What I’m Into…May 2017

I’m excited to link up with Leigh for her monthly “What I’m Into” series and share what I’ve been into this past month. I LOVE this month, and this year it did not disappoint. I always thought I’d like to have an outdoor wedding in May. Then Bryan proposed in May, and I thought, “Do I want to wait a year to get married? Nah.” 🙂 Now I just think back to his awesome proposal at this time every year! But I digress…

I finished three books this month (and abandoned one). I also want to give a shout out to this children’s book that has been a huge hit at bedtime in our house recently. GGCS

We checked it out from the library, and now I need to buy Ben a copy because he’s completely in love with it.

My MOPS group did the Restless study together this spring and finished it up this month. I got a lot out of it and really appreciated that it required a good deal of self-reflection and some critical thinking. It was definitely more my speed than some others I’ve done. I loved revisiting the story of Joseph and thinking about how I can use my gifts to have a positive impact and be more intentional within my sphere of influence.

Although I struggled at times to get into some of the stories in The Tucci Cookbook, the food was beautiful. Since reading this cookbook, I’ve been inspired to make risotto and tried two different kinds this month. RisottoNote: This photo was taken about halfway through the cooking process. I can’t wait to try more. I really enjoy Italian food. Also, Stanley Tucci. Who’s seen this?

Unbroken got a rare 5 star review from me on Goodreads. I listened to it on audio which helps me deal with violent scenes. On the page, this true story of a WWII plane crash and POW camp survivor might have been too tough, but with the resonant and steady voice of the late, great Edward Hermann narrating (and a task distracting my hands), I made it through. I’m so glad I did. At times, it was hard to believe that these were real events. What Louis Zamperini endured is unfathomable, and his hope and endurance will stick with me for a long time. I also learned some things about the war that I’d never known before, and it made me feel closer to my grandparents who lived through this challenging and redemptive time in our country’s history. My Pawpaw was a radio operator stationed in Senegal. He communicated with the pilots crossing over on their missions. My grandmothers both lost a beloved older brother. Hillenbrand sets an engaging pace as she lays out Zamperini’s story, and the details she includes give a wholistic picture of a live well lived. I was overwhelmed when I finished this book—in a really good way. I didn’t intentionally read this one right around Memorial Day, but it was nice how the timing worked out.

Favorite Spotify listens this month include: Ashes and Wine—A Fine Frenzy, My Offering—Nichole Nordeman, Glory to Glory—Bethel, You Are the Best Thing—Ray LaMontagne, Home—Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Blame It on the Boogie—The Jacksons. We had some epic family dance parties this month.

Speaking of “Blame It on the Boogie”, I discovered a really fun Instagram story series this month that I’m excited to share with you. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in honor of this, a mom in Utah decided to record a dance move (almost) every day because dancing is how she relieves stress and improves her mental health. I. love. this. What a great example of self-care, and honestly, she’s just delightful and fun to watch. You can’t help but smile. Here are a couple of my favorites.

This month, I got to celebrate being mama to this little love of my life for the 3rd time. 18278541_10100845231581477_4815928551278859178_oHe is a delight. My dad was traveling, so my wonderful mom spend the weekend with us. My sister and I took her to see Beauty and the Beast in a fun downtown theater. It was perfect movie to see with my two best gals…although, now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t many mothers in it. Mrs. Potts! Mrs. Potts is an awesome mother. Also, my sweet husband brought me a hydrangea plant (my fave), and so I’m now a plant mom to several potted plants both indoor and outdoor. I’m trying desperately to keep them alive. Advice is welcome. This beauty from the front yard seems to be doing just fine.IMG_0697 2

Thank you, May. You’ve been good to me once again.


What I’m Into…April 2017

I’m finally joining the link up with Leigh to talk about what I’ve been into this past month. What fun!

In April I finished four books and actually enjoyed all of them.

I read My Life in France for an awesome new book club and was completely captivated by Julia’s spirit of determination and deep passion for the food, people and culture of France. I, too, have fallen head over heels for a place I was living temporarily (although my story took a different turn). 🙂 I also enjoy cooking and have secretly always wanted to go to culinary school. It was fun to live vicariously through her as she ate and cooked excellent food.

The Dry was brought to my attention by Laura on the Sorta Awesome podcast. Go for the  audio version with the Australian accent—it really draws you into the story. It was a riveting mystery that stuck with me for days after I finished it and seriously gave me chills. Jane Harper does a stellar job of setting the scene, and I quickly fell for the reserved, tough protagonist with a sensitive side. His steadfast loyalty and compassion keep you rooting for him as he works diligently to uncover a mystery from the past as well as the truth behind the tragedy that brought him back to his hometown in rural Australia. I will be looking for the follow up set to release later this year. Also, Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights, so that’s exciting.

I read His Needs, Her Needs for an intensive marriage class that we started back in February. It finished this month, and I am so, so glad we did it. Honestly, we were forced to have some tough conversations, but it has helped us learn how to better meet each other’s needs and communicate more effectively. If you have the opportunity to take Dynamic Marriage in your area, I highly recommend it. FullSizeRender 4I will say that the book was originally published in 1986, so be prepared for a bit of outdated terminology. For me, it wasn’t a huge distraction. I think the book would be helpful on it’s own, but the workbook and class we took along with it certainly made this one more impactful.

I referenced Help, Thanks, Wow in an earlier post. This book has a beautiful, lyrical quality, and it’s full of helpful bits of wisdom and anecdotes from Anne’s life. It was a timely reminder to be still, present…intentional.

I am the poster child for being late to the party, so please don’t be too shocked when I say that I recently got Spotify. I have some truly great playlists on my iTunes account, so I’ve been creating a playlist on Spotify that has some of my favorite songs from those. It’s nice to have access without having to use up storage on my phone. I’m also exploring new music with Spotify. A few favorites I’ve enjoyed this month are Buena Vista Social Club, Rachel Yamagata (check out “Reason Why”), Travis (an all-time fave is “More Than Us”), and the song “Something in the Water” by Brooke Fraser.

Speaking of being more intentional, I’m trying to support more ethical brands these days. In April, I enjoyed doing a little online window shopping to send my husband a list of links for potential Mother’s Day gifts.  These earrings are a favorite from my wishlist. I love what this company does for women in Uganda.

I’m always looking for new recipes to try. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. My friend, Cara, shared this yummy (and healthy) recipe several months ago, and I’ve been making Red Lentil Dal a lot lately since accidentally buying a huge bag of lentils, like I do. This Creamy Red Curry with Turkey Meatballs was a big hit with all the boys in my house when my brother came to visit. I served it over jasmine rice with green beans. I’d been wanting to try Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe for a long time, and a brunch baby shower was the perfect occasion. I didn’t even make the glaze because I ran out of time, but they were delicious without it.  IMG_0474 2

Watching Parks and Recreation again on Netflix recently has been so enjoyable. To me, it’s one of the most re-watchable shows out there. The character development and chemistry of the cast add a lot to the hilarious writing. We are allowing a little bit of screen time now for our toddler, so I introduced him to Mulan. It’s still such a powerful story, and the animation is gorgeous—the colors, the architecture, the panoramic views of the mountains and the Great Wall. I’m excited that a live action version is coming next year.

Lastly, this time of year in Texas is glorious. My deep feelings about spring are right there in the title of my blog. Of course, we sometimes have Easter in April—a joyful time to remember and celebrate our Savior. Now, for my family, the beginning of April is a special time to celebrate the birthday of this darling boy. IMG_0483I’m soaking in the bright greens, planting flowers and watching our giant roses bloom.FullSizeRender 3

Thanks for following along as I reflect back on April! Click here to read what others have been into. 🙂

Oh Hey!

Over the past year, I have been humbled, surprised and honestly downright flabbergasted to see this blog continue to accumulate followers in spite of the radio silence. I’m thrilled if anything I’ve written here has resonated with you, and I appreciate you taking the time to read. I am admittedly not great at being disciplined and organized. I manage my life sufficiently well most of the time, but I look at bloggers who are churning out new posts several times a week with awe and amazement. I’m not sure how they accomplish that. I like a sporadic but steady rhythm of writing—as inspiration comes to me, and it feels really good to be writing here again after my long hiatus. I have a lot of ideas (always), but today I thought I’d share about what I’ve been doing this past year. I wrote this about two weeks ago when it was fresh on my mind…

This morning, I did the token walk out of an office building carrying a single box of picture frames and notebooks—the walk that indicates to passersby that your job has just ended. In this case, it was amicable, but I still felt a little sad. I left my full-time social work practice when my son was born. When he turned one, I started casually looking around for something part-time and remote. This job fell into my lap, and I am truly grateful for the almost year I was able to contribute to an organization I believe in AND be a stay-at-home mom.

When I found a job working fifteen hours a week, mostly from home, at a nonprofit (working in my field?!), I thought it was too good to be true. Social work doesn’t lend itself to remote work where I could log on during my toddler’s nap each day. I was literally going from MOPS, story time and playdates in yoga pants in the morning to serious, professional woman in the afternoon. I was living the dream, until they asked if I could increase my hours significantly. Turns out it was too good to be true, after all.

This is complicated road for women to navigate, and I think we each have to figure out what works best for our family dynamic, individual personalities, etc. I’ve known families with almost every possible combination of work and childcare divisions, and I’m glad to be parenting in this era when we are able to think outside of the box. What a gift to have choices! This is not something that I take for granted. For my little family, my very supportive husband and I both wanted me to be the primary care giver for our kids while they are small. Part of what makes this work for us is that we have a team mentality—when he gets home from work he changes diapers and entertains the child while I cook. We share household chores. He also works in the tech industry and has a lot of flexibility with his job.

I have loved getting to be there for my son. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a big adjustment to become a mom and leave my job at the same time, and I was glad to have the opportunity to process all my big feelings about this at home like the introvert that I am. However, when we hit the one year mark, and my little angel was consistently napping three hours a day, I began to wonder if there might be a way for me to use my professional skills during this time. It sounded way more appealing than cleaning, and I could contribute financially to our household and feel good about that, too.

I had only just started looking when I got this job through some accidental networking, and I found myself swept up in a pleasantly busy rhythm of putting the baby down for his nap and opening my work laptop to correspond with volunteers, write grant applications and post agency happenings on various social media channels. One afternoon a week, I would meet my dad, who is semi-retired, for lunch, and he would transfer my son’s carseat to his car. Off they would go to play together until dinner. I would go to an office in professional clothes and fill my water bottle in the break room. I had meetings and planning sessions with my supervisor. I wrote the newsletter and negotiated for advertising and donations for events. In direct opposition to my mothering job, I felt productive and appreciated in concrete ways. When you accomplish something in your house, it’s likely that your toddler will soon destroy it. Also, they don’t give you performance reviews, no matter how much you nailed it this quarter. At my job, I conversed with adults and had a fancy title on my business cards. I had the opportunity to learn new skills and make some friends along the way.

I learned a lot about motherhood and about myself by dipping my toe back into the fast-flowing waters of the working world. Based on my experience and many, many conversations with friends, I’ve realized that becoming a mother instigates an identity crisis of sorts for most of us. This job lifted my professional confidence and got me out of that aimless funk. That is not to say that I have it all figured out. Oh, no, no…no. But I needed to be reminded that I can still be a professional woman. Working part-time suited me, and I relished the challenge of learning new skills—dusting off a part of my brain that hadn’t been used as much recently. I know myself well enough to know that three days in the office would have been too much, but I will look for something else. Being with my son brings me more joy than I can describe, but I like knowing that there are still other parts of me, too. After all, he won’t be this small forever.

Ben’s Nursery

We bought our first house when I was seven months pregnant.  I don’t necessarily recommend this, but with our lease ending March 31st and the baby’s due date at April 2nd, it was the best choice for us.  I’m so thankful that we were able to move in and make it feel like home before Ben was born.  Getting his nursery ready was so much fun, and I mentioned awhile ago that I would share some pictures.  So, here is a little tour…

I’m not a huge theme person, but I started sort of jokingly referring to this as “global baby chic”.  We have a lot of different colors, too.  There are touches of navy and lighter gray/blue, and I love the rug with green, orange, brown, robin’s egg blue and tan.  I wanted his nursery to feel cozy and colorful—a place where he can rest well and play hard and let his imagination run wild.



It’s really special to me that we are using the crib my dad built when my parents were expecting me.  My two younger siblings used it, too.  We decided that my dad would paint the top part white to modernize it for the next generation.  It’s got tons of storage, and it’s just so beautiful.  Ben has been sleeping very well in the crib for about two months.  We have several cute fitted sheets with animals in lieu of a full crib set.  This one is my favorite.


We also have this little rocker that was mine.  My hope is that this will become a favorite reading spot for Ben when he’s a bit older.


I got this little bookshelf for my tiny garage apartment when I was in grad school.  I’m not sure if Target still carries it, but I might like to get one or two more.  I love to see it full of children’s books now!  We have some in English and Spanish.


The dresser was the last item purchased.  We went to several secondhand and discount places but didn’t have any luck, and so we found ourselves making the trek to IKEA when I was basically ready to give birth at any moment.  This ended up being just the right size.  Worth it.

My sister, the artist, painted this beautiful mirror for Ben.  He loves to look at it while we’re changing him.  His eyes get really big.  🙂


We got a glider and decided that we’d rather use it in the living room.


I have included links below if you’re interested.  Thanks for coming on the tour, friends!

*Please note that, in addition to reused or homemade pieces, we used gift cards and bought discontinued and sale items, etc.  I don’t think we paid full price for anything.

Dresser: IKEA

Window hanging (similar):  World Market

Spanish prints:  Etsy

Crib: Made by Dad circa 1984

Bookshelf:  Target

Rocker:  Passed down from me

Lamp:  World Market (discontinued)

Laundry hamper:  Target

Glider:  (similar) Buy Buy Baby

Rug:  (similar) World Market

Painted Mirror:  Made by Aunt Katie

Ben’s Birth Story Continued

When they wheeled me off the elevator on the Labor and Delivery floor, I started having a contraction.  I was holding my stomach with one hand and gripping the wheelchair with the other while taking short, fast breaths.  I remember thinking that it felt like how labor is always depicted in the movies.  We wheeled past the nurse who had checked me that morning.  Bryan told me later that she expressed her disappointment as we were passing that her shift was ending right as we arrived.  Very sweet.  We really felt the whole time like the nurses taking care of us loved their jobs.  Their attitudes had a positive impact on our experience, and I was so grateful for each of them.  They got us settled in the room and hooked me up to IV antibiotics because I had tested positive for strep B (not a big deal, apparently, but they want you to have antibiotics to protect the baby as a precaution).

My parents and sister arrived, and we all sat around in the room chatting.  We were excited that the wait was almost over, and I felt so much love and support from everyone.  Our nurse told Bryan that she noticed I was tensing up my shoulders during contractions and encouraged him to help me relax those muscles while I breathed.  I tried to focus on relaxing my muscles, and the contractions continued steadily about 4 minutes apart.  About 3am, I decided to go for a walk with Bryan and my IV pole.  I knew I would probably want an epidural at some point, and I wanted to be mobile while I still could.  We made two laps around the L&D floor, and the intensity of the contractions really kicked up.  I was HURTING!  At this point I had been laboring for more than twelve hours with no pain relief.  I decided I was ready for the epidural.

Our family left the room, and the nurse anesthitist was there within 10 or 15 minutes.  I remembered what to expect from our “prepared childbirth” class, and that helped me to be mentally at ease during the process.  Everything went smoothly and the three parents and my sister came back in.  I was dilated to a 5 or 6 by then.  They decided to go get some sleep at our house since it was close to the hospital.  Bryan and I tried to rest.  The epidural started wearing off on my right side around 10am, so they gave me more medicine.  Suddenly, it was like my body realized how exhausted it was after weeks of not sleeping well, carrying around this huge belly, and then 12+ hours of labor.  I got more relaxed than I’d been since…well, before I was pregnant, probably, and fell into a deep, deep sleep.  It was indescribably glorious.  My friend Julie told me that she experienced something similar, which made me feel less crazy, because, really—what a weird time for a great nap.

At some point, my doctor came in to check me and broke my water.  Bryan told me that our family was back and hanging out in the waiting room area.  My brother was on his way.  It worked out well that the next day was Good Friday, so he would have left that day to come home from college for Easter anyway. The waiting room crew  :)

The waiting room crew had grown by the afternoon.

The next thing I remember is hearing the nurse call my OB and seeing someone wheel an incubator into the room.  They were getting ready.  It was about to be go time!  “I must wake up and give birth!” I thought.

Bryan snapped this picture while I was using the phone screen as a mirror—getting the hair up and getting focused.  Here we go!

Bryan snapped this picture while I was using the phone screen as a mirror—getting the hair up and getting focused. Here we go!


Apparently this is going to be a three parter.  🙂


Ben’s Birth Story

Well, I’ve been itching to write again, and I have much to share.  Benjamin Walter Rodriguez was born at 3:27pm on April 2nd (his due date).  He was 6 lbs, 14 ounces, 20.5 inches long and had a full head of dark hair.  We are still beside ourselves with joy that God has chosen us to parent this tiny, beautiful little boy.  He’s grown and changed so rapidly these past almost three months, and he’s just more fun each day.  So, without further ado, here is the story of Benjamin’s birth…[Disclaimer:  If birth stories freak you out, consider stopping here.  I will include some details, because I appreciate details when someone is telling me a story.]

My last day of work was March 20th, and I had somehow gotten it into my head that the baby would come early.  My OB had me do an ultrasound at 36 weeks, and he was measuring in the 78th percentile, so when she asked if I wanted to schedule an induction, I chose his due date without giving it much thought.  It didn’t occur to me that I might actually have to be induced.  I never expected to make it that far.  I woke up every morning surprised (and disappointed, truth be told) that labor hadn’t started during the night.  I felt huge and swollen and was still having terrible heartburn every day.  Braxton Hicks contractions were coming  occasionally,  and I was starting to dilate, but I just wasn’t going into labor.  Ben is the first grandchild on both sides, so even though I wasn’t overdue yet, our families were getting almost as impatient as I was.

Clockwise from top right—My hand, my sister's, my granny's and my mom's

Clockwise from top right—My hand, my sister’s, my granny’s and my mom’s

We went for a lot of walks.  I did lunges and squats.  I made spicy “kick-start your labor” cookies and ate pizza from a local place that’s supposed to help (seriously?).  We tried everything except castor oil.  I just couldn’t do that.  Nothing worked.  The week of my due date began, and I started to realize that I needed to make peace with the idea of being induced.  As much as I wanted the baby to come on his own, it looked like we might make it to Thursday morning.  I considered canceling, but it was scheduled, my mother-in-law’s plane ticket was purchased,  and everyone was ready to meet this (supposedly large) baby.  So, I just prayed a lot.

Finally, at about 7am on April 1st, I felt some strong cramping and thought my water might have broken.  I called the doctor’s office and explained that I couldn’t time contractions.  It was more of a constant pain.  The lady on the phone said that when the contractions were measurable I would know, but that I should go ahead to the hospital to be checked.  We called my dad who was standing by to pick Bryan’s mom up from the airport in case this happened.  When we got to the hospital, they checked me and found that my water had not broken, and I was at a 3.  The nurse was very nice and said I was close enough that they would probably go ahead and admit me except that they only had one room open.  It was hospital policy to keep one room open for women who come in and are like 9 cm and ready to push.  So, she suggested that I go home and rest, have lunch, etc.  She explained that women progress at different rates, and I might be back in a couple of hours or later that evening.  I thought to myself, “Lunch sounds good.”  Haha.  So we left the hospital about 2pm to pick up lunch and meet my dad and Bryan’s mom at our house.  About 2:30, I started to understand what the lady on the phone meant by “you’ll know“.  I started recording my contractions on an app on my phone.  They were 5 to 8 minutes apart, and intense enough that I couldn’t talk during them.

For the rest of the day, we had lunch, spent time with Bryan’s mom, had dinner, went for a walk and rested while I continued to labor.

The last profile shot of the belly—approximately three weeks before Ben arrived  :)

The last profile shot of the belly—approximately three weeks before Ben arrived 🙂

[Side note:  We moved into our house at the end of January, so we’re still getting to know the neighborhood.  On our walk, we passed a mom with a 6-week old in a stroller, and we ended up exchanging numbers.  Now we go for walks each week with our babies.  She is awesome.  What a great “how we met” story, right?]  The contractions were still 4 to 5 minutes apart, so I was able to have conversations with Bryan and my mother-in-law between them.  They were, however, getting slightly stronger, so I took a shower and we loaded up in the car to head back to the hospital.  I felt more excitement than anxiety on our way there.  My spirit was calm, and I was thrilled at the thought that I was about to meet my son!  I was admitted at about 12:30am, and I realized at that point that not only did I not have to be induced, but also my son would likely be born on his due date.  April Fool’s Day was over.  I smiled to myself and said a prayer of thanksgiving.

To be continued…

Pregnancy is Crazy: Part Two

Here is the link to Part One if you missed it yesterday.  I’m blogging my thoughts on pregnancy this week.  A few more things about this experience that I want to remember…

I want to remember how pregnancy has changed my body image and taught me so much about self-sacrifice and humility.  Some days I feel cute or even beautiful with my curves, thicker hair, perpetually rosy cheeks.  Other days I feel huge and clumsy.  I’ve always thought of other pregnant women as beautiful, so I’m trying to see myself in that same light.  We are often our own harshest critics, aren’t we?  The comments can be disconcerting, too.  Last week someone told me I was going to have a big baby.  Rude.  Today, someone told me I’m only showing in my stomach.  Huh.  Thanks.  These contradictory comments happen all the time.  For the record, Bryan has told me often how beautiful I am to him, and that helps.  My body is changing rapidly, and it’s out of my control.  This is something that I must accept–even embrace–as I focus on my baby’s well being.  My priorities have shifted, and that’s a good thing.

I want to remember the pure, unadulterated joy of family and friends when we shared our news and as the pregnancy  progresses.  Nothing quite compares to being able to tell your parents that they are going to become grandparents and your siblings that they will become aunts and uncles for the first time.  Bryan and I both got to experience this.  Our families mean the world to us.  They have done so much for us and supported us so well in a million different ways.  I will never forget how deeply satisfying it was to share this good news with them and see their smiles and happy tears.  Now we watch their faces light up as they witness my growing belly and help us prepare for his arrival.  🙂  What a blessing.

I want to remember my sheer delight in preparing.  Now that we’re officially moved into our new house and getting settled, I am able to do something that I’ve been waiting to do since about September.  I am nesting!  I will do a future post about Baby’s nursery, but suffice it to say I am loving the process of planning it out and selecting his things.  We have some showers coming up in February, and I’m really looking forward to that.

I want to remember daydreaming about holding him and imagining countless details about the person he will be.  I often wonder what he will look like.  This little boy:IMG_0946Kara2and this little girl:eyesgrew up and fell in love.

What kind of tiny human will the combination of our features make?  I can hardly wait to see him!  I just keep picturing a mini version of my handsome husband, and I have to remind myself that we could have a blonde or even a redhead, and that would be okay, too.  Haha.  I know for certain that we will be completely in love with our little guy.  We already are!  If you read this someday, Baby, I want you to know how loved you were even before you were born.  Your papa and I (and the rest of your family and friends) can’t wait to meet you in just a couple of months!IMG_5586

Pregnancy is Crazy: Part One

Pregnancy is crazy.  This is the thesis of my two part series.  I’m one of those girls that has always wanted to be a mom.  Growing up, I often tried to mother my younger siblings and cousins…with mixed results, I’d say.  🙂  Bryan and I have talked about becoming parents from the beginning of our relationship, and now that it’s actually happening we are in awe.  It’s really unbelievable what God does to bring a child into this world.  And while we marvel at the miracle that is unfolding for us every day, I also want to take note of the often humorous challenges that go along with pregnancy.  I was always taught that you have to be able to laugh at yourself.  It’s the go-to coping mechanism that my family has passed down for generations, and I can see the resilience that it has cultivated.  So, as I celebrate making it to 31 WEEKS this week, here is a list of things I want to remember (highlights and struggles):

I want to remember how out of control my emotions have been.  It feels like every emotion is ten times more intense than usual.  I am basically on the verge of tears at all times.  One minute, everything is calm and fine and the next tears are pouring down my cheeks.  It’s the strangest thing, because even in the moment I can usually acknowledge that I am being irrational, but these crazy hormones prevent me from being able to control my tears or anger or anxiety.  At my worst, I allow my anxiety to escalate to the point that I imagine awful scenarios when Bryan is a few minutes later than I thought he would be coming home from work or take my frustration out on people who love me.  One such occasion during the first trimester is what we now refer to as the “Parmesan Incident”.  I made dinner for the first time in weeks.  I had been so sick and exhausted after work each day, that I hadn’t been cooking.  I love to cook, and eating take out looses it’s charm quickly, so I was thrilled to be making a meal again.  It took all of my energy to get the turkey chili into the pot to simmer.  I went to nap on the couch until Bryan came home from work.  When he arrived, I proudly announced that I had made dinner.  He just needed to put the chili into the bowls and add the cheese on top.  When he walked over and sweetly presented the bowls to me, I heard myself shriek, “PARMESAN???!!”  (Remember, my husband is not from the U.S.  He had no idea that turkey chili is traditionally eaten with shredded cheddar.  He opened the fridge, saw the parmesan cheese, and went for it.)  The horrified look he gave me in that moment let me know that I was becoming someone he didn’t recognize.  Out. of. control.

More often than raging anger, I experience spontaneous ugly crying.  Almost anything can set me off.  I have ugly cried over an episode of Car Talk on NPR shortly after one of the brothers passed away at the end of last year, the movie The Book Thief (if you’ve seen it, you know), sweet prayers Bryan and my family have prayed over dinners, not being able to help paint the master bedroom in our new house, getting rerouted by Google Maps because of construction and having to take a cold shower.  I could go on, but I think this captures it well enough.  Is it embarassing to admit these things?  A little.  But this is part of the adventure.  🙂

I want to remember the stages of growth and development.  It’s been completely fascinating for me to read updates about the various milestones Baby is achieving.  For instance, how is it possible that he was fully formed by the end of the 3rd month?    His heart started beating at about 6 weeks.   Wowzer!  It’s cliche because it’s true–it really is a miracle.  It’s easy to worry about all the things that could go wrong, so I remember feeling a huge sense of relief when I read at 24 weeks that Baby would likely survive if he was born from that point on.  And if the updates weren’t enough to reassure me of how he is growing, feeling movement really confirms it.  Aside from the joy this baby is already bringing to our families, my favorite part of this experience has been feeling him move.  It’s amazing!  His kicking and shifting movements are getting stronger.  He weighs more than three pounds now, after all.  🙂  Occasionally his kicks and punches are even painful, but mostly I love that they’re getting stronger.  Bryan can feel them better, and we can even see my stomach move.   More and more, I feel like there is a human in there and not just a tiny, seahorse-like creature.bump

I want to remember my weird cravings.  I am generally a food lover and not picky at all, so it’s been interesting to have to be so careful with what I choose to consume.  The consistent cravings have been:

1.  Citrus–grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes.  Bring them on–the more the better!  Some sweet friends made us a dinner of citrus stir fry and citrus cheesecake recently.  I devoured it.  Cooking for a pregnant woman and including her cravings is just the perfect way to make her feel loved, in my opinion.cravings

2.  Chicken.  Other meats have turned my stomach at times, and some are on the no no list for pregnancy like cold cuts and sushi, but chicken has been a faithful friend.

3.  Dairy.  Regular Kara would never drink a glass of milk.  I only liked milk on cereal and had actually switched to almond milk awhile ago.  Regular Kara enjoyed cheese, but not in large quantities.  Regular Kara would choose frozen yogurt over ice cream every time.  Baby loves milk, cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese, whipped cream, etc.  Husband is a big milk drinker, so he finds this particularly hilarious and proudly proclaims, “That’s my son!”

These three have been steady since the second trimester.  Then there are the random ones.  One Sunday afternoon, we were hanging around the apartment, and I suddenly had a realization.  “I want brownies and lemonade!”  I said it out loud, excitedly.  Because I spend so much time feeling super hungry and not knowing at all what sounds good to me, it was great to suddenly want something specific, even something as odd as brownies and lemonade.  I immediately popped up and went to the kitchen to bake some brownies.  I ordered lemonade at dinner that evening, and the craving was satisfied.  Happy tummy, happy baby, happy me.  Another time it was a cinnamon roll, which I don’t normally buy.  Bryan went out to put gas in my car and came back with a box from Cinnabon.  He’s the best.  🙂

I want to remember the physical hardships— gagging every time I brush my teeth, getting mean heartburn from anything I digest, hot flashes, perpetual, voracious hunger, restless leg syndrome and muscle cramps, nausea and food aversions (most recently the smell of popcorn.  so weird.), headaches, overwhelming exhaustion, the inability to breathe through my nose…  These discomforts can be hard to endure, particularly since I’m working full-time (a fact that baffles my Grammy).  But there is something about fighting through challenges as I grow this baby that makes me feel empowered.  The best things in life don’t come easy.  While I know I could never do anything to earn the honor of becoming a mother, it seems appropriate that the road to bring our son into the world is a bit rough and rocky.  We feel incredibly thankful that it’s been a healthy pregnancy thus far, and we pray every day for Baby.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two!!  🙂

Firenze, My Favorite City in Italy

Today I continue on with my recap of our trip to Italy.  I want to remember this trip for forever, and this is how I’m documenting.  🙂  I’ve leave the scrapbooking to the craftier ladies among us.

From Venice, we took the train to Florence.  Train travel is the way to go!  We loved it.  It’s so much more laid back than flying, and you get to see the beautiful scenery along the way.  I wish I could travel around the U.S. this way, too.  Car trips are not my favorite, but we end up taking a LOT of them.  (Texas, why you so big?)IMG_0155

Anyway, first let me tell you about our accommodations in Florence.  We did quite a bit of research for the trip and really liked each place that we stayed.  For Florence, we choose a B&B at a convent.  Yes, with actual nuns living there and running it.  None of them spoke a word of English, but they had such pleasant smiles.  IMG_0434I emailed before we left for our trip and asked if married couples were allowed.  They replied that all are welcome, and we booked a double room.  The B&B was just a couple of blocks from the Duomo and walking distance to all the major areas we wanted to visit.  IMG_5167Perfect!

The inside was also very beautiful and even had a nice garden in the courtyard.  When we got to our room upstairs, we were greeted by two twin beds on opposite walls.  We just burst into laughter.  Quite a second honeymoon.  🙂  I guess we should have known.

The beautiful garden at the convent where we stayed

The beautiful garden at the convent where we stayed

Florence was the city where we focused on art the most.  The city itself is a work of art–sprawling red rooftops with a backdrop of luscious green mountains.  Florence feels cleaner and slower-paced to me than other urban areas in Italy.  It has a nice vibe and every angle is a great photo op.  We reserved advanced tickets for the Uffizi and the Accademia (no lines = happy Kara).  We spent the middle of our day in each gallery for two of the days we were there.  The Uffizi is magnificent architecturally, not to mention the artwork inside.  IMG_0229 IMG_0242I was proud of Husband for recognizing The Birth of Venus from his Art History class in college.  I ate a chocolate muffin on the second floor deck while we enjoyed a cool breeze.  The museum is not air conditioned, so it gets a bit toasty.  We spent a lovely evening exploring the area around the Ponte Vecchio, a famous bridge with shops built into it.  We arrived just in time for these sunset views.  Wowzer.  10487297_10100213266145277_1942890574031790349_n IMG_0246 IMG_0286It was as dreamy and romantic as it looks.

The Accademia the next day was awe-inspiring.  It amazes me how sculptors took the time to craft the details of the clothes and capture facial expressions.  It’s hard for me to imagine having the patience to meticulously create something that elaborate.  Of course, the highlight was The David.  IMG_0322The way he is placed in the gallery is perfect, because he’s on a tall platform right under a skylight.  The sun streams through and highlights every beautiful angle of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.  I loved what the description said about the statue.

“David is represented in a meditative pose following his victory over Goliath according to an unusual iconographic interpretation in which the young hero is not portrayed in his traditional pose of triumph with one foot on the severed head of the defeated giant.  His sling is also barely visible as though to emphasize how David owed his victory not to brutal force but to his intellect and to his innocence.”

In Florence, we enjoyed some of the best food of the entire trip.  IMG_5240This was my favorite pizza.  IMG_5282 IMG_5283The simplicity and freshness of the flavors…pure magic.  I love the Italians’ cooking philosophy.  They don’t get too fussy with a lot of ingredients.  (More on this later when I recap our food tour in Rome.)  I sadly didn’t get a picture of my favorite gelato.  It was consumed whilst speed walking across Ponte Vecchio and back to the B&B to catch a taxi to the train station.  It was strawberry (Fragola–a favorite Italian word of mine) and coconut—a dynamite combo, as it turns out.

Our last full day in Florence, we climbed the massive, narrow staircase to the top of the Duomo and looked out over the city.  Having already done this once, I was a bit torn on whether or not I wanted to go for it again.  The line was long, it was a hot day, and we could climb the neighboring tower with no waiting and be almost as high.  But Bryan was determined, and who was I to stand in his way?  So, we waited, and up we went.  It was worth it.  🙂  IMG_0363 IMG_0373 IMG_0395I love this city, and exploring it with my Love meant the world to me.  Ciao, Firenze.  I hope we’ll be back someday.

Grateful for the Growing

I took a little blogging break this fall, and posts may continue to be more sporadic for awhile.  I will post the rest of our Italy trip, but I need to interrupt that series for a minute to share some exciting news.  Bryan and I are going to have a baby! Announcement When I chose my one word for the year, I have to admit that I didn’t just choose the word “GROW” because we were moving to a new place and starting new jobs.  I hoped that our family would grow this year, too.  Now I’m well into my 2nd trimester.  Aaahhh!  Oh, and we’re buying a house for the baby to live in.  If all goes smoothly, we will be moving in January.  I’ve been wanting to write about all of these life happenings in this space for more than a month, but it all felt like too much to express.  How do you begin to describe such an experience?  I’m still not sure.  But I’m writing nonetheless, because I’m tired of not writing.  🙂

I don’t think we really, fully believed that I was pregnant until the first sonogram in August.  Then I spent the next several weeks feeling horribly ill while trying to simultaneously keep myself from worrying that something could go wrong and also mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the possibility that something could go wrong.  This sounds completely crazy, and it has been, but maybe some of my mom friends can relate?  The first trimester was rough.  It wasn’t until mid-October that I started to get my energy back and feel like myself again.  This is a humbling experience in so many ways, and I’m thankful for all that God is teaching me.

These days, we’re feeling really thankful and full of joy.  Bryan and I have basically been grinning ear to ear since the anatomy scan at Week 18.  That’s only a slight exaggeration.  It’s a BOY!admin-ajax.php

I didn’t think it was possible for my sweet husband and I to be any more sappily in love with each other, but, my goodness, this has done it.  We are both the oldest in our family, and this is the first grandchild on both sides.  So, all of our relatives are going gaga over our unborn child, too.  It’s so much fun.  Do you ever have moments or even seasons of life when you realize that you’re making memories that you will always treasure?  It’s a rare gift (for me, anyway) to be aware of that while it’s happening.  I think it’s sometimes referred to as being nostalgic for the present.  I felt that way the semester I studied abroad and got to travel around Europe with some amazing friends.  I felt it when I met Bryan and periodically during our subsequent dating, engagement and newlywed seasons.  And I feel it now.  This time is so special, and I want to soak it up and remember everything.  I hope to capture some of the experience here with updates over the next few months.  Thank you for reading, dear ones.  We would appreciate your prayers during this incredible time in our lives.  We know that everything is about to change, and we are so glad to be on this adventure together.

Last year at this time, we were saying goodbye to my beloved Pawpaw.  I still sometimes can’t believe he’s not here with us anymore.  I’m so grateful for his life and for the blessing of this new life that brings some much-needed joy to this season for our family.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!