Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Recipe Capsule

Oh, summer!

How lovely are you?! And HOT! But lovely. Who doesn't love laid-back, lemonade-sipping, pool-hanging, garden-veggie-eating, happy sunshine-y summer? :)

And with summer comes FRESH, delicious recipes. Oh man, I'm cheerful just thinking about them! So, to keep all my summertime favorites in one place, I'm compiling a list of the recipes that we love to make over and over again throughout the summer. You'll notice lots of tomato-centric recipes, since tomatoes are SO GORG during this time of year. Plus lots of other recipes with fresh fruits and veggies, because . . . summer! I also feel like a good summer recipe involves not turning on the oven, but I snuck a few oven recipes in there, just because their taste outweighs the lameness of turning on the oven on 100 degree days.

And now, with mouth watering, I give you our Summer Recipe Capsule!



This recipe is great for all those extra grape or cherry tomatoes you have laying around. It's simple, but that's what makes it so perfect. The red sauce that's created by the burst tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil is just lovely.




Yum! I'm a huge fan of traditional 7-layer dips. But look at this one! Hummus, greek yogurt, red onion, cucumber, tomato, olives, feta cheese . . . so many great flavors in one place! This one is definitely great for a party, but also great for folks who like snacky lunches, like myself. We serve with pita bread, pita chips, celery, carrots, or really anything great for dipping. A great recipe for using up some of those garden veggies currently hanging out on your kitchen counter.




Who doesn't love the Pioneer Woman?? This is one of our favorite recipes of hers. It's so easy to throw together and so tasty! We seriously eat it on repeat for lunches throughout the summer. We often add different things to this wrap depending on what we have in our fridge/pantry: quinoa, chick peas, tomatoes, mild peperoncini peppers, cucumber . . . this wrap gets better every time we eat it! When we're short on time, we skip the grilled onions and just throw them on raw. When we have extra time, we grill the whole wrap once it's stuffed, which makes the hummus even creamier if you can believe it. Mmmmmm.




You guys. THIS salad. This may be the summer salad to end all salads. I just don't know. It's awesome sauce though. Specifically the green goddess sauce that goes on it. Avocado, lime, cilantro, jalapeƱo, and pistachios are the main stars of the magical sauce. I could seriously put it on anything. Actually, I'm pretty sure I'd just eat it by the spoonful . . . if that was acceptable. You toss a bunch of quinoa, fresh tomatoes, and spinach in it, which just takes it all to the next level. YOU GUYS!! I'm telling ya. You need to make this NOW. We loved adding fresh mozzarella and some roasted Brussels sprouts. But I bet it'd still be stellar without. Bring this salad to your next summer party and you will not be left alone until you share the recipe. 




Yes, it sounds a little weird. But if you like pickles and creamy dips and potato chips, you'll love this dip. It's very simple to throw together and quite the crowd pleaser. Gah! I'm salivating just thinking about it!




Ok, so this salad might give the green goddess salad a run for its money. It's SO SO SO good. I especially love the CRUNCH of the uncooked ramen noodles. The asian honey vinaigrette is on point. And then all those fresh veggies. WOWS. I stole this one from Caitlin at A Joyful Duty last summer and it's been a favorite ever since. You know a good recipe when you taste one, Caitlin! Strong work. 




Another Pioneer Woman favorite! This salsa is probably one of the easiest things you'll ever throw together and it's so flippin' good. I bet there's a way to make this one with fresh tomatoes, but if canned tomatoes don't bother you, you can make this recipe year-round. Which, thank goodness! Because you'll crave it year-round once you get your first taste. It makes a HUGE batch, so be prepared to put salsa on EVERYTHING after it's made. Or you could put it in cute mason jars and share with friends.




Hang with me on this one. I know it sounds a little weird. Especially putting strawberries on a pizza. But, guys, this pizza is probably my favorite pizza ever. The saltiness of the bacon and cheese, the sweetness from the balsamic, strawberry jam, and strawberries, and the pops of flavor from the sriracha, cilantro, and onion. You've just gotta try it to believe it!




I always love a good lettuce wrap. This vegetarian version, which we've tried with both tempeh and tofu, is just perfection. It's jam-packed with fresh veggies and even more jam-packed with flavor. A lovely fresh summer meal!




Once you've had homemade tomato sauce, you really can never go back to the jarred stuff. This recipe does not disappoint. It's very easy to throw together and some of the tastiest sauce I've ever had! It calls for canned San Marzano tomatoes, but I bet you could use your fresh garden tomatoes in this one if you'd rather. Now, if you can get your hands on some fresh pasta, you've got yourself the makings of one tasty meal!




If you're a zucchini grower, you probably have more zucchinis than you know what to do with at this point. (You're probably starting to get sick of zucchini bread, amirite?) This recipe will use them up stat! And deliciously so. I like to double this recipe and get at least two nights out of it. I bet it freezes well, so you could always go that route with the leftovers. That homemade enchilada sauce plus all that cheese PLUS the crunchiness of the fresh zucchini . . . this dish is something special!



I recently made this recipe with okra in one jar and cucumber in another. The pickled okra turned out great, but the pickled cucumber . . . fantastic! This is probably my favorite pickling recipe so far, and that's saying a lot because I'm obsessed with pickles. I'm thinking the secret to this one is the use of rice vinegar. But I'm not a food scientist. Just a pickle connoisseur. :) I didn't actually seal these jars, by the way. I just put them in the fridge as soon as they cooled and started eating them a few days later. Easy and tasty!



This recipe is actually for Asian Turkey Meatballs, but I just make the mixture and turn it into 1/3-lb patties instead of tiny meatballs. Then we cook 'em up on the grill. I also make the dipping sauce, which is great for burger dipping. And if you want to make a stellar meal out of it, make the Crunchy Asian Ramen Salad on the side. Yum!



I couldn't put together a summer recipe capsule without a delectable berry-centric dessert to top it off. I'm a huge fan of summer berries and a huge fan of chocolate. You put the two together in a pie and oh my goodness! Watch out! I've not actually made the pie in the link above before, but I've made a this version and it was always great. The pie I linked to, though, looked even more delicious than the one I've made, so I'm going with it. 


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And there you have it. Our 2016 Summer Recipe Capsule! What do you think?

Now tell me, what would you put in your Summer Recipe Capsule? What have you been whipping up in your kitchen the past few weeks? Bonus points for links to recipes! 


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Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Sneak Peek at Our (Probably) Future House

So far, everything has been smooth sailing with the house we're trying to purchase.

Home inspection . . . CHECK!
Termite inspection . . . CHECK!
Radon inspection . . . CHECK!
Appraisal . . . CHECK!

And all passed with flying colors. Whew! Much easier than last time around. I think we might actually be buying a house FOR REALZ. 

If everything continues to go as planned, we'll closing in a few short weeks. Holy taco!

For all the curious out there, here are some (unfortunately low-res) pics of the (hopefully) new digs . . . 


The main entrance has these great high ceilings. And you can sneak peek up to the second floor there.


The kitchen is perfectly functional and wonderfully spacious! We'll probably update it eventually since it's a little stuck in the early 2000s, but for now, it's perfect. On the back wall not pictured, there are even more cupboards, another counter-top area great for serving meals for parties or perhaps setting up as a mini kitchen office. And of course, the fridge is hanging out on that wall too. Plus a small pantry.


Then we have this MASSIVE eat-in kitchen area. It's really lonngggg so we're thinking of just making that our formal dining area as well and getting a really long, fancy, hunk of wood dining table for entertaining.

The triple doors lead to the sunroom, pictured later.


Here's the formal dining room, right off the kitchen, which you can see if you peek through that doorway. Since we have ALL THE DINING SPACE in the world between the kitchen and the sunroom, we're thinking of making this a first floor play room for babies. What would you do with a spare, not-enclosed room like this?


 The sunroom! Complete with mountain views. *hearts for eyes*


The media room is right off the eat-in kitchen area. Loving the built-ins and fireplace AND projector with screen that the sellers are totally leaving behind for us. WINNING. Tell me this, though. Why have hardwood throughout the whole kitchen area and then TILE in this room?! Ummm.
 

And the backyard! Which is actually tiny-ish. But perfect because who wants to do yard work anyway?


Behind the fence is all land owned by the Church, including an awesome walking path that leads straight to our Church's front doors. YAS!

The bedrooms are just . . . bedrooms. Which are kind of boring to look at. So I'm skipping those pics. Imagine nicely-sized rectangular rooms, each with a closet. And there you have it. There are 4 of them. Two of them have a bathroom attached (fancy), the master has a MASSIVE closet plus a jetted tub in the attached bathroom (LUXURY), and the other two bedrooms share a hallway bathroom. Good stuff.

There's also a small laundry room off the kitchen, a formal sitting room that we'll probably use as an office area (because who formally sits anymore?), and a garage.

And there you have it!

Hopefully in a few weeks, I'll be able to say this is OURS!! Expect updated pics once we're all moved in and settled. But until then, prayers are very much appreciated for continued smooth sailing. What a roller coaster.

Monday, July 18, 2016

We're Pregnant Again!

We're thrilled to announce that WE'RE EXPECTING AGAIN! Baby Schweitz is due in late January and I'm currently 12 weeks along.

We couldn't be more thrilled!!!!!!

After losing our tiny Therese Hope at only 4 weeks along, we became pregnant the very next cycle. I can't help but think she's already met this little one and I bet she's now interceding for her sibling regularly. It melts my heart.

One of our first family photos with the new baby in tow . . .


And we didn't even know it yet!

We traveled back to Memphis for two back-to-back wedding weekends and stayed with several friends while we were there. The trip landed smack dab on top of the tail-end of a symptom-filled two-week wait. I soooo wanted to test early, but I didn't have an opportunity while staying with friends. It felt so awkward to do it that way. So we waited until the night we got home, exactly peak + 14.  It drove me nuts not to test early, but thankfully I was distracted by reunions with good friends, outings to our favorite Memphis restaurants, and this gorgeous photo shoot we had done for our 1-year-old John Paul, which produced the family-of-four photo you see above. (Five if you count our little Therese, who's always with us in spirit. <3)

Our normally 8-hour trip home turned into a ridiculously long 12+ hour trip home due to several traffic jams. Woof. So by the time we arrived home, I raced the the bathroom to peel open an Amazon-special HCG pregnancy test. This was the first time EVER I was going to take a test that I thought had a very good chance of being positive with John by my side. And it was wonderful to have him there. Within a minute, the test was positive and we hugged and hugged and squealed in excitement and probably even jumped up and down a few times. Pregnant twice within two cycles?! Can this be real life?

As our little Therese has taught us, there is hope!!!

Our excitement was dashed very quickly when, the very next day, I started spotting, just as I had with Therese's pregnancy. I was devastated and so worried, but I clung to the prayer, "Jesus, I trust in You!" to get me through.

The day after that we were shaken even more to learn that at peak + 7, my progesterone was 9 and my estradiol was low too. Thank God I was taking prometrium throughout my two-week wait, because I'm not sure this little one would have made it if not for the supplementation.

Praise God, the pregnancy tests kept getting darker with each day, and the spotting quickly stopped and became a distant memory. I haven't spotted since.


Several weeks and blood draws later, my progesterone and estradiol are looking GREAT! The estradiol self-corrected and I've been getting butt-shots of progesterone every other night to keep my progesterone levels good and healthy. My last progesterone draw around 10 weeks was 40, so I have a feeling my doc is going to take me off the shots soon. I'm pretty ok with that. ;)

As for Baby Schweitz, he or she is looking OH SO ADORABLE!


Can you see baby's profile? That little button nose? And those tiny feet on the right? *Swoon*

At our 6-week ultrasound, in addition to healthy Baby Schweitz, our doctor saw a second sac on the screen. The second one was empty, leading him to think it was either a disappearing twin or a blood-filled sac. He said if it was the latter, it was probably the cause of the spotting I had at 4 weeks. But I can't help but think, what if it was the former? What if Baby Schweitz had a twin? I did have one HCG draw early on that tripled from the previous one 48 hours earlier. From what I've read, that can definitely happen with twins. It's weird not knowing whether or not we lost another baby, but I have faith that one day we will know, in Heaven. And what a reunion that may possibly be. <3

The above ultrasound is actually from our 11-week appointment. I wasn't supposed to get an ultrasound at that appointment, but our doctor couldn't find the heartbeat via doppler, so he did an ultrasound to check in. Of course I was a nervous wreck the entire time he searched my belly for a heartbeat. He said he only finds the heartbeat about 50% of the time when baby is still that little, but I was still scared as stink. EVEN THOUGH this little bug is giving me nutso all-day nausea and constipation and heartburn and I'm sleepy as all get out. So I was pretty sure baby was very healthy and just hiding on us. But still. No sign of a heartbeat for approximately 20 minutes while we waited for the ultrasound machine was just plain nerve wracking. Good thing you're cute, little one! Baby looked perfect once he or she was on the big screen.

Speaking of he or she, we're gonna go the surprise route again. We're not finding out gender. Can you handle it??

We told our parents and siblings about Baby Schweitz very early, just to get prayers on board, and now we're just starting to consider sharing the news in bigger circles. You're one of the first big circles to know. :)

When we told John's parents, who live in town with us, we had John Paulie walk into the room with a copy of our 6-week ultrasound and hand it to them. For physicians, they were actually pretty confused for a few minutes. Ha! But when they realized it was a current ultrasound with my name on it, it started to make more sense. And they were so thrilled for us.

My parents learned via FaceTime and they were also so thrilled. My dad even asked if he could share our good news with his mother who was a little upset with him over something silly, to get back in her good graces. :P I said go right ahead. Use this baby to spread some joy.

I still worry nearly every day that Baby Schweitz isn't going to make it, or that Baby Schweitz's heart has stopped beating. But in those moments, I just cling to the prayer, "Jesus, I trust in You!"

We will continue to have hope that we'll be snuggling and loving on another baby come January. God, you've got this!

Grow, baby, grow!

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Big, Crazy House-Buying Saga

If you recall, a few months back, I mentioned that we found a house! And made an offer! And, after several counter-offers, it was accepted. Woohoo!

Built in 2011, 3400 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, in an up-and-coming neighborhood, and complete with all the finishes we wanted . . . we were pumped!

If all had gone according to plan, we'd be closing on that house a week from today.

But, as some of you may know, house buying can be quite the topsy turvy process.

Everything started out great. We got the house for exactly what we wanted to pay. The inspection showed barely an issue. We got a great loan rate. Life was good.

But then the appraisal happened. Oof.

Our bank's appraisal came back $18,000 below our original offer.

*insert face with eyes bugging out here*

At first, we were kinda excited to hear that. We figured that gave us some huge negotiating room with the sellers and that we'd be able to get our dream home for an even lower price.

But then more details unfolded. We were told that the appraiser the bank had chosen was a conservative guy. And that he undershot the value of the house. So we agreed to wait around for the sellers to have a private appraisal done by a private appraiser of our choosing. Seemed fair enough. We were hoping this private appraisal would be close to the bank's appraisal, but maybe a smidge higher, and we were willing to pay that little bit extra out of pocket on top of our loan, since the house really seemed worth it.

Fast forward one week and the private appraisal came back $2,000 above our original offer.

*insert face with eyes bugging out and mouth hanging wide open here*

Folks, we weren't trying to buy a $1 million home here. Not even close. A discrepancy of $20,000 in appraisals is just flippin' insane for the price range we're in. Insane.

Upon closer inspection of the second appraisal, we found he used some . . . interesting comps, including two brand new homes half the size of the home we were trying to buy. And one of them had never sold before. Meaning the price he used as a comp was a price no one was willing to pay (at least not yet) for this brand new home. What the what?!

But the sellers were sticking to it. And understandably. They wanted top dollar for their home, and their private appraisal claimed it was worth it, even with the shotty comps.

To be fair, the comps in the area were limited at best. Few homes had sold near the home we were trying to buy within the last year, and of the ones that had, very few were actually comparable (built around the same time, nearly the same size, with similar finishes). So we know that was likely the cause of the appraisal discrepancy.

We tried to renegotiate and meet in the middle, but the sellers weren't interested. Our only options were to pay $18,000 above what our bank thought the house was worth or walk away. So we walked. And were super bummed.

(This was within a week of our miscarriage too, which just made everything harder and way more emotional.)

But God redeems.

The day we found out the house was going to fall through, a Sunday, we were at Mass and noticed two new houses were being built in the neighborhood right next to the church. AKA the exact neighborhood we wanted and had tried to be in. But nothing to our liking was available when we were originally house hunting, so we basically gave up on that dream and hunted elsewhere.

Can you believe it? Two brand new houses for sale exactly where we wanted to be. And on the exact day the other house fell through.

After the dust settled from all the appraisal issues (and a rude seller's agent who was very disrespectful to our agents over the whole thing), we decided to tour the larger of the two new houses in the church neighborhood.

A brand new home, 2200 sq ft, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, beeeeeautiful finishes, and to be finished within two months.

While we loved it, we hesitated. 2200 sq ft just sounded so small for us, especially considering we'd like to be a bigger family some day. And storage space was super limited as there was no basement. And the bedrooms were tiny. (How can we stuff all the kiddos into shared bedrooms with barely any bedroom space?) And the kitchen was teeeeeny tiny, a far cry from my dream kitchen. AND the price per square foot was woahhhh expensive since you pay a premium for a brand new house. So we were basically looking at overpaying for a new house that we'd likely have to move out of within a few years since we'd (hopefully rather quickly) outgrow that space with just another kid or two. It didn't seem like a great investment. But it was exactly where we wanted to be. So we held off, but were discerning it heavily. I mean, talking about it allll the time. And praying about it. And really really really considering it.

It's funny how God works.

He must have put that hesitation on our hearts.

While we were touring the brand new house for a second time, this time with the builder -- he was giving us all the info on the unfinished details -- we bumped into a neighbor on our way to our car. He was just hanging on his porch and wanted to say hi. We got to talking and he mentioned that a house two doors down was going to go on the market soon, which was in great shape, much bigger, and would cost must less per square foot compared to the brand new house. While it seemed like a long shot, we kept it in the back of our minds and hoped and prayed it would go on the market soon so we could check it out.

"Jesus, we trust in You!" has been a mantra on repeat around here for a while now. It's so hard being in the middle of a discernment and having question marks over your future and then another question mark pops up. To wait for this other house to come on the market, and in the process risk losing the new house, or not?

Jesus, we trust in You!

Two days after the conversation with the friendly neighbor, I decided, what the hay? I called our agents, who've been soooo good to us through this whole process, and asked if there was any way we could get more info on a house that wasn't even on the market yet. I figured it was a long shot. I mean, what were they gonna do? Knock on this family's door and ask for a tour? But as it turns out, I guess that isn't weird at all. Our agents said they will frequently knock on peoples' doors if a client really likes the look of a house and ask them if they're interested in selling. Isn't that nuts? But it didn't phase our agents at all.

They knocked. The family answered. And we set up a tour of the house. All before the house ever hit the market.

Built within the last 15 years, 3000 sq ft, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a wonderful layout, huge kitchen, mountain views, withing walking distance of our church . . . pinch us, we're dreaming!

We toured the house yesterday, put an offer on it last night, and we've signed a contract as of this afternoon.

Can you believe it?!

And since the sellers never had to work with a real estate agency on their end, they're offering it to us for a really good price. At least, we hope it's a good price! It seems like it is so far. Thankfully, that's where the inspection and appraisal will come in handy.


We are thrilled to have found a house so close to our church, with everything that we were looking for, and under budget. God is good.

And so that's where this big, crazy house-buying saga stands as of today . . . in case you were curious.

(Do you feel like you're inside the most dramatic episode of House Hunters ever, 'cause I sure do!)

Please join us in prayer as we embark on this inspection/appraisal/home-buying path once again. We're so nervous after our last house-buying failure. But then again, with all this falling into place so easily over the past 48 hours, we're hoping that means it's really going to work this time.

More updates to come!

Jesus, we trust in You!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

John Paul is One!

Just like that, our little newborn is now a little one-year-old.


I look at these month-to-month pictures and it's hard to believe he was ever that tiny. It's true what they say: the days are long but the years are SHORT. And what a fantastic year it's been!

John Paul Fulton, you are the light of our lives! It's a joy to watch you grow and learn and explore. You're such an adventurous little boy, and a little boy through and through. You love anything with wheels, but especially trains and hotwheels cars. You also love to climb! In the past week, you've climbed up onto the couch and up into your stroller by yourself when mommy was distracted for just a minute. You must love heights, or scaring your mom half to death, or both. But it's adorable. You've also just learned to throw and kick a ball, not exactly with any aim yet, but you're figuring it out. And you eat like a champion. I'm not necessarily speaking about the variety of foods, but definitely the amount of food. Your current favorites are peanut butter sandwiches, strawberries and grapes, pickles, any sort of cracker or chip, raisins, cheese, and hummus. Oh, and how could I forget . . . pizza! You'll pretty much give anything a taste, but if it's not one of the yummy foods I'v listed, there's a good chance it'll get spit out pretty quickly, or thrown to the floor. But you love exploring foods. Baby led weaning has worked so well for you and we're excited to watch your palate continue to expand.

You also still love nursing so much. We call it milkies. While it seems our nursing journey will be coming to a close soon, mommy still loves our milky snuggles before naps and bedtime and will be sad to see it go.

You've recently become a sleep pro. Your first year had its ups and downs when it came to napping and through-the-night sleeping. You didn't like being put down for sleep and you didn't like falling asleep without a ton of help. But now you usually take two two-hour naps a day and sleep around 11 hours at night. And we're incredibly grateful!

You've even learned a few words. "Dada" was first, soon followed by "Mama." You also love to say "hiiiii" to strangers and "arp arp arp" to puppy dogs. You say "yup yup yup" and shake your head up and down when you really want something and occasionally even say "NO" or your version, "OH" when you're being funny and trying to refuse something. You've also gotten good at copying us when you're feeling up to it. I've heard you say "socks" and "hello" and "ball" and "bunny" and "froggy" . . . never on your own, but repeating after us. Your sweet little boy voice melts us every time.

And oh how you love your daddy. You especially love going out on Batman and Robin adventures with him (as daddy likes to call them). When you return home, daddy always brags about how good you were and how you flirted with everyone around you. You truly are a ham. You'll yip to get someone's attention, then curl up and act shy once they say hi or try to chat back. Heart melter. You have the whole world wrapped around your finger.

John Paul Fulton, it's a joy to be your mom. Thanks for all the love and laughter. Can't wait to see what year two holds in store. I can't imagine our hearts being any more full, but I bet you'll find ways to keep the love overflowing.




To celebrate this big boy milestone, we had a little birthday party at the clubhouse and pool at our apartment complex. John's family and a few local friends celebrated with us and made the day extra special. 


The party was originally planned for the park, but the weather was iffy and having it within a few feet of our apartment door actually turned out to be super handy.

The theme was blue and white stripes, with dark blue and light blue accents. Not the most intricate of themes, but I was trying to keep things simple. Who remembers their first birthday, anyway? :P





We ordered his favorite food: Greek food! Hummus and feta dip and pita and chicken kabobs and lamb . . . and he didn't eat a single bite because he just wanted to be playing with all his friends. It was actually pretty adorable.



"Mom, don't make me eat! How boring!"



We hid Hershey's kisses around the clubhouse for the kiddos to find. You would have thought it was
Christmas morning the way their faces lit up with each new kiss discovered.


While he wasn't interested in dinner, he did eat some cake.



And seemed to enjoy it. :)




We opened some presents!



And most importantly, enjoyed our time with family and friends!


And an unplanned dip in the pool.


Happy 1st birthday, John Paul Fulton! We love you, kiddo. Keep being you. Because you're seriously awesome. :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

To All Women With a Mothering Heart

Today, I'm overwhelmed with conflicting emotions.

First and foremost, I'm filled with joy. To be able to celebrate this day as a momma to the most perfect, precious boy is a most cherished blessing. He fills my days with so much love and light and laughter. What a joy it is to be his mom.





But today, I also feel a great sorrow. I miss our little girl. I'm crying that I'm no longer pregnant and that I'll never get to hold her. What joy and hope she brought us, but what a hole she's left in my mommy heart.

And my heart also breaks for so many friends and loved ones who are reminded only of loss on this day. Loss of the dream of motherhood, loss of a child, loss of a mother or grandmother. My heart is with you all today.

This image especially spoke to me this mother's day.


So today, I'd like to wish a happy mother's day to all women with a mothering heart. Whether to earthly children, children no longer with us, or children we dream of having, we all deserve the love today.

Happy Mother's Day! <3


Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Littlest Saint

This is the story I never wanted to write.

John and I have lost the tiniest baby to miscarriage.

Her time on earth was too short, but what joy she brought us.

And though her life was short, there's still so very much to tell: how it all happened, how I found out, her name. So I'm sharing it all now to honor her perfect, little life and keep her memory alive forevermore.

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My cycles had been on hold for a while due to my nursing relationship with John Paul. I was eager for them to start them again, as we were eager to start trying to conceive a sibling for our little bud. So I was excited when Aunt Flo ever-so-gently made her appearance toward the end of our trip to Harry Potter World back in early February, at approximately 9 months post-partum.

We started trying right away.

I wasn't exactly devastated when Aunt Flo appeared a second time in mid-March, because hey, it was only our first cycle of trying and I was used to things taking a while, as it took almost 2 years to conceive John Paulie. But I was certainly ready to try, try again.

While a mama returns to fertility, things can be a little . . . off. So it took forever to ovulate in that second cycle. But I still tracked it, we used the right days, and remained hopeful.

Two days after peak, I was hit by the most intense nausea ever. It started in the middle of the night, during a 4am nursing session with John Paul, and didn't let up for almost 24 hours. At first I chalked it up to food poisoning, but I never actually got sick. I wanted to hope that it was somehow related to conception, but I also felt that was really weird. So I pushed it to the back of my mind.

Then John Paul started acting strange. And I couldn't figure out a reason for it. He wasn't teething. He wasn't sick. He was just skipping most of his naps and being super snuggly. I wanted to hope that it was somehow related to early pregnancy and him just knowing something was up with mama's body, but I didn't want to get too carried away. So I tried to push that to the back of my mind. But with the possible conception nausea and now my baby boy acting so out of character, I started to let hope grow.

At this point, I raided our medicine cabinet and found my old prescription for progesterone. Leading up to my first post-partum cycle, my luteal phase was only 5 days long. And leading up to my second, it was only 8. Considering 13-to-15-day luteal phases were my pre-pregnancy norm, I knew my progesterone levels were off, as they usually are when a mama is returning to fertility. So I decided to self-treat with that old progesterone prescription.

Pretty soon it was 9 days past peak and I got hit by an annoying migraine. Another hopeful sign!

In this time, I also had a friend tell me she had a dream I was pregnant with twins and my sister-in-law told me she dreamt I announced I was 4 weeks pregnant. And so hope grew more.

Come 11 days post peak, a good friend, Emily, convinced me it was time to test. Pre-John Paul, I was not an early tester because I was so used to not getting pregnant each cycle, so why bother? But at this point, I had so many signs pointing toward pregnancy, I decided to give it a go.

I stared at the test as the urine crossed over the testing window. Negative. But wait, Stephanie! It says to read after 5 minutes. So I walked away, and set a timer for 6 minutes, just to be sure.

When the timer went off, I checked again and negative again.

But wait, is that second line? Surely not. No. I'm squinting. There's no line there. But wait, is there?!!

And with another few minutes of staring and squinting and second guessing, the faintest of faintest second lines was really there.

PREGNANT.

Oh my gosh, I'm PREGNANT!!!!!!!!!

A few texts back and forth with Emily and she confirmed it. She saw it too. SHE SAW IT TOO!

And I was giddy!

PREGNANT AND GIDDY!!!

I immediately called John at work and told him, and he excitedly said, "Well, yay! I had a feeling this is what you were calling me about. How lovely!" After the weird nausea and John Paul's behavior and migraine, he was hoping along with me. And now it was confirmed.

We're pregnant!!!!

But it wasn't long before doubt crept in.

That second line was super light. What if it was an evap line? Plus, the test is over two years expired. This probably isn't real. Oh, but I want it to be so bad. Please be real!

So with excitement but also a little fear, we went to sleep that night and planned to test in the morning.

When morning came around, the test was still positive. Ever so faintly positive. But positive is positive!

Pregnant. Pregnant. PREGNANT!

We were floating on cloud 9 that entire day. We were in happy shock that it only took us two cycles of trying this time!! I kept excitedly telling John Paul he was a big brother. We looked up her due date: December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents. (Eerily fitting now, looking back.) We swooned over the thought of a Christmas baby.

We treated ourselves to ice cream after dinner and took one of the only images we now have of me while pregnant with our little one.


Later that night, the bleeding started. First spots of brown, then a bright spot of red.

CRUSHED.

The familiar feeling of failure from our two years in infertility came creeping back.

I've failed us. I'm broken. I'm so sorry.

Those were the words I uttered to John.

With the smallest thread of hope I had left, I took another pill of progesterone before bed and closed my eyes to sleep, ready to face the worst in the morning, but clinging to Him, desperately wanting a miracle.

By morning, the spotting was back to brown and another pregnancy test came back faintly positive. By afternoon, the spotting had stopped.

Could it be? Implantation??

The spotting shook me up enough to want blood work. So Sew called me in some favors and my long-distance NaPro doc (we don't have one in my new town) ordered HCG and progesterone labs for me.

We went to bed excited and hopeful and scared yet again. But mostly, joy-filled. I was still pregnant, praise God. We thanked Him for another day with our little poppy-sized babe and went to sleep in awe of His great gift.

We got yet another faintly positive test in the morning.


But when we got our lab results later that day, we were quite shaken.

On day 13 after peak . . .

HCG: 13
Progesterone: 17

Crushed again.

Our NaPro doc assured us that those numbers were possibly ok. They were numbers he'd expect to see in very, very early pregnancy. The progesterone wasn't great, but wasn't the absolute worst. He wanted it to be at least above 20, so we made a plan to switch to progesterone in oil and hoped that would do the trick. As for the HCG, well, we would test again in 48 hours to see if it's doubling and then go from there.

As we waited for the morning of the next HCG and progesterone check, I oscillated between hope and sadness. For reference, my HCG was above 2,000 when checked on day 18 after peak during John Paul's pregnancy. An HCG level of 13 just sounded so terribly low. So terribly hopelessly low.

But we kept praying. We kept hoping. We kept imagining our future with this sweet baby in it. And we tried to enjoy every moment we had with her, because we knew there was a chance there wouldn't be many more.

When the nurse finally called to tell me the results of the second test, her voice gave it away. So I told her to give it to me straight.

On day 15 after peak . . .

HCG: 3
Progesterone: 5.5

Completely and utterly broken.

An HCG of less than 5 is negative for pregnancy. It was confirmed. Our little one was no longer growing. I had miscarried.

And I sobbed.

John was at work, so it was me and John Paulie and the little fading life inside me for the afternoon.

That night, I didn't take my progesterone, and the next morning the bleeding began for real.

---

Technically, I experienced a chemical pregnancy. And in the past week, I've come to hate how clinical and sterile that term is. But since my HCG was never high enough and she was never big enough to be seen on the big screen (ultrasound), her pregnancy gets that callous title.

It's crazy to think that if I hadn't been paying attention, I probably wouldn't have even known she existed.

Thank God for NFP.

It's possible I was meant to lose her the night I experienced what I thought was implantation spotting. The progesterone probably kept the pregnancy going those few extra days. But I'll never know for sure.

It's also possible there was some sort of chromosomal issue and our little lady just couldn't develop very much because of it. But we'll never know that for sure either.

I also worry that maybe we started trying too early, before my post-partum body was ready. I'm not trying to place the blame on us, but it's hard not to, ya know? Just yet another thing we'll never know.

We also don't know if she was really a girl, obviously. But I do lean that way. Mostly because her pregnancy was so different from John Paul's. Which is silly to say, I know. It was obviously very different because it never got very far and was never meant to. But I'm holding on to these things and letting myself think our baby was a girl, even if it's not right, because I guess at the end of all this, I'm still entitled to my motherly instinct. John thinks she was a girl too.

One day, though, on the other side of Heaven, we'll know all this for sure. When we truly meet our little lady for the first time and hear her story straight from the Source. We'll know for sure.

And what a joyful day that will be.

---

To honor the life that was entrusted to us, we've named our sweet girl.

The littlest saint in Heaven . . .

Therese Hope

We wanted to name our sweet girl for a saint who died as a child.

St. Hope immediately stood out to us. She died a martyr at the age ten.

At the end of her story, our little girl has brought us nothing but hope. Hope that we can grow our family again. Hope that my body is healed, or at least healing. Hope that we will be with her again. Hope that God will redeem this suffering for good. What a perfect name for our saint.

And while thinking of other saints, I kept coming back to St. Therese of Liseux. I was drawn to her little way, glorifying God in all she did, especially in the little things. It spoke to me and reminded me so much of what we had been through in our short time with our daughter. She didn't live for very long, but her little, simple life provided us with so much love and so much joy. It felt like exactly the right name to honor her life.

Therese Hope.

(Pronounced Teh-rezz Hope.)

When I say her name, I'm reminded . . .

There is hope.

And I hope you hear that too.

---

I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.

We live in an age of inventions. We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts. And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. So I sought in holy Scripture some idea of what this life I wanted would be, and I read these words: 'Whoever is a little one, come to me.' It is your arms, Jesus that are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up: I must stay little and become less and less.

-St. Therese of Liseux

---


Our only family picture. 

We didn't know it at the time. 

John, Stephanie, John Paul, Therese.

I was trying to help John Paul stand and walk while John was reaching out to him. 

The rainbow and circular, embryonic figure in the bottom left corner give me chills.

<3

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