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