My little Lena

Friday afternoon, right on the due date, I was immeasurably blessed to give birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl. Helena Marie Clayton was born at 5:30 PM weighing in at 8 lbs. 8 oz. and measuring 21 in. long. She is gorgeous and sweet and already lights up the lives of everyone around her.

I am still trying to wrap my head around her birth story and the experience of having a natural delivery. Once I get there, I will return to share it with you all. Until then, I am going to take a little time and space to be with and nurture my new family.

Thank you all for your kind words of support and encouragement that you offered in those last weeks of pregnancy. I am forever grateful for the community of this space and what it has brought to my life, especially as a mom. See you very soon...

Ode to a sleepy husband

Last night I started having some pretty serious contractions around 10:45 that were about 7 - 8 minutes apart. It went on for three hours before I decided to listen to my tired husband and lay down to try and get some rest. Within 30 minutes... nothing. Thanks, dear. In an effort to try and get things going again, I got up and walked around the house for about an hour... nothing.

I suppose it was around 2 AM when this lovely limerick found its way onto the refrigerator dry erase board:

The contractions were well underway.
I thought we'd have this baby today.
'Til your ploy to relax
Stopped things dead in their tracks.
Now this kid's in my tummy to stay.

Still no baby... sigh.

No outfits today

This week I totally botched the "What I Wore Wednesday" for three reasons:
     1. My sisters started getting here on Thursday and I wasn't paying attention to capturing my outfits.
     2. I am basically wearing the same things I have already posted, just in different color schemes.
     3. I secretly hoped I would be showing off a picture of me in a hospital gown, but alas, I'm still preggers.

Maybe next Wednesday, right? 

Instead, I will share with you a highlight of the last few days. We finally got the last of the baby items down from the attic and put them together so everything is officially ready. The best part of it all was how much Addie wanted to participate. It warmed my heart to see her jump right in, screwdriver in hand, saying, "I'll help you!"

She's such a good big sister already!

Sister time

Today I am officially three days away from my due date. Sigh. A week ago I was nervous about the prospect of Lena arriving early, although I felt ready. Now I feel so ready that it's exhausting. Perhaps the difference is that help has finally arrived. My sisters have been on rotation since Thursday so that I haven't been alone and the amount of relief I feel is incredible.

It is no secret how much I love my sisters and how central they are to my general well-being. Having them here has taken my anxiety down about 100 notches and allowed me to focus on the importance of becoming a mommy again. We got the chance to spend some time together just the three of us and although it was short lived, it was a hair shy of 24 hours of feeling like everything was OK. Even Curt loves having the extra helping hands around and said of my sister Kate, "Can we please keep her?"

For the rest of the week I'll have my island adventuring sister here to help with Addie while I work on coaxing this baby out of my belly. Em said she doesn't know what to do with me because I'm not taking the time to be still and relax. That time will come once Lena is in my arms and I can bond and snuggle with her in new ways.

Until then, I am working on staying active and making sure our home feels cozy and ready for the newest member of our family. I tell you, as stressful as it can be to prepare for a baby, there really is nothing like a house all filled up with tiny clothes and gear, just waiting to swallow up a brand new little one. I can't wait.

Oh, but wait we must. Good thing there was a little yoga yesterday morning to take the edge off. Three sisters, all dressed up and ready for some good stretching. What better way to start the week?

Guest Post: What Keeps Me Going

As Sara's favorite tenant is using more and more of her precious mommy energy, I (her dear sister, Kate) have volunteered to star as a guest poster for this week's "What Keeps Me Going" post and I am honored to do so. :-)

As many of you know, Fridays at Mommy Honesty are "dedicated to sharing what keeps me going... A moment, a photo, an event or a memory that stands out against whatever might have gone wrong or felt dark in the last seven days."

I am a teacher and once August hits, the only thing on a teacher's mind is the dreaded "Back to School" (even just typing it I hear that phrase spoken in a Dracula-like voice with a background of booming thunder inside my head). With my own back-to-school date looming just days ahead, I have spent weeks looking forward to a much needed vacation to Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky to visit my family members who live so far from Iowa.

My husband, Seth, and I have enjoyed an absolutely fabulous week jumping from my parents' house to my brother-in-law's new place, and now my beloved sister's beautiful abode that it's somewhat difficult for me to pick out something that kept me going because I don't think there has been a single thing in the last week that has gone wrong or felt dark. So I suppose that this week has been a series of moments that kept me going - not through difficulty or darkness, but rather from cloud to cloud as I've ridden a high that comes from spending time with people you love for days at a time!

Some of my favorite joy-sustaining moments this week have been good conversations in the car with my husband; getting my piggies all gussied up with my mom and younger sis, Emily; special lunches out with my Grandma and Dad; spending time with my newly engaged best friend; Wii-ing with Seth's brother and his wife; soaking up tons of hugs, kisses, and giggles from my precious niece; and feeling my newest niece move inside my sister's belly.

I'm sure that these most magical moments will be what keeps me going through those first daunting days and weeks of the school year.

Would you join me in sharing what keeps you going? Leave a comment to let Sara know you're participating and each week she'll include a list of who's playing along!

**Special thanks to Sara's friends, Jill and Nurse La La, and to our dad for sharing your moments from last week. She sends you all her love :-)

p.s. Sara visited with her midwife, Katie, this morning and while there weren't any big changes, Sara has lots of good "pre-labor signs". So keep your fingers crossed and say some prayers that sweet baby Lena will come out to meet us soon!

Consider this your notice

Dear Helena Marie,

While it has been a pleasure having you reside here for the past nine months, I regret to inform you that your lease has come to an end. You have been an excellent tenant and will be highly regarded long after your stay. Unfortunately, the area must be cleared immediately for reconstruction and renewal to make way for any potential future occupants.

I have taken the liberty to coordinate a new place of residence for you and have been assured that you will be provided every comfort and convenience in your new home. A welcoming committee has been assembled to assist you in this exciting transition.

Please consider this your notice to exit the premises as soon as possible. If you should choose to extend your stay beyond seven days, be aware that every measure will be taken to ensure your safe removal.


Your mother's uterus

What the very pregnant woman wore last week

It seems like every day I have to fight the urge to write a post about how I'm still pregnant and dying for this baby to come out. Sometimes I have moments when I want her to stay right where she is (like when Addie's having an exceptional number of tantrums), but for the most part, I feel ready. Very ready.

Thank heaven for What I Wore Wednesdays. They are helping me stay focused on something else, which is a rather difficult task at this point. I even remembered to take more than one picture this week. Woo hoo!

For a trip to Whole Foods:
Dolce Gabbana knockoff sunglasses
White maternity tank top and sports bra: Target
Lightweight cargo roll up maternity capris: Motherhood Maternity Outlet
Black flip flops: super old J. Crew (like back in the days when the bottoms were really soft and comfy)

During this trip out I realized that my brain is truly no longer fully functioning. The guy who was ringing us up said, "Are you trying to steal a watermelon from me?" I uttered a frustrated sigh and looked in our cart thinking, How in the hell did Addie manage to get a watermelon in here without my knowing it? Then the poor guy pointed at my stomach and whispered, "Your belly." Oh. Well aren't you clever?

For a very important five-year-old's birthday party:
Ridiculously comfortable maternity dress: Old Navy
$10 Target special sandals

And today, for a MOMs meeting at church and lunch out with Daddy:
Green hat: Target (When I saw this hat I thought, CUTE! When my husband first saw me in this hat he called me Che... As in Guevara. What a weirdo.)
Cheap non-silver hoop earrings
Again with the necklace
Another Old Navy Maternity dress
Yet another pair of $10 Target special sandals (Really, at that price why not have more than one color?)

If you love looking at what other people wear as much as I do, go on over to The Pleated Poppy to see what others are sporting this summer.

Tiny break

No labor yet, just a really tired body telling me that I need to take a day and rest up.
See you back here tomorrow...

Yummy summer meal

I have been posting about our garden all summer long and while it's been fantastic to watch it grow, we got a late start in planting, so we are just now starting to get some veggies inside and in our bellies. Our neighbors, on the other hand, have had a bountiful harvest thus far and continue to graciously offer bags of glorious tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and the like for us to enjoy.

My countertop has been so full of tomatoes that I have almost been struggling with how to use them all. Almost. Yesterday I broke out one of my favorite recipes that my dad passed onto me and tweaked it a little bit to make it a meal on its own. (Basically, I just added chicken.)

I'm not exactly sure where this came from, but knowing my dad, he found it somewhere and then threw in his own special touches to make it perfect. And perfect, it is.

Recipe cards make me way too happy.

Lebanese Cucumber Salad

1 cup cucumber, peeled & diced
1 cup roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 heaping TBS garlic (minced or fresh)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used greek)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 TBS olive oil

Combine cucumber, tomato and onion in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and gently fold together until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This makes a perfect side dish, but if you want to do it my way, add about 1/2 - 1 lb. of shredded chicken breast meat cooked whatever way you like, but seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. I have been eating it for the last 30 minutes with Pita Chips and let me tell you, it is YUM!

A fabulous twist on chicken salad that is so fresh, full of veggies and bursting with my favorite flavors. (Yes, I eat feta while I'm pregnant. You can take my alcohol and my caffeine, but don't touch my cheese!)

p.s. If you haven't already, take a stroll on over to Sisters Away to read a little more about my amazing dad who celebrated a birthday on Friday.


What Keeps Me Going

Fridays on this space are dedicated to sharing what keeps me going... A moment, a photo, an event or a memory that stands out against whatever might have gone wrong or felt dark in the last seven days.

This week it seemed that life went from one crazy issue to another. Whether it was working on the last minute preparations for our newest girl... A pee incident that led to an unnecessary visit with my midwife... Leaving my cart in the middle of the grocery store for the first time (it really frightens me to say for the first time, but in all honesty I just know it's bound to happen again) because my child threw the tantrum of a lifetime and was beating me up in the process... Put out fire. Recharge. Douse smouldering embers to prevent more flames. Rinse. Repeat.

Then there are mornings like this one. Mornings that are so perfect they almost don't seem real. Mornings that make you want to cling onto them for dear life in the hopes that time will stand still and you can make a stronger memory of it.

Today Addie woke up early, but I actually managed to sleep last night so I didn't mind so much. It was a cool 69 degrees outside so we took full advantage and went for a walk, giving Daddy a chance to catch a few more minutes of rest. When we came back, it was time for all of us to head out to the garden. I picked a bowl full of basil and immediately transformed it into the pesto of my dreams.

Daddy and Addie picked the first watermelon that grew from seeds they planted only months ago. Look at how proud they are!

The melon was a bit under ripe, but we cut around to all the good parts and it still tastes pretty yummy! There are quite a few more growing around the vines out back, so next time we'll wait until we're REALLY sure they're ready. Bravo, sweet loves! I never thought I'd have a garden with watermelon and you two delivered. I'm so proud of my gardeners.

Lately it has been so unbelievably hot that family garden time hasn't been much of an option. Daddy just goes out in the evening to water, and this gigantic Mommy watches from the comforts of the air conditioning. But today the time we had outside together was everything I imagined it would be. It was more than enough to keep me going and send me into the weekend with the hope that the end of summer will deliver additional pockets of cool air so we can make more memories in the back corner of our yard together.

I would love it if you joined me in sharing what keeps you going! Leave a comment to let me know you're participating and each week, I will include a list of everyone who is playing along.

**Special thanks to my dear friends LeTonia, Jill and Jenn, and to my baby sister for sharing your moments from last week. Love you all and love your words & stories!

No PEZ for Mommy

When we were at our cabin last month, my dad gifted Addie with a Pooh Bear PEZ dispenser. Up until that point, jelly beans were the going treat for peeing on the potty--but once this nifty little gadget that releases super sweet candy goodness came into the picture, the jelly beans have long been forgotten.

Now after Little Miss. does her business, she quietly runs over to stand next to the counter, or my purse if we're out, and wait for her reward. Then she usually screams to anyone within earshot (and sometimes beyond), "I pee pee potty and got PEZ!!" Very exciting, I tell you... Especially in church.

Yes, we bribe our child to use the bathroom where she should. No, I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt about it. After those first few rough weeks, Addie has done so very well with potty training that I can't complain about our tactics. In fact, I've joked that these days I have more accidents than she does. Oh, if only that statement could remain funny.

You see, on Tuesday afternoon I put our girl down for her nap and went to rest on my bed for a few minutes before I tackled my to-do list. I was having Braxton Hicks contractions as usual and didn't think anything of it. Then I suddenly felt like I was sitting in this kind of damp warmth and thought maybe I should head to the bathroom. I discovered that beneath where I was laying was a clear wet spot about the size of a saucer that soaked all the way through the quilt and the sheets. Hmmm... curious.

I pee peed on the potty myself and thought that since I just had to go, it couldn't possibly have been urine. Besides, Lena has jabbed at my bladder plenty of times to the point where a few drops came out and this didn't feel anything like that. I would know if I peed, right?

Could it have been amniotic fluid leaking out? Did my water really just break? Naaahhhh... I decided to clean myself up and go write my blog for the day. I mean, priorities people.

After about an hour, I determined that I shouldn't ignore this incident any longer and called Curt at work. "Call Katie," he said. So I did. She told me I needed to either go to the hospital or come into the office to get checked out. I choose option B, thank you very much.

Curt left work early so I could go in right away and we called our parents to tell them that things may be in motion, but we weren't sure yet. Katie checked me out, did a little test and the results showed that it was in fact, not amniotic fluid. I was overcome with relief, seeing as I wasn't in labor and if my water had broken we would have had to make some difficult decisions. Then I was like--wait a minute, if it wasn't amniotic fluid then what the hell was it? My dear midwife explained, "It was probably just pee, honey."

Nice. Really? But it didn't feel like I peed at all. She said sometimes that happens. Awesome. Call off the troops. No baby today. And no PEZ for Mommy.


What I'm wearing right now

OK, so I just realized that if I'm going to do this correctly, I should be taking pictures of what I'm wearing every day--not just Wednesday. Oh well. So what if I'm a little slow. I have a good reason, right?

Here are my duds for today...
Not too shabby for 16 days and counting, I'd say.

This picture cracks me up, mainly because of the look on my face. What was I thinking in that moment? Probably just, I hope I don't crop the crap out of myself again. But based on my blissful upward gaze, I could have been thinking heavenly prayerful thoughts. Maybe next time. For now I'm just thankful that my body is covered. Amen.

The head scarf was a gift from an intern I supervised one semester.
I have no idea where those hoops came from, but they are crappy, not real silver and discolored. Shhh...
The necklace is my favorite from StudioKin.
Tank top - Old Navy Maternity (apparently these stretch out more than their t-shirts)
Cropped jeans - Motherhood Maternity Outlet
Sandals - $10 Target special at the beginning of summer, baby!

If you love looking at what other people wear as much as I do, go on over to The Pleated Poppy to see what others are sporting this summer.

Inventory and some questions

I don't know if it's the hormones or the excitement of our new baby arriving just around the corner, but my brain is not functioning on all normal circuits. My creative energy is lower than low and my organization tendencies have been shifted into overdrive. On one hand, I've been crazy productive which is quite lovely and makes me really happy. The downside is, I'm having trouble focusing on anything not related to getting ready for baby.

Rather than try to fight against it and search my mind for something interesting to share, I'm going to embrace where I am right now. One of my biggest tasks has been to get out all of the baby items we used with Addie and see if/where there are any gaps for this new babe. Digging through all of her old clothes has hands down been my favorite part of this preparatory process.

Finding little sweaters that I adored but were hardly worn...

Seeing the dress Addie wore to my sister's wedding...

Folding those unbelievably small pairs of socks... 

It's definitely boosting my excitement about going through labor just so I can hold a life that is really that tiny in my arms.

Then there's the conundrum... Addie was born in April and most of her little baby clothes were seasoned for summer. This babe is coming just at the start of autumn and we are seriously lacking in pants and long sleeved items. So--do we try and stock up on some warmer things or do we wait and see if this kiddo will grow faster than her sibling and fit into the 3 - 6 month size sooner than the baby garment industry anticipates?

Also, I am determined to do cloth diapers this time around. We have several one-sized versions that I purchased when I made the switch with Addie in the spring. I think we need quite a few more and I'm trying to decide which brand is the best to go with for a newborn booty. I've heard that some are more bulky than others on a smaller bum and some hold up better over the long run. This is where I need a few bits of mommy wisdom from those who have been there. Any grand words of advice before I make such a big investment? For now I think we have three one-size FuzziBunz, two one-size bumGenius, two other one-sized diapers in brands I can't remember, two size small gDiapers and about a dozen prefolds with three small Thirsties diaper covers.   

Lastly, my mom bought me a Moby Wrap when I was pregnant with Addie, which I loved. I did use it, but not extremely often. Something tells me that Lena will be quite a bit more familiar with being "worn" than her older sister. I've been thinking about purchasing a sling so I have another option for holding her close as I move throughout the day. I have no idea which ones are good and safe and easy to navigate. Experience is the best teacher---any thoughts, baby-wearing Mamas?

It's so funny to me that in some ways I feel totally ready to take care of this new life and in others I feel scared to death and clueless. I suppose that is the crux of motherhood--finding the balance between the ebb and flow of confidence and insecurity. Most of the time, life moves too fast to sit down and really think about it. Then there are those quiet moments when I'm folding a onesie that is so very small, it looks like it was made for Addie's doll...

I'm reminded that this precious life has been entrusted to us for a reason and all we have to do is make it through one day at a time. We just have to cradle her and embrace her into our family with nothing but unconditional love and acceptance. All the rest, even the supplies or lack thereof, will take care of itself.

What a difference a week makes

This morning I finally flipped our calendar over to August. It's here. The month when, God willing, the three of us will become four. The countdown has moved from months, to weeks, to days... 18 left until that silly little prediction we call a due date.

I had an appointment with Katie today and as usual, I left her office feeling hopeful and fantastic. Last week she said she thought I'd go all the way. When she walked in and saw me a few hours ago she said, "I was wondering if you'd even still be pregnant today." What a trickster. Per her advice, I started a Black and Blue Cohosh tincture regiment that is apparently working. Miss. Lena is much more engaged in my pelvis, my cervix is "super soft" and I'm just over 1 cm dilated. Excellent.

I know this doesn't necessarily mean anything. I could still go these next three weeks as pregnant as ever. But compared to the status of things only one week ago, there has definitely been a significant shift. Just the hope of delivering early has lifted my spirits and spiked my energy level. I called Curt immediately and told him we needed to (ahem) "get our sh*t done". I could tell he was excited because he didn't even argue with me, he just said "OK!"

Now this mama is ready to go. I've got baby clothes in the washer and dryer, piles of clutter disappearing left and right, a super fantastic meal (seriously, this is delicious--make it for dinner tonight--I promise you won't be sorry) prepped and ready to freeze for later and a napping two-year-old. A perfect recipe for efficient last minute baby prepping.

Worst case scenario is that we get all the logistics taken care of in advance and we have to sit back, relax and wait for Helena Marie to grace us with her presence outside of my womb. That's definitely an idea I can live with. But for now, I'm off to whistle while I work. Family of four, here we come!