Archive for August, 2012

  • Roadtripping with a Toddler

    Date: 2012.08.31 | Category: Baby, Family, Food, Mark, Me, Sarah, Style, Travel | Response: 15

    We’re headed out of town tomorrow to one of my favorite cities, Austin, to visit some friends of ours and meet their new baby.

    After our last ill-fated trip to Texas, I decided to be more proactive with our travel plans this time.

    I spent a lot of money at Amazon stocking our car to keep the toddler entertained for the 6 hour drive there and back. At first Mark balked at spending the money on the in-car dvd player, but then I did an impression of the baby screaming and reminded him that would last for HOURS and he quickly agreed that the dvd player might be worth its weight in gold. Glad that’s settled.

    1. Philips PD7012/37 7-Inch LCD Dual Screen Portable DVD Player, Black

    We also stocked up on dvds. We had a few laying around, but there are only so many hours of Veggie Tales Silly Songs I can take before my head explodes, so we bought some of her Disney Junior favorites: Doc McStuffins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

    2. Doc McStuffins: Friendship Is The Best Medicine (DVD + Digital Copy with GWP Stickers)

    3. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Big Splash

    Bets are, these will pretty much keep her entertained.

    But just in case they don’t, I’ve packed an insane snack bag, guaranteed to keep the three of us alive in case a snow storm hits in August in Texas and we’re stranded. Cheerios? check. Fruit pouches? check. Snack bars? check. Sammies? double check.

    4. Plum Organics Tots Mish Mash-Peach

    5. Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry

    6. Plum Kids Organic Jammy Sammy, Grape Jelly and Peanut Butter

    Scout will also be joining us, because she can’t get enough of him.

    7. LeapFrog My Pal Scout

    So tell me, what else am I forgetting? We want Mark’s and my sanity to be intact when we arrive in Austin.

    p.s. We’re going shopping at the MEGA Whole Foods in Austin and my head is about to explode in anticipation. There is a chocolate fountain and a buffet!

    p.s.s. This isn’t a sponsored post, it’s just for fun, but I did use Amazon affiliate links.

  • Snips and Snails and Sugar and Spice

    Date: 2012.08.28 | Category: Baby, Family, Food, Friends, Life, Sarah, Style | Response: 11

    My mom, sisters, grandmother and I threw a baby shower for both of my cousins’ wives this past weekend. Catch all that?

    Lauren is due on October 13 and having a little boy.

    Lindsey is due January 5 and having a little girl.

    And I took to my usual party planning ways and had a blast with my family preparing this one.

    Mom and I put together those diaper cakes. There is a bottle of wine in the center of each for when mom makes it through the diapers.

    The spread! Those are pumpkin spice cupcakes and they were amazing.

    That’s me and little bit waiting for the guests to arrive. Every southern woman who attended had a fit over Sarah’s smocked dress. It’s what we do in the south.

    We had the shower in this great big, old house called “The Big House” in Ruston, LA. It belongs to some relatives of my grandfather’s. The house is still completely furnished with antiques and old silver and crystal.  Oh and  also lots of creepy portraits of my deceased relatives.

    The girls got lots of great gifts (including smocked clothing). These Louisiana outfits were some of my favorites.

    For her part, Sarah thought the Elmo dvd was the best present.

    Towards the end of the shower, the dads-to-be showed up and had fun holding Sarah and my nephew. I mean, don’t they look like they’re having fun to you?


    And finally: How much mischief do you think these two were planning? I’m pretty sure it involved a run for the rickety stairs or the creepy elevator.

  • Doggy Celebration

    Date: 2012.08.21 | Category: Bonnie Barrell, Dogs, Home, Leela Fish, Pets, Photography, Sarah | Response: 19

    Bonnie’s birthday is sometime this month. I’m not sure of the exact day, but I do know before the month is out, she’ll be four.

    And I think it’s been far too long since I flooded this blog with pictures of border collies. So, here we go.

    That’s Leela (licking the air in anticipation of the frisbie I’m dangling over my head for this shot), Bonnie and Cooper, who we were dog sitting. Cooper is Leela’s brother from the same litter.

    Tic, Tac, Toe… and the baby, erm, I mean toddler, too.

    I love that while I was taking photos of the dogs, Sarah was rearranging yard furniture.

    Happy Dogs.

    Happy Birthday Bonnie Dog. We love you.

  • A Joyful Noise

    Date: 2012.08.19 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Home, Life, Love, Me, OMG YAY! | Response: 14

    You know how I told you guys about the family I met through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul?

    And then I asked you guys to help?

    I can’t begin to tell you how overwhelmed I’ve been by the outpouring of support from family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers and blog readers. It has truly been outstanding.

    By Wednesday of this past week, I had collected enough for each child to have two summer uniforms and about half their school supplies. Because they couldn’t start school until they had uniforms, I decided to go ahead and take what we had to them. My friend Angela joined me and brought her 4-year-old daughter, Mia. Before we arrived, Angela talked to Mia about what not to say to the family, commenting on their house for instance. I have to admit the same idea was floating through my mind.

    We had no need to worry though, when we got there, Mia, the 5-year-old girl and the 7-year-old boy took off running through the house, laughing and playing and jumping and having a great time, amazing me with how beautiful it must be to see things through a child’s eyes.

    During our visit, I peeked into the bedroom all four children were sleeping in and noticed that the mattresses (which were laying on the floor) didn’t have sheets. When I asked the mom about it, she replied that they didn’t have sheets and were using a couple of baby blankets to cover up with. When I asked her if she needed anything, she demurred, finally admitting to needing some socks.

    We left them with the uniforms and promised to return at the end of the week with the rest of the supplies.

    And then suddenly people started coming out of the woodwork to give money and supplies. My co-workers were especially amazing with donations ranging from $20-$50 a piece AND donations of actual supplies. My dad and his friends pulled money together, my grandparents, my aunt, my friends, my parents’ friends, acquaintances –  I was shocked. I  added up what I still needed for school supplies and quickly realized I had  more than enough money to get the supplies and a number of other things. I started putting a list together of what else I needed.

    And last night, after the baby went to bed, my friend Becki and I hit up Target with two shopping carts, a long list, an envelope full of cash and a lot of determination. Outside the giant problem of there being absolutely no folders with brads left within a 100 mile radius of where we live, the shopping trip was a huge success. Not only did we manage to get the rest of the school supplies, but we were able to purchase two sets of winter uniforms for each child, a jacket for each child, shoes, socks, undies, backpacks and even coloring books and a board game. We were also able to supply hygiene products like deodorant, tooth paste, toothbrushes, first aid kits, feminine supplies and pain relievers. We got blankets, sheets, pillows and towels. We even managed to track down a kindergarten nap mat.

    Armed with all these supplies, I joined two SVdP members and went to the family today. The reaction of the kids when we started bringing things in was priceless. You would have thought it was Christmas morning. “Look I got FOLDERS!” “Oh, look at my backpack! Do you see all these zippers?” “Oh look at my shoes! Wow!” And then they scooped up the board game, ran to their room and in minutes the four of them were happily playing Chutes and Ladders. My favorite moment came when I asked the little girl to follow me to a box. During our last visit, the little girl had told me how much she loves Dora the Explorer. I reached in the box and pulled out a pair of Dora shoes and she screamed in delight, scooped them up in her arms, hugged them to her chest and proceeded to sprint around the room saying, “I love them I love them I love them.”

    To say it was heartwarming is a gross understatement. The smiles every person in that family had on their faces was enough to light up the neighborhood.

    Before leaving, the mom told me her husband had been released from jail and was looking for them, but still has no idea where they are (he’s currently many states away). She told me she feels safer here than she has in years.

    I asked her about food stamps and she told me they had applied for them and wouldn’t be getting them until the following week. I asked her if she had food and she looked down and said, “no.”

    “What do you need?” I asked.

    “Bread, just bread would be fine. We could make it with that.”

    BREAD?! You better believe I wasn’t about to just let them eat bread for the next few days. I still had some money left over from donations, so I hit up the local grocery store, taking advantage of this crazy free product thing they were doing for “Back to School” promotions. By the time I was done, their fridge and freezer had enough to last them at least a week.

    And the best part? When I got back from the grocery store, the mom told me the kids were so happy with their sheets and pointed to their room where they had set everything up. Beds were made, pillows were covered and comforters were laid across all of them. Backpacks were hanging up on the wall and shoes were lined up against molding. (They let me take a picture).

    Not to be outdone, by a stroke of fate, Angela’s friend Dawn had a couch she was about to give to Goodwill. After talking to Ang though, she decided to bring it to this family. They pulled up just as I did with the groceries and moved the couch in, which elicited another series of “We have a couch! I love the couch!” followed by squealing and jumping onto the “new” couch.

    I asked the mom if it’s ok to keep in touch with them, especially with the upcoming holidays. She said she hoped to have a job by then, but agreed.

    Today was a beautiful day. And I hope, for them, the days will continue to get brighter.

  • Uniforms and School Supplies

    Date: 2012.08.14 | Category: Love | Response: 9

    After my visit to a very poor family, I have felt more and more like I was sent there for a reason.

    This week some friends, family and co-workers are putting together the funds to get these four children uniforms and school supplies. I know it’s not much, but a part of me hopes that getting these children to school can help them in the long run.

    We have their supply lists and uniform sizes. Please e-mail me if you’re up to donating to this sweet family. My email is jessica dot booth at gmail dot com.

    Just an idea, two uniforms for one child are about $40, but even $8 will buy one new shirt!

    Thanks for your consideration on this!

  • Serving the Poor

    Date: 2012.08.12 | Category: Food, Health, Life, Work | Response: 18

    Part of being a journalist is going out and getting the story.

    This is a story I thought I knew. It’s on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a national Catholic-based organization of lay people who actively volunteer to serve the poor. Where I live, we have a very active community of Vincentians. So active that their cumulative events and service for helping the poor next month have resulted in our local bishop declaring September St. Vincent de Paul month. And that was the lead for this story.

    Over the course of talking to people and researching events for the month, it was clear that the crux of what these volunteers do is visiting those in need at their homes. Calls are placed to a hotline and, depending on where the person lives, they are assigned to a SVdP group in a nearby church. The volunteers then take their case file and go out to the person’s home to meet with them, talk, take care of emergency needs and help them get on the path to help themselves and their families.

    This I knew.

    I also knew that I would need some photos to go with this story, and, in the name of journalistic integrity and personal curiosity, I knew I would need to go with some Vincentians on a home visit. I spoke to Gale at our local Cathedral and she eagerly agreed that I should go with her today.

    In my mind, I saw us stopping by houses, saying hello, delivering some food and moving on.

    But what happened was far more emotional than my naive imagination.

    Before we left, the three of us going on these visits prayed together to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to assist those in need to the best of our abilities.

    We then drove into the heart of a poor area. The first house we went to, no one was home. And while we knocked on the door and waited for an answer, a car pulled up to see who we were. Gale leaned in and whispered, “They want to make sure we’re not Child Protective Services or bill collectors.”

    We moved on to our next house. When we pulled in the driveway there was a collective intake of breath from the three of us in the car. Outside sat a young mother with four children running through the driveway. She was alone. The house was small and in questionable condition. The mother, *Dana, invited us inside. We entered into a naked room with only a tv on a table and a mattress against the wall. Her kids, ages 5-12 gathered in around us. The five-year-old proudly told me her name and jumped into my arms for a hug. We gave them food and cleaning supplies and Gayle asked the mother for her story.

    Dana had come from a northern state for the promise of a job. Her friend told her she had one waiting for her in town, but upon arrival she found out that was a lie. She took all the savings she had and found her family a place to stay. A place in a bad area of town with no locks, no fridge and no food. When asked about child support she whispered her boyfriend was “locked up” and she didn’t want him to know where she was. He had abused her and her children and threatened their lives, finally getting busted for a drug run that he had taken his two youngest children with him on across state lines. I asked her how she had heard of St. Vincent de Paul and she told us her neighbor had referred her to the hotline. The same neighbor who had generously supplied her with a used refrigerator and was voluntarily scrubbing it in her driveway. “You don’t know how hard it is for me to ask for help,” she said in tears, “but I didn’t know what else to do.”

    While the five-year-old proudly showed me her room, a small space with two air mattresses against the wall, a small t.v. and a plastic chair, Gale talked to Dana about enrolling her children in school. This was met with more tears and fears over obtaining school supplies and school uniforms.

    I stood by helplessly as Gale counseled her on going to the Louisiana Work Force, places to call for more assistance, how to get access to food stamps and medicare for the children. She assured her we would bring more food next weekend and Dana wept in thanks. She even agreed to let me snap some photos for the story, though for privacy I asked her and the kids to face away from us.

    Our next stop was at a low income housing complex. This time a mother holding a little girl Sarah’s age opened the door and welcomed us inside. We were quickly greeted by another enthusiastic five-year-old girl, eager to tell us about starting kindergarten and her new school supplies. In this situation, the mother, who was younger than me, had been laid off her job and her electricity was about to be cut off in the middle of the three-digit August temperatures. Fortunately, she had obtained another job and would be beginning in a week. She had her food and housing situation together as well, and her parents helped with the children. SVdP was able to pay the minimum to keep her power on by way of a pledge system with the electric company. When I asked her about where she heard about SVdP, she told me her ex-mother-in-law referred her.

    That was the second time someone in need had heard of SVdP through someone else who had been helped by them. It immediately brought to mind the scenes from he Gospels where the poor and diseased heard word that Jesus was coming and rushed to see him knowing they could be helped.

    The images of today’s events have followed me the rest of my day. I walked into my own house and was overwhelmed by how much I have. So thankful to God for all He has blessed my family with. And, more than ever, I am thankful for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the people who volunteer every weekend, on their days off, to meet with people and help them work to help themselves.

    The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has almost no overhead costs. Their work is funded completely by donations and volunteers. A friend asked me today for a good charity to give to, and I, without hesitation recommended the Society. If you have a Society in your area (and I strongly suspect you do), they are an amazing organization to donate food, supplies and money to. Your donations go directly to those most in need.

    *Name has been changes for privacy.

  • Acts of Kindness

    Date: 2012.08.08 | Category: Life, Love, Me | Response: 8

    Being Nice

    With the extreme political views and anger bursting through from both sides here lately, especially by people on Facebook, I find it easy to forget the good things people do.

    I saw this video yesterday and it made me smile.

    I’ve had people show me random acts of kindness on several occasions in the past, and every time has lit a fire of happiness in my heart. Twice I’ve had random people help me push a car I was in that ran out of gas (and one of those times was in the rain). Once my car died and a guy on a motorcycle pulled up behind me and offered help.  Once a very sweet mom took my 16-year-old self under her wing at an airport when there were tornadoes flying around and flights being canceled. She helped me not freak out and get me home safely.  I once had a police officer carry my shopping cart to the return when he saw me struggling with baby Sarah. All of these incidents were willingly and happily given to me by strangers, strangers I will likely never see again and they are permanently etched in my mind.

    Even better than receiving help is giving it. I really need to get better at giving. Most of my random acts of kindness involve pulling over for wandering dogs and calling their owners, letting people with smaller orders go ahead of me in the store and occasionally helping a little old lady bag her groceries. It’s not much, but afterwards that same little fire of happiness floods my heart.

    I’m also continually amazed by what people who only know each other on the Internet will do for each other.

    So in the spirit of looking at the good, tell me what random, kind thing has someone done for you?

  • Plans = fail.

    Date: 2012.08.06 | Category: Baby, Family, Life, Mark, Sarah, Travel, Weirdness | Response: 18

    I’m a planner to a fault. For the most part it’s an extremely good thing. I run a magazine and keep it on deadline, so that planning part of me is essential to what I do. Baby shower? Bridal shower? I feel bad if you’re planning with me because I tend to take over the plans.

    So when this weekend’s plans got turned on their head, I quickly reformulated a new and improved plan! Mark decided we needed to go to his cousin’s wedding in Weatherford, Texas, which is about four hours away. I knew we would be taking Sarah, so round trip in one day was out of the question. Instead I called my uncle, who lives in Dallas, and made plans to stay the night with them. After that, we would hit the Dallas aquarium on the way out of town because I’d wanted to take Sarah there for a while.

    Plans, done!

    We left on time Saturday morning, met up with Mark’s parents along the road and stopped at Dairy Palace, a Texas food institution. We didn’t realize, however, that Canton Trade Days were going on and the line was crazy long. Between waiting in line and waiting for food, we were there an hour and half and had to book it to get to the wedding on time.

    Hanging out at Dairy Palace

    The wedding was nice. Mark’s cousin was beautiful and he had a great time catching up with family. It was during the wedding that I discovered I had brought my camera along… and left my battery at home on the charger. I was furious with myself, but figured we could hit Best Buy up before the aquarium and get another one.

    Wedding lights and grandaddy.

    Dinner that night in Dallas with my uncle was also nice (despite wading through the busy Dallas restaurants to find one where we could feed the baby quickly).

    Hanging with Uncle Al

    I should have known that night we would have the standard traveling-with-Sarah problems. She wasn’t in a familiar place, she was sleeping in the room with us and woke up all night long.

    At one point, around 4:00 a.m. she woke up, cried, and when we ignored her, happily started singing on and off until we finally got up with her at 7:30. Despite that, I was determined we would go to the aquarium.

    Upon arrival at the aquarium the next day, Sarah was asleep. And not the just-wake-her-up-and-let’s-go sleep, but bobble-her-head-around-with-no-reaction sleep. We debated for about 5 minutes before Mark convinced me we just needed to go and let her get some rest on the way home. I was disappointed and tired, but he was right.

    Conked out.

    And then about 45 minutes into our drive home she woke up angry. Not enough sleep and she refused to go back to sleep. At one point we stopped at a truck stop and got her a caterpillar neck pillow which entertained her for about 20 minutes.

    Gas station souvenir!

    We tried Youtube videos, but between Sarah repeatedly pushing the home key and turning them off and screaming, hitting low signal areas and buffering videos and screaming, and my car phone charger dying it was miserable.

    When we finally made it home, we fed her, put her to bed and immediately bought an in-car dvd player for our trip to Austin at the end of the month.

    Plans = fail.