Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas 2013

This year's Christmas was even busier than last year's, so it's a miracle that I'm getting this post done already on New Year's Day. Highlights from this year include: Marla singing Jingle Bells, Holly Jolly Christmas, and Away in a Manger on a continuous loop for a month straight; cookie decorating with both Grandma Susie and Grandma Pam; picking out and cutting down our Christmas tree from Pleasant Valley Tree Farm in Elk Mound (so fun!); visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus at said tree farm; hosting the Schmidt/Swoboda/Hansen/Buchholz/Reischel clan at our new house for the annual family gathering; attending the Holidazzle Parade in downtown Minneapolis (no pictures of that miserable experience, unfortunately); decorating the tree; Marla breaking the baby Jesus in our nativity set; Marla successfully standing onstage for our church's entire angel choir performance (no singing or accompanying actions yet, but it was an improvement over last year, when she ran screaming off the stage); Marla opening up ALL the presents under the Christmas tree on December 23rd while nobody was watching; Christmas Eve at my dad's house and visiting Grandma Martodam; Christmas Day at my mom's house; toys, toys, and more toys; and eating, eating, and more eating.

Here's our second annual Christmas slideshow. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Marla

Marla:

Today you are three years old. As I put you to bed tonight, I kept searching for traces of the baby we brought into the world three years ago...

 
But I'm afraid you're not a baby anymore. How did this happen??

 

The past year has brought so many changes, and you've proven time and again that you are even more extraordinary than I give you credit for. When I got pregnant with Avery, I had a list of things that I hoped you'd accomplish before the baby was born, including: potty training, sleeping in a big girl bed, giving up your pacifier, climbing into your carseat by yourself, etc. I told people I'd be happy if I could check just one of those things off the list, but you handily conquered everything on it and more. In many ways, you are a typical first child and seem to master just about everything with little effort. You continue to amaze us with your intelligence, creativity, humor, and overall positive attitude.

For all the growing up you've done this year, nothing has moved me more than watching you become a big sister. You welcomed Avery into the family without batting an eye and have blown us away with your love and acceptance of her. You tend to be a bit bossy with other kids and Avery is no exception. But you also protect and watch over her, doing your best to make her smile and laugh. I have no doubt that you will be her hero for years to come.

Your personality. Where do I even start? You are my shining light. You have boundless energy and a thirst for life that just can't be quenched. Everything is exciting and interesting to you. I could tell you we were going to get a root canal and you'd get a gleam in your eye and exclaim, "Guess what, Avery?! We get to go see the DENTIST!" Physically, you're a force of nature. You're still a bit clumsy, mostly because you want to move faster than your feet will let you. You love to dance, laugh, run, swim, jump, spin, bounce, and basically move in any way possible. People often ask me incredulously, "Is she always like that?" Yep.

You also have a quiet side. You continue to love reading books and coloring, and have recently started drawing and writing more. You love to listen to stories. Every night after we read you your books, you ask for a story. These are usually just retellings of our day or a recent event, but you drink them in like bestselling fiction, grinning in anticipation as I start out each one with "Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Marla, who lived with her mama and daddy and little sister, Avery." (Have I mentioned that you're easy to please?)

You are sassy and full of attitude, but the temper tantrums of a year ago have subsided considerably. It's impossible to stay mad at you for anything. One of my favorite recent Marla-isms is when you say something along the lines of "I don't like you," I respond by saying it's not nice to say that, and you pause and say, "I don't like you, please??" You have a sense of order and like to be in control. You line up and arrange your toys and stuffed animals and collect things from around the house to carry around with you everywhere. You often order others around without feeling the need to follow the rules yourself, but we're working on that. 

You LOVE to accessorize. First thing in the morning, you put on necklaces, bracelets, rings, a headband, sunglasses, and a tutu. Getting you out the door takes an extra ten minutes because we have to negotiate with you to take off all your bling before leaving, only for you to put it all back on when we get home. In fact, it's hard to find a picture of you in the last year where you're not wearing at least one accessory. So, in closing, I'm including this picture, which captures the very essence of you, Miss Marla. You are my dazzling, lively, clever, happy little girl, and I couldn't be prouder to be your mom. I love you.     

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We built this house

On December 16, 2011, we moved out of our condo and into an apartment that we intended to sub-lease for about six months while we found a new place. It had taken the better part of a year to sell our condo, so when we got a buyer, we accepted the offer without thinking twice. We moved into a two-bedroom townhome with a single stall garage and left about half our stuff packed up in its basement, awaiting a more permanent residence. Little did we know we'd be there for a year and eight months.

House hunting was extremely frustrating. We looked at more houses than I care to count. When our lease was up in May, we signed on for another year. I'm pretty sure our realtor hated us. After becoming pregnant with Avery in December of 2012, it was like a clock began ticking. We found a home we liked that month and put in an offer, but after lots of negotiation and a last minute second buyer who outbid us, that process ended in disappointment. We knew we would most likely lose our minds if we stayed in our tiny apartment with a toddler AND a newborn, so we began talking seriously about building a house.

We met with several builders and ended up signing a contract with one at the end of March, 2013. We had hopes that they'd break ground by the beginning of May, since the baby was due September 4. Well, it seemed our bad luck was going to continue for a while longer, with horrible weather throughout the month of April and even a snowstorm in the first week of May (seriously, May??!!). They finally broke ground on May 8, then it seemed to take forever for anything else to happen. But once June hit, things sped up and the house seemed to pop up overnight.

We had a close date in our contract of August 31, just five days before our baby was due. (This seems like poor planning on our part, but the builder hesitated to give us a date at all, so we felt fortunate to have him committed to anything.) Of course our apartment lease was up on August 31 as well, and based on the size of my expanding belly, it seemed the baby was planning an early arrival. Between stressing about the timing of everything, packing, arguing with the bank about the appraisal and closing, finishing a big project at work, and the physical discomforts of being nine months pregnant, August was probably the most stressful month of my life.

The house was completed a week ahead of schedule, on August 23. Looking back, the early completion was a huge blessing. I honestly don't know what we would have done if it had taken any longer. After many phone calls and emails and near-breakdowns, it became clear that we wouldn't be able to close with the bank until a week after construction was done, but our builder took pity on us and allowed us to move in prior to closing. Another huge blessing. I had contractions all afternoon and evening on the day of our final walk-through and was convinced I'd be spending our moving weekend in labor, but Avery held off and we were able to move some stuff ourselves over the weekend before the movers finished up on Monday. That Friday (August 30), we closed with the bank and the house was officially ours. Next Thursday, Avery was born, and the rest is history. The house felt like home within a week. I spent my maternity leave unpacking and organizing, and though we still need to paint the bedrooms and add some decor, it seems as though we've been here for years.

I wanted to chronicle the building process while it was happening, but of course that didn't happen. Instead, I made a slideshow of the construction pictures. I set it to the song "We Built This City" by Starship, which I found appropriate on several levels. It was the first song that Jeff and I ever danced to more than ten years ago. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sisters

I had my doubts about this whole sibling thing. Two months ago, I never thought Marla would accept a new baby with open arms. I figured she'd be jealous and take her resentment out on the baby, or at the very least regress in some way or another (potty training, sleeping, etc.). I'm happy to admit that I completely underestimated her.

She's been such a great big sister from the very beginning. She loves loves loves Avery.

She talks to her exactly like we do:
Hiiii, Avery!
Oh, what a BIG yawn.
It's ok, Avery, it's ok, I'm coming! I'm here, Avery, it's ok.

And she tells us what Avery needs and what she's feeling:
I think she needs to eat.
Don't push that button, it will scare Avery.
Mama, I think you're too close to her face.
Daddy, you need to be gentle!
She's laughing at me!
She's saying, "What is that silly sister doing?!"

Whenever Avery is on the floor, Marla makes a point of being next to her, talking to her and playing with her. She gets territorial when other kids try to get a glimpse of her sister, pushing them back and telling them "be gentle" or "she doesn't like that!"

Comforting her baby sister.



Helping with bath time.



She loves to read her books, sing her songs, pet her head, give her kisses and hugs, and "dance" with her by moving her arms and legs around. Here she is reading to Avery.

 
Chatting during tummy time.

 
Tickle tickle!
 
 
A little serenade session:
 
 
Avery seems to love Marla too, despite the occasional rough handling, super close proximity, sloppy kisses, and extra loud volume. I've been told that in time, Marla will be her biggest source of entertainment.



A few more pictures of the sisters together:
 

 


 
I just can't wait to watch this relationship grow. It's off to a great start!
 
 

Avery at two months

I didn't get to a one-month post for Avery, so here were her stats:

Weight - 11 lbs 14 oz (99%)
Height - 22 in (85%)
Head - I didn't write it down, but I'm sure it was big

And here's the stats from her two-month appointment today:

Weight - 14 lbs 4 oz (98%)
Height - 24 in (92%)
Head - 41.5 cm (96%)

Obviously she's growing without a problem.

If you think her belly is big...

 
...you should see her thighs (bandaged up after today's shots)...
 
 
...and her cheeks...
 
 
 
She's been regularly sleeping through the night (8-9 hours at a time) for several weeks now. At most, she wakes up once a night to nurse and then goes back to sleep until 5 or 6 a.m. I hate to jinx anything by writing publicly about this amazing pattern, but it's just too good not to. Plus, it came after about a month of sleepless nights as Marla got a stomach bug and croup shortly after Avery's birth, then passed everything to me (not to mention months of insomnia during my pregnancy), so in a way, this reprieve seems totally justified. I feel more rested now than I have in months.

Ah, sweet slumber.


 
 
In addition to being a good sleeper, Avery is just a great baby overall. She prefers to be held while she's awake, and prefers to be moving while she's being held, but we're used to that after having Marla. She nurses often, about every two hours, but I'm used to that too. She usually only fusses when she's hungry, wet, or tired.

Just chillin'.



She started smiling about a month ago and has been more and more responsive every day. She's been drooling more and more, chewing on her hands some, and has even reached out to bat a toy from time to time. She loves ceiling fans, baths, getting her diaper changed, and being in a moving stroller or car. She hates the baby swing, tummy time, and pacifiers. 


 
 
She talks and coos a lot too, mostly when she's lying on the floor looking at a person or object above her.


I just can't believe she's two months old already. She's making this phase as easy as it could possibly be, which makes the time fly by even faster. As much as I want her to stay a newborn forever, I'm so excited for the days and months to come. We love you, baby girl!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A lot to love (a labor story)

Warning: super long labor story ahead.

It’s a girl! My first instincts were right about the gender, despite almost everyone else predicting it was a boy. Avery Denise Schmidt was born on September 5, 2013 at 9:12 a.m. She was 9 pounds, 11 ounces and 22 inches long. I could tell she was going to be bigger than Marla, but even I wasn’t prepared for that much baby.

 
The last month of pregnancy was rough, to say the least. Physically, I felt as comfortable as could be expected, given the giant baby growning inside me while we moved into a new home in the thick of a hot, sweaty summer. Between bathroom visits, tossing and turning, and stressing about packing and moving, I was sleeping just a few hours a night. Walking was brutal. Picking up Marla was basically out of the question.
 
40 weeks pregnant, two days before delivery.
 

At my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday (September 3), the doctor stripped my membranes and said she’d be “shocked” if the baby didn’t arrive within a couple days. She mentioned that they’d most likely induce me if I didn’t have the baby by that week, which was unsettling, since I wanted things to happen naturally. Then again, given the size they were predicting (an ultrasound at week 38 had estimated baby’s weight to be 9.1 pounds already), I didn’t really want to wait much longer either.

Anyway, I started having menstrual-type cramps a couple hours after my appointment. I left work early and went home, fully expecting to go into labor that evening. But nothing happened beyond the cramping and some bleeding. That night, I was up with some contractions. They started to get pretty strong and regular, so I called my mom around 5 a.m. and asked her to come over. Unfortunately, by the time she got here, the contractions had petered out. I stayed home from work and my mom spent the day with me so Jeff could go to school, since it was his first day of the year teaching students. The day was uneventful, contraction-wise.


That evening, Jeff’s mom came over to spend the night and watch Marla in case we needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. My mom stayed as well. Susie gave me a pedicure and tried to coax the baby out with some strategic pressure points in my ankles. I had had no contractions all day and wasn’t certain I’d have any that night either, but it felt good to have help at the house and to be prepared. As it turns out, apparently the baby felt at ease too, because I started having regular contractions around midnight. They got more and more intense, so I woke Jeff up around 2 to go to the hospital. We left Susie at the house with Marla, my mom followed us to the hospital, and we arrived there by about 3.

They monitored my contractions and the baby for about half an hour before officially admitting me to the hospital. The nurse checked my cervix at 4 a.m. and said I was 4 cm dilated. This was only one centimeter more than what I’d been at my appointment the week prior, so I wasn’t too impressed, especially given the pain I was in. They hooked up an IV with fluids, because I had a slight fever that they wanted to bring down. After that, I paced and bounced on the big exercise ball to manage the pain for a couple of hours. The doctor on call came to check on me and I learned she was a new doctor, and this was in fact her first night on call. Furthermore, it seemed to be a busy morning, with something like five other labors in process and she was the only doctor on duty. Not exactly a confidence boost. We were told that she’d be breaking my water if it hadn’t happened on its own by 6 a.m. Again, I wanted things to progress naturally, so I was hoping somehow my water would break without intervention. Lo and behold, when the nurse came in to tell me the doctor was on her way in, I went to use the bathroom and was pleasantly surprised when my water broke right then and there. This baby was nothing if not cooperative.

As soon as I got out of the bathroom, things seemed to get really intense. The doctor checked my cervix and put me at 8 cm. The pain that followed this exam was so extreme and familiar that, in the middle of a very strong contraction, I asked for an epidural without the slightest hesitation.

Let me sidetrack here and admit that I was a little disappointed in myself for caving to the epidural. I had an intervention-free labor with Marla (sort of unintentional, but whatever), and the very stubborn part of me thought that if I'd done it before, I could do it again. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t had a natural childbirth, but there’s something about facing your absolute darkest hour, the feeling that you will never, ever make it through, and not only surviving, but bringing a baby into the world at the end of it. It sounds cliché, but it was empowering and meaningful. I would honestly tell any woman to think hard about what labor means to her and consider doing it naturally for this very reason. I'd recommend she watch The Business of Being Born and research the vastly expensive and unnecessary medicalization of childbirth in America. Then I would tell her about my second labor and epidural, which was vastly different, much more comfortable, and absolutely no less significant.

The pain relief was glorious. They finally (I say “finally” because it felt like absolute ages, with each contraction worse than the one before and coming on fast and furious) got the epidural placed around 6:30 a.m. It took longer to take effect than I expected, so it wasn’t until probably 7 or so that I really got the benefits of it. It was the strangest thing to sit and chat with my mom and Jeff and the nurses, as if my body wasn’t working harder than ever. I could feel the pressure as the baby moved downward, but the pain disappeared. I felt like I was cheating somehow.

Smiling during labor? Obviously something's wrong here.
 
 
By 8:00 a.m., I was fully dilated. However, the doctor was in the middle of delivering one of the dozens of other babies that came that day, so I was asked to just let my body “labor down” for a while as long as I was comfortable. With zero pain, I cheerfully agreed to this and spent the next 45 minutes relaxing comfortably. By 8:45, I felt like the baby might bust out on its own if I didn’t start pushing, so we started with it. I pushed for almost a half hour, then she came out in one final giant push at 9:12 a.m.
 
A first glimpse of Avery Denise. I'm so glad my mom was in the room and got so many awesome just-born pictures.


 
 
 
Don't ask me why they wrapped her in a blue blanket instead of pink. Some people just have no attention to detail...
 


Grandma Pam, Grandma Susie, Grandpa David, and Nana Margret were all there at the hospital to greet Avery. General first impressions were that she looked more like Jeff than me. I thought she looked almost identical to Marla at birth, but with darker hair and more of it. Marla came to visit us later that afternoon. She was a little confused and overwhelmed at first, but by the end of her visit, she was giving Avery kisses and holding her on the couch in our room.


 
This was the best picture we could get of the whole family. Typical.

 
I’ll write more later about Avery and how she’s grown over the last month and a half, as well as how Marla has stepped into her role as big sister. But for now, I’ll just say that Avery has changed everything around here. For the past several months, I’ve been so distracted by everything going on in our lives that it felt like my pregnancy was just another thing to worry about; another thing to check off a list. But now that she's here, I know it was the only thing I was truly worried about. She is what I was waiting and hoping for all along.
 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Here we go again...

First things first. Anyone who reads this blog already knows this news, but let's just pretend I posted this a while ago. Like maybe five months ago or so.

The news? We're having another baby!

I'm due September 4th and am currently 33 weeks along. Things have been going great with the pregnancy overall. Here's Baby Schmidt #2 at 20 weeks:
I had great intentions of journaling throughout this pregnancy. My memories of my first pregnancy were spotty and I wanted to make sure I kept track of everything this time around. Well, obviously that didn't happen. But here's a quick recap of the pregnancy so far.
 
Physical stuff:
 
We found out I was pregnant on Marla's birthday. It took a while for it to feel real, and I found myself constantly comparing this pregnancy to my first one. In general, I would say this pregnancy has been similar to my first, just... more. More symptoms, more weight gain, more hormones, etc. 
 
I didn't have any morning sickness with Marla, but got hit with it a little this time around. It wasn't awful, but enough to make me miserable from time to time, particularly between weeks 8-12 or so. I was also a lot more tired than I ever was in my first pregnancy. On a positive note, I haven't had as many headaches as I did with Marla. I got a major headache at least weekly for about half of my first pregnancy, but experienced far fewer of them earlier on in this pregnancy and they basically disappeared by about 16 weeks.
 
In addition to the nausea and fatigue, my belly popped out much earlier in this pregnancy, which means I've been in maternity clothes since about 12 weeks. I've had a lot of mild aches and pains, especially in my back and hips. I blame this mostly on chasing a toddler around, putting her in the car seat, etc. I feel physically exhausted most of the time.
 
Much like in my first pregnancy, my appetite has been huge. Even in the first trimester when I often felt sick, I wasn't stopped from eating a lot. These days, I've had a little heartburn and the baby is getting big enough to make me feel full after eating just a few bites. Oh, and the weight gain? I don't want to talk about it.
 
All that being said, I've been feeling good for the most part. Just pregnant. :)  
 
Emotional Stuff:
 
We're incredibly excited about this baby, but the experience is much different than the first time around. I'm not worried about becoming a parent or having the responsibility of a newborn, but I'm anxious about how a second child will change our family dynamics, how Marla will adjust to the change, and how I'm going to handle caring for a toddler and a baby at the same time.

Marla is notoriously territorial and jealous around other children, so I'm mostly concerned with how a new baby will impact her and our relationship. It's also hard to imagine loving another child as much as I love her, but I'm assured by pretty much everyone that it's possible. And while I'm freaked out about the multiple children thing, I'm really looking forward to watching them grow together as siblings. As guilty as I feel about splitting my time between two kids, I know I'm giving them both an irreplacable relationship that will shape their childhood and last a lifetime.

In some ways, it feels like Marla just came into our lives and is still our baby. But as I prepare for a new baby, I realize how much she's actually grown and how distant those newborn memories are. I think I'm forgetting the really hard parts and remembering fondly the things I no longer have with Marla: a child who doesn't talk back, poop that doesn't stink, maternity leave, multiple naps per day, etc. I know all the hard stuff will still be hard, but for now I think it's best that I put it to the back of my mind and just focus on the excitement of bringing Baby #2 into the world.

Baby Stuff:

We decided not to find out the gender of this baby. I use the term "we" loosely, since it was entirely my decision and Jeff really wanted to find out. I have the sense that it's a girl, but that may be due to the fact that I already have a girl and can't really imagine anything different.

Girl OR boy, this baby is doing great so far. I thought at first that it moved around in the womb less than Marla did and would thus have a more laid back personality, but lately it's been nonstop activity, so that may not be true. I've been measuring on target and baby's heart rate has been strong throughout the pregnancy. And, if the ultrasound pictures are any indication, we know baby has a larger-than-average head and a strange obsession with the placenta. Oh, and of course we know it's cute. Below are the pictures to prove it.

Seriously, he/she had his/her face smashed up against the placenta during the entire scan. He/she may have been trying to eat it? Snuggle it? Tell it secrets? Regardless, these pictures remind me of this priceless blog post by Honest Toddler. And this one, too.

 
Nose and lips.

 
Skeletor. 
 
 
Foot!