Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Third Annual "Fauxprah's Favorite Things Giveaway" hosted by Qwendykay.com

 It's here!  The Third Annual "Fauxprah's Favorite Things Giveaway!"
Oh my goodness!  It's Fauxprah's Favorite Things!
There are several things I equate with the Holiday Season, one is flipping through the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog and lusting after the lavish "His and Hers" gifts, such as owning your very own set of camels. Another one is that  for most of my adult life I watched Oprah's Favorite Things show.

My absolute favorite part of Oprah's Favorite Thing show was watching the ladies get whipped into a frenzy about everything they were getting.  Then I would call my friend who absolutely hated the show but watched anyway and we would go over the details.  I would tell her all the things I just HAD to have and she would tell me how many ladies fainted clutching their free loot. It was tradition and I loved it.

Now that Oprah is off the air, I am trying to position myself as the next media mogul, building my "Faux-prah" empire.  Which, lucky for you, includes my annual "Faux-prah's Favorite Things" giveaway.  I pick a handful of my favorite things and you get to win them! Hooray! You can see what was on last years list here, and details on how Faux-Prah got started plus the first years list.

My favorite things of 2013:  
 Chalkboard Labels - I put these everywhere and love them!  I might be addicted to labels. (Is there a 12 step program for that?)  I put these on my Crockpot and now my family knows what sort of meal they have to look forward to or dread.  Also, these are handy to label dishes when I entertain.
Sharpie Ultra Fine Point - I don't know if this is because I had to label everything to send my son off to camp, but this pen has become my go to pen for everything.  I buy these in bulk and love the fine tip that gives me the precision I need to label everything that comes in and out of our house.

Starbucks Reusable Cups - My kids are little media moguls in the making and love to walk into school with their Starbucks cups and chat about who just signed a big movie deal.  Or maybe they are just hooked on having Hot Chocolate in the morning.  I love these Starbucks Reusable Cups because unlike other reusable tumblers, they stack neatly in my cabinet. If you win, you'll get two of these reusable cups to stack in your cabinet.

A Kindle! Here is a dirty little secret of mine: I'm terrible at using the library.  Terrible!  I am not good with remembering to return the books on time and with two different library systems in our area, I've returned the books to the wrong library.  We have spent a fortune on buying books and library fines.  Enter the Kindle!  This has been one of my very favorite things ever!  I have an iPad that I started using the Kindle App, but it was bulky to take everywhere with me, yet my phone was too small to read on.  The Kindle is the perfect size and since I'm a huge fan of Amazon Prime, with a Kindle, you can download thousands of books for free from the Kindle Lending Library.  There are no late fees with the Lending Library!  Also, many of the Kindle Books are cheaper than the paperback versions.  Two of my favorite books this year were Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle.  (Both by Jeanette Wells) 

To enter the contest:  All you have to do is leave a comment in this post.  You can tell me your favorite thing, something you are addicted to, or just say, "I love winning."  To receive an additional entry, you can share this giveaway on Facebook, just leave me a comment below that says you shared it on Facebook.  Also, if you don't have a Blogger account, leave your email address!

The contest runs until Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 at 11:59pm. The winner will receive all four of the items listed above.   Winner will be picked via Random.org and will have 48 hours to respond. The winner will be announced Monday, December 23rd, 2013.

*Disclaimer: I received zero compensation for this post or any of the items in the giveaway.  All opinions are my own, and this giveaway is not affiliated with any of the companies listed above or Oprah herself.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nutty Family Week: Kicked to the curb

It's Nutty Family Week here on my blog where I encourage everyone to share your nutty family story.  As we gather around the table with our families this season, I hope we can all embrace the nuttiness of our families and realize we aren't alone in having to sit next to "Aunt Cray Cray".

I am totally biased, but I'm pretty sure I live in the best neighborhood. We have the best neighbors and we have deer, what more could you want in a community? 

My sweet neighbors, The Neighbor-steins, told me about their best/worst Thanksgiving involving Cousin Betty.   Prior to Thanksgiving Cousin Betty called to ask what she could bring to Thanksgiving dinner and appeared to be a gracious guest.  It was suggested that she bring a corn dish, and it should have been a warning that things were about to go south when she showed up with a snack size can of Corn Niblets as her dish to share.

Over the course of dinner, Cousin Betty succeeded in offending nearly everyone at the table with one of her stories or remarks.  Finally, Mr. Neighbor-stein had enough of her antics  and stood up and boomed, "OUT!"  while pointing to the door.  Cousin Betty made her way out the door with a huff, muttering "Well... I Never!" sprinkled with obscenities under her breath the whole way.   After an awkward silence dinner resumed and without Aunt Betty stirring the pot, everyone relaxed and enjoyed themselves.

Fifteen minutes later there was a meek knock at the door and when the Neighbor-stein's opened up the door, they found Cousin Betty standing there.  She whispered in a small voice, "Can you move your car? You're blocking me in."  

I love this story because I love that big grand gestures were made and yet the wind was taken out of Cousin Betty's sails when she was humbled to find that she couldn't drive off in a huff. 

Nutty Family Week: Top Ten Signs you grew up in a dysfunctional home

Today my very favorite faux sister Mary will be posting today's nutty family tidbit.  Mary and I met years ago and quickly realized we had freakish similar experiences and would think the exact same thing.  We joke that we share the same brain, so if I ever appear to be a bit unintelligent, it's because Mary is using the brain that day.

1. When you mention your mother in passing one day, your five year old laughs in astonishment and says, “You don’t have a mom!”.

2. Your happiest childhood memories are from sibling Pig Out Parties (everyone pools their cash, goes to the store and buys $50 of ice cream, donuts, chips, and  candy.  Then sits in a bedroom and eats until they yearn for death.  Literally, we would it eat ALL in one sitting.).

3. Your mom tells you that God thinks pants that zipper in the front are evil and you are forbidden to wear them.   Only elastic waisted polyester slacks are worthy of the Celestial Kingdom.  You are saddened that your high school-aged sisters will probably go to hell because they wear Levi’s shrink-to-fit jeans.

4. You have one entire wall in your family room filled with nothing but pictures of Jesus.  Probably at least 50 pictures, arranged in chronological order from Bethlehem to the resurrection. Some are trimmed with lace, for some reason.

5. Your favorite memory of your father is when he  rage-crushed a plastic water gun under his bare foot and then limped away while pretending that his foot didn’t hurt real, real bad.

To read the rest of the list visit Mary at Quite Contrary

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nutty Family Week: The Worst Thanksgiving

It's Nutty Family Week here on my blog where I encourage everyone to share your nutty family story.  As we gather around the table with our families this season, I hope we can all embrace the nuttiness of our families and realize we aren't alone in having to sit next to "Aunt Cray Cray".

Today,. it's my turn to tell "The Worst Thanksgiving".

In 2011, my father had been widowed for nine months, and in that short span engaged three times.  He was a man on the prowl with one goal in site, "Find a wife." I was still heavily grieving the loss of my mom and did not welcome the idea that my Dad was dating.
On Thanksgiving of that year we had invited a few friends and family over to join us for Thanksgiving Dinner.  My Dad, age 78, showed up just in time for dinner and was disappointed by the lack of activity on the online dating site that morning.  He was in a bit of a foul mood until we sat down for dinner.   From across the table he spied my long time bestie, LJP who was telling everyone about how she had just completed the local Turkey Trot.

I could see the wheels spinning in my Dad's head as he was asking LJP questions.  He was mentally checking off the things he required in a new spouse.   "She's fit, she's personable, she is already friends with my daughter, no need to worry about her getting along with my kids."

I sat there mortified, how did I get here?  How does this happen?  My father, age 78 was hitting on my friend who was 30 plus years his younger during Thanksgiving! I was mortified.  My father was beaming and piling on the charm.  In between the meal and dessert my dad pulled me into the kitchen, "Wendy, tell me all about your friend LJP." he said with a twinkle in his eye.   I just looked at him and said, "No, gross!!  She is off limits, you can date everyone but my friends."  He looked disappointed and muttered that I was being unreasonable. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to keep my Dad away from LJP with no luck.My friend LJP is no fool, she could tell what was happening.  LJP loves me, but she also loves to watch me squirm.  As she turned to leave she whispered in my ear, "Oh darling daughter, you can call me Mom or Mommy, either one is just fine by me." Then she cackled heartily as she walked out the door.

The good news is that my Dad remarried and it wasn't to one of my best friends.  Now I can invite him to Thanksgiving without worrying who he will hit on next.  

 I want to hear your nutty family stories!  Post in the comments,  those moments when you realized you were related to nutters.  Tell me that I'm not the only one with a nutty family!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

Gone are the days of the sweet costumes, the ones with fake muscles, or the adorable matching hats.  We have entered the dark and gory days of Halloween Costumes.  

Currently, we have a Zombie Football Player...
And a vampire haunting our home.   
For weeks, I've heard them perfecting their zombie walk or their vampire accent.
As for me... I chose something a little more ironic. Wendy from Wendy's Hamburgers.   I have endured YEARS of Wendy's Hamburger jokes, so this costume seemed perfect.  I've always believed that people named Wendy should get free Frosty's for life for enduring the endless jokes about... "You must get free hamburgers... heh heh."
I enjoyed this Halloween Season, it was the first year the kids carved pumpkins without a ton of help.
 I love this picture of my mom and brother and set it out every Halloween.   It's weird to look at a picture of your parents and think, "Wow, they were just kids once."  
 Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Witches Tea

I love my family, I love Mr. Man, but I need some girl time every once in a while with my lady friends.   My life is just too busy to have meaningful conversations with my friends.  We might have a quick chat at school pick up or carpool, but it's not the same.
My friend Hillary told me about an idea she saw on Pinterest for a "Witches Tea" which sounded like a perfect girls night in. I rounded up all my Witches and had them over for a ladies night.  I had the best time prepping for the party.
I really am beginning to wonder how people planned for parties before the internet and specifically Pinterest.  I stole borrowed so many ideas from Pinterest, such as these floating witches hats which hung above my table.
I made Cranberry Spritzers which were Sprite with a syringe of Cranberry Juice.   They looked spooky and kind of like drugs, which meant it was a hit for my wild witchy friends.
I was running a little bit behind because AK's ballet rehearsal went long, but that's okay, my friends joined in with some of the prep.
In fact they enjoyed my demonstration of how easy it is to make caramel using Werthers Baking Caramels. #gotitfree  They also enjoyed watching me overcook the caramel and learned the proper technique to get it splattered all over the microwave.  Just a tip, melt it slow, a little bit at a time. 
I asked everyone to wear black and don your best witches hat and they all did.  Everyone looked great.
All these ladies are my "witches", they totally have my back.
I'm pretty sure this is going to be an annual event.  It was a lot of fun, and I needed this time to cast spells with my friends.
Of course, Pinterest provided me with the perfect party favor, "Witches Warts" and "Ghost Poop" which made me look like a rock star and gave my kids a project to help with while I prepped for the party.  

It's events like these that make me so grateful for the life I have.  We only moved here three years ago and it is humbling to look around my full house and kitchen and see that we have such an amazing circle of friends.  I am one lucky witch.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Post for October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month and there are pink ribbons everywhere. However, I don't need a pink ribbon to remind me of the toll Breast Cancer takes.  I am reminded of this everyday as my thoughts drift to my mom who died from breast cancer.   The reality is that after two years, I still miss my mom like crazy.  I miss her everyday and am still surprised how much her death has impacted my life.  I think of it like a stone dropped into a pond.  After the splash, there are still these ripples of water, that eventually become waves that lap the shoreline.  Those waves are still washing up on the shoreline in my life

My father is completely consumed in what he constantly refers to as his "new life" and doesn't want to be reminded that today was his wedding anniversary to my mom.   He lives almost 2,000 miles away and his interest in our lives has waned over the passing year. There are many times I feel orphaned, knowing he isn't someone I can call for comfort or advice.  As the holidays roll around, I feel that pang of grief knowing that I don't have to take my family into account when planning events.  It hurts, it makes me sad, and I miss my mom.

A few weeks ago my daughter was baptized and while I was trying to decide what to do for the lunch after the baptism, I actually reached for the phone to call my mom.  I haven't done that in a long time, but the instinct was there to ask for her opinion on this event.  I think I can best sum it up that is "lonely" without my mom, even though I'm surrounded by a great support group of friends.

This month to honor my mom for Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am doing a couple of things.  First off, I am getting a mammogram, my very first of what will be an annual event.   Second, each day I have sought out a random act of kindness to honor my mom who was kind.  Third, I have set a goal to drive my kids crazy... just a little bit less.  My mom drove me nuts sometimes, because that is what mothers do.  So, I'm obsessing a little bit less on whether their hair is combed before we leave the house, and getting the backpacks put away.   I'm trying to nag less, and compliment more often.  Encourage more than discourage.   And the last thing, instead of wallowing in my feelings of being without my parents, I'm going to embrace the holidays, because my mom loved Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I might even put on one of my mom's ugly Christmas sweaters and wear it with pride, because that is just the type of thing she would do.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Had some work done...

So I had some work done, just a little maintenance.  I bet you could instantly tell there was something different. Don't they look so awesome? 
I think they look pretty sweet.  For those of you who couldn't quite put your finger on it, yes, it's true... I got new tires.  Yeah, a whole new set and it cost a small fortune.

The thing that bugs me is that, I am going about my day after unloading some serious cash, and I really don't have a whole lot to show for it.  No one walks up to you and says, "Wow, look at the treads on those tires." 

If I were President of the United States, I would make it so that every time you spent a fortune on something annoying they would hand you a button you could wear that says,  "I spent a small fortune on...(fill in the blank) today!"  Then we could all slap each other on the back and say, "Wow, love the tires."  or "Those brakes really look good on you."  Whose with me? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Chalet Kitchen: Tips and Tricks

My brother who I love dearly is about to remodel his kitchen. (yes the same brother, I also love to hate because he hogged all the good genes and I got the mutant leftover genes). 

I am thrilled for him and wish him the best of luck. When I think back to our kitchen renovation, I think Dickens said it best, " It was the best of times and the worst of times."  Granted when I did my kitchen we were living in two rooms of our house and had zero privacy.  But man, I loved the my crew, The Juan's!  They were the perfect complement to my husband.  Mr. Man went to work and brought home the bacon. At night, Mr. Man and I would pick out appliances at Home Depot.  During the day the Juan's helped me with all my little house projects.  Installing moulding here, hanging a picture or even assembling furniture.  Everyday we had lunch together and when I drove through our gates they would greet me and help unload the groceries  I love them and miss them.  Anyway, enough of my whining about how much I miss my crew, who all happened to be named Juan.  (For my new readers, really, that's not a joke nor embellishment. All of them were named Juan.)
If I had to do my kitchen over again....  there are some things I would do differently.   The first being that I would make sure to have a mirror handy so that I don't get mistaken for being homeless again.
Also, I would make sure to run water pipes to any place I could think of. I had thought that at some point, I might want a sink on an island, but I thought to save cost I would do a solid surface.  I didn't run water over to the island, but man I wish I did, because after using my kitchen for a few months, I realized the island is the perfect place for an ice maker. If you have a plumber already on site, it isn't doesn't cost much more to run an extra pipe or two.  Also, same with outlets, I have outlets everywhere in my kitchen, including in a cabinet or two, so I can charge things, out of sight. 
Drawers everywhere!  Big Drawers, narrow drawers, I am so glad my friend encouraged me to put my dishes in drawers.  My kids can reach all the dishes to serve themselves, set the table, and even better, they can empty the dishwasher!
I saved a lot of cash by using this Ikea sink and having my cabinetmaker turn it into an undermount sink. I wanted a farmhouse style sink, and Mr. Man wanted a double basin. I was a little worried that I when I bought the sink from Ikea, it was going to be just a lump of clay and some stick figures showing me how to mold and fire the sink. Turns out I didn't have to fire up the kiln and it came all assembled.  
I found all my cabinet hardware at Cabinet Hardware Designs on eBay of all places.   We ended up buying all our hardware for the house from them because the stuff was great quality and super affordable.

If I had to do it again, I would still splurge on my lighting, my pendants came from Pottery Barn and I love them. I also bought some lighting from the Habitat for Humanity Restore that were perfect, because I wanted a chandelier I could customize.  My current house project is replacing all the lighting in the old part of the house, and currently I am in love with ATG Stores.  I just bought this Chandelier for my dining room, they are reasonably priced and have a huge selection. I love that they have some really cool reproduction pieces that help me blend the old with the new.  I still want my house to maintain it's original vibe. 
Best of Luck to my brother on his remodel, since he has such amazing luck, it wouldn't surprise me if his kitchen were finished in one afternoon.  He will probably go out for groceries and come back to a whole new kitchen and come in under budget.  Did you know my brother has never even had a cavity?
 As for me, I swear I spend more time in the dentist chair than I do at my job.  It's annoying, but I love him anyway.
*This is not a sponsored post, although that would be genius.   Man, I wish I would have been able to get sponsors for my kitchen, in fact, I'm still game.  I'm dying to bring back the crew.*

Friday, September 13, 2013

The set of the Queen Latifah Show

A long time ago, just after Al Gore invented the Internet, I had to come up with a username. (Back in those days we actually called it a "handle") My fingers stumbled across the keyboard and I accidentally typed QWendyKay and hit enter, next thing you know that became my permanent user name.   I've embraced the Q, and find that just like the W, it's underutilized in today's society.
Even the Cameras have a Q
So, when I wandered around the Queen Latifah set, I was thrilled to see Q's everywhere. It was a feast for my eyes, and totally made me think that I need to add a "Golden Wall of Q's" or maybe W's, in my house.  The whole set is a house, there is a kitchen, and multiple sitting areas.   I was too chicken to get a picture of the kitchen, but the next time I go back to the show, I'm totally peeking the fridge. 
See that big marble wall, yep there is a Q in that!  I love that Lenny Kravitz designed the set.  Is there anything that he can't do? I had read that he opened a design firm and it's obvious, that he is crazy talented.
 Don't forget to watch the show on Monday, September 16th on CBS and look for me in the audience. 
 I think I may have found my secret talent, I'm really good at being in the audience.   Although, watching Queen Latifah work her magic doing a talk show, I wouldn't mind having my own show one day.  She made it look like so much fun!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If they could see me now... The new Queen Latifah Talk Show

I was so incredibly unpopular in Junior High that even the band nerds shunned me.    My family didn't do sports, instead we played musical instruments.  The only problem was that my dumb older brothers hogged all the musical genes and left me with the mutant tone deaf ones.   I honked, squawked, and screeched for 30 minutes a day, practicing on various instruments on the hunt for "the one" that would be a match.  I was terrible. I didn't have a sense of rhythm, and I don't have an ear for music.  I wanted to quit, but my parents insisted I had to do Jr. High Band.   
That's really me... in Jr. High in all my Band Uniform glory.
We had Varsity and Beginner Bands, and while most had to audition, I was automatically put into the Varsity Band based on my brothers' talent.  I was horrible, I couldn't march "in time", and the band nerds hated me for "bringing the band down".   It was rough, and when you throw in all my dad's mortifying antics, I was convinced my only way to happiness involved a future in a remote mountain convent or Witness Protection.

We weren't allowed to listen to rock music in our house, no rap, no rock, no metal bands, but my brother was good to me and would slip me tapes marked "Bach" that were mixes of banned music.  There was one thing all the kids in Band loved, and that was Queen Latifah and Beastie Boys.  While we were lining up on the field to march and practice, all the kids would be beat boxing and rapping.  Meanwhile, I would stand off to the side, praying that band practice would be over with soon and that my dad wouldn't pick me up in a car with cases of toilet paper strapped to the roof.
Flash Forward:  A few weeks ago I was invited to attend the taping of the premiere episode of "The Queen Latifah Show" with a few bloggers.  I have loved  watching Queen Latifah navigate her career with integrity and the ability to stay real.  Here is what you need to know, Queen Latifah is really as nice as you think she is, and she does not disappoint.  She is the real thing, witty, down to earth, and likable. 

I loved everything about the show, the format, the guests, and especially the set.  The set was designed by Lenny Kravitz and is a total feast for the eyes. I'll show you more of the set in another post, it is unbelievable.    I had to pinch myself while I was wandering around on the set.  I am incredibly lucky, and feel my good fortune has come from learning to say "Yes" to the opportunities that came my way during "The Yes Project."
While I was watching the show, I couldn't help but think back to all the people in band who teased me in Junior High.   If only they could see me now...  Eat your heart out Band Nerds!  Watch the show on September 16th on CBS with special guest John Travolta and I'll bet you can spot me in the audience!

I want to know if you ever had one of those, "If they could see me now moments... " Tell me about it in the comments!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

I never thought...

Dear Kids,
I never thought I'd be one of those moms.  The ones who cry when they drop their kids off to school.  I never thought I would get choked up walking them into their classrooms or look at their teachers with envy.
Our Ultimate Super Mega Summer Part 3 came to a close and the school year started.   One of our best summers ever, we lounged, we laughed, and we went on adventures.
Mr. Boy, you could not wait for your fifth grade year for the chance to "rule the school".   You prepped the whole week before school contemplating your outfit and getting your binder ready.  You are a social guy and want to be with your friends.  You were stoked to find your class was filled with friends.  The night before your first day, I slept in your room, by request, a slumber party of sorts, you woke up at 4am, excited to go to school.   Instead of sleeping you talked and would not stop talking.  You talked about all the exciting things that would happen this year.  You are in 5th grade and excited to be the kings of the school. This is going to be an amazing year for you. 
Sweet AK, as I leaned in to kiss you goodbye, I had a momentary flashback to when you were a tiny baby and I swear we spent most of that first year in doctor's offices.  You have overcome so much and it's nothing short of miraculous that you are in second grade.  You were excited but nervous to go to school.  You will have the same teacher and class as last year for part of the day, this is reassuring to you, as you crave routine.  You are going to have a great year at school and this will be the year that you master reading.  Your whole world is about to open up. I hope you hear my voice in your head as you go about your school day telling you, "AK, you can do this."
The tears kept welling up as I walked through the school halls with you.  I held it together until I got out of the classroom.  My sunglasses hid the eyes brimming with tears.  Once on the playground I cried openly, for many reasons.  Mainly because I miss you already and I love summer.   I love the freedom from the unyielding calendar of activities and the ticking clock.  I miss being carefree and not having to be so rigid on our schedule.  I miss the spontaneity that the summer allows.  
The beginning of school marks another year older, another new adventure and calls attention to the glaring fact, you guys are growing up. My time with you is limited and I keep hearing, "Only eight more years left with Mr. Boy exclusively under our roof."    I never thought I would be one of those moms that dreaded the first day of school, that craved having their kids at home.  When I had children, I completely underestimated how much they would change me and the kind of mom I would become.  To my darling children, be good, be nice, and know that I love you. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear AK, On your eighth birthday

Dear AK,
On the occasion of your eighth birthday I sit to write you a note to let you know how much I love you.

You are such a spunky feisty girlie girl.  You are the perfect balance and I hope you never lose the confidence you have right now.  I often just stare at you while we talk and think, "I want to remember this moment forever."   You are captivating and I love it.
You have struggled with anxiety your whole life, but this year you became conscious that other people don't have the same challenges.  You have accepted this and are trying your best.  This year you were able to verbalize the difference and I'll never forget hearing you say for the first time, "You don't know what it is like in my brain, I can't do this." You are right that I don't know what it is like in your brain, but listen closely my sweet girl... You can do anything.  No one said it would be easy, but it is worth it.
This year you have blossomed academically under a team of special teachers who dialed into how you learn best..  You should know that your Dad and I have gone to bat for you to get you every resource available.  I love watching your Dad fold his long legs into a kid sized desk to meet with your team of teachers.  This year you have learned so much and worked so hard.  We are so proud of you and everything you have accomplished.  I want you to always remember, "There is always more than one way to do things."  We learned that you are a kin esthetic learner, which means you learn by doing, which explains why you are talented at music and dance.  I could never figure out why I could hold up a flashcard and say, "AK, This is the letter J.  What letter is this?"  And you would inevitably give the wrong answer.  I was trying to teach you the way that I learned, not the way you are wired to learn.  Now, you write letters or your sight words in a tray of salt, using your fingers as a tool, and it becomes cemented in your brain. 
We live in the most amazing time and in the most amazing place.  You can do anything, be anything, the opportunities are endless.  I have no doubt you will be successful in whatever you decide to do.  Right now, you want to be a vet, but I kind of wonder if you aren't going to do something in fashion or music.   You are so determined and you try so hard at everything you do.  You have always marched to the beat of your own drum, but AK, so have I.  Don't apologize for it, embrace it.
I love that you are always interested in knowing what's going on.  You have trouble going to sleep knowing there are people awake, because you want to be a part of everything.  As soon as you hear someone stir in the morning, you are out of bed peeking your head out to see what is going on.  I hope you never lose your curious nature, but my little lady, sleep is valuable!
You are incredibly lucky to have a huge family and a large network of supporters.  You have a family who loves you to the moon and back and you have a large bio family who loves you too.  Adoption is a miraculous thing, AK.  When you were placed in my arms, I knew that a missing piece of my heart had been found.  We searched the world over for you, not just any baby, for you.   There were many days filled with tears, heartache, and frustration as we tried to find you.   We wondered if you were in China, or maybe Russia, but those doors closed on us.   Little did we know, you were right here in Southern California, and you were anxious to come out and greet the world, arriving as early as you possibly could.   Your birthmom is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  We were privileged to be able to have lunch with her this month, just us girls.   You asked lots of questions about your birth, because it is fascinating to you.  You wanted to know everything your birthmom craved, and you loved telling me later... "Mom, I loved tortilla chips from the very beginning." 

For your birthday you received a care package from your birth mom filled with handpicked goodies for the whole family  She wrote you a note and this part jumped out at me.  
"I set an alarm on my cell phone to go off every day at 2:22PM, which is the time you were born. And when I hear that alarm I use the whole minute to send you happy thoughts.  I pray for you or I make wishes that you are having a nice day or that you will get your favorite Ice Cream after dinner.   I have fun thinking of silly things to wish for." 

That is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever read.   AK, you are so loved, and I want you to remember that even though your life can be hard, you are loved.
You may not think your brother is on your team, but I will tell you a secret... He loves you.  And he needs you and one day you'll need him.   He is secretly very protective of you and is constantly telling me, "No that is too grown up for AK". He wants to keep you little forever.   Sometimes he turns to me and says, " Mom, AK is such a funny girl, she was .... "  and then he will describe something you did earlier. He often speaks on your behalf and we tell him to be quiet and let you speak otherwise you will never learn the life skills you need to live on your own.  He has told us, "It's okay, she can live with me forever." 
Happy Birthday, Miss AK!  We love you so much and hope this is your best year yet!