Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Talk about Good!

The title above is something that you'll hear often in South Louisiana. Being Cajun, our life revolves around food (as if you couldn't tell by looking at us!). The photos are of my favorite salad in the world, and of my favorite pizza in the world (Pizza Village's Landry Special). Sometimes, I find myself dreaming of and wanting to drive home for those two things especially. I regret not taking more pictures on this trip, but you break out a camera in the middle of a restaurant to take pictures of the food on your table and you get strange looks.
Every time we go home, we have a small list of places we want to visit...for the food. Home cooking from our parent's houses is definitely a treat and I'll get to that in a second.
But first, I'll describe to you my favorite dishes from our some of our favorite eating establishments. Last Wednesday, we took our new car over to get it's first time service and it provided the perfect opportunity to hit up Pizza Village for lunch. I crave their salads especially for the home made house dressing on top. The Landry Special pizza is topped with hamburger, shrimp, green olives and I'm not sure what else, but by a few hours after eating it, and the salad, the sodium levels in your body go off of the charts and you find yourself dying of thirst. But about good!
On Friday, while Phillip, his dad and his brother played golf, Gabe and I met my brother, James, for lunch at another one of my old favorites. Damascas on Arnould Boulevard did not disappointment me; it's still the best Greek/Lebanese food I've ever had. I think James was impressed (it was his first time) and Gabe, excited after receiving a brand new watch from "Uncle Bubba", was also happy with my choice of restaurant. After filling up on humous, beef and chicken shawerma with yogurt & cucumber sauce etc., we headed out to the downtown area to explore Lafayette's Children's Museum and the Natural History Museum and Planetarium. Some of the locals might have a better idea of Greek food, but to me, you just can't beat Damascus.
On Saturday, Phillip was REALLY craving a shrimp po-boy (kinda like a hoagie for you non-cajuns). After spending the day with Mom and James, we met Dad and my step-mom Elaine at their house, and drove on to yet another favorite...Old Tyme Grocery near UL Lafayette's campus. We picked the best time to go, a cold and rainy Saturday night; you try to go any other time and you usually have to try to find decent parking (since it's near UL) and the place can be crowded. I ate the "killer" meatball po-boy that I always get...I had to take a dose of Zantac, but I survived.
On Sunday, just after church and before we left the area, we made our last restaurant stop at Prejeans. Phillip tended bar there when we were first married and I got hooked on their crawfish enchiladas. And I don't even like crawfish! I must always have a salad there also, because I love their house dressing. The menu has a great variety for any taste, and there is usually a cajun band playing LOUDLY in the background. We always suggest Prejean's to people who ask us where they should go while visiting the area. There, you get the ultimate cajun experience.
All around, it was a good trip, especially along the lines of food. Visiting our favorite places is always a treat when we go back home. Hopefully, when we go back home for Sarah's baptism, we will have more time to do lots of other things that we didn't have time for this time around. We planned to, but didn't quite make it on over to New Orleans for a brief visit; the last time I was there was about two weeks before Katrina and it's been a lot longer for Phillip. There's a small list of places in N.O. that we love to go to for the food, Central Grocery (for their muffalettas) is a must before we leave that area.
Before I close, I must mention the DELICIOUS home cooking that we also like to go home for. No restaurant can compare to the Thanksgiving feast (fried turkey, dressings, casseroles) that we had at Aunt Teeney's house, the fall-off-of-your fork brisket that we had at mom's house, Zella's smothered chicken and biscuits....we did not go hungry! (On our next trip, maybe we can get Elaine to smother some of her famous stuffed pork chops and I can get Mom to make a Chicken Fricasse')
During this past week, I've pretty much summed up our trip for you. We didn't stress ourselves out trying to be in too many places at once. We took it easy. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, had a birthday party for a much loved stuffed tiger, ate good food and got the chance to just relax and be "home" for a few days.
And that you've endured this loooong post on food, have I given you any ideas on dinner tonight?


Today, I'm going to write about what happens when you leave home to live life and you go back to discover that life went on without you.

Lafayette, Louisiana has always been constantly growing. Everywhere something new pops up. But when Phillip and I left in September of 2001, we were anxious to see what else was out there; life in Lafayette seemed like a dead-end street to us. It's not because there was not plenty to do there along the lines of entertainment etc.; it just seemed to me that there just wasn't much opportunity for this young, freshly married couple to "make it". I don't mean to offend anyone. This is just my opinion. Life was hard, and we struggled financially. We needed the chance to get ourselves established, and the military was our best option for helping Phillip live his dream. We said goodbye to family and friends during the week of Sept. 11, 2001. We also found out that "we" were pregnant with our first child on the Friday before that. We left Louisiana with lots of anticipation, yet lots of hope in our hearts. Life was about to CHANGE for everyone.

We've gone home to visit many times in the past, but last week was a real eye opener for me. Everywhere, change. Lafayette has expanded quite a bit and everywhere you see new developments. I mean, everywhere! When we left, River Ranch (a community within a community) right across the river from our old house, was just getting started. Today, it is such a busy and almost crowded place to shop, eat, name it. I took Gabe for a ride through River Ranch while we were there so that we could walk through the unique shops, get a cup of coffee at CC's Coffee House and just take it all in. Traffic in Lafayette has increased considerably. I found myself almost afraid to drive around for fear of 1. getting into an accident, because now I'm an "out of towner" and 2. because I had to remind myself what streets bring me where. And everywhere I went, I saw familiar faces, but most, I couldn't put a name to. I saw families at church that when we left, had young children who are now teenagers. Scary! I saw the familiar face of one of my old doctors, and it took me all of church hour to remember who he was! (Phillip was dumbfounded on how I could confuse a priest with a Gyenocologist) When we left, Jefferson Street was just the old main street in downtown, it is the place to see and be seen (from what I hear). And everywhere, new restaurants. I took in a breath of relief to see that some of my old favorite places where still there.

My original hometown is a little place about twenty minutes north of Lafayette. Sunset, LA was definitely the place that everyone knew you, your business and your next of kin. Even little ole' Sunset had lots of changes to it. It was depressing to see how some places where "run down". It was nice to see new businesses that popped up. And I had to chuckle at a group of bikers along the side of the road in the downtown area....I recognized a couple of them as guys that I went to school with. My, how we get old and change ourselves! (We're old enough to drink liquor in public now) I even saw Coach Duos' old truck for sale in the parking lot of Domengeaux's Lumber Yard and remembered that she was only one among many who drove that acqua blue Chevy. I wanted to rescue it from it's loneliness in that parking lot, and bring it home just to be able to say that I owned a piece of Sunset history.

It's amazing to me how life changes, especially when you're not around to see the gradual way in which change happens. Not just amazing, just plain shocking. I can't expect for change not to happen, I must go with the flow. I am happy to report though, that the overall expression of kindness and hospitality on people's faces have not changed...the people of south Louisiana all have that particular look to them; the look of hard working, yet friendly people that don't give a second thought to waving hello to someone they don't know.

I could go on and on about this, but I won't. I think I've made my point. This particular post is one that our military friends (or anyone who's ever moved away from home) can better relate to. I'm sure they've felt the same way from time to time. On my next post, I'll talk about one thing we look forward to every time we go home....THE FOOD!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sassy Cat!

I've decided that I will entertain you this week with details of our trip home from last week. We don't make it back to South Louisiana very often so there is lots to tell....I think. Well, maybe I'll get two or three posts off of it.

I will start off with the most memorable and downright humorous event.
But first, some background....

When I was a little girl, up until the time I got married and moved out of Mom's house, I was extremely close to a doll named Holly. Holly was my best friend in the sense that she knew everything about me and I knew that she would never judge me or betray me; She was always there for me when times got crazy and I needed some security. Snuggling with her when I was tired, sick or mad etc. always made me feel better. Call me crazy, but I took some of my bridal portraits with her in the background; it was my way of including her in one of the most important events of my life. She also made an appearance at the hospital when Gabe was born. Today, she sits safely on top of my Mom's bed so that she doesn't feel totally abandoned. Although I've grown up, she has a huge part of my heart.

This past year, while Phillip was in Iraq, his babysitter Ms. Jo bought a stuffed tiger for Gabe while they were out shopping one night. Her name is Sassy, after Jo's lovable old mutt Sassafras. It took only a short time for me to realize that Sassy became Gabe's "Holly", perhaps because his little world was just not right while Daddy was away. Sassy goes EVERYWHERE with us and was even the subject of Gabe's first pre-school fight. (another little boy called her a doll at naptime and Gabe was NOT having that!) To this family, it's another "Calvin and Hobbes" type situation. Sassy is a mischevious, but loving little tiger and she even helps me wake Gabe up for school in the morning. I use her as a tool to help build Gabe's imagination, and boy.....has it worked!

It started a few days before Thanksgiving. The announcement was made that Thanksgiving would be Sassy's birthday. She would be three years old (not really, but that's what Gabe says it be it). Of course, at first, we didn't take him too seriously. But on Thanksgiving night, after we had all eaten our fill of good food for the day and were lounging about in our PJ's at Phil's parent's house, the party was organized. There was already a cake on the kitchen cabinet; not a whole one, but it worked. We were told that candles needed to be rounded up. "Okay, so I guess this is really going to happen", I thought to myself. Before we knew it, we were all in the kitchen singing Happy Birthday and laughing our hiney's off! Everyone had to take pictures with the birthday cat. Gabe went to bed pleased with the outcome of the party and we went to bed scratching our heads at what just happened.

Oh, to be a kid again....It was a good night!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's new?

Well, this is going to be a short post. Not much going on here that I can think of that's worth posting to the "public".

I have to share this with you though. On Saturday night, Gabe was resting his head on my stomach because he wanted to see if he could feel Sarah move. In the past, he's claimed to feel her when I know for sure he didn't because there was no activity. Well, all of a sudden she gives a good swift kick to his temple and I thought the kid was gonna fly off of the couch! His head shot up, he looked at me with eyes the size of quarters, and he had the most comical look of disbelief on his face. He started to fidget; he didn't know what to do with himself!!! I wish I had a camera to capture that moment; it was priceless.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling utterly exhausted. Maybe it was the excitement from Saturday or it could have been that I hadn't taken my prenatal vitamins in a few days. I'm so bad at taking medicine! I dragged myself through the day. It was a good one though. We went to a baptism and then on to a baby shower for two of our close friends.

This morning, I woke up with my allergies going full force. I'm waiting for my OB/Gyn to call me back with the answer on whether I can take Zicam or not. I REALLY don't want to be sick this week, because we are going home to Louisiana.

We should leave either tomorrow or Wednesday after Phillip gets off of work. We're excited about going to see family and catching up on what's new around our hometown. And there's always a couple of restaurants that we must eat at before we leave the area.

I probably won't post for a while because of the trip, so I hope that everyone has a wonderful week!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What a day!

I'm just gonna spit it out. I just woke up from a nap, I'm in shock, and I can't believe that today turned out the way it did. I took my Surgical Technology Certification test this morning and I passed it! Yes, sir. I did!!!

You can call me many things. I'm a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a pretty loyal friend, a documented perfectionist and can call me Janet Lopez, CST. (I worked for 2.5 years as a ST at one of the only hospitals in the area that did not recquire that I be why waste the $ to take the test when it really didn't matter to them?)

And now to explain to you why I'm so in shock about this new title. In recent months, I've had "pregnancy brain". Bad. I find myself not being able to form a complete thought at times, I often tune people out while they are talking to me (sorry folks, I know I've been a little anti-social), and when I would sit down to study for this test, I simply would not retain much information. So I gave up on studying this week. I also find myself trying to remember things like "When we did a TURP, did we use glycine or sterile water?" or "What was the name of that suture we used to close skin?". It's only been a few months since I've stopped working, so this scares me. I had accepted the fact that I would probably be one of those people that has to take the test twice. I figured I'd check into my hotel the night before, watch a movie to relax, and take the test to find out exactly what's on it so I could do some better, more intense studying in the future.

Last night, I cooked a Lopez favorite (Cabbage Casserole, and don't knock it, it's "the bomb"), ate, kissed the guys goodbye and set out for Austin. I figured that leaving later in the evening would help me to avoid that lovely traffic the city is famous for, but I had no such luck. A normally hour long drive turned out to be almost two hours! I checked into the Southpark Omni, which I got for a ridiculously low rate thanks to Priceline and went about finding the test site so I'd be all prepared with at least that. Okay, so we need to seriously update our version of Microsoft Streets and Trips, because the directions that were given led me about a mile out of my way (not good in that particular area of Austin due to twists and turns under major overpasses); I coulda just turned left out of the Omni parking lot and hooked a right, right on over to the test site!

Anyways, I woke up early this morning, made sure I had something good to eat and drove over to the test site to take my licking. I was allowed to start the test 15 minutes early and I admit that I was not sure about half of my answers. But, my work experience was there to carry me for much of the way. I clicked on the "end exam" button and hoped for the best. After a couple of minutes, there it was...the word "Pass". Sarah gave a small kick to my stomach and I nearly passed out. I stared at the screen with my mouth wide open for a bit. And then I gathered my locker key (purses not allowed) and bolted for the door to call my husband.

I doubted myself again and, again I proved myself wrong. And I am so happy that now, I can concentrate on the holidays and the last miserable months of pregnancy without the worry of having to study for this darned test! Yippppeeeeeeeee!!!

So, now that I'm Certified the question I still want to go to Nursing school? hmmmmmmm.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Run for your Life!

So, this is the tune I've had in my head all morning:

(to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Mr. Turkey, Mr. Turkey
Big and Fat
Big and Fat
I am going to eat you.
I am going to eat you.
Just like that!
Just like that!

As Gabe was playing on the living room floor the other day, I hear his sweet voice singing this song. Oh, Dear Kathy, what are they teaching our kids in schools? Such violence, I tell ya.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Sincere Attempt....

Okay, we tried. Really. Hard. To take a nice picture of the both of us looking nice and "purty". I mean, how often do we look our best and get the chance to do this? The goal was to actually take a nice family photo, but our son suddenly became one of those kids that couldn't resist sliding on the dance floor all night until he drops from exhaustion (there was no dragging him away, even with warnings that he had better not ruin his tuxedo).

Many thanks to our dear friend Beth (her blog link is on the side), who has turned her hobby into something awesome. The woman's got a skill and could make money at it if she wants. I enjoy her photography, I enjoyed this photo shoot (we laughed our butts off and tried to get serious) and judging by the way she was laughing at us...I think she enjoyed herself too!

PS. I originally posted more pics from this shoot, but the general response was that the file size was just a bit too small.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fun was had by all...

We went to the Bryan-College Station area this weekend and fun was had by all...

All three of us served in our friends' wedding; I was a bride's maid, Gabe was the ring bearer, and Phillip was an usher. We've known Kit ever since we were stationed at Fort Campbell, KY. He came over one night with our friends, Rob and Margaret, and while pushing Gabe on the swing, dropped him on his head! He's made himself completely comfortable with us ever since and shows up on a regular basis (he loves to ring our doorbell like a madman and takes great pleasure in hearing me scream "That's Enough, Kit!"). All in all, he's a great guy and we are so glad that he has Tiffany to call his wife. Tiff is a doll, inside and out.

We arrived in Caldwell, Texas on Friday evening in time for the rehearsal. We rehearsed for the wedding, were introduced to half of Caldwell (the half that Tiffany is related to) and then went on to the rehearsal dinner. (It was also good to see the family members that we already knew; Tiff's Mom is a complete sweetheart and I love visiting with Mr. Todd, Kit's Dad, as well). Gabe was really excited because he got a new Transformer toy for being the ring bearer.

On Saturday morning, Gabe and I went to the hotel lobby to check out the breakfast spread while Phillip took a shower. The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team were in town for the weekend and were staying at our hotel; we had seen them on the news the night before because they jumped for a local football game and were surprised to get the chance to see them up-close. Gabe, being Mr. Personality, started talking to one of the guys and then Phillip eventually joined make a long story short, we learned from their Commander that Former President Bush (Pappa Bush, #41) was going to be jumping along with them at the Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M campus at eleven that morning. Gabe was also presented with a few stickers, and a couple of pins....boy, was he excited! While the guys went to watch the jump, I went back to the hotel and rested up for the evening.

The wedding was beautiful. We're used to the hour long Catholic Mass, so the Lutheran ceremony that took place was short and sweet; it was also a blessing for my tired feet (I don't do so well in high heels these days). The reception hall was filled to the brim with people. Tiffany's mom is the church organist and Caldwell is a small town, so about 800 invitations were sent out! Like the ceremony, the reception was a little different than what we are used to. After a sit- down dinner, the bridal party led a Grand March around the hall (after about 10-15 minutes of this, I had to run to the bathroom!). All in all, it we had a great time and returned to the hotel utterly exhausted.

On Sunday, we woke up late, saw a few of the Golden Knights again and then went on to explore the area. Bryan, Texas is a nice town with a charming little downtown area. We did a little Christmas shopping, ate lunch and left town before we got trapped in by the Veteran's Day parade. We then backtracked to College-Station to tour the Presidential Library, which was VERY interesting. I wonder, what will Baby Bush's (#43) library be like? What interesting artifacts will we be able to see? What will be said about him? Just curious.

We arrived home at a decent time Sunday night and made our Sunday night phone calls to parents. Looks like the plan for the holidays will be that we go home to Louisiana for Thanksgiving and then (since my doctor advised that travel around Christmas would not be a good idea), we will have family over starting the day after Christmas, for a few days. Plans are not definite yet, but I think that's how things will go. Anyone wishing to visit around that time is more than welcome to add their names to the list!

Hope everyone had a nice weekend as well. Until next time, Take good care of yourself.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I almost forgot...

How could I forget?! Today marks the one year anniversary of Phillip returning home from Iraq. What a wonderful day that was! I will never forget the tears in our little boy's eyes that day....Daddy was finally home.

It's been a great year and we are so happy to have him back in our day to day lives. We try so hard, but life is not the same when Daddy is away.


PS. It's been over a week since I've posted this, and I just wanted to add another thing. Look closely at the 3rd picture; Gabe's face says so many things...his eyes are glassy with tears, he's smiling, and he looks so...relieved. I want to cry every time I see this picture and I dread the next deployment.

What's going on?

Okay, sorry about venting on my last post. I guess I have more readers than I thought. I'd still like for others that I care about to take notice though....oh, well.

What's going on in the life of the Lopez Four this week? Well, I had a doctor's appointment on Wednesday and everything seems to be fine with Sarah. She is quite active, as the doctor had to chase her around my abdomen for a while to get a heartbeat. My original doctor who just recently moved to Arkansas had changed my due date to February 16, which got me REALLY excited (towards the end, I get really swollen and the less I have to carry her, the better). But my new doctor (I'm fortunate to have worked alongside both doctors and I know that they are both awesome docs) had no idea why the date has changed so he says it's better to go with the original. Of course, Sarah will come out when she's darn good and ready, so why even mess around with such things like due dates? I did gain more weight since the appointment before this one; I've been craving lots more sugar, not drinking as much water and you can tell from my face and chest that I've gained. I hope that it doesn't get much out of hand, and I guess I'll have to try harder to stay away from the Halloween candy! My doctor did tell me to make our Thanksgiving trip home to Louisiana a good one, because since Gabe was born at 37 weeks, he's not comfortable with us making a long drive back home for Christmas. I'm kinda relieved, because to be honest with you, I'm not sure how uncomfortable I'll be around that time and I would much rather be uncomfortable in my own home (and have my own bed to fall into).

Phillip is still going through training on the new F Model Chinook. He's been waking up really early and lack of sleep is starting to take it's toll on him. He starts flying again next week and I think he's looking forward to it. He made a Gumbo on Sunday that lasted us all of two days. I was a Gumbo eatin' fiend and I want more, more, more!!!

Gabe is being Gabe. I got a phone call from his teacher on Wednesday night. The boy just wouldn't sit down in class that day! He loves to push buttons at times to see what he can get away with. But, on the bright side, he shows us everyday that he is learning more and more and is excited about it. These days, his thing is to sound out words and I LOVE listening to him and helping him out. I did find out yesterday from one of his closest friend's Mom that they will be moving in January. My heart breaks for him again. He's made so many close friends that he's had to say good-bye to and I know he will miss this one. This is just another con to military life.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy weekend. We're off to Bryan-College Station for a friend's wedding. Hopefully, we'll have some good pictures to show you next week.

Bye Bye for now.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Getting Ready...Part Two

I was cleaning off the desk in our office today and I came across this. Gabe made it at school last month. I'm so happy that in his little mind, the new baby is already part of the family. I just hope that once she finally arrives, that he doesn't mind sharing our attention.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Getting Ready

We're in the process of putting Sarah's room together. I started this early because the holidays are coming, and soon thereafter, Sarah will be on her way. And I am the type of person that always has to be prepared.

I found the bassinet at Babies-R-Us and it fits perfectly in our room (Gabe was so eager to help me put it together), and her crib bedding was a steal on ebay. The armoire in the corner is a nice old piece from Phillip's family that we will strip and re-stain (was also used in Gabe's room), the crib was Gabe's, and the dresser/changer that Phillip is putting together is a gift from Dad and Elaine. The Peter Pan picture was also Gabe's and I plan to change the matting in it to make it more feminine; I'm thinking that I'll have the blue taken out and replace it with a Mocha color. As for the valance on the window, I think I want to change the curtain rod and put something sheer and floor-length. I guess you can say that the nursery will have a Shabby Chic theme to it. I am also looking for a good picture of the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, LA to put up somewhere in her room (black & white or Sepia for the antique flair).

Any comments or opinions are welcome. Do you have any ideas on what else I should do for her room?

In case any of you were worried about my heartburn (I'm just joking), I got some Zantac yesterday for my heartburn and wow! I slept so much better last night. I didn't have to take my usual 2-3 a night dose of Tums! Now if I can just control my bladder issues...

Well, have a good day. I'm off to Austin today to pick up a dress for an upcoming wedding, and maybe I'll do a little shopping.

(You can click on any picture that I post in any blog for better viewing)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Here you go...

This is me, at 24 weeks (6 months), taken last night. The stomach "popped out" a few weeks ago and you can definetly tell that I'm pregnant now.

So far, things have been good. As I've mentioned before, I crave lots of water and fruit, so my skin looks awesome. My face has swollen, but I've only gained less than 10 pounds so I'm VERY happy about that. Oh, and the heartburn.....I'm constantly chewing on Tums. I think I need something stronger, Zantac or Prilosec is on today's grocery list.

As for Sarah, she's alive and kickin'. On Tuesday, I don't think she slept very much at all because she constantly kicked throughout the day. We both slept rather peacefully that night though. I find it amazing that just a few short weeks ago, it felt like I had a bug crawling in my abdomen and then one day....POW! she goes into full blown kicks. I'm also really sensitive to light these days; I wonder what that means?

Happy Halloween!

We live in a great neighborhood. Every year for Halloween, we meet up with a group of friends/neighbors and have fun together with the whole trick-or-treat thing. By the time we meet up, take pictures, and then go hunting for candy down our looooong street and halfway down the next, most of us are wiped out (more parents than kids). Gabe was a winged dragon; we realize this is probably the last year that we can put him in a costume this cute and get a way with it!

When we finally got home after visiting with our friends Kit and Tiffany, Gabe sorted his candy, took a bath and went to bed later than usual. It was a fun night, but it was really rough trying to wake up this morning.

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