Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life Lately & How We Do Advent

And just like that, Advent is upon us!

Things have been moving at super-sonic speed here in our household. Is that true of every household this time of year? I'm starting to think so!

We finally announced our little addition to the whole world (AKA facebook + instagram) with this little diddy . . .

In real life, it took about 30 pictures to get it just right. But it turned out pretty presh if I do say so myself. John Paul is super excited to be a big brother, not that he gets what that means at all. And if I'm being honest, neither do I. Eek! Two kids under two? We got this! But seriously, what's it gonna be like? 

I'm 32 weeks now and am scratching my head over how we're in the SINGLE DIGITS of weeks left 'til due date. Time, you fly. 

We had an ultrasound today and baby looks great! Well, we couldn't actually see babe's face since he/she had both hands scrunched up there and in the way. But honestly, it was so dang cute to see baby snuggling up like that, how can I be mad? We were just thrilled to see that baby is in head down position and looking healthy as can be, measuring about 4 lb 7 oz at this point. The doc even saw some hair! Could it be?! A not-bald baby Schweitz?!?! The doc called it "peach fuzz," so I won't hold my breath. :P

We're finally starting to buy the few items we need to welcome this sweet babe, all the things we skipped out on last time but regretted, like a bassinet and changing tables and zip-up outfits. We're also making a mental checklist of all the things that need to be done before babe arrives, mostly house related stuff (paint this room, buy a rug for that room, unpack the remaining boxes . . . eek!). And we hired a doula, who's also training to be a midwife, so that's pretty neat! AND I'm starting to read my favorite prepare-for-birth book again: The Birth Partner. ACCOMPLISH ALL THE THINGS!  No big. Only took me 32 weeks to get motivated. 

Let's rewind a little now, and see what's being going on the past few months . . . 

For Halloween, John Paul and John dressed up as Luke and Darth Vader from Star Wars. (But seriously, if you didn't already know they were from Star Wars, we have a problem. Also, you deserve the following spoiler . . . )

"Luke, I am your father." 

Get it? ;)


John Paul was a leeeettle freaked out by the Darth mask (and pretty much all the people we saw on Halloween in masks), so we decided Darth should go unmasked for their lightsaber duel.

Oh, fun facts . . .

1.) Our new neighborhood seems to be the type that people drive to and drop their kids in for some quality trick-or-treating. So we were living it up as our first year with actual trick-or-treaters. We started off giving out 4 pieces of candy to every kid, since we figured we wouldn't get many, but by the end of the night, had to rummage through the closet to pull out leftover candy from last year's trick-or-treating and other oddball candies (Lindt and Gharidelli chocolates and such) to be able to last through the night. Lesson learned. But a fun one!

2.) Apparently adults drink adult beverages as they take their kids out trick-or-treating, out of inconspicuous plastic cups or travel mugs. Is this real life? Or perhaps this is another quirk for our neighborhood?? All I know is that my husband was not shy about joining in once he saw the other parents doing it. Ha!

Moving on to Thanksgiving.

John Paul is actually a pro kitchen helper. He was eager to stand on a chair and watch me create our Thanksgiving dessert contribution: Peanut Butter Lasagna. (Don't judge me.) It may have been because he got to sample every last ingredient as I layered it in the baking dish. Or perhaps we have a future little chef on our hands. I'll let you be the judge . . .

And now Advent!

Just like last year, we're still sorta figuring out how we want to do this Advent/Christmas thing. When do we get the tree? What music do we listen to? What feast days do we focus on? How many presents does John Paul get? We try to answer all these questions with the real Reason for the Season in mind, but we're still not exactly sure how it'll play out. And we still feel like we have a bit of time to decide on things since John Paul isn't exactly aware of what's going on. Yet. Prob by next year though.

So our rough sketch currently looks like . . .

1.) Only listening to Advent music (at home and in the car) during the season of Advent. To me, this reeeeally builds the anticipation for Christmas because I love love LOVE Christmas music. So to hold off on it for these 4 extra weeks makes it feel like we truly are waiting for something special. Now, truth be told, the pool of Advent music is rather small. But, I've found some pretty great Advent playlists on Spotify, specifically this one called "Simply Advent." So whenever I'm feeling tempted to get my Christmas music jam on, I listen to one of my Advent playlists instead and I'm reminded of exactly what we're waiting for. Plus, these songs are dang beautiful. So it's all good!

2.) Decorating only for Advent during the season of Advent. That basically means the Nativity (minus Jesus) and the Advent wreath, plus pink and purple decorations (once I find the time to buy some).

This year, I finally got around to making an Advent wreath! I found a picture of one similar to this online and went with it . . .

Apparently each candle of the Advent wreath symbolizes a deeper meaning, which is new to me this year. (Sorry! Clueless Cradle Catholic, party of one!) The sample picture I used to make my wreath had them like you see above. This website tells me otherwise. Oops. It's apparently Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace, in that order. But anyway, I'm loving that we have one specific virtue to focus on for each week now. And that, with the use of some fancy shmancy purple and pink ribbon, I can get away with never buying the all-too-difficult-to-find 3-purple-and-1-pink candle combo again! John Paul is happy about this too!

3.) Celebrating St. Nick's feast day (Today! December 6th!) by putting out our shoes the night before and getting candy and some other small gifts in St. Nick's honor in the morning. Being honest here, TOTALLY failed to do this this year. But like I said before, I think we have another year before John Paul really gets into all this stuff, so . . . phew!

4.) Celebrating St. Lucy's feast day (December 13) by putting up ALL THE LIGHTS. Her name means "light," so it's basically perfect. We'll put lights in all our windows and set up the tree, but only decorate it with lights. This is another one of those things that's so hard to hold off on. I've wanted to put up a tree since Thanksgiving now. But I'm glad we're holding out. Another reminder of the anticipation we're supposed to feel as we await the birth of Christ!

5.) Really go crazy decorating the tree on Christmas Eve, when we are only one sleep away from welcoming our King! ALL THE DECORATIONS FOR JESUS!

6.) Only giving 3 gifts to John Paul on Christmas day (and all future kiddos). These three gifts will be a nod to the three gifts Jesus received from the Wise Kings. We're also thinking they'll always follow this pattern: one item you need, one book to read, and one gift you really want . . . or something like that. And they'll be presents from us, not Santa Claus. We've chosen to leave Santa Claus (or Santa as our culture knows him) out of our Advent and Christmas seasons, for many reasons. This post from another Catholic blogger really resonates with many of our reasons, in case you're curious. 

7.) LIVE IT UP celebrating the birth of Christ during the true Christmas season, December 25 through January 9 (the Baptism of the Lord). That means all the Christmas music, all the homemade tasty Christmas treats, all the Christmas movies, ALL THE CHRISTMAS!! All the waiting of Advent finally pays off in the biggest celebration we can throw, for the Coolest Guy we know. :)

We'll still go to Christmas parties during Advent (if we're invited) and listen to Christmas music when it's blasted at us in shops and restaurants and eat tasty Christmas treats if they are gifted to us over the next few weeks. We're not going to try to shut down the rest of the world or poo-poo anyone else's celebration. But in our home, we'll do our best to make Advent and Christmas two different seasons, as they truly are. And we're pretty excited about that! 

But also, I'm pretty sure many of our Advent and Christmas traditions will continue to change and grow over time. So don't hold us to it. We're just trying to do our best for our family, trying to create our family culture as we grow. And this is what feels right for now. Can't wait to give it a spin!

Wishing you and yours a hopeful, faithful, joyful, and peaceful Advent!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Picking Paint Colors for Our New Home

Choosing wall colors for our new house has been both exciting and daunting. Exciting because we're finally getting to personalize our space! And colors are fun! Woohoo design! But daunting because paint is permanent . . . or at least that's how it felt when we were making our choices. Sure, sure, you could always repaint if you hate it. But with the number of hours and days we spent painting, plus the cost of the paint, it felt important to get it right the first time.

So, I went a little paint-research-crazy on pinterest in the weeks leading up to closing on our house. I had a general idea of what I wanted in most rooms, but gosh, there are lots of variations for each color. That's where pinterest came in handy. I'd search "green bedroom" or "gray kitchen" and get specific names of paint colors to try in each room. Handy dandy.

When I say I spent hours of my life deciding on paint colors, I mean hourrrrsssssss. And they were mostly fun hours. But also, at some point I was just like, "Let's please just close on this house RIGHT MEOW so we can start trying out some samples, mmmkay?"

We closed on the house (yippee!) and painting started the very next day. We wasted no time getting to painting, as we wanted to get as many rooms done as we could before moving day, two weeks later.

Within those two weeks, my mom and husband (and two guys we hired to do the 2-story walls in the main entrance) worked so hard to paint so many spaces and for that, I'm so grateful! While we haven't painted every wall yet, we're well on our way.

At this point, I'm not quite ready to show the world pictures of our messy, only-half-unpacked space, but I can show you swatches of each color and pictures of other peoples' houses that inspired the colors we chose.

(Psst -- it might help to look at pictures of each room in our home before diving in.)

Here we go.

Main Entrance / Kitchen / Office / Playroom / Sunroom 

For these rooms, which are all connected, I wanted the perfect neutral gray. We've lived in beige-walled apartments for the last 7 years and felt ready for a change, so gray it was!

My friend, Sew, gave me some good advice: If you want your space to seem larger, more open and spacious, paint it all the same color! So that's exactly what we're working on in these 5 rooms. 

Now, finding the perfect neutral gray was not easy. By the time we closed, I had narrowed it down to three grays: a beige gray, a blue-ish gray, and a light gray . . . 

But once we got samples of all three up on the wall, I wasn't convinced. Back to the drawing board. We added two more grays to the wall of samples: 

Can you see how wildly different all of these grays are?! And yet they're each classified as "gray" by the different brands. 

Once they're on the wall, they take on even different personalities:

On the wall, Gray Shimmer looked almost purple, Revere Pewter looked more beige than we wanted, Passive was blue-ish, Gray Owl seemed pretty neutral, and Moonshine was super light. 

(I should note here that we used Behr Premium Plus Ultra brand paint for all of our painting. It comes highly recommended from Consumer Reports. Thankfully, Home Depot can color-match any color from any brand to their Behr paint line. So these are color-matched versions of each color and may be slightly different than if the colors had been purchased from the brand -- Sherwin William and Benjamin Moore -- that created them.)

After seeing all five samples together, we narrowed it down to Passive (John's favorite) and Gray Owl (my favorite) and painted two much larger samples in another room:

Both seemed like the perfect light-medium shade of gray, but Passive was more cool while Gray Owl was more warm. Ultimately, we decided warm was the way too go, since we worried cool would feel a little too sterile. And so the winner was:

And we've been pleased as punch with it. :) It takes on a slight blue color at random times of the day, and at night it's almost green under our warm, ceiling lights. Overall, it really freshened up the space (which was previously cream in some rooms and dark beige in others) and gave our home a more modern look. 

We've only painted the kitchen and main entrance so far, but hopefully soon, we'll paint the playroom and office and sunroom as well. 

Family Room

The family room, AKA the projector room, is connected to the kitchen, and so we considered also painting it Gray Owl, same as all the other first floor rooms. But we felt it needed its own personality. Plus, the tile floors in the family room are a dark tan color and didn't work as well with the gray. So, we started to look for colors that worked with the tiles and our existing furniture and came up with: 

Which I had originally spied here:


Our family room is naturally suuuuper dark since it doesn't have many windows, which honestly works in our favor, since the projector looks best in low light. But, the dark dark dark orangey beige the previous owners had on the walls made the room feel so drab and cave-like. We love how Colorado Gray lightens up the room but still gives it a pop of personality when compared to the rest of the first floor. And Colorado Gray also happens to be a perfect complement to Gray Owl. Win!

Laundry Room

For our itty bitty laundry room, I wanted a light, calming, happy color. Since the space is so small, I figured a light color would make it feel more open. I also wanted calming and happy since . . . who wants to be angry and sad in their laundry room? The process of laundry-ing is maddening enough, so I wanted the wall color to naturally make it a more serene space. 

This color seemed to fit the bill:

Guys, I seriously love this color. I told John, "This color basically is my life." If you could summarize Stephanie in one color, this would be it! It's the perfect mix of blue and green. The perfect light teal, I suppose. I love love love it! 

And I also love how it's yet another perfect complement to our Gray Owl. 

Thanks to this room for the inspiration:


Guest Bedroom

Our guest bedroom is brought to you by the color green. Rich, dark, cozy green.

This color was love at first sight. From the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to put it somewhere in the house. Here's the original photo that inspired my obsession:


Since it's a bit of a bold color, we didn't want to put it in a large space, or an open space. So we decided our first-floor guest bedroom would be exactly the right spot for it. And while the guest bedroom still has a long way to go, decor wise, the color is just swoon-worthy perfection. I imagine once I get some creamy drapes and gold accents and dark wooden furniture in there . . . ugh. I die.

John Paul's Room

I knew I wanted mint in John Paul's room. The trick was finding a mint that wasn't too girly or too saturated, but also wasn't too baby blue-ish either. So after much searching and hemming and hawing, we landed on this perfect shade of minty blue:

Which actually looks entirely different than that in real life. 

When the sunlight hits it just right, it's this lovely greeny mint shade. But other times, it morphs into more of a powder blue. I can't get enough of it! I hope John Paul likes it too. :) 

Yet To Be Painted

And then there's the rest of the house, which is yet to be painted. And mostly also yet to be decided. Baby Schweitz's room, the guest bathroom, and the master bathroom are the rooms I'm really scratching my head over. We may just wait until after Baby Schweitz is born to choose his/her room color. Right now I'm leaning toward a rich teal green though. The guest bathroom needs to complement Gray Owl and Dragonfly since it joins the kitchen and the guest bedroom. I'm thinking possibly just Gray Owl again. And the master bathroom . . . no idea! Any thoughts?

We do have some ideas for the master bedroom though, mostly inspired by the color navy:

Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore - Source

Stunning by Benjamin Moore - Source

We're not sure if we'd do the whole room navy or just paint the wall behind the bed navy and the rest white. I lean toward the whole room because I like grown-up bedrooms to be bold, dark, and sleepy. But I'm open to debate. 

And the kids' bathroom is going to be Palladian Blue, just like the laundry room. In case you've forgotten how wonderful a color it is:


The Whole House 

In summary, when you put it all together, our house looks a little something like this:

Feels good to be home. :)

Friday, September 9, 2016

We Bought a House!

All praise be to God! Everything fell into place, easy peasy, and now we're homeowners!

We've spent the past week painting like mad. Not a huge fan of the deep beige and light creme colors they left on basically every wall. HUGE fan of the awesome colors we're covering them with -- blues and grays and deep green and mint. AHH! Can't wait to show you. 

There'll be some serious before-and-after shots to be shown once we're all settled, but for now, it's still in mess mode. And I'd rather not put that on the internets for all to see. Plus, we haven't moved anything over from our apartment yet, so it's basically an empty house with a bunch of half painted walls. Boring. But we're having so much fun already!

Thank you for your prayers. :) They worked! 

Now back to painting. And internet furniture purchases . . . 

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. 


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! 


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. :)

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