, but I want to tell you that the prize will not be strictly for women.  I know the guys often get left out of giveaways, but not this time!  Okay, that's all I'm going to say, for now.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oh, The People You'll Meet!

My first exposure to the internet was back in 1996 when my husband and my son bought me a WebTV* unit for Christmas.  I didn't have much of an idea of what the internet really was, but I was excited.  I had seen an advertisment for WebTV and it looked like a lot of fun.

One of the first things I learned about were bulletin boards (an early version of forums).  WebTV had a feature that allowed you to choose your interests and then it would display a list of bulletin boards you might like.  Under the entertainment category, I found a bulletin board for M*A*S*H.  I've always loved the show, and when I found out Larry Gelbart, one of the shows writer/producers was a contributing member of the board, I decided to check it out.

At first, all I did was read the posts.  I was nervous about posting any questions or comments of my own, but when I saw that Larry was answering questions, I got up my nerve and posted one.  He didn't answer right away but another member of the board did.  At that time your user name ended with the system you were using (i.e. willoughby@webtv) and when this guy saw that I was on WebTV, he lit into me.  He said the only people on the internet that were stupider (his word) than AOL users were WebTV users.  He went on to blame me for the dumbing down of the internet.  I couldn't believe it.  All I had done was ask a question about the set they used for filming M*A*S*H.  

It didn't take long to find out that it wasn't just the M*A*S*H board that attracted nasty people.  The cooking bulletin board was just as bad.  I chimed in on a conversation about how long unrefrigerated food was safe to eat and two people ganged up to tell me how stupid I was.  I had said that it was risky to eat cooked chicken that had been unrefrigerated all day (picnics).  These two said that people in third world countries ate unrefrigerated cooked food all the time without getting sick.  According to them, people like me were the cause of all the anti-biotic resistant bacterial strains because we are overly hygienic and paranoid.

Since then, I've graduated to a high speed internet connection and laptop computer, but I still run into the same sort of nastiness all the time.  I've been told that I (and everyone else who lives in Michigan) must be living under a rock if we still call carbonated beverages "pop" instead of "soda" and that we should learn to speak english here.  A man who bought one of our ebay items told me I must not understand the US banking system if I refused to accept his personal check and that I should move to the European Union and stop selling on ebay.  I could go on and on.

I see it on forums, blog comments and anywhere else readers can leave opinions.  Don't believe me?  Go to any cooking forum and profess your love for canned creamed soups, White Zinfandel or Velveeta.  They'll be on you like vultures.  Or try a fitness and nutrition website and admit you allow your family to consume products with high fructose corn syrup.  I've seen people accused of poisoning their children for making such statements.  Don't even get me started on the comments I've seen on politics, religion or birth control.

I have no problem ignoring it, but I still don't understand what causes people to behave that way.  Is it really that important for them to have complete strangers agree with them?  I can have an opinion without the need to express it to other people if it's going to cause a confrontation, why can't they?  I wonder, too, if people in their real lives know the sort of things they post online.  Probably not.

I would rather have a pleasant conversation than an argument.  I would also rather say something positive than something negative.  Everyone knows what it feels like to get a compliment.  A few nice words can truly make your day.  It takes no more energy to bring someone up than to bring them down and it doesn't diminish your achievements to acknowledge the achievements of another.  But that's just my opinion.

How do you feel about negative internet users?  Have you had any bad experiences?

*WebTV gave you access to the internet on your television through a dial-up phone connection.