Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a...


A baby blue dream come true: our tribe is soon to include a son! 

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

18 Weeks

This week was busy with activity and flew by before I really had time to reflect on
anything other than our overflowing calendar.  We planted our spring veggie garden and
spent a great deal of time outdoors thanks to the early spring weather.  It did my growing
body some good to be outside, stretching my legs and using all of my strength to beautify
our yard.  I have been walking as much as possible, doing yoga several times a week,
and hitting the gym whenever possible.  I find that the best way to keep the
pregnancy symptoms at bay is to stay active, to keep my muscles stretched and
engaged.  Brees is doing her part in keeping me strong by constantly requesting to be held
and carried on my hip.  She fits perfectly in the crook of my waist, her body molding itself
to my side, snuggling next to her baby brother or sister.  It's amazing to me how the
female body was designed, that little carrying place known as our hips that so
perfectly accommodates loving babies.
This week, we will find out the sex of our little one.  We have both dreamed of having a son
for quite some time now, longed to share our hearts with a little boy, a man who will
someday carry on our family name. But we also know and understand the depths of
a daughter's love, the countless ways that they can fill you with joy and wrap you around
their little fingers.  I haven't had any strong feelings either way but I love listening to
the predictions from friends, family members, even strangers.  "You're carrying a boy, I
can tell by your skin" or "That's a girl, look at how thick you are all the way around
your middle".  Either way, we will be happy and thankful to know our newest family member,
a child we have been blessed with during a time when we truly learned the meaning of faith
and love. Soon, we will know a little more about this baby and I feel like the real planning
can begin.  There's still so much to do, so many things to prepare.  And yet, in the
grand scheme of things, we've never been more ready.  
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Monday, March 25, 2013

The Family Garden

After weeks of preparation and planning, we spent our weekend planting our spring 
vegetable garden.  I've been begging Shawn to build me a raised bed garden for years now 
and my sweet husband finally delivered.  I wanted a raised bed because they provide 
better drainage for your soil, are easier to maintain and keep free from weeds, retain heat 
in the soil for more and extended yield, and have less soil impaction thanks to the lack of 
foot traffic.  I searched YouTube and Pinterest for tutorials on the most cost efficient and 
easy how-to guides on how to build the beds.  We found this one and this one to be the 
most helpful.  Shawn and my dad built the beds in less than an hour using (2) 10 feet long 
2x12s and (2) 6 feet long 2x12s.  We found a flat piece of land that gets plenty of sun next 
to our barn, the perfect spot because we have access to water only a few feet away.  
We measured off the area we planned to use and then tilled and turned the soil several 
weeks before we planted, giving the sun time to kill off the grass and weeds. 


After the soil was was turned and the grass removed, we put our new bed in place and 
began filling it.  We laid down a layer of our homegrown compost first and then topped it 
off with moisture control gardening soil.  The Louisiana skies delivered the perfect rain 
storm the day before we planted, getting everything nice and wet for our new plants.

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Next comes the really fun part: deciding what yummy things we would grow!  I used the 
Better Homes and Garden online tool to design our garden plan.  Having a plan is important 
to keep you on task and organized and ensure that you place your plants in the right place 
for optimal growth.

As much as I love gardening, I will be completely honest and admit that I take short cuts.  
The whole full-time job thing pretty much guarantees that every area of my domesticated 
life involves short-cuts, no shame in my game.  Rather than start my garden with seedlings 
I started indoors and then transferred to ground, I buy my plants as little babies all ready 
to plant.  It is a more costly way to garden but a time saver: my whole life is about time 
savers.  I shop at local nurseries and value the knowledge and advice of the 
experienced gardeners I have been blessed to befriend at my favorite places.  On Friday, 
I visited my favorite nursery and brought a copy of my garden plan and the dimensions of 
my bed with me to help choose the right amount of plants.  Of course, I went 
overboard anyway.  What can I say, I got excited surrounded by all of those green beauties!

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We woke up on Saturday morning very thankful that the predicted rainstorm had not 
yet arrived.  We put on our rubber boots, gathered our gardening tools, and ran outside to 
put our newly purchased plants in the ground.  The girls were so excited and had the best 
time getting dirty and doing their part to build our family garden.

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After getting everything planted, we watered the bed thoroughly, sat back, and admired 
our work!  Shawn set up two sprinklers on either side of the bed that we'll use each 
afternoon to ensure that our girls get all the moisture they need.  Isabelle placed tags in 
each row to help her remember which plants are which.  We spent the rest of the day 
pruning our rosebushes, trimming hedges, and taking rides around the yard on the John 
Deere.  My dad came over to help Shawn chop down a few trees and repair the 
tire swing out front.  When the sun finally set, I rewarded everyone with a  big pot of beef 
and veggie soup with a side of corn bread.  And just as we were showered and tucking the 
girls into bed, the sky opened up and the promised rain storm came pouring down: a 
good omen for our hard day's work.  Happy spring from our family to yours!

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Parks and Flowers and Stuff

We had an overabundance of free time this week thanks to the Stanford Test: a
standardized test given to school aged children in our state.  Because the kids were busy
testing all week, the teachers were kind enough to give them a break from any and
all homework, tests, projects, and after school activities.  Parents often talk about
how difficult it is to raise little babies: the sleepless nights, the frequent feedings, the lack
of mobility.  But I, personally, find the school age phase to be more difficult.  Isabelle is a
busy, busy bee and our whole family is busy as a result.  We spend most afternoons around
the kitchen table calling out flash cards, reading stories, and solving word problems.
Shawn and I take turns carting her to and from her various activities, enjoying our moments
in the car as they give us time to talk and catch up.  She is growing and becoming her own
little person, a girl with lots of interests and friends and talents.  She enjoys being out in
the world, learning new things and putting herself out there.  It can be tiring, though,
moving from one thing to the next, working all day and then coming home to another
busy schedule.   And so we relish weeks like this one, weeks when we can come home and
just enjoy each other.  
Isabelle welcomed the break to just be free and Shawn and I enjoyed the chance to just
enjoy our kids.  As luck would have it, spring decided to appear on our doorstep just in
time for our "break".  We took full advantage, heading outside every afternoon as soon
as Isabelle stepped off the bus.  We took long walks, went to the park, and rode our bikes.
Side night: our kids rarely play at the park.  We live on 4 acres, a yard big enough to
have adventures far and wide.  Our friends and family all have big yards as well and all
this open space is why we left the city to move home.  Why would you drive to the park
when you can just step outside your back door and enter your very own wonderland?
Of course, since we don't do it often, going to the park is a VERY exciting adventure for
our kids.  The novelty of it, seeing all those big play scapes and hanging out with new kids,
they think it's the coolest thing.  It's the little things that make them happy, the
coloring outside the lines.  Doing little things like that, slowing down a bit and abandoning
our routine for a while, those things keep us young.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

17 Weeks

Shawn and I were able to get away this week for a 2 day spiritual retreat.  It was exactly
what we needed after a very busy year filled with emotions and trauma.  We very rarely if
ever leave our girls overnight and, though we missed them like crazy, it was quality time
that we truly needed to focus on each other.  We took long walks through the
beautiful, wooded landscape of the retreat center, enjoyed hour long mealtimes without
any interruptions, we sat by the lake and talked in peace and quiet.  It was the most
rewarding gift we could have given our marriage and we both emerged feeling stronger
and more inspired than we have in years.  
The chance to break away from our normal, everyday routine was a gift for my pregnancy
as well.  I feel more rested, less stressed, and completely revived after all of the
amazing sessions and talks we attended throughout the weekend.  Shawn and I ate
more Reese's peanut butter eggs than I care to admit and took a 2 hour nap on Saturday.
My belly is growing and my body is moving through this time at a familiar and
comfortable pace.  I feel good and I pray every single day that the baby does, too.  
My dad brought the girls home on Sunday as soon as Shawn and I drove up and the four of
us were happily reunited, hugs and kisses and stories of all the ways in which they were
spoiled while we were away.  And though I'll always remember this weekend and its sense
of serenity, I jumped right back into the chaos of our growing family with open arms.
These girls, this growing baby, my husband: they are my everything.  They are my happiness. 

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Lessons I've Learned

I am strong and fearless but I am not a superhero: I do not have to carry the weight of
the world on my shoulders.  I need to learn to forget my pride and ask for help when 
needed.  No one will think any less of me.
I need to practice what I preach.  I am a wonderful giver of advice and encouragement
but often find myself forgetting my own uplifting voice.  The lessons are all there, I just
have to let go.
I have two ears and one mouth, I need to use them in that ratio: listen more, speak
You can not be IN love every single day.  Some days, marriage is a job you don't
necessarily feel like going to.  But you show up, you punch in, you do your time.  It is
good work and will pay off later.
The only thing my children need is ME.  I am the woman who was chosen specifically to
be their mother.  I have all of the tools necessary to give them everything they need and I
need to trust in that.
Guilt is a useless emotion.  Make amends when necessary and then move on.
When I find myself saying, "I don't have time for that", it might be time to sit down
and reevaluate my priorities.  What is it that I AM spending my time on?
Money will never make me happy.  Material things will never make me happy.  Real,
loving, lasting relationships are the true measure of happiness.
It's okay to not be okay.  I am not always happy.  Some days, I feel anxious and sad.  I feel
a dark cloud hanging over me.  Feel it, process it, and move on.  Tomorrow will be better.
Live in the moment.  Planning and organizing are useful skills for living a productive life
but they are not definitive skills.  Life is messy and unexpected.  Be prepared but be willing
to accept the curve balls.
 Work hard, play hard, and do your best.  At the end of the day, reflect on the moments
you want to hold on to and say your prayers of thanks.
I am living one day at a time.  I am a work in progress.  If I can wake up each day and show
love to the people around me, love will follow me as well.
Love is the strongest medicine there is.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sweet Friday

Dear Friday,
I thought you might never get here.  Since I was on call last weekend, I have been working
for 12 days straight.  My body actually played a practical joke on me on Wednesday and 
made me think that it was Friday THEN.  Dude, I was pissed when I realized the week was 
only half over.  I am tired, grumpy, and in desperate need of a nap.  You got here just in time.
Shawn and I are leaving this afternoon for a weekend long spiritual retreat.  To say that we
are excited is an understatement.  We are ecstatic!  A whole weekend for the two of us to
just focus on quieting our minds and filling our hearts with new and inspiring ideas: it is
exactly what we need right now.  The retreat will take place about an hour from our house on
a beautiful, secluded piece of property nestled deep in the woods.  The timing of this
retreat could not be more perfect: after a year of deep rooted trauma and tragedy, the
passing of a good friend, and preparing for our new baby, this will give us an opportunity
to release all the emotions we have been gathering along the way, to process everything
that has happened and hopefully close this chapter of our lives, preparing us to move
forward as a stronger, more connected and grounded pair.  With hearts open, hands
bound together, off we go...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

16 Weeks

This week was good: I slept well and had more energy despite a very hectic week at work.
My patients are all watching my growing belly with great anticipation, filling my ears with
old wives' tales and baby gender predictions. Isabelle and I have been making
breakfast smoothies every morning and they are the perfect solution to my early
morning queasiness.  I continue to drink more water with lemon than I ever thought
humanly possible, my thirst as ravenous for this pregnancy as my hunger was for the
previous two.  It's an amazing thing, this whole pregnancy business.  Amazing how
each experience can be so similar yet so completely different, a woman's body
reacting differently each time according to hormone levels, age, and life events.  I find
myself making little notes here and there to remember this pregnancy for the
individualized journey that it is.
I have a visit with my doctor this week and I look forward to hearing the sweet sound of
the baby's heart beat.  The appointments are simple and brief at this stage: the two of
us checking in with our gentle, compassionate doctor, exchanging stories and making plans
for the months ahead.  My mother, who has been by side through each and every one of
these babies, calls me as soon as my appointments are over, so excited to hear each and
every piece of information I may have gathered.  She is proud of me, proud of our
growing family and all the hard work we have put into making this foundation strong.
She laughs at me when we're on the phone and the kids are howling in the background and
my laundry is backed up and supper is boiling over on the stove.  She laughs and says,
"Don't worry, you will manage.  You always do".  And the honesty in her voice and the
warmth of her smile are enough to make me believe her.  To believe in US.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dance On, Brother

We received very sad news on Friday: one of our oldest and dearest friends passed away
on Thursday night.  A life taken too soon, no goodbyes, no final moments.  It just was.  And 
we were all left with our hearts on our sleeves wondering what?  Are you serious?  
He's gone?
It is very difficult to process such a tragedy.  Shawn and I felt denial at first, the words, "I
just can't believe it" passing between us over and over.  The phone calls started, words
of condolences, long time friends crying tears of sadness and all I could do was shake my
head in disbelief.  I started pouring through old photo albums, reliving the countless nights
and days we spent together, laughing at old stories and inside jokes only our group of
friends could understand.  And the more I looked, the more real it became.  He is gone.
We met Mike when we moved to New Orleans so many years ago: a charismatic rebel with
a true zest for life.  He had a laugh that was contagious, a mischievous grin, and a free spirit.
It was a time in our lives when no one had cell phones, there was no Facebook or
Instagram, most people only used their computers to illegally download music.  We
LIVED,  we lived so big and loud and free, a group of hippies with no responsibilities and
the Big Easy at our disposal.  We went to rock shows and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon, danced
at the Shim Sham and jumped up on stage at Rock'n'Bowl.  We had late night singalongs
with our mish mash of instruments on the back porch, Sunday afternoon BBQs and
hurricane parties.  And in all those memories, wrapped up in all those stories, was Mike.
Years later, we all started getting married and having babies and building careers, some of
us moving to different places while others stayed.  But, despite the distance and different
life stages, we remained in each other's lives.  Phone calls to check in, weekend trips back
to the city, reunions at Jazz Fest where we picked up right up where we left off.  Our band
of friends that was more like family, a group of individuals that felt empowered when we
were all together.  It is a special blessing in life to know such special souls, to find love
and comfort in a group of people who accept you and love you for who you are, who
find beauty in your flaws and love you in spite of them.  
And it was in remembering all those times that I came to realize that Mike is and never will
be gone.  He will forever live on in all of us, in the memories that we all hold so dear.  He
will forever be the brother who, instead of warning me not to jump a fence or climb on top
of the roof, offered me a helping hand and a shoulder to stand on and said, "Let's make this
shit happen!".  He lived life his own way, truly dancing to the beat of his own heavy
metal drum.  And we are all the better for having danced with him. 
Listening to this today, Mikey.  You are a very loved man.