Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Webkinz clothes

A couple of years ago we embraced the Webkinz craze. Cooper and Katie have so many that we've lost count. They play with them more offline than online these days.

Yesterday, for example, Cooper used pillows and crates to create movie theater-style seats for about eight of his "babies." Together they watched Swiss Family Robinson.

He's fascinated by Webkinz clothing and perhaps is expecting some for Christmas. (As far as I know, Santa won't be delivering any. Santa's helper thinks that clothes for Webkinz are somewhat unnecessary.)

A few days ago he crafted a paper crown for Rudolph, the reindeer Webkin, and declared the furry fellow the "king of Christmas."

Tonight he fashioned a tail cover for Tigey the tiger and a cap for Snappy the turtle.

See, no one needs to buy clothes! We can just make them at home.

Wise men's gifts

Cooper is working on homework, drawing something meaningful about the holidays. He chose to draw a Nativity scene.

As he was drawing the wise men, he said, "What are the three gifts? Gold, kindness and friendship?"

I just love our sweet boy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Cooper decided he wanted to be included in the annual visit with Santa. Yay!

The kids and I drove to Allen after school on Friday. We waited for about five minutes to chat with the Big Guy -- the shortest line ever. I'm worried that his obscure outdoor location is keeping folks away.

Katie jumped up and down while we waited. And then she giggled the entire time she was with Santa. She didn't say hello or Merry Christmas or even request a gift. She just hee-hee'd until our time was over.

Cooper asked for the Lego Batman game for Wii. It's rated E-10. Santa and his helpers are considering if a 7-year-old should have an E-10 game.

Pie in my face

Cooper specifically asked that I write about this in my blog.

He sold more than $300 in popcorn for Cub Scouts this year. As a reward, he and other Scouts were allowed to throw a pie in an adult's face at tonight's pack meeting.

I was certain he would choose his den leader. I was wrong.

Cooper was jumping up and down, he was so excited at his chance.

I was called to the stage (the den meets in an elementary school cafeteria). I took off my glasses and waited. Cooper taunted me for just a few moments and then slammed the whip cream in my face. It splattered in my hair and all over my clothes.

The crowd went wild! Well, not really, but there was applause and laughter. And a great big Cooper smile.

Monday, November 24, 2008

End of Santa photos?

Today I had hoped to take Cooper and Katie to visit Santa (the real Santa!). I know, it's before Thanksgiving. But I want to avoid long lines. And Thanksgiving is late this year!

Cooper said no. He says he doesn't want or need anything for Christmas this year, so he doesn't need to visit.

I told him I need a photo of him with Santa and his sister.

He couldn't be convinced. We'll try again next week. And then I may need to give up and just have Katie in the photo.

Nice surprise

Last year I worked on two projects for Fodor's -- updating Web listings for the Dallas-Fort Worth area and writing the D-FW chapter for the new Texas guidebook.

My editor on both projects was Mike Nalepa, who works for Random House in New York. He was so gracious about this time last year, when I turned in the chapter about 95 percent complete. My deadline was the day after Steve's first MRI. I knew that if I touched the text from that point forward, I would likely make mistakes.

He arranged for others to help with parts of the chapter and filled in the rest himself. He was the kind of editor you want to work for again.

Today we received in the mail four different books from Mike -- Fodor's guidebooks for London! I'm guessing he reads the Steve blog and discovered our big summer getaway. What a great guy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


For months I've been training to run the Dallas White Rock half-marathon in Steve's honor.

I am not a natural runner. In high school, the mandatory 12-minute run was more like a 1-minute run, 11-minute walk for me. I always hurt my shins, and my breathing wasn't right, and I didn't like to sweat.

For years Steve has been running, for fun and in races. I never joined him. I would walk at night or sometimes swim, but never run.

Last year I started running and then stopped when the weather turned cold. And then Steve was diagnosed with cancer, and I didn't do any exercise at all. I did lots of running around, but no running.

This summer Liz convinced a small group of us to run in some way to honor and support Steve. Sadly, she hurt her knee and hasn't been able to train, though she is an excellent motivator.

Allison has been my steady running partner. We run for 2.5 minutes and walk for 1, over and over. We've worked our way up a little at a time, and last Friday morning we ran 10 miles!

We ran past grocery stores, restaurants, banks, child-care centers. We ran all the way to a major highway, and then we turned around and ran home.

When we run we talk. It's a great way to get ideas, talk through troubles, set goals and vent when necessary.

Our schedules don't mesh well this week, so I ran 3 miles on my own this afternoon. I knew I would miss Allison's conversation, so I grabbed Steve's iPod. My little iPod Shuffle is loaded with relaxing music -- not ideal for running.

On a day like today, when Steve is feeling extremely wobbly and sluggish, running is a little emotional for me. We both wish he were able to zip up and down Teel Parkway like he used to. I am running for him, but I wish I were running with him.

Well, those emotions were compounded when I decided to listen to Steve's running playlist. A U2 song and a Coldplay song had me in tears. But that didn't last long. A Beastie Boys song came on, and there was nothing to do but smile and laugh. I could so picture Steve singing/rapping along. Later tonight, I'll play it again for the full Steve effect.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Some kind of Berry

Before this morning's rounds to work and school, Katie grabbed a pink Hello Kitty pretend cell phone for the drive.

She said more than once, "You need to be quiet now, please, I'm going to make a phone call." (Think she's heard that a few times?)

After her "calls," she started pushing the camera button on the phone. It doesn't actually take photos, but it makes a satisfying clicking noise.

She exclaimed happily, "I have a raspberry! Not a Blackberry!"

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Katie's curls

Stephanie suggested we braid Katie's hair while it's damp to create some wave.

We tried it and acheived success for a hours. She was so happy!

I wrote about her wish for curly hair in today's Briefing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Busy October

A small sampling:

Enjoying Halloween season

At Reese's third birthday party

At a family Cub Scouting event

Also at the Scouting event

At the Dolphins game in which Cooper scored a goal and was named MVP

Before church on Children's Sabbath; Cooper helped read the Call to Worship.

At a Saturday night Central Market dinner

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Allison and I have been training together to run a half marathon in honor of Steve. Last night we reached a big milestone -- 7 miles, more than half the distance of the total race!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Last spin through the alphabet

The weekly Religion content of the Morning News has dwindled to almost nothing this year. I still write the A to Z feature, which appears in the Metro section on Saturdays. This will be my last journey through the alphabet -- six rounds in all.

The complete list, dating to January 2006, is here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Willie Davis

K. Lee's son, Willie, has been moved out of ICU after his fall. They are expecting a slow road to recovery.

You can read about Willie on his Caring Bridge site. I know that K. Lee and his family appreciate all the good thoughts and prayers they've received. They have a long journey ahead.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Q & A

Helping with dinner tonight

Our church will celebrate Children's Sabbath later this month. Jana, our children's ministry director, asked first- and second-graders to answer questions to help write the Call to Worship.

I asked Cooper to answer the questions. His answers are below.

1. Why are you important? God made me.
2. What are ways that you can serve God? Praying
3. How does God help you do things that are hard? Believe in me
4. How do you share Jesus with other people? Passing the Good News on
5. How does our church (Holy Covenant) make you feel special? Because I have friends
6. Why do you think God loves you? Because I am very special
7. How does it make you feel to know that you're special to God and He wants you to share His love with other people? Happy
8. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus wants to be your best friend? Excited

Katie was with us during the interview. She wanted to answer the questions also. Her responses:

1. Why are you important? Because I love people
2. What are ways that you can serve God? Reading and when I am safe of knives and when I can't have tea
3. How does God help you do things that are hard? He helps me do puzzles and helps me to hang up pictures in windows and doors and helps me fix the refrigerator
4. How do you share Jesus with other people? So I can love
5. How does our church (Holy Covenant) make you feel special? How it makes me happy
6. Why do you think God loves you? Because that's sweet
7. How does it make you feel to know that you're special to God and He wants you to share His love with other people? When I love and take care of people
8. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus wants to be your best friend? When I ride ponies

Monday, October 06, 2008

Save Lio!

Cooper has been a fan of the Dallas Morning News comics section since he was 4. His morning ritual is to wake up, sit at the kitchen table, find the comics and read the section over breakfast. He saves his favorite comic strip, Lio, for last.

Lio is a mischevious science-loving kid who takes care of animals, aliens and monsters. He constantly outwits his single dad and gives fits to teachers and fellow students.

Today is a sad day at our house, as the Morning News cut out 14 strips as part of a cost-cutting, paper-saving measure. Lio has been kicked out. But all hope is not lost. Readers are invited to vote back one of the 14 strips.

We've already voted here. Each IP address can vote just once between now and Oct. 15. If you have just a minute and don't have another preference, please go here and choose Lio!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Prayer request

A friend and former colleague from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, K. Lee Davis, is in need of prayer for his 5-year-old son:

To my friends. As many of you may know, William, my 5-year-old son with autism, fell from a third-floor window Sunday afternoon and suffered severe brain trauma.

He is in Pediaric ICU at Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

The good news? He has fought through his most dangerous phase, and for now should survive.

The unknown? Willie could exist for the rest of his days on a spectrum between a vegetative state to only slightly diminished over his previous beautiful self. He will have lost some eyesight, from left of center to his left peripheral vision due to a stroke in the right rear occiput of his brain. The good news is there is little danger of further stroke or damage to the surrounding area. We would love to have our old Willie back with a little vision problem.

We will not know for some time what Willie's longterm quality of life will be, and there is still the possibilty he will be unable to survive without mechanical means. We will cross that bridge if we come to it. The next hurdle for him is control over his esophagus -- invountary things like swallowing, clearing of fluid, etc. If he can't do that, he will need a respirator to stay alive.

Thank you for all the prayers, kind thoughts and positive energy.

We don't need more than that right now, but that could change. We will let you know.

-- K. Lee

Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm home from a great getaway with Kris, Holly and Liz. I'll post more details later. For now, here is a link to photos from the trip.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

'Call and duty'

Katie's preschool teacher keeps a treasure box to reward extra special behavior. Katie is not pleased when she is denied access to the treasure box. (Betty has been picking up Katie for me in the afternoons, so I just hear about the meltdowns -- I haven't witnessed one yet.)

I picked up K today, and she was eager to show me the treasure she selected -- a plastic flip flop keychain wrapped in a velvety bag decorated with skulls and crossbones. (I know, it's a strange combination and maybe a bit too creepy for 3-year-olds.)

Mrs. Lilly explained that Katie was extra helpful today. A friend spilled water during lunch. During the commotion, Katie fetched paper towels and started cleaning the mess -- without being prompted. Mrs. Lilly said, she "went above and beyond the call of duty."

When Katie retells the story, she says: "I got to go to the treasure box. I got a shoe in a pirate bag. I went to call and duty. Someone spilled water and I cleaned it up."

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Allison and I are training to run the half at the Dallas White Rock Marathon in December. We try to run three times each week and try to add distance every few days. Today we ran the Heroes for Children 5K in Plano.

Steve, Cooper and Katie came with us, and Liz and Sally drove out, so we had a big cheering section! (Liz would have been out running with us, too, but she's injured her knee.)

This running business is hard for me. I'm definitely not a natural runner. So where I place doesn't matter at all. I'm just happy I finished! Allison and I placed 322 and 321 respectively, with chip times of 40:22:56 and 40:21:86.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bribery or incentive?

A student in Katie's preschool class has a peanut allergy, so no one can bring nut products for lunch. Katie loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches more than any other. She tolerates deli meat and cheese sandwiches. So I've been working on other options.

Today I made some tuna salad for her to try. She wrinkled her nose at the offering and refused to eat it.

My next move: Try Cooper. Cooper eats very healthily but has a limited palate. I knew if Katie saw Cooper try it, she would to.

I asked. He said no. Without hesitation, I said, "I'll give you a dollar if you try it!"



(Steve sat in silence, either amused or confused by my sudden new moves.)


"Yes. I promise."

Cooper loves money. He saves it in multiple banks and drawers in his room. He rarely spends it. He often gives it away.

So he ate a big bite and said he liked it. Steve pulled a dollar out of his pocket and handed it over.

Katie seized the opportunity. "Can I have a dollar if I try it?"


She ate a forkful and liked it. She accepted a bill from Daddy. She asked for more tuna salad and didn't even ask for more money.

Tomorrow, I'll pack her a tuna salad sandwich. For Cooper? Not a chance. He said he won't eat it again unless we pay him.


In case you haven't noticed, I've been posting links to Briefing columns on the left. You can read about why I love soccer moms; how sad we've been since Cooper lost B; and how it's difficult to know which activities are best for kids.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

First day of preschool

Katie returned to ECDP, the preschool at our church, this morning. She'll attend three days a week, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. If she had her way, she would have already started kindergarten at Cooper's school. We're trying to convince her she needs a little more seasoning first.

Monday, September 01, 2008


It's the familiar story -- girl with curly hair wants straight; girl with straight wants curly. I just didn't expect to deal with it so soon.

Katie's hair is as straight as mine is curly. Ever since cousin Molli (who has a head full of curls) stayed with us earlier this summer, Katie has longed for curly hair. When she asks me or Steve why she has straight, we tell her that that is what God gave her. She's never satisfied.

While she and I were home alone Thursday morning, she asked over and over for curly hair. So, I pulled out some gel and soft rollers. I spritzed her hair and rolled it up.

She endured the curlers for about 30 minutes.

"I want God to give me curly hair," she exclaimed rather loudly before she started ripping the curlers out of her hair.

The result was a bit of body, which lasted about five minutes.

We constantly tell her she's beautiful just the way she is. Most of the time she believes it, but she's still asking for curls.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Well, if you're reading this blog now, you're officially invited!

After the D Magazine blog exploded for a few hours with criticism of Briefing, my intro column and more, I realized that it wouldn't take long for folks to find the checkonsteve blog. And from there it's pretty easy to get to this site.

That thought actually woke me up about 5 a.m. Friday. I have always internally debated having this site public. I took steps to make it invisible to search engines, but I kept it available. After the Briefing incident, though, I realized I didn't want to subject Cooper and Katie to random hatefulness. So, that's why this blog is now password protected.

I chose not to restrict access to Steve's site. I'm not going to let a handful of jerky jerks (the name I've chosen to call some of the D Mag blog commenters) dictate how we let people know all the great news about Steve's progress. Blogger limits permission to 100 readers. Some days the checkonsteve site gets more than 200 individual readers. There's just no way to whittle them down. And with every reader, there's another opportunity for additional prayers and good wishes. We need all of those we can get!

We've also heard from families who've found Steve's site who are fighting their own cancer battles. What a blessing to think we might be able to share information that could help or encourage another family.

Thanks for making the extra effort to get here!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


From FrontBurner, the D Magazine blog

First columns

Darla's column debuted in Briefing yesterday. A preview of the fun:

I'd like you to meet my family. Let's start with my 9-year-old son, Jake. Why? Because he's the one who'd want to meet you first. He's quite the talker. The budding politician. The kid with questionable conduct grades.

Her full column is here.

My column was introduced today. You can read it here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New title

I've had lots of job titles and descriptions, but I've never been a columnist -- until now! Click here to find me and Darla and Dear Abby and others. Briefing launches tomorrow, and my parenting/family column will run Thursdays and Saturdays.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First day of second grade

Cooper has been sleeping past 7 a.m. every day since he returned from Massachusetts and Maine last week. Not today. He cheerfully appeared in the kitchen around 6:45, ready for breakfast, the newspaper (for the comics) and getting ready for the first day of second grade.

As is our first day tradition, Steve walked with us to school. We are so thankful that he is feeling well and stable enough to walk the third of a mile there and another back.

Before we left, we stopped by the Dube house across the street. New big brother Drew has been waiting days to see his friends Cooper and Kyla (another sweet neighbor) off. We were also lucky enough to see five-day-old Ty and mom Meghan.

Cooper is happy to have three good buddies from last year (some even dating to 2005) in his new class. Mrs. S's class also includes some old friends we haven't seen in a while. We can't wait until this afternoon to hear details of the day from Cooper D!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fun things Katie says

She calls glasses "gla-ga-sses."

She has nicknamed Margie (the dog) "Sweeters."

When she wants a hug, she asks for "huggers."

As a recently potty-trained girl, she has a heightened interest in public bathrooms. She's fascinated by the automatic toilets. Now when we're in a public bathroom, she asks, "Is this a dramatic potty?"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tiny columnist?

The Dallas Morning News launches a new newspaper later this month. Briefing will be delivered free Wednesday through Saturday to non-daily subscribers in certain ZIP codes. The idea is to give folks a quick read of the news.

I have the great opportunity to write a column twice a week for Briefing. (A fellow freelancer, ex-DMNer and friend Darla will write the other two days. She is fun and funny and always makes me laugh.) This morning Katie and I downtown drove through the welcome August rain so I could have my photo taken for the column. When Darla and I were done, Katie asked (or politely demanded) to have her photo taken, too. Photographer John snapped a few before we left the studio. He did a good job catching her mischievous side.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One more vacation

Cooper, Grandma and Papa left early yesterday morning for a vacation in Boston and Maine. Cooper has had a fabulous summer: Disneyland, trip by himself to Houston to see Uncle Jim, weekend trip to Bastrop and Austin, a night at Great Wolf Lodge, soccer camp, Cub Scout camp, tennis camp, chess camp, math games extravaganza camp, swim lessons, vacation Bible school, fine arts week. Plus birthday parties, Lego building, lots of reading, playing with friends, watching movies.

He seems to have caught Katie's cold and woke this morning with a 102-degree fever. That didn't stop him from wanting to head out for adventures. Tomorrow the trio will hit the road and drive north to Bar Harbor.

They get home just a few days before Cooper starts second grade.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Annual reports

A benefit of having children with almost the same due date (Cooper, June 25; Katie, June 24) is that their birthdays are close (Cooper, July 3; Katie, June 20) and therefore their annual pediatric check-ups can be accomplished in one visit.

Today was an especially good check-up day, as neither needed any vaccines. Cooper asked every employee he could find if he would be getting a shot today and was so relieved to hear the final verdict. He actually is eligible for the chicken pox booster, but we're going to wait. We don't want to introduce a live virus in a household with an immuno-compromised daddy. If there is a chicken pox outbreak at school this year, we will reconsider. Otherwise, we'll wait until next summer.

We learned today that Cooper grew 3.5 inches in the past year -- not a huge surprise if you've seen him lately or see the tall pile of long pants we will be passing down to friends. Our 7-year-old boy is now wearing size 10 slim pants and cinching them as much as those handy hidden elastic waists will allow. He's above the charts for height and at 75 percent for weight.

Katie grew 2 inches in the past year and is at 75 percent for height and weight. Dr. N gives grades for health and development. (Julie and I always wonder if he ever gives out grades below an A. We've yet to hear of one. I suspect it's his office's way of giving a vote of confidence to anxious parents.) Katie received an A+ today, with a special note for her "excellent speech." He told us that he likes to listen to her talk because she, at age 3, sounds like a 10-year-old.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Lack of planning

So, you know that I love to plan vacations. I love planning as much as going. As soon as a trip is over, I need another to look forward to. A friend's trip will do if we don't have anything on the calendar -- I can help brainstorm sites, restaurants, activities, clothes needed, etc.

We are on a quick getaway this weekend at the Lost Pines Hyatt near Bastrop. (I was supposed to go on a girls' weekend last fall, but we had to cancel last minute, too late to get the deposit back. So we postponed until January. I couldn't go anywhere in January. So I moved the date a couple more times until this weekend worked -- but this time for Steve, the kids and I.)

Anyway, I wanted to be more spontaneous and not plan so much, just to see how that worked. Most everything we need is at the hotel -- swimming, dining, s'mores around a campfire, Olympics on the TV in our room.

Before we checked in, we decided to have lunch in Bastrop. I didn't have a restaurant selected in advance. We just headed for the historical district, looking for someplace local. We found a cute little house with a charming hand-painted sign and decided to take a table.

There were many clues that we should have left -- most significantly the tables that hadn't been cleared held plates with huge portions remaining. But it was hot, after 1 p.m. and Katie was fussy (she has a cold and had just been roused from a nap).

It was awful! The chicken-fried steak, marked as a specialty of the house, was tangy. The mashed potatoes were overly garlicky, and not in a good way -- I think they used garlic salt or powder instead of fresh, and they used way too much.

In such a situation, I would just push my plate aside and share with Steve. But he'd ordered the same! So we just laughed our way through lunch, making faces and pushing the food around our plate.

All was not lost. Cooper devoured his plate of chicken, vegetables and fries and then ate much of our meal. He declared it "the best meal ever!"

What I'm taking from the experience:
1. Cooper has questionable taste in chicken-fried steak, a problem that needs to be remedied.
2. Steve and I should not order the exact same food.
3. I need embrace, not shun, my love of planning.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Big day at Barnes & Noble

Among my freelance projects last year were three books: I proofed some chapters of Bill Peel's book What God Does When Men Lead; I helped edit, research and write parts of Kathy's Peel's The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home; and I wrote the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of Fodor's Texas. (I was about 95 percent done with the travel guide chapter on the day of Steve's first MRI, which revealed a mass in his brain stem. In the weeks leading up to Dec. 11, 2007, I was getting about four or five hours of sleep each night. After Dec. 11, sleep was hard to come by for different reasons.)

Bill's book has been out a few months, and I have a copy. Kathy's was released in early July. The Fodor's book was released Tuesday. I hadn't yet seen the July books -- until today! (My own copies are on the way.)

I was running errands on my own today and stopped at Barnes & Noble. I was so excited to find my work there on the shelves! I've had countless bylines in newspapers and magazines, but there's something distinct and special about being printed in a bound book.

To the right of the Busy Mom's Guide is Desperate Households, the first Kathy Peel book I helped with.

My bio in the back of the Fodor's book