Smiley baby.

Someone was all smiles the other day so I dusted off the camera and snapped some photos of our sweet Caroline.

Sometimes she is so serious.

Her “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” stare.  She makes this face often.

Sometimes she just laughs and smiles when I walk into the room.  My heart melts every single time.

These early months with a new baby are nothing to joke about.

Here’s the truth of it, and probably a little more than you’d like to know about me.  I tend to go through some rough patches during that dreamy {ha} postpartum period.  It’s sooo fun.  Especially for Alex.  And my mom.  Add into the already hormonal mix a colicky baby and voila!  You have one fun mother.

During this particular postpartum ride I’ve felt especially vulnerable.  I simply couldn’t do it all by myself.  And so I had to rely on our amazing circle of family and friends to help shuttle kids to and from activities, bring over a meal, or take the boys for a playdate.  And sometimes at the end of the day instead of basking in the blessing of those helping our family, I felt guilty that I couldn’t pull it all together myself.

Writing this out probably makes me sound ridiculous.

So yes, it was an easy sell, this vulnerability.  And sometimes it all seems magnified because you have completely isolated yourself in your home because your baby cries all the time and you fear taking her anywhere.  {hypothetically of course.}  Which only then magnifies everything even more because you never get out and instead live in your own little bubble of worry and trials.  {again, purely hypothetical…}

And sometimes you just need a swift kick in the {stretchy} pants {and a good night sleep and a smiley baby and a date night} to remind yourself that this life is pretty darn good.

“…always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit.  You’d be amazed at how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two…”

source…oddly this quote struck a chord… ;)

Caroline’s birth story

We were all so ready to meet Coco.  We had been ready for weeks.  Looking back I probably set myself up for disappointment focusing on the fact that William was three weeks early and this was our fourth baby, so you do the math…she was obviously going to come out early.  Right?

Sort of.

I’ll admit that the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Caroline were humbling.  Of course my doctor {who I think the world of} also convinced me that baby would come early.  So for weeks I walked around ready to go, 4 cm dilated with baby at a +2 station.  {+4 = baby’s head is out.}  With each appointment my doctor would remind me not to stay at home once labor had started because this was going to go fast.  I felt like a ticking time bomb.  So yes, I had my game face on.  Contractions came and went.  So did days and weeks.  All of the signs and symptoms were there.  And yes, we even went to the hospital once.  It was a false alarm.  With our fourth baby.  Cue the walk of shame.

two days before baby…photo credit, Henry

No matter, I perservered and kept all my ducks in a row, day after day after day. But really, a girl can only shave her legs for so many days in a row before the novelty wears off.  And it was getting to be exhausting making sure that everyday my house was in order, the laundry was done and my hair was somewhat presentable.  So it was tempting when at my last appointment my doctor discussed inducing me.  But I had a plan, and it involved doing things going naturally, without any interventions or meds.  Amazingly enough even the hormones couldn’t sway me.  So I said no.

Wednesday evening, ready for bed I went for one more potty break.  Low and behold I was bleeding and was pretty sure that my water had broken.  I was officially in labor despite the fact I had yet to feel any contractions.  {I never seem to have regular contractions until transition.  Hate me.}  Shortly after giving Alex a head’s up and calling my mom I realized that I not only had three-day hair, but greasy massage hair from my prenatal massage earlier that day.  Ack!  I let myself go for a couple of days and wouldn’t you know it…

At 3:30 am I woke Alex up, called the sitter and told my mom that we would meet her at the hospital.  We arrived at the triage room by 4:00 am where they checked me and found that I was a good 6.  Whew.  I’ll admit I was slightly worried that they would send us back home – again.

By 4:30 we were settled into our labor and delivery room and my doctor {who bless his heart was already there} checked me and said I was at 7.  He asked me one last time if I wanted any pain relief before he broke my water.  Nope.  You’ll be relieved to know that once my water was officially broken the contractions came on strong and before I knew it I was ready to push.

Looking back pushing was pretty funny.  The contractions weren’t nearly as intense as the transition contractions.  No more deep breathing and low-moaning.  My OB was great about telling me where the baby was and what I needed to do during each contraction.  Now there is pushing and there is PUSHING.  And while I know that a lot of women say they have the urge to push, I didn’t.  Nope.  I even sat through a few contractions.  But once I had my glasses back on {seriously, I was so focused that I just thought things were that fuzzy} I PUSHED.  I may have been relatively quiet through this last stage but on the last push when baby came out Alex claims that it’s very possible I woke up the entire fourth floor.

No matter, at 5:36 am, baby girl was here.

Immediately they placed Caroline on my chest and we just stared at one another.  Sizing each other up.  Falling in love.  Memorizing faces.  Of course Alex and I both nervously asked the questions neither one of us wanted to ask but must.  Does she look ok?  Is she ok?

She was and is perfect.

Baby girl.  6 pounds 6 ounces.  With the longest fingers and slender feet.  The most delicate features.  The sweetest little cry.

Alex was and continues to be amazing.  I know that the baby stage is not his favorite but he is such a good dad and husband.  And I love that we both love this family we are growing together and the adventures that we share together.

We were both so thankful that my mom was there.

I couldn’t have dreamt up a better labor and delivery.  It was a beautiful ending to the pregnancy/labor and delivery phase of this mama’s life.  It was amazing.

The rest of the day was a flurry of visitors coming to meet our sweet baby.

But the obvious highlight was when the boys met their sister for the first time.

Already it’s been three weeks and we can’t imagine our lives without sweet baby Caroline.  Sure we’re exhausted.  There have been meltdowns.  Some of us are more weepy than others, but we’re doing it.

It’s official, we’re all smitten.

It’s almost summer and 37 weeks.

amen.  

We’re getting awfully close to the end.  The end of the school year and the end of this pregnancy.

Both prospects seem a little scary if you ask me.

I’m doing my best to savor each little nuance of this last pregnancy but at the same time I’m done.  I’ve entered into the last stage of pregnancy when all you think about all day long is that you are PREGNANT.  And that you could have a baby TODAY or you could have a baby in WEEKS.  That alone could make anyone crazy, nevermind all the hormones.

I’ll be honest, the last few days I’ve been crabby.  The irony is that physically I’m feeling pretty darn good for a water buffalo, but I’ve lost control of the filter between my brain and mouth.  This is not particularly helpful when we’re trying to insist on some basic rules with the littles.  Rules like no talking back, no tattling, and please, please, treat each other with some respect.  And let’s practice some self-control and patience while we’re at it.  Funny thing is, “do as I say not as I do” training doesn’t seem to work particularly well with little ones.  Ahem.  Yes, I’m taking notes.  Because even mama needs to practice some self-control and patience.

Thursday is our first full day of summer vacation and I’m a little nervous.  I feel like the stakes are higher than usual and that we need to do something big and fun and exciting before baby.  I also have to be careful not to set the bar too high though, because the last thing I need is the kiddos expecting super-mom all summer long.  Because let’s be honest, this summer is going to be all about keeping things simple.  Think lots of popsicles, turning on the backyard sprinklers and filling up the wading pool again and again.  Maybe adding a slip ‘n slide into the mix to shake things up a bit.  And don’t forget everyone’s summertime favorite; lots of quiet time.  Ha.

Meanwhile I’m spending my time both making plans and trying not to make a single plan.  And I debate important things like, should I make *just one more* big trip to Costco to stock up?  What about all those photo albums I was going to finish?  Or maybe I should just sit at home and enjoy this last little bit of quiet?

I know, I know, all of this might seem crazy because yes, we have done this three times already, but the thing is each new baby is life-changing.  Soon we are going to meet a sweet baby girl who is going to steal our hearts.  And I know it will be beautiful and overwhelming and peaceful and chaotic all at once.

On being a mom, celebrations and 33 Weeks

mom circa May 1979, pregnant with me and headed to the hospital. talk about a blessing, my mom is amazing!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to say it one more time.  I’m just so grateful to be a mom.  I feel so thankful for the opportunity to raise-up our little ones alongside Alex.  I sure love these kiddos and the {growing} family that we’ve created.

happy kiddos + one tired but very content mama = joy

I’m also so thankful to be surrounded by so many wonderful women who support and encourage me along this journey of motherhood.  Over Mother’s Day weekend I spent time away with my mom, four Aunties and four cousins.  It was a wonderful girl’s weekend of celebration – weddings, birthdays and baby – oh what fun we had.  My trip away was also my last *hurrah* before baby as my doctor has rather strongly insisted that I stick close to home.

Monday, on the heels of Mother’s Day I had a doctor’s appointment and ultrasound to see how baby Coco is doing.  Thankfully baby is looking good and we’re giving praises for placentas that move and for baby’s who are head-down!  Alex and my mom were there for the ultrasound and it was pretty darn impressive to hear Alex giving the ultrasound narrative… “there’s the heart, see the eyes, that’s her profile, oh and that’s a hand….”  He claims not to be into all this baby stuff, but he certainly knows his stuff.

While it’s probably too early to begin counting down to an actual birth day, there’s no doubt that this sweet little baby is going to be here soon.  This means it’s time to actually start preparing for baby and I certainly have plenty of organizing, sorting and baby-related laundry to keep me busy for a while.  For good measure, I’ll also probably move some furniture around the house, putter around the garden, plant and re-plant a handful of poor plants and re-arrange my random knickknacks for the two hundredth time.  Nesting sounds like pure heaven for this homebody.  I’m also hoping to sneak in a dinner date with Alex, a few lunch and coffee dates with friends and plan on taking each kiddo out for some solo time with mommy.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

At this stage of the game I’m all about wearing things without a fitted waistband.  Helllooo skirts!  It took me long enough to realize, but my jeans and really anything else with a restrictive waistband was making me grumpy.  My belly is low, low, low this time.  Not sure if it’s a girl thing or a fourth-pregnancy thing, but it’s made for some adventures when getting dressed.  And yes, I realize that if this is my biggest complaint I shouldn’t be complaining at all because in all reality I feel pretty darn great at this stage of the game.

So for now we wait, we dream and all five of us spend way too much time staring at my belly as baby Coco dances and wiggles around.  It’s safe to say we’re already smitten.

27 weeks and a What to Expect giveaway

In my mind I’m on top of things and taking belly shots weekly.  Or at least monthly.  Let’s just settle for a six, almost seven week up-date, okay?

Note to self, it’s time to stop wearing short cardigans, that is unless I’m trying to channel Tommy Boy.

Ironically, not one darn maternity piece of clothing seems to fit right this time around and it just seems too darn soon to be constantly tugging at my pants.

Wasn’t there an entire Seinfeld episode about a white shirt with ruffles?  This looked cute in real life.  Alex said so.  Smart guy right?

Anyhoo.

I’m just getting a taste of third trimester fatigue while clinging to one last week of second trimester bliss.  Wardrobe complaints aside, I feel great {exhausted, but great}, which I’m thankful for.  I’m healthy and so is baby and you certainly can’t ask for more than that.

We’ve been pushing the pedal to the metal around here and I’m trying to stay motivated.  We still have a pretty long to-do list before baby arrives.  A big part of our to-do list obviously involves getting ready for baby.  {No, it’s not all about my random nesting projects like cleaning out the garage or picking out exterior paint colors…}  It might not make any sense, but Alex and I sort of feel like a first-time parents our fourth time around.  Everything feels different.  We’re out of “baby-mode.”  All of our baby gear is supposedly out-of-date and to tell you the truth I don’t remember any of the basics.

Maybe it’s like riding a bike?

Just in case crossing our fingers doesn’t work out I’m thankful to have some new reading material to help along the way.  New copies of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year are now sitting on my nightstand and I’ve been referencing them frequently.

You would think that at this stage of the game I already have my fair share of pregnancy and baby-related reading materials.  I do, but they’re all out of date so I appreciated the fresh tone of the current What to Expect book.  And yes, while not that much has changed {clearly women have been having babies forever} there are still plenty of new tips and ideas and it’s always nice to be familiar with the up-to-date medical information, and advice.

Guess what?  The team at What to Expect.com has given me three books to giveaway.  One lucky reader will receive a copy of What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year.

Maybe you’re a first-time mom, or like me this isn’t your first rodeo, but could use a refresher course.  Or maybe you know someone who is expecting…these books would certainly be a welcome gift.  To enter this giveaway simply leave a comment.  And go check out What to Expect.com, it’s a great online resource for new, seasoned and expecting parents.

This giveaway will end on Friday, April 12th at 5pm PST.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m having a pretty good time in the kitchen.  Dinners are fun to make, there is always a treat {or two} ready to eat, while yet another good recipe waits patiently in the wings.

As Alex so kindly put it, “Wow, Libby, you’ve really hit your stride.”  {And I’m 99% sure he wasn’t referencing my cooking skills, but rather my consumption.}  Ahem.

Perhaps this is just in contrast to those first-trimester pregnancy woes when food was the last thing on my mind and my family apparently starved?  I’m thinking yes.

Anyhow, for some reason I feel compelled to make sure that all of my most prized recipes are safely tucked away in one place.  Because what happens when all of those pinterest links stop working?  And mama needs to bake some cookies and she can’t find her recipe?  Surely we can count on the trusty family blog to always be around.  Right?

Yes, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

I’m pretty sure I have now blogged about these cookies at least 30 times. I don’t care. I can’t help it.  This time it’s in the name of recording a treasured family recipe.

Typically I can make a batch of cookies and will only eat one.  Out of the entire batch.  Not kidding.

These days I hoover them up like it’s my job in life.

They’re just that good.

THE Chocolate Chip Cookies via and adapted {no, I simply can’t let a recipe be} by me.

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour {in a pinch I’ve substituted whole wheat pastry flour and no one was the wiser}
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups  light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content
Sea salt

Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well; then set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 24 to 36 hours – and up to six days.  {You MUST do this.  I know, I know, letting cookie dough just sit in your fridge is practically torture, but it’s worth it.  And really, the dough isn’t that tasty.  Trust me, I know good cookie dough.  Persevere my friend, it’s cookies we’re after.}

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  {I can fit about 9-12 cookies per sheet}

Sprinkle each cookie lightly with sea salt, and bake until golden brown but still soft, 8-10 minutes.  I like my cookies on the soft and gooey side so if you like crispy you will need to add some baking time.

Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack once cool.

Repeat with remaining dough.

These cookies freeze well too.  Yes, they’re practically perfect.

21 weeks.

Bam.

And there it is.  We’ve passed the half-way mark just like that.

Coco Pinata will be here before we know it.  Coco Pinata = the baby’s nickname given to her by her big brothers.  And they use it.  After I picked up William from school he asked “Mom, where are the pictures of Coco Pinata that you promised?”  You’d assume that nickname alone would help to speed us along with our name search but nope, not us.

We had our *big* ultrasound Wednesday.  I still get nervous and sweaty each time.  This time Henry joined us for a special big brother moment and to see our little one live.  He loved it and was actually pretty darn good at seeing and understanding what was on the screen.  Our doctor said that everything looks great with the baby and we left our appointment giving thanks and praising Jesus for this sweet new blessing.

doesn’t she look scrunched-up?  based on what I’ve been feeling she likes to go from that position into this:

legs stretched out for optimal kicking.

keeping the family tradition alive with long skinny feet.

Confession.  While I’ve known for almost six weeks that baby is a girl I still had my doubts.  This translated into not making a single pink purchase.  The good news is that today the ultrasound tech re-confirmed that the baby is indeed a girl, so I’m thinking green-light right?

A few things worth noting about pregnancy the fourth time around.

::  I was seriously beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get into this whole pregnancy thing.  I have always been the obnoxious gal who talked about how much she loved being pregnant.  And knowing that this is our last time around I assumed I’d want to savor every last-minute.  This wasn’t the case for the first 16+ weeks at all.  The good news is that I’m finally getting into my pregnancy groove.  Alex could tell there was a shift just by looking over at my nightstand.  It’s overflowing with baby books.  And not the traditional What to Expect books, oh no, I’m waay back into it, we’re talking Ina May and all of the good ‘ol crunchy granola stuff.

:: Time.  I hate to even say this aloud, but it feels like we have the luxury of time and spacing on our side.  After having three boys in four years, it feels down-right luxurious having 3 1/2 years between children.

::  Which brings us to logistics.  We still have some details to nail down, but for now we’ve come up with yet another plan to strategically use the space we have and well, make it work.  Although this time it might involve a teeny-tiny construction project.  And I’ll still keep wishing for that playroom to magically appear.

::  Not only do I feel pregnant but I finally look pregnant.  I’ve never been a fan of that awkward “Is she or isn’t she?” stage.

::  Our bed is already overflowing with pillows.  Alex of course is thrilled.  Ha.

::  Since the 18-week mark I’ve been having steady Braxton hicks contractions.  And no, these aren’t little twinges, these contractions stop me in my tracks and turn my belly into a rock.

::  I’d forgotten about itchy elbows.  There are many weird skin issues that pregnant women deal with, but I’d forgotten that my elbows itch like crazy.  Quirky right?

::  Pregnancy is not the time to start trying out new deodorants.  Especially the *natural* kinds.  Just take my word for it.

::  One word:  jeggings.  Don’t judge, but trust me these should become every pregnant woman’s best friend.  I have them in grey and love them.  And black leggings too.  {Thank you K!}