Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

One hour: that's the amount of time I have before the girls wake up from their naps,
Shawn comes in from the barn, the finishing touches on our Christmas dinner need to
be made.  One hour to sit here and reflect, to process all the joy and love and light
that surround me at this very moment.  Every where I look, in every single direction,
little Christmas blessings have filled our home to the brim.  The many Christmas cards
and well wishes from friends and family far and near, the presents I finally finished
wrapping tucked under the tree, a freshly decorated gingerbread house with little
pieces already missing.  We have had a busy week but we have really taken our time
this year to sit and breathe in the spirit of the season, to hold onto each other and grow
closer together during this time.  Our old pal, Freddie the Elf, has hopefully given Santa
good reports as the girls have been extra good under his watchful eye.  He brought them
a letter this year telling them how proud he is of them, how well they have adjusted
and helped their parents through Daddy's accident.  He reminded them that there's no
such thing as a "bad" child and that as long as they try their best and spread their love to
all they know, they will always be on the "nice" list.
My favorite memory of this Christmas season so far was the day Isabelle and I
collected clothes and toys and household goods and brought them to a family in our
town.  We have done this for the same family for the last 5 years now and we both
look forward to this special day so much.  When we drove up to their house with our bags
full of goodies, they ran off the front porch with open arms, hugging us and telling us
how much they love us.  We told them how much we love them, too.  We brought the
bags inside their home and wished them a very merry Christmas, one more hug for the
road.  As we drove away, Isabelle had the biggest smile on her face, knowing she had
just received the greatest gift any of us could ever receive: the gift of love.  She felt the
deep sense of happiness that is felt only through giving of yourself.  And seeing her little
face understand such a valuable concept: it was the best gift I could have ever
May your days be merry and bright, this Christmas and for always...
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Silent Night

Since last week's tragedy, I find myself struggling through the Christmas season:
feeling guilty over the joy I feel with my family, crying daily as I think of the people who
lost their lives and the families they left behind.  I just can't seem to wrap my mind
around such sadness and my heart feels pulled every time I think of Newtown.  I know that
I am not alone.  Everywhere I go, every person I meet, it seems to be the first thing we
talk about and reflect on, lamenting over the sadness that has swept this country.  I
suppose that this shared compassion, this feeling of connection amongst friends and
family and neighbors and total strangers, that is what we will all remember this
Christmas for.  It will be the year we hopefully all slow down just a bit and opened up
our hearts, taking in each moment, each second, and appreciating what we have rather
than anticipating what we want.  This year, we will linger around the Christmas tree and
feel grateful that we are here, all together, living this life.  We will carry on the memory
of those 26 people who lost their lives by living our own lives just a little bit better.
We were privileged to attend Isabelle's Christmas Pageant at school on Tuesday, Shawn
and I in the very front row.  It was an amazing adaptation of the Christmas story with
angels and sheppards and wise men and cattle.  The sound of those children singing
"Silent Night" by candle light gave me goosebumps through and through, their angel
voices exalting as they celebrated this most blessed season.  We were so proud of our
girl: front and center and singing so loudly I swear I could pick her voice out of the
crowd.  She was most excited that two of the songs in their program were in French,
knowing how much it would mean to me to hear her Cajun roots.  I cried during the
play, thinking of all those parents who have lost a child, thankful to have Shawn sitting
next to me instead of what could have been.  And as I sang along, "Sleep in heavenly
peace", I closed my eyes and let the tears wash over me.  Thankful, blessed, sad, helpless,
all in one.  This Christmas, may we allow ourselves the space to grieve, to feel compassion
for others, and to be filled with peace and love.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Santa Baby

I had pretty realistic expectations about our visit to see Santa Claus this year: Brees
would be scared of Santa the way most 2 year old kids are.  There was no way she was
going to allow me to hand her over to sit in the lap of a complete stranger with a big
white beard no matter how many candy canes we tried to bribe her with.  We decided to
get all dressed up and head to the mall anyway: Isabelle could visit with Santa and tell
him about her wishlist and we would just hope for the best with Brees.
As we approached the beautiful North Pole display, Brees actually got very excited.
She waved to Santa while we stood in line, calling out to him in her little squeaky girl
voice, "Hey, Santa, hey!!".  Shawn and I looked at each other with hope: this might
actually happen.  But then our turn came, the photographer ushering us in and inviting us
to approach Santa with all our Christmas cheer.
And toddler chaos ensued.  "NO!!  No no no mama!!" she cried emphatically, clinging to
me like a cat on a screen door.  Just as I was about to scrap the whole shebang, Santa
calmly said, "Oh, don't worry family.  We'll just do a peek-a-boo shot.  No use in having
such a pretty little girl cry".  He and the photographer instructed Shawn and I to walk to
the other side of the North Pole display, taking Santa out of Brees' sight.  Santa turned
his attention to Belle and listened intently to her every wish, a moment I was so
thankful that our sweet little 8 year old got to experience despite her sister's tantrum.
I then watched as this sweet man climbed behind his big green chair and disappeared
behind the display, crouching down before calling out, "I'm ready!".  I mean, seriously,
what a good sport.  We brought Brees back to the chair and sat her on Belle's lap,
Santa popping up in the background without Brees ever knowing. Smile, snap, photo
done!  Santa whispered from behind the chair and asked us to pick Brees up before he
came out, "I don't want to scare her again".  She wrapped her little arms around my
neck when she saw him reemerge but still managed to say, "Bye bye Santa!".
I will always treasure this photo: Santa being sneaky, Brees still a bit traumatized,
Belle's million dollar smile.  Santa was truly caring and went out of his way, literally, to
make the night special for our girls.  We will definitely be leaving him extra cookies under
the tree this year.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012


For this year's Christmas season, I wanted to have an official Advent celebration.  We
have always filled the days leading up to Christmas with fun family activities and acts
of service but, this year, I wanted to center all of these fun nights around an
important message.  I wanted the girls to understand why we do certain things, to
teach them our family's values and allow them to take away the message that Christmas
is not about gifts but about spending time with the ones you love, gathering in
fellowship over the magic of the season.

I found a glittery box and deemed it "The Advent Box".  Shawn and I explained to the
girls that they were to check the box each day for a special message, that each
message would include an activity for us to do as a family.  They were ecstatic:
Isabelle eagerly opening the box and reading the first message aloud, Brees looking on
with wide eyed curiosity.  We have kept the activities simple: a popcorn and
Christmas movie night in the living room, decorating the Christmas tree, reading "The
Polar Express" over a cup of hot chocolate.   We have tried to wrap each message
and activity around our spiritual beliefs as much as possible: delivering gifts to loved ones
as the three wise men did to the baby Jesus, reading the Christmas story and making
our own nativity.  The beauty is in the simplicity: children don't need elaborate,
expensive adventures.  They just need our time and our love, they need to feel the
warmth and togetherness that defines this time of year.
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One of my favorite Advent activities so far was our pajama cookie party this past
weekend.  We gathered our dear friends in the kitchen, cranked up some Christmas
tunes, and baked a giant batch of cookies.  We set our dining room table up with
sprinkles and home made icing and laughed at our lack of decorating skills.  Shawn called
us all outside for a fireworks display: his party specialty.  Sitting out in the semi-cold
weather (Louisiana is just NOT giving in to winter this year) with your most special
people, gazing at the big night sky: it just doesn't get better than that.  We ended the
night with sleepy time tea, sprawled all around our living room, and watched "Elf".  And
just like that, we decided that a new tradition was born.  

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And because sharing is caring, here's a list of our Advent activities this year.  Please
share your family's Advent traditions with me in the comment section, I'd love to hear 
your ideas!
Decorate the house and Christmas tree
Bake holiday cookies and give them out as gifts
Bring canned goods to our local soup kitchen, The Manna House
Send out Christmas cards to family and friends
Visit Santa Claus and take a keepsake photo
Have a family popcorn and Christmas movie night party
Gather toys and clothes you would like to donate and bring them to a family in need
Attend the Holiday Light Safari at the zoo
Read "The Polar Express" over some hot chocolate
Sing some of our favorite Christmas carols and discuss their meaning
Make homemade Christmas ornaments
Decorate a gingerbread house
Put money in the Salvation Army bucket
Drive around town looking at Christmas lights
Pick out, wrap, and donate a toy to Toys For Tots
Take a trip to the mall to buy something special for your sister with your own allowance
Visit the residents at our local nursing home

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Where I Was That Day

When unfathomable tragedy strikes, people often say, "I'll never forget where I was
that day".
I only worked for 2 hours on Friday, racing home with the biggest smile as I
anticipated spending a rare day off with Brees.  We had a tea party on the kitchen flour,
her favorite mac n'cheese for a mid-morning snack, and a hundred kisses before noon.  I
felt happy, content, blessed.  
After I rocked Brees to sleep for her afternoon nap, I sat down to check my email.  And I
saw the news, the nightmare that was unfolding in Connecticut.  I turned on the TV to
get more information, tears streaming down my face as the images flashed across the
screen: crying parents, children being ushered through the chaos, their eyes shielded
from the trauma.  Shawn came home and we watched in disbelief, sadness, our
hearts growing heavy as the painful truth of this situation came to light: 26 dead.  20 of
them innocent children.
Isabelle came barreling off the school bus, my heart aching as I watched her run towards
me, thinking of all those parents who would never see their children again.  "Mama, did
you hear the news about those poor little children?  Someone killed them!". 
We sat at the kitchen table and she told me that her teacher had explained to their 3rd
grade class what had happened, that they had all held hands and prayed for the victims
of this horrible act, prayed for the families left behind.  She and I talked about how sad
we both felt that this had happened, how shocked we were by the news.  I held her and
we prayed again, my voice wavering as my tears fell into her hair.  
We went about our weekend as we normally would, holding onto each other just a little
bit tighter, appreciating each moment, reminding each other that each day is a blessing, life
is precious and fragile.  The families left behind in Connecticut never dreamed that
they would be going through their weekends without their loved ones.  They never
thought they would have to say goodbye to those precious angels before they were even
old enough to tie their own shoes.  I can not imagine the pain those families must be
feeling but I do hope that they are strengthened by the prayers and compassion
blanketing them right now from their fellow Americans.  I hope that their hearts are
filled with the love and light we are all sending them now.  
May we never forget those who lost their lives on this tragic day, may we continue to
pray for those left behind.  I found these testimonies about the victims from their families
to be so amazingly beautiful:
ANA MARQUEZ-GREENE, 6: "As much as she's needed here and missed by her
mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise," her father wrote. "I love you
sweetie girl."
NOAH POZNER, 6:  Noah's twin sister Arielle, assigned to a different classroom,
survived the shooting. He called her his best friend, and with their 8-year-old sister,
Sophia, they were inseparable.  "They were always playing together, they loved to do
things together," Haller said. When his mother, a nurse, would tell him she loved him,
he would answer, "Not as much as I love you, Mom."
LAUREN GABRIELLE ROUSSEAU, 30, teacher:  "Lauren wanted to be a teacher
from before she even went to kindergarten," her mother said. "We will miss her terribly
and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."
VICTORIA SOTO, 27, teacher:  "You have a teacher who cared more about her
students than herself," said Mayor John Harkins of Stratford, the town Soto hailed from
and where more than 300 people gathered for a memorial service Saturday night.
"That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."
EMILIE PARKER, 6:  Robbie Parker, the father of six year old Emilie Parker, said  "As
we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let it not turn
into something that defines us. But something that inspires us to be better, to be
more compassionate, and more humble people. Let us please keep the sentiments of
love that we feel for our families and the compassion that we feel for others, even
complete strangers, and keep them with us at all times. Not just in times of sorrow
and tragedy, but may we do this so that we can better our community."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Soul Food

There are times in your life when the most therapeutic medicine you can receive is
a weekend with your best friend: a sister soul who drops everything in her busy life, puts
her own family aside, and flies across the country because she knows how much you need
a break from the everyday even when you insist that you are fine.  She carries with her
a servant heart and an accepting spirit, listening to all your war stories and comforting
you by sharing her own.  She can make you laugh and drop all your insecurities, boost
your spirit with an afternoon beer and a long bike ride.  Having this kind of friend in
your home makes you realize how heavy your load has been as she lifts off each layer one
by one, lightening your burden and allowing your free spirit to resurface.  She hugs you
close even as you try to pull away, remembering how tightly you used to hug her before
all the trauma made you fragile and guarded.  She brings that out in you: the before.  But
she also embraces the new, understanding that though you are a little more broken that
the last time she saw you, you are still Liv.  That's the beautiful thing about a friend
like Charlie: she knows you inside and out, believes in you, supports you, trusts you, and
is always there for you.  And you are the same for her.  
Thank you for the most soul sister rejuvenating weekend, my dear Charlie.  May we
always remember to separate the truths from the blow hards, to be grateful that we
woke the fuck up, and that we continue to do whatever the fuck it takes.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012


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Catching up...on blogging.  I've been such a slacker lately, I have so many posts in 
my draft folder that I really need to finish up and publish.  I miss writing and taking 
photos and being intentional about capturing memories.  One such memory I am catching 
up on: The Breaking Dawn midnight movie premiere that my girlfriends AKA The 
Nerd Herd attended last month.  5 movies and almost 4 years later and oh what fun we 
have had: waiting in lines that got longer as the series progressed, giggling like 
adolescents, enjoying the whole experience and the anticipation leading up to it.  I feel 
so blessed to have an amazing group of girlfriends, even more blessed that we never 
take ourselves too seriously and support each other's ridiculous obsessions.  This year, 
we did the movie premier big: my girlfriend, Shannon, rented out the birthday party room 
at the movie theater!  Taking it to the next level my friends!  We had hors 
d'oeuvres, reserved seating, and were ushered in without having to wait in line!  We 
were able to spend a few hours together before the movie just spending time together 
and enjoying a night out.  The movie was awful and cheesy (to be expected) but I loved 
it.  I'm a sucker for vampires, epic love stories, and pop culture phenomenons, what can 
I say?  
Reading..."The Passage" by Justin Cronin.  It involves two of my favorite things:
vampires and the end of civilization.  Apparently I've become on of those people who
is obsessed with end of the world scenarios.  This one, about a government experiment
gone wrong (go figure), is quite the page turner and makes me a little scared to take
the trash out after dark.
Listening too...
"What The Water Gave Me" by Florence and the Machine
"Rosemary" by Deftones
"Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons
Cooking... this fudge recipe.  Only three ingredients and about 5 minutes of work?
Yes please!!  This is a super yummy recipe that my family demolished in half a day.  I plan
to add some of this deliciousness into my next batch of brownies. 
Thank you to Charlie for introducing me to my kindred spirit.  I will never be the 
same again.
This video made me laugh at myself and my Instagram shenanigans.  "I'm so hellbent
on documenting!!!".
I love this post on staying in the picture.
I Heart Organizing is a Type A personality's piece of internet heaven.  I reference
it constantly.  This post on Christmas decoration organization: genius.

P.S. Thank you for your amazing words regarding my last post.  Shawn and I read
every single comment, every email.  We love you and thank you for your encouragement. 


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