Friday, January 31, 2014



A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014.

I didn't go into work on Friday because of the snow, Isabelle was out of school as well.  We spent the whole day playing in the snow and then warming up by the fire, going in and out, tracking snow all throughout the house.  I made gumbo for dinner and we fell asleep watching movies on the living room floor. It was the best day: no worries, nowhere to be, just the great outdoors and the most unusual weather.  We had the best time, all together, in that big snow covered yard.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Staying In


My favorite days are the days with nowhere to be, no alarm clock to set, just the sound of my baby boy next to me cooing in his early morning sleepy voice.  I pull him next to me and nurse him in the quiet, the curtains pulled back just enough to let the early morning light in.  I doze back off as he nurses, the feeling of being able to stay in bed so luxurious to me.  Most days, I have to pop up as soon as my alarm goes off, my early morning routine in full swing in order to get the day started.  But days like these, I soak in the stillness with every ounce of my being.  

Shawn wakes up slowly, he's not a morning person at all.  He opens his eyes and sees River and I awake and smiles at us, pulls us close to him.  It is one of the few moments the three of us have together alone, just the three of us, and we cherish it.  I am so thankful that my son has this man to look up to, this father who will teach him how to love and nurture.  He is strong and tough and masculine but so sensitive and affectionate and deep.  I hope that our son shares some of these traits.

"Did you sleep good?", we both ask each other.  We recount stories of the dogs barking at 2 am, Brees getting up after a bad dream.  We decide on a breakfast menu: biscuits and scrambled eggs with chai tea. And just as we're about to get up, we pull the covers back over us and stay in bed for a little while longer.  We don't have to get up yet.  So we don't.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sneaux Day On The Bayou

The local news channel warned us of snow and ice on Friday morning, causing school cancellations and panic throughout our community.  Mentioning the words "freezing" and/or "ice" will push the residents of Louisiana into doomsday mode. But I went to bed on Thursday night filled with doubt: they're exaggerating, it rarely ever snows here, I'm sure we're overreacting.  As soon as I heard our two little girls come bounding down the stairs early Friday morning, however, I knew that I was wrong.

"It's snowing, it's snowing!!!", they yelled at the tops of their lungs, flinging the curtains up, showing us the yard filled with snow.  It was as if a big white magic carpet had landed in our yard overnight, covering our usually green filled world.  We got dressed as quickly as possible, laughing at our complete lack of snow appropriate gear. The girls ran around the yard, catching snowflakes in their mouths, shaking it out of their hair, and throwing snow at each other. It was coming down fast and hard and Brees said, "It's so cold and wet, Mom!", running back into the house and the warmth of the fire.  She took a while to warm up to the idea of playing in freezing cold ice, her Southern blood finding the whole experience pretty unnatural. She watched from the safety of the front door at first, waving to us, working up the courage to brave the cold.  It took a couple of hours and quite a few trips in and out of the house but she finally fell in love with the winter wonderland experience, playing with her little garden tools and chasing after her big sister.

We did every snow day activity we could think of: snowman building, snow angel making, snowball fighting, even snow sledding using one of our laundry baskets.  "This is so magical!!" I repeated over and over, marveling over the way the snow glittered across the front yard, how quiet and still everything felt.  Belle and I went on a hike in the woods behind our house and I really felt like we had been transported to a completely different world. The trees and trails and landscape that are so familiar to us all looked so incredible covered in that white, glittery powder. It was all so special to us because it only happens every decade or so.  We took it all in as though we may never see it again because, truthfully, we don't know if we ever will.  In and out, from sunrise to sunset, we played in the snow, the girls not wanting to come inside even as the grey sky turned dark.  And the best part: it was all still there when we woke up the next morning!  What a memorable weekend it was down on the snow covered bayou!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014



A photo of my family, once a week, every week in 2014.

We meet in Brees' room every night before bed, after about a million distractions of bathroom breaks, more water please, I forgot my Taggie, you did not brush your teeth I can tell, etc. We meet up and gather around the little toddler bed and say our prayers.  Sometimes, we read a story and/or sing a song.  Sometimes, there are tears, I don't want to go to bed yet type temper tantrums.  Some nights we take our time while other nights feel rushed.  Sometimes, I'm so tired myself that I want to crawl right into that toddler bed and sleep until morning. But no matter how tired or grumpy we might all be, it is very, very important to Shawn and I to have this time together as a family, to end each day in fellowship with one another. Sweet dreams, you precious, silly kids!!!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Afternoon In Photos and a Few Words, Too

I'm home from work really early today.  Like, 12 noon early.  I run straight to the shower, calling out HELLO I LOVE YOU I'LL SEE YOU IN JUST A MINUTE to everyone.  I have to shower and change my clothes before I hug or kiss anyone, nasty flu season.  Brees of course follows me into the bathroom and chit chats away with me while I leave Olivia the Nurse behind and settle back into Mommy mode.  She follows me into our bedroom while I get dressed and tells me all about her morning.

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We spend some time together in the kitchen, eating lunch, babies in laps.  I bring Brees upstairs and promise her a cookie when she wakes up from her nap.  She will hold me to it.  I scoop up baby River and we climb into the big bed.  He nurses for a long time, staring up at me, pulling on my hair, holding my hand.  It's so good to be home with him.

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This is his "I've been down on this blanket for too long and why aren't you holding me?!!" face.  This baby boy rarely cries and that's completely due to the fact that at least one of us is always doting on him.  He is a cherished boy. And a bit spoiled, too.


I put River down for his nap and turn my attention to Shawn, the two of us using the precious afternoon nap time to catch up with each other, our chores, starting dinner, emails and phone calls. Shawn makes us each a cup of tea and we enjoy a few moments together. It's only a blink of an eye before the little kids are up from their naps, both of them bright eyed and refreshed.  

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We camp out in front of the windows and wait for big sister to get home.  Brees gets so excited when we see that big yellow school bus pull up.  Belle is greeted with hugs and kisses and baby drool.  I love to watch the kids catch up with each other.  I love how excited they are to see one another after a long day apart.

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The next few hours are a blur of homework and dinner and bath time.  We push through it and try to stay on task: the energy in the house can be a bit overwhelming during this busy time of the night. Shawn builds a nice fire and we all snuggle up in the living room together before bed.  The only time you will ever find Brees Elizabeth sitting still and quiet and relaxed is in front of the fire. She just settles in and slows down.


We tuck the girls in and then listen to them scurrying around upstairs, sneaking into each other's rooms and talking for a while before falling asleep.  River stayed up a little later than usual that night, maybe needing a little extra one on one time with us. We were happy to oblige, obviously.


It was a really good afternoon.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014



A photo of my family, once a week, every week in 2014.

I was on call last week and basically worked 12-16 hours a day every day for 7 days.  It was miserable for all of us.  There are so many sick people out there right now and it seemed like every time I got home from a call out, someone else was calling me to leave again.  When I'm on call, it disrupts our entire household: the babies are grumpy, Shawn and I are both exhausted, I even overslept and Isabelle missed the school bus one morning as a result. When I got home on Sunday night, it was all we could do to get through bath time and crash in the living room, all together. We high fived each other and spent the rest of the night watching football and catching up some much needed rest. We made it through another rotation and I am so proud of my little tribe for pulling together and making it work. There were tears and tantrums and cereal for dinner more than I care to admit but, we made it.  

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Evolution of a Man

My husband has always been the hardest worker I know, the kind of man who comes home after a long day with oil on his clothes and mud on his boots.  His hands have always been rough and calloused and his skin has grown weathered over the years from his "rain or shine" career.  He is most comfortable outdoors, tools in his hands, building or fixing something, having something to look at after a long day and being able to say, "I did that".

For many years, Shawn worked on a multitude of off shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico: Louisiana's most booming industry.  He worked away for two weeks at a time, leaving me at home to hold down the fort.  After he and his comrades completed each hitch, they'd hop on a helicopter and fly back to shore to race home to their families, wives and girlfriends and babies anxiously awaiting their return. It was a grueling career path that required much sacrifice: the conditions were dangerous, the weeks away were tough.  But we learned to enjoy the two weeks a month that he was home, adapting to the schedule shared by many families across the Deep South: two weeks on, two weeks off.  That was our life for many years.  We rescheduled holidays, postponed birthday parties, celebrated early when needed.  I cooked big homecoming dinners and we talked on the phone as much as possible.  We made the most of it and Shawn's unconventional schedule became our "normal".

People often told me, "I don't know how you do it".  But, there was no questions of if or how, the sacrifices were made because this was Shawn's passion. His career was fulfilling and though he hated leaving us for two weeks every month, the pros far outweighed the cons. He made a good living and provided our family with financial security, excellent health insurance, and a solid foundation for which to build our future on.  This was more than just a job.  It was a part of who he was.

But then the accident happened, and the injuries he sustained rendered him unable to ever work on an offshore oil rig again.  No matter how much nerve and muscular function Shawn regains in his arm and hand, he'll never be able to pass the physical required to work in the oil and gas industry again. Just like that, a decade of hard work and perseverance was over and my husband was forced to pull up his boot straps and move on to the next chapter of his life, those days out on the rig now a fond and distant memory.

He struggled with this reality for a very long time.  He mourned the loss of his career, a furious battle brewing inside his soul as he redefined who he was and what he stood for.  What kind of man was he now that he was no longer the primary breadwinner of our family?  What was he contributing now that he was no longer the invincible force he once was?  It is an incredibly humbling and frightening experience to witness a man become a vulnerable and broken version of himself, to watch him fight and kick and scream to start over while simultaneously holding on to what he once was.

But, time heals all wounds: in Shawn's case both physically and emotionally.  It started slowly, with him keeping Brees home from daycare a few days a week.  He saw it as a way to save money and spend extra one on one time with our girl.  I saw it as a way for him to nurture and love our youngest while also contributing to our family, contributing in a domesticated way that was completely new to him.  The few days a week slowly turned into four days and then, at Shawn's insistence, we pulled Brees out of daycare completely.  Those days that they spent together, the lunches he made, the laundry he folded, the running of our household while I was away at work: they were healing him.  He felt needed again, validated as a husband and father.  And I watched his eyes begin to shine again.

Those hands that once worked on machines were now being used to care for our children.  While I put in more hours at work and took on the role of the breadwinner, Shawn stepped up and gave our children his whole heart and soul.  He reassured me constantly through his actions that we were, in fact, a team, his old definitions of what a man should be shifting and evolving into something new.

When I was pregnant for River, I researched our child care options, worried that taking care of two little kids might be too much for my husband, wanting to protect him just as much as I protected the kids. Our babysitter informed me, however, that she was raising her tuition prices and changing her attendance policies, putting me in an absolute panic as I did the math and realized that there was no way we could afford to have two kids in daycare. I came home crying one day, explaining the numbers to Shawn, throwing my hands up and wondering what to do.  But he never broke a sweat, there was never even a moment of consideration.  He already knew.

"They're not going to daycare," Shawn told me with complete confidence.  "I'm going to keep both of them at home full time.  I'm a stay at home dad now, babe."

"Are you sure?" I asked over and over.  Are you sure?  It would be a big undertaking, staying home with two small kids.  But he was determined and excited, believing with every ounce of his being that this was what God had intended for our family all along.  Not for him to be traveling away for half the year, missing out on so much precious time with his family.  Those days were over and rightfully so. This chapter, this chapter was made for us to be together.  Our kids will know what it means to have a father home full time, to be privileged enough to have a stay at home parent.  And so we forged ahead with our new plan, determined to support each other in our new roles as a working mom and stay at home dad.

Now, when people ask me, "What does your husband do for a living?", I proudly tell them that he stays home with our kids.  I've gotten every reaction possible, from confused looks and raised eyebrows to pats on the back and praise and encouragement.  We try not to take the questions and comments too personally, being a stay at home dad just isn't a common occurrence in our community and people tend to need a little time to warm up to the idea.  I'm so proud of him, I tell them. He is the best father to our children and a true gift to our family.  He has taken on his new role with as much passion as he did when he used to fly off on that helicopter. He has rewritten his own personal definition of what a man should be, how he should love, what constitutes a hard day's work. These kids: they are his new adventure.  And he is serving them so well.

My husband is a living example that sometimes life throws you curve balls and knocks you on your ass.  When the going gets tough, you have to find enough courage inside yourself to let the things you once loved go so that you can make room for the things waiting for you.  Though we never imagined these changes, the shifting roles, the pain and struggle that came with it all, we would never take any of it back.  My husband has grown and changed in ways that have completely taken my breathe away and I am so humbled with the grace and patience in which he chooses to move forward.  He refuses to give up, to look back, to live with regret.  Instead, he embraces this journey and pushes me to embrace it right along with him.

I love you, Shawn.  I love the way you love.  Thank you for the many ways in which you teach me what life is truly all about.


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Friday, January 10, 2014

Adventures In Breastfeeding: Survival


When I was pregnant with Isabelle, I focused all of my attention, my heart and my soul, into nurturing my pregnancy.  I had every single baby countdown calendar I could get my hands on, attended birthing classes, read books and magazines and online pregnancy forums.  I took my vitamins and ate good things and did everything that I was supposed to do.  And then the day finally came and she was here and my nurse placed her gently into my arms and said, "Here you go, Mama.  You can nurse her now". And she just walked away.  And left me.  With a brand new baby.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I had spent my entire pregnancy obsessing about my pregnancy.  Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten to prepare for the hardest part: breastfeeding my newborn.

It's supposed to be natural, right?  Your baby is supposed to latch on while you blissfully look down and the bonding just instantly occurs.  But, it didn't happen like that for me.  I had to really, really work at it.  And even with all that working at it, I didn't nurse Belle the way that I wanted to, for as long as I wanted to.  I didn't enjoy the process.  I succumbed to every single negative aspect of nursing: the pain, the perceived inconveniences, the engorgement, the worrying over whether or not my milk came in, is the baby getting enough, what the hell am I doing?

The second time around, I did things very, very differently.  I studied, I read, I talked to other mothers and took notes and collected ideas.  I reached out to the lactation consultant at the hospital and had my pump ready and got my husband on board.  I put my mind to the task and settled in on a goal: I was going to do this and I was going to do it well.  I would not let the negative aspects beat me down. Because it IS hard at first.  It just is.  And going into the newborn phase as a breastfeeding mama: you need to know that. But, you also need to know that it gets BETTER.  Sooner than you might think. It gets easier and easier and you get more comfortable and before you know it, your baby really is latching on effortlessly while you look down at him blissfully.  Just like you had hoped.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way to make that blissful moment happen:

1.  Study.  Study up on breastfeeding.  Read the books, take the classes, ask the questions.  Though breastfeeding is, by all accounts, a natural function of our bodies, it is a learned art.  Study up on proper positioning, how to tell if your baby is latching properly, what to expect and how to handle it. Put the work in and you will be so grateful when the time comes.

2.  Take care of yourself.  Breastfeeding mamas have to drink adequate fluids, we must eat enough calories to support our milk producing bodies. Your milk supply will suffer if you don't make your health a priority, I've experienced it many times.  Keep a glass of water near and a snack on the ready. While you're at it, have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, invest in some mother's milk tea, and learn to bake lactation cookies.  These things all help!

3.  Don't get caught up in the timing.  Infants should nurse on demand which, in the beginning, means constantly. I nurse River on one side until he is completely done, pulling himself off the breast rather than me pulling him off, allowing him to get the all powerful hindmilk.  I then offer the other breast: sometimes he nurses again, sometimes not.  If he doesn't nurse on the other breast, I start him on that side first at the next feeding. The baby knows when he has had enough, he doesn't need me to time him or coax to the other breast. Once I understood this concept and allowed myself to relax and stop looking at the clock, my anxieties started melting away. Remember: there is no pacifying a hungry baby.  When your baby is hungry, stop what you are doing and feed him.  Don't waste your time trying to hold him off, there is no holding off a hungry infant. This might mean pulling over on the side of the road to nurse a hungry babe (been there) or asking your older children to be patient while brother nurses AGAIN (done that). Just go with it. You'll find a rhythm soon enough.

4.  It will hurt, but not for long.  We've all heard it: if you're doing it right, breastfeeding should not hurt.  Well, that's just not true.  In the beginning, breastfeeding DOES hurt: your nipples are sore and your breasts are engorged and everything is leaking and uncomfortable. Take courage: this will pass sooner than you might think. When the baby first latches on, take long, slow deep breathes.  Close your eyes and BREATH. When you feel the letdown, know that your body is being filled with endorphins and hormones and you may even experience that euphoric high some mothers talk about. Keep your nipples clean and dry, apply lanolin cream as often as you need to. Have an expert check the baby's latch for you, ask them to show you what it should look like so that you can make sure he's doing it correctly at home.  Be patient with the baby: he's learning the right way to do this right along with you. Bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby. Use your finger and place it on the inside of the baby's cheek to break the seal rather than just pulling a latched baby off the breast. At the one month mark, you WILL notice a difference.  You will nurse your baby and it will suddenly occur to you that the pain has subsided, you're no longer sore, hey this is getting easier! There WILL be a turning point, just keep at it.

5.  If you nurse him, it will come.  Do not worry about if or when or how much: your milk will come in.  When it comes is different for every mother, do not get caught up in textbook time tables. Remember: nursing is a supply and demand physiological process. The more you nurse, the more milk you will produce.  Keep nursing, stay relaxed, and breath. Keep hydrated and fed. When in doubt, consult your lactation consultant.

6. Form a team.  Breastfeeding can be isolating in the early days, the nights stretching out long and dark before you. Reach out to your partner, your family and friends. Don't be afraid to ask for help, don't let your ego prevent you from accepting it. Use your resources: breastfeeding forums, LaLeche, your pump. Have the tools that you need to help you succeed.  Be as prepared as you can and then be patient when nothing goes the way that you had hoped. You are not alone in this and you are doing great work: keep at it.

7. Learn to nurse lying down: it will save your sanity and allow you to get some much needed rest. In the early days, River and I could often be found on the couch or on the floor or in our bed, me dozing peacefully and River nursing AGAIN. It was the only way I was able to rest in the beginning. Practice nursing in different positions, learn which ones your baby prefers and go with it. Use pillows, the Boppy, your knee, whatever you need to in order to support your back.

In the beginning, it's all about survival. You are learning right along with your baby, the two of you literally intertwined in this complicated dance that is really not so complicated once you get the hang of it.  Stick with it, give it at least 6 weeks. Yes, 6 weeks. That may seem like a long time when you're struggling in the beginning but you will reach that turning point before you know it. You can do this, mama.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014



A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014.

On Sundays, we wake up early, eat breakfast (monkey bread is the current favorite), attend Mass at 9:30, and then head home for a big Sunday dinner: this weekend I made ham/potato/corn/broccoli chowder with cornbread.  The little ones get into their jammies and settle in for a long afternoon nap while Shawn and I make ourselves comfy in front of the TV, a long day of football ahead of us.  We watch all three games on Sundays, the kids joining us after they wake up from their naps.  It is a way of life in our family and I love that our girls can play call with the best of them.  Our Saints won the wild card round of the play offs this week: Who Dat!

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stats: Month Four


River at four months:

Weight/Height: 16.4 lbs 26 inches long

Sleeping: River is sleeping through the night!!!  I have no idea how or why or if it will even last but this has been a fantastic month for sleep.  We are still following the same routine with naps and bedtime: keeping his naps to no longer than 3 hours at a time, keeping the room dark and quiet at night, and these things seem to really be working.  I usually nurse River around 6 pm, we have bath time, and then we all end up in the living room for family time.  He starts getting fussy and ready for bed somewhere between 7-7:30 and I rock him to sleep with his favorite blanket.  River is still sleeping in his bassinet in our room.  I get him up for a dreamfeed when Shawn and I go to bed around 10 pm.  A dreamfeed is simply picking the baby up out of bed and feeding them while they are still asleep.  Trust me: it works.  A friend of mine refers to this technique as "topping them off".  I started doing the dreamfeed when River first started sleeping through the night.  This last feeding of the day basically fills the baby up and allows him to continue sleeping without needing to wake up in a few hours for a feeding.  After the dreamfeed, I place him back in his bassinet and he sleeps until morning. I wake him up at 7 am so that I can feed him before I go to work.  On the weekends, he has been sleeping in until 9 am!  It's a whole new world, little guy!



Feeding:  River is still breastfeeding like a champ and putting on good weight.  I feed him in the morning before I go to work and then pump around 10 am.  I am home from work around 1 or 2 pm, just in time for his next feeding.  He is currently nursing 6-7 times a day, sometimes more.  During the day, we don't follow any sort of schedule, we feed him on demand, following his cues. River is a thumbsucker now and has learned to self soothe, no longer using me as a pacifier.  We are still giving him probiotics every night before bed and he has had no digestive issues at all.


Health: River started teething this month.  His hands are constantly in his mouth and he gets quite fussy at times when his gums start hurting.  We have been using Hyland teething tablets and recently purchased a Baltic Amber teething necklace. The combination of these two remedies really seems to help. 


Personality:  River babbles and coos constantly.  He has been so smiley this month and giggles when you tickle him.  He is SO ticklish and laughs and coos when you squeeze his big thighs.  He is the most cuddly baby and still loves to be held and rocked.  He enjoys tummy time with the girls, they set all of his toys up in front of him and entertain him for as long as he will hang with them.  My mother in law gave me a Sakura Bloom ring sling as an early Christmas gift and River loves it.  He is snug as a bug while still being able to look around. River's eyes are still blue and we are so curious as to what color they will eventually be.  


Milestones:  This month, River celebrated his first Thanksgiving, went on his first road trip, met his grandparents (Shawn's parents) for the first time, and helped decorate his first Christmas tree.

This was a really, really good month buddy.  You are growing so much so fast but you are just the sweetest little thing.  You are very, very loved.

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