William Turns Two

We celebrated William’s second birthday on Sunday. For his first birthday a year ago, we had, as many parents do, sent out invitations to our friends and hosted a party at our house which included a cake smash and lots of new toys. I think first birthdays are more for the parents than anyone else– a celebration of making it through the first year with a baby and still having friends and enough sanity left to host a decent party… not to mention a good excuse to finally clean your house after a year of spit-up on the couch and other baby messes.

Will’s second birthday party was, in contrast, pretty low-key. I look at toddler birthdays as opportunities to practice my cake making and party decorating skills before William starts to want to invite friends to his birthday parties. I’m pretty happy with the way Sunday turned out. It’s nothing you would see going viral on Pinterest, but it was colorful and bright and happy.

I had been pretty sick the day before, so Will had spent the night with Garrett’s parents. When he came in the door on Sunday, the first thing he saw was the little pile of presents. So that’s what we did first. (Actually the first thing he saw was the bright colored tissue paper garlands hanging from the ceilings all throughout the common areas of the house, which he called “birthday rainbow”.)

William's 2nd birthdayChristmas wrapping paper. It’s what we had.

My sister sent this epic fort that even has it’s own little ball pit. She and I both agree that it would’ve been awesome to have something like this when we were kids. Will loved it, the cat loved it, the dog would too if we let her, and Garrett and I love that it folds up completely flat and comes with storage containers!

William's 2nd birthdayWilliam's 2nd birthdayGarrett and I gave him a sturdy little cover for the iPad. More and more lately, Will has become the main user of our tablet, so we figured it was time to case it in something a bit more rugged and toddler-friendly. This one seemed to fit the bill. We also rearranged the apps so that all of his are right up front on the first screen and the “grown-up” apps are on subsequent screens. When he opened this one, the birthday celebrations nearly came to a halt as he suddenly decided he’d rather watch Paw Patrol than have a birthday.

William's 2nd birthdayWill seemed to absolutely love every gift that he got, but certainly the showstopper gift of the day was the balance bike from Garrett’s parents.

William's 2nd birthday William's 2nd birthdayAfter presents, it was time for lunch and then, of course, CAKE!! I made a chocolate cake with cream cheese filling (I dyed it orange to make it look something like lava) and dark chocolate ganache on top, and then topped it with a couple of candles and a toy dinosaur.

William's 2nd birthdayThe Christmas wrapping paper made another appearance, this time in the form of a hastily made tiny dinosaur birthday hat– though you really can’t tell.

William's 2nd birthdayWilliam's 2nd birthdayAfter cake, we took Will outside to take his new bike for a spin. At first he really struggled with the whole concept of sitting on the seat and just kind of walked with it between his legs. He’s starting to get the hang of it, though, and I’m confident he’ll be cruising on that thing in no time.

William's 2nd birthday William's 2nd birthday William's 2nd birthdayAfter that, Will was more than ready for a nap, so that pretty much concluded the festivities.

Now that William is two, I’m trying to counteract some of the terrible-ness with “You’re two now, which means you’re not a baby– you’re a boy so…..” sit at the table, eat what mom and dad eat, pretty much do whatever we say, etc. Hah. We’ll see how it goes.

Welcome Winter: A Birth Story

Winter Grace

Winter Grace Cox was born in the early hours of the morning on a snowy Christmas Day.

She was due on December 20, but for most of my pregnancy I never even expected to make it to my due date. When I was pregnant with William, I was induced early due to high blood pressure, so I (and my midwives as well) just kind of assumed that my blood pressure would go up again during this pregnancy and I would once again be induced early to avoid the complications of going into labor naturally with hypertension. When my blood pressure was still normal well into the third trimester, I started to prepare myself mentally to go into labor naturally– a first for me! I still never really thought I’d go past my due date though, because seriously, what woman wants to be pregnant more than 40 weeks?!

I was sure of one thing though. I did not want to have a baby on Christmas. With family coming into town and all the holiday festivities planned out, I was hoping to be out of the hospital and feeling somewhat back to normal by Christmas so I could enjoy it along with everyone else, while people ooh-ed and ahh-ed over our newborn baby. So strong was my desire to not have a Christmas baby, I think that I may have created a mental block preventing myself from relaxing and going into labor before then. Because as Christmas Eve rolled around and I was still pregnant, I finally surrendered to the fact that we might have a Christmas baby after all, and that would be much better than staying pregnant forever. And sure enough, that night, I went into labor.

We ate dinner with Garrett’s family at his parents’ house on Christmas Eve and left William to stay there overnight just in case. That night, I woke up at 1:45am with painful contractions and started timing them. After some walking around the house, and convincing myself that I really was in labor, I woke Garrett at about 2:15. I called the midwife who told me that I could probably labor at home for a while before coming to the hospital. My gut feeling, though, was to go sooner rather than later. I planned on having a water birth, and I knew they would need time to set up the birthing tub. Plus the idea of sitting in a warm tub sounded quite nice and there wasn’t really anything else to do in the middle of the night, so Garrett and I gathered up a few things and headed out.

It was snowing as we drove to the hospital, so Garrett drove very smoothly and cautiously as I did my best to relax through the contractions. We knew ahead of time that we wanted to name our daughter Winter, although we hadn’t told anyone. We had joked about how we’d be able to tell each other “Winter is coming” in ominous tones as I went into labor, but I don’t think either one of us actually said it that night.

As it turns out, it was a good thing we went to the hospital when we did, because my labor was quite short. It was about 3 am when we arrived and I was already dilated to about 7 or 8 cm. A nurse got to work right away setting up the birthing tub, but I guess it took longer than usual– something about a smaller hose than usual and water temperature not being quite right… I wasn’t really paying attention. The contractions were so intense and painful that I wasn’t really upset about not being in the tub. It was nice to be able to relax completely on the bed during the short breaks that I was getting between them.

When the birthing tub was finally ready, we could all tell I was getting really close to being ready to push. My water hadn’t broken yet, though, so the midwife informed me that she was going to break my water and then I was going to immediately get into the tub and have the baby. Sounded simple enough. Except the instant my water broke I felt the unmistakable urge to push and I was not going anywhere. Soooo… my water birth didn’t happen, but it’s okay. After ten minutes or so of pushing, Winter was born, just two and a half hours after the labor contractions had woken me up.

I didn’t get to hold her right away. The cord had been wrapped around her neck and she was having some difficulty breathing so they whisked her away pretty quickly. I had caught a glimpse of her as she came out and landed on the bed, thanks to my hands-and-knees birthing position (waaayyy better than giving birth on my back as I did with William!), and I think I said something profound like “I see her!” right before they took her away. A nurse and doctor from the NICU came in to help with getting her breathing– something that seems scary, but no one was acting too worried, so I tried to stay calm as well. Garrett was by her side giving me updates and it was certainly a relief when we heard her cry. Despite all her difficulty getting a start on life outside the womb, she was surprisingly pink! Once she was doing a bit better, they put her on my chest for some skin-to-skin and I finally got a proper look at her.

Winter and Dad

We spent Christmas Day in the hospital, but it didn’t really feel like Christmas. No one came to visit us because of the snow, but it was very peaceful. After a stressful holiday season of wondering when the baby was going to come and how things were going to work with family plans and such, it was nice to finally just relax knowing that everything had gone well.

A Favorite Family Recipe: Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend! Just in case you haven’t already had your fill of holiday food, I’ve decided to share one of my all-time favorite family recipes.

Recipe: Baked Sweet Potatoes With Coconut

I have no intention of turning this into a food blog– I just don’t have the kitchen skills to handle that. But I do believe in sharing favorite recipes. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to create that perfect taste from a recipe that someone took with them to the grave. And that’s why I was thrilled when my Aunt Jeanie gave me permission to share this amazing recipe here on my blog. Because good food should be shared!

But first, a little Thanksgiving recap. Garrett and Will and I spent the day with Garrett’s family. When we left our home in Salt Lake, it was pretty mild outside. Chilly, but pleasant and sunny, and not a single snowflake on the ground. When we got to Garrett’s parents’ house 40 minutes north of us, this is what it looked like:

Cox Family Thanksgiving 2015

Helloooo, winter! Personally, I love snow. I love cold white winters, so I didn’t mind this at all. But we didn’t come super prepared. Neither Garrett nor I had proper shoes for traipsing through snow, and Will definitely wasn’t equipped to play in the snow. All he had on were canvas sneakers which immediately got soaked, and although I was working on knitting a pair of mittens for him, only one was complete, so his hands froze. He did have a hat, though, which he refused to wear. I felt terrible. Will’s initial excitement over the snow quickly turned to tears and we ended up heading inside for some warm cuddles and by the fire while his pants, socks, and shoes dried out and his hands and feet thawed. Not one of my finest moments in parenting.

Cox Family Thanksgiving 2015

Garrett and I went shopping in the evening to catch some of the late-night sales while everyone else slept off their food comas, and we made sure to purchase a good pair of snow boots for Will which he has insisted on wearing around the house ever since. I also finished knitting that pair of mittens this weekend, so hopefully we won’t have any repeats of Thursday any time soon.

Okay, so back to the sweet potatoes. These are seriously soooo easy to make and soooo good. And if you ever had a craving for a sweet potato bake that’s not made with brown sugar, pecans, or marshmallows, this one is for you.

Cox Family Thanksgiving 2015

Check out that baby bump hanging over the counter! I have to be super careful when cooking these days so I don’t burn it on the stove!

This recipe has become my go-to recipe for any holiday season gatherings, whether they be for family or church or potlucks, or whatever. Since it always goes so fast, I like to cook enough sweet potatoes for 2 recipes (about 6 cups, so 5 to 6 sweet potatoes, depending on their size). That way I can make a second batch just for me and the immediate family once the first one has been devoured. You can save yourself a lot of prep time on the day you want to make these by baking the sweet potatoes a day or two ahead of time, mashing and preportioning them into 3 cups, and storing them in the fridge or freezer until needed.

Recipe: Baked Sweet Potatoes With Coconut

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut

(vegetarian, gluten free)

Prep time: 10 minutes (+ 1 hour if you start with uncooked sweet potatoes)
Bake time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hr, 10 min
Servings: 8

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (lumpy is okay)
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound butter, softened or melted
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup shredded coconut*
5 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Using an electric mixer or crank beater, beat the first 3 ingredients together until the butter and sugar are completely mixed in with the potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into a 3 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350° for 1 hour or until set. And that’s it! So easy!

*I always use sweetened shredded coconut, because it’s cheap and easy to find. But feel free to use the unsweetened stuff, especially if you’re looking for ways to cut back on sugar a little. This dish is already very sweet.

 

So there you have it– a new, slightly different recipe to sweeten up your holiday meals. If you try it, let me know what you think in the comments below!

Fall Nest Update

Well, so much for blogging more regularly! I’m trying– I promise! The past roughly 6 weeks have been pretty eventful, and there have been a lot of changes around here, and I often either didn’t feel like I had time to write, or if I did have time, I didn’t know what to say. So here’s what’s been going on:

Garrett is Back!

For the safety and security reasons, I wasn’t super public about the fact that Garrett had gone on a 6-month deployment to the Middle East. Not that I kept it secret or anything– it’s just not the kind of thing you share publicly on the internet for anyone and everyone to see. Now that he’s back, though, I feel totally comfortable talking about the fact that I just spent 6 months this year solo parenting! Whew! Not easy.

Garrett got back early in October. Before going to the airport to pick him up, I had all these pictures in my mind of a big airport “Welcome Home!” with people holding signs and crying and photographers taking beautiful candid photos of emotional reunions. In reality, it went something like this:

I went to the airport and found a seat in the baggage claim area where I could wait. It was late and Will was in his PJs and acting super groggy and confused since I had woken him up to go. The girl sitting next to me was waiting for her husband too, but had apparently left her kids with their grandparents for the night. I waited for what seemed like forever, and then Garrett called and was like, “Where are you?”

And I was like, “In baggage claim waiting for you.”

And he was like, “I already have my bags. I didn’t see you though. I’m outside.”

So it turned out there are multiple terminals and I was at the wrong one. I went out to where he said he was and I could see him from a distance and then had to do that awkward thing where we could both see each other, but we were still so far away from each other that it was weird to maintain eye contact the entire time, but it also felt weird not to. Pretty sure I gave an awkward wave in there somewhere. When we finally caught up to each other we hugged (obviously) and I handed Will over to his dad. And then we headed to the car. No sappy music in the background. No onlookers clapping and getting teary-eyed. He wasn’t even wearing his uniform, so he could’ve been coming back from a 2-day business trip for all anyone knew. But it was still special for us and it felt so good to know he was home and safe.

We spent the next several days just soaking up each other’s company and spending time together as a family, including a trip with Will to the petting zoo.

Will and Garrett at Gardner Village petting zoo

Will and Garrett at Gardner Village petting zoo

Will and the horse at Gardner Village petting zoo

Garrett was on leave until the end of October and wasn’t in a rush to go back to his regular job, so we got to spend tons of time together. And to take advantage of all that spare time…. [drumroll]…

We redid our kitchen!

Because nothing brings more joy to a home than a major renovation project.

But seriously, the timing was good. It would’ve taken us much longer if we had tackled the project after Garrett went back to work, or after we had a newborn to take care of. Start to finish, it took us almost exactly one month. That includes a lot of days spent not actually doing anything kitchen related, like waiting for countertop installation and whatnot. We probably spent about a week and a half to two week’s worth of days actually working on it. I’ll share pictures and full details later.

Baby Cox #2 is due in a month!

I was induced a week early with Will because my blood pressure was high, and we were expecting pretty much the same thing this time around, but so far my blood pressure has been totally normal. Which means we’re planning on me going into labor naturally this time!

It was nice to schedule it last time and know exactly when the baby was coming. But I’m excited to have a more natural experience this time, and hopefully less intense, since people say induction really kicks your but compared to naturally occurring labor. We’ll see.

In addition to our kitchen renovation, I’ve been getting the house ready for a newborn. I actually just started yesterday when it occurred to me that there wasn’t a ton of time left and I better get to work with the nesting thing. Since we don’t know when exactly this baby will be born, I want to make sure that once the house is ready, it stays that way so I can feel good about coming home.

So there you have it. In a nutshell, the recent happenings in the Cox family nest. I can’t wait to post some before and after pictures of our kitchen, so stay tuned!