One Month Old

These rainbow babies are no joke.  The joy that Carly brings into my life feels immeasurably brighter because of the losses I suffered before her.  Just holding her in my arms, the weight of her body against mine, feels like a miracle.  It is the best feeling in the whole world.

I have been thinking back the last few days, to those dark, dark times in Marshall when I had just lost the first baby and was trying to be strong & grateful for the boys I had...  I was so sad. So hollow.  So empty.  My womb had literally been scraped out and all of me felt raw because of it.

I had no idea (how could I???) of the good that was to come.  Of the triumphs that would follow the trials...  It feels so good to be on this side of it now.

Carly has been here with us for a month now.  It's just like everyone says-- it feels impossible that it's been that long; and it also feels like she's been part of our family forever. 

She's mastered nursing, sans nipple shield, and is gaining 10 ounces each week (grow baby grow!), making mama so proud & relieved.  She is so close to smiling at us, we can hardly stand it.  I am dying for the boys to evoke a grin from her, as I think they might explode from excitement when that day finally comes!

She sleeps every night from 10 until 3, give or take.  Then she eats like a little champ, and we sleep again until brothers come in at 6:30 to tell us the light has turned green.  I am so grateful she sleeps, as I am sure that's the only reason I am managing this whole "solo parenting four kids" thing.  (Well, that and the amazing help I've gotten from the "village" that surrounds us-- my parents, Josh's parents, our sisters, my friends... They've all gone above & beyond to carry me through this tough post partum time without Josh.)

She loves to be worn in the sling, enjoys riding in the car as long as we don't stop, and is the most alert baby anyone has ever seen. (Or at least so they tell me.)  

But most importantly, she is loved.  She is loved by her parents, her brothers, her extended family and by all of you who walked beside me through those dark times of loss.  Thank you for loving our girl.  And for carrying me through the storm to this rainbow on the other side.  

What an incredible journey.


Five Favorites

My friend Ashley over at The Big White Farmhouse has these awesome posts about her favorite things, and she's invited all of us to link up our favorite things in the hopes of winning her giveaway.  This is my first attempt!

My favorites are all over the map this week, but here they are, in no particular order:

Dr. Cocoa is a chocolate cough medicine I got from the doctor as a sample, and it has saved my life twice now.  Last time Wyatt got sick, it turned into a nasty cough and true to form (he's a four year old with a mind of his own) he spit the medicine back at me when I tried to give it to him at three in the morning.  Since the arrival of Dr. Cocoa in our lives, Wyatt takes his cough medicine willingly & even asks for it once he's well.  (Thank you, Lord!)

2)  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Jojo Moyes is a fantastic author, and my favorite book (so far) that she's written is Me Before You.  It's an emotional and thought provoking book about a quadriplegic who wants to take his life & the caretaker whose job it is to convince him to want to live.  I read Me Before You long ago, but recently picked up After You (its sequel) and wanted to re-read Me Before You before jumping into the second book.  Me Before You was just as good the second time-- I couldn't put it down.  Now I can't wait to start After You.

I adore my Tervis water bottle.  I had a peacock one from my friend Kari in Alaska and when I saw this one on Clearance at Home Depot, I snatched it up so I'd have one here too.  They keep drinks warm or cold, and can hold a lot of liquid, which is vital for me breastfeeding.  If I was in the market for another one, I'd order the flamingo one in the link above.  It's so cute!

4)  iPhone 6 with unlimited memory
I am in love with my new phone.  I love the color, I love how thin it is, but above all, I love the memory!!!  I have every app I want on it (even a bunch for the children!) and all the music I want, as well as all the pictures I want.  I love that I don't have to delete my pictures immediately to make room for more pictures and that I can take video that's longer than thirty seconds without my phone warning me about a lack of storage.  It's a dream, I tell ya!

My most fun favorite this week is my ring sling.  This exact ring sling is one my friend had made, but you can find similar ones on Sakura Bloom's website, and if you are expecting your second, third or fourth baby-- I'm telling you to order it now!  Being hands free when you have other littles to care for is amazing!  I wear Carly so I can cook, homeschool, eat and even blog!  She loves it, and honestly, so do I.  

Ring slings are great for small babies (up to about six months) who don't quite fit yet into the larger baby wearing packs (like an Ergo).  It keeps her close to my heart and away from brothers when I need it.

Be sure to check out Ashley's Five Favorites this week & link up to your own if you'd like a chance to win this week's adorable giveaway.



This Week (Week One Without Daddy)

The last two days have been emotionally tough.  Not for me with the baby, but for me with the big boys.  This guy especially is having a hard time with daddy gone this time. I'm not sure if it's because Josh was home three weeks this time, or if it's because my attention is even further divided now that there are four kids... but it seems that every emotion he has is on steroids.  Happy is HAPPY and sad is SAD.  It's been a challenging week of parenting him. And his brothers, really.

Thankfully our adjustment back to school and life without dad has been pretty seamless.  Josh's mom (we're living with his parents currently) has stepped in big time to help me with meals and laundry and care for the boys and I am healing up from surgery well.  Both those things together have made for a good, routine week following Josh's departure.

But I can feel that each of our boys is on edge emotionally and it hurts my heart for them.  To help, I am trying to keep my expectations clear, my empathy high and my parenting consistent.  It's tough, but I know we'll get through this.

 In more joyful news, sister is gaining weight!  From last week's breastfeeding class to this week's breastfeeding class, she had gained ten ounces!  So she's weighing in at 8lbs. 11oz.  I'm no longer pumping at all or supplementing the pumped breast milk, and she is completely off the nipple shield as well.  So things with Carly & nursing are on the up & up.

 More good news-- she's sleeping!  She goes down around 10 at night and sleeps until 2.  Wakes up and eats and gets changed, then goes back to sleep from 3 to 6am.  It's such a beautiful thing and I am so so grateful.

 She's a great sleeper, but when she's awake, she is so alert!  Everyone comments on it, and I find it's true.  She'll just loooook all around and take it all in.  It's adorable.

Sidenote: I still love dressing her.  Every day.  Even her pajamas get me excited.  I do wonder if it will ever get old... I figure maybe after seven years of dressing a girl I'll get tired of it, since I had only boys to dress for seven years. ;)

Speaking of the twins, they took me out to donuts on Monday with their allowance.  It was completely their idea and it made me feel so loved.  Despite their own emotions about Josh being gone, they've been very aware of my feelings and checking on me to make sure I'm not feeling sad.  It makes me feel like I must be doing something right to be raising such empathetic souls.

And they aren't only good to me.  They are the best brothers to Carly.  They hold her and rock her and talk to her.  They turn the music on her bouncer or tell me when they think she needs to be changed or held or fed.  I am so grateful for them.  Especially since Josh left-- having their hands to help me out is priceless.  

(She likes to keep an eye on me. hehe)
Aside from Carly growing & sleeping, what's currently making me happy is holding her.  This is how I spend my evenings.  I nurse her, then hold her on my chest while she cat naps before bed.  There is truly nothing like holding a sleeping baby.  It's the cure all for bad moods, sadness or anxiety.  She's such a sweet, sweet bundle; and I can't imagine life without her.

Another happy moment from this week?  Josh got me a new phone!!!  He was supposed to get himself a new phone and send me his old one... but instead he surprised me and when I opened the box, instead of finding his old cell phone, I found about ten Bath & Body Works items (lotion, body spray, bubble bath...) and a brand spanking new iPhone6 in rose gold.  All for me.  Cause he loves me.  He got me the one with all.the.memory, so I immediately downloaded all my music and every app I ever wanted.  I am overjoyed!!!  And feeling quite spoiled!

 I rearranged our room this week and put the Tiffany lamp Josh sent from Alaska on my bedside table. It makes me so happy to hang out in our cozy room now, which is good, cause I spend a lot of time in here feeding Miss Carly & tending to her needs!

It's been a busy, emotional week adjusting, but I have to say, I just feel like every suffering we've gone through has been worth it because of her.  Living without Josh is not what I want for myself or our boys (or Carly) but if we had to do it for this school year in order to get Carly here safely, then I say every tear we've shed has been worth it.  She's so perfect and we're all so happy to have her in our lives.  Each of the boys has independently thanked God during bedtime prayers for giving them a sister and getting her here safely.  They may not understand now what their sacrifice is for, but someday they will, and I believe they, too, will say it was worth it.


As I said, we're back into school and it's going really well.  I am thankful we had such a steady schedule established early on in the year because it has made getting back into the swing of things really manageable.  I sit at the head of the table with the Boppy & Carly, pretty much nursing the entire time.  I am able to multi task and give lessons while keeping sister fed & happy.  I have to be honest, I was scared about homeschooling with a newborn, but it has been beautiful and so easy.  

As easy as homeschool is, hands down my favorite part of the day is bedtime.  Dinner is done and it's a time when we can really unwind.  The boys get cozy in their pajamas and we all take turns holding Carly and reading bedtime stories.  The twins have really stepped up their read aloud game and read the stories most nights.  Often I spend all of bedtime in the rocking chair nursing the baby, but they know the routine and expectations so well, that I'm able to just sit back while they make bedtime happen.  

Their favorite part of the bedtime routine is bedtime prayers.  That's when Carly and I visit each brother's bed and they get to hold her while they pray, then give her snuggles.  They all just melt when I put her on their pillows next to them.  

 (The night I took these pictures, Wyatt had shared his favorite bubba with Carly...)

(It reminded me of this picture of Wyatt with Jack's bubba when he was a newborn.  So sweet!)

 Carly was making the sweetest noises the other night when Wyatt woke up with a headache and when he heard her, he said, "I love those cute noises she makes."  I just love navigating my kids through the love of a new sibling.  There's nothing else quite like it.  

 I love how involved they want to be in her care (like today when I bathed her and the boys took pictures for me) and the questions they have.  Wyatt asked three days ago when I am going to paint Carly's toenails.  I thought it was the cutest question.  And it made me feel like he totally gets why I was excited to have a daughter.  

 All in all, I'd say this first week solo-parenting four kids without Josh went swimmingly.  Sure, there's room for improvement, but I'm pretty darn happy with how it went & am thanking the stars above for such a smooth transition.



Love & Leaving

I find a lot of inspiration on Instagram these days and wanted to share a few of my recent favorites.  

I love this one because it's so true for me.  Living & raising our kids without Josh is hard. Very hard.  But being open about the challenges makes it so much easier to bear.

This sweet man's story had me crying like a baby.  

"I miss her most at night.  
We got in bed together at the same time every night."

That's the same as me & Josh, and going to bed without him feels so wrong.  It doesn't get easier.  I miss him every night.  I can't imagine missing him & knowing he was gone forever.  At least I know that sometime in the near future we will share a bed again.

What a beautiful love story this guy got to live out...


On Friday night I was in our room (which is off of the boys' bedroom) nursing Carly on the couch while Josh put the boys to bed for the last time.  He started with Wyatt, and as I heard him kneel on the floor next to Wyatt's bed, Wyatt said to him, "I'm sorry you have to go back to Alaska tomorrow." 

 ...And the tears started for this mama.  Josh said he was sorry, too.  Then Wyatt asked why Josh can't take Carly with him, and then said he wished I was the one going to Alaska instead of Josh.  He thought on this for a minute, then followed it with, "Actually, I wish  you'd both stay."

Josh's leaving (saying goodbye & preparing the kids for five more weeks without Daddy) this time was especially brutal, leaving us both in tears multiple times.  Let me tell you, I can handle myself being sad... but when Josh is sad? It slays me.  It's almost worse than when the kids are sad because nothing I can say lessens the pain.

When he finally got all three boys tucked in and down for the night, he retired to our room, where I was rocking Carly and said, "It's just not natural.  We're not this kind of family."  He's right.  We aren't built for living apart.  We do it, and to be honest, I think we do it well... but it's sure hard on the heart.  

 "I didn't want to kiss you goodbye, that was the trouble;  
I wanted to kiss you goodnight.  And there's a lot of difference."
-Ernest Hemingway

Hard as this is, little Carly is what makes it all worth it.  She is why we've had to spend this year apart.  Her safe arrival in our arms is the payoff for our hard work.  And as long as it might seem to get from now until May, it's just 13 weeks, and Josh will be home for one more quick visit in March.  So it feels quite doable.  

In the meantime, for February I have one focus: the kids.  Take care of them, homeschool them & get them to swim lessons.  That's it.  Come March, things will get crazier with baseball & t-ball, but for the next two weeks, I just have to take care of our four littles.  Everything else can wait.

{Photo Credit: Wyatt Cunningham}

{Photo Credit: Wyatt Cunningham}

They're pretty awesome, my kids, and they make my days full.   As I approach my stay-at-home-mom-anniversary, I find myself feeling so grateful that this is what I get to do. Yesterday, for example, Wyatt was going around taking pictures of things (his Legos, his sister...) with my Canon and I told him he was a very good photographer.  He stopped and asked, "What's a photographer? Someone who takes pictures that are very goodly?" 

Yes, yes indeed, Wyatt.  
Someone who takes pictures that are very goodly.

And for Josh:

"... You never cross my mind,
Yeah, you stay there all the time."
-Dierks Bentley 

We love you and we miss you.  Happy Valentines Day, 
2,500 miles apart.  

Shelly, Logan, Jack, Wyatt & Carly


The Last Three Weeks

For the last three weeks, I've gotten to be this girls' mama.  Her brothers have gotten to experience a sister, and her daddy has experienced a daughter.  It's been beautiful.  And I've captured a whole bunch of it on camera.  (If you'd prefer to see the pictures one by one as I take them & share them on Instagram-- follow me here!)

{Cousin Gustav, Logan & Carly}
{Thinking hard in daddy's arms}
{Snuggling Wyatt}
{Babywearing is my favorite! I've missed it!}
{Those lips!}
{Dressing her is so much fun!}
{Of all the pictures I have of her, I think this looks the most like her}
{Mitten baby hands are Daddy's favorite!}
{All four kids during afternoon quiet time}
{The older brothers are smitten}
{They love her so very much!}
{Josh and I watched a movie and I held our girl the whole time. It's the best feeling in the world!}
{Test driving a van...}
{We liked it so much, we bought it!  I'm in LOVE!}


I am just so in love with this girl.  Holding her, feeding her, loving her... It all feels like some prize I won.  I had no idea that the miscarriages would make my love so deep, and the miracle of her so magical.  Every day I am in awe of her presence in my life.  Watching Josh and the boys with her makes it even more so.  We're all just head over heels for her.

The boys get to hold her at bedtime prayers, and every night Logan says, "I just wish I could sleep with her."  He never wants to let her go.  (And how precious is her hand on his arm? I die!)

Jack wants to know when he can carry her around; feed her and play with her.  They're all anxious for her to interact with them more.  Their excitement is contagious.

And Wyatt, whom I was most worried about, is very careful with her and enjoys trying to make her happy when she's upset.  He'll talk to her, sing to her, or turn on the music on her bouncer if she's fussing.  And while I was gone the other day, he dressed his favorite stuffed bear in a onesie and fed it a bottle we had.  He is pretty much the most precious tiny daddy you ever did see!