March 29, 2016

Easter Recap 2016

It is my long term hope that eventually readers beyond immediate family and friends will gain something positive from my writing. A laugh, creative inspiration, design idea, etc. But above all, I want to have my own words years from now to bring back vivid memories of fond family days. Here is what our Easter weekend looked like this year.

My husband is gearing up to leave for a month of training in Louisiana. Usually the Army is fairly decent at providing a little extra family time before and after periods of long separation, and this one fell perfectly timed with Easter weekend. We loved having him all to ourselves for four sunny, spring days before we kissed him goodbye.

On Friday, we headed into Nashville for the afternoon. We enjoyed a family breakfast at one of our favorite spots, the Barista Parlor, and then took Eloise to meet the Easter bunny at the Opry Mills mall. Her reaction was marginally improved from her first visit with Santa. She was still very cautious, but she did crack one small smirk this time! I considered that a big win, but Brad just wants one of those hilarious pictures of her screaming bloody murder. Maybe next time, love.

After our meet and greet, Brad was a total trooper and supported my hunt all over town for a particular Old Navy toddler tank top sold out in her size online that I had my heart set on. We did finally find it, and that night I made my first successful shirts using my new Silhouette for Eloise to wear on our Orlando trip in May. I can't wait to post a peek and beginner Silhouette tips soon (stay tuned). She will certainly be the Magic Kingdom and Harry Potter World's best dressed! Brad and I watched the last movie of the Hunger Games series on Friday night. I fell asleep on the couch a happy girl, my head on his shoulder and both cats snuggled on my lap.

When new neighbors move in, we always head over with warm cookies in hand to welcome them. Call us old fashioned, but that simple act of kindness built the foundation for an amazing friendship with our current neighbors Dave, Mandy, and their 4-year-old Noah. We swap babysitting duty for date nights, and Mandy and I are creating a garden together for our families to share this summer. She's got the green thumb and I've got the ideal garden space. Last night they brought over delicious homemade dessert just because. It is such a blessing to have neighbors that make us feel so safe and cared for.

On Saturday, they invited us to join them at Patti's Old Time Settlement for a big Easter egg hunt. Patti's is a historical log cabin village in western Kentucky. It was well worth the drive to experience their "reminder of when things moved slower." The gardens were beautifully in bloom and a perfect backdrop for Eloise's first big girl egg hunt. I was a little surprised that even for the youngest age group, parents were not allowed in the roped off area of scattered eggs for the first few minutes. There were audible gasps from multiple moms when they told us to stay back and let go of the little hands we squeezed. It was many of our first time letting our babies go do something completely on their own with peers. When I nervously set Eloise down, she took off with her little basket in hand and started gathering eggs. I cried bittersweet tears and Brad video taped. We are such goon parents! So many kiddos were frozen with fear, but Eloise was confident and determined. I am endlessly proud of the little girl my baby is becoming.

Noah just adores Eloise. Watching their friendship blossom is the cutest thing, and the rest of our afternoon was full of swoon-worthy moments. Noah is full of such sweet spunk and character, and I love that Eloise has him to look up to.

We decided to capitalize on the glorious late sunshine of early spring when we got home and work out in the yard. Taking pride in home improvement projects is one of my favorite things about owning our first place. We spruced up the front yard with trimmed hedges, fresh mulch, and a face lift for my favorite little tree. I had been asking Brad to create a stoned edge flower bed around it for months, and he seriously delivered! I love the new colorful view out our front window. I'm so thankful for the small things he does for me that create big happiness. All this while Eloise played quietly in her pack-n-play next to us, giggling and waving at every passing dog.

I spy a Ruby pup

Easter Sunday was actually our quietest day. I voiced a desire to attend a worship service, but Brad just wasn't feeling it. We haven't found a church family here that feels right, and that's okay. My mom reminded me that the best part about faith is the flexibility to express it each in our own individual ways. There were plenty of grateful moments throughout the day that allowed me to appreciate what Easter is all about.

One last egg hunt around the house led Eloise upstairs to the playroom where her basket was waiting. My favorite item the Easter bunny found for her this year was Eloise the Elephant from the Etsy shop Dunlap Love. She came with an imaginative story about her love of picking wildflowers and learning to be a good friend. The shop owner, Kaylyn, is a huge advocate for adoption. Proceeds helped her own family bring their daughter Eloise home from China and now assist other adoptive families with the financial strain. I love the quirky, whimsical friends of Dunlap Love, and I love contributing to a greater good even more. Plus Kaylyn has great taste in baby names!

We decorated eggs together Sunday afternoon using the really cute circus set I posted about a few weeks ago. Correction: Brad and I decorated. Eloise just spilled purple dye everywhere. I will definitely look for a similar set next year though. We really enjoyed it ourselves, and I think Eloise will too as she gets older. The rest of the day was a blur of board games, watching Aladdin, and plenty of Cadbury eggs. It was a perfect holiday.

Monday we played catch up on small tasks around the house. I scrubbed the floors and got my flower boxes prepped for my succulent garden and birdfeeders hung. Brad made us a yummy grilled chicken dinner and packed for his departure. We truly soaked up every fun and productive moment of this weekend. I am never glad to see time apart arrive again as frequently as it does for us, but it always gives us greater appreciation for what time we do share. I know our first weekend back together in May will be just as sweet or even sweeter than this one was. Let the countdown begin.

Witt Family Easter 2016 + our favorite photobomber

Hope you had a happy Easter doing the things that make you smile with the people you love most!

March 25, 2016

Friday Funnies

Happy Friday! We made it through another week. I hope you've been graced with the same beautiful spring weather we've been enjoying. To help roll your work week into the spirit of the weekend, here is what made us laugh the hardest at the Witt house this week:

There's a new bunny in town, thanks to Siri. My 14-month-old daughter is fascinated by the home button on my iPhone, so she and Siri are becoming accidental fast friends. As we were rushing out the door I gave Eloise my phone (mom of the year) to get her to sit still while I put my shoes on. Then I said to her, "Are you ready boo-boo bunny?" Boo-boo, one of her many nicknames, has gained a seasonal twist lately with Easter just around the corner. Then Siri chimes in.

I highly recommend listening to Siri say "boobs boobs the bunny" if you need a laugh. The pink bunny Grandma got Eloise for Easter is now affectionately known as Boobs Boobs. Obviously.

I am a bit of an obsessive neat freak. All things must have a home, and I start to feel a little twitchy if things are out of place. You can imagine my delight (and poor Brad's horror) when we caught Eloise organizing her books the other night!! Pulling them all out of her coffee table basket, spreading them out on the floor, and then one-by-one returning them to their rightful place has become a daily activity. Other things she enjoys organizing are puzzle pieces into her mini grocery shopping cart and salad dressing out of and back into the bottom fridge shelf. We laugh so hard watching her toddle back and forth, just the tip of her little tongue sticking out, huffing and puffing, concentrating so hard on which item to put back next. She is absolutely my girl!

Life is bittersweet. The sweet? Our summer trip to Italy! The bitter? Expired passports. At least we had a good laugh at these babies. Don't even get me started on our new pictures. The photo guy made me put a Walgreens shirt over my cute white top so I wasn't a floating head, and then he awkwardly tucked my hair for me. Brad looks like he just committed a felony. Let's just leave it at that.

B+K Circa 2006

Get a whiff of this. Brad tells a lot of the same funny childhood stories about a thousand times each. Just when I thought I had heard them all, this gem surfaced. When they were little, Brad's older brother Preston told him a normal bottle of cologne was actually pheromone cologne. He convinced him that for a small fee, he would share a portion of the magic with him and it would instantly make them both babe magnets. I'm not sure which part I enjoy more, Preston's idea of pheromone cologne or Brad spending all of his birthday money on his lucky purchase.

I couldn't resist sharing the Easter bunny picture my mother-in-law sent me of Brad and Preston. Who needs pheromone cologne when you're rocking red cowboy boots and Pharrell's famous hat before it was cool?

Cheers to the holiday weekend! May your days be sunny, your baskets overflowing, your chocolate eggs plentiful, and your bunny visits minimally traumatic. Happy Easter everyone!

March 22, 2016

A Room for Adventure

I set a lot of personal goals to help get me through our first deployment. For whatever reason, birthing a tiny human just wasn't enough to show for my nine months of independence while my husband was in Afghanistan.

Here's where the story gets a little gross. When we first moved into our house, we decided the huge bonus room over the garage would be the perfect "cat room" until we could afford furniture to make it worthy of human entertainment. We stored their litter box, food, and water in there and thought they'd live like king and queen with more toys scattered about than their little hearts desired. Well, maybe they felt a bit too entitled, because things went horribly wrong one afternoon when a terrible stench hit me at the top of the steps. One of our beloved feline friends had been peeing all over the perimeter of the room for what had to have been months! The carpet is that great shade of beige that hides everything maybe a little too well. I suspect there was a lingering smell of sorts from the previous owners that made them feel territorial, because they had never had litter box issues before. I didn't notice the problem until it was too late. It really stunk. Literally. 

Needless to say, the cats' belongings were demoted to the furnace room, and the bonus room was upgraded with brand new flooring. We opted for a spill-proof, scratch-proof, kid-proof, cat-proof linoleum that looks like beautiful antique, grey wood. The new flooring paired with the arrival of little Eloise sparked my desire to set up the perfect room for adventure! 

I always feel a little sad and claustrophobic when I go to friends' houses and their living rooms are overflowing with primary colored plastic. I totally understand that space is often limited and toys multiply faster than bunnies on date night, but I had personally always craved a separate space that would give our living room a fighting chance against the tornado that is toddlerhood. I thought setting up a playroom where my husband and I could witness the imagination of our girl together would be the perfect deployment project and goal. There's nothing like picturing your family together again to help make deployment days speed by.

My inspiration for the playroom came from Pinterest, the land of all great design inspiration. I wanted to focus on a travel theme with shades of ocean blue and pops of geometric black. A play teepee was a must for me, and I wanted to incorporate the old TV stand we had painted and stained before we were married to save some money. A big bookcase for our future bookworm (a genetic guarantee given both of our love for reading) and a fluffy area rug that you could melt into were also on my must-have list. 

This room is where Eloise crawled for the first time. It is where my friends and their little ones all congregate for play dates. Eloise loves to dump an entire puzzle on the floor of this room, sort it piece by piece into her grocery shopping cart, and push it right into the middle of her teepee. Our 4-year-old neighbor Noah likes to host dance parties here to the tune of the hand-me-down ball-a-palooza toy that was once his. On many Friday nights, our family can be found in this room snuggling and watching a Disney movie together. On the day of his homecoming, I was so proud to show Brad this beautiful, safe space I set up for our daughter to play, grow, laugh, read, learn, and most importantly, adventure. 

The top and bottom center pictures were captured by my sweet and talented friend Jill of Jillian Knight Photography on the morning of Brad's homecoming. I've added a few items since then, and as all good playrooms do, many things have evolved as Eloise's mobility and play needs have changed. Here is more of what it looks like now (after a massive toy pick up, of course). 

I'm a sucker for bold stripes, so the teepee was an easy decision. My favorite part about is it's location versatility. The material is meant to be used indoors and outdoors! It's so easy to fold up, take outside, and set up camp in the backyard on a sunny afternoon. No biggie if you forget to bring it in right away, rain or shine. How cool is that? It is a total kid magnet, too.

I have to give my mom credit for the floor poofs. Not only are they adorable, but they have served their purpose in every way she thought they might. From foot rest, to extra play date seating, to husband video game perch, to cat bed, the poofs do it all and look great while doing it. They even served as Eloise's stabilizers when she was learning to pull to stand and taking her first few steps. 

The matching aztec print woven bins and the bottom two drawers of the bookshelf are great for "organizing" toys without really organizing anything at all. Just scoop and dump. Stacking puzzles, books, and toys low within Eloise's reach encourages safe and independent play. I think both elements are key for a functional and cozy playroom. 


I love looking down the long hallway to see an inviting, happy room with such beautiful natural light. Despite all past pee incidents (none reported since the playroom overhaul!), I also love spotting two of the playrooms most frequent furry visitors enjoying an afternoon nap in the sunshine. 

What is the best part about your playroom, and what are your favorite playroom family memories? 
I'd love to hear from you!

March 15, 2016

A Deployment Birth Story: Part III

A Deployment Birth Story
So Kayla asked me to write this in a particular format to compliment the way she wrote her own side. But true to form, I'll tell it in my own disorganized way, through a handful of the letters I wrote to Eloise:

7 November 2014 --- 
So I’m waiting in the back of a truck about to go on a patrol in Afghanistan and decided to write you a letter. I am really curious about when you will read this. What will life be like? How old will you be? Will you have other siblings? Because right now you are -2 months old, or -1.5 (whenever you feel like coming). It would be really great if you came on time so that I might be there. If you could fit that into your busy schedule of growing and developing that would be great. Just pencil me in between your lung and motor skill development. I hope you have a good sense of humor or you at least laugh at all of my bad jokes. That is really the important thing.
                                             Love, Dad (first time I’ve actually written that)

8 December 2014 --- You are about -1 month right now, and I’m not on a patrol! I’m in the bathroom…by bathroom I mean port-a-potty. By the way, Afghanistan smells bad. People throw their trash around everywhere, and they don’t have plumbing. There are open creek beds that run through the middle of the villages that carry all of their waste. Because it doesn’t rain much it tends to sit there…hence the bad smell. I’m certainly not complaining about our own accommodations though, we live like kings compared to what the guys earlier in the war had to live with. We have showers and running water rather than a bucket and burning poop. Not pretty. Can I say I miss you yet? I am not sure because I haven’t met you, but I cannot wait. We just found out that I will not be coming home to meet you when you are born. Mommy is really upset, and I am too. Such is life, we will take it in stride. I’ll try not to let my silly job make me miss too many big life events. It is really hard for me because I love what I do. I love the country which provided me with everything I have and all of these freedoms, but it frequently takes me away from you and mom (and the paws!). I don’t know kiddo, we shall see.

10 December 2014 --- Trying to write more. I used to journal all of the time, but I lost the habit. I always try to get your mom do the same because she has such vivid dreams. Going to get some bad guys tonight.  What a strange world we live in. I really hate that a job like this has to exist, but you cannot deny the evil in the world, nor ignore it. That is really something I would like to impress on you, never turn a blind eye. This is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do, but you will always remember the things you did right, and will never forget the times when you didn’t.

17 December 2014 --- I don’t know what to tell you today, how to impart wisdom and guidance without giving your kids the same prejudices that you don’t even know you have? How do you learn from my mistakes without narrowing your world view or hampering your growth and development, but still spare you unnecessary pain? Is there even such a thing? Is pain and personal suffering good? I know in training it is, why else would so many people sign up to be starved and tortured with exercise. I don’t know love, but I hope that you understand that everything I try and teach you has a reason to it. Everything we do has a purpose, always know what the purpose is. It might not be a great reason, but always know.

22 December 2014 --- Stressful day yesterday. We got stuck in a ditch for about 12 hours. Started the patrol at 6 am and didn’t get back until midnight. Bad day, but no one got hurt. Excited for Christmas, except that we will be doing inventories in Afghanistan… yay. I try and take a positive outlook on everything and be excited about life, but it is hard sometimes. I miss your mom and all of the paws. I hope you get to know and love them like we do. Oliver and Lola have gotten your mom through some hard Army days, and Ruby has been helping her through this deployment. I love you and cannot wait to meet you.

25 December 2014 --- Merry Christmas. Started off today with a patrol at 0600, didn’t get back until 1600, and then I got yelled at for not being back when I was supposed to. The general came to see us off before our patrol because it was Christmas. We talked about the history of the 101st at Bastogne on Christmas in WWII. It felt pretty amazing to be in the same lineage as those tough legends, but all I feel now is the distance from home. Had a platoon dinner with all of the guys because we all feel it. Ok, complaining session over, missing Christmas sucks. I had a long day and that is ok. Hard times make hard people, and hard people run the world...or something like that.

26 December 2014 --- In the same mood I was in yesterday. I just miss home.

29 December 2014 --- Grandma Sue got me a new notebook for Christmas. I was writing in the back of the notebook I take to meetings, because I always have it with me, but this is much nicer. I don’t have to keep tearing out pages. I have another long mission tonight, but I got some sleep which is good. Seven hours in three days is no bueno. Everybody gets nervous around American holidays so we tend to be a little busier. Everyone has been asking me if I’m ok these past couple of days, I must have looked a bit rough.  Like I said before, hard days make hard men (and women!). It isn’t always easy to affect what goes on around you, but you can always choose how you react to it. If you let situations break down your willpower and resolve, that is your choice, not what is going on around you forcing that decision. Be strong. People flock to strength and leadership. Anyone can learn to be mentally tough, it just takes a lot of practice and resolve.

30 December 2014 --- Weezy, I think you are coming soon! As you will learn when you are older, your body will start showing specific signs prior to giving birth, and mom is showing these signs! Still very weird to me to say mom and dad, those are my parents not me. I am very excited though, the world is about to change. What I find really interesting is that I will have memories of you that you will never have. You will be alive and an active participant, but will not remember. Such an odd thing, that you will learn and grow but not remember. Maybe that is so that we can mess up a bunch and you won’t be able to hold it against us :) 

4 January 2015 --- Happy Birthday! I saw you this morning, and you are more adorable than I know what to do with. That was a very surreal experience for both mom and me. Life doesn’t stop here because important things are happening at home. I went on a patrol yesterday just like normal, (CPT Smith actually got a bit mad that I did. “What if we got stuck out there for 48 hours?” he asked me.  It was a good point, but I feel very protective of my guys and have a hard time not being with them when they go on missions.) I told everyone that you were on your way and that I was going to be out of touch for a while. Full of nervous energy I went to dinner and bought some energy drinks in preparation for a long night (you were born at 1:25 am for me). Mom and I had some technical difficulties that were very annoying. First FaceTime wasn’t working, then Skype stopped working, and we kept going back and forth. My roommate SSG Hunter wished me good luck and fell asleep. I sat there watching through my computer as mom got an epidural (the nurse forgot I was there, I got a great view of the giant needle). And then watching as mom's labor got stronger and stronger. It was such a helpless feeling. I could do nothing but was still trying. I counted breaths for mom like they taught us in the birthing class, but that was all I could do. I couldn’t believe how brave and strong mom was in that moment. I snapped a few pictures without her knowing. She hates how she looks in them, but your mom has never been more beautiful to me. Once you were born she just kept telling me how perfect you were, I couldn’t help but agree. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of your mom than I was at that point. You were such an easy delivery, even the nurses and doctor commented on it. Now, let the debate begin…mom might say your birthday is January 3rd but I know the truth! The 4th will be daddy’s day. We love you so much, I just can’t believe you are finally here. We waited so long. Mom was very tired afterwards so we signed off. I remember sitting in the dark room with a very confusing mix of happy and sad emotions. But what do we do now? Oh the most important question that life has to offer.

5 January 2015 --- I woke up yesterday and my family was all on their way to meet you for the first time. My whole world has changed. You entered our lives, and I learned a whole new meaning of fear. Fear of messing up, fear that I wasn’t going to be a good enough dad, fear that I wouldn’t ever get to meet you, fear that I would never be able to forgive myself for not being there for you and mom.  Everything has changed, but I’m still here. Six months to go. 

So that’s my story. A hard mix of happiness, joy, sadness and frustration. A lot of guilt. Guilt that wasn’t relieved until I got off that plane at home and got to hold Eloise. In a sense, it didn’t seem real for me yet. I knew she was there, and I knew she was amazing, but in some part of my brain it seemed too far away. I thought I loved her then, but not until I kissed her forehead in that sweaty hangar in July did the reality of it set in. This is my daughter. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen (except Kayla obviously). I will love her for the rest of my life, and maybe then I could forgive myself. The only thing she will ever know is my love, no matter how far.

March 13, 2016

A Deployment Birth Story: Part II

A Deployment Birth Story

01.02.15 // Friday

2 pm: When asked at my 38 week appointment if I had felt any contractions, I shrugged my shoulders and replied with that first-time-mom confusion, "I don't think so?" My obstetrician, Dr. Anderson, laughed and said I would definitely know if I had, but he wanted to check me for dilation anyways. I practically skipped out of the office to my mom in the waiting room, who had been with me since Christmas, just beaming. I was 4 cm dilated, 75% effaced, and at a -1 station. In English for the non-parent readers, I was in fact progressing and Eloise had dropped down significantly. She was coming! Dr. A knew I was really scared to labor without Brad and, as strange as it may seem, a big part of me wanted it to come and go quickly. My eyes were set on the prize of meeting my daughter. I wasn't going to get those beautiful moments with my husband, seeing him hold our girl for the first time. The quicker I could get past those moments where his absence felt palpable and painful, the better. On my way out, he said he was delivering at the hospital through Sunday, and he bet on her arrival before then. He instructed me to come in to see him with any regular contractions, smiled, and winked a goodbye at me. I'm endlessly thankful he understood exactly where my heart and mind were that day.

All evening: Walk, walk, walk. Spicy food for dinner. Try to measure and count contractions, but I really had no idea what I was doing or feeling. Walk some more. My mom and I joked that this was the best night of our walk-loving dog Ruby's life. We debated going to the hospital, but I decided I wanted one more good sleep in my own bed. Not to mention, a few weeks prior someone had joked with me that January 2nd might be the worst day for a birthday. Everyone is feeling down at end of the merriest season, and we're all dreading coming out of our stretchy pants to return to the reality of work and a cold winter ahead. Nope. I wasn't going to do that to my girl. Obviously, one day would make all the difference.

01.03.15 // Saturday

8:00 am: Sleep in. Shower. Sliced apple and raspberry coffee cake for breakfast. This is one of my favorite birth story details. Such a specific and odd, pregnant lady breakfast! I absolutely insisted on it, and my mom was fabulous about catering to my every silly request. Our morning was actually very leisurely and not at all how I pictured the hours before delivering a baby would be.

9:00 am: Walk, walk, walk. I'm not kidding. I probably walked waddled a marathon.

9:30 am: After more confusion trying to time contractions, my mom persuaded me to just go to the hospital. As we drove, she excitedly exclaimed, "You are going to have a baby today!" I immediately shot her down. "MOM. NO. STOP. They'll probably just tell me my contractions aren't regular or strong enough and send me home." So rude! But I was trying to prepare my heart to continue to wait when it was already carrying enough ache. We were just 68 days into a start to finish 266 day deployment, and surviving the holiday season nine months pregnant without Brad had been brutal.

10:00 am: We checked in at the hospital and I was hooked up to a monitor that tracks contractions. Before a pattern could even be noted, I was checked for progress and admitted to the hospital. I was officially having my baby! I was dilated to 5 cm, and Eloise's head was extremely low. The triage nurse couldn't believe I was physically able to sit down that's how low she was. Dr. A met with me personally to say I could go home if I wanted to try to progress naturally, but he already knew what I wanted. He said his preference would be to break my water manually and give me a small dose of Pitocin, a drug that accellerates contractions. He knew given how low she was, with or without intervention, she was coming soon and fast. And again, he knew I wanted to speed past the hurt (literally and figuratively) and have my baby.

11:00 am: The next few hours were a whirlwind of IV's, painful contractions that took my breath away, and struggling to get Brad connected via video chat. Eventually my nurse recruited the hospital technology guy to help. She could see the fear in my eyes as I was dilating fast and Brad still wasn't "there" on screen with me. Such a weight was lifted when he finally appeared in his 'Best Dad Ever' Darth Vader shirt. He had a huge, handsome smile on his face and an energy drink in hand. It was the middle of the night in Afghanistan. Only his face was lit by the glow of the screen in the dark of his bed, and his staff sergeant slept soundly across the way. But he was ready.

2:00 pm: My goal was always to progress as long as I could without an epidural but never to completely rule it out. The day was going to be tough enough, I didn't need to make things any harder on myself by dealing with the guilt of asking for pain management after I had vowed to deliver naturally. In my own career as a nurse and with friends, I had seen this guilt crush new moms too often. I didn't want my first moments with Eloise to by plagued by any negativity. I planned to take each moment as it hit me and decide how much more my body and emotions could handle. Now at 7 cm dilated, I asked my nurse to let me labor a while longer without pain management, but as soon as she walked out the anesthesiologist walked in. He said he had been hovering at the nurses' station watching my monitor. If I didn't get an epidural right then, I wasn't going to get one at all. I agreed to have it placed before I missed the opportunity, and my mom was asked to leave the room. Apparently, too many spouses had been passing out during the procedure. My nurse comforted me through it, but in the rush everyone had forgot about Brad, who gets queasy at the sight of needles, sitting helpless with a front row view from the computer on my bedside table! In the middle of a very chaotic and nervous moment, I hear my husband say, "Hey Kayla? I accidentally saw your booty. It still looks great." Everyone laughed hard, and my spirits were lifted. I so love that guy who is always good for a laugh.

2:30 pm: Much to my surprise in my comfortable epidural bliss, it was time to push! By this point, Dr. A was already there. I've heard horror stories of doctors running in to catch the baby and running out. Not mine! He was there through the whole thing, cracking jokes with Brad and coaching me through every step. Brad was the one counting for me during rest periods in between each push. Remembering the sound of his voice filling the room, encouraging me, still leaves me speechless. His ability to be there for me without being physically present was incredible.

2:55 pm: Pushing was a really odd sensation for me, and I remember asking again and again if I was doing it right and moving her along. Apparently I was. Only five hours after arriving at the hospital and maybe 20 minutes of pushing later, I met our daughter. I must have shouted her perfection through tears to Brad a million times or more. The nursery nurse that cleaned Eloise and took her initial measurements ensured computer-Brad was transported over to the infant warmer to watch just as any new dad would. She explained everything to him and zoomed in to show him every perfect detail of our girl - all ten little fingers and toes. We had decided just before I was 20 weeks pregnant on a name but didn't share it with anyone. Not a single soul. So much of our lives these days is public news, but we wanted to savor this one sacred thing between just the two of us. Not to mention we didn't care to hear anyone else's opinion on the name we chose for our child. Minutes after she was born, holding her to my skin, I looked up at my mom and said, "This is Eloise." I know that moment is one of the best of my mom's life. She still cries happy tears when she talks about it. Words could never suffice when it comes to explaining how grateful I am for my mom. I hate that Brad couldn't be there, but I am thankful it afforded my mom an opportunity she may never have had otherwise. She saw her first grandchild take her very first breath. And she watched me, her own baby, conquer a challenge I didn't believe I was brave or strong enough to face.

The rest of my 31 hour total hospital stay was a whirlwind. I thought my first labor would give family plenty of time to make the 90 minute flight or even 8 hour drive from Michigan. As it turned out, Eloise was too excited to be here and didn't allow anyone any time for travel at all. It was actually a blessing in disguise to share so many sweet hours alone recovering and bonding with her before the rest of her grandparents and aunts arrived to cover her in kisses.

Leading up to this day, I was more nervous about the actual labor and delivery without Brad. I thought once I got through it, I'd be too busy with newborn life to feel the sting. I actually struggled much more afterwards in the weeks of postpartum recovery. Her birth day was so fast and emotional, I didn't have much time, energy, or emotion beyond extreme love to feel upset. I really only had one big break down that night. My family had all gone to rest and celebrate new life together at our home. Brad was who knows where doing who knows what since it was a new day in Afghanistan and there were missions to be completed. There I was with Eloise warm and safe in my arms. She was perfect and healthy and everything I had prayed she would be, but I had never felt so alone or scared. The enormity of the day had just hit me, and I wanted so badly to look over and see Brad snoozing on the stiff couch where spouses were supposed to be. But he wasn't there. I knew he would've given anything to be there. So I wiped my tears and kissed our miracle on her tiny head. There was no other option but to focus on the positives and take one step at a time. That is exactly what I did day after day until Eloise's Daddy came home safe and sound six and a half months later to meet her.

I need to step on to my soap box for a second before I wrap up, so bear with me. There are a lot of strong opinions voiced about what labor, delivery, and parenting should look like for all women. I have a lot of respect for ladies who opt to labor naturally and deliver without any pain medication, but I have an equal amount of respect for those who do not. There are so many controversial topics that cause a big divide between moms that I could dive into, but I just think we are all superheroes. Plain and simple. End of story. The way we all love our sons and daughters is our common ground. It's indescribable. I believe we instinctively do what is best for those tiny humans we love most, including what is healthiest for ourselves in each challenging phase of new parenthood. I carried a lot of shame for a long time when I told our birth story. Anyone who has spent any time around Eloise, a baby born by way of an induction and an epidural, knows she is and always has been the definition of a perfectly happy and healthy baby.

With time I became proud of our story, exactly as is, because it led us to where we are now as a family. Each choice I made helped shape the exact little girl Eloise is growing to be. Every moment she gave me the strength I needed, beginning in October when I said goodbye to Brad and could feel her tiny kicks with each tear that fell, our bond as mother and daughter strengthened too. I wouldn't dream of changing a single thing about our complicated story.

Eloise Mae, someday I hope you will read these words and understand just how important your birth day was and always will be to me. You are so loved.

March 8, 2016

A Deployment Birth Story: Part I

There are two sides to every story.

These posts are something I've been looking forward to documenting yet dreading. The details are still vivid now, but I know they won't stay that way as the years fade them. Unfortunately and honestly, the memories of our first baby's birth sometimes still feel like fresh, deep wounds that I am still desperately trying to lick clean. But when someone asks, "How did you do it?", my attitude completely flips. I feel like I am standing tall on the top tier of an Olympic medal ceremony when I tell our story. The heavy weight of the memory hangs around my neck, but I barely recognize it as a symbol of the pain in the journey because the immense pride I feel is overwhelming.

How did we do?

We just did it. Together. Yet apart. 

There were 7,412 miles between me and husband when Eloise Mae was born on January 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm...or January 4, 2015 at 1:25 am depending on which of us you ask. It was definitely the scariest time of my life but also the most exhilarating. Many moments were dark, yet my world had gained the brightest little light. Deciding how to convey all of my conflicting emotions appropriately made me realize that my muddled version isn't even the only tale that needs to be told. Brad witnessed his daughter's birth alone in pixels from a war zone. Hours after she was born, he led a platoon of combat engineers in a route clearance security mission. Let that sink in. Much of his perspective that you'll read here I had never heard before until I asked him to write about it. I'm so thankful that I did.

B Co. 2-327, Kandahar, Afghanistan 2015

So here it is. Eloise's birth story told from each of our perspectives and from two sides of the world. It is our family's unique story, and we love it in all of its messy beauty.

March 3, 2016

New Life

Bradford hadn't even taken his work books off tonight before I enthusiastically blurted out, "I'm going to start blogging regularly again!" He looked at me with that I'm-happy-for-you-but-I-don't-believe-you look that only comes from an adoring husband. A lot has happened since my last 2014. Gasp!

Rather than write a novel trying to catch you up on the past year and a half, let me tell you why I'm finding myself right back here again. The blunt truth is I really need a place for me. A place to serve as my creative outlet. A place to document this fleeting season of life that is so beautiful but is quickly becoming a colorful blur as it speeds by. I love to write, and in the past few years, I've grown to love reading blogs. I appreciate the inspiration gained from a peek into the lives of friends and fellow bloggers. So here I am again, and I am here to stay. I have set a lot of goals I am ready to achieve to make this something I will be proud of and cherish.

Here we go.

Spring is just around the corner for us. One of the many things I love about Tennessee is that spring actually does arrive in March as opposed to the Michigan "spring" stumbling in late in May. There is nothing better than waking up to realize you can finally hear birds chirping outside. Bright green starts to poke up through the faded mulch of last year. Paired appropriately with Easter, spring always feels like the season of new life to me in so many ways. And given the new life I am aiming to breathe into my blog, I thought a glimpse at what the Easter bunny will be bringing Eloise would be a fun first post to dive back in!

I am definitely one of those moms who has gone all out for holidays since day one with Eloise. I know she won't remember it. I know it's more for us than for her at this stage. But it's never too early to raise a kiddo to crave the magic and joy of holidays like I did (ahem, still do), right? Not to mention the Easter bunny likes to slip in sweet treats like Bunny Bait for Mommy and Daddy...

If you haven't heard of Usborne Books and love building your kids' libraries as much as we do, shout and I'll hook you up with my great friend who is an Usborne consultant. I got That's Not My Bunny as one of tons of free books after hosting an online party a few weeks ago. Easter basket jackpot! Eloise is big into touch and feel texture books right now, so I know she'll adore it. When you say, "Where is bunny's nose?" now she will immediately point it out for you. I'm blown away by how smart she is and how fast she is absorbing. Where did my tiny baby go?

Brad and I will probably have more fun with the egg decorating kit than Eloise will, but I expect she will enjoy a good egg lick or two in the process. Maybe try to throw one at the dog. The possibilities are endless! Our local store also had princess and pirate themed kits, too. I let my kid-at-heart husband choose. Circus eggs it is for us this year.

Last but definitely not least, I must mention Eloise's beautiful Easter basket. My Grandma hand wove and painted Easter baskets for my sister and me when we were little. You could say I'm a bit of a basket snob, but I couldn't be more pleased with the hand made basket woven by sweet Jane from the Etsy shop jasperjane. It is just the right size for tiny hands and has accents of light pink and seagrass woven into the details. We will cherish it forever and on many egg hunts. I can't wait to order more from Jane and support a small business as our family gains more little chicks.

Here's to hoping sunny, spring days are coming your way soon!