Saturday, November 30, 2013


How do you tell the difference between a minor cold and perpetual seasonal allergies? Is it because we all have it around the same time? Is it because the kids are all linked genetically to two people with fairly rampant seasonal allergies? Is it worthy of going in for (never)? Is it stay at home worthy? Plug through things and hope nobody notices you opening your mouth a thousand times an. Hour to try and relieve the pressure on your ears? Whatever it is, it's diet coke worthy, the coca cola counterpart to my usual diet dp offers a nice bite and extra effervescence to cut through the drips and scratches in my nose and throat. Some nice rest and a bit of downtime this evening was also appreciated. Of course my blood pressure was a bit elevated by the aggie game...I love my boys even when they lose...but a comfortable evening in should deliver just the ticket to having a great Sunday.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black friday

The last time Matt and I participated in Black Friday was 2008. I had gone with my mom several times as a kid and teenager, but those were the days when you could wake up around 6 or 7, be home a few short hours later, and head up to College Station or down to Pearland to watch the aggie game live or on TV as tradition rotated. In 2008, our neighbor was waking up at the crack of dawn, Matt had off, and we thought it would be fun to see what all the hub was about. I think we got to Walmart around 4 or 5 and watched the chaos. It was nuts. People were in fights over power wheels, toys, pajamas, and electronics. I think we bought a strand of Christmas lights, a few ornaments, and some duct tape. We went to kohls before heading back home to relax in bed. We went on to make it a fantastic Friday, our last Black Friday pre kids, with leisurely strolls around the mall and target, lunch at BJs, and seeing Four Christmases at the theater. We stood firm against going out on thanksgiving and after mulling back and forth over whether I wanted to stay up to go out around 12:30 or 1 or sleeping and going early this morning, I decided to wake up around 5 this morning. It was amazing. It was the deadest I have ever seen Walmart. I was able to stroll around, picked up a few good deals, and smiled at every worker I saw. I went on to kohls where I was able to pick out several items for loved ones (and got $30 kohls cash!). I moved from their to target where I got a screaming deal on something we had been looking for and didn't think we would get, picked up two skirts for Keegan on clearance that I had been plotting to buy her anyways, and was able to thoroughly enjoy my diet dp while doing all of these things. It was fantastic! Did I miss out on some great sales? I'm sure. But the time with my family and resting was more important. With the exception of the skirts, everything else would be available at a pretty good price in the coming weeks. In fact, the only reason I'm feeling any pressure to get stuff done today is due to some scheduling things that may take shopping time off my hands. We did go out later to try and use a coupon I forgot I had and to get groceries. The stores were crazy again. It seems that 5-9 was the sweet spot and if people want to cut into their turkey/turkey coma time every year, I will gladly take the second shift of shopping for years to come. And maybe I will add a chicken biscuit to that diet dp next year too!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

We have so much to be thankful for. Thankful for one another, our friends and our family. Thankful for our resources, financial, shelter, and consumables that both sustain us and entertain us. Thankful for our church, it's work, it's people, and it's presence in our lives. Thankful for my husband who works so hard to provide for us, that reads to the kids, that makes me laugh, that works with me to get where we want to be. Thankful for Mac, who is entertainingly brilliant, learning how to be sweet and kind, and who is so discerning to others but can be the silliest goofball around us. Thankful for Keegan who is passionate about many things, who lives her life fully, and nurtures and loves in such an intrinsic way because it sustains her little heart. Thankful for Johnny who loves fully and completely in the purest of ways, who can't help but smile at others, and who works hard to accomplish everything in his life. I'm thankful for our extended family and the impact they have made on us and the support given to us. I'm thankful for our friends who are invested in us and where we are going. I'm thankful for our jobs that help provide for more than we could ever need. I'm thankful for God and the life He has granted us, we hope to always live it to the fullest and to glorify and praise Him throughout this life we face.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Puppy Chow

Matt love making the chex mix puppy chow. He makes it every year and taunts his sister with pictures each time. I have been resigned to lowly supply buyer, partially because I do most of the grocery shopping and partially, I think, because I "don't do it right". Matt, like everything else, has very specific ways that he likes things. He has certain bowls, utensils, and mixing methods he prefers. In matters of the kitchen, I understand this. He graciously allowed the girls to help him make it this year. It was a great activity for them to help with  and bond over while I was at a baby shower for a friend. I'm glad they are building traditions with their daddy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cranberry Pear Pie

I think I'm a day behind. But here is this post for now

I highly recommend making this pie for Thanksgiving this week. Alton Brown made it for a Food Network special several years ago, contending it was superior to apple pie. He was correct. The pears hold up better to the baking process and the cranberries give a nice tart and sweet touch. This pie filling is also excellent on waffles the next day. I use store bought crust (don't hate on me, I've got three under four!) and omitted the lemon juice. I also use canned cranberry sauce instead of buying cranberry jelly just for this pie once a year. It is crucial to pay attention to the step where you bake the pie on the floor of the oven for the first 30 minutes. If you don't, the pie will not be done on the bottom. I know from experience!

Pear Cranberry Pie

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2008
Rated 4 out of 5
19 Reviews
Photo of this Recipe

Total Time: 1 hours 45 minutes

1 hours 0 minutes
0 hours 45 minutes


10 servings




  • For the crust:
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons cranberry juice
  • 12 ounces all-purpose flour, about 2 3/4 cups, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar For the filling:
  • 3 to 3 1/2-pounds pears, a mixture of Bartlett, Bosc and/or Anjou
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 6 ounces dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • For the filling:
  • For assembling and baking the pie:


For the crust;
Place the butter, shortening and cranberry juice into the refrigerator for 1 hour. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated. Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the cranberry juice. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more cranberry juice as needed, and pulse again until the mixture holds together when squeezed. Weight the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
Peel and core the pears. Slice into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick wedges. Toss all of the pears with 1/4 cup of the sugar, place in a colander set over a large bowl and allow to drain for 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the drained liquid to a small saucepan, place over medium heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Set aside to cool. Toss the pears with the remaining sugar, cranberries, tapioca flour, jam, cranberry juice, lemon juice, salt and nutmeg.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator. Place the dough onto a lightly floured piece of waxed paper. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Place into a 9 1/2 to 10-inch tart pan that is 2 inches deep. Gently press the dough into the sides of the pan, crimping and trimming the edges as necessary. Set a pie bird in the center of the bottom of the pan. Place the pears into the unbaked pie shell in concentric circles starting around the edges, working towards the center and forming a slight mound in the center of the pie. Sprinkle the cranberries a little at a time as you go. Pour over any liquid that remains in the bowl. Roll out the second pie dough as the first. Place this dough over the apples, pressing the pie bird through the top crust. Press together the edges of the dough around the rim of the pie. Brush the top crust with the reduced juice everywhere except around the edge of the pie. Trim excess dough. Place the pie on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake on the floor of the oven for 30 minutes. Transfer to the lower rack of the oven and continue to bake another 20 minutes or until the pears are cooked through but not mushy. Remove to a rack and cool a minimum of 4 hours or until almost room temperature.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christmas Confession

Our lights are up and they are a glow. Our tree is decorated. Tomorrow our normal nick nacks will be placed in boxes and put aside for our Christmas decor. Part of this is for necessity due to some scheduling that has made us accelerate our Christmas plans. But part of it is that we love Christmas. And not at the expense of thanksgiving. We love our thankful and grateful filled, Family fun, holiday. But I think we look at Thanksgiving and Christmas being two large markers in the overall holiday season. For us, the only difference is football for thanksgiving and presents for Christmas! The girls decorated a large portion of the tree themselves this year. It means some unusual but very personality driven placement of ornaments. Mac liked placing similar or like ornaments all together in a cluster. This means that our tree looks like a patchwork of clustered ornaments. We have a battle going on between our toy soldiers on one part, a snowstorm going on in another part, and lots of animals gathering together for another part. Keegan just liked finding cute and pretty ornaments. She was very interested in ornaments that were "hers" or that she had helped make. We will have to make more this year. I'm excited to try some new activities and carry on old traditions this year. Matt made his first batch of puppy chow with the girls which we think they thought was too sweet and they can help me make pie and coffee cake this week for thanksgiving day. I love these special times, it seems like doing things together and with others is so much easier during the holiday season. I'm very thankful for that!)

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Woo. Tonight was the end of the big wedding season for me. There is still another big wedding next weekend, which I'm not working, and then a few decor jobs which they never ask me to do (I'm probably not the best person for frills, glitter, and bling)! I am so thankful for the extra money that comes with working for my mom. There have been some interesting weddings over the past two months that have been part of our biggest wedding season yet. People are funny. A wedding we did weeks ago have sent an email with complaints over things that either simply aren't true or that we were never asked to do in the first place. This is not uncommon in the business. I'll be honest. There are times we mess up. There are times we fudge. There are times we wing it, throw the Hail Mary, and pray for the best. There are times we have to admit mistakes. There are times we have to scramble to make up for what we didn't do. The wedding in question was not one of them. It's frustrating when those emails get sent. I wonder what makes people send letters like that. Nine times out of ten, when brides, grooms, and their families have legitimate cause for being upset, they are fine with it. Other times, people have no cause for being upset and they end up in arms against the undeserving. It's part of the business and maybe one of the hardest parts. When you know a good job was done, and for whatever reason, that job was dismissed as being less than.

Trust me. It wasn't less than. Even outside of our usual (did anyone disappear, throw up, or go to the hospital), it was nearly perfect.

It's been a crazy wedding season, but I've enjoyed the long car rides with friends, the snacks, the wild jobs, the calm jobs, and the paycheck at the end of the night! I will be very happy to sit at home and simply relax next Saturday though!

Friday, November 22, 2013


I think I need help. After our date tonig, Matt and I stopped at the store to get dessert. We stopped at HEB because there were a few things we needed. We decided on ice cream, specifically, the quintessential fall flavor, Blue Bell Spiced Pumpkin Pecan. They were out so I ran into Kroger and made my way over to the ice cream section. I searched and searched, happy to note hat it was on sale, but dismayed that there were no orange cartons of ice cream to be found. 

I have to admit. 

Tears began springing to my eyes. It wasn't that I felt I had to have it tonight. It was that I couldn't imagine not having it again for the season. I didn't want my last scoop to be my last scoop. I needed closure with my ice cream before we were separated for the next ten months. I held my breath and walked to her end cap, hoping for a display. I was greeted with three smiling (at least in my head) cartons of ice cream. I happily grabbed two of them and made my way to the front of the store. If I had any more room in my freezers, I would have bought all three. 

I need help. You aren't supposed to cry over seasonal ice cream. It just really is that good. I think I might have an extra big bowl tonight!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Mattie is officially done with going to school for his MBA. His last class was tonight so he is effectively done with the schooling portion of his degree. Now, he has more to do before he graduates, but that is another post for another time. I am so glad that the huge bulk of his work is done. I'm trying to think of the word to describe the past two years in regards to me and the kids while he worked through his degree. Frankly, it just "was". There were times that were challenging, but many more times that were easy. There were times that were stressful, but other times that were a breeze. While we wanted him home every night (even the ones where I curled up on the couch watching trashy MTV and eating secret desserts), we have all been so proud of what he has done and what he was working for to make our lives better. It has been such a collaborative effort. It was really nice yesterday to realize it was the last day I had to pack all three meals for him to take with him. I am so proud of his hard work and really respect the reasons why he pursued this degree.

I am also very happy to celebrate with him, he brought home ColdStone Cinnamon ice cream with brownies and chocolate chips in it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Loyalty

Two places now have my unfailing love and loyalty for the rare movie that we go see in theaters. For most movies, we wait until them come out, we cannot afford to see all the movies we want since it requires ticket money and baby sitter money. So we just remind ourselves of all the wonderful movies there are for us to watch or rewatch while waiting for new hits to come to DVD. And we remind ourselves that the cost of two tickets (not counting baby sitter) is about the same as a pizza or Chinese take out with a red box rental! There are certain movies that are sitter worthy. Those are usually the ones that I lean over and tell Matt, "I will be going to see this, you can either hire a sitter or stay at home with the kids, but I will be there and I will be there opening weekend." Sappy romances and comedies almost never make the list. Beloved books turned into movies almost always do. Such was the case in Ender's Game a few weeks ago and Cathching Fire this weekend. For both, it was hard to choose which theater to go to. We live pretty close to 6 very different theaters. Two have made our cut for top billing. Their placement there is based solely on one thing, seat reservation. Because we can now choose ahead of time where we want to sit if we pick our ticket in advance, we will continue to go there. One, I hate having to settle for a sub par seat when we only go to the movies together 4ish times a year. Two, if we have seats reserved, we can walk right into the theater at the last minute and either enjoy more dinner out on a date night, go run an errand, or simply have the sitter for less time. Either way, it works out perfectly for parents and I imagine for anyone with a busy schedule or picky preferences on movie theater seating. The two theaters, in case anyone in our area is curious, is The Studio Movie Grill on Highway 6 and the Silverado on 249. I prefer Alamo Drafthouse for a multitude of reasons, but reservations are better!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas Gift

A friend posted this article on Facebook today. It's a cute story about parents who take the month of November to set up crazy scenarios for their kids to discover using plastic, toy dinosaurs. They wanted to spur on their kid's imagination and felt like this was a great way to do so while creating magic and wonder. I love this article, their ideas, and delight in trying to imagine what the girls would think. It seems very much to me like the "Elf on the Shelf" idea.

I love the idea of Elf on the Shelf for all the fun scenarios your kids can wake up to discover. There are blogs and pins devoted to different ideas for what to do. But something about the game rubs me the wrong way. As I told my friend who posted the dinosaur article, the whole "reporting back to Santa about your nice or naughty status" really rubs me the wrong way. And this is coming from a person who, as a kid, was almost definitely on the nice list. I think it is hard to hold that over a kid's head for these months out of the year.

Granted, we are not necessarily a heavy Santa family. We take free pics with Santa at Chick Fil A, the girls think he hands out candy canes and apples, and we haven't had to address the "is he real or not" question yet. When that time comes, we have decided to emphasize the original meaning of Santa, encouraging the kids to look for opportunities to find ways to be Santa, and to tell them it is a wonderful game that families play and for families to decide when it is best for kids to know the truth behind the game or not. I will report back on how that goes...

So why the fuss over the naughty or nice list if we aren't a Santa heavy family? Because of what it implies about Christmas. It should be no secret that Christmas is/can be/should be a heavily Christian holiday. I'm not going to argue about the origins of Christmas and whether or not this time of year was actually when His birth took place. I will argue that, for Christians, this time of year is special. We give gifts in love, we try to help out others, and we take extra time to be with family. It's nice. On a more religious side, Christians remember the gift that Jesus and His birth was. His birth, life, death, and resurrection was not just a gift, it was The Gift. It was The Gift that changed everything and it was freely given. There was no naughty or nice list, no checking it twice, no single action or deed that could put you on or take your name off of this gift. By simply holding out your hands and heart to accept, you are the recipient of The Gift. So by adding the naughty and nice component of The Elf on the Shelf game, you are nullifying the freely given Gift that we are all eligible to receive.

Am I calling for the downfall of Elf on the Shelf? No. I think it is a really fun game. But it is simply not for our family in that aspect. I think it's odd that the kids aren't allowed to touch the Elf or the magic goes away and frankly, I think they look a little like the dummy puppets used by ventriloquists. However, as stated, I love the fun antics that Moms and Dads get to put the Elf in for extra Christmas fun. I think after seeing the Dinosaur antics and Elf antics, we may have to come up with our own Christmas fun, just in a different way that fits our family better!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Keegan's Date

Back in February, we took MacKenzie on her own date with Mattie and I. We have been meaning to take Keegan on a date of her own, but timing wasn't working out. We finally got the chance today to take our girl on her own date night with Mommy and Daddy. She loved it.

When I asked her what she wanted to do, she told me she "wanted to wun ewands"...we figured that going to a store or two, the mall, and to get dinner would cover that. She loved holding both our hands and swinging through the mall. We decided to kick it up another notch by letting her decide if she wanted a treat from the Disney Store or if she wanted to build her own bear at Build A Bear. She gleefully picked her own bear, exclaiming that it was so nice and soft. She loved the process of stuffing it, kissing the little heart, and picking the outfit for the bear to come home in.

We stopped in a few more stores including a quick run into the Disney Store so I could check on a few things. One of the workers gave Keegan a color page and told her "Happy Thanksgiving", Keegan replied with a big ole hug and a "Gig'em Aggies." We are so proud. We then made our way over to BJ's for dinner. She loved sitting between us in the booth, talking about what food we were going to order, and dipping her mac and cheese into her ice cream...blgh! As we walked through the parking lot, I told her to be careful and not to drop her new bear "Lily". She looked indignantly at me and said, "I didn't!". At that moment, she stumbled and dropped her bear on the ground. As she crouched to pick her up she looked up at me and exclaimed, "I did!" It was pretty cute and very ironic. 

Our last little errand was to run into Kohl's to look for something for Daddy. She loved those last little moments with us, but was very happy to go get Johnny and MacKenzie from my mom. She loves her siblings so much and I think she was a little confused as to why they weren't with us. Everyone had a good time in their respective treats though and I am glad for it! We hope to be a bit more consistent with one on one time with the kids through the coming years. It is good for everyone to have that extra time and attention!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Words of Wisdom

I have written before about the little bits of wisdom and knowledge that I find from The Biggest Loser. Tonight I was able to sit down and watch this past week's episode while making a hat for Johnny. At the end of the episode, one of the contestants was eliminated from the main prize as his team lost the weigh in. While they had him reflect on his experiences at the ranch and with the show, he said this, "It was in me, I just never took the time to find it." What beautiful words to capture our capabilities. There is so much inside of us that we could be, that we could do, if we would just search for it. I think that we all, myself included, look for it, see or meet resistance, and stop. I have an amazing ability to do this with certain parts of my life. I have talked and talked about wanting more organization and scheduling for my home, but it doesn't happen. And what is worse, I know I have it in me, I just refuse to bring it out. I do so because it is hard and tiring to get things on track, when I know it will be worth it in the long run. But there are other things too. I think about nursing one day, something I very much feel like I have in me, but worry about how I can make it all work, and I wonder if I will find it and make it work. I think about athletics in high school and how much I doubted myself and how even now, I settle for an easy workout instead of using what strength is really inside of me. I think about the power I have to be an advocate for so many great things, but how I shuffle it all to the side in order to make room for things that are easy and comfortable. I want to be uncomfortable and to find those things that are in me. I do good. I want to do great. In order to do great, I have to find power, strength, knowledge, abilities, and blessings that are buried deep inside me and bring them out. As I have written here before, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” ― John Wesley What can you do if you take the time to find what is in you?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Work Firsts

We rate events to some degree in the catering business. There have been some great ones, some good ones, some ok ones, and a handful of "can we please never talk about that one again" ones. We often laugh that it cannot be the worst event unless 1) the cake falls, 2) one of our servers disappears, never to be heard from again, or 3) someone pukes all over the floor.

We had a first today though. First time we had to call 911 for somebody. The guest ended up being ok, but it was a very worried full room of 220+people for awhile. We also broke two doors, had to improvise our tooshies off, and someone DID puke. Actually more than one did. But thankfully it was outside and it was raining so I didn't have to clean it up this time.

Let's hope that is the last EMS (and puking) episode for awhile.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Good Outcomes and Perspective

My Yahoo! News feed is full of labor and delivery articles and opinion pieces. The feed has become adaptive in predicting what articles you are more likely to look further into and it knows that I am a developing birth junkie/aspiring, hopeful, eventual L&D nurse so it plugs a lot of those types of stories into my feed. Unfortunately there is a lot more in regards to opinions pieces than good, traditional, researched articles.

I'm going to be honest here.

And this isn't about anyone in particular because I hear it all the time. I have read it at least once a week from various news feeds, forums, commentary, or "articles". I have heard it both in direct conversation with several people in numerous and varied settings.

When you are having a baby, the ultimate goal is to have a healthy Mommy and a healthy Baby. All else is secondary. There are times that birth experiences are less than ideal. There are times that things we want in L&D don't or quite simply can't happen. It is challenging, from my perspective, to create an ideal setting when you are talking about humans assisting humans giving birth to humans. All those humans mean a whole lot of variables. Childbirth is difficult and can be dangerous and can be deadly times two. So ultimately, the goal is healthy times two.

I think our society has started to get so caught up in the "ideal birth" that we lose sight of that goal. When a woman is pregnant, she is flooded with information and opinions about what is right and what is wrong in all different aspects of baby growing and baby raising with many of those opinions being related to the actual labor and delivery. Most women just want to do what is right by their kid and somehow, the birth experience has become a part of that. Do I think that birth experience is important? Absolutely it is. I was very caught up in birth experience for all three of my labors and was happy with some aspects and not so happy with others. Do I think there are improvements that could be made in hospitals across the world in making this process better? Yes. No medical service should stagnate in their service to others. Do I think that birth experience is the end all be all in determining whether that birth was a success? Absolutely not.

Do you know what a bad birth experience is? One where you end up dead. Or where your child ends up dead. Or where you are permanently injured. Or your child is permanently injured. Do you know what a less than ideal birth experience is? When you leave the hospital without your child because they are too sick or too little or not doing what they need to be doing. Or when your child leaves the hospital without you because of an unexpected illness or infection. Or when an unexpected/at delivery diagnosis leaves you with worry and research and hinders the bonding time needed with your baby. Any other outcome is a good birth experience. Any time Mommy and Baby are healthy, is a good experience. I appreciate women wanting to invest in making a special and amazing day even better. I appreciate women making decisions about their L&D that requires research and preparation and will help them do good work the day they meet their kids. But let's not lose sight of the fact that we are very fortunate to live in a time and country where we can be picky about the type of Labor and Delivery we want. Let's be grateful that we are so blessed that we can choose much about our baby's births and that for most, the outcome is great.

Let's refocus our perspective into what a good birth experience really is and remember that big picture goal, healthy, is what we need and anything else is just extra.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ds Clinic

Once again, I am so glad for a fantastic city like Houston that is filled to the brim with all sorts of medical facilities and experts to help us raise all of our kids better, but especially to meet the needs of Johnny. Today we had our long anticipated meeting with the Down syndrome clinic. We are also grateful that all of our specialists (except for ECI) are within the TCH (Texas Children's Hospital) system. This means that all of their records are linked up and can be found quickly for each doctor to reference. Which, by the way, can we appeal to get ECI into the TCH system, it would make my life THAT much easier!

We are fairly well researched and connected as far as Down syndrome goes, but we really wanted to get Johnny into the clinic. It takes awhile to get in (we have been waiting for 10 months...that is a short wait), but I found the experts to be worth it. While they only gave us a few tokens of new information, we were pleased for several reasons.

First- They are experts. Hearing them say that Johnny is doing great and is healthy, is totally different from my pediatrician (who I love) saying that he is doing great and healthy. They see kids all over the spectrum on a regular basis, they know what great looks like. My pediatrician rarely sees kids with Ds, their sample set to pull from is just smaller. Additionally, our OT, our new Speech Pathologist, their Speech Path., their OT, and both Doctors who assessed Johnny were all on the same mark for his development. To hear 6 different medical professional make the same ascertains for Johnny is important, it means that he really is measuring at that mark.

Second- We needed a baseline and we needed it in the official system. We want to be diligent and proactive about his care and meeting his needs. In order to provide the best care for him, we needed to have a good idea about where he is starting. We find this to be vastly important for measuring his care later on.

Third- We got a lot of questions answered. The experts there are happy with kids with Ds measuring at half their actual age. Johnny was assessed to be at a 10 month age. This means that he is doing really well and that we need to keep on doing what we are doing. Of course Mommy and Daddy want to catch up a bit more, so we will add in more techniques as we move forward. We have been encouraged to do three things with Johnny- read, move, and sign. It seems so simple. Our Doctor said the best therapy (outside of what we already receive) is to read to him as much as possible. He said that physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy weight which kids with Ds have. We were encouraged to continue signing by every person we talk to. I thought it was fantastic to hear such simple encouragement for raising him.

There were several other facts, tips, and bits of information we learned today, but we will leave it there for now as I process through the additional information. It was a blessing to add more experts into our growing list and to have more feedback for our boy.

 Johnny and His BFF

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Today we used a Groupon to go to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Going to the museum was one of my favorite field trips as a kid. We would walk around, seeing everything the museum had to offer, visit the IMAX or Butterfly center, then cross the street to Herman Park for our sack lunch and rolling down the "hill". I still love the museum, but had noticed over our past few visits how outdated everything looked. Everywhere you turned, the '70s was calling and wanted their displays back. I wanted to enjoy myself, but I kept getting distracted from the orange, brown, and gold colors, the retro displays, and less than interactive exhibits. I wrote a year ago about how the new Dinosaur exhibit had blown us away and we were so happy to see the changes being made to the museum. Those updates and changes have continued! The kids and I were able to investigate the New Egypt exhibit and the Native American exhibit as well as ambling through the dinosaurs. I wish I had more time to look through Egypt and Native America. The girls were convinced that it was a maze and their only purpose was to find their way out. I tried to slow them down to show them some of the neat stuff we were passing by, only to be met with "Yeah, mom, let's go this way!" The Egypt exhibit has architectural details and a layout to help remind you of what ancient Egypt looked like and the Native America exhibit was a great combination of displays of artifacts and posters or pictures. The girls also liked the gems and jewels exhibit so they could find their favorite colors in the gems and they "picked out" the jewels they wanted because they "had enough money". I think HMNS is doing a fantastic job of making sure the new exhibits are fresh and interesting in order to draw more young (and old) learners in. I also have to figure out a way to go see the Jerusalem IMAX. First problem- no time to go during the day. Second problem- regular IMAX makes me incredibly motion sick, this one is 3-D and I want to barf just thinking about it. But like I told Matt, it would actually make me feel more like when I was in Israel since I got horribly sick towards the end of my trip there. But that is another story for another time!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


It has been a long time since I have been consistently working out. I actually got back into a relative routine 8 weeks or so after having Johnny. But with supply issues, regular colds, life happening, potty training, more supply issues, vacation, and more supply issues, I definitely fell off the working out grid. I missed it too, I worked out at the gym up to the Friday before he was born and walked the weekend and Monday before he was born. I tend to enjoy working out when I make time for it. I am not into any fancy classes or techniques (although I do love Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred), I like 20-30 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of weights. I enjoy running, but it is challenging for me and I am just as happy walking or doing the elliptical machine. This week, I pledged to get back to the gym. Part of me was slightly ashamed, our gym is small enough that I knew they would notice "Oh she is back!", but they were very happy to see all of us. I have enjoyed the way I feel the past two days, sore, tired, and accomplished. I also enjoy the chance to filter out the gym music and chatter and know that my kids are well taken care of as I get lost in thought. I don't know what fitness goals I have other than eat less, move more. I know I am not happy with the way my clothes fit right now and I would like to tone up while losing residual baby weight. I am good with it being a process and a refocus on shifting our lifestyle back onto a healthier path. I am not one for crazy diets either, just moderations and portion control, two things we haven't been practicing super well. One of my main focuses in working out is to give the kids a good example. I want them to enjoy moving, to look for physical strength, and to be willing to work hard to meet goals. I told MacKenzie today that it was important for Mommy to work out because a strong and healthy Mommy would be good for the whole family. I owe it both to myself and to them to be healthy and strong. I am happy with the past two days and will look forward to continuing rebuilding my pattern again over the coming weeks!

Monday, November 11, 2013


Today we had an evaluation for Johnny to receive services from ECI for Speech Therapy. I was hoping for services once a month and we have been approved for twice a month! I am very happy that he will be able to work with a professional who will teach us both ways to help him in all things related to speech, feeding, and other oral developments. She assessed his abilities by watching him, playing a few games with him, asking me questions, and observing him feed. We have a handful of goals, that in size months he will be feeding himself table foods for one meal per day, that he is drinking from a straw cup or regular cup, and that he is making additional vowel and consonant sounds on top of what he is doing now. She thinks he is right at the 9-12 month range with his verbal abilities and I am good with that. I am excited to begin working with her in December and to see Johnny moving along!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tiny Blessings Resources

I think it is beneficial from time to time to repost our favorite links and patterns. Several people have shown an interest in participating in our current collection of hats and have asked for tutorials. Here are resources that we have found useful. Feel free to comment with additional resources that you like!

For YouTube tutorials and patterns, there is no beating the Crochet Geek
Here is her pattern for a baby cap using single crochet

Here is her pattern for a baby cap using double crochet

There are many more patterns on her website and she has a user friendly search engine. Additionally, she links up the YouTube video tutorials to make it easy to watch and learn. She helped me make the transition from straight lines to hats and from single crochet to double crochet!

Jennifer Chang, one of our crochet-ers, uses Ravelry as a resource both for her business, Joyful Designs, and for Tiny Blessings hats and gowns. It requires registration, but it is a free resource.

Bev's Country Cottage has numerous patterns of hats and gowns, in addition to having a size chart that is helpful for those teeny sizes.

I recently found this blog and they have a fantastic sizing chart, tips, and several patterns.

Once you get the hang of the basic hat, I use etsy for ideas of color combinations or other cute items.

There are a ton of different free patterns and links on this website as well. They have cute hat ideas to try out!

Happy Crocheting!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Buddy Walk 2013

Today was the DSAH Buddy Walk. It is a fundraiser and event celebrated at various times across the nation to raise awareness and funds for Down syndrome and related issues. We technically could have gone to the Buddy Walk last year, but seeing as I was a week and a half post partum and still trying to figure out how to get my son to eat, we passed.

Can I be candid?

I stressed over this event. I felt that I needed to go, to see what the event was all about and to physically show support for my son. I was called, compelled, led, whatever word you choose. I almost went last year and regretted not doing so (I know, I know) and pledged that I would be there this go around.

I was also very scared of going to this event. I was fearful of seeing so many people with Down syndrome, not because I feared them or felt prejudice against them, but because of the overwhelming reminder of the community that we are part of. I think it is still taking time to come to terms with. I have a lot of fears and concerns still and it is hard for me to explain right now.

In hopes of this event being better for us, I prayed for support. My heart's desire was for a large team to spend the time with us and maybe in the process of raising that team, some funds could be collected for DSAH as well. I had this image of matching 12th Man T-shirts for Johnny Football's team, of a great time with friends running around, of being able to connect my two networks (Buddy friends and other friends) together at the event. Outside of expectations for the event itself, I yearned for more. Partially to shield myself from having to face the fears on my heart. If I had a large group of people to talk to and "organize" then I wouldn't have to worry about all the other people there. Partially to simply have that physical presence of support for us, for Johnny, and for his diagnosis.

It became painfully obvious early on that a "movie" image of a perfect Buddy Walk team was not in the cards for us. I checked each day to see if anyone had joined our team or if any funds were pledged only to be met by an empty roster and zero funds. I mentioned the Buddy Walk in conversation to silence or awkward changes in conversation. I put reminders out there, stopping short of a plea for somebody, anybody to walk with us. Pride grappled with humility as I mulled over what to do. I didn't know if I should back out of the walk, if I should beg for Buddies, or if I should throw my shoulders back, hold my head high, and know that our family is enough support for my son. I desperately wanted to back out of the walk, but Matt reminded me that we made a commitment and we needed to follow through. If nothing else, it was a good example of completing a task that we had set out to do, despite the circumstances that we saw as being less than ideal. A friend asked us just this week if she could walk with us. I honestly started crying. We had someone on our team. Another friend, being unable to join us for several different reasons, donated funds a few weeks ago. We had a single family join us and a single family donate to us.

I wanted more, but I got enough. Did I want the large teams like so many of my friends from Buddy Groups had? Did I want spectacle and excitement over Johnny? Did I want people to devote time to us, helping to raise awareness and with their physical presence say, "We are Johnny's 12th Man!"? Of course. A thousand times over I wanted these things. But what I got was enough to sustain me. Am I disappointed? More than I can say. Do I think I will join again? That remains to be seen...very, very seen. Sometimes it's feast, sometimes it's famine, but today it was simply enough. For our Buddies who joined us, Johnny Football and the 12th Man, I am thankful to God.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Can we just have a quick round of applause for this beautiful weather?

The girls woke Matt and I up this morning and we had some quick snuggles in bed. We heated up homemade venison kolaches and Mattie made me coffee with pumpkin pie creamer while I snuggled Johnny for his morning bottle. To top it off, the girls were perfectly sweet and ridiculously cute this morning. Everything they said just got cuter and cuter. Today we got to play with Keegan's bestie, Lylah, and the three girls played outside from 9 until 12:30 when I was able to convince them to eat some lunch. They were dirty and covered in chalk dust, but with the exception of Lylah insisting that she was Lylah and not a pirate, the girls has a fantastic time. I got a few things done, worked and read with Johnny, and even finished up a crochet hat for Tiny blessings while Johnny played in the grass. The outside time must have worn the girls out though, they were falling asleep in the car while we ran errands, were increasingly whiney (and not as charmingly cute) as the evening went on. We wanted to go to an outdoor movie at a local church, but the kids rest was more important. It was a simple, but lovely day. I am grateful for being able to have many of them.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


With the change in weather and Halloween long since past (a week is long since past right), it feels like the holidays are beginning to have their usual looming presence over our to do lists. I am just trying to work on organizing normal life as a wife of a graduate student/businessman, SAHM of three kids, part time contract worker for four different places, communications leader of a non profit, friend, family member, church goer and then we are going to throw holidays into the mix? Granted, Target, WalMart, and the Malls have all had their displays up for weeks, warning us of the festivities approaching, but it still feels like it is sneaking up on us. What is helping is the girls growing excitement for the holidays. I remember being a kid and barely being able to contain my excitement and anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The girls are noticing all the extra Christmas decorations at stores and can tell the vibe is changing. What isn't helping is a trip Matt has to take that will shuffle a lot of our holiday "getting ready" around to accommodate a traveling spouse. Because it is only November 7, I have plenty of time to figure it all out...right?!? Please say right! Because I think we have time then I will remind myself to take a deep breath, go ahead and purchase a gift or two, consider putting out decorations early, and just enjoy the season. After all, there is only one second, third, and fifth Christmas of a kid's life and we need to spend a lot of time enjoying it. And the 50 degree weather!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Teachable moments

In education, they stress the importance of relevant lessons and teachable moments. On a friend's Facebook post today, I was slightly teasing her about taking her homeschooled kids to the Renaissance Festival (not teasing about that, teasing about potential lessons to go with it). My suggestion was a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the Festival to the real Renaissance followed by a letter writing campaign urging the organizers to switch the name of the Festival to MidAgesFest. As we spoke back and forth about lessons and teaching, I thought about the teaching I do as a mainstream education perusing mom. I find it to be very liberating in raising my kids to have help from other teachers in working on my children's education. This allows me time to focus on their interests (space, dinosaurs, etc), less worries over making sure I stick to a plan, and more of the teachable moments integrated into our every day lives.

Today I had Mac practice her writing on her thank you cards for her birthday party. I wrote out, on a piece of paper, "Thank you Love Mac" and had her write them on each card. While I will add specifics to the cards tomorrow, I love that each card had her mark and labor of love on them. It amazed me how she was able to (joyfully) sit and write copy work on 12 cards. It's a good lesson in gratitude and in practicing writing! I am hoping to help her draft a letter for some of our servicemen in a letter writing campaign that is going on around Facebook.

Those teachable moments are goins everywhere. In baking and cooking we work on math, order and sequencing, and talk about science. In all the places we go we sound out, read, and spell words. When playing outside we chalk letters, words, and numbers or use other mediums as well. Matt practices Spanish with the girls in a variety of settings. We talk about patterns in birthday and Christmas decorations. The teaching is found everywhere and not just the formal stuff.

I am glad for my background as a teacher to help me see all of these great snippets that can be used to further my kid's abilities. Of course, I have a couple of more formal lessons that I would mind putting together too!!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Extra School

After much deliberation, number crunching, and planning, the girls started a second day of school today. We had originally intended for two days a week, but when we had to switch to the new school, there was no room in our budget for the second day. Now that I am working more, we are able to take care of that extra expense. I am so grateful for their school. The school is small enough that numerous teachers know the kids, not just their own teacher, and the kids get a lot of physical activity. They also send me a daily report to my email that includes all the things they did that day, any issues, and pictures of them participating in their school work. MacKenzie was very happy to go for her extra day of school, Keegan was happy to do anything that Mac and I were excited about, and I was grateful for the chance to spend extra time with Johnny and get a few more things done easier than I would have with the two older tag-a-longs.

That being said, we have a very tired house tonight. The girls were on the verge of full meltdowns from exerting themselves so much at school and ended up asleep in bed at 6:30. Johnny is cutting top teeth so he was in bed by 5. I am not sure how those early bed times are going to look in the morning, but Mattie is grateful that it gave me the opportunity to fold six loads of laundry!

I am excited to see where their schooling takes them over the next few months and I am enjoying supplementing and teaching them all sorts of new things here as well!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lost in the Blood Draw

I forgot to post the good things about Johnny's Doctor visit last week.

First, he is good to go on all whole milk (we never had to buy formula! I know I said that in a previous post, but it makes me happy). Second, after careful research and conference attending on our pediatrician's part, he is now free to eat whatever he wants. They don't recommend waiting until 2 for shellfish and peanut products anymore. Obviously if there is a reason for concern then proceed with caution, but he is good to go. I am excited because I may try some oral stim stuff with a bit of peanut butter on the roof of his mouth (yes, like a puppy). Third, his growth is so consistently wonderful! He is 28.75" long which makes him 13th percentile for height on the regular chart and 65th or so on the Ds chart and weighs 18 lbs, 8.5 ounces which puts him at 12th percentile for weight and 50th or so on the Ds chart. His growth curve is almost perfect which is a great measure of how healthy he is. She was also really pleased with what he is doing and how we are getting and fighting for more resources for him.

Poor little guy did get his 5 shots, but other than that, he charmed all the office ladies on his birthday visit. What a good little guy!

 Happy Birthday Sticker!

He insisted on his own chicken strip and was gnawing on it!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I have two large ministries that I am working with right now. The first is Tiny Blessings, the crochet project for Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. The second is Coordinating the first "hour" of childcare at church. I love that I am able to volunteer my time with two very good organizations and that neither take a measurable amount of time away from my family.

The best part, though, is integrating my family into my ministries, especially the kids. The kids love ministering to the needs of others, especially when they are given responsibilities and asked for their input. The girls love to go to Hobby Lobby to pick out yarn for hats for the "sick babies". They love to go up to the hospital with me to do a drop off of items, especially when I give them a bag to carry and hand to the nurses themselves. They love to look at all the hats or pick out which kind of hat I should make next. Recently, I have been having at least one of them, and the past two weeks I have had all three helping me set up the childcare area at church. They love holding the sign in papers for each class and picking out snacks to put on the counters. Today they were able to pick out toys to put out for the infant class and helped close doors that were open from cleaning. We try to talk about why we help other's out, but I think they understand. They have such a pure, joyous heart when they do their work, I should learn more from them on tired Sunday mornings or when crocheting with a color I don't prefer!

I love that as I teach my kids and train them up, they do the same to me!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I love Fall

We were woken up this morning, earlier than expected, by two happy girls and beautiful weather. We decided to take advantage of the day, had a slightly impromptu garage sale and enjoyed the first half of the day outside. The weather was perfect, cold to cool, bright, and clear. We had a fair amount of traffic and sent everything we didn't sell off to Cypress Assistance Ministries, an organization that helps with a variety of needs in the area. The girls chalked, blew bubbles, rode their bike/trike, and had a picnic. They occasionally went inside, but made their way back outside more often than not. Combine the gorgeousness with homemade blueberry muffins and coffee and the morning was pretty much perfect.

This evening I drove to work with two friends. God was very good to us and despite a huge setback (Mom getting caught at the other TWO weddings), we were able to smoothly take care of everything. It was a fairly easy wedding with us being only slightly busier than we usually are. The best part about working with friends, driving home, laughing so hard I can't breath and then feeding off of each other's laughter. It makes me happy to have such good times while helping my mom and making money.

The last really great part of the day- a shower and an extra hour of sleep!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ds Worries

There are many times that having a kid with Ds looks exactly the same as having a kid without Ds. We play, we work on milestones (more deliberately, more frequently), we eat, we snuggle, we tickle, we take away phones, paper, straws, and forks at restaurants, we console when he is sad, we giggle when he is angry, and we rejoice when he is happy. We work hard to make him happy. Most of our lives consist of these things. They are very normal and very typical components of raising a kid.

There are other times that having a kid with Ds is a challenge. Yesterday and today had their challenges. Every year, Johnny will have blood tests to check his thyroid and for any indications of him developing leukemia. Thyroid issues run rampant in people with Ds and leukemia is found in the "Ds population" at an alarming rate of 1 in 100. It is very scary to me. I don't like risk factors anymore so I try not to look at that ratio too much.

Yesterday, at our one year appointment, we did the first blood draw for these tests. Anyone that says having a kid with Ds is easy, can come with us to one of these appointments. Anyone that tells me that having a kid with Ds isn't hard, can help me hold Johnny down next time. Anyone that thinks that kids with Ds are always happy, can look at his screaming face while they find a vein that will work and take the necessary vials for testing. It is a challenge. It is really hard and I hate doing it. I completely feel that it is necessary and well warranted. I am completely grateful for medicine and all the detection that takes place to help us treat any issues he may have, but it breaks my heart to be brave for my son as he gets this blood draw (or any of his extra treatment so far). There is only so long a mom can put on a smile, whisper sweet things, and fight back tears. It's torture.

Then we have the waiting game to hear the results. I was constantly checking my phone today, wondering if the call had come, eagerly answering every number. Dr. Bel called us with the results herself (at 5:15 on a Friday evening...our pedi rocks) and let us know what they found. The lead and leukemia results were fine (praise, praise, praise). As far as the thyroid issues go, they test 5 different things, and one of those was elevated. For TSH, in kids Johnny's age, they look for a number between 4 & 5, his was a 6 point something. I am not sure what the standard deviation is for kids his age, but it is enough to warrant extra testing. So we add new specialist to our list, we will be seeing a pediatric endocrinologist through Texas Children's Hospital soon (praise that we live in Houston and that all of these specialists have systems that talk to one another).

It is challenging to deal with all of this. Sometimes my head feels like it will explode with keeping track of all of the doctors, appointments, and medical needs that he has. But honestly, he is so easy in everything else in his life, that he really makes up for it. It makes my heart hurt to see how much he puts up with medically, but his pure, good smile shines through as soon as his initial cry is over. I am glad that we have him and I am glad he has us. We stay strong for our son and know that he (and his siblings) are worth the fight.