• Happy Birthday Mark!

    Date: 2014.04.23 | Category: Birthday, Family, Life, Love, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah | Response: 2

    Today I get to celebrate the birthday of my best friend, my husband. Last night, while I was thinking about his birthday, I realized that this is the tenth of his birthdays we’ve spent together. Ten times I’ve sung for him and celebrated another year of his life.

    The first time we were still newly infatuated with one another, another time we were newly weds. Then Sarah came and helped us celebrate those birthdays, once when she was less than two weeks old. And this year Norah joined the celebration.

    Sarah was so excited about her daddy’s birthday this year that I let her pick out a card for him. She emphatically chose one with a pink mermaid and dolphin on it with wishes for the Birthday Girl. She wouldn’t be dissuaded and could not wait to give it to her daddy this morning. He loved it, of course. She also took great joy in thwacking Mark in his still sleeping face with her present for him – a CD and a box of twinkies.

    Norah also gave her daddy a special gift – loudly and proudly yelling out her first word, “Da da!” over and over again. Mark beamed and so did I.

    I gave him a new ice tea maker, an extra pitcher, some tea and the second Walking Dead book – all of which he loved.

    Birthdays are different now – no celebrations at the Blind Tiger during happy hour. Instead Mark and I got to enjoy lunch together, chowing down on burgers at the Twisted Root (which was really great, by the way).

    Last night I asked Mark, “So, how does your last night as a 36-year-old feel?”

    He said, “No different really. I still have my beautiful wife by my side and my two sweet little girls.”

    We are all about family these days, and though our sleep may be continually interrupted and it’s harder to find time to go out for a drink, I am so thankful that we get to celebrate another birthday together, for the tenth time.

    Mark is a special guy, and on his birthday especially, I’m so happy and proud that he’s my guy.

    Happy Birthday Mark! I love you.

  • 7 Months

    Date: 2014.04.23 | Category: Family, Life, Norah | Response: 2

    Easter delayed this post for a couple of days, but I need to post it now because Norah is hitting her milestones faster than I can document them!

    This past month has been an exciting one for Norah. She started sprouting her first tooth about four weeks ago, followed shortly by her second one a week later. They are now both about the same size and coming in full force. We haven’t seen any other ones peek through yet, but with the way she’s chewing on anything and everything, I feel certain that more are on the way soon.

    Norah is also crawling now, well sort of crawling a couple of steps, falling, sliding, popping up again and then frog hopping. Her little wiggly dance works for her though and she makes enthusiastic laps around our living room. She loves the plastic Easter eggs still laying around, and will crawl to them, grab one and then throw it across the room and chase it down again – over and over and over – it’s adorable.

    She absolutely loves our dog Bonnie. When Bonnie walks up to her, a giant grin breaks out across her face, and when she gets to pet Bonnie, or Bonnie licks her, she lets out the best giggle.

    Norah, during the day anyway, is a very content baby. In the past couple of weeks she’s missed afternoon naps to go to her sister’s and cousin’s birthday parties and she didn’t miss a beat. She was tired, but never got grumpy. Instead she enjoyed watching all the other children run and play.

    Night is still tough on us. We’ve tried letting her cry it out, but that only helps us for about two nights and then we’re back to square one. Now that she can crawl, as soon as she wakes up in the middle of the night she starts crawling around her crib and crying because she’s exhausted. It’s the strangest thing.

    She is babbling more and more, making “ba, da, ma” sounds. She’s said “da da,” but I’m not sure if she knows what she’s saying. Her dad’s been working so hard to get her to say it though, so he’s very pleased. Sarah has been trying to get her to say “Sarah,” and sometimes it sounds like she says it.

    Norah makes us laugh all the time. Sometimes we will be fussing at Sarah at the dinner table when Norah will let out a gut busting laugh and break the tension completely.

    Speaking of dinner, we have introduced lots of solids now. For a while she was a great eater, but she had the stomach bug last week and since then hasn’t been big on solid foods. We are working on getting her intake back up. She is still nursing really well though and is completely happy to keep doing that.

    She is growing so quickly, in a size 9 month clothes now, but I can tell it won’t be for long.

    I love watching the little girl she is becoming, happy to snuggle with mom and dad and share smiles with anyone. We find that she “makes friends” in public all the time with her big grin and silly laughs.

    I love this little girl so much and can’t believe how quickly time is passing by.

  • Three

    Date: 2014.04.11 | Category: Birthday, Family, Life, Love, Me, Sarah, Toddler Time | Response: 10

    Oh Sarah Girl.

    It’s April again and that means you’re officially another year older. Three is weird because, in a way, I feel like you turned three months ago when we brought your sister home and you suddenly grew up. You started talking all the time, became braver, listened better to us and became aware of your sister and her moods and occasionally even wanted to take care of her.

    But that was two and this is three.

    Three is silly conversations and repeating phrases. It’s telling me that you “fell like a giant” when you were pushed and how you love to play blocks and paint at school each day. Three is singing memorized songs out loud and off key, but we don’t mind. “Let It Go” is your theme song, your mantra, and it’s something we all try to do.

    Three can be bossy. “Mama turn that light on. I want crackers. I can’t reach my sunglasses, give them to me!” But it’s also learning consequences, rewards and manners.

    Three is learning how to say no without saying no: “Not now mama, maybe tomorrow.”

    Three is potty trained and independent. It’s determination and stubbornness. It’s tantrums and giggles. It’s teasing and playing games.

    Three is huge imagination. A towel is a cape, a bandana is a princess dress, a bucket is a castle and blocks are an ice cream cone. There are plays and games and we are all players to the roles you assign us. “I’m Anna and you’re Elsa mama. Daddy’s the reindeer and Sister is the snowman.”

    Three is dancing and running and jumping for joy. It’s dressing up and doing hair and already asking for “purple eyes” (makeup). Three is insanely stubborn about outfits, always wanting to wear “soft pants” (leggings).

    My girl, you’ve been coming into your own all year, and it’s easy to see how you got here. You love warm hugs (like the snowman) and are so generous with kisses and “I love you’s.” You love to build things and let out raucous giggles.

    I love every moment (even the tough ones). I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but you are a bright member of our family team and I am so very glad and so very thankful that you’re my daughter.

    Happy Birthday my little love.

    Sarah’s 3rd Birthday from Jessica on Vimeo.

  • The Renovation

    Date: 2014.04.01 | Category: Family, Home, Mark, Style | Response: 10

    We bought our house about five years ago. It was originally built in the 1970’s, and has been “updated” by the various tenants who lived in it over the years. The people we bought it from had five children (in a three bedroom house) and had almost no sense of interior decoration. The master bedroom was neon purple. And while they had replaced some of the floors, they chose a cheap floating laminate that was SO LOUD when the dogs ran across it.

    We’ve been slowly working on small improvements since we bought it. We immediately re-painted the neon purple bedroom (with four coats of paint), took down the borders and the stapled-to-the-wall Winnie the Pooh balloon in the other two rooms and painted them, and painted the office. Before Sarah was born, we tore up the original blue carpet from the two other rooms and replaced it.

    The living room though, has always been a bit of an eye sore. While it has awesome vaulted ceilings and plenty of room, it was so drab. It had dated white carpet that I think was original, white walls, white ceilings and brown beams. We kept intending to update it, so we never hung pictures. It was just this awful room of blah.

    I didn’t take any great “before” pictures, but I found some on my phone featuring Sarah. You can see the living room and the hallway in these photos.

    When Cassie came to visit, she insisted we paint it – and we did! It’s much warmer and more inviting now.

    The carpet, however, became a problem. We have two dogs, one who liked to pee in the same spot by the back door. We had juice stains and dog hair and everything else you can possibly imagine to irritate allergies. We had enough and decided to replace it. While we were at it, I insisted we replace the loud laminate in the hallways too to keep the dog toenails from waking up the kids.

    After doing a lot of research and pricing, we ultimately decided to buy the floors through a distributor in Georgia and install it ourselves, saving us somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500.

    Mark ripped up all the old floors and it’s amazing how much better the house smelled!

    Well, like most home projects, other tangent projects started popping up. Mark wanted to replace our front and back doors before the new floors went in so the thresholds would meet the new floor without looking weird – so he and his dad did that. And then he wanted  to cut down our extremely long to-the-wall fireplace hearth off to give us more room – so he did. And then we needed to prime and paint our hallway, which was a ridiculous and ugly seafoam green, so we did that too. On and on and on. We kept working at it, but still the floors weren’t going down.

    I began to worry because we both wanted it all done before Sarah’s fast approaching birthday party. And while Mark and I are happily married and have been together nearly 11 years, it turns out we have very different philosophies on home improvement projects that result in a lot of arguing. (For example, I’d rather tape and paint quickly, so we can finish a room and move on to the next project, while he was concerned about the direction of brush strokes and meticulously painting around the painters tape “just in case it bled through).

    Needless to say, the thought of taking on the floors ourselves while under the time crunch would have been a very bad idea for a number of reasons.

    Good thing Mark’s parents knew a good floor man. He came and scoped it out and gave us a fantastic price. Plus he has the experience and all the tools to put the floor down. Oh, and he and his brother can do it in one day. What we are paying them is more than enough to save our sanity and the potential arguments that come with home renovations.

    So, as of today, we are the proud owners of new floors, new doors, and a newly painted hallway.

    Oh, and we also paid someone to build us a new gate into our back yard to accommodate Mark’s giant new-to-us lawnmower.

    All we have left to do before the big birthday party is paint and install some new trim… and put together the birthday girl’s new trampoline.

  • Saturday, Saturday

    Date: 2014.03.26 | Category: Baby, Birthday, Family, Friends, Home, Life, Love, Mark, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Sarah, Toddler Time | Response: 3

    I feel like my last few posts have been a bit of a downer, so let me tell you about some of the really great things going on, because there are so many!

    This past weekend was so wonderful.  On Saturday we went to a birthday party for two of Sarah’s best buddies. The twins live right down the street from us and had an awesome cowboy birthday party.

    Sheriff Sarah was thrilled with her cowgirl outfit. (Pardon our concrete floors – we’re having new ones installed Monday).

    There were pony rides that went really well… until the pony actually started moving.

    There was a petting zoo of goats…

    And bunnies and chickens.

    There was an awesome set up for photos, though Norah was unimpressed.

    Also, cupcakes!

    That night continued to improve.

    Mark and I finally had a night out with just the two of us – the first in months.

    We started out at The Blind Tiger, our old haunt back before kids that serves up great food and beer. We knew the bartender and the owner and had a great time kicking back and enjoying ourselves. They had Abita Strawberry on tap – a local and seasonal favorite, which made the evening that much better.

    From there we left to go see  the Elton John in concert. I won free tickets from our local newspaper to go to the show – something amazing in and of itself.

    The show was so good. He played for three hours straight, singing tons of hits. They had a camera on his hands so the audience could watch him play piano. He was full of energy and knew how to work the crowd.

    And check out that crazy chandelier that kept changing colors and moving all around. Truly an amazing and fun show.

    We got home late, but we had a great time. Thanks to my mom for watching the girls for us and allowing us some much needed down time.

  • A Reflection on Sacrifice

    Date: 2014.03.21 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Life, Love, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah | Response: 3

    Yesterday I had lunch with Kim, a good friend of mine who regularly puts me through my thinking paces about everything from astrology to politics to faith and religion. I love talking with her, because she often forces me to think about important things that I often gloss over in lieu of the day-to-day necessities of life.  And even when we don’t agree, we can still talk civilly and learn from one another. It  was so great to take a time out to sit, and talk, and think.

    As conversations often go with Kim, I started telling her about a “theme” that seems to be continually hitting me over the head this past month or so. When I explained to her how it kept popping up, Kim looked at me in the eyes and said, “Jess, it sounds like you have an article writing you.” And, of course, she was right.

    When Norah got croup, and then RSV, I found myself simultaneously upset that she was so sick, feeling all of her pain and suffering ten times over, and battling this great, guilty ball of sleep deprived frustration. When, I wondered, will I ever sleep again?

    But on these many sleepless, frustrating nights, I would close my eyes, rock the baby and let my mind wander. And, so many times, it kept finding its way to a Mass I recently attended where one of our seminarians was ordained to a deacon. Weird, I know. But the moment that kept popping out in my head was when the bishop, during his homily, spoke about sacrifice. And while on that particular occasion the sacrifices he spoke of were the ones deacons and priests make when they choose a vocation in the church, he could have been speaking to any parent. When big moments happen in our lives, he said, they often require great sacrifice. And it is in making these sacrifices, often of things we desperately want, that we learn who we truly are and what we’re made of.

    Not to be outdone, I’ve been following along with Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten reflections, reading in the middle of the night, when one about Mother Theresa surfaced:

    “By emptying out the self in love for the other, we become filled to the brim with the divine life… The secret to joy is self-giving love. Mother Teresa imparted that to her sisters, and she offers the same lesson to us.”

    I know that I am not perfect and I know that I need time to myself to stay sane, but I also need moments to knock me over the head and say, “You know what? Yes, this is hard, this is really really hard sometimes, but your girls need YOU. They want their mother. They need their mother. And this sacrifice of sleep, of time, of my body (and occasionally sanity), not only shows me how deep love can go, but it infinitely helps, nourishes and heals the two most precious little souls to me on this earth.

    And if that doesn’t show me what I’m made of, or teach me joy through self-giving, I don’t know what will. How blessed I am to be given this amazing family.

  • Six Months

    Date: 2014.03.21 | Category: Baby, Family, Life, Norah | Response: 2

    Oh Norah girl, how did we reach this point already?

    I love this age. Norah is constantly discovering more of the world around her these days, always craning her neck around to see what’s behind her, beside her, reaching out and trying to grasp it all, especially if it’s shiny.

    She is starting to sit independently now – at first leaning forward on her elbows, then her hands. And just yesterday she proudly lifted her hands up and waved them around showing us how strong her core and back have gotten. With this new found strength we’ve been able to move her to a bath tub chair so she can take baths with her sister. She loves it! She leans over the edge of the chair the whole time splashing and trying to grab one of the many toys that float by her hand. Sarah loves “cleaning” her too, rubbing her head down with a wash cloth, though Norah decidedly hates having her face washed.

    Norah is such a giggle bot. Mark and I try to outdo each other acting insane to get those sweet, squealy laughs.

    This past month we have battled more than our fair share of illnesses including both croup and RSV. As a result we also backtracked on night time sleeping and are just now trying to break some of those middle of the night wake up party habits she picked up while she was sick.

    Norah loves to reach out and pet the dogs, running her hands through their fur. She also has developed that annoying tendency to reach out, grab our hair and yank. I’ve taken to keeping mine pulled back at all times, but she manages to get Sarah’s all the time.

    She absolutely loves her bouncer, especially the little leaf attachment that she gnaws on.

    We introduced foods about two weeks ago after she kept making a grab for our plates. She has loved everything she’s tried so far except for carrots. Sweet potatoes and pears are her favorites, with peas, surprisingly, coming in a close second.

    She’s still an avid thumb sucker, finding it more and more while she’s awake to soothe herself.

    Our Norah bean is such a snuggle bug, happiest when mommy or daddy are holding her close and obsessively kissing her fuzzy head and cheeks. And yes, just like Sarah, Norah has a full head of buzz cut style fuzz that’s super soft and so much fun to rub. Sarah loves to sit with her and rub her head.

    Norah is also obsessed with her own feet. She holds them all the time and has now started putting them in her mouth, laughing when she pulls her socks off with her gums. Still no signs of teeth yet, but we’re not worried or in any hurry.

    She loves rolling tummy to back, and will make it about 3/4 of the way from back to tummy before giving up and rolling back to where she started. She can get her knees up under herself and even managed to move them a little the other night before falling. I’m not sure I’m ready for another mobile child yet!

    Our little girl is growing so fast and blossoming into the happiest, sweetest little girl. It’s hard to believe we’re already half way to her first birthday (though I won’t be sad to see those sleepless nights go away). She is our little bean and we can’t wait to delight in her next milestones with her.

  • The Plague is Upon Us

    Date: 2014.03.03 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Me, Norah | Response: 5

    It started with a cough, my cough. But I trudged through it thinking that it was from lack of sleep. Within a week Sarah started coughing so hard that she was throwing up in her bed at night. 24 hours after that Norah was coughing. By Wednesday, we were all feeling so rough that all three of us went to the doctor.

    I had a sinus infection. I started antibiotics and some awesome prescription cough medicine and was feeling better within 24 hours. It was deemed that Sarah and Norah both had viral infections and that with time and patience they would resolve themselves. Sarah took Benadryl at night and was just fine.

    Norah, however, started getting progressively worse. By Friday night she was running fever, unable to eat and crying this low, steady whine for all but 2 hours at night. Any time I would lay her down she would cough uncontrollably and wake up crying. So we stayed in the recliner and she slept on me. By Saturday morning I was in tears. Sleep deprivation had kicked in, yes, but Norah’s slow and steady whine of pain was breaking my heart and had me in tears. I waffled on whether or not to take her back to the doctor, but ultimately decided that things had gotten worse, not better and it was time to act.

    Fortunately our pediatrician’s office has a few Saturday morning hours and we were able to get there quick. The doctor checked her ears and immediately saw that they were full of pus. However, there had been a case of RSV in Norah’s daycare class, so they swabbed her for that just in case. And wouldn’t you know it, it came back positive.

    For those of you unfamiliar with childhood diseases, RSV is a virus that infects your lungs and airways. For adults and older children, it’s not so bad. It just manifests itself as a cold and moves on. For babies though, especially babies under six months old, it can be very dangerous. I know three babies personally who have been hospitalized with RSV.

    So when the doctor sympathetically told me she had RSV, I felt panic start to grip my chest a little bit. The doctor could see it written all over my face, I’m sure. But he was so great. He told me that he listened to her breathing and she didn’t sound bad. As long as she was having four wet diapers a day and breathing ok we could treat it at home.

    Fortunately my sister has a nebulizer, so we borrowed that from her and we’ve been able to do breathing treatments at home. Norah is such a champ about them, mesmerized by the buzzing noise it makes as it turns the albuterol into breathable steam. It hypes her up some, but it makes her feel so much better and her breathing and coughing ease for a few hours after doing a treatment.

    My mom picked Sarah up Saturday and kept her overnight so I could devote my attentions to the baby. And we spent most of the day and evening Saturday in the rocker so she could sleep upright. Fortunately though, the breathing treatments started easing things for her so she was finally able to get some good rest in her own bed that evening.

    Since then she’s been back and forth, sometimes having moments of feeling better and we get to see the occasional smile. Mostly though, she just wants to be rocked and doesn’t want to eat. She did wake up without fever for the first time this morning though, so that was a great sign.

    Our biggest concern is now is keeping her hydrated. She won’t eat much because her nose is clogged and her ears hurt. And when she does get some down, her stomach is so full of mucus that she often throws it back up. We have trouble keeping the medicine down her too for that reason. I have to keep reassuring myself, she’s making enough wet diapers that she should be ok. The middle of the night is when she does her best feedings (of course), so some milk is staying down.

    The doctor said this will likely be a 5-7 day run of illness before she gets truly better. I never knew how much becoming a mother would turn me into a big ball of empathy, feeling everything they feel 10 times worse. Please keep us in your prayers as our little girl continues to heal.

  • 5 Months

    Date: 2014.02.24 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Me, Norah | Response: 10

    My Norah girl is five months old and seems to be settling into her personality. She is all giggles and snuggles, often letting out loud, squealing laughs.

    She’s big enough for her bouncer now, and loves sitting in it and looking at all the toys around her. I love watching her try to (usually successfully) reach and grab items that she takes an interest in. She can now also reach out, grab and hold on to toys… and also hair. Ouch!

    This past month Norah experienced croup for the first time. She developed labored, strider breathing and terrified me. Fortunately though, she snapped out of it withing 12 hours of starting a steroid.When we took her to the doctor she weighed in just shy of 15lbs. She’s in a size 3 diaper and 6-9 month clothes.

    She also experienced her first “snow” day  this past month from inside the house, but I think she enjoyed watching her sister run around outside in it.

    She is a master at rolling front to back now, and has started making attempts to go back the other direction. She can also get her knees up under herself when she gets a mind to, and move herself forward ever so slightly.

    She loves to reach out and grab chins and ears, rubbing our faces and smiling. She loves kisses on her cheeks and forehead and always lets out appreciative laughs when we give them to her.

    Norah forever has her fingers in her mouth. She’s getting better at popping her thumb in when she’s tired and doing a bit of self soothing.

    She has stopped sleeping through the night, however, going through an awful sleep regression phase. At one point she was waking up at 11:30, 2:30 and 5:30, but seems to just stick to the 2:30 wake up now. She wants to laugh and play when she wakes up and it takes a while for her to get back to sleep. I am absolutely exhausted from all this business.

    She absolutely loves tummy time, and when she gets bored she likes to lay on her back, kick her legs and squeal. She’s starting to “stand” more and more when we hold her.

    Norah also had her first Valentine’s Day this past month. Mommy and Daddy gave her a book and a little stuffed frog. She made a Valentine with her feet at school.

    Norah girl is definitely our little snuggle bug, always happiest when she’s laying on someone, or someone is talking to her. She especially loves watching her sister and cousin run around and play. She can’t wait to get in on that action.

    She’s a sweet little spirit with a gentle personality. And besides that whole not sleeping thing, gets so much more fun and lovable every day.

    Oh how I love my little Norah girl. There is nothing like rocking my sweet baby to sleep, even if it is at 3:00 a.m.

  • Living

    Date: 2014.02.20 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Toddler Time | Response: 8

    Oh hi! Remember me? It’s ok, I barely remember my own name these days.

    Let’s start with this precious begonia.

    Remember how I told you that she started sucking her thumb and was sleeping for 12 hours straight? Too bad that was just a fun, short break. Now she’s entered what Google has informed me is the four month sleep regression phase. Long story short, she startles herself awake at least three times a night now, wakes up, starts chirping like an overzealous bird and refuses to go back to sleep. This means that I am averaging about three hours of sleep a night, with no chance to nap because I’m back at work again. Fun times!

    I mean it’s really a very good thing that she is oh so adorable… even if that does mean she starts laughing at me somewhere around 3 a.m. when I start pulling my hair out.

    Speaking of pulling hair out, I have entered that joyous post partum phase where all of my hair is falling out. I brush it once and suddenly my hairbrush has been transformed into a pathetic looking chinchilla. My hair has gotten so thin that I’m starting to wonder if I have any strands strong enough to hold on. I’m thinking about giving it a good chop and letting it start over.

    In other fun news, Norah caught croup from school, struggled to breathe one morning last week and gave me a panic attack. I took her to the doctor and they started her on steroids right away. They fixed her up in a matter of hours and she was thrilled to ride that sleeplessness side effect into every single night she was on the steroid.

    We also had Sarah’s first “snow day” last week… which meant we had a pretty neat ice storm with accumulation. I know I have friends who live up north and may laugh at this, but we residents of the deep south are not equipped for such things, so schools were canceled and I got to stay home with my girls and slip slide across the icy backyard with my poor, confused dogs. Sarah enthusiastically declared, “Mama! It’s Frozen like the movie!” Poor kid, that may be the closest she ever gets to a real snow. We don’t even own gloves. I had to take a note out of my friend Susan’s book and put socks on her hands.

    And me? Well besides the fact that I’m not sleeping and all my hair is falling out, I seem to be holding up moderately well. I joined a book club with a friend locally, and I get one day a month to go out, have a drink, eat and talk about books with friends. And these folks have extremely different reading tastes than I normally do, but it’s been great because it has forced me to read books out of my default YA zone. And the first book we read, while it had a boring start, ended up being a really interesting read. (And we got to discuss it while I ate a sweet potato pancake, blackberry grits and enjoyed a mimosa!)

    We are also getting ready to replace half the floors in our house. We initially thought we were going to pay someone to install it, but Mark and I are just too cheap. When we learned the install price was double the actual floor cost, we decided to tackle the project ourselves. And by we, I mean Mark. He has been demoing our current floors and prepping them so we can install the new. So on top of mountains of princess toys and legos, we now have concrete and dust. All in good time!

    And speaking of Mark, I’d like to just take a moment and tell you how proud and thankful I am for him. The man has been my rock during this whole sleep regression thing, and even had an awesome daddy-daughter day with Sarah last weekend so I could make an attempt at getting some extra rest. They colored with sidewalk chalk and walked to Dairy Queen to get ice cream cones that they enjoyed on the patio. Because, yes, even though we had a snow day Wednesday, by Sunday it was 75 and perfect patio weather.