Thursday, December 24, 2009

Our Merry Christmas project!

We spent some time last weekend getting ready for our big surprise for Olivia! We colored some special ornaments just for her and hung them on her very own tree at the cemetery!
The kids had a blast doing this and it helped us all celebrate a little part of Christmas with Olivia.

The kids each made two ornaments...Brooklyn colored some presents and an angel,

while Jack colored an ornament and a snowman. to the cemetery to deliver our ornaments! Isn't Olivia's little tree just perfect?!?
I've been pretty surprised at how well we are all handling the holidays. I've been dreading it for months now. We are all remembering Olivia in our own little ways. Of course, she is unforgettable! We've been surrounded by family. We've received some amazing cards, gifts, and treats. We've attended or hosted 5 Christmases so far and still have a couple more stops to make tomorrow. It's been truly awesome.
So...a very Merry Christmas to everyone! We hope your Christmas is filled with many blessings!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The flood.

I had an unexpected conversation with Brooklyn the other night. It was just the two of us and we were on our way to her last soccer practice (thank goodness!). I don't remember exactly what we were talking about to get on the subject, but she asked me if she was sad when she found out that Olivia had gone to Heaven. I told her that when we originally said that Olivia wasn't going to be with us for very much longer, she was very sad, but the day she died, I think she was kind of expecting it, in a way. They had just been in to see her and to say goodbye and I'm sure she had picked up on the emotional cloud that loomed in the room that day.
She then proceeded to ask a lot of questions about how we found out that Olivia had died. I explained that I was holding her and her heart just stopped. "But, how did you know her heart stopped?" We talked about the monitors and how they showed that kind of stuff and that the doctor came in and told us she was gone. Anyway, an enormous flood of memories came back to me from that exact moment. It's one of those bittersweet moments that I'll never, ever forget. It's one of those moments that you read about happening to other people. I remember, so clearly, telling Olivia that if she was tired, it was okay to go. Within minutes, that was it.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
There are some families up in our PICU that are going through the same thing right now. Please pray for them. The nurses and the doctors are growing weary and need some extra prayers, too. These people are amazing. They invest their whole being into these kids and their families. It's been an extremely tough year up there, but it's so important for these docs and nurses to remember that, regardless of the outcome, they can only do so much. I remember when the doctors told us that anything they were doing medically, was being done 'to' Olivia, and no longer 'for' Olivia. This is when we knew it was time to let the Great Physician take over and He decided to give Olivia complete healing. Yes, we lost, but she won. Who could want anything more for their child? She is an amazing success story. So, an extra prayer for guidance, strength, comfort, and peace for our friends, and for all people struggling right now couldn't hurt, right?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A few exciting things...

Just a couple of things to share...

  • We officially have renters! Woohoo!
  • The "jewel project" is still going well and we are almost a whole week into it.
  • Zac and I attended a beautiful memorial service at the hospital on Sunday. It was put on by the Children's Hospital and was a really nice candlelight service. If you were present, they read off the name of your child and their dates of birth/death. It was really neat to see the number of families that come back every year to remember their children and have a candle lit for them. There were some poems read (I believe written by families) and some amazing songs. It was a very good thing for Zac and I to do together.
  • A new blog! My best friend and I are taking on a challenge together in the new year. We are doing the 365 day challenge of reading the Bible...cover to cover. We are going to document are feelings throughout the year. I am so excited to do this - and we are looking for any takers that would like to join us! Check out the new blog at It's still under construction, so don't expect too much until the first of the year when our challenge begins! We'd love to have you join us!
  • I got the most beautiful card and bracelet in the mail yesterday. The person who sent tried to be super sneaky and not sign the card or put a return address. But, unfortunately, she didn't know who she was dealing with and I busted her out! Thanks, Bethany! I love it! The bracelet reads, "A mother holds her children's hand for a short while but their hearts forever." How true. It's beautiful.
  • I've got about 98% of my Christmas shopping done.
  • We have a special project planned for our family to do on Friday or Saturday to celebrate Olivia's life...more on that later.

I know, I know. You can hardly contain your excitement.

Me either.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Gee. Everyone seems so interested in little Earl.

Earl is our "Elf on the Shelf." It's a gift pack you can buy that comes with a book and an Elf. The story is that the Elf gets "adopted" into your family for the holidays. He's always watching you, and at night, when we are sleeping, Earl flies to the North Pole to tell Santa if you've been good, bad, what you want for Christmas, etc... Then, every morning, Earl is in a different place in the house. He's been in the tree, on doorknobs, on top of the cabinet, hanging from light fixtures, and many more strange places. No one can touch him, though. His magic may just disappear.

This morning, Earl was in one of our plants (yes, that's an AquaGlobe...I don't recommend them).

This is the first year we have done this. I'd seen the book/elf before, but never bought it. When I was in South Carolina, we ran across the book/elf at a toy store and Nicole's kids were totally taken by it. So I purchased an elf for us (and for Nicole's family, but she's not been real happy with me about it...her kids write letters to their elf and have gotten much more into it!)

Anyway, the kids love it. They are constantly reminding each other that God and Earl are watching them, so be good! It wasn't enough, however, to be able to bypass the "jewel project." Together they work out well, though. Earl will to the North Pole on Christmas Eve and return to us again next year.
I would highly recommend "The Elf on the Shelf" to anyone. Maybe it will be one of those after Christmas sales you can't live without! It's been really fun seeing where he turns up in the mornings. The kids are a whole lot better at finding him than I am half the time. The funny thing is, since Zac gets up so early, he always seems to be able to find him before us ;o)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Jewel Project

About once a year, it happens. I get completely fed up with the fighting, bickering, hitting, etc... that goes on between the kids.
It's happened.
I try to think of creative ways to get the kids to be nice to each other and whatever the new disciplinary project is, it usually works for at least a week or so ;o)
This time, it's the jewel project. It's similar to regimens we've tried before, so the kids already understand it. Jack does the jewel system at school, so I was a little concerned that he may not be into it. You know, having to be good at school and at home, but so far, so good. The kids have each decorated their own containers and if they do something nice, unexpected, considerate, or just plain unheard of, they get a jewel. Maybe even two. On the flip side, if they do something unkind, inconsiderate, or just plain unheard of, they lose a jewel. On Saturday, it's trade-in day.
We just started this new plan on Thursday, and it's ridiculous how kind and respectful the kids have been to each other and the completely unheard of things that have been going on. Last night, we had people over. We ordered pizza, wings, etc... Jack was in the kitchen for quite some time, only to find out he cleaned up the whole place! The leftovers were neatly placed in the fridge and the empty boxes were taken out to the garage and everything.

Another instance -
Jack: "Brooklyn, may I try some of that please?"
Brooklyn: "Of course you can, Jack."
Jack: "Thank you so much, Brooklyn."
Brooklyn: "You are so welcome, Jack."


Why is it that we have to bribe our children to be kind to each other? I'm not going to complain, because it's actually been rather peaceful around here.
Anyway, back to trade-in day. Jack spent a good 45 minutes last night making a list of what he thinks would be fair trade-in's.
Here's the breakdown:
5 jewels = sit in the king's chair at dinner (that would be Zac's seat)
8 jewels = sleep on the blow up mattress
10 jewels = get picked up from school
20 jewels = rent a movie
2 jewels = get a soda
25 jewels = buy something
29 jewels = buy Legos
1 jewel = stay up late
4 jewels = read a book
3 jewels = buy a book
15 jewels = don't wear a coat to school
1 jewel = be the first one to look for Earl (he's our little elf that we look for every morning in the house)

The trade-in's are still up for debate. I was a little put off by the paying 4 jewels to be able to read a book. I really do let them read whenever they want, and for the most part, I'm even willing to read a book to them whenever they want. And I can only imagine the things that will be said about me when the kids go to school with no coats on. I mean, how am I supposed to explain that they paid me 15 jewels to not wear a coat to school in below zero temperatures? Like I said, still up for debate. As for now, I'm enjoying the leverage of giving and taking jewels. It's been working in my favor. So far, at least.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Julie & Julia

I don't know if I mentioned before, but I've joined a Bible study at the church we've been attending. It's an awesome study - "Becoming a Woman of Excellence." There are usually about 9 of us that are "regulars" and this group of women is unbelievable. We pray together, laugh together, cry together, and just have a great time together.

Yesterday was our Bible study Christmas party. We had a "Julie and Julia" party based on the new movie that was released this week. We each brought food that we made and the rule was it had to be a first time recipe...we'd never tried it before. We watched the movie, which I would give a definite thumbs-up to...and ate. Alot. Then it was time for the vote. The vote to determine who had the best first-time recipe. It was a tough decision...the soup, the parmesan fondue, the rice dishes, the festive green drink...hmmm.

But the purple ribbon goes to...

Drum roll, please....


That's right folks. It was just like winning the purple ribbon at the fair, I'm sure. My Holiday Chicken Salad won everyone over! I won a great little devotion book and got to bring home some new recipes to boot!

Our group is taking a break until after the holidays, which makes me kind of sad. I've enjoyed getting to know these women so much and look forward to my Wednesday afternoon "adult time." I guess It'll just give me something to look forward!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


First of all...I'm obviously on a posting marathon today, so you'll have to cut me a little slack for my lack of posting lately. Just read one a day and it will be like I'm keeping up ;o)
Speaking of marathons...we had an awesome time in Memphis last weekend. We left Friday morning right after the kids got on the bus. Zac's sister Amy and brother-in-law, Chris rode with us. Our first stop...Lambert's in Sikeston, MO. Zac has always talked about this place since he had been a couple of times. We were super excited to find out it was on our way down to Memphis. It is the "Home of the Throwed Rolls" (yes, they say "throwed"). It was awesome. Amy ordered a chef salad in a bread bowl that was half the size of the table. The food was really good and they literally throw the rolls at you...from across the room. It was so fun!
Next stop...a picture in front of the Arkansas sign, of course! We couldn't stop for the Tennessee sign, since it was in the middle of a bridge.

Friday night, we met up with my parents and my sister and her fam. This was their stop on their way back from Disney so my mom could partake in the half marathon. We ate at Marlowe's...(one of Guy Fieri's stops on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives). It was in Graceland, which was fun to drive through and had some good barbecue, as well.
Saturday...race day. Here's the breakdown - Zac, Amy, and my cousin Christy ran the full marathon, while my mom, uncle Dave, and cousin Aaron ran the half. Everyone did awesome - especially the girls. Mom got 5th in her female age group, cousin Christy got 9th in her age group, 44th overall in the women, and cut 3 minutes off of her personal best marathon time, and Amy cut off 50-some minutes from her previous marathon! Don't get me wrong...the boys did great, too...just not as significantly as the girls.
Anyway, apparently the race experience was an emotional one for everyone. They ran through the St. Jude Hospital campus and there were so many of the patients out there, hooked up to their IV poles, holding signs and cheering them on. Everyone said it was just amazing.
Saturday night, we took on Beale Street with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We visited B.B. King's, Dyer's Diner, and ended up at Wet Willie's. We had an excellent time...very entertaining.
Sunday, we got up and made the trek back to Illinois...but not without another stop at Lambert's! We loved that place so much, it needed another visit from us! We were home by sundown, got the kids (who had a great weekend, as well) and here we are to take on the weeks ahead!
And, at least for now... I'm caught up!

Chicago...take two.

This time...a lot less stressful!
The Monday after Thanksgiving, my friend Bethany and I took a second train trip to Chicago. This time, sans kids. We got a lot of shopping done, had a lot of bad cab drivers that kept getting lost???, and did a lot of walking on top of that. The weather wasn't horrible. We ate at Rainforest. We actually ate a lot at Rainforest. The ultimate conclusion from the trip...Bethany and I are never going to go on The Amazing Race together. She's great at getting cabs and all, but the whole direction thing...not so much for either of us. We are planning another train trip in the spring and bringing a couple other nurses with us (right, Jodi and Ann??? Can't wait...maybe with 4 of us we won't get as lost!)

Happy Thanksgiving...a little late.

It makes me absolutely crazy to be behind on posts, but Thanksgiving week is a Happy Thanksgiving!
We had a great week that week. We got to meet our niece, Hannah, for the first time. We had a house full of 30 people for Thanksgiving. I even had to buy more plates, which is a good thing because it means our family is growing! We ate lots and lots of food, did some Black Friday shopping, and just had an overall great time.
On Thanksgiving Thursday, Zac and I spent the day preparing the house, the fryer, the smoker, the food, etc... It's especially nice being closer to family so we could run food into my parent's house to use their oven, too! Thanks Mom!
Everyone came around noon for Happy Hour (It's embarrassing, but I assume we are probably one of the few houses that get a keg for Thanksgiving;o) We had our usual roasted turkey, fried turkey, smoked turkey, and Cajun pork loin, along with all the sides! The kids had a great time playing with each other and the adults did, too. A little poker for the adults, and board games for those of us that despise cards (namely, me).
After everyone left, my two sister-in-laws and I plotted out our Black Friday plan of attack. We got up a little after 3:00 and off we went. I do need to mention that this was Jenn's first experience with Black Friday. I should also mention that she is from Florida. It's a bit warmer there, if you didn't know. She said it was cold, early, but fun, however, she probably won't be joining us again until there are some unbelievable deals that she can't pass up once Hannah gets a little older. It was fun to have them stay here, though, and to have a baby in the house again. The boys were in charge of the kiddos while we were gone and Zac ended up taking the 3 big kids down to the Santa Claus parade. What a brave soul.

Brooklyn, Alais, Jack, and Hannah

Friday night, we went to the in-laws for an extended family gathering so everyone else could meet Hannah, too.
Brooklyn on her new Razor from Uncle Ty and Aunt Jenn.
We also did the niece/nephew Christmas so Ty and Jenn could actually see the kids open their gifts instead of just shipping them up here.
Grandpa Rod testing out Alais' new Bumblebee voice changer.
It was a great evening...until we left. We hit a deer on the way home. It was my first experience with hitting a deer. Zac was driving, but I'd never been present for one of his deer encounters before. It was a lot less traumatic than I thought it would be. It's always been one of my biggest fears. Needless to say, Zac wasn't happy. At all. The kids slept right through the whole thing and were sad that they missed it. Anyway, the car is in the shop this week, which is why I actually have time to sit down and blog!
The house is decorated for Christmas. I'm a little behind on getting gifts. We've had our first snow. We are supposedly getting our first winter storm any moment now. Winter is here!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Road trip.

This week has gone by way too quickly. I'm just going to have to catch up with the Thanksgiving post another day, because I have other fun stuff to share. Zac and I, along with Zac's sister and brother-in-law, head out first thing in the morning for Memphis. That's right. We are taking a road trip. Some of the crazy people in the family think it's actually entertaining to run. This weekend happens to be the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. We are excited to go down there. We are going to try to walk around the hospital. It's hard to believe that less than a year ago, the plan was for us to take Olivia down there for 3-6 months. Crazy.
Anyway, Zac, his sister, and my cousin, Christy are running the full marathon. My mom, uncle, and cousin Aaron are running the half. The rest of us...we'll be on the sidelines cheering them on!
It should be a good time, though. I hear Memphis is a great city with lots of great food and entertainment! Keep you posted...
Also, thanks for all the encouraging words from yesterday's post. It always helps to get things off my mind!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Feeling weak.

I have so much that I need to catch up on in the blogging department. Not only did we have an awesome Thanksgiving, but there is also the Black Friday shopping, the train trip to Chicago, and a few other things. However, I am feeling emotionally weak these days and needed to take the time to get some things from my mind onto the blog, as that always seems to help things.
So, here it goes. I'm sad. I miss Olivia so much these past few weeks. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the holidays. I have been coming across so many things that she loved and so many things that I know she would love if she were still here. I've been talking about her a lot lately. Don't get me wrong- I love, love, love to talk about Olivia. I also wonder if it's partially "the time" during the grieving process that I am supposed to feel like this. There are moments that go by that it seems like Livvy has been gone forever and other times that it seems like I head up to the hospital to see her. I don't know. It's a really strange feeling. One that I'm actually not too fond of. I do know that this weakness I'm feeling will definitely make me stronger in the end, but I'm ready any time now! I'm sure it's just one of those seasons of life...and death...that we will continue to go through as time passes.
Hopefully, today or tomorrow, I will find some extra time to blog about all the exciting stuff going on around here...there's lots to tell! Anyway, a few extra little prayers for comfort and strength couldn't hurt...