Sunday, June 30, 2013


Oops. Forgot to post yesterday. Will post two today!

Today I had my first encounter with someone who talked to me about Johnny's Ds without me really knowing who they were or how they knew about it. I'm not sure how to feel about it. Maybe she heard about us from someone else, maybe she could tell, but she certainly felt comfortable enough to ask specifics. And it's not that I mind talking about it, I just would have liked a little more background to go with the questions. I am super happy for the chance to advocate, but I want a real chance to answer people's questions rather than feeling a bit blind sighted by a passer by. 

That being said, I should practice and be prepared with some good, simple answers. And you guys an help!

What are questions you guys have? What are some misconceptions you have come across that I can clarify? What would you like to know about kids like Johnny? Leave a comment, message me, etc and I will compile some answers for you guys!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Johnny says...

I will open my own doors, thank you very much.

I'm gonna kick this door open, pa-chow!

Today I stopped by Johnny's class at VBS to check and see how he was doing. One of the workers walked up and asked what it meant when he closes and opens his fist back and forth (she did the motion for me). I told her that was the sign for "milk" to which she replied, "I thought that's what he was doing, he probably wants to finish his bottle."

Little man knows how to sign "milk". Let me rewrite that because it hasn't quite sunken in (despite the fact that I told several people throughout the day), Little man knows how to sign "milk". And not only that, but he had a want/need and communicated it.

It is so hard to describe how I feel right now. I have worked on signing milk for months now, showing him the sign with most of his feedings, making his little hands do the motions, wondering if it was all for not. I didn't expect him to catch on this early. For him to be signing at all (even periodically) before he is 8 months is a huge deal. HUGE! I cried and cried and cried and cried some more as I marveled in how amazed I am by my son. I worry about so many things with Johnny and so many questions linger over our heads on a daily basis, but we are doing our best by him and it shows. I am positively thrilled right now. It is very hard to write this because I look into my mind for the words to tell you guys what this means to me and all I can see are smiles and happy tears. Very, very happy tears.

He fills my bucket and then some!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pumping Woes

Ok Mommies. I need advice/suggestions/feedback. Please comment here, on facebook, message me, call me, send smoke signals, whatever.

I had always had a dip in production right around the end of my cycle. Before it was no biggie, I would pull a bottle's worth of milk from my stash every other day, replace those milk bags with extra in the following weeks, and repeat each month. This past month has seen a much larger dip in production that has coincided with being sick. While Matt and I are weighing our feeding/my sanity options, we want to be prepared to supplement. We are 100% good with adding in formula at some point and knew it would probably happen at some point. I am very, very pleased with how things have gone so far.

What I need help with is how to add in the formula. I know I have at least a full month's worth of milk in the freezer and I hope it is more. We are trying to decide how much to keep pumping, but let's operate as if I had zero milk coming in from this point on and only had that month to rely on. Johnny is 8 months old this weekend and takes 4-5 bottles totaling less than 25 ounces per day, he gets solids (purees with cereal added) twice a day.  Do I completely use up the stash I have and then throw him on formula? Do I do a couple of weeks of straight stash and then work formula in? Or do I try to stretch out some breast milk for as long as possible by giving him one or two bottles worth each day and doing the other bottles with formula?

Additionally, we have no idea how to pick out a formula. While I am looking at a Similac coupon right now which makes it seem pretty favorable, I wouldn't mind help on that road either!

I am interested to see what everyone says. Please feel free to pass along to anyone you know who may be able to provide insight! I, of course, hope and pray that this is a small little blip in the pumping road and that I can make it to 9 months or further, but we want to be prepared!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Opening doors

When we found out about Johnny's extra chromosome, we couldn't help but automatically go to the negative. Being faced with Down syndrome was like looking at miles and miles of a hallway with doors that all slammed closed at the same time. Those doors signified all the things we didn't think he would be able to do. It was hard to get that image out of my head, doors of opportunity slammed shut in our faces. As we worked through the processing of the diagnosis, we even wondered what it would be like to knock on some of those doors, would we get an answer or would we be ignored? Would the doors open enough for us to peek in through the crack only to be ushered away as soon as they saw who we were? All we wanted (and still all we want) for our son was a chance, but would it be possible?

It's better now. Some doors have opened on their own. Some of them are simple doors, milestone doors, some of them easy to open, others a bit heavier. Doors like rolling over, sitting up, babbling, taking in solids, scooting in a circle, all these doors are now swung wide open in "Johnny's Hallway". We have had to help him open some of these doors, but others, like scooting around, he pretty much knew how to do instinctively as soon as he rolled over onto his tummy. We see other doors creaking open as well. The crawling door, imitating sounds door, and pulling up with support door have at least unlocked and are making their way to being accessible to him.

Now I wonder how many of those doors will be available for us to open over the years? How many of those doors will we have to fight to open? How many of those doors will need assistance in opening? How many of those doors will swing wide open without any resistance at all? How many doors will Johnny need us to help push and how many will he be successful in opening on his own? There are sadder thoughts that linger, wondering about how many times we should let him knock on a door that probably won't open for him, before we show him another door that is better suited for him? How many times will we have to comfort him when a door is shut in his face?

I have realized over the past week that I need to be pushing more doors open for my son. I had been having inklings and urges that he could be pushed a bit further in his therapy and I feel I have validation in asking for more. I had forgotten a rule learned from teaching that sometimes you have to ask for services to be given to you. I want a few doors to fly open over the next few months and some of those doors are going to take a lot of work, but I don't want to see a hallway full of shut doors in front of us anymore. Johnny may not be able to open every door he faces in life, but we are going to make sure he opens every one that he can or every one that he wants.

Ultimately, it is good that we have realized that his life will be more than a little boy sitting alone in a hallway with no chance of moving out. I don't know which door will be this week, or next week, or next month, or a year from now, but I do know that there are plenty to try. As dismal and lonely as this hallway felt a year ago, it feels like a pretty good place to be right now. I am sure the sting of rejection will hurt us at some point, but the welcome mats will surely outweigh those. In the mean time we will focus on the doors I know can be opened soon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Next time my kids or friends kids have an ear infection I'm going to be a lot more sympathetic. I forgot how much it hurts, how much of your movement is based around muscles near your ears, and how foggy and nauseous it can make you feel. I am prone to motion sickness anyways and all of this retained fluid in my ears isn't helping. When I went to the doctor they asked about my pain level. I responded that it was a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10. I've been through natural childbirth twice... The pain was getting pretty comparable. 

Thanks to my hubby coming home early, entertaining and feeding the kids, I was able to get some good rest. And he made me brownies. I think I will keep him around. 

Monday, June 24, 2013


Today was the first day of VBS. It was a little nuts in the morning, as volunteer coordinator I had many people asking me where to go and had a dozen or so substitutes that needed placement. It was a ministry I resisted at first, I had never participated in a VBS before, but a "friend" (haha) suggested my name for the Volunteer Coordinator position adding, "Ashley Howard is an underutilized member of our congregation." It was a perfect fit though and I am so glad I took on the job. I love the organization and the deliberate and methodical work involved in transferring date from one form to another and compiling it all together. I love working out notes and color coding different reminders. I loved calling volunteers and other coordinators and working as the go between for the two. Tomorrow will be a little dicey as we are short on subs and I think I have a pretty mean ear infection in both ears. We will make it work though. I hope to have more to report on some of the other awesome things going on at our church over the week!

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Sometimes we don't know how to help. I have failed at reaching out to others in the midst of personal tragedies in their lives. There have been friends in our lives that I now know needed help and support and due to being blind to the needs that were there, we didn't answer that call. And it isn't something I necessarily blame myself for. I think that, until you go through a similar circumstance, you don't know what to do. I had friends with babies in NICUs, friends who miscarried, and friends who needed us in other ways. Many times, people in these circumstances talk about the silence, how they felt alone and isolated. I don't think it is something that people do out of ill intent though. I think people just fail to see how they can mobilize and act. Sometimes we are weighed down by the hard times too and because we don't see a way to fix it, we choose not to act in order to prevent further discomfort.

I had several friends that helped us out so much when dealing with our troubles last year with Johnny's diagnosis, pregnancy, and birth. There are two in particular that always seemed to know exactly what to do, exactly what to say, and exactly how to show us love and support. Not surprisingly, these two friends have gone through situations that have been extremely hard. They know first hand what to do in the face of difficult, emotional, and frightening circumstances. They know what works, so they do that for others.

This weekend we got word that friends of ours are going through almost the exact circumstances we faced when having to readmit Johnny to the hospital for jaundice. This time, I knew how to act, how to help, how to show love and support. It felt good to pay it forward. I may fall short many times, but God prepares us and gives us opportunities to love one another. After filling their physical needs, I knew how to pray for specific needs too. That experience was good to draw on. Maybe there was someone that I knew praying for me when we were in the NICU, I certainly felt bolstered considering I was five days postpartum, worried about my son, and a little emotional. I pray for so many things for this family and their medical team.

And so the cycle continues, this Mommy will take care of her little one and then pass it along to the next friend who needs it. I encourage you today to answer the call to love, it is fulfilling on multiple levels.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mac's First Trip to the Dentist

Today marked a new first for the little Miss. She got to go to the dentist for the first time. We prepped her all week, talking to her about what to expect. We told her that the dentist is a doctor for your teeth which she was very impressed by since she loves doctors. We also went through some of the basics, that they would put their hands in her mouth, some tools, and a little machine that went "whirrrrrr". She caught on to the idea pretty well and was stoked to go.

I think she was pretty excited to be there and to have one on one time with Mommy. She also got to wear princess sunglasses and got a new butterfly toothbrush and her very own toothpaste. She got a little tripped up at the x-rays, I didn't think they would attempt them on a 3 1/2 year old so I didn't tell her about those. But she did well enough that she got a treat from the treasure box (she picked out a green ring). Dr. Nguyen said her teeth look great and to  keep up all the good work.

Next week we have Keegan's appointment...wonder how that will go!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Bucket List Progress

Progress so far-

The Woodlands (mall, waterway, and Grimaldi's)-

She is Mary, in case you couldn't tell

This one needs a do over, I forgot to go to Trader Joe's while we were out there!

The Beach!


Blueberry picking-

And we should add one more to the summer bucket list, bathing outside. The girls have taken two "country baths" at our friends house over the past three years and love it. They have been begging Doc to let them take a bath in the dog bath in College Station, so we obliged this past weekend. We couldn't keep their clothes on for the rest of our visit. Everytime we would look up, we would see the flash of naked Keegan bootie or naked MacKenzie bootie running by to jump back in the tub of water. We decided that we like that our girls can be a little "rough and tumble" when we go to the "country".

And the zoo has happened a couple times, but we cannot cross this one of our list because we need to do the train and the picnic along with the zoo and splashpad. But we HAVE to go with Daddy to do the train, that's kind of a Daddy thing! At least for the first time anyways.

And because groupon was running such a great deal, we will add a visit to the Museum of Natural Science to our list to see the dinosaurs and the new Egypt exhibit. Next week we will be able to cross VBS off our list too, I need to remember to get pictures of the kids!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Johnny's Therapy 6/2013

We have been working hard in therapy for Johnny. He is getting really good at supported sitting, he is strong enough, but needs a little help with his balance, particularly on his left side, he always tends to topple over to that side. He is enjoying sitting up more though and I think he is ready to be a big boy who get's to play with toys that way. He tries to crunch himself up more and more in the car seat or when we are holding him in a cradle hold. This is good strength training though! As I previously wrote he is rolling all over the place to be more mobile which is excellent in my book! Sometimes he will roll just to change positions, but other times it is with the purpose of getting a toy or to a different spot to check it out. He is exploring more textures as he rolls around and has tummy time too, he is really doing a lot of the "feeling by scratching" that I remember the girls doing in their first year. He is also straining to scootch for toys that are just out of his reach and will scootch around in a circle if the motivation is right. It is becoming more rare for him to be on the mat or blanket when I return to the room from doing something while he plays. It's so exciting to see him engaging more with his environment and playing of sorts. It wasn't that long ago that he was sleeping all but a few hours of the day!

I am starting to work on his oral tone more with special teethers given to us by ECI and doing lateral chews. Basically these are textured rubber ends on toothbrush like sticks that you put on either side of his mouth to have him bite down on. It will help build his oral tone and make it easier to eat, drink, and talk. He is still verbal and we try to mimic his sounds a lot. I also say "Mama" over and over around him which always elicits big smiles on his part. I am starting to get more focused on signing with him, we have done "milk" and "food" frequently, I would like to add in "more", "sleepy", "book", and "play".

We will be meeting our new OT next Friday. Our old OT was moved up to a different position and the transition was only bumped back a week. I will miss our old OT and would have very much liked her to stay on a bit longer (especially since Johnny is due for a reevaluation), but the new one just finished more schooling and has a lot of experience with Speech development. I guess I will take it!

We will continue working on supported sitting, I would really like him to have a better mastery of that over the next couple of weeks. We are also getting him up into a crawling position more (I need a video of that- along with the other videos I "owe" the blog) and need to break out the exersaucer since he loves to stand! We are slowly building those muscles up on this big guy.

As a small aside, I mentioned how much he likes his food chunky with added cereal to another Ds mom and she said her researched showed that this was because of the low oral tone in kids with Ds. If the food is pureed to much, it will pool into the sides of their mouth and they cannot work it out or don't feel it to work it out. I found that interesting. Good thing for me, extra chunky food means a few extra calories to give Mommy a break from pumping so much! Ok, it is only a difference of an ounce or so, but still...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reminders to be thankful

This week I took a meal to a Mommy in the Ds group that I am a part of. Her little one had heart surgery a couple weeks ago so a few of us chipped in to take her a couple meals to make her life a bit easier as she helps her baby recover. I had spoken with this mommy before, but didn't really put two and two together about the surgery her baby needed. As I delivered the meal, I asked for further clarification of the heart issue. She confirmed that it was a VSD at the bottom of the heart. She told me her baby is recovering really well and that doing the surgery was a great decision because the hole was larger than what they picked up before going in to repair. She showed me the scar running vertical on her chest and as I stood there sending good vibes and being thankful for answered prayers for this baby's health, I remembered that we had some pretty big answered prayers as well.

This is what Johnny's condition was too. He could have been faced with the same surgery and the same vertical scar running over his chest. He could have been the one taken into the hospital and then needing recovery for 6 weeks. I am so, so, so grateful that her little one is doing great. I am also thankful for the extraordinary healing done on Johnny's heart so that was a road we didn't have to travel. I forget to be grateful for answered prayers once distance and time pass. I shouldn't be so forgetful. It was huge that his heart has been fixed and that it continued to be knit together.

I am so grateful for the medical community who cares for our little ones. I am also grateful for the conditions we don't have to treat, for how well we are all put together for the most part, by The One who knows our innermost being.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chicken and A Black Bean Salad

Last night I adapted a pinterest recipe. It turned out well. I will try to update with a picture or two tomorrow. The recipe was simple- 2 pounds of chicken 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 cup pineapple juice 1/3 cup lite soy sauce Cook in crockpot for 6-8 hours. It was really tender, slightly citrusy and sweet. If I hadn't been cooking for another family as well I might have added a little red pepper or pepper sauce to add another layer of flavor. We served it with a salad made from canned black beans, chopped tomatoes, frozen corn, red onion, and avocado. It was lightly seasoned with salt and tossed with a little fresh lime juice. You could add cilantro and/or queso fresco if you wanted it extra fancy. Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Memorial service

Tomorrow night is the memorial service for my grandmother. She passed away in May, but we have been unable to do the service until this week. It will be good to have that closure and to honor her and her impact in our lives. I have been in contact with the Priest performing the liturgy in order to provide him with some extra details about her life. I have also been working with my mom to choose the excerpts and readings that will be used in her service.

It has been hard.

As far as the memories go, which ones to choose. Which ones are too personal and too private? Which ones would seem odd from the outside without context and the full picture? Which ones wouldn't make sense without a lot of background? How do you pick what to remember a person by? And how do you reconcile that no matter what memories are said about her or preserved about her, it will never replace the loss of the sounds, smells, and feelings you had. I spent numerous weekends with her over my childhood, usually picked up in her car, windows down because she rarely had a/c, a hard plastic cup filled with tang or some other fruit "juice" wedged between a seat or between her legs as she drove us back to her side of town. We usually stopped for dinner, oftentimes at Ryan's where she would get every pennies worth of her meal (paired with cookies wrapped in a napkin and smuggled in her purse) or at Luby's. More recently for visits it was always Mexican food where she would get the largest plate so she could try everything and she would often polish it off. We would then go back to her house to watch a video or, more likely when it was just her and I, to read, curled up in our respective parts of the house, hearing the window units turn on and off, occassionly creaking the wood floors as we moved about, and hearing the tick-tock of the old clock in her living room. As I got older, we would trade books back and forth. I soon learned not to lend her a book that I particularly cared for as it would be returned to me in a less than pristine condition. I keep my books in very good condition and was horrified to receive books back with the binding broken, pages dog-eared, and (shrudder) filled with underlining and writing. I laugh at myself now and sort of wished I had a few of those books back, if only to see what was compelling to her at the time. She had a thirst for knowledge and devoured reading material. Being very much a private person, I suppose that she may have wanted to escape into her books, but I am not sure.

If I was there for two nights, Saturday would usually be some outing that she viewed as a treat, sometimes it was interesting things like movies (still not sure what compelled her to take us to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) or things like the Bazaar at her church or a Chili cookoff. We also frequented parks, museums, and took strolls around her block, dropping in on her friends. Very often as a child I would park myself in front of her record player and listen to her vast collection of children's tales on record and when I could convince her that I needed to listen to it one more time, the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. Until I got old enough to shower on my own, I would take a bath in the bathtub and then lay on the bathroom counter with my head in the sink so she could wash my hair. This was very uncomfortable and not my favorite part of visiting her, but she always had lotion for us to use which we didn't really have much of in our house so I guess that made up for it!

Mawmaw would try to have treats of some sort for us, either cookies she had baked (I loved her oatmeal cookies and her sand tarts), candy she had picked up for us, or some little trinket she had found that made her think of us. This continued on for all of her life and even if we weren't sure what to do with the multitudes of plastic placemats or strange stuffed animals, it was always nice to be thought of.

Sunday mornings were usually filled by mass. Which brings me to picking out the verses for her liturgy tomorrow. While I am not Catholic today, I tell people that I grew up Catholic because it is the main religion I knew as a child. I was taught the customs and traditions of the Catholic church and my grandmother was very patient and reverent in her teachings to me. She would talk about the importance of the colors in the church, guide me through the "Catholic Calisthenics", and would sing her heart out at each service I attended with her. She was not a good singer, she would admit the same, but she sang each note with purpose which I very much admire. I think she was recharged and energized by the steadiness that mass provided her, it was stable and comforting. It felt the same way to me as I was working through the worship guide that I prepared for tomorrow.

I will miss her. It is very hard though because the grandmother I remember was gone long before May. We had been unable to see her as frequently as her health worsened and as grown up lives set it. Matt, my mom, and I had spent the better part of a year calling on a monthly basis to try and get together with her. Each time she would cancel just before we headed over there or as we were already on our way. We would ask her if she was sure and she would confirm that it would have to be some other time. I talked to her on the phone when I could, but even that was challenging as conversations began to repeat themselves and it became harder for her to remember if I was her granddaughter or my mother. I know I assured her she was loved in each of those calls and in that last visit before she died. I am fairly sure she recognized me and was happy to see me. I am thankful that I mustered up the decency to go see her even though I was very scared.

I am glad she got to know MacKenzie some and Keegan a little. I am thankful for the pictures we have of them with her. I hope those photographs will be able to trigger some good stories to tell when they ask about her later in life. Memories of her love of the color lavender and the debacle that came with trying to get a cake frosted in lavender for her big birthday party, her love of raspberries and how she would get several containers of Blue Bell's sherbet when it would be out as a seasonal flavor, her funny way of correcting Matt on how exactly to pronounce MawMaw and her insistency that we spell it MaMa (I cannot tell you how many envelopes we had to rewrite over the years), and her love of gardening and the many afternoons and evenings JJ and I spent laying on a blanket in the backyard as she worked away.

I hope to preserve these memories and to honor her.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Memories with my Dad

Happy Father's Day!

Here are some of my favorite memories with my dad growing up.

Making buttermilk biscuits on many weekend mornings and getting to sift the flour multiple times.

Learning to make roux and fudge and understanding the importance of patience in jobs well done in the kitchen.

Going to the grocery store with him most weekends, even through high school, but not the Farmer's Market!

Going on family trips, stopping to read every historical sign (I think this is kind of a Dad thing), being introduced to new places and new food, and having one very scary stop in an abandoned town in our Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana road trip.

Listening to the Aggie War Hymn and other songs to get revved up for Aggie Football weekends.

Watching movies like Patton, Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Hatari during the year and cycling through our favorite Christmas movies during the winter time.

Helping to put up the modest amount of lights on our house for Christmas and being scared out of my mind to be on the roof but feeling very cool that I was up there with my dad.

Playing basketball in the driveway.

Getting stuck in the mud at Aggie Bonfire!

Dad doubting that we would ever be able to successfully play "Name that Song" on the classic rock station and the day I randomly won $20.

Sitting on my dad's lap to "drive" part of the way home from the gym.

Visiting and spending time with my grandparents and other relatives, which my dad tried to make a regular thing, hanging out at my Nana and Grandaddy's house, dinners with MawMaw, and Luby's with Donna and Aunt Poppy.

Getting to go on a class field trip to the bank where my dad worked when I was in Kindergarten (however brief that was) and feeling so cool that we got to visit my Dad's bank with a tour of the vault.

Working with both my parents the summer before I left for college at their insurance company.

Being walked down the aisle.

Having my dad greet all three of my kids for the first time at the hospital soon after they were born.

I hope you had a great day Dad!

Dad and Keegan, his little chin dimple clone!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

El Guapo!

We are in recharge mode this weekend and enjoying time as a family!

A few things for the memory book-

Keegan has picked up on Mattie calling me "mamacita" and either calls me Mom (not mommy) or Mamacita!

Mattie calls Johnny "El Guapo" and the girls have started calling him that as well.

The girls have been playing house a lot, it is hard for me to distinguish whether they need me or their "mom" in play!

Johnny is rolling himself around the floor in order to try and get places. It's pretty funny to watch.

That's enough for now...time to recharge some more!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Calling in the reserves

This week was challenging. The kids were super clingy, Keegan was testing boundaries, Johnny was cranky, and Mattie was out of town. Visions of a sparkling clean house, calm children, and something fresh baked quickly went out the window. They are in Indonesia by now! Thank goodness Mattie is home. Within half an hour of being home he said, "Wow. I see why you feel stressed." Normally a comment like that would have me up in arms thinking, "He has no right to say that, he has only been here for half an hour, I have had this all day." Today it was a welcome validation. We are glad to have him home and I am, for the first time, jealous of his trip. He got to have dinner with three other friends that were randomly in NYC at the same time and got to eat at Eataly, Mario Batalli's European style market. I had a great week with the kids, but I'm glad that one is down in the books, and glad we have a great weekend as a family ahead of us. Reset. Recharge. Moving forward!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Not a day for blog fodder

Yesterday started off pretty brilliant...and ended pretty ok too. There were some definite hiccups and craziness, but it was a day that a blogger can stand back, look around, and say, "This. I want to remember this. This is some good fodder." I will save that post for tomorrow. Instead, I will write about...

Today was not a good day for blog fodder. It started off decently enough. The girls requested blueberries from picking yesterday in their pancakes and I obliged. They even got whip to dunk their pancakes in as well. My first pumping session of the day wasn't so great, but I figured there was plenty of time to make up for it. We had done a bit of socialization over the past three days and the kids were looking a bit worn out so I figured we would run two little errands (very easy and light day for us) and come home for some snuggles and maybe a bit of extra t.v. time with a Redbox rental. All in a days work, right?
I don't know why the picture is upside down. Not going to fix it.
 It is one of THOSE days after all!


Johnny must be going through some sort of growth spurt right now because the little man is cranky. Still easy. But cranky. I told myself "That's ok, things will settle out, let's keep going."

Then I tried pumping some more and got even more dismal results. I told myself, "That's ok, we have time to pump a little longer and you can pull from your freezer stash, that's what it is there for."

Then we were getting ready and the girls kept stepping on and dropping things on my big toe which I have been nursing back to health over the past YEAR when I experienced some toe nail trauma (from the girls) and lost the toenail partially and then fully. It is almost all the way better except for a little corner that is trying to be ingrown, but I refuse to let it. But it hurts. And it's sensitive. And I have worked a lot for that big ol' toe and I am done with having to baby it. So I may have lost my cool a little bit and told Keegan, "STOP stepping on my toes. That HURTS." And she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said with her sweet little voice, "Ok, mama." And I melted. So I hugged her and told myself, "They are kids, lets take a deep breath and move on."

And Mr. Crankypants started fussing again so I fed him the little milk I had pumped and told myself, "Give him the milk you have, fill up that little tummy, he will probably take a nice long nap."

The first errand was a bust due to my pickiness and not wanting to settle for buying something that wasn't perfect. I was ok with that. It happens.

Then we went to Target and the switch flipped on Keegan and she went ballistic because I wouldn't let her unbuckle her seat in the huge cart and get out. I know, I know, how mean of me to look out for her safety. With Mac, her cry was so small that we would just continue on with errands like that. Keegan has a superior talent of reaching multiple pitches and tones that make it impossible to work past the cries. And we have known the child long enough for when we can work through it and when we can't. Today we couldn't.

"It's ok". I told myself, "Let's grab some lunch (for mommy- Panera has a drive through and a greek salad with chicken was calling my name), get home, and the kids can watch their movie while I get stuff done."

Which started the four hour rotation of one of the children being on top of me at all times. I wanted to clean and straighten up, they wanted as much of their skin touching as much of my skin as was decent.

It was hard. I wanted so much to be productive. To "make something of my day". To accomplish things. But I was limited by my circumstances on getting things done and I my heart was, to be honest, only half devoted towards snuggles and clinginess.

You think she was tired?

The day got better, but I think I need to hit my reset button too. So I am giving myself a pass today. I am going to take a shower and cuddle up on the couch with a fuzzy blankie, a bowl of ice cream, and the movie Oz, and hopefully go to bed early. My alarm is set to wake up early and get in some extra pumping sessions (because it has gone from bad to worse throughout the day) and a few chores before kids get up.

And I think I may go "check on the girls" who are giggling in the bed and give them a couple little snuggles so they know, at the end of the day, my heart beats for them, even if I lost track of that in my distracted and "difficult" day.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Banana Nut Muffins

I like to pride myself on being a pretty decent cook. I get enjoyment out of it, I'm not usually intimidated by it, and I do a pretty good job most of the time. But we all have our own little failures right? Today was one such day, sort of. I had two overly ripe bananas that were on the verge of attracting fruit flys, so I decided to make banana nut muffins. I hate to eat raw banana and muffins or bread is pretty much the only way I will consume them. When their texture is utilized in a positive way rather than a nasty and mushy way and when their flavor becomes woven with other, better, tastes is when I can stand the yellow fruit, before then, no way! I like the recipe I found years ago through a google search and I'm sorry I don't have the source to link to. This recipe is healthier than your standard muffin recipe and even more so by my slight changes. I usually use half AP flour and half whole wheat flour (I feel irises the muffins a nice nutty taste), I cut the oil to two tablespoons and throw in a few tablespoons of applesauce (you want some oil for texture), and have used a scant measure of the sugar (overly ripe bananas and applesauce make up for the lost sweetness). I omit the lemon zest completely. Now I guess I should say that I usually make it a scant measure of sugar unless it is which case I forgot the sugar completely and baked them without. I didn't realize until a bite or two in, but as soon as I thought something was wrong, my mind shifted to the non addition of the sugar. They actually didn't taste all that horrible, just super healthy. I will probably continue decreasing my sugar down to a lot less to make this even healthier. And I may experiment with different savory options on this base recipe now that I know it is decent without the sugar. With the sugar, the muffins taste healthful, but still enjoyable. They are usually soft and have a good balance of flavor. 


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites slightly. Stir in bananas, sugar, oil, and lemon peel. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in walnuts. Fill muffin pan cups 2/3 full.
  4. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Remove muffins from pan.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


A few years back I worked with the best teaching team that ever existed. We always did great things for one another, solidifying that bond that made us great. I tried to make special treats for birthdays, and knowing that one of my coworkers loved a chocolate peanut butter combo, made this recipe for him. It was really good, fudge and moist, like a brownie topped with a gooey peanut butter topping. They were the delight f the birthday boy and got some very inappropriate responses out of another of our coworkers. I highly recommend this dessert for those desiring this kind of effect. Make sure you make it in a 9x13 pan, it will not cook properly otherwise. This is not like brownies that you can tweak in different sizes. Don't say I didn't warn you. This is a food network recipe. 
1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate squares
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or dish. In a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water, melt together the chocolate and the butter. Stir occasionally until smooth, remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl beat together 2 eggs, sugar and vanilla. Mix in the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined. Spread mixture out in baking pan. In a medium bowl, Beat together the peanut butter, confectioner's sugar and 2 eggs until well combined. Drop tablespoons of peanut butter mixture into chocolate batter and swirl in with a table knife. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool before cutting into squares and serving.

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Monday, June 10, 2013


I know that I am not the only one who "substitutes" activities with the kids for working out. Sometimes it is well warranted and other times it is not. Today was one of those days that was definitely well deserved. I went with the kids to the zoo so I could test out my fancy new stroller that I absolutely love and adore and plan to devote an entire blog post to at some point. Summer has very much arrived here in Houston and it was stinking hot and humid. I don't mind the hot weather, what I do mind, is holding a 2 year old or a 7 month old in the stinking hot weather while pushing a stroller and keeping up with a very excited 3 1/2 year old. We walked much of the zoo and the girls truly enjoyed themselves with the exception of the last 30 minutes. Johnny was not handling the heat well and had to be held for a good 45 minutes while pushing the stroller until he passed out. MacKenzie happily trudged along while Keegan took turns riding in the stroller and marching alongside her big sister. At 1 o'clock though, they were done. Done! And in order to avoid a meltdown I needed to get the kids out of the heat and into the a/c of the car quickly. Johnny was happy in his seat, Mac seized the opportunity to take the other seat, and Keegan was left building an ear piercing wail to express her utter inability to go any further. Left with little else to do as I had pushed the kids to their limit, I considered my possibilities, and decided to throw Keegan on my shoulders and push that double stroller from the back of the zoo to the front. That counts as a killer workout for the day. I cannot tell you how many stares and looks I got as I wove my way through the other families visiting the zoo while pushing two kids in a stroller while balancing Keegan on my shoulders. This was definitely one of those times that I felt like supermom. I couldn't relish in it because of the cloud of doom looming over our visit, but I soak in it now...and in the bath I am about to hit to relax my poor little feet and muscles.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sweets in New Orleans

I failed to mention our double dessert in New Orleans. 

At Oceania Grill they had chocolate toffee mousse cake. One of my favorite restaurants in College Station also carries this cake so I was surprised to see a similar/exact dessert in New Orleans. It had started to reach room temperature by the time our server brought it to us, but it is probably the same frozen cake I will now be looking for online. The cake is a super rich slice of thick mousse that is cut in half by a gooey, thick toffee layer. Rich chocolate paired with buttery toffee is a delight indeed. The cake is so dense and rich that it is good to share between two people, especially when you get to the thick chocolate Cooke crust. 

We also stopped at Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee. The girls were very tired at that point and did not want to try them, so Mattie and I stuffed our faces full of the light powdered sugar (be careful not to breath in) while biting into the soft, pillowy fried dough. The coffee was strong and needed extra powdered sugar to cut through the bitterness, but I am a coffee weenie!

Both places are great, I would get the chocolate cake with dinner and beignets as breakfast, second breakfast and/or a midnight snack!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sweets in Destin

When Mattie and I were in college, we fell in love with a frozen custard place called Shakes. The custard was creamy and delicious, the portions were borderline too large, and the toppings were phenomenal. I particularly loved the "Dream Lover" with raspberries added. It consisted of hot fudge, salted pecans, marshmallow cream, and slightly macerated raspberries. The flavors worked really well with the ice cream and once I found that treat, I never swayed from it. Imagine our dismay when pregnant with Keegan, we discovered it was closed for repairs. We soon found out that closed for repairs really meant closed forever. For three years now we have unwillingly tried several places only to be severely disappointed. If we had never known Shakes, all of those places would have been more than fine, but once you have had the best, it is impossible to like anything else. 

Imagine our delight when we were able to stop at Shakes in Destin. We got custard from there three out of four nights there. It was better than we remembered and we are now permanently ruined from ever enjoying other places because it was so good and not just our memories that made it taste so amazing. Go there. Enjoy. Go there again. Enjoy some more. 

I didn't have custard on the third night, I had Key Lime Pie from a donut shop that was famous for their pie and homemade donuts called The Donut Hole. Reviews were great online, not really sure why. Their donut concepts were good, but poorly implemented. We both agreed that we have had fresher donuts in those little packets of powdered sugar donuts. The Key Lime Pie had potential, but didn't pack enough of a tart, limey taste. You could tell some effort had gone into it, but it missed the mark. I would pass on eating there. 

Friends that move away

Tonight I am thankful for friendships that can pick up where they left off. Friendships that may need catching up on, may need a slight learning curve on mannerisms, but feel just as comfortable as the last day you were in touch. It's a big world and we are so fortunate to have means if communicating over long distances, but nothing beats real hugs, seeing facial expressions, and real life human interaction. So whether it be friends from New York, Florida, or Utah, or friends here in our own state, I am excited fir chances to see those that mean so much to us!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Florida Trip 213 Dinners

We ate breakfast and lunch at the hotel (free breakfast and pb&js for lunch) so we coud really enjoy our dinners. 

Monday night we went to The Crab Trap. It was within walking distance of our hotel, but there was no sidewalk or boardwalk to get there so we had to load the kids up and drive there. We were all a bit exhausted, but wanted to give the restaurant a try. Each kid (even Johnny) got a little sand bucket and shovel which was fun to use on the beach the next day. I got a mango daiquiri which was fruity and smooth. The kids shared spaghetti which was decent, but not really large enough for them to share. We had the hot crab dip appetizer which tasted good, but was a lot of rich and creamy dip for two people to share. It also was in desperate need for hot sauce to be copiously dashed on top which we did once we figured out the kids only wanted the pita chips and not the dip. We ordered a fried seafood platter and were greeted with a steamed and fried platter instead. We were so hungry that we didn't realize we weren't eating the right dish until part of the way through. I was looking for my fried clams and shrimp to be greeted by steamed crab instead. The crab was good, but neither of us wanted to work for our food that night. The service was just ok, even after we told them we got the wrong meal, we were pretty much ignored. I think this would be a fine place to get a drink and an appetizer if it was all adults who wanted to enjoy the ocean view. They did adjust the price of our meal, but we felt underwhelmed since we didn't get what we wanted. 

Tuesday night we went to Fuddpuckers. Excellent choice. The restaurant is home to several dozen alligators that you can feed and a little play area as well. The service here was fantastic and super accommodating of families and kids needs. They had lots for kids to look at, fun music playing, and a variety of food on the menu. Matt and I shared a fried seafood platter and a salad and it was excellent. Their red sauce was tangy and spicy and I wished I had more seafood to eat it up with. We had a side of corn which was just ok, but the salad had good "restaurant style" ranch dressing. We tried not to eat too much since we were going out for dessert that night, but that will be a separate post. I highly recommend this restaurant. It is a little touristy, but the service, decent food, and alligators make it well worth it. 

Wednesday night we went to Dewey's which is in the harbor. The view was nice and we could see lots of boats puttering around which was good for the kids. The service here was kind of subpar. Our order was taken, drinks brought out, and that's about it. I had the steamed shrimp which was excellent though. I love a pile of shrimp and again their cocktail sauce was worth dipping into. My plate also came with corn and boiled potatoes which was delicious. It was like a crawfish boil only better! Matt got a blackened fish dish which tasted fresh and was seasoned well. The food was good, but didn't really make up for the service. 

Thursday night we went to The Back Porch that was again close to our hotel, but needed driving to. It was on the beach and at sunset they let a kid from the restaurant fire off the cannon which is pretty neat. The girls were relieved to get Mac and cheese here. We got a salad with goldfish on it which was a pretty good idea if we run out of croutons. We shared the stuffed flounder with steamed broccoli and rice pilaf. This was easily our tastiest meal. There were two flounder filets in a baking dish drenched in butter and herbs and topped with crab stuffing. The broccoli may have been overcooked in some circles, but it was actually perfect with the soft fish and rice. We would recommend this place on the food alone. The service was just ok, but the food was great. 

Friday night we ate dinner in New Orleans at a place called the Oceania Grill. We went on my Dad's recommendation and boy do we owe him one. The service here was friendly and attentive, hostess and servers were really friendly and several managers stopped by to make sure everything was to our liking. Matt and I split two dinners, the first being a plate that had jambalaya, shrimp creole, and red beans and rice on it. While I will venture to say that I like mine better, these were pretty good and seasoned well. The other plate was the fried catfish po-boy and it was the best po-boy I have ever had. The catfish was clean and fresh tasting, the crust was crisp and slightly spicy, the bread was soft and chewy, and it was topped with cold pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and the perfect touch of coleslaw. I really enjoyed this po-boy and saved half of my half until I had eaten the other dishes so that could be my last bites. 

So there are our experiences, pretty good overall with some places being well above the others. I will post about the sweets tomorrow. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New goals

I have been mulling over our OT session yesterday. Our OT was telling me about a little boy with Ds that she used to work with who is an amazing little guy. He was walking at 16 months when the timeframe for Ds is more from 18 months to two years. I had been looking for a good solid number like that. 16 months. It seems out of reach and attainable all at the same time. It's a huge goal though. Part of me is scared to se a goal like that. But the other part of me wants something to work for, something to push Johnny towards. I will be 100% ok with not reaching that goal because only good things will happen in working to get him to that point. I just want us to work extra with him, encourage him, love on him, and help him. I am putting this out there so we can all see where it leads to. I am sure there will be more goals to come, but there is my big one. 

I have a little lump in my throat as I move to push "publish", but I'm glad to be sharing our hopes and dreams on this journey. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Prenatal diagnosis

Johnny had OT today that went ok. He is starting to get a little mind of his own and fusses some when we want him to practice things he doesn't want to at that moment. But Mommy has some goals for Johnny over the next year so he better be ready to work!

As Johnny's OT and I were talking, we began discussing benefits vs negatives of a prenatal diagnosis. She told me about one mom she knows who did not get a diagnosis until after delivery (which is more common than prenatal). The mom was relating to her how as soon as the baby was born, the doctors and nurses knew that the baby had Ds. Immediately the baby was brought over to the warmer so they could do a more thorough examination and the mood of the room became somber. She said that no one was joyful and happy, no one congratulated them or wished them well, that the rest of their stay in the hospital felt sad because of the attitude they were surrounded with. 

It made me hope and pray that if I am able to become a nurse that I remember her story, and choose to shower all of these sweet babies with love and happiness. 

It also made me again, very thankful for our decision to test. While the actual birth moments were a little hectic, as soon as Johnny was born and ok, the room was filled with happy shouts of "It's a boy!" And "Congratulations!" and from my very favorite nurse, a tear filled, "He is beautiful." When we moved to postpartum, the well wishes continued, and whether genuine or not, every nurse and doctor made me feel like we were the star patients. Nurses scrambled to love on our little man and doctors doted on him when they came in to check on us. I am so thankful for the joy we were able to experience in his birth and for the precedent we were able to set in our experience being a great one. 

I hurt for Mommies that have to sit in rooms filled with whispers and worried looks as they try to interpret what may be wrong. I had to sit and worry through an ultrasound filled with concern and would hate to have that in my L&D room. It's still a personal decision that has many factors that must be taken into account, but mark one for the prenatal testing side. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Florida 2013

I am titling this Florida 2013 in hopes that eventually there will be a Florida 20__ with another trip for us.

We have been in desperate need for a family vacation and the chance to get away. After looking at several options, we opted for Fort Walton just outside of Destin, Florida. It was a great decision for us and we are very glad we went. We drove Sunday night and arrived just in time for breakfast Monday morning. The kids did really well in the car and slept most of the way, although they were all a little bit restless. This was a good way to go, but Mattie was pretty tired along the way and needed to stop a few times for fresh air and energy drinks. I had difficulty sleeping myself so took a half a dozen half and hour to hour naps along the way leaving me pretty tired as well. But, when we got there, all we had to do was lounge on the beach so it was an ok option.

I had heard people tell us how pretty the beaches are in Florida, and while I know there are more beautiful beaches out there, it is nice to have a really great beach so close for a family vacation. The sand is white and soft enough for you to sink pretty far into it. The water was surprisingly cold and it would probably have been pretty clear if the waves weren't so rough, stirring up sand and sediment. We were actually surprised by how rough the waves were. We went on a few little walks with the kids along the edge of the water and Mattie took turns taking the girls into the water which was rough enough to make him pretty exhausted. One of the things Matt really wanted to do with the girls was to build sand castles. It was funny to watch him build a small start to a sand castle only to have the girls smash it as soon as they could.

Our hotel had check in issues that day so we weren't able to check in until later in the day. MacKenzie was in full melt down mode at that point, so we had to stay flexible in our evening plans. At one point I was debating taking Mac and Keegan into the lobby to cry there and see if it would get us into our room. We ended up getting free breakfast for the rest of our stay which sort of made up for it, but the breakfast was "ok" so we aren't sure if that was a good trade off or not. Once in our rooms we bathed the girls before we headed to dinner and gave them their vacation treats. We got beach toys, disney flip flops, and sunglasses to make the trip extra special.

We spent Tuesday at the beach as well and really enjoyed the first part of the day. MacKenzie and Keegan were soon asking for a nap though. I enjoyed bathing them after a full day of sun, sunscreen, sand, and spray and putting them for a nap in a cold crisp hotel bed. I also enjoyed getting to sit with Mattie on our ocean view balcony to sip on a little drink from the Tiki bar downstairs.

I will devote a full post to the restaurants we visited, but had to include pictures from Fudpucker's which houses an alligator park as part of the restaurant.

Seeing as the girls were a little pooped from two days of the beach, we drove to Panama City to visit Gulf World. All of the kids were free and we had a coupon which made it sort of economical ($50 for a family of five) and we felt it was definitely worth the price. It is a small park, but they have a good amount of animals that are close up so the kids can actually see them. They had sea lions, turtles, sharks, alligators, sting rays (that you can pet), two different types of dolphins, and various other birds and reptiles. They also have several shows that are timed out well so you can try and make all of them. The girls liked the dolphin show and the sea lion show ok, but really liked the "furry and feathered friends" show that was dogs, cats, birds, and a teeny mouse doing various tricks in a skit format. MacKenzie was very interested in the reptile show because she has been interested in alligators, lizards, and snakes lately. We took our lunch because you can come and go out of the park, but we did notice that their prices were reasonable and the staff was exceptionally helpful and friendly (giving us free lemonade in the midst of a Keegan meltdown). The girls got little stuffed turtles and necklaces from the gift shop and Matt picked out a stuffed shark for Johnny.

Our last full day found us back at the beach. The waves were even rougher on the last day there so Mattie spent a lot of time playing in the sand with the kids. Most of our beach days involved Johnny holding for me, but we did get him to take several naps on the beach. I love that Mattie made little mermaid tails for the girls and convinced them to sit in the sand so he could do that for them. He also treated us to Snowcones on a hot afternoon which crosses an item of our Summer Bucket List!

We were originally going to spend a 4th day on the beach, but seeing as we would have nowhere to shower and the kids were getting more wiped each day we decided to slowly make our way back towards Texas aiming for a early dinner in New Orleans. The kids once again did awesome and we got pictures at every state line except for Texas. Our dinner in New Orleans was great, but we had to speed through our dessert at Cafe du Monde in order to let Keegan fall asleep in the car.

All in all it was a great vacation and we hope to repeat many good trips in years to come.