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She’s here!!

Newborn hospital photography  |

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

I’d like to formally announce the birth of my second daughter, Juniper Love. June was born at 3:01 am on Tuesday, January 13. She was a surprising 9lbs 4oz and 20.5″ long. (Birth story coming soon!)

She looks like Adelaide’s twin as an infant, with the exception of a lighter hair color. Big sister is doing well. Adelaide was a little apprehensive when first meeting her at the hospital, but she’s now full of hugs and kisses. It melts my heart when she calls her “sweetie” or “sweets” (pet names I often use for Adelaide), and “my June.”

We’re completely exhausted in the newborn survival haze, but I’m trying to enjoy the newborn snuggles and squeaks and sighs. June is nursing like a champ, and she not only gained her birth weight back but she’s now up to 9lbs, 8oz–gaining 13oz just this week! (Makes me feel less guilty about those biscuits and gravy I had for brunch today.) Since we’re nursing on demand, I’m constantly at the ready and not spending much time in front of the computer. If it was easier to create blog posts from my iPhone I’d be posting more, but for now I’ll settle for checking email, Instagram and Facebook, even if in the middle of the night.

Tim’s parents have been visiting from Florida for the last week and have been very helpful in entertaining Adelaide and keeping us well fed. I know we’re in for a lot of changes in the upcoming months, but I’m feeling so blessed for our family of four. I know it’s cliche, but I feel as if our family is now complete. It’s incredible how even a full heart can expand when a new love enters your life.

Newborn hospital photography  |

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

Newborn hospital photograph  |

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

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As promised in yesterday’s gender reveal post, here is the video of us telling Adelaide she’s going to be a big sister. As a child in the two-year-old room at school, Adelaide started to notice that all of her friends were “getting babies.” I had noticed it too. One-by-one nearly all the moms in Adelaide’s class started showing increasingly big bellies. One-by-one they started bringing babies home from the hospital.

“I want a baby Silas like Gwen,” Adelaide told us one day. She called her baby doll Silas when playing with him. At this point we were already trying, and I told her, “We’ll have to talk to Daddy about it.”

Then, a several weeks later when Colin’s mom delivered a baby girl, she told us she wanted a girl baby like Colin. We already knew we were pregnant by this point, but we didn’t yet know the sex and we hadn’t shared any of the news with her (although I did make her pose for pictures holding up my positive pregnancy tests–she had no idea).

“When you get a baby you don’t get to pick whether it’s a girl baby or a boy baby,” I explained to her while walking home from school one day. “Having a boy baby would be fun too.”

“No. I want a girl baby like Colin,” she said.

“Well, Silas is a boy baby and Gwen loves her baby brother. If we get a baby we will love the baby if it’s a girl or it’s a boy.”

I don’t think I convinced her. We decided to wait and tell Adelaide our good news until after we saw and heard the heartbeat, after the genetics testing came back okay. We told her just a couple of days before our wedding anniversary where we opened the card that revealed the baby’s sex. We tried to control Adelaide’s expectations and since she has no concept of time, we told her the baby wasn’t going to come for a long time. The baby still had a lot of growing to do, and it wouldn’t come until after Christmas, when it got cold.

Big Sister Announcement from nextlifechapter on Vimeo.

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A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |

I can’t believe I’ve kept this a blogging secret for so long. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why I haven’t announced it before now. When I was pregnant with Adelaide, I posted about her gender reveal right away.

I was equally excited to find out the sex this time, but the second time around has felt different for various reasons.

  1. I felt much more sick this pregnancy. I started to feel better around 16 weeks (which seems like a long time ago now), but it did keep me from blogging as much as I wanted this summer. In my “free” time (read: in the evenings after Adelaide was asleep or on the weekends while she was napping), all I wanted to do was nap or go to bed early.
  2. I’ve been more worried and reserved this time around. Miscarriage will do that to you.
  3. I’m busy! I have a full-time job outside the house, and this time I have to keep up with a 3-year-old as well.

Since technology has advanced since 2011 and since I’m over 35 this time around, we had a cell-free fetal DNA genetic test when I was only 10 weeks pregnant. Apparently, DNA from the placenta is in my blood so a simple blood test was able to indicate increased risk for a few genetic mutations as well as reveal gender. In my first pregnancy I didn’t find out the gender until the anatomy ultrasound scan at 20 weeks. This time, I had the results back before 13 weeks.

During my first pregnancy there was some debate over whether or not to find out the baby’s sex. Tim won that debate and obviously, we found out. Still, until I could verify for myself, I was paranoid the rest of my pregnancy that they got it wrong. This time we knew we wanted to find out, and I knew I would feel more confident in the result since a blood test doesn’t allow for much error. I had the test at the end of June.

Last time we brought a card to the 20-week scan and had the ultrasound technician write the gender inside. She sealed the envelope and Tim and I opened the card together a few days later when we were away from the sterile hospital environment (and when I didn’t have to immediately return to work).

This time, the genetics counselor said she could call us with the results of the baby’s sex. She said she even had pdfs for, “It’s a girl” and “It’s a boy” that she could send via email for us to open together. She said she drew the line at calling the bakery for a gender reveal cake, but if we gave her the name of a friend and wanted him/her to call, the friend could communicate the gender reveal to the bakery for us.

Our parents both live out of town and we thought it a little presumptuous to think our friends would care enough about the gender to attend a gender reveal party. We decided to do the card thing again.

I purchased a cute card and inside wrote, “It’s a _______.” Then I dropped it off at the genetic counselor’s office with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Tim and I hoped the results would be back by the first week of July so we could open it together over dinner when we celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary. And that’s just what we did.

We dropped Adelaide off with her aunt and uncle in the suburbs and enjoyed a nice anniversary dinner. That morning I joked to Tim that maybe we shouldn’t open it. Maybe we should wait. He didn’t take my suggestion seriously. He said knowing would help with planning and I knew he was right. We already had so many girls clothes sitting in big rubbermaid bins in the basement–knowing whether or not we could reuse the majority of them seemed very helpful.

We didn’t tell Adelaide that she was getting a baby brother or sister until the afternoon before we did our gender reveal dinner. We knew she couldn’t keep a secret, and we didn’t want her to get her hopes up for a girl or boy without quickly being able to give her an answer. I took some video footage of us telling her she was going to be a big sister, and I’ll post it later this week.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |

The card right before I flipped it open. We didn’t even wait for the appetizer course.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |

It’s a girl!

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |

We stopped at the grocery store on the way back from dinner and picked up a balloon to surprise Adelaide.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |

Big Sis!

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |

And baby makes four.

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new baby announcement  |  nextlifechapter.comIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (or have seen me recently) you’ve already heard the news, but our family is very excited to announce we are expecting a baby in early January, 2015. Adelaide is especially enthusiastic to be a big sister. I don’t think she quite understands how long it is until “after Christmas,” but she knows that baby still has a lot of growing to do inside Mommy’s belly.

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Last week Adelaide and I flew to Texas for a vacation and family reunion. She was super excited to fly in an airplane and see Papa Eugene, Grandma Ruth, Aunt Gina and her cousins. Although this was technically her third trip via plane, she doesn’t remember the other two. So, on Wednesday we flew to Dallas-Fort Worth to see cousins I haven’t seen in over 10 years.

My dad’s brother, his wife and their three kids (and their kids), as well as my dad’s sister and her four kids (and their kids) all live in the DFW area. My sister flew in from L.A.  We flew in from Philly, and my parents and grandpa flew in from Central Illinois. The whole group of us hadn’t been together since my grandma’s funeral in 2003. Even then I remember thinking how much Grandma would have loved to have seen us all together and how it was too bad that it took her death for us all to be willing to make the trip. Since then, there have been several weddings, but it was only death that brought every single one of us together. Until now.

Around Christmas my sister and I were talking about getting together at the end of March when the school she works at was on Spring Break. She wanted to get together somewhere other than where we live–somewhere in between that wasn’t at our parents house in Illinois. She thought, wouldn’t it be fun to fly to Dallas and see our Texas cousins. Mom and Dad and Grandpa could fly down too. Gina thinks it’s pretty wild that we took her crazy idea seriously.

My grandpa got to see all three of his kids, all nine of his grandchildren and all eight of his great-grandchildren in one place. It was a wonderful afternoon with lots of food, good conversation and beautiful weather.

My aunt Debbie brought old photo albums with her, and my cousin Kelly had another crazy idea that we all took seriously. Inspired by Buzzfeed’s 21 Family Photos: Then and Yikes (and others like it), we somehow roped everyone into reenacting several old photos. Some were more successful than others, but they were all a lot of fun. At one point, I looked to my cousins’ spouses lining the back wall, varying degrees of mortified.

“What were you guys thinking?” I asked. “You married into this family–you chose to be part of this. We were just born into it.”

My cousin Natalie’s husband just shook his head and said, “We didn’t know what we were getting into.”


Reenacting family photos  |

This photo was the inspiration for the series. Saturday was my Aunt Debbie’s birthday. This photo was taken on Debbie’s 29th birthday, some XX years earlier.


Reenacting family photos  |

The eight cousins (sorry Jenny, you weren’t born yet). I’m the second from the right.


Reenacting family photos  |

The oldest cousins with their respective siblings on their laps. This one just turned out super weird.


Reenacting family photos  |

Kelly, Natalie and Gina. The ones with the “crazy” ideas.


Everyone was such a good sport (it wouldn’t have worked otherwise). I highly recommend getting out old photo albums and giving it a shot at your next family reunion. It’s a great way to break the ice for people who haven’t seen each other in a long time.

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My sister and me at ages six months and four years old.

I just want to start by saying we’re not quite ready for a second baby. I mean, I’m really not sure how people do it — pregnant a second time with a four-month-old or a seven-month-old? Even now as Adelaide hits the home stretch toward two years old, I can’t imagine the exhaustion of pregnancy on top of keeping up with her. And, how do people afford to have two kids in daycare?

This week, a second friend with a toddler around Adelaide’s age announced she is expecting baby number two. Their kids will be almost exactly two years apart. I have lots of friends my age with siblings two years older or younger — it’s a perfectly normal thing. My sister and I are three-and-a-half years apart and four years apart in school. I’ve always thought that was the perfect spread. We were never in high school together at the same time. We were never competing against each other in school or extra curriculars. Still, we played together a lot growing up (as the oldest, I was the bossy one in charge — maybe that’s why I’ve always thought it worked so well.) But even now, living on opposite ends of the country, my sister and I still talk on the phone at least once a week and we consider each other close friends.

I read this blog entry on a few months ago, and it made me think about having kids even closer together. We’ve obviously missed the boat for having them two years apart (and I’m PERFECTLY okay with that that), but I just hope that when we are ready for a second child, that they will also have a close relationship and special friendship. I know the number of years between siblings doesn’t make or break for close siblings. As much as I like to think three-and-a-half years was the perfect spread for my sister and me, I have a girlfriend whose younger sister is the same distance apart in age and they are not particularly close. It all depends on the individual personalities (And maybe some on the parenting? Ah, no pressure there).

Tim and I have always agreed on having two kids and I’m excited for Adelaide to one day have a little brother or sister. The baby fever isn’t in full force yet, but one of these days we will know that there will never be the perfect time and we will close our eyes and leap. And, if anyone has any tips on putting two kids in daycare, I’m all ears.


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My sister’s birthday is today. This birthday photo of her is now 30 years old. You do the math. (Although, I can never make fun of her age because I’ll always be older.)

Happy Birthday to Aunt G, who is doing her thing in L.A. She is following her passion and tackling challenges with strength and perseverance. As we all work to figure out who we are and what makes us most happy, I’m lucky to call her my sister and proud to call her my friend. I sure do wish we lived closer together, but even through the thousands of miles that separate us, I know she is only a phone call away if ever I need an understanding ear or just a good laugh.

Looking at this photo, I see mischievousness in those eyes — a mischievousness that is still there. I also see a touch of Adelaide in that face, and I can’t believe my baby girl will be two years old in less than six months.


Gina, only another five weeks until we get to come see you! And yeah sorry, your birthday present still isn’t finished, so this will have to suffice for now.

Happy birthday, Aunt G. Love ya, sis.

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