Evie's Birth Story

"Your second labor and delivery will be much faster and easier."
"Once you've had one, the rest just speed up!"
"If your baby is less than 7 pounds, you can expect this labor to be faster than your first."

With the best of intentions, this was what I heard from most people, including my own doctor.

Well, Mike said I should sue everyone who told me that. Haha! But seriously. Here's the story of Evie's birth.

Evie was late. My parents and brother were here, my schedule was cleared, and I was so ready for her to make her appearance. So on my due date, we did everything we could to safely induce labor. I bounced on my birthing ball, I walked a lot, did the Miles circuit, ate fresh pineapple, and my mom massaged my pressure points. And at 12:45 the next morning, I woke up to contractions.

I tried to sleep through them because I was sure it wasn't real. But from the beginning, these contractions were pretty intense and irregular. For close to four hours, I labored alone in the dark, quiet house, still uncertain if this meant I'd meet my little girl that day. Finally, I popped a movie on Netflix and tried to relax and rest. The next contraction sent me out of the couch and onto my knees. I grabbed my labor ball and decided I needed to call my doctor. The contractions were coming every 5 minutes, then 7 minutes, then 2 minutes apart, but they were rough.

Because I was having more than 6 contractions per hour for several hours, my doctor wanted me to come into the hospital. I was excited at the thought that maybe this was real, but not certain if he'd just send me home. I was afraid to hope. I woke Mike (who had decided to stay up late finishing his video game, so he hadn't had much sleep... and he had a cold) and we finished packing. My mom knew about the plan and would show up at the hospital once things got moving. I'm so glad they were there to stay with Isabel.

It was still dark out when we left for the hospital. This was so different from when we went when I was in labor with Isabel. At that time, the contractions were on top of each other and Isabel was born less than 2 hours after we arrived. This time I had maybe 2 contractions on the way. And as it was about 5 am, we didn't get stuck behind snowbirds.

We headed to triage and they checked me out. 2 cm. I was only dilated to 2 cm., and hardly effaced. I was so confused- was I in labor or not?

"This is good, if you want an epidural," the nurse told me.
"I don't," I said. "I'd like to try to have a natural birth."
Well that was promising.

They monitored me for a while and encouraged me to walk. Mike and I, in good spirits, walked the delivery ward for hours. We enjoyed eavesdropping on the nurses' conversation. We walked and walked, and walked. It was time to get monitored and checked again, and this time, I was 3 cm. Progress, but it had been hours. So we walked again.

The next time I was checked, I was still at 3 cm. I was so discouraged. At this point, I had been at the hospital, stuck in a triage room, for around 5 hours. Mike had the most uncomfortable chair in the world to sit on, and I continued to have strong contractions, but was making little progress.

"Are you totally against Pitocin?" the nurse asked.
"I would prefer to try other methods before Pitocin, unless Baby is in danger."

Her question, though totally legitimate, discouraged me. How could this labor just not be moving along? This was my second child! The nurses had been supportive of my decision to have a natural birth, and had been talking to my doctor, who also was supportive and encouraging me to walk like crazy to get things moving. I appreciated that. I found out that's why we were still in a triage room: if I were admitted, I'd be more likely to be stuck in the room rather than free to walk the halls.

Mike was very tired, and while I had been able to order meals, he hadn't eaten yet. So I called my mom to have her drop Isabel off at my in-laws' house and then relieve Mike so he could take a nap and eat. I figured this would not only be a longer labor than Isabel's (we were almost at the 12 hour mark at this point), but she might not even be born that day. Mom arrived and Mike left, and Mom and I walked again.

I walked so much that I got a serious case of chub rub, and the nurses kept telling me I should've been wearing a Fit Bit. Something changed on this walk. I'd stop and lean against the hallway railings with each contraction. Now, my coping noises were much louder. The contractions were much more intense.

"That's a good sign," my nurse said after one particularly bad one. She encouraged me that while the progress was really slow, I'd reach a point where the labor would just take off. I'm not sure I believed her, but it was nice to have her in my corner. I told Rachel, my doula, that the contractions were getting pretty intense, so it might be time for her to come.

Time to be monitored and checked again. Rachel was there by the time we got to the triage room. This time, I was 4 cm. and Evie was very low. Progress!! The contractions I had while Rachel was there were ROUGH. I was glad she was there to provide counter-pressure and encouragement. She's a great doula, but also my friend, and her presence was calming.

I told my mom to tell Mike to come back. I didn't think things would happen quickly, but I wanted him there. Things were getting intense, and I needed his presence there. After a particularly bad contraction, I was checked again. I was 5 cm.

"Let's get you into a room and admitted!" I walked down to my labor and delivery room, so glad that things had finally progressed enough for that. I didn't realize it would only be about an hour from that point until I met my daughter.

Not long after I got to the room, my water broke during a contraction. That was a new experience for me... ew. Shortly after that, Mike walked in. I was so relieved, because while there were longer breaks between contractions than what I was used to with Isabel's labor, the contractions were so, so, so much worse. I could not believe the pain I was experiencing. It was THE. WORST. I was doing everything I could to relax into the pain and allow my body to do what it wanted to do. My instinct was to fight the pain and tense up. But I knew and Rachel continued to remind me that this was good, and if I would let it happen, it would happen faster. I was checked and was 6-7 cm.

I remember going to the restroom, and when I came out, I had the worst contraction ever. I grabbed Mike's sweatshirt and just buried my head in his chest, while Rachel helped me manage the pain. Poor guy. I found out I'd grabbed not only sweatshirt and undershirt, but also chest hair! Haha! My mom happened to snap a photo. When I looked back at the photos, I noticed that from that moment until Evie was born was only eight minutes!

I labored sitting on the bed for a bit more, and then was checked again and had progressed to 8-9 cm.

THEN, I had to push. I screamed told the nurses so, and they said not to. Eye roll. Yeah, okay.

I don't remember feeling the "ring of fire" with Isabel, but oh, did I feel it with Evie. I knew she was right there, and I knew she would be coming in a few contractions. I remember feeling like nobody was checking, and nobody was there to help bring Evie into the world. My eyes were closed tight, so I wouldn't know anyway, but that's how it felt. The doctor wasn't there yet, and the nurses weren't responding to my pleas of "I need help!" I'm sure they knew what they were doing, but it did not feel like it! Never have I felt so out of control of both my body and the situation. Good thing God is in control and created my body to just do what it had to do.

I heard everyone cheer when the doctor arrived. In a few minutes and a few contractions, my body pushed Evie into the world. I don't even remember actively pushing. It felt like my body just did it. It was the most relief I've ever felt, that moment when Evie was born.

"My baby girl!" I exclaimed again and again, and finally relaxed, all pain gone. She was beautiful. She had a head of black hair, and looked just like Daddy. The doctor gave it a few minutes to let the cord stop pulsing, and then Mike cut the cord. And like that, she was on my chest.

After 40 + 1 weeks of carrying and 15 hours of labor, I looked into the eyes of my second-born daughter, just as beautiful and just as incredible as my firstborn. What a miracle. What an incredible miracle that God created inside me and sustained.d

While other women have undoubtedly experienced more difficult and painful labors and deliveries, this was personally, the worst pain I've experienced. But I can say without any falsehood or irony that it was worth it. Every contraction, every push brought this sweet, tiny bundle that much closer to my arms.

And now I get to enjoy her- watching her sleep and "smile," having her nurse, watching her stretch instead of feeling her stretch inside me... all these things and more are such a joy.

We are so, so very blessed beyond measure.

Welcome to the world and welcome to our family, Genevieve. You were worth it.

xoxo, A


I Will Trust in You

Well, being a mommy of a toddler, being very pregnant, and starting a new from-home job does not bode well for personal blogging.

But today I needed to write.

I was just listening to my new favorite song, "Trust in You," by Lauren Daigle. Find it here if you haven't heard it. I invited Isabel to dance with me, and as I held my firstborn in my arms, studying her toothy smile and listening to the lyrics, my eyes welled up with tears as my soul welled up with joy.

I had been so afraid. So afraid to do labor again, even though my last experience was a good one. So afraid to lose sleep. So afraid this baby will be a screamer. So afraid Isabel will feel neglected. So afraid I won't be able to be a good mommy of two.

And then I heard this:

"Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet 
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings 
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!"

God has already gone before me. He will give me what I need each day. I need not worry about tomorrow because God is already there. Even if I have a colicky baby, even if Isabel feels neglected, even if I am overwhelmed, even if I don't get enough sleep: I will trust in God, because he is trustworthy, and his plan is perfect.

This was what I needed today, as I look towards this {hopefully} last week of pregnancy, towards my world changing yet again. But the God who doesn't change stands with me.

I hope you'll find peace and comfort in that knowledge as well.

And here's hoping that the next time I write, I'll be writing my second daughter's birth story!

xoxo, A


Cease Striving

45 minutes ago, I posted a request for prayer to Facebook. 30 minutes ago, I had a meltdown on my couch.

I cried because I am burnt out. I cried because I wish my family and best friends lived nearby. I cried because I often feel very alone. I cried because I often feel like I'm not doing enough, well enough. Because I was supposed to be savoring these last months with Isabel before the baby comes and really I'm just waiting for bedtime each day. Because soon another baby will be here and not only will I not have any breaks in my day, but I won't sleep at night, either. Because Isabel is extremely strong-willed and prone to tantrums, and doesn't seem to respond to discipline. Because Isabel can't yet be reasoned with and can't tell me why she doesn't want to eat the food I give her. Because life is stressful right now with abundance of need and lack of resources.

These are the reasons I cried.

They are legitimate, but I know I'm not alone in these feelings, especially as a newish mom, or a pregnant mom. Even as I voiced them to my husband, a still, small voice reminded me of these things:

1. CEASE STRIVING AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. Cease striving. Be at peace. Stop trying so hard. Rest in Him, soak up his Word, talk to Him, and let him handle it. He'll give me what I need. It is under control. My striving only tells Him I don't trust Him or I think I have something of worth to offer on my own. (Psalm 46:10)

2. MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, FOR MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. I'm weak. This is just another opportunity to let God's power shine in my insufficiency. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

3. HE HAS GIVEN ME ALL I NEED FOR LIFE AND GODLINESS. Including life with a strong-willed toddler who won't nap and a baby on the way. (2 Peter 1:3)

Praise Him. Praise Him for speaking to me when I needed it. Praise Him for giving me His Word and allowing it to sink into the recesses of my mind for such a time as this. Praise Him for allowing me the blessings of husband, children, home- with all the stress those things bring. Praise Him for giving me my heart's desire, all the while knowing it would be the thing that whittles me down and shapes me into (hopefully, one day) a woman who looks like Christ.

I have so much to learn. I want so badly to allow those words from God to preach to me before I have a meltdown on my couch. But as Paul said, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So if ceasing striving means I let Isabel put stickers on the wood floors to keep her busy and occupied so I can have a few minutes to fold laundry, then I'll do that. If it means I lay on the floor for a bit because I'm tired, and let her climb on me and unfold the laundry I just folded, just to get some rest, then I'll do that. Because ultimately, God's the one who will change my daughter's wayward heart. He's the one who will use any good I do to influence her positively, and He's the one who will mend any harm I cause by my own sinfulness. He's got her days already planned. And mine- and my nights, too. He's got this baking bun's days planned as well, and already knows if she'll be a good sleeper or not (please God, let her be). So I can cease striving and rest in the knowledge that he is GOD. There's a lot in that name; enough to remind me of why I can be still.

But I still believe in the power of prayer. So do pray for me. Please pray that I am an example of a godly wife and mother, even in my human frailty and sinfulness. Please pray that I can find moments of physical and mental rest. Pray that I will not feel so alone. Pray that Isabel and I will savor our last 4 months together of just "us." Pray that God readies all of us for our new little one. And please pray that God continues to provide for our needs.

Wherever this finds you, I pray that you too will be able to cease striving and know that He is God. Or, in layman's terms, let "Jesus take the wheel." Hahaha.
xoxo, A


Thoughts About Mom

Recently I've been researching how to parent strong-willed children, because just as I've always feared, I've gotten my comeuppance in Isabel: my tenacious, curious, stubborn, brave little girl. One friend gave good advice. In essence, she said you have to somehow correct the sinfulness, but don't break the strong-willed nature. That's exactly what I hope for. And in perfect time for Mother's Day, I realized that's exactly what my mom did.

Throughout my entire life, somehow my mom (and dad) managed to redirect my strong will to be productive, creative, and eventually, God-honoring. It was a long process and I know I caused her many tears. But in the end, Mom corrected my sinfulness, but never broke my will.

Somehow, Mom managed (and continues to manage) to guide and steer without overrunning and overstepping. I imagine that's a fine line, especially if my mom and I are similar (and we are) and like control.

I feel my words are inadequate to express what I really want to say, but in short, I am so thankful for what my mother has taught me, and recently, what she has taught me about being a mother.

Thanks, Mom. For everything.

This is the first Mother's Day I'm officially a mom. What a blessing indeed.

And on another note, pray for your friends and family members this weekend who are mourning the loss of their moms, are waiting for a child they are afraid may never come, or are grieving the loss of a child. Mother's Day is such a sweet time to remember Mom, but I feel it may be one of the unintentionally cruel holidays as well. Bathe your sisters in prayer.
xoxo, A


A Mommy Milestone and an Update

I did it.

I stuck it out, and today was my LAST DAY pumping.

I didn't think this day would ever come, and somehow now that it's here, I feel a little guilty and a little sad. This time of my life is over, and that's strange.

For those of you who don't know our story, Isabel (though just two days early) was born tiny, and the nurses didn't want her using up too many calories trying to nurse (even though she had an immediate great latch). She was given a bottle and it was a battle after that to get her to nurse. She would do it sporadically, whenever she felt like it. I was really stressed about it because I was a new mom, and everyone tells you that your kid has to breastfeed or they will be an inferior human being. Or you will be an inferior human being. There were all kinds of desperate measures that could be taken to force her into nursing exclusively. But I was not willing to do that. It was going to be stressful on her and stressful on me, and I was already stressed because having a (at the time) 3 month old is hard.

But I wanted to give her breast milk, if possible. I know that babies who grow up on formula come out better than fine, but if I could produce it and contain it, I knew I wanted to do that for her.

I had been pumping from day one, every 2 to 2.5 hours on the dot, like clockwork. So I just decided to keep it up and pump exclusively. It was really hard. I was stuck to a machine for something like a total of 2 hours a day, sometime while Isabel cried for me. I missed the tender nursing moments we had. When company would come, I'd be stuck in another room for 20 minutes at a time. I felt the stress of making sure I could get to my pump when I needed to, or my supply would dwindle or I would be in pain.

What used to be a month-to-month struggle for survival became routine. It just became life. And before I knew it, I had enough milk stored up in the freezer to get us through to just about her first birthday, when I can start giving her cow's milk.

And today was my last day pumping. I think about all that frozen milk. Those bags are symbols of all the struggle, stress, and sometimes actual sweat and tears I experienced over the last nearly 11 months. But it was worth it. I feel like I've done something important.

I've learned a lot about myself through this. I've learned where Isabel gets her tenacity and determination. I've learned that if someone tells me I can't do something, you'd better believe I can. And will. But more than anything, I've learned that I really can't do it on my own. I've learned that my determination and tenacity are strong, but without God's strength, I am weak.

So I didn't really do it. God did it.

So what else did I learn?

1. I learned that (and it's always easier on this side of things, and every new mom has to learn this herself) you can actually relax about most things. If your child is fed, clothed, and content, you have done your job. There are no special medals for those who exclusively nurse, pump, or use formula. Anyone who says or implies that your child (or you) will be inferior as a result of your choices is simply a fear-mongering fool. Relax. Your child will turn out just fine if you don't nurse. I have a very close bond with Isabel, despite not having exclusively nursed. She's also whip-smart and very happy. I know other babies who are formula-fed and just as smart and happy. Be nice to yourself and just relax. Let go of some of your preconceived ideas of what is best and just do what is best for you and your baby, if it doesn't harm others.

2. You can do anything for just ten seconds. Okay, maybe Kimmy Schmidt taught me that, but the concept applies. I took it one session at a time, and sometimes, half a session at a time. Then one month at a time. And then it was done. If you want to do it badly enough, take it ten seconds at a time.

3. I learned a whole heck-of-a-lot about pumping. If you need tips, let me know. I learned way too much to list it all here.

4. There are some battles you should not fight. Not when you want to win the war. I wanted to be a happy mom. In order to do that, I needed to stop battling Isabel's strong will against nursing. It was as simple as that. And once I let go of the guilt I never needed to have, we were both happy.

5. I don't know more than nurses, but there is something to be said for a mother's instinct. If I had it to do over again, I would request that my daughter continue to nurse and then weigh her the next day. Because I really think she would've been just fine, considering she could hardly be waked to drink formula. And I would have said "hey lady, please take that paci out of my kid's mouth, and ask me next time before you do something that clearly can mess with nursing, since she is my kid and not yours," only in a nicer way.

6. Milk smell exists at all times, and grows more pungent with sweat. I'm super glad to be done with that.

So if you are an expectant mom, I know that you are probably overwhelmed with all the information and expectations placed on you-- feeding, sleeping, wearing, working, etc. You might have strong convictions one way or the other about a lot of things. But when you find yourself in a situation that is affecting your joy, make a decision and don't feel guilty about it. Because you get to call those shots, and nobody gets to judge you.

If you find yourself on the pumping journey, take heart. Set small goals and create a routine, and remember why you're doing it. Before you know it, you'll reach your goals and create more, and then one day, you'll pump for the last time and wonder how your child got so big (here's a hint: it's from drinking everything for which you've worked so hard!).


For those who would like to know, here's an update on our family since our heartbreak last week.

We are healing. Mike and I process in very different ways. I process through words, both written and spoken. Mike processes inwardly and therefore it's more mysterious to me. But we've spent a lot of time together over the last week, and that has helped. We've prayed a lot, consulted the word a lot, and had so, so many dear friends check in on us.

It is still hard to believe that it has happened, and that we have a child in heaven. It hits me sometimes, when I think "I should be pregnant right now. I should be six weeks pregnant and telling my family in person this weekend." I think, "I should start feeling nauseated." I think that the exhaustion I'm feeling as a result of the trauma is what I would be feeling like if I still had the baby. But on the other hand, my mind went through a type of denial, and I tried to convince myself I had never been pregnant, but I clearly was. I guess it just seems easier to take not getting pregnant over losing the baby.

I've learned that this happens so often. So many women in my life have experienced this loss, though many keep it quiet. I'm personally glad I didn't keep it quiet. I think it helps me to talk about this baby and I pray it will help others who (heaven forbid) have to walk the same road.

So we are healing. We'll never forget, but the Lord is good and allows time to help heal our wounds.

We were planning on plating a tree for Isabel's first birthday in May. We are now going to plant two trees, because we want to always remember the life that was created and ushered into heaven so early.

Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words. We are blessed beyond measure to have so many who care. Please continue to pray for healing and that we would trust in God's timing and sovereignty as we continue to hope for another child.

xoxo, A


And If Not, He Is Still Good {Our Heartbreak}

I'm an open book. I have always felt that if whatever I have endured can help others and point them to Christ, then I would talk. I would write.

So today, I write about our heartbreak.

On Wednesday, we were having a baby. On Thursday, we weren't.

Mike and I enjoy being parents more than we expected. Isabel is an immense source of joy in our lives. And she's such a "good" baby. She's full of spunk and sass and never. stops. moving, but she sleeps 12+ hours at night plus naps, and she is affectionate and funny. It's no surprise that we wanted to add to our family, sooner rather than later.

We didn't have trouble conceiving Isabel, so (foolishly) we thought it wouldn't be an issue to have another. Four months later, and I was still waiting. I know that's not a long time to wait. Not in the grand scheme of things, and not compared to how long many women wait. But every month feels like a lifetime. On our timetable, we wanted children close together. On our timetable, we wanted another child before the end of the year. But our timetable is not God's perfect timetable.

I thought another month had ended in failure. And then nothing happened. So on Sunday morning, I took a test. It was positive. Faintly positive, but positive. I was pregnant. I shook with emotion. I was so grateful. We wanted this baby so badly!

I'll never forget how Mike tenderly touched my belly before church. It took him months to do that the first time. But now he knows fatherhood. He knows the richness of new life.

I took another test in the afternoon to be sure, and it was still faintly positive. I will also never forget Mike's response to that test. "Yep," he said, "You're knocked up." Crude, but true.  We told our parents and siblings, but Mike wanted me to wait to tell friends since we found out a week earlier than last time. I was only about 4 weeks, due in mid-December. I took another test a couple days later since it had been faint. Still faint, but still positive. So this was real.

For almost a week, I carried a secret much like I carried that seed-sized baby. I wrote a letter to the baby and started planning, because I'm a planner.

And then Thursday morning I woke up and I was bleeding. In my heart, I knew.

I had to be normal. I had a photo shoot, I had to take care of my child, I had to be out in public and go to the doctor. So I had to be normal. Even though the bleeding got worse, I had to be normal.

I went to the doctor and it didn't look good, though he wouldn't give me a definite answer until the blood work results came in the next day.

But I had to be normal because Isabel needed me to be normal. I sang "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" to her when she fussed in the car, as usual. But this time it meant so much more. When I bathed her, I sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness," as usual. But this time, my voice wavered. Not because I didn't believe it, but because I did.

When Mike came home and Isabel was down for a nap, I finally let go of normal and cried as my husband held me. We cried together for the baby we would never get to hold, for the future that we wouldn't get to see. For the life that had ended so very soon. It was a life. It wasn't a mass of tissue. It was a life.

That's why I have to write about this. I need others to know that this baby existed. There is no other evidence besides three positive pregnancy tests in a garbage bag. I need people to know that this baby lived and died, because it matters.

A miscarriage is not something you think will ever become a part of your story. You don't stand there on your wedding day, dreaming of your future and imagine weeping with your spouse over a lost pregnancy. But it happens, and it happens so often. I know so many women (and subsequently men) touched by this kind of loss.

Today, our little family of three walked up to the doctor again. As I heard an ultrasound machine and  a healthy heartbeat in the room next door, my doctor told me it was "absolutely" a miscarriage.

My baby had absolutely died.

And I was absolutely crushed.

Some who read this might say, "you were only 5 weeks when you miscarried. That's not as bad as _________." It's true that I can't even begin to imagine the pain of a late miscarriage. But that doesn't negate my pain. For the short, almost week I knew about this child, I loved it. It was real, and anyone who has ever been pregnant for any length of time can tell you how real it gets, quickly.

Some might say, "just be grateful for the child you have." To them, I say this:

I am unspeakably grateful for my daughter. But that doesn't mean I didn't want this child too. This child was wanted. This child was prayed for.

Why am I writing this while the pain is so fresh? I need to. I need to tell the world that this baby existed. And I also need to tell the world that God is still good. All yesterday, I kept thinking, "if not, he is still good." In the words of my father, "why not me?" The Lord gives and takes away. His plan is perfect, and I trust it. I trust him. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Strangely, it isn't hard to still feel blessings during this time. One is the wonderful, caring group of friends who are taking care of us, praying for us, and checking up on us. It is so nice to have a church family to lift us up in our darkest moments. I am so thankful for the body of Christ.

I am thankful for articles like THIS that make me cry but make me so thankful for God and his Word to us {seriously the best article I've read on this topic}.

So this is our heartbreak. We are alright, but we are grieving. I am in physical pain too. But we are convinced that our God is still good and worthy of praise. We would also covet your prayers.

xoxo, A


Some Food For Thought

Over the weekend, I read an article about how Gwyneth Paltrow bought what groceries she could for $29, the amount of money per person given for food stamps. The #FoodBankNYCChallenge is raising awareness about hunger (which is a real problem; I'm not arguing that). They seem to indicate that $29 per person per week is not enough (the $29 is not meant to be the sole food budget for a struggling family; rather it is to be a supplement. And most families on food stamps also qualify for WIC if the mother is pregnant or has a child/children up to 2 years old).

I think that's ridiculous. We often exceed our food budget and have to borrow from other columns in our budget because we can't afford a budget of $87 a week ($29/3 people). This is what Paltrow bought with her $29:

Now, I set up my stash on my counter and could barely fit it all-- all with the intention of taking a photo. And then I forgot. So I'll just list my stash:

1 eggplant
3 cucumbers
1 red onion
1 very large zucchini
2 dozen eggs
1 head of lettuce
1 spaghetti squash
2 cans of black beans
4 cans of fruit
3 cans of vegetables
1 box of cherry tomatoes
3 avocados
3 lemons
3 limes
1 8lb bag of red delicious apples
Sriracha sauce
pesto sauce
1 package of baby portabella mushrooms
4 sweet peppers
1 bag of Cuties clementines
1 bag of white grapes
6 big pears
1 loaf of multigrain bread
8 cups of yogurt
2 packages of string cheese
1 package of low-fat wheat tortillas

All of this for $63.42, which is $21.14 a person.

This doesn't include everything I need for my week, but that's because I already have feta, brown rice, chicken, salmon, potatoes, fat-free Greek yogurt, peanut butter, etc. But most people carry over things to the next week if they get a good sale the week before. Besides, you could add a raw or pre-cooked chicken for $5 or less and you'd still be under $29/person/week.

I shopped at a local fruit stand (for you locals, it's the one on Coachman and Old Coachman by the railroad tracks) and Walmart. I typically avoid Walmart, but it was nearby and I needed some other things. If I had shopped at Aldi for the things the fruit stand didn't have, I would have saved even more.

My meals for the week:
Monday: leftovers from family dinner on Sunday
Tuesday: grilled salmon kebabs (Gorton's salmon-- I get on BOGO at Publix + coupons) with lemon and roasted red potatoes
Wednesday: Tex Mex chicken salad and leftover potatoes
Thursday: roasted veggie pizzas
Friday: Sriracha lime chicken chopped salad and rice
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: family dinner

I will use the eggs, extra veggies, bread, and spaghetti squash for lunches and breakfasts.

Mike and I are also attempting to do Weight Watchers, and all of these recipes are Weight Watchers adaptable.

So... I think Gwyneth Paltrow and co. are either very out-of-touch, not creative, or not willing to go somewhere besides Whole Foods to get their groceries.

Tell me about your weekly groceries and menu! How are you creative to keep costs down?

 xoxo, A



Today is our anniversary. We are celebrating three years of marriage! Three years. That's just a drop in the bucket of the years we hope to have together, or compared to the number of years most others are celebrating. But here's what I think:

I think marriage is hard, so every year a couple chooses to love each other and keep the covenant they made before God, ought to be celebrated. I mean, you only have to be married to someone for a short while before you realize that it is both difficult and wonderful. And if you are married and haven't experienced the difficult part yet, then you either married a perfect person, you are a perfect person, or you're internalizing something. Hahaha!

Our marriage, by the grace of God, is good, solid, and a blessing to both of us. Every day requires the choice to die to self and love the other person regardless of anything else. I fail daily to do that all day long. But thankfully every day also requires forgiveness. Every day with my husband is an unexpected treat in some way; usually he will bring laughter to my day in a way I never expected.

He's the man who makes me burst out laughing in IKEA. He's the man who makes me shake my head at his antics. He's the man who makes my heart melt when I watch him play with our daughter. He's the man I love to serve because he works so hard. He's the man of whom I'm so proud when he teaches God's Word. This man is my husband, my best friend, and my biggest blessing, and I'm so thankful for the three years we've had together and all that's been packed into those years.

I will love every day that God grants us together.

I love you, Mike.

And now, here are some of my very favorite photos from my very favorite day ever (there are many!):

This was a special moment with Mom, before getting dressed. I'd had a lovely time with my besties that morning!

This was our "first look." It was so sweet.
 I loved having my besties by my side, and I loved the cozy feel of our wedding!
 Oh, I love the friends who stood up in our wedding! haha
This is my favorite portrait shot from our photo shoot in downtown Safety Harbor.
I am thankful that we were able to have such a worshipful ceremony. God brought us together. To God be the glory!
 I feel like this perfectly captures our joy and emotion! 
 Our Publix cake had toppled over mid-transit! I found it hilarious! haha
 I'm sad this turned out blurry, but this was during our first dance, to "Love Never Fails" by Brandon Heath.
We had all the fathers and daughters come out for the father-daughter dance, and it was so sweet. This was a special moment. We also had all the mothers and sons come out for the mother-son dance. What was extra special to me was seeing all the families that had attended our wedding. LOTS of fathers and daughters and mothers and sons. 
 I love everyone on this dance floor! This was captured when I almost fell over, going low. haha!
 We may not have eaten much (sorry, Mike), but boy, did we dance! I've never had so much fun- especially with photo booth props!
 I couldn't have asked for a better reception venue. It was cozy, elegant, and everyone ate so much they almost popped (well, except for us. So we go back every anniversary, just to make up for it!)!

xoxo, A


Be Careful What You Wish For

We were about to leave for a wedding reception. Our best friends were over, as there was some time to kill between the wedding and reception, and they were in from out of town. We were trying to get out the door on time. What happened next was our typical out-the-door situation where I give Mike a five-minute warning, but as we leave he decides it's time to go to the bathroom. I get irritated, we bicker a little, but we still love each other two seconds later. The only thing different this time is our best friends were witness to this typical out-the-door situation.

She told me later that she and her husband think we're basically a sit-com family. I completely agree. I have said before that Mike is Ray from "Everybody Loves Raymond," Doug from "King of Queens," and Nick from "New Girl" all rolled into one. And I love that about him. Every day is both funny and frustrating in some way, which is both entertaining and sanctifying. I wouldn't change him.

And then it hit me: I got what I had always wanted.

Have you ever seen Return to Me? It's one of my favorite movies. I have always thought that the relationship between Bonnie Hunt and Jim Belushi was the best thing ever. If you haven't seen the movie, see it. If you have, you know what I'm talking about. When I was in college, I used to say that I wanted that. That bickering, flirtatious, outrageous, average, loving thing that they had. I got it. Mike is the Jim Belushi to my Bonnie Hunt. I live in a sit-com, and I love it.

So be careful what you wish for; you just might get it. ;-)

(This isn't the clip I wanted...the one I wanted had too much swearing, but is more accurately our life-- not that we swear! haha!)
xoxo, A



Warning: this post gets real, fast. If you don't want to know about my body part image issues, read no farther! Disclaimer #2-- I actually wrote this before the Christmas season and only just now got around to publishing it. So a lot of what I had begun to do has fallen to the wayside. I consider this my much-needed reminder to get back on track!
***** I have this internal struggle. It's one of many, honestly, but it seems to be at the forefront of my mind a lot these days. Here's the dichotomy:
1. My post-baby body is beautiful because it grew, sustained, and birthed an amazing, delightful human being.
2. My post-baby body stinks because I don't have a waist and my closet full of really cute clothes don't fit.
Things like the Fourth-Trimester Bodies Project (check it out here) are amazing, but make me feel ashamed for even thinking any negative thoughts about my new body. I think it's okay for new moms to be a little upset about the changes. After all, I had lived 29 years in my body before Isabel inhabited it. I was used to how I looked and I had made an art of dressing it well. And when everything else in a new mom's life is upside-down, she'd like something comfortable and familiar. Even her own skin is unfamiliar. So I really do think it's okay to not like your new body... for a time. And for me, the time has come to stop frowning into the mirror and instead do something about it. I understand that my body will never be the same, and that's okay. But I would like to at least get out of my maternity pants before I get in them for baby #2 (whenever that is). Few of us start out in perfect bodies anyway, so getting back to normal is even harder. I am 30 and started at a size 12, so clearly my body wasn't going to bounce back like a rubber band. So here's my plan, and maybe it will help other new moms (or those who will soon be new moms):

Accept the things I cannot change:
1. The stretch marks don't bother me. Maybe it's because I never showed my stomach in public, so this doesn't change much. In the privacy of my home, when I see them, they almost evoke pride in what my body accomplished, and thankfulness for God's faithfulness.
2. I'm not upset over saggy-ness, either. When you develop in the 6th grade and could never pass the pencil test (Ladies, you know what I'm talking about, right?!), those things aren't really perky anymore at 30 anyway. 
3. What I need to accept is that my normal spare tire is now a spare tire for a semi truck. And it has sagged. So pants just fit weird in the belly now. I need to be okay with this. Maybe over time it will get better, but maybe it won't.
4. If it is even possible, my rear got even flatter. Oh come on. I grew another butt onto my front and lost what little I had to begin with? *shakes fist in the air* So I need to be okay with this too. No matter how many squats I do, I might always be "flat in da back," as a darling middle school boy once wrote on a note I about me that I had confiscated. He was mortified, by the way. In case you were wondering.

Understand what is and isn't true for me:
No, I don't mean this in a post-modern worldview kind of way. I mean this in an "everyone says this, but it didn't work for me" kind of way.
1. Breastfeeding DOES NOT melt the pounds off. I mean, for some it does. They're usually the very thin anyway, or have a personal trainer. I think all it really accomplishes is shrinking your uterus back down to size. It uses a lot of calories, but it doesn't shave off the fat like I had expected.
2. I don't need that many extra calories. You'll be tempted to eat more than when you were pregnant because you are ravenous all the time and you know you're burning more calories. And the truth is, you do need to eat more and shouldn't diet because your milk supply will really suffer if you don't. The thing is, those calories should be protein... not ice cream and hamburgers. 
3. The cravings don't stop when you're pregnant. Personally, I've had more cravings as a nursing mom than when pregnant. So I have to try to curb those cravings into something remotely healthy.

Be proactive:
1. I'm trying to take every opportunity to get some exercise in. I live in Florida, and it's basically the jungles of Cambodia outside for 9 months out of the year. So walking in the mall with the geriatric crowd is actually awesome. Except I need to wear blinders, because it can be less-than-awesome on the wallet. Have you seen the sales at Gymboree?!
2. I have seen lots of great pins on Pinterest about "How to dress your bump." Where are all the pins about "How to dress your postpartum blob?" Seriously. I'd like to see that. Because while some can fit into their regular clothes fairly soon, most of us find we are still wearing maternity pants 4+ months later because even our fat clothes that we held onto for some reason are too small. So I recognize now that I won't be fitting into my closetful of beautiful clothes. I know now to keep an eye out for what fits me now, because if I wear my maternity yoga pants and giant Bucs t-shirt one more time, I might scream. I have to build a whole wardrobe for my postpartum body. With that said, can I give one of the best pieces of advice I got from Isabel's pediatrician? Buy an enormous men's button down shirt (or two). They will by far be the most comfortable thing you'll wear (with leggings, for me), and easy to unbutton to nurse. I just can't wear those out and about, so I needed a new wardrobe. I don't have a lot of money, so I use $10 promotional mailers from Kohl's, as well as ThredUp (my new favorite thing ever! Use the link on my Facebook and I get free $ and you do too!) to build that wardrobe on the cheap. I can't look at sizes, because it depresses me. I look for what looks good and feels good. That means I'm in the XL-XXL category with tops. That's depressing to a girl who lost 30 pounds in the past and got down to a M. But I must dress the body I have now.
3. I'm also trying to be very aware of what I'm eating. I've already fallen off the wagon a few times because, let's be real, PIZZA. But apples, whole wheat anything, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and carrot sticks have been some of my staples to try to keep me full and nourish my body, while shedding some pounds. 

I don't want to teach Isabel to have a negative body image. I want her to understand that she is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that as long as we are good stewards of our bodies, we should be content with who we are and look like, because it was lovingly designed by our Creator. Furthermore, our worth does not come from what we look like. God looks at the heart, and that is where our value lies. So as her mom, I'm trying really hard to remember those things and find a way to be content with this 4th trimester body of mine. I'll get there, but can we just recognize that it is not as easy as saying, "look-- my body made a life, so it's beautiful!" There is a real struggle for many new moms, and this is mine.

Fourth trimester body: learning to love it
xoxo, A