Summer with Littles (and Bigs)

Summer is here! We are finding our stride and I posted this photo on Instagram yesterday and the comments told me I should maybe resurrect the old blog and post about it. Here’s the deal: I love having my kids home. I love spending time with them. I love Summer – days at the pool, relaxed schedules, vacations, later bedtimes. I love it all.

But, I have 4 kids ages 1 – almost 7. That’s a lot of different age groups to cater to. Also, Nell was in school 3 afternoons a week last year rather than mornings, so she was only gone while Peter napped, so as far as Peter knows, he has never had a second of a day where Nell was not a part of it. And Peter and Nell love each other, but as summer was approaching I had the feeling that they’d already had too much togetherness and we were in for a LONG summer if we didn’t make a plan. Add to this the fact that last summer was postpartum mom fog combined with a newborn that couldn’t be out in the sun too much and we had kind of a lame summer. So as 2017 Summer approached, I decided to up my fun mom game. I wanted planned activities we could all enjoy together daily, a tiny bit of learning to keep the summer slide from happening, and lots of fun in the sun, outdoor time, and general summer activity fun.

So, I came up with weekly themes for us and I pinned a million activities for each theme, and we’re running with it.

Summer Schedule 2017

So far, the kids are loving it. I’ve tried to come up with a craft, a science activity, an active activity, loads of library books and a field trip for every theme. You can see what I’ve found on my “Summer Fun” Pinterest board. Now, not all of this is set in stone — at this point we have an at home summer planned, but if we decide to take a vacation one week, our vacation will become the theme. We will still play and go to the pool and read quietly at home and have a lazy, laid back summer…but with a tiny bit of structure to make our days go smoothly.

We’ve also got a chore system going that is working well and helping us all have some accountability for how we take care of our things and treat our home…maybe I’ll share that when I know it’s working for real.

Life With Four

We’re 3 months into life with four kids, and I figured I’d write a post about it for posterity’s sake. This is going to be very stream of conscious style because that’s how I roll these days.

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4 kids. B and I look at our kids sometimes and look at each other and say, “Man, we have a lot of kids.” Everywhere we go, people ask us if we’ve figured out how babies are made yet. I can’t go anywhere without being told my hands are full (they are!). We are, most places except Costco, treated like a walking circus act. And it’s wonderful. Crazy, but wonderful.

Truth be told, when I found out I was pregnant with Graham, I was a bit shaky.  I was never convinced we were “done”, but Peter was a really tough baby and I knew that at a minimum, I needed some time to just enjoy our family of 5. I prayed a lot asking for guidance on our family size. Not looking for controversy here, just saying: I’m Catholic, but I take issue with the Catholic church’s stance on birth control and strongly believe that a couple needs to make choices for their family – after lots of prayer, I felt pulled to research and consider an IUD, and scheduled an appointment with my OB. We were in Hawaii and I was watching our kids play on the beach (at the ages of 5, 3 and 15 months) and thinking, “Wow! I feel really at peace with this being our family. I’m good with this. Two years from now, I might actually get to read a book on vacation.” And then I found out that I was pregnant – while we were in Hawaii. Not a subtle answer to that prayer. The receptionist at my doctor laughed when I called to change that IUD appointment to a prenatal appointment. I told her, “I know it’s funny. I’m not there yet, but I will be someday.” I talked B into finding out if Graham was a boy or a girl – because the kids wanted to know, but I also think I secretly hoped it would help me connect to the idea of having another baby. Life was just busy already, and I didn’t have time to sit and savor the kicks or think about who this baby might be.

But, the second he was born? I couldn’t imagine our family any other way. I will pile my kids in the car or the stroller and I will think, “This is exactly how our family is supposed to be.” It helps that Graham is the best baby ever – we’re all smitten with him. I’d gotten rid of all the baby gear almost a year to the day before he was born, and we didn’t purchase much. I had kept our double stroller (though had told B 2 weeks before I found out I was pregnant – the day I sold our carseat – ha! – that I thought we were probably getting close to being able to sell it and just have a single stroller – LOLZ), the pack n’ play (Peter still uses it on trips) and our bouncer seat and the rock n’ play for visiting babies, so we had those. I found a Britax carseat and stroller system on clearance at Target right after Christmas and scooped up 2 – one for me and one for one of my best friends who was also pregnant after getting rid of the baby stuff. I bought a Solly Wrap because I wanted something cute and new and knew I’d be wearing this baby enough to justify the purchase.  I recently bought a play gym mat and a sitting-up device, and that’s what we have for baby gear.  And it’s great. I’m not looking disdainfully at giant plastic exersaucers in the middle of the floor.

So reality with 4 kids (ages 6, 4, 2.5 and 3 months): It’s nuts. 4 year olds are great with new babies. Thomas was awesome with Peter when he was born two years ago, and Nell is in LOVE with Graham. We’re pretty sure she thinks he’s her own real life baby doll. Thomas is in love with his baby brother, but he has a bigger life now – school and neighborhood friends and sports, and so while he loves his Graham time, he’s not overly interested. And Peter. He loves Graham. He loves him hard and he loves him fiercely, and the sentiment behind that love is wonderful, but it means Graham is attached to me in a babywearing device of some kind at all times that Peter is awake.

Logistically, we’ve kind of settled into 4 kids easily, though there are some learning curves we’re still working through. The first two weeks home were nuts – Graham was a great baby, but the other kids and their dynamics made those two weeks a blur. I felt like I was just starting to get my feet under me, and then we spent 3 days in the NICU with Graham (he’s fine, thank you, Jesus! – had some gagging issues that doctors couldn’t figure out, but it ended up being silent reflux – which B and I thought from the start until doctors started scaring the pants off of us), but after that coming home was crazy. I was on edge about Graham while he was asleep, trying to love on my big kids but really just wanting to hold that baby who had scared us to death.  I would say it took another 3 – 4 weeks – when I went off dairy and Graham stopped gagging – for us to really take a deep breath.

Now that our days are more normal, things are better. I do lose my patience more than I used to, and I’m working on that and asking for forgiveness when I do yell. Totally honest here: Especially earlier in the summer, I didn’t want to play with my big kids. I was tired and hormonal and on edge about Graham, and I felt like as soon as I sat down to play, Graham was awake or Peter was trying to feed Graham a baseball and I had to stop the games and it was way more effort than it was worth. I felt a ton of guilt over this, so I do make a better effort to play with them each day, though the really beautiful thing about having kids close in age is that they do just play together. I think Thomas has noticed this more than anyone and I’ve noticed that in his attitude – a little eye rolling and sighing and what I interpreted at the beginning of the summer to be a lack of appreciation for the things he does get to do. Part of that is normal for his age, part of it is my time being spread more thin – and all of it is being handled with parenting and one-on-one time when it makes sense for our family. Our best weeks are the weeks when B is out of town for work only because I always approach those weeks with plans: activities, help dialed in, meals figured out in advance, etc. Which tells me I just need to be better about scheduling our time and asking for help when B is IN town, but that’s not natural for me as I normally just like easy, relaxed days with my kids.

Room sharing is…interesting. It’s been almost 6 months since we moved Peter and Tom together and Peter does not fall asleep before 9pm because he’s so busy talking. This was a kid I put into his crib at 7 and he’d be asleep by 7:15 when he was in his own room. So, we’re working on that – putting Pete to bed first, trying to give him some wind down time before bedtime. It’s still a work in progress. B asked me the other day, “How much longer do we give this experiment?” as we listened to Peter chatter at Tom (not with – Tom was sound asleep) until 9:15. I looked at him, truly baffled, and said, “Honey, this isn’t an experiment. This is our life.” We laughed, he mentioned that we could bunk Tom and Nell together or put Graham in our room for a few months and give everyone their own rooms again. I feel like we need to stay the course, but I do feel guilt about it. I KNOW kids share rooms all the time, but Tom is an introvert and he craves his alone time and right now Peter is not really at a reasonable age. I KNOW that this will be good for both of them long term, but six months into this non-experiment experiment, I still feel guilty. I’ve googled “making a bedroom over a two story family room” more times than you want to know. It doesn’t look like a good idea. I’ve setup searches for houses in our neighborhood that have 5 upstairs bedrooms – they don’t appear to exist. We will stay the course, but if anyone has advice, I’m listening.

For the most part though, it’s crazy and loud and really fun. I love our family of 6. I do have to make a more concerted effort to spend time with each kid individually. B and I are trying to carve out date nights. Getting places on time (which is important to me!) is tough, and we have to get in the car about 10 minutes before we have to leave to make sure we are good, but we do it. We’ve booked our first vacation as a family of 6 and we feel confident that we can rock it. We broke down at bought a Toyota Sienna (we ordered it over a month ago, but we just got it last week) after trying to get us all to the mountains for the 4th of July and realizing we just can’t get our whole family and gear places in the Honda Pilot.  I knew it was practical, but I was reserved in my enthusiasm for that van. But after one day of running errands with all 4 kids in it and I’m googly-eyed in love with it for it’s function (that’s not to say that I’ll want to drive it forever, but for the next 6 – 10 years, it’s going to be great). I wish we’d bought it 2 years ago when we just had 3. Everyone asked me right after Graham was born and school was finishing what our plans for summer were and I would answer, “Survive with a smile on my face”, and I’d say I’ve done that.  I love our wild, crazy family. I am excited that as our kids grow up together, they will have the chance to be the best of friends. I love the idea of an overflowing Thanksgiving table when all our kids are home for the holidays in the future.

As for if there will be more? Nope. I mentioned above that I think couples need to make decisions for their marriage and their families – in our case with prayerful guidance – and our family needs to be done expanding until our kids get married and have babies of their own. Could we handle more? Probably. But I want to be present for all four of my children. I want to be at their games, and sit with them before they go to bed at night and talk to them about their days. I want to continue to prioritize my marriage. By the time I wean Graham after he turns one, I will have been pregnant or breastfeeding for 7 and a half years of my life. That’s a lot. And I loved that phase, but I will be okay with that phase being over when that time comes, and I’m looking forward to the next phase, however that may look!

Peter’s Pete-za Party

So, Peter is one. My baby. I am mostly excited, because here’s what I’m learning as these kiddos of mine insist on getting older: They get more and more fun with age. Except, possible for 2 and a half…that age is knocking me down a notch or two in my parenting game currently. But there’s a little, tiny part of me that mourns the baby stage. Peter is very likely our last baby. I say very likely because I’m not ready to declare us done with squishy babies 100% yet, and I have an excellent girl’s name just in case. But we’re so content. This family of 5 of mine is perfect, and in all honesty, I’m looking forward to not being in an endless pregnant/nursing loop – I loved it, I’m beyond grateful to God for my family and my healthy body that helped me sustain life for the last 5 and a half years, and now I’m kind of excited to see what else we can do. But enough about that, let’s talk about Pete’s party.

 

I’m not a party person. Just throwing that out there. Entertaining, while I enjoy it, can overwhelm me a bit. I often wake up in the middle of the night after a party worrying that no one had a good time. And I’m not a normally anxious person. I’m starting to piece together after a few Whole30s that maybe just maybe the sugar and alcohol I tend to consume at parties are what cause my head to spin worrying about things I can’t change after a party is over, but that’s another story for another day.

I didn’t feel up to a big 1st birthday party this year (or, let’s be honest, I’ve never felt up to a big 1st birthday party but felt pressured to conform…but by baby #3 I don’t care about what everyone else does ;)), so B and I agreed in advance that we would keep it to just family. Which is laughable because our in-town family alone means 30 people and there is nothing small about that, but family is family – they love you for who you are and I felt zero pressure to make anything pinterest worthy. I decided we’d have a Pete-za Party in honor of our Pete and one of his favorite foods, made up some adorable invitations, emailed them to our family because I knew I wouldn’t get them in the mail promptly, and that was that. We kept things simple: simple appetizers and snacks, take and bake pizza that we setup on the counter, and some simple, easy decorations. Peter had a blast watching his big cousins run around, he devoured a cupcake, and was passed from loving relative to loving relative for hugs and kisses all night long. And that’s all that matters!

As far as decorations go, I just printed out Peter’s monthly photos and strung them on my window in the living room.

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Wrote some festive things on a chalkboard or two that I had around the house:

monthly photo display

pizza by the slice

I made a homemade vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. Simple, non-themey and deliciously homemade.

simple homemade first birthday cake

I hung kraft paper in the bay window in our kitchen (his invitations were on kraft paper, too) because those windows wreck havoc on pictures of the birthday boy eating his first bite of cake. It also gave me a surface to hang pennants off of, which was nice. I wasn’t really feeling the typical red and green Italian theme, so I added navy and just used red in accents. That made my not-so-red-loving-self happy.

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first birthday party high chair

I plunked some fresh tulips in a tomato can for our homegrown pizza party:

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And that was that. A sweet and simple birthday party for our sweet Pete. And a celebration of our 1st year as a family of 5.

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My Favorite Sleepsack: Merino Kids Review

Peter is 9 months old. Where does the time go? I’m registering my oldest for Kindergarten and mentally preparing for my baby to be 1?! Crazy. He’s had a huge growth month. He’s crawling (which would make him our first kid to crawl), sitting up, pulling up to stand, and standing independently for a few seconds at a time.

These milestones have also wreaked havoc on his sleep. And he wasn’t the best sleeper to begin with. The biggest issue we’ve had is that he rolls over and sits and then isn’t willing to lay himself back down. But, I’ve recently been putting him in the awesome sleepsack by Merino Kids and it has helped his sleep a ton, and seems to keep him from sitting himself up. If I had known about these when Thomas was at this stage, I would have never had to buy another sleepsack again. And good news! Merino Kids is offering imperfect readers $20 off their cute polka dot sleepsacks!

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Tongue Ties, Milk Supply, and Frenectomies…Oh My.

Remember when I promised you guys a kitchen update, but also mentioned I’d had some sudden milk supply issues? Well, kitchen update is on hold because I threw out the need to finish up the cabinets to focus on feeding Peter and figuring out why he wasn’t gaining as much weight as he needed to. And it was a stressful week, but one I learned a lot from. Then we went on a family vacation to the Oregon coast, and so now I’m back…with an update on the breastfeeding sitch, a couple posts in the hopper, and hopefully cabinet hardware arriving this week so I can finish up this kitchen project and show you pictures.

Okay, let’s back up. Since birth Peter’s spit up a good amount and was fussy and colicky, but he was growing beautifully, so I wasn’t too concerned about the reflux and figured that I would attempt to eliminate the triggers of his colic and reflux before medicating him. I went off every food that could possibly have irritated him, without much improvement. A few days before his 2 month appointment, my mom was over and I was at my breaking point: Peter had been screaming for days on end, it seemed. So I called our pediatrician and asked what our options were. They prescribed baby Zantac, and he was, I thought, a happier baby. He still spit up a ton, but he wasn’t arching as much while eating.  His colic was improving with age and the use of a daily probiotic drop, so the fussiness was less – but I knew reflux was still at play. Somewhere around 3 1/2 months, I felt like he was spitting up more and more. Everyone always says that it looks like more than it is, but I felt like he was spitting up significant portions of each feeding. He was also a fussy eater again – he ate quickly and then screamed, and then spit-up. Classic reflux baby, but we were treating it. Anyway, I expected his weight gain to have slowed, but since he was packing it on in his first two months of life, it didn’t cross my mind he’d be dropping growth channels.

So, at his 4 month appointment three weeks ago, I was expecting him to be around 13.5 pounds when his previous chunking would have indicated he’d be about 14 pounds – and he clocked in at 12lb 3 oz. I was horrified. I immediately blamed myself and my milk supply – it was my fault because I’d been working out and eating clean. Our pediatrician was out of town, so we were seeing our practice’s very thorough PA. Before I continue, let me say I totally understand where our PA was coming from in this story – she’s a medical professional and she wants to see babies growing. I tend to be pretty calm about medical stuff – I rarely take my kids to the doctor when they’re sick because I know that a virus is a virus. I don’t call for every fever, we use a lot of natural home remedies for comfort and let fevers and viruses run their course. But, I usually choose appointments with this PA when we’re trying to diagnose something outside of a well check – Nell’s GI issues, for example, because I know she won’t say, “Let’s wait and see what happens in a week.” When I get to the point  with an illness or dilemma where I decide we need a doctor’s visit, I want to know we’re going to examine every option. But for well-checks, I tend to prefer to see our pediatrician since she’s a little more on my level in terms of  remaining calm. But anyway, we saw the PA, and she was very concerned about Peter’s very slow weight gain (he did gain, just slowly). And I was a hot mess. Now, having seen our PA with all three of my kids, I think I can say at this point that she’s not the most pro-breastfeeding – the practice itself is, but this particular individual wants hard numbers, which breastfeeding doesn’t readily supply. At every single appointment during the year I nurse my babies, her first question is “How many ounces are you pumping?” – even when my one month old is growing beautifully and gaining growth channels. When I tell her I’m not pumping, she asks me to start pumping once a day so she has a number to go off of. I always say, “I pump when I need a bottle”. Her recommendation was to exclusively pump for every feeding so that I knew exactly how much milk he was getting and to supplement him with formula to fatten him up.

Now, I firmly believe that asking a mom to exclusively pump to see if she’s providing enough milk to her child is a sure fire way to get the mom to stop breastfeeding. I know that one of the ways moms – especially first time moms – are told to help bring their milk in is by pumping. I was told the exact same thing with Thomas, and I spent the first month of his life obsessing over how many drops of milk drip-drop-drip-drop-drip-dropped into those damn Medela vials.  Because breast pumps suck. And pumping is stressful. And I know for a fact that if I had to exclusively pump, I’d struggle to provide my children with breastmilk for the first year of their life. I’d try, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t go well. When I was working when Thomas was a baby, I had to pump three times during the day and twice after he went to bed in order to make enough milk for his bottles at daycare the next day – if I’d had to pump for all his feedings, I would have been pumping all day. I have many friends who have determined their milk supply by how much they pump, and quit before their babies are a month old because they aren’t producing enough milk. I also know there are circumstances where moms don’t produce enough milk, but generally speaking, I think that the United States is a little broken in how they approach breastfeeding and babies and weight gain.

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Obviously there was a weight gain issue for Peter – his reflux was part of it, he was spitting up a good portion of feedings, and luckily, he performed his spit-up routine in the office so the PA could see just how much he does spit-up. We switched his reflux medication from Zantac to Prevacid which made a difference in his spitting up and demeanor. But, we did pre- and post- feeding weights at that appointment, and he was only taking about an ounce during each feeding. Which brought milk supply issues to the forefront. So I panicked. I posted here and you guys were awesome. I posted on instagram and you guys were awesome. And then, when my friend who’s working towards her IBCLC certification got back from her family vacation, I called her and she came running over to my house.  Where she told me everything I needed to hear:  That this is not my fault. That eating a healthy diet and exercising do not affect milk supply – that my body would starve itself before it stopped producing milk and to not stop taking care of myself as a result of this. Then she told me that I have successfully breastfed two babies, plus Peter for 4 months, and I can get my milk supply back up. It will take work, but I can do it. She watched Peter eat, she witnessed his fussiness and agreed he wasn’t taking a full feeding, checked his latch (which looked fine) and told me to go to a breastfeeding group lead by a lactation consultant she really respects for pre- and post- feeding weights, and more ideas, because she wanted me armed with numbers information when we went back to Peter’s weight check the next week.

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So, the breastfeeding group was great, and the lactation consultant was amazing – encouraging and logical, which not all are. She spent a lot of time with Peter and me – at this point I’d been pumping after every feeding for a week, so my milk supply was much better than it was a week before, but Peter was still not taking a full feeding, and still screaming afterwards. She watched him eat and thought his latch looked fine, but because of his screaming and the fact that he wasn’t taking a full feeding, she checked him for a tongue tie: and he was indeed tongue tied. I was shocked. Peter was my best nurser from birth, and I couldn’t believe it would take 4 months for the signs to show up. She explained lots of possible scenarios to me, but the long story short was: get the tongue tie clipped, get my milk supply back up, and feed the hungry baby. She sent me off with a plan for continuing to improve my milk supply by pumping 2 – 3 times a day – such a relief after pumping after every feeding – and a baby weight gain plan which included supplementing Peter with 2-4 ounces of the pumped milk (or formula if necessary) 2-3 times a day until his tongue tie was clipped so he could nurse more efficiently. The next day, thanks to my milk supply rebounding due to all the pumping, and the bottle supplementation of the pumped milk, Peter was up 8 ounces, up a growth channel, and we had an appointment for his frenectomy the following day.

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The frenectomy was simple and done with a laser in a pediatric dentist’s office. It took a couple of days for him to start using his tongue, and we were on our way off to Oregon for vacation, but a few days into vacation I noticed that he was eating much longer and I could actually see his tongue when he was eating.   This whole ordeal also took place during a huge developmental period for most babies, and his fussiness has been better over the last few days since that  developmental period has past, as well. And that’s where we’re at: Feeding Pete’s still a priority, but he’s continuing to catch up on weight gain – gaining just under an ounce a day (Pediatrician wants to see 1/2 an ounce a day so he’s currently over achieving), and is generally happier. And I’ve got a few gray hairs, now.

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Peter’s Nursery: Gray, Blue and Rugby Stripes

You all saw the blank slate nursery that was ready for #3 to be born so we could personalize it based on the baby and their personality. I had no real clue what to do with the room if Peter was a girl, though I’m sure I would have figured it out, but I was ready to run with a boy nursery plan when Peter was born. It’s mostly done now…I have a few projects to finish up, but I figured I’d share it now and share updates later.

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Peter’s nursery is very similar in shape to the nursery at our last house (here as a nursery for Thomas, here as a nursery for Nell), it’s just about 21 square feet bigger and has a wall in front of you when you enter, so we kept the furniture layout pretty similar because we knew it worked. Crib on the far wall, changing table on the opposite wall, chair floating in front of the big window.

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The bookcases we bought to flank the crib in Thomas’s nursery are some of my favorite things in the house. I adore them. But I wasn’t feeling the same layout for them, so I chose to just install one on the wall as you walk into the room. I’m planning to add a giant P for Peter above it soon, but taking three kids to Hobby Lobby is torture. If they don’t have a cart that fits at least a car seat and a toddler, I’m not going there anytime soon. That’s why Costco and I are so close these days. And you guys know I’m frugal – if I can make it myself, why pay major markup for something? But I’m tempted to just order the giant Pottery Barn P already painted navy blue and call it a day…sometimes $60 is worth your sanity, right? I digress.

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Peter’s crib is the same one that Thomas slept in. Thomas likes to tell Peter that a few times a day. “Your crib used to be my crib Peter. It was never Nell’s crib.” Siblings, man. Pete got his own crib sheets though. 3rd baby has to have a few things that are just theirs.

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We moved the IKEA Jenny Lund chair from Nell’s room to Peter’s room before his arrival, but I bought the pouf for an ottoman the week after he was born when it was on sale at Target, and I’m smitten with it. My mom made Peter a gray and white strip quilt just as she did for Tom and Nell.

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My absolute favorite piece of furniture I own is that $30 vintage dresser I found on Craigslist when I was pregnant with Thomas. It’s been the perfect changing table for all three of our kiddos, and I always remember putting Casco in my little red bug and racing to South Denver to pick it up after work one day. I’ve realized that I like at least one piece of old furniture in every room. Not beautiful, ornate antiques…I’m not fancy enough for that. Farmhouse style, simple, sturdy antiques. That dresser will always have a place in any home I live in, hear me now. I’m looking for a small scale, industrial-esque shelving unit to go above the dresser. I know exactly what it looks like in my head, just haven’t been able to find it in reality yet.

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The whale changing pad was just fun, so I bought it. It’s from the same collection of sheets that he has and was his baby gift from my parents, but I like that they’re not matchy-matchy…just coordinated.

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And although I love everything in the room, I think the rugby stripe curtains make it. Caroline and I made them when Peter was one week old. Because we had nothing better to do with our time. We cut a king size duvet in half and hemmed the edges. Peter’s window has a shade that pulls down that darkens the room, so we didn’t bother blackout lining the curtains, but I can always add blackout liner later if needed.

So that’s Peter’s nursery. It’s come along way from the bright blue make-shift guest room it was when we moved into the house 11 months ago.

Sources:

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl color matched in Behr paint

Bookshelves: Target circa 2010 (but knock-offs of these Pottery Barn shelves that are still available)

Crib: JCPenney 4 years ago

Sheets and Changing Pad Cover: Land of Nod

Crib Skirt: Pottery Barn Kids, no longer available

Chair: IKEA Jenny Lund

Ottoman: Target

Rugby Stripe Curtains: DIY from king size duvet cover (available at Target)

My Boys

I was really worried about how Peter’s arrival would affect Thomas. I knew Nell’s world would be temporarily rocked, but I also knew that she’s young enough (not quite 21 months older than Peter) that she’d quickly get over it and will honestly not remember life before she was the middle child. Thomas was over the moon about the idea of a new baby from the moment we told him. He’d ask us all the time when the baby was coming, and checked the calendar frequently to see when March was coming. He told me that he wanted the baby to sleep in his room – in his arms – and actually cried when B set up the crib in the nursery. I was worried that the reality of a new baby would not quite meet his expectations – especially since his memory of Nell joining our family is limited {at best – I’d say his “memory” of Nell being born is all thanks to our family photo albums, not his actual memory} since he was just shy of 2 when she was born.

IMG_8707 I was also worried because Thomas desperately wanted a brother. Not because he doesn’t love his sister, but because “I already have a sister, so now I need a brother.” And also, because he apparently has Manning brother-esque dreams for himself and Peter {we’ll worry about the fact that my sons playing football terrifies me and I’d rather they just be great soccer players and then become football kickers/punters in high school should they still have football dreams later}. I actually started to second guess our choice to keep the baby’s sex a secret until delivery because Thomas was so set on having a brother. We talked a lot about how the baby was going to be either a brother or sister, and either one would be wonderful. And I know that B and I would have totally handled Thomas being the older brother of two sisters well and made him so proud to be our boy, I know that it wouldn’t have really been an issue. But I was worried all the same about his sweet, sensitive heart.

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Well, all that worry was unnecessary. As we went into the final weeks, I was pretty sure we were having a boy (my original gut instinct has been right every time –  I never wavered on Thomas being a boy and told everyone that we didn’t know but that he was totally a boy, but with Nell and Peter I was never certain enough to shout my predictions from the rooftop, and I did a lot of second guessing my gut instinct throughout each of those pregnancies, but always went back to my gut instinct when asked right before delivering what my final guess was). And when Thomas and Nell came to meet Peter in the hospital, their reactions were priceless. Nell was interested for a second and then just wanted to snuggle with me and be held by me and ride the hospital bed up and down. I was happy to oblige. Since we’ve been home she’s far more interested in “Pete the Baby” (as opposed to her other favorite Pete – the cat) and she loves to look at him, kiss him and hold him.

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And Thomas? Was over the moon. He hasn’t stopped grinning from ear to ear since Peter was born, and he requests to hold him, kiss him and teach him things all the time.

Thomas and Peter

And Peter seems pretty content to hang out in his big brother’s arms.

Peter’s Arrival

My labor and delivery with Peter were super straight forward – and solidified my love for my OB and the nurses at the hospital where I deliver. It was the weeks and days preceding his arrival that were a little rough!

At 37 weeks I started having false labor contractions similar to those I experienced the week before Nell arrived – consistently about 5 minutes apart, lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. They started about 5pm and stopped around midnight and just never increased in intensity, so I knew they weren’t the real deal. But, I assumed at my 38 week appointment (which was actually at 38.5 weeks since my due date was a Friday and my OB takes Fridays off) that I’d be told this baby was coming soon – because I had one week of false labor with Nell and then she arrived on her due date. So I assumed #3 would follow the same pattern. But, at my 38 week appointment, I was dilated to a 1 and there was no sign that false labor had done anything. BAnd let me clarify – I’m a big proponent of keeping babies IN as long as they need to be in. But the nightly anticipation of whether or not this would continue and become real was putting me over the edge. For the next 4 days, I just ignored my contractions the best I could. I knew they were false labor, and didn’t want to put myself through another week of “Is it real or not?”. On Friday, February 28th I was 39 weeks and I told B I was having a baby that weekend. Not that I thought the baby was coming, but that I was officially 39 weeks so I was willing to try all the old wives tales to have the baby that weekend. I took Nell for a long walk after naps and had to stop every few minutes due to contractions. Got home and they stopped. On Saturday we woke up to frigid temperatures and snow, so we went to Costco just to walk the aisles. No progress outside of the typical, consistent but not increasing in intensity contractions.

Saturday after naps, our neighbors took Tom and Nell while B and I went out for one last date night before baby. We just did early bird special happy hour appetizers at a cute restaurant in a small town nearby, and were home by 6:30. We walked into our neighbors’ house to find them cleaning Nell up since she had just thrown up about 5 minutes earlier. Ugh. We were hopeful it was the Costco hotdog she’d inhaled earlier, but by 8:30 she’d had three baths and we’d changed the crib sheets 4 times and we knew it was a bug. I laid down with her in our bed at 8:30 and B woke me up at 9:30 to tell me he had to go into work to help with an issue that had come up, but to call him if Nell got worse. And as soon as B left our room, I started having intense contractions reminiscent of my labor with Nell. And I remember thinking…”I wanted a baby this weekend, but now we need to hold off and get Nell healthy.” B got called off on coming in about 30 minutes later, so he came home and as soon as he was in bed, I got out of bed and started walking downstairs. My contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting about 90 seconds, and getting increasingly harder to breathe through, so I was absolutely certain we’d be heading to the hospital in the morning if not sooner. We handled a few more puke episodes from Nell, and finally I fell asleep between contractions. I woke up on and off, but knew they had tapered off as soon as I’d laid down (normal for me).

Sunday, Nell was no worse for wear but B and I were exhausted. We walked Target, got things done around the house, and I went to book club after the kids were in bed. I continued to have regular contractions, though not the same intensity as the night before. So, Monday morning, I went into my 39 week appointment (at 39 weeks 3 days) with absolutely no expectations. But I was dilated to a 3 (further than when I got to Labor and Delivery with Nell!) and my OB thought the baby would come for sure that week. I knew that she was off every Friday, and since she’d been on call the weekend before, I also knew that chances of her delivering #3 were slim if we got to my due date – Friday – with no baby in our arms yet. I had intended to ask her to induce me at 40 weeks 3 days (after a successful VBAC with Nell my OB agreed to induce me with low dose pitocin instead of scheduling a repeat C-Section if necessary) at this appointment if the baby wasn’t here yet by then – I was anxious, done with false labor, and felt better about asking her to induce me after my due date than before.

She beat us to it though. She offered to strip my membranes (I agreed) and told me she thought that with my progress over the week, that would start labor. Then she said she thought we should come in Wednesday morning to be induced if it didn’t do anything since she was on call Wednesday night and gone for the weekend and she wanted to be there for my VBAC. We talked about it briefly, knowing we could change our minds, and agreed to the plan because we also felt strongly about having my OB on hand – since I’d had a successful VBAC with Nell we weren’t too worried, but the chances of things going wrong with a VBAC had both B and I convinced that we wanted my doctor at the delivery.  And then I went home, my mom, the kids and I went for a long walk – I was definitely having more intense contractions than my normal false labor – not on the scale of Saturday night, but increasing, and I thought we were making progress. And at 4pm on Monday, I threw up. At first, I was hopeful it was the start of  real labor since I’d been nauseous before heading to the hospital with Nell and had consistent contractions for the last couple hours, but instead, it was the exact same quick, but mean, stomach bug that Nell had. Throwing up all night did nothing but exacerbate the contractions. B took Tuesday morning off to handle school drop-off, and my mom came up mid-morning to get Nell, Casco and Thomas – knowing that we were possibly heading to the hospital on Wednesday anyway, and giving me a chance to rest.

After another day of regular contractions, and finally feeling up for eating real food Tuesday night, B and I figured we should just go ahead with the scheduled induction. I didn’t love the idea of being induced, but at this point, I was done with the 3 week long guessing game. We went to bed at 8:30 on Tuesday, and woke up Wednesday morning ready to go. We got to the hospital at 7:30, they started pitocin at 9 after checking me. I was a 4 – 5 and at that point admittable regardless of being induced or not. Low dose pitocin didn’t do anything for me – I was having regular contractions but they weren’t unbearable at all, and it didn’t help that baby kept slipping off the monitors when I was walking – and being a VBAC, I needed to be monitored. A little after noon my OB came in to break my water and mentioned that if this was how my last 3 weeks had been with consistent but not intense contractions, she couldn’t believe I hadn’t come into labor and delivery weeks ago. So anyway, my doctor broke my water and then…whoa. I immediately was having excruciating contractions. I had every intention of having an epidural again this go around, but didn’t want one until I needed one. And within a minute of having my water broken, we were paging the anesthesiologist. At this point, I noticed that B was not himself. The anesthesiologist came in to give my the epidural and B turned gray during the process. I would love to say that he was just getting jittery, but I knew that look and knew he was getting what Nell and I had. As soon as the nurses were out of the room, I told B to do what he had to do – if he needed to go sleep in the car, go home, go throw up – whatever it took. I remembered how miserable I was and knew he couldn’t power through it. I also knew that he would be devastated if he missed the delivery. He left the room a couple times to regroup, but was a trooper. And luckily, after my water broke, things went fast. My epidural never really took, and they couldn’t tell if it was the administration or how quickly I was progressing. Within 20 minutes I’d gone from a 4 to a 7. Nurses were in changing my position to keep the baby on the monitor, and were worried that baby’s heart rate was dropping a bit more than they were comfortable with. Turns out, Peter was just booking it to get to the world and was dropping faster than expected. At two, they checked me and I was complete. They called my doctor, turned off the epidural that had just started working about 30 minutes earlier and waited for my doctor and all the nurses to arrive. My doctor came in, B tried to rise to the occasion and I started pushing sometime around 2:30. At some point, B had to go sit down, and my OB commented that he didn’t look good. At 2:53, baby was out and my OB announced that we had a boy. B stood up – feebly – to come cut the cord and then ran back to his chair in the corner.

 

Peter wasn’t named yet, but he was on my chest immediately and he started nursing within about 10 minutes. My recovery from my c-section with Thomas wasn’t really that bad – I’ve heard horror stories about people not being able to go upstairs for weeks or months, but I was back to my old antics the day we got home from the hospital. But the hardest part of that c-section for me was what felt like an excruciating amount of time between Thomas being born and getting to hold him and feed him. After Nell’s VBAC, a lot of people asked me if I’d do it again. And recovery wise, I didn’t feel that there was one superior delivery method for me, but I would choose a VBAC every single day just to get to hold my baby immediately and nurse as soon as the babe is ready. So when Peter was placed on my chest, I relished that moment, knowing it was likely the last time, and knowing how lucky we were that we had a team that supported me in my desire for VBACs after a complicated first delivery.

It took us about 45 minutes to officially settle on Peter – which was our front runner of a few different boy names going into the hospital but we wanted to be sure before we committed – but that’s another story.

Peter Michael

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of Peter Michael McKevitt (initials coincidentally the same as Peyton Manning McKevitt – absolutely not intentional). Peter arrived on Ash Wednesday – March 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm after a quick and relatively easy second VBAC.

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We are all over the moon – Thomas especially. He spent 5 minutes this morning teaching Peter how to pass a football. I’ll be back with more details on Peter’s arrival soon, but right now, B and I are juggling and snuggling our three babies (plus Casco!) and feeling like the luckiest people in the world.

Just Checking In

To say that Peyton Manning McKevitt is not here yet…but two and half weeks of consistent, but false, labor contractions have me thinking about very little beyond getting our family through each day and PMM’s impending arrival. I’m officially due this week, so I’ll keep you all posted when he or she does choose to arrive!