Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Greatest New Year's Eve

Dear Austin,

I can't believe it has been three years since our lives were forever changed by your birth.

You surprised us with your New Year's Eve entrance. On the way to the hospital we were making phone calls to let people know that our party was officially changing locations. I have to admit that celebrating New Year's Eve and Day in the hospital was not great when it came to the food and entertainment, but celebrating you was one of the greatest joys of our lives.

You were born at 11:58 am. The first time I saw your precious face it brought tears to my eyes. You were perfect and soon revealed your sweet and sensitive personality. The months that followed brought your smiles, giggles, babbles, belly laughs, army crawls, first steps, first words and so much more.

There were and are so many days that I stand in awe of you. As a teacher, it brings me such joy to see your love of learning and how quickly you pick up on new things. You are gentle, kind and compassionate. I will never forget how on Christmas day when I started crying thinking about the recent loss of Abuela, you cupped my face in your little hands and said with your sweet little voice, "Don't cry Mommy. It's okay. Don't be sad. Awww, I love you Mommy." You made everyone's heart melt with your sweetness.

You love to laugh and find great joy in making others laugh as well. It has been so much fun to see your sense of humor develop and we are certain you will continue to entertain us with your antics.

You have always loved music and this year that has really blossomed. You sing ALL the time! You make music from the most simple things and I believe you hear music in simple things too. I can't wait to see what part music will play in your life as you continue to grow.

Your interests this year have mostly remained the same. You love all things transportation, but have a special love for tractors and trucks. You enjoy cooking, both real and imaginary. I guess it is in your blood! You like to figure out how things work and you ask a lot of questions. We often wonder if you will be an engineer like Daddy and Grandpa.

It is truly amazing how much you have learned, grown and accomplished in your three years. Becoming your mommy has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. You are a daily blessing and I thank God that he entrusted your beautiful life to Daddy and me. My heart overflows with love, pride and joy over you.

I look forward to all that this year will bring you.

Happy 3rd Birthday buddy!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trauma at Nana's

The Saturday before Christmas we arrived at Nana's house around dinner time. After unpacking and stretching a little bit we sat down to eat. We hadn't been to Nana's since her new house was finished and Austin had never been to her previous house.

As we were seated eating dinner, we heard a gasp from his little body followed by, "Look Mommy! It's a reindeer!"

Austin had spotted by stepdad's prize buck mounted on the wall.

His excitement soon turned and he grabbed my arm, looked me in the face with a worried and puzzled expression and said, "Mommy, the reindeer is stuck in the wall. Help him! Help him!"

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Unplugged

No, I didn't magically disappear or fall off the face of the Earth.

We headed over the rivers and through the many woods to Nana's house for Christmas and what awaited us was NO INTERNET.

I thought I would have some access through dial up on my mom's computer, but the first day we were there, her computer crashed.

After a couple days we got desperate enough that we headed to the local library (a mere 20 minutes away) to at least check the mounting emails and such. What we found there was a 30 minute time limit.

Needless to say, we pretty much just decided to have an unplugged Christmas and enjoy the relaxation.

And boy do I have some stories, so stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a Mommy who was desperate to get the perfect Christmas picture of her two little darlings.
On her first attempt to capture this elusive shot, she dressed the children in their Christmas clothes and the baby spit up all over the front of her outfit. The boy refused all bribes and so no pictures were taken because the mommy could see that things weren't headed in a good direction.

On the second attempt the boy was more cooperative and the baby didn't get sick on herself, but looking at the camera was not on the agenda.

The baby was obsessed with touching the boy and he was only briefly okay with that.

Soon the boy began to cry after having his face scratched and so the mommy resigned herself to yet another failed attempt.

However, she realized that the baby still seemed somewhat cooperative and so she plugged away.

The Mommy was pleased with some of her success with the baby, but the desire of getting the perfect Christmas picture was still unfulfilled. So, she tried yet again with a few props.

Again the baby was intrigued by her brother's face and all its parts.

And, on several occasions she had to display her newly learned skill of "soooo big."

The children took turns being cooperative.

The Mommy finally realized that the perfect picture she had envisioned in her mind was not, in fact, the best way to communicate the joy of her household. The love and happiness was found in pictures she had already taken.

And so the Mommy was content with her Christmas pictures and proudly displayed them for all her family and friends to see. Perfection she discovered was simply a matter of perspective.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ropa Vieja

Okay, here is the recipe that many of my family members and friends have been begging for. I am finally following through on my promise to get it to everyone.

Ropa Vieja, translated means old clothes. I know, that makes you hungry right? Anyway, it is actually a wonderfully savory (not spicy) Cuban shredded beef dish. I hope you will give it a try, because I don't think you will be disappointed. This version is really easy because most of the work is done by a slow cooker or crockpot. Let's get started!

Ropa Vieja

2 lb. flank steak
½ green or red bell pepper, cut into strips (I prefer red)
½ Spanish onion, cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Coarse Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
½ cup red wine (not cooking wine...the real thing)

2 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 cups of broth from the crock pot or beef broth
1 small can tomato sauce (8 oz.)
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
splash of white vinegar (optional)

Place flank steak into slow cooker and cover with onions, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Pour red wine over the top. Add water until the meat is just covered with liquid.

This is what it should look like before you put the lid on and cook it for 6-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

When the steak is tender (easily shreddable with a fork), remove the onion, bell pepper and garlic with a slotted spoon. Chop cooked vegetables and set aside. Remove meat and shred with two forks. I also do a rough chop so that the strings of meat aren't too long, but that is a preference thing. To a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and saute vegetables. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano and broth. Stir to combine. Add shredded beef. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 25 minutes or until sauce is reduced and "clinging" to the meat.

Serve with white rice.

Personally I like it with black beans too, so this is what my plate looks like before I dig in.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Move

I am not sure why my children insist on doing the army crawl instead of getting up on their hands and knees, but it has been their crawl of choice. Mia is still not pulling up very much, however she is into just about everything.

She loves being on the move and has gotten into the dog's water/food, the DVDs, many of Austin's untouchables, every little speck of anything on the floor and much more.

I know this crawling phase won't last long so I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. She might be making more messes than before, but she is still irresistibly cute while she is making them.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

How I Roll (or wrap)

Christmas Meme

I got this from Elaine at The Miss Elaine-ous Life and I thought it would be fun. You should "play" along too! Let me know if you do!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I do both, but wrapping is definitely my favorite.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Real. I love the smell and the look of the real thing. I will admit that this year it is neither though. We won't be here for Christmas and with a crawler that is into everything we opted for saving the money and using it on other things.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? Within the first week after the new year.

5. Do you like eggnog? I love eggnog. I love to put it in my coffee instead of half and half. Mmmmm.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A doll that had hair that "grew", could be styled, and then "cut" or shortened with the turn of a dial on her back.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My husband.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No, but I know which one I want I have just not found a price that I can justify. I love the Willow Tree nativity set.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Usually mail, but this year it will be email to save a little money.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A set of polka-dotted matching headbands intended for a pre-teen or younger girl and given to me when I was seventeen.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story. We watch it every Christmas Eve while we are wrapping presents. My sisters and I started the tradition.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually not until after Thanksgiving unless I come across a great deal or fear that the item won't be available once everyone else starts their shopping.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Only for a white elephant party.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? There is nothing in particular because I pretty much enjoy all of the Christmas eating, but I will say especially the cookies.

16. Lights on the tree?! It is my personal preference and though I can appreciate a beautiful tree with colored lights, my tree will always be white and no blinking.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Breathe of Heaven

18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home? Depends on the year. This year we are traveling.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yes

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The lines to checkout just about everywhere.

23. What theme or color are you using? I haven't really decorated this year, but my usual color scheme is red and silver.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Depends where I am for Christmas but I love the ham.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Closet organizers because I get stressed out just thinking about how horrible our master bedroom closet is.

26. Do you have a favorite ornament, what? My favorite ornaments are the ones that I have received from my grandfather each year for many years. They are very special to me and because of that tradition we started one of our own where we buy the kids an ornament that is representative of something they did, liked or achieved that year. Then I paint their name and the year on the ornament. When they grow up they will have them for their first tree or I will gladly keep them and reminisce.

27. Gifts from Santa? Wrapped or Unwrapped? Both. Probably one of each. The big, difficult to wrap one will be unwrapped.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sorry Grandmas

From the mind of Austin:

The following beverage box was sitting on the counter waiting to be taken to the recycle bin.

Austin: Look Mommy!

Me: What is it Austin?

Austin: Wow Mommy.

Me: What is that on the box?

Austin: It's a grandma.

Me (after turning the box around thinking there may be a different picture on the other side): What?

Austin: It's a grandma, Mommy, it's a grandma. Hi little grandma, hi!

A closer look at the "grandma"

I would love to get in his head and understand the reasoning going on in there.

Sorry to all of you grandmas. I am sure he meant that in the most loving and endearing way. I mean the elf is smiling and carrying what could be gifts or treats on his back.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Heaven Sent

Dear Abuela,

I wasn't ready for this. But then again, I don't think I would have ever been ready to lose you.

The last few weeks have been emotionally draining. I remember when I got the call from Dad that you had been knocked over at church and were taken to the hospital with suspected broken bones. I was relieved when I heard that it was your arm and not your hip. When the doctors said that surgery was inevitable, I knew it would be hard on you because you were so afraid of pain, but I also knew you could do it. It was miraculous how wonderfully the surgery went and how you were in NO pain just a couple days later. Unfortunately, you needed a little bit of rehabilitation and going to that rehab hospital changed a positive outlook into a nightmare.
I can't imagine how scared you were when you were getting sick and the nurse assigned to you that first night, turned off the call button because she was tired of having to come and clean you up. I don't understand people like that and I am sorry that you, in your frailty, had to endure such circumstances. But, even more heartbreaking is that you contracted that horrible bacteria while you were there. Only days later you were back at the hospital because it had firmly gripped your body.

I was sitting at the kitchen table feeding Mia when I got the phone call. The doctors were only giving you a 10% chance and I needed to fly home if I wanted to see you one more time. Only hours later I was there. It was so hard to see you all connected to machines and unable to talk to me, but I smiled and talked to you about the kids. That helped you calm down and my heart smiled. I only got to see you awake twice during the week I was home. I had pictures to show you of the kids, but you never got to see them. I flew home praying that you would be healed, but somehow knowing that I would be back because you were headed to your heavenly home.
I try so hard to think about the joy you are experiencing there, but I miss you here.

You see, I had a special place in my heart for you. You were a constant in my life. I knew that early EVERY morning, before the sun came up, you were reading your bible and praying for me and so many others. You were the most faithful person I have known in my life. Many others would say the same. Your prayers and God's answers to them, got me through some of the hardest times in my life.

Your love for me was so very apparent. You would have done anything and given everything to help me if I needed it. You were selfless in so many ways. You taught me to love, have faith, forgive, persevere and serve. I am honored and blessed to have had such a wonderful example and teacher. I mean it when I say that I hope that I will someday be half the Godly woman you were.

Mark asked me on our flight home from your funeral what my favorite memory of you was. I was too emotional to speak, but what rushed through my mind were all of the small things. I remember spending my days with you when I was very young. It was fun to get special attention because you owned and ran the day care center. Then there were the Saturdays when you would go to get your hair done in its trademark bun and it was so funny to see you with your hair down. I have to admit that I didn't enjoy the long, boring wait while you were getting beautiful but it always had its perks. I fondly remember the summer trips to Naples and how my sisters and I would argue in the car on the way there. You always bought us paper dolls or coloring books hoping it would appease us, but it never did. I vividly remember your utter frustration and the threats to never take us again. I recall that you wouldn't let us go to the pool or the beach after we had eaten, for fear that we would drown from cramping or something. I also remember the look on your face when you would discover that we had gotten the approval from Papi before the allotted time had passed and we were happily swimming, cramp-free. I laugh when I think about how when you and Papi moved to a smaller house spending the night meant sleeping on a mattress on the floor of your room. We would "rush" to fall asleep before the two of you, because the snoring was so loud that we could barely sleep. In fact, there was never any silence because you never snored in unison. Your snoring even fascinated Austin.

Disney World, cruises, day trips to the beach and to see the ships, ice cream and churros at King's, your fabulous cooking, the way you wrapped your bun in toilet paper to preserve it while you slept at night, your firm belief in old wives tales, your insistence that I wear the frilly, pink cape at my quince, the time that I lived with you after college, our Wednesday night early bird dinners ...the memories flood my mind and time and space do not allow me to document them all. But, if I was able to do just that, what any reader of this letter would see is that you blessed everyone that you came in contact with.

It is because you were such a wonderful person that you will be so greatly missed. I will miss the way your whole face scrunched up when you laughed really hard. I will miss your snore that could set dogs to howling and little children to crying. I will miss the phone calls telling me that I hadn't called recently enough. I will miss your signature dishes and the way you lovingly prepared them for all of us. I will miss the beautifully written cards that you would send for my birthday or other holidays. I will miss your patience, generosity, gentleness and humility. I will miss your devotion to all of us who loved you so much. I will miss the way you praised me for my accomplishments, even the smallest ones. I will miss the way you shared in my joy and my pain. I will miss your advice, encouragement and support. I will miss seeing you with my kids and being a part of their lives. I will miss YOU.

I have been so blessed in my life to have known you, spent time with you, be taught by you, live with you, be loved by you, have you as a beautiful example and share so many wonderful moments. It is because of the depth of the impact you have had on my life that I chose to name Mia after you. I hope that I will be able to convey to her the beauty of her middle name. And, more importantly I hope that she will strive to live up to it. I am so glad that you got to meet her in May. That was really important to me and though I wish you could have seen her when we were there in your last days, I know that you are getting to see her all you want now. Papi told me, as I held her at your graveside, how special Mia was to you and how glad you were to have spent some time with her. I wish she could have really known you, but I will do my best to convey that to her in years to come. Mark and I agree that she has your smile. Each time I look at her I see a piece of you. I love that.

In your life your priorities were God first, then family. Your devotion to Him was so very evident and I know that you are enjoying the rich rewards of your many faithful years of service. My greatest comfort in these last few days has been that I will see you again. I look forward to that glorious day. But, in the interim, I want you to know that I will do my best to continue the legacy of love, faithfulness and devotion that you so beautifully lived.

See you when I get home.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This afternoon my sweet, beautiful grandmother went home to be with her Savior.

I am deeply saddened, but know that she is enjoying every moment of her new home.

I am so grateful for the many years that I got to spend with her.

I have so many beautiful memories and so much I want to say about the legacy she has left, but today I am too emotionally drained to effectively communicate that well.

Thank you all SO much for all of your prayers. They were felt.

Monday, November 24, 2008

24-48 hours

A friend who reads my blog emailed me today asking about my grandmother and said she hoped that no news was good news.

I wish that was true.

The last few days have been tough.

Just when things were getting so much better, my grandmother's condition took a detour.

Her kidneys stopped functioning again. The infection got worse. Her blood pressure wouldn't stabilize on its own.

Her body is currently holding more than 60 pounds of extra fluid because of her kidney issues. She is bloated and swollen to the point that it is hard to look at her. Her hands look like surgical gloves that have been blown up like balloons. She is not suffering because she is constantly under sedation. All of the fluid is putting pressure on her organs and could soon begin to cause other problems beyond the ones she is currently experiencing.

Yesterday they tried to do dialysis again, but her body couldn't take it.

The infection is causing her colon to be distended and not work properly.

I flew back home yesterday. Things have only gotten worse today.

My dad says the doctors seem much less optimistic now and have only two more options to try. This afternoon they started giving her the strongest antibiotic possible, directly into her colon. This is not a standard treatment, but they are hoping it will work.

Tonight they were starting her on CRT which is a continuous form of dialysis. It is less difficult for her body to tolerate and they are hoping it will work to reduce the immense amount of fluid that has built up.

According to the doctors, the next 24 - 48 hours will determine whether they can help her or they have exhausted all of their options.

We are still hopeful.

We know the chances are slim.

We are still praying for healing and recovery.

We love her beyond words.

Please continue to pray for her and the rest of my family.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Update on Abuela

Thank you all so much for your continued prayers for my abuela.

Since my arrival she has made steady progress in the areas of kidney function, reduction of dependence on the ventilator and battling the infection in her body. She received one dialysis treatment and that seemed to jump start her kidneys. Each day they have decreased the amount of oxygen she receives from the ventilator and she has done fine with that.

However, (and I really wish there wasn't a however) her blood pressure continues to run low and need medication to keep it stable. Unfortunately, all the medication for that has caused strain on her heart and for a few days her heart rate has been erratic. Today, at one point her heart rate soared to 155. So, now on top of everything else she has arrhythmia. She has started to receive medication for that, but they are giving her a 50/50 chance of having a heart attack. All the doctors agree that in her condition that would be fatal. After four days of improvements this is a turn for the worse.

Another problem is that she continues to have to be sedated because she has grown increasingly disturbed by the intubation over the last couple days. Several times yesterday she attempted to pull the tubes out so they had to put restraint mitts on her. She is very agitated and that is extremely hard to see.

Please continue to pray for her and my family.

She and my grandfather have been married for 58 years. My heart aches for him. We are a very close family and everyone is here in support of each other, but that doesn't make this much easier to endure.

I have been blessed in my life to know and love all of my grandparents. To have reached my age and still have all of them around puts me in a minority that most people only dream of. That, however, only makes this that much more difficult.

My hope is firmly in a loving God that is the Great Healer. He may choose to save her or He may choose to take her home. Whatever happens, I will praise Him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your Prayers

I covet your prayers.

Three weeks ago my precious grandmother (abuela) was coming out of church when an active young man ran into her and knocked her over. In her fall she severely broke her humorous bone and ultimately needed surgery to have a prosthesis replace the upper portion of the bone. She handled the surgery well and after a few days in the hospital was sent for a week to a rehabilation center to recover and receive physical therapy. On her last day there, she was displaying some signs of illness and within a couple days of being home my grandfather had to call 911.

She was readmitted to the hospital with a bacterial infection in her colon, which was contracted at the rehabilitation center. That has now moved into her blood.

On Saturday, the doctors gave her a 10% chance of survival and my sisters and I were called with the news. Early that day, she had to be intubated and put on a respirator. Shortly after that it was determined that her kidneys were no longer functioning.

At 5:40 am on Sunday, I boarded a plane with my two kids and headed to Florida.

I am thankful that since my arrival she has made some improvements. The medical staff has increased her chances to 30%.

Yesterday they started her on dialysis and she responded well.

Today all of the doctors and nurses were positive and said that she had made slight progress.

I would love for all of you to keep her in your prayers. She has a long road to travel, but we know that God is capable of healing her frail body.

I don't have much access to the internet while I am here so I won't be able to respond to any comments for a few days or follow up on any other blogs. But, know that I appreciate all of you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

9 Months

Well Little Miss Mia, last week you turned nine months old.

How could that be?

Time is flying and you are changing so much.

You are becoming more independent and curious.

You are on the move.

I wouldn't call what you are doing crawling....more like shimmying.

But, regardless it is so cute and fun to watch.

You are enjoying the exploration of new foods and the faces you make while doing so are quite comical.

One of your favorite things to "eat" is paper.

We have to watch you constantly.

Thank goodness Nana rescued that 20% off coupon out of your drooly mouth.

Speaking of drool, you always have a wet shirt.

You have two bottom teeth and one top tooth coming through, with another cracking the surface any day.

You continue to bring so much joy to our lives with your belly laughs, beautiful smiles, jumping feet, quick hands, and curious mind.

Love you Peach!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Peek at You (WW)

I think most moms can agree that getting a shower each day requires creativity.

Often, Austin feels the need to be with me and will follow me into the bathroom.

All sorts of mischief can be achieved while Mommy is in the shower.

Though I have tried to eliminate dangers, there is still plenty to explore.

As a result I have gotten into the habit of opening the shower door to peek at Austin and what he is doing.

Sometimes he wants to "peek at you" too.

On this particular day he had gotten into Daddy's shaving cream before deciding to hide in his "shower."

Now really...who wouldn't want to peek at that face?

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