A Little Goes a Long Way

I spent the morning prepping my kitchen and diving into a big cake project that I’m verrrrrry excited about. But I find that when I’m deep in a project I sort of shoo my kids out of the way and encourage (beg) them to do anything but follow me around the kitchen. Gunner was at school, so without proper distraction, Nella was relentless. After fielding about 78 requests to be included, I finally agreed to make a few cupcakes for them to decorate when G got home. That got her off my back for a few minutes.

Once my batter was made I scooped out six cupcakes, swirled a little food coloring in, and baked them off quickly while I filled my cake pans with the remaining batter. These six little cupcakes took almost nothing away from the cakes and only added about 3 minutes to my process. It was so little; this thing I did took almost no effort whatsoever. And yet those six little cupcakes meant the world to my kids. As I pulled them out of the oven Nella stood watching, whispering, “mom, dey yook amaaaaasing.”

I filled a couple piping bags with frosting I already had in the fridge, of course dyed to their favorite colors, and let them go to town at the kitchen table while I worked on my project. Sure, it was a little messy, but to hear them laughing and giggling together and finding so much joy in being creative in the kitchen was worth the tiny inconveniences it took to get us there.

The lesson I learned this morning has nothing to do with cupcakes or messy kitchens. The lesson I learned this morning is about including my children in the work of my soul. Baking is something that I actually feel called to do. My time in the kitchen is my sacred and precious time. And I find that too often I protect it so fiercely that I never allow my children to be a part it.

Each time I push them away, I justify it by saying, “I’m in a hurry. They’re too young. They’ll just complicate things. I don’t want to deal with the mess. They can help next time.” And to be honest, I think those are actually perfectly acceptable excuses. But today I said yes, and was surprised to find it required almost nothing extra of me, but it meant everything to them. I didn’t let them help with every step, and I didn’t let them hijack my entire cake, but I scooped out a little space for them in my process and I think that’s the lesson for me here.

My kids know that baking brings out something different in me. They know I sing when I bake, and they know I dance and shout when I take the first bite of a perfectly baked cookie, fresh out of the oven. They know that bringing treats to friends who are sad or sick or hurt is my favorite way to show love. The cookies and cupcakes and frosting have SO little to do with why they want to be a part of what’s happening in my kitchen. It's the feeling they get when they see me happy.

So friends, when your kids follow you around begging to help you cook or craft or work out or garden, or whatever it is that makes you come alive, find space for them in it. Don’t give up complete control and don’t allow it to suck the joy out of it for you. But every once in a while find a small and simple way to include them in the work of your soul and I really believe the rewards will be mighty.

I know my children will probably not remember this specific experience of decorating cupcakes at our kitchen table. But my hope is that they’ll remember the way it felt to be in the kitchen together over the years. I hope they’ll remember that I wanted them to be a part of the things that made me happy. I hope they’ll remember snippets of singing and dancing and sharing the first cookie off the tray. And most of all, I hope that as the grow up seeing me put time and energy into my dreams, they’ll find their way to their own. And who knows, maybe it will be cupcakes.



Welcoming Ramona

I've been meaning to write about Ramona's birth story for a while now, but I just haven't been able to find the right mindset to sit down, focus, and make it happen. I keep waiting for that magical hour or two when my house is quiet and everything is checked off my to-do list. It turns out, my to-do list is never-ending, and my house is never really quiet except for a few hours in the middle of the night. And you all know I'm not about to willingly give up a single minute of sleep. So, I added this assignment to my to-do list last Monday, and here I am a week and a half later, finally sitting down to do it.

I've always loved childbirth. Call me crazy all you want-- but I love it. I love that it pushes me and challenges me. I love to be surrounded by family. And most of all, I love the powerful feeling in the room as we welcome a precious baby into our world.

Because I was induce with both Gunner and Penelope, I wasn't sure what to expect this time. I was really really really hoping to go into labor on my own a day or two before my due date. (My due date was September 30th) That would maximize the amount of time my parents and Bethany would have with her.  But after my 39 week check up on Monday (9/25), still not dilated, barely effaced, I was feeling very discouraged. The doctor couldn't even recommend me for induction because my body just wasn't showing signs of labor.

I was kind of heart broken. I was sure my dad and sister would have to leave before the baby was born and that would have been devastating for all of us. They kept telling me they wouldn't be upset and they were here to see me (liars) but I just hated the thought of them coming all the way out here and not even getting to meet the baby.

So, we walked. We ate spicy food. My mom rubbed pressure points. I ate pineapple. We did ALL the other things to start labor. Nothing. Bethany arrived on Wednesday evening and we decided that if my body didn't want to have this baby yet, we'd enjoy a quick day in New York City on Thursday. I lined up a babysitter for the kids and we packed our day bags. But I started to realize I hadn't felt the baby move much that morning. So I laid down to do my kick counts and make sure I could feel her. I was feeling movements but they were very subtle and not very often.

We decided I'd better call my doc and get checked out before we went into the city. They hooked me up to an NST, which showed that her heart rate was perfectly healthy. But an ultrasound showed my fluid was a little low, and for some reason my blood pressure was very high. I normally have VERY low blood pressure during pregnancy. So, the high blood pressure was concerning. They tested my urine and found a trace of protein. Which, when combined with high blood pressure, could be a sign of preaclampsia.

After weighing all the options, my doctor decided it'd be a good idea to head over to the hospital to be induced. He did leave the final decision up to me. But with his recommendation and my readiness to get this baby here, I decided to give up my dreams of going into labor spontaneously. As we drove home I called Zack and could barely explain what was happening. While I was ready to have the baby, I wasn't actually prepared to go do this today. We were just planning a whole day in the city and then all of the sudden it was like "Nope! Baby time!" and I was like, "Huh?!?"

Thankfully, I'd already lined up a babysitter for the afternoon, (THANK YOU DIANNE!!!) and she was willing to stay with the kids while we were at the hospital. Unfortunately, she was also supposed to be my birth photographer (maybe next time!) but I'll forever be grateful that she dropped everything and stepped in to take care of my kids during that time.

So, after we ran home to grab the hospital bags and get the kids settled with Dianne, we grabbed a big fat Chipotle burrito (you know, for energy) and headed to the hospital.

We arrived around 3:30 PM. The nurses came in right away to draw blood, and place and IV. But we didn't actually see my doctor until 6 PM. We asked to talk to her several times, and they kept telling us they'd go find her. But never actually brought her in. So we spent the next few hours catching up on my Hulu queue and playing cards. When Dr. Coca finally came in she let us know that it had been a very hectic day on the labor and delivery floor (including TWO sets of twins!) She suggested we order dinner before I started pitocin because I wouldn't be able to eat again until after delivery. So we ordered the most amazing pizza and garlic knots from a local pizza place.

In that moment I was so happy to be surrounded by my mom, my sister, and Zack. The most important people in my life. And they were all there to support me, to cheer me on, and to help me welcome my baby into the world. We ate my favorite food and laughed and tossed around baby names. (My top pick was Violet. Zack's was Eliza. My mom's was Cable. Bethany's was Clementine.)

I started pitocin just before 7 PM and it wasn't long before I was ready to try to get some sleep. The contractions were becoming regular, but still not too intense. I thought I'd probably try to rest in case we had a long night ahead of us. (And we did.) After about 2 hours (9 PM) on pitocin my doctor came in to break my water and speed things along. I was disappointed to find out I had only dilated to a TWO. Penelope was born before I'd been on pitocin for two hours.

After Dr. Gallousis broke my water, my contractions immediately intensified, and I was hopeful that things would move quickly. Within an hour (10 PM), I was done laughing and having a good time. The pain was getting intense. I was bouncing on a labor ball. I was trying all kinds of positions to get comfortable and it just wasn't working. My contractions had gone from "intense" to "OMG" So, I asked the doc to check me. I was feeling a lot of pressure and I was sure things were moving along.  And guess what! I was dilated to a THREE. You guys!!! I wanted to cry. I started to prepare myself for an all-nighter, so I asked for the anesthesiologist to come work his magic.

By the time he arrive (10:45 PM), I started to puke. Except, I feel like the word "puke" just doesn't adequately describe what was happening. (Strangely, no pictures of this moment. Haha) They quickly grabbed a bed pan for me to puke in. I filled that one, so they grabbed another. I unloaded every ounce of pizza and burrito into those bed pans. I probably even threw up all those pieces of gum and watermelon seeds I swallowed as a kid. I was sitting on a ball, leaning over onto Zack's lap. He was so sweet and chill about getting splashed will all the nastiness. But he kept cracking jokes trying to cheer me up. I was burping a lot and he couldn't stop laughing thinking about telling Gunner about my pizza burps... I almost killed him in that moment.

Once my stomach was COMPLETELY empty, I was prepped for the epidural. My sister suggested they check my cervix again, just to be sure. But the nurse said they'd do it after when I was more comfortable. They asked everyone to leave the room. But, I really felt like I needed Zack to lean on. I had to push to keep him in there, but they finally agreed. I'm so glad I did that. I was in A LOT of pain at this point and I was really struggling to relax. I needed consistent reminders to breathe. The epidural was placed quickly and  and the anesthesiologist promised relief within minutes. I almost felt relief for like 1 minute. But then I didn't. The relief didn't come. My pain intensified and I started to get angry that my epidural hadn't worked AGAIN. (This happened with Nella.) I honestly felt like I'd be experiencing this pain for the rest of my life. I kept saying "I want this to be over NOW."

Considering how slowly I'd been dilating I was honestly terrified that I'd be in this much pain for 10-12 more hours. I could not have sustained that. I began to panic. I couldn't steady my breathing. Laying on my side was the only position I could bear. The nurse repeatedly asked me to roll to my back, but I honestly couldn't. They put an oxygen mask down near my face and during each contraction I leaned into it to get a deeper breath. The anesthesiologist stuck around waiting for my relief to come. He said to me, "I'm really not satisfied with the amount of pain you're still experiencing." and I was like ME EITHER!!! He eventually administered some pain medicine through my IV. (11:30) It was then that I could relax enough to not scream during my contractions. Although, I did feel pretty foggy and wasn't able to talk or open my eyes. My contractions were getting so close together that I could barely distinguish between them.

(11:43) I was feeling immense pressure and almost thought I could feel the baby crowing. I was barely able to get the words out. The nurse asked me to roll onto my back, but I refused. (I know. So rebellious of me.) They lifted my leg to check me and said, "OH! Theres her head!" I was like, "Yeah. I know." Except I wasn't exactly in a sarcastic state of mind so I didn't say anything.

What I thought had been normal labor pain, was actually the baby transitioning. AKA, entering the birth canal. For those that haven't been through childbirth, transitioning is often considering the most painful part of childbirth, but it is also a sign that the baby is near!

The same thing happened with Penelope. I was able to endure the normal pains of childbirth, but once I started to experience the transitioning, I asked for the epidural, thinking I still had several hours of contractions ahead of me. But, because I received the epidural as the baby was entering the birth canal, it gave me no relief. (Although, I still believe the anesthesiologist placed it incorrectly last time.)

They called in my doctor (11:48 PM) who, again, asked me to roll onto my back. and I AGAIN refused. So, on my side, with my leg pulled up almost straight into the air, I "breathed" that baby out in a push and a half.

At 11:50 PM Ramona Mae Dupaix entered the world at 8 lbs 3 oz and 23 inches long. She was perfect and healthy, and had quite the set of lungs on her. She was immediately placed in my arms, and although I was still in a fog, my pain was completely gone. In fact, I was in a state of utter bliss. She stared up at me and I looked into her eyes and asked "Who are you?" While she felt familiar, curiosity washed over me about who she is and who she is going to be.

I looked up at Zack, delighted to see his "ugly cry." I don't get to see it often, so this was a real treat. I couldn't help feeling extremely grateful for a husband who not only works hard to provide a wonderful life for us, but is my constant ally and perfect match. I wouldn't choose anyone else (not even Justin Timberlake) to make and raise babies with. I am so thankful that my children have come into the world with Zack as their father.

I looked around and saw my mom and Bethany and I felt a kinship with Ramona. She is so lucky to be the younger of two sisters. And similarly, a kinship with my mom, the mother of two daughters. My heart almost exploded as I imagined myself and my daughters in 25 years, side by side welcoming a new baby to our world. I can only hope that experience will be just as sweet as this one. I sincerely pray that my daughters love and cherish one another the way my sister and I do. And even more deeply, I hope they share with me, the bond we have with our mom.

I cannot adequately express what a blessing my mom was throughout labor. I have looked for the words over and over again, and always come up empty. I cry every time I think about it. She was absolutely heaven sent. She knew when to laugh, and when it was time to get serious. She knew just the places to rub to help me relax. Just the words to say to bring my focus back. Is it just me, or is there nothing in the world as comforting as a mother?? Knowing my mom had been through this 4 times and she knew the pain I was experiencing made me trust her when she told me I could do this. There is no one else in the world I would choose to have by my side through labor.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the many people in my life who were there for me throughout my pregnancy, childbirth, and the weeks following. When I reflect on the strength of my support system I feel extremely blessed. Because of the wealth of love in my life and the people around me, all three of my pregnancy and childbirth experiences are among the most sacred, most cherished days of my life. And welcoming Roe was certainly the cherry on top.

XX Sally

P.S. I'm saving the story of how we chose her name for another day. This post was way too long to add that long story. Haha So stay tuned for that.


Dupaixs Do Italy: DAY 1

I've been wanting to write down all our memories and experiences from our trip this spring. I thought it'd be fun to document them on the blog, in case any of you are looking for recommendations or ideas.

I promise the rest of the posts from this trip will be full of photos!! 

The Adventure Begins...

After traumatizing goodbyes with the kids and a pretty pathetic episode of sobbing into my Crunch Wrap Supreme on the way to the airport, Zack and I checked in at JFK and found ourselves sitting at our gate with more than enough time to spare. It was pretty shocking to see how effortlessly we made it through security without kids and strollers and backpacks and sippy cups. Since Gunner was born I've only flown without the kids a handful of times, and every time I'm shocked by the difference!

We attempted to sleep on the plane, but between Zack's excitement and my lingering pain at leaving the kids behind, we barely slept a wink. I have to admit, I didn't even feel an ounce of excitement until we touched down for our layover in Portugal and by the time we touched down in Rome I was downright giddy. I couldn't believe we were actually here, actually doing this!!

Our plan was to head directly to the Amalfi Coast, so we grabbed our (TINY) rental car and hit the road. Driving in Italy was an experience I'll never forget. And to be clear, when I say I'll never forget driving in Italy, what I actually mean is I'll never forget riding shot gun while Zack drove in Italy.

The freeways were full of tiny cars and mopeds. Even the trucks were miniature. The rare SUV looked ginormous. As we left the city behind, and the Italian country side opened in front of us, I put on my usual road trip playlist, which consists of John Denver, Cat Stevens, and America, which seemed so extremely out of place in this context.

The countryside was as quaint and beautiful as you'd imagine. The hills rolled on forever, dotted with a house or vineyard or two. (why didn't i take any pictures of this?!?)The drive was relatively uneventful until the sun went down and we saw flames climbing the mountain ahead of us. As if I wasn't anxious enough about the windy roads ahead, a car had crashed into the mountain and gone up in the flames. Traffic was stopped in both directions while the tiniest little firetruck maneuvered its way to the crash.

This was just the beginning of the scariest part of our journey. The last 18 miles were... terrifying, to say the least. The roads wound and weaved their way treacherously through the mountains, and eventually to the coast, where they narrowly curled along cliffs, the waves of the Mediterranean crashing below. I thought it probably would have been less scary during the day, but I was wrong.

We pulled up to our hotel just 5 minutes before the hotel restaurant was scheduled to close and literally RAN down so we could eat before bed. (We were STARVING) After we sat down and ordered our appetizer, Zack realized his wallet was missing. He went back to the car and searched while I franticly emptied our backpacks onto our beautiful, white linen table cloth. It was no where to be found. I was sick. I couldn't believe we hadn't even been in the country 24 hours and we'd lost a wallet.

As the appetizer (a tomato and buffalo mozzarella caprese salad, of course) arrived, my phone buzzed with a Facebook message from a stranger. "I found a wallet that I believe belongs to your husband on the street in Amalfi. I'm staying at the Hotel IL Nido... I'm going to turn the wallet over to the front desk." Are you kidding me JOSE??? I could have cried. In our rush into the hotel, Zack must have dropped the wallet, and the nicest stranger imaginable picked it up.

Anyone could have found it. But an honest, kind, man named Jose found it and not only turned it in , but went out of his way to find us on Facebook and make sure it got back to us. I literally cried. You know, you hear a lot of cautions and warnings about traveling overseas. The pick-pockets, the thieves, the scams. Believe me, I'd read up on ALL of them and was more than sufficiently skeptical. But, this experience, in the first few minutes of our trip, really set my heart at peace. And on our first night in Italy, I fell asleep knowing that there are still a lot of really good people in the world.


CLICK HERE to watch my instastory from Day 1.