Letter to Evelyn: Five Months

11.08.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Evelyn,

You are five months old and sweet as can be. You have so much expression in those big blue eyes, and your gummy smile lights up your entire face. We are all just so in love with you!

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I believe you are going to be a storyteller like your big sister. You are constantly cooing and gurgling and blowing bubbles. You giggle when I kiss the soft spot just below your ears. You squeal with delight when I fly you around the house like an airplane. You grunt and grab my shirt if I try to stop feeding you too soon. And you immediately scream if I leave your sight. You have certainly learned to make your voice heard in this loud house of ours.

You reach for toys, shake rattles, hit and kick the big buttons on your music box, stick the tags of stuffed animals into your mouth, and try to eat my phone when we’re FaceTiming.

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Girl, you are on the move! I lay you on a blanket, and less than one minute later, you are stuck under the jumperoo, or you are trying to roll inside Nora’s dollhouse, or you are on your way into the dining room to grab the Matchbox cars that are scattered under the table. Yes, the time has come to baby proof the house. I think I’m just going to put a gate at Sam’s bedroom door because it is impossible to keep all of those tiny LEGO pieces off of his floor.

You don’t like to sit still in my lap, either. You are constantly trying to arch your back and turn and climb up to my shoulder.

You flap your arms and legs, and I ask, where are you trying to fly off too, Miss Evie?

During diaper changes, I have to make silly sounds and click my tongue to keep your attention on me and not on the wall that you’re trying to roll towards.

You have outgrown the bouncy seat, though I still sometimes strap you into it while I take a quick shower. You love to sit in the high chair while we eat, and in the Bumbo while the kids play.

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You now prefer the big kid stroller to the rolling car seat base. And you always look forward to our afternoon walks to pick up Sam and Nora from school. You love to people watch as much as your momma! So some days we will leave early and sit outside of the bakery, drinking coffee and chatting with strangers that can’t help but smile as they walk by you.

You would also much rather face forward in the Bjorn than face me in the Ergo. (Oh, if only that option had existed when I purchased the Ergo three years ago.) So, I put you in the Bjorn while I’m cooking dinner or picking up the house. And you try so hard to grab the wooden spoons and rubber spatulas and paper towels.

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You not only look just like your brother, but you also act a lot like him at this age. We are still in the midst of a sleep regression, and I keep reminding myself that I survived with Sam, and I know that I will survive with you. We’ve eased into a 7pm bedtime, and I always lay you down awake and without a pacifier. You typically fuss for a few minutes before falling asleep. But you always, always wake up screaming about three hours later. Sometimes you settle down within 5-10 minutes, and other times, I rub your back or sing songs or, eventually, give you the binky. I nurse you when you wake up at 1am and 4am. And you are usually pretty restless at that point, and so I lay awake with you for about 20 minutes while you grunt and groan and grab my face. It’s getting better, but we could all benefit from longer stretches of sleep.

Despite my sleep deprivation, I am absolutely soaking up the snuggles with you. I love when you lay your head on my shoulder and wrap your arm around mine. I often rock you longer than I need to. And I promise it’s not only to avoid bathing the big kids.

Fortunately, you have really improved in the nap department. When we’re home (which isn’t always, thanks to the kids’ schedules and errands that need to be run), you will sleep for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. It’s really amazing what I can accomplish during that time! Especially when Sam and Nora are at school.

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I still nurse you between 6-8 times per day. And I’ve been a little bit lazy with introducing solids into your diet. You’ve tried applesauce and avocado and pears in the mesh feeder. I look forward to moving right into BLW when you turn six months old.

I suspect you weigh about 14 pounds now. You wear 6-month clothing and size 2 diapers. Your thighs are growing bigger and stronger, your belly is a little bit rounder, and you have developed tiny creases at your wrists.

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Lucy is your new best friend. As soon as I put you on your play mat, she lays down right beside you. You smile and reach for her and try to grab her hair. I think you’ll be climbing onto her back in no time.

Sam and Nora are still both obsessed with you. They pull up stools beside your jumperoo and fight over who can sit closest to you. Sam is incapable of climbing into his seat in the back of the car before he kisses your hands and your forehead at least five times. And Nora is immediately at your side if she hears you cry.

Daddy says he misses your smile when he’s at work. He looks forward to singing with you and bouncing you on your belly every evening.

And I can’t imagine my days without you. We love you to the moon and back, sweet girl!

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Letter to Evelyn: Four Months

10.23.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Evelyn,

I took your photos on the day that you turned four months old. But it has taken me almost three weeks to write your letter. Such is this season of life.

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You surprise me daily with new tricks. You have discovered your hands and your feet and your tongue. You are constantly sucking on your fingers and your toes and blowing bubbles and raspberries. Sometimes during dinnertime, Sam and Nora will imitate you and try to put their feet in their mouths or blow saliva bubbles across the table.

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You can roll from back to belly and back again. One night, while we were all watching a movie in the basement, you rolled right off the blanket and ended up under the train table. The big kids thought it was hilarious.

This newfound skill means that diaper changes have become pretty challenging. And bedtime is even more difficult. As soon as I lay you down on your back in bed, you flip over. This means that I can no longer swaddle you at night. Along with natural changes in sleep patterns that occur at this age, you are waking every 2-3 hours, and are not able to fall back asleep unless I rock you and nurse you. I know this is a bad habit that we will eventually need to break. But I can’t stand to hear you cry for more than a few minutes. Especially because your crib is just a few feet from my bed! Oh, sometimes I miss the newborn days when you would sleep soundly for 5 hours.

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Naps are hit or miss right now, too. If you can get past the 30-minute mark, than you will typically sleep for a glorious two hours. Otherwise, it’s cat naps throughout the day. I know it doesn’t help when I’m constantly interrupting you to run errands or pick up the kids from school or meet friends at the playground.

Even though I really don’t think you’re sleeping enough, you are still a pleasant baby.

You love to kick in the bathtub and sit at the dinner table. You bounce in your jumperoo and reach for the animals that hang above your activity mat. You love the o-ball and toys that make crunchy sounds. You are fascinated by anything that lights up and plays music. You will sit in your bumbo and what the big kids play, and you especially love when they include you. Nora reads books to you and piles stuffed animals around you. Sam flies his Star Wars ships in front of your face and examines you with his doctor’s kit.

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At your 4-month check-up, you weighed 12 lbs 12 oz and measured 24 inches long. I scheduled your visit at the same time as Sam’s 5-year check-up and, of course, Nora was along, too. That made for an interesting hour sitting in the exam room. Between the three of you, you had five shots. Yikes!

I moved you into size 2 diapers this month, and mostly 6-month clothing. You’ve gotten lots and lots of new clothes since Nora was wearing summer clothes at this age. We sure didn’t plan that right!

I still mostly nurse you on demand because it’s what works with our schedule. This turns out to be between 6-8 times during the day and 3 times during the night. You have also recently showed interested in the food that we eat. When I hold you in my lap during meals, you follow the fork from my plate to my mouth and often try to yank my place mat off the table.

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We took our first big family vacation with you this month … to Disney World! The drive down and back was not easy. I spent most of it sitting in the middle seat between you and Nora: entertaining you with books and toys, soothing you with the light from your pink giraffe, shhhhing and singing you to sleep. And I even figured out how to nurse you while we were driving. Let’s not even talk about how confusing it was for you and how uncomfortable it was for me!

But our week in Disney World was really magical. You were completely fascinated by the rides (It’s a Small World and The Voyage of the Little Mermaid) and the shows (Beauty and the Beast, Frozen Sing-a-Long, and The Lion King). You especially loved Minnie Mouse and Doc McStuffins. You spent a lot of time sleeping in the Ergo — through fireworks and live music and meals. And you were carried all over the parks by Oma and Opa. I promise we will take you back again in a few years when you can enjoy all of the rides with Sam and Nora!

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Evie, I love to cradle you and cuddle you. I love the sound of your voice and your little laugh. I love to watch you interact with Sam and Nora and Lucy. Little one, you complete our family in a way that I didn’t even know was possible. Love you!

A Day in the Life | Fall 2016

10.21.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

One day I will miss the morning hustle to comb hair and brush teeth, little lunch boxes with jelly sandwiches and goldfish. I will miss light saber battles, ABC books, LEGO pieces in every room in the house, and a refrigerator covered in magnets. I will miss the multiple requests for hugs and kisses long after the lights go out, midnight snuggles, and the soft snores of sleeping babies. My hands are so full these days. But so is my heart.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Emily: 34 | Nick: 34 | Sam: 5 yrs | Nora: 2 1/2 yrs | Evelyn: 4 months | Lucy: 4 yrs

12:51 am | Evelyn is stirring. Then she is whimpering. And, as expected, she is screaming in less than a minute. Ugh. Four-month sleep regression is hitting us hard. For the past two weeks, she has been waking every 1-3 hours during the night, and is not able to fall back asleep unless I nurse her. I was prepared to start “sleep training” this week. Then she caught her first cold, and so I delayed the inevitable. I scoop her up from the crib that is set up in the corner of our bedroom (because … small rental house with only three bedrooms), and I nurse her back to sleep. I climb back into bed about 15 minutes later.

1:44 am | Nora is crying and calling for me. Is there such thing as a 2 1/2-year-old sleep regression? Because big sister has also been waking up almost every night for the past two weeks. Sleep deprived does not even begin to describe my current state. Since Nick has been sleeping in the basement (yes, I gave him permission), I roll out of bed and stumble down the stairs to Nora’s bedroom. She wants a hug and a kiss and needs to be re-tucked under her Minnie blanket.

1:46 am | Nora is calling for me again. This time she has to go potty. Because, of course, we couldn’t take care of that the first time I got up. She insists on turning on the light, setting up her seat on the potty, wiping herself, and flushing. Then we have to go through the entire “goodnight, happy dreams, I love you” routine again.

1:50 am | “Mommy, I have to go poopy!” OMG. So it’s going to be one of those nights. I sit her on the potty again. She does her business and asks if she can have two gummies in the morning (her reward for going poop on the potty that we really need to phase out since she’s been potty trained for about four months now). Then hugs and kisses and goodnights.

1:55 am – 2:37 am | I’ll skip over the details of the next 40 minutes. And just say that there was a lot more “Mommy, I need you” and “Mommy, please come down here right now” until I lost my patience, picked her up, and took her downstairs to sleep on the air mattress with Daddy. She was grinning, and he looked very confused, as I practically ran back upstairs and dove into bed.

4:07 am | Evie is crying again. I should be thrilled that she just slept for four hours, but of course, I had basically just closed my eyes. Quick diaper change, nurse, rock, back to bed.

4:58 am | I’m not sure that she ever fell back asleep. I just heard a lot of sniffling and snorting. So we try the bouncy seat, hoping it will help with the congestion. No luck. She’s in bed with me 15 minutes later.

7:02 am | We both sleep soundly until Sam comes into the room. He’s ready to start his day, I definitely am not. So I guiltily suggest that he get his Kindle and watch a show for 30 minutes.

7:36 am | Evie is awake, kicking her feet, trying to grab my face. I nurse her in bed, my eyes barely open. Then we head downstairs to find Sam sprawled on the couch, wearing only his underwear because that’s how he insists on sleeping now.

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8:00 am | I chat with Nick while he drinks his coffee, and I wait for my own to brew. He says he had to rub Nora’s back for about 15 minutes until she fell asleep. I apologize for dropping her on him in the middle of the night. But, really, I’m not sorry. Sam joins us at the table with a bowl of Rice Krispies and bananas with honey drizzled on top.

8:20 am | Nick is in the shower. Lunches are packed. Sam is still watching the Kindle (I know, mother of the year), Evie is content in her high chair, and Nora starts to cry in the basement. She says, “Daddy left me here all by myself.” It takes a solid five minutes to calm her down, followed by another five minutes of crying because … she can’t find Mickey Mouse, her place mat is not right, she doesn’t want the bagel and cream cheese that I made for her, she wants to watch a show with Sam. She finally pulls herself together and eats a blueberry waffle while I get Sam ready for school.

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8:45 am | Both big kids are dressed, teeth brushed, hair styled, shoes on. It’s picture day, so they’re looking extra fancy. I, on the other hand, change out of pajama pants and into sweatpants and pull my hair into a messy ponytail. And Evie just stays in jammies. We rush through a quick photo shoot on the front porch. Kiss Daddy goodbye. Load all three kiddos into the car. And drive about 1/2 mile down the road for school drop-off. Because some mornings I just don’t have the time or patience for all of the hopping, skipping, running, and brick wall climbing that occurs during our walk to school.

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9:10 am | Back home. I make a second cup of coffee since I only had a few sips of my first. Evie plays in her jumperoo for about 10 minutes while I clean breakfast plates and wash the crock pot from last night’s dinner. Lucy barely moves from her spot at the front door.

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9:30 am | Evie is getting fussy, so I take her upstairs to change her, which is an incredibly difficult task these days. Then I put her in the crib with some toys while I make the bed. But that doesn’t last very long. So I nurse her, and she is sleeping shortly after.

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9:50 am | Back downstairs to finally get some breakfast for myself: eggs and toast. Nick and I have fallen off the paleo wagon since our trip to Disney. I really just don’t have the motivation right now for all of the meal planning and prepping that is involved.

10:00 am | My sister FaceTimes, and I can’t remember the last time I talked to her without interruption from children. We talk for a solid 20 minutes and promise to make it a weekly date when the big kids are at school. I finish cleaning the kitchen and straighten the dining room table.

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10:45 am | Evie is still sleeping. Woo-hoo! We are passed the 45-minute mark, which means she should sleep for at least two hours. I take advantage of the quiet and get a quick shower. Use the two products I cannot live without: R+F eye cream and dry shampoo to conceal my tired eyes and postpartum hair loss. Then get dressed for the day.

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11:10 am | Littlest is still sleeping! I debate another cup of coffee, but chug a big glass of water instead. I consider cleaning up Nora’s and Sam’s rooms, but I decide to wait for their help. Sam has recently expressed interest in earning an allowance, and he was thrilled when I gave him a dollar for picking up his toys earlier this week.

11:30 am | I sit down on the couch with my laptop and start to type notes from my day thus far. Sitting on the couch is a luxury I rarely get to enjoy these days. Oh, wow, is it nice! It’s so quiet that I can hear the clock ticking across the room.

12:20 pm | I get lost in writing, and when I look up at the clock, I cannot believe that Evelyn has been asleep for 2 1/2 hours. I give her 10 more minutes then wake her up to go get the big kids. This is Nora’s second week in “lunch bunch,” which means that she stays until 1pm, rather than the previous 11:30am pick-up. Obviously, I am loving the extra time. It means that Evie usually takes a longer nap, and I only have to do one pick-up rather than two.

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12:45 pm | We walk the few blocks to school, and I’m glad that we got out since the clouds are rolling in, and the forecast in calling for rain. We’ve been so spoiled with 80 degree days in October.

1:00 pm | Nora comes out of her classroom first. Her bow is on top of her head, like a unicorn, and her teacher informs me that she’s been fussing with it all day. I just hope that it was in the right position for photos! Sam is next — looking almost as tired as Nora. In fact, neither of them run through the building like they typically do. And, when we get outside, Nora says, “I’m tired.” To which I reply, “That’s because you didn’t sleep in your bed last night.” And she says, “No, I’m tired because we took so many pictures today.” Sam chimes in and says, “I’m tired, too.” Followed by, “I’m tired of waiting for my Jedi costume to arrive.” Which we just ordered last night, by the way.

1:10 pm | This is seriously the most quiet walk home from school that we’ve ever had. Nora is sitting at the foot of the stroller, and Sam hasn’t let go of the handlebar since we left the building. Seriously, what has happened to my children?

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1:12 pm | One of Sam’s classmates catches up with us, and Sam immediately morphs back into the spunky kid that I know and love. Nora follows suit. And the three race the rest of the way home while my mom friend and I push strollers and chat.

1:30 pm | Back home. Shoes in the closet, backpacks on the hook, and I’m impressed with how much both kids ate for lunch. And so I allow them to have ice cream cookie sandwiches for a treat. Evie snacks on her toes. Then Nora plays cars and Sam battles Spider-Man and Hulk Smash while Evie rolls around on her play mat. I realize that I haven’t had lunch, so I take the opportunity to eat leftover quinoa and carrots plus a chunk of Harvarti dill cheese.

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2:00 pm | Lucy alerts us that a package has been delivered to the door. It’s a big box from Gap/Old Navy with clothes for the whole family! All three children needed new wardrobes for the fall/winter. And why didn’t we consider that our second and third would be complete opposite seasons?? Sam is excited to try some cozy clothes on little sister.

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2:15 pm | Evie is getting tired again, and the other two are requesting the iPad/Kindle. They start with games (Ninjago and Daniel Tiger) and switch to shows (Power Rangers and Paw Patrol) by the time I get back downstairs.

2:44 pm | Clean up the kitchen, fold a stack of dish towels, pick up a few toys, fluff the pillows on the couch, then decide that I need a break of my own. I set the alarm on my phone for 3:30 and snuggle up beside Sam and Nora. I know it’s dangerous to take a nap in the middle of the day, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.

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3:29 pm | Evie wakes up one minute before my alarm goes off. She is screaming by the time I get upstairs and definitely not done sleeping. So I rock her for about 10 minutes and attempt to lay her down. But she wakes up immediately. So much for that nap. At least she got a good one in this morning.

3:40 pm | Back downstairs, and I tell the kids that screen time is over. They both ask for Goldfish, and Evie has some playtime.

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3:50 pm | We head upstairs to Sam’s room. I pick up a bunch of LEGOs from Sam’s floor (how am I ever going to baby-proof this house??) before I lay Evie down on a blanket. Nora puts on a fireman hat and starts to read books to a pile of stuffed animals. And Sam changes into his karate uniform. But he has to stop halfway through his wardrobe change because he gets a bloody nose. This is the second one in the past week. Nick says he used to get them as a kid, too. I make a mental note to order a new humidifier for his bedroom.

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4:15 pm | Sam has quickly recovered and hands me a light saber for our first battle of the evening. He says something about “fulfilling our destiny.” Nora is still very much wrapped up in story time. Evie watches us from the Bumbo. And Lucy lays right smack in the middle of everything. We battle, we play, we read, we sing, we blow bubbles. I sneak upstairs to change the sheets on Evie’s crib because they’re spotted with snot and drool. Then I text Nick to find out what time he will be home from work and eventually decide that I need to start dinner.

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5:15 pm | I warm up leftover sausage and peppers, bake two small loaves of bread for sandwiches, and boil water to make tortellini for the kids. I slice some strawberries and steal a bag of M&Ms from the stash we still have leftover from Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I do all of this while bouncing Evie around in the Bjorn.

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5:30 pm | Sam is now dragging Nora around the living room on Evie’s play mat. Lucy is barking at cars. And Evie is over the Bjorn. I convince the kids to join me at the dining room table for some art activities while I count down the minutes until Nick gets home.

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5:45 pm | Daddy is home! He’s greeted at the door with hugs from the big kids and lots of sloppy kisses from Lucy. He says this is his favorite time of day. He immediately shows the kids the box of Kinder Eggs that his boss brought back from Canada. And Sam exclaims, “Daddy went to Canada today!” Because he used to bring back the chocolate treats when he traveled there every week during the fall.

5:50 pm | I’m trying to wrap up dinner and fix plates. Sam and Nora are fighting over the Eggs, and Nick is trying to get a “thank-you” photo to send to his boss. I tell him that the kids are fast approaching “hangry” status and are likely not going to cooperate until after dinner.

5:55 pm | We sit down to eat dinner and talk about the best parts of our days. Sam: “Playing cars at school. And Colton is my new best friend.” Nora: “Playing outside at school.” Nick: “Getting a good score on my performance review.” Emily: “Defeating Sam in our light saber battle.” (Which Sam informs me that I did not.) We all agree that Evie is most excited to eat applesauce for dinner, and Lucy is happy that Daddy is home.

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6:10 pm | Finish dinner and open our Kinder Eggs. (Right after Nick gets his cute kid picture.) Each Egg has a little character toy from Finding Dory. Nick makes the mistake of telling Sam that his is a water squirting toy, which prompts Sam to fill a little bowl with water and squirt it all over the dining room.

6:30 pm | Time to take Evie upstairs for her bath. Sam and Nora had theirs last night, so I only have one kid to clean tonight. While my hands are on the baby in the tub, the big kids fill the sink with water and continue to play with their new Finding Dory toys. I call for Nick’s help because I have a feeling that the sink is going to overflow any second. Yes, I’m right, and Nick drains the sink and redirects the kids’ attention to toys in Sam’s room.

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6:45 pm | I ask Nick to get Sam and Nora into jammies while I do the same with Evie. He attempts to wash their hands and faces and brushes their teeth, even though Nora says, “I want Mommy” about a dozen times. Both go potty and get a drink of water. Check, check, and check. Nora comes upstairs to jump on the bed while I rock Evie. I quietly sing, “no more monkeys jumping on the bed,” which she thinks is hilarious.

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7:05 pm | Evie falls asleep while nursing. Of course. I carefully lay her into bed, and even though she’s sleeping, she immediately rolls onto her belly. I start the white noise and tip-toe out of the room. She’s crying about two minutes later. So I go back up to give her the binky, and she quiets down again. Come back down to find Daddy giving horsey rides back and forth between Sam’s and Nora’s rooms.

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7:15 pm | We start family story time in Sam’s bed. But the kids are fighting over who gets to open the flaps in their new Mickey Mouse Halloween book. Nora decides that she wants to take the book and go to her room with Daddy, which has not happened in weeks. This means that I get to spend some rare quiet time with my big boy. We read Star Wars ABCs, which he has almost entirely memorized, and two more Halloween books. One prompts a discussion about bats because he’s been learning about bats in school this week. He informs me that they’re nocturnal, they sleep hanging upside down with their wings wrapped around their babies, and they are blind so they use echolocation to fly through the sky.

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7:30 pm | I sneak over to Nora’s room to grab the Mickey Mouse book for Sam to read. Nick is singing “Rock-a-Bye, butterflies.” He tucks her in and says “goodnight until your green light comes on.” But she insists that he leave the door open for Mommy.

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7:35 pm | Nora appears at Sam’s door at least five times while I’m reading his last book. I kiss him goodnight, turn off his light, and turn on his turtle stars, then put Nora back into bed. No sooner is she under the covers that she decides she needs “one more teeny tiny sip of water.” And, of course, she has to get it herself. She turns on the faucet as slow as it can possibly drip and takes an eternity to fill her water cup all the way to the top, only to take a teeny tiny sip of water and dump the rest back into the sink. Every. Single. Time.

7:45 pm | Hugs and kisses and multiple goodnights for Nora, some of which happen after I already close the door. Nick is doing work on his laptop, and I come downstairs to put the dinner plates in the dishwasher. I hear Nora screaming upstairs, and Sam appears in the kitchen, declaring that he’s “starving.” He believes that he is “starving” multiple times every day. I get him a banana with peanut butter and ask Nick to check on Nora. I hear her yelling, “I want Mommy!” But I decide to finish cleaning before I go up.

7:55 pm | Sam finishes his banana, brushes his teeth again, and climbs back into bed. Nora is still screaming and sweating by the time I get into her room. I pick her up and change her shirt. Then I take her to the bathroom for yet another teeny tiny sip of water. And I lift her up to the mirror to see how sad she looks. We talk about having a nice and happy bedtime, which we’ve been talking about every night for the past two weeks. We go through the motions yet again. “Goodnight. Happy dreams. I love you.” Fortunately, this time it sticks.

8:00 pm | Whew. We’ve been trying so hard to move up the kids’ bedtimes. But, it never fails, 7:15 so quickly becomes 8:00. I fall onto the couch beside Nick and zone out for a good ten minutes before he suggests that he make popcorn and we watch an episode of Suits, our latest Amazon obsession.

8:25 pm | We’re downstairs on the couch with Lucy, big bowls of popcorn, and cups of tea. Less than 10 minutes into the show, I hear Evie crying. I wait a few minutes before going up to check on her. Binky back in, and she’s good.

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9:15 pm | Episode is over. We should probably call it a night, but we decide to watch another one. But first I rinse our popcorn bowls, run the dishwasher, and move some laundry to the dryer.

10:15 pm | Now it’s really time for bed. We chat about the upcoming day and our plans to have friends over for brunch on Sunday while Nick fixes the sheets on the air mattress and promises that he’ll move back into our bed this weekend. Lucy has definitely been enjoying this temporary sleeping arrangement because it means she gets the couch all to herself.

10:45 pm | Lights out and prayers that everyone sleeps well tonight.

12:30 am | Evelyn is stirring, whimpering, screaming. Lather, rinse, and repeat. (But at least big sister sleeps through the night!)

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Letter to Samuel: Five

10.09.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Sam,

FIVE! You have been anxious to turn five since some of your best buddies hit the milestone age during school last year. Five means so many things. It means you are big enough to dress yourself and pour a glass of milk and climb to the top of the spider’s web and memorize the code to unlock my iPad. But it also means that you still need kisses on booboos and songs before bedtime. It means you’re not too big to hold my hand when we walk downtown for ice cream cones, or ask to snuggle Ricky when you’re tired.

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You have grown so much this past year. It seems like you got tall and thin overnight. It’s not uncommon to watch you eat three bowls of spaghetti for dinner, then request cereal with bananas and raisins and honey before bed.

You have a wild imagination that almost always involves an epic battle. You line up your LEGOs and action figures and act out scenes from movies (most recently, Star Wars). Everything has the potential to become a light saber. You collect objects from around the house — like my camera tripod, a fabric belt, plastic hangers, and clothespins — and construct devices to capture your stuffed animals or booby trap your pillow fort. Fortunately, Nora doesn’t mind playing along with your scenarios. You hold her prisoner in your bedroom, or pile blankets on top of her while she lays on the couch because she was “injured in battle.”

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You have no trouble finding adventures in our small backyard. You collect “crystals” and plant apple seeds. You race from the deck to the back fence and jump off the sandbox and over the railing. You ride your scooter and push Nora on the tricycle. You toss rocks into the wagon and launch plastic darts all over the yard.

You are our nature lover, our explorer, our trail blazer. When we go on hikes, you use your spy vision goggles to spot the trail markers and look for American Ninja Warrior obstacles.

You are inquisitive. You ask questions about sharks and jellyfish. How did Baby Evie get into Mommy’s belly, and how did she get out. Why is that building made of glass, and what’s inside of it. How do you spell Batman, and what’s 2 + 3. Why is there smoke coming out of that house (which was actually steam on a particularly chilly morning), and maybe Darth Vader is inside.

You love to help in the kitchen — from cracking eggs to brewing beer to making “veggie animals.”

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You have become very, very good at constructing LEGOs. And if you get a new set, you have to build it immediately. What you are not so great at yet, is keeping the sets together. Mommy is still trying to come up with an organized way to store all of the tiny pieces you have accumulated — especially before Baby Evie begins to crawl.

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You love all sports: soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming. You do handstands and cartwheels and tabletops. You climb the spider’s web and try really hard to swing across the monkey bars. You paddled your very own kayak at the shore this summer and rode a skate board, with a little help from Daddy. You request to run with Mommy, though you only know one speed: fast! You surprised all of us and jumped into Uncle Steve’s pool a few weeks ago. I yelled, “I’m not sure if he can swim!” But you popped right up and swam over to the ladder.

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You are not capable of walking around town — it’s like your very own parkour obstacle course. You skip over the cracks in the sidewalk, climb the stone wall, weave in and out of the shrubs, jump the fence and run across the lawn of the church, hang from every bike rack. I’m exhausted just thinking about our walks to and from school.

You adore your sisters. Nobody makes them laugh — or scream — like you do. I love to watch you hold Evie’s hand while you walk beside the stroller, or put a protective arm around Nora while watching a “scary” movie. Of course, I also spend many hours of the day playing referee, breaking up fights between you and Nora, and monitoring the two of you around your baby sister.

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You love dates with Mommy. And, when we have the chance, I love to take you for ice cream, or spend an afternoon at the museum. Daddy also looks forward to one-on-one time with you, building LEGOs or doing math problems or battling with light sabers.

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You still talk about the candle that you broke because you tossed a ball at the mantle. And when you forgot to close the van door just before a big storm, which left pools of water in the car seats and sticks and leaves all over the floor.

Speaking of storms, you have become very interested in them ever since I hustled you all to the basement during a tornado watch. Now if you see the slightest sign of wind, you ask me to check the radar and track the weather on a notepad that you have taped to the window.

A few more Samisms: You always request to “test taste” cookie dough and brownie batter. You know the importance of applying “sun cream” before swimming. You still say “constructions” instead of instructions. Shortly after Evie was born, you asked “When you sit, is your belly bigger than your pants? Because mine is.” (Oh, Sam, you have no idea.)

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I love you, bud. Even on our toughest days, I am so proud to be your momma.

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The Summer of Three

09.19.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

This was a summer full of learning opportunities.

How to give adequate attention to three little humans and juggle their opposing demands. How to take three kids to the grocery store and how to sanitize three sets of hands after 15 minutes inside a public bathroom. How to eat while holding a baby and constantly refilling juice cups and snack bowls. How to nurse the littlest while simultaneously playing LEGOs or building block towers. How to keep them all fed and clean and entertained and polite. How to function on less sleep and refuel with toddler kisses and cold brew coffee. How to race to get three kids to sleep by 8pm so I can have some form of an adult conversation. And how to let go of all desires to have a clean and tidy house.

There may be endless piles of laundry and stacks of plastic plates in the sink, Goldfish crumbs under the couch cushions and random collections of rocks on the bathroom sink, half finished art projects and too much screen time. But there is also a whole lot of love.

We are all anxious to establish our new fall routine. One that includes school for the big kids, more predictable naps for the baby, and a chance for this momma to return to some of the things that I enjoy — like cooking and writing and showering without interruption.

Farewell, summer 2016, you were so good to us in so many ways.

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{We spent many summer days at the township pool. I perfected the art of packing for three kids and toting all of our necessities in the minivan. Evie took several naps poolside, Nora got comfortable in the water, and Sam learned to swim. We all had a blast with our preschool friends.}

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{Late afternoon kayaking at Codorus with Laura and Stephen.}

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{We celebrated July 4th in Dover with s’mores, sparklers, a bonfire, and sibling rides on the four-wheeler. We also enjoyed quality time with Uncle Andrew while he was visiting from Colorado. Sam spent an afternoon with him at Indian Echo Caverns and Hershey’s Chocolate World.}

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{Early birthday celebration with my family. And, of course, I let the kids blow out my candles. Enjoyed a bouquet of flowers, Thai takeout, and champagne on my actual birthday. S and N stole shrimp from my plate, and I barely finished before E needed to nurse. Later changed into sweatpants, ate cupcakes, and watched the final season of Newsroom. This is 34. A far cry from 24. But I couldn’t be happier.}

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{Quick trip to Greensburg to introduce Evie to some of our favorite people.}

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{We traveled to Altoona for the Wiley family reunion. Sam said, “Mommy, I have a lot of cousins.” We loved spending the day with people we don’t get to see often enough. The kids played hard, Evie was passed around at the picnic, and we rounded out the day with baseball, hotdogs, and frozen custard from The Meadows. Because no trip to Altoona is complete without frozen custard from The Meadows. And we gave 100 hugs to Aunt Kirsten before she departed for Arizona.}

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{Dates with the big kids to paint pottery and explore the local museum, rainy afternoons at the movie theatre, picnics at the playground, camp for the big kiddos, and lots of ice cream cones.}

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{Bowling alley on a rainy Wednesday during Nick’s paternity leave.}

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{Family adventure to the Delaware Water Gap. Sam was our trail blazer, using his spy vision goggles to spot the yellow trail markers and look for American Ninja Warrior obstacles. Nora refused to ride on Nick’s back and so we heard “I got it” and “I can do it” and “Wait up, guys” about 57 times. Nick tried to teach lessons on woodland creatures and plant life, but the kids were more interested in picking up sticks and skipping rocks. Evie snoozed in the Ergo until we got to the waterfalls, then she was wide awake and all smiles. Both big kids were soaked for our hike back to the car, starving, and exhausted. It was a pretty perfect afternoon.}

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Letter to Evelyn: Three Months

09.09.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Evie Girl,

Three months is every bit as magical as I remember. You are awake and alert for longer stretches of time. You turn your head to our voices, make eye contact, and talk in excited coos and gurgles. You suck your hands and grab your feet and reach for toys. You use your legs to push against our laps and bounce up and down. And you react to our smiles with gummy grins of your own — the kind that light up your entire round face.

Milestones this month include rolling over from belly to back and sitting in the Bumbo. In fact, you much prefer the Bumbo to tummy time. You have nearly outgrown our beloved bouncy seat, unless you are in a deep sleep. You still love your high chair, although you often end up in my lap during mealtime. You don’t mind the car seat, unless the car stops moving. The Ergo is much more comfortable now that your head is stronger and your legs are long enough to stick out the bottom. Diaper changes have already become challenging — you kick your feet and try so hard to roll off the table.

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Nobody makes you smile like your siblings — except maybe a ceiling fan. You watch Sam and Nora so intently, and we’re all anxious for the day when you laugh out loud at their silliness. They are still completely in love with you, always fighting for your attention and your affection.

Speaking of fighting for attention, you have learned that you need to be loud to be heard in this house. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

You love to sing with Daddy and stick out your tongue when he sticks out his. Most of your Daddy bonding time happens at night after the big kids go to bed.

You also had lots of bonding time this month with Nini and Poppy. Mommy left you for several long stretches of time during a weekend of wedding festivities. You drank from the bottle like a champ and took a few long naps in Poppy’s arms.

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You are still waking 2-3 times each night to nurse — around midnight (before I go to bed) and again around 3am and 5am. Then you’re up for the day by 8am. I feed you on demand throughout the day. Your typical routine is sleep, eat, play, repeat. I have learned the perfect combination of cradling, bouncing, and patting your bottom to help you fall asleep. Though most of your naps still occur in my arms, in the bouncy seat, or while we’re out and about. Once the big kids return to school, I’ll start the transition to more predictable naps — hopefully in your crib.

I suspect you weigh about 12 pounds, and you have outgrown the length in most of your 3-month clothing. I pulled out as much as I could from Nora’s 6- to 12-month bin — though the seasons are complete opposites. So I also stocked up on cute fall and winter clothes just for you during a big sale at Carter’s. Still looking for the perfect pair of moccasins, though!

You average about four bibs per day, several burp cloths, and at least two shirts. I also usually require a wardrobe change. You are constantly blowing saliva bubbles and spit up a lot more than Sam and Nora did. Oh, well. I know it’s just a phase.

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You still remind me so much of Sam at this age. Though your eyes are big and blue just like Nora’s. Nora loves to read books to you and sing lullabyes. And Sam wants to hold your hand every minute of every day.

You finally got to meet your namesake this month: Great Grandma Evelyn Martin. It was really special! And she gifted you a pretty painting by Pat Buckley Moss called “Evelyn.”

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I look forward to your sweet smiles every morning — no matter how often you woke me the night before. You remind me to slow down: to rock you to sleep even if there are dishes to wash and laundry to fold; to lay beside you when you’re playing and talk to you even when the big kids are running laps around the house; and to you to hold you just a little bit longer when you won’t let go of my shirt. Evelyn, we are all so lucky to have you in our lives. Love you, little lady!

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We are all so lucky to have you in our lives. You brighten our days and remind us to slow down.

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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.