Letter to Nora: Three Months

04.08.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Nora,

We have reached the magical three-month mark! Though you have always been a pleasant baby, you are now so much more attentive and interactive. Your eyes light up when they make contact with ours, you are constantly smiling and cooing, and you would much rather be sitting or standing in our laps versus laying down and missing all the fun.

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You are completely fascinated by your big brother. You sit beside him in your Bumbo and watch intently while he builds towers and constructs race tracks. He tries to open your clenched fists and fill your hands with toys of your own, and you already have a dinosaur and a car that have been designated as “Baby Nor-wah’s.”

In addition to the Bumbo, you are also a big fan of the jumperoo. Your little feet just barely reach the ground, but you still manage to bounce up and down. You love to watch the buttons light up while you try to eat the fabric of the chair.

You have also become quite good at hitting the stuffed toys that hang from your activity mat. And just last week I caught you staring at your hands while you opened and closed them. It’s so amazing to watch you discover the world around you.

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Speaking of your hands, they are almost always in your mouth. And you are constantly blowing saliva bubbles and soaking the collars of your shirts. You stick out your tongue and suck in your cheeks and smack your lips together when you’re finished eating. And it’s become nearly impossible to keep socks on your feet because they never stop moving!

Your eyes are still a brilliant shade of blue, and you get compliments on them everywhere we go. Your hair has a slight reddish tint, just like Sam’s did at your age. Also, just like your brother, you have started to lose the hair on the back of your head, revealing a silly little mullet.

Mommy still loves to play dress-up with you and put pretty headbands in your hair. And I was so excited to see you in the green gingham dress that my Aunt Esther made for me to wear when I was three months old. It fits perfectly! And I can’t wait for you to wear it to one of our many upcoming spring celebrations.

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This was a big month for you in terms of sleep. We moved you out of our bedroom and into your crib at nine weeks. And for the past week, you have been sleeping through the night. Hooray! I put you down around 9pm, and you sleep until between 5:30 and 7:00 am. You somehow manage to move from the top of your crib to the bottom of it during those 8 hours, and you always greet me with a big grin on your face.

You typically cat nap through the morning (mostly because we are in and out of the car on our way to play dates), and you take a long afternoon nap that perfectly coincides with Sam’s. You take another short nap in the evening after dinner, usually in our arms or in your bouncy seat.

You are eating between 5 and 6 times per day, depending on when you wake up in the morning. You are still content to nurse while we’re out, though I anticipate that soon you will have a hard time focusing. You are such a curious little nugget!

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You weighed just about 11 pounds when I took you for your shots 2 weeks ago. You are a peanut! But the doctor did not seem to be bothered by your size. Especially because you showed her just how strong you are by rolling over from your tummy to your back for the very first time!

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You and Mommy spent a weekend in Dover this month, and you were a fantastic traveler! You slept for the entire 3 1/2 hours, both there and back. We certainly missed Daddy and Sammy, but it was nice to have some quality time with Nini and Auntie Laura. Sam insisted that we FaceTime several times per day while we were gone, and he pretended to hold your hand through the phone screen. He just adores you! In fact, just last week I heard him say “I yuv Baby Nor-wah with my whole heart.” You are so lucky to have each other!

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These past three months with you have been so wonderful. But I would appreciate if time would slow down just a bit! I anticipate each new milestone, but when we reach it, I think “wow, how are we here already?”

I love you, baby girl!

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Transitioning to Two

04.03.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

A few weeks ago I found myself at a playdate with five other moms. Three of the moms are nearing the third trimester with their second babies, and the other two moms will likely be pregnant this year. That made me the only one to embrace the title: mother of two.

My mom friends had so many questions. Was your delivery faster the second time? How has Sam handled the transition? How do you keep him busy while you’re feeding Nora? When do you sleep?

Although I’m still fairly new to this gig, I’ve learned so much since the day Nora was born, and I’m here to share some things that have made the transition easier for all of us.

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Be flexible. I like routine as much as anyone. But that word does not currently exist in my vocabulary. Each day is different than the previous one. Some days Nora needs to nurse every hour, and she cries every time I put her down. Sometimes Sam struggles to nap and other times he sleeps for three glorious hours. And occasionally, just minutes before we’re ready to leave the house, both kids have horrendous poops, and at least one requires a bath.

All that being said, it does get easier. We are fast approaching the “magical” three-month mark, and we have all become much more comfortable in our roles. Sam is finally going to bed at a decent hour, and Nora has started to sleep through the night. I’ve become quite efficient at getting everyone dressed and fed in the morning, and I have a go-to list of activities to keep us all busy during the day. Nora rotates between my arms, the jumperoo, her bouncy seat, and a blanket on the floor. While Sam and I play cars and trains and dinosaurs, color or paint or construct towers of blocks, or simply chase each other around the house. Rarely does one activity last more than 20 minutes. Which is why flexibility and patience are so important!

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Get out of the house. We were blessed with a very tolerant baby. Nora is perfectly content to tag along to every playdate and activity we plan, and for that, I am so grateful. Because I would lose my mind if I was trapped inside with my wild child Sam. Ever since Nora turned one month old, we have tried to get out of the house at least three times per week. On cold days, we go to the mall or meet up with friends at the local rec center. And on warm days, we head to the playground or take long walks around the neighborhood.

It probably goes without saying, but if you’re going to take your newborn out for several hours, you’re going to have to get comfortable breastfeeding in public (if you are able and choose to do so). I have nursed Nora at the bookstore, the science center, the circus, and countless restaurants. I simply throw a muslin blanket over her, and she’s happy. Just don’t forget to pack extra clothes for both you and the baby in the event of a major spit-up. Heck, while you’re at it, you might as well pack extra clothes for the toddler, too! Because who knows what kind of trouble he’ll get into while you’re out.

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Wear the baby. I never purchased a baby carrier before Sam was born, and I rarely used our borrowed Bjorn. But I heard from so many moms that a wrap or carrier is absolutely essential the second time. And, yes, they were right! Nora spends time in the K’tan almost every day, which allows me to have both hands available to play with Sam, prepare our meals, and even vacuum the house. I plan to use it for a few more months and then purchase an Ergo when she gets a bit bigger.

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Involve the toddler. Sam still absolutely adores his baby sister. His first request when he wakes up in the morning is to hold Baby Nor-wah. And he is constantly kissing her and hugging her and holding her hands. I have tried to involve him from the very beginning in everything from bath time to tummy time. And I honor his requests to sit with us in the rocking chair while I feed her and to push her stroller around the mall. Of course, I still can’t leave him alone with her for more than a minute because his sweetness can quickly escalate into crazy toddler hand squeezes and out of control bouncy seat bouncing.

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Accept help. In the form of freezer meals from friends; family members who are eager to run errands and entertain the kids while I shower; neighbors who offer to kick the soccer ball with Sam while I nap with Nora; and a husband who may vacuum and fold laundry differently than I do, but who is helpful nonetheless.

Help may also come in the form of extra TV time while I nurse Nora or prepare dinner, or iPad games in bed while I close my eyes for just five minutes. And I’m OK with that.

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Find time to spend with each child individually. This is not always easy, but it is oh so very important. I have found that Sam is much happier and better behaved if I am attentive to his needs. Sometimes we sneak out for frozen yogurt, or I take him to the grocery store and let him ride in the race car cart. And Nick often spends time playing with him in the yard, or invites him to tag along to Home Depot (which, for our son, is better than the toy store).

Also, now that Nora goes to bed about an hour before Sam, I spend that time focusing on him and only him. We color and do stickers and read books and sing songs. I cherish that time each night.

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Likewise, Nora needs my attention, too. I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not able to spend the same quiet hours with her that I spent with Sam. But when Nick is able to get Sam out of the house for a bit, I totally soak up the snuggles. And, although, I do love when their naps overlap, I also love when I get to lay on the floor beside Nora or let her bounce on my belly or fly her around like an airplane while big brother sleeps upstairs.

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Finally, give yourself a break. Both literally and figuratively. Me time is rare, but I savor it when I can. Whether it’s yoga on my bedroom floor, a few pages from my favorite (and very neglected) magazines, a run around the neighborhood at sunset, 20 minutes spent wandering the aisles of Target, or a cup of coffee before the kids wake up. I’m able to be a much better mother when I have a few moments to myself each day.

Honestly, for me, the transition from zero to one was more challenging than the transition from one to two. By now I have accepted the sleepless nights, the endless amounts of laundry and dirty dishes, and the fact that my pants won’t fit for awhile.

Just remember that babies aren’t babies forever. And our toddlers will be off to preschool before we know it. So let messes linger longer than usual, spend an entire afternoon watching movies, have ice cream sundaes for dinner, and always always sneak into both bedrooms for extra kisses goodnight.

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Roasted Cauliflower + Roasted Brussels Sprouts

04.01.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Nora is almost three months old (how is that even possible?!). And although we have greatly appreciated our freezer stocked full of soups, casseroles, and quick breads, we are ready to get back to whole foods. For us, this still means easy because, let’s face it, it’s pretty difficult to get dinner on the table with a toddler and an infant.

Here are two of my new favorite go-to meals, including two really tasty recipes for roasted vegetables.

Honey Balsamic Chicken Tenders + Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Roasted Cauliflower

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For the cauliflower: Cut cauliflower into florets and spread them onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast at 400°F for 30 minutes, until brown and tender. Meanwhile, toss sliced almonds in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter, and cook for 5 minutes. Add almonds to cooked cauliflower, along with golden raisins and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin + Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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For the brussels sprouts: Cut brussels sprouts in half and spread onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast at 400°F for 35 minutes, until crispy. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar before serving.

Letter to Samuel: 2.5

03.25.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Every day is a celebration in our house. There are costumes with homemade capes and winter gloves; neon necklaces and bracelets made of pipe cleaners and Cheerios; rolls of wrapping paper used as magic wands; glow sticks and balloons. But I decided to make this day even more special. Because today is your half birthday, buddy!

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We baked a cake together. With lots of sprinkles. And I let you lick both the beater and the spatula. It was half of a cake for your half birthday, and when Daddy came home, we cut slices and poured big glasses of milk. We continued the little celebration with dinosaurs(!) and a super hat(!). We definitely know how to make you happy.

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Two-and-a-half is a fantastic age. You’re creative and imaginative and resourceful. You’re independent and opinionated. You repeat everything we say. You sing, and you dance. You love race cars, diggers, and airplanes. You also love your tools and spend hours “fixing” things around the house. You still request to wear a “super shirt” every day, and you commonly add safety goggles or a bike helmet to your ensemble. And when you’re wearing your superhero “suit,” you introduce yourself as “Super Sammy.”

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You are busy, busy, busy. You are confident in crowds and have no fear when it comes to running, climbing, swinging, or sliding. Sometimes you “exercise” with Mommy and Daddy, and I think you can hold a plank longer than we can. Although the “jump rope” is your favorite. You’re quite good at dribbling a soccer ball and can now catch a basketball when we throw it to you. We can’t wait to enroll you in sports this fall!

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You absolutely adore Nora. You bring her toys and hold her hand and give her lots of kisses. And the first thing you say when you get out of bed in the morning is: “I wake up Baby Nor-wah” and “I hold Baby Nor-wah and watch George.” And when Mommy and Nora spent a weekend away, you sang songs to her and gave “pounds” over FaceTime. I’m pretty certain that you missed her more than you missed me. But that’s okay.

Speaking of that weekend away, you and Daddy had SO much fun. But you exhausted him. You constructed and painted a birdhouse and made banana pancakes and played soccer and went out for ice cream. You sure do love your Daddy!

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You love your Lucy, too. Though you torment her relentlessly. I’m grateful she’s so tolerant of your toddler antics! You hide her bone and put her toys just out of reach. You pull her tail and chase her around the house. But you also always let her out of the crate when we put her in. You feed her bites of food from your plate. And sometimes you lay beside her and give her big hugs.

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Bedtime continues to be the most challenging part of our day. You make ridiculous requests for “my blue car” “my gloves” “one more book” “I need a bandaid” “more water” “pretzels.” And this is after a snack, three books, and three songs. Sometimes you just say, “I need something.” And when I ask “what?” you say “ummm I need something.” You insist that the light stays on. And before we say goodnight, you say “no little dinosaurs” “no big dinosaurs” “no bugs.” You’re too young for nightmares, aren’t you, kiddo? You come out of your room at least five times every night before you finally fall asleep, which is often close to 10pm. I’ve been anxiously waiting for you to outgrow this phase since December!

Despite the bedtime shenanigans, I always look forward to sneaking into your room to turn out the light so I can steal one last kiss. You will always be my love bug.

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You have an endless amount of energy and just as much affection to share. Happy half birthday, Super Sammy!

Welome to Nora’s Nursery

03.12.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

The inspiration for Nora’s nursery began with a piece of fabric I found at Jo-Ann. I was immediately drawn to the colors (purples, blues, and greens) and knew it would be perfect for our baby — just the right amount of girly and something that could grow with her. So as soon as it went on sale, I purchased enough to make the curtains.

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Next we found a shade of paint that matched the purple in the curtains. (We had always envisioned a purple nursery for our daughter.) And we coerced my dad into painting the room and adding fresh white crown molding.

Just as we had always envisioned purple walls, we knew we wanted white furniture. (In fact, Nick had talked me out of buying white furniture before Sam was born, and I’m so glad we waited to get it for our girl.)

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With all of the major pieces in place, the real fun began! We shopped at Ikea for wall shelves, a mirror (which we spray painted a pretty shade of blue), and several pieces of artwork.

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Then we completed a few DIY projects: the crib skirt (measure and cut four pieces of fabric, then secure each to the crib frame with safety pins — SO easy!), the mobile (followed the same instructions for Sam’s), and the artwork above her bed.

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For the artwork, I simply cut circles of leftover curtain fabric and secured them inside embroidery hoops that Nick had spray painted white.

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One of my favorite pieces in Nora’s nursery is the dollhouse bookshelf built by my Dad. I fell in love with the one from Pottery Barn Kids, but it was not within our budget. So, of course, I asked my Dad to make one. And, of course, it’s even better than the original! He used an unfinished bookshelf that was just sitting in their basement; added dividers and a roof; cut doors and windows; added molding; and painted it to match her room. Love!

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No baby girl’s room is complete without a bunch of pretty little bows and barrettes and headbands! And I have my brother’s girlfriend to thank for this lovely display.

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We had so much fun creating this space for our baby girl. Let me know if you have any questions about the details!

Paint color: Simply Lavender by Valspar from Lowe’s
Crib, Dresser, and Nightstand: Pali Marina Collection in white
Glider and Ottoman: SONA by Storytime Series in espresso
Dollhouse Bookcase: built by my dad, inspired by Pottery Barn Kids
Lamp: Lolli Living from Target
Curtain Fabric: Home Decor line from Jo-Ann Fabric (not available online)
NORA Letters: Jo-Ann Fabric
Mobile: musical parts from NationalArtCraft.com and birds from krakracraft
Mirror: Ung Drill Mirror from Ikea, spray painted blue
Butterfly Art: Ikea
World Art: Ikea
You Are So Loved Print: The Wheatfield by Katie Daisy

Letter to Nora: Two Months

03.05.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Little Lady,

You are two months old today! And you should probably get used to your momma asking time to please slow down because I will say it every single month.

You are still the sweetest, most content baby girl, and I am grateful every day that I get to stare into those big blue eyes and that I get to be on the receiving end of your adorable smiles.

You are much more alert and active this month. You look at our faces and into our eyes, and you listen to our voices and respond with tiny coos of your own. You love to hear Daddy sing, and you are very tolerant of Sammy’s affection. You’ve even gotten a few licks from Lucy this month. You are such a loved little one!

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Speaking of love, there was a whole lot of it directed towards you during our visit to Dover and Landisville this month. You got to meet all of your great-grandparents and several aunts, uncles, and cousins. You were moved from one set of arms to another and slept so soundly in each. You added a few more pink outfits to your collection (though I still believe that purple and navy are your colors) and received more kisses than I could count.

Not only did you take your first long road trip this month (which you slept all the way through, I must add), you’ve also already been to the circus and the science center! You are perfectly content to sleep in your car seat or strapped to Mommy’s chest while we try our hardest to entertain big brother. It’s tough being a winter baby, and I appreciate your adaptability. I’ve become quite good at bundling up you and Sam and loading both of you, along with all of our gear, into the car for a morning outing.

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You are such a good sleeper and sleep 5-7 hour stretches at night. We’ve just started the transition to your crib for naps, but you are still in our room at night. I really don’t mind having you within arms reach and actually look forward to our 3am snuggles. You barely open your eyes, and when I lift you to my shoulder to burp you, you usually lay your head on it and start snoring ever so softly.

I am still mostly feeding you on demand, typically every 2-3 hours during the day. You take several short naps in the morning and one long one in the afternoon — which, on good days, is timed perfectly with Sam’s nap!

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You take a pacifier just before falling asleep. And if I can’t get one to you fast enough, you happily suck on your fists. You blow bubbles, which Sam thinks is so funny. And I have to put a bib on you if I don’t want a stream of drool to end up on your shirt.

You wear size 1 diapers and size 0-3 month clothing. I suspect you weigh about 11 pounds, but we’ll get the official number at your well visit later this week. You really don’t like to wear headbands, but I sometimes put them on despite your protests. I can’t help it. You’re my baby girl!

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You rarely cry, but you sometimes let out random wails. Probably because it’s the best and fastest way to get our attention! You’ve also learned to cry real tears, which I just hate to see. But as fast as you can turn them on, they stop.

You still love bath time, especially when Sam helps. And you have just started to really pay attention to your toys and the animals that hang from your playmat. Sam likes to share all of his toys (hopefully that lasts forever), and you are often found with a Matchbox car resting on your arm, or one of his favorite stuffed animal laying across your belly. You also really love the hearts mobile above your crib. You smile and “talk” to them and cry when they stop singing back to you.

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Nora, you are such a sweet pea. Having a daughter is even better than I imagined it would be. Love you lots.

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Letter to Samuel: 29 Months

02.28.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

This face just looks like trouble. Rosy red cheeks from racing around the house. Chocolate on your mouth from the piece of candy you stole out of the snack cupboard. And one of three “super” shirts that you insist on wearing every day.

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Then there’s that silly grin and those bright blue eyes. And it’s impossible to be upset with you for more than three minutes. But, oh boy, are you challenging right now. It’s your age and adjusting to baby sister and facing far too many days with temperatures in the single digits.

I don’t want to wish away the toddler years, but I do look forward to the day when you will sit still long enough to play a board game or complete a craft project. And when we can get through 24 hours without at least a dozen meltdowns.

But until then, I will smile at the the way you yell “kaboom” and “kachow” and crash your cars across the living room floor, and how you turn everything into an airplane — crayons, blocks, Nora’s binkies, Lucy’s dog bones. Your imagination and your curiosity are blossoming, and I just love it. I will remember our conversations about your “space helmet” and your “rocket ship.” And how “super Sammy” drives a “green moh-ker-set” (motorcycle).

I will laugh when you shout “I’m pooping” in the middle of Target and not feel like a bad mother as I leave the grocery store with you kicking and screaming because I wouldn’t buy the “big gummies.” (Even though I did buy the small ones.)

I want to remember how your Ls sound like Ys. “I yuv you” and “I yike that” and “One yoyyipop, pease.” And how your Fs sound like SHs. “One, two, fwee, shore, shive” and that you call your favorite car the “hot shower car” (hot fire car). The way you say “thanks” and “I don’t know” and your persistent questions: “what is it?” “where is it?” “what’s in there?” How you honestly believe there’s a bug in the boat in your bathtub. And on the one night when there really was a bug buzzing around the bathroom, you screamed and yelled “get me out of here!”

I will soak up the moments when we’re together on the couch and you say “I miss you, Mommy” and “I sit close to you.” When you squeeze my neck and rest your head on my shoulder while I sing “twinkle, twinkle little star” before bedtime. How you hold Nora’s hands and stroke her hair. How you think it’s funny when Lucy licks your face and nibbles on your arms. And how you yell “hooray, Daddy’s home!” when you hear the garage door go up.

Sometimes you surprise me with your vocabulary and your memory and your ability to express yourself. Like when you said “Mommy, your sink is dripping. Daddy fix it.” (Yes, it is dripping. And, yes, Daddy does need to fix it.) When you randomly declare “I’m happy” or “that’s funny.” And how you know which scenes come next in your favorite movies and which sentences come next in your favorite books.

You are smart. And loud and crazy. And so brave, especially when you were chosen to be part of the circus and did not shed a single tear when the entire arena was watching you do a “magic trick.” (The tears came later when your souvenir red balloon popped. Which meant Momma had to buy a $12 light-up magic wand to replace it.)

I love you, kid. I love the drama and the shenanigans and the tender moments and everything that comes along with being almost two-and-a-half.

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All is Calm

02.27.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

There is nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby. And there is nothing a momma savors more than a quiet house full of sleeping babies.

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Yes, there are days when I count down the minutes until Sam’s afternoon nap. And I am clinging to it as long as it lasts because it is honestly the only time of day that he is still. And quiet. And not causing trouble.

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And when Nora’s nap coincides with his? Well, then I morph into super mom and race around the house trying to accomplish as much as humanly possible before the babies wake. Or, some days I just sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy the calm.

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I love these kids. But I also love some good, quality me time.

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Welcome Nora + Enter to Win $150 Credit to Minted

02.26.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Now that these announcements have arrived in the mailboxes of our family and friends, I can finally share with you my very favorite photo from Nora’s newborn shoot. And the photo is even more beautiful with the hand-pressed silver foil lettering from Minted.

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Minted offered us a credit towards the purchase of Nora’s birth announcements, and I could not be happier with how they look. They offer both traditional birth announcements and foil pressed birth announcements, along with magnets and Minibooks. They have a wide variety of designs, and their customer service is fantastic.

And guess what. Minted has graciously offered to give one lucky reader a $150 credit! Use it to announce the arrival of your own little sweetheart, or perhaps for Easter cards. Just click here to enter the giveaway. The contest closes on Wednesday, March 5th at 11:59pm PT. Good luck to you!

I received a partial credit towards the purchase of Nora’s birth announcements, and I am an affiliate of Minted and will receive a small commission on all customer sales. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

My Valentines

02.18.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sweet and simple. That was our Valentine’s Day. Chocolate treats, a few gifts for the kiddos, and a husband who had just returned home from a four-day business trip.

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Lots of love in our house this year!

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