Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Evolution of The Berry Christmas Tree--Updated

This is our 9th Christmas as a married couple, and as we enjoyed all the festivities of the season, we couldn't help but reflect on what a long way we've come in terms of our Christmas tree.
During our first year, we lived in a less than 600 sq. foot apt in Pasadena as poor grad school students. Since we knew we wouldn't be spending the actual holiday in California, we decided to go with the minimalist theme...
These were all decorations we had around our house that we 'Christmas-ized'. Rudolph is really a giraffe brought back from Africa, the reindeers are gazelles cut out of bull horns brought back from Cuba, Santa is a Socrates statue brought back from Greece, his sleigh is adapted from Cuban cigar boxes, the Christmas tree is the most local item, picked up in some store Charleston, and the elves are Sri Lankan elephants made out of coconut shells. We had a ball putting this stuff together, and were very proud of our little scene.

We moved back to Greenville by the next Christmas, and since we both were bringing home some sort of paycheck, we decided to splurge and buy a real tree at a lot. We were loving it until I found out I was pregnant and my sniffer went on high alert. Every time I walked into our apartment, I almost puked at the smell of evergreen. We also found out that our base had a leak in it, so the water was getting all over the carpet and mildewing! Yuck! It took a lot of cleaning power, but we eventually got the smell out from both, and I was given some relief. This picture was taken while we were still in our tree honeymoon stage. The cute couple next to us is Austin and Chelsey Holmes.Our third Christmas tree was again done on a budget. We had just bought a house, had a baby, and relinquished my paycheck so I could stay home with the baby. So Christmas was low-key, and our tree was borrowed from Brandon's parents. We have high ceilings, and this little thing was only about 5.5 feet or maybe 6. We had to put it on a box just to give it a little presence in our living room! Here, our friends Jodie and David Smith show off their precious gift from God, Avery.
Finally, we come to the Big Kahuna of Christmas trees. My cousin, Jimmy and his wife, Debbie have always been extremely generous, and we have benefited from their generosity on more than one occasion. One year after Christmas we were visiting them in Charlotte and they were taking down their beautiful 10 foot pre-lit tree and decided that they were through with it. They offered it to us and said they'd give it to Goodwill if we didn't want it, but warned us that it had a string of lights that never came on and they always had to turn it so it wouldn't be seen. We had no idea how we'd get it home in our already stuffed Honda, but Brandon and Jimmy bagged it up and we all made it home to Greenville. I hit the after-Christmas sales and got some ornaments and we put it up in the attic until the next year. When we got it out, we remembered there was a strand of lights out, but fortunately I guessed right on the first bulb and fixed it in 5 seconds, and we had a fully functioning beautiful tree. It took some getting used to with the Clark Griswold size, but after we had it decorated and lit up, we were both mesmerized and loved it! We enjoyed it like this for a few years, before we moved to Charlotte.
Here's Brandon with Ella putting the angel on top.

 In 2011, we found ourselves in a rental home in Charlotte and pregnant (again)! The ceilings in this home were a standard 8 or 9 feet, and there was NO WAY we would be able to put up the whole tree. Thankfully, my genius husband figured out that we could use all but the bottom (and biggest) portion, and make it work. The picture below looks cut off, but so did the tree. There was absolutely no room to do an angel on it for two years, but we still enjoyed the tree and especially loved to see people's faces when they walked into our home to see this humongous beast of a tree taking up most of our front music room.

And this year is our first year in our new home which happens to boast 10 ft ceilings, perfect for bringing back the tree in all it's glory. This year we tried to set aside some time to put it up right after Thanksgiving, but between ministry obligations and three small children's random needs and requests we realized it was going to take a lot longer to put up and together than we had previously thought. And, this was the year that most of our white lights decided not to work. Three strands were out on the tree and most of our random other decorating strands also went Ka-put. Awesome. Caroline, our almost 2 year old learned a few new phrases in the process: "No, no touch" and "I broke it". We laid a few ornaments to rest, and vowed to only buy unbreakable ones for the next few years. But that's part of the fun of it, right? Plus, our angel is happy to be back in business this year.

It's so fun to see how God has blessed and grown our family, expanding our capacity for love in our family as h

Friday, December 19, 2008

One Step Closer

Great news!
Mom is officially on the transplant list as of 12/19/08.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


On Saturday night, Brandon started not feeling well as soon as dinner was over (we had take-out from a local steakhouse). I thought it was because he had stayed up all night the night before with 130+ teens at a lock out. But soon after he started, I did, too!

Turns out we had food poisoning, and it was absolutely horrible! It may have been the longest 9 hours of our lives. We took turns sprinting to the bathroom, and were left completely wiped out by Sunday morning. I definitely was contemplating asking Jesus to just come on and take me home immediately.

Thankfully, after a doctor's visit, it was confirmed that we are all gonna live, and that Baby Berry #2 was unharmed in the fiasco. We took some good meds to make our bellies feel better and after Ella was safe with the grandparents on her way to Hendersonville, we literally slept the entire day.

The only aftermath has been bloodshot eyes and red spots all over my face. Apparently, I was very forceful in getting it all out, and broke blood vessels all over!

Yuck, yuck, yuck. I don't wish that on my worst enemy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Update on Mom

For those of you who would like to know the latest on what's going on with Mom's Pulmonary Hypertension battle...

After getting dismissed from the Duke transplant program due to an antibody issue, they were able to get in touch with the Cleveland Clinic (CC), which is a bigger program. The CC was able to determine that the antibodies were not an insurmountable issue afterall, and have putting Mom through the process to get her on their transplant list.

She and Dad spent a couple of weeks up there going through tests and endless interviews with everyone from the main surgeons to the custodians who would clean her recovery room, I guess. This was very exhausting for everyone, especially Mom who understandably gets tired quicker than most.

They passed that test, and then were told to start anti-rejection medicine. From what I understand (and that's not much) it's necessary to figure out which anti-rejection medicine will work BEFORE the transplant. Yeah, that makes sense. They don't want to get new lungs in her and then figure out, "oh, this anti-rejection medicine doesn't work..." oops.

The meds have done a job on her, and have had some pretty lousy side effects. She had to go off of them for about a week and spent some time at MUSC (I think she just missed Charleston) trying to get her feet under her again. Since then, she has had to get back on the meds and take them until her tests came back showing that it was, indeed working the way they wanted it to. This sounds pretty straight-forward, but in reality, we have been told we're working against an ever-quickening clock here. (For the record, we believe that God is bigger than a prognosis by even the best, most well-meaning doctor. She has outlived most of the previous timelines that she's been given already and we're believing that she still has a significant purpose which is why she's beat the odds again and again so far).

She has definitely become more easily worn out in the last few months, and is trying her best to take it easy so that she can stick around long enough for those new lungs.

We finally got word on Friday after Thanksgiving that the drugs are working the way we want it to. They were supposed to meet with the board of doctors that make transplant list decisions yesterday, but for some reason her case didn't come up. When it finally does (they only meet on Mondays, so hopefully next Monday), then after they all sign off on it, it goes to someone in the State and could take another 1-2 weeks before she finally gets on the list, officially.

Honestly, we are all exhausted (physically and emotionally), and are in need of some real light at the end of this long tunnel. Mom's other meds have made her especially emotional, which is never easy for anyone, including her. We are all feeling the weight of what we're facing on a daily basis, and though we know God is in control, sometimes we just wish things would work out easily. But that hasn't happened yet. Everything seems to have to go the long way around to get us to the next step...taking precious time.

Please pray for God's peace during this process...it passes understanding and guards our hearts and minds. We thank God for His continued presence with us.

Please pray for Him to open up doors quickly, that her files or her case would not get lost in the shuffle, and that all the other administrative hoops would be jumped through seamlessly.

Please pray for a special breath of fresh air for my dad who has tirelessly taken care of Mom for over three years now. Pray for his strength to keep going, to keep his head on in the midst of frustration, and for his ability to advocate for Mom with the doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies if necessary. Pray that God would give him a special grace to endure what is ahead.

Please pray for the family of the person whose lungs we hope to get (soon). It's an extremely hard concept to grasp that someone else will be grieving the loss of a loved one while we're nervously but excitedly expecting new life to be given to Mom.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Charleston, ER, and the Cruise

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for the Berry family! My mom was in the hospital at MUSC for about a week, and after a couple of days we decided to make the trip so she could get a dose of Ella--always the right medicine! We drove down on Thursday morning and were there through Friday afternoon when she got discharged. We helped Mom and Dad get home to Columbia, and all celebrated her "break out" with a pizza and some lasagna from Bellacino's...yummy. On Saturday we packed up the car in the afternoon and headed back to Greer so we could be here for Sunday services.

On Monday we met up with Brandon's childhood friend, Erin Foushee, who is starting a photography business, at Furman. It was a little stressful for me during the day to 1) try to make my tired eyes and pregnant body look as fabulous as possible 2) coordinating 3 different outfits for each of us to wear during the photo shoot and 3) getting us all to Furman from different areas of the upstate by 4pm. The shoot was a lot of fun, though I had to give Erin mad props for keeping up with Ella who was all about running around and nothing about sitting still for a picture...or 300. Here are a couple of shots that she came up with (more to come later):

That night when we got home, I noticed that Ella was a little warm. I took her temp, and it wasn't too bad: 100.1. She had had her immunizations the week before and we had been warned that a mild fever could occur 5-7 days later, so I didn't think too much about it. I gave her some Tylenol and a luke warm bath, and put her to bed. A couple hours later, before I turned in, I went in to check on her as I usually do, and put my hand on her cheek...WHICH WAS ON FIRE! She woke up immediately (I guess even my normal temp hand felt cool to her) and I checked her temp...105.5. Yikes. I gave her some more Tylenol and put her in another bath (she didn't like that) while B called the Dr. The nurse on call called us back and we took the temp again after the bath. 106.7. She actually said, "You're kidding, right?" Yeah, lady...I just love to call nurses at 11:30 at night and make jokes about fevers I've never even heard of. Of course, she told us to get her to the ER (not the one conveniently located by our house, but the one downtown because of the Children's Hospital connected to it). We had her in the car and to the ER in less than 10 minutes (it usually takes about 25). At about 2:30am, we were discharged and told she had an ear infection and that we should check up with the dr. on her blood and urine work the next day.

The dr. checked the numbers and said that it probably wasn't a bacterial infection. We were relieved that she also didn't have any more fever that day. But that night she woke us up at 3am, and was again hot...the thermometer read 106.1 and the on-call nurse at first told us not to go to the ER because of the events of the last night, but then after talking to the dr. again, called us back and told us to get her there again because they needed to do some more blood work. So we were at the ER until 7:30am....and beyond exhausted by that point.

So...that was Wednesday morning and we were supposed to leave for a 6 day cruise to the Caribbean on Friday night. I was less than enthused about leaving my sick child with ANYONE, even the grandparents. But Wed, Thurs, and Fri were all fever-free and we knew that both sets of our parents were more than capable of taking care of our precious baby girl. We dropped her off on Friday night, and after going over my 3-page typed "Tips for a great time with Ella" complete with directions to the ER, we said our goodbyes. Ella could have cared less that we were leaving.

Note: The next paragraph is graphic:

We drove to Ft. Lauderdale with the group from church, and around 2:00am, we witnessed the most horrendous wreck on I-95 in Jacksonville that I've ever seen. A black Chevy truck sped past us on the left going at least 100mph, then crossed in front of us to the right lane, lost control, went all the way back to the left, hit the guardrail, flipped 5 times and out came two guys, landing on the interstate. It looked like something from NASCAR. We were about 20 feet away from the whole thing, and it was like angels guarded us like a steel wall...we weren't touched in the least bit, and we were able to maneuver through the wreckage without hitting anything. We called 911, but were past the point to be able to stop and help in any sort of safe fashion. We found out the next day that both men were 22 years old, drunk, and not wearing their seat belts. They both survived the crash, but the passenger later passed away at the hospital.

Needless to say we didn't get much sleep the rest of the way down. Everyone was on edge.

Finally we arrived and got on the boat. It was our (mine and B's) first cruise, and we were so excited, but so tired! But we were able to catch up on our sleep...mainly due to the fact that there was horrible cruise weather the entire time! The first day at sea, we slept in and had room service, then worked out and it was enough for me. The waves were 10 feet high and the boat was really rocking, so we headed back to the room for the day and more room service. We did finally emerge for the formal night at dinner, and a show, and karaoke. The time on Grand Cayman was fun with some friends. We shopped, ate at Margaritaville where B's dancing skills won me a virgin pina colada-go boy!, and did find one small spot on the beach that wasn't too rough so we could snorkel for a little while. Brandon saw a huge stingray and I found a lot of big conch shells which we gave to our friends.

The next day was in Cozumel, and it was interesting to say the least. We rented scooters with some friends, and had a ball scooting down the western coast, finding beaches to sit at to try to catch the 30 seconds here and there of sunshine and warmth, and checking out Mayan ruins. But then, as we were heading around the bottom of the island, we realized our back tire was funky. We stopped, it went flat, and that was the end of that. We had to get a taxi to take us back to the rental company because the number they gave us to call was bogus (thanks). After dealing with the police and the rental company on a dispute, we sat down for some fajitas, but got up before ordering, deciding that if the next day at sea was possibly sunny and nice, we didn't want to take the chance that we'd be stuck in our stateroom sick with Montezuma's revenge. Instead we ate for free on the boat, then B went rock climbing!

The best things about the cruise were the food (B had 3 lobster tails the last night!), the time to sleep (there were a couple of nights that we slept 12 hours easily and took naps almost every day), the fact that everything was already paid for, the fact that we didn't have to make decisions for the most part, and the food (again).
We were more than happy to see Ella after a 13 hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale. We woke her up for some snuggles in the middle of the night, but she didn't mind. We were happy to be home for about 12 hours before we packed the car back up and headed to Birmingham for Brandon's roommate, Danny's wedding. He married a beautiful (inside and out) gal named Angela, and it was a swanky and fun wedding.
Finally we're all home for a couple of days before we head to Hendo for Thanksgiving. Hope all is well with you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Here we go again!!!

We had an ultrasound appointment today and I almost missed it! Due to a long story which I'll get into later, I made it to the Dr.'s office 9 minutes past my scheduled appointment, and was told, "You just made it! I was about to have to cancel your ultrasound!" There were 5 scheduled in a row, so the poor Ultrasound Tech was swamped and couldn't afford to get off schedule.

It's a good thing that we made it, though, because we had a great time seeing our DAUGHTER for the first time!

Ella's gonna have a little sister! I was thinking about this, and although I didn't have sisters (or brothers for that matter!), I can imagine what their relationship might be like through the years and what we will have to do with all this estrogen! Poor Brandon, he's really outnumbered now! But he's a proud papa, and we figure with as good as Ella has turned out, we're glad to welcome another girl into our lives.

Sisters can wear matching monogrammed dresses and hair bows on holidays and Daddy won't think they're sissys.

Sisters can play house together and dolls and dress up and all sorts of things that girls just LOVE to do. They will always have a friend to play with right under the same roof!

Sisters can giggle, laugh, and tell each other secrets. Especially after bedtime when the lights are out...instant slumber party every night!

Sisters can trade and borrow each other's clothes...though I've seen this become the source of many arguments for my friends who have sisters.

Sisters can look out for each other through school and be there for one another when trouble with boys or friends happens.

(I'm hoping) Sisters can assist each other on many game-winning goals on the soccer field!

Sisters can both be daddy's girls.

Sisters can both be mom's friend (when they get older, probably).

Your turn! What else can sisters do?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This and That...

My sister-in-law told me I need to update my blog (granted, until this week, her last entry was at the beginning of September, so thank you for pointing out my kettle's blackness, pot). So, since she is the younger, yet probably wiser of the two of us, how can I refuse?

So what's been happening in the Berry household lately?

-We spent a weekend in Boone visiting John and Pepper, along with B's parents. We enjoyed the nice weather, carving pumpkins, and eating at one of their favorite spots...it may be our final trip up there for a while because they are moving to Fayettville, NC to take a new associate pastor position at this church. Our pumpkin made it all of 5 days before having to get chunked in the garbage because of the unseasonably warm weather we had here in October.

-It finally got cooler, and we're really loving the fall colors. I can't help but say out loud, "oh, that one's pretty" everytime I'm out and about. I really need to get our family out there for pics before they all fall to the ground (the leaves, I mean).

-The 2nd Trimester of the pregnancy has been sooooo much better! I've been told by a couple of people that it's a boy cause my butt's getting bigger (thanks so much for noticing) and others think it's a girl for various reasons. We find out on 11/11 who's right. I'll let you know. Either way, I'm feeling a lot better and am glad that I haven't traded my morning sickness for heartburn right away like I did with Ella.

-I had a great weekend for one of my friend's birthday at her parent's lake house. We had a big party on Friday night, then kicked everyone out by 2am, and then four of us girls enjoyed hanging out in our pajamas all the next day. So wonderful! Ella was visiting Nissi and Papa John until Sunday, so Brandon and I spent Saturday night on a great date! We went here and here. Then we came home to a warm fire and some Russian Tea.

-Apostle Ron has been doing an awesome series about a Fatherless Generation. Check it and the new RWOC website out here.

RWOC Find Your Place

-Ella was the most adorable monkey for Halloween. We had a great time. On the Wednesday before Halloween, Brandon and I dressed up for Scream Arena (youth group) as an oven with a bun in it (me) and a chef "bun maker" (him). We used it to announce to the kids our own bun in the oven, and they all were super excited. On Friday, Ella got dressed up and we went to two houses next to us. Our neighbors, Bob and Sue, had a special bag of candy for me....er, her. Then we had Rodney, Marla and their son, Ethan over for burgers and a friendly game of Phase 10 (which I won).

-We stood in line today for an hour and a half to vote. I was glad that my last name no longer starts with an M, but a B because the A-K line at our polls went MUCH faster than the L-Z line. With a 15 month old in tow, every minute counts.

-My Mom went back into the hospital for a week, and is getting closer to being on the list for a double lung transplant. Please pray for a miracle. Also pray for her doctors to find the right anti-rejection medicine for her so she can actually get on the list!

-We are getting ready to go on our first cruise! I'm looking forward to endless food options, snorkeling, white sandy beaches, clear water, and a chance to REST. I'm not looking forward to missing Ella for almost a week. But I think I'll manage. The grandparents get to divide her time between them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Look Back and Forward

10 Years Ago:
October 1998

I was a Sophomore at Furman University in the midst of soccer season. I was enjoying being a member of my sorority and hating Chemistry class. I was finally dating a boy I'd had a crush for a long time, and who eventually broke my heart. (Don't worry, I got over it). My grandmother came down from Philly to watch me play soccer and help me pomp our float for Homecoming. She's so fun. I still have the picture of me, her and Mom on the Furman Mall.

5 Years Ago:
October 2003

I was living in Mt. Pleasant and working for the Charleston Battery Pro soccer team. I was a member at Seacoast Church and was preparing to go on my first mission trip to Sri Lanka. I had no idea what was in store for me. I would soon quit my job, go into full time ministry and the whole course of my life would change as a result of that trip. I was living with my buddies, Claire and Carrie (*and our surrogate roomie, Nate, who didn't spend the night but was there probably more than Claire was! We all loved having him around). I was kinda hanging out with a guy who was in med school. That ended without any hearts being broken.

1 Year Ago:
October 2007

I was a new mama to Ella, learning all the in's and out's of taking care of an infant. I was married to the man of my dreams, Brandon, and living in Greer, SC in our new home! I was struggling with the big changes in my life...I went from full time graduate school and part-time employment to being a stay-at-home mom with the sole responsibilty most of the day to develop a world-changer.

I was also spending a lot of time in Charleston and Columbia due to my mom's illness...we thought we had lost her at MUSC, and she was blind, paralyzed and in a coma for 2 weeks...But God.... I remember staying with the Nortrups and getting treated so well, running with my old running buddy Shannon Phelps for the first time with our babies in strollers to get my mind off things, my Aunt Rosemary and Uncle Chip driving through the night to be there for us, and the look of shock on every doctor's and nurse's face when they walked in to see my mom completely healed and discharged after only 2.5 weeks. A complete miracle.

1 Year from Now:
October 2009

I'll be the mother of a 2 year old and a 6 month old (some of you may have just heard/read that for the first time), probably working hard to get my pre-baby body to emerge again, and still trying to figure out how to handle 2. Brandon will be further along with seeing his vision for Revolution Youth Ministry taking over for the Kingdom of God! Mom will have new lungs thanks to a transplant at the Cleveland Clinic and will be recovering so well the doctors and nurses will all be shocked again.

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:

1: Spend some time in the Word after Ella goes down for a nap
2: Run errands to Target, Grocery Store, Etc...
3: Laundry and Ironing
4: Pick up Pooh, Rock and Amanda for church
5: Work in the soundbooth while for the youth service tonight

5 Places I've Lived:

1: Greenville/Greer, SC
2: Pasadena, CA
3: Mt. Pleasant, SC
4: Columbia, SC
5: Philadelphia, PA

5 Things I Love about this season:

1: Pumpkin Spice
2: Football
3: Cool enough weather to turn off the AC and throw open the windows
4: Leaves changing colors
5: Thanksgiving

Tag, you're it! Share a little about yourself!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I don't even know what to title this...

I don't know if typing this will do justice to the actual events that took place, but I'm going for it anyway.
Since Ella's turned one and is at the top of the weight limit for her infant carrier/carseat, I have been on a hunt for a safe, somewhat stylish, gender neutral, and cost-friendly carseat for my now-toddler. I've been on review websites, manufacturer websites, and store websites....I've talked to moms (who pretty much all say theirs is fine...i guess I never got to ask anyone who was actually in a car accident and had a testimony that yes, their carseat actually kept their kid from injury), and peered in the windows of cars in many, many parking lots trying to figure out which new throne my daughter would be sitting in as Rhonda the Honda whisks her around town.
As her appetite keeps growing, I began to think that 20 lbs is really more of a "driver's license weight" (you know what I'm talking about ladies) and that I really needed to make a decision and a purchase before the aforementioned infant carrier was no longer safe. So on a recent trip to Target, I decided that I was not only going to pick up diapers, but that I was also going to finalize my deciison and purchase Ella's new carseat.
With Ella in the front of the cart, diapers on the bottom under the big basket, I finally picked an Easyflo Triumph Advance seat with chocolate and sage upholstry. It basically looks like a Lazyboy for kids in the car. All the research had led me to this because of its side impact testing/ratings, and the other mom reviews which say it's great. Plus I liked the colors and the price was in my range, and they didn't have these colors at BabiesRUS. So I find the box and heave it up, resting it on the top of the big basket...cause it clearly doesn't fit inside the basket. Then I try to manuever my way through Target with one hand on the handle and the other on the top of the box, straining to get a glimpse around the side to make sure a crash into an unexpecting shopper or clothes rack or display case wasn't imminent. I finally made it to the front, and it looked like everyone in the store beat me to the lines. So I waited patiently as Ella rummaged through my purse.
Upon completeing my purchase, I knew I had to hurry because I was supposed to meet my mother-in-law to drop Ella off for the night in less than 10 minutes. So I pop the trunk and put the diapers in, and then realize quickly that the humongous box that the carseat is in won't really fit in the trunk becuase of all the other stuff in there. No problem, I'll put it in the back seat. I opened the door carefully as not to hit the other car that parked WAY too close, and tried to heave the box up and in. No dice. I adjusted the angle and tried again. Nope. At this point I think I was beginning to breathe a little heavier. Once I accepted the fact that the big box wasn't going in the back seat because the door opening was too small, I decided to regroup again and try the front seat. It's usually a little bigger. I moved the box, closed the back door, opened the front door, and pulled the box up to the front. I moved the seat and tried to make as much space as possible for this monster of a box. (You would think by now that I would have doubts that the actual seat may not fit in my car, either!) I tried, I tried...I thought I could get it... I think if Ella could talk in sentences that made sense, she's say, "Mommy, I know this game... The big square doesn't fit in the little triangle hole." I really wish I could get the video surveillance of the entire scene. It would probably be worth some money.
At this point I'm sure I was late to meet Denice, so I decided to grab my keys, open the box, take out the carseat and put it in the backseat, and then fold up the demon of a box and put it in the trunk. I got Ella in her old seat, made sure all of the things she took out of my purse were back in, and drove to meet Grandma. When I got there, I figured, "well, since the chair's already out of the box, I may as well set it up in her car so she can use it."
I pulled the seat over to her car and read on the attached literature "6 easy steps to installation". This can't be hard. They've got the LATCH system. 20 minutes later I finally had it hooked in there, facing the rear for added safety and by then I was sweating and breathing hard. A quick review of the instructions reminded me to make sure the LATCH strap was NOT twisted. Ooops. Mine wasn't only twisted but also in the wrong place! Ahhh, screw it. I took the whole thing out, grabbed my old trusty infant carseat and base and 2 minutes later they were on their way.
I guess I'll have to get Brandon to figure it out. Until then, It looks like a full-scale piece of furniture in our living room!

Monday, September 08, 2008

A New Fall Tradition...

My friend, Kelsey, gave us a great idea to go up to Hendersonville and pick our own HoneyCrisp apples at Sky Top Orchard. I had never been apple pickin' before, and for some reason even through he grew up about 10 minutes from this little gem of a place, Brandon hadn't thought about it as a family outing destination. But he was happy to take his girls up and we had an awesome day.

We started off with a few pictures. Ella had on a new pair of shoes and was looking especially cute. Somehow she just knew to stand up tall for Daddy to take her picture by this growth chart. Maybe we'll get a new pic every year. Right now, it looks like she's about 2.5 feet tall.

She was really an angel the whole time. She loved riding on Daddy's shoulders and checking the place out.

But I think her favorite part was sampling the merchandise! I know that this is probably making many mommies gasp ("choking hazard, choking hazard"), but she got a hold of this apple and went to town on it. She ate the entire thing bite by bite (with mommy and daddy ready to jump in if any choking occured). When we got nervous and tried to take it away from her, she screamed to the treetops and made it quite clear that she wasn't done yet.
She ended up finishing off about 1.5 apples before we finally pulled the plug.

The only thing that we could find to distract her was a delicious just-made apple cider doughnut which the three of of split.

We got some beautiful apples and then headed down the road to the Wrinkled Egg, which is a cutie little gift shop that we pass every time we go to the Berry's house but have never actually checked out. It was wonderful to just have time to enjoy perusing the stores.

Afterwards, we went down the road to Saluda where we ate at the Green River BBQ Pit. Brandon had gotten it in his head that morning when we had discussed the possiblity of going up to Hendersonville, and it was indescribably wonderful to watch the satisfaction on his face when his craving came to fruition. We had an awesome dinner there and then stopped at Cold Stone Creamery when we made it back to Greer. Ella enjoyed her first Cold Stone experience immensly, but unfortunately I didn't think to bring the camera in to capture the moment.

The next evening, I tried my hand at my first Apple Crisp, and by golly...it turned out to be pretty good if I do say so myself.

I would like to officially say that this trip got me into the Fall Mood and I am excited that my favorite season is once again on its way.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feeding Time At The Berry Zoo!

Here are a couple of priceless pics of Ella enjoying mealtime!

Saving a little for a snack later...

You know that wasn't the last time we've seen that corn...


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Birthday Recap

Baby girl sure did enjoy her first birthday party. We had both sets of grandparents, Papaw (her great grandfather), Uncle John & Aunt Pepper, Marla & Ethan, and Jodie & Avery over to celebrate with us. It was a laid back afternoon which I was thankful for because we were all exhausted from the Youth Conference that had just finished the night before.
Ella was the epitome of a cute birthday girl all day. We loved seeing her in this precious dress given to us by Brooke and Craig Caudill. In fact, I themed the entire party around it! Publix decorated the cakes to match the dress, and we had hot pink, green and white accessories.

Thanks to everyone who came, who sent love or gifts, and who just love our baby girl every day! We look forward to the next year of her life.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Simply Sassy Designs

Simply Sassy Designs is officially on the web and is THE place for all of your custom gift needs.

And just WHO needs a custom gift?

Maybe your next door neighbor's daughter who is getting married and has invited you to 2 showers already. Every new bride needs original and adorable things to adorn her new nest.

Perhaps it is the guy who works in the cubicle next to you. He and his wife are expecting a baby next month, and the office is throwing a small shower to celebrate.

Or it could be your favorite neice who just bought her first condo and desperately needs something "just right" as a housewarming gift.

God-willing, your parents are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. This year's not the year for a simple card, and you want something meaningful. Why not get their pictures together and partner with Simply Sassy Designs to create a lifelong memory lane in a custom-designed scrapbook?

And, as always, Christmas is only a few measley months away, and what better time to get some of that hectic shopping out of the way than BEFORE Black Friday?

Whether it's a new mom who loves to see her baby's initials on ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, the bride and groom who are decorating their home together, or an old friend who just needs a little something to remind her that you're thinking of her, Simply Sassy Designs is the answer to all of your gifting needs. You'll be sure to give the gift that gets all the "oooh's and aaah's"

Custom Designed:


Picture Frames

Plaques, Wall Hangings, Painted Window Panes

Baby Onesies, Bibs & Burpcloths (Monogrammable, too!)

Invitations, Announcements, & Stationary

I know what you're thinking, "Nicole, I've read enough, and I want to see it!"

Great. Check out our website:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anniversary, Preparing for One and Other Happenings

Yesterday we celebrated our 3rd anniversary. On Monday, as I was going into B's office at the church for a meeting, I was telling the sweet lady who takes care of the front desk that we were about to be married 3 years. She said, "Oh, isn't that great?! On Thursday me and my husband will celebrate 38 years!" Wow. I look forward to celebrating our 38th anniversary together.

Life has gone by quickly since we've said "I do." 3 moves, a Masters degree, 2 new ministry positions for Brandon, and a baby...we're really on quite an adventure. And there's no one I'd rather be on this adventure with than my precious, and extremely wonderful Brandon. God truly knew best when He put the two of us together.

Also...Y'all, can you believe Ella is about to turn 1 already? Where has the time gone? I always felt like the saying, "they grow up so fast" was a cliche but now I know better! We have so thoroughly enjoyed being her parents...she is just a absolute joy to be around. I am planning a small party for family and close friends and designed this invitation:

The colors of the invitation are from a beautiful dress that Brooke and Craig Caudill gave us a couple of weeks ago that I will have Ella wear for the celebration and some 12 month pictures. It's so cute that I can't wait to put it on her, but I also want to debut it on a special occasion! Oh, the joys of having a daughter! I am also going to take the invitation to Publix where they will decorate a beautiful cake for Ella's party AS WELL AS throw in a FREE cake for her to smash.

Other happenings around the Berry household include a new ministry that I have started in our neighborhood called Boot Camp Fitness. I figured that I need to work out at least a couple days a week. We live in a big neighborhood and there are a lot of people who are home during the day. I see them when I take Ella running in the jogging stroller, but I have had a hard time getting to know them. So I decided to hit two birds with one stone. I passed out flyers, hung signs, got in with the HOA president who gave me a hearty endorsement via email and on the neighborhood newsletter and hoped that at least one person would come and take advantage of what I thought was a good opportunity to gain health and build community.

The first day we had 2 adults and one kid (who came with Mom), the next we had 9 adults! woohoo! Today we worked out our legs with 7 ladies. I'm excited about this opportunity to love on my neighbors and pray that it will be a blessing to them as well.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thoughts on Last Week...

First of all, I just wanted to say how encouraged I am when I hear from long-lost friends and family and they know what's going on in our lives because they say they read our blog on a somewhat regular basis. That's so awesome, and I'm thankful that you would take the time to do that. If that is you, feel free to comment (you don't have to be a member of blogger to do so) on any of the posts periodically or email me here to let us know what's going on in your lives. It's sometimes funny to get in a conversation with people who know about what's happening in our lives and we know nothing about what is happening in theirs!

Anyway, that being said, I'd like to share with y'all about something that our family has been going through this last week. Some of you had seen a short-lived previous post of Ella in her "I'm gonna be a big sister!" shirt, and may be wondering why it isn't there anymore. We found out on Sunday, June 22 that we were expecting another baby...and couldn't be happier. After a few pregnancy tests, we felt like it was official.

Romans 12:15 tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." We have always believed in sharing both good and bad news with our friends and family because 1) we have been so blessed to be surrounded by people who love us and support us through prayer and encouragement and 2) we just want to be real...and this is a way to show ourselves to be just that...real people with real triumphs and real let-downs. We shared our rejoicing over new life and expectation for what was to come. Now we share our hopeful frustration...

On Friday, June 27 we woke up and I found out that I was bleeding pretty heavily. We called the doctor and got in to see them as soon as possible. They did ultrasounds and blood tests and later confirmed what we already suspected, that a miscarriage was happening.

We have had a mixture of emotions:

On one hand, we understand that the statistics say pregnancies spontaneously end almost half the time. We know that so many miracles have to happen to have a normal, healthy pregnancy and deliver a normal, healthy baby. On the other, we serve a God of miracles, who we believe made our bodies to reproduce normal, healthy babies. We see His hand in everything. We know that He is the author and sustainer of abundant life. We have seen how prayer changes things and how He has given us authority through Christ over things in our world. We are in the midst of learning how to have heaven on earth. Our faith has been growing to believe God for crazy things, and we've seen them happen on many occasions.

So when this happened, we were confused. We had prayed, we had believed for this baby and for a healthy pregnancy. But it wasn't what happened. In the midst of this we are confused, but we are realizing that it's not always for us to understand, but to trust. God didn't bring this about, but He knew about it and has been close to us throughout bringing comfort. Of course, we're disappointed, but we also have a residing peace inside of us. We rejoice in trials...that God would allow us to go through them so that we may be made mature and complete...not lacking anything. Like Job, we have been found worthy of a test, and pray that we make it through it bringing glory to God.

We're even more thankful for the perfect angel that graces the posts of our blog and the days of our life. In the midst of this, we are reminded what a miracle she is...a precious gift from our Heavenly Father. Let us fall more in love with You through this, Father. Let our lives be for your glory and your fame, Lord.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Berry Beach Week

We took our first official Berry family vacation with John and Pepper to Myrtle Beach, SC last week. Ella was a champ the entire trip, despite being diagnosed with an ear infection and a few other, blog-inappropriate, ailments. We all had a wonderfully relaxing and sun-filled time together hanging out on the beach, in the pool, at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and in our extra special rated condo which allowed us to visit the all-you-can-eat buffet more than once!

We started with a mini-pedicure for Miss Ella Bella. She surprisingly sat through it without much squirming. We all know it's important to have those tootsies looking nice when you're enjoying sandal weather...

Next, we put on the bikini, sunscreen and wide-brimmed hat and took to the sand and sea! Ella loved the sand, and especially liked putting it in her mouth! Here is one of her first experiences with the grainy stuff. Later, I was able to tell her all about how God's thoughts towards her outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore. We counted all the grains that were on her body...lost count at about 4...but there were probably a couple million on her alone. I think she grasped the object lesson! :)

Though we never made it out to the beach nicely dressed and picture perfect, we did end up with a cute shore-shot.

As you can see, it didn't take long for Ella to figure out what to do with all that water...splish, splash! Brandon was great with her in the water. He took her out to experience the waves, and though I was a little trepedacious about the situation (I'm not much of an ocean person anyway), it was fun to see the two of them enjoy one of his all-time favorite things together.

I can't forget about the food aspect of the trip...possibly my favorite. We love seafood, and don't even get me started about our passion about crab legs. We hit up 2 all-you-can-eat buffets (Crabby Mike's-3 out of 5 stars, and Benjamin's Original Calabash Seafood-5 out of 5 stars) and an old favorite from my previous trips to MB, Tripp's Steakhouse at Broadway on the Beach (4 out of 5 stars due to small glasses that never quenched our thirst, the 100 degree environment, and the fire alarm that went off not 30 seconds after I cut into my blue cheese encrusted filet mignon). Benjamins, by far, was the best. From the moment we walked through the parking lot, we were greeted with friendly staff and great customer service. We also had some of the best seafood...fresh fish on the grill, steaks, veggies, too much yummy fried items, coconut fried shrimp (another favorite) and, of course, all the crab legs we cared to eat. We'll just say that they don't make their money off of people like us. Brandon put down at least 11 plates that night. We counted.

Here are more fun pics of our trip:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's official...

Sorry ladies. The votes are in and it's official. I have THE most wonderful, thoughtful and romantic husband in the WORLD.

This week has been amazing. I had my spa day on Thursday (more on that to come), and when I got home from a day at the spa, my man didn't want me to stress out over baby and dinner and cleaning and everything that comes with normal every night activities.

He stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work, walked in the door, kissed me and Ella, and then headed to the kitchen to make dinner. After a wonderful cuisine experience, he took up the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, fed, bathed and put Ella to bed and got everything ready for Friday. I headed upstairs to my new "Me" room (more on that to come, too!) and got to indulge in something I rarely have time to really concentrate on...scrapbooking, getting new ideas for layouts, watching tutorials on digital scrapbooking, and a little dreaming.

Friday: Mom and Dad came up to take care of Ella. Brandon whisked me away to the spa again for hair, makeup and new clothes. He proceeded to set things up for us for later that night at the Westin Poinsett in downtown G'vegas.

After 3 hours of cutting, coloring, primping and getting "fluffed" as the spa people called it (my hairdresser, David, called himself the official "fluffer"), they took me to the West End Field for my big Makeover reveal at the Greenville Drive game. Brandon was there, looking extremely hot in his pinstripe suit and freshly shaven face (Hallelujah!). He took pictures and hooted and hollered louder than everyone. After the big reveal, we took a trolley to the car and headed to Sassafrass...my favorite restuarant, where we had a wonderful meal. Later, we enjoyed a childless night at the hotel.

Saturday: We woke up early and had a nice breakfast downstairs. Then we walked around downtown and enjoyed the outdoor market set up on Main Street. After an hour or so of strolling through the West End, we packed up and headed home for some rest and time with my parents.

Later that afternoon, I awoke from a nap with him telling me I needed to get ready again...he had a surprise for me. We left Ella with Mom and Dad again (he had already arranged for them to spend 2 nights here babysitting) and we drove to another wonderful restaurant: City Range. On the way, he told me that we were going out to dinner, and that this had to do with my ordination that took place a couple of weeks ago, since we hadn't had time to celebrate it yet.

We got there and one by one women who have had an impact on my life (mentors, sisters, in Christ) showed up and sat down with us at the restaurant's special chef's table. Brandon had invited these women to come and speak into my life and celebrate this new realm of ministry I was stepping into.

Then he presented me with a new Bible that he had had my name put on (I've never had my name on a Bible before) and had passed around to many women whom I look up to and asked them to share a few words on the inside cover pages. These women gave me such encouragement and inspiration that I don't think I'll ever forget how special I am to God and to them.

We had the most wonderful meal, and Brandon made sure to let each woman know that he would be personally offended if they didn't get exactly what they wanted from appetizers to dessert. We laughed and cried and spoke into each other's lives with passion and hope and excitement.

There were a couple of women who were unable to make the dinner, but Brandon even went so far as to reschedule time with some of them. For instance, today after church, instead of eating in the commons area like I had planned, Brandon told me to follow him. He led me to meet up with Apostle Hope so we could have lunch together! She is such an amazing woman of God and has always been a mentor from a distance to me as I've watched her follow God wholeheartedly, support her husband, take care of her children, shepherd the flock of Redemption, and preach the paint off the walls!!! It was awesome! This may sound a little dorky, but I've even had questions written in my journal of topics I'd like to ask her or discuss if I happened upon the opportunity, so I was well prepared to make the most of this one! We had a wonderful time together and my love and respect continues to grow towards her with each interaction.

So, my precious husband takes the cake for being such a stud muffin. He has racked up some serious points lately and I just wanted to pubicly declare that I am so thankful and honored to be his wife and the mother of his child. He is absolutely perfect for me and wonderful to me. Thank you so much, babe.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I've always wondered about baby baptism, christening, and baby dedications at churches. I figure that if Mom and Dad are truly followers of Christ then of course they are going to commit to raising their child up in a home where He is glorified and teach the child how to walk with Him. Brandon and I dedicated Ella to the Lord when we found out we were pregnant. We had many instances where we had to reaffirm that commitment (mostly to remind ourselves) during the pregnancy when we were given possible bad news. Ever since she was born we have been careful to keep in mind that she is God's and on loan to us. We have stewardship over her life for a little while and want to make the most of it.

So I have kind of come to decide that baby dedications are more an excuse to get the family together and remind everyone that it is all of our responsibility to live godly lifestyles in front of these precious ones so that they may catch it in their heads and hearts. That being said, we had Ella dedicated at Redemption this past weekend and then had everyone over to the house for a celebration afterwards. The ceremony was nice as Pastor Tim and Pastor Heindrich both prayed over Ella and us.