40 Weeks

02.03.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I always suspected Nora would arrive before her due date. Just as I predicted Sam would arrive after his. I also always felt as though I was carrying “more baby” this time. Despite having gained almost exactly the same amount of weight, Nora was nearly two pounds bigger than Sam at birth! Call it mother’s intuition.

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We were home from the hospital with our healthy baby girl two days before I hit the 40-week mark. It still astonishes me how the female body can endure such change in such a short amount of time.

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I’m fortunate that I had a very easy pregnancy. But it’s still so much more fun now that Nora is on the outside!

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Sibling Love

01.18.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Just hours after Nora was born, we prepared for our two! children to meet for the very first time. We had looked forward to this moment for nine months, and it was even more amazing than we had imagined.

Nick held Sam’s hand as they walked down the hall towards our room, and we heard big brother singing “baby sister, I coming!”

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Sam had picked out a stuffed animal just for Nora, and he clutched it tightly as they walked into our room. He stopped when he saw me in bed with the baby and a great big smile spread across his face.

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In a matter of seconds, he had taken off his jacket and his shoes and climbed into bed with us.

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He talked in a high-pitched baby voice and introduced himself as “I Sammy.” He wanted to touch her hair and her fingers and her toes, and he kept saying “oh, baby Nor-wah.”

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“Nor-wah” had a gift for big brother, too: a backpack with books, stickers, snacks, a new water bottle, and a disposable camera. Not surprisingly, the camera was a big hit.

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Our first photo as a family of four!

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Nini and Pop and Auntie Laura spent the afternoon with us, too, although Sam didn’t want anyone else to hold “his baby.”

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He was sweet and gentle and pretty much obsessed. They stayed for almost two hours before we decided it was time for Daddy to take Sammy home and get ready for bed. And I learned later, that when Nick tucked him in that night, he said “I miss Mommy” and “I miss Nora.”

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My mom had planned to spend some time with us the next morning, but Sam insisted he come along. And he had to bring his backpack, too.

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Sam visited that morning, and again for dinner that night. He even held Nora while she was awake, and I swear she was staring right into big brother’s eyes.

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I have no doubt he will be a protective big brother.

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Miss Nora and I had a nice two-night stay in the hospital, but we were more than ready to come home by Tuesday, which happened to be the coldest day in recent history! Seriously, it was -9 degrees (not including the wind chill factor) when Nick and Sam came to pick us up. We even received special instructions from the doctor to warm up the car for at least 10 minutes and sit in the back with the baby to ensure the temperature was comfortable for her.

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Sam was thrilled to sit next to Nora on our short drive home. And as soon as we walked in the door, he said “I hold baby sister and watch Mickey.” And so they did.

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Our first evening together was surprisingly quiet. We ordered pizza and spent a lot of time on the couch with our kiddos. Lucy kept her distance and only occasionally sniffed around Nora’s pack’n’play.

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Sam and Nora were both sound asleep by 11pm, which I’ll consider a success. And, oh gosh, I can’t get enough of these two in their fleece jammies!

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Sam was every bit as interested in Nora the next day. Though we did have to remind him numerous times to be careful and gentle.

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He wanted to help change her diaper and had to sit right beside us while I nursed her.

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So many impromptu photo ops!

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Yes, life is incredibly crazy right now. But it’s also a whole lot of wonderful.

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Nora’s Birth Story

01.16.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

January 5th, 2014. Three days before our due date, and nearly two weeks after I felt my first false contraction, I woke up at 4:30am (not unusual). But this time was definitely different. How could I have possibly forgotten the feeling of a true contraction?

I got up to use the bathroom and turned on my phone to start timing the contractions. I woke up Nick after 30 minutes of contractions that consistently came just 5 minutes apart. I didn’t want to overreact, but I also suspected (and hoped!) that baby girl would come much faster than Sam did. So I jumped in the shower and, by the time I had finished, Nick had made the bed, packed his bag, took out the trash, started the car, and turned on the Keurig. Daddy was ready!

I called the doctor at 6:30am and said I was pretty certain that today was the day! He said to come right in. So we called our friend to stay with Sam and made the much anticipated calls to our parents and were on our way!

Contractions were bearable, but I was so ready to get out of the car and walk. In fact, I didn’t even want to sit while registering at the hospital, and so I paced while providing my information. Before we knew it, two nurses had arrived with a wheelchair, and we were whisked up to the fifth floor.

I was just 4cm dilated upon arrival, but my doctor did not hesitate to admit me. She said she would prepare the paperwork for my epidural and be back to break my water. Wait! I said. That wasn’t my birth plan. My (very attentive) nurse explained that I wanted to do this naturally — as long as possible. And after the doc left, she apologized on her behalf, and said that was just typical routine. But not for me.

So the nurse hooked me up to an IV and the fetal monitor and said I had to lay in bed for 30 minutes. But as soon as they recorded the necessary readings, we were up and ready to walk the halls!

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We walked and walked and walked some more and returned every 30 minutes for 15 minutes of monitoring. Surprisingly, the next two hours passed pretty quickly. Of course, the contractions steadily intensified, and by 10:30am, I had reached 7cm. I was breathing deeply and groaning through the peak of each contraction while Nick rubbed my lower back and listened to my demands for “higher” and “lower” and “harder.” And then my water broke (which it never did naturally with Sam), and I felt some sense of accomplishment.

The nurse reminded me that my window for getting an epidural was quickly closing, and I decided without hesitation that I would get one. I felt I had labored naturally as long as I could and was ready for a bit of relief before meeting our baby girl.

I endured about 15 more minutes of painful contractions before the needle was inserted and began to work its magic. Though, because I was only given one initial “test” dose, I still felt each contraction. But I rolled onto my side and was able to relax and felt grateful to still feel so present in the moment.

Within about 45 minutes, I began to feel the urge to push. It seemed fast, but I called the nurse anyway. Sure enough, baby girl was ready! However, my sister and my parents were still about 15 minutes away, and Laura really wanted to be in the delivery room with me. She’s in her final year of nursing school and had not yet had the opportunity to see a childbirth. I mentioned this to the nurse, and she said we could wait, if we wanted to. Baby girl was fine, and I was comfortable. And so we decided to wait. Which felt very strange. But also very exciting as Nick and I counted down the final minutes before our daughter joined us.

Soon we heard footsteps running down the hallway, and Laura burst into our room, breathless and thankful she had arrived in time! The doctor and nurses were right behind her. The lights dropped from the ceiling. And it was go time!

Unlike Sam, this baby girl was anxious to enter the world! Her head full of dark hair was visible before I even began to push. And after just 5 minutes and 3 really big pushes, we heard the sweet, sweet sound of her cry for the very first time. Welcome, Nora Kathryn!

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The nurse placed her slippery, pink, perfect body on my chest while a very proud Nick cut her umbilical cord. She snuggled right up to me, her heartbeat fast and the rhythm of her breath quick and steady. And it was a moment we will never, ever forget.

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We were quite surprised by Nora’s hair … and her size! She had slender feet and long fingers like her big brother. But those cheeks! And that belly!

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A whopping 8 pounds 5 ounces! Nearly 2 pounds bigger than Sam was at birth. I had felt during my entire pregnancy that I was carrying more baby this time, but I never expected to birth an 8 pounder!

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After a quick wipe down, Nora was placed back in my arms, and we spent the next hour staring into her perfectly round face.

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It is true that childbirth is no less of a miracle the second time. My heart instantly expanded to make room for her, and I felt the immense joy of becoming a mother all over again.

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And Daddy? Well, let’s just say it was love at first sight.

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Laura was thrilled to share this special moment with us and declared it was “the coolest thing” she had ever seen. We welcomed my mom back to the delivery room to meet her first granddaughter and witness her first bath.

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And then it was back into Momma’s arms. Her body felt so warm and full of life. I studied her face and her features and felt so thankful for another beautiful, healthy child.

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Our Daughter

01.10.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our daughter, Nora Kathryn!

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She has a full head of silky soft hair and kissable cheeks and is content despite the chaos that is currently our life. Much more to come!

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Letter to Samuel: 27 Months

01.03.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Whew. Between facing the final weeks of pregnancy, prepping for a house full of holiday guests, and disciplining an increasingly opinionated toddler, December was an exhausting month! But it was also magical and memorable. Let’s find out what our Mr. Samuel has been up to this month.

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{Photo Credit Mudpies N Butterflies}

Likes: Curious George. The Goldbug book (yes, still obsessed). Your first movie in the theatre! You especially loved the popcorn and Pepsi in a dinosaur cup. Baking, decorating, and eating Christmas cookies. Searching for Bobby the Elf every morning, and then enjoying the advent treat he left for you. Your new airplane and, especially, the drill that came with it. Shoveling snow with Daddy. Wearing your jammies all day. Climbing on furniture. Running laps around the house. Crashing cars. And challenging rules.

Dislikes: Nap time. Bedtime. And any attempt at quiet time.

Communication: You added so many Christmas words to your vocabulary this month: Santa, elf, reindeer, snowman, jingle bells. You almost always speak in complete thoughts and full sentences. And you have started to talk to baby sister on the phone, which is beyond adorable. You tell her all about your toys and how she will sit beside you in the car and that she gets the airplane and you get the digger truck. I do believe you think a little playmate is going to pop out of Mommy’s belly.

Milestones: We said bye-bye to the binky this month! It was a big deal and happened about three days earlier than we had planned. We had intended to coordinate its departure with the arrival of Sankt Nikoloaus on December 6th, but you chewed through your very last one earlier that week. And so instead of rushing to the store to restock, we asked you to put your “bees” in a box. You understood that the “bees broke,” and it was time to get rid of them. You fussed for less than 15 minutes that night before drifting off to sleep … and haven’t asked for them again since! You were rewarded the next morning with a new fire truck.

However, I do believe this is the reason that sleep has been incredibly challenging this month. It now takes up to an hour to get you down (not including bath time), and some nights you are awake until after 11pm. Naps now start anytime between noon and 3pm and last 20 minutes to 3 hours. Oh, how I miss your predictable routine! You have also mastered the art of stalling. You ask for “more books,” “more talk,” the “blue car,” the “race car,” “water,” “pretzels,” and sometimes even “mac and cheese.” You stand at the gate and yell for us and request that we “lay down in Sam’s bed.” It’s very exhausting for all of us!

The holidays didn’t help. And with baby sister due to arrive any day, I hesitate to implement any new “training” tactics until we adjust to life with a newborn. I know this is just another phase that will eventually pass, but that recognition never makes it feel any easier when you’re in the middle of it!

Behavior: While we’re on the topic of new challenges, let’s talk about your behavior. I don’t care for the term “terrible twos,” but I do believe we’ve entered them. You have become more opinionated and demanding and use a “mean voice” if we deny your ridiculous requests. You sometimes hit and kick and throw things if you don’t get what you want. You think spitting and slamming doors is funny. Basically, you break rules and test our patience on a daily basis.

And so we have had many discussions about how to best discipline you. Time-out is sometimes successful, and we use it to discuss your behavior and ask that you apologize. We constantly talk about “nice Sam” versus “mean Sam” or “crazy Sam.” And I do think you understand the difference. We also continuously remind ourselves that this is a common stage in development and as you become a more effective communicator, your behavior will improve.

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Two isn’t always so terrible, though. The “I sorry”s and “I yuv you”s and “I miss you”s make all the crazies more tolerable. When you greet Daddy at the door with open arms and climb into my lap on the couch and tuck us both under your blanket, we are reminded that you are still our sweet and loving and innocent little man.

And so I try to keep things in perspective. I try to keep you active and stimulated and make sure you get enough sleep. And I try to appreciate your determination and independence. Mostly, I try to be completely present in these final days with you, little buddy, before baby sister is born.

Bumpdate: Weeks 36-39

01.01.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

The holidays have come and gone. The Christmas decorations have been put away until next year. Our suitcase is packed. And your room is ready! I’ve been feeling Braxton Hicks for about a week now (which I never had with Sam), and I was convinced at least three times that I was going into labor. Daddy and Sammy have been running around the house chanting: “Baby sister, time to come out and play!” Though I suspect your big brother thinks a playmate is going to pop out of Mommy’s belly.

Yes, we are all very excited to meet you, sweet girl.

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Fortunately, the past three weeks have been much more comfortable than the previous three weeks. Perhaps it was the excitement of the holidays, or maybe it’s just Momma’s nesting instinct in full swing, but I’ve had so much energy. I’ve prepared freezer meals, baked dozens of cookies, washed and folded five loads of itty bitty pink clothing, cleaned every corner of the house, and sanitized all of Sam’s toys. My feet hurt and my lower back aches at the end of every day, but it’s tolerable. And worth it.

And now we wait. I almost forgot what it felt like to wait. To have no control over when you choose to arrive. So. Much. Anticipation.

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But we want you to come when you’re ready. So keep on enjoying that cozy, quiet space. Because when you get here, we will party!

Favorite Moments of 2013

01.01.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

2013 brought so much good fortune to our family. And we look forward to all that awaits us in 2014! We thank you for your friendship and wish you love and happiness in the new year.

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A Very Merry Christmas

12.30.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

‘Twas a very merry Christmas — just the right amount of quiet and chaotic.

We hosted my parents, my siblings, and their significant others for five days. And Sam was completely spoiled by their love and attention.

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We baked cookies for Santa.

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And Santa bread, too!

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And we woke up to a living room full of gifts on Christmas Day.

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We heard a lot of “oh wow” and “super cool” and, fortunately, “thank you” that morning.

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Of course, every gift that Sam unwrapped, he wanted to immediately open and play with — including a marble maze, Lego blocks, and his airplane (the hit of the holiday, I do believe!).

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The big kids were spoiled, too, with fun gifts from Mom and Dad: dance lessons for Laura and Stephen; a couples massage for Andrew and Emma; and amusement park passes plus a night out for me and Nick.

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I just love our family traditions: new pajamas from the elves, stocking gifts, and mimosas on Christmas morning.

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And this year we added cinnamon rolls to our breakfast menu. Definitely a repeat!

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We stayed in our PJs all day — and at least two full days after that one. We did lots of cooking and baking and indulging. We played games, watched movies, and just enjoyed being together.

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We hope your holiday was as lovely as ours!

Our “Modest” Christmas Tree

12.17.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We agreed this year to get a “modest” Christmas tree. And yet, somehow, we still ended up with a 7-footer.

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And did I mention that we braved snow and 20-degree temperatures to find the perfect one? It took at least twice as long to drive to the tree farm, and we had to enlist help from a stranger when the minivan got stuck in the parking lot. Speaking of the minivan (that, yes, I do love so much), it couldn’t get up our very steep and unsalted driveway. And so Nick had to hoist the tree onto his back and carry it up to the house.

Oh, the things we do in the name of Christmas.

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At least we managed to keep the decorations simple: gold shatter-proof balls; a few significant, but not fragile, ornaments; and, usually, a safety gate to keep Lucy from drinking the water.

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I just love the warm glow of a Christmas tree, don’t you?

Purple for Lauren

12.14.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I can’t let today come to an end without sharing a tribute to our cousin, Lauren Rousseau. One year ago, so many of you wore purple to show your support to our family and the other lives lost at Sandy Hook. My sister-in-law and I compiled the photos you shared with us into an album for Lauren’s parents. It is a beautiful way to remember sweet Lauren, and I thank you for your continued love and support.

Click here to view this photo book larger

The new way to make a photo album: photo books by Shutterfly.