Making Plans (Only a Lil Late…)

Having a new baby is like being in the eye of a tornado. Having a new baby and a toddler is like being in the eye of a tornado and trying to juggle while you’re there. Having a new baby and a toddler with a broken leg is like being in the eye of a tornado and trying to juggle molotov cocktails.

Needless to say, it’s not the best atmosphere for writing a grocery list, much less writing a novel. I can hardly be blamed for forgetting that I once wrote books, and (unless I want to send the check back) will again.

But now Leo is 3 months old, and he takes semi-reliable naps. Freddie is about to turn 3 and is back to racing through the house (with dangerous obstacles carefully monitored, of course). And this means it’s time for me to emerge from my motherhood cocoon and become the beautiful author butterfly I know I can be (hi, my child has made me read THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR approximately eleventy billion times).

Signed copies of my books at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA

Well, sometimes life has a way of handing you exactly what you need, a thing I realized while sitting in the audience of the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. I got to catch up with old author friends, meet new author friends, gab about books and writing, and just generally return to my bookish best self. I left, as I always do, renewed and full of get-up-and-go. I’m inspired to write ALL. THE. BOOKS.

And then Sunday afternoon, as I sat with a notebook and pen, I caught a glimpse of a few tweets from Kiersten White.

I’ve been at this for five years now, and I can honestly say that I’ve never attempted to think of my career this way. I’ve mostly spent my time careening from one deadline to the next, emerging to take big gulps of air between massive life events (four books in five years, two kids in three years, two broken legs in six months). And like Kiersten says, so much of this business feels totally out of our control. I think I submitted to that too much. But it’s time for me to take some of it back.

And so I flipped to a blank page and mapped out the rest of 2017. And then I projected forward to 2018. I even made a couple 2019 notes, since that’s when I’ll be launching my next book, BETTER THAN THE BEST PLAN.

I also made a list of all the big book ideas I’ve had rattling around in the “Someday” file in my head (I’ve wanted to write a contemporary middle grade for a long time, and I’ve got an idea for an adult book). And then I plugged those in, too.

I ended up dumping everything into a Scrivener file I titled “CAREER MAP,” which will make it easy to check up on my goals and revisit them as I go. There’s even a folder in there for all those book ideas.

And so, with a new baby and a toddler and just under four months left in 2017, I finally feel like my feet are under me again. It’s time to buckle down, keep my eyes on my own paper, and DO. WORK.

 

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Dispatch from the Mom Life: Keeping a Schedule

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Leo is 12 weeks old.

I. KNOW.

I blinked and the kid is cooing and grabbing things and sitting up in the bumbo seat. AND I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve got my feet under me with the whole mom-of-two thing. The key for me is structure.

I was mentioning my schedule on my Instagram stories, and I got a few questions about what that looks like. Which is why I’m pretending to be a mommy blogger for a moment and writing this up. Besides, a lot of my writer friends have new babies and are also still writing and editing books, so this is definitely a craft post, too. Being a write-at-home mom is no joke, guys. You can hardly separate the two jobs. True story: a man once asked me what I do. I told him I write YA novels. “Oh, so you don’t work at all?” he replied. And then I turned him into a pile of ash with the fire of my gaze.

First, a note on developing a schedule. Mine came through a combination of following the kiddo’s lead and then providing a sense of structure around what it seems like he wants. Once you start recognizing the sleepy and hungry and happy patterns, you can anticipate what they’ll need and (hopefully, oh god hopefully) avoid a screaming fit.

I also try to follow the eat-play-sleep suggestion with Leo, which has helped me achieve that elusive unicorn skill of putting the baby down awake and letting him fall asleep on his own (it’s seriously magic). With Freddie I did eat-sleep-play, which meant I relied on nursing him to sleep. We had to do a lot more soothing with him to get him to bed at night. Leo is, thus far, less difficult on that front (PRAISE HANDS).

So here’s what my day with the kiddos looks like.

7am-7:30
Leo and Freddie are awake. Freddie watches Netflix and eats breakfast, I feed Leo. Adam is usually the one who gets up with Freddie, especially if he pops out of bed between 6am-6:30 (as has been his habit … ugh). We tag team showers and getting kids dressed and packing lunch. We’re out the door by 8:40.

9am
Drop Freddie at school (he goes 4 half days a week) and Adam at work. Then off to run errands if I have any. Leo usually snoozes in the car for 20 minutes during the drop offs, but the little stinker loves to wake up the moment Adam gets out of the car. Luckily he’s usually pretty happy to tag along on my errands without too much of a fuss.

10:30
Home to feed Leo, then a little play time on his activity mat or swinging on the porch swing.

Playtime with Leo sometimes involves teaching him the art of the selfie

11am
Leo goes down for a good morning nap. If he doesn’t get this nap, he can be an absolute terror in the afternoon and will not take any more naps and it’s HORRIBLE. This nap is the key to my entire day. This nap is why I don’t meet Adam for lunch anymore. This nap is sacred.

12:30
If Leo’s not awake, then I wake him up, and we head out to pick up Freddie from school at 1pm.

1:30
Home, snack for Freddie, who watches Netflix while I feed Leo (no, we’re not afraid of screen time in this family … ask me to recite every Daniel Tiger song ever. I can do it!). I move Freddie towards nap by 1:45.

You’ll notice “housekeeping” doesn’t appear on my schedule …

2pm
Freddie is down for a nap no later than 2, then I have a little playtime with Leo before putting him down for a nap by 2:30 at the absolute latest. Sometimes if Leo is seeming ready, he goes down at 2pm right after Freddie.

2pm-4pm
If all goes well, both kids are asleep for about two hours. Sometimes it goes less, sometimes more. On bad days, one or both of them completely boycotts the afternoon nap. These days suck and usually involve a lot more television for the big kid.

4:30
Wake up whoever’s still asleep. Snack for Freddie upon wakeup. Feed Leo.

5pm
Pick up Adam from work, then figure out the dinner situation (we’re not meal planners, so every day usually ends with, “so what do you want to do for dinner?” Often the answer involves take-out).

The evenings are Adam’s domain. He usually does bath time around 6:30 or 7pm, with me pitching in as needed. Freddie’s bedtime has been creeping back lately, so he’s usually in bed by 8pm (I want that closer to 7:30). I feed Leo between 7pm-7:30, then he goes to bed.

All good children must be in their beds by 8pm or things start getting screamy around here. Sleep breeds sleep, and structure saves lives (or something). All I know is that when we start deviating from the schedule, a meltdown is usually close behind (sometimes that meltdown is my own).

Some days just wear you out

Freddie sleeps through the night and has since he was about 8 months old. Leo is down to 1 nighttime feed, usually around 3am. Some nights he wakes at midnight and 4am to eat. I just roll with whatever because at this stage Freddie was still waking every 3 hours like clockwork and I’m just so damn thankful that Leo loves his sleep like his mama.

Leo’s still in a bassinet in our room, but pretty soon we’re going to move him to his crib. I want to wean him off the swaddle blanket first before I send him off to his own room.

I’m betting you’re looking at that schedule and wondering, “So Lauren … when do you write the books?” Well … I get stuff done while they’re napping, but it’s not always writing time.

I won’t lie … I also spend a lot of their naps right now dicking around on my phone, because nap time is when I need to decompress from the nonstop parenting extravaganza that occurs when they’re awake. I’ve been going out in the evenings to get work done, thanks to the fabulous work of Adam, my partner in life and crime and parenting. As we get closer to my October deadline, I’ll probably get more serious about using their naps for work.

One day a week I have them both home with me all day, and on those days I usually do a morning outing for Freddie, anything from the local museum to the park to Barnes & Noble to play in the children’s section (bless the Thomas the Tank Engine train table!). And then during Leo’s morning nap Freddie and I will do an activity like play dough or coloring.

Leo can start at the mother’s morning out program at Freddie’s preschool when he’s 6 months old, so sometime early next year he’ll probably head there one or two days a week so I can have a good chunk of time to work. Until then, I’m momming like a boss and writing when I can.

Got any tips for creating a schedule? Share ’em in the comments!

August Goals

I’m starting to get my feet under me with the whole parenting of two kids at once thing, and since today is the first day of a brand new month (when kids in my town started back to school … WHAT?!), I’ve decided it’s time to set a few goals.

+ Work on my revision at least 15 minutes each day … hopefully I can sneak in more, but 15 minutes is a totally manageable amount of time right now, ie, an amount of time I won’t run and hide from. I can squeeze it in during a baby nap, or after the kiddos go to bed but before I pass out from parenting exhaustion.

+30 Day Plank Challenge … ok, so there’s lots to be said about a postpartum body, but when you’re parenting two kids, the most important thing is to be strong and healthy. And today, when my toddler had a meltdown at the park while I had the baby in the wrap, I had to scoop up the toddler and haul him half a mile back to the car in the scorching heat WHILE wearing the baby. That was like, 45lbs of kid. It was immediately clear that I need to keep myself strong. So I’m hopping on iStroll’s 30 Day Plank Challenge. Join me, won’t you? Today is only 20 seconds! Easy peasy (we will not talk about day 30, when the plank is 5 minutes!)

+Read 2 books … remember when I’d easily put away 7 or 8 books in a month? HA! Those days will come again, but for this month, I’m aiming for 2.

What are your August goals?

Clinging to the weekend

I’ve given up trying to be productive during the week. I’m basically just at the mercy of the tiny humans, and all I can do is hang on for dear life until I crash in the evenings (they, thankfully, are pretty good night sleepers … we will not discuss the baby during the daylight hours other than to say He Who Does Not Nap is a good nickname … not a catchy nickname, but apt). But thanks to my stellar partner, I have Saturday and Sunday to … um, blog? Ok, let’s get the promote-y stuff over with first, shall we?

+Meant to Be is on sale for $1.99 for Kindle and Nook (and will be for another couple weeks, I think). As a result of said sale, Meant to Be is currently the #1 Bestseller in Teens & Young Adult Fiction about Women & Girls, which is really on-brand for me (the category, not the #1 Bestseller status … that’s more of a novelty!).

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 3.48.31 PM

+I also did this great interview for YA Interrobang (a site I love and respect for pieces like this) for their backlist series. I got to talk about my second novel, Being Sloane Jacobs, which I love and wish more people would read. In the interview, shared how roller derby and the women I skated with inspired BSJ, and how I wrote it to help girls connect with their inner badass. And while we’re on the subject, Being Sloane Jacobs is only $5.99 for Kindle, so if you feel so moved by the interview, there ya go!

Once upon a time I would have tried to write, but now Im trying to keep the toddler from touching everything and the baby from coming unhinged

+So what else is going on? 77 days until my revision deadline, and man am I having a hard time juggling writing and two kids. I’ll figure it out eventually, I’m sure, but right now it feels like I’m learning to walk all over again or something. It’s a phenomenon I should probably write about (the transition from writing with no kids to writing with one kid to writing with two), but you know … who has the time? Anyway, BETTER THAN THE BEST PLAN will get done, and it will be rad. Winter 2019. Mark your calendars.

+Speaking of time, my blogposts are just going to be bulleted, ok? Who’s got the mental energy for transitions?

Really, Target?

+Speaking of kids, this is sort of a weird shirt to put on your toddler, no? I mean, I like The Doors, and I’m pretty free-to-be in my parenting, but Morrison is a bit of a questionable role model, no?

+And finally, I just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, so inspired after seeing the trailer for the movie. I liked the book (maybe a little overly-detailed in a few places), but am confused about what’s going on in the trailer for the most part. I’ve moved on to rereading Sarah Dessen’s Someone Like You.

+Speaking of reading, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite, because every time I try to read on my phone I wind up social media-ing myself to death. I know, exercise some self-control, Morrill. But the truth is I’m a child and I had to spend $100 to stop refreshing Instagram all day. So far I’m a fan. Also loving this cute composition notebook cover I got.

Ok,  I leave you with a question … any good Kindle deals? Always looking to feed my e-reader!

So Your Toddler’s in a Spica Cast … Here’s How to Survive

Today I’m going to share the coping strategies we used during Freddie’s two (yes, two) spica casts.

In case you found this blog post by Googling some combination of “toddler,” “spica cast,” and “OH MY GOD,” let me catch you up on my story. My son Freddie broke his leg a couple months after turning 2. He was at toddler hour at Sky Zone, bouncing maybe inches off the trampoline all by himself, when SNAP. He got a spiral fracture of his right femur, which led to four weeks in a spica cast. Oh, and I was 15 weeks pregnant at the time.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, fast forward 6 months, to the day after we brought our new baby home from the hospital. Freddie was running through the house, stepped on a sweatshirt on the wood floor, slipped, and SNAP. A spiral fracture of the left femur. That was 5 weeks in a spica cast, this time with a brand new baby at home.

Father’s Day 2017

Yep, a toddler in a spica and a newborn baby. It was NUTS.

So yeah, you could say this is expert spica cast advice. Or as expert as it can be without having an MD after my name. We’ve done two tours in a spica cast, once at 2 years old, and once at 2.5. And I’m about to share how we got through it.

The First Days

The first few days are the hardest. Kiddo was still in pain and very confused about why his parents had mummified him. He was constantly grabbing for us, like we could pull him out of it. But when we tried to pick him up, it caused terrible pain. This included for things like diaper changes.

As a result, sleep didn’t come easily. For the first couple of days, every time he’d start to drift off, he’d startle, which would jostle his leg, and he’d wake up screaming in pain. This is called “hypnotic jerk,” and it’s common in the first few days after the injury. It was miserable to watch, but there’s really nothing you can do to help it. I found putting my hand over his foot to keep the jerk from the startle to a minimum helped a little.

Luckily after a day or two, the pain lessened and that stopped. The first few days are also filled with a lot of whining. Like, a lot. Learn to turn it out early and just power through.

Getting Set Up

First thing’s first: order a wedge pillow.

We got this one, which has a removable, washable cover. We set up a makeshift bed in the living room, right in front of the tv using those foam puzzle tiles, blankets, and pillows. The wedge is key for propping your little one comfortably.

Leo: 3 days old … Freddie’s cast: 1 days old … Mom: exhausted

For sleeping, we moved Freddie into our guest room so he could sleep in the big bed with one of us watching over him. We ordered this bed rail to keep him from tumbling out (it may not seem like it at first, but your toddler will get semi-mobile thanks to some quickly developing upper body strength).

Second? Get over any hangups you have about screen time.

We have a Roku stick with Netflix and Amazon Prime. We watched Curious George and the Halloween BooFest about a hundred times. The dialogue haunts my dreams. But it kept him entertained, so you wanna watch BooFest again? Sure kid, lemme get that started for you.

I also let him watch stuff on my iPad, and for that, you need a good, kid-friendly case. I got this Speck case, and after watching my iPad get tossed off the bed in toddler frustration a couple times, I can tell you it’s great. My iPad still works perfectly. (And if you don’t know about Guided Access, which locks your toddler into an app to keep them from getting into something you don’t want or deleting something you need, learn all about it.)

Ok, but after Netflix and a thousand episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on Amazon Prime, what else can you do with your spica cast kid?

Getting Out

My biggest advice? Don’t become housebound. It’s easy to think you’re trapped at home, but you’re not, and getting out will keep the entire family from losing their ever-loving minds.

Freddie in our UPPAbaby G-LITE just after getting his cast off the 2nd time

Let me start by saying that umbrella strollers are where it’s at when you’ve got a toddler in a spica. Our UPPAbaby G-LITE saved our lives, because it has a deep enough seat to support him, shallow enough sides that his splayed leg position still fit in the stroller, and it’s strong enough to support the extra weight of toddler + cast (which can be upwards of 50 lbs). If you’re in a position to get a new stroller to get you through this experience, I highly recommend the G-LITE (Amazon usually has a good price). It’s a great stroller even without the spica (lightweight, sturdy, easy to maneuver, and folds up like a dream) and you’ll use it like crazy, I promise.

Taking a late-night stroll to look for cockroaches in the UPPAbaby G-LITE (one of his favorite cast activities … yikes!)

(Side-note: I just found out that UPPAbaby makes a double version of the G-LITE that accommodates infants.  I WANT ONE. And after the ordeal we endured as a family, I think I may have earned it.)

So where should you go?

Well, really anywhere can become an adventure if you approach it with enough enthusiasm.

Freddie loved going to Petsmart to look at the fish, reptiles, birds, and rescue cats. He also really enjoyed visits to Bass Pro Shop, where they have an enormous river aquarium. Another fun activity? Visiting our local park and throwing pennies into the fountains. I’d say we deposited a few dollars in pennies around our fair town on those outings.

See what I mean about anywhere?

The key is to find places that are handicap accessible, because then you know you’ll be able to get around with a stroller. We visited local museums (the planetarium was huge hit). We were really lucky to find a nature center nearby that is 100% ADA accessible, which meant Freddie got to check out all manner of wildlife (the otters were a big hit). If you’ve got a zoo or an aquarium, definitely go there.

Enjoying the show at the planetarium … a 15 minute show is the perfect length for a toddler!

Story times at local libraries and bookstores (Barnes & Noble has a couple each week) were also good adventures, and they have the bonus of being free.

The key is to get creative and get out of the house.

Entertainment

Ok, but sometimes you have to be at home. What then?

Sorting the lids from yogurt pouches into a muffin tin

Boredom is going to feel like your biggest hurdle. If I found myself in a spica cast for 4 weeks, I’d hate it, sure, but I’d also take it as a chance to read books and binge watch Netflix and get waited on hand and foot. A two year old? Yeah, not the same. We watched a lot of Sarah & Duck and Super Why and Raffi concerts, but two year olds still don’t enjoy a steady stream of television like us adults might. That pesky attention span, you know? Luckily, we had lots of friends and family sending care packages of things to help distract him. Here’s what worked the best:

Melissa & Doug Water Wow!
You guys, it’s painting with no mess! He could do it in bed laying down, and the pads helped him work on letters and numbers while he was at it. These were fantastic. Just fill the little pen tool with water and set them loose.

MagnaDoodle
The only downside of this one was the magnetic shapes, which kept clattering to the floor and requiring parental retrieval. But otherwise, he thoroughly enjoyed scribbling and erasing.

Stickers
My mom sent him a little spiral notebook and a stack of stickers. The puffy ones were the best, because they were easier for his little toddler fingers to handle. He’d spend a while just sticking stickers in his book.

Play-doh
I’d been avoiding adding Play-doh to our house, because holy mess. But all bets are off when your kid is in a partial body cast. Did you know a can of Play-doh is only 94 cents at Target? Yeah, there’s one toy that costs exactly what it should. My mom also sent a set of Play-doh cookie cutters and a rolling pin. This probably occupied him for the longest length of time of anything.

Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad
Friends sent him this great sticker pad with vinyl moveable stickers. It has a bunch of scenes and then sticker sets that can be manipulated and reused. He loved it!

Crayola Color Wonder Markers & Paper
Another magic product that kept mess to a minimum. If you’re unfamiliar, Color Wonder Markers don’t color on skin or fabric or any paper but Color Wonder paper, where they magically appear. They make color wonder stamps now, too.

He had some other fun toys that he loved (like the Daniel Tiger Trolley and this plastic santa pig that shot little nerf balls). And of course he loved having books read to him, particularly interactive ones that involved sounds or motions from the parental units. We were willing to try anything.

Be prepared: basically nothing will occupy a two year old for more than 15-20 minutes, no matter how cosmic and cool. Just throw everything at the wall and see what will stick (seriously, we threw things at the wall … that was good for a few giggles). Our dining room table became a toy/distraction staging area, and we’d run over and pull out a new thing whenever he got restless. Basically a spica cast on a toddler requires the parents to develop the patience of a saint and the stamina of a rodeo clown.

Care & Cleaning

Are you ready for the hard truth?

The spica cast is going to get gross. Despite your best efforts, your kid is probably going to smell like a latrine by the end of it. You do the best you can, but it happens. Catch as catch can. Here’s how to mitigate it as much as possible.

We did sponge baths every couple of days, but we used a variety of hospital-grade dry bath products daily to combat the funk. These No Rinse Bathing Wipes are great for trying to get into the cast crevices as much as possible without getting water in there, and trust me, they really do work miles better than your standard baby wipe. There’s also a No Rinse Shampoo, though we dangled Freddie over the tub and let him splash in the water while I washed his hair.

The other major hurdle of the spica is constipation. When your kid can’t move, it’s really hard for his bowels to move stuff through them. This can cause backups and ultimately terrible pain when it comes time to poop. Seriously, it can be traumatizing.

On advice of our pediatrician, we employed Miralax. DON’T USE TOO MUCH. Scale up to the recommended dose, otherwise you’ll have the opposite problem on your hand. Please talk to your own doctor about this, as I am not a medical professional and don’t know your kid.

If your kid isn’t a horribly picky eater (hi, mine is), you can try things like raisins or smoothies with prune juice in them to try and keep things moving. My kid spent his two spica tours mostly eating french fries and veggie straws and whatever other treats we could cajole him to eat. Do what ya gotta do, I say.

As for diaper changes, for the first couple days, they will cause pain and your kid will scream. Just try to make it happen fast. For this, it became a two-man job. Adam held him up in the air while I went to town like a NASCAR pit crew member. I got fast at that business.

By the end of the second week, when he wasn’t in any noticeable pain, I could basically roll him around to do it solo. Adam would lay him in his lap and flip him over to get the job done (I couldn’t manage that with a burgeoning pregnant belly). The nurses at the hospital (or the orthopedist, wherever you end up), will show you the ropes.

We also had an issue with the cast rubbing at his back, so we got adhesive moleskin at the drug store (it’s in with the foot care stuff). To keep it from peeling off, we had to do a strip of duct tape along the back. Not too cute, but it worked.

In fact, by the end of the time in the spica, your cast may start peeling and falling apart. Duct tape will be your friend. You can even make a game out of it and let your kiddo pick out some fun patterns to do the patching (which is also another fun outing to go pick it out!).

Just Power Through

It’s really all you can do. Take it day by day, and know that it will end. I promise. And the day they cut that thing off really will be as glorious as you anticipated (though your child probably won’t walk for a couple weeks … it took Freddie 10 days the first time and 8 the second).

If you find yourself with a kid in a spica and have any questions, I’m happy to answer them. Just email me. 

And my parting words of wisdom? DON’T TAKE YOUR KID TO THE TRAMPOLINE PARK.

Leo Fox, a birth story

WARNING: Here be details of childbirth, some of which may be icky. Read at your own peril.

Ok, so if you’ve followed along with my Insta stories, I made no secret about the fact that I did not so much enjoy being pregnant the second time around. It was much harder on my body this time. I was super achy and tired, and basically just ready to meet the little guy. I was begging him to come early.

Turns out, he listened to his mama.

I went to bed on Tuesday night pretty resigned to the fact that I was going to go the distance, if not pass my due date. I just didn’t feel like he was anywhere near being born. I’d been having tons of irregular contractions, and even some false labor over Memorial Day weekend, but that had all stopped. He felt snug in there.

But at 2am on Wednesday morning I woke up to pee, stood up from bed, and gush. Yup, my water broke. Which was a huge shock, because did you know that only about 15% of women experience their water breaking spontaneously? For most women it happens during labor, and for quite a few (including me, with my first son) your doctor will break it during labor. But nope, this time I got to have the full movie experience.

I won’t lie, it was so shocking that I wasn’t entirely sure if my water broke, or if I was just peeing all over myself. I fled to the bathroom, where I called for Adam and asked him to smell the puddle on the floor to determine if it was pee.

Ladies, don’t marry anyone who won’t do this for you.

It was determined that yes, it was definitely my water breaking, which meant I needed to get to the hospital within the hour (instructions from my midwife/OB, because after an hour you can start to risk infection). Unfortunately, because I still had amniotic fluid coming out of me, all I could do was bark orders at Adam to throw the last of the items into the hospital bag while I tried to contain the mess. We called our friend Josephine, who rushed right over to be there for Freddie, and then off we went.

When I got into this room, I took one look at this board and said, “Oh my god, is that cervical dilation chart TO SCALE?!” My nurse looked at me like I was crazy. Yes, for the record, it is. And yes, I’ve given birth before. What?

I was not, at this point, experiencing any contractions. I got checked in at the hospital, got my IV started, filled out a bunch of paperwork (it still kills me that a giant pregnant lady walks into the maternity ward to say her water broke, and the first thing they do is ask for your insurance card … ugh, America, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER), and they called my midwife. She recommended pitocin to try and get contractions going, but I decided to wait until the morning and see if my body would get things moving on its own.

It didn’t.

So come 9am, a pitocin drip was begun. And then upped. And then upped again. And upped about ten more times over the course of the morning (I got to recognize the metallic Dansko clogs of my nurse, which would appear behind the sheet covering the door, each time she’d come in to up the dose), until finally finally finally I was feeling contractions like I’d felt with Freddie. My labor and delivery nurse kept coming in to check, and I’d give her this big smile between breathing through them and say “yay contractions!” and she’d grin knowingly and say, “Not there yet, you’re still smiling!”

For the duration of my labor, this dude was painting the window sill. I swear, it got like, ten coats. Also, Adam was freezing and sat around draped in a blanket.

I tried to smile back at her, but in my head I was all Lady, you don’t know where I’ve been, ok? I seen shit, and I swear, this is labor and I am DOING THIS.

Me and my ever-present pitocin drip

I labored throughout the day. I paced the room and breathed through contractions that I thought were pretty painful while listening to Hamilton start to finish. And when my midwife came back around 1:30pm, they checked me, and I was a four. A FOUR. Seriously? All that, and only FOUR CENTIMETERS? Ugh. So they upped the pitocin big time. My L&D nurse asked me if I wanted the epidural, and I said no, because seriously, this was fine. It was fine. FINE, OK?

Yeah, looking back, this was not the face of a woman experiencing the worst of labor …

Well, that last pitocin dose must have done the trick, because all of a sudden I was in pain. Like, movie pain. Gripping my husbands hands so hard he was in pain, pain. I yelled. I groaned. I moaned. I held onto Adam for dear life through each contraction.

“I’m ready for the epidural,” I said with my face buried in his shoulder.

Yeah, about that. I still had to get a full bag of saline before I could have the epidural. Which meant another half hour of unmediated labor in which I was sure a kid was going to come rocketing out of me at any moment.

thought I knew what contractions were after Freddie, but oh ho ho, was I so very wrong.

Finally, the fluid was administered and the anesthesiologist arrived. Contractions were coming every couple of minutes, so I was just trying to hang on for dear life. Never in my life have I so desperately wanted someone to jam a needle in my back.

Though I was gritting my teeth silent the entire time, because I was still having epic contractions while trying to hold completely still for the epidural.

Finally finally finally the epidural was in and starting to work. I did manage to mutter to the anesthesiologist that last time my epidural was too high and I had a hard time pushing. I had no idea if she heard me or even cared. Frankly, I didn’t care. I just wanted that sweet relief. But apparently she did, because I still definitely felt contractions and pressure, just a whole hell of a lot less.

About 15 minutes post epidural, my L&D nurse checked me, and I was at 9 centimeters. HOLY SHIT I LABORED WITHOUT MEDICATION TO 9 CENTIMETERS. This is not a humble brag. This is a dammit, Lauren, you waited waaaaay too long to ask for that epidural statement.

If you’re sure you want the epidural, heed my warning, ladies, and don’t wait too long. Because from the time you ask for it to the time it starts working, you still probably have another 45 minutes to an hour of labor. And shit can get real FAST towards the end there.

Again, I had no pain getting the epidural. I barely even felt it. The lidocaine felt like tiny baby bee stings, and the insertion felt like someone pressing on my back, but otherwise? Nada.

A lot of women might think, “You were almost there! Do you wish you’d just skipped it?”

HELL TO THE NOPE.

That epidural gave me about half an hour of rest before I went on to push for an hour, and honestly? I don’t know if I would have had the strength otherwise.

So yeah, half an hour after the epidural I had my legs up, my midwife in front of me, and I was pushing.

And it was fucking hard.

They don’t call it labor for nothing, let me tell you.

But at least I didn’t end up pushing for 4 hours, and after just a scant 1 hour, I gave a good, hard, final push and Leo Fox was born. He was placed on my chest, and I’m not kidding, it was the best feeling in the whole wide world.

Our first meeting

For anyone curious about his name, Leo is a name we just really liked and felt it went with both my husband’s Italian last name and with Freddie. And Fox is my mother-in-law’s maiden name.

Proud dad

I got some stitches, but honestly, for as difficult as the second pregnancy has been, healing from the second birth has been proportionally as easy. Maybe it’s the I’ve been distracted by Freddie’s broken leg, or maybe it’s that this birth was shorter and easier, or maybe it’s just that my body’s done it before. Whatever it is, I’m feeling so much better at this point than I did at this point with Freddie.

Going home! Little did we know, things were about to get a LOT more difficult…

And want one fun little final coda? When I mentioned during labor that I’d pushed for 4 hours with Freddie, my L&D nurse said, “I’ve only had one mom push that long in the 15 years I’ve been doing this.” And we figured out … that mom was me! She was my delivery nurse last time! (Not the one who wasn’t super great … that nurse left shift just before I started pushing and this nurse came on).

Welcome to the mad house

So now I’m the mother of two fantastic little boys, and while our family is in a bit of a holding pattern while we wait for Freddie’s leg to heal, I can’t wait to get out with these little guys and start having adventures.

Leo on day 12 of his life, seeming to accept that this band of wierdos is his family for good

It’s been a time

Hey guys! Well, this isn’t *quite* the post I thought I’d be writing, but here we are. On Wednesday, May 31st, Adam and I welcomed Leo Fox into the world.

It was a great experience, as far as birth goes (I mean, ouch, but great). We fell immediately in love with this mellow little guy, and were eager to bring him home so we could start our lives as a family of four, which we did on Thursday. And then on Friday, his big brother Freddie was running through the house like a mad man (as 2.5 year olds are wont to do), when he stepped on a sweatshirt, skidded on the wood floor, his legs went flying, and what do you know … he broke his other leg.

Kiddo’s back in a spica cast, only this time we have a newborn to care for at the same time. Things here have gone thoroughly off the rails, though thanks to some ace assistance from my mom (who came for a week and made my house pristine), Adam’s parents (who are here now keeping Freddie entertained), and friends near and far who have made sure we don’t have to prepare a single meal, we’ve actually managed to settle into a decent groove. Leo is now 12 days old, the cast is 9 days old, and we’re just ticking by the days until we can try to get back to normal (do we even remember what that was? Jeez…).

I’m going to share Leo’s birth story at some point (I’m writing up now so I don’t forget it in the fog of newborn life + toddler broken leg). I’m going to get back to blogging about books and writing (I still have a revision for my 2019 book to do, and I’m really excited about the direction it’s taking). In the meantime, here’s some photos of adorable babies and cute (but broken) toddlers to tide you over.

This photo kills me, because it was taken minutes before the broken leg occurred. They were just getting to know each other!

Big brother helping with little brother

Snoozy little guy (don’t worry, he doesn’t sleep with the blanket!) #safesleep

Battling the terrible twos in a body cast is hard, so these moments of my smiley, happy guy are fantastic

Freddie got a quick chance to hold Leo, though not for long since the cast made it pretty difficutl

If there’s anything that’s going to make you swallow the words “newborns are so hard!” it’s simultaneously caring for a toddler in a body cast.

 

Memorial Day Weekend: Our last hurrah as a family of 3?

I know, I’m blogging a lot lately. Can you believe it? I think it’s that, as I get closer to baby #2 and Freddie gets more independent, that old saying, “The days are long but they years are short” keeps echoing in my mind. It all goes so fast, and I’d really like to have a record somewhere of what it was like to be in these good and exhausting and stressful and wonderful times!

So … Memorial Day Weekend!

There was no beach vacation or epic road trips or even big plans for us this year, as my due date is fast approaching and little brother could make his debut at any moment (which of course means he won’t, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles). I almost thought I was going into labor in a Chipotle, but it turned out to just be indigestion. Drat.

Saturday

Our favorite local brewpub added poutine to the menu, which is my favorite trash food item that I haven’t had an authentic version of since I left Boston (and thus couldn’t visit Montreal on the regular anymore). But this? You guys, this is real poutine, and I took this plate DOWN. If you’re passing through Macon, Georgia (and you do if you travel south from Atlanta on I-75), stop at Ocmulgee Brewpub and treat yourself. Adam says their beers are great too (I wouldn’t know, as I’ve been pregnant since they opened).

After that it was starting to bake, so we decided to hit up the university pool, where I probably scared some college girls straight (thank you GAPfit tank for hiding the enormity that is my midsection).

Freddie hadn’t been swimming since last summer, but he had a blast. And thanks to the weightlessness in the pool, I could actually hold him and play with him like I can’t on dry land. Trust me when I say this was huge for me. Also, thanks to the the water, I didn’t have a single ache or pain for the first time in many moons.

Sunday

Something came over me and I decided that taking a hike around the Ocmulgee River at a local park would be a good idea (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). This was my view as I lagged behind most of the way, waddling like a drunken penguin.

And this was me after I told Adam that he needed to leave me behind in the lower lot and please for the love of God go get the car.

These are the pithy snaps you’re missing if you don’t follow my Instagram stories. Bet you’re feeling major FOMO now, huh?

Monday

We planned to wrap up the weekend with a quiet day in, mostly doing some yard work (Adam) and laying on the couch (me). But then Freddie decided he wanted to see airplanes. Um, ok? Luckily, we have a really great Museum of Aviation nearby that’s free to visit and open on Memorial Day. We went and spent a half hour playing in this helicopter before heading home for a nap (yep, one attraction, the one literally right inside the door … toddler life can be pretty simple sometimes!).

Mostly I spent the weekend reading and trying to avoid the news cycle. It’s just too much sometimes, you know? I was also thinking about all those who’ve fought to defend our freedom, including a number of members of my own family. My grandfather David Morrill was killed in Vietnam when his plane was shot down, and his body wasn’t recovered until 2003. That’s why I cringe every time I hear someone say “Happy Memorial Day,” because while the three day weekend is a great opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends, that’s not what we’re commemorating. So while I thoroughly enjoyed hanging around with my guys and soaking up the last of our days as a family of three, the reason for the weekend wasn’t far from my mind.

Oh, and of course I got some reading in! I sped through AS Green’s romance novel SUMMER GIRL, which was a fun diversion. I read my galley of Kasie West’s newest, LUCKY IN LOVE (her books are always a sweet delight), and now I’m reading Doree Shafrir’s STARTUP, which is sort of a Devil Wears Prada for the tech world. It’s juicy and I can’t put it down. I’m really looking forward to picking up WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon, which comes out tomorrow. I’ve heard such good things and have been jonesing for it for weeks!

Did you read anything fantastic this weekend? Any fun adventures? Share in the comments!

#TBT: Freddie’s Birth Story

Today I decided to throw it back to October of 2014 and share Freddie’s birth story, which I wrote up but never shared. I found a lot of comfort and anxiety relief in reading birth stories back when I was pregnant the first time (I also just really enjoy them!), and as I approach little brother’s big debut, I wanted to remind myself that birth really isn’t so bad (no, really!). So without further adieu, let’s fade back in time two and a half years…

October 20, 2014

My mom is leaving tomorrow (she’s been here since the day we brought Freddie home from the hospital), so I realized that if I didn’t write this down now, I’d probably never get to it. And I don’t want to forget it (well … not ALL of it). It’s going to be a novel, because frankly it’s as much for me as for anyone else, so I’m going to include LOTS of detail.

Ok, here we go!

Late Monday night, I got in bed feeling little twinges that I thought might be early contractions, but I wasn’t sure. I figured I ought to try and sleep, just in case it was the real deal and sleep became an impossibility. So I did, but come 2am, I woke with what I was pretty sure was a real contraction. Ten minutes later, another. And every ten minutes, pretty regularly until the morning. Adam, whose back was hurting, was sleeping on the couch and didn’t know any of this was happening. I decided not to wake him, again in case it was the real deal, I wanted him to have as much sleep as possible. One of us ought to be rested, after all.

By 6am, contractions were coming every 6-8 minutes, and I was having to really focus and breathe to get through them. I figured it was time to tell Adam, and the look on his face is one I’ll remember forever. Sort of a mix of shock and horror. But in a good way! I think reality hit him hard at that moment, but he recovered quickly and jumped in ready to help get me through it.

I grabbed a shower, which was one of my musts before heading to the hospital (during which I had a righteous contraction), and then decided I needed some food. So through the Starbucks drive-thru we went at 6am for a bagel and cream cheese (Adam drove, and that’s the moment where I realized that the position of sitting in the car was NOT going to cut it during contractions).

Contractions were jumping around between 10-6 minutes, and I wanted to avoid the hospital for as long as possible. I took a little cat nap, maybe 40 minutes, and then woke up with contractions. I needed a distraction. So I did the book nerdiest thing I could think of. I made Adam drive me to Barnes and Noble to buy My True Love Gave to Me, a book I was DYING for, and which came out that morning. And like a champ, he did it. Of course, at B&N I knew I wouldn’t make it through the store without a contraction, so I waited in the car while he went in. What a champ, right? And while he was in the store, we realized my contractions were suddenly regular, 5 minutes apart for the last hour or so. That was when I was told I could start to head to the hospital, but I knew I didn’t have to. And I didn’t want to. I wanted to do as much work at home as possible. So home we went to work through them until we decided it was hospital time.

A word about the pain. My contractions felt like a belt tightening around my waist, concentrating pain in my lower back and then upper abs. It was like a combination of the worst menstrual cramps plus the stitches you get in your side when you run. But thanks to my yoga breathing, I was able to tough it out. At home, I spent an hour walking in a slow circle around the dining room table, and then when a contraction would hit, I’d lean over on the table in an L-shape, and Adam would push on my lower back with both hands. And color me SHOCKED when the counter pressure made contraction pain nearly disappear. There was still tightening, and I still had to breathe and focus, but the sharpest pain was gone.

I was doing well toughing it out, but Adam was starting to get nervous. After a particularly intense contraction, he declared it time to go to the hospital, and I was starting to get excited to meet Freddie, so I agreed. We walked into the baby room, and Adam said, “Next time we see this, it’s going to have an occupant!” And I cried like a sap.

We live a mile from the hospital, maybe less. It’s literally a straight shot down the road, but those few minutes were BRUTAL. Without my dining room table and my L-shape bending over and the counter pressure, I was just gritting my teeth through contractions. Just as we were about to turn the corner to the hospital, I had a particular rough one and released a string of expletives at top volume. Adam replied, “NOW it’s like the movies!”

We parked in the designated garage (definitely make sure you know where you need to go ahead of time … we did a hospital tour so we’d basically done a dry run of it) and started to make our way across the bridge to the birthing center. I had to stop in the middle to bend over against the wall for a contraction. A volunteer kept trying to get me into a wheelchair, but I wanted to walk. It was the only comfort I had at that point, and dammit I was walking myself into that hospital.

Clearly in labor, I was ushered right into OB Assessment, where they’d check me to see if I was going to be sent home or if I’d be staying. Well guess what? OB Assessment was totally full. The docs were all blaming it on the storm we were having, saying the change in barometric pressure had sent all the pregnant ladies into labor. So they had to take me to recovery, where they put the C section moms. It meant I had to go into this tiny bathroom to get into a gown before climbing into a bed hidden behind a curtain, and there was no room for me to endure contractions in there. Did not like. But you know what I did like? When they checked me and told me I was 5 centimeters! I think everyone was shocked that a first time mom who was pretty calm walked in 5 centimeters. My midwife high fived me when she arrived. I was stoked. I could maybe do this, maybe even without an epidural! YAY!

Back when we thought Freddie’s arrival was imminent … ha!

And this is where things got difficult. Because I was 40w4days, they decided to break my water right there in recovery (I had to wait on a room because the place was so busy), and when they did they discovered meconium in my fluid. Everyone assured me it was no big deal, it just meant there would be extra people in the delivery room to assess him when he arrived, but they decided to insert a uterine catheter to flush out the fluid as much as possible to help alleviate too much ingestion of meconium during birth. And that meant I needed to stay in bed, on my back. Which meant no more walking, no more leaning over the bed, no more counter pressure. Laying in that bed, I was horribly uncomfortable during contractions, to the point where it was making me feel nauseous. And that’s when I decided you know what? Epidural time.

The only photo I allowed while I was actually in labor … just post epidural!

So the epidural. I was terrified of it. More than of any other part of labor and delivery. And I didn’t feel a thing! I felt the tiny bee stings of the lidocaine, and the pressure from when they inserted, but otherwise there was no pain from it. Which is great, because Adam said it took them several tries to get it placed (“I was seriously about to lose my shit on that anesthesiologist,” he told me later).

And when the epidural was set? I felt nothing. NOTHING. Cool, except my lower half was so numb that the nurse had to come in and roll me over every half hour or so. I couldn’t move my lower half at all. And that also meant my labor slowed to a halt. I stayed 5 centimeters for over two hours, which meant they gave me pitocin. A lot, apparently. I settled back, watched half an episode of Gilmore Girls on my phone, and then I was complete. Time to push.

Of course, I couldn’t feel or move my legs. So my practice pushes with the L&D nurse? Yeah, they did nothing, except for I pulled a muscle in my back. The pain of trying to push with that was so brutal I started to cry, and then I barfed my guts out (thank you Adam for being quick with the bag so I didn’t barf on myself). The L&D nurse made me a makeshift heating pad to help with my upper back, gave me a moment to collect myself, and then we tried pushing again. It did not go well. I couldn’t feel anything, so I had no idea if I was using the right muscles! It was the only time I regretted the epidural.

After about half an hour and a half, they way turned down my epidural. As the numbness started to fade, I felt like I knew what i was doing, but at the point I was tired and also starting to experience pain, so my pushes were just crap. I was having trouble getting him under my pelvis so that he’d stop turtling back in. I was pushing, and when I was done he’d go right back. It was so hard to function mentally when I was working so hard for zero result. And my L&D nurse was not a very good cheerleader, so I had no idea if what I was doing was working. She was very quiet.

Finally, Adam jumped in and asked if we could get the midwife. He could tell I needed some support. And as soon as she showed up, things got better, but still not easy. I was doing better with pushing, but still making very little progress. And at one point I pushed so hard that I barfed again. Neat. Once again, Adam sprung into action with the barf bag. He was a fabulous cheerleader (after he was gone to the nicu with Freddie, the nurses and my midwife could not stop saying how great he was).

By 2 and ½ hours, Jennifer (my midwife) says, “Maybe we could try the vaccuum?” I barely let her get the words out before I shouted YES PLEASE! Of course, that meant we had to call in my doctor from the practice, because the midwives aren’t allowed to use those interventions. So I had to wait for my doctor to arrive (about 20 minutes, during which I continued to fruitlessly push). And when she arrived I nearly cried tears of joy. We were at hour 3 of pushing. At one point, Adam asked Jennifer what her longest pushing session was. I closed my eyes and yelled “Show him with your fingers!” So I had no idea what she said.

Ok, so my doctor suits up, pulls out the vacuum, and off we go. Freddie’s starting to make his way, thanks to vacuum (which, by the way, is not an actual vacuum, but more of a glorified suction cup) and the lower epidural making my pushes a little better, but it’s still slow going. I’m thoroughly exhausted. I’ve done three hours of the most intense sit ups of my life, all while my epidural is gradually wearing off. My arms hurt from pulling my legs back, because they were totally dead weight at first. And my upper abs were screaming. After every contraction, I would lean back just dying from the upper ab pain. I barfed one more time. Neat.

And the vacuum? Yeah, it was helping, except for the fact that Freddie’s full head of hair meant she couldn’t get a good seal. It kept popping off! The first time I heard the popping sound of the vacuum snapping off, I swear to god I nearly had a heart attack. “What was that?!?!?!” I shouted.

I pushed for what felt like an eternity. Several times my doctor said, “This next one and his head should be out!” But then the vacuum would pop off and she’d have to stop herself from swearing, I could tell. We were all getting frustrated.

At one point, she said, “If he doesn’t come out in the next couple of pushes, we’re going to have to shove him back up and cut him out.” I don’t know if she was serious, or if she was trying to scare me, but I dug down deep and found some tiny reserve of energy. Two pushes later, at 10:10pm his head was out. They suctioned his nose and mouth, and then I pushed with my next contraction and out he came, all gooey and squirming, making little crying sounds. He was such a little chunk, and all that hair! I’ll never forget it. He was exactly what I pictured when we used to do visualizations in prenatal yoga. Exactly.

Finally holding my baby!

Unfortunately, because of the meconium, he was rushed straight to the warmer in the corner of the room, where the nicu respiratory team jumped into action. That’s the moment that I realized there were suddenly 11 people in the delivery room. Seriously, it was like a party in there, only everyone was very serious. They were suctioning and pushing oxygen, and I tried to watch, but this nicu nurse kept standing in the way. I hated her, because I wanted to see my baby! But Adam told me later that watching Freddie arch his back with every breath was such a brutal image, and she was probably trying to shield me from it. So I’m sorry that I wanted to hit her back then.

They suctioned him enough that I could hold him for a few minutes, but that was all I got before they took him off to the nicu to work on him. Adam went with him, and I was left to get stitched and put back together (yep, episiotomy happened, and I remember it vividly. My doctor grabbed a scalpel, and then I heard, “now he should have some more room,” and then there was a clatter as she tossed it back on the tray). I probably should have been panicking, but the nicu respiratory team was so reassuring and calming, my midwife was being really chipper, and I was so exhausted that I just trusted everything would be fine.

Oh, remember when Adam asked Jennifer about the longest pushing session she’d done? It was four hours. Guess how long I pushed? FOUR HOURS. My doctor told me she and Jennifer were going out for a drink after that delivery. Everyone looked exhausted.

Once I was all put back together, Adam returned with someone from the nicu who assured us that other than getting his lungs cleared out, Freddie was 100% healthy. They just needed to solve this one problem, which they were confident would happen in a couple hours, and then he’d be released to us in the morning. I had to wait until my epidural wore off and I could stand before they’d let me go to the nicu to see him, and that hour and a half was BRUTAL. I wanted to go see him. I was desperately trying to wake my legs up.

Adam in the NICU with Freddie

But eventually they did, and at 1am Adam and the nurse wheeled me down to the nicu where I sat next to his bassinet and held his little hand. At 8lbs 4oz, he looked crazy out of place in there, the little chunk. I worked really hard not to freak out, because they wanted to keep him overnight for observation, even though he was completely breathing on his own at that point. He only needed oxygen for two hours. He was fine, but I still had to wait. And so I was sent to my recovery room without my baby. And that was maybe the hardest part of the whole thing. I just tried to tell myself we were going old school, with the baby in the nursery and this new mama getting some sleep (I got no sleep).

Freddie was back with us by noon the next day, and then we had 24 hours in the hospital with him where we tried to make up for lost time.

Reunited in our tiny hospital room!

And 24 hours after he returned from the nicu, we were rolling out of the hospital. And when I put him in the hat I made him and wrapped him in that blanket I’d worked so hard on, it was the first time I became a total puddle of tears (I kept telling Adam I needed to pull it together or the nurses were going to think I was suffering from PPD and not let me leave with him!).

Finally going home in the blanket and hat I crocheted for him

Did the birth turn out how I imagined? No. But even though I pushed for four hours, and at the end of that they took my baby to the nicu for 12 hours, I can’t ignore the fact that a week later I’m home with a happy, healthy baby. So screw the perfect birth experience.

And that, my friends, is how Freddie got here.

And now, back to 2017…

Ok, so I’m now 2.5 years away from that experience, and not that far away from doing it again. Am I getting another epidural? Again, I’m going to try and go as long as I can without, and maybe without the meconium situation I’ll be able to push through to the end. But the epidural is definitely still on the table. I don’t need to be a hero. Natural birth is not a goal for any kind of emotional reason, I’d just like to avoid the epidural because it’s kind of a pain in the ass to recover from. I did talk to my doctor already about how the epidural I had was too strong, and this time I’m going to have a different combination of drugs to give me more control over my body. But otherwise, my first labor experience wasn’t that bad. I came away with a lot of confidence in myself and what my body can do, and while I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to doing it again, I can honestly say that even with the complications I had, I don’t feel any sense of fear or dread. My biggest concern going into this experience is not scaring Freddie and making sure he has a smooth transition as we leave for the hospital (if I make it to my due date, my mom will be here to watch him, so that will basically eliminate that fear for me).

So wish me luck! And if you have a link to your birth story that you’d like the share with others, drop it down in the comments!

The Final Countdown…

Welcome to my happy place…

We’re just about into single digits to the due date around here, though I know from past experience that those things are merely suggestions (Freddie was 4 days late, and those 4 days felt as long as the entire pregnancy, I swear).

That hasn’t stopped me from keeping my eye on the calendar like a high school senior with graduation day fast approaching. And boy have I been busy. I cooked a metric ton of food to put in the freezer, which is notable because I usually loathe cooking (I also baked lemon cookies with lemon buttercream frosting for a potluck and made hummus from scratch, because hey, why not?).

In case you want the recipes … the first is Mediterranean Tuna Noodle Casserole (I added a bunch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the sauce to keep it from being too bland). The second is Vegetable Enchiladas (I subbed my fave taco seasoning for the plain cumin, and I added about double what the recipe called for). And finally, I made Salisbury Steak with Onion Gravy and a carrot and potato mash … basically homemade tv dinners!.

I’ve got the hospital bag all packed with the following (seriously, moms, this is all you need/will use):

  • Going home clothes for me and the baby
  • Going home blanket for the baby
  • Pacifiers
  • Basic toiletries
  • Nursing bra
  • Robe (seriously, cannot recommend a robe in the hospital enough)
  • Crocs (aka shoes that can be destroyed)
  • Snacks
  • Phone charger
  • Pillows (because the hospital never has enough, for real)

I’ve got the carseat installed, I’ve got the baby room set up, I’ve cleaned everything in sight … what I’m saying is YOU CAN GO AHEAD AND SHOW UP ANYTIME, KID.

And so now I’ve got just under two weeks left, two weeks which have the possibility of feeling like an eternity and a half. So what have I been doing? Well, turning to books, of course!

I finally pulled ILLUMINAE by Jay Kristoff and Meagan Spooner off my shelf (where it’s been sitting since the day it released) and burned through it. Holy wow, was that a wild ride. I grabbed GEMINA, the sequel, this weekend and plan to get that read, since those are definitely not good e-book reads and e-book reads are all I’ll be able to do once I’ve got an infant in my arms and a toddler running away from me. I also reread Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, which I’ve been meaning to do for years. Let me tell you, that book holds up. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you get on that. And I just started a galley of Katie Cotugno’s October release (yes, she has TWO books coming out this year), called TOP TEN. I’m about a third of the way through, and holy crap you guys, it’s amazing. I think it’s going to be my favorite of her books.

On deck to read I’ve got:

All this reading has meant that for the first time in weeks, I can sort of forget that I’m enormous and hot and achy and uncomfortable. We’ll see how many of them I get through, or if I have to add to my list if I burn through these. I’m definitely going to try and keep myself busy so that I don’t go bananas trying to wish myself into labor (which is definitely not the most far-fetched labor-inducing tip I’ve ever heard).

Make sure to follow along on Instagram stories to see what I’m reading … and Instagram is probably where I’ll go first when this kiddo decides to make his debut! So make sure you’re following me, mmmkay?