My New Online Home

Hey guys! I will be posting over at my new website thefreebirdsings.com from now on. I will leave this one up to have access to its contents but all my new stuff will be over there. Hope you will join me there!

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Dear 2013,

You were quite a year. I rang you in with friends in NYC on a rooftop terrace in Tribeca. I’ll be finishing you off in bed in Baton Rouge with my new baby next to me. A baby one year ago we weren’t expecting, but has been the greatest blessing in the madness that was 2013.

You were full of high highs and low lows. You brought tears and pain, laughter and triumph. God was at the center of it all and faithful through every second. Through every unknown- and those were plentiful- Jesus stood right beside us.

You brought growth and maturity in us. You brought reconciliation of family and strengthening of relationships. You brought a cancer diagnosis that could have crippled us, but Christ brought healing. You brought a new little squishy, tiny, love nugget for us all to cherish. You brought love. You brought life.

A year ago I was believing our desert season was over and we would be living in a land of fruit, but that wasn’t so. Another desert season, another difficult year was upon us, but what the devil meant for harm God has used for good. I am constantly amazed at how He loves us in spite of how I fail to love others.

Chris and I believe 2014 is going to be the year we see the promises and dreams we were given so long ago begin to unfold.

And we are ready.

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Our Paleo Thanksgiving- Part 1

For a few years we have thrown around the idea of doing a Thanksgiving meal here at our home and creating our own holiday traditions with our little (big) family. And since we have four kids (one being brand new to this world) that are hard to haul all over and schedule around, we thought this year would be the perfect time to start. We have been so blessed in the past to get to go to a family member’s house, show up and eat, only bringing 1-2 food items and being responsible for none of the clean up. BUT I am really excited to start something new this year.

And then there’s this whole paleo lifestyle we have recently adopted. (Much like our home school decision, I would suggest you guys never say “never”, as paleo eating is something I said I’d never do.) However, we have been feeling really crappy for a long time and felt the need to cleanse our bodies of the gluten, sugar and dairy junk we have been internally hoarding, so hi-ho hi-ho, off to paleo we go. (And our bodies are already thanking us!)

And being as how I am just *slightly* OCD, I of course spent hours pouring over every Thanksgiving paleo recipe I could find online. I want our meal to feel traditional and include the favorites, but use approved ingredients that we already have on hand or could get inexpensively. And that look semi-easy and not ridiculously time consuming.

So this is what our Thanksgiving meal will look like. I wanted to share it with you in case you are looking for any paleo recipes or would just like a side item to limit your crazy sugar intake on this food, family and football filled day. I am excited… and probably a little crazy… to take this on. I will let you know how it goes in part 2 of this post after the big day.

The Pioneer Woman's roasted turkey

The Pioneer Woman’s roasted turkey

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/10/roasted_thanksgiving_turkey/  (We are using the brine recipe as well but adjusting it to include raw honey rather than brown sugar. We will also use apples very thinly sliced and boiled in water rather than typical apple juice. But you get the idea ;) )

http://cupcakesandkalechips.com/2013/01/15/browned-butter-whipped-butternut-squash/

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Tallulah’s Birth Story

After two failed attempts at a natural birth, I finally experienced what I have dreamed of for years. This is our story:

I was “due” on Friday, October 18, but I am never one to deliver at 40 weeks so I wasn’t expecting much. The day before that I started having irregular contractions and other pains, and those were present for the next several days. I had false labor two nights in a row over the weekend with contractions coming at regular intervals but never getting stronger. I knew my body was making progress and felt more happening than in either of my previous pregnancies.

Wednesday night I started having stronger contractions and other signs something may be coming (I’ll save you the gory details), but with two false alarms already I paid little attention and just got my mind ready for my 41 week midwife appointment the next morning. I was anxious to know how far my body had progressed and if my fluid levels had regulated (we had a little scare about that the week before).

I went to bed that night but was never really able to fall fully asleep, and by a little past midnight I started noticing my contractions getting closer and stronger. I tried dealing with them in the bed, changing positions, sitting up, doing everything I could to see if they would just go away like the ones before, but these were different and I knew it. Eventually I got out of bed to walk around and see if they would go away, and when they didn’t I began clocking them more precisely. I took a shower and had Chris time them for me, and by that time we knew this was it. My doula and I had discussed me going up to the hospital when contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and about a minute long, so I called her and let her know we were close. I called my dad to have him come over to sit with the kids, anticipating still laboring at home another hour or two until the contractions were a little longer… But by the time he got there I knew it was time to go.

We made it to the hospital in record time (it’s amazing how easy it is to get places at 4am) and headed up to Labor & Delivery. I let the receptionist know my midwife told me to bypass assessment because this is my third pregnancy and I know what labor is, and she rudely responded “Uh, we don’t do that.” Two seconds later a big contraction came, and I threw myself against the wall in a nice low moan. When I turned around they were walking me back to my birthing room… Guess they realized I knew what I was talking about.

They checked my cervix and I was 6cm dilated. I have to tell you I almost cried with joy because with Presley I never got past 1.5cm in 12+ hours of pitocin pumped labor and with Elikai I couldn’t get past 4cm naturally. I was already so much further along than I’d ever been before and I knew I could do this. After some paperwork (in between contractions that were closer and stronger) I spent a lot of time on the birthing ball. Chris and Nicki (my doula) applied counter pressure on my back and I dealt with the pain as best I could using techniques she had taught me.

We eventually moved me to the shower and then to the tub. After about an hour in the tub it was time to get out and do some more “work” because things slowed down in there, so I was back on that beautiful ball. Over the next hour and a half I experienced some of the worst pain humanly possible. With the help of my doula reminding me of what was happening, what the baby was doing, what my body was doing, visualizing the baby moving down, I was able to sustain what became an hour long contraction that never ended. The pain came in waves, but it was one constant contraction, never letting up. The pressure became so intense that I thought I needed to push, but because this was my first time going naturally and having no idea how far along we were, I just kept working through that pain.

Eventually my doula made me get up and go to the bathroom to relieve some of the pressure, and little did I know that baby was about to make her way out! The team all left the room to give me some privacy, and let’s just say I almost pushed Tallulah out on the toilet with only Chris at my side… That would’ve been a story to tell the grandkids, eh?!

Once we realized that she was coming- like right now- Chris ran to get the team and I RAN to the tub. I jumped in fully clothed, hung on to the side and began to push. It’s kind of a blur, but everyone barely made it back in time to catch the baby and guide her out. In about two minutes and two pushes, Tallulah Eleanor Matt was totally out and into our arms at 9:38am. My mom who had been in the waiting room just to be at the birth missed it by about 10 seconds. So did our birth photographer. But once they were in we all just sat in aw of this beautiful, purple, naked baby laying on my chest.

I stayed in the tub for a while until it was time to deliver the placenta, so I got on the bed and snuggled my baby close, getting lots of skin to skin. The staff never pushed me to weigh her or check her. They did what they needed to do right at first with her on my chest and waited until I was ready to hand her over for weight check, etc. They never questioned my choices, and instead only offered smiles and support.

We only stayed in the hospital one night and were released the next evening. We had some wonderful nurses and support staff and my experience with Oschner was a truly wonderful one. I am so happy with the team I had, and even though I really wanted a home birth, this turned out to be better than I ever expected. Laboring and birthing naturally was definitely one of the best, most amazing experiences of my life and one that I will always treasure. Was it painful? Um, yeah. Worst pain of my life… But to know that I worked together with this sweet baby- we were a team- to accomplish this magical experience of birth, it’s something I just can’t describe. Not to mention I totally felt like  superwoman when it was over :)

I could have never made it without my husband, my doula and the amazing hospital team around me, and I am so grateful for the part they each played in this story. And what a gift it was to have family and friends to take such good care of my other little loves so we could spend time with the new babe and not have to worry they were ok.

And now the best part of the journey has begun… Watching all my kids together and thanking Jesus that each of them is ours, entrusted to us for this short time on earth. That blessing is immeasurable. They all came to us through different, yet equally beautiful birth & adoption experiences and now we have a lifetime of love to offer. I can’t wait.

photo 1(1) photo(33) photo 2(3)

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What NOT to Say to a Pregnant Woman

First of all, I want to say that I hope I never sound preachy or know-it-all (and if I do, please tell me in a nice way). I have seen so many blogs and social media posts lately with people telling others how to be a better parent or spouse or person or whatever, and it comes off as a little snooty to me. This is just where I am raw and real and honest and I hope that is transparent.

Also, this is not an all-inclusive list, but just the things I have heard that were most baffling to me.  Obviously I’ve only been pregnant three times and I am only one person, so these are just my experiences. Hope you enjoy :)

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman:

1. “Oh, so you’re just ‘barely’/brand new pregnant.”: Last time I checked, you’re just as pregnant at four weeks as you are at four months. You’re either pregnant or you’re not. There’s not a pregnancy test that tells you you’re “kinda” pregnant… So if a woman confides in you early on in her pregnancy, elated about her news, and you choose to belittle her or the pregnancy in this way it can be really offensive. Even scary.

When I was pregnant with Presley I wasn’t knowledgeable about the risk of miscarriage. No one told me I should wait and tell the world after x amount of weeks. All I knew was that I was madly in love with my husband and God had blessed us with a baby in the womb… So when someone heard the news and asked me how far along I was and I replied 4 weeks, she said something along the lines of “Well it’s still so early, anything can happen.” So then I spent the entire rest of my pregnancy being worried something would happen, and instead of being excited I was scared. There is POWER in words, people.

Even this time I told a friend early on- even though we waited to tell “the world”- and she made a comment about it being “still brand new”, almost as if it didn’t count. When a woman is excited enough about something to share it with you, be happy for her and let your lips bring forth joy for her. She has enough to worry about on her own.

2. “You must not have much longer!”: If you don’t know that the mom has 1 week to go, please do not say this. Moms grow at different speeds and a girl who looks big to you might still have months left! I popped out a LOT recently and I went from hearing “Wow, you look great!” to “Wow, you must be due really soon!” in about a week. I swear at church on Sunday people were looking at me like I have six heads.

Moral of the story, no matter how much a woman has grown during her pregnancy, find something nice to compliment her on every time you see her. She needs it.

3. “You must be having a ______ because you are carrying so ______.”: This usually doesn’t end well. During my first pregnancy a woman at church came up behind me and said I was obviously having a girl because I had gotten SO WIDE.

She said that. To my face.

And now every time I see her or hear her name, that’s all I think about.

As it turns out, my girls do make me go wide. I was wide with Presley and have gotten wide with this baby girl. With Elikai I grew straight out and was all belly. Does that mean I need to walk up to a woman who has expanded horizontally during her pregnancy and tell her all about it? Um, no.

4. “Should you really be eating/drinking that?!”: I would venture to say that 95% of women in America know that it’s better to drink water and eat veggies all throughout pregnancy. But sometimes a girl needs a cup (or three) of coffee or a big fat burger and some pie. Chances are she is either highly self-conscious about eating these things to begin with or is dealing with insane food aversions and spends her days trying to find something to eat that won’t make her hurl.

Instead of criticizing her, why not offer to treat her to something special?

______________________________________________

Like I said, this list isn’t all inclusive and it leaves a lot out. BUT if you avoid saying these four things to any pregnant woman I promise you will be much better off.

Ultimately it’s always better to find something complimentary, no matter what you may be thinking. If you can’t find anything to say nice about her body, say something about her hair or her eyes or shoes. Or ANYTHING. Tell her she’s beautiful, or that she’s going to be a great mom, or that she’s “glowing.”

Pregnancy is the most exquisite gift- one that I feel SO blessed to have experienced three times in five years. Let’s all remember not to rob a woman of such an incredible time with our thoughtless words.

And in case you were wondering, I still have 5+ weeks to go, so don’t tell me how big I am, k? ;)

What’s the worst thing someone has said to you while you were preggo? Or what is something you said you wish you could take back? Let’s discuss!

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This is No Fairy Tale: The Story of a Real Life Prince Living in Louisiana

Tribute-to-a-bygone-era

swprinceHow often do we see these images in fairy tales? A prince kisses a sleeping princess and brings her back to life.

It’s magical, it’s wonderful, but it’s make believe. We all know that as special as a kiss can be from the one we love, it doesn’t bring you back to life.

Or does it?

photo(23)This, my friends, is no fairy tale. This is my mom going in this morning for what seems like her millionth radiation treatment as she fights this cancer that took us all by surprise. The huge weight loss, the blisters from the burn of the radiation, the scars from surgeries, the feeding tube, the endless medicine, the mask she wears, the mouth guards, the constant vomiting, the hair loss, the indescribable pain she endures day after day. It’s not make believe; it’s as real as it gets.

But by her side through every single moment has stood her prince, and he is real, too. He lost his mom just months ago- at the same time my mom received her diagnosis. He had to transition from losing his dear mama to cancer- from watching her waste away before his very eyes- to walking my mom through her cancer journey. He has had a tremendously difficult year and yet he has stood by her every moment and been with her through every minute of this battle.

His devotion is endless, his love enduring and his sacrifice never-ending. He is a prince in the truest sense of the word.

His kiss has brought her back to life.

God will heal my sweet mama and He alone is faithful to keep her here with us for many, many more years to come, but I can’t imagine how much harder this season would be for her without this man by her side.

What a powerful testimony of love and earthly angels.

And what a prince.

Prince Charming ain’t got nothing on him.

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All My Deserts are Rivers of Joy

I haven’t written here for a while because I really didn’t have anything nice to say, and well, you know how that saying goes. I didn’t want to seem negative or whiny or ungrateful. I didn’t want to be all “woe-is-me”. I want to be a positive person who can push a smile through and always seem happy despite my circumstances. I am so, so, so very blessed and my God is ever faithful, so I’ve been choosing joy rather than despair, but some days life is just too much.

The truth is, this has been a dark season. We left NYC after a much shorter time than we anticipated, and though we knew it was right it was still hard. Adjusting back has been mostly good, but it’s difficult not to feel like I missed out on friendships and experiences here while also missing friends from New York. Chris didn’t have a steady job until today- four months after we moved home. And my mom’s cancer treatments have been so much worse than anyone could have ever predicted or imagined.

I cry almost every day. My kids probably think I’m losing it because I spontaneously burst into tears in the middle of the day and they don’t know why. There’s this amazing, amazing worship song that has been such a breath of life to me, and I wanted to share it with you. Here are the words, but go listen to it online- it’s incredible. It’s called “You Revive Me” by Christy Nockels.

Chorus:
You revive me
You revive me Lord
And all my deserts are rivers of joy
You are the treasure I could not afford
So I’ll spend myself till I’m empty and poor
All for You
You revive me Lord

Verse 1:
Lord I have seen Your goodness
And I know the way You are
Give me eyes to see You in the dark
And Your face shines a glory
That I only know in part
And there is still a longing 
A longing in my heart

Chorus

Verse 2:
My soul is thirsty
Only You can satisfy
You are the well that never will run dry
And i’ll praise You for the blessing
For calling me Your friend
And in Your name I’m lifting
I’m lifting up my hands 

Bridge:
I’m alive
I’m alive
You breathe on me
You revive me

All my deserts are rivers of joy… I am trying to get there. I have been SO so so encouraged by the friends and pastors who have stood by us through this time. I have seen God’s goodness in new ways through this season and will never forget how He has shone His light on us and been so faithful.

So very faithful.

My church here- Healing Place Church- has been the church to us; it’s been everything a church is meant to be. We feel so blessed that we had that in New York and we have it again here. Our senior pastors here are taking over after a difficult transition in the church and they pastor over 7,000 people, yet they think of us and check on us constantly. Sunday services are thick with the presence of God and it’s impossible to leave there and not be changed. The staff has taken care of us. Our friends have stepped up like never before. And the best part is that this season has brought us closer to family members that we haven’t been as close to as our hearts desired.

In the midst of the brokenness, God is building. He is restoring. He is reviving.

Chris Caine spoke at HPC this weekend and she was sharing the story of the fish and loaves. She said something that shook me– the miracle of multiplication happened AFTER the brokenness.

And that’s what we are believing for.

That’s who our God is.

This may be the valley season but the mountain top is coming, and what this time has brought us is irreplaceable. We will continue to wake up and choose joy until one day our circumstances match what we have been praying for.

Until then, all my deserts are rivers of joy.

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