Christmas Eve

This. This right here. This is what dreams and happiness and magic and love are made of. Sitting in the darkness of our livingroom just admiring the tree. Our tree in our new home. With gifts for our loved ones, for our little girl. Our precious, healthy little girl that this very night last year was sleeping in a NICU isolette. Our kitten sits proudly below like that giant stuffed bear with a bow. Stillness dimly light by majestic twinkle lights. Cinnamon and fresh balsam wafting through the air. I cried. I am so thankful and full of love that there aren't any words at all. None that sum up how content I feel in this moment. 

Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy every single second with your families. I hope you too feel the happiness and magic and love. And I hope, in the midst of the crazy, you too are able to take a second to soak it all in. To be in the moment. Because before you know it it'll be July and we will be missing this magical time again.


Halloween 2015

Olvia's first Halloween was by far the sweetest of any others in my past. At home our happy little unicorn had fun reaching her hands into the crinkly bucket of our trick or treater's candy (where Whoppers were her candy wrapper of choice to chew on - girls got good taste, what can I say?) She enjoyed poking at her very own "one buckie" jack-o-lantern and explored the crunchy fall leaves on our walkway until it was time to venture down the street. Olivia's very first trick or treating adventure was at her Godmothers house where she was spoiled rotten with kisses and goodies. It was there she sampled her first ever piece of candy, a tangy pink lollipop which she discovered served not only as food, but a drum. We left for home sticky, smiling and babbling loudly. Olivia's first Halloween was a sweet success filled with many giggles, new tastes and an incredibly adorable (albeit hot) fluffy pink outfit she'll probably never let us put her in again. If this year was this much fun, I can hardly wait for the next. 


The Cake Files: Where The Wild Things Are Pop Up Book (Olivia's 1st Birthday Cake)

I don't know as I could count the number of cakes I've made over the years. For family, for friends, for weddings, for gender reveals, for vow renewals; for so many different occasions. But I have to admit, this one was the most special. Our Livie's 1st birthday cake.  From a technical standpoint it's not the most difficult cake I've ever made - not even close. It's straight up buttercream, some piping, some gold sprinkles and some careful placement. Many people have asked what the pictures are made from, and as much as I wish I could say they're gum paste shapes I've laboriously spent hours hand painting to look identical to the illustrations in the book...I can't. My nose would grow so long my in-laws could use it as a foot bridge from England. The truth is far more simple. I clipped chosen pictures from an old used and abused Where The Wild Things Are book I purchased for .63 on Amazon and laminated them. Yup, it's really that easy. Easy, but effective. My whole intention for this cake was to make it feel like a book. A pop up book. And I really feel as though I achieved that. Best part? I cleaned up the laminated cut outs and glued popsicle sticks to the back. In a few months I'll pass them to Olivia and she'll have some bad ass puppets. It's a win-win.  



Before I became a mother everyone told me to be sure that I hold onto that 'thing' that I enjoy. That I don't 100% completely devote myself only to my family, and the dishes, and the laundry, and my job etc... They told me to hold on so tightly to that 'thing' that recharges my mind and body and soul, that my knuckles turn white and the tips of my fingers tingle. Because "every mother needs time to herself." Time to listen (and really listen without the distraction of a crying baby, or the clinking of the forks against the plates in the soapy dishwater) to her thoughts. To do that 'thing' that makes her feel free, joyous, peaceful and like that careless woman she was before the worries of motherhood consumed her thoughts every waking hour of the day. 

Today a friend told me they missed my blog posts and asked why it had been so long since I'd written. It was at that point that I realized that since I've become a mother I have blogged a total of 6 times. 

6 times in nearly a year.

It occurred to me just how much time every day I devote to my beautiful family, and the dishes, and the laundry, my job, other peoples children etc...How much time every single parent devotes to their beautiful family, and the housework, and their career.

My family is precious. Our time with 'baby' Olivia is marvelous and fleeting. And while I do not regret a single second I've spent cuddling her sweet little body, or feeding her growing mind, or watching, in awe, how unbelievably wonderful of a tiny person she is becoming, I do wish that I had found more time at the end of those busy days to sit and reflect and write. I wish I had taken the time to better document our moments and memories. That I had held on tighter to that 'thing', my writing, that recharges my mind and body a soul. 

So thank you, to that friend who told me they missed my blog posts and asked me a question which led me to reflect. To really reflect. 

I've missed my blog too. I was holding too loosely to my 'thing' that recharges my batteries and too tightly to silly things like dishes and laundry and the Swiffer Wet Jet. 

Hello again, blog. I can already feel more juice in my batteries. 



As my hands rest lazily on my laptop keyboard I look to my right to see the prickly flushed cheeks and fluttering eyelids of my husband. I hear deep breaths and the gentle whirring of wind from the fan. As I shift my gaze around the room I see the lace curtains of our open bedroom window dancing in the gentle breeze of a passing thunderstorm. Olivia's little body, just like daddy, slowly rises and falls as the stuffed smiling blue moon she loves so much dangles and twirls from her Olivia Owl Lamaze toy hanging next to her in her crib.
All is calm. All is quiet.


A chance for Mama to breathe deep, rejuvenate and recharge.

Oh, what a rarity these days. 

Earlier Olivia and I went for her routine Neonatal check-up at the hospital. NICU babies are required to meet with their Neonatal Pediatric Physician until they're a year old in order to ensure they're growing and developing correctly. Going up to the hospital alone still gives me weird anxiety, so I always make sure someone comes with me for these visits. Typically Carl joins me, but today was an earlier appointment which meant he stayed at work and instead my Mom accompanied Livie and I. Before the appointment we ate breakfast in the 'good cafeteria' on the 3rd floor of the hospital where, by the end of my 6 weeks of preggo bed rest I'd grown to obsess over their Belgian waffles with blueberries. My waffle today was just as good as I remembered during my pregnant food delusional state; and sitting in the cafeteria healthy again rather than sick and afraid was good for my soul. It's amazing how much healing can come from the simplest of things. Whoever said waffles were't miracles drenched in syrup?

In the Neonatal clinic Dr. White verified what we already know. That Olivia is healthy and happy and blowing raspberries every waking opportunity she gets. In 7 short months she's gone from 2 lbs 6 oz and 15 inches long to 13.5 lbs and 24 inches long. She's officially 5x bigger now than she was when she was born, and to this day it still strikes me as impossible she was ever that small. How true the saying is that the best presents come in tiny packages. Tiny loud packages that love to screech and chatter like a happy dolphin at 11pm. We talked about Livie's love of carrots, pears and avocado, the alarming smell and color of her poop since she started eating those things, and how impressive she is with her amazing fine motor skills. Olivia is a pro at pinching skin, holding on to any and everything with a death grip and pulling hair; just take it from me. She stands like a pro, hates to lay down and investigates her surroundings by shoving every single thing she sees in her mouth. Her determination, intelligence and perceptiveness continues to shock and impress everyone; and as a mother there's nothing more gratifying in life than to hear someone else appreciate your child's strengths the way that you do. 

And then, like the rumbling of the thunder in the distance moving closer, Olivia's whines - gentle at first - now grow fierce and angry. My quiet blog contemplation is over with a bang. She's awake. Rolling around and kicking the shit out of that little smiling blue moon she loves so much. If her cries were transformed into words I'm pretty sure they'd say something like "Get up, servants. I demand food and I demand it right now, dammit."  And in his groggy state Daddy is stumbling to her crib to scoop her up. With puffy eyes, flushed cheeks and rats-nest hair, the pair of them wander in the direction of the fridge where baby oatmeal mixed with breastmilk and pureed vegetables await her royal highness who demands food and demands it right now, dammit.

With the click of the bedroom door behind them all is calm. All is quiet.


A chance for Mama to breathe deep, rejuvenate and recharge.

Oh, what a rarity these days. 


Birth Announcement

Instead of framing a cute traditional birth announcement, I wanted to do something a little different. So, of course I took to Etsy. I love Etsy. In fact, I'm kind of an Etsy fanatic. And after searching what felt like 8,087 million different subway art or wall art options, I stumbled across the idea of a "birth story" that I could write and personalize. 

I ordered Olivia's birth story from The Bloom Studio. They have more traditional templates where it mentions holding your baby in your arms after an easy labor...but my labor was horrendous and Olivia was born via c-section, too small, and I was too sick to hold her until after she was a day old... so that 'traditional' template didn't work for me. I basically re-wrote my own story template to better suit Olivia's birth and they were SO receptive to all of my 'extra words.' 

I am in love with the finished result. Olivia's story makes me cry every time I read it. I still picture the snow falling outside my delivery suit as I'd wished. I remember laying on the operating table hearing her cry loudly for the first time and Dr. Capeless excitedly yelling "Do you hear that Amanda? She's crying. That's a fantastic sign. She's breathing on her own!" I remember shivering uncontrollably after my c-section and staring in astonishment at the cell phone picture my husband shared with me from his first visit to the NICU to see our brand new baby. Looking at her tiny body with his giant wedding ring around her arm, I felt overwhelming pride in my newborn daughters determination to prove all of the doctors wrong, and regardless of her prematurity and size, enter the world strong willed and determined. Reading the details brings me back. They make it real. They make me so unbelievably proud. They make me burst with love.

 Next to Olivia's first ever picture, this will take pride of pace on our family gallery wall. As will all of the other "birth stories" I write for our future children. 


Olivia Lynne: 7 Months

You are 7 months old and absolutely full of wonder, curiosity and giggles. Such a happy baby, you give Cheshire cat smiles to any and everyone. Everything within a 5 mile radius has been or soon will be in your mouth - especially your toes. You love food, but have a special place in your heart for carrots, broccoli, avocado and pears. Today you tried banana pancakes for the first time and thought they were so delicious you shared them with the dog and squealed when she licked your sticky baby fingers. Bobbi Jo Kitty is the most amazing thing you've ever seen and you sit silently admiring her fur. You adore your 5 year old friend Sophia and instantly crane your neck to see where she is the minute you hear her voice. You love to stand up and hold hands and can sit up all on your own, only needing a gentle guiding hand on your back. You're affectionately known as a drama queen and spend your days screeching or chattering to anything with eyeballs. Wash clothes are your chew toy of choice and Mommy and Daddy feel baby tooth bumps on your gums. You sleep all the way through the night and refuse to lay any way but on your tummy or side, just like Mommy. 
You amaze us every single day with your desire to learn and explore. You're so in tune to your surroundings and will spend minutes investigating the tiniest parts of your toys. I love that I can watch your little face and see the discovery in your eyes and facial expressions.
I've never been so unapologetically proud of someone in my whole entire life. To watch you thrive, grow and change is an absolute blessing.  


Olivia Lynne: Six Months

Today you're 1/2 a year. How can that possibly be? 

I feel like it was only last week I was snuggling your fragile little 2lb body in my arms; and now here you are. Nearly 13lbs of chunky yummy goodness blowing bubbles and screeching at your peacock mobile. Your smile is infectious, your chuckle is the cutest thing in the entire universe and when you eat your fingers your lip smackin' can be heard 3 counties over.  You love to roll, are so incredibly close to sitting up all on your own and pull Mama's hair and Daddy's beard like you're in a fierce competition of tug-a-war. You eat the lace curtains by the changing mat daily, love the Big Band station on Pandora and your favorite story is The Bear Went Over The Mountain. You are unstoppable. A true example of what a miracle looks like and every day you make your Daddy and I beam with unimaginable pride.

Back in November, as I laid in a hospital bed listening to doctors and nurses preparing me for life with a premature IUGR baby, I used to envision you at this age. Big, beautiful, full of sass and personality. You are all of what I'd imagined and so so much more. And I still whisper to you every single day what I used to whisper to you when you were wiggling inside my belly.

Prove them all wrong, grow big and strong.

We love you, Olivia Lynne. 
May the other 1/2 of your first year be as magical and unforgettable as the first.


The Routine.

Get up to crying baby. Change ginormous pee diaper. Change her out of her pjs and into something so cute I wish it were my size. It never is. Nurse her, half asleep with my head jerking backwards thumping against the wall. Burp her. Tuck her in bed, milk drunk, near daddy and pray she doesn't start screaming during the 3.4 minutes I'm in the shower. Barely spend enough time in the glorious warm water to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. Hurry to put my nursing bra on because, well, you other Mom's know. Get dressed. Realize those pair of pants don't fit like they used to and attempt to peal them off into a mocking ball of shame on the floor. Hurry to blow dry my hair, smear foundation over my face and mascara on my eyelashes. Start the Keurig. Run like a headless chicken filling the diaper bag with 45 diapers just in case an explosive code brown terrorizes the babysitter later that day. Yell to my husband to hurry up and get out of the shower, we're going to be late. Oh yeah, pack an extra change of baby clothes. Hurry to fill the cooler with breastmilk and my lunch box with food I somehow remembered to pack last night. Run back and make sure the change of clothes actually still fit her. Start the car. Begin brewing my coffee. Put my shoes on. Pick the baby up. Yell to my husband to hurry up because we're now late. Strap the baby into her carseat and sing my happiest tone deaf song. Tuck her into her blanket and put her mittens on...3 times in a row as she angrily waves them off. Pick the car seat up and begin the "carseat swing." Silence. Set the carseat down so I can grab my coffee. The baby starts to scream as if she's been told she'll never see a boob again. Beg my husband to hurry up and put his shoes on because we're definitely late. Pass the baby to hubby. Hurry out the door with my 675 bags and put the key into the ignition just in time for my car starter to time out and turn off. Start the car and put in drive to realize I've left my coffee sitting on the Keurig. Depending on the day 1) run inside, 2) say bugger it and carry on (normally option 2). Drive to the babysitters praying I don't get stuck behind the garbage truck or old woman who lives just off of Route 17. Drop Olivia off for the day, giving a preface of when the last major poop was. Drive to work hitting every single pot hole on the dirt road shortcut. Swear and wonder when I'll be able to actualy find time to bring the car in for another alignment. Arrive to work an hour early so I can pump and plan for the day. Spend 8 exhausting but wonderful hours chasing around 16 littles, dodging direct face sneezes and boogers and farts. Hop into my car feeling accomplished and deleriously tired. Meet hubby. Pick the baby up, who is wearing the change of clothes (thankfully it's puke not poop). Hurry home to nurse because my boobs feel like they're going to explode. Spend the next 5 hours with my child stuck to my chest and I desperately try to get organized for the following day. Eat dinner somewhere around 7:30/8. Hear the baby's exposive code brown. Realize her clothes are already stained right through, yet I spend the following 10 minutes desperately trying to scrub out that awful yellow stain. Now that she's pooped her brains out, she's happy and laughing. Until I give her a bath. Screaming. Like something from a horror movie. Put her in pj's. Cuddle her because she's so cute I can't stand it. Pump while hubby feeds her her giant before-bed-please-sleep-more-than-4-hours bottle. Change her new diaper that's full of pee. Put her to bed. Brush my teeth. Wash my pumping parts. Lay in the dark listening to that stupid singing seahorse as the baby talks and laughs. Kiss my husband and swear about how tired I am. Roll over and watch Olivia smile. Get up to rub her hand. Watch her eyes get heavy. Watch her breathing slow. Feel my heart explode with pride and joy. Wonder how I got so lucky. Stumble back to bed. Fall asleep with my head dangling off the bed. Wake up at stupid - o'clock to a crying baby and stiff neck. Do it all over again.


Pre-eclampsia: Part 1

It's been 5 months since I've blogged. 5 months. And while some of that is simply because I have so much to say I don't know where to begin; it's also (mostly) because every time I logged onto my blog it was painful. Painful because I was forced to stare at my last post. In my 25th week of pregnancy I am smiling, happy and healthy. Laughing about my baby brain and craving cinnamon...I am blissfully unaware of what the next 3 months have in store.

The scariest, most challenging, emotionally draining, physically exhausting and truly painful 3 months of my life.

And the truth is, while now I'm genuinely happy, utterly overflowing with love and unbelievably grateful...it was a hard journey getting to this point. It's a journey, in many ways, I wish I could rub  out with one of those big pink rubber erasers from kindergarten.

But I can't.
Pre-eclampsia was, in many ways, the very worst and very best thing to ever happen to me. And it's something that has become a part of my identity now. Something I think about daily. Something I am reminded of whenever I see a pregnant woman, the geometric dress I wore to work on the 16th of October, or my beautiful precious daughter. Never in a million years would I imagine that, at the age of 26, walking by a blood pressure machine in the drug store would continue to cause me horrendous anxiety. That I would grow to hate the swish-static sound of a fetal doppler. That I'd live in the hospital for 7 weeks and cry thinking about the park my Labor and Delivery suit looked out on to. That I would mourn for a "normal" pregnancy with a body that allowed my sweet baby the opportunity to fully grow and develop. That I would mourn for a "normal" delivery where I wasn't paralyzed and 'drunk' on magnesium sulfate preventing me from not only having seizures, but seeing or touching my child for the first 24 hours of her life.

You don't need to go through war to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But through the wide array of awful emotions, the scars and battle wounds, I learned how strong I am as a person. Pre-eclampsia taught me that. It made me, more than ever, appreciate my health, my body, my husband, my family, my friends, my community, my positive mindset. My daughter. It gave me one hell of a story to share with Olivia. A story that, in time - when I'm ready to re-live it - I'll share here too.