Letter to Evelyn: Two Months

08.13.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Evie,

You are one month older, one pound bigger, and learning new tricks every day!

You are smiling and cooing and constantly blowing bubbles. You have mastered the pouty face and can cry real tears. You open and close your hands with intention, stare at your feet when you kick them, and turn your head towards our voices. You have mastered tummy time and love to arch your back and turn your head to the right side when laying on your back. I bet you’ll be rolling over before we know it.

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The big kids are always trying to play with you. They try to stick your hands around rattles and through plastic rings. They sing to you and play peek-a-boo. And you often have company in your bouncy seat: Ricky or Rexy or Baby Giraffe or random Matchbox cars.

Sam calls you Evie Girl. And when you toot, he says, “Good one, Evelyn.” He loves that he can help to wash your hair and button your jammies. Nora, on the other hand, needs constant reminders to be gentle. She would climb into your lap if we allowed it.

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Daddy took his two-week paternity leave this month. We spent several afternoons at the pool, went to the playground and the bowling alley, and stayed up late watching Netflix together. Paternity leave is certainly different the third time around!

You slept through your first three-mile hike while Mommy carried you across rocky trails in the Delaware Water Gap. Then you woke to watch the big kids play in the waterfalls and probably wished that you could join them. You dipped your toes in the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time during our trip to Long Beach Island. You squinted in the bright sunshine and relaxed to the sound of the crashing waves while I reminded Nora not to toss sand in our direction.

We spent almost a week traveling to Greensburg to visit friends, to Altoona for a Wiley family reunion, and to Dover to see family. Fortunately, you are very good in the car … until it stops moving. You were passed around and into the arms of many great aunts and second cousins, attended your first baseball game and watched the majority of it from Aunt Kirsten’s lap, and spent lots of quality time with Uncle Andrew who was visiting from Colorado.

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You weighed 10 lbs 10 oz at your 2-month check-up and measured 22 inches long. Sam and Nora were both along for your appointment, and they were much more nervous for your shots than you were.

You now have your very own chair at the dining room table. You’re usually content to sit there during breakfast and lunch. But you prefer to be in the K’tan wrap while I prepare dinner and in my lap while we eat it. I suspect you’ll be reaching for my plate in no time.

You love, love, love bath time. I bathe you every other night, around 7:30pm after the big kids are finished. You quiet as soon as you hear the sound of the running water and are completely content once you’re in the tub. In fact, you often cry when it’s time to get out.

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You are still taking short and sporadic naps throughout the day — usually in the bouncy seat, if we’re home. But I can always guarantee a solid nap in the car or the Ergo. One Sunday afternoon, you accompanied me to Costco, Trader Joe’s and Target, and you slept soundly through every stop and every transition in and out of the car.

Nighttime sleep is much more predictable. You join us in Sam’s bed for family story time, and the kids fight over who gets to lay closest to you and who gets to hold your hands. You are typically asleep by 8pm. I keep you downstairs with us and wake you to change your diaper and eat before I go to bed around midnight. Then you’re up around 5am for a snack and again at 8am (if Sam and Nora don’t disturb you earlier).

You now sleep in your crib, which is set up in your own little corner of our bedroom. I’m sorry that you don’t have your own nursery — painted and thoughtfully decorated — like Sam and Nora did at your age. But I did sew a crib skirt and buy new sheets before you were born. So that’s better than nothing, right? And I promise that I will create a beautiful room just for you as soon as we move into a house with more space.

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You are still nursing 8-10 times per day. Though sometimes it’s more for comfort than hunger. Daddy gave you your first bottle, unplanned, while Mommy was at the hair salon. And you sucked it down like a champ. Daddy has also learned the trick to calm your cries — he takes you outside and walks circles around the deck. You love it, even when it’s 95 degrees outside.

I love when you smile at me in the morning, when you rest your head on my shoulder, and when you wrap your fingers around mine while I’m nursing you. I know from experience how quickly this newborn stage ends, and so I am soaking it all in while I can.

I love you, sweet girl!

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Letter to Evelyn: One Month

07.28.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Evelyn Claire,

It is true that time seems to march forward faster with each child. You seem to reach milestones earlier and outgrow clothing sooner. While I am left trying to hold onto these moments longer. You are our third, and I have learned that there is no such thing as “spoiling” you or creating “bad habits.” I cuddle you as often as I can and don’t mind if you end up beside me in bed before the sun rises.

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I love your swirl of silky brown hair, the way you smack your lips together when you’re hungry and suck in your lower lip when you sleep, and how you fit perfectly in my lap while I sit cross-legged on the floor surrounded by puzzle pieces and matchbox cars. I love your squeaks, sighs, sneezes, stretches, smiles, and snorts.

You furrow your eyebrows just like Sam, and you like to feel your hands at your face just like Nora. You have a strong neck, and your favorite position is over my left shoulder. You are constantly kicking your right leg and have broken out of the swaddle more times than I can count.

I don’t mind the constant diaper changes or the endless pile of dirty burp cloths. And I actually look forward to feeling the weight of you in my arms in the middle of the night. I am not the same mother I was to Sam, or even to Nora. I am not nervous to lift a tiny wet body from the bath tub or nurse you in public. I have accepted that you are my priority and am more confident in my decisions. I’m more experienced, more relaxed, and more present.

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You arrived on the first Monday of summer vacation, and so I have had no choice but to bring you to the playground and the community pool and the library for story time. Fortunately, you are content to be toted along on our adventures. You mostly snooze in the stroller or in the Ergo or in my lap. Most people can’t believe that I’m taking such a tiny little one to the coffee shop or the creamery, especially when I have a 2 1/2-year-old on one hand and an almost-5-year-old on the other. They say, “You certainly have your hands full.” And I want to say, “You should see my heart.

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So far, you are a stellar sleeper. You take a lot of short naps during the day — in the car or in the stroller, in your bouncy seat while the big kids run laps around you, or in my arms if I can manage to sneak away for a few minutes of quiet snuggle time.

On your first night home, I put you into the crib at bedtime. It’s in our room, but it was a bit too big and a bit too far away for you liking. As soon as I moved you into the cozy bassinet (the same one that both Sam and Nora slept in for their first few weeks of life), you began to sleep for 4-5 hour stretches.

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You are a healthy eater and impressed the doctor with your weight gain at your 2-week (8lbs 1oz) and 1-month (9lbs 9oz) appointments. I am feeding you on demand, which turns out to be 8-9 times per day. You have already outgrown the newborn sleepers that I bought for you right after you were born, though your 3-month clothing is still too big.

When possible, I try to escape to the bedroom to nurse you without a kid talking in my ear or trying to climb into my lap. And on the weekends, I love to snuggle with you in bed long after Sam’s door opens and Nora begins to beg for breakfast.

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During week 3, you developed little red dots all over your forehead and cheeks. The doctor wasn’t concerned, and it didn’t seem to bother you, but I still felt so bad. I started to rub a bit of expressed breast milk all over your face in the morning and at night. It seemed like a strange thing to do, but it also seemed like the most natural “remedy” that I came across during my research. You also had a clogged tear duct, and I had to wipe discharge from your right eye at least 6 times per day. Yes, little lady, you were a bit high maintenance during weeks 3 and 4. Fortunately, both things cleared up almost as quickly as they appeared.

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You are absolutely adored by your big brother and big sister. They smother you with love and hugs and kisses. I say “get out of her face” and “give her some space” at least a dozen times every day. But I believe that you have already learned that there is no such thing as “personal space” in this house. And I honestly don’t think that you mind. You seem to be most content when you’re in the middle of the chaos.

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Nora calls you “Baby Ebie” and “cutie pie.” She is the first to report to me if you’re crying and stuffs the binkie into your mouth if I don’t respond fast enough. She likes to tickle your toes and rub your head, though I have to constantly remind her to be gentle. When I talk to you, she says “Baby Ebie can’t talk yet, Mommy.” Yet she reads books to you and sings “Rock-a-Bye, Baby.” She tries to sit on my lap while I’m nursing you and tries to climb onto the dresser when I’m changing you. Basically, she wants to be beside you at all times.

Sam calls you “Ev” and gives you about a million kisses every day. On your first day home, he said, “I’m Bubba. You can call me Sam, or Bubba.” He is always holding your hands and wrapping your fingers around his thumbs (just like he did with Nora when she was a baby). He wants to help to change your diapers and give you baths, and he is your biggest cheerleader during tummy time. He involves you in all of his pretend play, like “Don’t worry, Evie, I’ll protect you from Darth Vader” and “You are true love’s first kiss.”

Big brother and big sister have lots of questions like: “Why do you have to feed her on both sides? Does it taste different?” and “Daddy, did you watch Mommy push out the baby?”

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Evie, you are so loved by so many. During your first week, you were able to meet Nini and Poppy and Auntie Laura, Oma and Opa and Uncle BJ. During our trip to Dover at two weeks, you met your Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Rishel, and your Great Grammy. As well as several great aunts and great uncles.

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Evie, you are the piece to our puzzle that we didn’t even realize was missing. You complete our family and bring each of us so much joy. I already can’t imagine our life without you in it. We love you, little lady!

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A Day in the Life | Summer 2016

07.14.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last time I recorded a day in the life post, I was barely pregnant and could not yet comprehend what it would be like to parent three young kids. Well, here I am, parenting three young kids. And surviving. Mostly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Emily: 34 | Nick: 33 | Sam: almost 5 yrs | Nora: 2 1/2 yrs | Evelyn: 5 wks | Lucy: almost 4 yrs

4:07 am | I hear Evie whimpering in the bassinet beside my bed. I roll over and check the time on my phone. Way to go, girl! Another night with an almost 5-hour stretch of sleep. Momma could get very used to this. I sit with her in the rocker while she nurses for about 15 minutes, do a quick diaper change, then place her back in bed. Successful transfer! I don’t think she even opened her eyes. I run downstairs to use the bathroom, take a few sips from the water bottle on my nightstand, and fall back asleep in a matter of minutes.

6:12 am | I hear little lady stirring again, about an hour earlier than her typical wake-up, so I let her go and, as expected, she quiets down.

6:30 am | I’m still awake, and I hear Lucy gagging at the foot of our bed. I nudge Nick, and he responds with “Just 15 more minutes. I’ll clean it up in 15 more minutes.” I sit up to make sure she’s okay, then close my eyes again.

7:00 am | Nora is calling “Mommy” from her room. I nudge Nick again — well past his “15 more minutes.” He begrudgingly rolls out of bed to check on her. He opens her door and is greeted with “I want Mommy.” But he manages to suffice, and she even invites him to lay in bed with her until her green light comes on (at 7:30 am).

7:14 am | Evie is ready to get up now. I lift her into bed with me to nurse. But she’s too busy stretching and yawning and grunting. So I get up to change her diaper first.

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7:30 am | I hear Nora say, “Daddy, my green light is on.” Then I hear Nick ask if she needs to use the potty. Of course, she defiantly responds, “No.” So they go downstairs to start breakfast. And I hear the glorious sound of the coffee grinder. Less than two minutes later they’re back upstairs to use the potty. “See, Daddy, I not pee in my pull-ups.” I’m surprised, really, because she’s been waking up wet almost every morning for the past week. This is after many, many weeks of dry diapers before Evie was born. But let’s not talk about that regression right now.

7:45 am | After a solid 15 minutes of snuggling with the littlest, we get up, and I notice the thin trail of dog puke on the rug. It’s not terrible, but I have to step around it to get to the door. I take Evie into the bathroom to wipe her face. Poor girl has a clogged tear duct, which causes her right eye to get crusty every time she sleeps. She also has baby acne on her forehead, cheeks, and neck. Our doc didn’t seem concerned about either at her appointment last week, but both still bother me. While I’m in the bathroom with Evie, I hear Sam’s door open. He’s carrying Ricky, says good morning to us, asks where Nora is, then goes downstairs to find her.

7:50 am | Cereal is on the table for the kids: Life with honey and bananas for Sam and dry Cinnamon Toast Crunch for Nora, plus a bowl of raisins. They’re helping Nick to make our coffee — oh, how we have fallen in love with our French press. I put Evie into her bouncy seat and head back upstairs with the Spot Bot to clean up Lucy’s mess.

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8:05 am | While I’m Spot Botting, the kids run up and down the steps shouting “Alert, vacuum!” and “Alert, Lucy throw-up!” After three rounds of the Spot Bot and a run of the vacuum, our bedroom rug is clean again. Since I’ve been upstairs cleaning, I’ve heard “Daddy, up” on repeat from Nora; I’ve heard Sam requesting more honey and more milk; and I’ve heard Nick say “Away from the baby” and “Give the baby some space” at least a dozen times. Back downstairs to drink my coffee while Nick goes to take his shower.

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8:15 am | While Nick gets ready for work, I make breakfast for myself (three eggs, a piece of chicken apple sausage, and 1/2 an avocado) and the kids entertain themselves in the living room. Nora is talking to Oma and Opa on her “phone” (a.k.a. an old iPod she found in the desk drawer), and Sam is sketching a plan for his fort of the day. Because we build forts and secret hideouts every day. In every room. With every pillow in the house.

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8:20 am | Nora has moved on to reading books, and Sam is pretending to sleep with a pile of pillows from the couch.

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8:30 am | Daddy is back downstairs for hugs and kisses before he heads out the door. I ask if he still has a dinner meeting tonight. He thanks me for the reminder as I mentally prepare for my first attempt at bathing all three kids and getting them ready for bed without any assistance.

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8:32 am | The kids wave to Nick as they fight for the center spot at the window and sing “good-bye” until he’s out of sight. Then they sing it a few more times, for good measure.

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8:35 am | I’m still trying to eat my breakfast, which Nora keeps stealing bites of. And drink my coffee, which is no longer hot. I also send a few texts to friends to make plans for next week while we’re visiting my hometown.

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8:45 am | Sam requests “Up Down Funk-You-Unk.” I happily oblige — I love morning dance parties. Additional requests include “Shake It Off” and “Can’t Stop The Feeling.”

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9:00 am | T-minus one hour until story time begins at the library. Can we make it? I’m not optimistic, but I figure we’ll try anyway because our days are always better when we manage to get out of the house. I take the girls upstairs to get ready while Sam watches “Auntie Laura’s wedding video” on the iPad (which he asks to do at least once a month — he loves that he knows the entire cast of characters). I change Evie’s diaper and dress her in a onesie and a pair of pants. I also put a bib on her to, hopefully, prevent multiple outfit changes due to rogue spit-up. Then I put her in the bassinet and quickly slip into shorts and a t-shirt. I showered last night after working out (my first workout postpartum and, oh man, am I feeling it today) and am grateful that I don’t have to find time to shower this morning. While I apply some R+F eye cream (love!) and a bit of mascara, Nora entertains herself with my chapstick. This occupies her while I finish, then we brush our teeth and use mouthwash (her favorite part). Into her room to get dressed and pull her hair into a ponytail. And another stop in the bathroom to go potty because her pull-ups are still dry. Woo-hoo!

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9:25 am | Yes, all of that took a solid 25 minutes. And I still have one more kid to get ready. Evie is crying now so I grab her and take her into Sam’s room to help him get dressed. He is completely capable of dressing himself, but not when I ask him to, of course. I brush his teeth and send him back downstairs while I gather a few things for Evie: change of clothes, two more diapers, a burp cloth, and a muslin blanket.

9:35 am | Downstairs to nurse Evie while the big kids run amok and I play referee from the couch. I threaten to stay home at least five times. They either don’t hear me, or don’t care. This ultimately ends in Nora hitting Sam (which she has been doing a lot of lately) and declaring “You’re not my best friend anymore.” Ugh. We have to get moving.

9:50 am | Realize I forgot to print a return label for the Amazon box that I want to drop off at UPS downtown. So I quickly take care of that and throw in a load of laundry while I’m in the basement. Then back upstairs to pack a few snacks and waters for our walk. Nora insists on bringing a plastic banana, and I don’t argue.

10:00 am | We’re finally out the door and on our way downtown. Sam and Nora are being surprisingly good listeners and holding onto the stroller like I asked them to. As we turn onto South Street, Sam informs me that there is a dead blue jay in the bushes — he saw it when he was running through them with Aunt Kirsten last week. He proceeds to describe the ants that were crawling all over it and suspects that they ate the bird’s head. Nice, Sam, thanks for the gory details.

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10:15 am | We arrive at the library 15 minutes late and cause a bit of a scene as I park the stroller and coerce the big kids into finding a spot near the front so they can see the final book. The librarian is wonderful and knows Nora by name since we came almost every Tuesday while Sam was in school. After the book, we “go on a bear hunt.” But Sam is too cool to join. Then the librarian distributes the craft supplies, and the kids make jelly fish to hang in our window.

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10:30 am | They wrap up their craft projects, and I clean their sticky gluey hands before I send them off to pick out two books, each. Sam returns with Star Wars and Batman. No surprise. Nora has a book about dogs and one about cars. Evie is wide awake, so I get her out of the stroller and she joins us to read. So much for a solid morning nap while we’re out and about.

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10:45 | Before we leave, I encourage Sam and Nora to decorate paper pennants that the library staff is going to hang. Sam draws a ninja and asks me to draw the castle that he’s protecting. Nora wants me to trace her hand — five times. We write their names on both, check out our books, and head back outside.

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11:00 am | We walk to the UPS store to drop off an Amazon return, and we have to stop twice for water breaks — it’s already so hot outside. But the kids are behaving so well that I suggest we get lunch at The Creamery. We haven’t been there since Sam’s last day of school, and we all miss it.

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11:30 am | We arrive at The Creamery, and I order a pizza for the kids to share. I get a “Home Brew” iced tea for myself, which is one of my favorite finds in Morristown. (House brewed black iced tea sweetened with fresh squeezed orange and lemon juices and a touch of sugar.) I decide against ordering lunch for myself since I made a big batch of chicken salad yesterday. We find a table, and Sam spots one of his school buddies. Max shows Sam a flyer for a local air show and bike show, then they laugh over Snapchat on his mom’s phone. When Kara is finished talking with another friend, she joins us. The two of us chat about summer camps, the township pool, upcoming vacations, how we can’t believe our two-year-olds will be starting preschool in the fall, and Evie’s birth story, which she hadn’t yet heard. Kara and Max leave around noon, hoping their parking meter hadn’t yet expired.

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12:00 pm | We can’t come to The Creamery without getting ice cream. Nora asks for strawberry, her usual. And Sam wants vanilla with cherries on top, his usual. But just Nora gets her strawberry scoop, Sam decides that he would rather have cherry Italian ice. Oh no. I know where this is going, and it’s not going to be pretty. Of course, now Nora wants “cherry ice!” Which she yells multiple times, loud enough for half of the shop to hear. When I say no, you asked for strawberry, and you can have a bite of Sam’s, she throws her cup of ice cream onto the floor. Did I mention that I’m also holding Evie in one arm and fumbling through my wallet with the other? The woman behind the counter is so super nice and comes out to help Nora clean up the mess. Though I insist that Nora pick up the cup and hand it to her. Then she gives her a scoop of “cherry ice” at no additional charge. This woman obviously has kids of her own. I thank her a bunch of times, leave a tip, and scurry back to our seats. Four years ago, something like this would have left me feeling embarrassed and red in the face. Now, I barely flinch.

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12:30 pm | Home again. The kids race to the front door. And immediately upon entering, Sam declares “I have to go poop.” Followed by Nora declaring “I have to go poop, too.” Why must these two children always have to poop at the exact same time? When we only have one bathroom? Well, we also have a random toilet in the laundry room, but I refuse to use it unless it’s an emergency. And this hasn’t yet reached emergency status. Both kids do their business, and I wipe their bottoms. Then I head upstairs to change Evie’s diaper and nurse her.

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1:00 pm | My stomach is growling, and I remember that I haven’t yet had lunch. I pull a croissant from the freezer, thaw it in the microwave, and pile chicken salad on top (rotisserie chicken, green grapes, celery, cranberries, almonds, and Greek yogurt). I put some potato chips on my plate, too, and pour a big glass of water. Sam and Nora ask for a few potato chips, which turns into a few more, and a few more. This is why I rarely ever buy potato chips. But Trader Joe’s got me with their kettle-cooked chips made with nothing but potatoes, olive oil, and sea salt. TJ’s also got me with this amazing chocolate candy bar.

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1:15 pm | Evie is snoozing in the bouncy seat and the big kids are playing quietly upstairs, so I take advantage of the opportunity and clean up the kitchen and dining room. I unload the dishwasher and reload it with breakfast plates and coffee mugs. I wipe down the counters and the dining room table, and take the place mats downstairs to the laundry room. While I’m down there, I fold a load of laundry and start another. Okay, I’ve probably exceeded my allotment of quiet chore time, so I head back upstairs.

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2:00 pm | Surprisingly, the kids are still playing nicely. Nora is reading books in her room and Sam is rearranging his train shelf. Also, it appears as though Rexy has joined the battle happening on Sam’s bed.

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2:15 pm | When they realize that I’m done eating and cleaning, they start fighting for my attention. Sam lost his Golden Ninja. Then he asks me to help find LEGO weapons for each LEGO guy. Nora wants me to write her name in the notebook that she’s carrying around. Then she decides she would rather play sand. But, first, a selfie with my two big kids. Then I quickly find the LEGO pieces that Sam is missing and set up kinetic sand for Nora at the dining room table, even though there will be purple sand all over the rug in a matter of minutes. Nora reminds me that “I two and half, and that’s why I have purple sand now.” But then she wants the brown sand. She says, “Mommy, you like brown because you like chocolate.” Can’t get anything past this one! Evie is stirring, so I take her upstairs to nurse her back to sleep and manage to transfer her into the bassinet to finish her nap.

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2:45 pm | While feeding Evie, Nora decides she’s done with the sand and starts filling tea cups with water from the bathroom sink. Sam joins in on the fun. Before they have the opportunity to soak each other, I suggest we have some quiet time with the iPad. (Because Nora hasn’t voluntarily taken a nap since baby sister arrived. But I still try to enforce quiet time every afternoon.) They are thrilled! We start with a few rounds of Endless ABCs. Then we switch to Justin Time on Netflix. I sit down on the couch for, what feels like, the first time all day. Unless you count the multiple times I’ve nursed Evie. I read a text from a friend asking “Where are you? Why aren’t you at the pool today?” For a brief moment, I consider waking Evie, packing up, and heading to the pool. But I quickly admit that’s a crazy idea. Especially since I’m on my own for the rest of the night, and I need to do everything possible to dodge meltdowns.

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4:00 pm | Sam and Nora are still watching Justin Time. And I must have dozed off for about 30 minutes because I wake to hear Evie crying upstairs. Just as I’m heading up to feed her, S and N decide that they’re hungry, too. I very quickly hook them up with blueberry yogurts and string cheese and run upstairs to scoop up the littlest. After she’s fed and changed, it’s her turn for a selfie with momma.

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4:15 pm | Back downstairs the big kids are still snacking and watching the iPad. But I decide we need to get outside before dinner. I’m met with much resistance. And so begins the dreaded witching hour.

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4:30 pm | I convince everyone to come outside, and I sit down with the baby and my sparkling water to enjoy the evening sun and my beautiful kids playing together. Yeah, right. Within a matter of minutes, I take away two toys (a shovel because Sam won’t share and a squirt gun because he’s chasing Nora), scold Sam multiple times for climbing onto Nora’s car while she’s trying to drive it, scold Nora multiple times for threatening to throw sand at Sam, and have to remove two balls from the yard because Lucy won’t stop pestering me to play.

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5:00 pm | I’ve reached my limit, so we’re all back inside. Since S and N just finished snacking an hour ago, I decide to start baths before making dinner. Also because I somehow have to figure out how to bathe all three by myself. Nora is first into the tub, and I let her play while Evie and I watch. I end up feeding Evie in the bathroom because she’s really fussy. By the time I finish, change her diaper, get Nora out of the bath and into jammies, it’s past 5:30 pm. So we head back downstairs to scour the fridge for leftovers.

5:30 pm | There is not enough leftover mac and cheese for both kids, and I don’t have more to make, which means it’s Sam’s turn to meltdown. I convince him to have a grilled cheese sandwich instead. Both kids also get watermelon. I’m not hungry yet, and Evie won’t let me put her down anyway, so I bounce around the kitchen with her in the K’tan wrap while eating the crust from Sam’s sandwich and a few slices of watermelon. Then it’s back upstairs for Sam’s turn in the tub. But not before sword fights with empty paper towel rolls. Because, why not.

6:00 pm | Sam is bathed and into jammies.

6:30 pm | Evie is bathed and into jammies.

7:00 pm | We all end up in Sam’s bed for stories and snuggles. You’ll notice that there aren’t many details about the previous hour because I switched into survival mode, counting down the minutes until these three sweet heads hit their pillows and drift into dreamland.

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7:25 pm | After four books and two songs, we hear the front door open. Daddy is home! He changes and relieves me of my duties. I kiss the big kids goodnight and take Evie upstairs to feed her. Then I lay her in bed while I change into my running clothes.

7:40 pm | Nick brought leftover tabouli salad home for me to eat. Thanks, babe! I add some leftover rotisserie chicken and call it a late dinner.

8:00 pm | Sam and Nora are asleep and Nick finally gets to hold the littlest for the first time all day. We chat for just a few minutes before I cue up Pandora and head outside for a run.

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8:30 pm | My legs are so sore from cardio fix the night before, but I push through and am proud of myself for completing my first run (albeit my slowest run) postpartum. Two miles done in just over 20 minutes. Plus it felt so darn good to blare music in my ears and not have to listen to endless demands from my three little dictators.

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9:00 pm | Back home, and I give in to Lucy’s pleas to play ball in the backyard while I chug water and cool down from my run. I can’t help but snag two chocolate chip cookies on my way upstairs to shower.

9:15 pm | Evie is still sleeping in Nick’s arms. We chat for a bit about his day and mine and discuss plans for our upcoming weekend away. Then I set up my laptop and start organizing my photos and notes from the day while he watches a show on the iPad.

10:15 pm | Nick’s ready for bed, and Evie is still sleeping, so he puts her into the bouncy seat while I get a bowl of cereal and do a bit more work.

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11:30 pm | I always forget how much I love blogging until I actually make time to do it again! I force myself to close the laptop and go upstairs to brush my teeth. Then I change Evie’s diaper, which wakes her up just enough for a quick feeding before we both go to bed.

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The days are long. Sometimes very, very long. But the years are so short.

Evelyn’s Birth Story

07.07.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

The third one is supposed to be the easiest, right? The pregnancy, the labor, the delivery, the demeanor of the baby after birth. Well, not entirely.

I felt my first contraction before going to bed on Tuesday, May 31st. We were still two weeks from baby’s due date. So I didn’t expect it to turn into anything significant. Except that the contractions continued, 5-7 minutes apart, throughout the night.

I woke up Nick around 4am and suggested that we get ready for a possible trip to the hospital. I wanted to take a shower, and I still had to pack a bag (so different than the first when I was packed a month before he arrived!). And we had to call a friend to come and stay with the big kids. The contractions continued — bearable, but consistent — until our friend arrived about an hour later.

We arrived at the hospital just after 6am, and I was set up in a triage room with bands around my belly to monitor contractions and the baby’s heart rate. The doc confirmed that I was just 2cm dilated (what I expected to hear) and suggested that I do a few laps around the maternity floor to see if I progressed. After 2 hours, there was no change, and so we headed back home.

Nick took off the rest of the day because we were still hopeful that it might be baby’s birth day. We took Sam to school (and everyone wished us luck!) and enjoyed breakfast at the bakery with Nora. Then we made arrangements for another friend to take Sam and Nora for the afternoon and overnight. (Thank goodness for this village of ours!)

Despite having regular contractions all day, walking 7 miles around town, and eating spicy food for dinner, the baby changed its mind about coming out to play, and contractions subsided by the next morning. I was confused and a little discouraged. But I tried to focus on all the things I now got to do before he or she arrived.

Like enjoying Sam’s last day of preschool, an ice cream social, and lunch with friends. And a much deserved prenatal massage! All of the frustration and exhaustion that I felt earlier that week totally melted away.

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Contractions started again on Saturday, but I tried my best to ignore them. I cleaned the house, did a few loads of laundry, walked to the grocery store, joined the community pool, and went to the park with the kids.

Nick’s mom arrived on Sunday. We were all so excited to see her — and felt relieved from the pressure of finding friends to cover for us if/when labor began. We grilled out and watched Sam and Nora race their bikes around the back deck. Nick picked up his brother, BJ, from the train station later that day, who was also joining us overnight after spending the weekend in NYC. We had a full house! Which seemed like the perfect time for baby to make its debut …

I woke around 5am on Monday, June 6th (my dad’s birthday!). And I immediately knew that the contractions had changed. How could I have forgotten what they really felt like?? I sat in the glider beside our bed and timed them for about an hour before I woke Nick. They were consistently coming every 4 minutes by the time he got out of bed. Yet he still asked if he should go to work. I guess I couldn’t blame him, considering the previous false alarms. But I assured him that today was the day!

We let Carol and BJ and the kids sleep in until about 7:15am. I ate eggs, and Nick drank a big cup of coffee. I re-packed my toiletries in my duffle bag and lined up everything by the front door. By 8:30, things were starting to pick up. Nick knew by the way I swayed my hips through every contraction — something I did both times before. I called the doctor, and she also believed it was time. I gave big hugs and kisses to Sam and Nora and told them that they would get to meet their new baby brother or sister later that day!

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I was 4cm dilated when we got to the hospital and was admitted and checked into labor and delivery by 10am. We called my parents to tell them that Dad was going to get a new grandchild for his birthday!

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Between 10am and 12:30pm, I progressed from 4cm to 7cm. There was lots of hip swaying, a little bit of groaning, and a lot of requests for Nick to apply more pressure to my lower back. I was up and moving around the room the entire time, thanks to a wireless monitoring device. But I started to feel a little nauseous from the walking and heavy breathing. So I decided it was time for an epidural. Oh, the instant relief!

We heard an increase in activity in the room beside ours, lots of groaning and encouragement to push, and then the sweet, sweet cry of a newborn baby. I teared up, knowing we were just moments away from hearing the first cry from our own little babe.

Less than an hour after the epidural, I felt that very familiar urge to push. I called for the nurse who confirmed that it was go time! She could see the top of baby’s head (as well as a bit of dark meconium, which meant she had to take proper precaution and call the peds team).

It felt like an eternity before my doctor arrived. But then things happened fast! Sanitary cloths down, cart of medical instruments rolled beside my bed, newborn station set up, legs into stirrups. I pushed. And pushed. And pushed again. Then on the fourth push, I sat all the way up and watched that itty bitty body slip out of me and into the world. 1:46pm. I caught a glimpse of her little girl parts just as the doctor announced, “It’s a GIRL!” I looked at Nick, still squeezing his hand, and saw the surprise and overwhelming joy on his face. (He was convinced from the beginning that we were having a boy.)

And then we heard that beautiful sound — our daughter’s first cry. She was slimy and slippery, but the nurse placed her on my chest for a brief moment before they whisked her off to the other side of the room to be examined. I encouraged Nick to go with her. And, as they checked her, he confirmed that she was just perfect.

Welcome to the world, Evelyn Claire! 7lbs 10 oz and 20 inches long. Perfectly round head. a swirl of dark hair. Flawless complexion. Long fingers and slender toes, just like Nora. Facial features exactly like Sam.

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The nurses cleaned her up and wrapped her in a warm blanket before bringing her back to me. No matter the first time, the second time, or the third time, there is absolutely nothing like the feeling of your child in your arms. After months of dreaming of her face and the weight of her body outside of mine, Evie was here. Squeezing my thumb, looking into my eyes, her cries quieted by my beating heart and her breath syncing with mine. After a solid 20 minutes of nursing (like a champ!), Daddy got some time with her — another baby girl to love and to spoil.

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After about an hour in labor and delivery, we were transferred to our room in maternity. My lower body had still not recovered from the epidural, which meant they had to transport me in a wheelchair and assist me into bed. But it also meant that I felt no pain — yet!

We spread the news of Miss Evelyn’s birth with family and friends. And prepared for her to meet her big brother and big sister! Just before they arrived, I had my IV removed and was able to get up and move around.

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Carol and BJ came into the room first — to video and photograph the meeting of the siblings. Then Nick followed with two very excited kids. Sam was absolutely beaming. I’m not sure that I’ve seen such a proud and genuine smile since the day that Nora was born. Nora was a bit apprehensive, holding Daddy’s hand tightly.

They both walked over to my bed, and I asked, “What color is the hat?” (Because we had told them they would know if it was a brother or sister based on the color of the hat.) They said, “Pink!” And Sam said, “It’s a girl!” Then Nora immediately said, “I washed my hands. I hold baby now?” It was such an amazing and memorable moment for our little family.

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The kids spent the next 20 minutes taking turns holding Evie, touching her ears and nose, requesting to see her belly button and toes. They took pictures with their new cameras and introduced her to Ricky and Rexy. And BJ recorded the entire thing. What a treasure.

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Then we had a picnic in my bed, which left sugar cookie crumbs and rainbow sprinkles spread across the hospital sheets. It was even better than I imagined it would be.

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Oh, sweet Evie, you are such a lucky and loved little girl. Welcome to this crazy family of ours!

Letter to Samuel: June 2016

06.28.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Sam,

It was almost five years ago that we were anxiously awaiting your arrival. And, here we are, just days away from meeting your newest sibling. We can’t wait to see you become a big brother all over again.

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You have grown so much since starting preschool in September. Not only did you master your ABCs and 123s, improve your attention span, develop your art skills, and learn to follow directions and take turns, you became more independent confident and learned to ask questions and share your ideas. Your teachers say you are a good listener and a good friend. “Everybody loves Sam,” they say.

We feel so fortunate to have found an extended family in your preschool classmates and parents. Our weekly social calendar often revolves around your park picnics and play dates. We meet friends for frozen yogurt after school on Thursdays and join a big group at The Creamery for lunch every Friday. I love to watch you interact with your friends, even if it involves WWF wrestling in the mulch.

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Most of the stories about your mornings at school involve “my boys” and “my team” and who was captain of the playground that day. For about two weeks, you insisted on wearing a superhero ribbon that was attached to an old birthday card. When I asked why you wanted to wear it every day, you said because it means you get to be captain.

You are also very impressionable, like most boys your age. This means that you have picked up quite a few potty words at school. Your favorite is “poopy” and is used to describe just about anything. Fortunately, you recognize when silly words turn into hurtful words. Twice, I’ve witnessed you back out of a conversation when you realized it was making a friend feel sad. And I was so proud of you.

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You are stubborn, strong-willed, and spirited. But those words can be used to describe most almost-five-year-old boys. We are trying hard to teach you patience and the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes time-outs work, sometimes they don’t. Sleep helps, but you usually don’t get enough of it.

You exhaust me. You frustrate me. You entertain me. Days with you are never dull.

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You are a natural athlete, and it’s been fun to watch you try new sports this year. You did a five-week trial class in tae kwan do. Not surprisingly, you loved it. The karate kicks and chops and “hi-yas” were right up your alley. But you also learned control and discipline, and it may be an activity we pick up again later down the road.

You played fall soccer and spring soccer, and we plan to join a more structured league in September. You are agile and fast on the field, but not aggressive. You also recently expressed an interest in baseball and request to walk to the diamond down the street for batting practice. Though I think your favorite part is running the bases.

Finally, you just completed ten weeks of swimming classes. This has been my personal favorite because I have seen an incredible amount of improvement! You started off not able to hold your breath under water for more than a few seconds. You were timid and clung to the instructor when she asked you to float on your back. But now you can swim underwater, using your arms and legs, the width of the lane. You can float on your back. And jump into the water and swim under your instructor’s legs. Amazing! And I love that after each skill you complete, you look up at me and give a big thumbs up.

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You love the outdoors, and after spending a weekend with Uncle Steepie, you became obsessed with fishing and hunting turkey. I try to control the “gun” talk, but I also think it’s inevitable. You are naturally drawn to swords and light sabers and sneak around the house in pursuit of the bad guys. You build weapons out of LEGOs and create elaborate battles between your little figurines. You get Nora involved, too. You collect all of the pillows in the house to build secret hideouts and protect yourselves from intruders.

You are currently obsessed with ninjas and often set up “ninja training” in your bedroom, which includes a circuit of one-armed push-ups, high knees on the blow-up mattress, and pull-ups on your dresser. And then “activate super powers” or “engage muscles.”

You thrive when given a mission or a task. Like when I sent you on a mission to hop the backyard fence and fetch the key from under our mailbox because we got locked out of the house. And when Daddy asked you to help him to demolish the old swing set in our back yard. You live for these things.

You are also very interested in science, which makes Daddy so proud. I suspect we’ll spend a lot of time this summer working our way through our science experiment book. But let’s try to avoid another explosion like the one that occurred when you shook up the beaker that contained vinegar and baking soda. I’m still finding tiny splatters of green in the dining room.

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You and Nora have a typical sibling relationship — one minute you’re playing nicely in your pillow fort and the next minute you’re trying to push each other off the bed. I can’t tell you how many times every day I hear Nora say, “Bubba isn’t being nice to me,” followed by you declaring, “Nora isn’t my best friend anymore.”

As much as you drive each other crazy at home, you always include her at play dates and school events. You taught her to play hopscotch with your classmates and kept your arm around her shoulder while the two of you waited together in line. You checked that she got her five eggs at the Easter Egg Hunt before you filled your own basket. You always take her hand and make sure she can climb every ladder and rock wall, and you encourage her to go down the biggest slides.

One day, when Nora fell asleep beside you on the couch, you said, “Nora is beautiful.” Which turned into “Nora is a booty butt” as soon as she woke up. Another day you came to me and said, “Nora is super in love with me.” Then, “Do I have to get married when I’m 5?” After thinking for a second, you said, “Maybe when I’m 65.”

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While walking home from school one afternoon, you told me that you want to be a policeman when you grow up. Then you changed your mind and said you want to be Batman. Because “I know that the Easter Bunny isn’t real, but Batman is.”

Overheard while playing with Nora, “You can be the Mommy, Nora. You have to know everything. And you have to clean the dishes all by yourself.” Thanks, buddy!

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I admire your innocence and your imagination. How you use “ice” pillows to construct a frozen city in your bedroom. How you transform a hanger into a hook for the imaginary zipline in our backyard. And how you really do believe that you can be a ninja. The Golden Ninja, of course.

I love that you ask Daddy to tell you a story every night and ask a million questions about the characters and plots. I love that you lay your head on Lucy while watching cartoons. I love that you hold Nora’s hand while crossing the street and open her fruit snacks. And I love that you can barely fit in my lap, between your long legs and my very pregnant belly, but you still ask to snuggle with me.

Love you to the moon and back, kid.

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Letter to Nora: June 2016

06.03.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Nora,

Your baby brother or sister is due to arrive any day. But before you’re promoted to “big sister” status, I want to remember you as our littlest.

You are our blue-eyed beauty. Our spunky and opinionated one, sometimes stubborn and demanding and dramatic, but also empathetic and sensitive.

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You love with your whole heart and give the greatest hugs. You are constantly rubbing and kissing my belly. And if I cry in the middle of the day, for no reason at all (thank you, pregnancy hormones), you are quick to wipe away my tears and say “I yuv you so much, Mommy.” I love that I can still calm your cries, too, and sometimes the two of us just take a break to rock together or snuggle on the couch.

You are, and always will be “daddy’s baby,” and you immediately correct us if we say otherwise. You give him multiple kisses goodbye every morning and wave to him from the front door. You love to “honk” his nose and jump on his back for rides around the house. Sometimes you grab his face in your hands to get his attention, and he pretty much turns to mush and will do whatever you ask. “Daddy’s baby,” indeed.

You and Sam certainly have your sibling spats, but you are constantly thinking about your big brother — like when you ask me to save a slice of pizza for him to eat after school, or you beg to play with him for “just one more minute” before nap time. And one of my favorite parts of the day is when you give him a kiss on the forehead before bed. You still call him bubba, but also “Dam,” which I adore.

You insist on feeding Lucy and letting her out the back door — even though it triples the length of time to do both tasks. You also love to dust and sweep the deck and help carry the laundry basket up the stairs. Honestly, I don’t know how I would accomplish anything without your assistance.

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You are going to be such a big helper when our new baby arrives. Every day you practice feeding your baby dolls, changing their diapers, and tucking them into their cradle. I love how you “shhh” them to sleep and bounce them and sing “rock-a-bye.” And insist that they are swaddled just perfectly. Interesting how that motherly instinct is already so strong. You make cozy beds for them out of pillows and blankets, or use tissues for your littlest princesses and Paw Patrol pups and Peppa Pig.

One weekend, while Nini and Poppy were visiting, you snuggled up to Nini with a toy bottle and pretended to drink from it. Ironic, considering you never, ever took a bottle when you were an infant. And when I asked you why, you said “because I did it like this with Mommy” while leaning in to Nini’s chest. We were all shocked that you remembered this despite not having ever seen a mother nurse a newborn. Such a smarty pants!

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For about two weeks, you developed an unexpected obsession with a toy dinosaur that you named Rexy. He went everywhere with us — to the park, to preschool pick-up, to Panera, to gymnastics, to Sam’s swim class. And it was the very first snuggle buddy you have ever requested to sleep with. Not the soft and squishy stuffed animal that I would have chosen for you, but it was pretty darn sweet. You said, “Rexy is my best friend.”

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I love that you equally enjoy “girl” things and “boy” things. You wear tutus and bracelets. You bake cookies in your kitchen and have tea parties in the bathtub. But you also pretend to be a ninja with a sword and a shield. You build magnet block castles for Matchbox cars and LEGO spaceships. You pick dandelions and throw rocks in puddles. You know Cinderella and Rapunzel and Spider-Man and Darth Vader.

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We just wrapped up our six-month session at the Little Gym, and we are both going to miss it! You have gained so much confidence since January, and it’s been amazing to watch. You walk right up to the colored circle at the beginning of class and answer “Nora” when asked “what’s your name?” You flash a shy smile, then do your forward roll, and quickly run back to me for high fives. You are a good listener and follow directions while most of the other two-year-olds run circles around the gym. You especially love running and jumping across the air track, swinging from the rings or bars, doing the bear walk, and jumping on and off the foam blocks. You do not like hanging upside down from the bars or climbing from the low bar to the high bar. You get so excited for “ball time” and “bubble time” at the end of class. Though you have cried more than once if you weren’t fast enough to grab the red ball or the blue ball, depending on your color preference of the day.

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You love art projects: drawing circles and lines and “letters” on paper, coloring flowers and butterflies in Mommy’s books, standing at your easel with markers or sticks of chalk, painting on paper plates. You still switch between your left hand and right hand, though you seem to have a bit more control with your left. We try to get to the library every Tuesday morning for toddler storytime and crafts, and you are always so proud to show off your creations to Daddy and Sam. You can also spend an incredible amount of time rolling and cutting play dough, scooping kinetic sand and forming it into balls, or standing at your sandbox on the back deck.

Your favorite color is red; purple is a close second. You know Sam likes dark blue, and Daddy, too. And you insist that Mommy likes brown because I like chocolate. You can count to 12 and are just starting to recognize letters, which is pretty cool. You are a sponge, soaking up everything we say and do and not forgetting a single detail.

You love books and tend to request the same book every night for a week before moving on to the next. Recent favorites include Goldbug (of course, you and Sam compete for who can find Goldbug first), Snuggle Stories (Minnie’s Sleepover, Donald Duck, and Rapunzel), and Our New Baby book. You will often sit and flip through books and say “Just one minute, I reading now.” And you are quick to catch us if we change a word or skip a page.

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We’ve reached so many important toddler milestones since your second birthday. First, we ditched the binkies. We decided going cold turkey was the best approach. So I bought a special pink box for you to put them in before bed one night, and we left the box outside your door for the binky fairy to pick up and deliver to babies who needed them. At first, you were really excited, but as soon as you realized that those binkies were not coming back into your room, you cried and cried and cried. It took you so long to settle and soothe yourself that night, and you woke up multiple times. But the next night was a bit better, and the one after that even better. And, by day three, you had completely forgotten about those beloved binkies.

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Next, potty training! I have to say that this was a much easier process than it was with Sam. You wanted to wear your Minnie Mouse undies right away and never refused when I asked you to sit on the potty. In the beginning, we rewarded you with mini marshmallows and smiley face stickers. And we must have sang the Daniel Tiger potty song at least 100 times. You have now developed a potty routine (as with every single thing in your day), which involves putting the little seat onto the big potty, climbing onto your stool and up onto the seat, singing the ABCs, doing your business, wiping, climbing down, removing the little seat, flushing, closing the lid, and washing your hands. Whew. Yes, it is as exhausting for me as it sounds. But it works. You have had very few accidents and are totally comfortable going in public restrooms — also totally comfortable singing the ABCs at the top of your little lungs. You still wear pull-ups for naps and nighttime, but almost always wake up dry. Good job, little lady!

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And, finally, we moved you into your “big girl bed.” You were so excited to help Daddy and Sam take apart the crib and assemble your bed. Mommy was also pretty excited to get that beautiful piece of furniture back into your room. We put on the butterfly sheets and purple quilt that you helped to pick out and added your little lamb pillow and favorite pink fleece blanket. Of course, you (and Sam) had to test out its bounciness on the first night. But you finally calmed down for a book and a story and a song. You didn’t get out of bed at all and only woke up once during the night. Again, completely different than your brother! In fact, you still stay in bed until Mommy or Daddy comes to get you in the morning. Now, this is not to say that you sometimes don’t make a dozen requests for a cup of water, a tissue, or a blanket adjustment. But it’s getting better.

We purchased a tot clock for your room while you were still sleeping in your crib, and before I turn out the light every night, you repeat at least ten times: “Goodnight, Sweet dreams, Until my green light comes on.” Then you almost always stay quiet in the morning until the green light comes on at 7:15am.

I think you love your room as much as I do. You will often play quietly with your toys while I clean or cook or shower. I love listening to the way you talk to your baby dolls and the scenarios you create with your miniature characters.

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You love bacon and maple syrup, apples with the skin peeled off, grapes, watermelon, pretzels and carrots with hummus, potato chips, pizza, gummies, and strawberry ice cream. You still won’t touch milk and have just recently taken a liking to apple juice. Your favorite shows are Peppa Pig, Caillou (despite the fact that Daddy and I cannot stand Caillou), Princess Sophia, and the baby episodes of Doc McStuffins. And you love to play the Daniel Tiger games on my iPad.

You are definitely not one to be left behind and are constantly trying to keep pace with Sam and his friends. You race around the playground, demand to ride scooters that are too big for you, and confidently climb over rocks or walk along stone walls. Now that shorts season has arrived, I believe that your legs will be permanently decorated with little scrapes and bruises.

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A few of your cutest expressions: What you doing? What happened? Did you see that? I have an idea. Oh my goodness. No, I not did it. It was an acci-didnt. It was an oopsy-daisy. Yummy in my tummy. I promise. I’ll never do it again. I can’t right now. I do it by myself. You get it, I don’t have any hands, see?

And everything you say is with such emotion — whether it’s excitement or concern or irritation.

Oh, Nora, I could go on and on about how much fun you are at this age. And we are just so excited to see you in your big sister role. We love you, sweet girl!

Bumpdate: The Third Time

05.20.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I meticulously recorded every detail of my first pregnancy: the kicks, the cravings, the size comparisons to exotic fruits and vegetables, and the nursery that was almost completely decorated before I entered the third trimester. Nick even joined in on the fun and added commentary to our weekly updates. We took a picture of my growing belly every single week, had two different maternity photo sessions, and later created a book dedicated to “Waiting for Peanut.”

I remained pretty adamant about capturing memories during my second pregnancy: the discomforts and indulgences, our gender reveal photo shoot, the excitement of purchasing itty bitty pink clothing, the curtains and bed skirt that I sewed for the nursery. I set up my camera on the tripod and took a bump shot at least once a month and recorded videos of Sam talking to my belly.

But, oh, sweet child #3. At almost 37 weeks pregnant, I am writing my first update since our pregnancy announcement. It’s not that I haven’t cherished every kick and flip and dreamed of the shape of your nose, the color of your eyes, and the warm weight of you against my chest. It’s just that my days are consumed by your big brother and big sister. And having to hold down the fort while Daddy travels for days at a time. But every night, when I finally have a chance to sit down, you remind me of your presence. I place my hand on my belly and feel you push back against it and my heart swells with love for you. So while there may be few recorded memories from the past nine months, please know that they are tucked away in my mind and my heart.

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First Trimester

We always knew we wanted a third. And we had barely decided that we were ready to start trying when … bam! Our quickest conception yet. (And, trust me, I know how blessed we are.) Nick was traveling, and I took an early pregnancy test because I just had a feeling. A very, very faint second pink line revealed itself several hours after taking the test, which I knew could be a fluke. So I waited a few days and took another test, and that time there was no denying the bright pink line that appeared almost immediately.

I made a little card for Nick — one blue heart, one pink heart, and one question mark. We laughed and hugged and thought, “Oh my gosh, what are we getting ourselves into?!” We told the kids shortly after. We went out for ice cream, and I asked Sam what he thought about having another baby sister or baby brother. He was surprised and thrilled! And Nora kept saying “baby, baby, baby.”

We had planned to wait a few weeks to tell our families. But my mom and sister suspected it during our visit around 6 weeks. I was exhausted and a little edgy, and they must have asked if I was okay at least a dozen times. By Sunday, Laura finally guessed, “Are you pregnant??”

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My very first prenatal visit was scheduled for 8 weeks and set the tone for this wild third rodeo. Nick unexpectedly had to leave town, and I wasn’t able to reschedule my appointment, so I had no choice but to take Sam and Nora with me. I filled my bag with stickers and snacks, double checked that my phone was fully charged, and hoped for the best.

Little did I know that protocol at my new practice included an internal ultrasound to confirm the conception date. Yes, that’s right. I was forced to distract the big kids with Goldfish and iPhone games and had to raise my arm more than once to keep them away from the thin sheet that was draped over my knees while the doc did her thing with the “magic wand.”

I then had to drag them down the hall for blood work and assure them that the needle hanging out of Mommy’s arm did not hurt at all. Despite the wad of gauze and band-aids that followed.

Let’s just say that Daddy owed me big time after that morning.

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Shortly after that first appointment, the nausea set in, which came as a big surprise because it was not something I experienced with my first two pregnancies. The only foods I could tolerate were bananas, scrambled eggs, and baked potatoes. Thank goodness for the frozen food section at Trader Joe’s, which sustained the kids while Nick was traveling. Did I mention that he traveled a lot during the first trimester??

There were many, many days that required a morning nap after preschool drop-off and an afternoon nap after I put Nora down. The kids watched an obscene amount of Netflix on the iPad while I slept beside them on the couch. And I started the countdown until bedtime around 5pm every night. Those first few weeks were all about survival.

Fortunately, Daddy was able to join us for the 12-week ultrasound, as well as both Sam and Nora. Sam was especially amazed by the “hot lava” on the screen (which the tech thought was hilarious), and he kept referring to you as “her” and “she.” Yes, he was convinced from the very beginning that he was getting another sister.

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Second Trimester

The second trimester has always been my favorite. The bump is finally significant enough for strangers to notice, but doesn’t yet get in the way. Tiny movements are a daily reminder of a growing peanut’s presence, but aren’t yet strong enough to cause pain. The body has made necessary adjustments and energy levels are high. And this time was no different.

I tackled house projects and cooked meals and chauffeured the kids to karate and gymnastics and birthday parties. We traveled to Williamsburg and Greensburg and made several trips to Dover. We hosted friends for dinner parties and weekend visits. I shoveled snow and built blanket forts and baked cookies during the coldest days. I even spent a weekend in Boston with my girlfriends.

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Third Trimester

If the second trimester was marked by energy and enthusiasm and ease, then the third trimester will be remembered by increasing discomfort and fatigue, sleepless nights and sore muscles, little motivation to cook or clean, viruses and allergies, hormones, and tests in patience and flexibility and acceptance.

Sam brought home lots of nasty preschool germs and was pretty sick for two weeks. Of course, Daddy was traveling again (!!), which left me responsible for all middle-of-the-night wake-ups. Because what’s a few less hours of sleep when you have to get up multiple times to pee and blow your nose? I caught the tail end of his virus and had a cough for over a month before I requested an antibiotic from the doctor. There were lots of steamy showers before bed, peppermint oil in the humidifier every night, and cancelled plans.

I did manage to spend several days in Dover while Poppy recovered from surgery and radiation treatment. It was an emotional rollercoaster for a few weeks, which left this hormonal momma feeling drained and guilty that I couldn’t do more to help.

Finally, big sister Nora tackled several major milestones, including ditching her binkies and diapers and transitioning to a big girl bed. All three required time and patience to adjust. And, of course, later bedtimes and less sleep all around. Plus, between pregnancy and potty training, I think we’ve visited half of the public restrooms in Morris County.

Fortunately, Daddy and I were able to escape to NYC for a weekend to indulge in delicious food that required no sharing with little mouths, adult conversation and a Broadway show, long walks without kids pulling us in opposite directions, and uninterrupted sleep. We called it our mini babymoon.

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Being pregnant while also being responsible for a preschooler and a toddler may make my days more challenging, but it also makes them sweeter. The way that Nora rubs and kisses my belly and constantly asks, “I hold baby?” She talks about meeting you at the hospital every time we pass it (which is pretty much every day). She has accompanied me to almost every doctor’s appointment, thinks it’s hilarious that I have to pee in a cup, and loves to move the doppler over my belly to hear your “heart beep.” She still loves to snuggle in my lap — even though there’s barely any room to do so — and says, “Oh, I feel baby move!” when she feels your kicks against her chest.

Then there’s big brother Sam: observant and inquisitive. He walks around with a rubber ball under his shirt and says his belly is bigger than mine, tells his friends that my belly button has disappeared, and asks how does the baby eat inside my belly and how will the baby come out of my belly. He still always refers to you as “her” and “she,” although if Nora is nearby, he will happily argue that you are a boy. He may find pleasure in irritating his sister and pretend to be a ninja the majority of every day, but I know he will be so sweet and tender with you.

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A few more things that I want to remember: How you like to hang out on my right side, which means it sometimes feels as though your little feet are nearly wrapped around my back. And how you toss and turn at bedtime until I agree to roll onto my right side. How I eat a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Life cereal every night. And like to drink Ginger Ale and LaCroix pineapple strawberry sparkling water. How I know my belly has dropped because it now hits the sink when I wash the dishes. How the extent of baby prep at almost 37 weeks has included moving Nora’s old crib into our bedroom, unpacking unused newborn diapers, washing hand-me-down clothes from your brother and sister, and buying a new diaper bag backpack that I can also use to tote around big kid necessities.

Sometimes I get caught up in all that still needs to be done: locate the bottles and the breast pump, wash and install the car seat, prep food, pack my hospital bag. But I’ve admitted that I need to slow down, accept help when it’s offered, and give myself some grace. I no longer attempt to walk Lucy while simultaneously pushing the double stroller. I have requested that Daddy do baths and carry the baskets of laundry up and down the stairs. I’ve accepted that grilled cheese or delivery pizza are okay dinner options. And I welcome invitations from mommy friends to help with the big kids so I can get some rest.

As long and demanding as the days may seem, not one goes by that I’m not thankful for the healthy and thriving life growing inside of me. Hearing your heartbeat and feeling your tosses and turns are a constant reminder of all that we have to look forward to.

We are so excited to meet you, little one!

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Funny Valentines and Sugar Cookies

04.12.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I have baked these soft sugar heart-shaped cookies with the kiddos for the past three Valentine’s Day. And I’ve never blogged the recipe. So, even though, it’s April, we’re going to travel back in time to February. (2013 | 2014 | 2015)

First up, a sweet Valentine’s Day party at Sam’s preschool. They sang songs, gave heart mobiles as gifts, and indulged in lots of red and pink treats.

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Daddy even got to sneak out of the office for 45 minutes to join us.

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That evening we headed to Dover to celebrate the rest of the holiday with Nini and Poppy. My mother didn’t disappoint with her selection of decadent desserts.

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And we treated her to a nice dinner: scallops over risotto with green beans. Because sometimes it’s fun to feel fancy.

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On Sunday, we played our tenth game of Valentine’s Day Bingo. And then we baked cookies.

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Soft Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 5 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for Buttercream Frosting

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • food coloring and sprinkles

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and sour cream; mix until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until combined.
  3. Split dough into two pieces, and place in saran wrap. Refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours.
  4. Once dough is chilled, roll out dough onto baking mat or parchment paper. Add another 1/4 – 1/2 cup flour if dough is still sticky. Cut with floured cookie cutter.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes.
  6. For the buttercream frosting: Combine all ingredients, mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Frost on cooled cookies and decorate.

(adapted from I Heart Naptime)

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This is definitely a tradition that we will continue for many years to come!

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Catch Up (Again)

03.31.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

During this season of life, I don’t have the time (or, honestly, the mental capacity) to share recipes or toddler crafts or parenting tips in this space. But that’s okay. Because this blog still serves a very important role in my life. I don’t want to forget these days — the good ones, the grand ones, the exhausting ones. And so away we go. A highlight reel of the past two months.

Nora rocked her first dentist appointment. They cleaned and flossed her teeth … and discovered that she has an extra tooth! It’s the right lateral incisor, and the dentist explained that this formed in utero. The tooth bud simply split into two during early development. It’s not uncommon, and she suspects just one adult tooth will push out the two baby teeth. Either way, the girl has a beautiful smile.

Sam also impressed the hygienist and dentist with his cooperation. He even marched down the hall all by himself to get his first round of x-rays. Of course, by the time the three of us left the office and walked down the hallway, the kids were racing and fighting over who got to push the button for the elevator.

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I enjoyed a long overdue weekend in Boston with a few of my favorite ladies. The four of us could not be in more different phases of life, and we don’t get to see each other nearly often enough, and yet it always seems as if no time has passed between us. That’s the beauty of having friends who have known you since grade school.

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I continued to hold down the fort while Nick traveled to Calgary for work. Sam’s mid-winter break from preschool presented an extra challenge. But we treated ourselves to dinner at our favorite local deli, and the kids were surprisingly well behaved. And I dug through art supplies and activities to keep them busy during the day. About 45 seconds after I took this photo of Sam the Scientist, I got up to refill Nora’s water cup, and Sam decided to put the purple cap onto the container and shake it up. Know what happens when you add vinegar to baking soda and shake it up? It explodes. I guess the “volcano” just wasn’t big enough for him. So I spent the next 15 minutes scrubbing green vinegar off the walls, the rug, and Nora’s face.

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We hosted Pennsylvania friends during two different weekends. The kids stayed up way past their bedtimes, and so did the adults (playing Cards Against Humanity). We went to the theatre to see Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Nora was completely enthralled, and Nick was impressed that I knew every single song. Our time together is never long enough. But at least we still live close enough for weekend visits.

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We took the kids to the Great Swamp in Chatham to learn all about maple syrup. Because we figured that we consume enough of it, and it was time to find out where it comes from. The classroom portion was a bit much for Sam and Nora (geared more towards a grade school audience), but Nick and I learned a lot. Like how to identify a maple tree, what are the ideal conditions for tapping, and that it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to produce one bottle of syrup. Then we went outside to peek inside the buckets, to find out how they boil down the sap to get syrup, and to taste several different grades (the kids favorite part, of course!)

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Though we found ourselves in the middle of a rough patch in early March with lots of tears and timeouts and more yelling than I’d like to admit (thanks to not enough sleep for Nora and a particularly challenging phase for Sam), I tried my best to start each day with a positive attitude. Sunshine helped. We took advantage of the warmer weather with scooter rides, late afternoons at the playground, and ice cream cones.

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I rarely get to visit my family without the kiddos in tow. But we all need quality time with our parents (despite our age), and so Nick granted me a weekend away. We talked without interruption, enjoyed the market on Saturday morning, and watched movies together. It was much needed for all of us as my dad prepares to face a challenging spring. But he’s Super Poppy, and we’re all confident that he’ll beat this, just like he did ten years ago.

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Finally, we enjoyed our first St. Patrick’s Day in Morristown. Also, we felt really old. Especially when I walked outside in my maternity sweater and slippers to throw a dirty toddler diaper into the trash can while the 20-somethings across the street were blaring music and playing beer pong. Nick really wanted to join their game, but he decided he didn’t want to recreate the Frank the Tank scene from Old School. When did that happen, anyway? When did we trade pints of green beer for sippy cups of milk and live music late into the night for early bedtimes and popcorn on the couch? But this is our life. And we love it.

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And since Lucy didn’t make it into any of the photos above … The sometimes annoying and always endearing characteristic of Goldens: they must always be in the middle of the action.

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