Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poor Genevieve

I need you all to say a little prayer for Genevieve today, because homegirl has been struggling for reals. She had to go to the bicycle doctor two days in a row. I'm just hoping there won't be a third...

Yesterday, I woke up bright and early with big plans to get in a 12-15 mile ride before I had to get ready for a meeting. I had set an alarm. I was ready to go on time. I got about a quarter of a mile from home and my pedals seized up and wouldn't turn anymore. I got off the bike and tried turning the pedals and pulling on the chain. I got black grease all over my fingers, but did not manage to fix my bike. Bummer.

I was annoyed with my inability to get in some miles so I took my broken baby to the bike store to consult the bike doctor. He took a look at her and said that her chain had slipped off. He put it back on for me and when I asked if there was anything I could do to "Ashley-proof" the chain, he said no and that sometimes these things just happen. I smiled and wandered off, planning to get some riding done in the morning before devoting one last day to studying for my Family Law exam.

Fast forward to this morning. I did not set an alarm, but I got up on time anyway and was out the door bright and early. The weather was comfortably cool and I pedaled off happily, expecting to make up for yesterday's epic fail. Y'all know where this is going. I got about 3/4 of a mile away from home this time and, once again, my pedals stopped working.

I sulked for a while, and planned to go back to the bike doctor later in the day even though I really didn't want to. It's one thing to break your bike every now and then, but breaking your bike the same way two days in a row is incredibly embarrassing. Fortunately, the bike doctor did not make fun of me. I probably would have deserved it if he did. 

This time Genevieve had a bit of surgery. The bike doctor unscrewed her derailleur, did magic on the chain, then put the derailleur back on. I probably won't be able to test ride her tomorrow morning, but I'm hoping Genevieve won't be needing anymore emergency trips to the bike doctor. At least not for a little while.

I spent the rest of my day studying, running errands, and whipping up a couscous salad because I needed brain food to study by. I added baby spinach, mini grape tomatoes, sweet onion, feta, and cooked whole wheat couscous to a bowl and tossed it all with a sweet and spicy pomegranate mustard vinaigrette. My last law school exam ever is tomorrow you guys. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That Time I Had a Nightmare About My Last Law School Exam And Lived To Tell About It

My dreams get crazy during exam period. Last year around this time I dreamed that I had adopted a bunch of micro piglets and set them free in my living room. About halfway through the dream I realized that I had had the piglets for ages and had never taken them outside to do their business. The dream ended after my horrified realization that if the piglets were not going outside to use the bathroom, they were clearly going under my couch. 

Given the piglet thing, I probably shouldn't be surprised that my exam period dreams have returned. Last night I dreamed that I was at school to take my last law school exam ever. I sat down at a table and for some reason this girl I can't stand sat beside me with several of her friends. Law school exams are almost always essay based and you take them on your laptop, but for some reason the proctor started passing out scantron sheets that were labeled with different letters. I didn't think that the letter really mattered at first, but I got a scantron labeled C and when the girl I don't like saw my letter she tried to wrestle my C scantron away from me. I won the scantron tussle before I woke up, but it was almost as weird as the piglet dream.

The dream was the precursor to a weird day when nothing went according to plan. I was supposed to wake up early, get in 10 or more miles of cycling, shower, head to school for an interview, have lunch, come home for a Skype interview, then spend the rest of my day outlining for my last exam. Instead, I woke up this morning and got about 1/4 of a mile from my apartment when the pedals of my bike locked up and refused to pedal. I was going downhill at the time so I was able to coast safely to a stop, but I was annoyed at Genevieve. I walked her back home and got dressed for my first interview of the day. I was on my way to my car when I got a message saying the interview would have to be rescheduled for later in the week. Since I no longer had an interview, I decided to get changed and take Genevieve to the bike store to see if she could be fixed. I got there as soon as they opened and, fortunately they were able to diagnose and treat her. The bike mechanic said the chain slipped off. I asked if there was anything I could do to make sure it didn't happen again and he told me it just happens sometimes. I probably should have asked him to show me how to fix it myself because anyone who reads this blog knows that my life is a series of mishaps and problems and that if lightning was going to strike someone twice, it would almost certainly be me.

The only thing that went according to plan today was lunch. I drained and sliced some extra firm tofu into cubes, coated it in Trader Joe's General Tsao's Stir Fry Sauce, and baked it until it had browned a little. I ate it with a sweet potato on the side. It was hearty and delicious and made me feel a little bit better about the state of my life.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The French Fry Alternative

It was supposed to rain most of the afternoon, so I got up early this morning and took my bike out for a spin. Yesterday I made the mistake of going for a ride in the afternoon and it was kind of a nightmare. It was ridiculously hot, the park was packed with people and cars, and I only got in 7.44 miles before I decided to call it quits out of misery. Today was a much better experience. It was comfortably cool out and since I left early, I only had to deal with a handful of cars on my favorite route. It was so nice that I ended up riding a good half hour longer than I meant to!

After I got back I studied for a while before lunchtime rolled around. I've developed a bit of an obsession with Trader Joe's organic polenta and I've been looking for new and interesting ways to cook it ever since.  I found a few mentions of polenta fries on the internet and decided to give them a shot this afternoon. After about 40 minutes in a 450 degree oven, my polenta turned into a satisfying french fry alternative that I will probably be making over and over again. They even got crispy enough to dip in ketchup without wilting. That is the hallmark of a good french fry, people.

I also tried making polenta lasagna. I know the picture is incredibly unappetizing, but it was actually really good. I was trying to use up some leftover turkey my mom gave me a few days ago, so I decided to try layering polenta, shredded turkey, tomato sauce, and cheese in a baking dish and cooking it until everything was hot and the cheese melted and browned a little. It kind of fell apart when I transferred it from the baking dish to the bowl, but I promise it looked like lasagna before I decided to move it. The good news is that I didn't miss the lasagna noodles at all. I think this recipe might be a keeper too. Do you like polenta? What are your favorite ways to eat it?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Don't Always Take My Doctor's Orders And I'm Not Sorry

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, so this post is in no way a medical opinion or advice to others about what choice to make regarding Crohn's treatment. These are merely my own reflections on the frustrating experiences I have had with doctors, the treatments they prescribe for Crohn's Disease, and my family's reactions to my medical decisions.

Sometimes my interactions with family members leave me wondering if they know me at all. Lately, one of the biggest disagreements we have is how to deal with my Crohn's symptoms. They think I should follow my doctor's advice to the letter. I think the advice of doctors should be taken with a grain of salt. They think some of my decisions regarding my medical care are stupid. I know that I always have a logical reason for my choices, medical and otherwise, and that the decisions I have made regarding my treatment reflect my lifestyle and goals. Let me explain.

There is no cure for Crohn's Disease. There is no treatment in the world that will heal me. The only thing doctors can do for me is manage my symptoms, but between 50-80% of Crohn's patients need to have surgery in their lifetimes no matter what doctors do. As a result, I want my treatment plan to accomplish two things: 1) limit my Crohn's symptoms enough that I can live my life in spite of them and 2) not induce side effects so severe that I still can't live my life even though my Crohn's symptoms are technically under control. A treatment plan is worthless to me if it fixes my Crohn's symptoms by causing other, equally disruptive medical problems.

Many of the medications that treat Crohn's Disease have nasty side effects. I currently take medications that can cause things like nausea, immune suppression that leaves me vulnerable to infections, ulcers, headache, sleep problems, and weight gain. When my doctor prescribes a new medication, I take it as prescribed--unless or until the side effects become more troublesome than my Crohn's symptoms.

This is a delicate balancing act that is akin to a high stakes game of would you rather, and I am not the first Crohn's patient to have played. For me, the questions go something like this: Would you rather live with occasional mild stomach pain that does not keep you from running, cycling and hiking or treat the stomach aches with a medication that causes nausea that will keep you from participating in the only activities that make your life enjoyable for at least one day per week? Would you rather eliminate a few fruits and vegetables from your diet to avoid occasional stomach distress or take an immune suppressant that might help with the stomach aches but will also leave you particularly susceptible to every cold, flu, stomach virus, and other communicable illness you are exposed to at school, work, or the gym? Would you rather have a swollen lip that looks horrible but doesn't cause physical pain or have steroids injected directly into your lip to take down the swelling? I wish these were hypothetical questions, but I am forced to answer them every time I take the methotrexate, Humira, Prednisone, or other drug my doctor prescribes.

If I understand correctly, some of my relatives think that if I don't take every single pill, shot, and infusion, it is akin to choosing illness over health. As an aside, I actually listen to their arguments even though they rarely bother to give credence to mine. Just to give you an example, an aunt once informed me that she could have me declared incompetent so she could become my guardian and force me to undergo some treatment I decided wasn't right for me. I didn't bother arguing with her even though she's a little confused about how the legal side of that process works, but that is a tangent I won't pursue any further. I'll get back to the point.

As the person who has to live with my symptoms and side effects, I am intimately aware of how some Crohn's treatments can damage my quality of life far more than do my Crohn's symptoms.  I know that there is no such thing as true health for someone like me--there is only a choice between a set of symptoms or a set of side effects, and I believe that if the side effects disrupt my life more than the symptoms, the most rational choice is to accept the symptoms. After all, I can ignore mild stomach pain because I've been doing that for well over a decade. The nausea from the medication that might treats the stomach pain, on the other hand, means missing out on things I would otherwise do. I have had to give up a lot of my dreams to survive my illness, but there are some things that are too important to sacrifice. I always choose the treatment (or lack thereof) that will best allow me to pursue the life I want to live. I will not apologize to anyone for my decision.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Slice of the Community

When I go to the local parks in the winter, I know exactly what I will see. As a general rule, Southerners cannot stand the cold so the other people in the park are almost always diehard workout fanatics who would walk, run, or play soccer in a tornado because they are just that serious. It's different when the weather gets warm. Suddenly the park fills up with other groups of people. The workout fiends are still there, but other people show up to have picnics with their kids, ride bikes, socialize, or just get weird. Yesterday as I was riding my bike one of those mini buses passed me. It had "Shorty" spray painted on the side in big graffiti letters and was blaring music. It was completely bizarre.

Yesterday's ride was a tough 11.08 miles and I'm fairly certain I did between 11 and 12 miles today as well. I wish I could tell you for sure, but some scatterbrained law student was in such a hurry to get out the door that she forgot to grab her Garmin before she left. I imagine she was distracted by the spectre of her last ever law school exam, but that's just speculation.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been eating things and that many of those things involve polenta. I've been buying the kind in the tube to slice and brown in a skillet, but I have every intention of learning to cook it from scratch so I can have a creamier version when the mood strikes. The picture above is sliced Italian herb flavored polenta with low fat mozzarella and fat free tomato sauce with turkey bacon bits mixed in.

This one is sliced polenta with sundried tomato flavor chicken sausage and more low fat mozzarella, all from Trader Joe's. The chicken sausage was flavorful but mild, exactly the way I like it. As a bonus, sliced polenta is really easy to cook on a George Foreman grill and doesn't have that many calories. I think half the tube was 157 calories and 0 grams of fat. I'm thinking polenta will be making many more appearances in my kitchen.

I have been eating other things too. Baked sweet potatoes have been a common staple. The meal above also involved peas with chicken sausage, obvi. It was kind of good and I need to finish off those frozen peas so I might have to make it again sometime. But enough about me. What healthy and delicious things have you been eating lately? 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April Bloglovin' Blog Hop

Your Devoted Host:

Meg Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc Mom Blogger

Your Co-Hosts:

Mandy Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc   Natasha Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc   Linda Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids, Inc

Stacey Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc   Ashley Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids, Inc   Bel Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc

1.  Please follow your host and co-hosts (you can click on the profile pics above or in the linky below).
2.  Add your link directly to your Bloglovin' profile; DO NOT link to your blog.  You will have to manually        add your photo from your computer or phone.
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4.  Grab a button and place it on your blog.  Let me know you did and I will shout you out on social media.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Adding Miles (Mash Up Conditioning and Cocogo Giveaway Winners Announced)

I was so busy worrying about how my ileoscopy/colonoscopy would go that I got behind in posting about my miles. Now that that's over with, let's catch up.

In true introvert fashion, I got to the park as early as I could on Sunday to avoid all the people who pack the trails later in the day. There were enough runners and park police out that I felt safe, but not so many that I had to dodge dogs, small children, and slow-moving adults as I got in my miles. I am trying to increase the distance and time of my rides over time. Before getting Genevieve (my bike), I hadn't ridden a bike for years. For now, I'm trying to re-learn all the basics of bike riding and regain the stamina I lost after spraining my ankle. I'll worry about pace later. For now, I just want to strengthen my legs so they can manage longer miles and possibly propel me up the hills I am currently too afraid to attempt on two wheels. By the time I got home on Sunday, I had ridden 10 miles. It was my longest ride up to that point and it went really well. 

Monday was ileoscopy/colonoscopy day. The original plan was to get up before my procedure and get in a few miles, but I had to be at the hospital so early that it just wasn't happening. I was not allowed to ride/drive/make major decisions/generally live my life after I left the hospital because of the anesthesia. I was also exhausted and sore from the biopsies, so Monday wound up being a rest day.

It was supposed to rain this morning so I decided to wait until after dinner to go for a ride. Of course, that also meant dodging the previously mentioned people and animals for the duration of my ride, but I guess it was not too bad. The weather had really cleared up by the time I got outside and so I aimed for 12 miles just to enjoy it a little longer.

I sort of forgot to turn on my Garmin until I got down the street from my building, but I don't suppose a little missing data is the end of the world. Here are the stats from today's bike ride:

I wanted to burn 600 calories today, so I did good. I'm not sure if it's something I'm eating or me gaining leg muscle from all the bike riding, but I think my thighs are getting bigger y'all. I'm not pleased. All the men I see riding bikes have thin, toned legs so I was secretly hoping there would be a sexy leg shaped silver lining to not being able to run for a while. Seeing my thighs get bigger is kind of a letdown. I really hope its only temporary...

Mash Up Conditioning and Cocogo Giveaway Winners
I realized that I had chosen and emailed the Mash Up Conditioning DVD winner, but I never announced it in a blog post. I also did the drawing for the Cocogo Giveaway and needed to announce that winner as well. So, without further ado, congratulations to the winners!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nothing To Eat Or Drink After Midnight

My day started at 8:30 when I had to be at the endoscopy clinic. I was scheduled for an ileoscopy/colonoscopy combination, and even though I have  had both procedures on numerous occasions, I am still not immune to the unpleasantness of it.

I'm lucky in that my ileostomy means that I no longer have to do the dreaded bowel prep, but I still was not allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight last night. Waking up hungry, parched and unable to do anything about it is always a special experience that I do not relish. By the time I got to the doctor's office this morning, I just wanted to get it over with. 

As soon as my ride got to the hospital, they took me back to the holding area to change into a hospital gown and get my IV placed for the anesthesia. I have terrible veins and not being able to drink anything in the hours before getting an IV does not help. I have had many angry exchanges with over-confident nurses and IV techs who are certain they can get the IV in if they just dig around in my arm with a needle a little longer. For the past few years I have been telling the nurses up front that they need to use the smallest needle available and if they can't get the IV in on the first couple of sticks, they need to call someone who can. I would much rather hurt someone's pride than let them hurt my body.

It was not too bad today because I stayed up last night drinking clear liquids until I had to stop at midnight. My veins never pop up like some people's do, but the guy who put my IV in today knew what he was doing and got it on the first stick. After he left I had to wait around for a really long time before they transferred me to the procedure room. It is always inexplicably cold in those rooms, but fortunately they work fast to get the oxygen cannula in place, cover you in monitors and blood pressure cuffs, and pump the anesthesia into the IV. The last thing I remember is commenting that my messy bun was a good choice because it was high enough for me to lay down comfortably. I woke up in the recovery area and groggily tried to get a nurse's attention because I needed to go to the bathroom.

The good news is that everything looked okay to the naked eye. They still took biopsies to send to the pathologist in case there is active Crohn's they couldn't see. The doctor thinks my stomach aches can be taken care of pretty easily with a minor adjustment to my medication. He also said that he thinks my lip is swelling due to stress rather than my Crohn's being active again. I started a short course of Prednisone to help get my lip under control. I'm hoping I'll be on the mend in time for graduation.

After they discharged me, I was finally allowed to eat. We stopped at Panera after a brief trip to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. I ordered a panini, chips, and an oatmeal raisin cookie. Don't judge me internet. I was practically starving. After I ate I spent the remainder of the day napping. When they do this particular procedure, the doctor blows air into your intestines to aid with visibility. As I'm sure you can imagine, this leads to some serious gas pain when you wake up. Between that and the discomfort from the biopsies, I was really tired. Hopefully I will be on the mend tomorrow and ready to resume my regularly scheduled activities.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ashley's Wish List: Cycling Edition

I'm really good at finding things I can't afford and don't really need on the internet. Just because I can't have these magnificent finds does not mean I shouldn't tell you about them so you can covet them with me. In no particular order, here are some of the many things I wish I had right now.

1. These tiny lights for my bike. I found a youtube video that shows how they attach to your handlebars and seat post. According to the Amazon reviews, they are easy to attach and detach, they are pretty bright considering how small they are. You can set them on slow flash, fast flash, or steady light. You get one for the rear and one for the front. They come in lots of different colors too.

Photo Credit

2. These lights that go on your wheels and make your bike way more visible at night or in low light. Other companies make cheaper, more subtle wheel lights, but if I was going to go riding at night or in the fog, I would want all the cars to see me coming so they can, you know, avoid running me over. Sometimes subtlety is overrated. You can check out the company's kickstarter video here to see the lights in action.

Photo Credit

3. Two Etsy sellers, one called gigglestuff and the other called savvysacs, who make adorable handlebar bags like this:

Photo Credit: Saavysacs

4. This pencil skirt that unzips to reveal more fabric, a feature that makes biking easier. Bonus: it's actually a really cute skirt.

Photo Credit

5. These cycling panties have a chamois for padding sewn in. The chamois makes them feel like bike shorts with a chamois, but they are underwear so you can wear them with your regular clothes if you want to bike commute.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Considering how little time I spent outside of my apartment today, I encountered an awful lot of rude people. It started with the nurse who called about next's week's colonoscopy/ileoscopy procedure. She tried to call me yesterday while I was at my internship. It was my last day and I was trying to finish a project so I didn't answer. By the time I got home, it was too late to call back so I figured I would deal with it today. She called again today and I missed the call because I had the ringer set to silent. She left me a snarky voicemail about how I may think that because I've had this procedure done before I don't have to talk to her, but I need to return her call today. Despite her incredibly condescending message, I called her back and the woman who picked up told me that voicemail chick couldn't come to the phone. Note to voicemail chick: if you leave me a rude voicemail demanding that I call you back today, you had damn well better come to the phone when I do. I told the woman on the phone that I was headed out the door and asked whether they could just email me with the instructions since I had had this procedure every year for the last five or so years. Then the woman on the phone copped an attitude too and told me voicemail chick would have to call me back later because they had a policy or some such foolishness. I told her I would be available at 3:30, but when 3:30 rolled around, voicemail chick didn't call back. Guess their "policy" was not all that important after all.

I decided to get in a one hour bike ride before it got dark and made my way out the door. I rode my bike yesterday too, and at 7.92 miles I just missed hitting my 8 mile goal. I decided that I would hit 8 miles today no matter what. It was also a great opportunity to test out my too easy to be an actual DIY, DIY project.

It's a homemade keychain bracelet. I have been trying to figure out a good way to carry my keys since I bought my bike. I wanted something easily accessible since I would need the key to my bike lock if I decided to stop somewhere while I was out riding, but it also had to be secure enough that I wouldn't lose my keys and/or be distracted by wearing them. When I bought my helmet it came with the little "I Love My Brain" bracelet above. I took the keyring from another keychain, put it on the bracelet, and voila, instant keychain bracelet.

After I got back from my ride and showered, I went to the grocery store. I wore sweatpants and a messy bun. I am not even a little bit ashamed. I've been struggling with my meals lately because the return of my Crohn's symptoms means the return of a restricted diet. I've learned over the years which foods I need to stop eating when I have a flare. It is best if I avoid most fruits and vegetables because the fiber is too hard on my digestive system. That goes with most high fiber foods, so whole grains are also out. Nuts, seeds, and anything with the capacity to scrape at the walls of my intestines are a bad life choice. I usually do well with soft, plain foods that pass easily through the digestive tract and don't have a ton of spices to cause further irritation. I don't do well with lactose, so I have to avoid most dairy. Meat is usually fine, but it is better if it is slow cooked to make it softer. The last time I had a flare, I lived on Marie Callendar's Honey Chicken meals with mashed potatoes and Breyer's lactose free ice cream. I'm trying to make slightly better food choices this time, so for dinner I wound up with this:

Trader Joe's Organic polenta and sun dried tomato chicken sausages with a tiny amount of light mozzarella. I know it doesn't look like much, but it was actually pretty good. I cooked the polenta in a skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and it turned out creamy on the inside with a bit of a crust on the outside. The sausage was not very spicy, but still had a great flavor. The mozzarella added just the right amount of melty goodness to complement the rest of the meal. I think it is possible to eat well during a Crohn's flare. It is just going to take some creativity on my part to combine the foods that don't make my stomach hurt in new and delicious ways.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Oatmeal

Recently, Sweat Pink Ambassadors were offered an opportunity to review My Oatmeal, a company that offers custom oatmeal. The idea of customizing my oatmeal sounded particularly good to me since my doctor recently told me that cinnamon and chocolate will probably make my lip worse. I had been having oatmeal for breakfast every morning with a spoonful of cinnamon-y cookie butter or chocolate almond butter. I'll have to give that up for the foreseeable future, so making my own oatmeal blend that did not involve those ingredients was a perfect way to keep eating my favorite breakfast.

When you log onto the website, you start by choosing how much oatmeal you want and what type of oats. Since my Crohn's Disease seems to be active at the moment, I chose quick rolled instant oats because I thought they would be easiest on my stomach. Next, you pick your flavors. You are actually allowed to combine flavors, so I made two different flavor blends. My Red Velvet Cake & Icing blend was a mixture of the Red Velvet Cake and Vanilla Frosting flavors. My Strawberry Cheesecake blend was  a mixture of the Cheesecake and Graham Cracker Crust flavors. You can also add fruit, nuts/seeds, and your favorite sweetener (Splenda for me). I also added "light" strawberries to my Strawberry Cheesecake oatmeal blend.

They sent a little recipe card with the bags of oatmeal, and I actually do want to try the granola recipe above. I have wanted to try making granola for ages, so this is a perfect excuse to actually do it. I liked both of my oatmeal blends on their own, but who doesn't want warm granola fresh out of the oven? Can you think of any awesome oatmeal recipes?

*My Oatmeal sent me two bags of their custom oatmeal for the purposes of this review. I did not receive any additional compensation. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bloglovin' Blog Hop

Your Devoted Host:

Meg Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc Mom Blogger

Your Co-Hosts:

Mandy Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc   Natasha Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc   Linda Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids, Inc

Stacey Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc   Ashley Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids, Inc   Bel Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc

1.  Please follow your host and co-hosts (you can click on the profile pics above or in the linky below).
2.  Add your link directly to your Bloglovin' profile; DO NOT link to your blog.  You will have to manually        add your photo from your computer or phone.
3.  Visit a few other bloggers in the linky and spread the Bloglovin' love!
4.  Grab a button and place it on your blog.  Let me know you did and I will shout you out on social media.
5.  Tweet and share the hop!
Be sure to show the love for this month's amazing sponsors!

Amanda Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc           Marie Bloglovin' Blog Hop Happy Kids Inc

Happy Kids, Inc.