Christmas with a Three-Year-Old

I’ve always loved Christmas, but it just gets more and more fun when you add kids into the mix, doesn’t it? Emily is obviously pretty clueless about the whole thing, but Alexander spent the entire month of December buzzing with excitement about all things Christmas.

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He loved decorating the tree, and spent many evenings draping his ever-present pile of blankets from his bed over various parts of the house, declaring “I’m decorating for Christmas!” He’s also very insistent that all Christmas trees must have stars on top. Whenever we see a tree with an angel on top, or even a pine tree outside with only lights, he’ll note, “Oh, I guess they forgot to put a star on top of that Christmas tree.”

He watched a ton of Christmas shows and learned (well, mostly learned) a bunch of Christmas songs this year. His version of “Jingle Bells” is delightful (Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all da way! Ash-ee-urr dinnda oneeeuuuopen sleigh, hey! ), but his abridged rendition of “Frosty” is my favorite:

He wasn’t timid at all about meeting Santa this year. Our neighborhood hosted a Story Time with Santa event where Santa came into a room full of kids right at the end of a reading of Frosty the Snowman. All the kids noticed Santa around the same time, but no one was too sure what to do. Alexander, no longer our shy little guy, took the lead by marching right up to Santa and giving him a great big hug. Once A. broke the ice, the other kids were quick to follow suit. It was adorable.

He was excited about getting presents from Santa, of course, but he surprised me with how excited he was about giving presents to other people. We got Emily a book from us/Santa, and that was it since she’s a baby and doesn’t really need anything. But then a week before Christmas, Alexander asked me out of the blue, “Mommy, can I give Emily a present for Christmas?” I’d already finished shopping and didn’t want to go back out to the stores, but I wasn’t about to discourage Alexander’s spirit of giving. So I suggested we go down to the basement and pick out one of his old toys from when he was a baby that he could give to her. “Oh, yes!” he exclaimed. “Can we do that right now?!” I need to remember on future gift-giving occasions that he’s old enough now to understand and have an opinion about what gifts he gives to people.

Alexander couldn’t get enough of helping me wrap presents. He helped me with almost everything I wrapped, and wanted so badly to wrap more when we were visiting my parents the weekend before Christmas that my mom picked a decorative box that’s been on her end table for a few years and let him wrap it up for my dad. And there have been several nights, even now that Christmas is over, when I’ve gone upstairs well after his bedtime to find him sitting up in bed, wrapping his stuffed animals up in blankets. “I’m wrapping presents for my children. I’m playing Santa!” he explains.

After Alexander expressed a desire to ask Santa for “All the toys!” we spent a lot of time discussing the fact that Santa would probably only bring him one or two presents. He could not believe his luck on Christmas morning, then, when in addition to the one present plus stocking stuffers from Santa, he had more presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandmas and Grandpas and cousins. “I get another present?!” he exclaimed over and over again. And, with the exception of some fun dump truck socks that Santa really thought he would like but were met with mildly disappointed confusion, every single present he opened was followed immediately with a delighted cry of “Whoa! It’s just what I wanted!” (He’s since come around to the dump truck socks and asks to wear them every day. I guess they just weren’t as exciting a present to open up as all the other goodies.)

We spent Christmas morning at our house, just the four of us, for the first time this year, and it was so much fun. I’m loving figuring out our own family traditions, not to mention seeing all the joy and magic through Alexander’s eyes. It’s only going to get more fun from here as Emily grows up and starts figuring it all out, too. I can’t wait.

Emily’s Seventh Month

Emily is seven months old!

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She started sleeping in her crib this month, and, overall, she and I are both sleeping much better with her across the hall instead of right next to me. She still sometimes wakes up at 2am, but…well, look. I’m not going to talk about it for fear of jinxing it. Suffice to say that most nights she doesn’t wake up at 2 am. It’s really nice.

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Emily is completely in awe of her brother. The other night he was dancing around the living room, and she laughed and laughed the whole time. And just look at this picture. The way she’s reaching out to take his hand and looking up at him with such admiration. Have you ever seen anything sweeter? No. No you have not.

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She crawls! Not fully on her hands and knees yet; it’s more of a belly drag, but she gets around. She’s using her new-found mobility to help herself to whatever toys she wants to get her hands on, which usually happen to be the toys she sees Alexander playing with. Alexander’s not a huge fan of this development. We’re talking a lot about sharing these days.

See also: Planking

Other skills include: Planking

She’s also using her mobility to be extra dramatic (and, okay, also a little hilarious) (but still heartbreaking) in the evenings when absolutely nothing is okay unless Mommy’s holding her. As soon as I try to cook dinner, here comes Emily, dragging herself across the floor to me, wailing pitifully the whole time. She’d make an excellent extra in a zombie movie.

Costume Pals

In less dramatic news, check out this picture from Alexander’s birthday party. While all the other cousins were running around like crazy, my 6-year-old niece, Audrey, sat down to read books to Emily. It was such a sweet moment, and you could tell Emily totally loved it. One of many reasons I’m so happy our kids get to grow up around a bunch of their cousins.

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I don’t really have a paragraph to introduce this next photo. But look at my sweet girl! She’s so pretty! And her post-bath curls are the very best!

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The day she turned seven months old also happened to be…wait for it…

Halloween

Halloween!

She borrowed her brother's mask for a few minutes.

She borrowed her brother’s mask for a few minutes.

You know we couldn’t let a baby’s first Halloween go by without putting the baby in a pumpkin, right?

She was not amused.

She was not amused.

We even let Alexander join in the pumpkin-sitting fun.

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Both kids were quite a bit happier on the outside of the pumpkins.

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Is that not the most adorable kids-with-pumpkins photo you’ve ever seen? Can you even believe how lucky I am to have these kids?

I don’t have height and weight stats because this was the first month of her life Emily didn’t have to go to the doctor. On months when she didn’t have well checks, we had to take her in for her eczema, but not this month! It turns out Dairy-Free is the way to be. Since I’ve gone off dairy, her eczema has improved drastically. I still miss cheese a lot, but since adjusting my diet is so obviously helping her, I only spend about 70% of my waking hours counting down the months until I can eat cheese again (rather then the 95% I spent previously).

Seven Months!

Seven Months!

Look at this kid. She’s the best little girl. The very best.

Emily’s Fourth Month

Emily had a busy month! Let’s get right to the photo highlights, shall we?

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She had her first 4th of July. She spent the morning lounging poolside, waiting for someone to bring her an umbrella drink.

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She found her feet! She likes playing with lots of different toys, but her feet are a big favorite since they’re always nearby.

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She got baptized! We had her baptism on July 20th so that my best friend, Amy, who Emily’s godmother, could be here for the ceremony. It was a nice ceremony, and it was wonderful getting to spend the morning with Amy and her family.

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Amy’s kids are very close in age to Alexander and Emily — her daughter is 5 days older than Alexander, and her son is 7 weeks younger than Emily. They live in Boston, so we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like, but it’s always a great time when we do get together.

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Emily and Walker holding hands — already best buddies!

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She rolled over! She’d been rolling back-to-front for a few weeks, but then she’d get mad because she was stuck on her belly. Then one day she finally figured out how to roll front-to-back, and everything was great again. She’s rolling a full month earlier than Alexander did, and she couldn’t be more pleased with herself. I expect her to be crawling any week now. (I’m only half joking about that.)

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Alexander’s the sweetest big brother in the world. He takes such good care of Emily, and always makes sure she has a toy to play with, whether she wants it or not. He loves to smother her in hugs and kisses, and he still likes to hold her and exclaim, “I think she likes me!” just like he’s been doing since the day we brought her home from the hospital. She’s incredibly lucky to have him for a big brother.

Here’s an 8-second video of Emily and her signature full-body smile. That’s her default smile; it’s like she gets so overcome with joy that she can’t help but react with her whole body. And it happens almost every time she smiles. She’s basically the world’s happiest baby.

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At the end of this month, Tim went back to work, so Emily started going to daycare full time. It’s going very well, as expected. Linda, our daycare provider, loves Emily to pieces (who wouldn’t?), and Alexander really likes having Emily at daycare with him.

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Speaking of daycare/working parents, I’ve been at my new job for two months now, and it’s going really well. I love the work, I have a great group of coworkers, and, most of all, I love coming home and being greeted by two kids with ear-to-ear grins. I’m also relived that pumping at work is going much better for me this time than it did the last time around. With Alexander, I could never pump enough to keep up with his appetite, and I just really hated the whole experience. With Emily, for a number of reasons, everything is 100 times better. I’m keeping up with her appetite just fine, and I really don’t mind pumping at work. I look forward to my short breaks throughout the day to unwind for a few minutes, catch up with Twitter and Facebook, and give my brain a break from all things work-related. My initial goal was to make it to 6 months nursing and pumping; that was my goal with Alexander, and I did it, but it was a struggle. Everything’s going so much better this time, though, that I have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Of course, things change, and I know there’s no guarantees that I’ll be able to keep up with it. But for now, I plan to keep nursing/pumping for as long as I can. I’d love to make it a full year, but who knows if it’ll work out that way. Regardless, I feel happy with my success thus far, and I count every day that it keeps going well as a win.

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At her 4-month checkup, Emily weighed in at 13.5 pounds and 24.5 inches long. She’s growing like a champ!

Nine

Then…

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and now:

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It’s been a wonderful nine years.

And Then There Was Emily

We made it to Friday. Past Friday, even. But if my parents had stuck to the original plan to wait until Tuesday to come, they would have been too late.

We made it to Sunday. That morning, at church, I noticed the braxton-hicks contractions I’d been having for several weeks felt a little different than usual. Rather than an all-over tightening sensation in my belly, it was more of a downward-pressure sensation stretching across my belly and around into my lower back. And there were more of them. Rather than several contractions spaced out over an entire day, I was noticing a few each hour. I had very few contraction-free hours throughout the day.

Still, the contractions were very irregular and incredibly mild, so I didn’t mention them to anyone; just made a mental note to pay attention and see if they turned into anything resembling actual labor. Sunday progressed much like any other Sunday. Church, lunch with Tim’s sister and our niece, toddler naptime, etc. I had Tim take a picture of me to commemorate the latest milestone: At 38 weeks, 1 day pregnant, I was officially more pregnant than I’d been when Alexander was born.

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As it turns out, my body doesn’t care to stay pregnant much longer than 38 weeks.

While we were cooking dinner that night, Tim pumped up our yoga ball. He’d been joking all weekend about making me bounce on the ball to get labor going, and he finally decided to get the ball inflated in case I felt like taking him up on his offer. Meanwhile, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, but they were still pretty irregular. I casually mentioned to Tim that the yoga ball might not be necessary and filled him in on the current state of things. He was instantly on edge, downloading a contraction timer app to his phone (even though I told him I already had one on my phone) and asking me for updates every few minutes.

I put Alexander to bed, then dutifully sat on the yoga ball, contraction timing app in hand, while we all relaxed in the living room. I started timing contractions around 8:00, letting Tim glance at the timer every few minutes, and when my parents went to bed at 9:30, Tim told them, “Just so you know, you might be taking over toddler duty at some point tonight.” The contractions had continued to get stronger and had been consistently 10-12 minutes apart for over an hour. It might have been nothing, but at this point we were pretty sure Something was happening, and we didn’t want my parents to be caught completely off guard when we threw Alexander’s monitor in their room and dashed off to the hospital in the middle of the night.

The next few hours dragged on. We watched the finale of The Walking Dead, called my doctor’s on-call nurse to find out when we should think about making our way to the hospital (60-second contractions, 5 minutes apart for an hour), then went upstairs and waited impatiently for labor to get going. I took a bath. I paced. I bounced on the yoga ball some more. (Despite Tim’s conviction that the yoga ball would help get labor started, the contractions actually slowed down every time I sat on it.) The contractions worked their way up to 4-6 minutes apart, then dropped back to 8-9 minutes, then slowly worked their way back to 6 minutes. I remember thinking, “Is this what a slow labor is like? This is a little boring.”

Things were slow going, but the contractions were definitely getting a lot stronger. And I was exhausted, having been up since 7:00 Sunday morning when Alexander woke up. More than anything, I wanted to get to the hospital and get my epidural in place so I could take a nap.

At 1:30 Monday morning, we decided enough was enough. The contractions weren’t quite as close together as the nurse told us they should be, but they hurt like crazy. We let my parents know we were leaving, gathered up our things, and went to the hospital.

When the triage nurse told us I was only dilated to a 4, we both were pretty nervous that we’d have to walk the halls for an hour or two before we could be admitted. Luckily, the nurse checked with my doctor, who gave the green light to have us admitted. We were in.

We made our way to the labor/delivery room and met Elyse, the wonderful nurse who would see us through the rest of the night. “My shift ends at 7,” she told us, “so let’s see if we can have this baby before then, okay?”

Elyse called the anesthesiologist, and when he arrived Tim took the opportunity to run out to the car and get our bags. (Tim, as you may recall, doesn’t do so well around needles.) The anesthesiologist took forever getting my epidural in place. I kept having increasingly unbearable contractions and thinking “This is the last contraction I’ll have to feel,” but then I had another contraction and thought, “this is the last one.” This continued for several more contractions, which I really didn’t appreciate. I have no idea what took him so long, but when he finished, I was so relieved to be blissfully unaware of the contractions. Finally.

We spent the next few hours resting. Tim got a little bit of sleep, but I was too excited to sleep, knowing that I’d get to meet my daughter in a few hours, so I just rested as much as I could. At some point, my doctor came in and broke my water, and the nurse advised me to rest and let my body labor down on its own as much as possible.

Shortly before 6:00, the nurse came in to check my progress, and determined it was probably time to start pushing. “Let’s do a practice push and see how you do, then I’ll go get the doctor,” she said. About half-way through my first practice push, my nurse said, with quite a bit of urgency in her voice, “Stop pushing! Whatever you do, don’t push any more!” I could feel that the baby was crowning, and the nurse rushed to get the doctor in the room before she had to catch the baby herself.

The doctor showed up, I pushed 3 times, and then Emily was on my chest, tiny and adorable and perfect. I held her and wept tears of joy with Tim, and we both marveled at our beautiful little girl.

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Emily Judith was born at 6:02 AM on March 31, 2014. 6 pounds, 8 ounces, 20 inches long. We’ve talked about naming a daughter Emily since before we were married, so deciding on her name was easy. Her middle name, Judith, is my mom’s first name, which also was an easy decision. My mom is one of my best friends, and there’s no one I’d rather honor with my daughter’s middle name.

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She hardly cried at all when she was born, and she’s continued to be a super mellow baby in the whole week she’s been with us. She figured out nursing almost immediately, and has been eating like a champ ever since. She has a ton of hair and the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. She’s such a little sweetheart.

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It was such a different labor from last time. Even though at first I thought I preferred the quickness of Alexander’s birth, in the end I was thankful for the more laid-back pace this time around. It was nice to get a few hours’ rest before she was born, and the whole process felt a lot easier overall.

The rest of our time in the hospital was uneventful. I broke the no-cosleeping rule Monday night and let Emily sleep on my chest, startling awake every 5 minutes to make sure a nurse wasn’t coming in to yell at me. I’d gotten maybe an hour of sleep in the past 36 hours, co-sleeping was the only way Emily was going to let me get any more sleep, and I was desperate. I got a good 2 hours of sleep (in 5-minute increments) that way, and I felt so refreshed afterward.

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My parents brought Alexander to the hospital when Emily was a few hours old, and as soon as he came in the room and saw her he exclaimed, “My baby sister!” He’s a very proud big brother, always wanting to hold Emily and give her kisses and help change her diaper. Every time he holds her on his lap, he grins and says, “I think her likes me.” The first day she was home, he took one look at her feet and announced “Her has tiny feet! But I have big feet.” And sometimes he just giggles and says, “Emily, what’re you doing?” in a tone of voice that implies she’s just the silliest thing he’s ever seen.

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He’s given her a guided tour of the playroom, showing off all his favorite toys: “Look, Baby Sister! I have a digger! And it digs in the dirt, then puts dirt in the dump truck. Look, Baby Sister! I have a dinosaur! And it says rooooaaarrr!” He was completely unconcerned with the fact that Emily slept through the entire tour.

Alexander was pretty confused the first time he saw Emily nursing. He got a very concerned look on his face and asked me, “Why is she eating you?” Tim and I explained that Emily drinks special milk from Mommy, and then we had to quickly clarify that he drinks Big Boy Milk when he was on the verge of asking to try some of Emily’s milk. That satisfied him, though, and he hasn’t asked about it again.

Emily will be a week old tomorrow, and life’s pretty great. She’s letting us sleep for 2-3 hours at a time, she’s super laid back and hardly ever fusses, and she continues to eat like a pro. Alexander’s adjusting pretty well, though he definitely has his moments when you can tell this isn’t the easiest transition for him. Overall, though, he’s completely smitten with his Baby Sister, and watching him with her makes me overcome with joy.

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We’re a family of four now, and we couldn’t be happier.

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