Life Lately: 35 Weeks

Maternity session

A sneak peek from our recent family photo shoot at Longwood Gardens, with April Ziegler Photography

I am 35 weeks pregnant, which means this baby could be here really soon, or weeks from now. I think you all know by know how much I love surprises. So, this does not bother me. Like, at all.

[insert sarcastic emoji here].

All of the uncertainty associated with the end of pregnancy can produce the wildest thought patterns ever.

For example:

“I would deliver this kid myself, in the bathtub, just so she will stop resting on this bundle of nerves somewhere in my pelvis, that I didn’t even know existed.”

Five minutes later…

“Actually, I hope that this kid doesn’t decide to come on a Sunday night. I don’t want to miss Downtown Abbey.”

Or, when trying to get dressed in the morning:

“Ugh. I cannot wait to burn all of these maternity clothes.”

Two minutes later…

“These maternity leggings are just so. freaking. comfortable. Can I wear them even after the baby comes?”

Or, when I see two little girls, who I assume are sisters, being adorable to each other in Target:

“Awww…having two little girls is going to be amazing. B is going to be the best big sister ever!” [cue happy tears]

Less than a minute later, when said girls start pulling each other’s hair and the older one threatens to push the little one out of the cart…

“Holy shit. What was I thinking? We should have just gotten a goldfish!” [cue panicked sobs]

There is one thing I’m sure of though: I will miss B.

Obviously, she isn’t going anywhere, but there is such a short amount of time left time where she will be my one and only.

During the past two and a half years (and more than that, if you count all of those months of pregnancy), B has been the center of my world. I have gotten to know every little thing about her. All of her firsts are cataloged, in painstaking detail, in my memory. I have felt my heart break a little every morning when I realize that she looks a little more grown up than she did when I put her to bed the night before. When she has been happy, excited, sad, frustrated or sick, I’ve felt all of those things right along with her.

I have felt pretty guilty during this pregnancy, because it seems like the only time I am completely focused on this new baby are those 30 seconds at the doctor’s office each month when I get to hear her heartbeat. When I think about this baby, B always pops into my head first.

“How will B react to a sibling?”

“Will B feel like she is being replaced when we move her out of her crib and put baby number two in it?”

“How will I make time for B when I’m caring for a newborn?”

And, so on.

I am prepared to feel overwhelmed for awhile as we settle into being a family of four (Heck, I still feel like we are trying to settle in to being a family of three, sometimes. So, at least we are accustomed to chaos at this point). But, I can’t say that I relate to the worry that I lot of second-time parents have, which is that they won’t love their new baby as much as their first. I am pretty sure that our hearts are like the Grinch’s—they can just expand when the situation calls for it. I know that the moment my second little girl is placed in my arms, I’ll fall in love.

It’s hard to find the right words to express what I feel about B. The only way I can sum it up is that there will always be something special about her.

She is the one who made us a family. She lets me make all of those first time parent mistakes and doesn’t hold a grudge. She was the first person to make me cry out of frustration, exhaustion, fear and happiness, all at once. She was the one who made me realize that love can be both overwhelmingly simple and incredibly complex. She made the scariest thing I have ever done, the best thing I have ever done.

B might not remember a time when she had me all to herself. But, I always will.

 

For My Mom.

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Dear Mom,

I hope that you know that not a day goes by that I don’t think of all of the things that you have done for me, and continue to do, even though I’m a grown-up now. But, as you know, life gets crazy, and sometimes I forget to say all of the things that are floating around in my head out loud. So, since today is your day, here is a short list of all of the things that I owe you a long overdue thank you for.

Thank you for always telling me that I am capable of doing anything that I want to, even on the days when I feel like I can’t do anything right (and there are lots of those lately).

Thank you for being the voice in my head that keeps me in line. Whenever I have to make a difficult decision, I think to myself, “what would mom do?” or “what would mom think if I did that?” and usually that’s all I need to make the right choice.

baby shower shoes

One of the few times that I ignored your voice in my head. I knew you would not be happy with my choice of four inch heels while 8 months pregnant. I wore them anyway.

Thanks for reminding me to always double bow my shoes. As you know, I’m clumsy, and this has probably saved me from a multitude of accidents.

Thanks for the snow day picnics on the living room floor. Sorry about the mess. Actually, sorry for all of the messes. I know that the fact that I never learned how to make my bed or keep my closet organized was an endless source of disappointment. I am sure you are delighted that this is Chester’s problem now. (There are however, some of your neat freak tendencies that I’ve inherited. For example, whenever I see a rug with fringe on it, I can’t resist the urge to comb it—with an actual comb, if available—so that it lies perfectly straight).

Thanks for not helping me with my homework in grade school. I know that I was annoyed by that at the time, it taught me how to think on my own, learn from my mistakes and stand by the things that I put my name on.

Thanks for the Friday nights that you let us pile into bed with you and watch TV while we shared a big bag of popcorn. Those were some of my favorite times, even though Michael never sat still and I got mad that he interrupted the shows.

Speaking of Michael: thanks for making sure that I didn’t kill him when we were little. I kind of like having him around now (Also, I don’t understand how you handled two kids under two. One wears me out sometimes).

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One of the few photos of the three of us that I have, where we aren’t making the most awkward faces.

Thanks for dropping off my graphing calculator that time I forgot it in high school. I was mortified when you walked down the hallway yelling my name, while wearing your rattiest pajamas and pink foam curlers in your hair. But, I’m pretty sure that ended up being one of the few math tests that I actually passed.

Penguin hat

This look is actually less embarrassing than the one described in the above incident.

Thanks for holding our family together when things felt like they were falling apart. I still think back on those times and just don’t know how you did it. No one has more grace in stressful situations than you do.

Thank you for forgiving me when I became a bratty teenager and said the most horrible things to you. It was probably easiest to take my frustrations out on your because I knew you loved me unconditionally. It wasn’t nice and you didn’t deserve it. I’m sorry.

Thank you for making me take out those student loans in college. Like the no-help-with-homework thing, I found it annoying at the time. But, it helped me build my credit, realize that my education was a huge investment that I had to take seriously and taught me a thing or two about managing money when the time came to start paying them back.

Thank you for helping me be independent enough to make my own decisions but connected enough to know that you are only a phone call away when I need you. When something good happens to me, you are one of the first people I tell. When life is too much to handle, I call you so that you can tell me everything will be okay. And, you always answer (okay, maybe you don’t always answer because you have trouble working even the most basic cell phone sometimes. But, you call me right back and that’s all that matters).

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Thanks for being the best Granny to B. When I found out I was pregnant, one of the things that I was most excited for was that you would get to be a grandmother. I love how her eyes light up when she sees you. There are many days that I still feel guilty that I went back to work after she was born, but knowing that she is with you makes me feel a bit better. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are willing to spend five days a week with her. Hopefully it’s not as stressful as dealing with the craziness at the bank. I’m looking forward to all of the memories that we will make with her as she grows up.

I’m sure that there are loads of things I’m forgetting, but the point is this: if I can even be half the mom to my children that you were to me and Mike, then I think they will turn out alright.

You are the best. Enough said. Even at 31, I still need you. And, I’m sure that I always will.

Love,

Lauren

Life, Lately

I have plenty of ideas for things to write about, but finding the time and energy to actually put real posts together is a bit challenging at the moment.

I have, however, been taking a lot of photos. So, here is a glimpse of what I have been up to lately, according to my Instagram feed (spoiler alert: there’s a lot of Little B ahead):

It’s finally starting to feel like fall (and, on some days, winter) in Philly. It’s the perfect time of year to people watch in Rittenhouse Square park with a cup of coffee (hooray for the return of the Starbucks red cup!).

red cup

Since Little B can’t fight with me yet, I take advantage of every opportunity I can to dress her in silly clothes. Apparently, the makers of baby clothes also recognize that this is one of the highlights of parenthood, too, because about a large percentage of outfits have animal ears.

 Polar bear

Lately, Little B wants me to hold her all. the. time. Lucky for her, though, cuddling a baby is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted in life. Plus, I am happy to get in all of the snuggles that I can, since my maternity leave ends in just under two weeks (major sadness).

needy

I celebrated my birthday this past weekend. 31. Yikes. Little B got dressed up for the occasion.

birthday baby

And, Chester spoiled me as always, with presents and flowers.

 birthday flowers

My mom babysat so that Chester and I could go out on our first date since Little B’s arrival. It felt just like the good old days, except we were home and settled on the couch catching up on shows by 5 p.m. Our first stop was brunch at Garces Trading Company. The restaurant offers a three-course brunch menu for $28, which includes dessert (Brunch should always include dessert, if you ask me. The pumpkin spice macaron was particularly amazing.

 Macarons

After stuffing ourselves silly, we went to see Once at the Academy of Music. Although the show’s Philadelphia run has concluded, if you have a chance to see the show elsewhere, I highly recommend it. The movie translated very well to the stage and, of course, the music is wonderful.

 ONCE

So, what have you been up to?

Little B: Two Months

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We celebrated Little B’s two month birthday last Wednesday! Sometimes, I feel like she was just born yesterday and other times, I feel like she has been around forever.

I am relieved to have made it past the very early newborn stage, in which we had no idea what we were doing and we felt like we were just trying to survive from one day to the next. Although there are still some stressful moments from time to time, we are really starting to have a great time together as a family.

At two months, Little B:

Is growing like a weed! At her two month doctor’s appointment, she weighed in at 11.1 pounds and measured 22.3 inches long. She has also left her newborn clothes and diapers behind. The sadness that I felt as I packed them away was tempered by the fact that she has a ton of adorable clothing in larger sizes, thanks to our generous family and friends. During the early days, she mostly wore footed pajamas since we weren’t going out too much. They were easy, but got a bit boring. Now, I spend more time than I probably should sorting through her collection of onesies, pants and cardigans to decide what she will be wearing each day. She has made it known that she doesn’t like shirts being put over her head or wearing hats, but other than that, she doesn’t seem to mind when I treat her like a little doll.

Lauren and B squared

Looking particularly fashionable in jeans, boots and layered onesies for a visit with Auntie Bridget

Loves to be on the move. I attribute this to the fact that I didn’t stop moving for most of my pregnancy. After hanging out at home for most of her first month, she has now logged quite a few miles in her car seat/stroller. We fill our days by taking walks, going out for brunch, hanging out with my mom and aunt and meeting up with other mom/baby friends. She usually sleeps the entire time while we are out and about (I’m enjoying this phase while it lasts). When we are at home, she likes to be carried around the house, preferably looking over our shoulders so that she can see everything that’s going on. When we set her down, it’s pretty much impossible for her to keep her arms and legs still, which makes diaper changes a bit of a battle.

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First family outing at five weeks old, brunch at the Continental in Old City, where Chester and I had our first date

Is very expressive. I think her Auntie Bridget put it best when she said that Little B’s natural facial expression is “sweet and inquisitive.” You can really tell that she is taking everyone and everything around her in. I previously mentioned that she is a champion pouter, but she flashed her first real grin around six weeks and hasn’t stopped showing it since. Her other favorite expressions include furrowing her brow, widening her eyes and blowing bubbles with her excessive drool. I’ve read conflicting reports that the latter is a sign of teething and considering that I have been able to see the outline of her bottom front teeth since she was born, I wouldn’t be surprised if they will be making their appearance soon.

Along the same lines, she has become pretty noisy. She makes weird little grunts in her sleep and sweet little coos (that make her sound like a Teletubby) when she is awake. We love talking to her and hearing her talk back!

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Just a little smile in the morning

Has crazy hair! Whenever people meet her or I post a picture of her on Facebook, that is her most commented on feature. She has a good bit of it, especially at the back where it is starting to look kind of like a mullet. No matter how much we try to brush it down, she has these little points that stick up around her head like the Statue of Liberty’s crown. I love it, and I’m going to be sad when it stops behaving like that.

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Continues to amaze us with her physical strength. She has excellent head and neck control and and quite a grip (which can be particularly painful for me if I forget to put my hair in a ponytail). She is just starting to actively grab for her toys, so maybe I need to start hiding the breakables around the house sooner than I thought.

holding up head

She can also track objects with her eyes, particularly if they are brightly colored and/or make noise. This month, she has been spending more time in her sea-themed Baby Einstein activity gym, and is particularly fond of the blue stuffed octopus and the light/music box.

octopus

Now observes an evening “witching hour” (or two). During this time, she cries for no apparent reason at all and fights her clear desire to sleep. Unfortunately, no amount of rocking, shushing or pacifier sucking can soothe her. It’s so much fun. Fortunately, she usually settles down after her last feeding and then sleeps between 7 and 8 hours after that.

In spite of these challenging moments, we just can’t get enough of our little girl. We are pretty excited about the next couple of months, as we get ready for her first holiday season (even though she still won’t be “with it” enough to know what is going on)!

Adjusting

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Six weeks after Little B’s arrival, life still seems pretty surreal.

Sometimes, when the sound of a hungry baby jolts me awake in the middle of the night,  it takes me a moment to realize that I’m not dreaming–those cries really are coming from right next to my bed. I still feel out of place in the baby section at Target (but it is helpful that I can locate my car when I lose it in the parking lot by looking for the pink “Baby on Board” sign in the back window.) The words “my daughter” still sound strange coming out of my mouth when I call the doctor’s office to make an appointment for Little B.

In short, becoming a mom has kind of rocked my world.

Sure, there were some things about having a baby that have so far required minimal adjustment on my part. For example, spending a Friday night watching TV on the couch and going to bed by 10 p.m. has always been my idea of a good time. So, at least having a baby has given me a legitimate justification for my lameness. And, I’ve always been pretty good at multitasking, so I’ve already figured out how to eat a bowl of cereal with one hand while holding Little B in my other arm.

But, by and large, the things that were important to me, my relationships with family and friends, and my daily routine changed the moment that Little B was born.

While I, luckily, haven’t been struggling with major emotional issues like some new moms do, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t at least had a couple of mini-meltdowns over how much things have changed. A couple of weeks after Little B was born, for example, I was reduced to tears by an episode of Rick Steves’ show on PBS. Usually, his wardrobe choices and bad jokes make me a little bit sad, but this time it really hit me that I’ve given up the freedom to just get up and go whenever I want to now that I am a parent.

I know that I’m not the same person that i was just a couple of months ago, but I haven’t fully gotten a handle on who I am now, either. I realize that there are some things about my personality and the way that I have lived my life for the past 30 years that I need to be willing to adjust in order to accommodate the new little person in my life.

For example, I have always been a planner. Nothing makes me happier than sticking to a schedule and checking things off a to-do list. One day last week, I was counting on Little B to sleep for at least two hours straight in the afternoon, like she usually does, so I could organize my closet. But, every time I put her down, she cried. So, I spent those two hours holding her and getting itchy every time I thought about the pile of clothes on my bedroom floor that I needed to sort through. Obviously, I’m still working on becoming more comfortable with the degree of spontaneity and the ability to accept when things are less than perfect that having a child requires.

Of course, I wanted to become a parent and wouldn’t trade Little B for anything. But that doesn’t make the feeling of being caught in the middle between my “old self” and “new self” any less disconcerting.

So, I keep reminding myself that this is just a temporary feeling. Little B will grow and change and I’ll do the same, right along with her. I’ve heard that being a parent makes people, among other things, more patient, more compassionate, and more flexible, so maybe I’ll even be able to say that I’m a better person than I was before. Hopefully, when I look back on this time a year from now, I’ll be feeling a lot more settled. And then, things will probably change again. Just like they always do.

This new phase in my life also means that my little corner of the Internet will change. There will probably be fewer posts about food and travel and more posts about family and the other things in my life. I truly enjoy creating the content that goes into this space and I don’t want to give it up. If anything, I’m looking forward to changing things up a bit.

So, if you are reading this–thank you! I hope that you’ll stick around as I go on this new journey.

Little B: One Month

First Month Collage

What a difference a couple of weeks makes! Little B at 11 days old (left) and one month old.

It’s hard to believe that Little B has been a part of our family for a month. Between the diaper changes, feedings, rocking her to sleep, and just staring at her because I can’t get over how beautiful she is, the days just fly by.

As I’ve already said, the first two weeks were kind of rough. In the hospital, help came at the push of a button and Little B spent the night in the nursery while Chester and I slept. We came home, and we were suddenly on our own, with a little person who was depending on us 24/7.

Both Chester and I felt like we were in a fog during those early days. I remarked to him that I felt like we were a couple of hikers who got stranded on Mount Everest and had to keep talking to each other so that we didn’t fall asleep and die of hypothermia. In other words, I felt like we were just trying to survive.

By the third week, though, things seemed to get a little easier. We had figured out some of Little B’s patterns and preferences. She started sleeping for longer stretches at a time, so we did, too. When she was awake, she started to notice the world and the people around her, which was amazing to see. One of my favorite moments so far came towards the end of that week, when she buried her head in the side of my neck and gave me a snuggle for the first time. In that instant,I stopped feeling like she was little stranger that I was just taking care of until her real mother came to claim her. I truly felt like she was mine.

Chester and I make a pretty good team when it comes to taking care of Little B. We’ve tackled the late night/early morning diaper changes and feedings, first bath and periods of general fussiness together and have learned quite a bit about caring for a baby. For example, our first trip out of the house with Little B–to the pediatrician when she was a couple of days old–was a true comedy of errors. But, now we know that getting a baby, plus two adults, ready to leave the house takes quite a bit of time and effort. And, we’ll never forget to throw an extra outfit in the diaper bag because a diaper might decide to explode all over the one that the baby is wearing the minute we arrive at our destination.

As for Little B, she changes every single day. When I wake up each morning, it always seems that she has gotten bigger overnight. As the weeks have gone by, I think she’s starting to look a little bit like me (her facial expressions when crying are definitely mine) and bits of her personality are starting to shine through.

She:

  • Currently weighs in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces and is 20.25 inches long. She has noticeably filled out in her cheeks and tummy, and generally just feels more solid, although she is still wearing her newborn clothes and diapers. Now that she has gained some weight, I’m not as afraid that I will break her just by picking her up.
  • Is a bit of a drama queen. I have no idea where she gets this from (hint: it’s probably from her mother). Usually, she only cries when she has a good reason, but she can work herself into quite a frenzy when she’s hungry or has a dirty diaper. Sometimes, I laugh at her when she gets in this state. I feel like a horrible mother, but I can’t help it. Her facial expressions, animated hand gestures and sweet little cry when she is in the middle of a meltdown are priceless. She has totally mastered the art of the pout already.

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Post-bath meltdown. I’m sure I was laughing at her here.

  • Enjoys her food. During her first month, she quickly worked her way up to 4.5 ounces at each feeding. Currently, she is eating every four hours during the day and can now go about five hours at night between feedings (much to my and Chester’s delight).

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Food coma

  • Could give teenage boys a run for their money with her ability to burp, although she definitely doesn’t like being interrupted in the middle of a feeding so that she can let one rip.
  • Gets the hiccups–a lot. That explains the feeling of tiny bubbles popping that I had in my belly once a day or more when I was pregnant.
  • Hates to have a dirty diaper. Some of her most intense crying fits have happened when she needs to be changed. Like most babies, she hates the actual diaper change process (and she often lets us know, by peeing on the changing pad as soon as we get her dirty diaper off and/or as soon as we get a new diaper on), but you can practically hear her sigh with relief when she’s all clean.
  • Likes to know where her hands are at all times. She moves them around constantly, and definitely does not like to have her hands confined in a swaddle while sleeping. In fact, she sleeps with them right by her face most of the time. We noticed this even in  her ultrasound photos and its totally adorable.

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  • Takes after her mother in her love of a routine. When her eating, sleeping, or diaper change schedule is interrupted by something (such as a doctor’s appointment), she is fussy for the rest of the day and sometimes into the night. I’m hoping that this will change as we get out and about a bit more with her and she gets used to having things shaken up a bit.
  • Has incredible upper body strength. We started doing tummy time with her as soon as her belly button healed (around the end of her first week) and she quickly became a pro at lifting and holding up her head. In addition, Chester and I have both been at the receiving end of the mean right hook that she dishes out when she has to wait four minutes for her bottle to warm up.
  • Discovered a few favorite toys. She loves anything that makes noise (particularly rattling or rustling noises), plays music and/or has a mirror that she can look in. Her favorite things as the moment are her Emily doll and musical inchworm. This past week, she started to take an interest in colorful objects (like the pumpkins in my fall decor) and she also enjoys looking up at the ceiling fan in our living room (even if its not spinning).

emily

  • Humored her father and pretended to like football. And, to be a Bears fan, at that. Maybe they have a chance at making it to the Super Bowl this year because every time Chester has put her in one of her Bears onesies, they’ve actually won the game.

bears fan

  • Could spend hours in her mamaRoo. In case you aren’t familiar with this contraption, it’s the most awesome swing ever. It has five different settings that mimic the bouncing and swaying motions that parents make when rocking babies to sleep. I’m glad that she likes it so much because she loves to be held and rocked. And, as much as I love spending time with her in that way, sometimes my arms and legs just need a break.
  • Has quite few nicknames. Obviously, we call her Little B, to distinguish her from her namesake, my best friend Bridget. When she’s dishing out punches, she’s Mike Tyson. Sometimes, she’s just Little One. My mom calls her Puddin.’ But, my favorite nickname at the moment is Bumblebee. I came upon this one on the day we came home from the hospital. She was fussy, so I made up a song that involved words that started with B, like her name. When I said the word Bumblebee, she calmed down, so I just started calling her that.
  • Enjoys show tunes. In the early days of Little B’s life, when I was at my most sleep deprived, these were the only songs that I could remember the words to. But, they seemed to lull her to sleep. The songs that she enjoys the most seem to come from the shows that are depressing and/or inappropriate for her age, such as Les Miserables, Evita, Rent and Cabaret. Obviously, I need to brush up on my children’s songs.
  • Has made many new friends. Sharing our joy with family and friends has been one of the best parts of the last month. We don’t mind the company and Little B certainly doesn’t seem to mind the extra cuddles! Chester is going to have to start fending the boys off early, as she already met two potential husbands: Jack, the son of our friends Shannon and Dave, who was born two weeks prior to Little B and Owen, the son of our friends Richard and Louisa, who just turned a year.

Friends and Family Collage

Just a few of our recent visitors. Clockwise from top left: Aunt Theresa tells Little B all bumblebees; Little B loved her Auntie Rhonda; Jack and Little B fall in love at first sight; Ciotka Bridget explains how to get good deals at Labor Day sales; Granny reads Curious George to B, Uncle Mike shows Little B his tattoos and promises to take her for her first one someday.

Life now looks a lot different than it did just a few short weeks ago. But, I’m loving it. It feels so much…fuller. In all of the best possible ways.

Yes, there have been challenges, but I feel so incredibly lucky that I have everything that I’ve ever wanted in my life. I get to be a mother to the best little girl in the world and share the experience of being a parent with the best guy in the world.

I can’t wait to see what the coming months–and years–have in store for us.

Introducing Little B

After 38 weeks and 5 days of missing all the fun in the outside world, E.T. decided that she was ready to make her debut. And, to have a real name.

So, without further adieu, I’m pleased to introduce:

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Bridget Rose 

Born: August 30, 2013 at 6:14 p.m.

6 pounds, 8 ounces 

19.5 inches long

So many people had told me that as a first baby, she would probably come late. By 35 weeks, I was so over being pregnant, but I had also mentally prepared myself for the fact that if she really wanted to take her time, I could be pregnant for another seven weeks before my doctor would induce labor.

I was so well prepared for the long haul that I was pretty much in denial when I started to feel the first contractions early last Thursday morning. I told myself that the uncomfortable feeling throughout the bottom half of my body was just because I slept in a more awkward position than usual.

I went to work and as the day went on, I started to have quite a bit of back pain. I reasoned that this was just from sitting in a metal folding chair all day greeting new students and parents at orientation. Later that afternoon, I noticed a weird tightening in my stomach. This seemed to be happening on a fairly inconsistent basis, so I decided that I was finally starting to feel Braxton-Hicks contractions.

By the end of the day, the weird tightening had become pretty painful, but I attributed that to that fact that I had been standing for two hours at a reception. Still, when Chester picked me up that night, I told him we should think about packing our hospital bags, “just in case.”

At some point after midnight, the pain became more intense and seemed to be happening more frequently. I decided that this was probably the real thing and demanded that we pack our bags. I spent the rest of the night pacing around the second floor of the house, closely followed around by the dog. I tracked the contractions using an app on my iPhone and to pass the time, I straightened my hair in anticipation of pictures after the baby’s arrival. By 5 a.m., the contractions were 5 minutes apart and it was time to head to the hospital.

The sole component of my birth plan was to have all of the drugs available to me, so I didn’t hesitate when the nurse asked if I wanted an epidural. Having that put into place was the most terrifying and painful part of the whole process. I couldn’t see what was happening and was shaking so badly that the  anesthesiologist needed to try multiple times to place it correctly. But, once it was in, I didn’t feel anything at all.

I don’t know how I would have made it through without that and amazing coaching from Chester and my mom. Little B came out screaming at the top of her lungs and the minute they placed her on my chest, I sobbed. I had never felt so many emotions all at once–relief that she had arrived safely, disbelief over the way my life had changed in an instant, fear about embarking on the journey of being a parent, and, most of all, love. It was overwhelming and amazing at the same time, and I have replayed that moment in my head everyday since so that I never forget it.

And, now, we are home and settling into the chaos that a baby brings. We did a lot of planning and organization for the baby’s arrival, but our lives have still been turned completely upside down, of course. General wisdom tells you that caring for a newborn is difficult, but it is a million times more difficult than I ever anticipated.

The first few couple of days at home were the worst. She felt so tiny and fragile that I was afraid to handle her. I had no idea what all of her different cries meant. On her first night home, I didn’t sleep at all because I couldn’t stop looking into her bassinet to make sure she was still breathing. I was also dealing with crazy post-pregnancy hormones and physical discomforts from the delivery process. I cried frequently for no good reason and questioned why I ever thought I would be cut out for motherhood.

Once again, Chester has been absolutely amazing. It seemed  like he knew what to do from the moment she was born. My heart just melts when I see him holding her and I’m reminded that I couldn’t have picked a better person to spend my life with. I’ve looked at him many times this week and said “can we do this?” and he tells me what a good team we’ve always been.

And, he has been right. As this first week comes to an end, I feel a bit better and we have  some stuff figured out. We know the difference between her cries for food and her cries for a diaper change.  For the past two nights, she’s slept for three-hour stretches, which has also helped us feel less sleep deprived. That could all change in an instant, but at least for now, I feel like we are doing a pretty good job of giving her what she needs.

As for Little B, she looks exactly like her daddy (although a few people have said her hands, feet and nails look like mine. I think it’s just to make me feel better for all of my efforts in getting her here). I love cuddling her and inhaling that intoxicating new baby smell (seriously, they have the sweetest smell at the top of their heads). She sleeps most of the time, of course, but when she does open her eyes, she’s totally alert and I know she’s busy taking in about the world around her.

In short, she’s a keeper.

 

Weekend Instagrams: Thanksgiving Edition

Is it me, or is 2012 the fastest year ever? It’s hard to believe that the fall is nearly over and we are hurtling full speed ahead to Christmas and New Year’s.

That’s one of the reasons that I appreciate Thanksgiving more and more year after year.  It’s a much needed time out and a reminder to take a few moments to cherish the truly important things in life, like family, food and fun.

Of course, there’s a bit of hard work involved, too. It took me and my mom about seven hours or so to get put everything on our Thanksgiving menu together.

Obviously, I get my inability to take a normal photo from my mom.

My mom’s anxiety over cooking the perfect turkey was at an all time high this year. As usual, her fears were unfounded. The turkey and all of the trimmings were the best we’ve ever had. Of course, we say that every year, but seriously, I think we outdid ourselves this time around.

Getting ready for roasting.

Once everything was ready, it was a a help yourself affair. We aren’t overly formal.

Family gathered around the table

My dessert contribution was pumpkin pound cake. I want to eat it everyday. Note to self: Make more things with buttermilk.

You would think that Mel cooked the entire meal herself.

All that time in the kitchen does make you a little loopy.

Chester and I generally avoid the chaos of Thanksgiving Weekend shopping, in favor of getting our house ready for Christmas. Mission accomplished.

I’m hoping that the magic of Christmas will bring Hello Kitty to life so that we can be best friends.

Getting a new tree this year was the best idea ever. This one doesn’t tilt to the side!

I got a bunch of new food themed ornaments for the tree this year. This one if my favorite, obviously.

Hope your weekend was swell.

Hello, 30

One of the silver linings of getting another year older (aside from the cake) is that it provides an excuse for getting together to celebrate with family and friends.

My birthday festivities started off on Saturday morning with brunch with Bridget, my mom and aunt, at Kanella, a BYOB specializing in cuisine from Greece and Cyprus. I can’t believe that I’ve never written about it before. I’ve been there quite a few times for dinner and brunch and its one of my favorite places in the city. The thing that appeals to me most about the food from this area of the world is that it relies on fresh ingredients and a simple presentation. Kanella gets it just right.

With the exception of one or two sweeter dishes (like crepes drizzled with carob syrup), most of the brunch options are of a more savory variety. Some of my favorite dishes are the Cyprus breakfast, which consists of sunny side up eggs, slightly salty, fried halloumi cheese, sausage and toast as well as the Shaksouka, a tomato and pepper stew topped with poached eggs. On my birthday visit, I enjoyed one of the day’s specials, a salad with just barely cooked tuna, served over a bed of greens and topped with a simple squeeze of lemon and hint of salt.

And, of course, since our visit was of a celebratory nature, Bridget and I got our drink on early in the day with mimosas.

Brunch was followed by manicures and pedicures, and then we headed home to get ready for the evening’s festivities. My mom and Chester told me over the summer that they were planning a 30th birthday party for me. While I like the idea of a surprise party, in theory, I would be absolutely mortified to show up to an event in my honor without a fabulous dress/shoes and fresh manicure/blow-out.  I agreed that they could keep the location and other details of the party under wraps, but appreciated the heads up so that I could make sure that I looked presentable.

Chester took the most circuitous route into Center City while I tried to guess while we were headed. Of course, it was impossible to, given the fact that there are a million restaurants around here. After making me nervous by pulling up to sketchiest looking restaurant in South Philly and throwing me off by making it look like we were going to University City when we pulled off the expressway at South Street, we ended up at Georgio on Pine where my family and friends were waiting.

My Vicki’s girls, Gab and Rhonda

Me and my grandfather

My mom and one of her best friends, Donna

Acting like a goof.

I was so excited to see everyone that I spent most of the time going from table to table to chat and not a whole lot of time eating. A rare occurrence.

The food I did try, however, was absolutely delicious. And, there was plenty of it. Seriously, it just kept coming out of the kitchen. There was bruschetta and calamari, a pasta plate featuring gnocchi (the best I’ve had in quite awhile), ravioli in tomato cream sauce and bucatini, a choice of one of three entrees (stuffed chicken, branzino and veal). The staff who worked our party that night could not have been nicer. This restaurant is definitely one of Philly’s hidden gems and highly recommend it.

I did make sure to sit down in time for cake, however. Chester ordered it from Whipped Baked Shop in Fishtown and made sure that it included all of my favorite things: daisies, fudgy chocolate cake and peanut butter buttercream. It was one of the best cakes I have ever had. I’m pretty excited that the top tier is still sitting in my fridge. But, probably not for much longer.

Photo stolen from Rhonda’s Facebook page. Love that the candle said “29, again.”

Checkter: The party was a smashing success. I know that the process involved sending quite a few e-mails, working late nights to take care of the little details, and spending time in the car running errands around the city. You definitely could have a future in events management (Although I’m pretty sure you aren’t the least bit interested). I can’t say thank you enough for making me feel like the most special person on the planet, not just on my birthday, but every day. I know I drive you crazy sometimes and you spoil me much, much more than I probably deserve.

To my family and friends: Thank you for making it a little bit easier for me to say goodbye to my 20s. Extra hugs and thanks to those of you who had to travel in order to spend the weekend with me, including Chester’s parents, Bill and Bing, who flew in from Chicago, and Bridget and Bill who drove in from Boston. And, to those of you who braved the crazy traffic and drove around looking for parking on a busy Saturday night in Philly, thanks for not turning around and going home.

One of my favorite gifts is the box of advice and memories that you all contributed to. Some of my favorite bits include:

Always double bow.” –Mom

“Never, never, never try to fix anything in the house. Always remember that you are your mother’s daughter. Fixing anything is a bad idea” –Aunt

“Always remember where you came from and who really matters to you, always forgive and forget, and sometimes just forget. –Joe, one of my mom’s best friends

“Make sure that you save room for dessert. And soup.” –Dave Bruno

“Drinking helps” –Darin Pfeifer

And, as for memories that I couldn’t forget, even if I tried:

“Remember when you got your legs stuck under Nunnie’s fence while playing on the slip and slide.” – Yes, Bridge, I do. I told my mom that the scars running up and down my legs were the result of my press-on nails. She totally bought it (not).

“The Russian Tea Room, NYC. Suzie, Maryann, Bridget and Lauren for lunch. $85 each. Bridget and Lauren wouldn’t eat.”–This was on the occasion of Bridget’s 12th birthday. Our palates were not yet that adventurous.

“Getting held up by the police at your bachelorette party.” –  Ciana, please tell Julius once again, that I’m sorry about his car. I know it’s been two years, but I don’t think I’ve done quite enough apologizing for that incident, yet.

I’m looking forward to everything that’s in store for the the next decade—and beyond. With all of the wonderful people I have in my life, I know that everything that is to come is sure to be kick ass.

This Week for Dinner

Happy Easter, Peeps (see what I did there? Just a little holiday humor!). I hope that everyone got their fill of Cadbury Crème Eggs and other assorted goodies. I’ll be at the CVS tomorrow looking to stock up on chocolate at 50 percent off. I just hope I make it there before they start packing it away for next year. That’s what happened with the Valentine’s and Halloween candy. By the time I got there around lunchtime, it was all boxed up. Disappointing.

We usually cook at home for the holidays, but my aunt is still in the hospital, and it wouldn’t have seemed right not to have her there. So, we brought the party to her for a bit at Pennsylvania Hospital and then headed out to dinner afterwards at Spasso Italian Grill in Old City. We went there for my bachelorette dinner two years ago. I remember liking it at the time, but the details of that night are a bit sketchy. After today’s meal, I’m wondering why we haven’t gone there more often. So delicious. You should go. And, get the crab ravioli. Trust me.

If you don’t happen to have any leftover ham from your Easter feast, here are a few good ideas for the week ahead. While I was out crafting my butt off last weekend, Chester picked out some pretty good recipes to make up for our previous lackluster week:

Linguine with Sausage and Peppers

From: Everyday Food

I made this before, but Chester’s attempt was better because he used a thicker pasta. I’m a fan of all of the colors in this dish. It’s so pretty.

Stir-Fried Chicken Salad

From: Cooking Light

This reminds me of the Warm Chicken Salad from Pod, one of my favorite salads ever. The warm chicken wilts the greens ever so slightly and the peanuts add a nice bit of crunch. The marinade from the chicken doubles as a light dressing, but I liked it even better with a squeeze or two of lime.

Open-Faced Hummus Sandwiches

From: Cooking Light

This sandwich has the best combination of ingredients, ever. We added thinly sliced chicken breast to it for a bit of protein, but it would still be pretty substantial without it. This would make a great summer meal—it’s light and if you left out the chicken, there would be no cooking required.

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops

From: Cooking Light

This recipe calls for homemade breadcrumbs, which is a good way to use leftover bread. They made for a thicker coating which kept the pork pretty moist. Also, I’m becoming a huge fan of polenta. It’s a nice change of pace from the rice we usually have as a side.

Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken

From: Cooking Light

I like orzo because it’s pretty versatile. You can add some spices and veggies and have a nice side dish, or you can make it into a substantial meal, as in this salad (We’ve made a similar version of this dish with salmon, too). This recipe makes pretty substantial amount of food, so you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Enjoy the week ahead, friends! I’ll be starting my countdown to vacation in Italy as of tomorrow–one month to go!