Lillian’s 1st Month!

Lillian Mary, you turned 1 month old last night Little Love! IMG_E9781

Lillian Developments: As of your appointment this morning, here are your stats:

Weight: 9 lbs 10.5 oz (60%)
Height: 22.5″ (96%)
Clothes: 0-3 months
Diapers: We’re finishing out our stash of Newborn diapers then moving to Size 1 this week. IMG_E9812

Lillian it is such a (heart-wrenching) joy to watch you grow and develop each day. You are spending more defined time awake and asleep and we love staring into your big beautiful eyes while you’re awake. They are still a deep, dark blue – almost a navy or charcoal blue. I am so eager to know if they will stay this color or change! IMG_9712IMG_9741IMG_9586

You have a little baby acne and slight flaky-baby-face but it isn’t too bad.IMG_E9718

Your eyelashes and eyebrows have grown in a lot the past couple weeks and it seems like your hair is getting a little longer too, although you are rubbing off a little in the back where you sleep. You head is still a perfect little shape though! IMG_9595IMG_E9513

You sometimes like tummy-time but it depends on the moment. IMG_9015IMG_9498

Eating: You’re a great eater. You nurse for 5-10 minutes / side and typically have a few good spit-ups each day. I love the sweet little noises you make while eating. You are easy and nurse anywhere from in bed with me to the playground to the church pews to the parking lot… such is life! PWOPE6848IMG_E9752IMG_9497

You’re still 100% mama’s milk but we’ve given you a bottle a few times just to expose you to it and make sure we have the option. The goal is to give you a bottle around once/week. I am still not pumping (I hate it!!) but using these guys as milk catchers I have frozen over 250 oz already. IMG_E9023

Sleep: Praise the Lord for a great sleeper! You nap well in your carseat and do some short naps in your bunny seat but you sleep the best swaddled up in your bassinet or our little Moses basket (OR in someone’s arms!). IMG_9507IMG_9533

You are pretty reliant on having a pacifier to fall asleep (especially if you’re not being held) but you are getting better at keeping it in so getting you to sleep at night or fall back asleep after your night feed is getting faster. In the beginning I was up about 1.5 hours with you for the night feed but you’ve gotten easier and lately you’ve been closer to 45 minutes start-to-finish. I’ll take it! IMG_9637IMG_9549PWNC5301

Schedule: We are on a similar schedule as we were 2 weeks ago but, little by little, you are pushing your middle-of-the-night feed later and I am really hopeful that in the next month it will merge with your morning feed so we will be done waking up in the night! For now we are pretty regular:

7:30 am Morning Feed 1
11:30 am Feed 2
3:30 pm Feed 3
7:15 / 7:30 pm Feed 4
9:30pm Feed 5 then change diaper, get wrapped and go to sleep (asleep by 10:30pm)
4:30am Night Feed 6 (on demand)

Here is a screenshot from my nursing app (Baby Connect).

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Notes: We have had a wonderful first month with you. When you were two weeks old (right after my last blog post), we celebrated Easter as a family of 5. It was special that your first church service was Easter Sunday. Our celebrations were very simple – just church, an egg-hunt in the backyard and brunch with Gigi and Pasha – but very sweet time together as family celebrating the Risen Christ. IMG_E8985IMG_E8989IMG_E8967IMG_E8999

After two glorious weeks of paternity leave, Dad had to return to work. He said that he wasn’t ready to go back and I know that the rest of the family wasn’t either but it was funny how quickly and naturally everything felt normal again. You came right along for all of our everyday routines: drop-off and pick-up from Colt’s preschool. Trips to the park. Play dates with friends. Dinners in or out. You’ve just fit right in. IMG_9638IMG_9610IMG_9649GDBH8242

Your brothers have been VERY sweet with you – always talking to you in sweet voices, rubbing you very gently, making sure that people wash or sanitize their hands before holding you, giving you soft kisses… – but more of the time they’re just busy doing their own thing or playing with each other. Your arrival seems to be a positive in their worlds but also kind of a non-event (sorry!). IMG_9654IMG_9658IMG_9766IMG_9045

You’re a lucky little girl to have such sweet, fun big brothers. IMG_9600IMG_9605IMG_9674IMG_9670IMG_9667IMG_E9690IMG_9698

During Dad’s first week back at work Nana Harper came to visit! She was here Wednesday night – Sunday morning and we had such fun with her. She did a lot of playing with your brothers but also loved snuggling you. She couldn’t get over your beautiful dark hair. BDFV8049HTWE7803RBBO9997IMG_9538.JPG

Then last weekend she was in town again for some meetings and spend another couple days with us. She watched Colt and Finn one afternoon while Dad and I took you with us for a little day-date. It was a beautiful day so we strolled to Clarendon, sat outside, had white wine and oysters and just fully enjoyed ourselves. IMG_9737.JPG

We’ve taken you to church the past 3 weeks and you’ve hardly made a peep. Since you eat at 11:30 am (and the past couple weeks we’ve gone to the 11 am service) I’ve just fed you right in the sanctuary during the sermon. We sit towards the back and try not to be distracting but you’re just so easy! img_9493.jpg

This past Sunday Dad took off for a week-long work trip to Brazil (he’ll get back Saturday morning) and that was hard for all of us. He was not ready to leave you for that long and I cried for a solid 5 minutes after his car pulled away. You are so easy and your brothers are good too but the logistics of it alone – even when everything is running perfectly smoothly – is exhausting. Thankfully my mom came Monday evening and will be here to help us throughout the week. IMG_E9735

Mom: In some ways, my adjustment with you has been the easiest. My physical recovery has been easier, less painful, faster. Nursing was second nature. I feel like I know what I’m doing with you and am not stressed out, reading books or worrying. I’m already a stay-at-home mom and have an existing structure and routine that you have melded into (versus a baby completely altering what daily life looks like). Colt and Finn have each other and are such great friends that they continue on in their normal as well. I’m certainly tired – doing everything I was doing before but now with less sleep and one more person to care for (who I literally sustain with my own body), and the days are demanding, but none of that stuff has felt like a huge adjustment.

And yet, something about your arrival has really hit me hard. You have such a special place in my heart. I was holding you yesterday and was just in tears with the joy and the heartbreak of it all. It’s almost too much for me to handle.

The JOY and the BLESSING of YOU, sweet one, just as you are. Of your precious little body and head and eyes. Of your perfect, funny sounds and amazing baby smells. Of all that we can see and know of you today and of all the mystery that we have yet to discover.

And the HEARTBREAK of experiencing that joy within the relentless passage of time. Of course there is so much joy in that as well but for me, there is something different about it with you. Watching you grow hurts a little more. Seeing days tick by on the calendar constantly reminds me that I can’t freeze time and keep everything just as it is. I feel it in my chest and it feels heavy for some reason.

Maybe I’m just getting older or maybe it’s still the hormones but it reminds me that, ultimately we were not created for this world where we are so bound by time and an eventual end. No – we were created for timelessness and life eternal. And that, Little One, is my prayer for you. That God would excite your heart by His HIGHER offer of life through Him. That you would see that there are limits on what this world can provide but through Christ there is MORE. I pray that you would be captivated by the beauty of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and the worthiness of our Father.

I love you Lillian! IMG_9504

Lillian: Weeks 1 & 2

Weeks 1-2: March 16 – 30
Last night at 11pm Lillian turned two weeks old and if I could rewind time and relive these past two weeks all over again, I absolutely would. UIIA9857

Hospital Stay: Lillian was born at Virginia Hospital Center. My doctors’ office is connected to the hospital so I checked in just after my 11am appointment around 11:45. I was in triage until 4pm then in Labor and Delivery through the evening. Lillian was born at 11:04pm, we got to our recovery room by 1am and we left the hospital around noon on Sunday. Overall the hospital stay was very nice. The staff were all wonderful and while it was not quite as fancy as our Brazil hospital experience, I have no complaints. IMG_8482

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Better than hospital food – sushi & champagne!

I think the biggest concern I’d had about the hospital stay was worrying where Colt and Finn would be. However, since my mom had arrived the night before and was taking care of the boys I was completely at peace. She is an unbeatable combination of fun, loving and capable – she even took Colt to his early morning swimming lesson before bringing the boys to the hospital to meet Lillian on Saturday. IMG_3719IMG_3734IMG_3730

It was so much fun to introduce Lillian to her big brothers and to her grandmother on Saturday. The boys were great with her and Gigi was instantly in love. IMG_3803IMG_E3752

While we were at the hospital we also got to see two sets of friends from church. One couple had also just had their third baby less than 24 hours after Lillian and they were in the room across the hall from us! And our other friends, Chad and Mallory (pregnant with their first!) were sweet enough to bring us Starbucks on Sunday morning! IMG_8486

I was certainly grateful for the time we had at the hospital for me to rest and focus exclusively on Lillian and on my own recovery, but by the time we left the hospital on Sunday we were definitely ready to get home to our boys, to our own bed and to just get started on life as a family of 5.

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March 18: Heading home!

Lillian Medical:

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Monday March 19: First appointment at the pediatricians’ office

Weight: 8lbs 3oz at birth on Friday night. That following Monday morning, Lillian weighed 7lbs 12oz. This past Thursday, March 29 (her almost 2 week appointment) she weighed in at 8lbs 4.5oz.
Height: 20.5″ at birth. This past Thursday she measured 21.75″. Doubt she’s grown that much but hard to get a perfect measurement on an infant!
Clothes: Moving from newborn to 0-3. She’s just too long for the newborn clothes!
Diapers: Still using Newborn.
Other: Lillian was born with a sweet head of dark hair, thickest in the back. She has a double cowlick right in the middle of her forehead so I guess that means she’ll have a middle part? She has darker hair and overall coloring than the boys had (although that’s not saying too much!). Her eyes are a deep, dark blue making me wonder if they’ll actually stay blue. Her skin is perfect (no baby acne like her brothers – at least not yet) and she lost her umbilical cord on Day 11.

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Feeding: I am so thankful for the gift of being able to nurse my kids. Before I had Colt I knew of several moms who wanted to nurse and tried to nurse but for one reason or another, it didn’t work out for them so I have never taken nursing for granted.  Thankfully it has come pretty naturally to all of my kids and it has gotten easier and less painful for me each time. IMG_8437

I think my body has regulated it’s milk supply more with each baby too so it is not quite as messy of a process as it has been in the past. And, related to this (I think), Lillian does not spit up nearly like the boys did either. She spits up a little after most feeds but it’s so much easier, cleaner and less of an ordeal than what we went through with Colt and Finn.

Although she’s a good, efficient nurser (usually just 5-10 minutes/side), she’s not the hungriest baby of all time. I am still waking her for almost all of her feeds during the day (and I’m not feeding her THAT often for her age – see schedule below) and she usually doesn’t eat enough to make me feel totally relieved. It’s my “policy” to try not to pump for the first few weeks so that my body learns to regulate the supply, but in order to give myself more relief, I’ve been using these manual pumps during some of my feeds. I just suction one onto whichever side I’m not feeding her and then get the dual benefits of 1) personal relief and 2) milk storage! We are only 2 weeks in (and I didn’t use these until a day or two after we were home from the hospital) and already we’ve stored over 170 oz of milk in the freezer just by collecting the excess milk from feeds!

With each of my kids, nursing has been a special, cherished time with them and this continues to be true with Lillian. I love that nursing forces me to stop and sit with my baby. Of course there are plenty of times where I need to multitask and do other things at the same time but whenever I can or to whatever degree is possible in the moment, I try to use that time to just enjoy her and soak her up. IMG_8538

Sleep: Lillian is a good little sleeper although I’m always hesitant to make grand claims this early since most all new babies are sleepy! At night she sleeps swaddled up and so far we still have her in the bassinet in our room. During the day she usually naps in her little bunny seat, the old Moses basket that I used to nap in as a baby! or in someone’s arms (preferably mine!!). She definitely likes her pacis but is still learning how to keep them in her mouth as she’s drifting off to sleep. Sometimes she can be very tired but will struggle to sleep if she loses her paci. Other times she falls asleep without them at all! IMG_E8511IMG_3856IMG_E8788IMG_8802MAOE0403

Schedule: After a few days we started trying to move from a routine to a schedule with Lillian. She was naturally giving me one or two pretty long stretches between feeds but I had to wake her in the morning and during the day to make sure she gave them to me at night so on Day 4 we started this schedule:

7:30am Morning Feed 1
10:30/11am Feed 2
1:30/2pm Feed 3
4:30/5pm Feed 4
7/7:30pm Feed 5
9:30pm Feed 6 then get ready for 10:30pm wrapped up, in bed, lights out
2:30/3:30am Night Feed 7

This was fine but a couple days ago, when I was still waking her up for almost every one of her daytime feeds, I decided to drop one and space them out a bit more. Now we are on this schedule (which is very similar to what I was doing with Finn at this point):

7:30am Morning Feed 1
11:30/12pm Feed 2
3:30/4pm Feed 3
7:30pm Feed 4
9:30pm Feed 5 then get ready for 10:30pm wrapped up, in bed, lights out
2:30/3:30am Night Feed 6

This has been great for me so far for a few reasons. First, I am only getting up once/night to feed. I am still waking up, feeding, changing her diaper, wrapping her back up and helping her fall asleep again (usually by giving her the paci a few times) so I’m still usually up for 1-2 hours during the night but for a newborn, I can’t complain.

Secondly, it’s really nice to be going to bed each night at my normal bedtime and starting the day each morning at the normal time when I get up with the boys anyway. Michael has been on paternity leave for the past two weeks and has been responsible for responding to Colt & Finn each morning but on Monday he’ll go back to work and I need to be prepared to be fully available for the boys when their clock turns yellow at 7:50am so a 7:30am feed time is a good first morning feed for me.

Lillian: Oh my goodness you are perfection personified. You are such a sweet treasure and bring so much new joy to our home. IMG_8897IMG_8773IMG_E8849

You aren’t much of a crier but you do squawk – kind of like a bird or maybe a cat? when you’re upset (usually tired but needing help falling asleep). You love to be held and snuggled and love bath time! IMG_8577IMG_E8760IMG_E8744

First 2 Weeks: Although we have spent the bulk of our time snuggled up at home, you have gotten out and about a little bit and have met quite a few friends and family.

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You spent a few days with my mom and you have gotten to meet my dad (“Pasha”) a couple of times but somehow I still don’t have a picture of the two of you!

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Uncle Brad came by to visit and snuggle you.

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During your first week home we had a big snow!

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You preferred to stay snuggled up inside by the fire.

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We celebrated your 1 week birthday!

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Holding your own with the Harper boys!

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Out for pizza with the family!

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At the first sign of spring weather, the boys worked in the yard.

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And we supervised.

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Playing in the park.

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Good Friday: Morning brunch followed by Stations of the Cross at church.

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Meeting your great Aunt Patsy.

Mama Postpartum: Recovery-wise this has been my best/easiest recovery. Of course recovering from delivering a baby while simultaneously nursing and caring for a newborn and being a mom to two toddler boys is NO small thing (thank you very much) BUT it has been so much better than my recovery experience with the boys. And although I’m certainly hormonal and emotional (mostly feeling protective and sentimental about my sweet tiny baby!), I am also less hormonal and more stable / feeling like myself than I did after the boys as well. All of this has played a big part in allowing me to really ENJOY these early, newborn days with Lillian and that in turn has made me feel extremely bonded to her. IMG_E8903

There’s also something about a third that is easier to enjoy in other ways too. You aren’t stressed about the small things. You aren’t reading any baby books. You know what to expect from your body’s recovery, from nursing, from feeding schedules and sleeping schedules. That’s not to say that each birth and baby isn’t totally unique and there are always little surprises for you along the way, but you breathe a little easier with the third. Your older kids can play together, with each other while you nurse or snuggle the baby. And you can look at those older kids and see how quickly this all goes by.

Holding Lillian almost feels like trying to hold onto sand as it’s slipping through my fingers. I feel desperate to freeze time and keep her in this stage, as a sweet and tiny baby. Before she was born, I was pretty sure that this would be my last pregnancy but within hours of her birth I was wanting more. I just don’t know how to wrap my head around this being my LAST. The last time I’ll check into labor and delivery. The last time I’ll get a brand new, slimy baby put on my chest. The last time I’ll nurse. The last time I’ll go through newborn diapers and newborn clothes. The last, the last, the last… I’m in tears even writing this. I had hoped to feel a sense of confidence and peace about (potentially) being done with this stage, and perhaps that will come in time, but right now the thought of it is excruciating.

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Showing you your room for the first time.

Precious Lillian, what a sweet gift from God you are. You have won my heart completely. WTTT9651

Lillian’s Birth Story

Wednesday, March 14: 39 weeks

9:45 am I have my 39 week checkup with my OB. For the past few weeks I have been increasingly dilated so I’m not too surprised when she says that the baby is super low and I’m 4+ cm.

I had been hoping for her to sweep my membranes since that’s what sent me into labor with Finn, but Michael and I had talked about things the night before and decided it would be best not to do anything intentional until Friday so that he could finish out the workweek and so that we could have my mom up here to be with the boys should we need to rush off to the hospital. The doctor says that she thinks my body and baby are both ready so I schedule a followup for Friday. In the meantime I get the house in order, go to the grocery store and try to prepare everything just in case…

Friday, March 16: 39 weeks 2 days

1:00 am My mom arrives! She has been super busy with work but drove through the evening into the night to be sure that she would be here for me and for our family if we need her on Friday. I am so thankful for her commitment to all of us. Her arrival gives me the greatest peace of mind and now I know that we are really ready to have this baby.

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10:00 am Right before heading off to the doctor. My mom would laugh whenever she caught my profile and insisted on taking a picture.

11:00 am Michael is at work, Colt is at school and Finn and my mom come with me to my doctor’s appointment. Dr. Elliot checks me and immediately asks me if I’m having contractions. I tell him that while I feel some occasionally and have been having a little bit of cramping, I certainly don’t think I’m in labor and it’s so far been nothing to write home about. He tells me that I’m already around 5 cm and he’d like for me to check into triage to get monitored for a couple of hours to see what my body is really doing. He thinks I’m closer to active labor than I realize and just wants to watch it a bit before sending me home.

Another doctor walks us through over to the maternity ward of the hospital and helps me get checked in. My mom and Finn are with me and while I’m totally comfortable and not nervous at all, I’m still thankful not to be checking in alone. I call Michael and ask him to wrap up at the office and come straight to the hospital. He has all of our bags in his car already so he’s ready. Meanwhile I change into the lovely beige, tan and olive green gown and Finn covers me with stickers.

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WHO designs these gowns??????

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12:30 pm It’s almost time to pick Colt up from school and my mom doesn’t want to leave me until Michael arrives at the hospital so I call my girlfriend, Beth, and she graciously, happily offers to pick up Colt along with her two boys and keep him for a couple hours before bringing him back to our house that afternoon.

1:00 pm Michael arrives at the hospital. It is exciting to see him. It somehow feels like this might really be happening… My mom takes Finn home and she’ll be there waiting for Colt when Beth drops him off. Everything in triage is fine except I have 1 regular nurse and 1 nurse who is still in training, shadowing the first nurse. The nurse in training tries to set up my IV and after two failed attempts (one of which left me with a nasty bruise), the other nurse saves things and finally gets it on the third try.

3:00 pm Dr. Elliot comes in and reads the results from the monitors. He determines that I’m having regular contractions, every 7 minutes or so. He checks me and says that I’m more open, 5+ cm and 90% effaced. He says he’d like me to go ahead and check into labor and delivery. He tells me that he’s a little concerned that if I went home I’d accidentally “blow this baby out” in the shower or something and there are a few reasons that would not be ideal – for them and for me!

1) This is a VBAC (albeit my second) so ideally they do want to monitor my labor.
2) During this pregnancy I tested positive for GBS so they want me to get 1-2 rounds of antibiotics in my system before delivery.
3) I’m pretty sure I’ll want an epidural. And my labor with Finn was quick (3-4 cm – fully dilated in 2.5 hours) so all along my doctors have asked me to come to the hospital sooner rather than later.

Ultimately Michael and I agree that we’re ready to do this.

4:00 pm We are settled into our labor and delivery room and our nurse tells us it’s the best one – big and right across from the “patient refreshment room.” I get hooked up to the monitors and start my first round of penicillin. It burns like crazy so I put an ice pack on my arm for the half-hour as it’s going in. I am doing intermittent monitoring so I am able to get up and walk around. Even when I’m on the monitors I can at least stand or sit on the birthing ball.

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No pain!

6:45 pm Dr. Elliot swings by and asks how I’m doing. I tell him that I still don’t feel active labor so we start low-dose pitocin (level 1).

7:15 pm My contractions are regular, every 4 minutes or so, but still not painful. I am a little concerned that I’m still not in “real labor” – it feels weird to be at the hospital and not be in pain. I have had a popsicle and some jello and am grateful that I had a big breakfast that morning.

7:30 pm We increase pitocin to level 2.

8:30 pm I start my second round of penicillin and it burns even more than the first. My contractions have become more irregular so we up the pitocin to level 3.IMG_8421

9:30 pm Dr. Elliot comes in and says I’m 6+ cm. He says he wants to go ahead and “let some water out.” I’m still not in pain so I express my 2 concerns:

1) I don’t want to have my water broken and then not go into labor and end up with another c-section and
2) I have read that pitocin and inductions don’t always go well with VBACs so I’m a little afraid of uterine rupture.

Dr. Elliot says that at 6+ cm he’s not concerned about me not going into labor and he feels like if we break my water then I won’t need any more pitocin. I have to get a new round of antibiotics every 4 hours which puts me due for my next round at 12:30 am. He tells me that we’ll have the baby before that which seems hard for me to believe considering I’m still not in any real pain.

He goes ahead and breaks my water and aside from the gross feeling of the fluid coming out, it doesn’t really hurt. After he leaves I ask my nurse, Kelly, if I should go ahead and order my epidural. It feels funny to ask for one when I’m not hurting but she encourages me to go ahead and get it. The next couple contractions feel about 5x stronger/more painful than before so I ask her to call it in. Within minutes I’m in so much more pain – I can’t believe how breaking my water changed things so quickly and so drastically.

10:20 pm The anesthesiologist comes in and begins to administer the epidural. He says it takes about 15 minutes to fully set it. I’m really hurting now and tell him it doesn’t seem to be helping. He asks me to wait until 10:38 pm before “pushing the button” to increase the dosage.

10:40 pm I have not felt ANY relief so we push the button but I’m struggling.

10:45 pm Nurse Kelly checks me and says I’m 9+ cm and will be pushing soon. She starts setting up the delivery table and pages Dr. Elliot. The epidural does not seem to have done anything and I’m suddenly feeling a ton of pressure. She calls Dr. Elliot again and tells me to try to breathe, not to push.

10:50 pm Dr. Elliot comes in and starts getting all ready for delivery. The contractions are still coming but I have a constant feeling of pressure that will not let up. He is coaching me to breathe through it until he’s ready.

10:57 pm It’s time to start pushing. In Brazil there were lots of people – doctors and nurses – in the room when I was delivering. Here there is just Dr. Elliot, Nurse Kelly, Michael and me so Michael has to hold one of my legs which I’m not expecting or thrilled about. He is less fazed by it and jumps right in, excited and encouraging me that we are close to meeting our daughter. As I’m pushing, Dr. Elliot asks my nurse to check the baby’s heart rate and the way they’re telling me to push makes me feel like something urgent is happening. It almost feels like they’re mad at me. Or maybe they just want me to keep going because we’re close. I am trying as hard as I can. It’s so intense. Dr. Elliot asks me if I want to feel her head but I don’t. Even in the moment it weirds me out but it does make me realize she’s close.

11:04 pm Lillian Mary Harper is born. I can’t believe it. They put her on my chest and my first thought is that she’s perfectly beautiful but not crying. Nurse Kelly messes with her a little and gets her to cry. They tell me that the cord had been around her neck but it was “loose” and totally fine. I’m not sure what that means but it makes me hold onto her extra tight. de06e740-f818-46b4-9d23-cd94229a3997

Michael cuts the cord and we snuggle our baby and call her by her name as my doctor gets me all cleaned up. They let me hold her for a long time before taking her to weigh in and she seems so alert and just beautiful. I notice that she has a lot of dark hair, darker than either of our boys. She has tiny ears and the sweetest little hands. She feels new to me – like meeting a brand new person – but also cozy and mine. Eventually they take her and she’s 8lbs 3oz. Her Apgar scores are 9s. She’s absolutely perfect. She nurses for almost an hour and is a total natural. I am absolutely, completely in love…  IMG_842641d9365d-1ac9-4036-83f4-a30b13640ecf

Happy Birthday Colt! 4 Years.

Colt Developments: Colt, you are SO sweet, SO cute and you amaze your dad and me each day. It blows my mind that another year has already passed.FullSizeRender

You’ve grown so much this year. Probably the biggest change was that last September, you started going to preschool. You did 3-morning/3’s so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday you were at school from 9:15-12:50. Although it took a little adjusting (probably for me more than anyone!), I can count on 1 hand the number of times your teachers said that any tears were shed. And a couple of those times were from falling down while climbing a tree which I count as a win anyway! I loved watching you grow in confidence as you built friendships with other sweet kids and grow in independence as you realized that you can have fun and learn apart from your family. img_7751

Your favorite thing to do right now is to color. You want a plain white piece of paper and markers, and you can sit at a table and color for hours each day. It’s a great outlet for your creativity and a way to express things that you’re excited about or learning about at the moment. You will draw everything from the solar system to donuts and cakes to the backyard to the park we just visited to a spider in a web after watching a TV show about spiders to our family at a beach to Noah’s Arc. It is so much fun to get to know you better through this expression. You also use your art as a way to show others that you care for them. Just a minute ago you led me upstairs to my room where you had just taped a picture on the wall for me as a “surprise” which had “a pattern of rainbows and hearts and a pony.” Also, the whole picture is drawn on one side of the paper but the pony has a tail on the back! Ha! I love how your sweet mind works. You love drawing pictures for other people, using their favorite colors and including things they love. And you’ve started folding paper to make “books” that you color and were very excited when I showed you that we can staple paper together to make bigger books! You will draw different story-lines — a cheetah chasing a zebra then catching the zebra, etc.FullSizeRender

Your favorite topic right now is outer space. You say you want to be an astronaut and your favorite cartoon is Ready Jet Go but you’re just as happy to watch Cosmos on the Discovery Channel or something if it’s about outer space. When you are around my dad, the two of you sit cuddled up for hours reading through his astronomy magazines, your astronomy books, watching videos and talking about it all. You color the planets, you make the solar system out of play-doh, and the one thing you asked for as a birthday gift was a puzzle of outer space. You wanted it to have the whole universe but we opted for just the solar system. I learn new things from you all the time. What are the dwarf planets? How many moons does Jupiter have? Which planets are terrestrial and which are the gas giants? What are Saturns rings and what is the Big Red Spot on Jupiter? IMG_4249

Since we were heading out to Colorado the day after your 4th birthday, we decided to move the party to August and combine it with Finn’s upcoming 2nd birthday. But, for your actual birthday we went to the Air & Space museum and all of your gifts were outer space themed. You are so sweet and could not have been happier. FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender (3)

Beyond outer space, you love to learn. You got really interested in animal speeds and constantly asked us how fast different animals can run. We finally made a chart of some animals and their speeds for you to reference on your own and it was also a good reading tool. If you asked us how fast a tiger could run I’d send you to your chart and you could figure out which was “Tiger” etc.

You love to learn about all sorts of topics though. You love maps and geography and love looking at the radar maps via weather.com on my phone. (No, seriously.) If I start talking to you about another culture or about how babies start out really tiny or about how a flower grows, you get so drawn in and will always say, “Can you please tell me more about that.”

For your age, I think you’re really good at reading. You can sound out most simple, 3-letter words (can, bug, hit, sad, pen, hop, etc.). We will sit down with “Green Eggs and Ham” and the combination of your reading, recognizing the letters and words plus your familiarity with the book allows you to basically read it. You take much more time though, and have to figure out each word, so by about page 20 you get tired and ask me to take over. Anytime we’re reading though I try to underline or point out several words that you have to read so that we can do it together.

Spelling is similar but needs a little more assistance. If I ask you to spell the word, “hop” I have to say the word, get you to say it, then help you isolate the individual sounds (especially middle sounds or vowels).

You write a little but have not taken an interest in learning how to properly form letters. You might end up with a letter that looks like an “A” but you probably wrote it going right-to-left or something. Anytime a workbook has space to practice proper handwriting, you are open to tracing and copying letters but don’t like having to go about it the correct way. On the one hand I don’t want you to be learning incorrectly or picking up bad habits but on the other hand…you’re 4 so I’m not pushing “proper handwriting” on you. IMG_3450

You love to ride your scooter and are really good. You wiz down hills at top speed and wave your legs around just showing off. You’re also a very fast runner. You claim that you can run 107 miles/per/hour and while I’m not quite buying that, you can speed. You and Finn will race over and over across our backyard and I love watching you two. You have a good kick for soccer but don’t like any sort of physical confrontation with other kids so that works against you. You have a great swing for baseball and continue to bat lefty and you love to hit the ball then run the bases. (Somehow all of your hits are home runs…) IMG_4123

**OK – I just asked you what you’d like to do most-least of these 4 different scenarios and here is what you chose:
1) Sit in a class and learn from a teacher all about outer space. (I literally said this word-for-word in a monotone voice and it still elicited a huge excited reaction from you…)
2) Go to art class and learn how to draw animals.
3) Go to baseball class and practice hitting and running the bases.
4) Go to music class and try playing different instruments like drums, piano or guitar.

Are these answers typical?? I don’t necessarily think so but I adore you exactly as you are. And this is where we are extra lucky to have your brother Finn. He helps to keep our days a little more interesting and active. Not because Finn is a star athlete or anything (actually he has yet to really show us much coordination, ha) but he just plays with you so differently than I do each day. You two mix it up a lot more. You wrestle and chase and jump and throw water and LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH. You are best best friends. IMG_4561

Your humor is FULL-ON little-boy humor. Every time we are going somewhere or having company over we remind you that we don’t make potty/stinky/etc. jokes with other people. You and Finn though will just laugh about “stinky poopoo” for days. img_3552

Otherwise you love going to parks, playing outside, swimming, playing with friends, going on adventures, building things with blocks, tiles or legos. You and your dad have a sweet thing where you make up stories for each other. You will pick 3 things (i.e. a rocket ship, a pool and a zebra) and he will make up a story for you using all 3. And then you always like to have him choose 3 things and you tell a story back to him. Your stories are SO cute and funny and clever. Love your little mind, Colt! IMG_2570

Anytime that you can see rainbows – even just the light streaming in our house through a window that creates a “rainbow” on the floor – you exclaim that “God and Jesus are here!” You are sweet sweet sweet, kind, compassionate and really well behaved / obedient. You’re still a young boy so of course you’re not perfect but I would definitely say you’re a rule-follower. And you do sweet things every day that just melt my heart. You love snuggles, hugs and kisses. If Mom and Dad are sleeping in on a weekend and are still in bed when your clock turns yellow (8am) then you’ll come climb in our bed and rub our backs and sing us songs. Yes, really. You are a humbling example of grace and forgiveness too. You have taught me so much about keeping no record of wrongs. Colt, I am so thankful for you, my angel. IMG_3304

Health: Praise the Lord you continue to be perfectly healthy – still no sicknesses!
You’re around 36-37 lbs, just over 41″ tall and you’re just moving into 4T clothes, 5T PJs.
You wear pull-ups at night and although I haven’t even considered trying to train you for nights, about 30% of the time you will wake up dry in the morning anyway.
You have beautiful teeth and the most handsome, big brown eyes I have ever seen. IMG_3264

Eating: Family dinners was the best thing that ever happened to your eating habits. When we lived in Brazil, your dad was rarely able to make it home by your dinner time, so I would feed you your dinner then make an adult dinner for us to have after you went to bed. Occasionally there was overlap in what we ate but I largely made you “kid-food” that would be healthy but still easy enough to give you. Last summer your dad’s schedule changed and Finn was also a part of our dinner-time so we switched gears to family dinners where we all eat the same thing. If we are having something you don’t like (sweet potatoes, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, asparagus) I’ll make sure that you have a substitute option but you still try a bite or 2 of everything. This has really changed how you view food. You aren’t immediately as scared off by something that looks “weird” because you eat “weird grownup” food every day. Your favorite things are still typical of a 4yo but I have no complaints about how you eat.IMG_3585IMG_3796

Mama: My treasure, Colt. You have my whole heart. Every day I look at your sweet face and am in awe that you are real and that you are mine. I absolutely treasure your heart and your presence and your being. Thank you for the kindness that you extend to your family every day, thank you for the laughter you bring, thank you for the fun and joy and light that you are. We are so blessed by you. IMG_3144

As I watch your heart and mind get captivated by different things (from kicking balls to the story of the 3 little pigs to animal speeds to collecting sticks to now art and outer space), I pray that your heart and mind will ultimately be captivated by God and the greatest love story and rescue story of Jesus Christ. I pray that God will open your eyes to see what is most real. To see that the greatest adventure you can experience in this life is to walk into the call that He has on your life. That the greatest challenges you can encounter come in efforts to walk faithfully beside Him. That a life lived in relationship with God, bought by the sacrifice of Jesus and through the gift of the Spirit, is not boring or dull. No! It is where the fullest measure of joy and adventure and TRUTH lie waiting. It is wild and exciting and REAL. I pray you will see this real-ness in our lives, and that you will know how to sift out the fake from the real. Everything else is either a dim light or worse, a sham and a distortion. Seek truth, my love. This is my deepest hope for you Culhane. I love you. July4

Finn: 21 month update

Finn! You’re 21 months old today Little Love!! IMG_3623Finn developments: What a fun and FUNNY little boy you are, Finn. I haven’t done an update on you since you turned 1 (9 months ago…eek!). We’ve been busy and so have you, Little One. Here are some things you’re been up to these days… IMG_3550

  • The first thing I have to say about you is that you’re hilarious. You crack me up all day every day with the funniest little things and the best part is that you KNOW you’re funny and you crack yourself up too! I asked your dad what is the one thing I should be sure to include in this update and he responded, “Finn has found his sense of humor.” And what a good one it is!IMG_3513
    • One silly example of you being funny is that you like to pretend that you can’t see. You will do this while you’re eating, walking around or even coloring. You’ll close your eyes and keep doing whatever you were doing and eventually crack up. (Our babysitter said, “I’m not sure if he does this very often but Finn kept pretending that he was blind and then laughing about it!” haha)
    • You also like to put puzzle pieces in the wrong places. Then you look up at me and I say, “No, Finn, that isn’t right!” and you just giggle!
    • You also like to pretend that you’re trying to say something that we can’t understand. You will say “Bah!” and I’ll say, “Bath?” You shake your head and say “Noooo. Bah!” I’ll ask, “Bug? Book? Button? Back? Banana?” etc. etc. and every time you will just giggle and repeat “Noooo. Bah!” I’m positive that this is all a hilarious joke to you.IMG_2251
  • You are pretty independent. You’ve just now started to acquiesce and hold my hand when we’re walking near the road but generally you prefer to do things on your own.
  • At home you will play independently a little but you also LOVE attention and will often shout “MAMA MAMA MAMA” to make sure I’m all-eyes on you when you’re doing something like running or jumping or falling on purpose or being funny.
  • You seem to have some type of a musical bend. You respond to music more strongly than your brother – as in, you dance like crazy with the most amazing hip shakes and you can catch a tune and sing it back really well. You are often singing (the tune at least) to the ABCs, “Are You Sleeping?”, and you love to sing “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul” with me.
  • You like books but aren’t quite as much of a bookworm as Colt was. Your favorite books are lift-flap ones (Dear Zoo, Where’s Spot? and a couple of Elmo books we have). And like your brother did, you have “Moo, Baa, La La La” memorized and love to “read” it with me and fill in the blanks.
  • You really like trains these days and will often scoot down to the basement on your own, pull out the train bin, build out a track and connect some trains together. You call them “choo-choos” and are always so happy and proud to show off what you have built.
  • You love to jump! You can jump well in your crib or on the couch but lately you’re getting good at just jumping from the floor. And you like to go to the fireplace hearth to jump too.
  • You really like going to parks or playing in the yard but one of your favorite “activities” is visiting the local nature center. They have turtles, snakes, frogs, fish, some random toys and a great outdoor creek + trail. When we’re driving there, you start to get excited as soon as you begin to recognize the area and you start shouting, “Tuh-tle! Tuh-tle! Sssssssss!!” (For turtles and snakes, of course.) Then you are borderline combusting the whole time that we’re there, running from animal to animal. And last time, when we went with Colt, you were in heaven throwing rocks in the creek at the end. I swear, you must have stood in the same spot throwing rocks for 45 minutes.IMG_3562
  • I would describe you as pretty obedient and I think you’re getting better at this all the time. If you’re acting out or I need your attention, I always ask you to look at me or look at my eyes. In the past if you were misbehaving, you would absolutely REFUSE to look me in the eyes and would just cut your eyes to the side and give a little defiant side smile. (Making it impossible for me not to burst out laughing!) But the past couple months you’ve been better at giving me your attention and then becoming more obedient. Related but different: you follow instructions great!IMG_2270
  • You are talking quite a bit, although your enunciation leaves a little something to be desired. It’s funny because of course your dad, brother and I all understand you perfectly but when we’re with other people I find myself translating for you a lot. For your 18 month checkup I made a list of 70 words that you were saying then. Now there would be no way for me to try to count as your vocabulary grows each day. You’re speaking in “sentences” like “Moe hehe-le pees,” (“More cereal please.”) or “Bye bye, Mama,” or “Tee here!!” (“Treat here!! – while pointing to your tray.) But you sometimes also just huff out syllables instead of trying to say the real words. You do this a lot for “thank you” and instead say “hmm hmm” to the tune of “thank you” or will say “buhbuhbuh” for “banana bread.” You say “Tuh” for “Colt” and “puhpuh” for “purple” and for “paper.” For “sit” you say, “hit” and “juice, cheese, Gigi and Jesus” all sound pretty similar.IMG_3261
  • You basically know the colors yellow, blue and purple although we’re not 100%.
  • I have not been as dedicated to “teaching” you things like letters, colors, etc. as I was with Colt so the only letter of the alphabet which you know solidly is “O.” It’s easy for you to recognize and say so this one stuck easily. Now just 25 to go! Speaking of numbers, you can kind of count to 3 but that is probably being generous… (If I say “one,” you say “two,” and sometimes say three next.)
  • Your favorite thing to do is to play with your brother. You and Colt are officially each other’s best friends and have so much fun together. You guys totally get each other’s wacky, goofy, little boy sense of humor and are always laughing up a storm. You immediately ask for him whenever you wake up in the morning or from a nap.
    You guys love to have little races where Colt sweetly runs beside you. You dance together, put your dishes on your head and call them “hats,” you jump on the couch in the basement for days, take turns playing t-ball in the yard, go down slides at the park together, splash and pour water in the bath together… you just play great together! It has been such a blessing to have you two close enough in age to see this genuine friendship blossoming already.IMG_3326IMG_2867

Health: Praise God, you continue to be healthy and grow beautifully.
Clothing size: 2T.
Diaper size: 5
Shoe size: 5-6 (although your feet are so chubby it can be hard to stuff them in to certain types of shoes!)
Height/Weight: Your last appointment was a few months ago but at that time you registered in the 61% for weight and 81% for height. Could have had me fooled though, you’re such a little beefcake with the best tummy ever!
Teeth: You have all of your baby teeth with the exception of your two-year-molars (so 16 right now).
Sicknesses: You showed signs of a possible ear infection once, right around last Thanksgiving. We followed our doctor’s recommendation and gave you antibiotics. A couple days after we finished the antibiotics you broke out into a full body rash that took about a week to clear up. We’re not sure if you have an allergy to the penicillin (if so then it’s not a terribly strong reaction since it took so many days to appear) or if the rash was unrelated but so far that was your only incident with antibiotics. (Colt has yet to have them so not sure how he would react…)

Eating: You’re a good eater – very different style than Colt is/was. You basically like to feed yourself everything and are pretty coordinated with utensils. You are happy to bite into anything and like most things we offer. Green beans and broccoli are your favorite veggies, you like bananas, apples, strawberries, oranges, grapes, pasta, chicken, cheese, oatmeal, eggs, pizza, sweet potatoes, turkey, peas, raisins and one of your favorite foods is a bowl of cereal with milk (Colt still won’t eat cereal with milk on it!).
You love “treats” and get so excited whenever you hear that word (like, you start raising the roof, saying, “Woohoo! Treats!”).IMG_3272IMG_3093

Sleeping: You are an all-star sleeper and have been since you were a baby. We literally never have problems with you in this area. You go to bed between 7:30 and 8pm (closer to 7:30 if we’re going out somewhere but typically more like 8:00). We do the Tot-Clock with you and your clock changes to yellow at 8am and usually we don’t have to rush to get you. If you wake up before 8am then you normally just play around or sing in your crib until you notice the clock is yellow.
You nap every day in the afternoon. Tue-Thur we pick Colt up from preschool at 12:50pm so your typical nap doesn’t start until around 1:30pm. Your nap clock is set for 2.5 hours but 2 hrs 45 min or 3 hours is a more typical stretch for you. This means that it’s a challenge for us to be very adventurous in the afternoons but it’s nice for me to get some alone time with your big bro and I use this time to get some chores done, start dinner, etc.
Your only sleep deficiency is sleeping on the go. You do NOT fall asleep on airplanes (you don’t even get drowsy, you just get nuttier and nuttier!!). You will sleep in the car but not for too long so all of our long travels are a little interesting with you, Little Finn.
You’re also a little bit of a light sleeper. Not terrible and you put yourself back to sleep fine if you do get woken up but it makes me a little nervous for the day when we move you into Colt’s room. I think we are still about a year out from that but on our most recent visit to SC you and Colt shared a room and you both surprised me by doing great!IMG_3309

Schedule:
8:00 am Wake up, drink milk
8:45 am Breakfast (banana, oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, strawberries, yogurt)
Morning Errands, adventures, parks or just playing with mom.
12:30 pm Lunch
1:30-4:00 pm Nap
4:15 pm Wake up, drink milk
4:30-6:15 pm Afternoon playing with Colt, neighborhood walks, etc.
6:30 pm Dinner
7:15 pm Bath with Colt. (Dad-duty)
7:45-8:00 pm Bedtime!

Mama: Finn, you are the sweetest treasure and such a blessing. You shine joy and light into our home and our family. It is SO much fun to be your mom and I enjoy you more each day. Thank you, Lord, for bringing this precious soul into my world. I couldn’t be happier.IMG_3315

(**For comparison: Colt at 20.5 months**)

January 2016 Weekend Trips!

We were among the last of our São Paulo crew to make the move back from Brazil. This certainly made it much easier to move, as what we most loved about our time there no longer existed. When our group left Brazil we spread out far and wide. Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, New York, DC, Philly, even Singapore and Johannesburg! It’s fun to have friends in so many cities but we also miss each other a lot so we try to get together whenever possible. Our first big reunion was a girls’ weekend in January. Suzanna Jones had just had her sweet baby girl so those of us who could, hopped on a plane to Denver to get together and see her little one. All of us who came had kids as well, but we did our best to leave them with husbands or family so that we could just enjoy each other, although Paige & I did bring our babies with us since they were still pretty young and were nursing so regularly but I was very thankful that my mom was able to watch Colt for me.

We don’t have too many pictures from the weekend 1) because we didn’t do a ton of photo-worthy things! and 2) we were too focused on long conversations and snuggling babies to remember to pull out our cameras. But at any rate, here is what I have!

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Paige with Coralie, Jana (sorry girl!), Finn in my lap, Brett, April, Suzanna & Addy Jayne!

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Breakfast table convos.

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April & Finn.

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Brett & Addy Jayne.

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Jana & Amy!

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Suzanna had these sweet bracelets made for us! São Paulo love.

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Cozy coffee & convos.

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Adventuring out into Denver.

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My traveling companion.

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Coralie showing off her moves.

The pictures obviously don’t do the weekend justice but it was SO good to get together with these special girlfriends to connect about life, motherhood, transitioning away from Brazil into our new chapters… We were missing Michelle, Colby & Paula this trip but next time, girls!

While I was in Denver for the weekend, Michael took the train from DC to New York to visit his brother Joe and hang out with friends in the city.

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Cheering on the Cardinals with Joe & friends!

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Hanging out with BWad.

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Snowy NYC.

Then, as I was getting to hang out with Brett in Denver, Michael visited Brad who was dutifully watching their two adorable kiddos back in NY.

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Michael with Luke Man!

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Campbell! Sweetest little girl ever!

A great MLK weekend for all!!

Jan/Feb 2016 in SC

After celebrating the New Year and Finn’s baptism in Arizona, Michael headed to DC for work and I took the boys to SC. We spent a few days apart then over the following weekend, Michael bought a car (ahem, a minivan) in Virginia then drove it from the dealership down to South Carolina. He stayed for a quick weekend visit then flew back to DC for work but left the minivan with the kids and me.

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Living the life of luxury in the stylin Sienna!

Side notes on the minivan.
1) I was initially very resistant to getting a minivan because…it’s a minivan but we got a 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE and I absolutely love it. The thing about minivans is that they are literally made for families so having one makes my life easier every day. I highly recommend.
2) We have another car and then the minivan is “the family car” but we all really know that the other car is Michael’s and the minivan is “mine” since I almost never go anywhere without the kids. Anyway, I really had to put my faith in Michael since he bought it without me ever getting to see it but since I bought our house without him…he said he could handle it. And again, we love it!

Back to South Carolina…

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Visiting the Columbia Children’s Museum – Edventure.

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Colt sledding down the hill.

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Chillin.

Thankful to my brother & Suzanne for letting us borrow baby gear to keep Finn cozy & entertained while we stayed with my parents.

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He did not turn out to be a thumb sucker but he made us wonder quite a few times.

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Colt soaking up some Pasha time.

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Park time with Gigi!

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PJs.

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Biking & strolling.

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Bros.

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Gigi showing Colt the snow!

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When the huge blizzard hit Virginia, we had already closed on our house there but were renting it back to the previous owners so they sent us pictures of the house COVERED in snow.

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More cozy cuddles!

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Finn with his favorite person on earth.

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More park fun.

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Finn likes to swing too!

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What a happy little guy.

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#eyes.

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Snuggle fest.

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Nanny & little Finn.

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Papa & little Colt.

Michael worked out of the DC office for a couple weeks in January then spent the second half of the month back in Brazil. So while we were doing all of the above, Michael was doing all of the below!

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Saude.

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Polenta frita at Vaca Veia – my fav.

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SP Art.

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We miss those Parker kiddos! Jack & Michael.

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Little Finley Parker.

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Parting gift from his coworkers: Corinthians jersey!

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With his name on it! Vai Corinthians!

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Aperol spritz with Trent.

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Parkers + Trent & Michael out at 348.

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Walking out of that pretty office building!

End of January and we’re reunited & it feels so good!

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Daddy’s back!

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So happy to see him.

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#Harperboys3 #coltneedsahaircut

Another lovely visit to the Columbia Zoo with my grandparents!

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Feeding the giraffes

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Finn and Nanny.

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And now feeding the llamas.

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Colt and gorilla.

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Feeding the birds!

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So fun!

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Colt & bear.

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The truest tiger fan!! Papa’s favorite exhibit. 🙂

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Gigi & Fincher!

We decided to transition Colt out of the crib and into a big boy bed before we moved. My grandfather had his “youth bed” that he got when he was 5 years old (also used by my mom and brother) and he recently had it refinished for us. It’s a size that is no longer produced (in between a crib mattress which is the current toddler bed size and a twin bed) so we had to custom order a mattress and sheets but my mom had an old trundle bed mattress that basically fit so we went ahead and started with that. Colt loved hearing the stories of the bed and watching the bed get assembled in his room. And best of all, he slept great and never really gave us any trouble with the transition. I think the keys for us were 1) he was old enough to really get it and 2) he was already accustomed to his lighted clock indicating sleep-time vs. awake-time so it made sense for him to “obey” the clock and stay in bed when the clock was blue and get up when the clock turned yellow. (I highly recommend the My Tot Clock but start them on it while they’re still in a crib!)

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Getting ready for bed.

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All tucked in.

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Morning bro time!

 

**During this time, Finn & I took a trip to Denver to meet up with some girlfriends, Michael took a trip to NY to meet up with friends AND we all took one final trip to Arizona but I’ll do separate posts on those trips next. Oh yeah, and I also attempted potty training while Michael was in Brazil although I’m not sure I’m far enough removed from that trauma to write about it yet  😉 **