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.

Almost There…Maybe? Probably.

I’m 37 1/2 weeks pregnant today. Alexander was born at 38 weeks. Even though I know all pregnancies are different and there’s no guarantee Baby Sister will be a little early like her brother was, I still feel very much like a ticking time bomb. People ask me when I’m due, and it seems I’m incapable of just saying April 12 and leaving it at that. Instead, if you ask me when I’m due, you’ll get “April 12, but my first was born 2 weeks early, so…” My doctor suspects I’ll go into labor early again this time, but of course there’s no way to know for sure. As for how I’m feeling…I have no idea. My opinion on the matter changes by the hour. One moment I’ll be really nervous that I won’t make it until Friday (2 more days!) when my parents will be here to help out with Alexander. (We have about 3 backup plans in place in case I go into labor before my parents are here–4, I guess, if you count just saying “to hell with it” and bringing A. to the hospital with us–but it will be so much easier for him to just stay home with Grandma and Grandpa once they’re here.) And the next moment, I’m convinced that I’m going to be pregnant for 3 more weeks and this is never going to end and I’ll just be lounging around the house like a beached whale well into April. Adding another layer of excitement/mystery to the equation is the knowledge that my labor with A. was a mere 5.5 hours, which might mean that this one will be even faster, so who knows what we’ll have time to do in regards to arranging care for Alexander in our mad dash to get to the hospital on time. Or, it might mean nothing, and I’ll be in labor for 12 hours. Can you tell that it’s driving me just a little bit crazy not being able to know what to plan for? Everyone just keep your fingers crossed that I make it to Friday and the whole “What to do with Alexander” question is no longer an issue.

So, hey! My parents are arriving on Friday! My mom is planning to settle in and stay here until the baby is born so she can take care of Alexander while we’re in the hospital and help us out during those foggy, sleepless early newborn days. They had originally planned to come April 1, but because of my aforementioned nervousness/craziness about whether I may or may not go into labor this week, they graciously changed their travel plans and cut their visit with my aunt in Phoenix short by a few days so they could be here sooner. My parents are basically the best, you guys.

Do you want to see The Belly? Here it is:

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It’s…rather large. Most of my maternity shirts no longer cover it (the one pictured just barely stayed in place long enough for me to snap the picture before promptly riding back up and exposing my gut), so I spend most of my days in Tim’s T-shirts. Even Tim’s shirts, however, are getting to be too small to contain this massive, cumbersome growth. On the rare day that I wear one of my own shirts, like today, I spend all day tugging it down in front and fielding wise cracks from Tim about my super sexy beer belly. (Did I mention Tim’s home on Spring Break this week and next? That’s another milestone I was counting down to, and it’s so nice to have him here and not have to worry about trying to call the school and get in touch with him during the day if I need to reach him urgently because, you know, I’m minutes away from having a baby on the living room rug, please send my husband home right now, okay?) (Of course, now that he’s on break, I’ve switched to being nervous that I’ll somehow still be pregnant when he goes back to work in a week and a half, and I’ll have to go back to stressing about calling him at school. But, if that happens, at least my mom will be here, which makes it substantially less stressful.) ANYWAY, it’s a good thing I work from home and don’t have to leave the house very often, is what I’m trying to say.

Meanwhile, I’ve burned through all my nesting energy and marked pretty much everything off of my pre-baby to-do list in the past month. We got truckloads of hand-me-down clothes from all three of our nieces, and I’ve sorted, washed, and put away all the NB to 6-month sized stuff. I stashed everything else in the basement to deal with later; between Tim’s sister and my brother, we have enough clothes to keep this little girl adorably well dressed for at least the first 2 years of her life. I love it. We bought an adorable going-home outfit with little pink giraffes on it, which is all packed up in our hospital bag, which has taken up permanent residence in my car, ready to go with us to the hospital at a moment’s notice. The infant car seat is installed, pacifiers are washed, and the changing table is stocked with impossibly tiny newborn diapers. My best friend, Amy, whose daughter is 5 days older than Alexander, sent me her daughter’s gorgeous purple crib sheets, and they’re in the crib, just waiting for an adorable baby girl to snooze on them.

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Amy is going to be this baby’s godmother, which makes me happy for so many reasons. We’ve been best friends since preschool, so I’ve always known I wanted her to be godmother to at least one of my kids. Tim’s life-long best friend, John, is Alexander’s godfather, and it feels so perfect that Tim’s and my two best friends are godparents to our children. I know Amy is thrilled about it, too, but when the box arrived with her crib sheets, I was still completely surprised and touched to pull out the most beautiful baptism dress for my little girl. I grabbed the white material, expecting it to be the crib skirt, and audibly gasped when I realized what I was actually holding. Then I proceeded to leave Amy a blubbering voice mail telling her how amazing she is for doing that for us, and how much I loved her, and I how couldn’t stop crying because the dress is just so beautiful and perfect. Everyone should have a friend like Amy in their lives. She’s wonderful.

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People keep asking how Alexander’s doing, whether he’s getting excited to be a big brother. I think he’s doing pretty great and getting excited. He seems to understand, as well as any two-and-a-half year-old can be expected to, what it means when we talk about how Baby Sister is coming soon. He likes to race into her room and announce “This is Baby Sister’s room! It used to be my room, but now it’s Baby Sister’s.” In the car, he’ll point to the infant seat and say “That used to be my seat, but now it’s Baby Sister’s seat.” He knows that Baby Sister is in Mommy’s tummy and someday she’ll be born, but I’m sure the reality of having her come home to live with us will still be a pretty big adjustment for him. That said, he’s such a sweet, kind little guy, and I really think he’s going to be a great big brother. He’s very empathetic and likes to take care of people/the dogs/his stuffed animals, so I think he’ll do well taking care of Baby Sister, too.

And, if I can just brag about my little guy for a minute, he’s just the best. He’s talking up a storm, spouting off complex sentences all the time, asking thoughtful questions, always wanting to learn. He can count to 10 without blinking an eye (though sometimes we have to remind him not to skip the number 4), and he loves singing his ABCs and other songs. He’s really into learning his letters right now, thanks in large part to his recent obsession with Super Why (thanks, PBS!), and the number of letters he can identify on sight grows every day. As of this morning, he can correctly identify S (like a little snake!), T, R, K, C, O, I, Y, and F. He’s really good at pointing out “the O with a tail!” but forgets that it’s called a Q. If you ask him to identify a letter he doesn’t know, his first guess is almost always A. Unless, of course, you’re pointing to an A, in which case he’ll guess another letter. He’s a smart, adorable little stinker, and I tell him every day that he’s my best little guy. The other night he told me “You’re my best little guy, too, Mommy!” which, you guessed it, completely melted my heart.

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So, there’s where we’re at, 37.5 weeks into this pregnancy. Hopefully I’ll be updating again soon (but not before Friday!) with pictures of the newest member of our family. Tim and I are so excited to meet her, and we can’t wait to see what a wonderful big brother Alexander’s going to be.

A Day in My Life

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

5:30 AM: Tim’s alarm goes off, but he’s not there to start his usual round of hitting snooze every 5 minutes for 40 minutes. Alexander woke up several times in the night complaining of bad dreams (we will not be reading Where the Wild Things Are at bedtime again), and around 3:00 Tim gave up and slept in Alexander’s room with him for the rest of the night…or morning, I guess. I lay in bed, trying to summon the energy it will take to haul my massive self over to Tim’s side of the bed to turn off his alarm, but apparently it snoozes itself automatically because eventually it stops. Five minutes later the alarm goes off again. I continue to ignore it, alternating between trying to get a few more minutes of sleep (my alarm doesn’t go off until 6:30; you can imagine how pleased I am to have Tim’s alarm waking me up an hour earlier than necessary most mornings) and contemplating how I’m going to wake Tim up without disturbing Alexander, who is finally sleeping.

6:00 AM: Turns out I needn’t have worried about Tim waking up on time, because I hear Alexander ask for milk over the monitor. I flick the screen on and see Tim getting out of Alexander’s bed. A few minutes later, they appear in the master bedroom doorway, and Tim deposits Alexander and his sippy cup in bed next to me, and stumbles into the bathroom to take a shower. We don’t say much to each other; there’s no need. It’s been a long night, we’re not morning people, and we’re both exhausted. I try futilely to get a few more minutes of sleep while Alexander drinks his milk, but all too quickly he’s holding his empty sippy cup in my face saying “That was good!” And then he’s climbing all over me, ready to play.

6:20 AM: I give up on sleep and take a shower. Alexander comes into the bathroom with me, but soon he’s starting to throw my shoes all over the closet, and when I tell him to stop, he refuses. Tim’s still getting dressed, so he helps corral the kiddo, kisses me goodbye, and takes A. to the playroom to hang out while I get showered and dressed.

6:33 AM: I get out of the shower and hear my alarm going off on my nightstand. I turn it off, wondering why I even bother to set an alarm, seeing as how I rarely get to sleep til 6:30 most days anyway.

6:34 AM: From the playroom down the hall I hear “Daddy! DAAAADDDDYYY!!” I can hear Tim downstairs making his breakfast and getting ready to head out the door, so I go ask Alexander what he needs. “I need Caillou!” I hunt around for the remote, then sit on the couch for the few minutes it takes to start Netflix and scroll through the menu to find the requested show. Alexander giggles and asks “Why you wearing this towel shirt, Mommy?” and I explain that I just got out of the shower and still need to get dressed. The show starts, and I leave Alexander sitting on the floor, happily singing along to the opening song.

7:00 AM: Once I’m finished getting dressed, putting on makeup, and drying my hair, I head to the playroom and start negotiating with Alexander about getting him dressed. He holds up his magnadoodle and requests I draw an elephant. I tell him I’ll draw him an elephant after he gets dressed, but he doesn’t want to leave the playroom. We eventually agree that I will bring clothes into the playroom and he can get dressed in there, which I’m happy to do because it means I get to pick his clothes instead of waiting five minutes for him to select undies, waiting another several minutes for him to pick a pair of pants, then holding him in front of his closet for another five minutes while he decides on a shirt. I quickly select some clothes and start getting him dressed, all the while assuring him that he cannot stay in his pajamas today, much as he’d like to. “Can I stay in my jammies just a few more minutes?” Nope, time to put your jeans on. “But can I stay in these just a little bit longer? Pretty, pretty, pretty please?” Sorry, bud, jammies off, jeans on. Once he’s dressed, I draw him an elephant, as promised. A deal’s a deal.

7:10 AM: We head downstairs, and I pop a couple waffles in the toaster. Alexander asks for a banana (“I want a banna!”), so I let him pick which one he wants and peel it for him. I make myself a peanut-butter-and-jelly waffle sandwich and enjoy a couple quiet minutes while we both eat. Then it’s time to wrestle shoes and jackets on — it’s a struggle to get A to hold still long enough to put his shoes and jacket on most days; today he’s busy hopping “Like a kangaroo!” and trying to flip his mini armchair over to make a cave. I plop down in a chair and struggle to bend over far enough to tie my own shoes — my 34+ week belly is making this sort of task pretty cumbersome. Just as I’m opening my mouth to tell Alexander he needs to try to go potty before we leave, he announces “I need to go potty!” and races down the hall to the bathroom. Great timing, kiddo.

7:20 AM: I buckle Alexander into his carseat then gather my purse and the dog, and we’re out the door. Today Smalls is coming with us because I have to drop her off at the vet for her semi-annual checkup and teeth cleaning. Alexander is delighted to have her in the car with us and talks to her the whole way to daycare. “Smalls is in hers seat! But Ben is not. Ben staying home.” “Smalls is happy! Her is a happy girl.” “Lookit all the cars, ‘Malls! You don’t have to be afraid. It’s just the cars driving on the road.” “*Gasp!* A blue truck! I’ve never seen a blue truck ‘afore.” Usually he spends the drive to daycare watching for “Boo-mint Trucks!” (cement trucks), but today Smalls has all of his attention.

7:30 AM: We pull up at Linda, our daycare provider’s house — “That’s Ninna’s house!” — and I take Alexander inside. After giving Alexander a big hug and kiss goodbye, I go back to the car and drop Smalls off at the vet before heading back home. Now that Alexander’s not in the car, I turn on my current audio book, The Dream Thieves. I’m enjoying the book quite a bit and am glad to have a little extra driving time to listen this morning.

8:00 AM: I get back home, pausing for a few minutes in the garage to listen to the end of a riveting scene in the book. Ben greets me at the door happily, though I think he’s confused about why I haven’t brought Smalls back home with me. I log on to my work computer and sort through my emails. I thought I had a conference call followed immediately by a webinar training this morning, but I see the conference call has been rescheduled to next week, so I have a little more time than expected to get my own work done before the training. I touch base with a couple of coworkers about our plans to meet for lunch after the training, then settle in to do a couple hours of editing.

8:00 AM to Noon: Work, work, work, with occasional breaks to put on a load of toddler laundry (after which I add detergent to next week’s grocery list), make coffee (I’m relieved to remember Tim did the dishes last night so my favorite travel mug is clean; I still use a travel mug even though I work from home since I’m a slow coffee drinker, and the travel mug keeps it warm longer than a regular mug), have a snack (I’m craving protein after my sugary breakfast, so I toss some buffalo chicken tenders in the oven. At 10 AM. Shut up, it’s totally a normal mid-morning snack), and check Twitter and Facebook. Work’s not super busy this early in the month, but I’m working on a project for another department while my main workload is light, and I have a company-wide training session at 11:00 AM, so the breaks are few and far between.

12:05 PM: I meet up for lunch with a few coworkers (the handful of us who were lucky enough to keep our jobs and work from home after company-wide layoffs resulted in our local office being shut down at the end of January) at a new-to-me Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurant is okay, nothing to write home about, but it’s nice to see my coworkers face-to-face and have an actual conversation instead of just sending emails back and forth.

1:00 PM: The restaurant we ate at is just down the street from Sprouts, an organic grocery store, so I swing by there on my way home to pick up some of their frozen chiles rellenos for dinner. Tim and I both love these rellenos, but we don’t make it to Sprouts very often, so eating them is a rare treat. Today is the last of three long days of Tim proctoring state-standardized testing, and I know he’s worn out from it, so I’m excited to surprise him with one of his favorite dinners tonight. The grocery store is crazy busy, considering it’s the middle of a week day, and I do my best to get in and out as quickly as possible, then head home to finish my work day.

2:10 PM: Just as I’m getting to the point in the day where I start to fret that I haven’t heard from the vet and wonder if I should be worried, the vet calls to tell me Smalls is finished with her teeth cleaning and recovering well from the anesthesia. They’d like to keep an eye on her for a couple of hours, which is standard procedure, so we arrange for me to come pick her up at 4:45.

2:30 PM: My boss calls and we chat for a bit about work, kids, and pregnancies (she’s due a few weeks after me). It’s so nice having a boss whom I not only respect but also count among my friends.

2:58 PM: The internet goes down, because of course it does. Luckily, just as I’m about to trundle down to the basement to unplug and re-plug in the router (sometimes that helps), the connection flicks back on again.

3:03 PM: Ben’s incessant barking alerts me to the fact that it must be 3:00-ish and therefore the end of the school day at the neighborhood school. He’s going to bark at the kids walking home on the path behind our house for the next 40 minutes no matter what, so I let him out the back door so he can run up and down the fence, barking to his heart’s content, and I can continue to work in peace. Sorry, kids.

3:05 PM: Work’s still not busy, so I work on finalizing the details of my maternity leave…as much as I can, anyway, given the multitude of unknowns I have to work around. Since I plan to work right up until the baby is born, I obviously don’t know the exact date my leave will start, but my manager and I have been through this before, so we have a pretty good plan in place to distribute my workload to the rest of the editing team at a moment’s notice if need be. On top of that, though, some major changes in my company — both recent and soon-to-come — mean that my insurance benefits and paid time off may (or may not) be changing sometime before (or soon after) my leave begins. So I plan as much as I can based on my current benefits and PTO allotment, take a lot of deep breaths, and remind myself that there’s only so much I can control and everything will work itself out somehow.

3:30 PM: I’m hungry again (still, always) so I go rummage in the kitchen for a snack (cookie or granola bar? better go with both), then quickly put away the load of toddler laundry I washed earlier, depositing a pair of too-short jeans he wore earlier this week into the box I keep next to the dryer for clothes he’s outgrown. Putting Alexander’s laundry away goes much faster when he’s not around to “help,” and it’s only a few minutes before I’m back at my desk.

4:15 PM: I hear the garage door open, which means Tim and Alexander are home. I keep an eye on my office window eagerly anticipating one of my favorite parts of the day: watching the two of them walk hand-in-hand to the mailbox down the street. Those two are stinkin’ adorable. But apparently they’re not getting the mail today, as they immediately come inside instead. Oh, well. I head down the hall to say hi to them and find Alexander crying in the time-out chair. Apparently he was a stinker all day at daycare and then wasn’t listening to Tim when he picked him up. So that’s why they didn’t go get the mail.  Meanwhile, Tim sees the chiles rellenos defrosting on the counter and is pleased. Tim and I briefly discuss our days and he fills me in on Alexander’s daycare shenanegins. Alexander promises to do a better job listening, and he’s allowed out of time out.

4:20 PM: As soon as A. gets out of time out, he asks to go outside and go to the park. Tim tells him they can maybe go to the park if Alexander can show him he can be a good listener. “But I need to go to the park!” Alexander protests. After a few minutes of debate, Tim offers Alexander a deal: If they go upstairs and clean the playroom, then they can go to the park. Alexander reluctantly agrees, and they head up to the playroom while I go do a few more minutes of work before leaving to pick up Smalls from the vet.

5:00 PM: Smalls and I are home from the vet, and Ben is overjoyed to see his little sister again. I log back in to my work computer to see what I missed while picking Smalls up, and am pleased to see the email reminding me that it’s payday. I do a bit more work before going upstairs to hang out with my boys in the playroom.

5:30 PM: Alexander and I play while Tim talks to his sister on the phone. Alexander’s in a much better mood, and we have a great time together. He has quite the imagination, and it’s so much fun to watch him pretend as he plays. The boys never did make it to the park; Alexander finished cleaning the playroom, but then Tim’s sister called, and he was on the phone with her until after the sun went down. Still, Tim tells Alexander what a good job he did listening and cleaning the playroom, and promises to take him to the park tomorrow.

6:20 PM: We all go downstairs, and Alexander drinks some milk on the couch and watches cartoons while Tim and I fry up our rellenos.

6:45 PM: We sit down to dinner together, even though I know it means Alexander’s 7pm bedtime will need to be pushed back a bit. I’m not sure if he’ll like a chile relleno, so I put a few bites of one on his plate along with some apple slices and Spanish rice, which is usually a favorite. He ignores the rice completely, eats all of his apples, and begrudgingly tries one bite of relleno before declaring that he doesn’t like it. I’m more than happy to finish off his uneaten relleno because he’s crazy and it’s delicious. After dinner he runs around the table tickling everyone — Daddy and Mommy, and even Smalls and Ben, who begrudgingly tolerate it — and then he and Tim make a game of crawling upstairs together to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed.

7:15 PM: The toddler bedtime routine at our house looks like this: I lay out jammies and a pull-up while Tim helps Alexander brush his teeth and go potty. Together, Tim and I wrestle a very squirmy toddler into his PJs, then Alexander picks out two books to read with me in bed. He asks for “The Monster Book,” a/k/a Where the Wild Things Are, but I tell him that book’s not in his room, and we have to pick books that are in his room. Luckily he doesn’t press the issue, and instead picks two books about being a big brother and getting ready to welcome a new baby into the family. After reading, he asks to go potty again, so I take him but tell him after this it’s straight to bed. Of course, as soon as we get back to his room, tun the lights off, and turn his star nightlight on (the nightlight has three color options, and he loves picking which color to turn on: “I’m gonna pick! Purple stars!”) (He always picks purple), he asks to go potty again. He’s learned that he can use going potty to delay bedtime, and I’m not playing his game tonight. I tell him no, which doesn’t go over so well, but eventually he calms down and settles into bed. “Lay next to me,” he requests, as always, and I do, as always. Out of nowhere, he throws his arm over me and declares “You’re my best friend!” and my heart immediately melts. I tell him he’s my best friend too and I love him very much. “No, you just a friend,” he says, to which I can’t help but laugh. Could this kid get any better? We cuddle for a few more minutes, trading hugs and kisses in exchange for me staying with him “Just another minute.” Eventually I get up and leave, pausing at the door to tell him, “Goodnight, Alexander. I love you.” “Goodnight, Mommy. Wuv you too.”

7:45 PM: I come back downstairs to find Tim on the couch watching a house-flipping show in which I have zero interest. I work on drafting this post while he finishes the show, then we watch the season 2 finale of House of Cards, followed by the latest Modern Family to lighten things up a bit. This is our time to unwind together, and we are happy to veg on the couch with a couple of good shows before succumbing to our own exhaustion and going to bed.

9:40 PM: Teeth brushed, face washed, in bed. Tim and I spend a few minutes talking about our days, as usual, then I heave my giant self over to my side of the bed, arrange various pillows around my belly to help me stay comfortable (a nearly impossible task these days), and drift off to sleep, hoping Alexander will let us sleep all night. (He doesn’t, choosing instead to wake up every few hours complaining about having a stuffy nose and wanting to go to the park. Apparently he’s decided that sleeping through the night is overrated.)

Better Late than Never

A look back at 2013, using RA’s new-and-improved questions.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 30 and celebrated being in the best shape I’ve been in since Alexander was born by running a 5k. To make it even more fun, I did a mud run with my good friend and college roommate, Lauren, and we celebrated our success at the end with breakfast burritos. I don’t remember what exactly I did on the actual day of my birthday (I’m sure burritos were involved), but the mud run was my main personal birthday celebration.

Mud Run

What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?

(1) The conversation in which we decided to have another baby. (2) The Black Forest Fire in early June. Watching the beautiful forest where Tim grew up burn, wondering whether we’d have to evacuate since we live only a couple miles from the forest’s edge, wondering if Tim’s childhood home, our church, and other memory-filled places would still be standing when all was said and done. A lot of things burned — over 500 homes were lost — but Tim’s childhood home and our church both survived. (3) Our month-late Anniversary celebration in which we visited a local brewery’s new location in a 100-year-old building that used to be an elementary school, tried a delicious new-to-us Mexican restaurant, and celebrated both eight wonderful years of marriage and the new baby that we’d just found out was on its way. (4) Alexander’s 2nd birthday. (5) Experiencing Christmas through Alexander’s eyes.

The view of the Black Forest Fire from our neighborhood.

The view of the Black Forest Fire from our neighborhood.

What did you do this year that you’d never done before?

Started running regularly (at least for the first half of the year), with the help of the Couch-to-5k Program and a handful of good audiobooks to keep me distracted from how boring running can be.

What did you want and get?

To get back in shape and reclaim my body after holding on to post-pregnancy weight for way too long. To get pregnant again. Lots of quality time with my favorite boys.

What did you want and not get?

2013 was a pretty great year and didn’t leave me wanting much. I did ask Santa to bring me a professional cleaning service, just for one day, to clean my house top-to-bottom and do all the things I’m too lazy to do (clean the baseboards, top of the fridge, etc.), and, alas, there was no cleaning service under the Christmas tree this year. Oh, I also wanted my dance studio not to move to a ghetto location that I’m not comfortable going to after dark for classes, but they went ahead and moved anyway. Luckily my tap teacher is awesome and has a tap floor in her basement, and she’s been holding class there for those of us unwilling to go to the ghetto. However, the studio’s move did mean that I had to give up my jazz class, and I really miss it sometimes. I know I could just find a different studio, and that’d be great if all the women I used to dance with would also go to a different studio with me, but that seems unlikely to happen. It’s not that I miss taking as many classes as I used to (though I do miss that); I miss dancing in those specific classes with that specific group of women. We had so much fun, and I’m still holding out hope that the studio’s ghetto location is temporary, and eventually it’ll move to a better place and we’ll all get to dance together again.

What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?

A daughter. Good news — I’ve got one scheduled to arrive in a few months.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I resolved to finally get off my ass and lose the baby weight I’d been holding onto for over a year, and I was very successful, thanks in large part to Biggest Blogging Loser. And then I promptly got pregnant and gained it all back, but I’m okay with that. In retrospect, I think losing that extra weight really helped pushed me over the edge to finally being ready to go down the pregnancy/childbirth/recovery road again. I’ve lost the baby weight once; I know I can do it again.

I spent New Year’s Eve and Day this year in a haze thanks to the Sinus Infection from Hell and couldn’t be bothered to come up with any new resolutions. My main priorities for this year are to stay healthy through the final trimester of this pregnancy and try to adjust gracefully to all the changes that will come with adding a second kid to our family.

What was your biggest achievement of this year?

On a large scale, I feel like I did a pretty kickass job at finding a work/home balance and being a good wife and mother to my boys. On a smaller scale, I finally organized several years’ worth of digital photos, successfully implemented a system to continue to keep our photos organized as we take them, and worked with Tim to print, frame, and hang several family photos in our previously bare front hallway. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

Hallway

What was your biggest failure?

I let myself get way to stressed out about prepping for the holidays, which happens every year, and this year the anxiety was magnified by pregnancy hormones. I have this mental block that I can’t start relaxing and enjoying the holidays until all my shopping and prep work is done, which turns me into a messy ball of anxiety during the first couple weeks of December. I really need to work at being better at going with the flow and allowing myself to enjoy the holiday season even before I’ve checked everything off my to-do list.

What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?

Tim, as always, saved me from my crazy emotions on several occasions, and he did so more often than usual thanks to the aforementioned pregnancy hormones. I can always count on him to listen to me cry about everything that’s making me crazy and then help me put a plan in place to deal with it all; having a solid plan of attack usually calms me down quite a bit.

What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? 

Oh, man, I read some really great books this year, including The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. (Wait, technically I read Penumbra in 2014, but I read it before writing this, so I’m still going to count it.) We watched and loved the final season of Breaking Bad, and I’ve finally gotten into The Walking Dead this season. I’d like to go back to the first season and get caught up, but I’m still enjoying the current season. Luckily Tim is nice enough to fill me in on any important back story that I’ve missed up to this point. I think the only movie we saw in the theater this year was Gravity, and it was excellent. We do most of our movie watching at home via Netflix, and nothing really sticks out as being super memorable, except maybe Cabin in the Woods. I’m pretty sure we first watched that one in 2012, but we re-watched it this year, and it was just as fantastic. It was nothing like I expected, and I really, really enjoyed it.

What song will remind you of this year?

I don’t pay much attention to music. I heard a lot about a song called “Blurred Lines,” but I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I’ve ever heard it. If I have heard it, I didn’t realize what I was hearing was “Blurred Lines,” so I may as well have not heard it. I know I heard “Wrecking Ball,” but that’s only because Tim showed me a funny parody video about it. Keeping up with music’s not really a priority for me, is what I’m saying. So I’m going to interpret this one pretty loosely and say that 2013 was the Year of the Audiobook for me. I discovered the joy of a well-produced audio book this year, and the best ones I listened to were The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, and The Book Thief.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the year).

Music not really being something I pay attention to, I was tempted to slap a “not relevant to my interests” answer here and move on. But the more I thought about it, the more I kept being reminded of Tim’s and my unofficial song, “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. (I say unofficial, since it wasn’t our first dance song at our wedding, but it’s probably more meaningful to us than our first dance song, and it’s one that Tim requests whenever we go to friends’ weddings. The DJs usually don’t have it, unfortunately.) The whole song is great, but the title lyrics, “I am the luckiest” really hit home for me this year. I know it’s cheesy, but I look around at my life and can hardly believe how lucky I am to have the amazing family, extended family, and friends that I have. I really am the luckiest.

What was your most enjoyable purchase?

We put together a playroom for Alexander in our loft this year, which has really been fantastic. We lined one wall with cubby shelves for his toys, Tim worked his handyman magic to mount our old flatscreen TV with wires running through the ceiling so the DVD player and other connected devices could be in the closet across the room, and we had a talented friend paint big, fun alphabet letters on one wall. We spend a lot of Alexander’s waking hours up there these days, which is great, and then we put him to bed and come downstairs to a living room that’s not cluttered with trucks and Legos and plastic tools, and that’s even greater. For myself, I scored a pretty amazing deal with an online sale corresponding with stackable coupons that allowed me to get a $90 pair of boots for $30, and that was pretty awesome.

Playroom 1Playroom 2

Did you travel? If so, where?

We flew to Virginia to meet our new nephew at the end of June. In October, we took a road trip to San Antonio to visit Tim’s parents in their new home. Fourteen hours in the car over 2 days (each way) with a 2-year-old wasn’t as challenging as I expected it to be — Alexander did remarkably well, all things considered — but I’m not in a hurry to take another long road trip anytime soon. Once we arrived, we had a great time with Tim’s parents. Hopefully next time we visit the in-laws, we’ll be able to find cheap flights.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

I know it makes me sound like a lush, but I’ve really missed wine since I got pregnant. Just one cold glass of Chardonnay in the evening, that’s all I want. It sounds so good. Come April, you can bet my now-empty wine rack will be fully stocked again. (I know that’s probably not the proper spirit of the question, but I’m running out of steam here. Cut me some slack.)

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing about the holidays, definitely.

Compared to this time last year, how are you different?

Well, I’m 6 months pregnant, which is the most obvious difference. I also feel, overall, more confident as a parent and (usually) more prepared to take on the challenge of adding a new baby to our lives than I did at this time last year.

Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?

I’m still the same-old me, overall. Still quiet in social situations, still a sucker for a cheesy romance book or movie. Still loving being married to a man who makes me laugh every day.

What’s a life lesson you learned this year?

Naps are amazing. No, seriously, they’re amazing. I’ve always known it on some level, but I really came to appreciate it when faced with first-trimester exhaustion coupled with chasing a toddler around and not having the luxury to nap at will. Now, Saturday afternoon naps with a toddler snuggled up next to you because that’s the only way either of you is going to get a solid 2 hours of sleep? Probably one of the best things ever.

Family

Babies and Dragons

Hey, Alexander, do you think the baby in Mommy’s belly is a baby brother or a baby sister?

“I think…dinosaur.”

You think it’s a dinosaur?

“Monster.”

A monster?

“Yeah. Hug Monster.”* 

Oh, okay. I bet the baby will really like getting hugs from you.

Pointing to his belly: “And Al-naner has dragon.”

You have a dragon in your belly?

“Yeah.”

Is it a nice dragon?

“Al-naner has dragon in belly. Dragon not bite you.”

. . .

Turns out it’s not a dinosaur or a Hug Monster. Just a healthy, human baby GIRL!

The jury’s still out on what type of dragon Alexander’s growing in his belly.

 

*Alexander’s a little concerned about monsters, so we frequently assure him that the only monsters allowed in our house are Kiss Monsters and Hug Monsters. Although sometimes the Tickle Monster sneaks in, too.

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