Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013: In Photos and a Few Words

Christmas 2013 was:

River's first Christmas
Monkey bread for breakfast
Parties and dinners with family and friends for four days straight
Christmas carol singalongs with my brother on guitar and Shawn on the drums
"Miracle on 34th Street" on repeat
Staying up late to wait for Santa with Shawn and my mom
Isabelle serving on the alter at Christmas Eve mass
Peppermint tea and deep talks around the fire
Fighting over Barbies
Christmas Eve pajama party with the cousins
Slowing down and savoring the moment
Adding an extra plate or two as we welcomed more and more visitors
A warm home filled with love and a mama learning to embrace the mess
Cookies before bed

Friday was for a family trip to the zoo for the holiday light safari, Saturday was for last minute shopping and cookie baking, Sunday was for dinner and football with my Dad's side of the family, and Monday was for getting all dressed up for a big party with my Mom's side of the family.

306 173 067



Isabelle played Christmas carols on the piano on Christmas Eve and the boy cousins loved on River.

111 150

We are so blessed to have friends who are more like family.

196 129

People say we look alike...


When he takes a break from nursing just to look up at me and smile: heart bursting moment.


Matching jammies are a must.  So are silly faces.


Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.  Best, most simple, most appreciated Christmas we've ever had. 

208 221 209 224

Christmas Day was a slow cooked roast, a honey baked ham, and staying in our jammies all day. 


241 244

Last year on Christmas morning, we shared the news with our parents that we were expecting another baby.  This year, we held him in our arms and thanked our lucky stars that he belongs to our family.


Another year of family and traditions and memories made.  I pray that these three will always look forward to spending the holidays with each other as their families grow.


Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Peace and love throughout this holiday season from our family to yours!!!  We are so excited to celebrate baby River's first Christmas, to cook all of our favorite holiday treats, to watch excited little girls open their gifts, and to create new memories together as a family.  We wish you good health and extra special time with the ones you love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Christmas Diaries: Don't Stop Believing

This just might be the last year she BELIEVES.

Isabelle is 9 1/2 years old and she's started asking questions:
How can Santa really travel to everyone's house in one night?
Why do they have fake Santas at the mall?
Are there really such things as flying reindeer?

We give her simple answers, usually off the cuff, but keep things pretty realistic:
Santa's time is not OUR time, one night to pass out toys to all of the children is much longer than just one night in Santa time.
The fake Santas at the mall are just some of Santa's friends who travel around playing the part to spread Christmas joy and cheer.
Yes, there really are flying reindeer.  And little elves and a big 'ole sleigh and a toy making workshop. Santa is magical and wonderful and so full of love.  He gets his joy from giving to others, a truly selfless person. He is a wonderful example of the humility and grace we should strive to practice daily.

We suspect she will at least pretend to believe for quite some time, even when she actually doesn't. She likes the magic and the excitement and the whimsy.  This year, she studied about Saint Nicholas in her religion class.  She was so taken with his story: the protector of children, a man so generous and a true role model for living a compassionate life.  He lived by the Gospel and used his entire inheritance taking care of the sick, the poor, and the needy.  Isabelle was so taken by the idea that Santa Claus was actually born from the life's work of the selfless St. Nick.

This is how we have presented Santa Claus to our children: not just a jolly old man who gives them gifts for being "good".  No, Santa Claus is so much more than that.  Santa Claus represents love, compassion, and generosity.  And the sweet little elf on the shelf that he sent to watch over our girls, Freddie, falls right in with those beliefs.  Freddie is not here to cause mischief or threaten the girls and send bad reports back to the North Pole.  He is here as a reminder to be good and sweet and kind, to uphold the Christmas spirit with one another and to honor the legacy of Saint Nicholas.  And so on the day that Isabelle comes to us and asks if Santa is real, this is what we will tell her.  He is real in each and every one of us, in all of the kind and thoughtful things that we do for each other.  The magic of this season, the moral tug we feel to do kind things and care for those in need: that is Santa.

We took a trip to the mall to visit Santa last week and I was so pleased with how everything turned out: the line moved quickly, Brees managed to get only 2 stains on her dress before the photo, River was wide awake, and no one cried.  And Isabelle took it upon herself to be the family representative, telling Santa what her little brother and sister want for Christmas and assuring him that they have been very, very good.

This just might be the last year she BELIEVES.  We're going to make it the best year yet.


Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Christmas Diaries: Light 'Em Up

We dropped Isabelle off at her piano lesson, 5 minutes early instead of 5 minutes late for a change. She knows the routine: I usually bide my time waiting to pick her up by bringing the two little kids to my office where we have snacks and play on the chalkboard.  This night, however, we went out for milkshakes, Isabelle's favorite treat, to prepare for the fun night ahead.  This night, instead of rushing home to finish homework and bath time and everything in between, we stayed out late and left our normal routine behind.

It was cold outside but they wanted milkshakes anyway. Typical.  "We're going to drive around and look at all of the Christmas lights!!" I called out from the front seat.  I have no idea what their response was because I couldn't hear anything over the sound of their little girl squeals.  Something so simple made them so happy.  As we drove through town, Christmas music playing on the radio, we took turns pointing out lights to each other.  We picked which houses we liked best: Isabelle likes multicolored lights, Brees like blue, I prefer classic white.  We parked our car and ran around the courthouse square, lights twinkling in every direction.  They were positively giddy, the crisp night air whipping through their hair as they ran and oohed and aahed their way around town.  River woke up just in time to see the lights, his big (still blue) eyes wide with curiosity as he took in the sights and sounds of his first Christmas season.

I felt so nostalgic that night, remembering the years my own mother would pack my brother and I into her car in our pajamas,driving us from one neighborhood to the next looking at lights.  Something so simple still measures up so big in my Christmas memory bank.  But, sometimes that's all it takes to make a big difference in a child's life: a break from routine, sparkles and glitter, being together. It was one of those nights that reminded me that my kids are happy when they see me happy.  They relax and really settle in deep to their inner joy when they see me do the same. I hope that's what they will remember: Mama singing along to the radio, smiling and telling them stories, reassuring them and encouraging them with a full and happy heart. I hope they never forget nights like these.

050-1 062-1 052-1 059-1 053-1

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Diaries: Gang's All Here

This Christmas season has been my most favorite yet!  Maybe it's the girls' ages and how into it they are, maybe it's the phase of life we're in and our commitment this year to slow down.  We have been soaking in each and every day since Thanksgiving and making the most of our time together as a family: relishing in our longstanding traditions and rejoicing over making new ones.  This week, I want to take a moment to reflect on all of these magical Christmas memories we are making, these days I don't ever want to forget.  These are moments that I want my kids to remember forever, days that I hope to share with our grandchildren, traditions that will be passed down and talked about for years to come.  Because these are not days to waste away, they are a part of our story.  Every ornament, every snow globe, every trip to look at lights and every song we sing around the piano: these moments define us as a family.

This week, Shawn's mother and stepfather flew in from Arizona for an early Christmas celebration. I am so thankful that they came BEFORE Christmas, before all of the hustle and bustle, the sugar/gift overload frenzy.  They were our calm before the storm, a week filled with quality grandparent love. The girls soaked all of the attention in and baby River was able to meet his Nana and Papa for the very first time.  He was smitten, of course.

My father in law is the kind of man who likes to "piddle" around the house.  Give him a honey do list and you won't see him again until you call him in for supper.  He fixed lighting fixtures and chopped firewood and installed a brand new faucet for my kitchen sink.  In return, I fattened him up good, the Southern way, with a roast and mashed potatoes and my cornbread dressing and more desserts than he's probably had all year.  It was a nice arrangement, really.

My mother in law gave everyone haircuts, including Brees' first haircut ever.  There was lots of bribery involved but she pulled it off and Brees is now sporting a fresh new do.  Nana spoiled the kids in the way that only a Nana can: taking them shopping and on movie dates and staying up late reading books. My mother in law is THE most thoughtful gift giver and I almost cried when I opened up my gift: my first ring sling, something she knew that I would love and use daily.  And when she asked us all to dress in matching "Duck Dynasty" pajamas and take a family photo, I couldn't help but smile and eagerly agree.  Her youthful joy is contagious and I will cherish those photos forever.

Shawn and I are so thankful that our kids had the chance to spend a week with their grandparents. Every time they leave to fly home to Arizona, I cry and hope and wish for a day that we can all live closer.  There is no gift greater for a child than the love of a grandparent.  Especially at Christmas time. 

045 025 027 020 018-1 016-1 039 043 040 

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stats: Month Three


River at three months:

Feeding:  River is nursing every 2-3 hours during the day.  I don't time him: he nurses for as long as he wants to on one side and then, if he is still hungry, he nurses for as long as he wants to on the other side.  His first morning feeding is the longest feeding of the day.  I went back to work this month and River got his first bottle of pumped breast milk. We started a whole new routine with me going back to work: I feed River at 7 am right before I leave, he gets a bottle of pumped breast milk some time between 10-11, and then I nurse him when I get home from work around 1. River did not like his bottle for the first week or so and only drank a few ounces of milk while I was gone. It took about a week or two for him to adjust but he is now taking his bottle just fine.  Shawn really enjoys participating in the feeding process. I am so thankful that I only have to be away from home for about 6 hours each day because that means I only have to pump one time during my work day.  I am currently pumping about twice the amount of milk that River actually needs thanks to my morning bowl of oatmeal and a mid morning snack of lactation cookies.  Our freezer is filling up with milk stores and I feel confident that we will be able to continue this journey for a good long time despite the fact that I work outside the home.


Sleep:  This was a REALLY bad month for sleep.  When I went back to work, it completely threw River's sleep cycle off track.  He reverted back to his newborn pattern of sleeping all day and staying up all night.  He LITERALLY woke up around 10 pm and then stayed awake until 4 am.  Shawn and I were walking zombies for the first half of this month, taking turns rocking and holding the baby all through the night, begging him to fall asleep.  We went on a sleep revision mission: during the day, Shawn woke River up from his naps rather than waiting for him to wake up on his own, not letting him sleep for longer than 3 hours at a time during the day.  We kept the curtains open in our room during the day to let light in, all in an effort to teach his body the difference between day and night.  At night, we started winding down around 6 pm with a feeding, bath time, reading and prayers with the girls, and then bed at 7.  We kept the lights dim and the room very quiet at night, putting him straight to bed after his night feedings.  After about a week of this routine, River's body clock regulated and he started sleeping at night again, waking up only once or twice a night to nurse.  He is still sleeping in our room: he spends most of the night in his bassinet next to our bed as he has outgrown his cosleeper.  He loves to be rocked to sleep, my favorite time of the day still.


Milestones:  This month, River attended his first LSU game, celebrated his first Halloween, became an official thumb sucker, and took his first trip to the children's museum. He is by far the most mobile and easy going of any of our babies, most likely because he is the third child and has no other option but to go with the flow.  

Health: River has been taking probiotics for a full month now and I can not sing their praises enough. I wish so much that I had known about the benefits of infant probiotics with my older kids! Any and all colic symptoms, reflux, gas pains: it's all gone.  His gastrointestinal system is much more regulated and he is, as a result, such a happy baby.  He has regular bowel movements and rarely spits up. Probiotics are a serious God send!! 


Personality:  River laughs and smiles and coos constantly.  He loves to watch his sisters play, mostly from the comfort of his sling or the Ergo.  He loves to be held and cuddled and rocked.  He loves to take a bath and kicks his little legs in the water.  River "talks" a lot and is VERY loud.  On the rare occasions that he cries,  there's no ignoring it.  This baby boy has a voice and knows how to use it!

This month was a big adjustment for all of us with my return to work.  I am so thankful that Shawn is now in a position in life to stay home with our younger two children.  Leaving home to go to work is a thousand times easier when you are leaving your children with their father.  Shawn has taken on his role as a stay at home dad with great pride and determination and I am so incredibly proud of him. Our son is a very lucky boy to have such an amazing father to guide him through life.  

Click To Vote For Us @ the Top Baby Blogs Directory! The most popular baby blogs

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make It Count

It's been a long week.  Don't the weeks after a nice holiday break always feel that way?  A stack of paperwork needing my attention, two books at my bedside begging to be read, work commitments that now feel like commitments rather than career goals, emails to be answered, to-do lists growing by the minute.  And I just can't seem to get to it all.  Because, truly, my heart is so fully invested in my family right now that I am having trouble letting anything else in. My head is still stuck in the 4 day weekend we just had, all together, and I can't seem to get into a rhythm this week.

"There are just not enough hours in the day", Shawn and I say to each other at least once a day. We work and we play and we clean and we cook and, before you know it, it's time to do it all over again. We stretch ourselves thin sometimes, never getting enough sleep, rarely finishing a whole meal.  But we are living this life so big right now, we are doing this life with all of the energy that we can muster and we're giving it our 110%.  Why? Because we know that these days are priceless, no matter how difficult.  We know that, in the blink of an eye, they will be over.  We know that this time in our children's lives, this time when they are so pure and innocent and willing to learn and love us completely: it will pass as quickly as the seasons go by.

As a home health nurse, I take care of mostly elderly patients.  I go into their homes and hear their stories and look at their photos.  They tell me about their weddings and their husbands going off to the war and their wives washing laundry on a washboard.  They tell me about their children, many of them with families that included 5 or 6 or even 9 kids.  Their eyes sparkle as they relive their "younger days", "the good 'ole days", the times in their lives when they were healthy and young and full of life.  They never, ever talk about lack of sleep or toddler temper tantrums, they never recount the turmoil that is potty training or not having enough "me" time.  Because, in the grand scheme of things, those things don't matter.  Those aren't the things we're going to remember.  The hard parts of raising kids, the messy and the ugly and the frustration, we'll forget about all of that just like we forget about the pain of labor.  What we WILL remember: the sound of little feet coming down the stairs and crawling into our beds just before dawn, the beautiful sight of our husband carrying our daughter on his shoulders, the splashing in the bathtub and the baby crawling into the cabinets.  We'll remember the GOOD, and the hard and the bad and the inconveniences will be completely insignificant.  In the big picture.

And this is what I've been carrying with me all week: breathe, Liv.  Those things that you think are so important, those "to dos", they can wait.  These kids, these moments, the magic that is the Christmas season, it can not.  This is my NEW rhythm, this is my season to enjoy being a mama and to be the best at it that I can possibly be. Everything else can wait, everything else will still be there when I'm ready to come back.  Right now, I'm going to take the advice of my patients and "Enjoy this time in your life, honey.  You'll never get these years back.  These are the best years".  The best, the hardest, and the most rewarding.  Let's make it count.

062 073 079 101 066 070 074 087 104 109 111 117 114 

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!