Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It Takes A Village

Last month, when we found out that Shawn would need to have surgery again to repair a torn tendon in his arm, I found myself in a very dark and lonely place.  This was not the news we expected to receive less than two months before the baby was born.  This was not how we had planned to spend the remainder of our summer.  I worried and stressed and cried and felt defeated: how would we do it all?  Last year, after the accident, I carried the weight of the load while Shawn was down.  But, this year, I am in the home stretch of my pregnancy.  I don't have the energy and strength that I typically do because my body is fully engaged in the business of birth.
This year, I had to ask for help.  And not just ask for help, but be humble enough to accept it.  I had to admit to myself and the people who love me that I can not in fact do it all.  Our family was in need and we couldn't get through this time by ourselves.  I read a quote during this time, I can't remember where or who wrote it, but it said, "We are not, in fact, strong enough to get through these times.  We don't have to be.  God is with us.  He is all the strength we need".  I read those words and let them sink down deep into my soul, sitting with them as I cried on my husband's shoulder.  Those words made me feel whole, they gave me hope.  Because you can't just have faith and be positive and feel inspired during the good times, my friends.  You have to be all of those things during the hard times as well.  The hard times: they are the true test.  They are the times when you truly realize who you are and what you are made of.  They are the times that draw the people you love closer together.
And the people we love: they came out in droves.  This time around, they weren't listening to me even when I tried to refuse their help or claimed to have it all under control.  The people we love came in and scooped us up and did God's work.  They shushed me when I cried and thanked them a million times over.  "You would do the same for us", I heard over and over.  "This is what family is all about", "What are friends for?", "Let me know if there is anything else I can do".  Our village came out and raised up our roof and carried us through this storm and before we knew it we were on the other side of that mountain that seemed so daunting only a few weeks before.  
My mother did our grocery shopping.  Shawn's mother flew in from Arizona and stayed with us for two weeks.  My cousin tackled our yard work.  My aunts and cousins sent over freezer meals to keep us fed for weeks.  My best friends took me out for a pedicure and lunch and brought us dinner as well.  Shawn's grandparents drove in and spent a whole week cooking and cleaning and helping us get the nursery ready.  And all that help allowed me the time and energy to focus on getting Shawn well and keeping myself healthy.  For those three weeks, I didn't have to worry about cooking or cleaning or running errands.  I just had to go to work and focus on my family.  Everything else: it all came together thanks to our village.
Words never feel like enough when you owe such a great debt.  "Thank you" seems so insignificant when people have poured their hearts and souls into keeping you afloat.  But I say them anyway: thank you.  I say them every night in my prayers when I ask God to return the favor to these people I hold so dear.  I believe that every hardship in life leaves you with a lesson learned and a little more strength to lean on next time.  This particular roller coaster we've just been on: it taught me so much about the people who have been placed in my life.  It inspired me to do great things for my neighbor every chance I get.  It reminded me to rely on my faith and believe in possibility.  This time in our lives: it taught me to see beauty in the unexpected.  It wasn't the summer we had planned, the end of my pregnancy as I had expected, but it turned out completely beautiful regardless.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Belly Casting

Shawn and I went on a sweet little day date on Saturday, just the two of us.  We visited a
local artist to have a belly cast made, a project I've always wanted to try but never got
around to.  Since this is our third baby and we were blessed to have a very short list of things
to buy, having a piece of art made to commemorate this pregnancy seemed like a luxury
worth splurging on.  Danielle, the artist who cast me, creates some pretty amazing and
unique pieces and we had such a nice time collaborating with her to find something that fits
our aesthetic.  Her studio was a warm and calming space and her energy was so inspiring.
She complimented my "goddess spirit" and I felt so blessed to be in the presence of a
fellow mother who embraces the journey of pregnancy as much as I do.  The baby kicked
and squirmed the entire time, making his strong presence known.  And Shawn made me
feel like the most beautiful and adored woman in the world, encouraging and praising me
and making the day so special for both of us.  We finished off the afternoon with a big
sushi dinner and Japanese tea.  I'm not sure how often we'll be able to sneak off for
special little afternoons such as these in the new future so I found myself savoring
every moment, letting my heart sink a little deeper into the present.  

The next morning, the four of us set to work getting the house cleaned and laundry
done before we set out for another week.  We put the baby's bassinet up in our room:
fresh sheets and a baby blanket shared by his two sisters before him.  Brees was fascinated
by the whole process, leaning over the bed and peeking inside, so curious about this new
piece of furniture and what it means to our family.  It was the perfect weekend to begin
the final push that is the next few weeks: creative, inspiring, and full of love.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

35 Weeks

This week was a memorable one for me because I feel like the reality of how close we are to
the arrival of the baby really set in throughout our house.  More and more baby items are
now on display throughout our home.  Brees now calls the baby by name, giving my belly
big hugs and talking to her little brother as I rock her to sleep.  Isabelle has begun an
official countdown and reminds me every day of how quickly the days are dwindling down.
And Shawn: he is the person who is being hit the hardest with anticipation.  After we saw
the orthopedic specialist last week and were given the good news that his post
surgery recovery is right on target, I could visibly see the weight of the world lift off
my husband's shoulders.  His spirit became lighter and more vibrant and I realized
how worried he has been about getting well before the baby gets here.  Hearing the news
that he should be as good as new in the next few weeks gave him some kind of internal
release to really get excited, to let go of any doubts or fears and just experience the joy that
is upon us.  I overheard him bragging about the baby to his friends, speculating about when
he will get here.  He gave my belly extra rubs, smiling when the baby answered him back with
a couple of kicks.  This week, I fell a little deeper in love with my husband as I watched him
fall a little deeper in love with his son.  

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

34: Let's Do This

I turned 34 years old on Tuesday.  Another year of my story has passed, a year where
I've learned more about myself and what truly matters to me.  I learned to have more
patience, to accept the fact that I have very little control over anything, and that I am
stronger than I give myself credit for.  I learned to overlook a messy kitchen and a pile
of laundry, I learned to say "no" when it was necessary and "help me" when it was required.
I learned that many of the convictions I stood by so staunchly in my twenties were not
nearly as black and white as I once thought.  I learned that it's okay to cry and have a bad
day and not always be the bravest of the brave even if that's what the people around
me expect.  I became a better cook but slacked on my housework.  I fell even more
hopelessly in love with my children and husband and became very aware of how blessed I
am to have such great friends and family in my life.  I had many successes, quite a few
failures, and embraced who I was and where I am going in life.  34: I can't wait to see what
you have in store for me this year.
We kept my birthday very simple, just the way I like it.  After work on Monday, Shawn and
I made the 4 1/2 hour drive to Houston for his post-op appointment with the
orthopedic specialist.  We checked into a hotel near the hospital, ordered in pizza, and
watched a couple of episodes of "Sons of Anarchy" (our current television obsession) in
bed.  We arrived at the hospital early on Tuesday morning and were relieved to hear
that Shawn's arm is healing right on schedule.  He was given the okay to begin range of
motion exercises and he is now allowed to drive and take bathes: two small things in life
that are big things when you aren't allowed to do them!  My one request for the day: to eat a
big country breakfast.  As soon as we left the hospital, we found a nearby restaurant and
did just that, filling up on pancakes and bacon and chocolate milk.  We drove home
and enjoyed the time together, just the two of us, talking and laughing the whole way.
We made it home and picked up our girls, the four of us relieved that this is probably the
last time we will have to go back to Houston for a long while.  My sweet husband and
daughters surprised me with a homemade card, hand painted coffee mugs, and ice
cream before bed.  The next day, they made me a double chocolate cake and placed a
special birthday banner in the kitchen.  The candles proudly boasted "35", a mistake we
all laughed about, especially after Shawn swore that it wasn't a mistake at all, he just
couldn't find the number 4 candle.  We attempted to take a few photos, most of which
were blurry, crooked, and involved Brees doing everything but looking into the camera.
It was wonderful, the whole thing, crazy and simple and full of love.  Just how I like it.
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

34 Weeks

I feel like my last few pregnancy posts have all been about losing control of bodily
functions.  Oh, the joys of motherhood.  This week was my last week to serve as the
on-call nurse for my job before I go on maternity leave next month.  I think that my
boss decided that I may not be of very much help to my patients in the event of an
emergency considering I am currently moving at a snail's pace.  And waddling like a duck.
And barely able to keep my eyes open past 8 pm.  I must say that saying goodbye to the
on-call rotation was a welcomed departure.  It is a big, mentally exhausting responsibility
and my current state of mind is just too wrapped up in baby land to handle it well.  As I begin
to move inward and prepare for the birth of the baby, I look forward to my time off work
more and more.  Those few months away from my career will do us all good and I am
so excited to throw myself into my job as a full time mother.
I am currently feeling very, very pregnant.  My face is full, my chins are plentiful, and
my ankles are becoming a distant memory.  It's that time: the point in pregnancy when
you begin to feel like your body is no longer your own.  It belongs to the baby, every
growing, swelling, aching inch of it.  At this point, he is gaining more and more weight as
well: 1/2 a pound a week to be exact.  He is filling out and getting stronger and preparing
to enter this big, bright world.  To say I am beyond ready to hold this little guy in my arms
and never let go is an understatement.  
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Summer Recipe For Fun

A recipe for how to fill your summer days:
Ingredients needed:
2 sisters (additional siblings/friends welcomed and encouraged)
1 giant pile of dirt
Various sand toys/kitchen tools stolen from Mom
Buckets of water 
Parents who don't care how dirty you get, as long as you are having fun
A big family dog to help you dig holes
Plop yourself in the middle of the pile of dirt with your toys and have at it.
Forget any and all rules, your imaginations are in charge.
There are no time limits, Mom and Dad are watching you from the garden and they will let
you know when it's time to come inside.
Make lots of mud, it is the key ingredient for mud pies.
Don't worry about getting your clothes dirty: that's what the water hose is for.
Laugh with your sister and make lots of memories.  The two of you have a relationship like
no other and it deserves to be celebrated.  You are such lucky girls to have each other.
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Sunday, July 14, 2013

33 Weeks

They say there's a first time for everything.  Well, in my last trimester for my third baby,
I experienced a first.  A first that I hope will be a last.
On my way to work this week, I suddenly began to feel very sick: nauseated, stomach pain,
and heart burn that just wouldn't quit.  I kept driving, sipping on my water and popping
Tums like no tomorrow.  Suddenly, I felt the baby twisting and turning and, before I
even realized what was happening, I vomited.  While driving.  All over myself and the
entire driver's side portion of my car.  I had no control over my body, I just heaved and
puked uncontrollably while simultaneously trying to steer my car to the side of the road.
Once I was safely parked, I opened my door and continued to vomit in the grass.  
I finally got control of myself, took my completely soaked shirt off, turned my car around,
and drove home in my bra, covered in puke.  Shawn looked at me in horror as I walked into
the house half dressed and crying my eyes out.  I was a mess in every way.  Thankfully, I
had an appointment with my doctor that day and was able to tell her all about my heart
burn and acid reflux issues.  She gave me the biggest hug, let me cry through the
whole appointment, and gave me all the reassurance I needed.  She called in a prescription
for Prilosec, a medicine she promised would bring sweet relief from the gastric issues I've
been having.  And we scheduled an ultrasound for next week so that we can peek in on
this little boy who's been pressing on his mama's gastrointestinal system for the last month.
I'm always hesitant to take medications during pregnancy, regardless of if my doctor says
they are safe or not.  To which my doctor responds: "What's more dangerous?  Taking
a medication that will make you feel better and is proven to be safe for pregnant women
or vomiting while driving due to out of control acid reflux?".  Point well made, doc, point
well made.  Three days later: the medicine is already working, I haven't had heart burn
or thrown up since, and my car is all nice and shiny and clean again.  Thank you
modern medicine.  They say that having severe heart burn while pregnant means that
your baby will be born with a head full of hair.  Apparently, our son is working on a full
blown afro as we speak.
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Preparing for Baby: Must Haves

My list for pregnancy must haves has gotten shorter and shorter with each pregnancy.  Most
of the items I value for survival these days are simply for comfort and luxury, tools to 
make me feel better and to accommodate my growing body.
1.  Earthsavers Prevent Lotion
Third pregnancy, third time using this lotion made by a local New Orleans company,
ZERO stretch marks!!  This lotion is all natural, very light and non-greasy, with a fresh scent.
I use it from the time I find out I'm pregnancy until several months after I have the baby
to promote skin elasticity.  It's fantastic.
2.  Sanuk sandals
Sandals made from recycled yoga mats?  Yes, please!  I have a pair of flip flops AND a pair
of Sanuk sandals and I love them so much.  They are so comfortable and
supportive: important requirements for a pregnant mama who's always on her feet.
3.  The Bump Nest Body Pillow
This pillow was my biggest splurge but it was worth every penny and then some.  I was
having serious back pain and leg cramps and waking up every hour on the hour throughout
my second trimester.  Since buying this pillow, I am sleeping better then ever.  It is so soft
and supportive and can be positioned in so many different ways to accommodate
my constantly changing body.  It's even come in handy with my newest problem, heart
burn, as it can be used to elevate your upper body.  If you follow me on Instagram,
 you've probably seen multiple photos of me with this giant pillow.  It's basically become
an official family member!

Oops, there's no room for anyone else on the couch because Mommy's obnoxious pregnancy pillow 
is taking up all the room?  Sorry!!

A husband who walks into the hotel lobby with his wife's pregnancy photo on his shoulders: 
true love.

4.  Rainbow Light Prenatal Vitamins
These vitamins are food based, all natural, and contain ginger extract to assist with
digestive issues.  No preservatives or artificial yuckiness make them the perfect vitamin
for me.
5.  Maxi Skirts
Old Navy maxi skirts all day, every day.  Cool and comfortable clothing are
requirements while pregnant during the summer months and wearing a skirt makes me feel
a little more put together.  Old Navy's skirts are good quality for a fair price, bottom line.

6.  ASOS maternity swimsuit
Should the words "maternity" and "swimsuit" even be used in the same sentence?
Definitely NOT my favorite item to shop for while pregnant but I live in a state with
90-100 degree temps and we are in the water for most of the summer.  Finding a swimsuit
that didn't completely destroy my self esteem was pretty essential.  ASOS saved the day
with their maternity line: this swimsuit is so comfortable and flattering and lasts from
the beginning of my pregnancy until the end, holding everything in and accentuating
my assets.  A maternity swimsuit that makes you feel semi good about yourself: score!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're All Crazy

Why are my kids perfectly quiet and satisfied and entertained until the moment I pick up the
phone to have a quick conversation?  Why does the sound of my voice on the telephone suddenly
 send them into a tailspin of screaming and crying?  What is it about mommy on the phone
that causes them to suddenly lose their marbles and demand 100% of my attention?

Why can't kids vomit in a contained space?  Why must they projectile vomit and cover every
square inch of the room they are in?  Why must their vomit cover every piece of fabric
and/or upholstery in a 10 foot radius?  Even when you were a prepared mommy and had a
bucket right in front of them?

Why do kids wait until you're a mile from home to finally fall asleep?  And then refuse to go back
to sleep after you carry them into the house despite the fact that they are exhausted?  Why do
kids fight sleep at all?

What's the deal with food not being allowed to touch other food on a plate?  Why do they love
certain foods one week and then despise them the next?  Why do they refuse to eat but then climb
up into your lap and eat the food off your plate?

Why do kids only poop their pants and mess up their clothes on the one day a year you forget to
pack an extra outfit?  And you're out of napkins?  And there's no clean gas station for miles?

Are kids born with an internal radar that gives them the ability to detect the exact moment
that Mommy and Daddy are trying to get it on?  How do they always seem to know when we
are about to love up on each other?  And then just about break the door down trying to infiltrate
the crime scene AKA our own personal bedroom that they also think is their own?

Why do kids wait until 9:00 pm to inform you that they need $50 cash and 14 different papers
signed for school the very next day?  Oh, and a fresh baked pie, too?  And a hand made craft and
4 hours of volunteer time?

The answer: because parenting these little darlins' is the biggest adventure of all.  Because it's full
of twists and turns and surprises and all you're left to do at the end of the day is to laugh at the
pure ridiculousness of it all.  These kids are absolutely nuts and we are even more nuts while trying
to show them the way.  Most days, Shawn and I look at each other and ask, "Is this for real?".  Yes,
yes it is.  It's for real and it's hilarious and I wouldn't change it for the world.  I love you, crazy girls.
I love you so much.


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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Family Garden: What We've Learned

Even as the temperatures reach the upper 90's here in Louisiana, our little garden that could
is still pumping out produce like a champ.  This was our first year venturing into raised 
bed garden territory and we've found lots of things that worked and a few that utterly 
failed.  We've lost plants, tried to tame those that grew beyond belief, fought bugs and 
pests, and enjoyed meal after meal of organic goodness.  It has been quite the adventure!  
Here are a few notes I made along the way:
1.  Next year, we plan to add on.  I will be the first to admit that we were a bit overzealous
with the number of plants we put into our humble sized box.  Though everyone thrived, we
had a few issues due to overcrowding including a few moldy plants.  Next year, we plan to
build a separate box for squash and zucchini and a narrow box with fencing for
cucumbers, giving us three separate boxes and plenty of room.
2.  Speaking of squash and zucchini, I had no idea what real estate hogs those plants are.
I TOTALLY underestimated how big they get and how much they spread out throughout
the garden and bully all the other plants.  We had to transplant three of our squash plants
and put them elsewhere when they completely covered up the tomatoes.  I went out one
night to water them and noticed that they were covered in a white powder: I later learned
this was mold and most likely caused by overcrowding.  I first had to prune the affected
leaves off the plants.  I then sprayed them with baking soda diluted with water.  Then,
I moved several plants out of the garden to give the other girls more room to breath.  They
all survived and even thrived after several applications of the baking soda mix.  Next
year, these girls will have their own raised bed.
3.  Once we cleared up the mold problem, we noticed a family of slugs making themselves
at home.  First solution: stop watering the garden too close to sunset.  This is a tricky
situation in hot and humid Louisiana.  If you water your garden during the day when the sun
is still hot and high, you will fry your plants (literally) and lose everything.  But if you
water them TOO late in the afternoon, they will stay moist throughout the evening and
attract bugs, particularly slugs.  So, we had to experiment with watering times, finding
the perfect balance between late in the afternoon but not to late.  We also dug a few small
holes in the garden, buried shallow yogurt cups at soil level, and filled them with beer.
Slugs are attracted to these little beer jacuzzis and can be extracted from there.  Cheap
and easy solution!
4.  Next came the leaf footed bug AKA tomato killer.  These bugs are a member of the
stink bug family and swarm the tomato plants and eat their way through your beautiful
fruit.  These bugs appeared in early June and threatened to kill all of our plants.
Solution: spray the plants with dish washing soap diluted with water.  We had to do this
daily for several weeks to keep the bugs off but it actually worked.  Next year, we will
plant companion plants next to the raised bed garden to ward off these bugs: I've been
told that sunflowers are a sure shot to keep them away.
5.  We got the girls really involved.  They helped us water the garden every night, learned
how to prune, pulled weeds, and learned when to harvest the veggies.  Allowing them to be
so hands on was a big help to Shawn and I and an excellent learning experience for them.
I overheard Belle telling me mom the other day, "You can really taste the difference
between our home grown veggies and the store bought stuff.  It's from the earth and it's
real and good".  Bursting with pride mother moment.
6.  You don't need a lot of fancy tools to make a garden work.  We used bamboo sticks with
cut up t-shirts to hold our tomato plants into place, our own compost for fertilizer,
and homemade concoctions to take care of the pests.  The beauty of gardening is in
the mistakes, the experimenting, finding and fixing small problems and watching nature
work. Enjoy the process, make notes along the way, and enjoy the ride.