Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Friday, February 21, 2014

Anna Kate's Art Party!

I know, I know, I'm a little late on putting up Anna Kate's birthday party pictures. Life with a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn doesn't leave a whole lot of time for blogging! We did have a great time celebrating our big four-year-old though, and here are some pictures to prove it!

Anna Kate started planning her birthday party back in October (around the same time we were celebrating Caroline's birthday!). She decided that she wanted to do an art party. Very appropriate because this girl is CONSTANTLY drawing, coloring, creating, etc. She absolutely loves painting too, so I promised her that her birthday party could include painting. I knew going into this party that I would be just a couple weeks postpartum (ended up being 9 days), so we decided to have the party up in the children's fellowship hall at our church building. We just invited a few of Anna Kate's closest friends and kept it pretty simple. But it was LOTS of fun!

The party room

As the guests arrived, we started a few art projects. The crowd favorite was fingerpainting on canvases. I put each child's initial on the canvas with painters' tape, and then removed it once the paint was dry. They turned out pretty cute!

Snack time!

We also turned cake time into an art project by letting everyone decorate their own cupcake! (aka...I didn't have to stress about decorating a cake!)

Singing to the birthday girl


Eating our messy cupcakes!

And a few family photos after our friends went home!

Our little family

Mommy and Daddy with our big girl

Mimi & Papa AND Grandma & Grandpa were able to be there too!

As soon as we arrived at home, we gave Anna Kate her birthday surprise. Here is her look of excitement when her daddy brought it in the room!

I think she likes it!

After a nap, we took it out for a ride!

  Happy birthday, Anna Kate!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Happy 4th Birthday, Anna Kate!

Sweet Anna Kate,

You are FOUR years old today! I have to admit, I cried a little bit last night as I rocked my three-year-old for one last time. And yes, you still love to be rocked before you go to bed, and I hope that doesn't change any time soon! You are such a precious gift from God and we are so grateful that he chose us to be your mommy and daddy. Here is a little bit about what life with you is like these days:

~ You are a fantastic big sister. You and Caroline are starting to play really well together (when you're not arguing over toys). Your favorite things to play together are doctor, school, dollies, and airplane trips to Costa Rica (you always make me be the ticket counter agent - aka "check-in person").
~ You are also a fantastic "double" big sister, which is what you say you are to Eleanor. You are always very concerned about her general well-being, and you love to hold her and rock her. You beam with pride any time anyone asks you about your new baby sister.
~ You love school time. You go to preschool for a few hours on Monday mornings while I teach Spanish there, and you have really enjoyed that. Your favorite activity there is your arts and crafts time. You love showing me the paintings that you do each week.
~ The rest of the week we have "homeschool". We aren't doing much in the way of formal schooling yet, but you are constantly asking to do more school. You love workbooks and coloring pages and puzzles and just about anything I come up with that can count as schoolwork.
~ You have really enjoyed our Spanish lessons at preschool each week. You have developed quite a little Spanish vocabulary including numbers, parts of your body, colors, and a variety of children's songs. You are also working really hard at trying to roll your r's!
~ You are quite the little reader. One of the main highlights of your week is library storytime on Thursday mornings. You have graduated to the "big kid" story time and you love participating and listening to the longer books. You also check out your limit of twenty books each week. You always check for your favorite book first (which is "Curious George Goes to the Hospital"), and then you choose 19 other books. Well, you do let Caroline choose a few of them!
~ Speaking of reading, you are so great about your quiet reading time every afternoon. You and Caroline both go down for a nap at 1pm, but you usually wake up around 2:15 or 2:30. The rule is that you have to stay upstairs and read quietly until 3pm and you have never complained. You really enjoy that quiet reading time!
~ At 3pm each afternoon, you come downstairs and we have "big girl time" before Caroline wakes up around 3:30 or 4. You always want to play a board game with Mommy during this time. Your favorites are Sorry, Candyland, and Chutes and Ladders.
~ You are doing very well playing your open string rhythms on the violin. We are getting close to being ready to put fingers down, but right now we're still just mastering holding the violin and bow properly and playing those rhythms. You have "Goody-Goody Stop-Stop," "Stop Pony," and "Peanut Butter," down pretty well!
~ You also love to sing. You love church songs, silly songs, made-up songs, any songs! You love your Sunday night children's choir and church too, and have learned so many Scriptures through music. You also have learned all the books of the New Testament set to music!
~ While you love to play with your sister and with your friends, you are also very good at playing independently. Your favorite things to do on your own are coloring and building block towers. You have been building some pretty impressive towers as of late; your grandpa says you might have a future as an architect or civil engineer!
~ You are quite the little human calendar/planner. You always know the day and the date, as well as what activities and events we have planned that day and on upcoming days. You sometimes have to keep me from forgetting things!
~ You still love to go on daddy-daughter dates. Sometimes you and Caroline go together to special things with Daddy (like the zoo or EdVenture), and sometimes you get to go by yourself. One of your favorite things to do with your daddy is to go to the monthly Senior Adult Breakfast at church. Daddy is always invited because he's on staff, and he loves to bring you with him. The older members of our church just love it when you come!
~ You took another international trip this year, this time to Costa Rica. There aren't a whole lot of four-year-olds who have two different stamps in their passport!
~ You love spending time with your friends. Your closest friends at church these days are Nora (and Ava too!), Aubrey, and Annie. Colten and Joe are your good friends from our Tuesday park group. Your good friend Alice moved away last year, but the two of you have become Pen Pals! You write to each other faithfully and love to receive letters from one another.
~ You have become very independent lately, which is a big help to your mommy. You can get dressed all by yourself, you can do the top buckle on your carseat (and almost the bottom one), you can get your own drink of water, wash your hands, etc.
~ Your big birthday present today from Mommy and Daddy and your sisters was a big girl bicycle (with training wheels). You really needed one as you were rapidly outgrowing your tricycle. You love to go out and ride and did very well for your first ride today!
~ You have such a sweet and tender heart. You always want to bring home extra coloring pages or treats for Caroline (and now Eleanor!) from your preschool class or your Sunday School class so that they won't feel left out. Your heart is also easily broken when something sad happens. You left your baby doll at church by accident on Wednesday night and you were just distraught that she might be left alone there all night. Your tears were pretty convincing because Daddy went right back to get her! You also love to pray for anyone and everyone who might need prayer. You always want to know who is sick, or which missionaries we should be praying for, to name a couple.

Anna Kate, you are so special to us. You are so much fun to be around, you give the greatest hugs and snuggles, you are constantly making us laugh, and you just light up our life. We always tease you about wanting you to stay little (which we do), but we also love watching you grow physically, but also in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. It is our prayer that your love for Him would grow more and more each day! We love you!
 Your BIRTH day!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Happy 4th Birthday!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Eleanor Grace Tolbert

Eleanor Grace Tolbert
 Thursday, January 30, 2014
9 pounds, 20 inches

After 40 weeks and 4 days of waiting, Eleanor Grace is here! We could not be more thrilled to have our little family all home together. We feel truly blessed. And for those of you who are interested, here is baby Ellie's birth story.

It all really started one evening in December when I was 34 weeks pregnant. I had not been feeling well that day and laid down on the bed to rest when Luke came home from work. As I was laying there, I started noticing some contractions. Nothing painful, but pretty frequent. I decided to time them and realized that they were coming every three minutes. I called my midwife who wanted me to come in right away. By the time I arrived at the hospital and was hooked up to the monitor, contractions were coming every two minutes. As it turns out, I was just dehydrated from feeling sick that day, and they were able to stop the contractions. All was well and we went home that evening. All that to say, however, we began to prepare for what we thought might be a slightly early delivery. Oh how wrong we were!

By 35 weeks, plans were set into motion for what we would do with our big girls if we needed to head to the hospital. By 36 weeks, we had packed bags for all four of us in case we needed to leave at a moment's notice. By 37 weeks, we were really working hard to keep the house neat and tidy and clean so that we wouldn't be returning to a messy house. At 38 weeks, the girls got the flu. Our prayers quickly became requests that God would keep our sweet baby girl inside me as long as possible so that we would all have time to get over the flu before her arrival. Our prayers were answered and we saw no signs of baby's arrival. By 39 weeks, everyone had recovered and we were ready. I began walking...and walking...and walking. We found places to walk even when it was extremely cold and rainy (around and around the halls and the gym at our church building, for one)! And then the due date (Sunday, January 26) came...and went. I taught preschool Spanish the next morning and violin lessons that afternoon. We began watching the weather reports very closely as they were predicting ice accumulation of a couple of inches, topped by 2-5 inches of snow on Tuesday evening. A little nervewracking when you have a 45-50 minute drive to the hospital.

My parents arrived from Costa Rica on Tuesday afternoon and we made the decision to leave the girls with them and get a hotel room close to the hospital just in case anything were to happen. And while the roads never got quite as bad as they had predicted, it was definitely a good thing that we headed into Columbia because things certainly picked up Wednesday morning. By lunchtime I was feeling some pretty strong and regular contractions. We found a couple of stores that were open (most were closed due to the snow and ice), and tried to get things moving by walking up and down aisles. We got decorating ideas in Target, found a couple of supplies for Anna Kate's birthday party in Michaels, and looked at new bedspreads in Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It was there that things started to change a little bit. While I wasn't in any real pain yet, I certainly had to concentrate a little more on the contractions as they came. I also looked at Luke and asked him if he was hot because I was sweltering. He looked at me like I was insane, seeing as how it was 15 degrees outside. I told him I thought maybe we should head back to the hotel. We stopped really fast through Starbucks where Luke got a mocha and I got an iced coffee (yes, the barista also thought I was crazy).

Oh, and just in case you were wondering what Anna Kate and Caroline were doing this whole time, they were having the time of their little lives playing in the snow with Grandma and Grandpa. Thanks Mom and Dad!

We arrived back at the hotel around 3pm and I bounced on my birth ball and walked up and down the hallway for the next 2 hours. Luke meticulously timed the contractions which were consistent at 5 minutes apart. We called the midwife who said to go ahead and come on in to the hospital. When we arrived, the nurses took one look at me and said I didn't look like I was in active labor because I didn't look like I was in pain (which I wasn't). But after examining me and monitoring my contractions for a few minutes, they changed their minds!

And then things started to slow down. Contractions remained regular all through the night, but I just wasn't able to progress toward transition. As it turns out, Eleanor had shifted back into a posterior position (which she had been in a couple of weeks earlier), which can cause contractions to be less effective. Around 4am, my midwife suggested a small procedure to gently prick the bag of waters to see if it was ready to rupture. If so, she said that my water would break and baby would be here in no time. If not, we had nothing to lose anyway. So that's what we did. And then things really started to speed up!

She did that at 4am and my water broke immediately. Contractions started to get painful for the first time (but not unbearable), and Luke and my doula (birth helper, for those of you who don't know) were fantastic at helping me through them. Side note here: Luke did sleep (albeit in a very uncomfortable chair) for a few hours before labor became intense. I wasn't able to sleep because I was just too anxious and excited. The funny thing is that I could tell that my midwife and doula didn't expect him to be much help when the time actually came. But he certainly showed them! He was a champ and I couldn't have done it without him. In fact, he did so well that they all said they wanted to hire him for the doula program by the end of it!

Anyway, back to the story...around 5:30 or 6am, things became really intense. I was having a lot of lower back pain (due to Eleanor's position), and it was obvious that I was going through transition. I stopped talking much and became a lot more inward-focused. Luke put on the music that I had chosen to help me through this part of labor. Luke and Dawn (my doula) and Donna (my midwife) didn't leave my side from this point on.

Another side note here: I do need to say that I think I did a lot better handling the pain this time! At Anna Kate's birth, I remember Luke being so concerned about whoever was in the room next door that he asked the nurse if the walls were soundproof. At Caroline's birth, I told everyone just moments before she was born that I didn't want to do this anymore and that I was going home. This time, I only screamed one time and even that was into a pillow. I did, about 30 minutes before Eleanor was born, ask everyone to tell me that it was too late to get an epidural. At which point, I heard a whole chorus of "It's too late"s and then we all moved on =)

Around 6:30 I glanced at the clock and started to get really nervous because everyone's shift changes at 7am. I knew that the new nurses and the next midwife on call would be wonderful, but the others had helped me so much this far and I didn't want to make such a major transition right as baby was being born. But they were all fantastic and EVERYONE stayed! In fact, the next midwife, Beverly, was so excited about being there that she came in as well and she and Donna worked together to help me deliver Eleanor. They were so helpful with helping me figure out the best positions for labor and delivery (more upright and never flat on my back) so that I could deliver a big baby without the use of instrumental assistance (which I had needed with Anna Kate and Caroline). And at 7:37am, she made her grand entrance into the world. I was able to pull her up to my chest myself and just hold her for the next 15 minutes or so without anyone messing with her! They did a little nose and mouth suctioning right there, but then let us begin to bond with no interruptions. It was such a special time for me to hold her and nurse her and love on her and thank God for her. After so many weeks of uncertainty about her health last summer and after so many months of waiting for her, this was such a gift.

After about 15 minutes, Luke cut the cord and they took her over to the scale to weigh her. 9 pounds even and 20 inches long!

I finally let Daddy hold her. Apparently, I was a little bit of a baby hog for the first two hours, since the clock on the wall says 9:30 and this was the first time he had held her. Sorry, Luke!


I truly cannot say enough good things about my midwives and all of the staff at Lexington Medical. Obviously, the most important thing is that both mother and baby are safe, but it truly was the desire of my heart to be able to give birth completely naturally, with no interventions, and by God's grace that's exactly what they helped me to do. I also cannot get over how much easier this recovery has been compared to my last two. God has been so good to us.

We stayed there in the delivery room for a couple hours and then were transferred over to the recovery and postpartum room. While I was allowed to eat/drink in moderation during labor (granola bars, popsicles, water, juice, etc.), I hadn't had a real meal in nearly 24 hours and I was starving. They brought me a wonderful french toast breakfast and then Eleanor and I settled in for a nice long nap.

Eleanor received her first visitor (my good friend Rebekah) that afternoon and then came the moment we had all been waiting for. My mom brought Anna Kate and Caroline to meet their new baby sister! Anna Kate was a little more tentative at first, wanting to make sure that everyone was safe and healthy. Caroline jumped right in and wanted to hold Eleanor and kept saying, "Baby Eleanor LOVES me! And I love her too!"

Luke's parents came to visit that evening and were able to meet and hold their third granddaughter before heading back to our house to provide reinforcements for my mom with the two big girls!

Our night in the hospital went pretty decent (as long as Eleanor was on my chest!), and the next morning I was feeling so well and Eleanor was doing so well that my midwife and the pediatrician said they would go ahead and discharge us! So, 24 hours after birth, we were on our way home.

The past couple days have been filled with sweet snuggles with this precious miracle.


Thank you, Lord, for your indescribable blessings toward us.