For the Lovely Beards in your life

Monday, November 21, 2016

Guess what? The holiday season is sneaking up on us. Thanksgiving is just a few days away and then Christmas will be in full swing. I told myself that this year I would start my shopping early and have all of the presents wrapped and nestled under the tree by Black Friday. Spoiler alert: that didn't happen. It might have something to do with the tiny, screaming baby boy who's been keeping me up all night, or it could just be that I'm a huge procrastinator. But alas, I've hardly made a dent in my Christmas shopping. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE buying gifts for people. I'd buy gifts all year round if I could afford it. However, the one person I'm always stumped on is my husband. Even after 13 years together I have no idea what to get the man every year at Christmas. He's so hard to shop for! I mean, it's not like I don't know what he likes. I do! He just doesn't need much, and the things he wants are expensive (sorry honey, I can't afford that new guitar you've had your eye on). 
{Photo by J Lynn Photography}

This year, I'm changing things up. I'm not going to rack my brain thinking of some "big" present to get him. I'm keeping it simple- I'm going to stuff the best stocking he's ever seen. Most of it will be fun little treats, trinkets, and treasures...but the shining star of his stocking this year is going to be these luxurious products from Lovely Beards. After all, he does have a pretty good beard going on most of the year. 

With seven scents to choose from, I made the tough call and went with Vanilla & Sandalwood beard balm and oil. The smell is light and refreshing without being overwhelming- perfect for when I'm running my hands through his scruffy beard. You can find the rest of the scents here...which one is your favorite?

All Lovely Beards products are 100% organic and are made in the USA. Better yet, they come with free shipping! (a real deal-breaker for guys know I can't bear to spend extra money on shipping). 

Lovely Beards products make a great stocking stuffer for the bearded man in your life, whether it's your husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, or co-worker you randomly drew from your office gift exchange. 

You can shop the collection of Lovely Beards here and use the promo BEARDS10 during checkout for 10% off your order. Make sure to pass on the promo code to anyone with a bearded fella in their life!

A big thank you to Lovely Beards for sponsoring this post! And thank you to all of my readers for supporting the partners that make this blog possible. 

Mid-week confessions

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Here we are again at the middle of another crazy week. Ready for some fun little mid-week confessions? Here we go!

First things first...let's talk about The Walking Dead. In my last post I talked about how excited I was for the upcoming season premiere, and it certainly didn't disappoint! Sunday nights are pretty much all I have to live for right now. If you aren't caught up you should probably stop reading now (and get off the internet entirely, since it's filled with spoilers around every corner). Spoiler alert- Abraham and Glenn are gone. Sad, sad day. I could deal with Abraham, but not Glenn...even though I knew his death was coming. It was really sad, shocking, and way more graphic than I anticipated. I'm not a huge fan of super-dark, gory crap, so I was a little annoyed at how gross the deaths were. I knew what was coming and how Glenn would die, but didn't expect to see it like that. It was just too much. I had to get up and leave the room to pace around nervously and try not to listen to the sounds of what was going on. If the goal was to get us to hate Negan though, seriously, they outdid themselves. I hope Rick gets him at some point!

In memory of when I used to sleep. I saw that printed on a mug or a shirt somewhere and I laughed out loud because that's exactly how I feel right now. I haven't had a really good night of sleep in 2 months now and I'm starting to feel as zombie-like as the walkers on my favorite show. It's gotten a little bit better- Josiah has managed to sleep a few long stretches at the beginning of the night from around 8pm to 1 or 2am. That's 5-6 hours, so not bad for a little guy. Still really bad for me though since I'm not actually asleep until at least 10pm. And these 5-6 hour stretches are not consistent at all, so one night I'll get a good little chunk of sleep and then the next 3 nights will be pure hell again, waking every 1-2 hours to feed him and put him back in his swing. (Yes, he's still sleeping in his swing. I'm in survival mode, people! Do whatever necessary!)
A photo posted by Melissa Swenson (@melissaswenson1) on

I'm glad Halloween is over. Yeah, you heard me. I don't really love Halloween. I just always feel pressure to find costumes for the kids and make it fun and memorable, when really I don't care about it and would rather buy my kids some candy and watch Hocus Pocus. I like decorating the house and the events leading up to Halloween (pumpkin patches, caramel apples, harvest parties, etc), but trick-or-treating in Washington is always wet and rainy and your costumes get ruined by big coats and boots. Who wants to be Elsa or a witch or a sexy kitten while wearing galoshes and trudging through mucky leaves while freezing to death in those paper-thin costumes? Besides, this is 2 years in a row that Harper's been terrified of her costume. I had high hopes of her and Josiah being Dory and Nemo (her current favorite movie) but she was scared of the Dory tutu dress. Add that on top of a grouchy 2 month old who just got his shots and a couple of sick kids and your trick-or-treating plans go bye bye. Somehow I got over it though. 
A photo posted by Melissa Swenson (@melissaswenson1) on

I want to burn my bra. Not in like a feminist sort of way or anything, but I seriously want to set fire to all of my big, sexy nursing bras. Why? I hate bras. When I'm not pregnant or nursing I almost never wear one around the house (no need to really when you're an A cup). But while nursing I have to keep one on 24/7, even to bed, which I positively loathe. Plus, when I catch a glimpse of myself changing in the mirror I see all that fabric and I feel like a grandmother or something in this huge, beige, full-coverage bra with the industrial sized straps and clasps. I don't mind breastfeeding, and I actually sorta love it, but the bra part sucks and is so uncomfortable. I will be happy to destroy them when the day comes that Josiah weans from the boob! 

I hate Costco milk. Seriously Costco, I know your stupid square milk jugs are probably way easier to stack in gigantic warehouses, but think of your customers, especially those of us with cereal-eating children who spill the damn milk all over the floor and counter every single day. Your milk jugs suck and I silently curse my husband every time he comes home with them proclaiming "I remembered the milk!" Thanks, honey. 

Two more days until Friday, which I'm not looking forward to because my kids have been home sick all week. I need some quiet time. I better wrap this up and enjoy my two hours of sleep! 

Quick & easy photo albums {Plus 15 album theme ideas!}

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love taking pictures of my children. Yes, I'm one of those moms. The one who posts far too many pictures of my adorable children on all of my social media accounts and who is constantly having to delete apps and games on my phone to make room for more photos. More photos! Of course I need 500 pictures of my toddler eating spaghetti. The only problem is that I don't really ever do anything with all of the pictures I take. They just sit there on Facebook and Instagram or take up room on my phone, tablet, and camera. I'm horrible at having my pictures printed. One look around my house and you'll see that I don't even have a single picture of my almost two month old baby boy...unless you count on my phone. 

When I was a kid we had these huge photo albums we'd look at all the time. I loved looking at them. Back then, taking pictures was expensive (think film & developing it), and putting together a photo album or scrapbook took a lot of time and effort. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I don't have a single photo album in my house. Nope. Not one. Well, until now.

Thankfully Shutterfly has a brand new service called Make My Book that makes it so easy to whip up a photo album in almost no time. Perfect for lazy busy moms like me. You can even use pictures directly from your Facebook or Instagram- I love that part! All of my best pictures are on there so it made finding my favorites for this baby book I wanted to make quick and easy. 

Putting together this photo album took little to no effort on my part. The designers at Shutterfly did it all! A book like this would have taken me HOURS to put together. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of time anymore. In reality, this book only took me about 10 minutes and I kind of just threw it together- Shutterfly's Make My Book did the rest! All I did was connect my Instagram, choose my pictures, select my book size/style, and submit my order. I opted to have a designer curate my best photos for me and I left a note on the order that the book would be documenting the first 2 years of my daughter's life ( It's so great that they give you a space to leave a note with special requests or whatever you want to let them know about the book before they design it for you!) Within 3 days they emailed me a preview of my book and I was blown away! Make My Book created a beautiful photo album showing Harper from birth to two years old. They chose the best photos and added all of these amazing little touches to make it look like a handmade scrapbook. I think my jaw may have dropped when I saw the preview. I reviewed my order and submitted it back to Shutterfly (you can also make changes here or add some finishing touches). I could not wait to get my book in the mail!

What I received from Shutterfly's Make My Book service is this stunning photo album/baby book of my beautiful Harper. The quality is amazing. I chose the 11x14 book and it's huge! The photos are so pretty, even though they were taken with a phone and were from my Instagram, and the book looks like it was carefully put together and took tons of time to make. I love all of the little flourishes and finishing touches they added! Everything is absolutely perfect and I get all of the credit for making it!

My family has spent so much time together looking over this photo book and cracking up. We laughed until we cried, and then we really did cry! I love having a physical copy of these precious memories for my family to cherish forever. I'm not sure what Harper thinks about this big book about her, but it's such a special keepsake to have. I can't wait to put together some albums for each of my kids now that I know how easy the process is with Make My Book.

Here are a few more ideas/occasions for photo albums I want to make:

  • Baby book for each of the kids
  • Summer break
  • Wedding
  • Vacation
  • School year
  • Anniversary
  • Instagram favorites
  • Engagement
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth story book
  • Love story
  • Family tree
  • Family reunion
  • School year
  • Graduation
  • College
  • Photography

These photo books make great keepsakes for your family and would also make for an amazing gift! I've already got ideas swirling in my head for Christmas and birthdays!

What would you create with Make My Book?

Mid-week confessions

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hi lovelies! Today's blog post is just a fun one where I share a few mid-week confessions. We're already halfway through the week and these are just some little tidbits that are on my mind...

I miss sleep. Seriously guys...I've been sleeping in 2-3 hour chunks for 6 weeks now and I'm dyyyyying. OK, not really, but I'm seriously exhausted. I need my sleep. No really, I cannot function on this little sleep. I put Harper and Josiah both down for bed at 8pm (I use the term "bed" loosely with Josiah, as he actually sleeps in a swing right now. Don't judge me- it's the only way this guy will let me get any shut eye! We're confessing here). I try to fall asleep by 9 or 10pm, which is usually easy because I'm so tired, but sometimes I get stuck on my phone in bed catching up on emails, Facebook, Instagram, taking a few Snaps, sending a few tweets, pinning projects I'll never do- you know the bedtime drill! My husband will catch me still awake and order me to sleep because it's my only chance. Part of me wants to just fast-forward to the time when babies sleep through the night...

 Swaddled in his swing...he escaped the straitjacket! 

I'm scared to have sex. Ahem...TMI, I know, but I just have to get this out there: I'm terrified. Simply because it was only 6 short weeks ago that I birthed a 7 1/2 pound human out of that area, so I think you know where I'm going. Ouch. My poor husband though- I do feel for him, but I'm just not sure I'm physically healed and ready yet. Anyone else have these reservations after childbirth? Plus, you know, I'm exhausted, so that would cut into sleep time some more. The struggle.

I feel like I'm a diaper changing milk machine. I confess: my two year old is nowhere near being potty trained (she's terrified of Pull-Ups for some reason & she will only sit on the potty with a diaper on). So that means I've got two in diapers, which means I change about 500 diapers a day, which resulted in me calling the city and asking for a bigger garbage can for outside (seriously). Josiah also loves to eat every 5 minutes, so I feel like my boobs are just out and he's at an all day buffet. I'm literally nursing on demand. I wish he'd fill up and stay full!

Having a newborn and a toddler is hard. Truer words have never been spoken and I feel like most days I'm struggling hard. If I can get in the car to drop my husband off at work, put on some sort of daytime clothing, get both babies to nap at the same time, and make dinner all in the same day it's a miracle. Most days I only accomplish half of those things though and I still feel like I've run a marathon. By the time the big kids get home from school I'm counting down to bedtime and wishing I could skip the whole dinner thing.
A quick trip to Target!

How I look most days I leave the house- hat & big glasses for the win!

I'm way too excited for TWD to return. If there's one thing I'm looking forward to though, it's the return of The Walking Dead. We've waited so long to know who died on the season finale- who's it going to be? I'm thinking it's Glenn, but I hope I'm wrong! Hoping to resume my traditional TWD viewing party with my friend Jodi and her husband (she lives just a few blocks away and I don't have cable anymore), but I'm not sure how I'm going to finagle that with my bouncing baby boy who can't bear to be away from my boobs for that long. He may just have to come along. Don't worry- I'll cover his eyes at the scary parts ;)

Only two more sleeps until it's Friday! Which, if you're a mom means nothing, haha. 

Love your leftovers + the easiest slow cooker lasagna recipe

Friday, October 7, 2016

Leftovers. That word seems to have a strong reaction for some people- either you love them or you hate them. If you're a busy mom like me, chances are you love leftover night. I mean, who likes making dinner every single night? Not me! These days, I'm all about convenience, saving time, and saving money, and leftovers are where it's at. What's not to love about cooking once and eating twice? Or three or four times if you're like me and you always end up cooking enough to feed a small army. Today I'm sharing my new secret weapon for leftovers and how to make the most of them, and I'm also giving you one of the easiest, most delicious slow cooker recipes that makes for ah-mazingly yummy leftovers!

Say hello to the brand new Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers! I found these at my local Walmart on the food storage aisle and I couldn't wait to take them home and give them a try. My husband recently started packing a lunch for work to save money- eating out every day really adds up and he ends up eating junk 90% of the time. Packing a lunch saves so much and he eats so much healthier that way! Plus, when he brings leftovers it cuts down on food waste at home, which I love. The only problem is that he never brings back my plastic dishes. Once they leave the house I never see them again. Grrr. When I saw these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers I knew they'd be my new BFF when it comes to packing his lunch every day.

Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers are microwavable, and are a great alternative to plastic because they are made with plant fibers, making them perfect for homemade meals on the go. When I make a big meal (like the slow cooker recipe below) there's always leftovers, so these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers have been a lifesaver! My husband can bring them to work, pop them in the microwave, and enjoy a delicious lunch. Plus, I don't have to worry about never seeing my good plastic dishes again- he can just toss these when he's done. Genius!

Now, on to the recipe. This slow cooker lasagna is one of my family's favorites because we are obsessed with lasagna around here. Did you know you can make lasagna in your slow cooker? It's SO easy and you don't even have to boil the noodles- can you believe that? Just layer your ingredients, turn it on, and you're good to go. Another bonus is that it makes a ton of food- perfect for leftovers and for using your Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers! Lasagna is one of those foods that always tastes better the next day anyway. The recipe below is pretty basic, but you can add whatever you like to it! Also, the amounts for the cheese are just estimates because I don't really measure anything- just eyeball it and adjust to your liking. 


1 lb ground beef or sausage 
1 large can spaghetti sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups ricotta cheese 
2 tbsp dried parsley 
1 egg
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese 
lasagna noodles


Brown ground beef or sausage. Add sauce and diced tomatoes and season however you like (I add extra oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, & pepper). In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley, Parmesan, and the egg- mix well and set aside.

Grab your slow cooker and begin assembling your layers. Start with a small amount of your sauce in the bottom, then add a layer of noodles (uncooked- break them to fit). Next, spoon on a layer of your ricotta mixture and top with some mozzarella cheese. Repeat with sauce, noodles, and cheese. I usually do 2 or 3 layers of each. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve with a salad and some garlic bread and enjoy!

Pick up these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat Containers at your local Walmart today. You can find them in the food storage aisle by the Reynolds Wrap. Better yet, grab this coupon first before you head to the store and save some money while you're at it! 

What about you- do you love or hate leftovers? Could you put these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers to good use in your household? Let me know your favorite dinner recipe that makes for great leftovers so I can try it out too!

Easy ways to reconnect with your kids

Saturday, October 1, 2016

As a mom of four I can tell you that it's been quite a challenge lately to spend quality time with all of my kids, especially the older ones. Life with a newborn and a busy toddler has left me exhausted and I feel like I'm spread pretty thin most days. I worry about my older kids being left to their own devices and feeling left out when compared to their younger siblings. Sometimes it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day to spend quality time with everyone! I've had to get creative with how I sneak in those smile worthy moments and reconnect, and here's how I do it.
Talk about their day. Do you ever try to ask your kids how their day at school was? Seriously, sometimes I'm so eager for conversation (after being home alone with the babies all day) and when I ask my kids "How was school?" all I get in return is a quick "fine" or "good" before they rush to the kitchen for a snack and then head to their rooms. Instead, I've been trying a different method of questioning, such as:

What was the best/worst part of your day?
What made you laugh today?
Did you help anyone today?
What did you do at recess?
What would your teacher say about you today?
What was your favorite thing you ate for lunch today?

Asking specific questions like these will get your kids to open up more, versus the same old boring "How was school" question. Instead, grab their favorite snack, sit down with your kids, and get creative with your questions and see how much they start talking. I found this little time to reconnect after school sets the tone for the whole rest of the evening.

Family game night. Sometimes we need to break up a long, boring school week with something fun. It's easy to fall into the routine of homework, chores, dinner, showers, and bedtime every single school night, and it's enough to drive me crazy by the time Wednesday hits. That's when it's time for game night! Sometimes we go old school and break out the board games or a deck of cards, and sometimes we just opt for an interactive dance or sports video game (a great option when we need to burn off some extra energy and move around!) Game night is definitely a weeknight favorite around here, and a great way to break up a long week. 

Movie night. Friday night in our house is movie night. Whether it's a new movie we've been wanting to see or an old favorite, movie night always brings a smile to everyone's face and gets us all together in the same room. Gather up your favorite snacks, drinks, cozy blankets, and pile up on the couch together!

Go for a bike ride or walk. Family bike rides/walks are one of our favorite things to do together as a family that keeps us active. It's a great way to get out of the house, burn off some energy, and reconnect with all of my kids. We like to make a pit stop at the playground near us and stop to play for a while too. 

All of these ideas are great ways to spend some quality time with my kiddos and create smile worthy moments with them. You'll notice they can all be paired with a snack (one of our favorite things to do around here) like Goldfish crackers. These are a staple in our house! They're baked with real cheese and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. With 12 grams of whole grain in every serving, Goldfish crackers are a snack I can feel good about giving my kids that always puts a smile on their faces! 

Do your kids love Goldfish crackers as much as mine? Head over here to share your Goldfish Tale on Twitter or Instagram and you could win awesome prizes! Each month they have a different theme, so make sure to check out this month's challenge and enter your own to win the sweepstakes prize- $1,000! Make sure to use the hashtag #GoldfishTalesPromotion to be eligible for the $1,000 prize. 

What are your favorite ways to create smile worthy moments and reconnect with your kids? 

A letter to my oldest child

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dear Ayden,

I'm sitting here looking through baby pictures of you- my sweet and sensitive first little baby boy, and I can't for the life of me believe that we just celebrated your twelfth birthday last week. It's been 12 years since you forever changed my life and made me a mom, a job I always knew I wanted but didn't realize how hard it would be and how quickly the years would slip by. From the very beginning, everyone was telling me "Cherish every moment- it goes by so quickly." I knew they were right, but it didn't really hit me until I sat there watching you blow out your twelve candles.

You were always my "easy" baby. As a newborn, you were so calm and content- we could take you anywhere and you were always a happy, chubby, bald little man. People were always complimenting your sweet demeanor! You'd smile at everyone. 

As a toddler you were my fearless little adventurer who always kept me on my toes. When we went to the park you were always the kid getting hurt and our play dates usually ended with me almost having an anxiety attack when you'd fall off the slide, get your fingers stuck in the playground equipment, flip over backwards on the swings, and refuse to get back into your stroller so we could head home. You had so much energy and always wanted to explore and have fun- you definitely kept me on my toes!

Your little sister Lily arrived when you were just 3 1/2, and that's when I realized how truly blessed I was that you came first- you were such an independent, self sufficient little guy. You made the transition from a family of 3 to a family for 4 so easy, and you loved your baby sister something fierce. From the moment you laid eyes on her you were mesmerized, and you two have been pretty much inseparable since then. You were such a caring big brother who was always looking out for Lily, and you always included her and let her tag along like your little shadow. You helped teach her to walk, talk, and do all of the things she watched you doing.

Watching you head off to school was like watching a piece of my heart leave me. Lily and I both had such a hard time with it and we didn't know how to make it through the day without our Ayden. You were so excited though. You loved school right from the very start and you excelled at every grade and subject with ease. I loved watching you develop a love for reading, learning, and making friends. 

And now here we are- your last year of elementary school and one year to go before you're officially a teenager. I can't believe how quickly those years slipped by. You've grown to be such a smart, silly, fun-loving kid well on his way to becoming a responsible young man. I'm so proud of all that you do at home, in school, at church, and with your friends and family. Here's why:

I can count on you. As a family of 6 now, with three younger siblings, I count on you so much. You've kind of become my right hand man around the house, always pitching in and picking up the slack for me when things get crazy. Most of the time now I don't even have to ask- you just jump in and do what needs to be done. That's just how you are though- you volunteered to be a crossing guard and help keep the little kids safe on their way to and from school. You campaigned to be on ASB and won, and you did an awesome job last year by making your school a better place. You put so much hard work into it! So many people depend on you and you're always stepping up to the plate when something needs to be done.
You love learning. You've always enjoyed school and learning new things has come so easy to you. Reading has never been a chore for you- I love that you share my love of reading! Now I can share my favorite books with you and we can "nerd out" together, discussing our favorite characters and getting excited over the same plot lines. You're always receiving academic achievement awards at school for your awesome report cards and perfect attendance and your teachers are always raving about you in our parent teacher conferences. You're even pushing yourself by joining some new clubs at school, like Lego Robotics and Coding. I love that learning is fun for you!

You're funny. Making people laugh is probably one of your favorite things to do, and I absolutely love this about you. You definitely get your sense of humor from your dad, which is what made me fall in love with him too. You're going to make some young woman laugh for the rest of her life when she marries you- she's going to be so lucky to have you! You're always making people smile.

You're creative. I'm always blown away by your creativity- another trait you get from your dad. You can draw anything and love expressing your creativity through a pencil, pen, and paint. Some of the artwork you've made for me will be treasured forever...long after you're grown!

You're sweet. From the very beginning to even now, as a big, mature, grown up 12 year old, you're still sweet. You've never been afraid to show your feelings and emotions- something that is going to be such a help to you as you navigate this big, scary world. Having a huge heart like you do and being able to show and express your feelings is an amazing trait to have, especially for a man. 
For all of these reasons and more...I love you Ayden. I'm so proud of the boy you are and the man you are becoming. I've loved watching you grow up and I can't wait to see all that this life has in store for you! I know you are going to do some great things. I'm so lucky to be your mom. 



I've teamed up with Yoplait Go Big to share what makes tweens/teens amazing. Do you have an amazing tween? Make sure to tell them what it is about them that inspires you! Write them a letter like this and give it to them (or read it to them, if you think you can do it without sobbing like a baby like I did). For a chance to win the spotlight for your tween, check out the new Go Big Facebook page and submit your letter there. Go Big will select three tweens with amazing stories and give them a platform to show the world (full contest rules here). 

Yoplait Go Big is a brand new yogurt pouch that I found at Walmart, designed specifically with teens in mind. They're made with real fruit and just the right amount of sweetness, with no artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup, contains real fruit, and is a good source of calcium. Go Big pouches have just the right amount of yogurt and it fuels the amazing in amazing teens to help them crush it- every single day! Just grip & rip for the perfect on-the-go snack!
My tween loves the strawberry and mixed berry Go Big pouches. They make for a great quick breakfast that he can grab on his way out the door on busy school mornings. Just grip, rip, and go!

I bet your tween is amazing too. Head over to the Go Big Facebook page and share how your tween inspires YOU! 

The 3 week blur- a birth story

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hello world! I know I haven't blogged in a while, but for good reason- baby number four is here!

OK, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram then that doesn't come as much of a surprise, since I've been spamming the interwebs with cute baby pictures for 3 weeks now, but I figured the ol' blog still needed an update. 

Meet baby Josiah.

Isn't he adorable?

Josiah was born on August 31st, 2016 at 11:34am. My due date was September 8th, but because of my high blood pressure issues (again) and horrible kidney problems my doctor gave me the option to induce a little early. Eager to be out of constant pain, I went in at 6am August 31st to be induced. I had joked this whole pregnancy that baby number four was going to come quickly...that I'd walk into labor and delivery and he'd just fall right out. Well, it was pretty close! I was admitted at 6am, had my water broken by 7, and the pitocin started at 8am to make me dilate more. When the pitocin started I sent my husband Shayne home and check on the kids. His mom had come to stay with us for a few days so she was at our house getting Harper up and the big kids off to school. I knew we had a few hours before I'd be fully dilated and sitting around the hospital isn't much fun for anyone, so I shooed him off to go help his mom and kill some time while I rested and hoped for a nap.

By 10am my contractions were coming quickly- about every 2 minutes apart, and they were starting to hurt pretty badly. The nurse came in to check me and I was only at 4cm dilated. I was already at a 3 when I came in, so that meant I'd only dilated 1cm since they started the pitocin 2 hours before. Wow, I definitely had time for a nap with this little slowpoke. The anesthesiologist came in and gave me my epidural and I could feel the pain and tension melt out of my body as the medicine took effect. This was my fourth epidural and I'm not ashamed to say that I absolutely loved them all! I had such easy, pain-free births that went pretty much perfectly, and I hoped this one would be just the same. Around 10:25, after the epidural kicked in, we stopped the pitocin because I was starting to contract a little too much.

I called Shayne around 11 and updated him on what was going on. He was at the grocery store picking up a few things for his mom and the kids for dinner and said he'd be coming back to the hospital after that. I assured him he could take his time, that I wasn't even halfway dilated yet, but that I was feeling some weird pressure. I joked that it felt like the baby's head was coming out, but that it was impossible at only 4-5cm dilated. After I hung up with Shayne I started texting some of my friends and family with updates. I had a handful of people I was keeping updated all morning, giving them the play by play and keeping me busy while I passed the time. Texting, SnapChat, and The Real Housewives of New Jersey is what I was doing while my labor progressed!

Anyway, I hung up with Shayne, started texting my friends, and after about 5 minutes of that weird pressure I was feeling I decided to call the nurse and ask her to check me again. It was 11:15am when she told me "OK, the baby's head is right there and you're fully dilated. Call dad and tell him to get back here right now and we'll call the doctor."  And then all three nurses in the room jumped into action at the same time and started setting everything up for the delivery at warp speed.

I called my husband back, who was still at the grocery store, and told him to come back to the hospital immediately. "Do not bring the food back to the house- just get in the car and get here as fast as you can because it's baby time NOW!"

Then I texted my friends. "It's time!" 

At this point I kind of panicked. The fact that I went from 4 to 10cm in less than an hour shocked the crap out of me- I suddenly felt unprepared! I mean, I was just sitting there watching RHONJ two seconds ago and now they were telling me it was time to push, but that I can't push until the doctor gets there. What?! I got a little scared and emotional and started to cry as I pulled my long hair up into a bun and put on some chap stick...I had to get into baby-pushing mode. I kept telling myself I could do this and to just not push yet (I really wanted to push). My husband was probably flying down the freeway at that very moment and my doctor was just across the street at her clinic's office, but those few minutes I had to wait for them seemed like an hour. When my husband finally rushed into my room, followed by my doctor about a minute later I was so relieved. I could finally push! I really, really wanted to push (did I mention that?) My doctor threw on a gown and some gloves, sat down in front of me, and said "OK, let's have a baby!"

Exactly three pushes later and Josiah was born! Honestly, I didn't even break a sweat and it was the easiest labor I've ever had. He surprised us all with how big he was- 7lbs 8oz and 21 inches long, because he was measuring small at my last ultrasound and he was born a week early. If I would have gone up to my due date he would have been my biggest baby! Ayden and Lily were both 7lbs 9oz and Harper was only 6lbs 7oz (she was 2 weeks early).

As soon as he was born they laid him on my chest so we could get some skin to skin. I remember thinking how long and skinny he was, and he looked so much like Harper! We sat there like that for about 10 minutes before he started nursing like a champ- it's crazy how babies know exactly what to do after they're born.

Soon after his delivery they moved me to a bigger room so the kids could come visit and meet their new brother. Harper was a bit overwhelmed, both because of her excitement to see me (since she woke up that morning and I was already gone at the hospital), and also the surprise and excitement of seeing a baby. I was a bit overwhelmed too when I looked around the room at these four children and thought "Holy crap. These are all mine." 

We only stayed at the hospital that one night and went home the following afternoon. Josiah passed all of his newborn screenings and checked out perfectly healthy, so as soon as the doctors gave us the go-ahead we were out of that place! I was so tired and just wanted to lay in my own bed. I had only slept for one hour and spent that whole night staring at my adorable new baby boy and was eager to get home to shower, eat some real food, and spend some time with my husband and kids.

We've been home for 3 weeks now. It's been a complete blur and I feel like it's been mix of 3 days and 3 months all at the same time...the days and weeks with a newborn and sleep deprivation pass by so quickly and it's hard to keep track of the time. It's been quite an adjustment and we're still trying to find our "groove," but I see a little routine forming and I feel like I'm getting a smidge better at momming with four kids. Not great- but better. It's been some of the most challenging weeks of my life- more on all that later in another post!

That's it for now...I'm afraid I've used up all of nap time (Yes- the baby and the toddler are both sleeping at the same time- see? I'm not doing all that Duty calls! 

Tricks for soothing a crying newborn

Monday, August 22, 2016

I don't know about you, but the sound of a crying baby is like nails on a chalkboard to me. This is unfortunate because I'm a soon-to-be mom of four and both of my girls were screamers when they were infants. They legitimately screamed for hours on end and it kind of made me want to rip my hair out. I eventually took them to their doctor to find out what in the world was going on with all of the crying, and that's when I learned about colic, which is when a healthy baby excessively cries for more than 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week, for over 3 weeks. Yep- that definitely sounded like my girls! 

Thankfully, after a few weeks of persistent crying, I started to see a pattern and I found a few things that worked to help shorten the length of crying time. Here's a few things that helped for us find our formula for happiness

Establish a routine. As tough as it is in those early days, try to get a routine going as soon as you can. Babies love routine, and if you know when to expect the crying fits (ours was always in the evening) you can better prepare your baby and yourself for it. 

Swaddle your baby. My last baby loved to be swaddled and it helped soothe her to sleep!

Wear your baby. Using a wrap or carrier to wear your baby is a great way to help them feel secure and keep them close to you. 

Burp, burp, and burp some more. I'm not sure why, but colicky babies seem to be gassier too, so extra burping is a must! As much as Harper hated it, I'd have to interrupt her eating to burp her very frequently. There was always a little burp that would come out! Sometimes she'd be crying and crying and I'd put her up on my shoulder and start patting her...even after 10 minutes or so a little burp would come out! So burp your colicky baby a lot.

Try a change of scenery. If possible, get out of the house and try a change of scenery if your baby just won't calm down. Sometimes a walk around the block in the stroller or a carrier helps, or go for a ride in the car (and maybe swing through a drive thru and grab yourself a coffee or something). 

Offer a pacifier. All of my kids loved their binkies! I don't care what anyone says- pacifiers are a great way to help them soothe.

Swing. Colicky babies love movement, so a nice swing is a great investment. Our favorite one offered front to back and side to side motion, which Harper loved. She took a lot of naps in her swing in the early days! Sometimes we'd even double up and swaddle her in her swing. 

Try a probiotic. GERBER® Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops contain L. reuteri, which is a probiotic that is safe for infants and is naturally found in breast milk. Research indicates that the type of bacteria in an infant's intestine may determine whether a child is colicky, and probiotics can support a balance of good bacteria in their digestive tract. While it's not intended to cure or treat any disease, it has been clinically shown to reduce crying time in colicky breastfed infants! I received a free sample of GERBER® Soothe probiotic Colic Drops from Gerber. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Switch formulas. If you're a formula feeding parent, Gerber also offers their GERBER® Good Start® Soothe Infant Formula, which also contains L. reuteri, and is specially designed to ease excessive crying, colic, and fussiness while providing complete nutrition. 

Have you had a colicky baby before? What's your formula for happiness? Just know that you are not alone, and that there is hope out there! Try some of these methods and see if they help, and consider a probiotic like GERBER® Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops or GERBER® Good Start® Soothe Infant Formula. Gerber also has some great experts available (registered dietitians, certified lactation consultants, and certified baby sleep consultants) to answer any of your questions! You can find out more about excessive crying, colic, and fussiness here

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