I have a dear friend back in California that's been doing something wonderful on her blog almost every Tuesday. She's reserved "GratiTuesday" for vocalizing some of the blessings in her life and her gratitude for them... the name's coming together now, right?! ;o) I think this is such a great idea, as reading her posts have really caused me to look at my life and see the blessings that I've been gifted with. It's downright infectious - and something I'd much rather pass on to all you out there, than so much of the misery and complaining we tend to pass on instead! So, I thought I might take up the torch and continue her tradition here on my blog on a somewhat normal basis. I think in the future I'll focus on one topic individually, but today I feel compelled to give thanks to my God for all of these sweet blessings, so here goes:
  • Collin, my beloved. A man that knows my heart and every expression's meaning. One who loves, protects and provides for me and our children, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. A man created to be my other half!
  • My precious children, Moira and Ian. Wow - words can't begin to express the blessing that they've been to me, and how thankful I am that God's entrusted their precious little lives with us. I only hope God will bless my efforts to Mother them and train them up in Him, knowing that we've dedicated them to Him.
  • My family. God took such care of me from the beginning in choosing my Mother, Father and Siblings, knowing exactly what I'd need to grow up strong in the Lord. And now, He's given me such a precious gift in group of incredible in-laws that I honestly lucked out with!
  • My friends. This is such a rich blessing - icing on the cake, if you will. The Lord has brought friends into my life that have nurtured, encouraged, supported and loved me as I am. He knows our need for fellowship (He created us that way, after all) and He's seen fit to place such incredible people in my life for me to grow with. I'm thankful daily for this.
  • Our home. God has truly shown himself as Jehovah Jireh (meaning "The Lord will Provide") to us over this last year. I hope to never again take for granted His provision and promise to meet our needs. Not only has He met our needs, He's given us a beautiful home that we hardly deserve... God is good!
  • Our church. As we settle into our new state, I've prayed in earnest that God would send us a church home that we may get involved in. That we'd find fellowship there, find support in training up our children, and truly grow in Him and give to His ministry. For the first time in our married lives, since leaving San Antonio, I believe we've found that very church, and my heart is overflowing with joy!
  • Him. His precious gift of Himself to us. Not only in creating us and the world, but choosing to be involved in our lives and to dwell among us, as Sovereign God and Father. The ultimate price was paid for me, and I'm so thankful that He first loved me, and drew me close to Him. If that doesn't shake your world, I don't know what will!

What are you thankful for?


"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" - Psalm 118:24


US Space & Rocket Center

Our day started out with a real bang... literally!! We were getting ready to head to the Space & Rocket Center while Moira and Ian were running around playing, and all of the sudden we heard a loud THUMP immediately followed by crying. Not good. I ran out of the room to find Moira in a heap on the floor, having slipped and slammed right into the bottom of the wall at the baseboard, poor baby. She got a huge knot on her head with this dark red line (which still hasn't faded, by the way). She was a trooper though, and decided she was ready to head off for the day anyway - that's our girl! :)

To see all our pictures (with captions) from Saturday at the US Space & Rocket Center, click on the picture below and it'll take you to our Picasa album. We had a great time - thank goodness for free tickets for Smithsonian Day! Moira is now thoroughly convinced that she must have Space Camp Barbie (oh goodie) and Ian has learned the joys of yelling "3-2-1 Blast Off!" at the top of his lungs and taking off in a full on sprint. Quite a fun day for the whole family!

Here's some video from a small piece of our time there:

All in all we had a good day, topped off with a trip to Pizza Hut for dinner. We think we might go ahead and get Annual Tickets for the family - that way if any of you want to do see the Space & Rocket Center when you come visit, we'll have some discount tickets ready to go! So, come visit!! ;o)
Today we went to Sunday School in the morning, followed by Church, and were invited out to lunch by two couples from our Sunday School class. We went to a new Deli here called "Newk's" with them and their children, and had a lot of fun for 12 people in a party! We're thankful that some of the members from the church are really starting to warm up to us and make room for us in their lives. God is good! Tonight will consist of a small dinner at home, getting the kids to bed early in preparation for school tomorrow, some laundry, and relaxing before the start of another busy week. Thanks for stopping by and checking in on us - we love ya!


Alabamians by Residence, Texans at Heart!

Collin took a couple hours off of work today, so that we could go get our vehicles registered in the State of Alabama, and get new Driver's Licenses too. Yup - we're officially residents of Alabama now, and we'll have to give up those precious Texas license plates... again. I was thinking of a way we could still claim our Texan-ness on our vehicle, and I found this window sticker:

Perfect, right? :)

So, it's been about three full months since we moved here, and I must say we're feeling pretty content. Life is good - or perhaps I should say God is good! Huntsville has plenty to offer in the way of activities and culture, we're settling into a church that we're considering joining, our home is wonderful and we've met some nice neighbors with young kids, Moira's loving school, and Collin's job is going well. Man, remembering back 4 short months ago, when our entire lives were up in the air, it all seems so distant now. The thing I haven't forgotten (and hope I never do) is the provision, hope and comfort God gave us during our 6+ months of uncertainty. We've been so thoroughly blessed, and it's more than we deserve. Again, God is good! Amen?

I should have some fun stuff to post this weekend, as my brilliant hunk of a man found free passes to the US Space & Rocket Center for tomorrow! We've wanted to do the whole NASA museum/discovery center thing, but it's pretty pricey. So, this will be a good opportunity to go check it out and see if Annual Passes are something we'd like to get. The Annual Passes aren't too expensive, and we'd get some discount/free tickets for visitors (might be a good activity for us, Suzann, when y'all come for Thanksgiving! What do you think?). Anyway, more on that to come.

We've been invited over to our neighbor's house tonight to help celebrate their oldest son's 8th birthday with cake and ice cream. Should be fun - the kids are definitely looking forward to it. Until then, I suppose I should go get some cleaning done around here so I can enjoy the weekend thoroughly. Thanks, as always, for caring what these new Alabamians have to say! :)


It's about time!

I finally started potty training with Ian this week. Well, really we started on Friday, but the weekend put a damper on our progress with our trip to the caverns and other stuff, so we're back to it in full force this week. I figured it was time when I kept getting well-meaning comments like "how's potty training going?" to which I'd be forced to reply "well... it's not." Yes, he turned three in May, but can you hardly blame me for waiting until we were settled after a move, a brief stay in an apartment, and all that unpacking?! But, now we're really working on it. We've had quite a few "accidents" (I'm suddenly very thankful that our entire house has wood floors!) but I think he's really starting to get the hang of it now. We had one big oops this morning, but since then he's successfully told me of his need to tinkle and performed marvelously four times!

There are definitely benefits to waiting until the kiddos are a bit older - they just get the hang of it much quicker. Sure, we could've really pushed them to go potty at two years old, but I guarantee you we would've had a lot more work and accidents along the way. Just my thoughts on the matter; although, each kid is different, and each Momma is gonna know hers best! So if you had your infant going in the potty, more power to you - but I think I'll wait a couple years, thankyouverymuch!

So proud of the big boy pull-ups. He especially loves the dinosaur undies he gets to wear around the house too!

Ian's "tinkle treats" - he gets to pick 3 each time he goes.

Funnily enough, Collin got this funny short story e-mailed to him this week, which he promptly shared with me:
My little guy, Cade, is quite a talker. He loves to communicate and does it quite well. He talks to people constantly, whether we're in the library, the grocery store or at a drive-thru window. People often comment on how clearly he speaks for a just-turned-3-year-old. And you Never have to ask him to turn up the volume. It's always fully cranked. There've been several embarrassing times that I've wished the meaning of his words would have been masked by a not-so-audible voice, but never have I wished this more than last week at Costco. Halfway, through our shopping trip, nature called, so I took Cade with me into the restroom. If you'd been one of the ladies in the restroom that evening, this is what you would have heard coming from the second to the last stall:

''Mommy , are you gonna go potty?

Oh! Why are you putting toiwet paper on the potty, Mommy?

Oh! You gonna sit down on da toiwet paper now?

Mommy, what are you doing?

Mommy, are you gonna go stinkies on the potty?'

At this point I started mentally counting how many women had been in the bathroom when I walked in. Several stalls were full ... 4? 5? Maybe we could wait until they all left before I had to make my debut out of this stall and reveal my identity. Cade continued:

'Mommy, you ARE going stinkies aren't you?

Oh, dats a good girl, Mommy!

Are you gonna get some candy for going stinkies on the potty?

Let me see doze stinkies, Mommy!

Oh ... Mommy! I'm trying to see In dere.

Oh! I see dem. Dat is a very good girl, Mommy. You are gonna get some

I heard a few faint chuckles coming from the stalls on either side of me. Where is a screaming new born when you need her? Good grief. This was really getting embarrassing. I was definitely waiting a long time before exiting. Trying to divert him, I said,

'Why don't you look in Mommy's purse and see if you can find some candy. We'll both have some.

'No, I'm trying to see doze more stinkies.

Oh! Mommy!'

He started to gag at this point.

'Uh - oh, Mommy. I fink I'm gonna frow up.

Mommy, doze stinkies are making me frow up!!

Dat is so gross!!'

As the gags became louder, so did the chuckles outside my stall. Quickly flushed the toilet in hopes of changing the subject. I began to reason with myself: OK. There are four other toilets. If I count four flushes, I can be reasonably assured that those who overheard this embarrassing Monologue will be long gone.

'Mommy! Would you get off the potty, now? I want you to be done going stinkies! Get up! Get up!'

He grunted as he tried to pull me off. Now I could hear full-blown laughter. I bent down to count the feet outside my door.

'Oh, are you wooking under dere, Mommy?

You wooking under da door?

What were you wooking at?

Mommy? You wooking at the wady's feet?'

More laughter. I stood inside the locked door and tried to assess the situation.

'Mommy, it's time to wash our hands, now. We have to go out now, Mommy.'

He started pounding on the door. 'Mommy, don't you want to wash your hands? I want to go out!!'

I saw that my 'wait 'em out' plan was unraveling. I sheepishly opened the door, and found standing outside my stall, twenty to thirty ladies crowded around the stall, all smiling and starting to applaud. My first thought was complete embarrassment, then I thought, 'Where's The fine print on the 'motherhood contract' where I signed away every bit of my dignity and
privacy?' But as my little boy gave me a big, cheeky grin while he rubbed bubbly soap between his chubby little hands, I thought, I'd sign it all away again, just to be known as Mommy to this little fellow.

(Shannon Popkin is a freelance writer and mother of three. She lives with her family in Grand Rapids , Michigan , where she no longer uses public restrooms).

Hmm... on second though, a six-year-old in diapers wouldn't be out of the question, would it?!?


Cathedral Caverns

We spent our Saturday at Cathedral Caverns, about 45 minutes outside of Huntsville. It was so much fun to have the kids experience this kind of adventure for the first time! I was really impressed with how well Moira listened to our tour guide and how much she learned from his fun facts, and Ian was such a trooper with all the climbing and walking (about 1.5 miles in all) and I only had to carry him a couple of times. Click on the picure below, and it'll take you to all of our photos from the day in our Picasa album - enjoy!



First this...

...then this!

Well, kind of. I actually gave Ian the scissors and paper to cut while I was working on putting my craft room together. It was just so funny that after I snapped the picture of him cutting the paper (unbeknownst to him) he looked up startled, as if to say "I didn't do it!" Of course when I laughed at his reaction, his face in the second picture is what I got in return. I could eat him up - he's just too cute for words. Mommy loves you, little guy!


There's a crispness in the air

...and we're loving it. I woke up this morning and let Cailin out to find our patio thermometer reading 59 degrees, and I immediately planned on making warm coffee and donning a sweater when I returned inside. I love days like this. Although I don't expect it to last quite yet - Summer will inevitably push it's way through a few more times before Autumn takes a stronghold - this is the first hint at the changing of the season. A season when I dream of cradling warm drinks between my fingers and cozying up by the fire on chilly nights with a good book, the comfort of woolly yarn running through my fingers as I knit to my heart's content, the excitement in the air as the children begin to plan Halloween night and the perfect costume, and the feeling of family togetherness that the anticipation of Thanksgiving always brings. These are things that we're doing, as Fall, easily my favorite of all seasons, is approaching.

  • Both Ian & Moira have made it their personal missions to collect all the beautiful leaves they come across. We haven't seen much change in color from the trees yet, so I was quite surprised to see some of the gems they found in our backyard. Definitely a sign that Autumn is coming!!

  • Moira can't stop drawing. It's like a disease - she eats, sleeps and dreams in crayola washable marker colors! Collin and I have been so impressed with her improvement in this area over the last month. She's drawing with such detail and takes such time and care on each individual picture. Here is an example of that. This is a depiction of herself in the library (which is quickly becoming one of her favorite activities at school). Notice how each book has it's own unique design on the cover? I also love the ladder-backed chair she drew to the side of the left bookshelf, and the simple things, like the bow in her hair - so cute. Looks like some of drawing genes from her daddy have been activated! I'm always so amazed by these little people, and their unique talents and ambitions.

  • Yesterday was Moira's day for the book fair at school. I decided to bring Ian up to the library with me, so they could each pick a book. We discovered that a 15 minute time slot for a Kindergarten class of 16 is way too short!! Poor Moira could not decide which special book she wanted to choose to bring home within the time frame, and was in tears when she had to leave her task and line up to go back to her classroom. I told her I'd bring her back later, so she'd get a chance to pick, but it was no consolation to her. Her sweet teacher, upon seeing her tears, let her stay with me a little longer to pick her book, while the other children returned to the class with her for rest time. I'm so thankful that God's given her a gentle, sweet-natured teacher who understands my sensitive little girl. Moira chose a Fairy Princess repositionable sticker book, we bought a Corduroy book from Ms. Stover's wish list for the classroom, Ian picked a Star Wars young readers chapter book, and Mommy (having the foresight that a chapter book was perhaps a bit above Ian's current attention level) picked a book called Charlie Cook's Favorite Book. As you can see, Mommy's instinct is usually spot on!

  • As for me, I started a women's bible study on Monday mornings with the church we've been attending. It's one of Beth Moore's, A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place, and I'm already amazed at how much I've learned. I've eagerly completed the homework every morning without fail, and I'm so excited to see God's Word in the Old Testament with new eyes. I've decorated the house for Fall, and started putting my crafting space together out of the half of the office I've been given. I'm volunteering some of my time helping with the Teacher Appreciate Committee, and I've taken on a project to help the "Enrichment Specialist" at Moira's school put together some portable activity centers for students who finish with their work early. In addition to that, and my normal child-caring and home-making responsibilities, the desire to scrapbook and knit has hit with a relentlessness known to many crafters during this season. This basket of yarn patiently waiting by the hearth beckons me to sit and give in to my desire to do nothing but let it be my muse the whole day.

(If this picture makes your heart skip a beat, or you have a compelling desire to reach out and lovingly caress the yarn, you might be a knitter who just doesn't know it yet - go with it!)

  • Collin is diligently pulling himself away from his cozy home and making his way to work daily. He loves Fall just as much as the rest of the family, and he finds time in the evenings to play with the kids, love on the puppy and enjoy relaxing after a hard day's work. He's looking ahead to a business trip for a week in early November, back to Vandenberg AFB, for a "Glory Trip" (that's what they call them). It pleases me to see him enjoying his work, and being treated like an asset to the company. I'm so thankful for a hard-working husband, and to see God blessing his efforts and His ever-faithful provision for us.

So that's what we're up to. I know I haven't been as good at posting as I usually am, and I hope this post will serve to get me back into the swing of things. We've got lots going on, and lots to post about, so stay tuned for more soon. Mmm-k?


Happy Birthday, Mom

my mom as a child

In honor of your special day, here are a few quotes that have rung true to me about you. Thank you for your gifts of time, patience, prayer, forgiveness, support, kindness, wisdom, sacrifice, and love. Today I'm rejoicing in God's gift to us of you!

"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my Angel Mother." -Abraham Lincoln

“A mother understands what a child does not say.” -Jewish proverb

“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.” -Nancy Friday

"A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take." -Cardinal Mermillod

"God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers." -Jewish proverb

"Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers, and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world." -Kate Douglas Wiggin

me as a child, with my Mom

I love you - happy birthday!



This journey with Cailin, since the beginning, can best be described as a roller coaster ride. I can think of at least 4 times when a Vet has told us "this is what is going on" just to come back later and say "no, that's not what's going on after all" - it's been completely exhausting and emotionally draining. This is the latest twist and turn on our ride, since my last post...

I called the Surgical Hospital in Birmingham yesterday morning to see if Cailin would be allowed to come home that afternoon. The Tech informed me that they had pulled her catheter that morning, and she was urinating on her own, so the doctor approved her release. Great news - we'd finally get to bring our puppy home! We arrived at the hospital around 4:30 yesterday and waited in an exam room for the Surgeon to come have his post-surgical talk with us, we were both feeling a bit apprehensive about what we'd be told, since we'd gotten a smidgen of not-so-great information from his nurse on Tuesday night.

Dr. Ballagas sat down with us moments later to tell us how it went, and this is a summary of what he said. Basically, there was indeed a large, bleeding tumor located in a safe-for-removal spot at the front of the bladder. He was able to remove that "safe" portion of the bladder, leaving about half of her bladder remaining. Here's where it gets interesting... he noticed some thickening in the bladder wall around the tumor, possible evidence of either the tumor spreading, or in his opinion, more likely just inflammation from being beaten about by the tumor when she moved. He also noticed a couple of tiny nodules at the ureter (where the kidneys dump into the bladder) that didn't look the same as the tumor he removed, and figured they might also be spots of inflammation. He shaved them off for good measure and included them with the tumor to be sent for biopsy. Generally speaking, this was all relatively good news.

So, we were confused. We told Dr. Ballagas that we were under the impression that the tumor had definitely spread into the muscle wall and the urethra, as the nurse had told us the evening of the surgery. He assured us that the nurse misunderstood him say ureter and not urethra (which means a HUGE difference in how much time she'd have left), and must've drawn her own conclusions about the nodules found there, in addition to the thickening of the muscle wall. We were shocked that such a dooming prognosis was given unnecessarily, but thrilled to find out that that was probably not the case! Now, that being said, we're still waiting for the ultimate word of the biopsy, but there is hope yet. Dr. Ballagas is hopeful and seemed to think it more likely that the thickening in the muscle wall and the nodules were simply inflammation, which is more reason to be hopeful ourselves. We should have the biopsy report in about 2 weeks, possibly sooner.

Meanwhile, our sweet puppy is home with us and seems quite happy to be so. She's resting under the computer desk at my feet as I write. Happy Sigh. We brought home an antibiotic, pain medicine, her Peroxicam (the cancer med) and the Misoprostal (to counteract the ill effects that can be caused in the stomach by the Peroxicam) - so she'll be given lots of pills four times a day for a while. She also has a horrid collar to keep her from biting or licking her incision, but we're only using it when we have to leave the house or can't keep an eye on her. Her exercise will be very limited for a while, no running or jumping. And because her bladder is half the size it once was, she'll need to go out pretty often (I woke up with her every four hours to let her out last night). Fortunately, the bladder is an amazingly regenerative organ, and we were told that it should, in time, stretch back to very close to it's previous size. We'll take her back to Birmingham to have Dr. Ballagas remove the sutures in 2 weeks, and hopefully get the results of the biopsy in person.

So, there's the most recent experience on our roller coaster ride with Cailin. Fortunately, the ride took our emotions up this time, instead of down, but there is that little part of me that's waiting for the drop at the end of the hill. Please pray it doesn't come, especially in the form of bad news about the biopsy. I appreciate so many of you staying tuned for news on our baby - I'm sure I've been long-winded about it all, but it really has been therapy for me to compile my thoughts and share them with others here. It seems that this topic will pretty much be coming to an end with the final news of the biopsy, at which time we'll return to your previously scheduled broadcasting.

Much love and puppy kisses from Huntsville, Alabama!


Cailin's Surgery

I drove Cailin down to Birmingham for her surgery yesterday, and left her in the caring hands of the Surgeon and his staff. No small feat in itself, I assure you. Although I called to check in at 4pm and again at 7:30pm, we didn't hear about the outcome of Cailin's surgery until very late (9 pm) last night. They started her surgery later than planned, because an emergency case came in, but they also had a complication in closing her up, so it took even longer. I guess they ran a stain through her bladder to make sure there were no leaks, and there was a small one, so they had to open her back up to reseal everything. She came out from the anesthesia fine and they had warm air on her and warm liquids running through her to help raise her temperature. When I called this morning they said she was in good spirits (as much as she can be in the hospital after surgery), she'd eaten breakfast, had a bowel movement and they thought they'd be able to remove the catheter Friday morning and we can come get her and bring her home that afternoon. We're definitely hoping they'll let us come get her before the weekend!

The surgery itself ended up being more intricate than they originally had planned. I guess the tumor was pretty large, and so they had to remove a good portion of her bladder. The nurse also told me that the tumor had spread into the muscle wall and urethra, so they weren't able to remove that portion. We'd been under the impression that it hadn't made it to her urethra yet, so that was upsetting news. We have yet to find out what it all means, but should know more when we have our consult with the Surgeon when we go pick her up. I was pretty upset last night, with the new information, but Collin and I have had a chance to talk and I've calmed down emotionally quite a bit. We'll just have to wait and see what the Surgeon says it all means, and I'm trying not to get ahead of the game or make assumptions that will upset me, and might not even come to pass. Please say another prayer that the surgery will help her, and that it wasn't all in vain. We're remaining hopeful, and God is in control. He'll allow to happen what He wills, which we know is what's best. He'll give us peace and grace enough to handle it all.
In other news, Moira woke up today with two red, gunky eyes and complaining of a sore throat and ear ache. Ugh. So, I kept her home and we're going to the doctor at 10 this morning. Not what I wanted to be faced with today, but you do what you've gotta do. Hopefully he'll get her some good meds to make her better and she'll be back at school tomorrow.

This is one of those times that life can just be overwhelming. Thinking about taking things "a day at a time" seems like too much right now, so I'm focusing on an hour at a time. Please pray for our family, our sweet Cailin and the outcome of all of this. Mostly that God's will be done and that He'll give us peace about it all. Thank you all for your loving support - your comments, prayer and encouragement has meant so much to us both. Each and every one of you is a ray of happiness and representation of God's love for me.