Our 1st Mom & Daughter Road Trip

Untitled design-4This past weekend we found our selves on a spur of the moment road trip to Mobile, AL. My best friend from college’s father had passed away and I made the drive to spend time with her and her family. Trevor had to work, so my daughter and I loaded up and we headed out Friday morning (yes, on the 4th of July. Love and friendship know no holiday) at 4:45 a.m. and headed for Mobile. We arrived around 10 a.m., stayed all weekend, and headed home Sunday morning around 11 a.m. It was good to see her and a family that I love dearly, but I truly hated the circumstances. Her entire family, even relatives I had never met before, made my daughter and I perfectly at home. The first night we stayed with her aunt and uncle because they had a daughter the same age as mine. Then the second night we stayed at my friends to get a full nights rest before driving back. We just hung out with the family and went with their queues on the comfort and healing process. I am truly thankful I was able to be there for her! Saturday there were a few hours when the family just needed to take care of some things, so my daughter and I made the 30 minute drive over to Dauphin Island and got in some much needed Mom and Daughter time. It was definitely not what we had foreseen for our holiday weekend, but with the given circumstances I would not have wanted to spend it any other way.

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4:45 a.m. Friday getting ready to leave the driveway.

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Excited that we get to spend a little quality time together on our first road trip!

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FINALLY went back to sleep. She stayed awake from the time we got in the car until almost Montgomery!!

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She was awake by the time we got to Mobile, and was excited about the bridges. 🙂

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She finally got to meet my best friend’s “little sister”. She enjoyed their entire family! She now has a pepaw and second mimi and a few more aunts and uncles 😉

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My best friend’s younger cousins. She said they were her best friends.

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We were still able to celebrate a little with her family.(Check out those shoes. We can travel 5.5 hours from home and my child will still manage to find the dress up diva shoes to play in.)

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Saturday we did give them a little time to take care of things and headed over to Dauphin Island. She LOVES the ocean and beach. I also think I found the spot for our family vacation next summer! I had never been either.

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Sand, sun, ocean, and cheetos. What more could a girl need? 😉

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Of course we went hunting for sea shells, too.

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She has got this figured out!!

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We stopped in Prattville for gas and lunch on our way home Sunday. She proceeded to roll her window down and let me know she likes for the wind to blow in her hair. Ha! (I locked the windows after that 😉 )

 

I hope you spent your holiday weekend with your loved ones and had a great time!

 

Lexi Lee Walk for Hope at the Alabama Jubilee and Hot Air Balloon Festival

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Over the last 8 months I have participated in various events for a 3 year old little girl in my community. Her mother and I were co-workers and then became friends as the recent events in Lexi’s life unfolded. Here is Lexi’s story directly from her mother:

Lexi’s Story
Within 2 weeks, Lexi had 20 to 30 unexplainable, thumb print size, dark bruises mainly on her legs but on the rest of her body as well. After noticing the excessive amount of bruising, with no explanation and no signs of going away, instead more were showing up, an appointment with her local Pediatrician was scheduled and blood work was done. Then, about four hours later while Lexi was playing outside on the swing set, the phone rang. Lexi’s blood-work came back abnormal and we were told to take her to Huntsville Hospital as a direct admit. Fear and confusion set in. Lexi was outside, playing like a normal 3 year old child and hours later she was being poked for more blood-work. Later that evening we got news that she might possibly have a blood disorder or leukemia. On September 24, 2013, the oncologist came in and told us the confirmed unfortunate news. Our beautiful daughter who we had bragged on since birth for being so healthy and never getting sick had the c word. She has cancer. She has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, commonly known as ALL, or just simply, Leukemia. That was the day our lives changed forever. We did not know what to do other than pray. Doctors at Huntsville Hospital gave us options as to where to receive treatment for Lexi and when St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was mentioned, we knew that was where we wanted Lexi to be. We knew there was no better place for Lexi to receive treatment. No family ever pays for anything at St. Jude. Because of events like, The Lexi Lee Walk for Hope, with the help of participants like YOU, my daughter is getting a second chance at life. Without the funding for research, Lexi and many other children would not be so lucky. People like you make this possible for our daughter and our family as well as so many other children and families. We will never be able to say “thank you” enough to all of the researchers who work to find the medicine and cures or the doctors and nurses who care for the children, so as a way of saying “thank you” and helping bring awareness to childhood cancer and it’s need for funding, our family is hosting The Lexi Lee Walk for Hope. Our goal in hosting The Lexi Lee Walk for Hope is to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Donations like yours allow research like this to happen!
YOU are helping St. Jude save lives by making a simple donation!
We, Lexi’s parents & family, want to say THANK YOU!
**100% MONEY RAISED WILL GO TO ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL – MEMPHIS, TN.**

Update on Lexi
Lexi is doing amazing! She is in the last phase of her treatment which consists of 2 ½ – 3 years. The last phase consists of 120 weeks. As of today, May 21, 2014, she is on week 15. We have a long road ahead of us even after the 120 week mark. Currently, Lexi receives at home chemotherapy which we give to her at night time. She also has an appointment each week at the Huntsville Hospital St. Jude Clinic where she receives chemotherapy, physical therapy and musical therapy. Sometimes she needs blood and/or platelets, which she is able to receive at the affiliate. She also goes to St. Jude in Memphis for check-ups, intrathecal chemotherapy and more intense chemotherapy. Some of the chemotherapy Lexi receives causes the leg and hand muscles to weaken and some cause nausea but if you saw Lexi, you wouldn’t believe that’s true. She runs and plays all the time like nothing is wrong. Even on clinic days when she has received chemotherapy, she comes home and runs and plays like it’s a normal day. For that, we are thankful!

Pictures of Lexi Lee and her Family:

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Chase, Jenna, and Lexi Chase Lee at St. Jude

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Lexi in the early days at St. Jude

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Lexi getting to play video games and still be a kid!

The Lexi Lee Walk for Hope was held at the Alabama Jubilee and Hot Air Balloon Festival in Decatur, AL. The Jubilee is held every year around Memorial Day Weekend. The walk was at 9 a.m. on Saturday and was a great and upbeat way to start the weekend! I love doing positive things and being active on a long weekend because it makes my time feel more accomplished. I invited my Girl Scout troop and also took my daughter along. It turned out great!

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This was the flyer distributed for the event.

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My daughter, Khloe, and Lexi’s Mom, Jenna. Lexi did not get to be at the event, but everyone still came out in support!

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Sign up table at the walk (:

HERE IS A LITTLE FYI ABOUT ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL:

In 1962, the survival rate for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (which is what Lexi is diagnosed with) was only 4%. Thanks to St. Jude & it’s research, the survival rate has reached 94%!!
• On average, 5,700 active patients visit the hospital each year, most of whom are treated on an outpatient basis.
• St. Jude is the first and only pediatric cancer center to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.
• St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world.
• The daily operating costs for St. Jude are $1.6 million, which are primarily covered by public contributions.
• During the past five years, 81 cents of every dollar received has supported the research and treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

If you would like to have updated information on Lexi’s progress or would like information on how to donate to the Lexi Lee Walk for Hope you can follow the pages on Facebook here and here. Also, Lexi’s mom blogs here.1240607_10202265096095892_106046578_n

My daughter and I didn’t get to stay long for the Jubilee after the walk, but we did get in a few hot air balloon sightings. (Next year it is my goal to go for the balloon glow and get to do a tethered ride. 😀 )

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We did get to see one balloon up while we were there and my daughter was SO EXCITED. She told everyone about it the rest of the day.

 

EZ Girl Scout Troop Camp – Summer 2014

This past weekend, I took my girls to a one night “EZ Girl Scout Troop Camp” in Anniston, Alabama at Camp Cottaquilla.

The girls chose to use their Girl Scout Cookie Sales money to attend a one night camp. We left on Friday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. and headed home Saturday afternoon around 4. To them it was the greatest trip EVER, and that is what mattered!

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Entrance to the Camp

Out of my 4 girls, none of them had ever stayed away from home on a trip like this. So when we pulled in to the gate they were jumping up and down.

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This is the lodge at the front of camp. It houses dining and offices.

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This was our first view. The lake/pond, boat house, flag pole and pool.

After check in we dropped our bags off and headed to the lodge for dinner. They served pizza and drinks. The girls learned some songs and were given an assignment to create a skit that had to do with camp. Hilarious. After that we were given about 30 minutes to get our cabins settled and then we went to the campfire area where the girls sang songs and roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.

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This is where all of the troops come together for the campfire, girl scout songs, and s’mores.

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This is pretty much what all of the cabins looked like.

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Inside of the cabins. We literally FROZE. Who knew it was going to get into the 40’s in May in Alabama!? They held about 6 cots and some walking space.

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This was the bath house for “Four Winds” set of cabins and “Deep Woods” cabins.

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Cabins

Saturday morning it rained. My girls went fishing, canoeing, and pedal boating. In the rain and never cared. Before lunch they also got to do archery. By then it had stopped raining and that was a lot of the girls’ favorite part.

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My young cousin and a camp counselor at the archery range.

After lunch our troop went on a Fairy Hike and a Nature Hike. The fairy hike took them throughout the entire camp and they learned about the 3 fairies that live at Camp Cottaquilla. It is a really cute story and if you have the opportunity to take your girls, I definitely suggest taking them!! The EZ Camp was one night and was just enough for the age of the girls in my troop. Our Junior troop consists of ages 9-11. The other troops there were Daisies and Brownies (K-3rd grade.) I think it was perfect for the maturity levels and ages. They offer week long camps but I think that most appropriate for the older end of Juniors and above.

Have you ever been to a Girl Scout Camp with your troop? What was your experience like?

Birthday Bucket List: Make a KIVA Loan

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Well I marked another thing off of my birthday bucket list. Last week I donated $25 to Damaris in Honduras.

1518158Damaris is 31 years old and married. She lives with her husband in the village of Nueva Frontera, Santa Bárbara. Previously, she had a convenience store.

For eight years now she has worked growing basic staples such as corn, beans, and coffee. She sells these products in the area where she lives. Her loan is for 17,000 lempiras. She will invest it in the purchase of fertilizers and in cleaning her coffee field, to keep it maintained and get better harvests. Her goal is to buy half a “manzana” [a manzana = about 1.7 acres] to sow coffee.

There are so many options for finding the person you want to loan to! Because of the difference in currency rates, $25 USD can go so much farther in different countries.

FROM KIVA’S WEBSITE:

“We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”

Learn more about how it works.

If you would like to join and help those around the world try to make a better life, please use the link here: http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/cindy8457 For every new referral, KIVA will give me a free $25 loan to give to another individual who needs a little help to provide for themselves and families!

I agree so much with Kiva’s purpose which is stated below:

“We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.”

Would you consider donating today?

http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/cindy8457

A Gift that is Giving Back to Me

Two weeks, ago Santa was stopping by our local mall on a “special trip he had to make to Florida.” There was a big production with singing from special guests such as Frosty, Rudolph, Cindy-Lou-Who, the Grinch, special carolers and elves. We took our two year old daughter thinking it would be an exciting 45 minute event then we would be on our way shopping. Wrong. We stood in line after the show for two hours before we got to meet Santa. I know, we were crazy. As we stood in line to meet Santa, there was the usual Salvation Army Angel Tree set up nearby. It was not something that I could ignore. Not that I was TRYING to ignore the fact that there were at least 100 angels still on the tree, but I’ve just never been able to afford to buy a child their entire Christmas. As I stood there, I thought of all the children whose parents couldn’t afford the gas to even drive to the mall and visit Santa for free. How, to us, this seemed like such a simple thing to bring our daughter excitement, wasn’t possible for everyone. Two hours can give you a lot of time to think.

Eventually, I walked to the tree and began looking at the names and ages (I mean we were obviously going to be waiting a while, why not check it out.) As I looked, I decided we were adopting a Christmas Angel. No, we do not have a great surplus this year for Christmas spending, but we were about to do something to help. Then, as I looked at the different ages and watched as my daughter ran to me to check out what was going on, I decided I wanted to adopt a child who was close to her age. She asked me what I was doing, so I picked her up and I showed her all the angels. I said, “Khloe, all these are little boys and girls who need Christmas presents this year. Santa needs some help.” Next I asked her, “Do you want to pick one that we can help and buy presents for?” She responded, “We can? Oh that be so cool, Mama.” I walked around and read the information on various angels again and settled on a three year old boy. Three years old. I looked at my daughter as she ran back to her Daddy and began talking about Santa and playing with the other children waiting in line. Not a concern in the world. She will be three in February. It took me less than a second to try and fathom her doing without or not having any presents. Not only missing physical presents, but missing the excitement or happiness that should come along with the Christmas season. If I would have spent much more time thinking about it, I would have been in tears for her just from the mere thought of her heart or feelings hurting. At that point there was nothing anyone could’ve said to convince me otherwise. If Trevor and I had to not buy for one another, we were buying this child from the Salvation Army Angel Tree his Christmas presents.

When I reached where they stood in line, still waiting for Santa, nothing was said when I handed him the angel cut out to hold. I think he just knew that I had decided, and this is what we were doing. He has come to know after four and a half years that when I decide I’m doing something philanthropic, especially for children, just agree and help me make it successful. I love children; especially children in need. He probably already new as I headed toward the tree in the beginning that we would be going home with an adopted angel. Apparently he loves me for it any way. (:

I have received so much joy buying his presents. When I shop for our daughter, I know what she likes and know that when she opens it she will be filled with pure innocent excitement. That does bring me joy and anticipation of her opening them, but when I am shopping for a young child who I know minimal information about, I stand and imagine excitement and happiness with each individual toy I pick up. Does he already have this book? I wonder if he has these toy cars? Then I had so much fun picking out his clothes. I have a two year old daughter so I only ever enter the girl section in stores; and shopping for a 24 year old male is not the same as shopping for a three year old boy.

As I have spent time shopping or gathering ideas for our Salvation Army Christmas Angel over the last two weeks, I have also spent a lot of time thinking about the real meaning of Christmas and the idea of giving. I think gift buying at Christmas has gotten very blown out of proportion throughout the last 10-15 years. Christmas isn’t all about gifts and when I hear people say, “but they’re children, they won’t understand”, I disagree to a certain extent. They will understand what we have taught them to understand. (Now I am not discrediting the idea of the Salvation Army or buying for those less fortunate at Christmas. If I could, I would adopt 500 children at Christmas because I believe every child and person should have at least one gift to open on Christmas, but that is just not feasible for us.) How my thinking led to this was, that I know these children who receive gifts through the Salvation Army will appreciate and be thoroughly pleased with anything they get. The smallest gesture and gift will mean so much more to them than to many other children. It has made me change the way I want to teach my daughter about Christmas and giving. I have decided that every year, we will go together and pick out an Angel on the tree that is similar to her age and shop together. Of course, we will always provide for our daughter first, but if we have to miss out on a barbie doll or two so that we can give an entire Christmas to someone else, that is what you will find our household doing. I realize how blessed my daughter is: as her parents, we are not financially “rich”, but we can provide for her needs and are able to purchase toys and extra things for her throughout the year; she has both sets of her grandparents and three great-grandmothers and one great-grandfather still alive and able to be active in her life; my immediate family of aunts, uncles, first cousins and their children is approximately 16 people, and that is only my mother’s side of the family! Even if she received only 1 gift from each household other than from me and her father, she would have plenty. And what I would want her to get most out of receiving the gifts is the love that our family has for one another, not necessarily our ability to purchase material gifts. When she opens a gift I want thoughts like “oh, this made Aunt _____ think of me!” aka: Aunt ____ was thinking of me; Or, “Mimi got this for me because she knows I love Cinderella,” aka: she pays attention to notice the things I like. Not, “my Paw bought me _____ so I know he spent more money on me than my Uncle _____.” I would be horrified to know my child thought that! I would be horrified at myself as her mother for letting her down in my duty to raise her.

Basically, the decision to adopt the Salvation Army Angel from the Angel Tree this year has really reminded me as a parent what my duty is when it comes to teaching my daughter about Christmas, and well, about life in general. Yes, realistically I am totally aware that I will always purchase gifts for my child or children as long as we both hold employment and that throughout their childhood, they will be children who have selfish tendencies at times; but I will refuse to raise my children to think that Christmas has a certain price or gift minimum for it to be a successful or meaningful Christmas. I refuse to imply by my actions that they are only loved or noticed by family members if gifts are in hand. Honestly, if we show up at my grandmother’s house Christmas morning this year and none of her extended family were able to buy her a gift, she would be so wrapped up in the fact of getting to see all of her little cousins that she would not even notice, and I hope to keep that innocence in her heart. I hope that I can show her to hold onto that despite what society says is necessary for the holiday to be a “good Christmas.”

Little three year old Isay, who might never know his name appeared on a Salvation Army Angel Tree in 2013, will always be in my heart and mind as the first Salvation Army Angel I ever adopted; as the inspiration I had to change the idea my two year old already has of Christmas; and I will always wish I could’ve seen his face on Christmas morning as he opened all of his gifts.