The Holbrooks have a Christmas tree! Three feet of pure beauty! I love her. Isn't she positively scrawny? She's kind of the world's most pathetic tree ever. I like to stroke her boughs lovingly and tell her that even though she's not the prettiest tree in the lot, I will still love her until all 35 of her pine needles drop off.

She is a little Charlie Browny, but I'm pretty proud of her.


What The World Needs Now Is Way More Stripes

One thing we are not sure we love these days is bath time.

One thing we do know we love is stripes.

Especially when they do not match at all.


Danke Shoen, Darling, Danke Shoen

In the spirit of Thanksgiving,
this is what I'm thankful for.

I am thankful for my mom. She came to New York last month to coo at my baby and stay awake with me at all hours of the night and have deep conversations with me while I nurse. When my mom left I sat in my room and cried giant I'm Can't Do This Without My Mom tears. I love my mom a lot. I wish everyone could have a Julie like mine, but she is mine, so there is that.

I am grateful for El Guapo, who I have to thank for my Huckleberry's dashing good looks. 

I am thankful for my little sisters, and for my baby brother.

I am thankful for my Green Bathroom Palace Of Tiny Wonders. I am even thankful for my mini oven. It is so tiny, that mini oven. I used it for the first time tonight to make Thanksgiving side dishes, and once I was finished I decided it would be okay if it was also the last time I ever used it. Too small, but oh I'm glad it's there. I used to be so domestic! What happened? 

I am thankful for New York City. 
And for the stroller. The stroller and I are supes tight these days.

Of course, many thanks for this boy, who has a very cute butt.

And for these two babies.

I am especially thankful for this sweet face. 

Happy Thanksgiving!



This is what Barnaby MacDuff does from the minute Brandon leaves for work until the very second he comes home. 

We are all Brandon fans at this house.


For People Who Worry About Such Things

This one is for my mother-in-law,
who doesn't think there is enough nature in NYC.


I Just Thought You Should See This

We are enjoying a really gorgeous autumn over here. We just came in from a very silly walk in the park with my three babies, where we got tangled in stroller wheels and puppy leashes every few steps (take the baby in the wrap next time, hello!), but it was the kind of walk that makes a person believe there is a heaven.


A Little Glimpse Into A Dream Come True

Have you ever had a dream come true? 
This is what mine looks like.

{huckleberry toes i can nibble on any time i feel like it!} 

{i can see my feet now like it's no big deal}

{this cute face is all mine}

{walks in the park with the dogs are a liiiittle bit ridiculous now}

Huge, huge fan of this mom business.


Somebody, Please. I Need A Hair Cut.

Today my Holbs gave me the afternoon off

"Why don't you go do something and I'll play Daddy!" So I put on my tallest shoes and swiped on a fresh coat of mascara and I was off! To do . . . something.

First I wandered around a filming location for some CBS cop drama going on down the street. In case they needed lactating extras.

Then I went to Urban Outfitters so I could call my mom. In case this sounds weird, it is. But we always save our phone conversations for when we are browsing through clothing stores and that is just how it goes. 

Then I decided to man up and get the groceries. 

As I was pushing my cart about the place and pondering various cheeses I remembered that my friend Joe the Trader delivers. In light of this I decided: Hot dog if I wasn't about to make a serious grocery purchase. So I went all over that place chucking food items into my cart all willy nilly like.

Just as I was about to pay, the guy in charge of the delivery board changed the delivery window time from 4-8 to CLOSED. Closed! Just like that, all of my hopes and dreams deflated, and I realized I was carting home my groceries by myself.

The moral of this story is, halfway home it started to rain. A nice man offered to help me carry my bags home, and when I said "No Thank You," he showed me his hands and both of them were completely bandaged up and then I was like ???

When the elevator reached our floor I could hear my baby airing out his lungs, and when I opened the door to our apartment Huck and Brandon both looked at me with crazed eyes, and I could tell they were both thinking the same thing:


And now you know that story.


New York Shoes, Advice Style

I recently got an email from a reader asking for advice on the best shoes to pack for a trip to the city.

I've been thinking about this a lot actually, because my feelings about shoes have changed dramatically since moving back to NYC. These are my favorite shoes. I wore them practically non-stop when I was pregnant and they're become my default running-to-the-corner-store shoes. I would tell you to get yourself this exact pair, except that when I first started wearing them they gave me monster blisters. They were a beast to break in. 

So. Wear whatever shoes you wear most often, is what I have to say about that. I have this personal theory about shoes, which is that when you are breaking in a new pair of shoes you are actually not breaking in your shoes, you are breaking in your feet. I feel like I'm breaking in the same shoes over and over every winter when I pull them out of storage. 

Also, pack bandaids. Cushy ones meant for blisters.

And bring back up shoes. Something small that can fit in your bag that is different enough from your other shoes. Sometimes all I need after a long afternoon of walking is to switch from a low heel to flats, and suddenly I feel like I could keep going for a few more hours at least.

Good luck!



When I look back on those first few days after Huck was born it like I am looking through a glittery soft-focus lens. I miss those days. I miss that throbbing feeling of new emptiness in my abdomen, and the way his squishy face would give way to the tiny fluttering of barely open eyes. I miss my nurses and the ugly hospital gowns and the impossibility of knowing whether it was day or night outside.

It has been two weeks since Huck was born, and already my memory has started to fade. I can't remember what it felt like to be pregnant at all. I don't remember where my back ached, I can't even picture my pregnant belly. My memory of the pain of childbirth is already so dim that I feel like I could have seven more babies, right this minute. Pretty please? The bruise on my arm from where the nurse blew out my vein trying to insert an IV is finally healing, my stomach is flat again, and even my outtie belly button is back to being an innie, something I really thought might never happen. I've already asked Brandon when we can start trying for another one.

But smoldering hot in my memory still are those first few days at home. Those first days with a newborn are like warfare, and I was its loyal soldier. Bruised on the battlefield of delivery, my body so so sore, I'd reach for that squiggly body through the pain like he was the very air I breathed. Through exploding rounds of fire and hormones, while exhausted and aching from every muscle, and with eyes aching from the fatigue of all-night skirmishes, I couldn't even force myself to sleep. I had to catch his every expression, memorize the outline of his cheeks before they changed any more, and be alert for every fleeting second of his perfect little life. He would latch on and my toes would curl through the pain, until slowly I was relieved, my every cell vibrating with purpose.

I have never felt more alive. I've also never felt more like the walking dead.

My aunt Stacey texted me a few days before Huck was born. (Marco!) She told me she was jealous of what I was about to do. She described her childbirths and hospital stays and first days home as "magical." It sounded ridiculous to me at the time, but now I remember sitting on an ice pack in the recovery suite, my still sweaty hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail, staring at this beautiful creature as he nursed, feeling blissfully happy and under the influence of all kinds of crazy cocktails of new mom hormones, and I got it. It made perfect sense.

Those fantastic, frustrating, horrible, aching, incredible, soul-explodingly joyful days, those first days are straight up magic.

I can't wait to do it again.


To Birth A Soul

This is the story of the birth of a mother.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling off. It had been a week of low-level, go-nowhere contractions, of waiting it out and stalled progress, and that morning it felt like my heart was fluttering like a butterfly trapped in a jar. I went to the couch in the living room and tried to slow my breathing. Deep breaths in, slow breaths out, but my heart chugged on, sending delightful tingling sensations all up and down my arms.

And so we walked. All through Central Park, up craggy rocks, across bark dust paths and back, to lake views and tree views and teenagers making out views, and up and down stairs. Brandon challenged me to races up grassy hills as horrified tourists watched. My body was finally matching the pace of my heart and it felt so good.

On Monday I waited at my doctors office for over an hour. Unexpected staff meeting, and suddenly I felt the need to be seen immediately. I didn't really know why, I was still feeling slightly off, only now my appetite was gone and my tingly heart flutters felt wrong somehow. I phoned Labor & Delivery. Whether or not the contractions I'd been having for two weeks were strong enough to mean anything, I was coming in.

The nurse looked at me with narrowed eyes.

"Well, you're due in two days," she said. "You're not really Preeclamptic, but your blood pressure is high. You've been having good contractions every four minutes since you got here..."

Then she tapped the blood pressure machine and said, "Well, there's really no point in keeping you pregnant anymore, is there?" And then I said, "That's what I've been saying!"

So I called Brandon ("Really? Really. Today? Are you sure. You're sure?"), who showed up an hour later with my hospital bag and a Vogue.  You know, light labor reading.

When you are admitted to Labor and Delivery showing signs of preeclampsia (or as my nurse joked, pre-preeclampsia), they induce your labor with pitocin. I'd heard nasty things about that pitocin garbage: painfully long contractions, too-short breaks between, and the marathon of labor that accompanies. I'd always wanted to try a natural child birth, not because I was some sort of stoic about it, but just to see if I could do it. But also I knew that everyone has their limits, and pitocin seems to be its own sort of limit.

Pitocin equals epidural equals Don't Try To Be A Hero, Natalie. That sort of thing.

But also I knew my body. And I knew the bodies of the women in my family. Once my mom had her water broken during labor, things went real fast. And I knew I wanted the chance to try it on my own. I knew I could do it on my own, if my body would let me do it on my own. I really wanted to give my body that chance, just to see what it would do. 

I asked my doctor to just break my water and give me a few hours before starting the pitocin. She agreed, knowing my family history, and at 6:oo that evening I became well acquainted with a hook and the insides of my placenta. I was checked again--dilated to a five and 90% effaced.

And then, we waited.

The contraction monitor clocked my barely noticeable contractions at three- and four-minute intervals while we watched a little naked Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal. Then we channel surfed and found Pocahontas. I love Pocahontas. Labor was kind of fun. And that lemon ice was actually good.

Suddenly it was 9pm and my doctor's shift was ending.

"I am back at 8:30 tomorrow morning," she said. "I'll come check on your progress then, ok?"

"Wait, will I still be here at 8:30 tomorrow morning?" I asked. I felt incredulous. I reminded her of my family history: my mother who practically had my sister in the hospital hallway and my brother in under 45 minutes, my great aunt who had her baby in the car . . . really? 8:30?

"Well, it's your first baby, so, probably," she said. "Maybe things will go that fast with your second." And though it sounded all wrong to me, I thought, But what do I know?

The new doctor came in and introduced himself and already I didn't like him. I hated his body language, the way he folded his arms like he was trying to keep his distance, the way he avoided eye contact with me, and I wanted to ask "Isn't there anybody else?"

But after three hours of ogling expensive shoes and Ryan Reynold's nekkid backside, I was starting to really feel my contractions. Hot and heavy and tight, they'd swoop over me and I'd have to stop talking in order to focus. I looked at Brandon in excitement. Now these are contractions! And they were coming on fast, every two minutes. I breathed through them and felt alive. Brandon turned off the TV and assumed his father-to-be duty of fanning my face during hard contractions.

And then, suddenly, I was there. You know, there. That point where it is too much, too hard, and you are scared and you know you can't do it, and from everything I'd read, I knew I was in transition. Or, I knew I could be in transition. Because, what did I know? Like my doctor said as she left, this was my first baby, and I'd probably be here until Kingdom Come. The new doctor on shift came in and announced that it was time for the pitocin, and I tried to stall. I knew something was happening, but I didn't know that I knew for sure, and ouch ouch ouch, and my brain wasn't working anymore, and fan me harder Brandon!

"Can you check my progress first?" I asked, out of breath.

"You've had your water broken, I don't want to introduce infection," he told me, his arms crossed tight against his body and his eyes glued to the floor.

"But, I . . ." I stammered, and then I lost the courage to insist. After all, what did I know?

He left to get the drugs and in the short moments I had between intense contractions I asked my nurse what she thought, because somewhere in the few hours I had been there I had fallen deadly in love with her.

"Well, this is your first baby," she told me. "You're probably still at a five."

If I had hours to go, and pitocin was on its way, I knew I needed an epidural, because these contractions were making my teeth hurt, and I couldn't imagine what it would feel like if they got worse. But even as I thought the words in my head I knew they were wrong, and I knew this was it, and I knew I'd regret not trusting my instincts. I struggled to think logically as the contractions tore through me. Pitocin equals epidural equals Don't Be A Hero, Natalie, I reminded myself, while my body screamed at me that I was doing it and that it was almost over. But I didn't know who to trust, and I started to feel panicky. I was sweating and worried and I was thinking horribly irrational thoughts, like maybe I was about to die. Maybe the baby might never come out!

"Fine!" I agreed. And then another contraction hit and I couldn't sit still anymore. I needed to writhe. I scooted my bum around on the bed and swayed my knees in the air and even in the middle of the ridiculous pain I started laughing at how silly I looked.

"Are you giving the hospital bed a lap dance?" Brandon asked as I laughed, and I said back, "Do I look like a squid? Because I feel like a squid."

The nurse dutifully sent the first dose of Pitocin through my IV. "We can give you as many as 20 of these," she told me. "This first one won't really do anything, we'll go slow."

And then the anesthesiologist came in to stick the giant needle up my spine and my Holbsfanner was sent out of the room and I needed my Holbsfanner! By this point I literally could not sit still, there was no way in all the heavens and earths to hold my body in one place, and I was aware of a startling pressure that I couldn't quite describe. "If you can't stop squirming this isn't going to work!" the anesthesiologist told me sternly, and I decided I hated him, and then, just as the needle went in, I realized that I needed to push.

"I think I need to push!" I said suddenly and the anesthesiologist pulled the needle out in bit of a huff. Here I had just been stabbed for no reason, and the nurse, sensing that something was up, paged the doctor who finally came to check me.

"I need to push," I informed him as he fished around.

"Go for it," he told me.

"Well, what am I at?" I asked in frustration. I was starting to get incredibly demandy about things and it all struck me as quite funny.

He stared at the carpet. "You're at a ten."

"The pitocin won't even kick in for another half hour!" the nurse said in surprise.

I looked at the clock. It had been four hours since my water broke.

Suddenly my room was teeming with people. A giant spotlight had come out of the ceiling, it felt sort of like an alien abduction on the X-Files. Everyone introduced themselves one at a time (like I was going to be able to remember any of their names?), and I was thinking about how hysterically okay I was with the fact that all these strangers were face-first in my lady parts, until a young-looking intern with dark curly hair introduced himself as my personal cheerleader. And he was just so sweet, and so innocent looking, and I felt so weird having such a sweet face seeing all that carnage, and without thinking I introduced myself back, "I'm Natalie, this is my vagina, and I'm really sorry about this."

My labor went blindingly fast, but delivery, well delivery kind of took a while. I pushed for three hours. Huck was crowning for a full forty-five minutes. And every cliche that I said I'd never do--shouting bossy orders at my husband (fan me! ice chips! squeeze harder!), begging the doctor to just pull him out, even screaming--I did it all, and I relished it.

I felt every last shred of it. I especially liked the part where I tore in the front. Did you know that could happen? Doctors and nurses were shouting all kinds of directions at me. Relax this! Tighten that! Hold your breath! Now breathe! Now relax! Now turn this way! None of it made any sense but I did what I was told. Finally, while silently pleading with God to let the next push be my last, I realized that I was the one who should be issuing orders. Only I could bring this child into the world, and only I knew how that needed to happen. This was my body and my body and I knew what we were doing. So I gritted my teeth, tuned out the voices in the room, and breathed through a glorious, empowering push.

"Natalie, open your eyes!" the nurse said.

When I married Brandon seven years ago, I knew I wanted to have his babies. All of the babies in his family are blond, blue-eyed Holbrook clones, and I had grown to cherish the idea of my own mini-Holbs, but always, always the babies I rocked and nursed in my dreams were mine. Dark-haired, dark-skinned, with a rosebud mouth and that impossible Lovin nose. And then we struggled to even get pregnant at all, and I had to reconcile the fact that those babies probably wouldn't ever be mine. It was a mini-Holbs or nothing. I hardly even missed them, those babies of my dreams. I was so ready for my blonde skinny baby. I would have given anything for that blonde skinny baby.

But that night I locked eyes on a dark-haired, dark-skinned little lover. Complete with a perfect rosebud mouth and that crazy Lovin nose. And I was floored. It was more than I could even comprehend. He was mine. Mine in a way nothing had ever been mine before. He was mine, and I'd made him. God let me make him! I have never felt a more powerful, more tangible emotion in all of my life. I probably never will.

I like to think of those three hours of pushing as the final, exhausting, very literal physical manifestation of my three years of laboring to bring this child into the world. My struggle to trust my body's ability to labor mirrored my struggle to trust my body's ability to conceive. In the end, I didn't really do it all on my own; nobody ever does. But I felt it all, like I always do. And my stubborn body rejected all of my efforts to assist it, like it always does.

In the end, it all fell between me and my God. And we made it work.

And what we made was glorious.



And here's a picture of the cutest kid ever.

Just because. 



It is 1:24 in the afternoon and we are just starting our day here at the Casa De Holbrook. Huck was feeling frisky last night until four, and then at eight the smoke alarm started beeping at me so I had to change the batteries, and then I changed three diapers in under three minutes, and then I had to coax Barney to come out of the shower and back to bed, because strange beeping noises cause Barney to feel horribly insecure about things.

And now I am off to Apple Care to have my MacBook inspected. It's pretty exciting. And now for a picture of my new best friend.

He's pretty rad.


Fairy Tales Do Come True, It Can Happen To You

I am working on the birth story,
and on putting into words the millions of thoughts I have
about the last few days.

But mostly, I am busy being a milk machine.

I love it soooooooo hard.