Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Together at the Zoo

We spent our Thanksgiving vacation resting, enjoying the great outdoors, and playing
with friends.  The men went hunting in the early morning hours and the ladies went
shopping, careful to avoid the chaotic Black Friday crowd.  On Saturday, with the sun
shining and the temperature crisp and cool, we explored the local zoo.  Filled with
exotic animals and lots of opportunities for animal interactions, the babies had a
wonderful time running free.  Shawn and I love zoology parks just as much as our girls,
both animal lovers to our core.  This zoo featured elephants and giraffes, cougars and
the most beautiful lion.  Any opportunity to be outside, enjoying the weather and
appreciating nature, is a good day for me.

Our favorite part of our zoo adventure was feeding a sweet little family of giraffes.  They
were so lovely and graceful, quiet and soft.  Isabelle giggled for hours about their long
tongues and how quickly they gobbled up their snacks.  Brees gazed at them with her
big eyes, taking in the site of these gorgeous creatures.
After lunch, we took a train ride around the park, all of us growing sleepy as we chugged
along slowly.  Brees rested our head in my neck while Isabelle napped on her
Daddy's shoulder.  They were tired but happy, all their energy spent in a positive
way.  Another happy adventure to take away from our family vacation.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Thanksgiving

We spent our Thanksgiving with some of our very best friends after a 400 mile road trip
with our two little girls.  We left on Wednesday afternoon after work, the car packed,
books picked out, and the anticipation of a long weekend away filling our bones.  The
girls slept for most of the trip, bless them, and Shawn and I were able to catch up on a
week's worth of conversation with no interruptions.  This was our first holiday trip, a
new adventure for us as we usually spend our holidays here in Louisiana with our family.
But this year, we wanted to do something a little different, have a new experience that
was all our own.
We spent Thanksgiving Day in the company of friends who are more like family.  We
made glitter pine cones in the backyard and hung them on the clothesline, admiring how
they sparkled in the warm autumn sun.  We caught up on old times and watched as
our children made new ones.  Our lovely hostess cooked one of the biggest turkeys I
have ever seen and we ate until we were forced to change into sweat pants.  The
children made streamers adorned with pictures and words of things they are thankful
 for.  And we laughed and laughed and had the most wonderful day.
  This year, I am so thankful for all of the blessings in my life.  I am thankful for my
husband and the unconditional love he so graciously shares with us.
I'm thankful for this little girl and all the love and giggles she provides me
with everyday.
I'm thankful for a baby girl who spends her days bringing
smiles to our faces.
I'm thankful for good friends who bring positive
energy into our world.
I am thankful for all of these things and more.  This trip has a very tight hold on my heart,
it was so inspiring and full of love.  Though I missed our family back home and the
traditions we usually share together on holidays, I enjoyed making new memories with
our little tribe of four.  This time of year has a way of making me take inventory of my life
and all that I have, it allows me the space to let happiness and peace sink down deep
into my heart.  I am so very happy, and for that I am eternally thankful.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This afternoon, we are packing up our two little ladies and embarking on a Thanksgiving
road trip.  We are traveling 7 hours east to spend the holiday with some of our oldest
and dearest friends.  I am so excited to get away from our day to day routine for a while,
to eat delicious food, to spend time with the ones we love, to experience a new adventure
and have some good family time.  Our car is packed to the brim and we are dragging
more belongings than one family really needs but, ce la vie, we are a family driven
by estrogen.  We need lots of shoes and outfit options.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday as it is a
day devoted entirely to reflecting on the love and blessings in your life.  I always feel
inspired this time of year, my heart growing more and more full with each passing
experience.  This year, I am thankful for family, friends, the countless blessings
and opportunities we have been given, and the ability to put it all into perspective.
Many blessings to you all,

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Brees has been sick for a week, enduring her first ear infection and round of antibiotics.
She sniffled and sneezed and slept for hours and hours, her little body working hard to
fight off the bacteria.  Just as she was starting to feel better and I thought we were in
the clear, she came down with a stomach flu and vomited for 6 straight hours.  We
spent Friday night in the pediatric emergency room, replenishing her electrolytes and
waiting out the viral storm.  This sweet, calm little baby barely cried.  She rested her
warm head on my chest, her big eyes looking around at the unfamiliar faces, the bright
lights of the hospital room.  My heart ached for her.
As we drove home at 5 in the morning, I called my boss to let her know that I would not
be able to be on call Saturday as scheduled, my baby girl was sick.  I would not be able to
see patients that day, I could not fulfill my obligation to work because I needed to be
home serving as a nurse to my daughter.  My boss breathed in a heavy sigh, knowing
the difficulty she would have finding someone to take my place on a Saturday.  We
both wished each other luck.
As I hung up the phone, my heart felt heavy.  I knew that my boss was upset, I knew
that patients would have to wait, I knew that some of my coworkers would be resentful
that they would now be expected to pick up the slack.  But as I glanced at the backseat
and saw Brees sleeping, her body weak and tired, I felt angry with myself for even
caring about what any of those people thought.  My family is my priority, they are the
reason I wake up every morning, the inspiration that lights up my soul.  What does a
career even mean if I have to leave my daughter when she is ill?
I have often feel this tug of war between my career and my role as wife and mother.  I
don't want to have to choose between either, I want them to coexist perfectly, to be in
a constant state of balance.  But that is rarely the case, as I am often reminded by nights
such as these.  This is the reality of women today: we want to have it all, but we are
expected to BE all in exchange.  I couldn't help but think of my grandmother and how
much things have changed since she was raising children, my mother and all that
she experienced, so difficult yet quite different from my reality.
My grandparents were married for over 50 years, birthed 6 children, had over
60 grandchildren.  My grandmother never worked outside the home, but she did wake up
at 4 am every day to feed the chickens, milk the cows, and churn fresh butter.  She made
it back to the house in time to cook 3 full meals a day, care for her multitude of children,
iron, sew, and wash countless loads of laundry.  Her own mother lived with her as well,
my sweet little "meme", chiming in with her words of wisdom though she barely spoke
a word of English.  My grandmother referred to domestic duties as "women's work"
and I doubt my grandfather even knew what a broom was.  I wander if she ever
felt unappreciated, isolated, overwhelmed?  I wander if she ever dreamed of something
else, a dream to call her own?  I envy her knowledge of living off the land, her ability to
take care of everyone around her without ever losing her patience.  Women in her day
may not have had the opportunities we do now, but she could make a meal out
of 3 ingredients, she could grow a garden and birth a calf, she could command a
roomful of children with one stern look.
Her journey was one of perseverance, discipline, and hard work.
My mother was a part of a revolutionary generation: she burned her bra and waved
her finger at the idea of being less than a man.  Even while raising two children and
working full-time, she put herself through night school to make a better life for herself
and her family.  She sacrificed every ounce of her free time to work and earn her own
way, struggling to put food on the table but too prideful to ever ask for help.  This meant
that my brother and I were often on our own, fending for ourselves until she made it
home from work, her eyes dark and her shoulders tired.  She did everything she could to
be there for us, showing up right at half time to watch me perform my high kicks, always
in her uniform for every school event and parent teacher conference.  I wander if she ever
felt exhausted, lonely, inadequate?  I wander if she ever wished for an easier way, a
world where women didn't have to work so hard just to prove themselves?  I envy
her strength, her unbreakable spirit.  Women in her day were expected to work for a
living but were not quite respected as equals.  But she never let on that she was
struggling, never complained or worried.  She taught me about work ethic and self-love.
She taught me to be self-reliant not only in my domestic abilities, but in my financial
means as well.
Her journey was one of independence, inner strength, and faith.
I think of these two women, the generations before me and what they have taught me.
My definition of a woman, the person I strive to be, is a combination of my mother and
my grandmother.  I value the domestic goddess that my grandmother was: I long to be
there for my children and spend as much time at home caring for them as I possibly can.
I want to take pride in my role at home, to provide a loving and warm environment in
which my family can flourish.  But I also value the independence and work ethic my
mother taught me: I am passionate about my career and thankful I had the opportunity
to obtain a prestigious degree.  I want to work hard at something I love and
contribute positively to society.  Can I be both of these women, can I fulfill both of
these roles?  Sometimes, like this past weekend, the answer is no.  Sometimes I have to
make phone calls and let employers down, sometimes I have to say no to an
opportunity because it will let my family down.  I can not be all things to all people, I can
only work hard to be the best at what means the most to me.
My journey is one of balance, self-exploration, and opportunity.
I know who I am and I am fearless when it comes to going after what I want.  But I
am learning, day by day, that sometimes what you want is right in front of you.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that, instead of always striving to have it all, I need
to appreciate all that I have already.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Steppin' Out: Breaking Dawn Edition

Thursday night, my girlfriends and I stepped out, as we have with every other movie in
the "Twilight" series, to the midnight premier of "Breaking Dawn".  We have
anxiously awaited this movie for over a year now, speculating on how it would translate
from written word to the screen.  It did not disappoint!!!  It was a beautifully directed
film that included all of the most important elements of the fourth installment: romance,
gore, and an ending that left you on the edge of your seat.  
I love this series because it is centered around a beautiful and unbreakable love.  Bella
and Edward's love is not perfect, but the connection they share is something I understand
and feel for my own Edward Cullen.  Sure, it's cheesy, unrealistic, and was originally
written for a tween audience.  But I love these two star crossed lovers and their
commitment to one another.  
And I love how much fun my girlfriends and I can have camping out in front of a
theater, staying up past our 30 something year old bedtimes, laughing and joking
and enjoying a night to just be silly.  We've done this for every movie, the Nerd Herd,
proudly sporting our  Twilight tshirts.  I am blessed to have such an amazing group
of girlfriends, women I can be myself around, girls who don't take themselves too
seriously and enjoy a night of pure fun.  After I fed my babies their dinner and tucked
them all warm in their beds, I packed up my lawn chair and headed to the theater,
my pre-purchased ticket in hand.  This year, we were first in line, braving the
cold temperatures, all wrapped in our stadium blankets.
It was a night to remember...

These are hard core fans right here people.  The icing on the cake was when our local
news showed up to film the line containing hundreds of fans that wrapped around the
movie theater.  I planted myself right behind the teen reporter (quite the local celebrity)
as my girlfriends stood in the background and laughed themselves to tears at the
gigantic smile plastered on my face.  Go here to see my television debut, I will most
 likely never live this down.
So here's to great friends, fun times, and a movie that made us hard core
Twi-Hards very, very happy.  See you for Part 2 next November!!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweet Friday: Breaking Dawn Hangover

I woke up this lovely Friday morning feeling MUCH MORE tired than normal, dragging 
my feet out of bed, my eyes so heavy and wanting just one more hour.  Why am I feeling
 so fatigued this morning?  Hmmm, could it be the fact that I spent my evening attending 
the midnight premiere of "Breaking Dawn" with my very best girlfriends?!!  Perhaps 
my exhaustion is related to waiting outside the theater for 6 hours, or laughing with my 
girls until we almost peed our Twi-Hard pants?  Yes, friends, I am a tired mama this 
morning.  But my oh my did we have fun swooning over our beloved Edward Cullen...
I will share more of this wonderful evening once I have caught up on my beauty rest.  
Lucky vampires, they don't require any sleep.  I worked until noon today and made it 
home in time to pick Isabelle up from school, her last day before Thanksgiving break!!  
A whole week of vacation lies ahead for this little girl and she is thrilled.  We plan to spend 
the rest of the afternoon in our pajamas, catching up on our favorite shows and reading a 
few new books we picked up this week.  
Now that Brees is one year old, she is feeling extra adventurous!  Here's a little trick 
she learned this week: how to remove her pants, unfasten her safety belt, and climb out 
of her high chair, all in the 30 seconds it took me to walk across the room to grab my 
tea.  This little girl...
Here's to a wonderful weekend of love and laughter!  May we all embrace 
our inner nerd!  Team Edward all the way!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Year Of: Bedding Close

Brees Elizabeth turned a year old on November 15.  I know that every mother says this, but
I really can't believe how quickly the time has passed.  As I reflect on this last year and all
the adventures and milestones we have experienced, I hope that you enjoy this series of
posts about our family and all the things we have learned this past year.
A year of bedding close...
Brees spent most of her first year sleeping right by her mama and daddy.  We believe
in sleeping close to our babies for the same reasons we believe in baby wearing: by
keeping Brees in close proximity at night, we were better able to meet all of her needs.
Just as we don't believe in letting her "cry it out" during the day, we didn't let her do it
at night, either.  Having her right next to me allowed me to breastfeed her with minimal
sleep disruption, allowing us both to feel more rested.  By being so close to each other,
we were able to be fully aware of her cues and could respond to her stirrings before
they became cries.  Bedding close also met her emotional needs, reducing separation
anxiety and nighttime fears, reassuring her and comforting her when she went through
those phases.  
Rooming in...
It all started in the hospital, keeping her in our room at all times.  Our hospital features
labor, delivery, recovery rooms and encourages rooming in.  From the moment she was
born, Brees slept right next to us, allowing me to nurse her on demand and establish a
good milk supply from the beginning.
The family bassinet...
When we brought Brees home from the hospital, she slept in this little bassinet next to
our bed.  This cradle has been in my family for several generations, lulling my cousins and
I all to sleep.  For the first month of her life, Brees became a part of this tradition.  I love
this photo with all my heart: I was 36 weeks pregnant and Shawn and I were putting
the finishing touches on the house, getting everything ready for our new baby.
Isabelle placed her baby doll in the bassinet to "practice".  We were all so excited.
The pack n play crib...
When Brees outgrew her bassinet, we put her in her pack and play bassinet.  This
was seriously one of the most useful pieces of baby equipment we owned this last year.  It
is as spacious as a crib, very portable, and even included a changing table.  It also allowed
us to incline the mattress which was so useful with her reflux.
The family bed...
When Brees was about 6 months old, she started experiencing separation anxiety and
cried inconsolably when we put her in her bed.  She was teething at this time and
nursing more than ever, needing extra love and attention as she was so uncomfortable.
We began co-sleeping, the three of us all snug in our big bed.  This was one of my
favorite times, the family bed.  The close bond and connection we experienced was
comforting and soothing to all of us.  
The floor bed...
Around 10 months old, Brees became very active and co-sleeping was distracting for her.
She woke up multiple times throughout the night wanting to play and nursing every 2
hours.  We started worrying about her crawling out of bed.  We also worried that she
wasn't resting well and was in need of her own secure space.  We decided to transition her
to a floor bed in her room.  By spending a few weeks on her floor bed, we were able to
slowly adjust her to being in her nursery, making the move to her crib
pretty seamless.
Sleeping in her nursery crib...
At eleven months old, Brees began sleeping in her own crib in her nursery.  For the first
two nights, she cried for several minutes when we put her down.  We took turns going in
and out of her room, rocking her until she stopped crying and then placing her back in her
bed.  After 10 minutes, she went right to sleep.  By the third night, she smiled as we
kissed her good night, held her blankie close, and drifted off to sleep.  Moving Brees to
her own crib resulted in her sleeping through the night for the first time since she was
born.  She is now sleeping 12 hours a night and has night weaned herself.
This whole year has been a journey of observing our baby's cues and putting her to sleep
in the place that fit her needs best.  It has been an emotional journey for us and we had
to adjust to not having her near.  But, eventually, Brees let us know that she was ready
to have her own space and it was time for us to let go.  Even though sleeping close to our
baby typically meant we were awakened frequently throughout the night, we knew how
soon this phase would pass us by and enjoyed every moment for what it was.  I will
forever remember our family bed and the sounds of a sweet, sleeping Brees in my arms.
In the next few years, she will move to a toddler bed and, like her big sister, just might
return to her parents' arms late in the night, the sound of little feet pitter pattering
down the stairs.  And we will welcome her with open arms.     

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