Monday, January 27, 2014

Mama's Got a Brand New Blog


In case you ever check in here these days, I wanted to let you know I have a new site: At Home with Cassie.

I hope you'll visit me there and follow along!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I See Her Everywhere.

When you're pregnant, approximately forty-eight times per day people will tell you some version of, "You cannot imagine the love you are going to feel." 

And you will probably smile sweetly, maybe give your little belly a pat, daydream about that moment. But you feel like you kind of do know. You love that baby so much already. The majority of your thoughts are wrapped up in getting ready for her, meeting her, raising her. You think that you couldn't love her more. 

And then, that baby is born. 

And you realize you had no clue how much you could love someone. You think, why didn't someone tell me about this crazy love?

The moment Hugh placed Penelope in my arms, I understood that instantaneous, unconditional love that is being a Mama. I understood what it felt like to know you would do anything, would die in an instant, for another person. To know that there is nothing she could ever do to make you not love her. 

To call motherhood the most intense experience of my life would be putting it mildly. 

There is rewiring that occurs when you give birth to your first child. Becoming Penelope's Mama has so completely changed every part of me - my marriage, my priorities, my focus, every single relationship I have, my body, what I want out of my career - the list is long. From the moment she was born to sometime around the end of her sixth month, I was in the thick of figuring out who I was now and how to exist in my old life as a different person.

What I really wish someone had told me instead when they were giving the vague You-Don't-Know-How-Much-You-Can-Love comment, is this:

From the moment she is born, you will see her everywhere. In every decision you make, every time you leave the house, every piece of news you read, every book you pick up, she will be there. She will be there when you see light and when you see dark in the world. She will be there so prevalently in your mind, you will see her even when you are apart. Sometimes in the forefront, sometimes in the very corner of your periphery, but always there. 

You will want to hold on.  To stop time. To keep her just as she is. You will begin to understand that motherhood is an exercise in letting go. Your heart will be in your throat as you watch her become mobile and start to careen into the world as her own person. You will feel the cleaving begins much too soon.

Your life will be a constant paradox of strength and vulnerability. Becoming a mother will make you realize how strong you are in a way that nothing else can. But there will be a vulnerability so powerful it can suck the air straight from your lungs. 

You will stop watching the news. You will make Hugh stop telling you hospital stories. You will worry. Oh, you will worry. You will wake up in the middle of the night with a desire to be near her that is so powerful, the only way to quiet it is to get her out of her crib and rock her and smell her and feel the weight of her sleeping body on your chest. 

The cliches are all true. You will stare at her for hours, memorizing her face, her hair, her perfect hands. You will be tired. You will cry - proud tears, happy tears, bittersweet tears. You will be able to recite the words to every children's book you own. You will be happy. You will be sad. You will be happysad. It goes by fast. So damn fast. 

She will be your greatest joy, your proudest accomplishment. You will love her. You will love her. You will love her. It is true, you will love her in a way you cannot begin to fathom.

You will be forever changed. You will be so grateful for that change.

You will see her everywhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy New Year!


Perhaps some of you are still out there after three months? Yes? I hope so. 

Hugh left in mid-October for an away rotation in Birmingham. For a month. And then he interviewed for residency all over the Southeast for four weeks. And he took our personal computer (the one with all our pictures) with him. Hence the blog silence. But, like time with a growing baby seems to do, it mostly flew by in a quick little blink, and five days before Christmas he was home. Thank goodness.

When last we spoke, my Penelope was a five-month-old rolling, sitting-up, 16lb, bundle of joy. 

Now she's eight months old, clocking in at 20lbs, army crawling, waving, high-fiving, and I am fairly certain is going to say her first word any day now (my vote is on mama, but we've also got hi, more, dada, and milk in the mix). Oh, and she's sporting two teeth now, too:

The happiest

We had a lovely holiday season. Pip celebrated Halloween as the cutest pumpkin of all time, we hosted both of our families for baby's first Thanksgiving, saw one-third of our Savannah family for a little pre-holiday celebration, had a quiet Christmas at home and loved every minute, visited these favorites for a birthday surprise, and rang in the New Year by eating this deliciousness and going to sleep at 10:15pm.

There are huge changes ahead for our little family in 2013. First and foremost, the handsome med student of our house will be graduating and becoming a real live doctor.

And our girlie will be turning one (!), we'll most likely be moving, I will be leaving my current job (see: moving), and Hugh will start residency. It's exciting and overwhelming all at once. For now, we're enjoying a couple of quiet months.

And, with that, you are caught up. 

What's new with you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Month Five

Penelope Catherine,

You are five months old! I know I have said it every month, but, impossibly, you keep getting more and more fun, and my love for you continues to grow.

This month was a little respite from travel and visitors; as much as we love seeing our friends and family, it was nice to have some quiet time at home, just the three of us. 

Your eating is still great - 6 times per day, ten minutes per time. You did have a few days at the end of the month which had you waking up to eat at night and eating more during the day. I was pretty sure that you were having a growth spurt, and then it was confirmed by the fact that you gained 1.5lbs in 20 days!  You are a poster child for a fat, happy, breastfed baby. You are still getting a dreamfeed around 9:30pm each night, though at this point it is really more for me. I know I could wean you off it, but I love those final minutes of the day with you nursing sleepily and then snuggling up against my shoulder, fully content. It's going by so quickly, and I am reticent to let this last little piece of your newborn days go.

You had your first cold this month, and, while it was nothing serious (low grade fever, stuffy nose), it was so pitiful to see you not feeling like your normal self. All you wanted to do was nurse and be held, which I was happy to oblige. It took you a full week until you were feeling great again. 

Now, an update on your sleep. Oh, your sleep. At the very beginning of this month (August 28th) you slept through the night without even needing the pacifier. We thought it was a fluke, but it was like a switch flipped and from that night on you have been sleeping from 6:30pm until anywhere between 6:30 - 7:30am without so much as a peep. Which is lovely, because your day sleep has really gone to hell in a handbasket.

To be honest, I was kind of expecting it with everything I read about month four/five sleep being hard. Between your mastery of rolling over, your want to be with mama all the time, and us trying to figure out if you are ready to be weaned off the swaddle (spoiler alert: no, no you are not), it's no wonder you've had a hard time staying asleep during the day. Basically, I have been calling your Aunt Sarah on a daily basis making her promise me that this is just a phase. I have just started to assume you will nap for 30 minutes, so that way those (rare) 1.5 hour naps are just a lovely surprise. We are slowly weaning you off the swaddle; right now you are still swaddled for naps and nighttime with one arm out to give you access to your thumb.

This month you have become a Mama's girl. It sets my heart on fire to see you light up when I come into the room - you smile and kick your legs and reach out for me, and then when I pick you up you will grab onto me so tightly and bury your face in my neck. You also started babbling "ma ma ma," and though I know it is just babbling and not intentional, you do manage to implement it at very opportune moments, like when you want me to get you out of your crib. Clever girl. I started carrying you on my hip this month, which made you seem that much more grown up - no cradle hold for this big girl! You are happy to be toted around like my little baby sidekick for hours on end. Of course, you still love your Daddy and can't take your eyes off of him when he is anywhere in your line of sight. When we are in the bed and you are nursing, you will frequently fling your arm behind you to pat him and make sure he is right there beside you. 

Month five has been a huge one for you developmentally. You are laughing and rolling across the room and starting to babble sounds and almost sitting up on your own and reaching for us when you want to be picked up. When you do something that makes your Daddy and I laugh, you get so proud of yourself and start smiling your biggest smile and kicking your legs and looking back and forth between us to make sure we are still watching you.

When you see something you want, you will barrel roll across the room to get it. I lost you momentarily under the coffee table when I turned around to get my coffee. You want so badly to be able to scoot, but right now you just balance on your belly and kick your legs and wave your arms.  Soon enough, sweet girl. 

You have started showing more stranger anxiety this month. You are happy and outgoing with people you know, but it takes you some time to warm up to anyone new. You scrutinize new people with a stone-faced stare until you decide that are worthy of your silly baby antics, and then you will smile and chatter away.

You have weaned yourself completely off the pacifier and now only use it as a chew toy. When you are done chewing on it, you will fling it across the room. You suck your thumb to soothe yourself, but only when you are falling asleep or when you are very tired. 

Penelope, as these months are ticking by and you are becoming more and more like a little person, I spend so much time thinking about the dreams I have for you and how to help you grow to be everything you want to be. And though my list of hopes for you is long and the list of ways I want to try to be your best Mama is endless, I think both can be summed up in this: I hope you know that you are loved. That your Daddy and I love you with a depth and breadth that you cannot begin to understand. That there is nothing you can ever do that will rock the steadfastness of that love. I hope that our love seeps into every fiber of your being and gives both courage and comfort for your whole life.

Every lovely thing you are so wildly eclipses even my loftiest dreams, but none of those are the reasons I love you. I love you simply because you are here and you are mine. 

Happy five months, my baby girl. 


Five Month Stats
Weight: 16lbs, 5oz (81st percentile)
Clothing: 6 month, a few 3 - 6 month dresses
Diapers: 2 snaps open in the middle during the day, 3 snaps open in the middle at night
Eating: 6 times per day, 10 minutes per time
Things you love: Bathtime, Mama, playing on the floor, playing outside, going for walks in the stroller, when Daddy walks in the door, Fletcher, playing in your high chair.
Things you don't love: Naps, long trips in the car.
Slept through the night without pacifier: August 28
Babbling "ma ma ma": September 8
Milestones: Sitting up unassisted for short bursts, rolling everywhere, reaching to be picked up, babbling "ma ma."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Month Four

Penelope Catherine,

Month four has come and gone in a quick little flash. This month we had some bumps in the road (see: time for me to go back to work), but you have continued to be a joy. You are truly the highlight of every single day.

Mama was back to work this month, which meant your first (and subsequently, your last) day of daycare and my first night away from you. I could write a few thousand words on how hard it was, and still is, for me to leave you. But I will just give you the summary: there is nowhere I'd rather been than at home with you. Though I had originally planned to take you to Savannah with me and have you in daycare there, I realized 6 hours into my first day of this plan that it was not the right decision for either of us. Over the course of this month I cut back my travel schedule and we found a nanny (Abby, whom we all adore) to stay with you while I am gone.

After we decided to take you out of daycare, we were left in a bit of a lurch until we found someone to watch you. Grandmother to the rescue! She came to stay with us for a few days while I was at work and Daddy was studying. She loves you more than words can say and took such great care of you while I was gone.

You went on your first real roadtrip. We took you to Pensacola and you got to meet so many people who already love you (Uncle William, Great Aunt Connie, Great Aunt Maggie, Aunt Sarah, Nenny, and Pops, to name a few) and to see your Grandpa again. Grandmother rode with us on the way there, and the two of you had so much fun playing in the backseat. We stopped halfway there and you had your first hotel stay. You were your happy and easygoing self the whole time we were traveling. Grandmother had a room all set-up for you at her house, complete with white noise, blackout shades, and a replica crib. While we were there, we spent a lot of time in the pool with you. No surprise at all considering your love for the bath, you took to it like a fish and made good use of the five bathing suits Grandmother got you while I was pregnant. You couldn't have been more relaxed in your baby float:

And, on our way back home, we made a pit stop to see Aunt Lizzie, Uncle Lofton, and Reese. They hadn't seen you since the day after you were born, so it was fun to have a quick visit and exciting for you to finally meet Reese.

You attended your first birthday celebration this month (well, other than being present on your own birth day) - Mama turned twenty-nine! The day was a relaxed one, and holding you in my lap while I blew out my candles left me with nothing more to wish for. My dreams have come true with this little family of ours.

Your sleeping and eating continue to be consistently great. You are nursing six times a day. You are still taking four naps a day - a couple of 1 - 2 hour naps and a couple of shorter 30 minute - 1 hour naps. Your night sleep is unchanged, too. Still down around 6:30, dreamfeed around 10pm, and then snoozing away until 6:30 or 7:00am. We are still going in to give you the pacifier a few times each night.

This month, you outgrew your swing and your bouncy seat. We put your jumparoo together and you are starting to figure it out. You love to look at the toys and are slowly figuring out how to use your legs to bounce, though you need a pillow under your feet so you can reach the floor. We also got you a highchair. We won't start you on solids until you are six months old, but we wanted to have another area for you to play. You love the highchair and are content to sit there in the kitchen or at the table with us, playing with your toys and being part of the action. 

You have mastered reaching and grabbing this month. We joke that you have a process: see something, reach for it, grab it, put it in your mouth, repeat all day long. You also rolled over the other direction (back to tummy) this month. Your Daddy and I were both sitting there watching you, and when we realized you were about to roll over, we jumped up and hovered over you with bated breath while you rocked back and forth. There was much cheering when you made it to your belly. As soon as you realized we were cheering for you, you started grinning your biggest grins at us. This is also the first month you started really noticing Fletcher (which is surprising, considering his favorite activity is to lick your face); you watch his every move.

You are so beautiful to us; I study you all day long, taking in your perfect little features. Your eyes are still blue, for now. You hair is just growing longer and longer, and this month was long enough for your Daddy to put in a little ponytail! It has been lightening up since you were born, just like Mama's did when she was a baby. You also have a cowlick right on the crown of your head, and, though it may give you fits when you are old enough to do your own hair, it makes your hair flop over in the sweetest little curl. Although you are definitely a combination of your Daddy and me, people think you look most like me. Daddy likes to call you little Mama.

First ponytail.

To no surprise to us, you found your thumb this month. During every ultrasound we had, you were always sucking your thumb or your fingers, so we knew it was only a matter of time. I must say, you make quite an adorable thumb-sucker.

Bathtime continues to be a favorite for both you and Daddy. I can hear you two chatting away with each other. In general, you are a little chatterbox; if you are awake, you are usually talking and cooing and squealing and laughing. You are the happiest baby. We also started taking you out in the jogging stroller facing forward like a big girl (sigh.) and you love it. You are content to ride for as long as we will push you, so our family walks have become a near-daily activity again. 

Penelope, month four marks the point where I can no longer really remember what my life was like before you. Of course, I remember all the happy days and months and years your Daddy and I shared before your arrival, but it seems like so long ago and so strange now to imagine our days without you. You are already growing up so quickly; when I look back at pictures of your first weeks, you don't even look like the same baby. And though I know I will always find you growing up to be bittersweet, I feel so lucky to get to be the witness to your life.

To be your Mama - to wake-up with you every morning, to nurse you and play on the floor with you, to teach you and watch you learn, to comfort you when you're sad, to hold you and rock you and kiss you and smell you, to see your smile and hear your laughing squeals, to sing to you each night - is the joy of my lifetime. Your Daddy and I tell you over and over again each day how much we love you, not because you are sweet or smart or beautiful or silly, though you are all of those things, but because you are ours. As our favorite bedtime story says, there has never been anyone like you, ever in this world. You are one-of-a-kind, my darling girl. Lucky, lucky me. 

I love you,

Four Month Stats
Weight: 14lbs, 12oz (70th percentile)
Height: 24" (40th percentile)
Head: 16 1/2" (75th percentile)
Clothing 3 - 6 month, 6 month depending on brand
Diapers 2 snaps open in the middle during the day, 3 snaps open in the middle at night
Eating 6 times per day, 15 minutes per time
Things you love: Riding in the stroller, bathtime, swimming, sucking your thumb.
First overnight trip: August 8
First swim in the pool: August 9
Found thumb: August 20
First ponytail: August 23
First giggle: August 25
Rolled over (back to front): August 26
Slept through the night without needing pacifier: August 28
Milestones: Rolling both directions now, sitting up for a few seconds unassisted, imitating us smacking our lips, reaching and grasping with accuracy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Revival Donuts.

Sometimes a donut is more than a donut.

Sometimes it is a reminder to your post-baby self that your pre-baby self is still alive deep down in there somewhere, that you still have a little kitchen badass inside who wakes up on Saturday morning (at 7:45am! bless that sweet child of mine) and announces, "I'm making donuts," and then marches into the kitchen and does just that.

Which is not to say that this recipe is at all complicated. Only a delicious and impressive party trick to surprise your family or weekend guests. You can be all, oh, it was nothing, I just made some donuts from scratch.

And then you will feel awesome. Even if later that night, you feed your husband Five Guys for dinner. And by feed, I mean, beg him to go pick-up. In the pouring rain*. But it's okay, because remember when you made donuts this morning?!

French Breakfast Donuts
adapted from Camille Styles
makes 6 donuts

5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinammon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup half-and-half

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Spray donut pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, beat until completely mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour and next four ingredients, through salt. 

Beat flour mixture into butter in two batches, alternating with milk. 

Scoop batter in a gallon-sized ziploc, cut small corner off ziploc, pipe batter into donut pan.

Bake 18 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from pan immediately.

Mix remaining 1/4 sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Dunk hot donuts in melted butter and then into cinnamon-sugar mixture. 

Eat them up!

Sidenote: These donuts require a donut pan, though I'd venture to guess you could also make them in a muffin tin. On principal, I am opposed to single-function kitchen items (which is to say, instead of owning an apple-corer and an avocado pitter and a garlic-chopper, I own a knife). But, if baked donuts are your jam, you're going to need a donut pan. This is the one we have. Cheap, works great, and doesn't take up a lot of cabinet space.

* Since it was raining when Hugh went to get dinner, he got a raincoat out of the hall closet. He came in to tell me goodbye and I realized he was wearing my raincoat from college. Which has my sorority embroidered on the chest.

Cassie: You know, that is a woman's raincoat.
Hugh: No, I think it's unisex.
C: Um, it has the name of a sorority embroidered on it.
H: Right, but other than that, it's unisex.
C: You know sororities are only for women, right?
Upon return fifteen minutes later.
C: So, did everyone at Five Guys love your lady jacket?
H: Well, the woman in front of me had a plastic bag tied over her hair that was emblazoned with "Big Lots Paper Plates", so I don't think many people were critiquing my fashion choice.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What We're Doing. And Eating.

You know those weeks where you are just on your game? Your dinners are delicious and vegetable-laden, your work to do list is completely checked off, your thank you notes are written, your child is napping like a champ, and you aren't sitting around still in your pajamas and with a stain of questionable origin on your shirt at 11:30am. Yep, not one of those weeks around here.

I was trying to remember what we have eaten in the last six days so I could share it with you. Here's what I've got:
  • The rest of our cheese from our date-night-in order from Murray's Cheese Shop.
  • Five Guys. 
  • A truly mediocre baked eggplant pasta dish from a website that had never before disappointed me with its recipe deliciousness. 
  • Honey Nut Cheerios. I mean, really.  At least there was a banana in there.
  • Carbonara. Still in love. The only upside from the fact that Hugh didn't get home until after 11pm was that I got to have my favorite dinner. 
  • Takeout Mexican.
Awesome. You win some, you lose some, I suppose. Next week, I'll aim for a dinner recap that looks more like this. You know, a few meals that are not entirely composed of cheese.

I did manage to clean the house in 40 minutes (!) last night while Hugh was giving Pen a bath and getting her ready for bed. So, there's that. Because even if the rest of my life seems a little bit messy, at least my house is clean.

In other news, we are still over the moon for that baby of ours. One of her parents is more excited than the other about her latest babbling:

I realize that she is just making sounds and not intentionally calling me mama, but I would be a big liar if I didn't admit that it still makes my heart feel like it's going to explode.  I think this is officially the most you can love a person, right?

Check back next week for a homemade donut recipe (alternately named: sometimes I still feel like a kitchen badass), some motherhood musings, and, hopefully, a few dinners that are not going to make you fail a cholesterol check. 

Happy weekend, frinternets!