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I’ve been on a serious podcast kick ever since Ryder was born. Before his arrival, I listened to podcasts regularly but lately I’ve found myself listening to one or two every single day. They’re great to have on in the background when I’m nursing (a two-handed activity for this mama), making a meal or outside walking with Ryder and Sadie on mornings when Chase is at summer camp. I recently began listening to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations Podcast and love the variety of topics and guests Oprah has on her podcast.

Late last week I discovered two previous SuperSoul podcast episodes that focused on happiness and joy. The first episode, entitled “8 Rules to Happiness” with guest Gretchen Rubin (episode #56), piqued my interest because I am a huge fan of Gretchen’s book, The Happiness Project. It’s a book I’d recommend to anyone looking to cultivate happiness in their everyday life through simple yet tangible actions that add up in a big way.

It’s been years since I read The Happiness Project (you may see my full review here) so I figured listening to the podcast would be a great happiness refresher. It was a fantastic episode and there was a little nugget of information toward the end of the podcast that really stuck out to me. Gretchen touched on happiness and genetics and what portion of our overall happiness is actually in our control. I found it fascinating!

According to Gretchen’s research, 50 percent of our happiness is genetically determined and we are “hard-wired” a certain way. Ten to 20 percent of our happiness is impacted by life circumstances such as health/illness, our occupation, etc. The remaining 30-40 percent is controllable. Gretchen explains that this controllable part of our happiness is crucial for us to focus on because this is the place where our thoughts and actions can greatly impact our happiness.

Gretchen adds that we all have a baseline level of happiness but we can make a serious impact on our happiness through our personal effort, actions and thoughts which can help us push ourselves to the top of our happiness range or to the bottom.

This made me think about my personal happiness and whether or not I believe I am naturally or genetically happy.  I feel like I am a naturally happy person with a mostly positive outlook on life. I am generally content and optimistic most days and, as I’ve entered my 30s, I think this may be the quality I appreciate most in myself. This is not to say every day is a good day but, in general, I am able to find good in every day. For me, the overall happiness I feel comes back to one thing: Gratitude.

In another breath, I personally think our circumstances can have a greater impact on our happiness than the 10-20 percent Gretchen notes (especially when we or someone we love is faced with something truly horrible) though I do believe our thoughts and actions have a significant impact on our happiness. But do our thoughts and actions really account for 30-40 percent of our overall happiness? I think so.

And that’s where the second podcast (episode #62) comes into play! This episode featured an interview with Shawn Achor, a Harvard-trained researcher and leading expert on the connection between happiness and success. Shawn dives into the changes we can implement in our everyday lives that can positively impact our overall happiness in a surprisingly dramatic way. According to Shawn, there are a handful of habits you can do every single day that can overcome your genes and your environment/circumstances and elevate your baseline level of happiness every day after 21 days of practice.

Up first: Gratitude. When you first wake up, Shawn recommends thinking of three new things you are grateful for every single day.

YES! I believe gratitude is one of the pillars to living a happier life and hearing Shawn touch on the importance of gratitude only reiterated this belief. Without a doubt, I believe gratitude is at the root of the happiness I feel every day. It’s the feeling that pulls me out of sadness and negativity and it is at the core of the way I think.

And here are the five things Shawn recommends implementing for 21 days (or longer!) to increase overall happiness:

  1. Focus on gratitude. Think of three new things you’re grateful for every morning.
  2. Take two minutes to journal about a positive experience you had the previous day.
  3. Send a quick 2-3 sentence email or text message to someone thanking them for something. (I LOVE this one!)
  4. Exercise for 15 minutes. This trains your brain to believe that your behavior matters.
  5. Meditate.

Now I’d love to hear what YOU think about your personal happiness. Do you think you are naturally happy? If so, what is something you do regularly that you believe contributes to your overall happiness? Do you believe you have the ability to increase or decrease your baseline level of happiness depending on your thoughts and actions? Please weigh in below!!

Additional Happiness-Related Blog Posts Questions of the Day 

Do you feel like you are naturally happy? If so, what is something you think you do regularly that contributes to your overall happiness? If not, do you think it’s possible to elevate your baseline level of happiness through your thoughts and actions? 

What are three things you are grateful for today? 

The post Are You Naturally Happy? (And What Can You Do To Make Yourself Happier?) appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Friday is here!! WOOP! How are you guys doing? I hope you all had a nice week!

Things are going well over here. Ryder seems to be slowly transitioning out of the sleepy newborn baby stage and into the more awake/needy infant stage so this past week was filled with tons of cuddling, soothing and feeding. I remember feeling like Chase “woke up” when he turned three weeks old and the same thing is proving true for Ryder.

On Wednesday my Aunt Laurie was passing through Charlotte en route to Boone, North Carolina (she lives in Raleigh) and stopped by our house to meet Ryder. She ended up staying for four hours which was so, so nice!

We affectionately call my Aunt Laurie the baby whisperer in our family because she’s absolutely incredible with babies. She regularly volunteers in her church nursery and somehow knows exactly what to do to soothe babies when they’re fussy. It’s a talent for sure and seeing her interact with Ryder and Chase was so wonderful.

As for this upcoming weekend, we have a doctor’s appointment for Ryder on the agenda and not much else. Since Ryder “woke up” this week and isn’t settling quite as quickly after his middle-of-the-night feedings, I’ve found myself feeling more exhausted at the end of the day so I’m hoping to enjoy a quiet weekend at home much like last weekend.  I hope you all have a great weekend and enjoy the next few days!

Now onto the usual Things I’m Loving Friday shenanigans…

Things I’m Loving Friday 
  • Third Birthday Party Planning

For Chase’s birthday party this year, I wanted to keep things small and casual but since he’s now reached the age where he understands birthdays and thinks birthday cake, candles and celebrating just about anything is the coolest, I didn’t want to simply gloss over his third birthday. When my friend Lauren approached me with the idea of a combination birthday party for our little ones (they’re best friends and only four days apart), it sounded perfect!

We’re in the middle of planning a small pool party birthday for Chase and Claire and I’m getting so excited for their special day! I’m far from a fancy party planner but I absolutely love brainstorming party ideas and browsing Pinterest for party inspiration even if our parties never look anything like the Pinterest-perfect parties out there. For Chase and Claire’s third birthday party we’re doing a Dragons and Unicorns theme (Chase is 100 percent obsessed with dragons and Claire is a big-time fan of unicorns) and I hope our little ones love it. We’re having a lot of fun planning right now (we just ordered big unicorn and dragon pool floats to have bobbing around in the pool — not that our 3-year-olds will actually ride them!) and I can’t wait!

I’ve received a few questions about the pajamas I wore in the hospital after Ryder’s birth and I figured they deserved a shout out here! I ended up packing both the short and long versions of these incredibly soft Moonlight Pajamas and have been living in them ever since Ryder arrived. They’re nursing friendly (I think they’d make such a thoughtful postpartum or baby shower gift for a new mom) and the fabric is so soft and perfect for year-round wear. They’re available in a variety of colors but I love the black since it hides milk stains. (Bonus: They’re currently $20 off as part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!)

Now that I’m back to drinking coffee almost every morning (I gave it up during pregnancy for my own peace of mind/anxiety) I’ve loooved making myself fancy-but-not-really-fancy cups of coffee. Chase is actually really into helping me because he loves playing with both our coffee maker and our blender, so we’ve had fun making everything from cashew coffee (oh my gosh SO GOOD) to The Whole Smiths’ Whole30 latte made with coconut oil, almond milk and cinnamon. It was actually this latte that led me to The Whole Smiths’ blog and then their amazing cookbook!

While we do not follow a Paleo or Whole30 diet in our house, I frequently look for Paleo and Whole30 recipes online because they’re made with real food and clean ingredients. Sometimes the recipes are a little too involved for my liking but that’s where The Whole Smiths cookbook comes in! I have been LOVING this cookbook SO much because it’s SIMPLE. The recipes are nutritious and flavorful but they’re not overly complicated. I’ve made no less than six recipes from this cookbook since I ordered it and have loved everything from the sweet potato hash to the buffalo chicken sweet potato bites and more.

  • Northwest Cherries 

I received the most delicious delivery of the juiciest cherries from the Northwest Cherry Growers earlier this week. I could not get enough of them!! I truly think these cherries from the northwest United States were the best cherries I’ve ever had in my life. The outside of the cherries were crisp and fresh but the minute I bit into a cherry, it burst with juicy sweetness and I’ve basically been inhaling them all week long. If you have any must-make recipes involving fresh cherries out there, please let me know!

The Nordstrom sale officially kicked off yesterday for Nordstrom card holders! I take advantage of this sale every year and love shopping early because the good stuff always sells out FAST. The sale opens to the public in a week but if you’re shopping the Early Access Sale like me, here are a few of the standout deals that caught my eye organized by category:

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FITNESS

Adidas Edge Lux Sneakers (I’ve been eyeing these for months and just bought the gray pair! Love the feminine look and the light pink color, too.)

Zella Live In High Waist Legging (I own these in black and the quality is fantastic. They hold everything in and smooth over lumps and bumps. The maternity version is also on sale!)

Adidas Muscle Tank (Another one of my personal favorites. Great gym tank!)

Nike Free Training Sneakers

Nike Essential Logo Tank (Lightweight and breathable — Perfect for sweaty workouts!)

WOMEN’S FASHION

Moonlight Pajamas (The pajamas I mentioned above!)

Free People So Easy Tee (Love this feminine take on a basic tee. I ordered the moss color for myself!)

Ruffle Mini Dress (So cute for the transition from summer to fall.)

Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic Cardigan (The most comfortable and cozy cardigan! My sister and I are obsessed with this one.)

AG Boyfriend Jeans (I splurged and ordered these after reading the reviews. Crossing my fingers for a comfy, relaxed pair of jeans to pair with tees and tanks.)

Cocoon Cardigan (Perfect cozy cardigan to throw over a breezy tank or knotted tee this fall or winter.)

ACCESSORIES

Spinner Luggage (On my wish list! Love the blush color.)

Longchamp Le Pliage Tote (I’ve had mine for years and it’s a fantastic travel bag.)

KIDS / BABY

DockATot (We borrowed this from a friend after Ryder’s birth and he is loving it!!!)

The Honest Company Baby Arrival Gift Set (A great collection of some of our favorite baby products.)

Belly Bandit Labor & Delivery Kit (I received this kit as a gift at my baby sprinkle and loved it. The bag is so cute and filled with tons of postpartum essentials.)

Aden + Anais Swaddling Blankets (A baby staple!)

Adidas Classic Sneaker 

Nike Flex Sneakers (Boys / Girls – I always take advantage of this sale to order Chase’s sneakers!)

  • Friday Flashbacks

Vegan Protein Overnight Oats (With a newborn in the mix, prep-ahead breakfasts like these deliciously high-protein overnight oats are saving me!)

Quiet Workout (A great go-to workout to keep on hand when you want to work out but don’t want to make a lot of noise. Perfect for a hotel room or apartment workout!)

Question of the Day 

What is one thing that is making you smile this week? 

The post Things I’m Loving Friday #241 appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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A collection of our almost-three-year-old’s favorite toddler muffin recipes! All of these muffin recipes are refined sugar free and made with wholesome, healthy ingredients. Every toddler muffin recipe is also freezer friendly and great to make in large batches so you can freeze half and easily reheat them for busy weekday mornings or a quick afternoon snack! 

Hi friends! Happy Monday! I’ll get to the heart of this post — a collection of Chase’s Favorite Toddler Muffin Recipes — soon but first, how was your weekend?

Our weekend was very low key but with unseasonably cool temperatures (upper 70s!!!), we LOVED the opportunity to spend some time outside without sweating our faces off. While we didn’t venture farther than a little neighborhood park that’s less than a mile from our house all weekend, it felt so nice to be able to go back and forth from our couch to the swing in our backyard.

On another note, our internet went out on Friday and wasn’t working until someone came out to fix our modem on Sunday which I took as a sign to mentally check out of work until Sunday evening which was so, so nice. This also means I don’t have a weekend recap to share with you guys but unless you want to see 5,000 grainy iPhone pics of Ryder and Chase and me in a milk-stained nursing tank top, I think maybe that’s a good thing!

Before I gave birth to Ryder three weeks ago (THREE weeks!?), I worked on a very small handful of blog posts to share with you guys since I didn’t want to feel a ton of pressure to churn out a bunch of blog content in the early postpartum weeks. After today’s post, I don’t have many of these posts left to share (the Best Books of 2018 and Piña Colada Popsicles posts were two of them!) but I’ll absolutely update the blog whenever I can over the next few weeks while still prioritizing family time. Thanks so much for your understanding and support as we continue to adjust to life with our newest family member.

Now onto today’s post!

A month or so ago, I received an email from a blog reader (Hi Nikki!) with a request to compile Chase’s favorite muffin recipes into one blog post for an easy reference for fellow toddler parents out there. Since Chase is a big-time muffin lover, we make a LOT of muffins around here (we’re talking at least a batch a week) but there are a handful of recipes we’ve made over and over again that I’d consider our go-tos.

Chase loves muffins for breakfast or a morning or afternoon snack and I almost always have two varieties on hand either freshly baked or in our freezer for easy reheating. Below you will find a roundup of Chase’s absolute favorite muffins. They’re recipes I make again and again because they’re all made without refined sugar they’re a hit with Chase every time. You’ll also see a variety of muffin recipes from gluten-free and dairy-free muffins to Paleo muffins, whole wheat muffins, blender muffins and more.

I’d also LOVE to hear about any muffin recipes your little ones love that we can put on our “must make” list for the future. Please feel free to share links to your favorite recipes in the comments section of this post so we can all check out some more favorite toddler muffin recipe winners!

Favorite Toddler Muffin Recipes 

If there is one muffin recipe I make again and again for our toddler, it’s these whole wheat pumpkin muffins. Chase LOVES them and he also loves helping to make them. They’re a great recipe to make with a little one because it’s a one-bowl recipe and the cleanup is minimal. I often double the recipe and freeze half of the muffins. I’ll then grab one out of the freezer for a quick breakfast or snack option for Chase and after 25 seconds in the microwave, they taste perfectly fresh and delicious. (Ryan and I love these muffins, too!)

I discovered this recipe after one of my friends posted a picture of her son eating a green muffin on Instagram Stories. When she shared the ingredients I was SOLD because I looove sneaking veggies into Chase’s diet and had a feeling he’d enjoy the muffins since banana seemed to be the dominant flavor. Chase was an instant fan! Also, for those of you with little ones with an egg allergy, I accidentally made them once without eggs and they were still delicious!

This recipe was inspired by Paleo muffins my friend Danielle made for the adults and kids to enjoy during a play date at her house last year. I’m not sure who ate the muffins faster – me and my friends or our toddlers – but everyone left asking her for the recipe because the muffins were so darn good. These Paleo blender muffins are made with a base of ripe bananas, almond flour and coconut flour and come together quickly without much work. (Note: These days Chase seems to prefer them without the chia seeds so keep that in mind if your little one can get a little picky about texture.)

These Greek Yogurt Whole Wheat Muffins are  incredibly moist, soft and almost cake-like and they were one of the first muffin recipes I made that Chase absolutely fell in love with at 14 months old. They’re low in sugar and taste great on their own but we love them topped with a smear of creamy peanut butter, too!

I’ve made Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean‘s Coconut Oil Banana Muffins a handful of times since the recipe calls for ingredients we almost always have on hand in our house. Though Lindsay’s recipe calls for peanut butter, we’ve also made these muffins with almond butter and cashew butter and loved the end result. (Note: To keep these muffins free of refined sugar, simply omit the chocolate chips. Chase loves them either way!)

If your toddler loves chocolate, add this recipe to your must-make list! Though this is a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread, it works well in muffin-form, too. It is incredibly moist and a recipe I personally love for breakfast, especially when I top the muffin with a bit of almond butter.

I almost forgot about this muffin recipe since Chase has outgrown it at this point, but if you’re looking for a recipe for a baby’s first foray into muffins, give this one a shot! This recipe for Banana Oatmeal Blender Muffins comes together in a flash thanks to a high-powered blender and is only sweetened with the natural sugars from ripe bananas. The muffins are softer and gummier than typical muffins, making them perfect for little ones to hold and chew as they explore new foods and flavors. (Note: I made these for Chase a lot when he was around 11 – 12 months old before he was ready for a more traditional muffin.)

Question of the Day

For the fellow muffin lovers: What are some of your favorite go-to muffin recipes? Please share any favorite recipe links! 

The post Favorite Toddler Muffin Recipes appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Hey friends! How are you doing? I hope my American friends out there enjoyed some good food and fun times with family and friends on Wednesday. We had such a nice time celebrating the Fourth of July even if the almost-three-year-old member of our crew wasn’t feelin’ his pants for our red, white and blue family photo.

We lucked out and were able to spend the holiday with my parents (more on that below) and it was definitely the highlight of my week. As far as the upcoming weekend is concerned, we don’t have any concrete plans on the agenda right now which is how things are going to be around here for a while. I have a feeling our weekend will include a lot of pajama time mixed with plenty of baby and toddler cuddles and that sounds great to me.

Before I’m off to unplug and enjoy the weekend, I wanted to hop back into the swing of things and share a Things I’m Loving Friday blog post today! Below you will find a short list of a couple of things that are making me smile this week and, as always, I’d love to hear a little bit about something you’re loving this week as well.

Have a fantastic weekend, my friends!

Things I’m Loving Friday

  • Family Time on the Fourth of July

I felt like one lucky lady this week with my parents in town. Ryan went back to work a week after Ryder’s birth and having my family in town has been a huge blessing during this postpartum time. They’ve been incredibly helpful with Chase and Ryder and I’ve loved their company. (I’m still crossing my fingers they’ll move here eventually but I don’t like our chances since they love the beach so much!) Seeing my parents with their grandsons is the best and while most of our time has been spent around the house, we managed to get out a couple of times this week for short walks around the neighborhood as well as a Fourth of July celebration at Birkdale Village.

We also let Chase stay up late on Wednesday night so he could watch his first-ever firework show and he was ALL about it! The first big bang of a firework scared him a bit so he held my hand throughout the whole show (a surefire way to melt my heart) and we all talked about which fireworks were our favorites. His enthusiasm for the firework show was contagious!

  • Hart of Dixie

I briefly mentioned this show in Monday’s blog post but now that I am about halfway through season one, it’s safe to say I am ALL IN. Grey’s Anatomy was my go-to nursing show after I had Chase and while I know I won’t be able to binge watch nearly as much TV this time around with a toddler in the mix, I have no doubt Hart of Dixie will be my primary source of mindless television entertainment when I need to rest, nurse Ryder or relax with a sleepy baby on my chest.

The show is sweet and easy to watch and follows Dr. Zoe Hart as she moves from New York City to Blue Bell, Alabama, a small town where she inherited part a family medical practice. It’s entertaining without feeling stressful and almost feels like a summer beach read come to life. If you haven’t seen this one already, definitely check it out on Netflix if you’re looking for something binge-worthy this summer!

  • Organic Chocolate Coconut Clusters

My friends at ALDI sent me a package of some of their newest summer coconut goodies and I instantly tore into these organic chocolate coconut clusters. I ended up polishing off the entire back in 24 hours (I blame breastfeeding hunger) and couldn’t get enough of the sweet and crunchy snack. The combination of toasted coconut and rich dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds is heavenly!

One of my favorite blogging friends started a podcast last month and I am LOVING IT! Gina, aka The Fitnessista, is such a wonderful wealth of knowledge about all things health and fitness and her podcast is a great balance of entertaining and informative. I’ve listened to every episode (I loved the one about postpartum fitness) and find that the length is perfect for a nursing session or a quick walk. Check it out if you have an interest in health, wellness and fitness!

The sweetest blog reader, Jennifer W., sent us such a thoughtful gift after Ryder was born and I had to mention it here because it is so creative! The wood baby block is personalized with all of Ryder’s details – his birthday, height, weight, etc. – and is such a sweet keepsake! I already put the block on display in Ryder’s nursery and think it is so unique and beautiful. Thank you so much, Jennifer!

Question of the Day

What is one binge-worthy show you’ve been loving lately?

What is one thing that is making you smile this week?

The post Things I’m Loving Friday #240 appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Coconut lovers will flip for these high protein piña colada popsicles! Made with a creamy combination of coconut milk, pineapple and Coconut Swell Ice Cream, they’re perfectly sweet and a wonderful summertime treat. Thank you so much to Swell, The Next Wave of Ice Cream, for sponsoring this post. Click here to receive $1 cash back following any purchase of Swell Ice Cream! 

Though I am a coconut lover year-round, there is something about the summer months that make me want to incorporate coconut into everything. I love smoothies made with coconut milk. Yogurt topped with coconut flakes. Fresh berries with coconut cream. And you know I can never resist a cold bowl of creamy coconut ice cream.

Sign me up!

If you happen to be a tad bit coconut obsessed like me, I have a recipe you have to put on your must-make list this summer.

Hello, High Protein Piña Colada Popsicles!

These High Protein Piña Colada Popsicles are perfectly sweet and creamy yet cold and refreshing. They’re the kind of treat you’ll find yourself reaching for again and again after a hot afternoon at the pool or beach! And perhaps the best part? They only require four ingredients and come together in a flash.

The base of this piña colada popsicle recipe is the new Coconut Swell Ice Cream, a gluten-free, protein-packed ice cream made exclusively with non-GMO ingredients and no artificial binders or preservatives. Each 1/2-cup serving boasts 10 grams of protein and only 120 calories, and amazingly the richness you crave from ice cream is still there! Heck YES.

I cannot stand icy, watery ice cream and Swell Ice Cream somehow manages to avoid being a total sugar bomb but still tastes indulgent, sweet and creamy. It’s the perfect base for these rich and creamy popsicles!

I combined Coconut Swell Ice Cream with light coconut milk, frozen pineapple, shredded coconut and frozen banana and knew these popsicles were going to be winners before I poured the thick and perfectly sweet mixture into the popsicle molds to harden. (Side note: If you don’t have popsicle molds and still want to try this recipe, it’s also wonderful as a super thick smoothie bowl! Try topping it with a sprinkle of fresh berries or granola for a healthy dessert or post-workout treat!)

High Protein Piña Colada Popsicles

Makes 8 Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 1 14-ounce container Coconut Swell Ice Cream
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients together in a high-powdered blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds.
  3. Place in the freezer overnight or until popsicles harden.
  4. To remove popsicles from molds, run under warm water to loosen.
  5. Remove from molds and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

If you’re looking for a festive red, white and blue recipe (without any artificial colors!) to make to enjoy on the Fourth of July tomorrow, consider adding blueberries to 1/3 of the popsicle mixture and strawberries or raspberries to 1/3 of the popsicle mixture. Create a festive popsicle by layering the original coconut base, followed by the blueberry mixture and the strawberry mixture for a red, white and blue striped popsicle.

You may increase the amount of shredded coconut in this recipe if you enjoy popsicles with more texture. Omit the shredded coconut if you prefer a completely smooth popsicle.

Consider using full-fat coconut milk for an even creamier popsicle!

Banana lovers may swap frozen banana for the frozen pineapple or use 1/2 cup of each fruit for a coconut, pineapple and banana-flavored treat!

The post High Protein Piña Colada Popsicles appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Hi friends! My blogging schedule will probably be a little all over the place right now to the point where I probably shouldn’t call it much of a schedule but it’s only because I’m doing my best to soak up every second of these precious newborn days with my family and Ryder.

Ryan and I felt very fortunate to have a house full of our favorite people this weekend. My sister and brother-in-law and my parents bunked up with us this weekend and got the chance to meet Ryder for the first time. (Well, my mom already met Ryder since she drove in town early to help with Chase after his birth but it was everyone else’s first meeting!)

After everyone arrived, we spent Friday night grilling chicken thighs and digging into juicy watermelon, roasted sweet potatoes and a deliciously whipped and creamy icebox cake before calling it a night around 11 p.m.

Saturday

Ryder’s sleep is predictably unpredictable at the moment and we’re currently up every two(ish) hours for feedings in the night. I’ve been struggling to fall back asleep after Ryder’s 5 a.m. feeding but thankfully on Saturday I fell back into a deep sleep until a little after 7 a.m. which felt fantastic!

Once everyone was up for the day, we dug into a giant breakfast casserole and hung out on our back patio for several hours. It was so nice to ease into the day with my family and enjoy some time outside while we sipped on coffee and took turns soaking up baby cuddles and playing with Chase.


Eventually everyone was itching for a little activity and while the majority of our crew headed out on the boat to spend a few hours on the lake, I figured 90+ degree heat wasn’t a great idea for our new baby so my sister joined me and Ryder for an afternoon outing to Birkdale Village.

How beautiful does Leslie look!? She’s officially 28 weeks pregnant and just entered her third trimester. She’s been feeling great during her pregnancy and it was so wonderful to be able to see her and her belly!

During our time at Birkdale, we popped into Clean Juice for smoothies and then picked up some treats I’m planning to take to the hospital this week for the amazing nurses and doctors who took such wonderful care of Ryder after his birth.

By the time we made it home, my family was back from their boating adventure and we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around, baking a belated birthday cake for my sister and chatting away.

Once Chase was up from his nap, we piled into our cars and headed up to Mooresville for pizza at Alino’s. My family is almost as obsessed with Alino’s pizza as we are and request a visit to our favorite pizza spot almost every time they come in town. You don’t have to twist our arms to make that one happen!

(Chase was clearly not feeling the family photo!)

We shared three large pizzas and they were fantastic as always!

Our Saturday night concluded with birthday cake at home and Leslie was sweet enough to let Chase help her blow out her birthday candles.

Sunday

Sunday morning began a lot like Saturday morning as we all dug into a French toast casserole. We had plans to take the boat out at 9 a.m. before the heat of the day set in since I cannot swim at the moment and we wanted to keep Ryder’s exposure to summer heat to a minimum. It felt so nice to be on the water even though Ryder’s wasn’t a fan of his infant life jacket. Thankfully he thankfully fell asleep quickly and the boat ride was nice and breezy!

By the time we made it home, we were ready for an early lunch and Ryan and Ross grilled up some burgers and we threw together a big salad and paired it with a bunch of fruit for an easy summer lunch.

Leslie and Ross had to hit the road to make the drive back to Florida after lunch on Sunday and though we were sad to say goodbye, we feel so grateful that they were able to take time out of their busy lives to spend a few days with us and meet their new nephew!

My parents are staying with us for a few more days (woop!) and the rest of our Sunday was rather low key. Ryan and my dad went to work out a little after lunchtime while my mom and I began watching Hart of Dixie on Netflix with Ryder while Chase napped. The show isn’t television mastery but it’s cute and entertaining and I have a feeling it might be my new go-to nursing show. (When Chase was a baby I discovered Grey’s Anatomy for the first time and got totally sucked in!) I was pretty tired after a weekend filled with family fun and we were all content to change into our pajamas early and spend the rest of our Sunday around the house.

Our plans for the rest of the week are pretty up in the air but we’re hoping to make it out to a local Fourth of July celebration on Wednesday and Ryder has another pediatric visit on the agenda.

I hope you all have a great week!

The post Ryder Meets Family appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Hi friends! How are you guys doing!? I know it’s Friday and that means I’d typically be sharing my weekly Things I’m Loving Friday post but right now my life looks like a blur of newborn cuddles, trying my best to give an energetic toddler plenty of attention, eating with one hand while rocking a baby and a whole lot of neglected housework. Life is a wonderful mess right now and THAT is, without a doubt, what I’m loving most this week! I thought about compiling a short list of other things I’m loving at the moment but they’d pretty much all be newborn baby products and easy-to-eat snacks (I’m looking at you cereal and popcorn!) so I figured I’ll just keep note of some of my newborn favorites in the back of my mind for a big post to share on the blog at a later date once we’ve had the chance to really immerse ourselves in life with the newest member of our family.

The above paragraph is basically my long-winded way of saying I don’t have a traditional TILF post scheduled for today but I DO have a roundup of some awesome book recommendations for you!

I often include shout outs to great books I’ve recently read in my Friday blog posts but it wasn’t until I had a blog reader reach out to me to ask if I could share a “master list” of my current favorite reads that I realized it might be helpful to have all of these recommendations in ONE post. Today’s post features my favorite reads from this year (so far!) and I am planning to share a follow up to this post at the very end of the year with my favorite books from the second half of 2018 as well. If you have any recommendations for books you’ve absolutely loved recently, please feel free to let me know in the comments section of this post.

And just FYI, you can always find a constantly updated list of books I’ve read and loved on the Books page of my blog. I hope one of the books mentioned below catches your eye and makes it on your summer reading list!

Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far

This book came highly recommended to me by two blog readers who said they both finished it in two days because it was so gripping. Apparently this book has a two-day reading window because Final Girls kept me on the edge of my seat (errr… bed) for the two nights it took me to devour every last word. Final Girls is a suspenseful thriller that follows the life if Quincy Carpenter, a woman who managed to survive a brutal massacre that killed five of her friends when she was on a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods in college. Dubbed one of three “Final Girls,” one of three women who survived horrific killings when others did not, Quincy is trying her best to lead a normal life. Then Lisa, one of the three Final Girls and the only one of 10 sorority sisters to survive a sorority house murder massacre in college, is found dead and Sam, the other Final Girl, shows up on Quincy’s doorstep. Quincy’s life is turned upside down again. This book includes twist after twist and there was not one dull moment in the whole thing. If you’re in the market for a new thriller, definitely check it out!

There’s a reason this book received a lot of hype in the past year. (It is a New York Times bestseller and was Amazon’s Book of 2017.) Little Fires Everywhere was an engrossing read from the beginning and the author writes about the characters in this novel in a way that feels believable and authentic. The book takes place in Shaker Heights, a near-perfect suburb of Cleveland, and follows the Richardson family, a wealthy family who seems to have it all together, and Mia and Pearl, a mysterious mother and daughter who arrive in town and rent a small house from the Richardsons. Family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, erupting a custody battle that divides not only Shaker Heights but the Richardsons and Mia and Pearl as well.

As the two families’ lives become intertwined and the custody battle intensifies, secrets from the past and present are revealed.  A theme of this book is motherhood, a mother’s love and what it truly means to be a mother. Little Fires Everywhere felt different from other books I’ve read in some way – perhaps because of the author’s incredible talent for writing about such different characters in believable and intriguing ways – and the book made me feel invested in the characters and their stories from the beginning.

If there is one book I’ve seen popping up all over the internet as a “must read” recommendation this year, it’s An American Marriage. For some reason I kept skipping over it when I was looking for a new book to read but when I finally curled up with this book at the end of a long day, it immediately roped me in and I understood the hype. The author is a very talented writer and believably writes from the perspective of three different characters as we follow the lives of Celestial, Roy and Andre.

An American Marriage begins by giving us a glimpse into the relationship of Celestial and Roy, successful newlyweds living in Atlanta, whose lives are ripped apart when Roy is falsely accused of a crime and sent to prison. The book follows their relationship as they struggle to keep their marriage in tact through Roy’s incarceration and Celestial’s desire to continue to live her life. Seeking solace and support from her childhood best friend, Andre, Celestial is more conflicted than ever while Roy struggles with his own battles both inside of prison and out once he is released and finds himself longing for the comforts of his old life with Celestial.

This book was recommended to me by a handful of you guys in the past and when I initially read the description I admittedly thought the book sounded kind of boring. Fast forward a few months and I found myself wanting a break from some of the suspenseful books I’ve been reading lately and I turned to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Now I’m just kicking myself for not reading this one sooner! I loved the author’s writing style and despite the lack of suspense I was used to in many of my recent book selections, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine proved to be a page-turner for me. Eleanor is an intriguing main character. She’s extremely quirky, completely unaware of her lack of social skills and somehow incredibly engaging to read about. I quickly found myself rooting for Eleanor as I learned more about her past and the person she is and who she is becoming.

I thought Lilac Girls was an incredibly moving book and while I would absolutely recommend it, I do so with a warning that this book is heavy and hard to read. It’s a WWII historical fiction novel that follows the lives of three women (two of whom the author based on real women). Caroline is a former Broadway actress know in New York City’s social scene with a heart for helping French children and families through her job at the French consulate. Kasia is an energetic Polish teenager drawn into the underground resistance movement. Herta is a determined and ambitious German doctor hired to work at a Nazi concentration camp. As the novel progresses and the lives of Caroline, Kasia and Herta begin to intertwine, the story becomes more and more gripping and horrifying. Lilac Girls is well-written, moving, vivid, extremely unsettling and memorable.

Say You’re Sorry popped up as a recommended read for me on my Kindle and after reading the description and 900+ positive reviews, I downloaded it and began reading. I liked the main character almost instantly and the book piqued my interest from the very first page. Say You’re Sorry follows Morgan Dane, a recently widowed lawyer and a mother of three, as she’s settling back into her childhood hometown and accepting a new career opportunity. Everything changes when Morgan’s babysitter is murdered and her neighbor, Nick, whom she’s known all her life, is accused of the crime. Morgan fervently believes Nick is innocent and agrees to represent him as his lawyer, turning her community against her, with the exception of an ex-police officer turned private detective she dated in high school, Lance Kruger. As Morgan and Lance set out to prove Nick’s innocence, their potential list of suspects increases and so does the risk surrounding their personal safety.

The Alice Network was easily one of my favorite reads of the year so far. It hops back and forth between 1915 and 1947 and follows the lives of Eve Gardinier, a bright but unassuming woman recruited to be a spy during World War I, and Charlie St. Clair, a pregnant college student holding onto hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared from Nazi-occupied France during World War II, might still be alive. The writing is fantastic and the story moves along quickly with plenty of intrigue, as the lives of Charlie and Eve collide and troubled pasts and secrets are revealed. While this novel is historical fiction, The Alice Network was very real and I was fascinated to learn more about the lives of women spies and their incredible bravery during World War I.

A Death in Live Oak is actually part of an ongoing series that follows criminal defense attorney Jack Swykeck but I didn’t realize this going into the novel, nor did it matter since I never felt lost or confused and think the book stands well on its own. My mom actually recommended A Death in Live Oak to me when she was about halfway through this novel and we really enjoyed reading it at the same time and discussing all of the twists and turns.

The book begins after the body of Jamal Cousin, the president of Alpha, the preeminent black fraternity at the University of Florida, is found lynched and hogtied over the swamps of the Suwanee River Valley. Mark Towson, the president of a prominent white fraternity, is quickly accused of the crime after an incriminating text message he supposedly sent is discovered on Jamal’s phone. Defense attorney Jack Swyteck agrees to represent Towson and what follows is a a page-turning story that centers around racial unrest, political ambitions and the mystery surrounding Jamal’s murder. I flew through this novel and while parts of it were very hard to read (truthfully the prolog was one of the hardest parts to get through), the author included so many twists and turns that the story flew by and kept me completely engaged until the very last page.

Question of the Day

What is the last great book you read?

Any novels you highly recommend I add to my summer reading list this year?

The post Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Writing about Ryder’s birth felt amazing. It allowed me to think back on one of the best moments of one of the best days of my life. It allowed me to relive the way I felt when our beautiful baby boy was placed on my chest and I felt the most overwhelming sense of love and devotion.

Ryder’s birth story feels like a small part of the way he entered the world. He arrived quickly on a hot and sunny Monday afternoon and we were certain the next few days would include hours of baby cuddles as we soaked up every second with our newborn son.

We had four wonderful hours in our labor and delivery room with Ryder before everything began to change. Chase and my mom came by to meet Ryder about two hours after he was born and Chase was so unbelievably sweet and tender with his baby brother. He called Ryder “his baby” and was so excited to check him out with his new doctor’s kit. Dr. Chase assured us Ryder was “very healfy.”

I remember speaking with my dad on the phone hours before Ryder was whisked away to the NICU and I told him everything was perfect. Months of anxiety finally began to dissipate. Ryder was completely healthy and I felt as good as can be expected after labor. We could all finally relax and soak up the intense happiness that comes after a beautiful baby is born.

Around 6:30 p.m., we were told it was time for us to move out of the labor and delivery room to another room in the Mother/Baby section of the hospital. Ryan, Chase and my mom transported our bags and our nurse pushed me and Ryder to our new room in a wheelchair. As she pushed us, she took note of Ryder’s rapid breathing and inquired about his grunting.

Our nurse asked if the grunting was something we’d noticed occurring regularly since his birth. I said I noticed his rapid breathing but the grunting seemed to occur intermittently. She seemed concerned but not too alarmed. She called for another nurse to look at Ryder when we arrived in our new room. The nurses took his vitals and checked his blood sugar. It became increasingly clear something wasn’t right and I felt my whole body become tense. Fear began to creep in as they called the pediatric nurse practitioner.

At this point I felt overwhelmed by our crowded room and asked my mom to take Chase home. I could see her concern for Ryder escalating along with ours and she encouraged me to ask for more people to check on Ryder if I sensed something was wrong after she left. My mom is a nurse and seeing her concern along with the nurses’ concern made me quickly realize this wasn’t something small.

Shortly after my mom left with Chase, the nurses informed me that after speaking with the nurse practitioner, they wanted to take Ryder back to the NICU. They weren’t sure what this would mean and whether or not he’d be admitted. We were told to wait in our room while they took him because the NICU was incredibly busy on Monday evening. We asked for updates whenever my nurse came into our room and waited two hours to hear anything about our baby.

We tried hard to be patient and understanding but not knowing how Ryder was doing or what was going on with him allowed the fear I began feeling before they took him away to build and build. I prayed hard for our baby boy and reached out to very close family and friends to keep them updated and ask for support and prayers.

At around 9:30 p.m., the pediatric nurse practitioner came into our room. She informed us that Ryder was admitted to the NICU and an x-ray of his chest determined that he had possible meconium and fluid in his lungs. His x-ray was very concerning and what she said scared us. She mentioned breathing tubes and feeding tubes. She mentioned a possible transfer to a bigger hospital and the need for a ventilator if he didn’t show improvement.

We were then escorted to the NICU. I asked so many questions and tried to suppress the anxiety and fear that continued to build inside of me. We entered the dark NICU and were surrounded by beeping machines and buzzing monitors. Ryder was in an infant radiant warmer in the farthest corner of the room and we walked over to his station to find our tiny baby hooked up to a CPAP respiratory support machine to assist with his breathing as well as a feeding tube, an IV for antibiotics and other monitors.

Just hours before we were holding our baby in our hospital room and now we were looking at a face covered in tubes and could barely make out our son’s features under his machines. It was alarming and scary and I felt so incredibly helpless.

The nurse practitioner explained that monitoring Ryder through the night would tell us a lot. She said they were going to perform a follow up x-ray in the morning to check on his lungs. She said his body would need to work to reabsorb the meconium or fluid overnight and we would know a lot more from a second x-ray.

I was then told I should begin pumping if I hoped to nurse Ryder to stimulate colostrum and milk production. Leaving our baby in the NICU was excruciating. Ryan stayed with Ryder while I went back to our room and a nurse brought out a large pump and walked me through pumping. I got a small amount of colostrum from the first pump and was told to pump every three hours. Every subsequent pump was more and more discouraging as I got less and less colostrum. The lactation consultants and nurses assured me this was normal but I began to worry that the one thing I felt like I could do to help our baby while he was fighting so hard wasn’t going to be a success. I wanted to badly to do something and not getting anything from pumping for several days in a row was very hard.

We went back and forth from the NICU several times during that first night between pumping sessions. After my 4 a.m. pumping session, we received what we felt like was our first bit of really, really good news. Ryder was responding well to his treatments and the oxygen level he required had been reduced. His x-ray was coming within two hours so we prayed the positive course he seemed to be on would continue and his x-ray would give us another boost of good news.

After the NICU morning shift change where no one is permitted in the NICU from 6:30 – 7:30 a.m., we entered the NICU and were met by the nurse practitioner who greeted us and delivered some amazing news. She said Ryder’s x-ray showed dramatic improvement and wheeled over a computer with two images. The first image showed blackness in our baby’s right lung. The second image showed a foggy gray lung but very little blackness. She assured us this was a very, very good thing and that Ryder’s progress was wonderful. She said his body was clearly working hard and responding well enough to his treatments to take him off the CPAP and change his oxygen support to a nasal cannula later that morning. To say we were relieved would be a serious understatement!

The next few days that Ryder spent in the NICU passed by in a blur of questions, answers, worry and hope. We learned quickly we were not going to get a timeline for Ryder’s release but that his release from the NICU would depend greatly on small bits of progress achieved through milestones (removal of the nasal cannula, removal of his IV, removal of his feeding tubes, etc.) and these milestones would come little by little, day by day.

We leaned on the NICU nurses and felt so grateful for the care they gave to our boy and their knowledge, compassion and expertise. They were the first ones to hear Ryder’s name when we selected it after the first time we were able to hold him in our arms. They heard all of our name options as we waffled back and forth for two days and it became increasingly clear they were all pulling for the name Ryder. We knew it had to be the one!

We also spoke at length with the other parents in the NICU and were amazed by their strength. I know our experience pales in comparison with what many other parents and babies go through in the NICU and we know we are so, so lucky. We all expressed our intense admiration for the resilience of our incredible babies. It’s amazing how strong such tiny little babies can be!

The day I was permitted to attempt nursing Ryder was wonderful but it coincided with the day we were told we were going to be discharged from the hospital without Ryder.

I was a mess and driving home without our baby tucked snuggly in his car seat was horrible but as we left we held onto the hope and the  knowledge that we WOULD be bringing Ryder home with us.

We drove to and from the hospital to visit Ryder for hours and I nursed him as much as possible. The timing of nursing Ryder seemed to coincide with the timing of my milk coming in which was a big blessing. I still kept up with pumping but finally started to see a mix of colostrum and milk drip into the bottles which alleviated a bit of the stress I felt surrounding nursing and the ability to hopefully breastfeed Ryder.

Once we were discharged from the hospital we assumed we would be driving back and forth from the hospital until Ryder was released from the NICU so we were absolutely shocked and so, so relieved when the nurse practitioner approached us with another option that arose the day after we were discharged.

She told us that the hospital rooms were not as busy as they were the day before and that we could be readmitted to the hospital as Ryder’s guests. Since Ryder was now off of breathing and feeding tubes (huge milestones!), she said he could stay in a room with us but he would still be closely monitored until he was ready to be released. It was the BEST news and such a blessing.

The ability to cuddle with Ryder as much as we wanted, nurse him whenever he showed signs of hunger and spend some time with our newborn baby in a private room was incredible and I’m so grateful our hospital was able to make this an option for our family.

My mom and Chase came to visit us in our room once we were settled and Chase finally got to see Ryder for the first time since their brief meeting after Ryder was born. During Chase’s past visits to see me and Ryan at the hospital when Ryder was in the NICU, Chase would come into our room, look around and immediately ask, “Where is my baby?” so it was really wonderful to be able to reunite Chase with his brother and watch them interact.

Chase has been so sweet and tender with Ryder (although trying to get him to understand that Ryder’s name is Ryder Thomas and not JUST Thomas took some time!) and I cannot wait to watch Chase and Ryder grow up together.

The day we got the news Ryder would be going home with us was fantastic. Watching Ryan walk up our driveway holding onto Ryder’s car seat with our baby buckled inside made my heart soar.

Seeing Sadie run around and curiously sniff our new baby was the best. Listening to Chase call Ryder his brother and watching him kiss him on the head and said, “I love you Baby Ryder” made me melt. My boys!

My heart is so full and I am so grateful. Bring on the cuddles and the chaos!

***

There’s no way I can share this update without including another huge THANK YOU to all of you for your support, prayers and kindness. The personal stories you shared with me about your babies and NICU experiences, whether they were short or very, very long, meant the world to me. They helped me so much during a time when I felt so scared and more anxious than I ever have before.

You reassured me and lifted me up and I felt your love and your strength through your comments, messages and emails. THANK YOU. I referenced your comments and experiences to Ryan and my family over and over again because so much of what you said and shared with me detailed exactly what I was feeling and exactly what we were going through at any given time. I appreciate you taking the time to pray for our family, leave a supportive comment and share such personal experiences with me more than you can possibly understand. You all helped me so, so much.

The post Ryder: The Next Few Days appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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I am sitting here with our sweet little newborn baby cuddled up on a squishy Boppy pillow in my lap with my laptop propped up in front of me. My heart is so incredibly full. The first few days of Ryder’s life were unlike anything we predicted or imagined and having our baby home with us feels like the biggest blessing.

I want to share Ryder’s full birth story on the blog today and it’s taken me a while to have both the time and the energy to type everything up, mostly because the first few days of Ryder’s life were incredibly stressful and scary and filled with long hours in the neonatal intensive care unit. Seeing our tiny baby hooked up to breathing tubes and feeding tubes made me feel more helpless than I have in my entire life and I am so beyond grateful for the amazing care Ryder received. I could not be more proud of his amazing strength. The nurses and doctors did not think he’d be home with us this quickly and we are so beyond thankful.

I want to share Ryder’s birth story on the blog in a way that focuses on just that – his birth. It’s hard not to feel like Ryder’s birth was clouded by everything that followed since four short hours after he arrived he was unexpectedly whisked off to the NICU but I want to focus on his birth in this post because it was a moment we hoped and prayed so hard for and it was truly one of the most incredible and emotional moments of my entire life.

Ryder’s Birth Story

Ryder was born on Monday, June 18 at 3:29 p.m. He arrived right on time – on his due date! – which shocked me mainly because I fully anticipated going into labor early since his big brother was born at 38 weeks and I had two experiences with false labor prior to his arrival. I was just beginning to think that I might need help to go into labor this time around since my doctor mentioned stripping my membranes at my 39 week appointment and said we’d discuss induction options at my 40-week appointment if I was still pregnant and no further dilated or effaced.

(39 weeks, 6 days. The day before Ryder was born!)

On the Sunday before I went into labor, we went out to dinner to celebrate Father’s Day at Hawthorne’s Pizza in Huntersville. We were on a mission to order The Inducer Pizza, a buffalo chicken pizza said to induce labor by many expectant moms in our area. A few of Ryan’s coworkers and a handful of moms I know recommended the pizza to us and even though we had no expectations of it working, it seemed like a fun activity and the buffalo chicken pizza was quite delicious!

Though I clearly cannot credit The Inducer with causing me to go into labor, we couldn’t help but laugh and say, “Well, it worked!” when I woke up around 5 a.m. on Monday morning to a serious contraction. It was very painful and I immediately rushed to the bathroom. The pain was intense and lasted about 90 seconds. Half an hour later, another contraction followed and less than 30 minutes after that, another.

I didn’t say anything to Ryan right away since he woke up just before my first contraction and went into our garage to work out. Plus, with two false labor experiences under my belt, I didn’t want to sound the alarm just in case this wasn’t the real deal. By 6:30 a.m., the pain increased further and my contractions were about 20 minutes apart. I became increasingly convinced this was the real deal. By the time Ryan was done with his workout, I told him what was happening and encouraged him to keep his cell phone on but still go into work because I didn’t want him to just wait at home and stare at me, especially since I still found myself doubting everything and worrying about another false labor experience.

Ryan headed into work just before 7 a.m. and soon after he left my mom and Chase were up. I told my mom what was happening and we both said we were pretty darn sure this was the real deal. I took a shower to try to relax and pulled on the ugliest pajamas I could find just in case my water broke or any bleeding occurred and tried to rest in our bed.

Chase joined me to “talk a little bit” which was such a great distraction. It also helped me think of things other than the pain and my thoughts mainly centered around the fact that this could very well be our last morning together before he became a big brother. Cue all the emotions!

I ended up calling Ryan at work around 9 a.m. and told him to head home within an hour because I was pretty darn positive this was the real deal. After I called him, I called my OB/GYN’s office and explained what I was experiencing. My contractions were strong and relatively close together but kind of strange. I would get one really big contraction that lasted between one and two minutes and then about 45 seconds later I experienced what I could only describe as an “after shock” contraction that was still painful but not quite as intense and lasted for 25-45 seconds.

When the nurse asked me about the spacing of my contractions I explained that they were somewhat regular but still rather far apart – about 10 minutes. I didn’t count my “after shock” contractions when I spoke with her which, in retrospect, I should have because I very likely would’ve been sent directly to the hospital. Instead, the nurse made me a 10 a.m. appointment at the OB/GYN’s office where I was hooked up to a monitor for nearly 40 minutes.

Ryan and I gave Sadie and Chase hugs and kisses, took a few last-minute family pictures during a contraction reprieve, loaded up Ryan’s car with our hospital bags and headed off to the OB/GYN.

When we arrived, I was checked and told I was 3 centimeters dilated which was encouraging since I was 2 centimeters at my 39 week appointment but also a bit discouraging since I was hoping to be further along.

During the 40 minutes I spent hooked up to the monitors, my contractions became very regular and I had one big contraction every four minutes but my “after shock” contractions continued in between each of them with just as much pain but a shorter duration. I was given apple juice and Cheez-Its to try to make our baby move since I wasn’t feeling much movement at this point. Thankfully the juice seemed to do the trick and made our baby move but 40 minutes later I was in so much pain and feeling more and more nauseated by the second.

When the nurse practitioner came in to check on me for a second time, she looked at my contraction readings and said she had no doubt this was the real deal and sent us across the street to the hospital. I ended up throwing up in the parking lot of the OB/GYN’s office and then Ryan and I sped off to the hospital where I was immediately admitted a little after 11 a.m. and hooked up to the monitors.

They didn’t check me at this point since my contractions were so close together and the nurses said they thought things were going to progress very quickly. I was in so much pain – I truly think I blacked out how freaking painful contractions are after my first delivery – and when they said I could request the epidural immediately, I didn’t hesitate when I said YES.

It took a while to get fluids into my body and for the anesthesiologist to come into our room with my epidural and I did everything I could to work through the pain of seemingly back-to-back contractions. One thing I remembered from my labor with Chase was that there was NOTHING I could do to alleviate the pain of a contraction and no position I could get into to make myself feel better. That rang true this time as well and I moaned and groaned through the pain.

Eventually my epidural was ready and I didn’t care at all bout the needle because I just wanted the pain relief! Unfortunately the epidural didn’t work for me the first time. My legs and feet were numb but I still felt the pain of every single contraction. The doctor apologized and said this was extremely rare but assured me he thought he could try again with success. The whole process of getting the second epidural took nearly an hour and I ended up throwing up again and continued to try to breathe my way through contractions, this time with tingly legs that required me to stay in bed.

My second epidural worked quickly and the pain relief was so ridiculously wonderful.

I relaxed and found myself thinking more and more about the moment I’d push and we’d meet our baby for the first time. I was totally awake and alert (I refused any pain or nausea medication prior to the epidural since I received something before my epidural with Chase that I HATED because it made me feel mentally fuzzy) and I truly had FUN talking with Ryan about baby names and the excitement surrounding not knowing whether we were about to meet our son or daughter. I know epidurals aren’t for everyone but man oh man it was the right decision for me. Bless that epidural. Phew!!!

Soon after my second epidural took effect, I was checked and told I progressed to 8 centimeters and was 100 percent effaced. Our midwife broke my water and told me I’d likely be pushing within an hour. It was so exciting!

The next time I was checked was less than an hour later and I was 10 centimeters dilated. The same midwife who delivered Chase was working on Monday and since we have such a great relationship, I was absolutely thrilled when she said she couldn’t wait to deliver our second baby, too. She told me I could try one “practice push” to see how it felt and that was all Ryder needed to begin his journey into the world!

Our midwife saw his head and told me to stop pushing because the next push would be the push and we’d meet our little one! It was such a surreal experience and when I was told to push again, I pushed hard and could feel Ryder’s body sliding out of mine and into the world. It was unbelievable.

We asked that Ryan be the one to announce our baby’s sex but when our midwife held him up, we both saw our wiggling naked baby together for the first time. “It’s a BOY!” I cried and then a rush of the most intense emotions took over and I started sobbing.

I looked up at Ryan and saw his eyes fill with tears as we looked back and forth from each other to our son.

He was finally here!

I would love to say that Ryder’s birth was all about Ryder and in many, many ways it was but it also felt like the very best possible ending to an intense journey of loss, hope, prayer, more loss, continued hope and prayer.

A huge part of me is so aware that Ryder wouldn’t be here if the two babies we lost were born. I thought of this the minute he was placed on my chest after he was born and I was overcome with emotion. All of the disbelief I felt during my pregnancy with Ryder and the guard I kept up for the past nine months finally came crashing down as I held our son. I soaked up every inch of his soft skin and chubby cheeks. I stroked his wet, dark hair and kissed his perfect pink lips. And I cried. Ryder is our miracle and he’s a miracle I dreamed about and longed for with every piece of my heart.

I still feel pain and I still feel grief when I think about our two babies in heaven. I know that this will never fully subside nor do I want it to go away because we love all of our babies and always, always will. But now, somehow, through all of the pain and all of the tears and all of the grief, the fear, the hopelessness and the overwhelming sadness, we have the most perfect proof of answered prayers.

A beautiful baby boy.

Ryder came into this world right on time. He was born right when he was supposed to be born. He’s our little miracle and I feel so overwhelmingly blessed and so lucky to have another son. A sweet boy I will love with every ounce of who I am.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) 

Welcome to the world, Ryder Thomas. You are so, so loved.

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We wanted you so much. We prayed for you so hard. And now you’re here.

Our perfect, precious boy!

You entered the world fast and furious and we wept when we met you. Our sweet miracle.

Welcome to the world, Ryder Thomas!

Ryder was born on Monday afternoon – his due date! – at 3:29 p.m. weighing 7 pounds and 7 ounces. He’s 20 inches long and completely perfect. We are so in love!

A couple of hours after Ryder was born he was admitted to the NICU for meconium and fluid in his lungs. It was terrifying as we waited for more information and heard the results from his first x-rays. Not being able to hold our baby, attempt nursing and snuggle up to his face has been so challenging. I’m trying not to focus on the fact that we will very likely be discharged from the hospital today and Ryder will not.

My focus has been on Ryder and his incredible strength and the amazing response he’s shown to his treatments. We’ve seen such incredible progress from our sweet boy in a short amount of time and I have full belief we will continue to see him improve and be able to take him home soon.

Ryder didn’t have a name until late last night. Yesterday he was transitioned off a CPAP machine for breathing and onto a smaller tube for oxygen which allowed us to better see his face and my heart to grow as I soaked in his precious cheeks and perfectly pink little lips. We stroked his dark brown hair and felt like we could really SEE our baby for the first time since he was admitted to the NICU and picked a name we hope will serve him well.

Ryder means warrior. Our guy is so strong. We selected Thomas, his middle name, as a tribute to Chase who knew all along he was going to have a little brother and confidently told everyone his name would be “Thomas the Train.” It’s a name that makes us smile so big.

When I shared some very short updates about Ryder and his time in the NICU on Instagram, I received so many comments and messages from all of you and I cannot thank you enough for your incredible reassurance, prayers and kindness. To those who have had little ones in the NICU, your comments have touched me so deeply. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. I am reading every single message and comment and feeling so grateful for all of you right now.

Seeing such tiny babies fighting so hard in the NICU is unbelievable. They are so resilient! The parents we’ve met are so kind and so strong. And I can barely speak about the nurses and doctors who have watched our boy so closely without feeling overwhelmingly grateful for the work they do, their compassion, expertise and knowledge. I know Ryder is in the very, very best hands.

I am hoping to share Ryder’s birth story on the blog but right now that seems so distant from everything that came up after his arrival. I need some time to focus on our baby boy, pumping (which is incredibly challenging since I am getting nothing and my milk hasn’t come in yet), healing and pouring all of my energy into caring for our baby boy in whatever ways I can, even if they’re not the ways I envisioned right now.

Ryder Thomas, we love you so, so much and I am so lucky to be your mama.

The post Welcome Ryder Thomas! appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

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