Monday, April 28, 2014



My son,

You were born in a blaze of courage.  In a time when we knew nothing of our future, our survival, the state of our emotional and physical health, we clung to the notion that you would be.  You were the shining star in our darkest of nights, the light that carried us through our most difficult time.  You were the inspiration and the strength that made us all believe that we could carry on, despite our deepest fears and insecurities.

A year before your birth, your father survived a near fatal accident.  They say that I saved him, but I say that the accident saved BOTH of us.  For it was the day that would change us forever: the trauma we both endured from experiencing and surviving such a horrific event permanently burned into our souls.  We had two options: either admit defeat and sink into the abyss of hopelessness that threatened us constantly, an option that seemed quite appealing some days.  Or, we could be courageous and allow this accident, which we felt was no accident at all, to be our second chance at life.  We could face our new reality with a fierce and bold passion and allow ourselves the space to be something new, something better, something we had always envisioned.  From death, we could choose to live.

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We found out about you only 6 short months after that ill fated day in the desert.  It seemed surreal, that an almost certain death was so quickly replaced by a new life.  The thought of you invigorated our spirits after 6 months of doctors appointments and surgeries and one disappointment after another.  I remember the look on my mother's face when we told her about you, a look of complete awe.  "Finally, we have good news!" she cried as she held me close.  Finally, just as we were beginning to lose steam after months of struggling to stay afloat, we learned that you were coming to be with us.  And just the idea of you, the notion that we had somehow created a brand new little soul while circling in and out of darkness, it was just the push we needed.  You filled us up with courage and forced us to leave behind our grief, our sadness, our heartache. Instead of just surviving, we started truly living again.  Because if you could have the courage to come into our lives at such a vulnerable and fragile time, then surely we could have the courage to pick up the pieces and move forward.

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To be truly courageous, however, means more than just putting on a brave face and fighting on the front lines. To be truly courageous requires you to admit your fears and insecurities, to face yourself in the mirror everyday and acknowledge the truth: that sometimes you don't have all the answers. There were days when we didn't really know how we could make it all work: would your dad ever be able to hold you?  Would you ever know the same joy that your sisters felt when their strong and fearless Daddy held them up in the air and swung them around?  Could he teach you to throw a baseball, tie your own shoes, play the guitar, when he was still relearning to do these things himself?  There were nights when we felt strong enough to voice these concerns, brave enough to cry into each other's arms and wonder how. But these fears, our doubts, Daddy's uncertainties: they became the fuel for a fire that reignited our souls. Suddenly, Daddy's physical therapy was about so much more than just a simple recovery.  His exercises were soon focused on holding the baby, lifting the baby, carrying the baby.  Our focus began to shift as we prepared to meet you, broken and scarred, bruised and battered, the pieces all started to come together.  And with only 8 weeks left before your due date, we drove to Houston for what we hoped was the last surgery, a surgery that would take 8 weeks of recovery. "Just in time", the doctor told us.  Just in time.

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Your Daddy not only kept his arm against all odds, but he actually learned to use it again.  He was there to catch you when you were born, played guitar to soothe you through the long infant nights, and lifts you up higher and higher each and every day.  You don't see his scars as anything other than Daddy, the deep lines marking up his body nothing more to you than another thread in the fabric that makes up your hero. Your father has had more courage than any person I have ever met, his faith and passion, his ability to rise from the ashes and become something stronger and more beautiful: he leaves us awestruck.  But part of that courage came from you.  It is a part of you, as you are a part of him. This is your legacy, the truth from which you were born, a boy born in a blaze of courage.  For all of your days, people will tell you this story, our story, the story of a family who refused to just give up and accept the never ending tidal wave of bad news. You are our living proof that through faith and love and hard work, the most precious and beautiful moments are still to come.  You are our living testimony, and we are yours.  Be courageous, my son.  Never lose hope, never give up.  


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Weekend: In Photos And A Few Words, Too

Good Friday was for dying Easter eggs using Kool Aid (thank you, Pinterest.  It was the easiest, quickest method we've tried yet).  To be noted: this was the first year that I did not have to end up finishing the egg dying process on my own thanks to kids who lost interest.  Isabelle is at the most wonderful age and really, really loves these sorts of projects.  For the most part, I got to just sit back and relax and let them have fun creating beautiful things.  They made a big mess and I didn't care one bit, also to be noted.

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Holy Saturday was for planting flowers and enjoying a cup of tea on the back porch with visiting best friends. We gathered at my cousin's house for a big Easter dinner with our extended family, lots of babies and aunts and uncles and good food. We had our annual egg paqueing contest, a Louisiana tradition that involves lots of egg knocking and people hollering.  Brees said, "Mommy, you wanna paque?  I got the best egg!". The kids hunted for Easter eggs long after the sun set and the grown ups laughed and talked and enjoyed each other, something we don't get to do as often as we'd like in this crazy busy world.  We drove our sleeping babies home and prepared for the Easter Bunny's arrival, feeling completely grateful for the overwhelming amount of love this big crazy family gives us.

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Easter Sunday was for a very early wake up call and alone time with my mother in the kitchen as we prepared the Easter feast: slow roasted brisket, fresh green beans, homemade mac n'cheese, and "dirty rice". The kids woke up and took in their Easter basket treats, River still sleepy and annoyed with the bunny ears we forced on him to commemorate his first Easter. He warmed up pretty quickly, though, and smiled big enough for us to discover that he grew two new bunny teeth overnight! We got all dressed up and headed to church, one of the most beautiful masses and a renewed sense of faith filling my soul.  My brother and his family joined us for a relaxing day in the back yard, the cousins playing, the sun warming our faces, our plates overflowing and our laughter big and loud.  It was such a special day, so relaxing, so full of love.  Shawn and I cleaned up the post lunch mess after our guests were gone and then sat on the back porch while the kids napped, talking the whole weekend over and counting our blessings.  "That was a really good weekend, babe.  Everything just worked out so nice" he said to me, smiling proud.  And it was.  A very happy Easter indeed.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014


The first year of a child's life is marked by firsts, memories made and milestones recorded.  I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff, paying close attention to each little detail and celebrating small moments as if they were momentous occasions.  We make big to-dos about things in this family, allowing each family member their own time to shine.  Got an A on your math test?  You're getting that special pancake dinner you've been asking for!  Using the big girl potty and learning to wash your hands all by yourself?  A special treat is coming your way!  And River: well, let's just say he's been wracking up the celebratory first points around here.  He went from sleepy ring sling baby to mover and shaker in the blink of an eye and I find myself scratching my head and wondering HOW?  And please slow down.  Thank you.

I am trying to enjoy his little triumphs, choosing not to dwell on the fact that this might be it for us.  Another baby?  We just aren't sure.  And so while it may be River's first time eating real food, it also might be our last time giving our baby real food for the first time.  Which sounds like an insane thing to consider but that's just where my head is this week.  Trying to wrap my brain around the fact that life is moving FAST and this is one chapter I never want to forget.  I am in no hurry for this phase to evolve into something else.  I love being a mama to a baby, this baby, and I am so happy in my life right now.

He's a good one, our River.  He is happy and sweet and loves to give kisses.  He lets me hold him and rock him and hug him as much as I want and I do so as much as I can.  The big sisters are his best playmates, though, and the three of them can often be found on the living room rug playing and talking and entertaining each other.  I credit the quickness of his firsts to the fact that he is trying to keep up with them, working hard at being able to follow them wherever they go.

River has learned to sit up.


River has learned to crawl.

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River ate his first real food.


And he even pulled up for the first time, proudly smiling and showing off his first two teeth.


"The days are long but the years are short" my grandmother always used to say.  And she was right.  A year full of firsts, each day bringing changes and growth and a brand new little person learning his way around this world.  It is a miracle to witness so much life unfolding right before our eyes, to see the day to day adventures that make up a child's first year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Who I Am And Other Life Epiphanies

We spent the weekend at a spiritual retreat: Shawn, the kids and I, and our church group.  Lent is such a special time of devotion and self reflection, a time to focus on the present and leave the outside noise behind. A time to reprioritize your goals and expectations and let go of anything that might be distracting you and your relationship with God.  It is a season of prayer and thanksgiving, a lesson in faith and discipleship.  It is, in every way, the most perfect time to get away for a few days and devote yourself completely to your spiritual journey.  And that is what we did: with our children by our side and a beautiful group of friends who are on the same path, we spent three days strengthening our values and replenishing our souls.


There were so many lessons learned, so many truths uncovered.  For me, personally, I feel that I learned the value of being true to myself and who I want to be in this life.  More importantly, who God wants me to be. One of the speakers at the retreat spoke at length about connecting who you are on the inside with who you show on the outside.  She encouraged us to really examine ourselves: what we value, how we see ourselves, how our own personal perceptions of who we are compares to what other people think of us.  She asked us to think of one word, one word that we would use to describe ourselves and what we hope to represent in this life.  The first word that came to my heart was PEACE.  I want to exude peace.  I want to allow the love and strength and courage that I feel in my heart, the love and strength and courage that I receive from my family and my career and my passions and my love for Christ to be so strong and powerful that peace just flows out of me and onto everyone around me.  I want my face to be warm, to shine with radiant happiness. I want to bring peace to others with my actions and my words, to be the kind of person who serves as a refuge to those who are in need. And I want all of this peace to come with a quiet and calm serenity.  That the peace I exude is not accompanied by a wall of words, by loud and boisterous tones, and not in overwhelming waves.  But that it be calm and slow and genuine.  That it invites those around me to share in the peace, that it quiets all of my anxieties and fears and propels me forward into each and every new adventure.

The reality is that I am a far cry from being the peaceful soul that I strive for.  God made me loud and anxious and full of vibrant life.  He made me strong and fearless but with a rambunctious nature.  Being still and present, being a good listener with a quiet affect: it is a challenge for me.  One of my favorite quotes is by Jack London:

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste me days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

There's a connection, I learned this weekend, between who I WANT to be and who I AM.  Embracing who I am, with all of my flaws and inconsistencies, while still soul searching for my potentials and inspirations, is a beautiful and emotional process.  I can still be the "superb meteor", an energy so alive and free that I exude that "magnificent glow".  But I can learn to draw from a more quiet and peaceful place inside my soul, a place that only God can strengthen and bring forth.  I can learn to lead with my faith, to step back and listen rather than jumping ahead at lightening bolt speed.  I can evolve into a person who lives big and loud but who does so with the peaceful energy I feel inside my heart.


We left that beautiful retreat center on Sunday with hearts on fire, new affirmations made, a family more solid and connected. When I look at my life and the people I am blessed to be with, I feel grateful and humbled. They ground me, inspire me, and motivate me to continue to fight my way through this life. I feel closer to who I am, who I want to be, who I aspire to grow into. A perfectly imperfect peace loving soul, a loud and colorful warrior who strives to exude peace and humility. With a servant heart, I move forward, ready to use my thoughts and answered prayers, ready to take on the world.

P.S.  This photo is one of my favorites.  It so perfectly shows the art and beautiful chaos of parenting.  Going on a retreat with a gang of babies is not easy but together we made it work.  What a blessing these babies all are, what an inspiration it is to see all of this activity!