Summer Miscellany

Where has June gone??! I have no idea how the weeks pass so swiftly, even while they feel long at some points during the day (cough, *witching hour*, cough). Brain and photo dump beginning now!

-Maeve-

This girl is giving us a run for our money in terms or her (lack of) sleeping habits, VOLUME, energy, etc. I’m thinking she may be 100% choleric, although she does have high highs and low lows, so maybe some sanguine (but she’s extremely difficult to distract, so I don’t know).

I’m trying to gradually wean her, since she is….well, a bit demanding. I gave her a bottle of cow’s milk last week in desperation and she actually took to it pretty well and will accept it as a nursing substitute about half the time.

She’s learning a few more words, (the girls’ names, most notably) but still mainly gets her desires across through a bizarre mixture of screaming, signing, and gesticulating. And, given her tendency of the last 6 weeks or so of waking up at 5:20ish and only napping an hour and 10 minutes a day, there’s been a lot of almost falling or totally falling asleep wherever she’s sitting.

 

 

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(1000% cuter when asleep :))

Still, she is so funny and absolutely filled to the brim with zest for life, and (when not screaming or clawing at me) she gives the absolute BEST hugs I’ve ever experienced, as she wraps her tiny arms as tightly as she can around my neck and lays her head on my shoulder.

-BREAD-

If you don’t LOVE bread (and if you don’t, you may be crazy, or you just may not have eaten GOOD bread and you need to fix that!) then this point will bore you. While I have been baking sourdough on and off and tweaking things for the past 4 years, it’s never been a super predictable rhythm, considering the care and long wait times between starter feeding and finished loaf. I recently tried this recipe from the always reliable King Arthur Flour website. It was SO easy and tasted absolutely delicious, even compared with our different iterations of sourdough loaves. We ate the first loaf in less than 24 hours, and the second in the same time frame. Then I decided to look into the baking phenomenon which inspired the recipe, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love the health benefits and timeless nostalgia of sourdough, so I think I will try to keep my starter alive (going strong since 2014….I should probably name it!) and bake a traditional sourdough loaf a couple times a month. But, I’m very taken by the Bread in Five movement, and I’m excited to give it a try and see if it helps get us more homemade bread more easily (and the cookbook, which I got from the library has a ton of recipes I’m itching to try). Long live bread!

-In the Garden-

This is the first year we’ve ever seen bunnies in the yard/neighborhood. Our neighbors, who’ve lived here for about 60 years, tell us they never have until this year either! We are all obsessed with sighting them pretty much daily. There seem to be three, and one is a really tiny, adorable baby (well, probably more like adolescent). They love our weed-filled lawn and must live somewhere in our bushes or the neighbors.

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Garden-wise, we’re getting more cukes than we can eat, the green beans are starting to come in nicely, we have a couple heads of cauliflower left (blanching them by tying the leaves up over the heads solved the pest problem), cosmos and zinnias (but our fancy flower seeds are either struggling and/or got eaten by the birds, so sad!) and the zucchini is being really, really weird:

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It looks like a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid. And despite the nearly 6 feet of zucchini plant we have, this is the only fruit we’ve gotten! The rest of the flowers are all male, and we have no idea why it isn’t producing female flowers. Probably the lesson here is: throw your really old seeds away and use new ones, unless you want some crazy plants!

-Family Fun-

Lucy celebrated the 4th anniversary of her Baptism! Traditional celebrational skillet cookie cake.

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A visit from my very dear high school friend, Beth!

Who also tried really hard to get a family photo of all five of us! Haha!

-Reading-

Whenever I’m not dashing after Maeve as she careens into the road or down the sidewalk, I try to have a book outside with me.

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton — these are fun, short little mysteries, the perfect thing to pick up and read a mystery or two if you have to read in snatches like I do. I actually don’t usually love the mystery genre (I could never really get into Agatha Christie or the like), but these are so very Chestertonian and their brevity makes them very satisfying.

Cymbeline by Shakespeare– I basically forced Tom to take the Shakespeare course offered as an option this summer so I could read along and glean from his insights/discussions. It’s taking me way longer, of course; he’s already about to start the third play (they finished A Winter’s Tale, and will read The Tempest next). I like all the footnotes and explanations in the Oxford editions since it makes everything much more accessible to read on one’s own.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck– I just started this for our summer book club. Gripping so far, and everything about peasant life in China is very fascinating and very foreign!

33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley– Since my absolute favorite spiritual book is I Believe in Love, I figured I would like this book, and I do! It doesn’t have the same soul-feeding poetic beauty as I Believe in Love (i.e. his writing is just so-so and not all that inspiring), but the ideas, which of course are not his own, are still profound and beautiful. I recommend it if you have any devotion to St. Therese, Divine Mercy, and/or St. Faustina. (But then go read IBIL, because it’s solid gold).

-Listening-

A couple podcasts I’ve enjoyed recently:

“Enjoying Your Toddler” from Messy Parenting-– this had a lot of helpful little reminders and hints about living la vida toddler. (This podcast is one of our favorites for its Catholic marriage/parenting/family life advice!)

“Aristotle’s 3 Types of Friendship” from Pints with Aquinas— we’ve been talking about friendship lately, what it is, how to make/keep/be friends, and how friendships wane or wax through the years. This was a helpful explanation of Aristotle’s 3 levels of friendship (utility, pleasure, virtue) and it makes you think twice about the way you interact with people! (And many more of these podcasts episodes are great too; check out the archives).

Also related to friendship, specifically as a mom: “Nell on Friendship “from Just One Small Thing— all about why having other mom friends is crucial and how to make/be a good one!

-Looking Forward To…-

  • Lena’s third birthday next week! This girl has been plotting and planning her special day since about March! She has requested a chocolate, pink-frosted kitty cat cake. NO PRESSURE! I actually did find a very do-able, even for craft-allergic me, template, so let’s hope I can make her wildest dreams come true.
  • Solo trip up to Boston for my cousin’s wedding! This will be the longest I’ve ever left all 3 girls, and as Lucy would say, “Maeve is a big fan of you, Mom!” I’m just praying out of sight, out of mind will last for 36 hours. (Pray for Tom!) But, I’m really excited to a) have a quiet hour on the plane, b) sleep in a hotel, c) sleep in, and d) catch up with all my dad’s side of the family/see a dear cousin get married, at what is sure to be the swankiest wedding,!

(Linking up, late, with Kelly and the other Quick-Takers!)

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End of Summer Quick Takes

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Wow, I really lost my blogging mojo for, oh, about a month there. Oops! In my defense, that month contained:

  • Tom’s last week of the grad school semester
  • Our 4th anniversary
  • A big road trip up to Vermont with my parents and the girls, for a week-long Smith fam reunion
  • Recovery from said trip
  • A crazy hot heat wave
  • Potty training Lucy
  • Somewhat-sleep training Maeve
  • Selling our Pilot, buying an Odyssey
  • Staycation adventures with Tom during his time before school starts
  • Home projects, trying to keep the house clean, actual cooking now that my sous-chef/child-wrangler is home in the evenings again!

So not much time left for tapping out updates or thoughts or book reviews or anything of that sort. But a good, full, stretching-ourselves-in-a-good-way type of busy!

 

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Fuzzy, cheese-y mornings #allthejammies #allthechins

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I’m starting to plan out what I hope our fall “routines” and daily “schedule” will look like (fully realizing that both terms are used very loosely!). But Lucy definitely needs a little more structure to her day to avoid boredom and serious acting out/torturing sisters/destroying property. I realize now why people send off 3-5 year olds to preschools. So we’re just going to improvise here at home.

She loves all kinds of fine-motor and crafty type activities, so I just got  this book for us, and will eventually stock up on the very basics: glue, safety scissors, good quality watercolors, finger paints, homemade play dough, etc, to make it happen. I am woefully un-crafty, but I think I can handle this level, where the kids don’t really care what it is, so much that it is. Art/fine-motor– check!

This adorable book will be fun to go through with the girls, and Tom takes them to local nature centers several times a month. Nature study/science– check!

Lucy also really likes alphabet-related activities so I may start doing some of these with her. Pre-reading/religion– check!

We dug up some old-school Wee Sing books from my parents’ (i.e. from my childhood) and Lena and Lucy both LOVE going through and singing the songs and doing the finger plays. We’re compiling a classical faves playlist and Lucy likes to listen to it for the approx 3 minutes she lays on the couch for quiet time, if she isn’t listening to audio books.  Music– check!

Any ideas for good quality children’s lives of the saints and Bible stories? I’m looking for something with good prose and beautiful illustrations to read aloud to the girls every day (no dumbed down text and no ugly cartoons!). Help!

We’ll continue, as always, to read a plethora of books, and Lucy will probably be happy to take on some more memory work from Children’s Garden of Verses (we have this one, and it’s beautiful), Mother Goose (we have this one which I loved as a kid), and The Harp and Laurel Wreath.

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Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but starting Sunday we’re going through 30 Days Grain Free.  I did a zero-grain protocol for about 3 months 5 years ago, and it did wonders for my health, so I’m hoping for similar results, as well as building better snacking habits. Tom’s also going to be starting this, kind of in tandem, so…yeah…pray for us!

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I just signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Conference. I loved it last year, and can’t wait to get out to beautiful Front Royal for this year’s! Definitely check it out if you’re a local blogger.

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Links!

The Weeds and Wheat in Children’s Literature

Yes, yes, yes! I always hated hearing, “But at least they’re reading!” as a teacher when the content was absolute drivel!!

I instantly knew which school the author here was referring to– my dear husband’s alma mater! He always lamented about the phenomenon she’s talking about, and it happened with fair regularity at my alma mater as well.

I’m curious about whether or not the upcoming Netflix original about the current royal family, The Crown, will be any good. I like Clare Foy from Little Dorrit and several other BBC things, so we shall see!

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Photos!

 

 

Lena's baptism day celebration

Lena’s baptism day celebration

A series of selfies and shots that the girls are constantly taking on my pilfered phone…

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And this cutie just turned SIX MONTHS … and is CRAWLING all over!

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Have a fun weekend and stay cool!

Linking up with Kelly!

Maeve Cecilia: 3 months

I’m not doing so hot with Maeve’s virtual baby book, but I am determined to get something down, before all the little things she does become distant, forgotten artifacts in my mushy mom-brain.

So, maybe just a wee bit of catch-up on her milestones (AKA the things only a mom could possibly ever want or need to record and remember, solely so she can compare/contrast all her babies’ milestones…):

Lifted her head up from lying down: 2/3 weeks (fuzzy already, see?! Should have written it down before!)

Rolled from tummy to back: 4 weeks! Earliest one so far!

Started scooching backward: right around 8 weeks. And I mean, she can scooch! She pretty much has near-suicide attempts during every diaper change as she blasts herself backward towards the edge of the table.  She also can now turn herself about 180º on a flat surface just from scooting with her heels.

Grabbed/batted at hanging toys: 2.5 months. She’s really into her play gym these days and will concentrate on grabbing the toys and rings for a pretty good chunk of time.

At 3 months, Maeve…

Loves to watch the family as we do anything and everything around her. She basically cannot nurse when anyone else is in the room because she has major FOMO.

Is the smiliest baby! If you merely catch her eye she breaks into a huge, wide-mouth grin and will often gurgle with joy at being noticed (third-child syndrome?)

Is extremely talkative! She loves to coo, gurgle, and basically chat with anyone who will give her attention. So cute.

Loves getting changed, probably because it combines two of her favorite pastimes: scooching backward and smiling/talking to someone.

Does not nap very well (FOMO, see above).

Is about to grow out of all her 3-month clothing and size 2 diapers.

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Constantly in motion…

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She got sprayed with milk but slept right through it!

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We love you, little smiley face!

The Birth of Maeve Cecilia

 

The Birth of Maeve Cecilia | For Want of WonderI think this may be my briefest birth story yet. Lucy’s was certainly short (shockingly so, for a firstborn), and then Magdalena’s dragged on and on. “Number 3 is a curve-ball!” was what I heard from everyone, and it was. Oh was it, ever.

My due date was February 16th. I had had no real signs of labor up until this day despite feeling so done for several weeks. I had a midwife and chiropractor appointment and everything looked fine. I guess after Lena I just resigned myself to no more early births, and so, this time, I was a lot less anxious to get the baby out. Also, let’s talk about how much easier babies are inside the womb than out. Exactly.

The next weekend rolled around and both Tom and I were just really hoping the baby would come before the start of another week. I was definitely nervous about the possibility of going into labor while he was at work and having to coordinate getting the girls taken care of and all that. Saturday afternoon was really mild, so we went on a nice, uphill walk around our neighborhood, scored some curbside furniture, and observed in passing that there was a full moon.

I woke around 1:30 in the morning on Sunday with what I could finally call a real contraction. It hurt. So that was exciting. I timed contractions on and off for about 3 hours and then fell back asleep for probably another 2 hours. Both girls woke up super early, around 6, and I got them up because I figured we needed to get things together and get going anyway. The contractions were coming regularly, but still at about 9-10 minutes apart and manageable. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to eat three eggs “for protein” and…yeah. Never doing that again in labor.

I took a shower while Tom got the girls ready, and we had everything packed and loaded by about 8 when we left for my parents to drop off the girls. Right as we were leaving I called the midwife to let her know I was in labor and that contractions were now about 7-8 minutes apart. She said I probably was worried that this labor would go fast like Lucy, but that it could still take awhile, so she told me to just call her when we got to my parents.

We got there around 8:25 and the girls were excited to be at their favorite place on earth. We switched cars with my parents, leaving them ours with the girls’ car seats. I went upstairs to labor for a bit, thinking I had some time to relax. Afer just a few contractions up there, I realized they were both more intense and suddenly WAY closer together, like 3 minutes max. It was as if, now that the girls were taken care of, my body was all, “It’s GO TIME!!!” and tripled its efforts, in a matter of minutes. We called the midwife and updated her, and she said it would take her an hour to get there from DC, and asked if she had time to shower and eat, or if she should just leave now. I SHOULD have told her, “LEAVE NOW!” because in the back of my mind I knew we didn’t have much time, but in the front of my mind I guess I wanted to appear calm and collected and not freak myself out, so I was all, “Ohhh hahaha, yes, go take your shower and eat! I’ll be fine!” This was now about 8:48 and she said she’d meet us at the birth center at 10 am.

Literally minutes after hanging up with her, contractions started becoming pretty awful, about 2 min apart, and I was basically hanging onto Tom for dear life. I made him call the midwife back and he told her we were actually going to head to the birth center now so I wouldn’t have to be in the car in transition. Well, first of all, I think now I already was in transition (or at least the early stage of it), and secondly, the birth center was locked up because it was Sunday morning, so there wasn’t much waiting for me after the car ride. Again, should have screamed, “LEAVE NOW!” and at the same time just stayed put right where I was in one of my parents’ guest rooms.

But of course, a practically-in-transition laboring woman cannot be expected to think clearly. In fact, I kept wishing that someone else could make all these decisions for me. I hated being asked, “What do you think? What do you want to do?” I wanted to get the baby OUT, and nothing else. All the in-betweens were too stressful for me to dwell on, as the contractions were pretty all-consuming in and of themselves.

We got into my younger brother’s borrowed car and headed to the birth center, which is about 15 minutes from my parents. As I had expected, I was now in full-on transition, with contractions coming one on top of the other, while I was curled in the backseat of a little Toyota Corolla. It was just as miserable as it sounds and just as miserable as the last time I did it. I just kept telling myself that the drive was literally 1/4 as long as it had been with Lucy so I could do it.

Well, we pulled up to the birth center at 9:30 and of course no one was there. Tom asked if I wanted to walk around, and I got out of the car, but my ill-fated breakfast came back to haunt me when I stood up. I was adamant about throwing up in a bag and not directly on the pavement (dignity, people!). Sadly, the bag turned out to have a hole in the bottom and it all ended up there anyway, which I was upset about. I can only say that priorities become a little wacky while in transition.

At that point, I really couldn’t deny to myself any longer that it was time, and I really needed to push this baby out. Yes, we were in an abandoned parking lot, yes, the only place was the backseat of the car, and yes, we only had one ratty bath towel and a God-sent roll of paper towels in the trunk of the Corolla, but by golly, that baby was coming! Tom called the midwife to apprise her of this lovely turn of events, and we put her on speaker phone so she could interpret my various moans and screams (she was scarily accurate!). She also used her other phone to call one of the student midwives who lives a few minutes away from the birth center to come.

So we made do, I, infinitely grateful that the technology park was deserted on a Sunday morning, and Tom, super cool and calm. I mean really, not at all flustered. Don’t know how he managed that, but it was so necessary. I was, well, not the most calm, but that’s par for the course by the time I get to pushing anyway. At some point, probably about 4 or 5 pushes in, the student midwife got there. She didn’t have a key to the birth center, but it’s not like I could have moved anyway at that point. She came over, pulling on some gloves, and announced that the head was there! I think maybe Tom got into the front seat then so he could still talk to me, but I don’t really remember. There was the Ring of Fire, which somehow surprises me with its apt nomenclature every time, and then the head was out. The midwife told me to stop pushing, and said something about the cord. Then another couple pushes and she was out! Baby! In the backseat of my little brother’s car!

The midwife unwrapped the cord, which was wrapped around twice (and I’m really glad she got there and Tom didn’t have to deal with that), and handed the baby up to me as I sat up from hands and knees. I noticed right away that she had the same fuzzy red hair that Lucy had. I should also add here that while it was February 21st, it was unseasonably mild, and we had the car turned off, and obviously the doors were wide open, otherwise there wouldn’t have been any room for Tom and the midwife to stand. So right after the baby was out, the midwife had Tom turn on the car and crank the heat, since even 50-degree weather outdoors isn’t exactly ideal for a freshly born babe.

I think a few minutes later, maybe 5 or 6, the head midwife arrived, right on the heels of one of the birth center office staff, who also lives close and had keys to unlock the center. We got a wheelchair out to the car and a lot of blankets, and somehow I was able to crawl out of the backseat while holding Maeve, who by the way, was still attached to the umbilical cord. Once we got inside, things slowed down a bit. Thankfully! We got more dried off and got the baby’s vitals, and she started rooting around to nurse pretty much as soon as she was on my chest. She was a great little nurser right from the start. Placenta, cord cut, all that jazz. Then, the midwives (bless their hearts) brought us a huge breakfast of eggs (I did not touch those obviously), bacon, bagels, donuts, and fruit. They put the little fake fireplace on and then let us be alone to rest, eat, nurse, snuggle, watch Fr. Scalia’s funeral homily for his dad (so.good.), and generally recover from our car-birth experience. Everything was going great, so we were able to leave the birth center at 3:30 PM and head over to my parents’ so Maeve (in a newborn coma) could meet her big sisters. (Also, those midwives got the backseat of my bro’s car immaculate, and I’m pretty sure he drove his friends around in it the very next day. Not sure he notified them of its alternate use beforehand ;))

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Already a holy little gal

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So excited but so confused. THIS is Maeve? What about that big ol’ belly on Mommy?

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Papa and his 3 girls, one of whom isn’t into the precious moment

Obviously, Maeve’s swift, dramatic, entrance and rather unexpected place of birth weren’t what I was imagining in my ideal birth plan. I knew it could be fast (like Lucy) or it could drag on (like Lena’s), but I didn’t think it was going to progress so incredibly fast all of the sudden. Honestly, if Lucy hadn’t been born on a Thursday afternoon, she most likely would have been a car birth as well, since I was in the exact same stage of labor by the time we arrived at the birth center as I was with Maeve. But thankfully this situation happened with the third baby and not the first. I can’t imagine how horrified/terrified I would have been (not to mention my poor husband). As it was, we both knew pretty much exactly what to expect from a normal pushing and birth situation, and we did what we had to do. In hindsight, I immediately saw all the times I should have followed my gut more closely, and if I’d done so, probably could have avoided the car-birth. But all was well, and it was quite the experience. The sweet student midwife also told me a little while after the birth that in her native country (Venezuela), she was a practicing OB-GYN so she had delivered hundreds of babies, AND she said she had also delivered numerous car births! She said it was really common there as well as in Colombia where she worked for awhile. So that definitely helped ease my mind, not that I was really worried. But still, she was the perfect person to come catch my baby in a car!

And yes, I think I can safely say that out of necessity if nothing else, we will probably have home births in the future. If the backseat of a tiny four-door Corolla is big enough, then I think our house will do just fine.

Maeve Cecilia!

I’m just going to admit it now– Maeve will probably never have a physical baby book. A virtual one may be all she ever gets, and so I figured I better start getting on top of the whole recording milestones and memories.

Here we go!

Born:

February 21, 2016 at 40 weeks and 5 days (comfy in there, huh?) at 9:55 ish AM (no, we don’t know the exact time. More on that below).

Weight: 7 lbs. 14 oz

Length: 20 inches

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The whole birth story is very exciting and very short. I’ll do it full justice, soon. Like sometime when the killer combo of spring allergy+newborn night-waking exhaustion aren’t destroying me. Stay tuned!

But really, we are doing well and surviving these first several weeks with our sanity fairly well intact. This is only due to the fact that we’re riding on a gentle sea of very kind people’s prayers, meals delivered, and help given. It’s been a staggeringly generous outpouring of help, some from people who literally do not know us (thanks to a genius ministry at one of our parishes where people sign up to bring meals to new moms). I can’t even begin to describe my gratitude, but it’s profound.

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I made pretty good on my promise to stay in bed for a week. I made it about 4 full days, which was how long the girls stayed at my parents’, and when they came home I was feeling pretty strong and well enough to go downstairs for meals and stuff. The most crucial thing though, was having the older kids completely out of the house those first few days. It allowed both Tom and I to just sleep and then him to take care of just me, so I could really eat and drink and recover well. Plus the girls had a blast and lots of attention before coming home to the new babe…

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And the adjusting to a new sibling has been interesting, between the aggressive “hugs”/body slams from Lena, the licking of her head (again, Lena), the *mostly* gentle and sweet attention from Lucy, and all the lovely behavior regression and acting-out from both girls. But overall they’re both pretty obsessed with “Baby Maeve” and love her to (almost literal) pieces.

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As with every newborn, this stage whizzes by SO quickly, which makes me sad every time. I LOVE the newborn stage, despite the exhaustion and chaos. I love the curled up fists, the little limbs that flail wildly when you change their diapers, the grunts, whinnies, and snorts, the tiny little mouth searching desperately for food. So worth it all!

That’s all we’ve got time for today. I have a dinner that I actually have to make myself and a baby that’s bound to wake up the moment I turn the stove on. 🙂 Promise I’ll be back the next moment I have two hands again!