Sunday Snaps

1. There's no place like home
when you carry it all around with you:
One child on each hip.

2. What a wonderful world it would be
if we all rode around in skyboxes
with grins the size of the Pacific.

3. I rested my head on his back,
His hair smelled like sunscreen.
We closed our eyes.

4. They looked like the cover of an Adventure Guide
for Boys who Like to Roll Down Hills.
Doesn't matter they're fifty-one years apart.

5. We dried our swimsuits side by side by side.
Three generations of women
who love the water.


For more on our ten-days of summer vacay, go here. I'm posting, in real time, our to-dos. Hope you're all making lovely memories with your people!

Changing Rooms

"Beautiful things come in small packages," they say and so do I, writing this post from the tiny box that recently became our bedroom. A room we needed our architectural thinking caps to make work.

I'm always hunting for treasure. Coveting the home down the block with three-bedrooms and its office space in the back (with a skylight! How modern!) Daydreaming over bigger and better cars and homes, new clothing, shoes, furniture et al.

Because shiny new things sparkle and glow. No scratches from being repeatedly dropped on their faces. No stains.

We live in a world blessed with riches and a society that bribes us with new boxes. It's box cars and box homes and box television sets. And sometimes it's impossible to turn our heads because new cars always smell better. So do new homes, built on the wood of freshly cut trees, with their new bedrooms and clean slate of design ideas.

Same goes for people so we fantasize about shiny, new, carefully constructed bodies. Men seemingly cut from stone and women, pure, unused, even untouched.

We are told from ages young to dream of new life and new homes, to fantasize about the virgin in all her unattainable forms. Because wouldn't it be nice to be the first? The first family to live in the house. To own the car. To leave footprints in the sand. To steer the boat on her maiden voyage before her paint chips and her body belongs to the sea.

To feel what has never been touched.

... ... ... ... ... ...

Last night Hal and I stayed up until 2am talking. I had made a comment in passing that upset us both. I had embarrassed myself on accident, bragging about past exploits, grasping at the peacock feathers of my past - before there was a family or even an us. Desperate to clarify to all with ears open that wild things never forget the open field.

Sometimes I catch myself saying things I don't want to be remembered by. Or maybe I do?
But why? Because people take great offense to the truth. Because the things most exciting to talk about are most often the things left unsaid.

Sometimes I find myself publicly dipping my toes into the pools of my past. Hard not to when for many years, I defined myself solely as one who stood in the center of my own puddles, completely submerged from the neck down.

I'm a married mother of two, now. I write about food and how to get my child to eat it, post photographs where my nursing bra shows and people praise the biology of it all - the beauty and bonding of mother and child. But sometimes I want to be more than that. I want to be looked at and talked to and treated like a piece of meat. Like someone not afraid to open her mind and her mouth and yes, even her legs. Someone empowered by her inner "slut," frustrated by the virgin and how she is placed on a pedestal for crossing her legs and closing her mouth and talking only of safe things.

Last night I felt the need to apologize to Hal for being a used car with mileage, a woman in a stained dress who burps and farts and squeezes her friend's boobs in photographs. For revealing too much with the lights on. For speaking publicly about private parts without blushing. Because I'm supposed to blush. And cross my legs. And keep my voice down as not to wake the neighbors, spook, embarrass, shame.

"I'm sorry I'm not the kind of woman who dabs the sides of her mouth with linen napkins."

"You think we'd be together if you were?"


... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Before we moved into the small bedroom this past weekend, I thought, maybe we should just find a new place and live there instead.

"If we're going to move we might as well just move homes. This place is stale. We've outgrown it. I'm ready for a change."

But just like a marriage, a body, a home, old can become new. And better than fantasy reality can be. Truth like sugar in the raw.

The first night we spent in our new bedroom, I told Hal, "this is my dream room."

"But it's so small," he said.


There's a direct correlation between changing identities and switching bedrooms overnight -- rearranging the same old items in a new and different space. I carry my past with me in my back pocket and every now and then, walk into the wrong room, expecting to find my bed when, Wait! Where did everything go? Oh, wait! That's right. That's not my room anymore.

This is my room:

Full of old things new and new things old, everything differently placed and rearranged and mirrors fresh out of their plastic wrap.

They say that airplanes aren't safe to fly unless they've flown a thousand miles. And ships are more likely to sink their first day at sea. They say that people can change if they want to. But changing will never change the past and thank God because what a ride that was. So many memories made in old bedrooms, sprawled across dirty sheets.

They say that beautiful things come in small, unassuming packages. Like the old room that came new when we finally rearranged the furniture. Like peacock feathers* folding inward toward the body.

*Nevertheless, always there.


Food for Naught.

When he was little he ate everything. He stuffed his face with tofu and Quinoa, spinach and avocado omelets. Now? Not so much. I've written about my struggles trying to feed a picky eater (I should own stock in Annie's Mac & Cheese) before and it's nothing new:
I'll be honest. It makes me feel like a better mom when women I love, respect and admire are in the same boat. 


I like to think this is a phase and Archer will soon be back to eating organic greens out of the bag, preferring goat cheese scrambles over a handful of dry Cheerios in a baggie. (WTF is that about anyway?)

In the meantime, I have a few minor pointers for parents like me who wrestle with children who don't eat as well as they should/could:

1. Eat Outside - I bring fruit and nuts pretty much everywhere I go and Archer will gladly accept all berries, bananas and the occasional peach when outdoors. We attend our local Farmer's Market every Sunday as a family and Archer will polish off three baskets of raspberries under the tent. At home? No way, no how.

2. Smoothies - We live blocks away from a Jamba where Archer will totally down a giant Acai smoothie. Months ago, twas my mom's idea to ask the smoothie makers to mix a shot of wheat grass in with the smoothie and voila! Three days a week, people. That is some expensive vegetable trickery. 

3. Dessert bribe - Sometimes this works. Maybe 42% of the time. Oh, who am I kidding. 22% of the time. Might have something to do with the fact that the BIG EXCITING DESSERT is a square of dark chocolate because I'm the food gestapo and am absolutely insane when it comes to processed food and corn syrup OMG I will END YOU with my HATE!

I just hope Archer's rejection of all the best foods doesn't turn into rebellion. I seriously would rather come home to a pack of cigarettes in his backpack than a fast food burger wrapper because that shit is JUST as bad for you but I'm not going into that or else I will probably cry because bad food hurts my feelings. 

Anyone have any tips to add to my short-list? What do you do to ensure your kid's well-eating? What has worked for your family? Or are you one of the lucky ones* whose kid snacks on Asparagus and eats something other than rice at a Chinese Restaurant?



Sunday Snaps

1. He blew on her rice
Even though it wasn't hot.
"Just to be sure."

3. Still warm from the dryer,
I pulled her sheets tight
around the crib mattress.

4. Hal ordered three ice-creams.
"But what about Fable?...
...Here," Archer said. "Share mine."
5. It was the first night that
both children went to sleep
in their own room.*
(They're still sleeping.)


*after a very long weekend the bedrooms are almost completely finished. There will indeed be an after soon! Hooray!

** I forgot to link this post about Fable's most amazing kick-ass nanny who we have dubbed in our household, Senorita Dudafuego because she IS the same exact person as Mrs. Doubtfire, except she's actually a woman and not Robin Williams in drag.

***For those of you trying to access Straight From the Bottle from Australia you *can* but only through your google reader. Thanks to Little Miss Moi for the heads-up!

**** I also want to thank you so MUCH for all your help re: Archer and music lessons. So many amazing readers commented and emailed me contacts so we can find a kick-ass Suzuki teacher for Archer. (Archer's most interested in playing violin so we'll start with violin and see how it goes.) You're AMAZING. So many resources I'm so grateful. Love to all of you for being so generous with your information and advice! Also looking into Colburn school for singing classes.

Boy Wonder?

I suppose it happens to all parents. We wake up one day convinced our children are geniuses of the highest degree, worthy of prodigy status. It happened to me a year and a half ago, when Archer unable to speak, was able to sing. It was the only way he could speak coherently. It was more than a miracle. It was a relief. We had attended various sessions of the speech therapy prescribed through Early Intervention but for Archer, it was music that finally got him using his words.

We pulled him out of speech therapy, upped the dosage of Bach and Debussy, Mozart and Bizet, surrounding Archer with melody until his songs became sentences and his sentences stories.

Beyond vastly improving Archer's speech, music has become Archer's co-pilot. (In the last year Archer's language has progressed so rapidly we've been told he could easily start Kindergarten a year early. To put that into perspective, this time last year? Archer was three-years-old with the language ability of a 12-month-old.) He's come a long way, baby. Partly thanks to music and its whisper, like angels in his ear.

Archer has always been unique, quirky, his own beast. His ability to concentrate solely on music and sound was cause for concern in the beginning. He had a sort of reverse ADD which made it difficult for him to focus beyond whatever it was that was consuming him. This waved a red flag to many specialists at the beginning who believed he might be on the Autistic Spectrum. (Einstein Syndrome? Perhaps. I like to think Archer Syndrome is a more accurate label.)

I wrote about our preliminary experience dealing with IEPs and Speech Therapy quite a bit in my book if you happened to read it and although I always knew Archer was not Autistic, I was very much aware of his differences, communicative struggles and the fact that he was not like other children.

Of course I never wanted to "fix" him. Whatever it was and whoever he wanted to be would emerge beyond the tests and the milestones he was slow to overcome. What was most important to us was nurturing his strengths and for Archer, clearly it was (and still is) music.

From an early age, Archer listened to music with his eyes closed, his little hand in the air like a Southern Baptist at church during prayer. He still does. And his voice? Pitch perfect.

"We have to nurture this," I said.

Hal agreed.

So for the past few months we've been on a mission to find a boy's choir, music program or magnet school (if they even exist) specializing in music in the Los Angeles area.

Unfortunately for the past few months I've come up empty-handed. Unable to find a school or choir-program for children under six years of age, which is unfortunate, even shocking for one of the most creative cities in the world.

This is why I'm writing this post. I'm on a music mission for Archer who craves it, who sings to himself all day long, who constantly corrects me when I try to teach him the sounds of the instruments.

"Do you hear the trumpet?" I say.

"It's not a trumpet, mommy. It's a French Horn."

And he's right. Which is crazy.

Archer's ability to differentiate clarinets from oboes, violins from cellos and memorize melodies after one listen far surpasses my ability and expertise, even Hal, a music major and classically trained pianist, guitarist, former CBGB rocker has nothing on Archer's pitch perfection.

His ability to pick up drum sticks and without every having practiced or performed, play without missing a beat:

Of course he's my kid and of course I'm going to think he's the raddest in the land, but after everything we've been through, I can't help thinking maybe he has something - an innate gift, divine inspiration, an ability beyond what is the norm for his age or any age. And what kind of bonehead parent would I be to not do encourage the hell out of that shit?

Especially after last week when Archer sat down to the piano to play Carmen (his favorite song like crazy omg he's obsessed) near perfectly and completely by ear, his hands in proper position.

So... help?

Boy's choirs or other recommended music programs in Los Angeles for four-year-olds? I've been searching but all I have been able to find are youth choirs and music schools for children aged 6+.

You're always so helpful and insightful and full of secrets and knowledge of undisclosed locations, good advice. (Thank you so much in advance.)


Birthday Gifts

Every day I look at myself, my life and think, "you're so lucky."

"Crazy lucky."

"Insane lucky."

"Holy shit, how did I get so lucky," lucky.

The very luckiest.

(Because) Every day I get to wake up in love.

I'm in love.

I'm in love.

I'm in love.

No need to blow out candles to make a wish.


Annie, Drop Your Gun

The other day, while walking the dogs, a little boy extended his hand out a window.

"BANG BANG BANG!" he said. "You're all dead."

I was walking the dogs, Fable in her stroller, Archer on his scooter. I turned to him and then looked away. Pretended not to hear him, let it bother me. We kept walking.

Archer didn't respond and I got to wondering how he would have had he known and understood what the little boy was doing. Had he known and understood what a gun was, how it was meant to be used.

Violence in any form churns my stomach. Always has. I turn away from violence in movies, forbid my children to watch movies where characters "good" OR "bad" kill one another. (That's why I like CARS. The only "bad" guys in CARS are the character's egos. No one dies or tries to kill anyone. The conflict is on the interior. Much more kid-friendly.) But I digress. I've been thinking quite a bit lately about weapons and violence, specifically the way violence is depicted on television - comic book superheroes saving the world by killing "bad guys"... "bad guys" that lurk in shadows and under beds and behind the mirror glass.

Many of Archer's friends at school carry X-Men lunchboxes, wear Spiderman shoes, Batman T-shirts. Archer doesn't know who Spiderman is. Or Superman. Or Wolverine. Or any comic book superheroes. The only television he sees is peaceful. I turn the television off when there's a preview for a show that involves violence of any kind.

Recently I've been wondering if this constitutes as sheltering.

Oh my God, am I sheltering him?

Am I?

I've written at length about empowerment, about truth and telling it with eyes open, the heart exposed. I believe that fear comes from our inability to see, to trust and understand, educate and yet when it comes to guns, to violence, I can't do it. I can't talk about guns or weapons without feeling sick and sad, even fearful.

So goes my paradox: I'm afraid that by educating my child I will scare him. I will scare myself.

We live in one of the largest cities in the world. Where drive-bys occur blocks from us. Where break-ins happen regularly. Where our own things have been stolen, our cars broken into, our things swiped from our porch. Three years ago, a man carjacked my husband at gun-point, stole his car and left him on the side of the road. He had just left the set of his job for his lunch break. There were dozens of witnesses. Everyone watched in shock.

Many pro-gun advocates argue that carrying a weapon can ensure ones safety. I disagree. Had my husband been armed with a weapon and used it to defend himself someone could have easily been killed. Instead? Hal lost his car for two days until the cops recovered it in South Central where they arrested and jailed the criminal.

Using gun as defense seldom works to defend. Guns used as offensive weapons? Different story.

I lost three friends in gun-related accidents in High School and since graduation. Two were accidental. One was suicide. I grew up in upper middle class suburbia where everyone lived gated existences. There was NO REASON for them to have handguns in the house. None. If gun control existed, I would have three friends alive. PERIOD.

Do I carry a gun in my house? Never. Do I believe in the right to bear arms? Yes. But I believe there should be stricter regulations. I believe that fear is the worst possible reason to carry a weapon and therefor will never understand why so many feel the need to "protect their families," especially when housed in gated communities in middle-class suburbs, alarms activated.

What are you afraid of? 

Guns are far more likely to kill innocent people than criminals when kept inside the home. Period.

That being said, am I being naive to think I can shelter my son from fear by keeping violence away from his eyes? Perhaps. Is it important to teach gun safety to people of all ages? Yes. Will I be teaching my child how to properly use a weapon? No. Because I don't believe he should know how to kill.

To keep a handgun in one's house insinuates, in my opinion, a certain amount of fear, which is why guns are so scary.

There will never be a happily ever after story involving guns because guns were invented with the sole intent to take life.

For me, it all comes down to fear and teaching our children to resist it as much as they possibly can. I will be educating my children to live peaceful lives. To love and respect and stand up for themselves in ways that are empowering.

And in my household? Guns will not be factoring into that equation.


Sunday Snaps

1. From afar she looked like she was
flying with wings on her head,
kicking her striped legs.

2. They sang Happy Birthday.
He blew out the candles.
I made a wish.

3. "Never stand up in a canoe!"
he proclaimed out of nowhere.
"I learned that at school."
4. Bellinis on the terrace
as the children stripped down
and splashed in the pool.

5. I looked in my rear-view mirror
at two sleeping children
in disbelief they were mine.

Archer with his cousin, Anushka: Stagecoach Park.


Here's the Before, Let's Hope There's an After

This is it. The last week before we do the big room-exchange. Before we set up the crib and Fable gets booted out of our bed once and for all, which, sniff, but also, phew. Eight-months of co-sleeping has been lovely but I miss having sex in my own bed. Not that sprawling across the bathroom floor in a heap of dirty towels isn't sexy it's just that, I'm going to be twenty-eight next week not nineteen.

Hal and I currently reside in the larger of the two bedrooms but that is soon to change. A crib and twin-sized bed will not fit in the smaller room so (Ready? Break!) we're going to have to move everything from Archer's room into ours and everything from our room into Archer's.

We have no idea how this will work out but it has to so we'll make it happen. I snapped a few before pictures of our separate spaces before our massive reorganization.

Behold the before:

Our Room

Yes, that's the giant, insane painting mentioned in my book. Bedding is Anthropologie. Anthropologie is my girlfriend.

Dresser belonged to my father when he was a boy. Gramophone belonged to a stranger.

Hal's dresser. Where all my makeup and weirdness lives.

This doorway separates both bedrooms.

Archer's Room

In case he ever forgets.

Archer's crib turned toddler bed soon to become Fable's crib and Fable's dresses hanging all over the place because she doesn't really have a closet/dresser space right now.

Kid's dresser slash changing table that's never been used to change anybody and a painting my Nana painted for me when I was a child.

Fable's Room

Had this Dwell bedding since before she was born. It's all the "room" she has for now, which is why I'm really excited about finally giving her a space of her own.

Fingers crossed that there's an after.

Stay tuned.


(GGC Survival Guide for) The Beautiful and the WAHMd

As an epiblogue to my last post. I put together a little list for those of you WAHMing it up, hoping to someday WAHM and/or trying to decide between being an astronaut* or a WAHM when you grow up.

GGC's Ten Secrets to Highly Kinda Sorta Successful(ish) WAHM'ing

1. Make Lists, Check Them Twice - The only way to keep track of assignments, appointments and show-and-tell themes is to write them all down. Every morning I write my to-do list and most of the time I get to some of it.

2. Coffee - The only drug moms can do out in the open without risk of being judged. Also, it helps you wake up in the morning, late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon and evening when you have deadlines.

3. Separate Work Hours from Kid Hours - Designating play hours may seemed contrived but its kind of imperative. Implementing "no Internet/no phone" zones is sometimes the only way to pull back from work to enjoy your family without constant vibrating. There is a time and a place for your "shit to blow up." And it isn't while your child's begging you to build sandcastles.

4. Get the Hell Out of the House - For me, it's near impossible to focus 100% on kids in my house, especially during weekday afternoons. Too many work-related distractions a mere feet away (This might have something to do the fact that my office space is in my living room, inches away from where the kids play with their toys. In my next life I'm going to to be filthy rich when I have kids so I can have an outdoor office or a separate wing to keep my computer.) so getting out of the house for activities everyday is a MUST. Whether it means going to the park, meeting for a playdate or simply taking a "nature walk" around the block to collect rocks.


5. Get Dressed. Every. Day. - I can trace every bad WAHM day to poor wardrobe choices. This might seem incredibly shallow but it's true. Just look at the women of one hundred years ago. My great-grandmother gave birth to triplets during the great depression and still managed to change out of her pajamas every morning for chrissakes (true story!) so we have no excuse.

Honestly, though. Getting dressed to go to work everyday is obvious. You wouldn't show up to an office job with your hair in a scrunci, so why show up at your home office looking like a slob? You say you can do your best work in your pajamas and slippers? I don't believe you. Makeup works wonders on a poker face. Style is the first step to substance.

6. Stick to a (Flexible) Schedule -  You absolutely must have a schedule if you're going to get through your day. For me, for now, scheduling my days is difficult because of Fable's no-nap policy but I do schedule my nights around my work. The most important part of having a schedule as a work-at-home parent is knowing that things will probably be switched around ten thousand times and you'll have to cancel most of your plans to deliver by deadline and everyone you know will call you a flake behind your back.

7. Prioritize - You'll get to all those TIVO'd episodes of LOST, later. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully. We'll see. Okay so you'll most likely never watch LOST again.

8. Stay up an Hour Later or Get up an Hour Early - Quoting my inspiring friend, Rita Arens, sleep is for the weak. You want to get it all done? There are nights you'll just have to sleep less. One hour won't kill you but it will make you stronger if you can finish your daily deadlines without stressing yourself to an early grave.

9. Surround Yourself  with What Inspires You. Get Rid of Everything Else - Days are too short and time far too precious to surround yourself with downers and ghosts and judgment and people who bite. Period.

10. Delegate. Delegate. Delegate - If you can afford a part-time sitter? Do it. And if you can't? Don't be afraid to ask for help. From your spouse (who should be offering anyway p.s.) or partner or mom or grandma or neighbor because quite honestly, NO ONE can do it all on their own. We get by with a little help from our friends.


Now it's your turn. What are your secrets do doing it all? How the hell do you manage your life/work/kids/marriage/porn addiction/craziness? How do you make it happen?

Bring on the bullet-points.


*Not discounting those who are both mother and astronaut. Just saying it's probably impossible to astronaut from the home, correct me if I'm wrong.

The Beautiful and the WAHM'd

The term "work at home mom" is a total conundrum. It's also redundant. It is one of the few redundant conundrums I can think of, or, because I get off on word play, redundrums which was why I brought up the topic of balancing work with motherhood on today's yesterday's Momversation. I'm always desperately curious as to how so many of you do it all. WTF, people? How do you even have time to read this blog post right now?

I've always been on the outside of the (not-so) great "mommy debate" of working vs stay-at-home momdom, waving my Swiss flag because I have no idea what side to stand on. Do I have to pick a side?

It seems pretty obvious to me that the great majority of everyone is doing what they have to do to raise their kids happily and healthily, whether that means putting off career to focus on family or pursuing everything at once. Sides can go fuck themselves.

Regardless of the choices you or me or the chick standing behind you in line for coffee has made, we're all trying to achieve balance, to find happiness, to spread the love.


"How do you do it all?" we constantly ask one another, seldom answering the question ourselves.

Perhaps because there's no answer. Because our circumstances are so different, constantly changing, that every day is its own unique experience. The amount of balls we have hovering in the air above us changes momentarily. Like right now, for instance? It's late. Kids are sleeping. Husband's in the shower. I'm alone. I can blog and when I'm finished with this post I can clean up and eventually go to sleep* and maybe I don't sleep as much as I could but neither do you.

Because that's what happens when you have kids. Because that's what happens when you don't have kids. Because that's what happens when you work long hours. Because that's what happens when you're an adult and you have shit you'd like to do. You need to do. You have no choice but to do.

I can't speak for all mothers but I can speak for myself as a work-from-home-mom (WAHM) when I say that maintaining order in the court is not an everyday occurence. There are some days when I rock the shit out of my life - when I write ten pages in two hours, have dinner on the table by the time Hal's home from work, have kids down by 8:00pm, but six days out of the seven, I'm disasterville - the kids still wandering the halls at 10:30 and me struggling to write a blog post, bleary-eyed, teary-eyed and overwhelmed, Hal home from work to find me in a heap of drugs, gigolos and gambling debt.

This is is why starting this week we're hiring me a part-time helper. Because Fable doesn't nap and therefor I cannot work during the day. I tried "doing it all" without assistance but it didn't quite work, so ten hours a week I'll be working outside my home, writing at my neighborhood coffee shop. This is a good thing. This is necessary. For my sanity. And my creativity. And my career. For my kids. So that when I'm with them I'm not constantly looking over my shoulder envious of every laptop at the coffee shop I'm pushing my stroller through.

The pressure to perform as a writer and a mother and a wife and a friend and a daughter and a sister is nothing new.

I'm pretty sure that by day's end, we're all on the same side - managing stress, trying to achieve balance, striving as best we can to be be good, happy, well-adjusted peeps.

I mean, right?


*It was late last night when I started this post, anyway.

Sunday Snaps

I thought it might be cool to start a collection of memorable weekend moments. Too many of them fall in the couch cracks with the loose change and Cheerios. I'm hereby launching a weekly rescue mission. Feel free to join me.

Archer holds Fable on the porch, Sunday afternoon.

1. The way they love each other
is impossible to watch
with dry eyes.
2. He looked at me waiting
to give him the okay
to play in the rocks.

3. The man who sells me lettuce
at the market always smiles
when I have exact change.

3. She opened her hand
in her sleep and then closed it
tight around my finger.

5. It was the first time
we'd ever dressed up
for each other like that.
On our way to see La Traviata Saturday night.


GGC Shopping Spree: Legwarmers

Because I've received so many emails this week re: Fable's leg warmers (and yes, she has approximately 789182u3ihasd923 pairs) I thought I'd blog quickly and exclusively about the adorability of leg warmers and direct your attention to their place of purchase. 

Ladies and gentleparents, I give you: Babylegs*, so cute your eyeballs will fall out of your head, so practical you'll want to ditch the tights for good. 

You can also find them at Target as well as many local baby boutiques or if you're in a DIY mood? Cut the feet off a pair of funky socks and make them yourself!!!

If you have any other questions re: Fable's fashion, I've started a new drooling closet set on flickr to list/link designers, places of purchase, or you can ask in the comments, below. 



*this post not endorsed/paid for** by babylegs.
**no GGC posts or recommendations here, there or on twitter have EVER BEEN paid-for by anybody. All GGC love, recommendations and giveaways come from my personal experiences with products and people the end.