Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Jude, Two Months

Jude is two months old!

12 1/2 pounds. Can you see those leg rolls starting to beef up? 

24 inches, which is 86th percentile!

Meh. Jude gave us an 8 hour stretch once. But since then his overnight sleep has been more like 4-6 hours, then wake up to feed for an hour, then 2-3 more sleep hours and then up for the day. We're a little bit sleep deprived over here you could say. :P 

He's still sleeping swaddled in a bedside bassinet. We started using a humidifier at bedtime because he was having maj booger issues. Boogers so big he could hardly breathe and therefore wasn't sleeping well. That's cleared up a bit, thankfully. And we sleep with a Dohm sound machine. Glorious white noise!

As far as naps, Jude's still really good at that. He'll take a morning nap on his tummy in the pack n' play we have set up in the kitchen. I keep a really good eye on him and he sleeps like a rock. Second morning nap is usually while being worn in a carrier of some sort: the Wildbird ring sling or Boba wrap. Afternoon nap is at the same time as John Paul, around 1pm, and swaddled in his bassinet. I either try to nap at that time too or shower. (You know you're sleep deprived when you choose nap over shower 3 days in a row.) And then Jude will usually take one or two evening naps, either worn again or in someone's arms. Whew! I love how much this boy loves sleep! 

Firsts this month
-Huge gummy social smiles all the time, especially when he's just eaten or woken up from a nap
-Cooing, and it's freakin' adorable
-More and more head control
-Turning his head to the sound of my voice, or John's, or John Paul's
-Sucking on his hand (when it happens to find its way to his mouth)
-Rolling halfway onto his side

Darlin', kiddo, baby Juuuuude, and since he coos so cutely: my little coo-berry

Other things to note
-John went back to work this past month which I was dreading for a while. But my mom visited (from Rhode Island) and helped out during his whole first week back, and it was amazingggg. She helped me gain confidence in managing two boys during the day on my own by allowing me to practice things like shopping and cooking and laundry. Let's be real though. She basically spoiled us by doing all those things for us the whole time she was here. She also played with John Paul continuously. And Jude took to her quite well too. Thanks for the visit and all the help, Mom! 

-Our first outing with just me and the two boys was Sensory Play Day at the library! John Paul ran around playing with a bunch of different sensory stations and Jude napped the whole time in the Boba wrap. I asked the librarians to help me keep an eye on John Paul, just to be sure he didn't make a run for it while I had Jude attached to me, but I didn't even end up needing the help. It couldn't have gone any better! And it helped me build enough confidence to feel comfortable going on several other outings since: grocery shopping, Target, open gym time at a local gymnasium, and walks around the neighborhood. 

-After losing lots of top-of-the-head hair last month, Jude's hair is quickly growing back! Phewww! Just in time for him to start losing a patch of hair on the back of his head from where he sleeps on it. Ha. Oh wellll!

-He's great at kicking his feet in excitement and pumping his little arms around. I happened to capture  this great arm wiggle during this month's photoshoot and it looks like he's blessing you or something. Is there a saint that is pictured holding up his hand like this? I can vaguely picture it but can't figure out who it is. Let me know because I think it'd be really cute to do a side-by-side with this pic and the saint.

-We're easing into the world of cloth diapering two babies at the same time. We're trying out John Paul's Sunbaby cloth diapers on Jude to be sure we like the fit for him. I'd say Jude is in cloth about 10% of the time now. Let's see if we can up that to 50% by next month.

-If we're not careful, this little hunky chunk will overeat and then SPEW all the overeatenness everywhere. One second he's peacefully nursing and then the next . . .  MILK MESS EVERYWHERE. He's dosed so many of my outfits and our bed and our couches and the floor doing this. We've since learned when to cut him off before this happens but yikes! It was kinda puke-crazy for a week there. 

-This kiddo is generally just really calm. The only things that get him upset are 1.) being hungry, 2.) being overtired, 3.) being put down when he's hungry or overtired, and 4.) being away from mom for too long. Otherwise, he's cool as a cucumber. He even let me set him down once under his toy gym to play for 45 minutes without a fuss! 

-And John Paul continues to be smitten with his brother. He asks to, "Hold it! Hold it!" all the time. I remind him gently that his brother is not an "it," but he's yet to catch my drift. He likes to help change Jude's diaper and sit by me during feedings (or destruct things around the house, depending on his toddler mood), and overall be involved in pretty much whatever Jude thing I'm doing. But it's not all happy feelings for his brother. For the first time he yelled at him: "NO, JUDE!" when Jude was crying in the car and John Paul wasn't having it. He even gave Jude the hand. Ha. I think once Jude is a bit more interactive, John Paul is going to lovvvvvve having him around. Built in playmate forever? Check!

Friday, March 17, 2017

7 Things I Could Use Your Help With Right Now, Part 2

Remember that time I did a post like this back in 2015? Well, it was so helpful, I've decided to do it again! Here goes . . .


Any recommendations for shows on Netflix or Hulu that can keep me awake during Jude's two nighttime feedings? They've gotta be similar to my favorites, because I find if I don't love the show, it doesn't keep me awake. Oh, and nothing scary, because I do have to be able to fall back asleep without having nightmares after I get Jude back down. So anything similar to the following titles will do:

Parks and Rec
The Office
Jane the Virgin
This Is Us
Friday Night Lights
Arrested Development
The Mindy Project
Call the Midwife
Downton Abbey
The Young Pope
Fixer Upper
Property Brothers
The Next Food Network Star
The Great British Baking Show


What do I feed my picky toddler? Right now he only eats a few main dishes: mac n' cheese, turkey hot dogs, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets, pizza, and pasta with red sauce. And that about sums it up. Eek!

Thankfully he loves all fruit, so we can always add that to any meal and feel better about ourselves as parents. And he also will eat basically any carb: bread, french fries, chips, pretzels. I just feel like there's not a great variety with main dishes. And forget about ALL vegetables -- we might as well be offering him poison. We try and try and try but he's just not interested. And we're not interested in forcing, so we're currently stuck with limited options. Is this all just normal toddler stuff? Should I just get over it and be happy that he eats?

Favorite gifts you've ever given to or received for a 2-year-old. And go! 


Speaking of gifts, we really really REALLY don't want friends to give John Paul gifts for his 2nd birthday. We're planning on inviting a bunch of kiddos because John Paul's idea of a happy birthday = playing with ALL the kids. And eating cake. Lots of cake. But we don't want (or need!) the gifts that inevitably come along with it. So, with the help of some other mommy friends, I've brainstormed two ways of throwing his party and not getting gifts . . . 

Tell people it's a BBQ birthday party and encourage them to bring a side dish instead of a gift.


Tell people it's a spring BBQ party, don't mention the birthday part at all, and then just celebrate his birthday toward the end with a cake.

If we ask for side dishes instead of presents, do you think most people would still bring presents and then also feel obligated to bring a side dish? Or if we don't even mention the birthday when we invite people, do you think they would be upset that we're not giving advanced notice of celebrating John Paul's birthday? 

Can you think of another way of doing this without getting gifts? We could simply say, "No gifts please!" but we did that last year and almost everyone brought a gift. 


I want to grow a garden this year, but have absolutely no idea how this works. It's our first year in a house with land!! So I can finally do this! But like, I'm seriously clueless. Is there anything I should be doing now to prepare? And what are your favorite low-maintenance plants? Spam me with all your beginner garden knowledge.


Any other ALDIs lovers out there? I absolutely love that grocery store. I'm planning on writing more about it someday in the future. But until then, if you're also an ALDIs lover, can you tell me some of your favorite ALDIs purchases? Bonus points for recipes that use only ALDIs ingredients!


Do any of you fellow adults have a solution for the constant stream of paperwork that comes into the house? We're drowwnnnning in it. Miscellaneous papers everywhere. Help me organize!

link it up

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Jude, One Month

Jude is one month old!

I've decided to document all the details of Jude's first year, month-by-month, here on this ol' blog. I actually regret not doing this during John Paul's first year, so no regrets this time. I did document some details of each month of John Paul's first year on facebook and Instagram, but looking back now, I want MORE. More detail, more cute pictures, more memories. So here we go . . .

Jude was 7 lb 8 oz at birth and was pretty much exactly 10 lb on the day he turned one month. He only lost a few ounces after birth and was back to birth weight by a few days old. Yay for lots of weight gain! Double YAY for a good nurser!!

He was 20 inches at birth and then 21.75 inches at his two-week appointment. We haven't measured since.

Jude was suuuuper sleepy his first few weeks home. It was pretty adorable/amazing. Lots of naps were had by all. For overnight sleep, he's given us like two 6-hour stretches on two separate occasions. But that glorious length of sleep is pretty hard to come by still. At night, it's more like 3-4 hours of sleep, then awake for an hour, then 1-2 more hours of sleep, and then he's up for the day at 5am or 6am. Eek! This spoiled mama was used to her 21-month-old sleeping in 'til 7am or 8am, so that has been a rude awakening, pun intended. And daytime naps are mostly in someone's arms or the Boba carrier. Except when John Paul naps at 1pm each day -- we put Jude down in his bassinet for a nap around the same time and the whole household naps. Good times.

Firsts this month
-The occasional social smile, so long as his tummy is full and we're talking to him in a high-pitched happy voice
-Eye contact
-Tracking things that are moving
-Trying out his big brother's cloth diapers occasionally

He's gained so many nicknames already, but the most popular by far is Jude Bug.

Other things to note
-Jude was baptized this month, on February 27, at exactly 4 weeks old. We squeezed it in right before Lent, since our parish doesn't allow baptisms during Lent. It was on a Monday night and was super small -- only Godparents, grandparents, and one aunt, uncle, and cousin. But it was peaceful and lovely. Welcome to the Church, baby Jude!

-By 3-weeks-old, Jude lost most of the hair on the top of his head. Not the back, though, so he's totally monkin' it. It's half adorable and half makes me so sad, mostly because I was so braggy about how much hair he had at birth. Oh welllll!

-Our sweet boy has been mistaken for a girl several times in the past month. And this is after people learn his name. I never even considered Jude Francis as a gender neutral name. I mean, I know Francis/Frances can go either way. But Jude? Color me surprised!

-At 3.5 weeks old, Jude has his lip tie and tongue tie lasered. We had him evaluated by a dentist who regularly evaluates and lasers ties, and right away she said, "Yep, class 4 lip tie, class 1 tongue tie." So there you have it. The reason for all our breastfeeding pain. Just like John Paul. Within a few days of the procedure, I was able to reduce my pumping from 50% of the time to none at all! And my pain is nearly gone now. Praise God!

-Jude went on his first trip this past month. We took him to Asheville, NC, about an hour from us, with my parents and John Paul, and since he was still in the sleepy newborn phase, he mostly slept through the whole thing. A fun, easy outing!

-John Paul absolutely adores baby Jude. He likes to help by bringing him toys or offering him a sip of his smoothie. Ha! He also loves to give him kisses, and lie down on the floor next to him, and basically talk about him non-stop. John Paul is still adjusting, for sure. We've seen a huge increase in tantrums since baby Jude arrived. And there are moments where he just begs for his mommy, we're assuming because I've mostly been tending to Jude all day long and he realizes this and wants my attention badly. But lots of hugs and love and validating of feelings has helped immensely.

-Aside from his first bath, where he screamed bloody murder the entire time, now baby Jude is actually pretty content being bathed!

-Our little dude has reflux. Womp womp. Sleeping flat on his back means SO MUCH PUKING, so we've had him sleeping in the Rock n' Play on an incline. It's helped a bunch. But just recently we decided to transition him back into his bassinet, only we've got it on an incline now by stuffing magazines and towels under the mattress. It was recommended by his pediatrician and it seems safer than the Rock n' Play, so we're happy with the switch. As is Jude. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Obsessed Mama Posts Too Many Pics of Her Newborn

Sorry in advance. That obsessed mama is me.

One of my birthday gifts this year was a 1-year-long online photography course, specifically designed for folks with kiddos. Emily posted about it here and I decided to join her! (Side note -- I'm hoping she posts some of her pics soon because they're all GORGEOUS like whoa.)

The teachers send us weekly lessons via email, which include themes and prompts for photos, plus Photoshop lessons. I feel like I've already learned so much!

So now I'm taking about a bajillion more pictures than I used to. Big sorry if this blog becomes a picture dumping ground.

Don't say I didn't, say I didn't warn ya.

Anyway, this week's theme was DETAILS! So I decided to capture some of Jude's sweet newborn details, including . . . 

His general cuteness.

His pouts.

His streeetttchhhhhh.

His yawns.

His alfalfa hair.

His hair swirl.

His baby blues.

His wittle feet.

His cloth diaper bum.

All the little things that are so easy to forget as time speeds along. And sleep deprivation piles up. :P

Thank goodness for photography!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jude's First Week


This little guy is a dream baby.

His favorite things right now are eating, sleeping, and snuggling. 


I hate to compare him to John Paul because who likes to be compared to their sibs? But seriously. Night and day. Night and day. 

John Paul was a terrible eater because of his undiagnosed lip tie. Feedings took 30-45 minutes, and he never got enough so he was cranky and bad at sleeping too. The kid fought sleep SO hard. 

Jude, on the other hand, is a milk guzzler. It's amazing. Feedings take 15 minutes. And then he's ready to pass out. He'll fight naps here and there, but once he's down, he's OUT. He's even given us a 4 hour stretch of sleep already! #mombrag

I feel like a completely different mom this time around. Way less stressed. Way more go with the flow. It's so refreshing! 

This advice has helped a ton too. 

Plus having my husband home for this whole month. He's basically on John Paul duty all day. And I'm on newborn duty. Divide and conquer, FTW! 

Btw, have I ever mentioned how amazing my husband is? I could not be doing this parenting thing without him. He helps in the middle of the night when I'm just too tired to rock Jude or change a dipe or wash my pump. He feeds Jude bottles while I'm pumping. He lets me sleep in with Jude in the morning while he gets up bright and early with John Paul. He runs out to the store and back just to buy me the sushi I've been craving but not been able to eat for the past 9 months. We're so SO blessed to call him ours.

Ok, mushy stuff mostly over.

Breastfeeding isn't perfect, but we've come up with a routine that's working really well for us for now.  I pump with a manual pump for 1/2 his feedings and he gets a bottle of that milk instead of being fed at the breast. This gives my achey nipples a break 50% of the time, which has been a game changer. The nips are like THANK YOU WOMAN! And when he is feeding at the breast, ahhhh, so nice! While it's a little painful, we still get all those lovely milkie hormones. And I can tell his latch is already improving.

We're thinking the issues are due to a bad nipple-to-mouth size match. So yeah, the nipples are a little beaten up. But the hope is Jude's mouth will grow over the next month and then everything will be hunky dory. Howevz, if we're still having issues after a month, I'm totally gonna push for another lip-tie eval. We're pretty sure he has a tie, but it's not restricting his lip movement, or so we think, so for now we're living with it.

And he's gaining wait like a CHAMP. So that's super reassuring. After all of John Paul's feeding and weight gaining issues, we decided to buy a scale this time around. And it has take a lot of the "am I feeding him enough??" stress out of the equation. We're able to do weighed feedings and confirm that this kid is a little porker. Jude is already more than a pound above birth weight. At 11 days old!!

Proud baby right here . . .

My sister-in-law organized a meal train for us, so folks in town are being so generous and bringing us meals every other night. We're so spoiled! And I also prepped a bunch of freezer meals, so we have that too.

In case you're curious:

black bean and sweet potato enchiladas
chicken enchilada soup
beef, tomato, and acini de pepe soup
moroccan vegetable stew
cheesy turkey chili mac
bolognese sauce

We haven't had to use any yet, but I'm thinking they'll be so helpful when we do!

In the weeks leading up to Jude's birth, I would just double my dinner recipes when I was already cooking. So it never felt like a huge effort to get all those extra meals prepped. We call that a win.

Also a win (but not very nice to mother nature), we're using lots of paper plates and bowls and cups. Less time doing dishes = more time snuggling up with our boys.

John Paul is adjusting very nicely! We have seen a few extra tantrums in the past week. And he's has these really sad moments when we're trying to put him down for his nap or bedtime. Like crying out to us and, with tears in his eyes, saying "sweet dreams" and "I love you" as we walk toward the door. Ugh. Kills me. But overall, he seems really excited to be a big brother. He asks for Jude all the time. We hear "Baby Jude?" on repeat. Always thinking about his lil bro. And he loves giving him kisses or bringing him his bottle or pacifier. So dang cute. I can't wait to see what kind of adventures they have together. The adventures of John Paul and Jude. :)

So far, they both seem to enjoy taking a nap at the same time and being ready for bed at the same time. How did we get so lucky? 

(And that is how I was able to write out Jude's birth saga so soon after his arrival. Sweet napping babies, y'all.)

We also enjoy watching movies together snuggled on the couch before bedtime. John Paul is currently obsessed with the Cars movies and the Finding Nemo movies. So we watch a little bit of one or the other as a family bonding activity and enjoy all the snuggles as we wind down for bed. 

It's such a joy to be their mom.  

And of course, our little guy has already accumulated about a hundred nicknames.

Jude Baby
Sweet Jude
Jude Bug Bear
Jude the Dude
Juju Train
Jude Frank
Jude Frank the Tank

I'm sure there will be more by tomorrow.

For now, we're just gonna keep soaking in all this newborn preciousness. While he's a champ at eating and sleeping now, I'm positive there will be hiccups and regressions and all that ahead. No biggie, though. It's the life of a parent. And we love it. 

God has been so good to us. I think Jude agrees . . . 


Monday, February 6, 2017

Jude's Birth Story, Part 3

For part 2, click here

I was not, in fact, pushing the baby out. Thank you very much for your concern tho, Mrs. Nurse Lady. Happy to keep ya on your toes.

Once I, ahem, wrapped up that awkward moment, I walked over to the bed and climbed up to be checked. I think the nurses were trying to get in touch with my OB at that point, as he still wasn't at the hospital, but it was clear this baby was getting close to his moment of debut. So the on-call family medicine resident checked me again. You remember him, right? Mr. Conservative-At-Rating-Dilation. Thankfully this time he gave it to us straight.

At 3:11am, he announced: "Fully dilated with bulging bag."

Woohoo! From 6-ish cm to 10cm in less than two hours? I'll take it!

Not even a second after the doc said "bulging bag" . . . POP! My water broke.

I was lying on my back from the check, but was determined to push in any position but that one. Back pushing = working against gravity and pushing for longer and higher likelihood of tearing. I had stressed this to John and my doula for months leading up to the birth, so they knew it was time help me move. I think I even exclaimed, "I really don't want to push on my back!" just to remind them. So they helped me climb up and lean myself over the back of the bed. Even though I was exhausted, I had the option of resting all my weight against the bed, yet I was still completely upright. It seemed like a smart move.

Except as soon as I got upright, I started to feel like my entire body was splitting in half. The pain was so overwhelming, but with some heavy breathing and super loud moans and shouts of "THIS HURTS SO BAD!" I made it through.

In those first few seconds in that upright position, I was worried the position itself was causing all the pain. But in reality, it was baby rushing his way through the birth canal. I wasn't even pushing! But he was ready. Making his way out, and fast! And it was shocking everyone in the room.

There was no time for my OB to arrive, so suddenly there were 2 on-call family medicine docs in the room. Mr. Conservative and some 3rd year resident. They very clearly did not read my birth plan (womp wommmmp), so they kept asking me about things -- in the middle of delivering a baby no less -- that they should have already known the answer to.

So Dr. 3rd Year has the ballz to ask me, "Can you turn around please?" as I'm just getting myself situated in the upright-against-the-back-of-the-bed position. Umm. SAY WHAT?! This baby is about to be crowning and you're asking me to turn around so that you can deliver him more easily? Shyeah. How 'bout no.

Then he's all awkwardly putting his hands and some blue sheet under me to catch everything, while my doula is desperately trying to massage my perineum to help avoid tearing (something I had requested). But she can't get in there because Dr. 3rd Year is being all sloppy.

Meanwhile, I basically have no idea what's going on because BABY IS COMING and suddenly crowing and suddenly halfway out and I seriously don't remember having to push at all. That upright position, you guys. AMAZENESS.

Next thing I know, Dr. 3rd Year is asking me to stop pushing and I don't exactly know why in the moment, but later find out it's because baby has the cord wrapped around his torso. My doula and the nurses kept telling him to deliver the baby through the cord, but Dr. 3rd Year kept trying to unwrap the cord. And kept telling me to stop pushing. Sorry, dude, but if I had any control over this birth train, I would.

Eventually he got the memo to stop trying to remove the cord and instead birth baby through it, and suddenly baby was crying before he was even completely out! What a beautiful, wonderful sound!

Our baby boy arrived at 3:17am on January 30th, exactly 5 minutes after I got upright and didn't even push once. Wowz.

We still didn't know the gender, and I was facing the wall, so I couldn't see. And for a few seconds after we heard that sweet cry, John couldn't see either. So many people in the way. But as soon as he got a glimpse, he excitedly said, "It's a boy!" And I smiled. Because secretly I just knew baby was going to be a boy. And it was a joy to finally confirm it!

Wendy encouraged Dr. 3rd Year to pass the baby through my legs to me, since I was still facing the wall and hadn't gotten a peek yet. And the first thing (I think) I said when I saw him was, "He's so beautiful!" Which then quickly followed with, "He has hair!!!!" The amount of hair and dark coloring totally shocked me. It was adorable.

With placenta not birthed yet and baby still attached, I somehow figured out a way to turn my body around and finally sink down into the bed. Ahhhh! Sweet relaxation!

I was completely naked, so we easily snuggled up skin-to-skin and tried to establish breastfeeding while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and the placenta to be birthed.

Dr. 3rd Year and Mr. Conservative seemed a little clueless about delayed cord clamping, asking if it was ready yet. Wendy gently encouraged them to keep waiting until there was no more pulsing. Thankfully they did, and then John got to cut the cord.

Then the placenta was taking its sweet time making its way out. Which can be totally normal. Except Dr. 3rd Year wasn't used to it. So again, he asks a question that he would have known the answer to had he read my birth plan: "Can we give you pitocin?" I just simply replied, "No pitocin please." Man, these docs are in such a rush to get the show on the road sometimes.

(To their credit, my birth was a bit of a rush, especially toward the end there, so I don't really blame them for not reading my birth plan. Nobody really knew my OB wasn't going to be there until the final few minutes. All the issues ended up being very minor and really just annoyances more than anything. The experience would have been a teeny bit more enjoyable had it been with my doc, but no big deal in the grand scheme of things.)

Sure enough, with a few extra minutes of waiting around, the placenta showed up on its own and all was well. Wendy remarked on how small my placenta was, which doesn't necessarily mean anything, but figured it's worth remembering. Just an odd little detail there.

A few minutes later and my OB finally arrived! Just in time to stitch me up. I ended up tearing again, somewhere between a 2nd and 3rd degree, just like John Paul's birth. I asked Wendy if it was because he came out too quickly, but she said no. And my OB chimed in and said usually you tear along the same line as the first birth since that's a weak point in the perineum. So there's that.

We spent a little over an hour snuggling skin-to-skin and it was blissful. Baby boy didn't quite figure out latching in that time because he was mostly interested in crying . . . a lot. It was such a sweet cry, though. And if I had to guess, probably related to the shock of flying out of his comfort zone so quickly. ;)

After all those great snuggles, we were happy to finally let the nursery staff weigh our little buddy and check his vitals and all that.

We had a feeling he was going to be a little smaller than John Paul just based on how he felt in my arms. John and I both guessed 7lb 6oz, and we were super close! 7lb 8oz, a whole 7oz less than John Paul was!

They took care of him quickly, and then it was back to mama and baby snuggles, and continuing trying to establish breastfeeding. It took him a while to latch for the first time, maybe 2 hours? But he's been a nursing champ ever since!

The next 36 hours in the hospital were spent snuggling up with our little man, napping when we could, enjoying a visit from the in-laws and our sweet John Paulie (who was so excited to meet his little brother!!), and wavering back and forth between two names.

Our little Jude wasn't officially named until a few hours before leaving the hospital. In fact, the whole first day of his life, we practiced calling him by our other favorite name, Blaise, and really thought that was going to be it! . . . until one of the nurses thought we were naming him Blaze. And then we just didn't feel like we could go through with it. Maybe next time though ;), if we're so blessed.

And there you have it! Jude Francis's birth story. It really was perfect in its own special way.

Welcome to the family, little bud. We love you with all that we have and can't wait to see where this life adventure takes you.

All praise be to God!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jude's Birth Story, Part 2

For part 1, click here.

In triage, everything looked great! All my vitals were good, baby sounded great, and contractions kept progressing. I really needed to squat and slow dance with John to get through them, which I took as a really good sign of my progress.

So I was a little shocked when the doc (the on-call family medicine resident) finally checked me and said I was 4-5cm, 80% effaced, and baby was at a -1.

What?! For reals? I was definitely feeling around the same level of pain I had when I was around 6cm with John Paul, but I was possibly just a 4? And no progress at all with cervical effacement? Eep! Did this mean we were in for a lonnnnngggg night of labor?

But once the the doc and nurses left the room, my doula and husband both assured me that they thought he was wrong. And probably just being . . . conservative. Why? No idea. Perhaps because he was still a bit of a newb at the whole labor and deliv thing, being a first-year resident and all. But based on the length of my contractions and the level of pain I was experiencing, we all thought I was probably more like a 6. Phew!

From there, we all walked a few feet over to the delivery room: room number 2071. It was around 2am when we settled in, and I immediately changed into my L&D dress, the same dress I had worn for John Paul's delivery. I don't actually have any pics of me in it from this delivery, since I only wore it for approximately 2 seconds. But here's a pic of it from John Paul's labor . . .

Snaps all the way down the back and front for easy monitoring, and snaps at the shoulders for easy access to the bubs for breastfeeding. Pretty floral design for enjoyment. Much cooler than your average hospital gown.

So why was it only on for a few seconds, you ask? Right after I put it on, Wendy filled up the bath tub and recommended I hop in soon, since we were at a good point for tub laboring. So off it went!

I grabbed my bikini out of my hospital bag, but my rib cage has probably grown a bunch of sizes since I last wore it, so it didn't fit. Eep. So naked bathing it was! I was a little embarrassed by my complete nudity, so I knew I wasn't in the 8-10cm stage of labor yet. You know you're there when all modesty goes out the window.

Wendy found a mini towel I could wear over my upper parts, so that made me feel a bit more comfortable. Modesty restored!

Just like John Paul's birth, we lit LED candles and listened to Tibetan monk chant music while in the tub. It was so peaceful. Aside from all the painful contractions that is.

John stayed by my side the whole time, letting me squeeze his hand through each contraction, telling me I was doing such a great job, all that cheesy sort of stuff. But I needed it. The positive, gentle encouragement was my lifeline. Words of praise for the win!

While the water definitely slowed the contractions down just a little and made them a tiny bit more comfortable, they were getting more intense by the minute. Pretty soon, the moaning started.

Before giving birth to John Paul, I thought moaning was the most embarrassing thing ever. I would hear moms do it while watching birth videos and think, yikes! That's awkward. But during the really painful parts of labor, there's nothing better than letting it all out through your vocal chords.

Wendy kept encouraging me to relax all my muscles, so that I wasn't fighting against the contractions, and to keep the moaning at a low pitch, since that also helps keep things relaxed. When you moan in a higher register, you're tightening things up everywhere and essentially fighting against your cervix. Weird but true. So I tried to keep things low.

Actually, the moaning almost sounded like it was part of the Tibetan monk soundtrack. I joked at one point that it was like a sing-a-long in the tub. Or maybe John made that joke. I was quite in the zone at that point, so the details get hazy.

Pretty soon, it was getting reeeally really hard to keep the moans in the lower register. And I was squirming in pain all over the tub through every contraction. The pain was getting rough. Like probably 9-out-of-10-on-the-pain-scale rough. I even started to think to myself, "If this goes on much longer, I don't think I can do it." Contractions were long and painful and I was only getting like 1 to 2 minutes between each one.

At that moment, my body thankfully decided to take a break. A nice 4 minute break, or something like that. It was seriously glorious. No contraction for 4 minutes. Heck freaking yes.

But! IT'S A TRAP! Following the break, I had 3 HUGE contractions right on top of each other. Bam, baaaaam, BAMMMMMM. So much squirming and moaning and hand squeezing ensued.

I made it through, but after that, I was pretty much exhausted. It really was hurting quite nicely and if I was due up for another triple-traction soon, I didn't think I was going to make it.

I recall turning to Wendy at that point and saying, "Do you think I'm getting close? I really don't think I can do this much longer." And, thank God Almighty, in that moment she responded with the sweetest thing a laboring girl could ever hope to hear:

"You are so close. You're gonna have this baby in your arms very soon."

Amen, sister. Amen.

When the next contraction hit, I started feeling the urge to push. Which brought me right back to John Paul's birth, when I was in the tub and felt the urge to push, but was only 8cm dilated. Eep! If you push when you're not fully dilated, you can really hurt your cervix, so I was scared that's what was happening again. And I didn't want to get out of the tub to get checked yet because getting out at that point was going to require a huge effort on my part that I didn't want to do if I still had a few more centimeters to go. If the contractions were that rough in the tub, I didn't even want to think of how bad they'd be out of the tub.

We decided to use the ol' "blow through the contractions" trick, where you blow a brrrrrrrrrrr sound like a horse. For whatever reason, blowing like that helps you to stop yourself from pushing. Which sounds weird, right? Can't you just not push? But no. You can't just not push. Trust me. When your body wants to, it just does it. So you really of have to fight against it to stop it when your cervix isn't ready yet. I brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr'd my way through the next contraction and all was well.

And then Wendy advised me to hop on out of the tub. She thought my body was trying to push because I actually was at 10cm! And since she's seen about a bazillion labors, I trusted her. So at around 3am, she and John helped me up, and I started to make my way back to the bed to be checked.

But not a step away from the tub, I suddenly had the intense urge to have a bowel movement. I think I may have shouted, "I NEED TO POOP." Gah! So embarrassing to think about now. But like I said before, all modesty goes out the window when you're in that 8-10cm zone.

I immediately plopped down on the toilet and started pushing.

And then the nurse immediately started freaking out.


For part 3, click here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Jude's Birth Story, Part 1

In case you missed it, our sweet baby boy, Jude Francis, arrived on January 30th! Yay baby!! And now I present to you, his birth story. For your reading pleasure and for my memory preservation. ;) 

Baby Schweitz was due January 28th.

As you may recall, we were doing everything possible to naturally induce labor, so that my wonderful OB could attend Baby Schweitz's birth before he left for St. Lucia on February 1st.

In addition to all the pitted dates and red raspberry leaf tea and borage oil pills and neighborhood walks and eggplant parm and sex . . .

On January 23rd, I got my membranes stripped. Ummm. Yeah. OUCH. Doc gets his fingers all up in your business and SWOOP, runs his fingers along your cervix to separate it from the placenta. Not fun. But a low risk way to naturally induce if baby is ready. So we did it. It obvi didn't work, but it caused me to lose my mucus plug. And doc checked me and discovered I was already 3cm dilated AND 80-90% effaced. At the very least, we were pretty pleased to hear that!

On January 24th and 26th, I went to the chiropractor to get aligned for labor. I wasn't expecting this to  really induce, and it didn't, but I was happy to be lining up all my bones and such to make an easier escape route for baby. And I think it actually helped!

On January 27th, I went all hippy and tried acupuncture. When booking the appointment, the receptionist claimed the last 3 pregnant mommas they treated had their babies in their arms by the next morning. SAY WHAT?! Sign me up! First, the acupuncturist burned a moxa stick over my lower back for about 5 minutes. Then, she put needles in 15 different points all over my body and left them in for about 45 minutes, popping in my room every once in a while to wiggle them around and activate the points. Each needle and point had a different purpose: one in my forehead to calm me, two in my legs for cervical dilation, two in my feet for pain management, and so on. Every point used was specifically related to labor and delivery, so if my body and baby were ready, it would have sent me into labor. Throughout the procedure, I felt one Braxton Hicks contraction, but that was it. Nothing the rest of the day, nor the next day. So I'm not sure it worked. But it definitely was relaxing!

On January 28th (THE DUE DATE!), I drank a hyper concentrated version of my red raspberry leaf tea. It was bitter and so so so strong. I had been drinking red raspberry leaf tea pretty much daily for my entire 3rd trimester, to tone up the uterine muscles for labor, but this hyper brew, called Labor Day Tea, was supposed to get things going if body and baby were ready. It may have helped, as I started to feel contractions less than 24 hours later, but who knows, right?

Also on January 28th, I was starting to get antsy about castor oil, which was basically the last natural thing I had left to try to induce labor. My plan was to drink it on January 30th if baby still wasn't making moves. But I was so nervous about how sick I would feel. Was it going to make labor even more painful? Was I going to have continuous castor oil diarrhea and great bowel discomfort while also going through labor contractions? Ick! It didn't sound fun. But of course I was also desperate to deliver with my OB, so I was pretty determined to try.

While listing all my worries to my dear husband, he says, "Well, why don't I try it first? And that way if it's terrible, we'll know and we won't have you do it." Ummm, prince charming, much? He's seriously a doll. So as mean as it may have been, I took him up on his offer and he drank the crazy castor oil concoction and, well, paid the consequences.

4 oz castor oil + 2 oz vodka + 6 oz orange juice.


He said it tasted like an oily screw driver. Yum, right?

It went down so easy and then for 8 hours after, absolutely nothing happened. And all was right with the world.

But then, it hit him ALL at once. Poor poor guy. Through the entire night, he was in and out of the bathroom, clearing out his system, one gush of fluid at a time. Oof.

He was pretty much recovered by the next morning, a little less than 24 hours from that gross dose of castor oil. In summary, he said it was rough, but not so rough that he thought I'd need to avoid it. But he wasn't going to be trying it again any time soon. I also ran it by my doula, who said it would work a little differently on a pregnant woman, more like a natural prostaglandin, and labor would start after I was entirely cleared out. That all made me feel a little better.

So by the afternoon of January 29th, with John fully recovered from all the castor crazy, and me still definitely pregnant, we decided I would, in fact, try the castor oil bright and early the next morning.

Except God laughs.

Not even a few hours after making that decision, right around 3pm, I had my first contraction.

Lolololololol. Sorry, John!

But seriously, PRAISE THE LORD! Castor oil avoided.

The contractions started off super mild, actually without pain at all, just tightening in my belly. But predictable tightening. They lasted a bunch of seconds and happened every few minutes to every 20 or so minutes. I know, not very specific. But I could tell things were progressing. They weren't just your average, run of the mill Braxton Hickses.

We were due over to John's parent's house for Sunday night dinner (which we do every Sunday night) just an hour after contractions started, but with them being so mild, we decided to go anyway and just not tell anyone, cuz I'm pretty private like that.

Turns out, dinner was a lovely distraction and we got through the whole affair without anyone knowing what was going on.  Win win.

Upon arriving home, around 8pm, we put John Paul to bed and decided to play a board game, to keep the distractions going. Contractions were getting a tiny bit stronger and longer and closer together, but still nothing serious. We stood through the whole game to keep me in a good position to keep the labor progressing and it definitely helped. Oh, and in case you were curious, our game of choice was Forbidden Desert, a co-op game that we love and that night we totally won. Boom. Labor luck.

The game ended around 9:00pm, and we still weren't exactly tired, so we decided to rent a movie: The Girl on the Train. The more distractions you have going during early labor, the better. And this was yet another good distraction.

During the movie, contractions started to get just a tiny bit painful, longer, and closer together. They were coming every 2-4 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds. Progress! I bounced on an exercise ball and it was honestly way comfier than I was expecting. Great labor tool, as it turns out!

By the time the movie ended, around 11pm, we decided it was time to call my doula and make a plan. She suggested trying to sleep for a while while things were still low-pain. If we were about to labor through the night, getting in just a few extra hours of shut eye was going to be super helpful. She figured once they were painful enough to wake me up, it'd be time to get things into gear for our trip to the hospital. So up to bed we went.

But sleep didn't happen. Within 10 minutes of lying in bed, the contractions really picked up. They went from a 2 out of 10 on the pain scale to a 4. While that doesn't sound like much, it was enough to make me anxious to get a move on. We still had to alert the in-laws so they could drive over and watch John Paul and we had a 40 minute drive ahead of us to the hospital. Plus, I knew I had been 3cm and 80-90% effaced before any contractions had started, so I didn't want to suddenly be in a HOLY MOLEY THIS BABY IS COMING OUT situation while driving because we decided to wait too long.

Contractions got even more intense while we waited on my MIL to arrive, so I was happy with our decision. We slow danced through the contractions and I squatted by hanging on John to work with the contractions and keep baby low.   

One last pic of the belly . . .

And by 12:45am, we were off. And in the snow! We've barely had an inch or two all winter, and the night our baby decides to make moves, snow is sticking to the roads. Perhaps, even with all that natural induction stuff, all I really needed was a change in barometric pressure to kick things in the gear. We may never know. ;)

Labor in the car got even more intense. I prayed for everyone's intentions between contractions, each followed with a Hail Mary to our sweet Heavenly Momma. And when a contraction hit, I'd pause and squeeeeeeeze John's hand. All while he prayed along and navigated the snowy roads. Seriously, I married super dad, folks.

After what felt like an eternity, (because seriously, car contractions are the woorrrsttttt!) we finally arrived around 1:30am. Wendy, our doula, met us at the doors of the L&D unit, and we all walked up to the nurses' station together. A little oversight on our part . . . we forgot to do all the pre-registration stuff, so between my contractions, I filled out a pile of who-knows-what paperwork as quickly as humanly possible and then we were moved into the triage area so they could check my vitals and my cervical dilation.

For part 2, click here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Jude Francis!

Born on January 30th at 3:17am, which means . . . 

Your prayers worked! He arrived before my doc went out of town. :) BUT, because God laughs . . . 

Little Jude decided to arrive SO quickly, my doc wasn't able to make it to the hospital in time to catch him. Ha! 

Despite that little glitch, it was still an amazing birth experience, which I'll be sharing just as soon as time allows. Stay tuned!

This little peanut was 7lb 8oz and 20 inches, which means he was actually smaller than John Paul, who weighed in at 7lb 15oz at birth. And here I was expecting an 8+ lb baby. Crazy! 

Speaking of John Paul . . . 

He's already so in love with his little bro. This morning, he excitedly exclaimed "JUDE!" when he first saw him. Heart-size doubled? CHECK! And then some. ;)

By the way, it was an honor praying for all your intentions throughout Jude's natural labor. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support! <3 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let's Swap Prayers!

I gotta start this off with a warning . . .

Please skip to the bottom of this post if you'd like to avoid hearing a silly sob story about my upcoming labor and delivery and some related prayers I'm asking for.

I wouldn't blame ya if you did!


We're getting so close to the arrival of our newest babe!

38 weeks and + 5 days pregnant as of today.

At this point, I'm just brimming with excitement and joy and a little bit of nervousness but mostly pure eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

If I could humbly ask for prayers, though. It's sorta over something silly, but it's causing me piles of stress, so I'm just gonna throw it out there.

You may recall from John Paul's birth, I'm super pro-natural childbirth for myself. I wrote a ton about it here and here in case you're curious. We ended up having the most amazing, empowering, all-natural birth experience with John Paul and our super pro-natural childbirth doc was a huge part of that. So when we moved to east Tennessee after John Paul was born and found out we were pregnant again, I searched and searched until I found another super pro-natural childbirth doc in the area, to help us on our journey to another awesome natural birth experience.

We love our new doc so much. He's very supportive of my birth preferences and has a low low c-section rate of only 16% (for reference, the national average is 32.2%). We've seen only him through the whole pregnancy and he's totally cool with coming in to deliver our little bean, even if he's not on-call when the main event happens. It doesn't get much better than that.

BUT! (You knew there was a but.) We just found out a few weeks ago that he's going on vacation right after my due date.

*insert sobbing emoji here*

Which means, if I don't deliver by 40 weeks + 2 days, I don't get to deliver with our doc and I'm left at the hands of one of the other random docs in his group (both with a c-section rate of 35%).

These are silly things to worry about, I know. But I already got in a leeeettle bitty disagreement with one of the other docs in his office over something in my birth preferences. Ugh. So this is causing lots of fears and worries at a time when I really need my worries and fears to be nil.


Would you mind praying that I deliver with my doc, some time before 40 weeks + 2 days?

I'm actually doing everything I can to naturally go into labor ASAP.

-- Eating dates. Lots of dates.
-- Drinking red raspberry leaf tea. Lots of red raspberry leaf tea.
-- Borage oil, since my doula recommended it.
-- Stripping membranes next week.
-- Eating all the eggplant. (It totally worked last pregnancy. Or was totally a coincidence.)
-- Walking around our hilly neighborhood.
-- *cover your eyes* . . . doing the deed, if you know what I mean.
-- Getting adjusted at a chiropractor, to get things lined up for labor.
-- Considering acupuncture and moxibustion . . . some sort of therapy which involves burning moxa over certain points on the body. I just learned about it today. Am I hippy enough?
-- Considering drinking huge amounts of castor oil. Eep.

None of these things will put me into labor if baby isn't ready, which is good because the last thing I want is to rush baby along. BUT, if my body is ready and I just need that extra little boost, these'll do it. And if you recall, I had John Paul on my due date, so I'm thinking this babe will be ready right around his/her due date too.

I know I sound like a crazy person. I just love my doc so much, and trust him so so much. So prayers for delivery with him would be much appreciated.And if that's just not God's will, prayers for another amazing, empowering all-natural birth experience with whoever is on-call the night this baby decides to arrive. Many thanks, friends! <3

Ok, you're officially at the bottom now. We're at the good part . . .

More important than all the above, I'd love to pray for YOU!

During labor, I'll be offering up all my pain and fear and crazy emotions for your intentions. So please leave your intentions in the comments here or shoot me an email at stephschweitz [at] gmail [dot] com. If you have a private intention, just write something like, "prayers for a private intention" and I'll totally cover you too. Please don't be shy! I'll also be praying for the general intentions of all my followers, especially those suffering through infertility, so you're sure to be covered even if you don't comment. But please, comment or email if you're up for it! I'd love to shower you with prayers.

Can't wait to share our newest baby with you! Hopefully soon. ;)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Our Asheville Babymoon

To celebrate the upcoming arrival of the newest little Baby Schweitz, John and I got away for a night for a short babymoon in Asheville, NC. And it was awesome!

When my mother-in-law and father-in-law suggested we do an overnight away so they could practice watching John Paul through the night (since they're gonna be doing it again when we go into labor and baby makes an arrival!), we were completely on board. It was going to be our first night away from John Paul ever, but we figured we needed to try it some time. And thankfully it just so happened to be around the time we were hoping to go on a babymoon. I was 32 weeks pregnant, which seemed like about the latest we should be traveling. So it worked perfectly. Win win!

We decided very easily on Asheville, NC. It's only about an hour from where we live and it's jam packed with fun things to do and good things to eat. So we figured it would maximize our adventure time while keeping our travel time to a minimum. When you only have 24 hours for a trip, that's the way to go!

We said our goodbyes to John Paulie (ugh, my heart) around 10:30am and drove straight into town for a most delicious lunch at a Lebanese place called Gypsy Queen.

I enjoyed their house tea, while John enjoyed his first-ever Lebanese beer. We ate way too much, including their Lebanese fries (fries smothered garlic aioli and tahini dressing, sprinkled with parsley . . . mmmmm), baba ganouj (smoked eggplant dip), and a kibbeh wrap (the national dish of Lebanon!). We were so full, we basically had to be rollllled out of there.

From there, we drove a few quick miles into downtown Asheville for a relaxation appointment at the Asheville Salt Cave. I wanted to do some sort of special-to-Asheville activity while we were in town, and this strange yet intriguing manmade cave of salt exactly fit the bill.


For $25 a pop, we both got to sit in this salt cave for an hour and breathe in the calming, healing salty air. You can read all about the benefits on their website if you're curious. I just thought it was something neat to do. And it was! Gosh, I feel relaxed again just looking at that picture.

After the salt cave, we wandered around downtown Asheville on foot, popping in and out of shops, and taking in the hippy vibes that make Asheville, well . . . Asheville.

We made sure to stop at a shop called Bathe, just as we had on our Eureka Springs babymoon, pre-John Paul. Just a few days before our Asheville babymoon, we ran out of the lavender bath salts we had purchased on the Eureka Springs babymoon at the Bathe store there. It was totally fate.

At Bathe, you pick the product you want (hand lotion, scrubbing salts, beard scrub . . . ) and then, using approximately 100 different scents, combine to make your own unique scent for the product. It's pretty neat. We created a sandalwood tobacco and vanilla salt hand scrub and lavender bath salts. As we checked out, we mentioned to the cashier that we had enjoyed visiting their shop in Eureka Springs (I believe the only other one) and she said we were the first people she met who'd been to both shops! Woohoo, achievement unlocked!

Following Bathe, we continued adventuring for a while until we stumbled upon a kombucha bar, AKA quintessential Asheville joint. I was thrilled to discover they serve kombucha flights!! When you can't drink booze (because pregnancy), but you find something that sorta mimics the fun things about booze, you do a happy dance.

In case you're not in the know, kombucha is fermented tea. It's a little fizzy, a little vinegary, and a lot of fun. I actually brewed it at home for a few months. And then I got pregnant and it lost its appeal. But I totally intend on picking up the brewing habit again. It's chockfull of so-good-for-you probiotics, so you really can't go wrong.

The flavors I tried, all made by Buchi Kombucha, were . . .

Fire -- cold pressed ginger + cayenne + spices (what?! too spicy)
Water -- elderberry + blueberry + coconut water (my fave!)
Earth -- roasted roots tonic (tasted like rootbeer . . . meh)
Sovereign -- ginger + peach + molasses (second fave!)
Avonlea -- orange + mango + sea buckthorn
Holiday -- cinnamon + cider + vanilla + clove

Belly up to the bar!


We decided we needed a little break following all the downtown adventures, so we headed to our hotel to check in. We didn't stay anywhere fancy. Just a regular ol' Baymont Inn & Suites. We figured it was best to save a little cash on our hotel so we could really go all out on a fancy adventure a little later in the evening.

(Hold your horses, I'll get there!)

After some quick R&R, we headed south south south of Asheville to a Korean restaurant for dinner. We figured heading away from downtown Asheville on a Saturday evening was a smart choice. Good thing this city is so cool that super delicious restaurants can be found still several miles outside of downtown.

We considered tons of different cuisines, but Stonebowl Korean won out, simply because (1) the pics on yelp made me salivate and (2) we don't have any Korean food restaurants near home. Easy choice.

We split dumplings as an appetizer and ordered the beef bi bim bop for dinner. It came with all these fun side dishes. And the bowl arrived at our table snap, crackle, poppin'! The stone bowl was hot hot hot, so the ingredients inside continued cooking while we enjoyed. It was all fantastically delicious AND fun! 5 out of 5 stars! Would recommend! *thumbs up emoji*

And from there, we headed to the main event . . . Christmas at Biltmore! This was our maj splurge during our babymoon, and it did not disappoint.


The Biltmore is a ridiculously huge mansion set in the beautiful mountain scenery of western NC. This crazy estate, finished in 1895, sits on over 10 square miles, and the house has 250 rooms, including 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms (what even?!?), 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. It's like Downton Abbey on steroids. Need I say more?

Our admittance time wasn't until 8:45pm because they were already pretty booked by the time I got our in-advance tickets. So we spent some of our extra time wandering through the gift shops and drinking hot chocolate in the cold. It was pretty romantic. 

We were finally allowed into the house and, guhhh, just breathtaking, guys!

I had to take a moment to pose in front of the largest decorated indoor Christmas tree I think I've ever seen. It was in their banquet hall, which has 70-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceilings. Umm, tall much?

We also needed a selfie at the bottom of the massive 4-story spiral grand staircase. 

But seriously, it was gorg. The whole thing. It was all decked out for Christmas and they had professional musicians set throughout the house singing and playing classical Christmas tunes. So many happy feels.

We explored for about an hour, maybe more, then decided it was time to say goodbye to the crazy life of wealth and excess and head back to reality.

Our hotel room randomly had a hot tub in it. Like, attached hot tub room for two. It was a little weird and out of place, but wait . . . why am I complaining? We used our newly purchased lavender Bathe bath salts and relaxed in the tub for a tiny while. But then, like the old farts we are, we got super tired and realized we neeeeeed sleeeeeep. So sleep we did!

We totally failed at using this overnight away from our toddler to sleep in (doy.), but we had to squeeze in breakfast and Mass and a trip to Trader Joe's before getting home in time, so we didn't really have a choice. The good news is, we spent our non-sleeping time on so many adventures that missing out on the extra sleep felt totally worth it. :)

Breakfast was at Biscuit Head, a breakfast joint that specializes in creating crazy delicious biscuit dishes.

John got a brisket biscuit (YAS!) and I played it simple with an egg, cheese, and bacon biscuit, plus a side of their homemade yogurt with granola. I also raided their jam and butter bar, as evidenced by the 8 little containers of jam and butter laid across the table in front of John. That didn't even cover half of the available flavors. That jam bar was my JAM!

We sat around a bit to digest the biscuit bombs in our bellies and to wait out the 1-hour-before-Communion fast, and then headed into downtown Asheville one last time to attend Mass at the Basilica of St. Lawrence!

Mass was just lovely. It was the first weekend of Advent, and the Deacon gave a fantastic homily, reflecting on a much more realistic version of the Nativity than we typically hear or see.

Check out this gorgeous Church . . .

*swooning for Jesus*

And since we can't go to Asheville without a stop at Trader Joe's, we headed straight there after Mass to wander the aisles and aimlessly by all the things we don't need but looked too tasty to leave behind. (TJ's, if you're listening, PLEASE COME TO EAST TENNESSEE! PUH-LEEZ!)

We squeezed in a trip to a neat little coffee shop, sorta en route to the highway, Liberty House Coffee & Cafe, and I tried my first London Fog: earl grey tea with honey and almond milk. Mmmmm. They had these ridiculously huge pumpkins on their front porch, which I obvi needed to pose with.

And from there, we headed straight back to good ol' east TN, refreshed from all our fun and adventuring, but ready to see our little John Paul again. 

'Twas perfect.

Thanks for the memories, Asheville! You're pretty neat.

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