Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You Ought To Go See The Mardi Gras

 I'm in a "get shit done" phase of life at the moment.  I work as a nurse, I am a mama and a wife.  I am the family cook and the giver of bubble bathes.  Laundry to be done, errands to run, bills to pay.  The days go by in a swiftly moving blur of family life activity and before we know it, it's the weekend again and I find myself savoring every moment and willing those luxurious days known as Saturday and Sunday to slow down.  Slow way the hell down.

The get shit done phase of life can be exhausting.  It can leave you feeling a bit uninspired, the days blending together in one big stream of things to do, none of which involve relaxing or just being still.  Most days, I'm perfectly fine with this reality, knowing that this phase is short lived.  Our family won't be this young forever. There are days, however, when I miss the spontaneity, the creativity, the lack of stress.  I miss living moment to moment, the days stretching out in front of me like a sea of infinite possibilities. I miss my free spirit.

And so I decided to do something about it.  As part of my New Year resolution of devotion, I vowed to start putting myself out there more, to take more adventures, regardless of how hard or inconvenient those adventures might be. I vowed to take my little family away from the everyday as much as possible, to experience new things together, to learn more about each other and ourselves through the power of change.

First stop: Mardi Gras.  A weekend in New Orleans with my best friends and our babies.  Sequins and tutus in the middle of the day.  Parades and beads and doubloons under a beautiful, sunny sky on St. Charles Ave. A morning walk in City Park and late night talks in my best friend's apartment. My favorite Middle Eastern restaurant and a cup of tea during a thunderstorm.  Watching my sweet daughters all dressed up in their sparkles and shine, waving their arms and cheering when they caught the best throws. Sitting in a big lawn chair filled circle on the streetcar tracks, catching up, laughing at our never ending collection of inside jokes. Dancing to the brassy tunes of the marching bands. Rocking my son back and forth as he slept through the colorful, vibrant, distinctive noises that make up Mardi Gras.

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It was a refreshing, inspiring, soul reviving weekend.  I laughed and cried and danced and cheered.  I let myself go for a while, relaxed, breathed deep.  My heart felt so full as I witnessed my best friends in their own get shit done phases: new babies, new boyfriends, good marriages, thriving careers.  And I drove home thankful for all that I have, no matter how mundane my day to day tasks sometimes seem.  I opened up my soul and let my free spirit shine bright, letting in some sparkle to the sometimes tired parts of my inner self. It was a magical weekend in every way.  And I urge you, at least once in your life, to go see the Mardi Gras. There really is nothing else quite like it.

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Monday, February 24, 2014



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

This is what a typical night looks like in our home: Isabelle reading to us, Brees giggling, River chewing on whatever he can get his hands on, Shawn and I stealing glances at each other, usually tired, always grateful. This is our life.  Busy busy busy but oh so sweet.  

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Transitions: Bedding

We moved River to his crib in the nursery this week.  There was no big fanfare, no great debate on if or how or should we wait.  We just knew that it was time.

River has spent every night of his first 6 months of life in our bed, in my arms, in Shawn's arms, or in his bassinet right next to us.  We have lulled each other to sleep, our snores and slow, deep breathes blending together.  We have nursed and rocked and cried and laughed, spent many nights sleeping and many nights not.  Together, the three of us have had an amazing cosleeping journey.

But, things started to change this month.  River started waking up every hour on the hour, crying and fighting his sleep.  Our sweet baby who has been such a great little sleeper from day one suddenly became very uncomfortable in the late night hours.  We tried all of the usual tried and true remedies: walks through the quiet, dark house in his sling, nursing on demand, sleeping on mama's chest in the rocking chair.  The expression we've all used as parents to new babies, "We've been up all night": it was literally happening to us.  After a week of no sleep for any of us, I knew that it was time for the transition.

It's time to put River in his own bed.  I think that he'll be more comfortable, it will be more quiet and there will be less distractions.  I just feel it: he's ready.

Shawn was a bit taken aback by how calm and at peace I seemed with the whole thing: I don't usually embrace theses milestones with my babies all that well.  I want them to stay babies as long as possible, I want them in my arms for as long as they'll have me.  But the third child is different, he has offered me such redemption in all my anxious and controlling ways.  I've learned to just listen, to accept, to read my baby and let him show us what he needs.  And when he does, to do so willingly and not let nostalgia ruin the moment.

We followed our usual bedtime routine, carrying River to his crib and giving him extra kisses and hugs. We put him down and he looked up at us and smiled.  I felt the familiar urge to be sad that this was happening, my nurturing heart longing to scoop him back up and pull him in close.  But it was Shawn who spoke first: "I'm so proud of you buddy!  Look at you, such a big boy in your bed!  I love you, son.  This is a big day for you!"

He was genuinely proud and excited for River, the two of them smiling at each other in such a way that I think they would have high fived if River were big enough to know how.  And this is the way things have been in our parenting journey with River: both Shawn and I growing in confidence, no second guessing ourselves, no holding back.  When he's ready, we follow, empowering him and giving him all of the positive praise we can muster.  He was so ready for a good night's sleep in his crib and we recognized that and facilitated it.  It was one of those really good parenting moments.

The first night, he woke up three times.  I nursed him, rocked him, and put him back to sleep.  The second night, he woke only once.  By the third night, he was back to sleeping 12 hours straight, waking up in the morning all bright eyed and happy, rested and ready for the day. Seeing him in his bed, his favorite blankie curled up around him so peacefully, makes my mama heart full.

This is the first of many transitions, little buddy.  Throughout your life, you will grow and change and we will have to readjust.  You will gain more and more independence and learn to lead with confidence. And we will be right there beside you, cheering you on and supporting you in all that you do.  Our arms are always open, everything we have is here for you.  We're proud of you, buddy.

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Monday, February 17, 2014



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

Valentine's Day 2014 was absolutely fantastic!  I reserved a babysitter, bought myself a new outfit, and tried to contain my excitement all day long at the thought of going on a real Valentine's Day date with my husband.  We gave the girls each a box of chocolates and watercolor paint sets before we got all dressed up for our night out.  They crowded into the bathroom with me as I shaved my legs, painted my lips red, and put on makeup for the first time in weeks.  Shawn let out an audible gasp when I walked out, the look on his face a gift in itself.  We escaped for a few hours to enjoy a candlelit sushi dinner complete with heart shaped balloons tied to the chairs and rose petals strewn all over every surface of the restaurant.  We talked and held hands and shared big plates of food and had the best time together. On the way home, we picked up a few movies and loads of junk food, greeting our excited little ones at the door.  Jammies on, blankets spread out in the living room, we spent the rest of the night snuggled up together. It was good to get out for a little while, good to be home all together.  I love Valentine's Day so much: a special day to slow down and say the things you don't always have the time to say.  I love you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Give It All

As parents, we want to give our children everything.  Both the things we had as children and the things we lacked.  We want to take away the positive experiences that made us who we are and pass them down to our own family: the traditions, the values, the culture.  For me, this means teaching my children the importance of family and community, giving them a spiritual foundation, and showing them the importance of living a life of simplicity that is centered on love.  These are the things that my parents gave me, the lessons that helped shape me into the person I am today.

But as rich as my childhood was in love, there were cracks in the branches that have left my inner core weak at times.  Little heartbreaks and traumas that occurred along the way that affected me and scarred me, experiences that I think about and hope my children never have to face.  Divorce is an ugly monster, my friends.  The separation of parents and children and homes causing a sense of lose that spans a lifetime.  And it's no one's fault and you learn to move on and be grateful but there are days when you can't help but wonder WHY?  HOW?

Shawn and I both grew up without our biological fathers playing permanent, reliable roles in our lives. We've always shared that common bond: the rolling stone, gypsy dads.  The men who came in and out of our days at spontaneous moments throughout our memories.  No shows at birthdays, weekend visit cancellations.  Words like "custody battle" and "late child support" being thrown around our single mother run homes more often that they should have.  We made promises to each other that our children would never experience that kind of heartache, not if we could help it.  Because that kind of heartache sticks with you, it becomes a part of who you are no matter how lucky you know you are to have a stepfather who loves you as his own, grandparents and uncles who take over when your own father can't.  It's just a thread that makes up our fabric and we've learned to accept it and own it: our dads left us when we were too little to beg them to stay.  And that still hurts.  And that's okay.

And so it means a lot to me to see my husband continually evolve into the kind of father we have both always yearned for.  It could have gone either way, really: he could have followed in his father's footsteps and been the kind of guy who leaves when things get hard.  But he's not that guy.  He made the decision to be the kind of guy who stays, the guy who leads by example and takes pride in the fact that these little kids are looking up to us.  That's what this whole parenting gig is really all about for us: being good people so that our children will want to be good people.  Not just telling them what to do but showing them.  Encouraging them, making them feel safe and secure and uninhibited in love.

I've seen him love even more since River was born: filling that missing father hole in his heart with the love of his own son, diving in head first into his journey as a role model.  He's giving these kids everything he didn't have, all of the things he wanted. And he's healing me simultaneously as I watch my children receive the love of a father who will always be there for them. I am constantly inspired and encouraged as I watch this journey unfold.

To those brave enough to stay, to be selfless, to love.  To those kind enough to adopt, to pick up the abandoned, to stepparent the waiting children.  And to those who change their course even 3 decades later, humble enough to try again, to make up for lost time: I say thank you.  Keep going.  Keep loving. Let's give our children everything, teach them forgiveness, show them love.  Let's give it our all.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stats: Month Five


River at five months:

Sleeping:  River takes around three naps a day: morning, afternoon, late afternoon/evening.  His morning nap is the longest, around 2 1/2 hours, the other naps are a little shorter.  He is still sleeping through the night with roughly a 7 pm bedtime.  On weekends, when I don't have to wake him up to nurse him before I go to work, he sleeps until 8 or 9.  This month, he started waking up for a feeding around 9-10 pm and then had a hard time going back to sleep, instead staying up and hanging out with us for an hour or so.  We brought him to bed with us, watched late night TV, read books, just hung out.  Some nights were rough as I was so tired from working all day and really wanted to get to bed. But now, as I sit here and write this, I find myself smiling.  I loved those late nights under the covers, the special time Shawn, the baby, and I had together. It was another phase, a tiring one but a good one nevertheless. 



Feeding: River is still exclusively breastfed which makes this working mama very, very proud. I have added an extra pumping session into my workday, around 1 pm, because I don't always get to nurse the baby as soon as I get home.  Sometimes he is napping, sometimes I am running late.  I decided to add that extra pump session to keep my milk supply up and to keep River's growing freezer stash demand up. I am currently pumping about twice the amount he actually needs which ensures that we will have milk in the freezer for quite some time.  I have a bowel of oatmeal for breakfast and drink lots of water throughout the day in order to keep my supply well maintained. River is currently nursing 6-7 times per day and has the sweetest baby rolls.  His thighs are the best!


Health: The amber teething necklace has really helped to subside River's teething symptoms. He is less fussy, less drooly.  He has been a healthy, happy boy this month and is packing on the pounds.


Milestones:  This month, River celebrated his first Christmas, rolled from his tummy to his back, and started reaching for objects that he wanted.  He recognizes voices and his face lights up when I walk into a room.  He passes objects from one hand to the other and bears weight on his legs.  We started putting him in his Exersaucer this month and he loves grabbing at all of the noisemakers and teething toys.


Personality:  River is an easy going baby.  He has the best laugh and the sweetest smile and we are all so in love with him. He loves to play on the floor with his sisters, listen to Daddy play guitar, and snuggle up with Mommy in the sling. He loves to give kisses and grab hair. Wearing earrings has become a distant memory for me as River is constantly grabbing everything and putting it all into his mouth. He sucks his thumb as soon as he gets tired and talks to himself and his blankie when he wakes up. Bath time is his favorite.  

You are the sweetest little buddy there ever was.  We are so blessed to know you and love you!

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014



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

There was no time for portraits this week: too much homework, too many errands, not enough sleep and two new teeth per sweet baby River.  See that Mama wearing pajama pants in this photo?  Yep, this was taken at 4 pm.  It was one of THOSE weeks.  Oh, wait, the two little kids are in pajamas, too? Oops.  Real life here people.  But we snapped a photo anyway, one quick moment of photographic love before Belle headed off to piano lessons and Shawn went back to studying and I finished up dinner with a teething boy strapped to my chest.  Thank you, my sweet family, for putting up with my record keeping antics.  Thank you for snapping this photo with me.  And I'm sorry that Daddy's head got cropped out.  Love y'all to pieces.

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