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When I first started this blog, I named it “Next Life Chapter” because I was starting the new chapter of motherhood. Plus, I liked that the blog could grow with me. There will always be a next chapter.

I started a new chapter in January with the birth of Juniper, our second daughter. However, that chapter will be titled “The fourth trimester,” and it will be superseded by another exciting new chapter that’s about to begin.

Philly LOVE necklace  |

I gifted myself this special “LOVE” necklace as we prepare to leave the City of Brotherly Love.

Tim and I have been thinking about moving to Tallahassee, Florida for a while now. Tim’s parents are there, and with the arrival of Juniper we’ve dreamed of being closer to family. It’s a huge decision, but we are officially moving! I have accepted a Communications Coordinator position at Florida State University, and Tim is interviewing as well.

We told Adelaide last week, and she seems excited. Since I’ve accepted a new position, things are happening fast! The idea of moving to Florida has always been just that, an idea. It’s all happening much more quickly than I imagined. I’ll be starting my new job on May 8, so we’ll be leaving Philly on May 2. I’ll still be returning from maternity leave next Monday and working for two weeks. My official last day at work is Friday, April 24. Then, we’ll have a final week at home before heading out. (I’m flying down with the girls this time. We drove down when we went to Tallahassee to interview, and I don’t want to make that road trip again anytime soon.)

There’s so much to do and sort and pack. I go back and forth between feeling excited and feeling overwhelmed and sad about leaving. I’m going to miss my Philly friends immensely, and I feel dumb/scared/crazy for quitting a job that’s been good to me for the last seven and a half years. I know part of it is just the fear of the unknown. I’m comfortable in my job here and at a time when I’m trying to navigate the waters of being a new mom of two, starting from scratch somewhere else is a lot to bite off all at once. I’ll miss being so close to NYC (although we don’t take advantage of it as much as I’d like), and I’ll miss all the culture and opportunity that comes with living in a large city. Tallahassee does have a better cost of living, but it’s not THAT much better.

It’s all so bittersweet. I have to remind myself why we’re doing all this, and there are a lot of factors. One being that Adelaide will start Kindergarten next year–what!?!–and the Philly public schools (at least in the neighborhoods we can afford) are struggling. Plus, putting two kids in daycare is ridiculous. Tim’s parents are going to watch June this summer and then there’s the possibility they will continue to watch her two days a week into the fall and winter. It’s also going to be nice to have a free babysitter once in a while when Tim and I just need a date night. I think this will be really good for our marriage as well as our girls growing up near some of their extended family. Hopefully not having to travel to Tallahassee will allow us to visit my side of the family in Illinois more often–or *gasp* dare I say, take a vacation that doesn’t involve visiting family.

Overall, I know it’s a good move for our new family of four to be closer to Tim’s parents (they’re newly retired and ready to help), and the sunshine won’t hurt either.

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The following is a post I wrote last October 15th, shortly after discovering it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wanted to publish this post then, but I chose not to. Part of me wanted to share what had been going on with me and I’m a big believer that raw, vulnerable writing is powerful writing. However, raw, vulnerable writing isn’t always good writing. I guess I just decided to write about my experience on my own terms and not post just because it was some internationally recognized day. As this post sat waiting in my drafts folder, I wrote about loss a couple of times on this blog. Still, I never shared the details of what happened.

Since this October 2013 post, I went on to have another early miscarriage in January. And then, my much anticipated current pregnancy. I’m almost 28 weeks pregnant now, and everything seems to be going well. I feel so blessed, and in some ways my losses seem like bad dreams. Still, I worry. I will worry until I hold this baby in my arms (and then I’ll continue to worry for other reasons). I’m glad people are sharing their stories on this day and every day. Here’s mine:

pregnancy loss

October 15, 2013

This morning on Facebook I discovered that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I guess it’s a good thing, but boy if I didn’t have to close my door at work so I could cry for a few minutes. You see, the end of summer was a tough one in the Pannell household. When we should have been sharing the news of a new pregnancy–a baby to arrive in mid-March, I was instead telling the few we had shared our happy news with that it wasn’t going to happen.

At around 11 weeks, at my second doctor’s appointment, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. Later that day, from an ultrasound, it looked as if the gestation sac was empty–as in, the embryo didn’t grow beyond a few weeks. I only had five weeks to get used to the idea of bringing a new baby into our family, but I was making plans, getting excited, talking myself into the idea that a March baby would be perfect, that he/she and Adelaide would be the perfect age difference. I bought a winter maternity coat (although used and very inexpensive), I was planning the way we would announce the news to our parents.

The day we found out was an awful day. When I replay the day’s events in my head, I just feel sick to my stomach.

I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly. I was thinking three years apart would be good for us, but I was kind of hoping to be due a little earlier than July/August so I wouldn’t have to go through another hot summer being eight months pregnant. I thought being due in May or June would be perfect. I figured it would take a few months of trying so we started trying in June. I got pregnant right away and was due March 15 (the Ides of March). When we were due in March I really worried that the kids would be too close together. I had wanted them just shy of three years apart and they were only going to be about 2 years 6 or 7 months (depending on whether or not this second kid was early like Adelaide). Anyway, I had spent those five weeks of being pregnant convincing myself that this March due date was perfect. I thought about a maternity leave in March/April/May and how nice the weather would be. I thought about how we would all have our own birthday months and wouldn’t have to share a joint birthday party. At first I was worried that I had so many summer-ish maternity clothes, but then I bought that winter coat and just planned to wear leggings and cardigans with my summer dresses.

People who are due right around the time I would have been due are now announcing their pregnancies on Facebook and coming out of the woodwork. It sucks because we would have been making the same announcement to all our family and friends and people don’t even know that I would feel sad about it because very few people knew I was pregnant. (And of course, I’m happy for them, just sad for us.) This whole experience has made me more empathetic. My friend H has been struggling with infertility for years now. She finally got pregnant and then had a miscarriage at around 11 weeks. I remember her saying how hard it was as the due date approached. I totally didn’t get it then, but I understand more now. I also understand more now how hard it’s been for her to see so many pregnant women around her all the time (including close friends and co-workers). She’s a great sport and has been supportive, but I know she is hurting too.

I had only known I was pregnant for five weeks, but I was simply heartbroken. I was really starting to get used to the idea of adding that fourth someone to our family.

For two weeks I went through tests (they wanted to make sure that my hormone levels were going down and that the pregnancy wasn’t just much earlier than I thought). I waited for something to happen naturally. On Tuesday, September 3, I had a D&E.

After the procedure, things started to get a little better every day. I still got waves of sadness when I thought about the “what ifs,” and I was still bleeding a little from the surgery so that was a constant reminder. I so wanted to have it all behind me so I could start looking forward to the future. Of course, my head told me we would try again soon and I knew everything would be okay. My heart felt differently some days.

I immediately told my sister and we told our parents (although we hadn’t even told them yet that we were pregnant). I told a few close friends who hadn’t known I was pregnant either. I had to tell a few people at work because I was missing days and closing my door when I got calls from doctors and needing to cry and just not being myself. I’ve received a few nice text messages checking in with me and a couple of cards (thanks, Mom!), but after a week or two had passed it was just like everything was supposed to go back to “normal” when it really hadn’t for me.

At knitting I saw myself making jokes and talking to people about what had been going on that week and it was almost like an out of body experience. Only a couple of people actually knew what was going on, and I didn’t really feel like talking about it with the whole group. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, and I didn’t just want to sit and cry in front of everyone. I came home feeling like I had been so fake because there was this HUGE thing that was going on with me and I was just pretending to be okay. Tim was super supportive throughout the whole thing, but he just grieved in such a different way than me. And I think a big part of it is that since it was early in the pregnancy, it wasn’t as “real” for him in the first place. It very much felt like something that happened to “me” and not to “us.”

Now that a month has passed, I’m feeling a lot better and I’m excited for what the future may bring. I’ve leaned on a dear friend who has also experienced loss, and I’ve felt empowered by talking it out with her and doing a little reading on the topic. I thought I might wait to share my story until after we were pregnant again. I didn’t really want to break the sad news until after we had something new to celebrate.

However, I’ve also been reading a lot of personal blogs lately and like with memoir, I am the most touched by the writing that is so very real and raw and honest. I tell my students to make themselves vulnerable in their memoir writing, and last weekend I felt ready to share my story on the blog. I didn’t get around to actually writing about it–sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to bring all those feelings back to the surface when you’ve been doing so well to keep them at bay. Then today, seeing that it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and seeing other people post articles like this one from Dear Julesy about what not to say to someone who is grieving or this one from Kathryn Catalino, I was motivated to share my story.

I know that first trimester miscarriages are unfortunately common, but I don’t hear many women talking about them. I guess it’s in part because we don’t know what to say to one another. So, for a weird day of remembrance (there’s a day for everything isn’t there?), I’m glad to share my story if not to just help one other person feel less alone. I’ll take the opportunity to break the silence and stand together to honor and acknowledge all of the lost babies and the wounded parents left behind.

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wedding anniversary love letter |

Photo by Tammy Bradshaw Photography, November 2013

Today is our six-year wedding anniversary. For those following along at home (or new to this blog), you can review the posts I wrote for our five-year anniversary, four-year anniversary and three-year anniversary. As I said last year, I realize I’m not going to be able to top the previous year’s post every year. I’m not going to be able to summarize my feelings and say something new about marriage every year.

However, this last year has been a meaningful one for Tim and me. It’s been one of the most joyful, as we’ve watching Adelaide go from a nearly two-year-old to a nearly three-year-old. She has so much personality and can have me so frustrated one minute and smiling with pride the next. This has also been one of the most challenging years of my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve suffered two miscarriages since we celebrated our anniversary last year. While it’s so easy to feel alone in those situations (as something that happened to me, not something that happened to us), I know that Tim has been right next to me providing support to get through each devastating day. While I know men and women deal with emotional issues differently, I always felt as if he was on my side.

Marriage isn’t easy and this year has shown us the rollercoaster of ups and downs. I tend to get motion sick on rollercoasters and avoid them if possible. But sometimes, they can’t be avoided. There’s no one else I’d rather be on this ride with, and I feel blessed to celebrate this day and every day with my coaster buddy. As I wrote last year, “I know I don’t have to one-up each and every holiday or anniversary post on this blog. But, I think it’s good to pause and remember, to acknowledge where we are in life’s journey and remember how we got here and why.” I’m here because I chose to be here, and I choose it again each and every day.

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Something nobody talks about  |  nextlifechapter.comThe American Pregnancy Association reports, “Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage.” That means that for a woman my age, up to one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet, for something that affects so many women, it seems like nobody talks about it.

Have you heard about this “new” podcast “The Longest Shortest Time”?

I think I first heard about it on This American Life. Those who know me well know I love This American Life. I try to see Ira Glass (the show’s host) in person any chance I get–I even saw him read stories during an experimental dance performance last year. And, for several semesters I’ve taught a memoir class where we use stories from the This American Life podcast to guide our discussions on truth telling, dialogue, interview, answering a question etc… (It’s part of the University of the Arts Continuing Education program and if anyone is interesting in taking this course or a future writing course with me, comment here or email me and I’ll add you to my special writing class email list.)

Anyway, I love This American Life. The TAL website used to include an essay by Hillary Frank about how to pitch them with a radio story. At least one semester I printed it and shared it with my class. A few years ago I learned that Hillary Frank had moved to Philadelphia, the city I was then (and still am) calling home. I even emailed Ms. Frank to see if she would be interested in being a guest speaker during my class. I didn’t figure she would say yes, but I didn’t think it would hurt to ask. (She politely declined.)

So, when I heard about Hillary Frank’s new podcast and when I heard it was about that short time that seems to go on forever when your baby is an infant, I thought it would be right up my alley.

Listening to recent episodes in the car on our Christmas road trip, I learned that Hillary had just finished a Kickstarter campaign (oops–totally missed it) and was turning the podcast into her job. As of January 2014, the LST podcast would have a new episode every two weeks.

A couple weekends ago, I finally got around to downloading the new 2014 episodes. For some reason, I started with the February 5 podcast titled “The Longest Longest Time.” In that episode, Hillary interviews Lisa, a woman who struggled with pregnancy for over a decade. I was washing dishes (as I tend to do when I listen to podcasts) when about half-way through the podcast Lisa said, “I have to say, until I had a miscarriage I don’t think I appreciated what miscarriage meant.”

Hillary followed-up by asking what, exactly, miscarriage means to her. I stopped mid-dish and listened to their conversation, which I’ve tried to transcribe below:

“…it feels like much more of a life-affecting moment or event than I had been able to perceive,” Lisa said with pause. “Do you relate to that at all?”

“Totally. And it’s something you can’t, or we don’t, talk about publicly so it’s not like mourning a death of a person that’s outside of you. You know, that we talk about and it’s understood that people are going to be distracted from work and all of that, but to have this big momentous loss from your body, that’s not something we talk about.”

“Right,” Lisa said. “And especially when it’s early like that, you know, 9 weeks. Nobody even knew you were pregnant.”

“And that’s why we don’t tell people, right? Cause just in case.”

“Exactly. Right. And then the flip side of that is nobody knows you went through it and not talking about it makes you think–you really shouldn’t be that upset by it.”


I stood there, greasy dish in hand with adrenaline pumping. “Exactly,” I said out loud. “We don’t talk about it.”

So, I’m here to start a conversation–to say, I had a miscarriage. In fact, I’ve had two miscarriages in the last seven months. It’s been tough. I’ve been distracted at work. I haven’t felt like myself emotionally or physically. I’ve been grieving.

As a memoir writer, I consider myself a truth teller. I want to share my story in hope that someone reading this can relate. The next few weeks I plan to post a series of miscarriage-related posts. This may seem depressing to some, and I understand that reading about such things is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, miscarriage is so very common. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Maybe you will in the future. I imagine many women you know have experienced it, whether you were aware of it or not. We don’t live in a bubble. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to share our stories.

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Bruce Ely Photography |

Photo by Bruce Ely

Tomorrow is our five-year wedding anniversary. Before I sat down to write this post, I reviewed the posts I wrote for our four-year anniversary and three-year anniversary. Man, those were pretty good. I mean, as this blog gets older I realize I’m not going to be able to top the previous year’s post every year. I’m not going to be able to summarize my feelings and say something new about the effects of motherhood every Mother’s Day or recognize my sister’s birthday and show how much she means to me in a new way every year.

I’ve written a few posts that express those feelings pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Tomorrow is our five-year wedding anniversary and tonight I’m thinking about spending this night five years ago at our rehearsal dinner. How I got a flat tire on the way to the airport to pick up my aunt that afternoon. I think about how after dinner a few girlfriends and I set up camp in the hotel bar and used archival glue and a bone folder to attach the hand-letterpressed covers onto the accordion-folded wedding programs.

I think about being exhausted and excited and nervous, but so happy that so many family members and friends had flown in just for us.

In the five years since that day, a lot has happened. Tim and I have moved twice. We adopted our dog Hugo. Adelaide was born. We’ve taken classes, gone on vacation, argued, cried, laughed. It’s been a good five years. It’s gone by fast. I know I don’t have to one-up each and every holiday or anniversary post on this blog. But, I think it’s good to pause and remember, to acknowledge where we are in life’s journey and remember how we got here and why. Trying to define or explain love can be a challenging writing exercise. I know it when I see it. I know it when I feel it. This is love.

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Today is the six-year anniversary of the day Tim proposed. He probably doesn’t even remember the exact date. In fact, he’s probably upstairs right now annoyed that I haven’t yet come up to bed – that I spend too much time on devices and the Internet. Little does he know that I’m writing about an important date in our relationship history and digging through my email archive to find original emails where I gush about the news to my family and friends.  Here’s one I found:

Hi guys,

It’s been a while.  How is everyone?  I just wanted to let you know that Tim and I got engaged!  At the beginning of June, Tim and I made a quick trip to Providence and Boston for a long weekend.  On the last day of our trip, in Boston Public Gardens, Tim proposed!  And I said yes!  Tim and I have been dating for what will be 4 years in September, he’s my best friend and I knew he was the one I wanted to marry.  I guess I thought we would probably get engaged in the next year or so, and I can’t say I wasn’t aware of the fact that our Boston weekend would have been a perfect time.  Still, I really didn’t think it was going to happen right now, and I was genuinely surprised.  We’re thinking a Summer ’08 wedding here in Philly.  I just wanted to share my happy news.

Hope all is well with you.


After he proposed, I asked a couple walking by if they would take our photo.

the bench couple

I took this image to capture the view from the bench.

the bench view

We sat there for a while enjoying the view of the city where we met. We talked about our future together. Then, as we walked away, I snapped this photo of “our bench.”

the bench

We walked up to Faneuil Hall, sat at the outdoor bar at The Salty Dog (the restaurant where I worked three summers earlier) and toasted ourselves with a celebratory beer.

On the drive home to Philadelphia, we stopped back in Providence at the restaurant where I had worked there. We told the news to several friends who were working and our friend Evan, the bartender, surprised us with complimentary glasses of champaign. Then, we made the drive home and took turns driving and calling our parents and siblings and friends. It was a Tuesday night, so it was knitting night and I knew all my Philly girlfriends would be in one place. I called my friend Amy and she put me on speaker phone. That was the fastest roadtrip. The time in the car just flew by.

And here we are, six years, one marriage and one 22-month-old daughter later. I’d say “yes” all over again, and I do every day.

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The in-laws are in town visiting so I took yesterday off work. During our visit to Philadelphia Zoo, Adelaide demonstrated the sound a tiger makes.

It’s so easy to have a pity party for yourself. If only Tim had a better job. If only we had a better/bigger/nicer house. If only we could afford X, Y and Z (Definitely Z. Z would make things so much better). But really, when I pause and truly think about it, I’m reminded of just how lucky, how blessed I am.

I have the most amazing daughter. (Seriously, have you met this girl? She’s ridiculously awesome.) I have a supportive, loving husband and parents who love me unconditionally. I have in-laws who I enjoy spending time with and such incredible friends and family. Heck, I even have a job I only hate on the worst days, and actually like on most days.

It’s so easy to say that the grass is greener on the other side. “If only…”

But today, today I want to work on cultivating my own garden. If my grass isn’t green enough, perhaps it just needs some fertilizer. What can I do to work with my current situation and help it grow, help it bloom?

Sometimes we need to step away from the blogs, the Pinterest, the house and job envy, and just focus internally on the amazing hand we’re dealt. Really? I get to be this girl’s mom? I get to be this man’s wife? Shut up. That’s pretty darn cool.

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“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.”

-Paul Sweeney



Forty years ago today these two young lovebirds said “I do” and made a promise to each other.

When I look at this photo I can’t help but think how young they look. One day Adelaide will surely look at photos of Tim and me and think the same thing.

Sometimes the passing of time just blows my mind. I clearly remember my parents’ 13th wedding anniversary. I remember it because it was the day of the Challenger explosion. I was in 3rd grade, and I remember thinking it particularly spooky that it was unlucky 13. Really? That was their 13th wedding anniversary? That was 27 years ago?

I’m sure the 40 years have gone by even more quickly for my parents. It hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve made family a top priority and I thank them for everything they’ve sacrificed to give me the life I’ve had. Happy 40th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad! Congratulations and thanks for everything.

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Photo by Bruce Ely

I don’t think I can say it any better than I did last year. Happy 4th wedding anniversary to my dear husband Tim. We celebrated a few days early this year. Thanks to Aunt Adrienne and Uncle Ben, Tim and I went to dinner at Twenty Manning Grill on Saturday night. When we made our reservation on Open Table we mentioned that we would be celebrating our anniversary. We were seated at an intimate table with a curved yellow banquet, and I was convinced it was because I mentioned we were celebrating a special occasion. We enjoyed the heirloom tomato gazpacho with pineapple-basil sorbet and the pork pot-stickers as appetizers. Then, Tim had the charbroiled beef sirloin noodles, and I delighted in the simple pan-seared wild mushroom ravioli.

After they cleared our plates (the service was great and “on top of it,” borderline too on top of it — they seemed to be at our table all the time clearing something or wiping something) the server put spoons down in front of us. He then brought over complimentary glasses of sparkling wine and told us a dessert was on the way. “Happy Anniversary,” he said, “thanks for celebrating with us.”

We thanked the server and while we waited for our half-baked toll house cookie to bake, Tim raised his glass for a toast. “To four years of marriage,” he said lifting his glass to mine, “and to four more years.”

“Four more years?” I laughed. “How about forty more years?”

“Okay, to forty more years!”


Louis C.K. does this bit in episode 1 of his second season of Louie where he talks about how much he loves his daughters (and how he hates everything leading up to their existence simultaneously). He’s a divorced single dad and a comedian known for his controversial topics and crude language, so I take his crassness with a grain of salt and watch the show for one reason – it’s amazingly funny. Anyway, in the stand-up routine he goes on about how having a child makes you love them so much, it makes you love other people more, it makes you love life and just everything so much more. It’s true. Having Adelaide has made me love Tim more, if that’s possible. It’s made me love my parents and my sister and all of our family and friends just that much more. I am so filled with love because of the love I witness every day through our daughter. I love you, Tim. Happy Anniversary, and here’s to many, many more years.

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New Year

I logged into my old LiveJournal account today to find a New Year’s questionnaire I answered several years ago (stay tuned, I’ll be posting it soon). While I was searching through the archive, I found this excerpt of a post I wrote in January 2005:

The New Year
January marks the one-year anniversary of a change in Tim and my relationship. In talking about this with him, we both agree there was a significant change last January although there was no particular event or mile-marker. I do know that it had a lot to do with me. I was confused about what I wanted. But then, something after winter break allowed me to put the past aside and let myself love him.

This New Year’s Eve was perhaps the best of my life. Tim and I were in Florida and we spent it at his friend’s beach house. At 11 o’clock everyone but Tim and I went inside. We stayed at the bon-fire and cuddled in the white sand. Fireworks on both sides from other beach-goers. The sound of waves. It doesn’t get much better than that. Then, we went inside and joined the others for the countdown.

I had a great time visiting Tallahassee. Tim’s brothers are just as he described. His grandma, tiny and kind. I looked through their old family photo albums. Baby pictures. Tim’s big, brown eyes. Tim gave me the town tour: his grade school, his high school. We even drove by his old Kindergarten building. We went to FSU and walked around. I took a picture of the “Bob+Carol” in the sidewalk. Tim’s parents wrote it when they were at FSU in the 70s.

Tim has articulated that he understands the move to Providence hasn’t been the easiest on me. Still, on our return from Florida on the 2nd, it was a great relief that we were returning to the same home. There was no good-bye in Providence as I went back to Boston. Moving was a sacrifice on my part, but he’s is so worth it. We, and our relationship, are worth it.


Wow. I hadn’t read that post in years, and reading it now makes me flash back to that time and place. So much has happened in the seven years since then. We finished grad school and moved to Philadelphia without jobs. We’ve moved a total of four times. We got engaged and were married. We adopted a dog and became parents. We’ve grown closer and remained best friends. Now I look through family photos of our baby and her big, soon-to-be brown eyes.

This New Year’s wasn’t as overtly romantic as the one of 2004 into 2005. Tim and I snacked on popcorn and sipped champagne while watching the first season of Portlandia on Netflix instant. We prayed the loud neighborhood fireworks wouldn’t wake our sleeping baby. It was a different kind of celebration, but still sweet in its way.

The next morning, Adelaide gave us the best New Year’s present. She slept for ten and a half hours straight. In her crib. In her own room! She slept through all the firework noise (and it was loud, and right outside our front door). She did the same last night. The true test is tonight, when I have to be at work tomorrow morning for the first time in over two weeks. We’re starting 2012 off right, and if I dare say it, I see a little more sleep in my future.

Adelaide and me at the Mummer's Parade on New Year's Day.

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