Friday, April 29, 2016

Garden Talk I

It's amazing how when spring starts to come it just comes on all at once. All of a sudden it feels more like summer than springtime. And for us, that means lots of outdoor living. I've slowing been putting the finishing touches on the new herb garden. A rabbit ate one of my plants so off to Home Depot I went for a little garden fence. It seems to be doing the trick!

Ryan added these globe lights for me and I love them. Our intention is to extend them around the entire patio. We have loved being able to eat out on the patio!

The herb garden: mint, basil, parsley, German thyme, rosemary, cilantro and one Roma tomato plant (replacing the cherry tomato plant that was eaten!). 

I made little markers for the plants with wine corks, a sharpee and wooden skewer sticks. Gotta love Pinterest!

And I'm not entirely sure, but I believe these are the sunflowers C and I started back in March! I planted them here a few weeks ago when they started to look a little puny inside and then forgot all about them.

In the raised beds: celery, sage, oregano, several varieties of tomatoes and peppers (California bell pepper, jalapeno, pablano and ghost), zucchini, squash, carrots and strawberries.  I wasn't planning on doing this many vegetables but friends and neighbors offered the tomato and pepper plants they'd grown from seeds, and I couldn't turn them down. The strawberry plants came up from last year, but my last little visitors picked all the flowers before I realized what was going on so there probably won't be too many strawberries!

My process involves mixing Black KOW with the existing dirt, digging a whole, adding crushed egg shells and then placing the plant with loosened roots. Last, but not least, water, water, water.  

And blooming elsewhere:

Daisies and Sweet William coming up in the front. I love how the daisies follow the sun. In the morning they're facing the porch and by late afternoon are pointed towards the street. 

The grape vine is making a comeback! I never did anything with all the grapes from last summer...maybe this year! 

Bearded iris in the front bed putting on a show.

The yellow rose bush is in full bloom. No sign of the Chicago rose I planted next to it last year :-( 

I had to e-mail Net a picture of these and ask if it was a flower or a weed. She said columbine flower! It's pretty! I love having an old yard - you never quite know what will pop up from year to year!

It's next to the peonies. As of this morning the first flower has opened! Peonies may be my new favorite flower. At least until the hydrangeas bloom!

We love our little patio! Caroline is so proud of her outdoor highchair. Al fresco season is in full force around here :-)

Hope you have a good weekend! Ryan and I are having one last date night before Baby 2 and we've hired our first babysitter. Gulp. I feel like a real grown-up! Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seven Months & Some Serious Skills

Caroline turned seven months last week and it is AMAZING to me the skills she seems to be learning on a daily basis. This baby girl is taking longer naps too - I think her brain is trying to play catch up! Sunday morning Ryan found a very sharp little tooth trying to come up on her bottom gums. It's not visible yet but it's definitely there!

I snapped this picture of her in Falls Park on her seven month birthday. We'd been walking on the Swamp Rabbit trail and got out of the stroller to get closer to the ducks (she's fascinated by all animals but particularly ducks and Ryan is so thrilled about this). Sitting up unassisted has been a gradual skill. She's been able to do it for awhile, but she's so used to having the bobby pillow behind her that she'll just fling herself back. She's learning though!

I walked into her room one day afternoon last week to find her awake from nap and up on all fours just having a blast. She was so tickled with herself. She's also started cuddling into my shoulder and giving me a hug when I pick her up from the crib. It's the sweetest thing. 

And the seven month sticker is the first to get totally destroyed during our photo shoot! 

Crawling is going to happen any day now. Pepe is not so thrilled about this development. He'd prefer it if we all just gave him a personal space bubble. In the picture below, she'd made it about four feet across the floor to get right next to Pepe. It makes Pepe so nervous! 

Our schedule is very much the same with bottles at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Although that last bottle usually gets started by 6:30 p.m. or so. She has six ounces at all the bottles except the last when she has eight ounces. 

We usually start supper around 5:45 p.m. She's eating three ice cube sized servings of vegetables (butternut squash is by far her favorite) and meat (pureed steak is the only meat we've had so far). She's also had broccoli, carrots, yellow squash, green beans and sweet potatoes. Supper is followed up with a bath (so fun!) and then the final bottle. Then she'll play until 7ish when we'll read a book and go to bed. She usually falls straight asleep without a peep. But if she fusses it's for her passie or Duckie.

Playtime after bath and bottle has quickly become one of our favorite times of day. She's so happy and eager to show Ryan any new skills she's learned during the day!  

I noticed our first bit of separation anxiety over the weekend. Fortunately, she's still easily distracted by her toys! And she's starting to reach for us which is so wonderful. She's happy to be dropped off at the church or gym nursery and gives us big grins when we come pick her up.

A friend told me about The Wonder Weeks app and we've followed it since Caroline was born. It's based on a research by Dutch scientist Dr. Frans Plooij (he did a lot of his early research in the 1970s with Jane Goodall on infant development in free-living chimpanzees).  Basically, the app tells you (based on due date) the time frame your baby will hit development milestones. So currently, Caroline is in Leap 5 and discovering the perceptual world of relationships (between weeks 22.5 and 26.5). So far, it's been spot on. The app tells you the signs that indicate the leap is happening like:

-baby starts to protest when being dressed or when a diaper is changed
-baby grabbing or "talking" more often to a teddy bear (Duckie in our case!); a sign the baby is looking for comfort

And then the abilities that develop during the leap like:

- shows immense interest in details such as zippers, labels or stickers
- tries to untie laces (and in C's case lick the bottom of my tennis shoe)
- protests as dad or mom walks away
- imitates sounds with her tongue
- stands up with a little help or pulls herself into an upward position

These are all signs and abilities that I'd noticed but didn't really connect them to a development leap until reading about them. The app also gives you a calendar to look ahead as to when you can expect leaps, fussy periods and happy periods. Anyway, the nerd in me loves this kind of information!

Happy seven months to our precious, dipple-kneed little girl! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thoughts on Adoption & Pregnancy

It's recently dawned on me that my precious baby is 7 months old and I am almost 9 months pregnant. Even though I've had months to get my head wrapped around this time frame, it's still seemed to sneak up on me. And I'm beyond excited! At my 36 week appointment I met a physician whose children are 10 months apart. They are now in middle school with a similar story of adoption and pregnancy that all happened at around the same time. She assured me it was the most fun thing ever, her children were the best of friends, and we should just be prepared not to go out to eat for about three years!

The big stuff is done. There are two car seats, two cribs, two cases of diapers (sizes 2 and newborn), two double strollers (and one single stroller) and a car with a big enough back seat to keep them both safe. We even have a few blue things in case it's a boy. Compared to what we had a few weeks before Caroline was born, we are on top of everything! We still aren't sure on names but have a few top choices and are waiting to see the baby to make any final decisions. That worked with Caroline. As soon as we held her we knew Caroline Grace was the perfect fit.

Look at how fast Caroline is growing! On the left, Caroline at my first regular OB/GYN appointment when I was 11 weeks pregnant and then more recently at my 36 week appointment (notice how she has her ankles crossed in both!). I was so glad Ryan was able to join us for that first appointment as I was beyond certain that they'd find something wrong. Thankfully, everything looked great and we saw the tiniest little human dancing away on the monitor. (And in keeping it real, a few minutes after I snapped this photo, sweet C had her first blow-out. Let me tell you how tiny those tiny exam rooms feel when there is an explosion of stink. The nurse had to leave the room. The doctor, who I might add was busy examining me, laughed as Ryan changed her at the top of the exam table about two inches from my face. She made some comment about how this was just the beginning).

So some random thoughts of someone who spends way too much time each night trying to get comfortable:

* I've gotten to that point where strangers in the Target parking lot come up and offer to bring me a basket. It's really quite nice! Nothing makes people as likely to stop and chit chat as an adorable baby who smiles at everyone who passes and a mama who is obviously very pregnant. (And I'm sure a few of them are thinking "well they didn't follow doctor's orders!").

* Most of the time the friendly chatter is very pleasant. I was in Old Navy awhile back looking for maternity clothes and this older employee comes up to me and makes a big fuss over Caroline. She kept saying, "Your mommy is so pretty, she's trying so hard for you. I can tell she's doing a great job." It then dawned on me that the lady thought I was just still very pregnant looking for someone who had a five-month old. I resisted the urge to tell this stranger my life story and got out of there as quickly as possible! I wasn't sure weather to laugh or cry. I laughed. 

*It's been fun watching people's expressions as they do the mental math of Caroline's age and a May due date. One day Caroline and this little sibling will have lots of fun confusing people. I hope being "Irish twins" is something that will bind them in an extra special way. (I also hope the term Irish twins isn't offensive to anybody reading this, because I'm very proud of my Irish ancestors!).

*Since we didn't tell any of our family or friends  (or even really talk about it with each other) until we were more than halfway through, this pregnancy has seemed to go by really fast. In a way, I regret that we didn't get overly excited about it at first, but I think when you've been through multiple losses it's just self protection. And I was so busy falling in love with Caroline that I tended to forget I was pregnant (until morning sickness reminded me!). Bonding with Caroline was immediate and felt like the most natural thing in the world.

*I read this article awhile back and it really resonated with me. I never considered breast feeding Caroline, but was really amazed by the number of people who questioned why I didn't even try! For the record, I don't believe formula inhibited our ability to bond. The first time I heard her cry, I couldn't even see her, and I knew that was my baby and her cry. It was all I could do not to grab the clipboard out of the hands of the nurses aide who was holding us up with an "unofficial question about how naming a baby worked in our type of situation" and bonking her on the head with it. Thankfully, Ryan was there and quickly moved us away!

*So many people, upon learning that we are pregnant, have said something to the effect of, "I knew that would happen" or "You always hear of that happening! The stress is gone and BAM you get pregnant." I know that we are not unique in this situation of having an adopted child and biological child so close in age. I also know, however, that it's not always the case. And that had we never gotten pregnant, we would have felt complete with Caroline. And while these type of statements are said with the best intentions, I hope these people are careful in the way they "encourage" couples struggling to conceive. Sometimes people (with the best of intentions) say the most hurtful things.

*Probably like everyone else who goes through a tough medical issue or tragedy, I never dreamed that our struggle would be growing our family. When we married, children seemed like something a long way off but most definitely in our future. And when we deemed the timing was right to start "trying," it never occurred to me that we wouldn't conceive within a few months. And before we knew it a few months turned into well over a year. Over the next few years a couple of miscarriages tested us in ways we never imagined. Ultimately, we learned how to handle them in a "healthy" way (if there's such a thing) and with the help of some fertility specialists both in Mississippi and South Carolina did all that we were medically comfortable with pursuing. As I've mentioned before, it was our senior pastor who encouraged us to pursue adoption AND the best medical care we could reasonably afford. For some reason, I'd been set on pursuing one or the other exclusively.

*When it became clear our only medical option left was IVF, we decided to just drop all fertility pursuits and focus on adoption. I am in no way against IVF and for many people it's the only option to grow their family. It's just something that for us didn't feel right. My feelings were that God was saying this door is shut. You can't know why. It doesn't really matter why. After I stopped banging on the fertility door, the window of adoption that we had already started exploring just kept getting bigger and bigger. Adoption had in fact, been tucked in the back of my mind since a high school mission trip to Russia where our group spent a day in a orphanage of special needs children that were all being adopted by American families. Over the years of our fertility struggles we'd looked into adoption on more than one occasion but never found anything that felt exactly right. We even had one international agency tell us we were too poor on paper to adopt when Ryan was in med school.

*Anyway, looking back at the way we ended up in South Carolina for residency - which really wasn't even on our radar when Ryan started the interview process - to the friends we made and the church we choose that all directed us to Special Links and thus to Caroline - it's apparent that this was God's plan the whole time. As always, so much better than anything we could ever imagine. My mom and I were talking about this the other day and she brought up the scripture,

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.."   Ephesians 3:20

It sums up our little growing family just perfectly!

I'm more than happy to talk about our adoption/fertility journey if you or someone you love is going through this! It can be very isolating. Please just get in touch!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekend Re-cap: Honey Do-ing, Sound of Music & Baby Brunch

This weekend was jammed back with projects and fun from Friday to Sunday. Ryan's looking forward to going back to work this morning and leaving my honey-do list behind. While he worked all weekend, I feel like I got to play for three days!

Not only did Ryan tackle my honey-do list, but he helped with a friend's too! Kati and Wil are renovating their kitchen and it was like watching Fixer Upper. They hoisted this support beam and then took down the wall. I'm so impressed people do this in real life. I would never have the nerve! 

My cousin, Kristina, is working in Charlotte this week and so she flew in a day early to visit. We started off our girls night out at Sip - the rooftop wine bar downtown that I love. I'd so wanted to take her and James when they visited at Thanksgiving but since my pregnancy was secret I couldn't figure out how to go and not drink! But she told me they'd guessed after James overheard my morning sickness :-)

We hadn't counted on it being a prom weekend and the first four restaurants we tried were booked up for supper until after 9:30 p.m. We ended up at The Playwright, an Irish pub, that was amazing. 

I finally got to try Scotch Eggs. These are always mentioned in the British chick lit books I read, and I've been wanting to try one. It's basically a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat that's been breaded and fried. It didn't disappoint!

Our big event was seeing Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music at the Peace Center. It came as part of the Peace Center's Broadway Series and was fabulous. The stage sets were amazing and all the actors were great. The von Trapp children were especially good. 

And Sunday morning we relaxed at the house. Kristina brought Caroline this little flamingo and in honor of Kristina's visit I'd gotten Caroline these flamingo pjs with palm trees for the weekend! I think Kristina has embraced south Florida! She was so sweet to help me in the nursery and as Ryan called it "do all the girl things" on my honey-do list! Ryan hung the curtains and Kristina made them balloon and look pretty (I went with these). 

She was also sweet enough to snap a few family photos for me. I wanted some more of just the three of us before we add number four! 

And my sweet friends had the most lovely Baby Brunch to celebrate the new baby at Roost Sunday morning. A brunch downtown with a few of my favorite girlfriends seemed like the perfect way to celebrate this baby (I hadn't wanted a shower since they all just did so much for Caroline a few months ago!). And I ate so, so much that I probably won't be measuring small at the doctor this week! They were even really sweet to try and not freak me out with their own labor and delivery stories! And little Oliver was the perfect reminder that it's all worth it - he slept through the whole thing. 

Maggie & Jennie - I feel so fortunate to have the most supportive, loving group of fellow residency wife (and resident) friends. Thank you girls!

And Sunday afternoon we got Caroline up from her nap and then headed downtown for a little shopping and (more) dessert. First chocolate sea salt King Pop of the season! 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Almost Crawling

We're keeping the video camera handy these days because Caroline is so, so close to crawling. She can scoot backwards and sideways and will get up on her knees and rock for a second before going back flat. Yesterday morning she made it about five feet from where I put her down on a blanket over to where Pepe was laying by the sofa.

He's not as obvious as Scout in his affections for any of us, but he really does care! I love how she pats him on the nose!

Hope you have a good weekend! My cousin Kristina is coming into town and she and I are having a night on the town this evening. And my sweet friends are celebrating Baby Two tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to all of it! Happy Saturday!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nanny Scout

My favorite character in Peter Pan is the dog, Nanny. Scout is well on his way to becoming this for Caroline!

When we're having a fussy afternoon (usually due to lack of a good nap!), I call in Nanny Scout for entertainment help...

Notice how she's chucked her toys his way. This dog is earning his Kibbles 'n Bits these days!

Watching whatever Scout is up to outside is also a favorite activity. This dog can chase shadows of bugs for hours and Caroline never tires of watching! She can be completely over whatever it is I'm doing trying to get her calm and the second she sees Scout she's immediately so distracted she forgets to be upset. 

Now if only Scout could learn this trick!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Photography has changed so much since I was in high school. I took pictures for the school paper on a regular 35 mm camera and by the time I was taking photos for the paper at Ole Miss I was using a fancy digital camera. At some point in college I had that camera that was in between film and digital where you just popped in the roll. I can't even remember what it was called (maybe Kodak Advantix???)! And of course now my iPhone is better than the point-and-shoot Nikon I bought on a trip to New York several years ago. There's even a term for iPhone photography: iPhoneography. I did not know until recently that this was a real word! Anyway, this post is dedicated to my new favorite word: photography + iPhone = iPhoneography.

A week or so ago the A Cup of Jo blog featured an article on the 9 Times to Take Photos of Your Children. As ya'll know, I take a lot of photos of Caroline (understandment of the century!). And am so glad I'm not limited to a roll of 24 photos on film. Our budget couldn't handle all those one-hour processing fees! So thank you Apple and Steve Jobs for all you did in making my cell phone a camera. And although I'd love a "real" camera one day, for now, the iPhone is just fine. The most popular tidbit of parenting advice I hear from the older members of our gym is to take as many photos and videos as possible, because they stay little for such a short amount of time. Challenge accepted:-)

In the tub

While they are sleeping

We must have four things for nap: Duckie, Ellie, blanket and Gloworm. Plus a passie!

This baby girl loves her loveys. And notice her sweet little socks!

She caught me!

Against a wall

Not exactly against a wall, but since she can't stand I thought our shadows in the library parking lot would do. Does anyone else think of Peter Pan every time they see their shadow? Also, notice that little wisp of hair on the back of Caroline's head. It refuses to lay down!

With mom


We don't really wear shoes yet so I thought I'd capture our feet instead. 

In the air

Favorite toys

This Fisher-Price toy was a favorite of Mary Thorne's and Poppy's. Caroline thinks it's pretty cool as well. 

This little wooden circle is a German Haba toy that I found at our local toy store. We got it for her half-birthday happy. She loves to pull the string and make the inner ball move and also chew on it. She doesn't look too thrilled in this picture - I think we were at the end of our afternoon!

"Skunk" is actually a cat and was a Christmas present from the Blackards. She loves this thing. Even though we don't really use the bumbo seat anymore she still loves to play with him. 

Blurry photo - ugh! She loves this little car from Ikea that Sis and EM gave her. It has two parts that pop on the top that can be rearranged. 

And the Johnny Jumper. What would we do without this? I love that I can put it up wherever I am in the house and she can hop away. 


From behind

I love the idea of taking these same series of photos every few months. From day-to-day it's hard for me to see how much Caroline has grown. But then when I go back a month or two and look at photos she seems to have changed so much. Like in this last picture, her sweet bald spot is just about gone! Being half way to one is such a sweet age and stage and I'm trying to soak it all in.

And I found this article on iPhone photo taking techniques enlightening. Am I the only person who didn't know you can take a photo with the volume control button on the iphone and not just the center button (see tip #2)??? And the same author offers more tips here in "A Quick-Fire Guide to Better iPhone Photography." Blu-tack is definitely on my next Wal-mart list - I've never thought of using it for a tripod.