January 15, 2015

Carlsbad, CA


A couple years ago my dad threw out an idea about doing a family vacation with everyone. We all thought it sounded fun to be together, but weren't sure what we could do that would be good for everyone. Just like he does, my dad figured it out. Carlsbad, California. Golf and biking for the boys, swim and shopping for the girls and LEGOLAND for the kids. Add an amazing house right on the beach and we were sold. Finding a time that worked for everyone was a near miracle, but we did it. And it worked out perfectly because Jamie and Taylor had a fire in their New York apartment and were definitely looking for a break from the chaos of clean-up and apartment hunting.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous with all of us in the close quarters for a week that we all might cramp each other's style. But the house was so great and we all had plenty of room--we could have stayed for another week! 


It had been 5 years since our last family photo. So we threw one together. When the tripod didn't work out my dad made friends with the construction worker in the house next door and asked him to shoot the shot. He did great, with a little help from Jamie's mad photoshop skills.



One of the best things we did was to buy a 5 day pass to Legoland. We found a deal so it was only $89--less than one day at Disneyland! The beach house was literally 5 minutes away, so it was easy to go for a few hours at a time. Ella went on the big roller coaster. It was a little scarier than I thought it would be, and as we were walking out I was happy when she told me she LOVED it. When I saw this picture I about died laughing. 


So the next time we went she was determined to get a smile. It took a few times (once she had a smile, but eyes were closed). Grandpa was happy to shell out the $15 for this keepsake.


We had a great time at the beach. The house was right on the beach, but a few days the tide was too high so we went down the street.



While the girls beached, the boys golfed. Taylor and Ryan vs Chris and Paul. While Taylor and Ryan have historically killed it, it was not their day and Paul and Chris took home the trophy (which, ironically, Taylor saw in the pro shop and suggested they buy--before he lost, of course.)



The girls and I walked around the San Diego Temple grounds. Ella told Anna, "It's like church, only happier." Then later in the afternoon she told Anna that it was like Elsa's ice castle...


View from the house. Pictures never do it justice.


About halfway through the trip Taylor went to Wal-Mart. He came home with a plan. We were going to have a boat making contest with popsicle sticks. There was a little scoffing at first, but by the end we were all in. While it's a little unclear who actually won, Jamie and Kimmy's was the winner for most sea-worthy, even if it did look like a sandwich from a vending machine. 



(I just had a baby...remember that when you look at those hips!)

We had one great day of low tide, and we made the most of it!







corn field in the making

making a farm with grandpa--back to his roots

As a Thank You to the owners of the beach house we made this movie (Ryan brought his helicopter).


Thank You from Ryan Packer on Vimeo.

January 14, 2015

San Anna-tonio

My parents really are the best. Every year my dad has meetings in San Antonio in September. They stay at a hotel with a really really great pool and lazy river. They've taken Ella twice, I've gone once,and this year they took Anna. She had been acting out a bit after Sara was born, and this was just what the middle child (between a diabetic and a newborn) needed. She had so much fun. So much. And as soon as she came home, her attitude totally changed and she went back to being the sweet little thing that we love.





January 4, 2015

Sara's newborn pictures

I hadn't ever done real newborn photos for my girls, but the ones the hospital took weren't my favorite. So when Sara was 2 weeks I called my friend and favorite photographer Lisa Harbertson to see if she could get us in. Since I already paid for pictures at the hospital, I just did a one hour mini-shoot with Lisa. But Sara did not want to fall asleep. I was fine just going with what we had, but not Lisa! She was determined to get some good shots. She was amazingly patient and her skills as a former NICU nurse shone through. I was so happy that we held out because the sleeping shots are my favorite. 










November 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ella Jane!

With Ella's birthday 2 weeks after Sara's, I knew that I wouldn't be up for a mom-intensive party. Ella wanted a Frozen party (surprise, surprise) so we called in the big guns. Elsa and Anna. These princesses saved the day. They sang songs, read stories, made snow (real snow, mom. It almost melts.), gave out stickers and did glitter tattoos. They were the best.  We also played "Don't eat Olaf" which the kids loved. The game didn't make a ton of sense to me, but the kids loved it. It's all about knowing your audience, I suppose.





I had great plans to take each girl's picture with Elsa and Anna, print it out, and take it home in a foam picture frame that they had decorated. But of course, our printer decided to wig out and not print properly, so all the photos looked like they had a crazy 70s filter on them. 

It was short and sweet and a fun party. Anna is already planning her Frozen birthday party!


September 23, 2014

Sara Elizabeth Packer

The birth story. For the books.

I had my 39 week OB visit on Wednesday August 13th. After 2 weeks of being dilated to a 1 didn't expect much, so I was pleasantly surprised to have progressed to a 3.  Dr. Gravelle stripped my membranes and said she expected I would deliver within the week. 

After a day of getting things done (oil changed, pedicure, buying food for Ella's school lunches in case I wasn't home for the first day of school) I started to have contractions in the evening. They were fairly regular, every 10 minutes of so, and after some hemming and hawing I decided this might be the real deal (or maybe it's not! I don't know!) and around 10 pm I called my mom. She came down and we all settled in for the night. The contractions were still consistent but they weren't getting stronger. But it was enough that I couldn't sleep. Around midnight they started getting a little stronger and more painful. I downloaded an app to track them and they were fairly consistent. Around 3 am I decided it was go time and started to get ready to go to the hospital. I packed my bag, combed my hair, brushed my teeth and was ready. But before waking up Ryan and my mom I decided to lay down and time them again to make sure they were still close together. And just like that, nothing. They completely stopped. So I went to bed and slept for a few hours until the girls woke me up at 7. After a bit I realized that I wasn't feeling the baby move. I couldn't decide if this was the norm and for the morning time or if it was something to worry about. I called my friend Amber (who is an OB) to get her opinion. At this point I was starting to feel a little crazy because I wasn't sure if I should go it, if I wanted to go in, if I was being dramatic, if I was being negligent... I was so glad when Amber gently chastised me for not going in the night before and told me to go to the hospital. Yes. Direction. So  Ryan and I packed our bags, left the girls with Grandma Sue and headed to the hospital.



Screen shots of the app I used to monitor my contractions.

As we pulled into the parking lot of IMC 40 minutes later the baby started kicking and moving all over the place. Of course she did. But since we were already there, and since Amber told me to (again, thank you Amber!!) we checked in. They did a non-stress test, and baby's heart rate was a-okay. Then they did an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid level. It was a 4 (normal is 8-18) so she checked again. This time she got a 5, so she went to see what Dr. Gravelle wanted to do. At this point I was really hoping to be admitted and induced.  My mom was already with the kids, Ella started school in 5 days, this would be an easy birthday to remember (8-14-14)...and above all I would stop having to figure out if I was in labor or not! When the nurse came back and told me that it was a go I was thrilled.

There were 21 deliveries at IMC that day (which is a lot for them) so things were a little slow to get started. But once they gave me a whiff of pitocin, my body responded and the contractions started coming. After about an hour or so, around 1:00 pm I asked for the epidural. They were busy, so it took a little while for them to come. After he was done the Anesthesiologist told me that he was about to go into a c-section, so if the epidural wasn't working I needed to tell him within the next 10 minutes. It worked beautifully except for a 3 inch circle on my left lower abdomen. I couldn't feel a thing anywhere else, but in that circle I could feel the full force of the contraction. The nurse had me lay on my left side to try and coax the medication down, and I think given more time it may have worked. But because of the pending c-section I had them call the Anesthesiologist back. He re-dosed me, and very quickly the circle of pain dissipated. But the increased medication made it so that (once again!) the epidural was too strong and I couldn't feel a thing or move my legs. It is such a weird feeling to see your bent knees flop down if they aren't supported and not be able to do a thing about it.

Things kept progressing quickly. Around 2 the nurse checked me, and I was dilated to a 6. She checked again at the end of her assessment (about 20 minutes later), and by that time I was a 9! The contractions continued, although I was blissfully unaware of them because of the epidural. Dr. Gravelle came in around 3:30 (maybe--I'm really not sure) and it was go time. It was frustrating to push but not be able to feel anything, but everything seemed to be going well. But when the head was coming out things started to get a little concerning. I wasn't totally sure what was going on, but fairly quickly the room filled up with people and when I saw the NICU team was there I knew that there was an issue. Dr. Gravelle told me that the baby's heart rate had dropped to the 50s, and "we can either do a c-section or get aggressive with forceps." I told her to do whatever she needed to, but I was fine with forceps. She worked quickly and after a few pushes (and a lot of tearing) we had a baby (3:51 pm was the official time). She did great and I was so relieved to hear her cry. Although I was never really that worried. Dr. Gravelle did a great job. When they weighed her we were shocked to find out how big she was--8 lbs 4 ounces and 20.5 inches.



The baby was a little worse for wear, and her eyes were puffy and swollen and she had some forceps marks on her. She wasn't our cutest baby--but with a little time the swelling went down and she looked much better.




She was a fairly good baby. She nursed well, and slept relatively well. I had good nurses and overall the hospital experience was great.

With Ella and Anna we had their names mostly picked out before they were born. But we really had no clue what this little one was to be called. I made a list of possibilities the day before, and none of them really jumped out. I loved the name Jane, but we used it for Ella's middle name. I still thought it might be okay, but Ryan thought it would be weird. Ryan and I spent an afternoon going through various websites trying to narrow it down with little success. At the end he said that maybe Jane would work. I jumped on it and started calling her Jane Elizabeth. But I wasn't 100% certain, so we didn't fill out the birth certificate. Once we got home I realized that it wasn't going to work. Ryan would call for "Ella Jane" and I would address the baby as Jane and it was just weird. So we (I--Ryan really left it up to me) tried out Elizabeth. But it just was such a mouthful for me. And I didn't love any of the nicknames. Not knowing her name was really stressing me out. I would lie awake at night pondering it. I kept coming back to the name Sara, even though it wasn't one of my initial favorites. But it started to grow on me, and pretty soon I was calling her Sara Elizabeth. The girls weren't so sure, and they called her Abby for a few days. But I felt really good about it, and a little over a week after she was born I made it Instagram official.












June 26, 2014

Lobster and Lightbulbs

Less than 2 years after moving in, all six of the lightbulbs in our living room have burned out. Not that big of a deal, except that our ceilings are crazy tall and changing them is no easy task. Brett offered to come over with his 16 foot ladder and help us out. Ryan was in Boston yesterday and brought home a couple of live lobster, so we decided to make a night of it. Lobster and lightbulbs.  None of us were lobster experts, so Ryan printed off instruction sheets for each of us on how to crack it open. We all decided that next time maybe we should just go to Boston and have someone extract the meat for us. 

Thanks, Jess and Brett for the fun times and for bringing light back into our living room!



Testing out the waters. We used a light bulb changing pole as well.