Another “Calm Before”

The last time I published on the blog was last July – specifically July 9, 2017 – 2 days after Colt’s 4th birthday. His birthday was also the day that I found out I was pregnant with Baby #3. We weren’t planning on getting pregnant again for another 6 months, so it was quite the surprise. We left the morning after his birthday for Vail and by the time we got back home the morning sickness started to set in and between the pregnancy and the two boys I just haven’t had capacity to do the blog since.

And now, here I am, over 8 months later, sitting in that incredibly unique moment in time where I know I am within days of meeting this new baby, welcoming her into the world, into our family, into our home and into our everyday lives. Right now everything feels so calm and steady, but with every cramp and contraction I feel, I am keenly aware that it’s all about to change.

In some ways, this season is hard. I am SO eager to meet this girl and am totally ready for her to come. I’ll be 39 weeks in 3 days so it could be hours, days or even weeks. It feels impossible not to obsess over every little thing happening in my body and hard to think or talk about anything else. I would be over the moon if I went into labor…right now!

But at the same time this season is so sweet and I am not sure I’m ready to let it go. This could very well be our last baby and there is just nothing like the anticipation of waiting to meet your new, tiny treasure. There’s nothing like seeing that little face and holding that little bundle for the first time. So I’m cherishing and relishing in this moment. And on top of all this, these final days are also our last days as a family of 4 – the close of this chapter for our family. And what a sweet chapter it has been! I am certainly not eager for it to end. DSC_0345

Sitting here now, I think back to how I felt waiting on Fincher. His arrival set into motion the season that I still think of as “the storm.” “The storm” is one of the reasons we wanted to wait a little bit longer to have a third baby – we just went through so many life-changes in such a short time. But, by God’s grace, we have now truly settled into our life here in Arlington. We love our house, our neighborhood, our preschool, our parks, our church, our community, Michael’s job, his commute…our life here. Praise be to God, He has shown us so much kindness in His provision for us here. And so we feel His hand carrying us into this new season that we are about to embark on. More adventure, more opportunity to trust the Lord and watch Him work!

Oh, and I turn 31 tomorrow too! Here’s to a new and exciting year ahead!

November 2015: Brazil Closeout

Back to playing catch-up. November was our family’s last month living in Brazil. When we flew to the states last November for Thanksgiving, Colt, Finn & I were leaving Brazil for good (Michael returned for work and was back and forth through the end of January). So, we spent our final weeks soaking up the city that had become our home over the previous 4 years. We hung out with friends, ate at all of our favorite restaurants, enjoyed our then, 2 year old and 3 month old, sold all of our furniture, tried to pack so that we could live out of suitcases for 3 months and generally lived in denial that the end of this chapter was truly at hand. Here are some random photos from our final weeks.


Colt was a little confused about how the whole nursing thing worked…


This is Colt “feeding Numnum”


Michael’s article published in Folha de São Paulo – the largest, most widely circulated paper in Brazil! Page 3, above the fold. So awesome!


Play date with Hudson girls!


Uncle Joe for a visit.


Just a few Harper boys.


Little Fincher.


Happy chubster.


Colt went through a cork phase where these were his favorite toys.


Mega blocks!


Finn testing out crib-life. (At this point Colt was still in a crib & Finn was stuck in a bassinet.)


Tummy time!


Better together.


That face!


Big brother of the year award!


Not even 3 months but looking strong!


And adorable.








Heading out with my boys!


Colt and Rosy checking out the Christmas displays at the mall.


Fincher’s 3 month pictures!


Happy little angel.


Final girls lunch with Paige & Michelle.


Steak frites!



See Colt’s identical blowout in his 3 month photo dump too!



Paige & Mailey playing with Colt while I tried to pack…


Final dinner – Espirito Santo with Hudson girls (Trent traveling).


These two… 



November 22 – Colt, Finn & I say our final goodbyes to Brazil. Excited but also heartbroken.


Praying in thankfulness for God’s kindness to us during our time in Brazil.


Airport Coltchie.


With the boys & the bags.


Stretching before a long flight.


Arizona, here we come!




There’s no way to really post about what our 4 years in Brazil meant to us or what it felt like to say goodbye, but here’s an abridged version.

When I first posted about us moving to Brazil, we really didn’t know what to expect or how long we would be there. The primary impetus for moving there was professional but at the same time it was also a big professional gamble. When Michael first asked about making the transfer, Jones Day hadn’t even opened their São Paulo office so there were a lot of unknowns. But professionally, our time there yielded so much more than he could have even hoped. He adored his coworkers, did such interesting work, and it brought us to where we are today.

Michael’s Portuguese language fluency is now perfect and I can actually get a thing or two done in Portuguese too!

And living down the street from Joe…we never could have appreciated how precious that would be, especially when we were all otherwise a continent away from family. Joe was Michael’s SECOND best friend. 😉 Every week they were running in the park, meeting up for suco or beer, and generally getting up to no good. Joe is who made phone calls to both Brazilian and American women for me when we first moved there, making sure I made friends and had something to do. When Michael would travel for work, Joe would always call to check up on me and after Colt was born, he would be sure to visit to play with Colt and make sure we were doing fine. When we went into labor with Finn, Joe got the 4am call to come stay with Colt. He was there to reassure Colt when he woke up and Mom & Dad were gone and Joe brought Colt to the hospital to meet his brother for the first time. Joe actually “moved” back to the states a couple months before we did (it’s in “” because he continued to return for work pretty regularly) and Michael and I literally sat and cried at the closing of that chapter.

And the friends. The friends! The FRIENDS!! Going into it, we never really considered friends as part of our Brazil experience and looking back, they are really what defines it. We certainly made great Brazilian friends, but our closest friends were fellow expats. The expat community was so tight knit – we truly became family to each other. We all moved there and met when we were married with no kids and now we’ve ALL had kids and most of us did it together, 3 of us did it together twice. And maybe because we all met without kids, in a city that is uber-social, maybe because even after we had kids we also had help, but we got together constantly. There was always something. Dinner out at a restaurant, wine-tasting or cook-off or costume party or game night at a friends’ place, traveling to some new beach for a long weekend… We just lived in community together. We took care of each other.

And for Michael and me, the Brazil experience was incredible. I really can’t put it into words. We cried together a little, laughed together a ton and made amazing memory after amazing memory together, including bringing two beautiful boys into this world. São Paulo is the city where I have lived the longest and it’s where Michael & I have spent the majority of our married life. What a treasure to have been able to do those 4 magical years with my best friend. Thank you, Lord.


The Storm

Days before Finn was born, I wrote a post called The Calm Before the Storm. We were in that special season of life, awaiting the birth of a new baby, and things were calm. But Michael and I also knew that we were on the cusp of many other changes that would rock our worlds like crazy.

As we sat in expectation of Fincher’s arrival, we were also working towards a move back to the US. At the time, we weren’t sure if Michael would get the position at the DOJ or if he would pursue a transfer to Jones Day’s DC office, and we continue to be surprised along this journey as it has actually been a little bit of both. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

There is so much that I want to write about, to document and capture for our records – for our memories – but I think before I can write about the moments and the details I need to go through the big-picture saga that has been the past few months. It certainly felt like a storm, but by God’s grace I think we are finally walking out on the other side.

We welcomed sweet Fincher in mid-August and then had a stream of grandparents visiting for the next 6 weeks. I had a pretty brutal arm infection that made me miserable for a couple weeks and then we were to October. In October Michael completed his final interviews with the DOJ and was over the moon to be offered a position with them, pending a routine background check. We did an incredible 5 day beach trip with our best friends in Brazil and had an unforgettable time (still planning to post on that trip!). And then, in the blink of an eye, we were in November. We basically spent that month spending time with our friends, going out to all of our favorite places a final time (or two) and then trying to pack bags for the boys and me for an indefinite amount of time, that we estimated would be about 3 months. Slightly overwhelming. But we did it.


We spent Thanksgiving in Arizona since Michael was in one of his best friend’s weddings that weekend. It was a magical but whirlwind week in Phoenix celebrating Thanksgiving + an Indian / Vietnamese / American wedding. After that Michael returned to Brazil to work and to get our apartment packed up, etc. and I flew with the boys to South Carolina (my first flight with both by myself!). IMG_1269

At this point, we had only looked at houses online but were hoping to buy a house in Arlington or Alexandria. Michael and I had booked flights to meet each other there mid-December and then we would return to SC for Christmas, but after a few days in SC, my mom and I decided to just throw the boys in the car and drive up for the open houses that weekend. It was a total whim, last-minute decision but on Saturday, December 5 we packed up her car and told those sweet boys that we were going on a little adventure to find a house! 10 hours later we pulled into our hotel in Arlington and the next morning we started hitting the open houses. I had been especially compelled to come by one particular house that I was pretty convinced would be our home. We were the first ones in the door for the open house and as soon as we walked in the realtor told us that it had just gone under contract the night prior. I almost burst into tears. I would not have just driven 10 hours with a 3.5 month old and a 2.5 year old if this house was not available. It was all I could do not to cry but God, in His grace, gave me faith that He had other reasons for us to be there. We continued to look at other houses on my list and it was disappointment after disappointment, until… we came to OUR HOUSE! I instantly fell in love. It had just gone on the market and offers were due in 2 days. Michael would be arriving in DC in 9 days. Too late. That night my mom and I did the 10 hour drive back to SC and by Tuesday we were under contract. It was pretty stressful to buy a house apart from Michael – especially since he had never even laid eyes on it!! but even more so because it was a competitive situation with 10 offers… Plus Michael was really busy with work and was in the middle of getting our apartment packed up in São Paulo so he hardly had time to even think about it all! So when Michael arrived in DC on December 15 to “look at houses,” he was actually able to go to the home inspection! I left Colt with my mom so Finn & I could meet Michael up here and we were finally able to see the home together. I was SO relieved when he said that he loved it as much as I did. Maybe more. 🙂

Next we flew back to SC where we spent a lovely Christmas and then it was out to Arizona for New Years and Finn’s baptism which was made extra special as my parents, grandparents, aunt and Finn’s godparents (Trent & Paige Hudson) plus their girls all joined Michael’s family for a weekend full of fun! The Harpers were the most gracious hosts and we had an awesome time together (post coming on this as well!).

After Arizona, Michael went back to DC to work out of Jones Day’s DC office and I went back to SC with the boys. At this point I was fully engaged with trying to figure out how to furnish the house that we had just purchased. We had sold a lot of our furniture in Brazil since most of it didn’t seem like it was worth paying to move anyway. We did ship a few furniture pieces along with our dishes, other kitchen items, clothes, toys, etc. but we really had no idea when to expect its arrival (Brazil customs can be quite unpredictable and we had heard anywhere from 3-4 even 5 months). We would close on the house mid-January but rent-back through mid-February so I did have some time.

The second week of January Michael bought a minivan for us and then drove it to SC to visit us for the weekend. (Another big purchase that was a little stressful to do without the other person. Also, we are now minivan owners and I’ll never go back. At least not while I have kids in carseats. So, pretty much never.) The third weekend of January was MLK weekend. Michael trained from DC to NYC to see his brother and some friends and I left Colt with my mom and took Finn on a fun weekend trip to Denver where I met up with 5 of my São Paulo girlfriends who are now spread out all around the country. It was a blast to be reunited! Then I returned to SC and Michael returned to DC. A couple of days later he flew back to Brazil to do a final close-out of his work at Jones Day and I *brilliantly* decided that this was the time to potty train Colt… More on that later but let’s just say that doing it without Michael, while I was nursing Finn 5x/day, on month 2 of living out of suitcases…not the best idea. My mom is a saint but I still have PTSD and he’s still in pull-ups…

Finally February arrived and Michael had officially completed his work with Jones Day. He came to SC for a couple of days then we all flew to Arizona to visit his family for a fun-filled week in Phoenix and Hidden Valley. Then we were back to South Carolina for one more week until we packed everything into a U-Haul, IMG_1930drove for 12 hours (a potty training child + a U-Haul trailer attached make the drive a little longer…) up to DC. We arrived around 3am, spent the night in a hotel and then on the morning of February 18, almost exactly 3 months from the day I left Brazil, we finally arrived at our new and totally empty house. It was pretty empty for a week which was really strange to live through but we used that time for me to paint Colt’s room and get our basics settled. We had borrowed some sheets, towels, blankets, dishes and cookware from my mom to survive. Little things were delivered day by day but during the second week we had a big Ikea delivery (read HOURS of assembly – Michael is a now a total pro), our shipment from Brazil arrived AND a big furniture order that I had placed for some of the more major items arrived as well. It was pretty overwhelming trying to get settled without having any help with the kids. I mean, at this point I was nursing Finn 4-5x/day and feeding him solids 2-3x and Colt is awesome but he’s still a 2 and a half year old boy… Michael and I were just in constant motion. We would wake up each morning so stiff, sore and exhausted, but knowing we were one step closer to the end. (Praise God that at least our kids are good sleepers!)

Then, on top of all the hectic craziness going on in our lives, after Michael officially left Jones Day, the DOJ calls to inform him that due to his time abroad, the background check portion was going to be a little different for him and would probably last about another year… We were pretty thrown off by this but were very thankful when Jones Day quickly said that they would be happy to have him back. He is working out of the DC office with regular travel to Brazil so that he can remain a part of the team down there as well. Although it was a curve ball, we already see it working out this way for the best.

Anyway, here we are now. Eventually we were able to get (mostly) settled into our home and I can’t even begin to express how good that feels. I’m lighting candles and drinking wine or tea every night just feeling very zen. 🙂 One of the best moments was hanging up all of the kids’ clothes in their closets. After living out of suitcases for 3 months, constantly packing and unpacking and repacking again, it was like taking a deep breath.

Michael’s parents came to visit for a couple days which was great and then he finally started working again on Monday. My dad was actually in town for a couple days right when our shipment arrived so he was able to swing by and see the house and the boys for a little bit but my mom hadn’t been here yet (not since she saw it with me while house-hunting!) so she came up to visit for the week. Michael is traveling to Brazil next week for work so we decided I’d take the kids to SC for the week and Michael will just meet us there and we can all drive back up together on Easter Sunday evening. And then starts real real life. Where Michael is working and I am home with the kids. In our house. In America. With our minivan.

And I’m just so thankful to now be writing all of this on THIS side of it all. It literally feels like we climbed a mountain and are coming out on top, looking at this new beautiful view of the new chapter we have here. And we are so thankful for all that God has already given us in and through this and we so look forward to living in the normal days of life ahead.IMG_2191

On 5 Years of Marriage

Every year on our anniversary I look back at pictures from that special weekend and day. Today while I was looking at them, the emotions really came back – how I was feeling that day, getting ready with my girlfriends, about to walk down the aisle to say “I do.” I think back to that girl getting dressed in white, feeling excited, nervous, and truthfully a little afraid. And if I could tell her what I know now, what would I say?

Sweet girl – take a deep breath and savor this day. Walking down that aisle will, for you, signify walking into the greatest earthly blessing that God could ever have for you. Michael is not just who you think he is – he is so much more. He is a treasure that you will continue to discover with each passing day. You have no idea how lucky you really are, but over the days and months and years ahead, as you move across the country and across the world together, as you watch him be a father to your children, as he loves and cares for you daily, you will come to understand it more and more. Life together will be a great adventure and it will be more fun than you can imagine. Sweet girl, don’t walk but RUN down the aisle to marry that man. The journey ahead is truly magical.



Michael, thank you for the past 5 years – I am so blessed to walk through this life by your side. It’s so much better than I could have known. Here’s to a lifetime together and then longer than that. exit

My First Mother’s Day!

This year was my first time celebrating Mother’s Day as a mom and my sweet husband made sure it was a very fun, special and memorable weekend.


Phase 1: Surprise Sushi Lunch with Paige
We had plans on Saturday afternoon to try a new sushi restaurant around the corner from us with the Hudsons so of course I thought nothing of this. When we arrived at the restaurant, however, Michael and Trent handed Paige and me a couple of notes, took the babies and said “Enjoy yourselves – goodbye!” We were both really taken off guard since we had not been suspicious about anything, but we sat down, ordered drinks, and opened the first card. cardThe card basically told us that they had the babies taken care of and to just relax, enjoy our lunch and to open the next card in an hour. In reality, the guys had taken the babies to meet up with Joe for lunch, so while we were doing this: img_6104the boys were doing this:IMG_0372Anyway, after an hour and a bunch of sushi we opened the second card which instructed us to get dessert and then head over to the spa around the corner for a 2pm ressy.

Phase 2: Surprise Spa – Mani, Pedi & Massage
When we arrived at the spa we didn’t know what we were there for, but we soon learned that the boys had made us appointments to get a mani/pedi & a massage.IMG_6977

img_6112 img_6110

It was pure relaxation and so much fun to do together. When we were finished, someone brought a box and a card to Paige and me. Each of the boys had picked out a dress (not a new one or anything – just one from our closet) and shoes for us and the note instructed us to meet them around the corner at a specified address. So, we got changed and headed out!

Phase 3: Surprise Drinks with the Boys at La Mar
As we were walking we realized that the address was for the nearby Peruvian restaurant, La Mar. When we arrived, the boys were waiting for us with pisco sours!IMG_0377As we sat and enjoyed drinks and ceviche, we learned that Uncle Joe was back at our apartment babysitting BOTH babies!IMG_7045 When we went back to the apartment we walked in to find Joe on the floor playing with Colt and Mailey — such a sweet little sight. We finished the evening playing at the park!IMG_0383


Phase 4: Lovely Church Service followed by Beautiful Surprise Brunch by Michael
Sunday morning Michael and I went to the early morning service at our church (never thought we would be early service people but we’re up anyway and it works best with Colt’s schedule) and it was absolutely lovely. At one point they had all of the moms in the congregation stand to receive prayer and I was so honored to be able to take part in that. When we got home, Michael went to work at preparing brunch. He made an amazing french toast bake (which had been soaking overnight!). IMG_6979Needless to say I have an amazing, incredibly thoughtful husband and it was a perfect first Mother’s Day weekend. Love these two! IMG_0021

I was actually surprised by how special it felt to be a part of Mother’s Day this year. I was so touched to realize that I was a part of that special group of women, across the world and through all of time, and I’m so thankful that God blessed me with our sweet little Colt who made me Mom.IMG_6865

4 Years Ago…

Michael, thank you for making me the happiest girl in the world. You are my hero and my prince, more than I ever could have hoped or dreamed. Life with you is incredible – so thankful to call you mine!  I love you forever & longer than that. XO









The 7 Month Slump

Generally, I’m a pretty positive person.  And I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for having been pretty cool about this whole moving to Brazil thing.  I think I’ve handled it really well.  And for the most part – for the first 7 months – it wasn’t THAT tough because I was genuinely happy and super excited to be here.  It was a decision that Michael and I made together, after careful thought and much prayer.  It was an opportunity that Michael worked many long hours to make happen.  And it was an adventure.  For us.  Together.  And I love a good adventure!

Then came 7 months.  The 7 Month Slump.  Suddenly – and it was literally overnight – I started getting frustrated so easily by the big and the little things about life in Brazil.  The streets are dirty, people are always smoking, the air is terribly polluted, it smells bad, everything is extremely overpriced, our apartment layout is weird, I don’t have a real job, things never work right, everything is ten times more difficult and more bureaucratic than it should be, the internet is always kicking me offline, I’m living permanently without a microwave, a dryer & a disposal, my oven is too small to fit a regular cookie sheet and my dishwasher, well, you can see what I am working with here, I miss my friends and family from home and sometimes Portuguese really gets on my nerves.  UGH.

I love that this graph is called the “Happy Meter” and that it describes the slump as “Hostility” which I think is pretty accurate.

Poor Michael — for a couple of weeks every little thing about Brazil and our life here was getting to me.  I just didn’t feel relaxed — it was almost like I was waiting for something to happen (like for us to MOVE) but there was nothing to wait for.  We were not moving and this country was not changing.

Throughout life we are called, over and over, to make the choice to persevere in love through difficulty and challenges.  Just because something is hard – be it a job, a marriage, children, friendships, pursuing a dream – it doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong or even that you necessarily need to change anything.  Sometimes things are hard because you’re doing them RIGHT.  I mean, some things are just tough.  So although it was a challenge, it was also an opportunity to practice choosing joy and making the best of something that I wasn’t FEELING that great about.

We have now been in Brazil for over 8 months and I can confidently say that I am the happiest here yet and there is nowhere else I would rather be.  I know that it’s not always this quick and easy to “bounce back” from something and I know that this challenge was small compared to all of the problems out there – and for that I am truly thankful! – but for me it was a good reminder that love and joy are not always feelings but are often choices made in opposition to our feelings.  The hope is that these choices eventually do lead to a change of heart and renewed feelings, but that is not the goal.  The goal is to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.

Anyway, I know that all of this is a normal part of adjusting to life in a new country, and somehow, after coming out of it, I feel much more settled here.  More content.  More permanent.  More at home.