it's been awhile...

It's only been just shy of two years, so let's dust off this blog and see what happens.

There's no need for an update, I'm a prolific instragrammer and most updates are just pictures of my kids, and my kids are my life. My purpose for writing tonight is the just be writing again. And of all nights, the eve of Ivy's surgery-versary.

That's a thing, a surgery-versary. Every year, on June 19, from three years ago until forever, I will celebrate. I imagine Ivy will be in her 20s and I'll fly to wherever she is just to be near her. To hold her. June 19 was (and still is) the best day of my life.

I love The Moth on NPR. It's an obsession that has grown into a hobby that has made me think of pursuing other things because of the joy I feel when I share my stories. Two years ago I told the story of Ivy's surgery at the story slam in New Orleans, and a few months ago it was selected to be on the radio. Families from all over the country contacted me thanking me for being honest with the fears, real with the pain, and awkwardly humorous about something so intense. I felt my vulnerability paid itself tenfold because I was able to connect with people. That's what life is about.

Three years ago tonight, I had just fed Ivy to bed and the most real fear filled my whole body. I was worried she was sick because she coughed, about three times. If she was sick, she couldn't have the surgery. I didn't sleep that night because I knew that when I woke up, it was go time. I didn't want to hand her over to the doctors. I didn't want her to be put under. I didn't want to let her go.

She was so tiny. She didn't even sit up on her own yet. Waiting in the room before we went down stairs to the OR I felt like we were lying to her. We looked at her, and she starred back at us with her deep blue eyes thinking it was a normal day. They dressed her in this little peach hospital gown, and I was angry that gowns were even made that small. The neurosurgeon went through the "risk" forms one more time, as protocol would demand, and as she did, she handed me tissues. She made a mental note from prior appointments- mom's a crier.

None of this day is a blur. I could walk you through every single minute. The people who visited, the food that was brought, the 15 minutes of League of their Own I watched on my mom's iPad. I can tell you about when a nurse came out and said, "Avery's mom?" and I stood up and walked to the door, only having Ken pull me back down and tell me that Avery was at home. I can tell you about how my best friend took a personal day from work to sit with me the entire day. I can tell you about how my mom moved in with us for a month to care for Avery and Eliza. I can tell you about how my dad came to the hospital and was overcome with the experience and walked the hospital, and even made small talk with the reconstructive surgeon who was working on Ivy.

Etched in my mind are the sounds of that day. The way the door opened to the waiting room. The way you felt when every parent was just waiting to hear their kid's name called. It was three years ago, but it could have been yesterday.

I stayed with Ivy in the PICU her first night and the next day when Ken came, he told me that my parents took the kids to the park. I was exhausted. I didn't sleep with Ivy because a combination of anxiety and complete joy dwelled in me making sleep only an option. I left the hospital for a few hours to shower, but I drove to the park first. I walked up and Avery spots me and comes running, and then of course Eliza followed. I held them in my sweaty arms and I kissed their wet curls and they said, "Where's Ivy?"

At home my mom was bustling about in the kitchen making lunch for the girls, and they were playing. I stood next to the refrigerator, and broke down sobbing. An enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. She was alive. I breathed in this joy and exhaled my fear that I rarely admitted but more certainly held in my soul. My mom held me and cried too. The I went to take a shower, but turned back one more time, looked at my girls and said "This doesn't make sense without Ivy."

Tonight I listened to The Moth, like I do on Sunday nights, and was so moved by the stories. Then I thought of Ivy's story, of mine. So I pulled up the podcast on my phone and listened to myself share the most terrifying experience of my life on public radio. And cried.

One day I can give that story to Ivy.
One day we can listen together and she can know what a brave person she is.
(here's the link: https://themoth.org/stories/if-this-hair-could-talk)

Happy Cranio Surgery-versary my baby girl. I love you more that you'll every know.


a sweaty hug // thoughts on new orleans

Our house is up and going these days around 6:00 AM. This is because of Avery's school starting early, and because to get the three ladies fed, dressed, and out the door, it takes about an hour. I'm not a morning person, you can ask Ken reference, but once we're in the car, I get to enjoy one of my favorite things about New Orleans- the morning.

When Ken and I were first dating, we would head to the quarter in the morning to walk around just as shops were opening, rolling up the gates that covered their store fronts, hosing down the sidewalk, preparing for the hundreds of people that will come visit that day. It was quaint, quiet, and beautiful. Even Bourbon street was charming, but of course if you walked too far towards Canal street, you'd still see pictures of naked ladies, but, whatever, the charm was still there.

My mornings now are different, but just as charming. I'm trying to find the best route to get Avery to school. Uptown provides all sorts of fun road closures so you really need to figure out the best way to get to school, and then two other options because you just never know. Today we took La Salle to MLK. The weather has been gracious, the windows were down and the city was waking up. It was 7:00 AM and a group of men were already sitting and chatting in the neutral ground. A different type of charming, grown men waking up early to sit together in the middle of the road compared to the quarter waking up for tourists, but it still gets me loving this city more than I first did nine years ago.

A lot of talk this week about the 10 year anniversary of Katrina, the day the levee system failed (because I listened to NPR too much) and I've found that people are quite opinionated about how to commemorate. You can't celebrate it because nearly 2,000 people died and countless people were displaced, and even more lives were completely altered for the worse as a result. It was a horrible tragedy. And as I saw it unfold from my house with my college roommates in California, I had no idea the depth of pain people were dealing with, and even moving my life here, I still have no idea. I'll never claim to, and I always hope I never come off like I get it. Traumatic events are etched in our minds, and this can never go away.

That being said, my Facebook has been filled with people being like "all this Katrina stuff...blah, blah, blah" and everyone's annoyed. This could be a Facebook thing, this could be a media thing, but I just think we need to chill out and focus on the good. New Orleans is good! And I think if you asked her, New Orleans, what she thought about it all, she'd probably say, "DGAF". I can't believe that's the most profound thing I could have written, but it's true. It's like a sassier version of "the city that care forgot."

There are things that separate us in New Orleans. People who lived here before Katrina, and those who moved here after. People who lived here before and returned have crazy credibility. Their experiences are insane, and their stories are intense. And I've heard so many and every time I'm in awe of their resilience, and their ability to persevere and come back.

There's this other group of people, people who found a new life because of Katrina. People who first moved to New Orleans in response to Katrina. People who had no idea what they were getting into, drove across the country with a Honda full of life possessions and started adulthood in a broken city. That's where I fall, in the middle.

I'm so quick to say when I moved here, because while I did move after Katrina, it was less that a year after. There's a pride I carry with that move. It was hard, and a bit scary but produced the best outcomes. Just like how when I tell people I taught for five years before staying home with the girls, I specifically say, PUBLIC school. Like, in 2007. I'm sure it's annoying but those dates are important because living in Gentilly in July of 2006 was like living in a ghost town. Every 5th house on the block was occupied, and the ones in between still needed to be gutted. FEMA trailers were more common that working street lights, and the smells, oh Lord, the smells. It's also important to note that I taught in August 2007. That's when we didn't have rosters, and on the first day of school, all the second graders that showed up at the school lined up at my classroom door, and one walked into my room, the next kid walked into the other room, and so on. I wish I had the ability to evaluate a kid on sight because as luck would have it, the "every other kid" roster creation made two very different classes. A crazy one (mine) and a calm one (the other one.) Teaching in 2007 meant that on the first day of school, every toilet broke because they all hadn't been flushed that frequently in 2 years, and my room was right next to the bathroom and the smells, oh Lord, the smells.

So is it a matter of credibility to commemorate/celebrate the anniversary of Katrina? Are people frustrated because the media doesn't properly articulate the pain of this day? I'm getting annoyed at everyone getting annoyed, which is just, well, annoying.

What we all have though is a story, and what we all need to do is listen to them. The most valuable thing that our relief team did when we gutted a house was listen to the homeowner. In between ripping out walls and creating a pile a debris that contained their life's possessions, we'd stop and talk with them as they saw curtains they made wrapped up in molded drywall. We'd give side hugs as homeowners just broke down when they found their son's prom picture on the ground. We'd eat fried chicken on the curb as homeowners reenacted how they escaped out of the roof of their house. We were present, we listened and as much as having a gutted house helped them move forward, having people hear their story I believe made a stronger impact.

There does come a point where it's too painful to talk about it anymore. And maybe that's where a lot of people are now who are getting frustrated. Augustine, a homeowner that we worked with a lot during our first year here, gave the most detailed account of her experiences. I rarely left a conversation with her where I didn't cry. We gutted her house, her son's house, and some of her relative's houses. We ate crawfish for the first time with her, and she hosted our team of 11 in her FEMA trailer and fed us till we couldn't move. It was crammed, it was hot, and it was delicious. Her husband died from a heart attack a few months after Katrina while living in a shelter. She talks and talks about everything that happened, but when she speaks of her husband, specifics are limited and she just says, "it was all too much for him." She came and spoke at a couple of the meetings we held for the college students that came to work during spring break of 2007, and after two times speaking in front of groups of a few hundred people, she told me, "I think I'm done. Can you find another homeowner to share their story?"

Maybe we should be done talking about Katrina. Maybe she's had her presence known for too long. Maybe we should talk about other things. Maybe we should just talk about New Orleans, and not the hurricane that almost took her away.

Last night at my softball game, where I exclusively play catcher, the umpire and I had a delightful conversation in between pitches and swatting misquotes off our legs. (It's slow pitch, y'all.) He asked where I was from and I gave him the brief story of me, and he said, "Looks like you found your life in New Orleans." Spot on, blue.

I completely love living here. Everyone who knows me knows that. I miss the beaches of California, but I fear that if I traded the Mardi Gras parades for them, I'd grow tired of the ocean. I think of the people I've met here. Obviously Ken, who came alongside and journeyed though it all with me. I think of the homeowners who taught me about resilience, about my pastors who have taught me about faith, about my neighbors that have taught me about compassion, my students who have taught me about patience, and my babies who have taught me about sacrifice. All of the greatest things have happened to me while living here.

You know how when you find a great band and you hesitate to tell people about them because they're like "your" band. And then when people discover them later you're like, "oh yeah, I've been listening to them forever, like way before they were big." That's sorta how I feel about New Orleans. Like she's the best kept secret.

This is my story. This is my New Orleans. I found a life here, and I'm forever grateful. New Orleans is like a sweaty hug; it's kinda messy, a little sticky, but feels so good.


ice cream man

When Avery was born, the duration of time spent in the hospital recovering from her cesarean birth was a total of five days, and when we were released, the weather changed. Along with everything else.

When we got home, the windows were open, the screen on the front door was in use, and there were a handful of pink balloons tied to the porch. It never felt so good to come home. The house had a fresh smell, as my mom had cleaned every square inch of our house to welcome us home. She brought new towels and hand soap, and if I catch a whiff of this scent, I'm thwarted back to the most tender time of my new reality- having a baby in my house. I remember the smell of a pot roast simmering from the back of the house prepared by Ken's mom. It was all too perfect, and terrifying. I feared the night because babies are just ridiculous and need you so much at night. I had no clue what I was doing. Avery cried so much. I cried so much. Ken held steady.

I would sleep when she did, but sometimes dreaded falling asleep because she was going to wake me up so so soon. I would scroll through Facebook and see friends with kids who weren't babies and they were smiling and just eating sandwiches and I JUST WANTED AVERY TO BE A KID ALREADY and not this hard baby. I then longed to be pregnant again, because I was going to actually read the books about what to do when you bring the baby home, and WAY less about what size of fruit she was that day.

During the day naps, I would nod off to the sounds of my neighborhood. Kids walking to the park from the school I taught at down the road. Kids who were actually in my class, and I just missed teaching so much. I heard the usual symphony of cars driving too fast, and music blaring so loud, and then of course, around the same time every day, the ice cream man.

The tune that's played from the ice cream man in New Orleans is fabulous, as are most things here. I spent the first month of Avery's life drifting in and out of sleep, and I would either hear this song, or be thinking of this song, but for some reason it played over and over in my head. Sleep deprivation is no joke.

While summer is making it's way out, and hopefully ushering some type of fall, the ice cream man blends the two and stays around even longer than those humid days, and our family has grown to love him.

For years after, the bells of the truck would summon my children to race to the front doors, dramatically pull the curtains to one side, and watch as he drove past. It's been the same guy for the five years we have lived here. And EVERY time he drives past, he'll look to his left and see Avery in the window, and he'll ring his bell, special for her. Then it was Avery in one window, and Eliza in the other. And now, all three squeeze in and watch him, hoping for him to see them, and it's only about the best thing to happen in their afternoon.

This summer Avery has soared and grown. Avery has stopped taking naps, and has blessed me with endless questions about, oh, just EVERYTHING. I'll try and get work done, but she's just wanting to play, and who can pass that up. She's wanting to be read to, and then wants to try and read to me. She wants to look at sight words, work on mazes, create cards, talk about animals from the zoo. Her company has been the highlight of summer for me. Those couple hours everyday when it's just her and me. We emptied the coin jar and pulled out all the quarters, and put them aside. "This will be for when the ice cream man comes," I told her. And a week went by without hearing him. Every evening, upon Ken's arrival home from work, "Well, the ice cream man didn't come today. Maybe tomorrow."

Today Avery and I were gluing this animal puppet thing together and we heard the bell. It was like a fire drill. "Quick, get your shoes, I'll grab the quarters. Wait, let me get him to stop first." "Okay mom!" When race outside, Avery can hardly contain herself. "We thought you left our street! Where have you been?"

We walk around to the side of the truck where the pictures of all the treats are and Avery's face is a glow. She picks something rainbow, and I pick a drumstick, and we pay in quarters, and tip like crazy. Avery's so excited, again, that she's speechless. I'm just laughing because I don't remember the last time I had been that excited. It was a moment I'm going to cherish forever.

We sat on the couch eating our treats, sampling each others, and I grab the top of Avery's head, then cup the side of her face, and I just stare at her. I want to freeze time forever. I want endless summers of crafts and ice cream. I want Avery to stay my little girl and not grow up. I want to just do it all over again, and again.

Five years is a long time some days. Avery and I can go at it. We're loud, we yell, we cry. We have no clue what's ahead of us in those teenage years. But, damn. I love this girl so much. I loved her so much we she was a baby too, I just didn't know what the hell I was doing.

Why do the mundane, everyday events trigger so many emotions sometimes? I think it's because everything is always changing, kids are always getting older, transitions are relentless and happen constantly. But for us, here on Cadiz street, some things remain the same- we with always love the ice cream man.


around here, today

Last night I was reading our blog, and reading stories about mundane days, trips to the park, basic stuff that makes up my life, and I took a lot of joy in it. So, I'm basically doing that today. Mainly because I had the nice camera out, and because almost every picture of Ivy is from my iPhone, but also because my brother posted this picture on Facebook today of Avery when she was 9 months old and it tripped me out because that really doesn't feel like all that long ago. And then next month, Avery starts Kindergarten. It all seems to be happening too fast. So I need to pause and capture more of these days. I need to take stock in what's happening now, and not long for what's to come. While I'm at it, an update on the girls seemed long overdue. Let's go!

IVY :: 20 months old
  • Ivy is ridiculous, for the most part.
  • Ivy runs, jumps, and acts like she's 5 when playing at the park.
  • Ivy LOVES her pacifier and TWO blankets (ba-bas) when she naps.
  • Ivy's skull is all fused correctly and the screws from the surgery have dissolved! Wahoo!
  • Ivy doesn't say but 15 words clearly, but communicates really well. 
  • We understand her, and she gets away with EVERYTHING.
  • She eats so well, and makes me happy because the other two, well, don't.
  • Ivy takes one fat nap during the day, and would probably take more. 
  • Ivy loves to wake up at 6:15 AM.
  • Ivy still loves to be held and is always down to be snuggled. 

ELIZA :: 3 years old
  • Eliza is ridiculous, almost all the time. 
  • Eliza will retreat to her room a few times everyday just to read by herself. 
  • Eliza encourages Ivy all day. 
  • Eliza doesn't eat green food, at all. Prefers ketchup. 
  • Eliza spills water and milk from her cereal bowl every day, every time. 
  • Eliza, oddly to the above, has amazing balance and rhythm. 
  • Eliza will say, "i love you mom" when she wants to watch a show.
  • Eliza pretty much only wants to watch shows. 
  • Eliza is a home body and prefers wearing her PJs all day than go to the park. 
  • She's the first one to say, "I want to go home" when we are at the park. 
  • Eliza is petite. Her and Ivy wear the same clothes. 
  • Eliza is starting school in a month!!! 3 days a week in the morning. 

AVERY :: almost 5 years old
  • Avery has just stopped taking her daily nap. (Thanks for almost 5 years of naps bub!)
  • Avery LOVES to eat chicken with any kind of sauce. 
  • Avery doesn't have any tonsils.
  • Avery is pre-reading, and it's as fantastic as that sounds. 
  • Avery still prefers dad, and I'm totally okay with it. :)
  • Avery gets herself dressed every morning and always grabs an oversized t-shirt and soccer shorts.
  • Avery still sleeps with her baba. (Ivy is her clone, BTW)
  • Avery and Ivy love to play together, running and jumping all over the house. 
  • Avery is really smart. 
  • Avery can draw hearts, faces, rainbows, and can write anything. 
  • Avery is ridiculous 90% of the time. 

BEAUMONTY || 30 years old, recently adopted
  • Beaumonty is completely ridiculous. 
  • Beaumonty loves to drink diesel.
  • Beaumonty is from Texas, but we don't hold that against her. 
  • Beaumonty prefers Ken, which I'm totally okay with. 
  • Beaumonty loves to take long drives and really purrs when on the freeway. 
  • Beaumonty has like 100 things wrong with her but we love her anyway.

And some more pictures...

IVY, I SAID WE'RE LEAVING. (bottom right corner, Ivy!)



tales of the babe-dad

I was looking through photos last night, just feeling so grateful for Ken and his love for our daughters, that I ended up putting all these in a file titled "babe-dad" because that's what we call him in this house. He is steady and adventurous. He's a dreamer and a planner. He's in love with his girls. He balances all the ragging hormones in this house, and does it with grace. He's serves us like Christ does and models to us what faithfulness and unconditional love looks like. Another year of parenting with this guy and I can't believe we've been through this much together. Knowing this is only the beginning excites me. One day the girls will know how lucky they are, and in some ways, I think they already know. Thank you, Ken for the man you are and the father you've become. To the moon. 

Some favorites from this past year... 
Ivy's second night in the hospital might have been more difficult than her first. The heavy meds had worn off, and she was starting to realize she couldn't see and was frustrated. I had been at the hospital for two days at this point and Ken sent me home and stayed with Ivy. He stood next to her bed for hours rubbing her and calming her to sleep. This picture does a number on me. 

 < right before surgery || a few hours after >

 You'd be hard pressed to find a guy who loves Mardi Gras more than Ken. 



The Twirl Shop makes Dresses!

I'm using the blog today as a shameless shop update. These dresses are a labor a love and I really hope you like them!! My girls were the best models. Enjoy! Enter the giveaway on Instagram (@thetwirlshop) for a chance to win a dress and a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins!





Head over to the shop to see more pictures, if you'd like. 

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