Wednesday, December 31, 2008


After I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I went to a completely 
different kind of book.  Escape, by Carolyn Jessop tells the true 
story of the author's escape from the religious extremism of the 
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 
(FLDS) and the oppression of living in an abusive polygamous 
marriage.  This was a look into a world that I could not have 
even imagined.  It was so bizarre and so unbelievable that I 
would audibly gasp!  I think Mike got tired of me constantly 
saying, "Oh my gosh, you won't believe this...."  

It was that kind of emotion that kept me up until one o'clock 
in the morning several mornings in a row because I just 
couldn't stop reading.  The book begins by Carolyn Jessop 
going back in time, retelling her family history and her own 
upbringing in the FLDS compound in Colorado City, Arizona.  
When Carolyn was eighteen, she was forced into becoming 
the fourth wife of a fifty year old leader in the community named 
Merril Jessop.  Even though she was deeply upset about 
marrying a man so much older, she was powerless to do anything 
about it.  She stayed in the marriage for many years, giving birth 
to eight of Merril's fifty-three children.  Her descriptions of living 
in an extremely unhealthy and abusive marriage were 
heart-wrenching.  Eventually Carolyn planned and executed 
a successful escape and managed to become the first FLDS 
woman to win custody of her own children.  

It was a difficult and unbelievable road for her to travel, and it 
made for a fascinating read!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reading Fest

Since we've had a lot of time relaxing at home lately, I've been reading like a mad woman.  I finally finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I've been slowly attacking since September.  I know, I know-- but throughout all the holidays, reading got pushed aside.  But after Christmas we had several days to be at home and I managed to finish that book plus another book which I'll blog about tomorrow.  And I've started a third book that I think will be a great read too.  

Today I thought I'd give my two cents on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-- for whatever my opinion is worth!  This is a slow paced book, but if you know that from the start, you can just relax and enjoy it rather than wait anxiously for something big to happen.  Much like Seinfield was dubbed "a show about nothing", so this book could be called "a book about nothing".  And I don't mean that in a negative way.  It just follows the life of little Francie Nolan during the years 1912-1917.  Francie is poor and grows up in the tenement houses of Brooklyn, NY.  She begins the book as a withdrawn, but imaginative little girl and ends the book a more confident and self-assured sixteen year old.  I thought the descriptions of Francie's world were both sad and beautiful.   She experiences both joys and sorrows within her own family, whom you will get to know and love as well.  Betty Smith, the book's author, grew up in Brooklyn herself, so her descriptions of the bustling streets and melting pot of nationalities all living together is quite accurate.  It was a little bit like going back in time and really seeing what it took to survive the daily grind.   

Overall, I really enjoyed it.  I thought Francie's character in particular was incredibly well developed.  It felt like you almost knew her as a real person.  I would highly recommend reading this classic novel.  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Photos

Today I thought I'd share a few more photos from our wonderfully calm Christmas. Actually these were all taken on Christmas Eve-- I'm afraid I didn't take any pics of Christmas Day!  I think my mom did, so I'll have to snag her camera for a while. Hmmm... Oh well.  I'm still relishing in our holiday because once Monday arrives I head back to work and another week begins.  It really was lovely.

Hannah with PaPa.  My dad makes his famous cinnamon rolls each year at Christmas.  They are so, so good.  My mom made his apron many years ago.  It says, "Dough Boy."  Cute.
A beautiful sunset on Christmas Eve.  

The girls got to open two gifts each on Christmas Eve.  They are modeling their soft new robes. And Hannah is showing off her dinosaur while Leah is cuddling her new horse named "Chance".

Ok, now I'm going to go back to lounging around and playing with my girls.  Mike is making homemade pizza for dinner and then we may watch a movie later.  My kind of night.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!  We had such a wonderful holiday today, full of smiles, giggles, food, family and togetherness.   We didn't have a schedule of places to go, so it was one of the most relaxing Christmases we've had.  

So now it's 10:30, the house is quiet, the girls are sound asleep, the wrapping paper thrown away, leftovers stored away in the fridge, and Mike and I are sitting in our living room watching tv, fire going and the Christmas tree lights glowing.  And our hearts are full.

I hope you had a very wonderful holiday with your friends and family too!

Monday, December 22, 2008


Well, I guess I'll let you all in on a little secret.  A few days before Thanksgiving we found out we are expecting baby #3!!  We were surprised, but absolutely thrilled!  I saw my doctor last week and then had an ultrasound this morning.  Everything is going great and it looks like we're just having one baby this time!  And my due date is August 3rd-- which seems so very far away.  There are moments when I get overwhelmed thinking about having three kids, but then I think about snuggling and cuddling a new little one and I am more excited than anything.  And then when I saw this little heartbeat today.....

And I'm already in love.  

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Orange Juice

Oranges, image taken from:
I am crazy about orange juice.  Seriously.  I have to drink a glass of it in the morning before I feel fully awake and ready to start my day.  And my favorite, favorite thing in the world is freshly squeezed orange juice.  When I was pregnant with my girls I bought at least two bags of oranges a week and used my wonderful electric juicer to make a small pitcher of juice.  I think my body was craving the extra vitamin C and folic acid.  This morning I pulled a big bag of oranges out of the fridge, and the girls and I made some delicious, sweet OJ to go with our whole wheat waffles we also made.  It was oh so good.

When I eighteen years old, my friends LeAnn and Kim and I traveled around Europe for a month.  It was such an amazing time.  While we were wandering around the gardens of Versailles one humid June afternoon, we happened upon a little stand where a gypsy woman was selling glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice.  I was quite parched, and the sweet smell of oranges was too much to resist.  So I bought the largest size glass and watched this heavy-set woman with wild dark hair and lots of gold jingling jewelry squeeze a few oranges into a tall plastic cup.  And then I slowly slurped every last drop of that orange juice. And it was worth every franc (pre euro days).  We didn't linger at that stand too long-- we still had to see Marie Antoinette's little village.  But it is a moment in time that I vividly remember. 

Maybe that's when my love affair with orange juice began???  Or maybe it just grew stronger?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday, Banana and Bee!

About to blow out their birthday candles.  
Will these people please hurry up and finish singing the birthday song??

Today is my daughters' 4th birthday. 4 years old! That still needs to sink in a little. I remember the day they were born in such incredible detail. If I wrote all my memories out, you'd be reading for quite awhile. So I'll share a few snippets from that incredible day:

* I remember waking up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get to the hospital by 5:00. Amazingly, I was able to jump out of bed and get ready. I was so excited and nervous at the same time. We were going to be induced at 37 weeks.

* I remember the uncomfortable feeling of early contractions. Then the painful ones that began later. It was so surreal watching my large stomach tighten up hard as a rock.

* I remember getting an epidural. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. And I remember the relief afterwards!

* I remember the nurses rushing in when Leah's heartbeat dropped rapidly. I remember the worried looks in their eyes.

* I remember my doctor coming in to my room and telling me that I was going to meet my new babies in about ten minutes. I needed an emergency c-section. A flurry of activity followed including me drinking some awful tasting medicine and getting whisked down the hall to the operating room.

* I remember laying on the gurney in the operating room, tearing streaming out of the corners of my eyes, draining down into my ears. A nurse asked if I was okay. "I'm just overwhelmed," was my reply.

* I remember how fast the girls came out. Leah at 12:01 and Hannah at 12:02. Everyone commented on how much dark, black hair they had! I heard them crying and was dying to hold them!

* I remember being wheeled back down the hall to my room. Lots of family and friends had gathered outside in the hallway and they were all smiling and cheering. Our friend Reed was filming me and I remember laughing, covering my face, and then crying again. Oh the hormones were raging out of control!

* I remember holding my girls for the first time. I remember staring at their faces for hours. I couldn't get enough of them. They had soooo much hair! Their eyes were like deep, dark pools of water. Their little lips were perfectly puckered, and they smelled divine. I love freshly cleaned baby smell. It is so pure.

* I remember how tired I was that night. And sore. And thankful. SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL.

I look at how much my girls have grown and changed in the last four years. And I am still so thankful.

God, thank you for my beautiful girls. Help me to be grateful for every day you give me with them. Guide me as I do my best to nurture their tender little hearts, and help them grow into strong, kindhearted young women who love you and love others!

Leah Rae
Hannah Joy

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plain

Today I am home sick.  Oh yes, an upper-respiratory infection has made it's home in my head and lungs making me feel miserable.  Fever. Congestion.  Coughing.  Oh yeah, the works.  But, I'm trying to find the good in today anyway.  First good thing is that my parents offered to take the girls for the day so I could just stay home and rest, take my antibiotics, and hopefully start feeling better soon.  It has been a long, long time since I spent my day lounging in bed, taking multiple naps.  

Second,  since the house is so quiet, I find myself being soothed by the constant swooshing sound of the wind.  It is wicked windy today-- even for Oklahoma standards.  You probably know our state song, "Ooooooklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain...". Rogers and Hammerstein certainly got that right.  There are many days where the wind truly is "sweeping".  The wind here can be downright annoying if you happen to be out in it--fierce and unrelenting.  In the summer it is like a hot blanket, and in the winter it feels like needles on your skin.  

But today, I can enjoy the wind.  Because today I am inside feeling comfortable and warm.  The lights are low.  And the wind is steadily howling.  It makes me feel extra cozy.  And thankful that I don't have to be out it in. 

So in keeping with the wind theme, here's just a reminder of our state song.  


Thursday, December 11, 2008


When comparing family trees, Mike and I have some distinct differences.  For example, my immediate family is very small.  It consists of Mom, Dad, and Me. That's it.  I love my parents and get along with them wonderfully, but it is a small family for sure.  Mike's, however is a little bigger.  And I was introduced to them during our first date on September 22, 1996. Well, I take that back, Mike didn't actually introduce me to everyone that day, but he did take me by his Granny's house here in Oklahoma City so I could meet her.  The rest of Mike's family lives in either New Jersey or New York.  He wanted to show me a picture of his parents, brother and sister, and Granny's house had plenty of them proudly displayed on her living room wall.  

Here's the first picture I ever saw of Mike's family:

Isn't Mike cute?

As I was looking at it, Mike whispered, "I look a little different."  And then he began to explain his story.  Mike was born in 1976 in Guadalajara, Mexico.  He was adopted five days later and brought to the United States.  Mike's parents already had a six year old biological son at this time.  But they looked into adoption when they knew they were not going to be able to have other children.  They both have always loved Hispanic culture-- even Mike's older brother (who does not have a Latino bone in his body) is named Juan Carlos-Ricardo.  Look at his picture. Does he look like a Juan?  When they adopted Mike, they named him Michael James.  What irony!  Now, not pictured in the above photo is Mike's younger sister, Rachel.  She was adopted four years after Mike.  She was born in Lawton, Oklahoma and is a beautiful, tall, green-eyed beauty.  

I think Mike took me by his Granny's house that day to get all of that out in the open.  He has spent his life explaining why he doesn't look like the rest of his family and why his last name is not Hispanic sounding (we have a very Irish sounding last name).  And I think he wanted to see my reaction to such a "non-traditional" looking family.  It didn't phase me in the least.  I love it. I love that three children can come from three different starting points, but be put into a family and it just works.  Juan, Mike and Rachel have a great relationship.  I love that our girls are half-Mexican.  And I love that adoption shows how love is not bound to blood relation only.  

Mike's family has grown a lot since that first picture I saw.  Juan is married to an awesome woman, my sister-in-law, Tracy.  And they have four beautiful children:  River, Hailey, Corban and Connor.  And Rachel got married just three years ago to a wonderful man named Juan Pablo (Another Juan just to confuse things! Rachel's Juan is originally from Colombia and we call him by his nickname, Juampa).  They have an amazing little one year old girl named Velda. With our kids thrown in, that makes seven grandkids! 

All three of the couples get along great.  Amazingly great.  We truly all love each other and have a lot of fun together.  I just wish we lived in the same state!  So even though they were all here in Oklahoma this week because we were mourning the passing of a wonderful grandmother, we also celebrated how wonderful it is to have a loving family.

Me, Tracy, Rachel
Playing Bananagrams:  one of our favorites.
The girls out riding their Princess scooters that their Uncle Juan and Aunt Tracy brought them.
Uncle Juan showing Leah how a professional rides a tricycle.
 Mike, Juan, & Rachel


Monday, December 8, 2008

Current Numbers In Our Life

In the past six days....

* My husband's beautiful 91 year old grandmother passed on from this life.  She died on Tuesday morning peacefully and with her family by her side.  

* Six of our family members from New Jersey and New York flew in to Oklahoma City including:  Mike's parents, sister, niece, brother and sister-in-law. 

* Four of the six are staying with us at our house.  It's a full house, but a comfortable house.  Being around family, even during a sad time, is so so good.

* We gave our girls a wonderful 4th birthday party.  Eleven of their friends and family came to celebrate, eat cupcakes and open gifts.  Leah screamed when she opened her Belle doll.   Pictures to come soon. 

* We had a Big 12 Championship get together Saturday night as we watched our OU Sooners beat Missouri 62-21.  We're headed to the National Title game on January 8, 2009!  Woo-Hoo!

* Mike's brother and sister-in-law, Juan and Tracy, took our girls to Chuck E. Cheese's for a special surprise.  Mike and I tagged along.  We spent $10 on tokens, played about 15 games of ski ball (most of which Mike won-- he's found a new calling) and ended up with about 4 cheap plastic toys as prizes.  But the girls had a blast, so it was all worth it!  

* We have had a whirlwind of people and activity in our house, but with all of that comes hundreds of laughs, many meaningful conversations, a few tears as we mourned our family's loss, and enough hugs to last until the next time we see each other again.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stay on Green

When the girls started preschool this fall, they came home talking about whether or not they had "stayed on green" all day.  At first I didn't pay any attention to that phrase, but I eventually asked their teacher what it meant and discovered that in their classroom, each child has a "stoplight". As long as they have good behavior, they stay on their green light.  If they go to time-out, they change to yellow.  And if they (heaven forbid) go to their red light, the school calls the child's parents.  I was also pleasantly surprised to know that my girls are really concerned about staying on green, and most of the time they exhibit good, obedient behavior. It was a simple, yet effective way of maintaining discipline in the classroom.  And then a light bulb went off in my head.  Why am I not doing this at home?

So with a little bit of construction paper, markers, scissors, stickers and tape, we made up our own "stoplight" system.  It's a little different than what they have at school, but let me tell you-- it works.  At least for now it does.  We'll have to reevaluate if it ever stops working, but for now we're having fewer meltdowns, fewer arguments and an overall happier tone to our day.  Most of the time all I have to do is give them a warning and say, "Do you want to stay on green today?"  

No one make fun of my artwork ok?  Thanks.  =)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving & More

Okay, when I started out with this blog I did not envision myself just giving "weekend updates", but the last few weeks that is all I've managed to write about.  With the the craziness of the season right now, I'm finding it hard to post on a every other day basis (my original goal). Regardless, I'm finding time this morning while the girls are at Mother's Day Out to fit in some blogging and the natural thing to write about is how wonderful our Thanksgiving holiday was. So get ready for some updating.....

Thursday morning we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which is a tradition on our home.  The girls loved the appearance of Ariel and Sebastian singing "Under the Sea".  I guess The Little Mermaid is a Broadway show now. Oh man, they'd love to see that one.  Mike and I made our dishes to take to my aunts' house for my family's Thanksgiving meal.  I made a broccoli, cheese and almond casserole and Mike made some incredible baked artichokes covered in lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and breadcrumbs.  So good I tell you.  

After that we headed to my aunt Lindell's to see my family and gorge ourselves with yummy food.  I think there were over 20 people there, and we always have a good time together.  After we ate, we all headed outside for a game of kickball.  I merely observed and took a few photos, but most everyone else (cousins, aunts, uncles) played.  

Hannah ready to go to Lindell's house.  She's holding her favorite animal, "Sneaky" the Leopard.
Leah showing off her new dress and cardigan.  
Kickball in progress.  Isn't the brown winter grass beautiful?
I sure hope they are always thankful for each other.
Hannah running after one of my cousin's dogs.  I love the wind in her hair.

Friday came along and we spent the day decorating for the holidays.  Christmas tree up-- check. Stockings hung-- check.  The girls had such a good time putting up the ornaments this year.  It's the first year they've really been able to help. Friday evening we went to Irma's burger shack with my parents and then had every intention of going to the Oklahoma River Parade.  This event showcases boats all decked out in Christmas lights and decor floating down the Oklahoma River. We ended up getting there too late, but we did get to see the fireworks show. Then faced with a "what to do now?" situation, we turned to the ever popular Bass Pro Outdoor World.  That place is huge!  We walked around for a good hour looking at everything from Santa's workshop to a huge fish tank to stuffed (really stuffed) animals of every shape and size to guns and ammo. 

This place was packed Friday night.
The girls met a Grizzly Bear.  
 I wonder how long they'd last in the wild?

Finally, Saturday and Sunday brought about a calmer, slower pace.  We spent time together at home with the fire going and Christmas tree lights on.  It was so very cozy and needed.  I avoided doing any Christmas shopping yet and instead opted for family time at home.  I know I'll have to get out there soon though.....

Sunday night:  the girls were asleep, fire going, wind howling, Christmas lights on and Tundra basking in the glow.  
She loves to be admired.  

I hope you all had a great holiday as well!