Lillian: Weeks 1 & 2

Weeks 1-2: March 16 – 30
Last night at 11pm Lillian turned two weeks old and if I could rewind time and relive these past two weeks all over again, I absolutely would. UIIA9857

Hospital Stay: Lillian was born at Virginia Hospital Center. My doctors’ office is connected to the hospital so I checked in just after my 11am appointment around 11:45. I was in triage until 4pm then in Labor and Delivery through the evening. Lillian was born at 11:04pm, we got to our recovery room by 1am and we left the hospital around noon on Sunday. Overall the hospital stay was very nice. The staff were all wonderful and while it was not quite as fancy as our Brazil hospital experience, I have no complaints. IMG_8482


Better than hospital food – sushi & champagne!

I think the biggest concern I’d had about the hospital stay was worrying where Colt and Finn would be. However, since my mom had arrived the night before and was taking care of the boys I was completely at peace. She is an unbeatable combination of fun, loving and capable – she even took Colt to his early morning swimming lesson before bringing the boys to the hospital to meet Lillian on Saturday. IMG_3719IMG_3734IMG_3730

It was so much fun to introduce Lillian to her big brothers and to her grandmother on Saturday. The boys were great with her and Gigi was instantly in love. IMG_3803IMG_E3752

While we were at the hospital we also got to see two sets of friends from church. One couple had also just had their third baby less than 24 hours after Lillian and they were in the room across the hall from us! And our other friends, Chad and Mallory (pregnant with their first!) were sweet enough to bring us Starbucks on Sunday morning! IMG_8486

I was certainly grateful for the time we had at the hospital for me to rest and focus exclusively on Lillian and on my own recovery, but by the time we left the hospital on Sunday we were definitely ready to get home to our boys, to our own bed and to just get started on life as a family of 5.


March 18: Heading home!

Lillian Medical:


Monday March 19: First appointment at the pediatricians’ office

Weight: 8lbs 3oz at birth on Friday night. That following Monday morning, Lillian weighed 7lbs 12oz. This past Thursday, March 29 (her almost 2 week appointment) she weighed in at 8lbs 4.5oz.
Height: 20.5″ at birth. This past Thursday she measured 21.75″. Doubt she’s grown that much but hard to get a perfect measurement on an infant!
Clothes: Moving from newborn to 0-3. She’s just too long for the newborn clothes!
Diapers: Still using Newborn.
Other: Lillian was born with a sweet head of dark hair, thickest in the back. She has a double cowlick right in the middle of her forehead so I guess that means she’ll have a middle part? She has darker hair and overall coloring than the boys had (although that’s not saying too much!). Her eyes are a deep, dark blue making me wonder if they’ll actually stay blue. Her skin is perfect (no baby acne like her brothers – at least not yet) and she lost her umbilical cord on Day 11.



Feeding: I am so thankful for the gift of being able to nurse my kids. Before I had Colt I knew of several moms who wanted to nurse and tried to nurse but for one reason or another, it didn’t work out for them so I have never taken nursing for granted.  Thankfully it has come pretty naturally to all of my kids and it has gotten easier and less painful for me each time. IMG_8437

I think my body has regulated it’s milk supply more with each baby too so it is not quite as messy of a process as it has been in the past. And, related to this (I think), Lillian does not spit up nearly like the boys did either. She spits up a little after most feeds but it’s so much easier, cleaner and less of an ordeal than what we went through with Colt and Finn.

Although she’s a good, efficient nurser (usually just 5-10 minutes/side), she’s not the hungriest baby of all time. I am still waking her for almost all of her feeds during the day (and I’m not feeding her THAT often for her age – see schedule below) and she usually doesn’t eat enough to make me feel totally relieved. It’s my “policy” to try not to pump for the first few weeks so that my body learns to regulate the supply, but in order to give myself more relief, I’ve been using these manual pumps during some of my feeds. I just suction one onto whichever side I’m not feeding her and then get the dual benefits of 1) personal relief and 2) milk storage! We are only 2 weeks in (and I didn’t use these until a day or two after we were home from the hospital) and already we’ve stored over 170 oz of milk in the freezer just by collecting the excess milk from feeds!

With each of my kids, nursing has been a special, cherished time with them and this continues to be true with Lillian. I love that nursing forces me to stop and sit with my baby. Of course there are plenty of times where I need to multitask and do other things at the same time but whenever I can or to whatever degree is possible in the moment, I try to use that time to just enjoy her and soak her up. IMG_8538

Sleep: Lillian is a good little sleeper although I’m always hesitant to make grand claims this early since most all new babies are sleepy! At night she sleeps swaddled up and so far we still have her in the bassinet in our room. During the day she usually naps in her little bunny seat, the old Moses basket that I used to nap in as a baby! or in someone’s arms (preferably mine!!). She definitely likes her pacis but is still learning how to keep them in her mouth as she’s drifting off to sleep. Sometimes she can be very tired but will struggle to sleep if she loses her paci. Other times she falls asleep without them at all! IMG_E8511IMG_3856IMG_E8788IMG_8802MAOE0403

Schedule: After a few days we started trying to move from a routine to a schedule with Lillian. She was naturally giving me one or two pretty long stretches between feeds but I had to wake her in the morning and during the day to make sure she gave them to me at night so on Day 4 we started this schedule:

7:30am Morning Feed 1
10:30/11am Feed 2
1:30/2pm Feed 3
4:30/5pm Feed 4
7/7:30pm Feed 5
9:30pm Feed 6 then get ready for 10:30pm wrapped up, in bed, lights out
2:30/3:30am Night Feed 7

This was fine but a couple days ago, when I was still waking her up for almost every one of her daytime feeds, I decided to drop one and space them out a bit more. Now we are on this schedule (which is very similar to what I was doing with Finn at this point):

7:30am Morning Feed 1
11:30/12pm Feed 2
3:30/4pm Feed 3
7:30pm Feed 4
9:30pm Feed 5 then get ready for 10:30pm wrapped up, in bed, lights out
2:30/3:30am Night Feed 6

This has been great for me so far for a few reasons. First, I am only getting up once/night to feed. I am still waking up, feeding, changing her diaper, wrapping her back up and helping her fall asleep again (usually by giving her the paci a few times) so I’m still usually up for 1-2 hours during the night but for a newborn, I can’t complain.

Secondly, it’s really nice to be going to bed each night at my normal bedtime and starting the day each morning at the normal time when I get up with the boys anyway. Michael has been on paternity leave for the past two weeks and has been responsible for responding to Colt & Finn each morning but on Monday he’ll go back to work and I need to be prepared to be fully available for the boys when their clock turns yellow at 7:50am so a 7:30am feed time is a good first morning feed for me.

Lillian: Oh my goodness you are perfection personified. You are such a sweet treasure and bring so much new joy to our home. IMG_8897IMG_8773IMG_E8849

You aren’t much of a crier but you do squawk – kind of like a bird or maybe a cat? when you’re upset (usually tired but needing help falling asleep). You love to be held and snuggled and love bath time! IMG_8577IMG_E8760IMG_E8744

First 2 Weeks: Although we have spent the bulk of our time snuggled up at home, you have gotten out and about a little bit and have met quite a few friends and family.


You spent a few days with my mom and you have gotten to meet my dad (“Pasha”) a couple of times but somehow I still don’t have a picture of the two of you!


Uncle Brad came by to visit and snuggle you.


During your first week home we had a big snow!


You preferred to stay snuggled up inside by the fire.


We celebrated your 1 week birthday!


Holding your own with the Harper boys!


Out for pizza with the family!


At the first sign of spring weather, the boys worked in the yard.


And we supervised.


Playing in the park.


Good Friday: Morning brunch followed by Stations of the Cross at church.


Meeting your great Aunt Patsy.

Mama Postpartum: Recovery-wise this has been my best/easiest recovery. Of course recovering from delivering a baby while simultaneously nursing and caring for a newborn and being a mom to two toddler boys is NO small thing (thank you very much) BUT it has been so much better than my recovery experience with the boys. And although I’m certainly hormonal and emotional (mostly feeling protective and sentimental about my sweet tiny baby!), I am also less hormonal and more stable / feeling like myself than I did after the boys as well. All of this has played a big part in allowing me to really ENJOY these early, newborn days with Lillian and that in turn has made me feel extremely bonded to her. IMG_E8903

There’s also something about a third that is easier to enjoy in other ways too. You aren’t stressed about the small things. You aren’t reading any baby books. You know what to expect from your body’s recovery, from nursing, from feeding schedules and sleeping schedules. That’s not to say that each birth and baby isn’t totally unique and there are always little surprises for you along the way, but you breathe a little easier with the third. Your older kids can play together, with each other while you nurse or snuggle the baby. And you can look at those older kids and see how quickly this all goes by.

Holding Lillian almost feels like trying to hold onto sand as it’s slipping through my fingers. I feel desperate to freeze time and keep her in this stage, as a sweet and tiny baby. Before she was born, I was pretty sure that this would be my last pregnancy but within hours of her birth I was wanting more. I just don’t know how to wrap my head around this being my LAST. The last time I’ll check into labor and delivery. The last time I’ll get a brand new, slimy baby put on my chest. The last time I’ll nurse. The last time I’ll go through newborn diapers and newborn clothes. The last, the last, the last… I’m in tears even writing this. I had hoped to feel a sense of confidence and peace about (potentially) being done with this stage, and perhaps that will come in time, but right now the thought of it is excruciating.


Showing you your room for the first time.

Precious Lillian, what a sweet gift from God you are. You have won my heart completely. WTTT9651

Lillian’s Birth Story

Wednesday, March 14: 39 weeks

9:45 am I have my 39 week checkup with my OB. For the past few weeks I have been increasingly dilated so I’m not too surprised when she says that the baby is super low and I’m 4+ cm.

I had been hoping for her to sweep my membranes since that’s what sent me into labor with Finn, but Michael and I had talked about things the night before and decided it would be best not to do anything intentional until Friday so that he could finish out the workweek and so that we could have my mom up here to be with the boys should we need to rush off to the hospital. The doctor says that she thinks my body and baby are both ready so I schedule a followup for Friday. In the meantime I get the house in order, go to the grocery store and try to prepare everything just in case…

Friday, March 16: 39 weeks 2 days

1:00 am My mom arrives! She has been super busy with work but drove through the evening into the night to be sure that she would be here for me and for our family if we need her on Friday. I am so thankful for her commitment to all of us. Her arrival gives me the greatest peace of mind and now I know that we are really ready to have this baby.


10:00 am Right before heading off to the doctor. My mom would laugh whenever she caught my profile and insisted on taking a picture.

11:00 am Michael is at work, Colt is at school and Finn and my mom come with me to my doctor’s appointment. Dr. Elliot checks me and immediately asks me if I’m having contractions. I tell him that while I feel some occasionally and have been having a little bit of cramping, I certainly don’t think I’m in labor and it’s so far been nothing to write home about. He tells me that I’m already around 5 cm and he’d like for me to check into triage to get monitored for a couple of hours to see what my body is really doing. He thinks I’m closer to active labor than I realize and just wants to watch it a bit before sending me home.

Another doctor walks us through over to the maternity ward of the hospital and helps me get checked in. My mom and Finn are with me and while I’m totally comfortable and not nervous at all, I’m still thankful not to be checking in alone. I call Michael and ask him to wrap up at the office and come straight to the hospital. He has all of our bags in his car already so he’s ready. Meanwhile I change into the lovely beige, tan and olive green gown and Finn covers me with stickers.


WHO designs these gowns??????


12:30 pm It’s almost time to pick Colt up from school and my mom doesn’t want to leave me until Michael arrives at the hospital so I call my girlfriend, Beth, and she graciously, happily offers to pick up Colt along with her two boys and keep him for a couple hours before bringing him back to our house that afternoon.

1:00 pm Michael arrives at the hospital. It is exciting to see him. It somehow feels like this might really be happening… My mom takes Finn home and she’ll be there waiting for Colt when Beth drops him off. Everything in triage is fine except I have 1 regular nurse and 1 nurse who is still in training, shadowing the first nurse. The nurse in training tries to set up my IV and after two failed attempts (one of which left me with a nasty bruise), the other nurse saves things and finally gets it on the third try.

3:00 pm Dr. Elliot comes in and reads the results from the monitors. He determines that I’m having regular contractions, every 7 minutes or so. He checks me and says that I’m more open, 5+ cm and 90% effaced. He says he’d like me to go ahead and check into labor and delivery. He tells me that he’s a little concerned that if I went home I’d accidentally “blow this baby out” in the shower or something and there are a few reasons that would not be ideal – for them and for me!

1) This is a VBAC (albeit my second) so ideally they do want to monitor my labor.
2) During this pregnancy I tested positive for GBS so they want me to get 1-2 rounds of antibiotics in my system before delivery.
3) I’m pretty sure I’ll want an epidural. And my labor with Finn was quick (3-4 cm – fully dilated in 2.5 hours) so all along my doctors have asked me to come to the hospital sooner rather than later.

Ultimately Michael and I agree that we’re ready to do this.

4:00 pm We are settled into our labor and delivery room and our nurse tells us it’s the best one – big and right across from the “patient refreshment room.” I get hooked up to the monitors and start my first round of penicillin. It burns like crazy so I put an ice pack on my arm for the half-hour as it’s going in. I am doing intermittent monitoring so I am able to get up and walk around. Even when I’m on the monitors I can at least stand or sit on the birthing ball.


No pain!

6:45 pm Dr. Elliot swings by and asks how I’m doing. I tell him that I still don’t feel active labor so we start low-dose pitocin (level 1).

7:15 pm My contractions are regular, every 4 minutes or so, but still not painful. I am a little concerned that I’m still not in “real labor” – it feels weird to be at the hospital and not be in pain. I have had a popsicle and some jello and am grateful that I had a big breakfast that morning.

7:30 pm We increase pitocin to level 2.

8:30 pm I start my second round of penicillin and it burns even more than the first. My contractions have become more irregular so we up the pitocin to level 3.IMG_8421

9:30 pm Dr. Elliot comes in and says I’m 6+ cm. He says he wants to go ahead and “let some water out.” I’m still not in pain so I express my 2 concerns:

1) I don’t want to have my water broken and then not go into labor and end up with another c-section and
2) I have read that pitocin and inductions don’t always go well with VBACs so I’m a little afraid of uterine rupture.

Dr. Elliot says that at 6+ cm he’s not concerned about me not going into labor and he feels like if we break my water then I won’t need any more pitocin. I have to get a new round of antibiotics every 4 hours which puts me due for my next round at 12:30 am. He tells me that we’ll have the baby before that which seems hard for me to believe considering I’m still not in any real pain.

He goes ahead and breaks my water and aside from the gross feeling of the fluid coming out, it doesn’t really hurt. After he leaves I ask my nurse, Kelly, if I should go ahead and order my epidural. It feels funny to ask for one when I’m not hurting but she encourages me to go ahead and get it. The next couple contractions feel about 5x stronger/more painful than before so I ask her to call it in. Within minutes I’m in so much more pain – I can’t believe how breaking my water changed things so quickly and so drastically.

10:20 pm The anesthesiologist comes in and begins to administer the epidural. He says it takes about 15 minutes to fully set it. I’m really hurting now and tell him it doesn’t seem to be helping. He asks me to wait until 10:38 pm before “pushing the button” to increase the dosage.

10:40 pm I have not felt ANY relief so we push the button but I’m struggling.

10:45 pm Nurse Kelly checks me and says I’m 9+ cm and will be pushing soon. She starts setting up the delivery table and pages Dr. Elliot. The epidural does not seem to have done anything and I’m suddenly feeling a ton of pressure. She calls Dr. Elliot again and tells me to try to breathe, not to push.

10:50 pm Dr. Elliot comes in and starts getting all ready for delivery. The contractions are still coming but I have a constant feeling of pressure that will not let up. He is coaching me to breathe through it until he’s ready.

10:57 pm It’s time to start pushing. In Brazil there were lots of people – doctors and nurses – in the room when I was delivering. Here there is just Dr. Elliot, Nurse Kelly, Michael and me so Michael has to hold one of my legs which I’m not expecting or thrilled about. He is less fazed by it and jumps right in, excited and encouraging me that we are close to meeting our daughter. As I’m pushing, Dr. Elliot asks my nurse to check the baby’s heart rate and the way they’re telling me to push makes me feel like something urgent is happening. It almost feels like they’re mad at me. Or maybe they just want me to keep going because we’re close. I am trying as hard as I can. It’s so intense. Dr. Elliot asks me if I want to feel her head but I don’t. Even in the moment it weirds me out but it does make me realize she’s close.

11:04 pm Lillian Mary Harper is born. I can’t believe it. They put her on my chest and my first thought is that she’s perfectly beautiful but not crying. Nurse Kelly messes with her a little and gets her to cry. They tell me that the cord had been around her neck but it was “loose” and totally fine. I’m not sure what that means but it makes me hold onto her extra tight. de06e740-f818-46b4-9d23-cd94229a3997

Michael cuts the cord and we snuggle our baby and call her by her name as my doctor gets me all cleaned up. They let me hold her for a long time before taking her to weigh in and she seems so alert and just beautiful. I notice that she has a lot of dark hair, darker than either of our boys. She has tiny ears and the sweetest little hands. She feels new to me – like meeting a brand new person – but also cozy and mine. Eventually they take her and she’s 8lbs 3oz. Her Apgar scores are 9s. She’s absolutely perfect. She nurses for almost an hour and is a total natural. I am absolutely, completely in love…  IMG_842641d9365d-1ac9-4036-83f4-a30b13640ecf

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