Sometimes I think I'm going through my second childhood or something. I must own more dolls and stuffed animals now than I did when I was eight years old!

Believe it or not, with all the dolls I own, my collecting really didn't begin until I worked for Little Miss History Dolls a couple of Christmases ago. While filling phone orders there, I heard about how some of the older-model dolls, which originally sold for $50, were worth as much as $1,000!

It seemed like such a sure investment, I would've been a fool to pass up buying a few of them! True, by the time I bought the dolls they cost $175 each, not $50, and since I was only a temp I couldn't get the 10 percent employee discount, so my paycheck was pretty much non-existent after buying a couple of them. But honestly, I don't regret it: Even if they were worth a million dollars each, I wouldn't part with my dolls. My Betsy Ross doll has this cute little red, white and blue dress and lace bonnet, and Sacajawea sits in her very own little buckskin canoe! They're just so precious!

So it should come as no surprise that when I heard about the Teenie Beanie Baby promotion McDonald's was having, I flipped out! I just love Beanie Babies, and I've got almost all of them! I have Hoppity the bunny, Hoot the owl, Bongo and Congo the monkeys, Wrinkles the dog, Quackers the duck, Inky the octopus, Legs the frog, Fleece the lamb, Derby the horse and Waddle the penguin! I even have the lobster no one wants. I've got them all arranged on our waterbed at home, and it's so cute to watch my kitties Max and Clementine snoozing away in the middle of the whole menagerie of Beanie Babies!

Anyway, last month, I went to McDonald's twice a day, once during my lunch break and once on the way home from work, to pick up the Teenie Beanie Babies they were including with a Happy Meal purchase.

And with no help from hubby Rick, I might add! I once made the mistake of asking Rick to pick up a Happy Meal for me when he was out, and he started yelling about how he wouldn't do it for the same reason he refused to buy me tampons at the drugstore. (Naturally, he didn't have any problems eating all the hamburgers I brought home!) Suit yourself, grouchy—who'll be laughing all the way to the bank when my Teenie Beanies are sought-after collectibles and you're still slogging away at the tire center?

Honestly, though, I'm really not in it for the money. It's a labor of love. I guess a lot of it stems from the fact that I lost all my old toys from my childhood. It still pains me to this day to talk about this, but after I married Rick and moved away from home, my mother decided to do a big house-cleaning, and without even asking me, she threw out tons of my old things.

She got rid of my Barbies, my Holly Hobbie sewing machine, my Miss Beasley doll, my E-Z Bake Oven, my Partridge Family record player and, worst of all, Gerry Giraffe, who was practically my best pal when I was a kid!

I was just livid at my mother when I found out what she did, but she just took a drag on her cigarette and said, "Jean, if you really cared about your things you would have taken them with you when you moved out." Well, Mother dear, if you and Dad and Rick's folks didn't force us to get married, and we didn't have to go live in the mobile home with Rick's senile grandmother for eight months before we got our own place, maybe I would've been able to keep my stuff instead of having you throw everything away! (Geez, I'd better change the subject before I get really upset. No use dwelling on the negative!)

I think the next thing I'm going to start collecting is anything with pictures of those sweet little babies dressed up like flowers or vegetables or bumblebees! So far I have the book and calendar, and I bought three of the greeting cards to give to friends, but I think I'm going to keep those too.

I can never understand why some people are so attracted to violence and drugs and the ugly side of life when there's so much beautiful art in the world. My collecting hobby takes my mind off my troubles and reminds me of all the good things life can offer.

When I tried to tell Rick this, he said that the only thing my collecting hobby reminds him of is the Trans-Am and the down-payment on a house we probably could have saved up for by now if not for my stupid collecting hobby. Isn't he just the worst? Maybe if he had a few Beanie Babies of his own, he wouldn't be such a grouch!