Fun and fancy {mostly free!} things to try this summer.

Happy July! Here’s to the rest of the summer: grilling burgers, poolside relaxation, and backyard camping nights.  How dreamy. The only one of those things I’m about, however, is eating the burgers. Pooling it for me at this juncture in my life is an anxiety ridden chore. With a 6 year old and three children under the age of four, and the four year old has autism, and the youngest is an infant, it’s like taking your cats to the pool. No thank you. Garden hose for the Svells. And mama doesn’t camp. That’s what Dads are for.

Big summer plans aside, I put together a list of low-cost, low key things to do especially on rainy days, nights after the children go to bed, and on days when the heat is like walking through hot, ragged, mouth-breathing dragon breath, and not even the dog wants to be out.

1. Visit LEGO Americana Roadshow. 

I have 4 boys.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Flashback to when Lexington had a manageable collection.

We now have enough LEGOs to build a fifth child –and I’m not heading up that operation, so don’t even think about putting that idea into Lexington’s head because he. will. build. a new brother.
When LEGO Americana Roadshow contacted me to write about their event at the Kenwood Towne Center here in Cincinnati, I was like now that I will do. Why? Because it’s not only the LEGO Store at the Kenwood mall (sweaty adults, grubby kid’s hands everywhere.), but a traveling roadshow which sets up “replicas of iconic buildings and architectural structures” of American landmarks on large scale, throughout the mall.
You know what I’m thinking?
I know you do.
I’m thinking a cup of Auntie Anne’s soft pretzel bites in one hand, a fountain drink in the cup holder of the stroller, 2 of my children contained inside, while the youngest sleeps in a baby sling, and the oldest gawks and gasps because for once, EVERYTHING IS AWESOME at the place Mommy and Daddy like to shop. Makes for a good afternoon inside.
The bingo is that it’s an educational trip because SO LANDMARKS. MUCH AMERICAN.  In fact, I was just looking at the website and noticed a little box for teachers (and you better believe we are teachers too, parents!) and behold, a lesson plan you can download. Summer school? Done.  Since we’re starting homeschool this autumn, I’ll be printing that out for practice.
Guilt-free trip, right there.  And!  It’s free, of course. Happy day.
I’m going.
LEGO Americana Roadshow will be at The Kenwood Towne Centre during July, the 4th through the 19th.   For more info and pictures, HERE is the link to the event.

Stay tuned for my gram pics.  You know I’m good for it. Wink.

To see if LEGO AR is coming to you, click here for their schedule.

2. Make your own guacamole.

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I was such a H8er for the guac until a few years ago -FINE. last year- and I discovered that’s because I’d never eaten fresh, homemade guacamole. First of all -and I’m aware of how brainless this is going to paint me- I didn’t know what made it green.  It’s smashed avocados! When you’re finished rolling your eyes, look at how simple this recipe is:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • Coarse sea salt

I think either my mom or my sister Kate shared this recipe with me and it changed my life.

Guac changed my life? If you don’t think it did, talk to me when I was between 3-9 months pregnant with Jude, because that’s all I wanted in life. It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe, and Rachel Ray’s got it on her website right here. She uses white onion. I use red.

Method: After removing the avocado from its shell, you smash it up in a bowl with a fork, stir in your chopped ingredients, squeeze some lime juice to taste, and sprinkle some salt. 5 minutes, done.

3. Drink this wine.

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Now that I run my own restaurant, Chez Svellinger, I don’t get to sample wine, umm, at all. So when I buy a new bottle, IT HAD BETTER BE GOOD, or else I cry on the inside about the $10-15 I wasted. Nope, not paying anymore than that. Top dollar these days. Hm. Maybe I should start a blog about wine, because I just realized I want to recommend all the wines paired with all the foods. But I wont. You’re welcome.
So this one: Sofia.
I found her at Target. She called out to me like Tolkien’s ring, and I bought it on a whim because I thought the bottle looked pretty.
It’s a red blend by Francis Coppola, and it’s perfect. Sweet, but not nectar-y. Dryish but not choke-me dry. Good with about anything. Goldfish crackers included. Sofia ‘my gurl.


4. Watch an underrated movie.

Walter Mitty BR

I’m 30. I’ve reached a point in my life where I understand that much of the hype around movies released from Hollywood involves story lines wrought with sex, party crashing, drugs, obnoxious, crude language for the sake of “humor”, rapid fire, non-stop dialogue, action and drama as fast and as overwhelming as possible because viewers get bored too quickly these days. It’s repetitive to a point of insanity.  I’m over it.
But every so often, a movie like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty comes along and gives you hope that Hollywood still might use their superpowers for good. Such an artistic, satisfying, feel-good movie. I hope you like it, too.

5. Learn to weave.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Plenty of room for improvement, but actually, a quick project!


How boho-hipster of me.
The itch to try this has been scratching me since the winter, and now that we have our own house to decorate, the itch got bad.

This is a great project to take on with your children. Lexington has been really interested in watching me and even directed the design of this wall hanging. Fine motor skill development.
With tools you’re likely to have laying around the house, you can weave something as small as a coaster, or as large as a blanket.  A Beautiful Mess blog has a DIY tutorial which I followed. Here’s the link.  And here’s a second link.

ABM blog gives a list of materials needed, but honestly, all you need is a loom (which I made out of cardboard) and something to weave.
What I made is a wall-hanging, because it looked easy. Which it was. And now I want to go full scale tapestry. ABM also has a tutorial on making your own pillow/pillow covers and I am all on board that train this summer, especially because our throw pillows are hideous. Look out, house of weave.

I woke up to a sky of gray and lots of rain, so today is a great day for any of the above. Enjoy your Independence Day weekend, America! Hearts and stars.


A Svell Update in 7 quick(ish) Takes

Since Jude was born, time has grabbed me by the collar and dragged me around like a rag doll.  Here’s an (rambling) update! Linking up with Kelly :)

I. Jude was baptized on Mother’s Day and it was the best

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Photo cred: my little bro, Philip. Jude’s Godparents, my Brother in law and my soon to be Sister in law are standing witness. I’m proud for Jude to have such strong examples of Christian faith. (this is the first time I got to hold one of our babies while he got baptized)


…even though I wore my first pair of spanx which did such a good job of holding postpartum me together that I didn’t feel my pants falling down underneath the shirtdress I was wearing. It wasn’t until we sat back down that I felt somewhat thug lyfe and realized my waistband had slouched to my thighs. hm. Shirtdress kept it a secret. But obviously I cannot. And unlike The Duchess of Cambridge, I did not look disturbingly fabulous, nevertheless my vanity has learned to shut up because how special is it to have your newborn baptized into the Catholic church on Mother’s Day? Most special. Best day.

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One for the wall, folks. You. look. good.

My wish of a photograph of mama with her boys in one frame, granted.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger


II. Jude is either the best baby, or I’ve reached baby-whisperer status.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Aside from some breastfeeding frustrations which have mostly worked themselves out, he truly takes a sad song and makes it better. But that’s not why we chose that name.  FYI, there is the less musical but possibly more interesting Saint Jude, cousin of Jesus and patron saint of impossible cases. Just saying.
Other than that, he stops the ladies in their tracks at the grocery store, has started giggling, and his pretty dimples have turned me into the worst cheek pincher. worst.

III. Emmett has learned to burp at will.

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Something we’ve learned from Emmett (4 yo with Autism, and recently discovered hyperlexia) is that when he wants to do something, he says “Hello, [insert action]”  e.g., “go to park!” and if there’s something he doesn’t want to do, he says, “GOODBYE, change your diaper*!”.
Craig and I use this way of speaking to get him to stop or start doing an action.  “Goodbye crying!” I’ll say, and he usually grows quiet.
So after sitting through Mass on Sunday listening to Emmett forcefully burp everything short of the ABC’s, we loaded into the car and asked Emmett to “Goodbye, burb”. His response:

*burps* “Hello, burp.” *burps again*

‘kay. Phase, pass soon, plz.
*[Yes, he’s still in diapers. needs larger ones asap. con’t find any. Another drama reserved for another day.]

IV. Lexington turned 6 this month and is facing the turmoil of balancing his inner dialogue with the outer.

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When asked to count silently** in his own head, he became distraught that his head preferred to be singing “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”

O, tumultuous year of 6.
**He often needs to know exactly how long a drive is going to take. So to help him understand the difference between minutes and seconds, we tell him to count to 60, fifteen times. Makes for a niiiice quiet drive. Never.

V. Collin says his favorite part of our new house is the snacks.


This year he’s picked up the torch of Accident Prone from Emmett. Which is fine. But I’m a wimp when it comes to dealing with blood– mainly, mouth injuries. I could lay down in overwhelm with the magnitude of empathy I absorb from Collin’s mouth trauma and sleep it off in PTSD land.
In January, he bashed one of his two front teeth inward.  Very slowly and painfully, it’s healed, but remained crooked and slightly wiggly.
Sunday (Father’s Day), he smacked his face into the tile floor and pretty much sealed the death deal with this same tooth.
I just want to swim in a pool of Margarita. But I can’t really, because it makes me sleepy and I’m not allowed to do THAT.

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Since writing this post on Tuesday, we’ve had Collin’s tooth extracted.

The positives: I don’t have to LOSE MY MIND when I catch him trying to chew on an ice cube 5 minutes after busting his face. The pediatric dentist we went to was a child’s wonderland, painted and decorated to the nines in anything a child would think is amazing. The dentist and the assistants moved and talked slowly and in a way that a 2 year old can understand instead of scaring the crap out of him. (I have zero patience for adults who fast talk and use figurative language toward children anymore. It’s probably because we have Emmett.) All around, for a tooth extraction on a 2 year old, it was an excellent experience.

I said to him I said, “Collin, I’m so proud of you. You are my hero of the day. You did such a great job.  You had to do something very difficult today, but you did it!”
To which he replied, ” …doing a poopy?”
Resilient, my people are.

The Negatives: Collin will be wanting for the complete set of front teeth for the next 4-5 Christmases. My heart breaks for him.  My hair loses its pigment for him.
Growing up has become, for me, the understanding that I have to undergo the trauma of seeing my child in trauma, and then having to come home with them expending that tornadic toddler energy and having to cook dinner, and be up throughout the night tending a breastfeeder, never able to sleep it off. And repeat. FOREVER.
Boy, this is tough stuff.
And boy, this is how parents gain weight because the only consolation for me has been drinks of caffeine and sugar. And cookies. And the rare occasion of escapism…

VI. …which right now comes in the form of Netflix on my iPhone while I’m nursing Jude down for the night. 

Netflix is relatively new to me so I’ve lined up a bunch of shows to get me through nursing sessions and nightmares of bloody teeth.  I started with Once Upon a Time.  Aside from some painfully (o, the pain) bad acting, the story line is exciting and I lurrrrrve beating the fairytale backstory and afterstory horse to death. Who knew the worlds of Rumplestiltskin, Maleficent, Snow White, and Captain Hook and so many others could ever collide? I eat that stuff right up.  Plus, it’s super light on bad language and sex stuff.

VII. A new house, you say??? 

Whereabouts? The East side of Cincinnati.

Turns out, I’m a Westsider. And I miss it so-ho-ho ba-ha-haaad. 

On Instagram I bellyached about having to shop at an IGA where they manually enter each thing by item code and there are no touchscreens and they ask “paper or plastic?” But the whole truth of the matter is that there is a Target, and Kroger and Walmart and Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle and Jungle Jims and HOBBY LOBBY and Michaels and Joanns and The Sleep Number Store and hashtag somuchmore all within 20 minutes of me.  So be quiet, Carolyn.
Quiet, you.

But the house! The funny thing about it is that there are a few things absurdly reminiscent of BUMPY BRIDGE HOUSE.

The much loathed Bumpy Bridge House.
Surrounded by trees? Check.
Arbor Island smack dab in the middle of the back yard? Check.
Large spiders? Check.
Dark, dungeonous kitchen? NOPE.
Peeling laminate all over the counters and cabinets? NOPE.
Terrbile flooding septic system which backs up into the house? NOPE.
Roaches? NOPE.
Mice setting up living quarters in each of our vehicles? NOPE.
Floody basement? NOPE.
Big pond of death in the front yardNOPE.
Burgundy everywhere? HELL NO.

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Surreal-ness. After being married and living in a different place nearly every year for 6 years, it feels weird to unpack into a place where we can say “Hmm, I don’t really care for it that way. Let’s change it, let’s build it, let’s fix it, let’s make it look beautiful.”
There’s something deeply satisfying about thinking of ways to organize and bring beauty to our home– and then doing it, which I’ve never felt I could while renting because my brain is small and I am limited by renter/ownership status of a thing. I know. I know there are books and blogs out there about that stuff, but it’s never been important enough to me. Until now. Here’s hoping that momentum sticks for the next 20+ years and I don’t keep the house stuck in a decorating era like so many poor, poor houses fall ill to. To? I don’t know how I’m supposed to finish that sentence.
It’s a great little house, and I’m a big fan of the kitchen and blue powder room. We are blessed and grateful.  Lexington’s still “imagination-ing” up a name for it. Stay tuned.


So that’s what’s up. Bye now.

On fairy tales and letting my children believe

I’m the parent who’s informed her children that Santa Claus is St. Nicholas, a Catholic Bishop who secretly gave to the poor. That St. Nicholas no longer lives on earth, but in heaven, with the Triune God, and that he prays with us and for us to Jesus. That the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and not a fat, unaffiliated man in red sneaking into our house with his flying reindeer to bestow either gifts or lumps of coal depending on if my children are “naughty or nice”.

I’m a harsh B, I know’t.

I particularly wanted to raise my children this way because little girl Carolyn was not only devastated when she learned that Santa Claus was a farce, she later experienced a period of extreme doubt in the existence of God.  Santa was a Lie.  The Tooth Fairy was a lie. So how on earth was I supposed to think that God isn’t just the same as Santa Claus?  That we “have to be good because God is watching us”? Ffft.
What if we had to follow this Holy Book of rules out of a governmental attempt to simply create order in this world, making dumb, blind sheep of us all?
Yeah, not a particularly jolly period for Carolyn.  It kind of made a conspiracy theorist out of me. (It’s also important to note that my Dad’s a convert from atheism, my mother’s a revert, and they themselves were still catching up on the God thing while raising us, and I am the oldest, and therefore the guinea pig, and so for me, Santa was the only “spiritual” being I knew until the 2nd grade.)
Fast forward though that messy time and Mommy Carolyn now hopes to aid in removing some part of that confusion for her own children.  Though I know everyone may suffer that trial eventually, I am hoping to remain a steady source of consistent teaching of Christ in this already deceptive world.

But the reason I’m writing isn’t to discuss whether its good or bad to let my children believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. To me it’s one of those parenting choices that each parent makes out of love and good intentions and I’m not about to argue with that, ever. The above reasons are ours, and I’m learning that parenting has a funny way of making me eat my words so bad.

But there’s the issue of fairy tales.  Of course our boys read fairy tales. But if we’re teaching them the truth about Santa, how are we supposed to approach fairy tales? Where’s the line to be drawn when letting our children grow in their wonder over fictional, magical characters? Is there a line to be drawn?

Through a succession of recent events, I’ve realized I have got to think this through deeper than fairy tales “yes” and Santa “no”. We can do this better.

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Lexington’s 6th birthday was this past weekend, and he woke up with a stuffy nose this morning.  Of course, he could be developing a cold, but I suspect his big boy teeth are coming in and he will soon lose his first baby tooth.  Hook explained the whole losing teeth thing, and that it’s a passage into growing up, Peter Pan.

To my chagrin, Lexington lit up. “Oh! I know what will happen! I remember!  I put my tooth under my pillow and then the next morning, a fairy will have left a coin for me!”

And I’m like –no. Nope.

Of course I didn’t interrupt him.  Of course I didn’t correct him.  I told him he’d get something special for his first lost tooth and left it at that.  He seemed satisfied and went back to playing with his LEGOs, but I was bothered that while he knows the truth about the man St. Nicholas, that there is no Easter Bunny, no weird leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day, he’d somehow come to the conclusion that there is a Tooth Fairy.

Not a half hour later, Lexington was rifling through one of the many boxes stacked in what is supposed to be the dining room of our new house (an update! I promise I’ll get to it!!), and he came into the kitchen with an old, tarnished tiara.  Some of the plastic crystals had fallen out of their setting.  The center of the tiara was missing a dangling fake diamond that once hung from the jeweled heart center.  It was my high school homecoming crown. Somehow, that sucker has remained in one piece 12 years after it was first placed on my pompous little cranium, and through multiple movings, and multiple boxes. I looked at the tiara, thrown briefly back to my school years and smiled.  The thing is old, I should pitch it, I thought. I’ve got 4 boys, after all, and boys just don’t care about that kind of “what mama did when she was your age” stuff.

I looked up and noticed that Lexington and Collin were staring at me with bated breath.

“Put it on, Mom!”

In the middle of the kitchen, my dirty hair pulled back into a ratty ponytail, wearing a t-shirt that hugs my post-baby belly a little more tightly than I like, and black leggings with gold sparkles woven into the cotton from JC Penny 2 Christmases ago, I rolled my eyes and put on the tiara.
What I saw broke my heart.

My boys’ eyes lit up in a way I’ve never seen: as if they were looking at a true, real princess. Complete awestruck silence. Big, wide eyes goggled up at me, and to them I could have been wearing Cinderella’s ball gown. Even Emmett stopped with his letters to look up at me.
My heart broke and I bent down to squeeze their little faces and give them kisses.  Collin got embarrassed (Oh! His face was the best!) and ran away. Moment over.

My heart broke because I’m SUCH a tired, lazy, mommy, and I know it for a fact.  But my boys don’t. They just love me.

I know reality.  Reality’s not a tooth fairy. There are no fairies in this world. I am not a queen of any kind and certainly not a princess (for some reason, I gather to be a prince or princess is more novel for children than to be a King or Queen). And princesses hold no more mystical power in this world than a grub. But to children, they do. And to me, I want them to, too.

There are the saints.  Those are the real deal. But the path they took to get there involves a Crown of Thorns. A personal crucifixion in some form or another. No glass slippers, at least as far as I know.
And reality, the kind of reality that rose Jesus in three days, that gets my children through the gates of Heaven is profoundly heavy, impossibly simple, and frighteningly sacrificial.

In this world evil is not black and white all the time.
It’s grey. It’s comfortable and easy and convenient. It’s disguised in glamour, and celebrated as a virtue. It’s reasoned and rationalized out of appearing evil at all. The worst of it: its existence is often denied, and instead defined as personal choice. For a child, that’s terribly troubling.

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It struck me today more than ever how impossible it’s going to be for me to teach my children the mystery of God and about their individual, unique purpose in this world without allowing them to discover the fairies, dragons, and magic in the story books in tandem with the lives of the saints.  Their tender hearts are to be molded by Craig and I, and we have to be so very purposeful about how we raise them –but not with a cold cut tongue of harsh reality from sun up to sundown.  They’ll meet that eventually, by hook or by crook.

And we don’t raise them that way. I never planned on raising them that way. I just hadn’t quite worked out how to use fiction for their eternal benefit.

We let them watch Disney movies and read magical stories to them. I am so impatient to finally introduce C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and J.K. Rowling to them, when the time comes. But I’m realizing that while I don’t have to (and probably won’t) encourage my boys to believe in Tooth Fairy/Santa/Easter Bunny stuff, I don’t have to squash out their sense of wonder over it.  Craig and I can direct their wonder to godly things. There’s a difference between reading fairy tales to my children and attempting to convince them that the characters are real and always watching us, “or else”.
The themes in these stories are very real and very important to remember.

G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”

Today I came full circle, knowing that while we will still retain our teaching on Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny etc., ever reminding our boys the reason we celebrate holidays, ever practicing our Catholic faith, we have got to let our children have some dragons, some fairies, some magic. Because it’s those beautiful stories we grew up knowing and cherishing, that I can reach my boys and point to Jesus with their messages.

But of course, you all knew that already didn’t you?  Queen Elsa, always a day behind, as youzhe.


Jude’s Birth Story

A long-y but a goodie.

I posted a video announcing Jude’s birth right here.  Music and everything.  One can also skip down to the bottom, it’s posted there too.
But if you’re up for the nitty gritty birth details (that’s why you’re here!) then, voila, my friends.

3 things first:

-I was nervous about labor going lightning fast because after birthing 3 children, mamas tend to have a certain muscle memory, we’ll term it ever so kindly.

-I was doubly nervous because after registering at this highly sought-after birthing center, isn’t it just the funniest thing, there are only THREE rooms in the place (but! They-are-planning-to-build-one-more! soon!). Oh goody. I droned on about my excitement over this situation here.

- And finally, I’d just completed a full six days of non-braxton, time-able, real contractions (<<<blogged it, naturally), which kept puttering off and vanishing like a phantom, leaving me zero roses and no pretty singing voice –which had completely exhausted me.  Six days.


So by the time Thursday, April 9th showed up, I looked like this:

property of Carolyn Svellinger

And two cares I did not give.

The ceremonial going-into-labor-shower&blowdry was 4 days gone, but contractions had increased overnight, along with the bat signal showing up in the wee hours of the morning.  I have a history of pushing out a baby within hours of losing a mucus plug, so I might’ve rightly panicked and told Craig it was hospital time. For real this time. (And trust me, I was rolling my own eyes about all of this early labor malarkey because only rookie preggers go to the hospital too soon, right? RIGHT. …)

We got there, that lovely, amazing birthing center, and spent 3 hours putzing about (in one of the prized 3 rooms, and boy were we proud as peacocks to have it).  Craig took more phone pictures of me than he ever has in his life, and I let my midwife check me for dilation: a whopping 3.5cm.

Title: Reclining Husband Feet 4EVR

The contractions had stole back into their lair, leaving me bristly and non-smiley.

We drove home, pitstopping at Chipotle for dat guacamole because by now I was also hangry. Vainessa stayed in the car while Craig went in to order (for what it’s worth I was wearing torn leggings as pants, a shirt not long enough to cover all that up, and a tank top as a bra. The image of proper feminine dress, I am.), and yikes, a few of these contractions were not very dandy.  Not dandy at all.

The closer we got to home, the more intense -albeit still far apart- my contractions became, and I grew more alarmed that we were driving away from the place of birthing. By the time we pulled into the driveway of my parent’s house, I was bracing myself through each contraction.  I was so pissed off at their 6 day swaggerings that I didn’t inform Craig, and instead barked at him to help the guac-breath’d buffalo out of the car.

The image of grace and gratitude, I am.

I took a shower, often having to get down on all fours to cope with these wraith-like contractions.
I had enough patience to dress myself in something other than Cinderella garb, but then needed to recoup in bed.

If you’ll remember, we’ve been living with my parents while we house hunt this spring. What you might not know is that Craig, the boys, and I have been sleeping in one room, with our beds pushed together into a megabed (which is precisely how we’ve slept for the past few years no matter where we’ve lived, and it works for us) but of note is the fact that I laid atop Pillow Mountain, writhing ever so pathetically; my long, dark, wet hair pulled over my face like the girl from The Ring, whilst my three children +manchild Craig wrestled giddily around me the entire time.

I don’t know how long I laid there, amidst the giggling feet and knocking heads and shrieky shrieks, but at some point I decided to dry my hair or else I would have to find a scythe and go a’swinging.  I got in front of the mirror, blowdryer in hand, and decided it needed to go with me to the car. right now.  But then I couldn’t take my next steps and I hit the ground. Real. Bad. Contraction –and then another, right on top of the previous.
As Emmett would say, GUD-BYE, BLOWDRYER!
I muttered to Craig something about the car and teetered out of the house, tossing my big belly in the backseat.

Commence the worst car ride ever.  By then, 5pm rush hour traffic had gathered for its daily cluster, and there was not one red light Craig did not catch. 30 minute drive turned to F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Worst car ride. Ever.



property of Carolyn Svellinger





If I’d’ve known that Craig was snapping car selfies with me in the background, keeled over the newly installed carseat, gasping for cool air wishing I could muster the spare brain cells to scream at him for the humid open-window-air whipping my damp, frizzy hair wildly and into my mouth, causing me to gag, I am convinced I would’ve lashed out violently.  At some point, the windows got rolled up and the AC saved a half fraction of my life.

Somehow, I made it into the hospital.  I couldn’t walk.  The contractions were double peaking and I was hyperventilating.  I ended up in a wheelchair and next thing I know I’m lurching myself out of it and into the birthing room I’d pranced about only hours earlier.

Amidst my state of chaos, I was taken aback by what I can only describe as a sacred scene meeting my eyes: a half circle of nurses stood silently and at the ready for my arrival.  They remained silent as I lumbered across the room, tearing my pants off.

I stopped just short of the bathroom with another contraction, and leaned against the doorway, my face scrunched in pain. I mentally armed myself for this battle: to be fought by myself and no one else. As understood from my previous births, I expected the nurses to begin bustling about doing absolutely nothing but merely sounding busy, but instead, the warm palm of my midwife met my lower back and she pressed firmly, relieving the pain by miles and miles, and I realized the whole nursing team had already completed their bustling; they were here fully and completely for me.

I opened my eyes as the contraction waned, made it to the toilet, and one of the nurses asked two questions to which I breathed YES: Shall we start the bath? and, Do you need help getting your top off?

Okay all you snide commenters about me leaving my modesty at the door, I did. I did.
You win, you always do.

Into the warm tub, lights dimmed, I went– and Princess Jasmine experienced a whole new world.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

By now, Aladdin had joined me from parking the car, and he took up the man-doula position of palm-pressing my back with each contraction.
My nurses remained silent and worked seamlessly– I allowed my eyes to stay closed as I focused inward, and they remained closed for most of my labor. I remember only seeing multiple hands and arms as I was helped while changing positions, given towels, helped in and out of the tub to use the toilet, and given sips of water from a cup. I cannot express enough how grateful I was to feel like they were part of me, totally tuned into what I might need at every moment. It was like I had a meganurse with ESP and 8 arms.

My midwife, Missy, was centering and grounding.  She helped me regain control of my breathing and get into various positions to provide relief.  She was encouraging at the right times and urged me to try something different with confidence, but not in the false cheerleader way that makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs. Missy had been there, and she was in the pain with me. Only she spoke, while the other nurses whispered quietly but mostly remained silent, monitoring the baby’s heartbeat in a way that I hardly noticed.  There was a unanimous presence there of reverence toward the laboring mother and the process of birth that I now remember with absolute awe and appreciation. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Suddenly, I was pushing. My breathing was controlled, and I was so impressed that I was channelling my energy into pushing in lieu of the crazy my last birth had been.
And then it happened:  I realized my fear of the stuck anterior cervical lip was coming true. again.

I was pushing, and the relief I was supposed to experience in that action was eclipsed by a supernatural pain and the baby was not descending.  I spent two hours in the water, but the last hour was spent pushing. I knew what was happening and told Missy.  She checked me under the water and confirmed that I was stuck at 9cm, my water bag was bulging, and not yet broken. I couldn’t believe this was happening again, and I lost my sense of control as each contraction persisted, more shockingly painful in new ways each time.

In this last hour, I bit Craig two times. Yes, the with-my-teeth kind of bite.  Once on the hand, and another time, I don’t know where, other than it was a large area of flesh.  I smacked water at him because he wasn’t putting pressure in the exact correct spot on my lower back.  I whinnied “DON’T TOUCH ME!” at least once to him. And then suddenly, I reached a weird state of rest. In this state, Craig spoke softly to me, and knowing we still hadn’t decided on the baby’s name, he whispered “Jude’s coming, Carolyn.  He’s so close.” My left shoulder angel was like darn right, thats his name. Right shoulder angel was like <3333333 

For about a half hour I floated on my back in a twilight state. I remember hearing a terrible thunderstorm railing against the hospital windows as we all waited silently in the dark bathroom.  Then a contraction would roar me to life and I couldn’t have stopped pushing if my life depended on it, and nothing could stop the guttural roar that erupted from the depths of my diaphragm.

But no progress.

After that half hour, the contractions picked back up into double-peak mode and I decided it was time for an epidural. I wanted to rest for longer than 5 minute intervals.
I got out of the water to pee, and for the first time, I looked at each nurse, I looked at my midwife, and I looked at my husband in the eyes, and very seriously demanded an epidural.

I know, they told me with pity.

No. I know what I want. I want an epidural. I’ve done the natural thing already, I know what I’m up against right now, and I want an epidural, is what I was thinking. But all I could do was ugly cry the most pathetic, ugliest cry that (ever!) existed and tell them I was dead serious.

It’ll take an hour to get here, we have to draw blood and get your I.V. going, they told me.

BRING IT NOW. I told them.

So they did. As I was sitting on the toilet, someone drew my blood, and then stuck an I.V. in my arm.

I noticed my hands and face were completely numb from hyperventilating –but the epidural had not come, and it would not come. The contractions were still crushing me in waves too deep for escape.  There was no pause button.

It was in the third hour that Missy suggested we move out to the bed and try some new positions.  I couldn’t handle kneeling on all fours.  I couldn’t stand. Gravity was so cruel and harsh after being in the water for 2 hours. I laid on my back, and why on earth was it a relief to lay on my back? I allowed Missy to break my water with her finger and I felt more relief.
Unfortunately, the contractions kept up their A game and Missy was now aiding in stretching my cervix over little Jude’s head.  It took her three tries: the pain of cervical stretching while having a contraction is unlike any pain I have ever known.
This pain drove me to what I can only describe as an out of body experience.  In complete flight mode, I wanted out.  And then I wasn’t in my body anymore save for some lingering force that wouldn’t let me totally exit and leave the pain.  Pain isn’t an appropriate word for what I was feeling.  It was far more than that.
Someone was holding my legs.  Someone was holding my arms. Craig was hovering over my face.

And in a final, unearthly contraction, Missy pulled my cervix over Jude’s head, and finally, finally, finally, he was descending.
I felt I was tearing from top to bottom and I didn’t care, give me that pain any day. Craig was up at my head, kneeling over me as I held his shoulders and gripped the fatty part under his shoulder blades so hard that he would bruise.  I clenched my teeth so hard that they would ache for the next three days and I would suffer a pounding headache for the next 7 days which required a narcotic that still didn’t cover it.

Eight times I pushed before a crying baby head emerged.
His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck …and knotted; something Missy said is rare and usually results in stillbirths.

The top half of me was hanging off the bed when I looked down and saw a head full of dark hair coming to be laid on my chest. I was shocked by his presence, and had a what did we do? moment as I realized there are now 4 Svellinger children.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

I held him, catching my breath finally, in the way athletes do after an event –but held him at long last, Jude Benedict.

Jude Announcement, Property of Carolyn Svellinger

and here’s the vid:

Bringing Home Jude