Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Recipe for Success!

As many of you requested, here is my award-winning black bean soup recipe! First, I have to be truthful. This is pretty much a very slightly modified version of the soup recipe listed on the can of Ranch Style Black Beans. One day, I was in the grocery store and had a craving for black bean soup. So, I went to the cans and bags of black beans to see who had the best recipe. This one did it for me!

Here you go!

Goodnight Mom's Black Bean Soup

1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cans of RO-TEL Chunky Diced tomatoes and Green Chilies (I like the original flavor but it does have a bit of a kick. Choose the mild if you think you might have an aversion)
3 cans of black beans, undrained
1 can (11oz) of Mexi-corn
1/4 cup of fresh chopped cilantro

Add dash of oil over medium heat; add carrots, celery and onion. Cook for about 15 min or until tender. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for cilantro. Heat to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Blend in cilantro just before serving.

To mix it up a bit more:
Add crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream to the top when serving.

That's it!

MD Anderson

This is a quick update on today's trip to Houston. First, I want to thank MJ for ALL her assistance in the trip!

Yesterday afternoon, Jon called me and told me that the flights had filled up. I told him to pack up his office and we were going to drive. I did not have the patience to sit in the airport all night long only to have to drive later.

Well, as it turns out, we made the right move. They ended up canceling the last flights out of DFW to Houston. But, by the time AA did that, we were nice and snug in MJ's living room eating the most amazing pizza I have ever had!

This morning, bright and early, we met with the neuroblastoma team headed by Dr. Peter Zage. It was VERY informative.

The bottom line is that he feels very strongly that our doctors did exactly what they would have done, had we gone to MD Anderson in the first place. That, alone, lifted a tremendous "did we make the right decision" weight that Jon and I had been carrying for the past months or so. He said that hindsight is obviously 20/20 and maybe he would have made different decisions if he knew about the tumor now. This is exactly what Dr. Goldman told me.

After a long discussion about our options, he did recommend that we do chemo, just as I had predicted. But, in speaking with him, Jon and I also believe that this is the right decision.

Still unbelievable to Jon and me is the fact that three doctors have now told us that chemo is preferential to surgery. I find that so difficult to wrap my head around. But, it turns out that the terrible effects of chemo are mostly (and hopefully) short-term while surgery has a lasting effect on the body. Who knew?

I swear, it was so great to have MJ there. She talked to the doctors as if Eva were her daughter. And she asked the hard questions. She asked him if there was any reason for us to leave Dallas and come there for treatment. What Dr. Zage told us was that specific to Eva's very special case, we were going to get the exact same treatment in Dallas with our doctors as we were going to get there in Houston.

So, for now, we're staying put.

What's next? Well, we have an appointment with our doctors on Monday morning. We are going to sit with them and have a heart to heart about what we believe is the appropriate course of action for Eva. What we have now is not only a vote of confidence in THEM but more confidence in ourselves to make the right choice for Eva.

Anyway, that's the recap. I'll post more after our meeting with the doctors but I have to say, I have a feeling that it will be a very long Fall! Hope you guys stay with me!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Welcome to another edition of Confession Tuesday!
First, we are heading to Houston tomorrow evening to take Eva to MD Anderson. Our dear friend, MJ, works for MDA and has gotten us an appointment. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm sure that the dr. will tell us one of two things: do nothing or chemo. What Jon and I have to come to terms with is which decision is best for Eva.
It is so strange. This is such a busy time and a bit stressful at work for me with planning for my campaign for next year. BUT, when your kid is sick, it is amazing how much work stress can just disappear almost immediately. You know what you have to do first and foremost. You cancel all your appointments, no matter how important they are and you just go to Houston.
I have not been sleeping at all. At all. I finally took a pill last night so that I could get some rest. It was amazing how much more energy I had today when I have some rest.
I had way too much wine with my girlfriends on Saturday night. Jon is such an angel. Even though Sunday is his day to sleep in, he got up at 8a and took over the kids for me so I could sleep it off. Not only did he do this, he did it without complaint. THAT I can really appreciate!
I sat in bed on Sunday and watched Hairspray about 7 times. It has nothing to do with my inappropriate crush on Zac Efron. It is just a goooood movie! By the way, did anyone see him in People magazine this week? There was a shot of him leaving the gym with the title "Hey Zac! Nice Guns!" Indeed!
My friend Joseph and I always have this saying that all of life's situations can relate to a song from Les Mis. We can burst into those lyrics at any given moment. I might have to add Hairspray to that list. As things have been moving along in my life, those songs just keep popping in my head. Jack throws up. I have to make an emergency trip to the laundromat. What am I singing? "There's a roaaaaad, we've been travelin'...." I'm in the shower and feelin' a bit sassy? "Cause I'm big, blooooonde and beautiful" Generally happy and playing with the kids? "Without looooooooove, darlin' never set me free" Chasing after the kids all over the yard? "You can't stop the motion of the ocean, or the sun in the can't stop the beeeeeat"
I finally got my washing machine back today!!! It was not a problem with my machine but rather a clogged line. The first plumber who came by (sent by American Home Shield) could not fix the line because it was in the roof. SO, AHS, not shockingly, denied our work as they usually do. It took us a bit to find someone who would do the work and after about 8 weeks of visits to the laundrymat, I can now do my laundry at home....ahhhh.
And now for the most important news! We had an office summer party last Friday. As part of that function, we had a recipe cook off. Well, guess which blogger pal of yours won 2nd place??? ME!

Now, those of you who read this and know me personally, I'm sure your first reaction pretty much like my family's reaction. One of two things: 1) you do a spit-take or 2) you ask me what Jon prepared.

Well, my friends, I am very proud to announce that I MADE SOMETHING MYSELF AND entered it into a contest which WON ME A PRIZE! What did I make? My, now award-winning, Vegetarian Black Bean Soup. And it turned out mighty nice!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lucas--Borrowed Post

First, an update:
We are heading to MD Anderson on Thursday to meet with Dr. Zage. I'll post about that soon.

To the post:
When Eva was diagnosed, I had several people contact me through my blog that I did not know. They were parents of children with neuroblastoma.

My world was suddenly opened to this incredibly welcoming, very strong group of folks who have just one thing in common. Our kids all had neuroblastoma.

One of the first people to write to me was Pat Lacey, father of Will. Will is quite an amazing boy and I have loved getting to "know" his family online. Pat posted something a couple of days ago that I just had to steal for my own blog.

This is a photo essay of one families' struggle with neuroblastoma with their gorgeous son, Lucas. I do have to warn you in advance of clicking on the links. These photos are incredibly strong and some are taken as he was dying. There are no words to describe how much these incredibly personal photographs moved me. So much so, I wrote the Tran's to see if I could add it to my blog.

With all due respect to Pat, here's his post:

As I mentioned one time in the past, I have a large number of bookmarks of children whose stories I follow. Some of these bookmarks have been edited so that the date these children were killed by this disease has been added after their name.

I occasionally, when I feel prepared, go in and 'visit' these families. Sometimes you are devasted to see the impact the loss has had on these families, other times you gain hope to see that they have somehow started finding joy again.

Today, I visited the page for Lucas Tran that I have not visited for a while. I have always found the entries to be so insightful, honest, and so open. I was absolutely leveled by what I found today.

The photo essay done by Lucas's uncle is extraordinarily powerful and brutally honest. The post from Lucas's site is below:

"My only sibling, Tommy (we call him Thong at home), who was a mechanical engineer turned professional photographer, created a story of Lucas' life from the beautiful photos he took (minus the last picture which was taken by Chinh). Tommy lived with us for about a year before Kira arrived and frequently visited afterward. He was here shortly after Lucas was born, shortly after diagnosis, during surgery in NY, spent most of the summer in NY with us last year, and cut his trip in Africa short when I told him Lucas was dying.

Lucas was very fond of Tommy and gave him an endearing nickname that he made up--Dodi (dough-dee). In addition to hiding from Tommy and being chased by him, Lucas loved playing with Tommy's tripod, camera with an enormous lens and detached flash, pda phone, and stickering his suitcase. Thanks for the tribute Thong and, more importantly, for being such a big part of Lucas' life (and ours). Click here to view the photos and captions. You may need to maximize your window to see the captions. Warning: some of the photos are from the time of his death."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Little Makeup Artists

This afternoon, while Jon was packing up our stuff to go swimming at my sister-in-law's house, I let the kids apply make up on me.

Here is the result.

Of course, the sad part is that I am not much better at it, myself!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Well, it has been a while since I have had a confession. So, here you go!
I hate it when businesses replace "Qu" or "C" with "K". Things like "Kwik Kar Wash" or "Krazy" this or that. Seriously, it drives me crazy.
I may have mentioned this before but it should be repeated, also on the list of things that drive me crazy, 10 items or less.
Today as I was heading home from work in the middle of downtown Dallas, I saw a woman and her girlfriend chatting on the street corner. Totally having a nice chatty conversation. This was a completely normal occurrence except for the fact that one of the women had a case of bottled water on her head.
The other day, Jack was a complete mess. He was completely out of control. Without going through all the details, I had him at home just the two of us. As I put him in his room to cool down, he started slamming his door at me. So, I went into the garage, grabbed the screwdriver and hammer and very calmly without speaking to him, took off his door and took it to the garage. When he asked what I was doing, I told him that my son will not slam the door at me and he lost his "door privileges until further notice." I'm sure that night will come up in therapy 20 years from now.
This is just an awful confession. Yesterday, I was at a restaurant with some colleagues. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this sort of scary homeless looking black guy at the next table suddenly appear. He got up to let a family sit at the table and walked past my chair. As he did, I instinctively grabbed my purse to make sure it was zipped up. Later, I felt AWFUL at my stereotyping that guy! Turns out, he did steal the wallet of my colleague who was sitting next to me. Guess I don't feel so bad now.
Can I get a shout out "HOORAY!" for the return of Project Runway?
Not a confession but rather an update on Eva. Talked to the doctor's office today to make sure that we have all the paperwork in order to get it to MD Anderson. I'm hoping that we can meet next week. I'm pretty nervous about it but am prepared for whatever they tell me.
One final thought about today. Tonight, Jack asked me to read him a book in spanish. Those who know me know that I do not speak spanish but Jack and Eva do. Anyway, back to the book. I'm reading this little story to Jack and about halfway through the book, he patted me on the chest and said, "Mommy, you're doing very well in your spanish!" Thanks, Jack!

What Wine Would you Serve With These, Red or White?

Sometimes it is extrememly difficult to be a parent. Sometimes, you have to be the heavy when your kids say something so outrageous that you can't keep it together. Every parent has a story about their children and this one is mine about Jack.

Jack has become obsessed with "potty" words. He works very hard to interject "butt", "poop", and "booty" into every conversation. We, obviously, discourage this. But, since Jack is a four-year old boy, he likes to try to needle me to see how I would react.

Not so long ago I was cooking dinner, let's say it was fish.

Jack:" What are you making for dinner?"
Mom: "fish"
Jack: "Noooooooooo! I don't WANT FISH FOR DINNER!!!!'
Mom: "Too bad, it is what is being served tonight"
Jack storms off. Jack returns.
Jack: "Mommy? May I have something else for dinner?"
Mom--not wanting to start another fit but thought I could tell him I would make his request tomorrow: "what would you like, Jack?"
Jack: "I think tonight, I would like buuuuuuuuuuuutt nuggets!"
Mom--trying to hold it together and not encourage this conversation: "I don't think that I know how to prepare those"
Jack: "They're easy, they are just like chicken nuggets but with poooooooop in them!"

After my spit-take, I had to leave the room.

Sounds DE-LISH! Think there is a recipe on

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summertiiiiiiiiiiiiime, and the Livin' is Easy....

Here at Goodnight Mom Land, we have been super busy this week with the joys of summer.

As I have mentioned many times, I do love summer. I love the late nights, the fun outdoor activities, the ice cream. Just the fun things to do.

This week, we have spent most nights outside playing until very late. Here's a shot of the kids in our backyard "lake" that we created with a hose.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Define Normal?

Well, we had good news today. Eva's catecholamines were normal!

What does that mean? Well, the tumor that is growing is not affecting her at this time.

What does that mean? Well, it means that we are not under the gun to make any decisions about her care.

So, the plan is to still go to MD Anderson for a second opinion. After speaking to several physicians throughout the day, they all agree with the current plan that our doctors are recommending, the sit and wait plan.

They all did recommend, however, that we consider chemo as an option. So, of course, we have NO idea what we are going to do right now.

As most of you know, I am well aware of what chemo does to the body, having done it already myself. This is not my first preference for Eva.

Of course, my first preference is to make sure that we do whatever we need to do to make sure she is still here five years from now. But, if we can avoid putting her through chemo, I sure would hope that we can.

I'm doing ok today. Seem to be a bit gloomy for someone who just learned that her daughter had normal test results. I think it is all the unknown that is getting to me. Do we do chemo? do we do surgery? do we just wait? No one has any clear answers and that is just killing me.

Today, in my boot camp, I had a complete breakdown. I think too much exercise plus too much stress = fall apart. I'll keep the exercise but hopefully lose the stress.

Anyway, that's it. More to come.

Quick Update

On Monday, I had a long chat with the doctor late in the afternoon.

He feels pretty strongly that Eva will go into surgery at some point. I told him that for me, it was not a question of if but when.

As confident as I feel about Eva's oncologists, this news was such a reality check that we need to have many folks looking at things. So, I talked to my dear friend MJ who works at MD Anderson and am hoping to get a second opinion there in the next week or so.

I aslo sent Eva's CT results to another dear friend who is a radiologist so that he can interpret what I was reading. When I sat down with the computer to use as a dictionary, there were words in there that scared me to death.

Hopefully, Michael will be able to put my mind at ease later today.

Anyway, we're all well here. Eva and Jack are just fine.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dumbbells: They Ain't Just for Working Out

Well, it is a mixed bag of news. Here it is, as best as I can relate it:

Got to the doctor this AM. Met with Dr. Goldman who had not read our ct report prior to our arrival. I say this because when he came in, he was just shocked to hear that Eva had another something. Dr. Weinthal had done the visit last month and I guess did not relate it to Dr. Goldman.

He was at a loss as to what to say because he had not seen the actual film and could not get his head wrapped around exactly what was happening. So, the wonderful man that he is, he called the radiologist and asked if the four of us (Dr. Goldman, Jon, Eva and I) could go down and look at the film ourselves.

The radiologist had all three ct's up on the screen. First of all, that tumor back in February was HUGE! I am so glad that no one showed me that before because I could not have handled it at the time. It had shoved her lungs and her heart all to the side. Amazing she was able to function with that giant thing inside of her.

Then, we saw the other tumor. As it turns out, the radiologist saw this tumor back in February. In looking at the film, Dr. Goldman said that it appeared to be an offshoot of the original tumor. A dumbbell-shaped tumor, if you will. The reason no one saw it (other than the radiologist who neglected to put it in the report), is that it was on the left side. It was so small it did not show up for oncologists or surgeons to see with their naked eyes and since they went in on the right side, it was hidden on the left.

Dr. Goldman did tell us that they absolutely would not have done anything differently if they had known about the tumor stretching out to the other side. They don't do double thorocotomy's very often, apparently, so they would have left it.

The only thing that would have changed is that Jon and I would not have been blind-sided last month at the appointment. No need to get bitter about that, though, as the news is ok.

So, that tumor is now growing. Very slowly, but growing.

So, what is the next step, you ask? Well, we're not sure (surprise!) We are waiting for the urine test (the catecholamine levels) to determine if they are elevated. If they are normal, the tumor stays and they watch it very closely to see if it just goes away. If they are elevated, we go immediately into surgery. My hunch is that the test will probably show normal and we will wait to see what happens to it. They are not going to let it get too much bigger before removing it but no need to put Eva in surgery unless they have to. Apparently now, this tumor is not doing much.

So, I guess the best thing is that it is not a recurrence or a relapse rather just the growth of what was left behind. Good news about the other tumor, though, it is just a gigantic hole now with no regrowth! So amazing!

Thank you, again, for all your concern and prayers. It means the world to us to have such a strong support system. I tell you, if anyone can handle this, it is Eva Jane. She marches through that office like she owns it. She will grab that stethoscope from the doctor and put it on her own chest, thank you. She's strong, that is for sure. I'm sure that will come in handy as we move along.

When You're Tired, You Take a Napa

Happy 6th of July, everyone!

Could not write while away as I left my computer AT HOME! What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful vacation Jon and I had. I don't know if I could be more relaxed at this moment.

Back in April, we were invited to Napa to our good friend's home for July 4th. It took them many years to build their house and they wanted to break it in! So, I'm pretty sure all of our arrangements were made within about five minutes of the conversation on the Kohlman's porch back at Jazzfest. Oh, and Jon's parents soooo kindly agreed to watch our children so we could go alone! We were so excited in anticipation!

First of all, our host and hostess could not have been more gracious to us. I mean, they were just so generous with their time and with their home. For that, I am so appreciative.

Funny thing about their new house, it was amazing how much it felt and resembled my house. I mean, well, mine is about 13,000sf smaller but they are both brick! Theirs is on 47 acres, ours is on .47 acres! Oh, we both have "infinity" pools! Theirs overlooks the beautiful valley, mine takes an infinity to fill up with the hose. The only thing that I would definitely say negative about their house versus mine is that they were definitely lacking the "charm" of gutters hanging down off the side of the house and a dishwasher that floods the garage. Yeah, that was missing FOR SURE!

The formal living room

For the bulk of the trip, we ate and drank our way through the Napa Valley. I was a bit worried as there was no part of me that was even remotely interested in the wineries where they allow bus tours. If that is your thing, well, I'm sure it was terrific. That was just too many crowds and too high stress for me.

We spent one day on Spring Mountain Road where there are so many small wineries. As a matter of fact, when we went to Guilliams winery, Shawn, the owner, just had us sit in lawn chairs in her vinyard while she poured generous helpings of wine. That's my kind of day. Three days of that and oh man, am I recharged!

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Fourth of July at the club where I even got a massage! Ahhhhh!

My view on the 4th

We even got a bonus visit this afternoon with Jon's cousin and his lovely family. I always just enjoy their company so much and was sad to only get to visit for such a short time.

As much of a shutterbug as I am, I took about a gazillion pictures of the house and of our trip. Not going to post them, obviously, but if you'd like to see them, let me know and I will email!

Got home too late tonight and kids are asleep. Just trying to enjoy the final moments of quiet before the onslaught of tomorrow.

Have Eva's doctor's appointment tomorrow. Getting slammed back to reality. But for tonight, my head is still lying in that lawn chair outside of our friend's house in 50 degree weather, trying to count the millions of stars above.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

As many of you might remember, I declared July 1 as 2008.5! So, a Happy New Year to everyone!

Should all of last year, be forgot? And never brought to mind.....? YES!!!

Here's my list of resolutions in a special Confession Tuesday version:

1) Lose weight! Just kidding! Well, not really. Actually, today I am off to get my boot camp assessment. They assess you at the start and end of each class to see how much you've improved. I'll let you all know!

Update: Let's just say, when you think that you might be overweight, NEVER have them test your BMI. The will probably confirm that for you. Talk about a deflated ego! I am proud of my half mile run time, though. I ran for 4/5 of the half mile (walked the rest) and did it in 4 min which is really good for me. So, that's a good point to start with. We'll see how it goes!

2) Will prevent Eva's cancer from coming back. So, God, you on that one? Took her to get her CT this morning. She did fine. I did not. But, it was much better than the last time and a MUCH better experience overall and for that, I am thankful. We find the results on Monday morning. As always, I will post.

3) Read more. Man, I have to read more! I keep saying that and then I get sucked into My Boys, The Bachelorette or just a movie. I'm just turning off the TV. Well, after I see if my beloved Jason wins!

4) Have more patience. This is with Jack, work, Jon, Eva's test results, etc etc. Just need more patience.

5) Write thank you notes and MAIL them! I'm the WORST! I am so thankful for so many things that people do for me. I find stacks of notes (and birthday cards, gifts that I purchased, etc etc) all over the house and I'm like, darn! I never mailed the thank you's for Jack's first birthday party? Ugh.

6) Will drink more water and less wine. Well, not necessarily beginning now. I'm starting that off on a bad foot as I'm off to Napa with Jon for the weekend. Yeah, more water, that's what I will do there! By the way, I'm soooo excited for this trip, I can't stand it. Jon and I have planned two trips to Napa and both times I have gotten pregnant. I know FOR SURE I am not pregnant this trip so bring on the wine! Then when I get home, bring on the water.

What are your resolutions for 2008.5?