Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I haven't blogged in quite awhile. It's been a pretty crazy summer with the move. At some point I'll catch up on everything, but today I just wanted to remember 9/11.

I was a senior in college on 9/11. The only class I had on Tuesday was Latin American Studies, at 11am. I'd been up late studying the previous night, so I slept in and caught the UT shuttle bus around 10:15 to campus. I hadn't turned on the TV that morning, so I had no clue what had happened in NYC. I noticed that the bus was eerily quiet, and I briefly heard the driver's radio and a DJ saying "the worst terrorist attack in American history". I got off the bus and ran into a friend. She said there had been some kind of attack in NYC, but most people had been in classes all morning, so details were sketchy. I had a friend pick me up from campus, and when I got home I saw on Fox News the devastation for the first time. I think I watched the news for hours. I couldn't turn it off. Then I remembered that my dad was supposed to be in NYC that day, and I lost it. I managed to get ahold of him, only to discover that his trip had been cancelled and he was safe in Houston. He was crying. My dad is in insurance, so he knows tons of people in New York. He'd been on the phone all morning, trying to find out if friends and colleagues were ok. He told me they'd get confirmation that someone was ok, only to find out later that they were dead. It was shocking to hear my dad so upset. So many friends and colleagues gone. He has some pretty eerie 9/11 stories. The one that gets me every time is of a meeting that was supposed to held at World Trade Center, tower 2. Several of his colleagues were supposed to have a board meeting in the boardroom of the WTC, but the meeting got so large they had to move it to another location, in another building. Instead of dying that day, which they most certainly would have, given that the plane flew directly into their floor, they survived simply because of the size of their meeting. My dad was in NYC once they reopened Newark Airport. JFK and LaGuardia were still closed, so he flew into Newark and took the ferry over into Manhattan. Their hotel was located within the no traffic zone, so they had to get out of the cab and walk several blocks to the hotel. He went down to Ground Zero, and he said it was still burning and smoking. He's been going to New York for several decades, and he said he has never seen the city so silent. People were just shellshocked. I think one reason 9/11 is always emotional for me is because I remember sharing these experiences with my dad, who means the world to me.

This morning, as I was watching some of the tributes on NBC, I remembered that Tuesday, 12 years ago. They were showing footage of the firetrucks, and Sophie excitedly said, "Look! Firetrucks mommy"! Such innocence. To me, the sight of those firetrucks evokes both sad and proud emotions, because I know that many of those men and women ultimately gave their lives that day. But for my daughter, they evoke excitement and joy, because what two year old doesn't love firetrucks?

I naively hope that she never experiences another 9/11. I saved all of the newspapers and magazines from 9-11-01, and someday when she is old enough, we will go through them together. She is a post 9/11 baby. She will never know what it's like to meet someone at the gate at an airport, or what it's like to go through airport security with her shoes on. But 9/11 has made her mama even more patriotic, so she will be brought up loving America, and we will never forget.

We will never forget. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tiny Dancer

Today was an incredible day. Today my two year old got up on a huge stage and DANCED. For the entire song, and it was obvious that she knew the dance they’ve been working on for months. Sophie did her turns, her arabesque, her plies, shook her bottom, waved her streamers, and smiled with pure joy while performing. It was amazing. Her dancing was so pure. Kali, her teacher, told me she danced like an angel today. Her grandmother and I cried, her grandfather laughed in amazement, and her daddy sat openmouthed staring at her on stage in disbelief. Why such amazement? Because yesterday during dress rehearsal she stood onstage and sobbed uncontrollably, and had to be carried off stage by Kali. Sophie was upset the entire rest of the day, clinging to me throughout. She was visible shaken. So what 
happened today is truly a dance recital miracle. Watching my daughter dance with such joy and abandon after what happened yesterday was one of the proudest moments of motherhood thus far. She is the youngest dancer in the company, and Sophie did more of the dance than several of the girls who are almost a year older. But all of the girls did well, and it was wonderful to watch 
these sweet girls who I've come to know so well perform so beautifully today.

I am looking forward to many more years of dance recitals, but this first one will definitely hold a special place in our hearts. 

"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance."

"I hope you dance....I hope you dance."
Leann Womack

Friday, April 26, 2013

Body Transformation Does a Mind and a Body Good

On the beach in Hawaii in a real bikini, October 2008
The people close to me know that I had a struggle getting my pre-baby body back. I didn't start working out regularly until Sophie was 7 months old. By her first birthday, I'd lost all of the baby weight and weighed exactly the same as I did in August 2010. However, I did not look as thin, nor as fit at that weight post baby. Everything shifts when you have a baby. I definitely looked better than I did the summer after having Sophie, but I did not resemble my old self. Some of my old clothes fit, and some didn't. I did pretty well over the summer, but slacked off in the fall of 2012. Then we spent November through January sick. Prior to becoming pregnant, I worked out six days a week- weights, spinning, boot camps, group fitness classes- the harder the better. For some reason, I decided to flirt around with Bikram yoga, Pilates, and Bar Method post baby. I saw some results, but I wasn't getting anywhere. My diet was just ok. So once Sophie had surgery and was healthy again, I decided it was time to hit it hard- Houstonian Club style. I joined Lifetime Fitness, and dropped an entire dress size between February and March of 2013. I can wear all of my old clothes again, and I'm toned. My stomach is pretty flat, and I can wear a true bikini top. My problem areas are my hips and that little area directly underneath my glutes. Cellulite. This is all due to pregnancy, and the amount of weight I gained. I have some extra flab on my hips, and I am not comfortable wearing the typical bikini bottom. So I bought a cute little skirted bottom. I am still a work in progress, but I feel like my old self again. I'm healthy, and I am proud of my body. I gained over 40 pounds during my pregnancy, and lost all of my muscle tone. I truly never thought I would look this good again. I can't complain.

So, how do you lose that baby weight? There are people blessed with an amazing metabolism who simply lose weight by breathing or doing yoga. But I only know two of those lucky people! Most of us  MUST diet, and do heavy strength training AND cardio. Diet alone will not shed all of the weight- you'll lose some, but your body will not regain any of the lost muscle tone. Likewise, you also can't just do cardio and diet. That combination will enable your body to lose weight, but you'll end up what fitness pros call "skinny fat". Many women are afraid that heavy weights will bulk them up, and there is nothing further from the truth. Lifting weights, and not just 3 pound weights, I mean the heaviest you can lift for 10-15 reps to failure, will help you burn additional calories and build beautiful lean muscles. Bobbie Williams, who is my Latin Fusion instructor at Lifetime Fitness, recommends a ratio of 3:2:1- cardio three days a week, two days dedicated to strength training, and one yoga class. I detest yoga, but each week I try to get my dance class in 3 times, and two days of weights.  Some weeks I train legs one day and upper body the second, some weeks I do a whole body weight workout twice a week. Correct form is VERY important when lifting weights. You can get hurt if you use improper form. I recommend finding a trainer to help for a few sessions, or working out with a friend who knows what they are doing.

My current cardio obsession is Latin Fusion. We dance for 60 minutes straight. The class is a mix of hip hop and Latin, with emphasis on hip hop. I have SO much fun, and I truly believe it has helped me transform my body. Other great sources of cardio are boot camps, spin classes, running, and the rolling stairs. HIIT training is also great- High Intensity Interval Training. Basically you do interval training- run for 4 minutes, walk for 2, and then repeat. There are all kinds of HIIT workouts available in fitness magazines and on the web. Most group fitness cardio classes utilize HITT training. Boot camps are a great way to get your strength and cardio workout done in one session.

And now for everyone's favorite part. Diet. I struggle with this the most. I love to eat. I personally did Weight Watchers back in 2009, and lost 15 pounds. I was also working out heavily during this time. I did it again after having Sophie, but recently switched to My Fitness Pal. It is more strict than Weight Watchers, and I've lost weight quicker. I think people need to find a program that works for them. I will say that eliminating certain food groups isn't the best option. Also, the quickest way to sabotage your progress is to eat clean all week, and then undo all of your hard work by pigging out on the weekends.  Booze in all shapes and forms is also a diet killer. Personally, I don't recommend cheat days. I think a cheat meal is more effective once a week while you're actively trying to lose the weight, and I think you have to be careful when choosing your cheat food.  Once the weight is off, and you've achieved the desired results, a cheat day may work better. Portion control is your best friend when eating foods that aren't totally clean. Instead of eating an entire cupcake, have half.

I am still a work in progress. I'd love to be able to wear a real bikini again one day. I'm doing great with the fitness part. I work daily on the diet, some days I succeed, others I'm not so successful.  But I have come a long way since giving birth to my beautiful daughter! I'm not going to lie- losing weight is difficult, and it takes hard work, dedication and sheer willpower. One of my favorite fitness sites is The Get in Shape Girl on Facebook. She has great information, and even training programs. Oxygen and Fitness RX for women are my favorite magazines. One of my goals is to take my love for fitness and become a personal trainer. I'd also love to earn a degree in nutrition. Hopefully one day! Let me know if you ever want to work out! YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL!

April 15, 2011- the day I gave birth to Sophie

September 2011, pretty heavy here. 20 pounds overweight

Easter 2013. Tan, toned, and pretty fit! FInally!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hoppy Easter! He is Risen!

My Family
Sophie didn't even realize the Easter bunny was there....

We basically had the perfect Easter weekend. We left Good Friday, and had dinner Friday night with both families. I don't think everyone had been together since Sophie's first birthday. Sophie was so excited to have everyone together; she kept squealing with excitement throughout dinner. Saturday morning we had our annual Easter egg hunt at Houston Country Club. Sophie had a great time, although by the time the hunt actually started, she was starving, so her attitude wasn't the best. You'll be able to tell by the glazed look in her eyes in some of the pictures I'll post! She is going through this picky phase at breakfast. We were able to get a family photo with the Easter bunny. Easter Sunday was spent with my family. They attended a requiem mass at the Co- Cathedral downtown, Steven and I took Sophie to the children's service at our old church, St. Martin's. Maybe next year Sophie can hang through mass....... We met up for brunch at the Plaza Club, where Sophie proceeded to eat two whole wheat rolls for lunch. Insert eye roll here. :) Steven and I attended baseball's Opening Night at Minute Maid Park. We saw the beleaguered Astros squash the Rangers. I wore a Rangers shirt, but left happy for my home team. It was a great weekend, and the time we spent with our families was so special. Next up? Sophie's 2nd year birthday bash......

My sweet family
Sophie and Caroline with Grandma
Sophie with her Grandparents

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

I always get sappy this time of year. Sophie's birthday is April 15, and although it is so exciting watching her grow and develop, I'm reminded that she continues to move further and further away from babyhood. Who am I kidding? There really aren't any traces of baby left in Sophie, except that she will always be MY baby. That's actually a little joke between us. Sophie will point to herself and say "baby?". Then she laughs, shakes her head, and squeals "noooooo". Next, I hug her and say "You'll always be mommy's baby", to which she murmurs "baby". I think 2 is hard because they just aren't babies anymore. Her vocabulary exploded over Spring Break, and it has continued to expand. She is using compound words and phrases, and she has picked up new words at lighting fast speed. I find myself shaking my head in amazement. The connections she is making are just astounding. Sophie has come a long way since that little newborn who would only sleep if she was being held.

So, in celebration of the upcoming birthday, here are some of my favorite pictures of Sophie since birth.  Looking at them makes my uterus flutter...... The only time of year I give serious thought to baby number 2. :) XOXO

Skin to Skin in the OR, 4-15-11

Those hands..... So cute. Sophie about 2 weeks old

Our first tummy time, with Hunter, guard dog

5 months old, ready for church
Halloween 2011 6 months old

Sophie at 6 months

9 months

Little Gym,  11 months. I love this photo.

Mommy and Me, at one year and one week

What a difference a year makes! 

Abby and I with Sophie & Ella as newborns
At one year
At almost age 2, March 2013
March 2013
Sophie, movie star. March 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Breakers

Spring Break 2013 was a smashing success. If you'd told me 15 years ago that one day I would be excited to spend Spring Break in Houston with, gasp, my parents, I would have thought you were crazy. Thankfully, we stupid teenagers grow into smart adults who have finally learned to appreciate our parents! Sophie and I did our first solo road trip, with Hunter as our co pilot. She was so good in the car. We only stopped once for a diaper change, dog walk, and for me to put a new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD in the laptop. Sophie never cried and was happy the entire trip, which we made in less than 4 hours.
Riding the train at Hermann Park
Grammy & Sophie

Sitting in a real tractor with Aunt Britt
Tuesday, Sophie, Grammy, and I met my friend Gina and her two boys at the Houston Zoo. Gina and I have been friends since junior high, and it is always such fun to spend time with her and her sweet boys, Matthew and Collin. Who are the sweetest and best behaved boys I've seen! The zoo was fun, and the best part was taking Sophie on the famous train at Hermann Park. There has been a train at Hermann since my mom was a girl, and I remember riding the train frequently as a child. It was so special for my mom and I to take Sophie on the train that we both rode as children. She loved it, and has been saying "choo choo" ever since. Tuesday evening we left to visit Grandma and Grampa Miller. My mother in law designed an adorable nursery for Sophie and her cousin Caroline, and spent so much time picking out wonderful toys. Sophie's face lit up when she saw the room and all the toys. We had dinner at Houston Country Club, and Sophie discovered the great playground at HCC,which she would play on four times during our 7 day visit. We spent Wednesday morning at the Children's Museum followed by a great lunch at Hungry's, one of my favorite Houston lunch spots. The best part was seeing Sophie bond with her grandparents, and I'm pretty sure they had as much fun with her as she did with them. I had a much needed facial during nap and then we went back to my parents to get ready for our big Thursday at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.......

Driving cars with Ella

Abby, me, and our girls
Our first strawberry ice cream

If you've never been to the HLSR, you are missing out. It's a first class operation, with thousands of volunteers. We took Sophie to the petting zoo, and she and her BFF Ella rode the only three rides they're tall enough to ride at the carnival. The tractors were their personal faves. Sophie tried her first Fletcher's Corny Dog, a cinnamon roll, two chocolate chip cookies, and strawberry ice cream. She loved every second! The best part was getting to spend time with my friend Abby, and her daughter Ella. Abby & I were pregnant at the same time so we refer to our girls as "in utero BFFs". My sister took a day off from work in order to go with us, and it was fantastic being with her as well.  Friday we did a picnic at Hermann Park, and Sophie rode the train again. My dad was able to spend time with Sophie Saturday morning with a visit to the park and Sophie's favorite restaurant, Chick Fil A. Then we met Dad at the Miller's, followed by the Sunday morning baptism of our niece Caroline. 

Aunt Ashley & Grandma Miller with Caroline at her Baptism

Too much Spring Break

We had a great week, and it was wonderful spending time with both families. Sophie is so lucky to have two sets of grandparents who are healthy and love her so much. It was the perfect family Spring Break!

Movie Star

Friday, March 8, 2013

What It All Means

Most of the time, I am pretty positive, but I'm also a realist, and when it's hard, I let people know it's hard. I struggle sometimes with the glass half full concept. I don't typically trust people who are happy or pretend to be happy, 100% of the time. It's ok to get frustrated, as long as you don't allow the negativity to stick around too long. But lately I've found myself really struggling. The past few weeks have been hard. Up until this week, Sophie has challenged me to the brink practically every second of everyday. Even when my mom was here for a week helping me every second, I was challenged. I feel like I suit up to go into battle everyday. Nothing prepared me for having a toddler. It is unbelievably difficult, but this week and in particular last night, I was struck by what it all really means.

Ready for her closeup, and Disney in May!
Since Monday, Sophie has been relatively easy. She's been cooperative, happy, agreeable, delightful, and totally fun to be around. Those of you familiar with toddlers, well those of you who aren't one of those perpetually shiny happy people or on Xanax, know that life with toddlers is not always happy and agreeable. But after the last few weeks, I needed this past week. It's like God has given me a glimpse into the delightful person my Sophie will become when we come out of the toddler phase. It's a safe bet that she's going to be pretty darn amazing. This week she told me she loved me.  Sophie will come up to me and throw her arms around me, just because. She will lean in and kiss me and exclaim "MUAH", followed by giggles of pure delight. I can't really explain it, but in the last few days I have caught glimpses of a child, not simply a toddler. Then last night. Oh last night. She was up from 10:30 until 2:30. We don't know why. Steve finally put her in bed with us. Sophie rolled over and cuddled up to me. She put her head against mine, and I began stroking her face. Sophie in turn, began running her hand up and down my arm. She looked at me and smiled, then leaned in for a kiss, sighed contentedly, and fell asleep. That, people, is what it all means. I lay there, fighting back tears, and prayed this one simple prayer over and over. Please Lord, never let me forget this moment.

My little Minnie, and the first tulips of the season! Praise God!

And now pictures. We are in the midst of preparing for the best Minnie Mouse Little Gym party in history...... Meeska Mouska Minnie Mouse!