Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays 2008

Wishing you & yours a safe and very happy holiday season! We are heading out in the morning for my parents' house to be with our loved ones and enjoy a white Christmas. Hope your holidays are filled with good times, memories and laughter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

O Tannenbaum

How ever full your branches! We decked our tree out in style tonight with two popcorn tins and several boxes full of ornaments. It is so much fun to put them up, remembering the memories attach to practically every one. Even Cara got in the action this year. Now, if only we can get her to leave the ornaments ON the tree!

Cara, with some assistance from Ben, putting ornaments on our tree.

Caitlin, showing her seniority in ornament placement.

The finished product.

Holiday Spirit

We all been enjoying getting into the holiday spirit this year. Mother Nature (or is it Jack Frost?) has blessed us with snow numerous times, which has helped set the mood.

So far, we have taken in a Snack with Santa and Denver's annual Parade of Lights. Snack with Santa tanked again this year, with Cara, as she would not go within 5 feet of the man in red. We tried numerous approaches which only resulted in tears. Thankfully, I think Santa knows that Cara has been a good girl this year. Caitlin, on the other hand, climbed right up into his lap and told him that she wants an iPod Nano and a Barbie Jeep Power Wheel. Smart Santa said, "I will be sure to leave you a present that I know you will enjoy". Thank you Santa, our budget does not allow for such pricey gifts. We were fortunate to get a family picture following snack time, which I've posted below.

The Parade of Lights was just amazing. We went downtown early, via the Light Rail, and picked our spot along the curb. Some very good friends of ours joined us, to make it that much more fun. We watched in awe as floats, bands, balloons, flame throwers and the jolly old elf himself made their trek through lower downtown Denver. The girls were captivated the whole time and we've decided that the Parade is going to be part of our yearly Christmas season traditions.

On the 13th, Caitlin had her dance recital. She has been taking ballet/jazz classes through a dance studio that comes to her school for about 5 weeks now. Her class performed a short but cute number called, "Hanging Your Stockings". All the kids wore their PJs and used their stockings as a prop. It was so fun to watch Caitlin perform! She said she had a great time. Unfortunately, my pictures didn't turn out very well. I did, however, get two videos, but they seem to be too large to post here.

We were to take in the annual TubaChristmas (400 tuba players from around our area playing festive musical numbers) concert in downtown Denver on Sunday, but with temperatures in the single digits and windchill in the negatives, we decided to pass. It looks like the show went on, regardless of the weather. We will have to try again next year, especially if my brother happens to join the mass of players (*hint hint*).

This week, Caitlin has a holiday party at school in which I have been elected to make dozens of sugar cookies. This will be my first time making cookies as we are usually away from home around the holidays. Caitlin's class will be decorating the said sugar cookies, playing some games, enjoying a potluck lunch and having a book exchange to wrap up 2008. She is then off of school until after the New Year.

Christmas plans include a trek to my parents' home, 5 hours west, where we will celebrate the holiday and be in good company.

Hopefully, you all have been enjoying welcoming the holiday season as well. Happy Holidays!

Genetic Counseling Appointment

Today, we had Cara's much anticipation (or dreaded) genetic counseling appointment at Children's. Let me just preface this by saying that we chose the coldest day of the year for this appointment. It was a whole -6 degrees when we got there!

Anyway, we arrived on time, went through intake where we found out that Cara is just shy of 28#, a tad under 3 ft tall and that her head circumference has gone down some. All good news.

We met with a counselor who went over our family history, very thoroughly. I so wish I would've thought to bring Cara's baby books so I knew exactly when she accomplished milestones. We had to list relatives going back to grandparents, on both sides, and then any conditions that they had. I have decided that we need to have a written record of this, so that I don't have to call my mother in a panic to remember what so-and-so died of.

After the consultation, we met with an actual geneticist who examined Cara, looked over her cafe-au-lait spots (CALS) and asked us some more questions about Cara's development and neurological profile (MRIs, etc). Upon examination, she didn't believe that Cara showed the physical signs of neurofibromatosis (NF1). Cara does have several CALS, but they are not of the right shape or size to be definite signs of NF1. That being said, there are many other neurological disorders that can account for the CALS. It seems pretty certain that Cara does, indeed, have some neurological condition and now, we start the process of elimination.

Cara was sent to the outpatient lab to have some blood drawn for the various tests that are sure to follow. They took extra vials so some cane be stored for further testing, saving Cara from having to be poked again. The first test to be done is called a chromosome study in which the lab will examine Cara's DNA to check for malformations of her DNA--matching chromosomal structure to a template. Any mutation will also be spotted, pointing the way to one specific disorder or another (including NF1, which is a gene mutation). The results of this study will determine any further testing that may need to be done. That being said, we are at the beginning of a very long process, for sure.

Right now, we are just relieved to know that Cara, most likely, does not have NF1 and from the sounds of things, the other diseases that were discussed aren't as severe. We shall see though, as we continue on the quest to get answers. We are hoping to have results from this first study before Christmas or shortly after. As always, I will keep everyone posted.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Naughty or Nice?

In true holiday fashion, I am posting a cute little survey that Judy had posted up on her site.

Have you been naughty or nice this year? – I've been a good girl.

What do you want most for Christmas? – A nice Christmas for my girls.

Do you believe in Father Christmas? - In the legend, yes.

What is your favorite food at Christmas? – Cookies and my mom's cider.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? - Just a little bit, got some stocking stuff yesterday.

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? - Barely even started.

What is your favorite Christmas song? – Little Drummer Boy

What is your favorite Christmas movie? – National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or Muppet's Christmas Carol.

What is your best memory of Christmas? – Driving up to my aunt's house about 3 hours away. They had a big old farmhouse and there always seemed to be lots of snow.

What do you look forward to most at Christmas? – Seeing the joy and excitement on my daughters' faces.

What are you doing for Christmas this year? – Celebrating Christmas Day with my parents at their new house.

Who do you want to kiss under the mistletoe? – My Ben, of course. :)

What kind of Christmas tree do you have? – 100% artificial, it even had pre-strung lights!

Do you take part in a secret santa? – Not this year, but have in the past through work.

Do you go to any Christmas parties? – We are taking the girls to Snack with Santa, does that count?

Have you ever had a white Christmas? – Yep, lots of times. That's what you get for growing up in MI then moving to CO.

How early do you wake up on Christmas morning? - Oh, around 7:30-8. As a kid, we used to have to wait for my mom to get home from work.

Do you still get a stocking? – No, not unless my mom insists that we bring ours this year.

How many Christmas cards do you normally send out? – In years past, I've sent out Christmas newsletters via email. I know, I'm cheap.

What is your Christmas wish? – I'll agree with Judy on this one--health & happiness for my family and friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

May you all enjoy the company of your loved ones, cherish the time spent together, recount the year's many blessings and looking forward to many to come.

Monday, November 17, 2008

By 5's

Five Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago
1. In my junior year of college
2. Working at the college library
3. Hiking and climbing
4. Meeting awesome friends
5. Driving a Dodge Dynasty

Five Things On My To Do List
1. Keep the house picked up
2. Take Caitlin to school
3. Make yummy nachos for dinner
4. Start packing for the trip to my parents'
5. Finish my Wondertime magazine

Five Things I Like To Snack On
1. Kettle corn
2. Pretzels
3. Trail mix
4. Babybel cheese
5. Ice cream

Five Things I Would Do If I Was A Millionaire
1. Pay off our debt
2. Buy a house, with cash
3. Save for the girls' college and weddings
4. Pay it forward
5. Give $5K to my brother for his trip to Cambodia with Habitat

Five Places I Have Lived
1. In a pop-up camper
2. In a dorm room
3. In a hotel room
4. In an on-campus apartment
5. In a condo

Five Jobs I Have Had
1. Ronald Ranger @ McDoanld's
2. Cashier @ KMart
3. Hotel maid
4. Babysitter
5. Prison librarian

Five People I Am Tagging:
Lauren, Sarah, Vidya, Lyla (on Myspace) and YOU!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank a Veteran

Take the time to say thanks to a veteran today. I am calling my father to thank him for his years of service during Vietnam. I also plan to shake the hand of any servicemen/women that I see today. Living close to an Air Force base, it's a pretty normal occurrence. Our freedom is precious and priceless and we owe it to those who selflessly follow our Commander-in-Chief and put their lives on the line to defend us.

Thank you so much for what you've done and continue to do. You make us proud to be Americans!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Victory--can you smell it?!

I cannot even put it to words (very well, anyway) how very relieved I am that Barack Obama is our President-elect. I know that some of my readers may not agree with me but I whole-heartily believe that Obama will bring the change that is so desperately needed in our country. Unity is coming, not only for our country but with the international community. The American people have come forward and let their voices be known. History has been made. It know matters not what color your skin is or how little experience you have, but rather, your plan for our country and how in tune you are with what the American people need.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

I bite my nails and other things you probably don't care to know...

Judy had this up on her blog and I needed something to do so...here you go, a bunch of stuff you probably could care less about.

The phrases that are in a bold are true….

- I am 5′4 or shorter.
- I think I'm ugly.
- I have many scars.
- I tan easily.
- I wish my hair was a different color.
- I have friends who have never seen my natural hair color
- I have a tattoo.
- I am self-conscious about my appearance.
- I have/ I've had braces.
- I wear glasses. (Or contacts.)
- I'd get/have gotten plastic surgery if it were 100% safe, free, scar-free.
- I've been told I'm attractive by a complete stranger.
- I have had more than 2 piercings.
- I have had piercings in places besides my ears.
- I have freckles.

Family/Home Life:
- I've sworn at my parents.
- I've run away from home.
- I've been kicked out of the house.
- My biological parents are together.
- I have a sibling less than one year old.
- I want to have kids someday.
- I have children.
- I've lost a child.

- I've slipped out a "LOL" in a spoken conversation.
- Disney movies still make me cry. I love Disney!!
- I've snorted while laughing.
- I've laughed so hard I've cried.
- I've glued my hand to something.
- I've laughed till some kind of beverage came out of my nose.
- I've had my trousers rip in public.

- I was born with a disease/impairment.
- I've had stitches.
- I've broken a bone.
- I've had my tonsils removed.
- I've sat in a doctor's office with a friend.
- I've had my wisdom teeth removed.
- I've had serious surgery.
- I've had chicken pox.

- I've driven over 200 miles in one day.
- I've been on a plane.
- I've been to Canada.
- I've been to Niagara Falls.
- I've been to Japan.
- I've been to Europe.
- I've been to Africa.

- I've been lost in my city.
- I've seen a shooting star.
- I've gone out in public in my pajamas.
- I've pushed all the buttons in a lift.
- I've been to a casino.
- I've been skydiving.
- I've gone skinny dipping.
- I've played spin the bottle.
- I've crashed a car.
- I've been skiing.
- I've been in a play.
- I've met someone in person from the Internet.
- I've caught a snowflake on my tongue.
- I've seen the Northern Lights.
- I've sat on a roof top at night.
- I've played chicken.
- I've seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- I've eaten Sushi.
- I've been snowboarding.

- I'm single.
- I'm in a relationship.
- I'm available.
- I'm engaged.
- I'm married.
- I've gone on a blind date.
- I've been the dumpee more than the dumper.
- I have a fear of abandonment.
- I've been divorced.
- I've had feelings for someone who didn't have them back.
- I've told someone I loved them when I didn't.
- I've told someone I didn't love them when I did.
- I've kept something from a past relationship.

- I've had a crush on someone of the same gender.
- I've kissed a member of the same gender.-
I've had sex with someone of the same gender.
- I've had sex with more than one person at the same time.
- I am a cuddler.
- I've been kissed in the rain.
- I've had sex outdoors.
- I've hugged a stranger.
- I have kissed a stranger.
- I have had sex with a stranger.

- I've done something I promised someone else I wouldn't.
- I've done something I promised myself I wouldn't.
- I have lied to my parents about where I am.
- I am keeping a secret from the world.
- I've cheated while playing a game.
- I've cheated on a test.
- I've driven through a red light.
- I've witnessed a crime.
- I've been in a fist fight.
- I've been arrested.
- I've shoplifted.

- I've consumed alcohol.
- I smoke cigarettes.
- I smoke pot.
- I regularly drink.
- I've taken painkillers when I didn't need them.
- I've taken cough medicine when i wasn't sick.
- I've done hard drugs.
- I've been addicted to an illegal substance.
- I can't swallow pills.
- I can swallow about 5 pills at a time no problem.

Mental health:
- I have been diagnosed with depression.
- I shut others out when I'm depressed.
- I take anti-depressants.
- I have had an eating disorder.
- I've slept an entire day when I didn't need it.
- I've hurt myself on purpose.
- I'm addicted to self harm.
- I've woken up crying.

- I'm afraid of dying.
- I hate funerals.
- I've seen someone dying.
- I have attempted suicide.
- Someone close to me has attempted suicide.
- Someone close to me has committed suicide.

- I can sing well.
- I've stolen a tray from a fast food restaurant.
- I open up to others too easily.
- I watch the news.
- I don't kill bugs.
- I hate hearing songs that sacrifice meaning for sake of being able to rhyme.
- I swear regularly.
- I am a morning person.
- I paid for my mobile phone ring tone.
- I'm a snob about grammar.
- I am a sports fanatic.
- I play with my hair.
- I have/had "x"s in my screen name.
- I love being neat.
- I love Spam.
- I've copied more than 30 CD's in a day.
- I don't know how to shoot a gun.
- I am in love with love.
- I am guilty of tYpInG lIkE tHiS.
- I laugh at my own jokes.
- I eat fast food weekly.
- I believe in ghosts.
- I am online 24/7, even as an away message.
- I can't sleep if there is a spider in the room.
- I am really ticklish.
- I love white chocolate.
- I bite my nails.
- I play video games.
- I'm good at remembering faces.
- I'm good at remembering names.
- I'm good at remembering dates.
- I have no idea what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Proud New Owner

When the owner of my most favorite group on CafeMom stepped down and picked me to take over the ownership, I was flattered...she picked me! This was the very first group I joined when I found CafeMom and it remains my most visited group even today. We are a very intimate group of about 20. The group is called the Hot Seat and what we do is pick one mom from our group to be in the Hot Seat and everyone can ask her questions on anything and the MOTW (Mom Of The Week) has to answer them. We also have games and QOTD (Questions of the Day). It's just a fun, no stress, no drama group. Now that you've heard my plug, please won't you visit and join us?!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One of those *cough, cough* blonde moments...

I mean no insults to my fair haired friends but, do you remember my mild protest to the limitations of my "new" blog? Well, today, I was bored and decided to look amongst the widgets on Blogger and what did I find, after scrolling almost to the bottom of the list on the first page? A widget that allows you to add ANY html/Javascript code to your blog. So, *drum roll* I was able to add back my cool Flickr badge, Library Thing list of my recent reads and my Weather Pixie! It was one of those "duh-o" moments, for sure and I couldn't be happier about it! I may add back my buttons from my favorite sites, or I may let the new blog roll do it's job. Either way, I'm now a firm believer in the goodness of converting my blog--heck yeah!

Check it out, doesn't it looks so much snazzier?

I'm a Doris, I like to help...

You Are a Doris!


You are a Doris -- "I must help others."

Dorises are warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to other people's needs.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Tell me that you appreciate me. Be specific.

  • * Share fun times with me.

  • * Take an interest in my problems, though I will probably try to focus on yours.

  • * Let me know that I am important and special to you.

  • * Be gentle if you decide to criticize me.

In Intimate Relationships

  • * Reassure me that I am interesting to you.

  • * Reassure me often that you love me.

  • * Tell me I'm attractive and that you're glad to be seen with me.

What I Like About Being a Doris

  • * being able to relate easily to people and to make friends

  • * knowing what people need and being able to make their lives better

  • * being generous, caring, and warm

  • * being sensitive to and perceptive about others' feelings

  • * being enthusiastic and fun-loving, and having a good sense of humor

What's Hard About Being a Doris

  • * not being able to say no

  • * having low self-esteem

  • * feeling drained from overdoing for others

  • * not doing things I really like to do for myself for fear of being selfish

  • * criticizing myself for not feeling as loving as I think I should

  • * being upset that others don't tune in to me as much as I tume in to them

  • * working so hard to be tactful and considerate that I suppress my real feelings

Dorises as Children Often

  • * are very sensitive to disapproval and criticism

  • * try hard to please their parents by being helpful and understanding

  • * are outwardly compliant

  • * are popular or try to be popular with other children

  • * act coy, precocious, or dramatic in order to get attention

  • * are clowns and jokers (the more extroverted Dorises), or quiet and shy (the more introverted Dorises)

Dorises as Parents

  • * are good listeners, love their children unconditionally, and are warm and encouraging (or suffer guilt if they aren't)

  • * are often playful with their children

  • * wonder: "Am I doing it right?" "Am I giving enough?" "Have I caused irreparable damage?"

  • * can become fiercely protective

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's all my fault

Proof that each and every vote can make a difference. My old college roommate sent this to me and I got a laugh, hope you do too.

Rated: PG-13 for some mild, brief language, watch at your own risk.

Click here to see what I'm talking about.

The best part, you can customize the video and send to your family and friends.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm a winner, a winner, a winner...

I actually won something recently on CafeMom! They randomly select members to be part of an influencer program. Simply put, these moms are chosen to receive products for free, test them out and then write about their experiences for other CafeMom-ers to read. In the past, I have won two Playskool toy contests, but this time, I didn't have to do anything and was chosen to receive a free 20-page 8x8 photo book (that's about a $50 value folks)from Shutterfly! I have never used Shutterfly or any site like it, so I was a bit intimidated, after all, I'm not crafty in the slightest. So, imagine my joy to find out that not only was Shutterfly so simple to use, they even recommended cute page layouts for me. I have to admit that I never thought I'd finish because just when I thought I liked a layout or a page background, I'd click around and find something else that I liked even more. Shutterfly is not for the indecisive--haha! I finally finished my book yesterday and am very pleased with the results. It should be here by Halloween and I cannot wait to see it. The finished product will be the real test. If I like it, I can see many more books being created in the future. For $40 or so, I figure they would make great presents for grandparents. Plus, Shutterfly is always offering up great savings, including, at times, free prints, free photo books and percent off coupons. You know me, I love a great deal! If you haven't already, check out the site, it's so much fun & addicting. Oh yeah, I highly recommend joining Cafe Mom too, not just for the giveaways but for the community.

**I had to take down the link for my completed book because I read somewhere that anyone can print a book once they have the access link--scary thought--so, if you'd like to see it, please comment, and I'll send you the link via email.**

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change, it's good right?

I finally bit the bullet and converted my blog to the new customized (read: XML) template. It was a pain in the butt to get everything transferred over, but I have to admit that I'm in love with the widget option and the ability to easily change the layout of the page.
Some of the new changes that you'll see:

1. Obviously, a totally new "skin". It was time for a change and I finally realized why those spiffy layouts from pyzam.com weren't working, so I was stuck with Blogger's limited options.

2. A much-improved blog roll list. It's very click-able and alphabetized for your convenience. Check out my frequent reads, they are just great.

3. A new look to my Flickr "badge". Technically, it's not from Flickr anymore but rather an application created for use among Blogger's widgets. Granted, it's not as pretty as Flickr's create-a-badge, but it gets the job done. Now, if someone wants to rewrite the Flickr badge code into XML for me, I'd be more than happy to use Flickr's. In the meantime, you'll see 6 of the new photos on my account and clicking on one photo will still take you to my photostream on Flickr...so, it's all good.

4. Bye bye Weather Pixie and hello Weather.com widget. I will miss my mountain pixie but, at the end of the day, the weather is the weather.

5. My "About Me" profile is displayed on the page now so you'll get to read a bit about me, not that you didn't already know it, and see my cool signature picture.

Have fun looking around and be sure to drop me a comment and let me know what you think. Hopefully, my hard work paid off.

It's Gray Area

A quick update following Cara's neurologist visit on Tuesday (10/7/08).
We met with Dr. Maddox to review the radiologist's finding from the MRI. Initially, the MRI was ordered to check for any abnormalities which could explain Cara's speech delay as well as to check for any fibromas which would indicated neurofibromatosis. The report was very positive! The radiologist found no lesions, tumors or blockages in Cara's brain. He reported that her ventricles had decreased in size though the left was still a bit larger than the right, showing that she does, indeed, have hydrocephalus. There was some scar tissue around her shunt, but that was to be expected. The only "helpful" thing that we discovered from the report was that Cara has a very thin corpus callosum, the large bundle of nerves (essentially) that separate the two hemispheres of the brain. The corpus callosum allows both sides to communicate with each other and the thicker it is, the better the communication due to the more nerves that exist. If it is thinner than normal, there is a potential for communciation between the left & right sides of the brain to be slowed. This could(there is no way to be 100% certain) explain Cara's speech delay.
So, while we breathed a big sigh of relief after hearing the mostly positive report, we are still left to wonder what is truly causing Cara's lack of speech and also, if she does indeed have neurofibromatosis. For now, we will continue with her speech therapy and also stick with our appointment to see a genetic counseling team in December. It will be their job to decide where we go from here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

All's Well

We are home from Cara's MRI and she is back to her normal self--playing and eating. In fact, she woke from the anesthesia very quickly and just as quickly consumed two bananas and two packages of animal cookies. She was starving, having gone without anything but apple juice since 9pm last night!

The follow-up with neurosurgery went well also. We saw one of our favorite nurse practitioners, Jenn, and she reset Cara's shunt setting. It went from 1.0 to 2.5 due to the magnetism of the MRI machine! That's going from having her value open quite a bit to having it almost all the way closed. Heck, when I was in the room while Cara was going under sedation, the machine grabbed onto the medal in my ID tag and tried to strangle me! What really amazed me was that Jenn could both check her shunt setting and adjust it without even having to touch her shunt! The wonders of modern medicine.

We also learned that Cara's head circumference has decreased in size to 51cm and we're down to the 98% from over 100% prior to the shunt...very good news! Jenn also said that her ventricles looked good, both have decreased in size since her last MRI in July of last year. All is well, shunt-wise. We will continue to count our blessing for every day that goes by without a malfunction with her shunt.

We will hear from neurology tomorrow as to what the radiologist confirmed from the scan. Watch for another update soon.

A Big Day

Today, Cara has her MRI at Children's Hospital to check for any structural problems *read: tumors or other growths* in her brain. We are leaving shortly as we have to be there an hour ahead of schedule for sedation. I'm really hoping that they will give her an oral sedative and not through an IV and that they will let us hold her until she drifts off. It's much peaceful of a transition that way, I think.

Right after the MRI, we have an appointment with neurosurgery to reset her programmable shunt. Due to the magnetism of the MRI, it is suspected that her set will de-program itself and will need to be reset. Thankfully, this is so very simple. There's a device that they "attach" to her shunt from outside of her head and it will set the shunt back to the correct setting, no invasive surgery needed!

All in all, we expect to be out of hospital and on our way home around 4-4:30 this afternoon. Once again, I am asking...if you pray, please do so; cross fingers and toes if that's more your cup of tea. Whatever it is you do for good luck, please think of Cara while you do it. I will update everyone later. This should be a very smooth procedure and Cara is an old champ! :)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

All About Ben

Judy had this test of sorts up on her blog. It's all about your spouse or significant other. Let's see how well I know my husband of almost 8 years...

1. Sitting in front of the TV, what's on the screen? Family Guy, football, CNN.

2. You're out to eat; what kind of dressing does he get on his salad? Italian or a vinaigrette. Sometimes, he'll surprise me and order a salad as a main course.

3. What's one food he doesn't like? Melon--how can you NOT like melon?!

4. You go out to a bar. What does he order? Fat Tire or Coors but, he doesn't drink much.

5. Where did he go to high school? John Glenn High School

6. What size shoe does he wear? 13-14 depending.

7. If he was to collect anything, what would it be? Music & DVDs. He has an impressive collection already.

8. What is his favorite type of sandwich? The sweet onion chicken teriayki sub from Subway.

9. What would this person eat everyday if he could? Spaghetti, without a doubt.

10. What is his favorite cereal? He doesn't normally eat cereal, but I know he likes corn flakes and corn checks.

11. What would he never wear? Anything other than polo shirts! LoL Seriously though, that's about all I can get him to wear. I need to nominate him for What Not to Wear on TLC.

12. What is his favorite sports team? Football-Steelers or Broncos; Basketball-Pistons; Hockey-Red Wings (it's fun in our house because I'm an Avs fan); Baseball-Yankees.

13. Who will he vote for? Let's just say that we're blue.

14. Who is his best friend? Besides, me?! Geoff & Jason but he's horrible about keeping in touch with them.

15. What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn't do? Nag, I tend to get on his case if I don't like what he's doing or I need him to so something.

16. How many states has he lived in? Three--New York state, Michigan & Colorado.

17.What is his heritage? Easy--African American. He's a first-gen American-born. His parents both grew up in Ghana.

18. You bake him a cake for his birthday, what kind of cake? Hmm, this one I'm not sure about. I *think* he'd prefer brownies.

19. Did he play sports in high school? Nope, he was a nerd on the knowledge bowl team. He tried out for football, but didn't make the cut.

20. What could he spend hours doing? Programming on his laptop or playing old school games on our Wii.

21. Does he belong to any men's organizations? Other than fraternal alumni? Not really, he's part of the computer ministry at our church, but that's not just men.

(I just read my answers back to Ben and I'm proud to say that I got them all write, even the cake one! Go me!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Craving Some Culture?

Tomorrow is Museum Day 2008 sponsored by the Smithsonian Magazine, didn't you know? If you click here, you can find a list of participating museums and even print off a free admission for yourself & a guest. It's only good for tomorrow, Saturday, but if you're looking to squeeze in a bit of culture or even some place free to take the family, this is your ticket.

I was surprised to see that a few of the "lesser known" museums (or not) were on the list for Colorado. If the weather is decent, I plan on packing up the girls and heading to the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Go out, breathe in some culture!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Momma could use a new bag!

Could you use a new, free handbag? I know that I could, even though I'm not the type who has a gazillion of them stored in the closet for each occasion. I've had mine for about 2 years now and well, it's time for a change. Judy alerted me to this contest over at Handbag Planet. They are launching their new website soon and in honor of this, are giving away a brand spanking new handbag every hour for 24 hours! It's 100% FREE! No shipping, no credit card needed, nada. So, set your browser to Handbag Planet and register to win! You'd be crazy to turn down FREE!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ikea's Coming, Ikea's Coming!

I'm so psyched! Sometime, in the not-so-distant future, Colorado is going to get it's first Ikea store just down I-25 from us in Centennial, CO! I've been admiring Ikea's stuff from afar (online) as I haven't had the fortune to be able to travel to Phoenix or the Salt Lake City suburbs, home to the closest two stores, nor do I want to order online and pay crazy shipping costs. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I can go and just browse, eat at their bistro and make a day out of it. Since an opening target date hasn't been set, who knows how long I'll be waiting, but at least it's coming!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Evidence that people are still thinking

Jerry Seinfeld - "A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."

With that in mind...here is what I'm currently fueling my thinking brain with--

The Freedom Writers' Diary
I saw the movie with Hilary Swank, and was intrigued by the story, so I'm now reading the book.

Friday Night Knitting Club
I heard a brief plug for this book on a web cast for New York's public library. It's also been listed as a book club favorite and a staff pick at our local branch library. So far, I'm liking it. I'm only a few pages into the book but am getting a glimpse at the lives of each of the characters. It should prove to be a "soul warming" read.

Finally, The Godmother This book is spunky, smart-alec British chick lit and since I just love me some Sophie Kinsella (The Shopaholic series), I'm laughing out loud with this one too. Although, I occasionally have to wrack my brain to figure out what a snoot or a bugaloo is, it's a light and hilarious read thus far.

Usually, I have a couple of serious reads and one laugh-my-bum-off light read but, it just so happened that more of my chick lit picks happened to become available from my hold list these last few weeks. What can I say, I can use an off-the-wall, another realm story to take me away from reality from time to time. Then, we I need something to pick me up out of my mommy-brain-mush days, I'll read something that gets me thinking. It's a good balance, in my opinion.

What are you all reading these days?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Does it pay?

I was reading this post on one of my favorite blogs--Goody Blog--a product of the wonderful staff at Parents Magazine. It got me thinking, about how we reward people, in general, for good work. CEO's get very cushy bonuses, hourly employees get raises and things of that nature. So, is it a bad idea to reward our children for their good work in school the same way. What I mean is, is it a good idea to pay kids for good report cards?
Parents on Goody Blog pointed out the pros and the cons. I, personally, happen to think that paying children for grades can take away from the pure joy of learning, unless that concept is somehow embedded in another way. Learning should be fun and not something that you have to bribe your children to do. But, on the flip side of the coin, I can see how money (or toys, books, what have you) can be a motivating factor, especially for older kids. And, I've had weak parenting moments where I've bribed my girls to behave on a long car ride with new Crayola Wonder books or snacks. Bribery is sometimes necessary. I can only hope that my daughters' education continues to spark and hold their natural curiosity and interest so that bribery isn't necessary.
In my household, growing up, we were expected to try our best, giving our all to every subject & every assignment. As long as my parents knew that we were doing the best that we could do and making improvement every marking period, we were not expected to get straight A's, nor were we rewarded for them, beyond my parents' love and praise. For me, that was enough. I worked hard and did well for myself, my own sense of accomplishment. I longed for positive feedback from my teacher, that was award enough for me.
It is my sincere hope that these same principles are being instilled in Caitlin as we begin the educational journey with her. She may roll her eyes when I make her re-do a line of "K"s because they are not up to par, but I know that she wants to get that sticker or smiley face of a job well done from her teacher as well as a "good job" from me. I think it is an essential of good parenting that will teach a good work ethic in our children. That it is important to do a good job, regardless of whether we can expect something, in a physical form, for our efforts. One should be proud of their work, and that alone, should be enough to encourage future work of the same, or better, caliber.
I hope that we never have to resort to paying our children for grades, but I have to say, I will most likely resort to anything that will keep my kinds motivated and loving to learn. But, I have to wonder, can you pay a child to love learning?

Anyone care to chip in their two cents?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Blog Love!

I received this wonderful and much appreciated award from my dear blogging friend Judy. I am so thrilled to be chosen and hopefully, expand Mountain Chronicles' readership.

In order to accept this award, here are the steps--

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.

2. Link the person you received your award from.

3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs. **I can't do this, as I don't have enough people to nominate--yet! I did the best that I could**

4. Put links of those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message on the blogs of the people you’ve nominated.

So here are the 3 very worthy blogs that I to whom I have chosen to pass on this award:

Lauren @ How Bourgeois. Lauren & her husband Jon have a wonderful hodge-podge of a blog filled with just about everything you can imagine including adorable pictures of their handsome (and smart) little man, Noah. Lauren & I have been IRL friends since we both worked together at a busy Metro Detroit library.

Vidya @ Mamameo. Vidya and I both have kiddos with hydrocephalus but she is also extremely crafty and insightful. I am blessed to count her amongst my friends!

Sarah @ Violet's Journey. Sarah was the first person that I "met" when we found out about Cara's diagnosis. Although she lives many oceans away in "the land down under", she has been beyond supportive and helpful. Her blog details her sweet daughter Violet's journey with hydrocephalus and all that goes with it.

Congratulations you guys! Now, it's your turn to share the fame.

Hydrocephalus Walk-Denver 2008

We were priveledged to be able to participate in the Hydrocephalus Association's benefit walk in Highlands Ranch today. It was a beautiful day (in the low 70's) to get out and walk for a good cause. I would guess that there were over 100 people there and, all together, we raised $15,000 to benefit research for hydrocephalus! So, a big shout out to those that helped us raise the funds that we did. I told you, every little bit would help! On a side bar--it is sad though, that less than $2 million is provided yearly from the federal government for a condition that effects 2 out of every 1,000 people (especially children).

We met up with our good friends Vidya, Aaron & Solan at the site and then walked the 2.5 miles around a beautiful park and wetlands area with stunning views of the foothills. It was nice to get some exercise and catch up on the happenings in our lives. Ben was the "Daddy engine" and pulled about #120 worth of children for the duration of the walk. He was one pooped out pup when we finally made it back home.

After the walk, we chowed down on some wonderful hot dogs and fixings and let the kids play in the awesome playground and pond (where we, of course, had to feed the ducks hot dog buns) at Redstone Park. Vidya managed to collect quite a few names of families interested in starting a support group, so we are excited to get something going! All in all, it was a wonderful day!

Click here for some pictures of the day. I will have more once a CD comes from the walk's photographer who took several family pictures of us and lots of the events at the walk.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Neurology News

Today, Cara had an appointment with her neurologist. We made the appointment out of concern for her lack of speech, wanting to get another opinion to make sure we weren't missing something.

First off, I voiced my concerns about Cara's lack of progress in verbal communication and mentioned how she was capable of learning new signs.

Then, we talked about how she did verbally communicate (open vowel sounds) and what was being done in her therapy sessions. Her neurologist agreed that there didn't seem to be much progress in the 8 months that Cara has been receiving speech therapy.

Next, Cara was undressed as the neurologist looked over her body. I wasn't exactly sure what she was looking for beyond signs of hypotonia (which we know she has). Then, she pointed out some spots that Cara had on her skin.

Honestly, I never game them much attention, as I just thought that they were normal on bi-racial children. It turns out though, that they are called cafe-au-lait spots and can be an indicator of several things, one of which being neurofibromatosis, an incurable disease. Of course, it could be something else entirely, or it could be nothing but, Cara shows several signs of neurofibromatosis including developmental delays and pressure on nerves or other areas of organs (hydrocephalus).

Not wanting to be an alarmist, her neurologist has decided to take a two-fold approach to finding out what's going on--both with the spots and with Cara's delays.

1. We are to undergo genetic therapy at Children's Hospital to investigate the spots (there's a genetic malformation that is linked to neurofibromatosis) and possible causes for Cara's hydrocephalus and delays. This process is pretty intense and starts with a very complete family history and discussion with the geneticist. Usually, genetic mapping is done, as is some pretty extensive blood work. I have called and scheduled an appointment for the earliest available time. Would you believe that we have to wait until DECEMBER to be seen in the clinic?! The wait is going to be unbearable! We may try to find somewhere else to go, but I really trust the expertise of Children's, so we'll see.

2. Cara is to have another MRI to check for any increase in pressure or fluid in her brain as well as to check for any signs of malformation. She hasn't had one since July of 2007, so it's a good idea regardless. I am waiting for the order to be processed by the radiology department at Children's and then will call tomorrow to schedule the scan. This should be done in the next few weeks, so at least we'll be able to rule out anything "structurally" wrong relatively quickly.

I am trying to get a grip and stay positive, but darn it, it's not easy! The cards just keep staking up against our poor little girl. I just have to keep remembering...That which doesn't break us, makes us stronger! That said, Cara is already a strong little girl in mind, body & definitely spirit!

Rest assured, everyone, that I will be keeping you all posted as we continue the quest to answer the questions around Cara's delays.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Won't you please?

Dear Blog Readers,

Won't you please support our family in the Hydrocephalus Walk taking place in Highlands Ranch (suburb of Denver) on September 7th? Our entire family will be walking (well, Cara will be riding, in her stroller) the 2K event. We are really looking forward to the opportunity to help raise awareness and funds for the Hydrocephalus Association, which has been instrumental in helping me find other hydro families as well as providing information and resources during a time when we felt very alone. We would love it if you would consider reaching out and helping us in our fund raising efforts by pledging. Any amount, from $5 to $500 (I can dream) is very much appreciated and 100% tax deductible!

Please, click here to view our pledge page, read a little more about Cara's journey, and consider making a pledge. We'd really appreciate it!

With much love & thanks,

Laura, Ben & the girls.

**Everyone, if you've already received an email from me, please do not be offended. I am just trying to reach out to everyone and get as much support as possible**

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Good Karma

There's good karma in the air around here today. No sooner had I posted about Cara's speech concerns did I receive a phone call from the neurology clinic at Children's Hospital. The neurologist who saw Cara before (one of two who saw her) has an opening NEXT Wednesday! Woo hoo! We just might get our answers sooner than we thought!


On the heels of my rather somber post, I had to tell of a reason that we have to--CELEBRATE! Sunday marked a year since Cara's shunt surgery--a year with no malfunctions or complications resulting from having the shunt placed in her head. In fact, most days, I completely forget that she does, indeed, have a foreign object implanted in her cute little skull. Our daughter has changed so much, for the better, since August 17th of last year, we can't even begin to compare or comprehend. I just want to shout out my thanks to Cara's medical team at Children's Hospital for doing a fantastic job as well as keeping close tabs on her since her surgery. Here's to many more trouble-free years with Cara's Codman Programmable shunt! :)

Concern for Cara

As most of you know, Cara has yet to truly begin to speak. She has, at times, uttered "Momma" and imitated animals sounds (she loves the elephant) but, that is all that she has been able to master. We (Ben & I along with other family and friends and therapists) have been concerned for Cara's lack of speech.

Up until last month, she was receiving speech therapy weekly in our home. Her speech therapist is currently on maternity leave and we decided, for Cara's sake, not to have a replacement while she was gone for a month, since it would be confusing for Cara and might do more harm than good as she was so comfortable with Angela. So, I've just been working with her on the goals that were outlined before Angela's maternity leave. I am proud to report that Cara has mastered several new signs--thank you, daddy, mommy, sister and sleepy--and while we are thrilled with this progress, we were hoping for more audible progress in the way of words.

At this point in time, the only consistent sounds that she makes is an "Ahh" sound along with the "Mmmm" and sometimes "Mmmmommmma". There are times when she will make other consonant sounds but its few and far between. We were told, that speech is the last of the skills that kids learn with gross motor and fine motor falling in first and second, respectively, and that we just had to be patient. Well, Cara is walking quite well and has mastered quite a few fine motor tasks as of late. With all of this progress in other areas, you can't blame us for saying, "What about speech?!"

There is obviously, no cognitive issues that are hampering her speech. It is abundantly clear to us that Cara is smart and knows what she wants to say, but just cannot get her brain and her mouth/vocal cords to comply. This is called Apraxia according to the medical profession. Angela diagnosed Cara with this awhile ago but firmly believes that Cara will overcome this with patience and practice. While Cara shows the signs of beginning speech--turn taking, copying--that's where it stops cold in its tracks.

That being said, I have started to wonder if there's not something more going on than just a simple speech delay. I have called the neurology clinic at Children's Hospital and we are on the waiting list for an appointment, in hopes of getting in before October. I want to talk with a neurologist about possible brain damage or some such in the part of the brain (front left, I believe) that controls speech as well as the frontal lobe which controls creative expression. I am hoping that a scan will be ordered to check these areas as we haven't had any type of scan done since post-op on Cara's shunt almost a year ago. Even if the scan shows nothing out of the ordinary, I will rest assured that we have done everything that we can to find a reason for Cara's lack of speech.

It may just be that we are going to have to be even more patient that we already have been...who knows. All that I can say, in my defense, is that it is extremely frustrating at times to decode the needs of my toddler from a never-ending stream of "Ahhhh"s. Don't get me wrong, she has ways of letting us know what she wants, but oh, to hear her say, "I'm hungry!" or something like that, would be music to these ears!

So, the search for answers has just begun for us. I promise to keep you all posted as we hope to learn more in the coming months.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Just One Word

This is the ONE WORD Meme. It's a bit harder than it looks. Thanks Judy, for some blog material.

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Signifigant other? Ben
3. Worst bad habit? biting
4. Hair? Long
5. Favorite food? Carbs
6. Your favorite thing? Books
7. Your dream last night? None
8. Favorite drink? lemonade
9. Dream/goal? Masters
10. Room you are in? Living
11. Your ex? no-mustbeyours
12. Your fear? Disease
13. Where do you want to be in six years? Accomplished
14. Where were you last night? Bed
15. What you're not? Thin
16. Muffins? Struessel
17. Wish list item? Wardrobe
18. Where did you grow up? Michigan
19. Last thing you do? Pray
20. What are you wearing? Clothes
21. Your TV? OLD!
22. Your pets? None
23. Your computer? MacBook
24. Your life? Satisfactory
25. Your mood? Motivated
26. Missing someone? Grandparents (dead)
27. Your car? Outback
28. Something you are not wearing? Shoes
29. Favorite store? Target
30. Your summer? Short
31. Love someone? Duh!
32. Last time you laughed? Earlier
33. Last time you cried? Yesterday

Friday, August 08, 2008

Olympic Pride 8-8-08

I posted these questions to a group that I co-moderate, but thought it would be fun to answer them here.


1. Are you going to watch the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics? Why or why not? We sure are. I grew up watching both the summer and winter games and want to instill in Caitlin the same national pride that has fostered in me over the years. There's something special about seeing our country's best compete.

2, What events to you like to watch? I love gymnastics but every Olympics, I find another sport that hold my interest too. For the Winter Games, I love figure skating.

3. If you could be in an Olympic event, which would it be and why? Either cycling or figure skating. Cycling because I've always enjoyed biking. I think I would do better on a tour than an actual race though. Figure skating because it's so graceful and I love how the skaters make the music come alive. One of my favorite movies of all time in Cutting Edge--enough said?

4. What event would you like to see in the Olympics (you can even get creative and make one up)? Hopscotch or jump-roping. Back in the day, I was really good at jump rope!

5. Where should the Olympics be held next time? Why this locale? I think it's time for another Canadian Olympics, it's been awhile. I think it would be neat to have it in one of the eastern maritime provinces like Newfoundland or Prince Edward Island, but it's probably too remote.

Any of my blogging buddies care to answer these questions on their own blog? If so, let me know that you did and I'll be sure to stop by & read!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

School Daze

**How can she possibly be old even for school?! Wasn't I just feeding her bottles and mashed carrots?**

Caitlin started 1/2 day afternoon Kindergarten on Tuesday!

She is going to a public charter school that emphasizes multiculturalism and bilingual education. She is in the Spanish program since we figured that would be the most beneficial for living where we do. The school also offers Mandarin and French. The first 90 minutes of class are in English and the rest of the time instruction is given in Spanish. It's a very demanding curriculum (so we've heard) which is what we wanted for Caitlin, we wanted her to be challenged. Her class is also small, only 12 students which allows the teacher to provide some one-on-one attention as needed.

Anyway, Ben took the day off on Tuesday so that he could be there to send Caitlin off. She showed almost no fear when we got to her classroom and started to play with the puzzles and other interactive games on the teacher's bookcase. Caitlin made friends with one little girl during the open house and they stuck together like glue when we arrived. I think it was harder on us to leave her than it was for her. She gave each of us a hug and quickly resumed her playing.

We took some pictures at the school as well as at home after she was all decked out in her uniform and back pack. Oh my goodness, did she ever looks so grown up! When we got back to the car, knowing that she was happy & safe at school, Ben and I both had ourselves a cry. Our baby has grown up.

We were early to pick up Caitlin in the afternoon (we were told 3pm but school is released at 3:30pm) so we sat on the grass in front of the school and waited for Caitlin's class to be led out by her teacher. Caitlin was first in line and as soon as she saw Ben, she made a beeline for him--completely ignoring her teacher's instruction to stay in line. As hard as it was for him not to pick her up and give her a big hug, Ben made her get back in line until her teacher released the class. Then, she came running again! She had a big smile on her face and reported that she had a great time at school and that she listened to her teacher (except for that one time). Her class had art that day and Caitlin drew a very cute picture. She did tell us that she was starving because we didn't pack her a snack (we didn't know if they had snack time--oops!) and we promised that she could have a snack at home.

At home, I grilled her on what she had learned in school and she began signing a song in Spanish that asks someone how they are doing. I was very impressed for the first day of school! I hope that she will continue to grow and thrive in this school. She certainly seems to like it so far.

No homework yet, but we are expecting 10 minutes a night on top of reading 15 minutes per night. Since she is not in full day like we were hoping, I am also going to supplement her studies with some workbook, just to make sure that she is on par.

With school came a new routine of earlier bedtimes, early lunch and school drop off and pick up. So far, we are managing and adapting quite well, but it does seem like we're on the go a lot.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Happy 5th Birthday Caitie!


Mommy has really struggled with writing this post because well, she couldn't figure out how to sum up all that has happened in your world this year. But, she thinks that she's finally gathered her thoughts.

It seems, that in a blink of an eye, you have grown from a little girl to a very grown up girl indeed. You may only be 5 years old but in a lot of ways, you seem to be 15! You have wisdom and sensitivity beyond your years--your knowledge and vocabulary always amaze your family and strangers alike. We constantly find ourselves wondering how in the world you know some of things that you do or where you heard such of an "adult" word. I guess, you are just so very interactive with your world and are one big sponge.

We love how strong willed and independent you are. While, at times, we butt heads, we hope that these are traits that you never lose or let fade into the background. We want you to always speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in. The world needs more girls like you! We love how you can make your own choices and solve some of your own problems.

This past year, we have watched you literally transform before our eyes. You have lost a lot of your "baby look" and have matured into a young lady. Thank goodness, you still have your cute cheeks and contagious smile. You are definitely showing your uniqueness in the outfits that you wear, the pictures that you draw and the stories that you make up and the things that you pretend to be.

This has been a year of learning for you too. You have learned how to write your entire first and last name; how to draw very realistic pictures; play Uno, Candy Land, Shutes & Ladders and other games--by the rules; do a cartwheel and plenty more that we are forgetting. You have memorized Bible versus; played on a soccer team; learned a dance; mastered I Spy on the computer; overcome your fear of sleeping in your bed and had overnights with Grandma & Grandpa.

Best of all, you are a joy! You really are a sweet girl; a very loving and understanding big sister and a great friend. We are proud of you and hope that you know that. As you get ready to start Kindergarten, we know that you are going to love it and make so many new friends. Mommy & Daddy cannot wait to hear all about your days and help you with projects and homework.

Carry on Caitlin! It's going to be so much fun!

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Love always,

Mommy & Daddy

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Totally Free Tuesday!

Excuse me while I brag a bit about my thriftiness. Because I am a SAHM, I'm always on the look-out for free things to do with the girls and such, to help stretch Ben's paychecks. Well, awhile ago, I signed the girls up for the birthday clubs at Sonic Drive In and Baskin Robbins. This was back in the spring, so I totally forgot about it. Imagine my surprise, as I'm weeding out the junk mail in my Yahoo inbox, when I find coupons from Sonic for free kid's meals for both girls and free kid's cones from Baskin Robbins. We had some errands to run anyway, so I added them to the list and off we went. The girls got their corn dog wacky pack meals while I got a strawberry limeade & chicken wrap at Sonic for the grand total of...$5! Next, it was down the street to Baskin Robbins where Caitlin enjoyed a scoop of rainbow sherbet in a cone and Cara and I split a scoop of Nutty Coconut. OMGosh, this flavor is the bomb! It totally screams summer to me! Nothing says retreat on a 96 degree day than ice cream.

We came home and then I found a post in a Deals & Steals group I belong to about BOGO coupons for Dairy Queen! Of course, we have signed up. Free food is a wonderful thing!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Physical Therapy Update

Cara had her routine PT appointment today. She sees her therapist in our home once every two weeks. Lisa showed some continuing concern for how Cara's right foot turns in when she walks. We have been hoping that as she became more and more mobile, that her weight bearing on her feet would solve the problem but, that doesn't seem to be happening. So, Lisa talked with me about getting special insoles for Cara's shoes to help correct the curvature problem. Lisa will do the measurement for the inserts and fill out the order form the next time that she comes. We will then have to pay about $60 for them and they will be delivered to us in two weeks. Because the inserts are a bit thick, getting them will also require the purchase of a new pair of shoes. Cara will have to wear a supportive high heeled boot, which her therapist is going to help me pick up. It's going to be tricky to find shoes that will fit the inserts, so I'm glad to have professional help.

With these special inserts, we are hoping that the problem will correct itself within a few months. If not, we may have to move on to more invasive procedures like braces. Only time will tell.

Birthday Recap

Boy am I glad that I can still get away with a low-key combined party for both girls. I know my years are limited and soon, I'll be inviting all of the kids in Caitlin's class, making goody bags and reserving the local indoor play area. I'm counting my blessings!

That said, here is what went down for the girls' birthday celebration last Wednesday.

My parents made the trek over from the western slope to be in town to help us celebrate. We started off the festivities by taking Caitlin shopping for some much needed school supplies. She had fun watching the cart fill up with markers, glue sticks, construction paper and the like. She's so excited for school to start.

As a special treat, Caitlin got to sleep over with my parents at their hotel complete with a swim in the hot tub and continential breakfast in the morning.

Cara & I met up with everyone and we prepared to head to the zoo for the day. One of the girls' gifts from my parents was a family pass to the Denver Zoo. Despite the sorching temperatures, we had a lot of fun looking at the animals and riding the train and carousel. I cannot wait to make many return trips as there were a lot of exhibits that we didn't get to see that day.

After the zoo, we met Ben at Chuck E Cheese for some fun & games. Caitlin and Ben had a blast playing the games together and racked up quite a few (almost 300 tickets). Even my parents got into the fun and played a few games. Cara loved the toddler rides, especially the mini carousel. We ate pizza, sipped on soda and had fun pressing our luck at the wide variety of games. I have to say, that the Aurora Chuck E Cheese was one of the better ones I'd been to in a long time. A lot of new, interactive games and all of them were in working order.

We wrapped up the festivities at Chuck E Cheese and headed home to our place for presents, cake and ice cream. The girls had fun unwrapping their gifts and were thrilled with all of them. Caitlin's favorites being her new bike and the Let's Go Fishing Game. Cara loves her Fisher-Price Gumball Machine and her Duplos.

The party was a hit! I just loved watching their eyes light up with excitement throughout the day. That's what it's all about! You can look at pictures from the day-long adventure here. Feel free to leave comments.

I cannot believe that another year has come to pass. My girls are growing up entirely too fast. It is fun, yet sobering at the same time. Makes me savor each and every moment and memory.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Almost 15 seconds of fame, balloons and cake

Wednesday morning, Cara had two near back-to-back appointments at Children's Hospital. One for the eye clinic (got an Rx for some drops that work like a patch to strengthen her right eye) and one for OT. We had a bit of time to waste in-between appointments, we ventured up the the therapy floor in search of Cara's old PT therapist to show her that Cara was walking. Since it was Karen's hard work (once a week for months) that led to this accomplishment, I promised Karen that we would bring Cara by to show her when it happened. Karen ran to Cara and Cara gave her a big hug. It was such of a cute moment. Afterwards, we went to the cafeteria to snag a quick breakfast. After eating, we noticed a gathering of people in the atrium so we decided to check it out, see what all of the fuss was about. Turns out, a Native American dance demo was taking place. Cara & I sat and watched several dancers perform (I wish I had my camera because they had the most beautifully beaded and feathered costumes!) and then participated in a circle dance at the end. A photojournalist from the Denver Post approached me and took Cara's picture, saying that we might be in the next day's paper, but alas, we weren't...limited coverage space. We had a blast though and it just helped to make Cara's day. Afterward, we headed up to her OT appointment where we worked on feeding techniques--basically getting Cara to learn to take smaller bites.

After the hospital, Cara & I went to pick up Caitlin's cake & the balloons that I ordered. Did I mention that Cara is cuckoo for balloons these days? Every time she sees one, she loudly announces it to everyone. So to say she was excited to see the bunch of balloons was an understatement. The look of excitement on her face was almost worth the cost of the balloons. We picked up Caitlin's cake from Target and this is the part that made my day--the cake was marked down from $21 to $8 because they had run out of butter cream frosting, which I had requested and had to use a whip frosting instead. It was very nice of them, but unnecessary because I could pretty much just buy a tub of frosting, stick a candle in it and present it to Caitlin in lieu of cake and she would be on cloud nine. Still, I love saving money, so I was a happy camper. You can see the girls' cakes here. I think both turned out real cute. Caitlin picked out her cake, and surprised me by not choosing something pink or with princesses or Barbies. I chose Sesame Street for Cara's cake because she loves to watch the show with me in the mornings and seems to have a love of Elmo. I found the Sesame Street gang image online and then King Soopers (Target doesn't have this ability) made it into an edible image.

Next year, I'm going the easy route and doing cupcakes or if we must have cake, I'm ordering an 1/8 of a sheet cake for both girls. Cake leftovers get old after a while!

I will a birthday celebration recap post in a little while.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday Cara!


Today, you cross over the threshold between babyhood and all that is yet to come. In the past year, you have come so far. Thanks to wonderful doctors, a skilled neurosurgeon and attentive therapists, you are forging ahead, learning something new every day. In one short year, you have learned how to crawl, cruise the furniture, do the elephant walk, do baby signs and now, walking. You have blossomed from being an immobile baby to such of a colorful little girl. We just love your personality, even when you want to be stubborn and fiercely independent. You love to give hugs and kisses, watch Sesame Street on Mommy's lap and play pretend with your sister. You are a very good sleeper, love to go for car rides and have an obsession with balloons. Milk is a must-have before bed, as is your red chicken from Uncle Matt. You have just learned to say "Momma" and we love the sound of your voice. We cannot wait for you to join in conversations and state your opinion or protests. This has been an amazing year, baby girl, and we know that there are many good times to come. We feel so blessed to have you in our lives, you are a ray of sunshine.

The world awaits you little girl, go & explore. Mommy & Daddy will be right by side to share in your adventures!

We love you LuLu! Happy 2nd Birthday!


Mommy & Daddy

The Proof is in the Video

As promised, here is a video of Cara WALK-ing!

Birthday Flickr Photos

Just a shout-out to my readers to let you know that there are new photos on my Flickr page from the birthday outing to the Denver Zoo and Chuck E Cheese. The batteries in my camera died when it came time to open presents, so my dad stepped in. I will be downloading the photos from his camera in a little bit, so check back. I will also have some birthday posts up later today/tonight.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kindergarten Baby

I'm going to be the mother of a Kindergartner in less than a month!! Where, oh where, did the time go?

Caitlin starts full-day (we have to pay a small monthly amount for this privilege) Kindergarten in less than a month, August 5th to be exact. She will be attending Global Village Academy, a public charter school. We chose not to send her to the public school because it is in a bad neighborhood (even Ben got the heebie jeebies) and overcrowded. At Global Village, she will benefit from a bilingual (Spanish) program and smaller classrooms. This school is pretty new (2nd year) so we are hoping that everything goes smoothly.

We have been busy trying to get everything that Caitlin will need for school. Gone are the days of sending your child dressed in Sunday best with a pencil, slate and an apple for the teacher. We have a double-sided list for the classroom and an additional long and very specific list for art class. All I have to say is, my kid better be making some gallery quality artwork with those expensive brushes, oils and pastels! Caitlin also has to have uniforms to attend. Thankfully, they have patches so that we can sew them on to shirts, pants, jumpers, skorts and other items that we purchase (within the schools approved colors and styles, of course) rather than having to buy all of their special-made clothing. I mean, wouldn't you rather risk pricking your finger with a needle to sew a $3 patch onto a $8 shirt than buy a $18 shirt? Frugal-ness is the name of the game around here. Grandma is looking forward to helping Caitlin with her school supply shopping and hopefully, helping Caitlin's mom with the patch sewing!

One of the requirements for attending Global Village is that every family must volunteer 30 hours a year to help the school. I have found a couple of opportunities already and the rest, I'll have to juggle with a terrible two year old in tow. This could be interesting, to say the least.

We will see how this year goes. I'm hoping that Caitlin loves it and will want to go back for 1st grade. If not, we do have another option. Originally, we wanted Caitlin to go here and thought we were in but, do some some miscommunication, we lost our spot and were relegated to the lottery. Needless to say, our name has not been chosen. So, Global Village was our second choice, but a strong second. I had the opportunity to talk with another GVA parent at WalMart a few days ago and she said that both she & her daughter loved the school, despite it being brand new, and were returning this year. So, this gives me hope.

As we prepare to send our baby off to school, I have mixed feelings. I know that Caitlin is ready for school and that she will do wonderfully, but I am going to miss having her bubbly persona around during the day. I want her to learn, grow and make new friends but, I also don't want her to grow up too much. I'm sure I'll be one of those moms who shed tears privately in the car, after their child is safely out of sight then shouts hallelujah!

Total Craziness

I know it's complete chaos when I need lists to keep everything straight in my mind. Here is what is going down at the McLean-Ogoe household.

**We just finished up Bible Sports Camp and the required shuttling back and forth

**We are gearing up for both girls' birthday next week which means cake purchasing, present selection (and subsequent wrapping), crepe paper hanging, balloon arranging...you get the idea. I -think- I have everything under control. Let's just hope that I don't forget to pick up aforementioned cakes or balloons. Tomorrow is present selection and my PTO (Personal Time Out) so, I'm looking forward to it.

**My parents are coming into town on Tuesday to help us celebrate the girls' birthdays so, the house needs to be clean enough to pass the white glove inspection. I doubt they care if my kitchen floor could be eaten off of, but the sad thing is, I do. I love to stress myself out.

**As if my week weren't busy enough, throw in a visit for Cara with the ophthalmologist and occupational therapist, all in a span of 90 minutes.

**Oh, and did I mention that we are throwing in a trip to the Denver Zoo and the local Chuck E Cheese after the appointments? What can I say, I'm glutton for punishment. I just hope that Mother Nature cooperates and that it's not 100 degrees in shade nor pouring rain.

**Caitlin starts school on August 5th. That is another post in and of itself. Since I'm on a blog-post roll here, I'll do that one next.

Here's hoping that things will settle down somewhere around Christmastime!

(Note to my husband, if you read this, thank you so much for the iPod, I'd be lost without it lately. Well, at least more lost than I already am. It helps control the chaos.)

It Works!

I may be behind the ball, but better late than never as the saying goes.

We finally instituted a Goal Chart here at our house. I have thought about doing one for Caitlin for some time, but I didn't want to be a "mean mom". Well, I finally decided that I wanted Caitlin to have good manners and some responsibilities so, I broke out the chart. I found it at the Dollar Tree for the bargain price of, you guessed it, $1.

I had no trouble thinking up the "goals" that Caitlin would have to meet--
*Listening (read: no arguing, whining or having to be told to do something more than once.
*Being kind (mostly to Cara as she can, at times, be a bit rough and mean)
*Brushing her teeth every day
*Picking up her toys when done playing
*Cleaning up after meals (taking her plate to the sink, wiping up any crumbs)
*Going to bed on time (a biggie because of the newly implemented earlier bedtimes)
*Making her bed in the morning

We decided that if she did 5 out of 7 goals all week, she would get a special prize (something under a dollar, that I would pick out).

I cannot believe that it's actually working. I am not the biggest advocate of bribing children in order to get them to behave but, well, I'm desperate. Plus, I don't even really have to remind Caitlin to do her chores...she just does them! I barely even have to warn her when her behavior is heading south before she realizes her error. She wants those goofy little stamps on her chart. She is craving the chocolate bar (which she thinks is the perfect reward)!

Excuse me, I need to wipe this shocked look off of my face.

Bible Sports Camp

We just wrapped up a week of Bible Sports Camp for Caitlin. Our church (a total of three campuses) puts on quite the VBS program with actual VBS, sports camps and fine art camps. We chose sports camp because we really wanted Caitlin to get some physical activity in this summer. She had a total of 8 activities to chose from, one in the morning and one in afternoon. She chose to do dance in the mornings and soccer in the afternoons.

We had to institute earlier bedtimes, both girls are night owls, in order for Caitlin to get enough sleep and be pleasant when I woke her up at 8 o'clock so that we could be out the door at 8:30am. Sports camp was from 9am-2pm, so it gave me some precious one-on-one time with Cara, which we savored.

Caitlin had a total blast! She came home every day and showed me the dance moves that she had learned from "her summer school teacher" and is pretty quick on her feet with a soccer ball. Mixed in there amongst jazz moves and scrimmage were simple Bible lessons and stories. A very wholesome program.

Caitlin came away with some new skills, both in sports and socially. She has learned a little of what it is going to be like being in a class or activity with other children--turn taking, raising her hand, being polite, following directions and things of that nature. We have tried to teach her those things at home, but this was a much more appropriate and productive setting for her. Sports camp has also given her a sample of what it's going to be like being at school all day. We really wanted to figure out a way to introduce her to this concept, thankfully, Circle J Summer Camp came to the rescue! I hope that we can continue to participate for years to come.

I almost forgot the best part, at least in my opinion. We found the sweetest college student to babysit the girls when Ben & I want a date night. She was one of Caitlin's "teachers" and they both took a liking to each other from the start. We plan to put Aubrey "to work" very soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Big Bang!

We were pretty uncoordinated (yes, I know, a shocker for those that know me) in terms of our 4th of July plans this year. It has been a semi-tradition to go to Ouray, CO for the 4th because they have one of the coolest fireworks shows. The fireworks echo off of the canyon walls...trust me, it's a one-of-a-kind experience. For several years, my side of the family has gathered in the city park with a picnic and waited until dusk for the display to start. We'd wander the streets of the touristy town, get some delicious ice cream and watch the water fight in the middle of main street. Good times were had.

This year however, gas & lodging prices (and out-of-control medical bills) forced us to stay local. We found out that Aurora's city fireworks were shot off just down the road from our house, so we packed up the car with a blanket and set out to find the perfect spot. We found a vacant field across from the local library branch and found a spot. Unfortunately, it wasn't grass that we sat on, but some of the local prickly-type weed. So we sat amongst this and dirt. Poor Cara was coughing a lot because we were sitting right in one of the weeds that she is allergic to, poor thing.

All that aside, we had fun watching the display. Aurora puts on a good show, with a fantastic big bang at the end. Because we were up on a little bit of a hill, we could also see several displays for neighboring suburbs, which was really neat. Watching the girls' expression to the colorful explosions was priceless. I wish I had thought to bring the video camera. This is the first year that Cara has really been into watching and exclaiming. She kept tapping me and Ben and saying, "Ooohh" or "Ahhh!". Next year, we hope to find some place a bit better to go and also take in a parade or other celebrations.

Here are a few pictures--

I just thought this looked cool. It's the street light, lights from the concert by the municipal center and the municipal center itself, using a funky mode on my camera.

Caitlin & Ben making '08 with their hands.

A few of the better shots that I got of the fireworks. The shutter reload speed on my Freecycle camera is so slow!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Creative, that she is...

Out of the mouth of our almost 5 year-old---

*We sent her to the corner because she decided to turn on the Wii after we told her not to.*

Ben: "Corner...now"
Caitlin: "I've been in the corner so many times that I need a vacation!

Give that girl 10 points for creativity!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Elephant Walk

While I am hoping to get these events on video, I just had to share them before I forgot. Here is what's new for Cara as of late---

**She is walking up to 20 steps without assistance! She just stands herself up and waddles around the room. She still likes to have something to hold onto at her final destination, but this is great progress!

**She walked, holding onto my hand, from our car, up several steps, and to the door of the ice cream place without falling or stopping! That was about a 1/8 of a mile. Her endurance certainly is building.

**She is now doing the "elephant walk" or crawling with her hands and feet instead of knees. She thinks this is so funny to do and is usually laughing her heart out while moving across the floor.

Lost & Found

Temporary panic set in a few days ago when I could not locate my cell phone. I even backtracked to both Walgreen and the local pizza joint where I last had conscious thought of having the phone on me. When the phone didn't turn up at either establishment, I tore the house apart looking for it--did it get in the wash, in the trash, in the toilet? How would I survive without being able to text message? Oh goodness me! Ben, Caitlin & I looked everywhere we could think of over the course of a few days with no luck. I finally gave in and called Verizon to hear about any special deals that they had on phones since this one was not insured (It didn't seem worth it at the time because it was a free phone, retailed for $30). The best deal that I could find on a compatible phone was $60, which in the wireless world is a good deal. I was so upset going to be throwing $60+tax down the tubes because of my carelessness! This is how Verizon and other cell phone providers make money...off of scatter-brained, burnt out, but desperate moms like me. After 48 hours without a phone, I decided enough was enough, piled the girls into the car and went down to the Verizon store prepared to come home with yet another new phone (we had gotten a new one for adding Ben to my plan just a few months ago). As we were heading to the store, Caitlin pipes up from the backseat, "Mom, your phone is going off!" I told her that she must be hearing things because we had searched the car and my phone wasn't in there. She didn't hear the beeping noise again, so we dismissed it. When we got to the mall's parking structure, I decided, what the heck, let's look through the car one more time before we blow a hole in the wallet. I pulled my seat all the way forward and lo & behold, what do I find? My trusty cell phone, right there on the floorboard under my seat! Caitlin had heard my phone's low battery alert noise in the car! I was so thrilled that I took her out of her car seat and twirled her around the parking structure. People looked at me like I was nuts, but I didn't care! $60 is a lot of money to us, and now, we could spend it on something else. As a reward, Caitlin got to pick out a small bag of candy from the candy store. She was in hog heaven. I went to the Verizon store but only to reactivate my phone (I had it shut off in case someone found it and tried to call Mexico or something) and charge the battery. Final cost=$5.64 for the bag of candy. MUCH better than $60+tax! It pays to have a child with the hearing of a bat.


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