Friday, January 1, 2016

Sophia's Birth Story

Sophia is now nearly 3 months old and I'm finally getting around to finishing typing up her birth story despite starting it two weeks after she was born! Life has been kind of hectic since adding our third child in just under four years. So here is Sophia's story:

 She arrived at 12:00 am on Friday, October 9, 2015 and weighed 7.0 lbs and was 19 inches long.

First pic with daddy. We waited to have her weighed and measured until the wee hours of the morning since she fell asleep in Alex's arms. They had a pretty immediate bond, which was an answered prayer of mine!

I had been saying all along that this labor and delivery would be the icing on the cake and it truly was. My first two deliveries had their challenges, but everything worked out and I had the experiences that I hoped for (except that at 21 and 17 hours long they were a lot longer than I expected). This time around, once labor kicked in, Sophia was born just 8 hours later! So here are the details:

I saw my doctor and doula on Wednesday, Oct 7. I didn't have the doctor check me because 1. It is painful and 2. It can't tell you when you'll go into labor anyway, so why endure the unnecessary pain? Maybe it doesn't hurt for everyone, but it hurt like crazy with Natalie. Later that I night I noticed some evidence of starting to dilate and had a little mini meltdown over going into labor and not feeling ready. Once I got past that, I felt a lot better emotionally!

Thursday morning I woke up after having a few contractions during the night. Contractions continued to be few and far between in the morning as well, but I figured things were starting because I hadn't had a single contraction during pregnancy up to this point and some of the symptoms of dilation and early labor were starting like they had during my labor with Julia. I called my doula to give her the update and she recommended that I drink a strong cup of red raspberry leaf tea to help jump start things. I didn't have any tea, so Alex went to the store and bought me some in the afternoon and I drank it at 3 pm. By 4:00, contractions were beginning again and coming between 6-9 minutes apart.

By 6 pm, I was getting more uncomfortable and having trouble making dinner because the were getting more intense. My mom had taken Natalie to our homeschool co-op earlier in the afternoon, dropped her off at home, and then gone home herself after I told her she didn't need to take the girls back to her house just yet. While cooking dinner, I called her and said maybe it was time to get the girls after all. I kept dropping to my hands and knees during contractions and swayed my hips through them. Part of dinner burned, but we were able to eat the main course and some sides. Mom helped clean up and took the girls to her house while Alex and I waited for the contractions to get closer together. I rested on the couch and walked sideways up and down our stairs to encourage the baby to get in the correct position as we believed she was face up instead of face down and needed to turn in order for labor to really pick up. Every time I walked the stairs, I had some big contractions.

At 9 pm, we decided to head to the hospital because I had been having contractions that lasted two minutes, although they were still sometimes over 5 minutes apart. We met my doula, M, on the way to the hospital and she finished the trip with us. When we got to the hospital, I got the last available room in the "Birthing Spa," as they call their maternity wing. Guess it was a popular night to have a baby! The nurse checked me and I was dilated to 6 cm! M was ecstatic and I think I didn't quite know what to make of that news. I had only been dilated to 2 and 3 cm with Natalie and Julia when we arrived at the hospital, so 6 cm meant that things were definitely progressing faster this time like we had hoped for. The red raspberry leaf tincture that I'd been taking for the last few months was doing the trick by helping me dilate faster and have more effective contractions.

Laboring on the bed on my hands and knees was becoming tiring and more painful, so I transitioned to the bathtub. During my first two labors, the tub stalled my labor and I ended up getting out of the water after a little while, but this time around, active labor was in full-swing and the warm water made my painful contractions more bearable. I actually laid down on my back and side in the water during contractions and was able to keep my lower body relaxed to let the contractions do their work. After about an hour or so, I felt the urge to push, so the nurse came in to check my progress and she said it was time to call the doctor and get me out of the tub. My water broke in the process of her checking me. I couldn't believe I had made it to 10 cm so quickly! My other labors were 21 and 17 hours, respectively. Natalie was born 16 hours after we arrived at the hospital and Julia was born 6 hours later, so to have only been at the hospital around an hour and a half and be told I was complete was exciting and unbelievable. I'm pretty sure that Alex had to basically lift me out of the tub with no help from me because I just couldn't move.

Somehow I got back to the bed and back on my hands and knees. I started pushing during contractions and then my doctor arrived. Soon I was yelling to be numbed, but there wasn't time for that. Then I was yelling for them to "Get her out!!!!" It hurt worse than with my first two because I didn't get that numbing shot at the very end. But, after just 10 minutes of pushing, she was born! No complications like the first two times. She was screaming, healthy, and perfect!

So far, Sophia is a calm, happy baby. Julia is completely smitten by her and hasn't been the least bit jealous. Natalie loves holding her and helps out however we ask her to. She started smiling almost from the get-go and comes to life on the changing table, giggling, smiling, and cooing the whole time. She loves to snuggle up facing your body (like she is nursing) when she is ready for a nap and will cuddle up for a snooze with whoever is holding her. Unlike her shy sisters, so far she lets anyone hold her and doesn't scream for mommy to come rescue her. The grandparents are very grateful for this as they didn't get to hold Natalie during the first few months or Julia for 8 months because they would both start screaming immediately.

At her 2 month check-up she had already gained 4 pounds, weighing in at 11.1 lbs (with clothes on, 50th percentile) and was 22 inches long (25th percentile).

Ever since her arrival, I have been soaking up every ounce of her. Since Sophia could very well be our last baby, I don't want to miss a single minute of each phase she goes through. As hard as I tried to stop her from flying through the newborn stage, she went and grew into an infant anyway. Next thing I know, she will be rolling over and sitting up, even though I have forbidden her to do so. My mama heart can't take it! I just don't want her to grow up on me! But I must say, it is a precious gift having her in my life, giving me another opportunity to soak in this quickly-fleeting moment in parenthood.

In all honesty, I didn't handle the news of having another girl well. I cried in the doctor's office the day of my ultrasound and many days afterward. I felt tremendous guilt for my reaction and strong sense of disappointment. It took me two months to wrap my mind around it and then I could finally get excited about meeting the daughter who would create our girl trifecta. And what a blessing she has been! I love every minute of being her mama. I love that I have three girls who are going to grow up to be inseparable best friends (we've been praying that over them since I was pregnant with Julia). They say that the best gift you can give your child is a sibling and watching my girls together just makes my heart burst with joy! Parenting is the hardest, best thing I've ever done. Our lives are still flipped upside down, neck-deep in the throes of Survival Mode, the daily routine full of tending to never-ending cries for help, food, attention, with little time to rest, to catch up on housework, to give as much attention to each child as I would like to give. But we are figuring it out. Someday I will get showered and dressed before lunch every day again, but for now I need to learn to accept my new normal and just embrace this gift I have been given of being a full-time mom to my beautiful babies because they are growing up far too fast and if I get too caught up in trying to do allthethings then I'll miss the beauty of this life that God has blessed me with. In this new year, I want to be more present. I struggle SO much with that. SO MUCH. I want to give my children a childhood full of memories with their mommy playing with them and teaching them and laughing! Laughing and playing games and being there when they need me. Sophia has really helped me take the first step. She has helped me live in the moment and put aside the stuff that can wait and soak up the things that are truly worthwhile. She is the best "surprise" ever!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Baby G#3, Preschool, And Updates on the Kiddos

Life is crazy, busy, full of anticipation, and I am just enjoying it before life as I know it gets turned upside down and I have 3 kids under 4 to take care of. The girls keep me busy from about 7:30 am until they go to bed at 8. I have discovered more than ever this summer that I thrive on routine. Some days might feel monotonous, but if you mess with that predictable monotony, I get grumpy. So this summer, our weeks have been filled with a repetition of play time, weekly water park visits with family, housework, baby prep projects, and doctor visits. As usual, we spend lots of mornings out taking a walk, messing around in the garden, filling, cleaning, and refilling the kiddy pool and giving pushes on the swing set. I think Julia would be content to be pushed in her little pink ride-on car (she calls it her "beep beep") or in her swing all day long. Natalie loves helping check on the vegetables and picking whatever happens to have survived all the rain we had in June/July. Things are in a pretty sorry state in the garden at the moment and I'm, well, over it. Pregnant mama has worked hard and couldn't keep up with the persistent Bermuda grass and towering tomato plants that seem to grow another foot and need to be re-staked every few days. There's always next year.

We found out at the end of April that we are expecting another girl! I'll be honest, it took me quite a while to adjust to the news. This pregnancy has been NOTHING like the first two, so I was just sure I was having a boy. But now I am having fun sewing her quilt, making crib sheets and changing pad covers, and even a Christmas stocking. There's no telling when I'll find the time to sew after she arrives, so I might as well get things done while I have a chance. Natalie has named her baby sister Sophia Olaf. Alex and I accepted her choice for a first name, but have made absolutely no progress in picking an acceptable alternative for her middle name.

Tomorrow, we will embark on a new journey as a family: homeschooling. Natalie has been looking forward to preschool for quite a while and soaks up all the information that she can about the world around her. Lately, her interest in letters, sounds, and writing her name has really grown, so I am taking the leap and giving it a go. I am having a very hard time deciding whether or not to do two years of preschool with her because her birthday is so late, or going ahead and starting kindergarten next year. I am a long-term planner, can you tell? The best idea is probably to just wait and see how this whole preschool thing goes and then decide! I am nervous about how our lives are going to change once Sophia is born and I don't want to completely push schooling aside, especially when I know it will be fun and special to spend that time with Natalie. We joined our local homeschool co-op which meets once a week starting in September and has classes for Natalie's age. My social butterfly will love making new friends.

Julia is now 18 months old and is changing quickly from a baby to a full-fledged toddler. Her vocabulary includes about 40 words (not all of which are clear, but close enough that we can interpret what she is trying to communicate), her favorite of which are "I want", "eat", "snack", and "more". Can you guess what her favorite pastime is? Ha ha! The kid can put the food away!!! Her favorite foods are probably raisins, blueberries, cooked carrots, spaghetti, mac n cheese on the rare occasion that she gets it, corn, bananas, applesauce, and yogurt. Really, she loves fruit, cooked veggies, pasta, and sweets, and isn't a fan of most raw veggies and meat unless it is mixed into a soup or casserole or cut up in very tiny pieces and covered in seasoning or sauce. She can sometimes successfully do a forward roll, jumps with both feet off the ground, loves going down slides at the water park and just being in the water in general, story time, dancing, and playing with her big sister. Those two really love each other, which is a huge answer to 9 months of prayer when I was pregnant with Julia. Now I am praying that my three girls will love one another, always include each other, and be like a 3-strand cord that is not easily broken.

Natalie is my big girl. Don't try to tell her she is too little to wear red nail polish (I made that mistake) because she will just tell you, "I am too bigger! I am a big sister!" She keeps an eye on Julia and loves feeling Sophia kick. The other day, she and I were snuggling on the couch at nap time and her back was against my belly. Sophia decided to practice her soccer skills and went a little crazy. Natalie thought it was hilarious getting kicked in the back and the behind by her baby sister. She helps me tremendously from fetching things around the house, to putting things away, helping me grocery shop, picking up after herself, getting herself dressed (even if she does want to change outfits 3 times a day), feeding the dog, getting the mail, and generally being willing to help however I ask her to. She wants mommy and daddy to snuggle with her and rub her back every night before bed. Lately she has been singing along with songs on the radio and it just melts my heart to hear her sing about Jesus. She gets excited when it is my turn to lead worship at church and asks me if I am going to sing. I think there is a good chance that she'll be up there with me some day. Natalie asks me every morning where we are going and who is coming over. If I tell her that we aren't going anywhere or that no one is coming over, she asks to go somewhere and see someone. She loves going to the library, the water park, to her grandparents' houses, to church, and to play with friends. She has been fascinated with ballet for months now and loves wearing tutus, dancing around the house, watching Angelina Ballerina, and watching YouTube videos of real ballet dancers.

So that's life around here in a nutshell. Sophia will make her grand debut in roughly 9 more weeks and then things will really get interesting. I am so nervous about the transition from 2 to 3. Having Julia seemed like a breeze, but now I'm really going to be outnumbered. What if I never get a nap?! I have gotten the hang of the whole two-kids thing and now it's going to change. I just want there to be enough of me to go around and for no one to feel neglected or left out. Despite making progress on a few projects, my to-do list is still a mile long. Some of the things on it aren't important, but it would still be nice to get them done. It'll all come together. And God's grace is sufficient to help me through this next transition!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pregnancy with Baby G#3

In just under two weeks, we will find out the gender of little baby G#3. It is a lot easier said than done to not get your hopes up one way or the other, but I am trying my best to stay neutral. I will say though that my pregnancy symptoms have been very different this time than they were with both the girls. My sense of smell has been more keen than ever before, my skin has been much clearer than it was with the girls, there has been no tenderness in my chest, I haven't gotten sick at all, but the constant nausea is really getting old. I mean, I'm into my second trimester now and there is no sign of it going away. Those stick out to me as the biggest differences.

At 15 weeks, I feel huge. Not huge and uncomfortable, just bigger than I think I should be at this far along. At my first prenatal appointment, which was at 12 weeks, my doctor said I felt bigger than 12 weeks and ordered an ultrasound to check things out. He said I could come back the following week or two or wait until my next visit in four weeks for the ultrasound since I live 45 minutes away. Since we had already planned to do a gender ultrasound at 16 weeks, I figured I'd just wait until my next appointment and do it all at once. But he has me all worried about twins! Why else would he break his "rule" of not doing an ultrasound before 20 weeks? Surely it is no big deal if a woman measures ahead during her third pregnancy, right? I mean, my uterus knows a thing or two about stretching out at this point and my abdominal muscles are, well, not toned, and may never be again. But surely if he really suspected twins, he wouldn't have me wait four more weeks to find out!? We shall have all those answers soon!

Natalie wants a brother AND a sister, and no matter how you try to explain that there is probably only one baby in there, she still says she wants both and then suggests names like "Sprinkle" (because a friend and I were discussing the concept of  "sprinkles" instead of baby showers) or whatever name Alex says is his favorite at the time. Julia, of course, has no clue what is going on and is more than content to try and climb all over my belly for play time or cuddles as much as her little heart desires. I have realized that it is a wonderful thing that she is so petite compared to Natalie because it would be so much harder to be pregnant with her being so young if she were much heavier. Natalie was Julia's size at just 9 months old!

I realized today after I had gotten the girls loaded into the car and then had to go back into the house to retrieve my keys that despite it being a lot of work to go anywhere with two kids, I have no intention of getting all worked up about how much harder it will be to leave the house with three littles in tow. I don't plan to squeeze in as many outings as I can with just the two of them while I still can, while it is still "easy". I'm just going to live life and enjoy whatever comes and not worry about what I cannot change. If we make it to the park every week for some special play time this summer, then great. If not, then we saved the gas and hopefully had just as much fun playing in the backyard. I suppose maybe I should savor the ability to grocery shop pretty much whenever I want to because I can still take both kids with me and have room in the cart for all our purchases because I don't foresee being able to stay sane while attempting to grocery shop with 3 kids under 4. My grocery shopping habits are pretty much guaranteed to change once the baby is born in order to preserve my sanity and energy.

I know I have done a terrible job at being fully present in the moment and I desperately want to get better about that. Maybe that can be a "pregnancy resolution". I just made that up, but it works. Be present because these years are going to fly by and I don't want to look back with regret. I want to remember as many of the details of my kids' childhood as I can. I only have a few more months with just my two girls and I don't want to forget what that was like. What they were like. Right now, they get excited at the simplest things and live life with such enthusiasm. I want that to rub off on me. What a wonderful way to live!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hope for Spring

I just re-read the post I wrote about Julia's first birthday and it is a little too ironic. I said that I felt like I was starting to find my "groove" and get out of survival mode and that I looked forward to what adventures lay ahead for our little family. Little did I know that just a few short weeks later, I would be back in the throes of survival mode because constant nausea and exhaustion from morning sickness were making it nigh impossible to accomplish much more than preparing 3 meals and getting the girls and I dressed every day. 

But today, the sun came out so brightly and the temperatures climbed into the 60's and we actually got to spend a decent amount of time playing outside, enjoying the fresh air. Maybe the hope of Spring is just the thing to get me through this season of life. I have packets of heirloom seeds waiting to be planted and dreams of a few raised beds in the back yard for the girls and I to dig around in this summer. Easter is around the corner and just a few short weeks after that, we will find out the gender of this new little one. There is plenty to look forward to! 

We Missed You, Daddy!

After a week of torture waiting for Alex to return from his business trip, I finally got to tell him our big news! He was originally supposed to arrive home really late in the evening, so I was going to wait until the following day and tell Natalie the surprise first and then watch as she told him that mommy had a baby in her belly. However, I was worried that she would then tell the entire world our news before we were ready for it to be public knowledge, and Alex ended up coming home several hours earlier, which gave us some down time to catch up with each other before heading to bed. With the extra time together, I knew it was going to kill me to have to stay quiet and stick with my original plan, so I quickly tried to come up with a cute way to tell him without just blurting it out. When he walked in the door, we gave each other a big hug and the idea just came to me. Thank you, Jesus. I followed him around the house like a lost puppy while he slipped in to see the girls in their bedrooms and waited for the right moment. We were cuddled in the recliner and I told him, "We missed you. All five of us." (I was counting Layla) He said, "I missed you, too." *Pause* "Wait. Five of you?...Are you pregnant?" After I said yes, he got this big smile on his face and I told him how I had known for a week and didn't want to stress him out during his trip by telling him before he left. He just shook his head and took it all in. Then he started rationalizing and planning just like I had. We discussed some finances, the need for a vehicle with more room to accommodate three car seats, looked at his preferred SUV online, and I told him how soon we could find out the gender. I'm so glad he is happy and excited! I think he is actually more excited this time than he was the last time, which is kind of crazy to me, but hey, I'll take it! This is the last time there will be a pregnancy to announce, a baby to plan for. We should soak it all in as much as possible! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In the Midst of Indecision

For months now, I have gone back and forth about having another baby. I had always planned on having four kids, but after Natalie was born, three sounded just fine to me. Then Julia was born. She started out a wonderful sleeper, but that ended at three months and even at 12 months old, she still woke up twice every night (now at 14 months old, she wakes once and recently slept through the night twice in a week! Progress!). From birth, she had a throat-grinding, painful sounding scream that took a very long time for Alex and I to get used to. Her temper is fierce and rises to the surface in an instant when you put her down, put her in the car seat, or when life just generally doesn't go her way. She is cute and smart, bashful and brave, but she hasn't made the should-we-have-another-baby-someday decision very easy. In my mind, I hoped that Alex would come around and agree that one more child would complete our little family and that Lord willing, we could become a family of five when Julia was about two and a half. Then I started getting baby fever. I blame it on Julia turning a year old. All the websites and books and baby updates start labeling your precious babe a "toddler" as soon as that one-year milestone is reached. Alex and I agreed that I was insane for feeling this way, lol. He was by no means ready to consider changing our family dynamic yet, if ever.

A couple of friends are having babies or trying to conceive, which I guess is pretty common when you're still in your twenties. Everyone around you gets married and within a few years, babies start coming and conversations change from buying houses, home decor, what recipes you make that are husband-approved to cycle-charting, morning sickness, labor and delivery plans, nursery decor, to how to get the baby to sleep at night. I think that as a twenty-something woman, it's only natural for me to struggle with family planning since I am still in the midst of that "ideal" time in my life to be having babies and keeping up with toddlers and, now that I have a 3 year old, a preschooler. I have had this conversation with more than a dozen people in recent weeks. "How did you know that you were "done"? Was it hard going from 2 to 3, or 4 or 5...? How long did it take for you and your husband to get on the same page? I'm just not sure. He's just not sure. I want my kids to grow up with siblings..."

Then I realized something wasn't quite right. I took a pregnancy test. And 3 minutes later, the future of our family was decided. Two pink lines appeared. I was pregnant. Me. Who struggled for 11 agonizing months to get pregnant the first time around. Who miscarried the second time. Who has to plan and try and endure the stress and heartbreak of things not happening as quickly as I would like for them to. Got pregnant without planning it. Without "trying".  Holy cow. Um, yeah. I was stunned.

I didn't say anything to Alex because he was leaving for a week-long business trip in two days and I didn't want to blurt out that ready or not, he was going to be a daddy again, but have a great time on your trip and work hard! Good luck concentrating now that I've dropped this bombshell in your lap! I tested again the next day and confirmed that the first test wasn't a fluke. Alex left for his trip the following morning, and I spent the week just dying to tell him every time we talked on the phone. Never mind that he was on his lunch break or getting ready to go sight-see with co-workers or step back into a meeting. I have news to tell you and I want to tell you right now!!! Gah! I did call my doula because she was nearly booked up for Julia's birth month when I called her at 6 or 7 weeks pregnant. She is a vital part of my birth plan, so I couldn't take a risk on her not being able to take me on as a client! 

In the midst of my indecision, I feel like God stepped in and said, "Would you chill out, woman?! I have this all figured out and you just need to relax and trust me. I've got this! This is the plan. Go along with it. It's all going to be ok." So now, 4.5 days later as I'm writing this (although I will post it later), I am feeling excited, nervous, a little stressed, still in shock, but I can't wait to tell Alex. I've been praying for God to prepare his heart. I don't want the memory of the moment I tell him to forever be negative because all he says is, "Well, guess there's nothing we can do about it now. We will never get a full night's sleep again!" or "Oh crap!" Ha! And the detail-lover in me is thinking about the finances, the need for a bigger vehicle to fit 3 car seats across the back seat because there is currently something like a meager 6 inches between Natalie and Julia's car seats right now, where is the baby going to sleep, when should Julia move out of the crib, should she move into Natalie's room or stay in her room with the new baby, what will the grandparents think because I know they think I already have my hands full, who cares what they think, who cares what anybody thinks, how much longer until I can tell more people, don't forget to tell so-and-so, don't forget to take your prenatal vitamins! It's a busy place in my brain right now!

Baby G-3 is due in early October. This is just further proof of God's sense of humor: after I miscarried, we purposely waited to try to conceive again to specifically avoid October as the birth month of our second child because there are 5 family birthdays and 2 anniversaries that month, including ours. God says, "Who cares if your kid has to share a birthday party with their cousins or your anniversary?! Ain't no big thang!" (Yes, God does talk like that, in case you were wondering.) So, here we are, our future mapped out before us. Thank you, Lord, for making the decision easier ;) Seriously. I mean that. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Julia at 12 Months

Despite not having posted a single thing in over 8 months, I do think about my little blog from time to time and how I really have zero time to write what has been happening in my life even though I do want to write something so that I can look back years from now and remember what it was like when my kids were little. So here I am. Julia turned one on January 16. She started walking the week of Thanksgiving, so she was getting around really well at her party. We had our families over for finger foods, cake, and ice cream, after Julia's nap. She loved her little slice of carrot cake and ate it all up! She received a stuffed owl pillow that I made to match her nursery, a cloth doll, a giraffe heating pad stuffed animal, a pull along puppy, funds to open a savings account, and a ball/block run that is kind of like a marble run/plinko game combo.

Julia has consistently woken up twice during the night for months now. We have hit a wall and she just will not make any progress in the sleep department! She is weaned during the day and only nurses during the night. Her favorite foods are pretty much anything, but she especially loves grapes, raisins, and spaghetti. She babbles constantly, but only says a few words like Da-da, uh-oh, yeah, hi, yay, and no. She finally said "mom-mom" the other day, but won't say it again! Stinker! Despite her limited vocabulary, she is great at communicating what she wants and shows that she understands what we say to her. If I ask her if she wants to eat a snack, she heads straight for the kitchen. She leans, grunts, and points to what she wants and refuses to use correct sign language and instead has invented her own sign for "more". Her favorite activities are baths, swinging, playing with dolls, and playing in the kitchen cabinets. She loves her big sisters and is interacting with her more and more all the time. It is an answer to prayer that they have grown to love each other. I'm praying that it continues and lasts a lifetime! Julia loves "patting the Bible" while you sing "The B-I-B-L-E". In the church nursery, there is a basket full of little New Testaments that they pass out to the kids while they sing that song and she goes for it immediately when you take her to the nursery and starts patting the Bibles. She dances and enjoys music and singing and loves sitting on my lap and banging on the piano when I try to practice. I pretty much practice in vain because she screams if I put her on the floor and don't let her sit on my lap to "play". She can almost run now and walks very quickly. She can climb the stairs to Alex's office in probably 20 seconds or less. She is super fast! She usually just takes one nap a day and is ready for bed around 7. She wakes up like clockwork as soon as my head hits the pillow (around 11:30 pm) and again usually between 1 and 3 a.m. and wakes up anywhere from 6:45 to 7:45 most mornings. She weighs 19 pounds and is 29 inches tall. 18 month pants are usually too long on her, but we make them work. She adores her family and has a really sweet relationship with all of us. I think I am her favorite person, but Daddy and big sis are close seconds.

This past year has flown by even faster than Natalie's first year and I am afraid that I haven't documented it very well. In true second-child form, I haven't taken as many pictures and obviously didn't write as many monthly updates. But Julia is still so special to us and we treasure every day with her. She has taught me so much about perseverance, flexibility, unconditional love, and my own weaknesses. Mothering two littles is a whole new ball game, but I think I have found my "groove" and don't quite feel like I am still in survival mode. With just Natalie, I used to get bored with the same old routine every single day, but now with two kids, there isn't time to be bored. And I like that. I look forward to watching my girls grow up and grow closer to one another. We have come a long way in just a year! Here's to many new adventures ahead!