Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our Family Christmas

Well Christmas was not what we expected this year but it will be one to remember. On Christmas Eve we drove to Louisiana (eight hours in the car but Sophia did WONDERFUL)! She watched movies, took a nap, ate some snacks, and played with her toys. She got a little bored towards the end so I got in the back seat with her and we sang some songs together. Sophia was very happy when we got to the camp and she was able to get out and PLAY. We ate dinner with Trey's parents and visited for awhile then we headed off to bed (at 4 months pregnant, an eight hour car ride can really wear me out)! Sophia actually fell asleep in our bed on her own (we forgot to bring the pack-n-play for her) and I crawled in next to her about an hour later. A few hours later she noticed I was in bed with her, so she kept leaning over for kisses and cuddles and NON-STOP wiggling all night. Very sweet but not condusive to the deep sleep that I desired after our trip. Trey tried to sleep on the couch but ended up in bed with us around 4:30 AM. One big sleepless Suire family snuggled in their bed - visions of Santa dancing in our heads...

The next morning we got up and saw that Santa had delivered presents to Sophia at the camp! Sophia was still a little sleepy so this was the slowest I had seen her open her Christmas presents. Barbies, books, a movie, and a dance camera from Santa! We ate some breakfast and all started to get ready to visit all of the family for Christmas. I was trying to fix my hair, get dressed, and keep Sophia occupied with her toys while Trey took a shower. Sometime after he got out of the shower and started to get dressed - his back went out. When he finally let me open the door he was lying on the floor in extreme pain and unable to move. I got his dad to come help and for the next 1 1/2 hours tried to get him off the floor. Every move he made put him in excrutiating pain and I felt helpless. I was finally able to help him get dressed and his dad helped (carried) him to the car. We went to Christmas at his Grandma's house, then to his aunt's and eventually we got him to the chiropractor that day. After an adjustment from the chiro he was actually able to walk on his own but was still in a lot of pain.

I had to drive us back to Dallas since Trey could not drive. I am usually the one taking naps in the passenger seat and only getting out of the car to take Sophia to the potty during our trips - but this time I was behind the wheel. I drove to Shreveport on Friday evening (about four hours from the camp in Louisiana) and we all spent the night in a hotel. Saturday morning we slept late (Sophia had her own crib at the hotel so the only little one kicking me this night was the baby), ate breakfast at the hotel and then I drove 3 1/2 hours to Dallas.

Trey was still in extreme pain the entire weekend and was only able to lie on the couch, the floor, or in bed. I feet like the single parent of two little children right now - making sure everyone is dressed, fed, bathed, fed, entertained, fed, and finally put to bed. I guess this is just good practice for what life will be like once the new baby arrives in May! Times like these make me appreciate all the things my husband does around the house on a daily basis. Thank you Trey for being a helpful husband (when you are not injured)!

At least this week has given me the chance to spend more time with Sophia. Seeing Christmas through a child's eyes allowed me to remember the excitement, anticipation and joy of the season. We talked about the birth of Jesus and how everyone gets presents as we celebrate his birthday, but Sophia will still insist that Christmas is also her birthday. She loved seeing the christmas lights, the inflatable snowmen, and presents under the tree. When we got home our trip on Saturday, she ran to the tree and was so sad to see that all the presents were gone.

Sophia is still unsure about becoming a big sister - it will be an adjustment for all of us. Every night we pray for the baby in mommy's belly to grow healthy and strong and to be blessed by God. Then she makes me pray for the "baby" in her belly too. If you ask her if she wants a brother or a sister - the answer will vary from day to day. I have a sonogram scheduled on January 9th so we should know if the baby is a boy or a girl about a week!

As for Trey, he has been to the chirpractor twice this week and I am taking him to the Orthopedic surgeon this afternoon. We suspect he has a bulging disc in his lower back which he also had about 4-5 years ago. I hope the doctor can give him some pain relief and we can get him back on his feet (literally) very soon. I will update as soon as we have some news - on Trey and the baby.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Our trip to Lisbon and Germany

Several weeks ago, I had to travel to Lisbon (for the third time this year) for work. I was so excited that I was able to bring Trey with me on this trip. It took about 18 hours of travel time over two days to get there. On my first day of meetings, Trey did some sightseeing around Lisbon...

There are some beautiful plazas, statues and buildings in Lisbon. The weather was also perfect for a walking tour of the city.

One night, we had dinner in a castle that overlooked the entire city. Here is a picture of the castle at the top of the hill (let's just say that the cab ride there was an adventure all it's own)!

After my last day of meetings, we took a train to the little town of Sintra and toured a beautiful palace with a breathtaking view of the ocean. Again, the palace was at the top of a hill but this time we had to hike up to the top - it was not easy for me being almost 3 months pregnant! Sorry we don't have any pictures inside but cameras were not allowed.

After Sintra we went on to the town of Cascais, which is right on the ocean. I can only imagine how beautiful this town is in the summer with it's beaches right at the bottom of the rocky cliffs. Trey had to climb down to the rocks for a picture.

After a busy week in Lisbon, we had to fly through Frankfurt, Germany on the way back to Dallas. Before our trip we decided to stay an extra day in Germany and do some more sightseeing. Unfortunately, it was REALLY COLD that day. We took a train up the Rhine river and stopped at a few little towns along the way. It was beautiful to see the castles and vineyards towering above these tiny towns.

It was a wonderful trip but by the end of the week I was ready to come home and see Sophia. We spend twelve long hours on the plane home Saturday and finally I got to hug my little girl again. I would love to go back to Germany again during the warmer months and it was great to be able to travel with Trey on this trip.
Top picture: Weary travelers on the train in Germany

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baby Jackson Update

I recently received a post on my blog asking for an update on Baby Jackson. About two months ago my friend Melissa called me about her infant son Jackson, as they were heading to the hospital for a high fever. Over the next week, he was diagnosed with a severe brain infection and an immune system that was too weak to fight the infection in his body. After his first brain surgery, we were overjoyed to hear that he regained his strength and started playing and eating within a few days. Melissa, Doug, and Jackson spent about 3-4 weeks in the hospital and were finally able to take Jackson home, even though they were still on IV medicines with the help of a home health nurse.

About two weeks ago, an MRI indicated that Jackson had fluid on the brain again... Back to the hospital for another surgery to drain the fluid, which was thankfully not another infection. He did have an infection in his central line (used for his IV medicines) so it was removed. This time they only had to spend a week in the hospital and Jackson came home on Halloween.

Jackson and his family are still facing a lot of unknowns right now. They have seen specialist about his immune system and still do not have a lot of answers. He needs to have an MRI every month to check his brain, but the original infection has diminished (by about 75%). Now they are struggling with a rash all over his body, swollen lymph nodes, and an elevated white blood count. He also has difficulty sleeping (which is very hard on his mom and dad) and is very picky about his food now because they have to hide all his medicine in his food (after they took out his central line).

This week is Jackson's first birthday, and Melissa has planned him a birthday party. I hope he is feeling good on Saturday so that we can go see him for the first time in MONTHS! Melissa still updates us a few times a week on the Caring Bridge website. Feel free to check out his page from time to time for updates. We continue to pray for Melissa, Doug and Jackson and hope they receive some answers soon.

Thanks, Stephanie

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fun in the Fall

A few weeks ago we took Sophia to the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch. We also took her last year so it appears we have started a fall family tradition. It is hard to believe that last year she had just learned to walk and this year she was running all over the farm. Getting her to stand still to take some pictures with the pumpkins was almost impossible. Sophia did like posing with the cartoon characters – Mickey Mouse and Alex from Madagascar were her favorites. Another favorite part of her day was the fun jump – until she got knocked over by a little boy. After that she was too scared to go back in, in case that mean boy was still in there! Each of us got to pick out a pumpkin, so there are three (still uncarved) pumpkins on the front steps of our house. Carving pumpkins was something I always did as a child, but Trey had never carved one until I asked him to help me a few years ago. He HATED it! I am thinking about getting Sophia to help me carve one this week.

We have some friends who have a Halloween Party every year. At the beginning of October, I start looking for costume ideas for Trey and me, but we still wait until the last minute to actually put an outfit together. This year was no exception – we stopped by the Halloween store on our way to Keller for the party to buy straw hats. It is hard to tell from the picture but we went as “a roll in the hay”.

It was fun but my favorite part was seeing Sophia in her costume for the first time. I bought her a pink princess outfit a few weeks ago and she has shown ZERO interest in putting it on so I was a little worried. I hope she still wants to wear the costume again on Friday for Halloween. Here is a picture of my princess!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My "Girl Time" with Sophia

Trey started a new job a few weeks ago with new hours – he works until 7:00 PM Monday through Thursday and 5:00 on Fridays. This means he does not get home until about 7:30 most weeknights. I pick up Sophia from daycare around 5:00 PM, so we have a lot of time alone together in the evenings now. At first I was a little stressed out about keeping her busy playing and feeding her dinner all by myself, but now I find myself enjoying our “girl time” together. We go to the playground, for walks in the neighborhood, to grocery shopping or to the library. I also take her out to dinner about once a week – mainly because I am starving by the time I get home and don’t really have the time to cook dinner. Also, I like the idea of trying to teach her manners and how to behave in a restaurant, but I mainly it has taught me to have PATIENCE with a two year old.

Last night, I took her out for a double-header – a restaurant and the library. As soon as we walked in the door at the restaurant, she asked to go potty. That was fine because we could get that business out of the way up front - instead of her asking to go to the bathroom as soon as our food arrived. Once we were seated at our table, she reached for the bread basket as soon as it arrived but turned down everything I offered her from the kid’s menu. Since she usually wants to eat whatever I have on my plate, I decided to share with her. About 10 minutes into dinner, the kid’s menu and crayons were on the floor, she was spitting out half eaten orange slices after dipping them in my ranch dressing, and she was yelling “I GOTTA GO POOP” at the top of her lungs. After our second potty trip of the night, I finally got to finish eating my food and the waitress asked if she could bring Sophia a special treat,

Dirt pudding… with gummy worms.

I said yes, Sophia could have dessert (as soon as she took her foot off the table and put it back in her high chair under the table). After I finally convinced Sophia to take a bite of dirt pudding, she decided it was delicious and she needs to eat it as fast as possible using her fingers and a gummy worm as a spoon. Unfortunately I forgot to bring a bib or wet wipes so I attempted to clean her up with a cloth napkin dipped in my water glass. Fun times. I’m sure the waitress was happy to see the mess we left behind on the table, the highchair, and the floor.

Next stop of the night was the library. Every three weeks I take Sophia to the library to check out new books to read at home before bedtime, and our books were due for return. Before we go inside I remind her of the rules of the library: no running and to talk in a whisper. She listens carefully and nods her head that she knows the rules. She even whispers to me that we have to be quiet when we walk in the door. That lasts for all of 30 seconds, until she sees the play area in the children’s section of the library. Then I get to spend the next 20 minutes chasing her around while I try to pick out her books. Last night went well; she started playing with a little girl by the activity tables and then climbed up in a chair to play on the computer. It went so well that I attempted to take her upstairs (to the non-kid section) so that I could scan the new release shelf for myself. At the top of the stairs she took off running towards a statue of a golden retriever in the center of the room. She was shrieking with excitement, “Doggie, Mommy!” After I reminded her to whisper, I asked her if she wanted to pet the dog. Big mistake. She walked a little closer to the statue then quickly ran back to me, YELLING that she was scared the dog would bit her. I picked her up and quickly headed down the stairs as all eyes in the room were on us. We hurriedly checked out five books for Sophia and none for me while she cried that the dog bit her. As we were almost to the door and out of the building, she was distracted by a familiar sight. The ultimate tool of manipulation for a (recently) potty trained toddler. The bathroom.

She yelled, “Mommy, I Need To Go Pee-Pee POTTY!” I just kept walking, not stopping to turn around to see who was staring at us.

As soon as we got home I asked Sophia if she needed to go to the potty. She didn’t.

We ended the night by reading every single one of our new books at bedtime, putting her in her crib, and topping it off with fifteen minutes of screaming that she needed to potty. Guess what? She didn’t.

By the morning, all the frustration and exasperation from the night before is forgotten, erased by hours of sleep. I sneak in her room to kiss her before I head out to work, and she doesn’t wake up. I’m already looking forward to our “girl time” tonight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My slacker excuse is a good one...

Hello. I almost feel like I should re-introduce myself because it has been FOREVER since I have updated this blog. My life has been whirlwind busy lately but I will stop using that as an excuse. I have another excuse now and I think it really validates my lack of spare time. The reason I have been such a slacker lately is because...

I am 8 weeks pregnant!

Most of our friends and family already know our news so I am comfortable sharing it on my blog. We have prayed and waited for baby number two so this is a HUGE blessing in our lives. Sophia is going to be a big sister (she will almost be three when the baby is born), but she is still pretty clueless about the pregnancy. She laughed when I told her that mommy has a baby in her belly, then lifted up her shirt and told me that she had a baby in her belly. We looked through my maternity pictures the other day and she thinks my big belly is hilarious. I'm sure the news will become more real once my belly starts growing bigger.

I have often heard that you start showing sooner with a second baby and I TOTALLY AGREE. I am already struggling to find clothes to wear to work. I hate to start wearing maternity clothes already (since that will be my only option for months to come), but since I already have some clothing options from a few years ago - I find myself accepting my expanding waistline and larger wardrobe. I would much rather be comfortable instead of stuffed into my normal clothes and uncomfortable by the end of the day.

One major change (Praise the Lord) from last time is the fact that I have not experienced the morning (ALL DAY) sickness like I did with Sophia. I am still tired and not 100% myself every day but I have been able to maintain my regular work schedule so far (keeping my fingers crossed that this continues for another 4-5 weeks). One thing that hasn't changed... I am hungry all the time, all day long. Yes, Trey and I got on the scale last night and I have already gained 4 pounds. Oh well, another 20-30 pounds to go.

Tomorrow we have a sonogram scheduled and I am excited to see how little baby Suire is growing. Only 8-10 weeks until we find out if we are having a boy or another little girl. I chose to let Sophia be a surprise, but at that time I also agreed with Trey that if we had a second child that we would find out during the pregnancy. I am taking bets on the gender - and yes I already know what I think I am having.

Well I will do a better job at posting updates over the next few weeks (and months). I am not going to post sonogram pictures because NO ONE really can tell what you are looking at this early. Right now the baby is the size of kidney bean. If that is the case, why do I look like I swallowed a cantaloupe?

Happy Monday!

*** Picture is of Sophia and Trey at National Night Out earlier this month in our neighborhood.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back from my business trip

8 days, 7 nights, and thousands of miles away. I was in Lisbon, Portugal last week for a business trip and I have NEVER spent that much time away from Sophia. Even worse, I was in a time zone that was 6 hours ahead and when I would get a chance to talk to Trey on the phone, she was still at daycare. Not hearing her voice for 5 days straight was very difficult, even if our conversations mainly consist of me asking if she is having fun with daddy and her responding "Yesh". After a total of 42 hours of travel time (over two days) to get back to Dallas on Saturday, I was exhausted but the first thing I did was tiptoe into her room just so I can could watch her sleep. On Sunday morning I finally got to see her smiling face when I went to get her out of bed. She willingly gave me hugs and kisses and I just inhaled her sweet little smell until she wiggled out of my arms to go play.

This was the second time that I have been to Lisbon this year, both times for business. Business travel is much different than leisure travel so I don't have a lot of sight-seeing pictures to post. We sat in meetings most of the days, ate a lot of traditional portugese food, and got out a few nights to walk around the town. Four days of travel for four days of meetings. I am happy to be home.
I am using work as my excuse for not posting lately (and I was without internet access for most of last week). I promise to keep up with postings in a more timely manner.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Baby Jackson Update - Friday Sept 12th

Friday, September 12th

Good and bad news since I last updated about Jackson's condition on Tuesday. Doug and Mel were able to bottle feed him Tuesday, which means the doctors did not have to put in a feeding tube. Melissa was also able to nurse him Wednesday and hold him again on Thursday. Jackson's seizures have also stopped which is wonderful news.

Yesterday they did another MRI and there is no change since Sunday when they found the infection. No infection has drained off the brain either, so they removed the tubes yesterday and will continue to give him IV antibiotics and hope the body absorbs the fluid on it's own. He also received a transfusion for his immune system yesterday and they expect to give him several more over the next few months. He should be out of ICU today (or they may have moved him out last night), but the doctors have told Doug and Mel he must stay in the hospital for at least six weeks. This may not seem like a lot of progress, but he is not getting worse and I have hope we will see some improvement over the next week.

Doug and Mel will be staying in the Ronald McDonald House next to Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth for the next 6 weeks so they can be close to Jackson but have a place to rest. Mel said it felt like checking into a four star hotel after sleeping in Jackson's hospital room and ICU for a week. They still are not accepting visitors so we have not been to see them or Jackson, but they have their immediate family with them every day.

Melissa has started a CaringBridge website to update us on Jackson's condition and she is planning to post some pictures very soon. I am excited to see (even a picture) of little Jackson's smiling face. He is such a sweet boy, who looks just like his mommy, and we continue to pray for his recovery. You can follow his progress at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jacksonmerriman

Monday, September 8, 2008

14 days and 4 pounds later...

I was 100% committed to my vegetarian diet and I had a goal of eating meat-free for 21 days. I started on a Sunday and I have to admit that the first week was even harder than I anticipated. I CRAVED steak, chicken, hamburgers. One day I had to grab lunch from the deli in our building and I settled on soup and a veggie wrap (which I could only eat about half of before it got soggy and I threw it away). At the Cowboys pre-season game, I settled on nachos instead of pizza or a hot dog. We ordered food from our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant and I had to change my order when I remembered that the cannelloni was made with ground meat. That weekend we drove to Louisiana for the Labor Day weekend and on the way there Sophia started screaming to eat. Our only option for the next 20 miles was fast food, so I ate salad from McDonald's and shared a yogurt parfait with her. On the way back to Dallas just two short days later, the exits and restaurants were so crowded from the hurricane evacuation that we ate fast food again. This time I had a salad from Burger King. Basically by the end of the first week, I was starving.

Once we were home, I was determined to try out some new vegetarian recipes. I made veggie lasagna, broccoli rice casserole, and vegetable stir fry. To be considerate of Trey and Sophia's need for meat, I grilled them some chicken. Trey felt bad that I had to cook the chicken when I was not even going to eat it so he offered to take over the grill.

I began to notice a difference that second week, as my focus on food began to fade. My craving for meat was gone and making vegetarian choices became second nature. I did struggle when we went out to restaurants, especially since I had also chosen to give up fish, crab and shrimp. Salads, pasta, rice, and soup became obvious choices. Interestingly, along with my lack of craving meat, my desire for dessert diminished. I became less hungry that second week, but my diet did have some side effects that I could not ignore.

I got on the scale Saturday morning and saw that I lost four pounds in 14 days. This may not sound like a lot to some people but I am only 5 feet 2 inches tall and that amount of weight can make a difference. I was not exercising regularly during these two weeks but I can say that my energy level was lower than normal. After considering the risks vs benefits of continuing my diet for another week, I decided it was time to start adding more protein to my diet.

On Sunday, I started to slowly add meat to my meals. Ground turkey, lean chicken and fish are all options for me to eat this week. I will continue to leave out pork and red meat for the next few weeks or maybe completely. I am still forming my opinions about a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle but I have found that it is not feasible for me to follow a totally meat free diet.

I was surprised at the questions I received from friends and family about my choice to change my diet. I did not choose to change my diet to draw attention to the environmental impacts or to debate my stance on animal cruelty. I made a personal choice and a challenge to myself to see how my diet affects many different aspects of my life. These past two weeks have allowed me to look for healthier alternatives at restaurants and at home. We will continue to include meat-free meals in our family's diet one or two times a week and I will continue to eat meat-free for at least one meal a day. And I will continue to boycott tofu.

Prayers for Baby Jackson

*****UPDATE on Tuesday, September 9th*****
Melissa sent us an email this morning and Jackson is still in ICU. They are still giving him antibiotics, anti-seizure meds, morphine and anti-anxiety medication. They are not sure if the infection will respond to the antibiotics or what long term effects it will have on his brain. His immune system is also not making enough antibodies to fight this infection, which is why it may have spread so quickly. At this point they will continue to run tests and we will just have to wait to see how his body responds to all the medicine. Melissa's faith appears to be strong and she has put her son in God's hands. However, she is still hurting and it is difficult for her to not be able to hold Jackson or comfort him. Please continue to pray for Jackson, Doug and Melissa.

I have a friend who desperately needs prayers and I am sending out this request to everyone I know. My friend Melissa called me last Wednesday in tears. She had taken her 9 1/2 month old son, Jackson, to the doctor because he had a high fever. After more than one blood test, the doctors confirmed his white blood count was high and told her to pack a bag and go straight to the children's hospital in Fort Worth. Lots of tests have been administered over the past few days, tests that you should never have to subject your child to at any age. Jackson has had a spinal tap, bone marrow aspiration, CT scan, MRI and brain surgery in the past three days. On the phone this morning, Melissa told me that her son has a severe infection that covers 75% of his brain. The doctors have put in tubes to drain fluid from the brain and are treating him with antibiotics. He is having seizures so they are giving him more medicine to make them stop and monitoring him constantly. Jackson is in ICU and is heavily sedated so she can't hold him or nurse him right now.

Please pray for baby Jackson and his parents Doug and Melissa. She is looking for some hope that he will start to get better and that the doctors will have some answers regarding treatment options. I cannot begin to imagine the pain in their hearts right now and I pray that God is with them during this heartbreaking time. The next few days they will keep him in ICU and see how is body recovers from surgery and fights this infection. I will update if I get any further information about Jackson's conditon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Weekend Whirlwind Roadtrip

Today is my first day back to work since Friday but it feels like I have been gone for weeks.

On Friday afternoon, we packed up the car and hit the road for a long holiday weekend trip to Louisiana to visit with Trey’s family. We have not been back to Crowley (his hometown) since Christmas, so we were WAY past due for a visit.

Here in Dallas, we were aware of Hurricane Gustav. However on Friday, we were not too concerned about its projected landfall on Tuesday. That was four whole days away! We thought that maybe we would have to leave Monday morning instead of Monday night. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the mass evacuation orders for the entire South Louisiana region!

While driving on the interstate in Louisiana Friday night, groups of 10 ambulances at a time were driving in the opposite direction. Apparently the hospitals or nursing homes were moving patients away from the impending storm. I thought that was a little early to be leaving, and it was erie to watch all ten pass with their lights flashing on top but not hear their sirens.

Saturday morning we had to check with the state police to see if the surrounding area was under a mandatory evacuation order before we drove down to the camp. The sun was shining as we spent the day visiting and eating with family. The television remained on the local news station as we watched Gustav build to a category 4 storm. Then we heard the press conference that announced plans for contraflow. Beginning at 4 AM on Sunday, the interstate would have all four lanes open to drive north and away from the storm. Stores were closing, bottled water was sold out, gas stations were packed with cars or already closed, stores and homes had their windows boarded up. We knew we needed to make a decision soon.

Sunday morning, we got up and packed the car again for the long trip home. Traffic was constant but not unbearable. The rest stops, gas stations and fast food restaurants were overflowing with cars. Almost 9 hours later, we were home. I calculated 16 hours of travel time in just two short days.

Although they may still be without power, all of Trey’s family is safe and I have not heard of any significant damage. When I lived in Louisiana about 6 years ago, I had to board-up my house for Hurricane Lily. The police came to my door to announce a mandatory evacuation at 9:00 PM at night. I remember the fear and uneasiness about leaving my home to flee from the storm and I never wanted to experience that again. About 6 months later, I moved to Dallas. We are blessed that we were returning home and not fleeing from our home this time.

On a lighter note, Sophia is going on her pink potty now and she wears panties instead of pull-ups during the day! I am so proud that she can ask to go to the potty now, although it does make trips to the grocery store, the mall, to a restaurant, or LONG CAR TRIPS a little more hectic. On Sunday, she would ask to go potty about every 1 to 1 ½ hours. Crowded restrooms were standard at every exit - so we put her potty in the back of the Yukon, pulled in to a gas station, opened the hatch and let her sit on the potty right in the car. She was so happy to have her own potty each time!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It all started with a Cookie

*******Update on 8/29/2008*********
It has been about 5 days now and I have not lost my desire to eat meat. I saw a billboard for a steakhouse last night and I told Trey that the steak looked really good. It was a challenge to find something to eat at the Cowboys game last night (I really wanted a hot dog but I settled for nachos). By the way, Trey has also decided to support me by giving up red meat and just eating chicken, turkey or fish these next few weeks. Thanks for your comments and support! Steph

I bought a vegan cookie, a bag of goldfish crackers, and a bottle of water for Sophia and me to share before we got on the plane back to Dallas a few weeks ago. I know this is not the most nutritious meal but after missing the exit to the airport on the highway and getting through security with her car seat, a backpack and a two year old - we only had five minutes before we boarded the plane home and the Hudson News in the Lexington, KY airport was our only option.

I normally would not buy a huge cookie for Sophia (this one was 4 inches in diameter), but the label caught my attention as we were standing at the register. It was a brand of cookie that I had been trying to remember the name of for several years. When I lived in Lafayette, LA, I would buy vegan cookies at Smoothie King. After we moved to Dallas, I looked for the cookies in several stores but could not find them or remember the brand name. Alternative Baking Company. I saved the wrapper so I could look it up when I got home.

When I checked out their website, my main intention was to find some store locations in Dallas so I could buy more cookies. I eventually had to call the company for store locations, but I did click on several links on their website that contained information about vegan and vegetarian lifestyles (definitions below).

Vegetarian – Eats a diet of grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs and does not eat meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustaceans.

Vegan – Does not eat dairy, eggs, or ANY other animal product

A few months ago, I started making small changes in my lifestyle to have a more positive impact on the environment. Basically, I was “Going Green”. Trey has been supportive to a certain point, but he HATES the fact that I bought re-usable shopping bags to take to the grocery store. (Seriously, Trisha can back me up on this. He was appalled when I handed him the bags and asked him to buy them at the store). In addition to changes we have made in our home, I have also considered making changes in our diet. This would consist of substituting a few meals a week with “meat free” options for the environmental and health benefits. After reading the information on these websites, I am encouraged to take action. I am going to change my diet.

I know it is not going to be easy. I have been a meat eater my entire life. I enjoy the taste of burgers, steak, chicken, ham, bacon, etc. I did consider becoming a vegetarian in college but my cash-poor college student status was the main reason instead of a conscious choice to change my eating habits. Basically, I can’t say that my views about eating meat have changed overnight but they are evolving.

Mainly, I am curious and interested in learning more about eating meat-free. Would my health improve with a vegetarian diet? Would I be contributing to a healthier environment? How hard would it be cut meat out of my diet or follow a completely plant based lifestyle? Will I be able to eat out at a restaurant? Will I go crave a good steak or a piece of bacon? How long can I stick to this severe dietary change?

I have decided that I am up for the challenge. After much consideration, I am going to follow a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. This means that I can eat vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs, and dairy products. So basically anything except actual meat, chicken or fish. I am going to follow this diet for 21 days and keep track of the changes I see in my health. I am not asking anyone else to make this change or try to argue my point of view – this is a personal and individual decision I have made to eat meat-free. In case you were wondering, I am still feeding Trey and Sophia chicken, fish, sausage, and ground beef. However, I have learned that Sophia likes roasted red pepper hummus with her veggie sticks (I guess she thinks it looks like french fries and ketchup)!

As I am writing this, I am on day four of my 21 days. So far I have noticed that it just takes some planning (especially for lunch) but I am eating more fresh fruit and vegetables so far. I also found a new vegetarian restaurant that just opened near our house that will give me some new options to try over the next few weeks. But I still think a big, juicy steak sounds delicious!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pictures of Sophia at 2 years old!

A few weeks ago, we had Sophia's pictures taken for her second birthday. She had a meltdown during the photo shoot, so we had a reshoot last weekend. The picture at the top of my blog is one that we took last weekend. It is Sophia walking down the railroad tracks at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Here are a few more that I thought turned out great.

Here we are at the canals in Las Colinas...

Here is Sophia sharing a flower with her little lamb...

Here is a beautiful black and white shot of her (still no smile but she is sitting still)

Finally a big smile at the stockyards, while riding on the horse!

And one of my favorites from her tea party...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic hangover

I have an Olympics-watching hangover.

The first few days of the Olympics, I was visiting my family in West Virginia so I did not get the watch much of the television coverage. I missed out on the preliminary rounds of gymnastics and I did not see Michael Phelps win his first one or two gold medals. I guess this is why I felt the need to catch up on all the action when I got home on Monday (which was the third night of primetime Olympic action).

For the next seven days in a row, we stayed up until midnight watching the historic moments that were being made in Beijing. Men’s and women’s team finals in gymnastics, the incredible action in the pool with the US swimmers, more individual gymnastics, and even more gold medals being won in the pool. Each night we would sit in front of the TV, bodies tense from the anticipation of the outcome of a vault, a 4 x 100 relay, or parallel bar routine.

I. Am. Exhausted.

Thanks to MSN, I already knew the outcome of Nastia Lukin’s parallel bar routine yesterday morning so I did not even bother to turn on the TV last night to watch the Olympic coverage. I took a much needed break from the action and went to bed at 10:00 PM.

What about you, are you overwhelmed by all the Olympic coverage? Or are you watching every night like me?

In a way I am looking forward to the end of the Olympics games so I can get back to my normal routine and focus on what is really important. Like football. The NFL Season opener is only 16 days away!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Parking Garage Dilemma

I work in an office building with an underground parking garage. It is private, which means you must be an employee who works in the building to obtain access to the garage. When I began working here, I was given an access key/button to use at the entrance of the garage. Each morning, you must stop the car, roll down your window and touch your access key to the reader, which allows the arm of the gate to raise so you can enter the garage. Even better, if you have a toll tag in your car (which I do), you can register the number so all you have to do is pull up to the gate and it reads your toll tag so the gate opens automatically.

This has become such a convenience that I forget how difficult it is to use the access key. If the toll tag reader is not working, I have to stop and search for my access key. This means I usually start digging through my purse, drop my phone on the floor, spill my drink on the passenger seat, finally find the key, roll down the window, and touch the key to the reader. I try once. Twice. Nothing. Finally on the third try it works. In the meantime, five cars are now backed up behind me impatiently waiting to enter the garage.

Apparently this difficulty with the access gate was becoming more common for many of the employees in the building. Now each morning when you pull up to the gate, one of the two security guards for the building is standing next to the access card reader. If the toll tag reader fails, they will wait to see if you fumble for your key before they calmly step forward and press the button to raise the gate and allow you to enter. This helps keep the backup of cars entering the garage to a minimum. It also keeps my anxiety levels low so I do not delay everyone behind me.

Here is my real dilemma. The security guard that stands less than two feet from my car as I drive past each morning – am I supposed to acknowledge him each day? Most mornings my toll tag works and I don’t have to stop to search for my key. I slow down over the speed bump, drive past the security guy and head into the garage. Should I wave? Should I smile? Can he even see me smile as I pass by? Does he get tired of waving to dozens of people that drive past him each morning? Does he think I am rude or stuck up for not waving?

These do not appear to be naturally smiley men. Maybe they are just annoyed that they have to stand outside in their suits smelling fumes for an hour each morning. It is interesting to note that they do not show up to let us back in the garage at lunchtime. We are left to fend for ourselves by midday. Nope, mornings are the only dilemma for me. After much consideration, I have decided that I will only “smile back” if “smiled at”. And hope that they don’t think I’m stuck up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Slacker Steph

I admit it.

I am a slacker.

It has been a few weeks since I have written, either on my blog or in my journal.

Excuses are easy. I’ve been busy, Sophia was sick, I was traveling, I have a lot to do at work, the Olympics keep my up late every night. Trey finally mentioned my blog today and I vowed to update it ASAP.

Over the past few weeks, there were several topics that I wanted to write about but I never took the time to update you about what is going on in the Suiresphere. Here is a quick rundown.

Three weeks ago, all three Suires braved the 100 degree heat to meet a photographer outside on a sunny Saturday evening by the canals in Las Colinas. Our plan was to take a new family portrait and then capture some cute pictures of Sophia as she was about to turn two years old. Brandi, a wonderful photographer here in Dallas, brought lots of cute girly props and I brought about 5 different outfits for Sophia to wear. We scheduled 1 ½ hours of time to capture some memorable moments on film. Forty-five minutes and four outfits later, we gave up. Not one smile was snapped by the camera, Sophia threw a tantrum and she shouted “NOOO!” anytime the camera was aimed in her direction. We tried stuffed animals, we set up a tea party, we put on fairy wings, and we tired on a tiara. I think we tried to hard. Hot and tired, we headed home with hopes of a re-shoot on a cooler day.

Two weeks ago was Sophia’s 2nd Birthday! After much discussion, Trey and I agreed to forgo the typical two year old birthday party. His parents were in town, so we all took Sophia to the Children's Museum that is part of the Museum of Nature & Science. SHE HAD A BLAST! I highly recommend the museum to anyone with children under the age of seven who live in the Dallas area. It is a hands-on experience with five different galleries full of interactive exhibits – all we did was chase her from one room to the next while she played and explored. After the museum, we headed to the Rainforest CafĂ© for lunch where we saw the elephants and monkeys come to life (approximately every 10 minutes while we where there). Later that evening she got to open her presents and eat her cake. I made a flowerpot cake with cookie flowers - it did not turn out as I planned but we all ate it anyway. The next day it fell apart. At least the cookies were cute.

Last week beginning on Tuesday, Sophia got sick with a stomach virus. Every day I would start to think that she was feeling better, then she would get sick again. By Friday, I was confident that she would be ok to go back to daycare. Her fever was gone but she still refused to drink any fluids. My worry and relief bounced back and forth as she would sometimes take a sip of water and reject it a minute later. More than once we considered taking her to the hospital for dehydration but I was not sure it was necessary. I sometimes doubt my mommy intuition but I felt that she was going to be ok, without the use of a hospital and needles. She lost a little weight and looks thinner. Over the weekend she was definitely low energy but now she is getting back to normal. I did enjoy the chance to hold her, hug her, and comfort her while she was sick - like I used to do every day when she was a baby. Now she is too busy playing and running around the house to stop for a hug.

Two weeks ago, I bought plane tickets for Sophia and me to fly back to WV to visit my family. However by Friday, I was not sure what to do about her illness. Confident that she had kept food down for over 36 hours, we got on the plane Saturday morning. It was the first time that she had her own seat on the plane, and I brought her car seat so I could strap her in during the flight. About 1/3 of the way through the flight she was ready to OUT. She asked to potty several times (because it got her out of the seat) but would tell me it was “all gone” once we where locked in that tiny bathroom in the back of the plane. Thank you God for the extra patience that you give potty training moms. We got to see the inside of the airplane bathroom 5 times this weekend for the sole purpose of washing our hands!

Our quick trip to WV was full of family time. We only get to visit once or twice a year, so we try to see as many people as we can. Baseball games, church, birthday celebrations, and Mama’s breakfast were how we spent our two days. Sophia really enjoyed playing with Allie and she chased Papa’s and Cindy’s cats all over the yard. She would sit down on the driveway and demanded the cats to get in her lap. Very cute to watch. Yesterday she asked for Grammy, Allie, and Jenny. Then she got quiet for a moment before she asked for Mama and Papa. She will never get to spend the night with them like I did as a child but I am glad that she understands and remembers who they are at this young age.

My last excuse for not updating my blog is the Olympics. We stay up each night to watch swimming and gymnastics and still have to get up early to go to work the next day. The men’s and women’s team finals were exciting (men) and heartbreaking (women) and I am excited to watch the women’s all around finals tonight. Maybe I can catch up on my sleep in September.

Check back soon for some new pictures of Sophia! Even though she will probably not be smiling in them.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My sick Sophia

Trey is at home with Sophia today, on her second day of being sick with a stomach virus. Yesterday was my day to stay at home to comfort her cries, clean up her messes, and watch cartoons all day long while lounging on the couch. Just last week I was amazed to see my little girl growing up and celebrating her 2nd birthday. Suddenly she seemed so small and helpless to me.

On the couch in the living room, I made a comfy bed of pillows and added Sophia’s baby dolls for company. I sat down beside her, she crawled in my lap and leaned against me while we watched Dora, Strawberry Shortcake and The Little Mermaid. A fever left her cheeks flushed and her eyes glassy. Her hair was frizzy from sweating in her sleep but I never bothered to chase her with a comb like I do most mornings.

If I got off the couch, Sophia would follow me. Her arms outstretched, she asked me to hold her and buried her face into my shoulder searching for comfort. She got quiet and clingy right before her tummy would turn and she cried right afterwards. Back on the couch, I rubbed her back and tummy and she fell asleep in my arms twice (something we have not experienced for over a year).

In the middle of our second sick night, I called the emergency nurse. I considered taking her to the ER (we feared she may be dehydrated) but I could not stand the thought of Sophia getting an IV. Instead I chose the option to wake her every ten minutes and make her drink teaspoons of liquid from a medicine syringe. She slept in our bed so we could hear if she got sick again. Once I got out of bed this morning, she asked to go potty (a good sign that she was not dehydrated) and my fears were eased slightly. She seemed to be feeling a little better, but we took her to the doctor to be sure.

Now she is back at home with her daddy and watching cartoons on the couch. If she continues to keep her fluids down, she can start to eat again this afternoon. Her sickness was bittersweet; it hurt me to see her in pain but I was holding my baby in my arms again. She is a little big for my lap now, her legs fall off my lap and her arms wrap all the way around my neck. I pray that she is feeling better and that she and Trey both get some rest today.
***Pic of Sophia getting a back rub (before she got sick)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Could the Bushes' be coming to Dallas?

Political discussions and debate do not rank very high on my list of interesting topics of conversation, however I did find this piece of news fairly intriguing. According to this recent Newsweek article, President Bush and the first lady are considering a move to Dallas after they vacate the White House in January.

Apparently Dallas is just a few hours away from their ranch in Crawford, TX and Mrs. Bush is leading the hunt for a house in Dallas. Four potential neighborhoods are even named as possible locations for the Bushes’. Interesting to note, the article includes links to three potential homes that are in consideration. You can check them out and discuss your favorite with your friends, just like a live version of the HGTV show House Hunters. My personal favorite is Seneca Drive in Bluffview, which is a bargain at just $3.29 million.

If you have $3 to $5 million burning a hole in you pocket, you could get in a bidding war with the Bushes’ or buy a house down the street and become their neighbor. I was recovering from the recent news of the Jonas Brothers moving to Dallas and now I find out that the Bushes’ are hot on their heels. If I’m lucky, I will wake up tomorrow morning and find out that Matthew Mcconaughey, his girlfriend, and new baby boy have moved into my neighborhood. I will definitely be knocking on their door to schedule a play date for Sophia!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pink Potty Training

Over the weekend, we bought Sophia a pink potty chair for her bathroom upstairs. Her eyes widened when she saw me pull the box out of the trunk after we got home from shopping and she started clapping.

“Yay, potty!” she said.

On our way upstairs to take her bath that evening, she told me that she needed to potty! I was so excited but I was not sure if she could hold it until Trey opened the box and assembled the pink plastic potty. She danced around her room in excitement as Trey pushed the little fasteners in place and quickly got it ready for its first use.

I pulled off her shorts but asked her to show me how she pulled down her pull-up. She pulled up the front of her shirt to her neck and held it in place with her chin, then peered over her round belly as she started tugging at the sides and back of her pull-up. I clasped my hand over my mouth so she could not hear the giggles that were trying to escape. She would tug a little at the front and tug a little more in the back, while trying to keep her shirt out of the way. Eventually she worked her princess pull-up down over her little bootie until it was at her ankles. She scooted backwards until she was able to sit on her potty. A few seconds later, her eyes lit up and she started clapping. Success!

Shhh! Don’t tell her, but I bought her some new My Little Pony panties for her birthday on Saturday!

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Mound of Mommy Guilt

The past week, I’ve been bearing the burden of a heaping mound of mommy guilt. The terrible twos are definitely taking their toll on me, and I’ve started to wonder how my life would be different if I were a stay at home mom. Would potty training be progressing smoothly? Would we learn not to spank our baby dolls? Would we sing more songs, dance to more music, or paint more pictures together? I’ll never know.

I do know one thing – the source of this guilt. It stems from my daily daycare pickup routine. After knocking on the front door of Mrs. Rose Ann’s house on Monday, she opened it while holding Sophia in her arms. I reached out to hold my daughter, but Sophia turned away and clung to Mrs. Rose Ann’s shoulder. Her bottom lip puckered into a pout and she grumbled, “No Mommy”. My heart sank and I stood there in shock for a moment, blinking back tears. I tried to paste a smile on my face and fake a little laugh, but inside I ached. On Wednesday, I received the same reaction even though they had ‘practiced how to greet mommy’ when I arrived.

This week I started to pray about my daycare dilemma. When I am at a loss on how to deal with the circumstances of life, I turn them over to a higher power. I pray every day, usually at times when I am alone (like in my car or even at my desk at work). Each night, Sophia and I say our prayers together, although I have to be quick because she has little patience with sitting still with her hands clasped and her head bowed. The past few years, my passion for prayer has grown as I have learned to put my trust and faith in God. Since I was a child, I have believed in God but I grew up craving control over my life and felt that I could manage my own issues just fine. I did consult with him occasionally, but usually only on big matters. However, my relationship with God has deepened over the years, as he let me stumble into situations where I NEED to trust him. He let me get in over my head, unable to handle things on my own – so that I would learn how to give him my burdens to bear.

Last night, I felt like I received an answer to my prayer. I decided to get out of the house to work on the lessons for my creative writing class. Even after Sophia goes to bed, our house is just too loud and I have not been able to concentrate on my writing. It is also too darned HOT to sit outside on the patio, so I chose to drive 10 minutes away to the coffee shop at our church. They have free WiFi (cool) and inspirational music playing in the background (relaxing) and more comfortable chairs than Barnes and Noble (good for my blogger butt).

On the way to church, God decided to make wake me up to the world around me. I slipped in a CD and Treys voice vibrated throughout my car. A few years ago I helped him write a song based on the story of the prodigal son, returning home to the open arms of his father. Trey’s passions for music and his love for the Lord filled the air around me. I sank back in my seat and noticed the pale grey clouds framed by fluffy white against the soft blue sky. As I turned the corner by church, the sun began to sparkle through the grey clouds sending a slash of colors streaming across the sky. A rainbow. God was announcing his presence and acknowledging my need for him. He reminded me that he is in control and that he is guiding my path. Immediately my burden of guilt was lifted.

Amazing what you can find when you go to church!

Seriously, I know that this guilt will find its way back to me again one day. It searches for the cracks in my soul and seeps in, but I can always give it back to God. I find comfort knowing that he is always there.

I pray that Sophia will be happy to see me today!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Anger from Potty Training and Redecorating

Update on potty training:

Last week, Sophia started learning how to pull down her own shorts so she can go to the potty. I showed her how to pull at the waistband instead of pulling at the hem of her shorts. For a few days, I believed this was going to work but that is only because of my inexperience as a potty training parent. The next day, she screamed bloody murder and ran away from me when I told her to get ready to go to the potty. I sat calmly in the bathroom as she ran towards the door, leaned against it and put her hands behind her back, yelling “Mommy, no potty!” Tears stained her face and her eyes were rimmed in red by the time we were finished with our unsuccessful potty trip. In a burst of inspiration, I had her put on a pair of big-girl panties instead of a dry pull-up. In less than five minutes, she was standing in a puddle by the back door.

She pointed to the floor. “Uh oh, Mommy.”

Unaware that she had even peed on the floor, Sophia stood there pointing. A few minutes before, Coco had come in from the backyard because it had started to rain. Unsure if Sophia or Coco was the culprit, I checked her pink panties and knew we had a potty accident. I cleaned up the puddle and the wet dog footprints with a towel and put on a dry pull up. This weekend she still screamed every time I took her near the bathroom. We are currently batting 2 for 20 in potty training attempts.

Yesterday, I picked Sophia up from daycare and heard these incredible words come out of Mrs. Rose Ann’s mouth. “Sophia is doing so good going to the potty. All I do is ask her to pull down her pull up and she does it all by herself! She went to the potty three times today and we only went through 2 pull-ups.” I did not admit my failure. As we drove home, my emotions seesawed between jealously and frustration. Once we go in the house and admired Sophia’s beautiful finger-painting masterpiece, I excitedly asked her to show me how she pulled down her pull-up like a big girl.

She screamed at me and ran away.


On Sunday, Trey and I purchased a shelf for the upstairs hallway that he has wanted to buy for over a year. It is a wooden leaning shelf that we can display family pictures on and it now sits against the wall between the doors of the two guest bedrooms. This is the SAME SPOT where Sophia’s play kitchen has been for the past three months. Trey assembled the shelf Sunday night after Sophia went to bed, carried it upstairs to the hallway, and secured it to the wall. We moved her play kitchen to the guest bedroom until we figured out a more permanent home for it. .

Early Monday morning, I slipped into her room and picked her up from the crib while she was still half asleep. Most mornings, she will lay her head on my shoulder and wrap her arms and legs around my body in a full contact hug. Then I sink into her soft yellow chair in the corner of her room and read a few books aloud until she is fully awake.

That morning her head jerked up before it fell to my shoulder in a sleepy daze. I followed her gaze through the open doorway of her room to the new shelf in the hallway.

“Mommy, NOOOOOooooooooooooo!” Her face red with anger, she pointed at the shelf.

She scrambled out of my arms and ran to the hallway where she swatted at the shelf with the palm of her hand. “No! No! No!”

Laughing, I picked her up again and walked down the hallway to our master bedroom. Trey was shaving at his sink in the bathroom and I told him that Sophia was angry about the shelf. After I changed her wet pull-up (yes, she screamed and refused to go to the potty) and dressed her for daycare, Trey took her to the guest room and turned on the light. He said that her eyes brightened when she saw her purple play kitchen in the corner and she ran in the room to play. A few minutes later I was in my closet picking out my clothes to wear to work when Sophia brought me some “pretend” milk in a pink plastic cup for breakfast. I was forgiven for being a mean mommy and moving her toy.
**Picture of Sophia playing with her kitchen in the hallway before we moved it. Yes, she is wearing my high heels.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mistaken Identity (I just finished reading it)

In the midst of a quick trip to the library two weeks ago, I grabbed a book off the shelf in the New Releases section entitled Mistaken Identity. The cover caught my attention because it showed the pictures of two young, blonde college students who had been involved in a car accident in Indiana in April 2006. I vaguely remembered the story making headlines at the time, due to the unusual and incredible circumstances that were uncovered almost 5 weeks after the accident. Several students and employees of Taylor University were riding in a van on the interstate that night, coming back from an event when they were hit by a semi-truck that crossed the median. A sudden slip of the wheel in that split second became a fatal accident that took the lives of five of the nine passengers and critically injured another. The two women on the cover are Whitney Cerak and Laura Van Ryan. One of them died in the accident while the other survived but was in a coma for several weeks. Incredibly, the identities of these two girls were reversed at the scene that night. The Cerak family buried the body that they believed to be their daughter, while the Van Ryan family cared for the girl in a coma believing she was their daughter who had survived the crash. For weeks they each lived opposite lives of grief and hope, sustained by their faith in God.

Cold chills ran down my spine as I read the personal accounts of each family receiving those heart wrenching phone calls the night of the accident. I could see their features crumble after they answered the phone and heard a stranger’s voice on the other end, telling them that their daughters had been in an accident. As the reality of that night began to unfold, I entered their world filled with confusion and fear. Which hospital had they taken the survivors? Where had they taken those who didn’t survive? Was anyone else injured? Did anyone else survive? Until the parents of the other students in the van were notified, these questions hung in the air unanswered.

The Cerak family celebrated their daughter’s 19th birthday by showing videos of her past parties, which played during visitation at the funeral home. Friends created posters with pictures of their favorite memories so Whitney’s smile would shine around the room. Her sister forced the family to sit together each morning in devotion and prayer, and spoke of Whitney’s love for God at her funeral. Her mother allowed friends to come by and choose clothes from her closet instead of giving them away to strangers. For the next week, the family clung together and talked about all the good times they had spent with Whitney. Often they talked about how they managed to make it through each day, realizing it was the hand of God that was holding them up. While reading their story, I allowed myself to slip into their skin and wear their grief, as the pain of their loss pierced my heart. Even though I knew the outcome, they were in the midst of living their lives with the loss of their youngest daughter.

On the night of the accident, the Van Ryan family rushed to the hospital to be by their daughter’s side, unaware that they would not leave for several weeks. Lying in the hospital bed was a young blonde girl in a coma with a serious brain injury. She was on a respirator, in a neck brace, had multiple serious fractures, and was hooked up to a machine to monitor the pressure on her brain. Each day they sat by her side, praying and willing her to heal. During this time, her sister created a blog so that friends and family could check on her progress daily, send comments, and post their prayers. Soon the family was receiving comments from concerned people as far away as Australia who had heard about the accident. She remained in a coma for several weeks, after which was transferred to a rehabilitation facility closer to home. During the time of her recovery, Laura’s family never questioned that the girl lying in the bed was not their daughter. The book does describe conversations they have about unusual things; they noticed her navel piercing (they never knew she had one), or that her teeth looked different (it must be due to the force of the accident). In the rehab facility, she gets names mixed up and asks for someone named Hunter (which was the family’s dog). They are told these ‘mistakes” are common in people with brain injuries like this. Five weeks after being critically injured in the accident, Laura is asked to write her name on a piece of paper. She spells it W-H-I-T-N-E-Y. Her sister bends down to talk to the young woman in front of her and asks if she knows last name. Cerak, her name is Whitney Cerak. Not Laura Van Ryan.

Tears flowed as I read about the week that followed. The book begins with the phone call that the Cerak family received that night, asking for Whitney’s dental records to confirm that she may be alive. Her sister is enraged by the call, believing it is just a prank. She and her mother remain uncertain and refuse to cling to a shred of hope as they travel during the night to visit an unidentified girl lying in a hospital bed. Whitney’s father was out of town for a church trip and they question if they should even call him with the news. The Van Ryan’s also wait at home for news from the dental records to confirm that this girl is NOT Laura. They call their other children together and wait for the miracle they know will not come. Soon they begin to grieve for their daughter who is already gone.

Two families came together to write this unbelievable story of Mistaken Identity. Threads of faith and scripture are woven throughout, which lifted me up even during the lowest moments of sorrow. Even so, I still struggle to understand why God allows such heart wrenching events like this to happen. I cautiously recommend this book, but only if you are prepared for the truth that is sitting right in front of your face.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Daddy's Lessons to his Little Girl

I can proudly tell you that I am not the only one in our house who is involved in teaching Sophia. I enjoy reading her stories, telling her the names of animals in her books, and letting her help me cook. We count to five on our fingers and sing our ABC’s. (By the way mom, she LOVES the magnetic alphabet toy you got her for her birthday. She tries to sing the alphabet song while dancing around the kitchen now). But I assure you, I am not in this parenting boat alone. Her daddy is also an endless source of information for our young daughter. however, I have determined that most of it is useless. I’m sure you are asking yourself, what useless knowledge has Trey decided to impart to Sophia? Let’s see, first he taught her to roll her eyes (which she does quite well). He tried to get her to say “what-ever” when she rolled her eyes but thankfully she never caught on to that. Then he taught her how to give a “wet willie” Yes, she licks her finger then sticks it in your ear and starts laughing. He also started calling her a goofball, so now she goes around calling everyone else a goofball. “Mommy’s a goofball, No Daddy’s a goofball!”, she says. Another valuable lesson – how to fake sleep and how to make the sound of fake snoring. Trey pretended to be asleep on the airplane a few weeks ago and now she likes to imitate him. The only redeeming act here is that I taught her how to wake up her sleeping daddy with a “princess kiss." Now she likes for us to pretend to be asleep so she can kiss us and magically wake us up!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thank you for my blessings!

You may have noticed that most of my blog posts have a similar theme. If you haven’t figured it out yet, just check out all the pictures on this page and calculate who takes up the largest percentage of the space. Yes, it is that beautiful little blonde girl who can take my breath away one minute and frustrate me the next. You may think that she is the only love of my life but that is far from the truth. Without her daddy, my life would be quite different from the crazy one I often write about here. Without Trey, I would not have Sophia.

I don’t often write about my love for Trey on my blog, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The feelings I have for my husband are intimate and private, and I prefer to keep them that way. I will tell you that I never felt the depths of love, the vulnerability it demands, or understood how much I needed it in my life until I met Trey. He has been a part of my life for the past 5-6 years but the years I lived before him are not as vivid as the ones we have spent together.

I feel like my blogs about Sophia have also become my love letters to Trey. The details about her day, the ups and downs of parenting, and the emotions she imprints on my heart – these are all things that Trey shares with Sophia too. He understands each word that I write because he is by my side through it all. As parents we share our love for our daughter, just like as spouses we share our love for each other. No one else can understand the feelings I have in both relationships, except for Trey.

So today I just want to thank God for my two of the greatest blessings in my life, Trey and Sophia.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Terrible Twos

In less than one month, my little baby girl will be TWO years old. Trey and I still call her the baby, even though we know the more accurate term for a child her age is toddler. The past (almost) two years have proved to be both an emotional and educational experience in parenting. Now that we are past the point of just providing for her basic needs, this parenting stuff is really starting to get interesting.

In my opinion, Sophia is a sweet, easygoing, independent little girl about 90% of the time. She freely gives us hugs, greets strangers in the store, and blows kisses goodbye to everyone she meets. She loves to play with her dolls, pretends to talk on the phone, blows bubbles, colors, and plays in her kitchen (she makes the best pretend breakfast). Each morning when she wakes up, she lays her head on my shoulder for a few moments and gently pats my back before she starts asking me to read her a book. She kisses me and tells me “Bye-Bye, Mommy” each morning, then runs to my arms for a hug in the afternoons. I just soak in these sugary sweet little girl moments every chance I get, because I know that she is growing up so fast and they will be gone too soon.

Sometimes, those sweet little girl moments can turn sour very quickly. And when Sophia is mad, that 10% of bad behavior is backed by 100% effort. From my vast parenting experience (all two years of it), I have determined that most of her meltdowns occur for three main reasons: 1) I need to change her clothes or diaper and she does not want me to interrupt her playtime, 2) she is teething and doesn’t want any of the food or drinks I offer or 3) the “last resort” reason – she is entering the terrible twos.

Her strong, assertive independence will be a great asset to her personality in the future, but now it makes it enormously difficult to get her to cooperate on simple things like changing her clothes, combing her hair, or brushing her teeth. Just this morning I was trying to get her pajamas off and her clothes for daycare on. “No, Mommy! My body”, she shouted. Hey, at least the girl has boundaries. Let’s hope she keeps this attitude for the next 40 years.

PARENTING TIP: Make changing clothes a game or better yet, ask to see her belly button. Play beauty shop as a way to get hair brushed.

I understand that some of the reasons that she has meltdowns are due to the fact that she has difficulty communicating with us with her limited two year old vocabulary. She gets frustrated that she knows what she wants, but we don’t understand her and cannot respond to her request. I did teach her several baby signs, which have proven to be a HUGE help in some areas. However, other times I just can’t decipher her requests – “Mommy, juuuiccc malk!” really throws me. Does she want juice or does she want milk? I grab a cup and start to pour milk but as she watches me, her face scrunches up and an ear piercing scream vibrates from her body. “No MALK!” she yells. I quickly put the milk back, get a new cup and start to pour juice. With tears now streaming down her face, she shakes her head no and stomps her feet. “Mommy, NO JUUICCE”! I just finish pouring the juice, put the lid on the cup and place it on the ground a safe distance away from her. I have learned from experience that you do NOT offer a screaming toddler a cup to drink because will promptly be hurled back at you or thrown directly at the floor.

PARENTING TIP: Never leave the house without a full sippie cup of juice/milk. And a backup sippie cup. And snacks. And extra wipes to clean up the spilled juice and snacks.

She has proved to be a quick learner too, when it comes to responding to my methods of discipline. One of her favorite reactions is what I refer to as “going spaghetti” on me. This often happens when I need to change her clothes, change her diaper, or take her to the potty. I will try to pick her up and her entire body goes limp as a noodle. The only good part of this reaction is that it is usually a silent protest. Screams and howls are not needed to get her point across. How does she know that “going spaghetti” makes her impossible to pick up, especially now that she is around 25 pounds? The lack of cooperation is frustrating so I usually leave my pile of spaghetti on the floor and come back later to pick it up. Or I look for tickle bugs under her arms and we both end up in a pile of laughter on the floor.

PARENTING TIP: Hugs can work wonders. When hugs don't work, resort to tickling.

Trey has always been the more lenient parent, but lately he is starting to understand that he also needs to enforce some discipline. Our least favorite thing is to give “Time Outs” for behavior that is less than desirable. The problem is her reaction to the Time Out is even worse than the behavior that puts her there. Screaming, kicking, hitting – all of this anger pouring out of a little girl who was our little angel just 30 seconds earlier. We try to ignore it and only reward her with attention once the tantrum is over. My heart aches as it takes her several minutes to calm down. We haven’t got the hang of them yet, but we are trying to be consistent. Ugh, this is my least favorite part of parenting.

PARENTING TIP: Let the other parent know you are giving a time out so they don't run out of the room to be rescued by mommy.

Last month we flew to Charlotte for a birthday party/family reunion. Sophia is still under two years old, so we decided to take advantage of the last time we could fly without buying her a seat. Two words - BIG MISTAKE. The flight home was crowded, Sophia had missed her afternoon nap, and the 2 1/2 hour flight was prolonged as we circled Dallas for 45 minutes before we landed. The three of us were tired, cranky and frustrated after passing her back and forth between our laps and by the end of the flight Sophia was so tired of being held that she pushed away all attempts to console her. She finally cried herself to sleep on Trey's shoulder about 20 minutes before we got off the plane. As Trey sat there patting her back, I watched as every ounce of distress and frustration fell away from his face and was replaced with the gentle glow of unconditional love. "It's not her fault", he whispered to me. Our greatest adventure these past two years has been that roller coaster of emotions that you experience as a parent. Love can be turned to frustration, then back to gratitude in a matter of moments.
PARENTING TIP: Stickers and suckers are MUST HAVES on a plane trip.

Our next big adventure in parenting is potty training. I doubt this will be one of my favorite rides but it is much better than the alternative of changing her diapers forever. We have been taking her to the potty for several months now and she is showing all the signs that she is more than ready for this beg step. Last week we decided to get serious, pull-ups, big girl panties, stickers, and flushable wipes, we are stocked up and ready to go! Wish us luck!

PARENTING TIP: When you hear the words "Pooh Pooh, potty" from your toddler, start running and find a bathroom!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gathered by God

Dedicated to my Fusion Bible Study Group:
After more than 4 years, it appears our journey together is coming to an end.
You have meant so much to me that I was compelled to write one last poem for all of you.

Fusion was our beginning
Friendships formed by chance
Four years later it's clear to me
God gathered us with his hands

We've walked with God together
We've shared, we've laughed, we've cried
We've lost some couples along the way
And gained others by our side

Now pulled in many directions
Our paths begin to diverge
God's blessings are still upon us
Answers to prayers that he has heard

Many changes are taking place
New babies, new homes, new careers
We must take these steps to move forward
It's time to put aside our fears

Our friendships still remain
Although distance may keep us apart
We walk with just our spouses now
The end, just like the start

Monday, June 30, 2008

A new contact sport – dining out with a toddler…

Going to dinner with Sophia is comparable to playing contact sports. Earlier this week we went to dinner with Trey’s parents and his godchild, Hannah. I came out of the restaurant feeling beat up – almost like I had played 4 quarters of football.

1st Quarter – Game On. At most restaurants, kid’s menus come with crayons. After waiting for the highchair to arrive (and praying that it has a lap belt that is actually functional), I get Sophia strapped in and situated at the end of the table. After approximately two minutes of scribbling with a red crayon on the menu, both items are flung on the floor repeatedly. After retrieving crayon(s) and menu more than 3 times, I call a penalty and take them out of the game. Crying begins.

2nd Quarter – We order our food and I attempt to keep her occupied while waiting for her food to arrive. The waitress brings Sophia some milk in a kid’s cup with a lid & straw. Sophia immediately grabs the cup, puts the straw in her mouth and tips the cup up into the air (like she does while all her sippie cups). Milk pours all over her shirt and spills into her lap. More crying. I grab her cup before it goes flying onto the floor. I transfer the milk into a sippie cup (that I brought from home for this very reason). I hand her the milk in the new, straw-less sippie cup and watch her face as it scrunches up in anger and turns red. She attempts to throw the cup on the floor but I am too fast this time and I catch the cup in midair and call another penalty. Now the kids menu, crayons, and both cups of milk are all out of the game. Crying continues.

3rd Quarter – Our food arrives and she immediately starts reaching for the plate that the waitress puts in front of her. Obviously, this woman does not know that you should not put hot food on a breakable plate in front of a hungry (almost) two year old. I now have about 30 seconds to cut up her food, put it in her a bowl (that I brought from home so even if she throws it on the floor it will not break), and blow on it until it is cool enough for her to eat. This is all done while holding Sophia back with a stiff arm as her hands are grabbing for her plate, my plate, and the kids menu again. One of the milk cups hit the floor again and milk splashes up on my legs. I emerge from the 3Q a little bloody (ok, it is not blood, just ketchup from the fries she stole from Hanna’s plate). Crying stops as she shovels food into her mouth for the next 7 minutes. I even apologize to the waitress for the large amount of food that is spilled on the floor under the highchair.

4th Quarter – A rare treat, I ordered Sophia some ice cream for dessert. Actually, I ordered me the ice cream for dessert, but I ordered it from the kid’s menu because it was cheaper and it looked like the perfect amount instead of the massive desserts on the regular menu. The waitress, unaware of the game plan, puts the bowl of ice cream in front of Sophia instead. I watch Sophia attempt to dip her spoon into the ice cream and get some to her mouth. The problem is the waitress brought my child a huge soup spoon and she can’t quite fit it in her mouth before the ice cream melts off and lands in her lap. Crying begins again. The crying reaches an ear piercing shriek when I take the bowl of ice cream away and try to feed it to her myself. This is when Trey tries to coach me on the game plan oblivious to the activity in the previous three quarters*. He asks me why I don’t I let her feed herself? His input is not appreciated and I call a penalty on him. He is out of the game. I let her attempt to eat some more of the melted ice cream for a few minutes, until a large spoonful falls down the front of her shirt. More crying. Out of my fear that the bowl of ice cream while be launched into the air and land on the nice people sitting at the table beside us (who have been an attentive audience for the entire game), I call another penalty and take the melted ice cream out of the game. Crying reaches a new level and I take myself out of the game. Game over. Sophia wins. Daddy picks her up and they go outside for the post game celebration on the playset.

**I am not throwing Trey under the bus – we usually take turns sitting next to her at restaurants so one of us actually gets to eat our food while it is hot. On this day he was visiting with his dad while I was playing defense against Sophia.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Recent Reflections

Two nights ago I had a dream that a man was looming over me with an outstretched hand, reaching for my neck. I screamed (apparently not loud enough to wake Trey), but my eyes snapped open and the tingle of fear ran down my spine all the way to my toes. I was silent for a moment as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. My mind registered that what I has seen as an arm and outstretched fingers was really the green bedroom wall and a plant in a corner of the room. I must have been on the edges of sleep where reality and consciousness clash.

Sleep has been elusive this week and my eyes have searched for the clock half a dozen times in the middle of the night. 2:07 AM. 4:46 AM. 5:28 AM. Although my body remained still between the sheets, my mind was skipping through a hallway connected to rooms of random thoughts. Old friends from my childhood often appear, bringing back memories from decades past. Earlier this week I remember waking, then closing my eyes hoping to find my way back to an earlier dream. I knew I would be fully awake soon and I wanted to find my old friend to say goodbye. I gave her a hug and she slipped away.


Driving home from work this week, something caught my eye on the side of the road. After getting off the interstate, I noticed a bicycle parked next to the cement column of the highway overpass. Sitting there about halfway up the cement embankment was a man in a sleeveless shirt and dark shorts. There was nothing unorthodox about his physical appearance but it was the way he was sitting that struck me as peculiar. He sat cross legged with both feet in his lap, two hands resting on the tops of his knees with palms facing up, his thumb and pointer fingers enclosed in two perfect circle and his eyes were shut. In the midst of rush hour traffic, under the rumbling of the overpass – this man was quietly at peace in the middle of meditation.

I am sometimes overwhelmed by the chaos in my house with Sophia shrieking, the dog barking, and Trey watching TV while talking on the phone. Even though I love them all, I sometimes yearn for silence and solitude. This is in my nature and Trey has come to understand and accept this – sometimes I simply want a quiet place to read, write, or pray. To find my solitude, I often sit outside after Sophia has gone to bed. The faraway roar of a plane overhead and a dog barking down the street – this is the music of my meditation.

This man was tranquil as the world rushed around him. Paying little notice to the uproar, he chose to sit, close his eyes, and be still. The next time I am overwhelmed by the clatter and chaos at home or even at work, I hope that I can remember the man sitting halfway up the cement embankment on the side of the highway. He is beckoning me to come sit, close my eyes and be still.


I met a friend for coffee last night at Barnes and Noble. She is a stay at home mom of a seven month old little boy and has recently realized her need to reconnect with her friends after emerging from a six month sleep deprived stupor. (I don't think I helped her much by keeping her out past 10:00 PM but we had not caught up in months so we had a lot to say). She is one of my favorite type of friends - one who even when both of you have been slacking on keeping up the communication, once you get together is is like no time has passed. It just feels like you are picking up where you left off the last time. Trey asked me what we had to talk about that kept us out for over three hours. I gave him an overview but said that basically we just got lost in our conversation and time slipped away so easily. We never even ordered any coffee, I was afraid it would keep me awake all night.

It is comforting to have other friends who are moms, because it is true that you do not understand the nature of a mother-child relationship until you have experienced it for yourself. You also are more understanding on the other demands on their time. Three hours spent with a girlfriend can be a luxury for the mom of a breast-feeding infant. I felt special that she chose to spend this time with me.