The Music of my Life

Have you ever thought about the music that defines your life?  The soundtrack that would play when you look back on everything you've done and experienced?

While listening to my iTunes, it was hard to determine all of the different music that would define all of the different stages of my life; to document the different person I've become throughout the years.

The Younger Years - Growing up I loved dancing and performing. If only it were for my complete lack of talent I might have been famous.

10: Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want to Have Fun
9:  ABBA - Dancing Queen

The Teen Years - Aren't everyone's teen years the same?  First kisses, first loves, first heartbreaks.  Fickle friendships and true friendships.  It's all about discovering the type of person you might become in the future.

8. Deana Carter - Strawberry Wine 
7. Blink 182 - Dammnit (This song completely describes my high school years)

The College Years: The best and worst years of my life.  The years I would never trade for anything in the world.

6. Dave Matthews Band - #34 (Dave Matthews defined my college life)

The Young Adult Years - When I left Arizona and everything I knew behind in search of something better in South Carolina.

5. 30 Seconds to Mars - The Kill

The New Beginning-

4.  Lenny Kravitz - I Belong to You

The First Born - The magic moment of laying eyes on your child for the first time.

3. Calogero - Je m'appelle Nathan  (My name is Nathan).  This song actually is about childhood autism and I encourage you to listen to it and watch the video even if you don't speak French.  The words are simply beautiful and it came out at the very same time that my own Nathan was born.  Listening to it still makes me cry to this very day.

Expanding the Family- The anticipation and excitement of growing your family.  The loving someone that you haven't met yet!

2. Michael Buble - Haven't Met you Yet

Learning to be a family of four, and looking at the 3 amazing men in my life the only song that could possibly fit:

1. The Beach Boys - God Only Knows

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Maternity Leave Woes

This week my precious baby will turn 6 weeks old.  If I were still in the US I would be getting ready to head back to work, but in France I still have another 10 glorious weeks to enjoy.

There was never a question, however, when either of my kids was born on whether or not I would be going back to work.  I will be returning to work.  (This won't be a post about working mothers vs. stay at home mothers I promise, because I know that SAHM's work their tails off!).

The decision about going back to work was definitely NOT financial since lord only knows half my salary goes to the daycare.  In fact, once Noah starts going to daycare I might just have my paycheck direct deposited into the daycare's account.  The decision was mostly for my sanity.

You see, I adore my children.  They are the most important thing in the world to me - which is why I send them to daycare.  It is truly beneficial to both parties if we do not spend all day together.

At daycare they do fun activities - painting, drawing, socializing, cooking, field trips; at home they do activities like - unrolling the toilet paper, drawing on the furniture, playing with kitchen appliances and the like.

At daycare - they have friends, real friends that they play with and interact with.  At home - they have imaginary friends and the voices inside mommy's head because she's stayed at home too long.

At daycare they learn to speak French, at home they learn the occasional curse word (sad but true).

And in all honesty, I crave that adult interaction that I wouldn't get otherwise.  I love being able to get dressed in the morning and have somewhere to go (even if it is to work).  I love being to have a conversation with adults that does not revolve around nap schedules or toddler bowel movements.

I also see the joy of my son at daycare.  He loves his teachers.  He loves his his "friends".  And they have much cooler toys than we do at home.  He is thriving at daycare, and I don't know if he would be so far advanced if he were at home with me.

I enjoy going to work and being something other than mom (not that being a mom is a bad thing to be).  And the best part, when we get home and I see my son after not having seen him all day, I crave spending time with him.  I want to spend as much time as I can with him before his bedtime.  

The time I spend with him might not be a lot, but he has all of me.  I give him the best quality time, and I give him the best of me!

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Noah One Month

Can I already say that Noah is suffering from second baby syndrome?  The poor kid turned one month last week and I completely forgot about it!  

Well, not completely, I did remember to go to his doctor's appointment so I guess that Mommy Brain works every once in a while.

To say that this month has been rough would be an understatement.  It has been such an adjustment going from one to two.  And it still feels so weird to be a family of four rather than a family of three.  

Even though it has been rough, that isn't to say that it hasn't been good.  Noah has already grown so much in just four weeks.  He is spending more time awake (although it's in the middle of the night) and is more aware of the world around him.  

We went on our first family outing when he was two weeks old and he did great. So great in fact, that we take up any opportunity to take him out.  We are still keeping with our tradition of breakfast out on Saturdays and he has been a trooper.

He is definitely strong and stubborn, I don't know who he takes after.  He kicks his little legs and can wiggle his way around his crib.  He is also cooing up a storm which can at times make up for the sleepless nights.  He is waking up once at night to eat, but the problem is that once he is up, he's up.  It can take nearly 2-3 hours to get him back down.

Luckily this past month I've had a ton of help.  Noah was completely spoiled by spending Christmas with his Aunt and Uncle from Romania and his Nana from Arizona.  What a blessing to have been able to bring him home just in time for Christmas.

Age - 1 month 1 week
Weight - 3.4 KG's, 7 1/2 lbs ( a 1 1/2 pound weight gain)
Height - 52 cm or 20 1/2 inches (a 2 inch gain)
Eating - I am breastfeeding exclusively which is a HUGE change from Nathan who had to be bottle fed with expressed milk.  In a way it is so much harder because obviously I am the one that has to feed him.  There have been days when I want to just quit and for the  moment I am very aware that every day is another day longer that I've breastfed him.  I am hoping that this gets easier for both of us. 
Sleeping - It has gotten much better! He is only waking up about once at night and averaging a feeding about ever four hours. It makes such a difference on my sanity to get four straight hours of sleep.

I am looking forward to seeing how he grows up this next month.  I know that his big brother is anxious to play with him.

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Pausing Life for a Moment

I am so excited today because I am guest posting at JDaniel4's Mom's place on Pausing Life for a Moment!

I am completely in love with her blog and her creativity, so imagine how honored I was when she asked!

Please stop by and visit me over there, and while you are there enjoy some of her other amazing posts.

If you are visiting me for the first time from her blog, please take some time and look around.

I'm an American expat living in France with my husband and two boys.

I hope you enjoy taking a look around.  Thank you again JDaniel4's mom!
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Sticking With It

I think I've already mentioned that I don't tend to make too many New Year Resolutions.  That doesn't mean that there aren't things that I need to do differently.  Quite the opposite actually.

Like many of you, I too need to work out more; eat better; and make positive changes.  The difficult part is always trying to stick with it.  There are always so many other things to take priority that these just seem to fall to the wayside. And isn't always hard to chose between the salad and those yummy fries?

So this year I've decided to change the way I approach my resolutions to help me stick with them.

1.  Set realistic expectations.  Why set myself up for disappointment before I even begin.  Giving up chocolate completely might be impossible for me but I can definitely cut back on my weekly consumption. It's all about baby steps, right?

2. Don't do it alone.  I know how hard it is to want to eat better when no one else in my family is doing it.  Here I am munching on a carrot stick while my husband is enjoying a nice baked potato with all the trimmings.

So rather than cracking to temptation, I get the family involved.  We take the kids to the park to enjoy a nice game of family football.  It's much easier to stick to it if the family gets involved plus who couldn't use some more quality family time?

3.  Set some dedicated time.  Life always gets in the way, doesn't it.  Work meetings come up, kids get sick and it's so easy to pretend we didn't make those resolutions.  So it's easy to schedule a weekly aerobics class with a friend (see #2) so that I always know what days a week I will be working out. Plus if you're like me, you feel too guilty to call up that friend to say you don't feel like going.

4. Re-evaluate and Recommit.  I have to remember why I made the resolution to begin with.  Was it to lose a few pounds, or to make a lifestyle change? It shouldn't just be a resolution I make at the beginning of each January. I make the resolution at the beginning of every day, every week or every month.  What sounded good in theory at the beginning of the year while on a holiday coma might not be realistic in June.

5.  Reward myself for a job well done.  It's part of our human nature, isn't it?  To be rewarded for working hard?  Why shouldn't I reward myself for a job well done?  If I kept up with my resolutions all week, I deserve that hard earned glass of wine, right?  Or maybe just a trip to the movies - without the kids.

What are some of the resolutions you made this year?  How are you making sure to keep them?

Be sure to vista BlogHer for more ideas on how to keep your New Year's Resolutions.  While you are there be sure to enter their Life Well Lives Sweepstakes!

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Pure Joy

When we first met I could not have imagined the joy that you would bring into my life.

You showed me the joy of living...

You showed me the joy of laughing...

You showed me the joy of loving...

You showed me the joy of exploring new things...

You showed me the joy of family....

In all things that you do.  You show me the joy of being a family.

You are so much more than my husband.  You are my shoulder to cry on.  You are my punching bag on bad days.  You are my sunshine on good days.  You are the one that holds my hand when I doubt myself.  You are the one that can make me so mad and the one that can make me laugh hysterically.  

You are my best friend.

You are my life.

Happy Birthday.

I love you!

Let's BEE Friends
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Love Equality

It's the great American dream isn't it?

Fall madly in love with someone, get married, have children, buy a home and live happily ever after.

What happens though when your "happily ever after" is threatened because the government refuses to "recognize" your marriage?

What they don't tell you is that the American dream doesn't apply to you if you are married to someone of the same sex.

This is the battle that Mark is fighting right now.  He has been with his husband Fred for over 22 years.  They were legally married and are raising four beautiful kids.  They have a home that is filled with love and strength, and yet the American government is threatening to split this family up.

Fred is a French National whose visa expired in September of this year and even though he is married to an American citizen the government cannot recognize their marriage for immigration purposes.  This means that Fred risks deportation and this family risks being torn apart.

You can read this struggle in Mark's own words here.  I urge you to go and see this beautiful family.

The past few months I have gotten to know Mark.  He is truly a wonderful and supportive human being.  It is terrible that he is having to go through this right now.

It amazes me that even in the year 2012 the United States refuses to recognize marriages of any kind.  A family isn't built by a man and a woman, a family is built by two people who care about each other and who pass that love on to others.  Their family is no different than mine or yours or millions of others across the world.

So please, if you want to help, please take the time to write a letter in support of Mark and Fred.  We are constantly writing every day:  text messages, Facebook comments, twitter updates and emails.  Take an extra five minutes and write a heartfelt letter to keep this family together, or better yet call in support.

In Marks own words:

"You can write to Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano.  And if you live in Pennsylvania, you can write to Senator Casey's office.  Both, on our behalf.  You can let them know that you read the story on or that you know of our story from another source.  If you do this, I would urge you to, as best you can, write it when you're in a good mood.  No one likes a nasti-gram ... You read my post that I copied  You know that we are asking for approval of our green-card application.  Or at the very least, held in abeyance and not denied.  And in fact, actual letters and phone calls are the best."

Contact Info:

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6324
Toll Free: (866) 802-2833
Fax: (202) 228-0604
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

I hope that in the future my children will never have to know such inequality and that we can one day grow as people to recognize love comes in all colors, shapes, sizes and genders.

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Dear Nathan...

Nathan turned 26 months on Saturday and I realized that I can no longer keep counting his age in months. I can't imagine saying one day "my son is 53 months old".  He is two years old and is growing up every day.  I used to do monthly updates but that no longer seems relevant.

I have a friend who writes monthly letters to her son, something which I love.  So rather than keep posting monthly updates I want to begin writing letters to Nathan.  Letters that I hope he will read one day, letters that I can look back on and remember all of these special moments in his life.

So today, I will share my first letter.

Dear Nathan,

We spent this month surrounded by family and you loved every single second of it.  It was so amazing to see you play with your aunt and uncle.  To see how you warmed up to them even after not having seen them for over a year.  You would wake up every morning asking for them and go to bed every night telling them goodnight.  

You've also been loving spending time with your grandmother "Nana".  I don't know who will suffer more when she is gone you or her.  After spending an entire month with her you now speak more Spanish than ever, which is keeping all of us on our toes.  She tucks you in every night and sings to you.  You wake up asking for her and immediately run to her when you need to be spoiled.  Every child should be loved and spoiled this way by grandparents.

Even though Christmas is over, you still ask for Santa and run around the house saying "Ho Ho Ho Merry Mismas".  It is so endearing and it is clear that the Christmas magic has stayed with you.

You are turning into such a wonderful and caring young boy.  You have amazed us with your love and tenderness for your little brother.  You love to share your milk with him even though he won't drink it and you give unprompted kisses when he is crying.  You also love to tell him to "pleure pas bebe" which means "don't cry baby" as you console him.  

We can't tell you how much fun we are having with you and how lucky we feel to have you in our lives.

Mommy & Daddy

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Pretty as a picture

There is something about maternity photography that I just love.  There is something so beautiful about a woman and a family waiting for a new arrival.  When I was pregnant with my first I couldn't wait to take maternity pictures.  To capture those special moments before meeting Nathan.

I found a photographer in Clermont and had my session scheduled for 36 weeks.  Then Nathan decided to throw a curve ball and show up before I ever got to take any pictures.  I did have my monthly belly shots, but nothing like I had imagined.

Then I got pregnant with Noah and all I dreamed about was those perfect maternity pictures.

We have an amazing friend, Kim who is also an amazing photographer.  She and her husband were also expatriated in Clermont but moved back to South Carolina in June.  I was lucky enough to have her take pictures of Nathan when he was only 7 months old.  That is why when I found out she would be back in France during the month of December, I begged her to do a maternity session for me.

I was ecstatic when she said yes, and was even more ecstatic that I was still pregnant when the time came to have the photo session!

She did an amazing job, and I have to admit that I almost cried when I received the beautiful CD with the pictures.  It is exactly what I had in mind and it captured so wonderfully our *almost* family of four.

I can't thank Kim enough for capturing these special moments in my family's life.  (All photos courtesy and copyrights of Kimberly Cabe Photography)

I was not compensated at all for this post, I just love Kim and her work.  If you are looking for a photographer in Upstate South Carolina be sure to check her out here or on Facebook.

pleated poppy

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Two Different Babies

I will never forget the experience of Nathan being born a preemie.  He couldn't regulate his body temperature and spent days in an incubator.  He had severe jaundice and spent hours in the "tunnel".  He was quickly losing weight and I wasn't allowed to let him nurse but rather had to supplement formula in a cup.  We spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and I remember crying each and every single day.  He had bruises all over his feet and hands from all of the blood tests.  I didn't get to hold him or cuddle him because he had to be in the incubator.  For a first time mother, it is one of the worst things that can happen to you.  There is are very little words that can describe that type of helplessness.

Things didn't improve when we came home.  He would cry - all the time.  Who could blame him - he was hungry and wasn't allowed to nurse with a bottle.  It would take us hours to feed him a few ounces.  It was frustrating for everyone.

When Noah was born at "full term", I had no idea what to expect.  I mean could a couple of weeks - 10 days really make such a difference.  I feared the worst.

He took to nursing, but I was filled with self doubt.  I wasn't able to nurse Nathan so I didn't know if I was even doing it correctly, but he gained weight.  We were released from the hospital in five days.  There was no jaundice.  There was no need for an incubator.  There were no blood tests.  I was paranoid and kept asking the nurses and the doctors "is this normal?".

I am amazed at the tranquility that Noah has compared to Nathan.  He wakes up once to eat at night.  There is no formula, no bottles, no cups. There is no hysterical crying (from either him or I), and I feel like I know what I'm doing.  I'm not sure if Nathan's prematurity had anything to do with this or they are just very different babies.

I hardly put Noah in his bassinet the first few days.  I wanted so much to soak up all of the newborn magic that I didn't get to enjoy with Nathan.  Those first few moments of life where the only thing either of us knows is each other.

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Bonne Annee

I never make resolutions.  There is something about setting goals that I don't accomplish and feeling like a failure every December 31st when I realized how little I actually did.  I also think that the less I expect from a year, the better the year becomes.  There is very little disappointment when you just let life happen and enjoy the moments for what they are.

Last year, we set up some general goals, like getting our bathroom renovated.  Luckily for all of us, that one came true.

Since I don't make resolutions however, I thought the idea of writing down all of the resolutions I don't plan on keeping would make me feel a lot better about myself.  My top 10 would have to be...

10.  Exercise more.  I used to run everyday.  Then I had a baby and got lazy and stopped.  I never picked it up again.  I would love to someday, but I think perma-laziness has set in.

9.  Eat better.  I actually eat pretty healthy already but I could never give up my guilty pleasures - such as chocolate croissants or diet coke.  Life is much better when you enjoy it every once in a while.

8.  Clean more.  I hate cleaning with a passion.  I do it out of obligation because living in filth is frowned upon.  However, if anyone wanted to come and clean my house for me, I would have no complaints.

7. Stop being such a procrastinator.

6.  De-clutter.  We live in a small European apartment and I feel like we add more stuff than get rid of.  I would love to get rid of half of the things we have but don't use, but see #7 as to why I haven't just yet.

5.  Take more pictures.  I love all of those project 365 or 52 challenges, but I hate taking my camera places.  And even when I take it, I forget to use it.  I should just be grateful we have any pictures of our kids at all.
4. Potty-training.  We've tried, we've failed.  I hold no hopes for 2012.  Maybe I'll let his wife worry about this someday.

3.  Spend less time on the internet.  I think the longest I've gone is 2 days and I had withdrawals.

2.  Update my wardrobe.  I still have clothes in my closet from the beginning of the decade.  I think it's time to let those go, or maybe I'll just wait until they come back in style.

1.  Make more of an effort to learn French.  It is amazing that I've managed to live nearly 4 years in France with my level of French.  Luckily Nathan's French is quickly improving and he will soon be able to correct my terrible grammar.

If any of these "should" happen to come true, we'll call it a great year.  And if not, well I wasn't holding my breath.

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