Hello, Fall!

Writer’s Note: Just so you know, I’m not getting paid to write about any of these things! I just wanted to share my favorite things about fall 🙂

Despite the fact that the high in Charlotte today is 92 degrees, it actually is fall. The Lord decided to bless us, and the high for Sunday, October 1st, is only 74! Woo!

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Thanks, Weather.com! Can we please get to Friday?!

I have a lot of information to share with you, so if you love fall like me, get ready…

Celebrating Fall in Your Home

If you’re looking for ways to get that fall-feel in your home, here are some ideas:

Candles set the right tone.

It’s essential that you have at least one autumn-scented candle in your home. If you want to make good first impressions when people come over, try placing it towards your entryway. Another great place? In your entertaining space, wherever that may be.

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That middle piece is a Vanilla Pumpkin Marshmallow candles from B&BW!

For me, I have a plethora of fall candles that I keep near my front door, in my living room, and in my kitchen. My go-to are any pumpkin-scented candles from Bath and Body Works (this is my favorite!), but if you can afford Yankee Candles, go for it.

Festive decorations give your home a little something-something.

I have a place right at my front door (see picture in candle section) that is my seasonal/holiday space. I change it up with different decorations and candles depending on what season we are in or what holiday is near. It’s nice to have a dedicated space for fun so that I don’t need to have decorations all over the place.

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These are my new buys for this year. I have “glam pumpkins” that are going on my formal dining table, modern black and white pumpkins for my kitchen table, and “Trick or Treat” lights for above my front door and a matching bucket to hold candy! All are from Target 🙂

Sure, for certain holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and others), I might have some decorations in other places around my house, but having a seasonal spot takes the pressure off of having to get stuff that you want to put up (and saves you money!). Once you find your favorite items for each season, hold onto them and reuse them next year! Over time, if you see something you really want to add to your collection, maybe your spot will grow, or maybe you’ll retire a piece.

Fall foods are about more than just Pumpkin-Spiced Lattes (but we’ll still take those!).

Seriously, if you go on Pinterest, you will find all of the fall food recipes. And you don’t have to be hosting a dinner party to make an awesome autumn dish. Sometimes it’s just nice to celebrate for yourself!

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Here’s a screenshot from my Pinterest. It all looks amazing! Oh yeah, and enjoy spying on my open tabs 😉

You can also find recipes in these things called cookbooks—shocking, I know! I have one from the 80s that features recipes for every season.

 

But perhaps the easiest way to get some fall foods going in your kitchen is Trader Joe’s. Seriously, this store is full of fall-everything—check out their current shopping list for a good idea of what they have. Here’s a (very) small sample of fall favorites that I currently have in my kitchen:

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So, okay, that white pumpkin is actually from Target, but otherwise, all TJ!

For those who don’t know, Trader Joe’s has an area where you can sample things. The day I went, they were giving out samples of that Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. It. Is. Incredible!! In fact, I had that very box for lunch today.

The Autumnal Harvest pasta sauce is super yummy too. Such an easy way to add some fall fun to your dinner—just serve warm over pasta!

They also had a sample of their pumpkin bread, but they added pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips to theirs! So good.

And you can’t go wrong with Spiced Cider! Delicious chilled or warmed.

Saturday mornings are for big breakfasts, and in the fall, that means pumpkin pancakes or waffles. Add a cup of coffee with Pumpkin-Spice creamer (I got mine at Target), and you’re just a happy person.

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A fall morning must

Things To Do: Anywhere

Don’t just keep your love for fall inside your home—get outdoors and do some fall activities! For those who aren’t in the Charlotte area, here are some generic things you can do in the fall:

  • Buy a pumpkin and carve it.
    • This is a tradition for my every year! I always change the carving up, usually doing something pop culture related.
    • Bonus points if you go to a pumpkin patch to get your pumpkin!
  • Find a fall festival or farm to attend.
    • If you Google your city and the words “fall festival” or “fall farm,” most likely at least one of each will pop up. Fall fests vary, but they are always fun. Farms tend to have fresh produce to shop, hayrides, petting zoos, and lots of other fun activities.
  • Go apple-picking! (if available)
  • Pick an awesome Halloween costume.
    • Points for creativity/topicality.
  • Make candy/caramel apples.
  • Buy fall-flavored craft beers.
    • I mean, the least you could do is get the Samuel Adams OctoberFest? Not exactly craft, but you know, get in the spirit!
  • Attend a football game.
    • You know I had to include this, right? If you don’t have an NFL team/don’t want to pay to watch an NFL game, support your local high school one Friday night! Those kids work hard, give them some love!

Things to Do: Charlotte*

*Note: There are plenty of other places to go/things to do that aren’t listed here. I’m including the ones that I have either been to or want to go to this year!

Alright, Charlotteans and those in the surrounding areas—be sure to check out these awesome events/places nearby:

Festivals

  • Waldhorn’s Oktoberfest: Weekends, Now through October 14
    • Charlotte’s famed German restaurant is celebrating Oktoberfest once again. Eat traditional German foods, drink lots of German beer, and listen to some polka music while enjoying this fall favorite.
  • Fall Frolic at Anne Springs Close Greenway: Weekends, September 30—October 29
    • This is another I haven’t been to, but it seems really kid-friendly! It’s in Fort Mill, and they have a pumpkin patch, wagon rides, petting zoo, pedal carts, face painting, horseback riding, and kayaking.
  • Carolina Renaissance Festival: Weekends, September 30—November 19
    • This annual festival is a Charlotte tradition. Be transported back in time to the days of jousting, knights, jesters, medieval torture, and massive turkey legs.
  • Harvest Fest: October 14
    • I honestly have no idea what this is, but it’s taking place at 7th Street Market, and I bet it’s going to be awesome! They have done it for a couple years now.
  • Day of the Dead/Dia de Muertos Festival: October 29
    • This one I might be most excited for. I have never been to this! But it looks amazing. Sugar Skull workshops?! Traditional foods?! Count me in!

Farms

  • Hall Family Farm: Last two weekends of September, everyday in October
    • Guys, I love this place, and not just because it’s like 5 minutes from my house. They have a corn maze, pumpkin picking, hayrides, apple cider doughnuts, funnel cakes, a big slide, and lots of other fun things. Check out the FAQs for a lot of helpful info!
  • Rural Hill Amazing Maize Maze: Now through November 5
    • This is another that I’ve never been to, but I’m so looking forward to going! They have a seven-acre (!) corn maze that you can try to make your way through as well as hayrides, corn-hole, pumpkin picking, trails, and more!
  • Hodges Farm Pumpkin Patch: September 30—October 31
    • Haven’t been here either, but they have a pumpkin patch, hay mountain to climb and jump on, hayrides, and yummy treats.
  • Bush-N-Vine Fall Farm Fun: Saturdays starting September 30 through October 28
    • I blogged about my first trip to Bush-N-Vine this spring—I’m definitely going back for their Fall Farm Fun! Each Saturday they have different activities going on including pumpkin picking, hayrides, bouncy houses, live music, and tasty treats!
  • Windy Hill Orchard: All Weekends (check out the schedule here)
    • I haven’t been here, but I’m dying to try their Hard Cider! I think their apple season is pretty much over, but there are still some left if you hurry! They have hayrides, live music, cider tastings, and more.

Spooky Events

  • Scarowinds: Weekends, Now through October 29
    • Carowinds becomes Scarowinds on the weekends leading up to Halloween. As you walk the park, ghouls, goblins, zombies, and other monsters may find you… Visit the different scary attractions and be sure to ride your favorite rollercoasters.
  • Scarrigan Farms: Weekends, Starting October 6; Every night October 26—31
    • Carrigan Farms transforms into Scarrigan Farms on select nights in October. I haven’t been, but it sounds truly terrifying. No one under the age of 12 allowed. To quote: “If someone hasn’t peed in their pants by the end of the night we know we haven’t done our job.” Yikes.

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I hope this guide to fall fun and festivities has inspired you to start celebrating the season! If I left out your favorite fall activity or place to go, please let me know in the comments of the blog or on social media!

 

 

Boston and Other East Coast Adventures

For those who somehow missed it—we went to Boston! (See previous post about why we went!)

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Massachusetts State House with a gold dome

Thursday night we did about the most Boston thing we could do—watch the Patriots play Thursday Night Football. Sadly, we were not at Gillette. Also sadly: The Patriots lost. But I’ve heard something about how the last three season openers that they’ve lost, the Patriots have gone on to win the Super Bowl that year. Gosh, it must be tough to be a Pats  fan.

Friday we were tourists. We had brunch off of Newbury Street, walked through the Boston Commons and Public Garden and saw American Idol auditions going on, and then went on a Duck Boat Tour.

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Brunch at Stephanie’s
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I am a sucker for willow trees and ponds. Thanks, Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow.
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Beautiful day in the park. George Washington looking stately.
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Oh hey, American Idol! Back so soon?

Guys, I had been on a Duck Boat Tour back in the 8th or 9th grade, but I couldn’t remember much about them. I had no idea if it would be completely lame or pretty interesting.

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I forgot to get a picture of us in front of the Duck Boat, but that was ours!
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On the Duck Boat! We had great seats right up front.

It was the latter! I really enjoyed our tour through the city. We learned so much and our guide was great! First of all, he was wearing “Minions” shorts, okay? Like, he’s awesome. Secondly, he had a great voice for something like this. Not annoying at all.  And finally, he really knew his stuff, but made it fun too.

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Seriously, he was awesome.

Boston is a really cool city. It is incredibly easy to get around, but doesn’t feel cramped or dirty like New York. At least, not in the areas that we were in.

Saturday we had some fun at the aquarium, but honestly, I could probably skip that in the future (and the $40 parking for 2 hours). What I’m more interested in are the Whale Tours. Yeah, you can actually see whales just a little ways off the coast. So cool.

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The Aquarium

But the highlight of our trip was certainly meeting Julian Edelman, Patriots Wide Receiver and Hunk. We may have waited 3 hours before we actually got to see him, but he was worth the wait.

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Waiting in line for Julian. We were towards the front, actually…

Julian had a lot of people to see (and was an hour late—I blame the driver), so he didn’t have much time to chit-chat. But when he looked up and saw Jack, he lit up and wanted to know all about him. He told us about his daughter, who is only a month older than Jack (Julian, seriously, let me know if you want to arrange a play date. We can make that happen!). I will always thank Jack for making that moment super special.

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Look at him looking at Jack!
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That’s ours!

Afterwards, we got to meet up with the majority of Wes’ friends at the Prudential Center. Even though I’ve met most of them once or twice, they are all just the sweetest and most welcoming people. I’m so glad he has such a good friend group.

Sunday morning we had a final brunch with our hosts, Keegan and Courtney. It was so good, and even better when the manager brought Jack a stuffed animal from the hotel’s gift shop for free.

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Jack and his new BFF, Lenox the Frog, named after the hotel

We then trekked outside of the city. Our first stop was Somerville, a small neighborhood outside of Boston. It’s incredibly charming, and if we were ever to live up there, I could absolutely see us there. Wes’ friend, Derek, hosted us for some NFL viewing, but then we had to be on our way.

The next stop was in the town of Waltham for Wes to get his favorite sandwich ever—the Beef Teriyaki sandwich at Carl’s. This place is literally a shack, there’s no seating or anything, and we were there at like a really weird hour, like 3:30. But I’m telling you what, there were like 5 people getting sandwiches at that time, which if you saw where this place is, you’d be surprised. I got a burrito, and dang, was that good.

We watched the Panthers game with the super sweet and hospitable DeFrancescos. They were the best. Once again, I am so grateful for Wes’ wonderful friends and their families. Charlie’s nephews were over, and Jack got to play with Ryan, the younger brother. He was so nice to share his jumper!

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Friends in the making!

Dinner was amazing ravioli (seriously, I’ve never had pasta so good) and delicious apple crisp for dessert. I’m so glad we got to spend time with them.

That night (our final night in Boston) was spent at the Ashley’s, the childhood home of our Best Man, Keegan. I have met Daryl and Mary Ashley three times—our wedding, our trip to Boston in 2016, and then this past trip. I have never felt like I’ve known a family for such a long time when I’ve only known them a short amount of time like this one (I really hope that just made sense!). I love them. So warm, so funny, such good cooks… Just good people. I wish they lived closer!

Monday we started south. I was nervous about having to drive by NYC, but we didn’t have too much traffic to deal with. It was a long day. Jack was not as good this time around. He’d had a long week. We had to stop a lot.

I have never been so happy to pull into a hotel parking lot. We stayed in Laurel, MD, that night as we were planning to go to the Zoo in DC the next day. We had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant that was within walking distance of our hotel. Someone had two giant margaritas. That was not me. And of course, we watched Monday Night Football.

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Margs were a great way to end that Monday

Tuesday we got up and went to the Zoo. It’s free! And it’s awesome! So many great animals to see. It was mainly moms with strollers and little kids and then runners. Yes, people run through the Zoo. Um, how awesome would it be if we had a Zoo we could just run through whenever we wanted?

 

We also got to see another of Wes’ friends, who is currently working in DC. Bekah was kind enough to meet us for like 10 minutes in a park before we had to race away because of traffic. We barely made it. At 2pm. No seriously, we still sat in some traffic. I couldn’t believe it.

We made it in time for our 5pm dinner in Newport News, VA, to see my mom’s aunts and uncles. It was so good to catch up with everyone. It had been way too long, and I won’t let it be that long again. I love being with others who knew her so well. And I am so happy they got to meet Jack 🙂

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Jack with my Great-Aunt Diane. She has a grandson named Jack, too!

The plan had originally been to get home that night, but we were almost 6 hours away, and I just couldn’t do it. We got a hotel in Durham, right off of 85. It was a great call.

We left the next morning around 9, and were home before noon. It was a long trip. But it was a good one.

What are my takeaways from this experience?

  • Visiting Boston in September is far superior to visiting in January
  • DC is worth a trip all on its own
  • Traveling takes a bigger toll on me than I remember
  • Wes has the best friends ever, and I wish they would all move down here
  • Julian Edelman is even more attractive in person (how is that possible?!)
  • Pasta is way better when cooked by someone with Italian heritage
  • I’m definitely looking forward to visiting Boston again and again!
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One of our many stops that Monday, but they were worth this picture of my sweet boy

What We’ve Been Up to the Last 3 Days or How to Road Trip with an 8 Month Old

For those who don’t know, we decided a few weeks back to trek to Boston for super stud Super Bowl hero Julian Edelman’s autograph signing.

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Hey there, Jules
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Who can forget “The Catch?!”

It all started one day when I saw a post on Julian’s Facebook that he was doing a signing in Boston. It started with a simple joke that escalated pretty quickly into a real-life road trip.

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As you can see, that escalated quickly…

We decided we’d take some time getting up there since we’d be driving with Jack. But where to stop along the way? Staying with friends or family for free is always nice, so the decision was made to stay with Wes’ friend Adam, who lives just outside of NYC in NJ.

Charlotte to NJ is quite a hike. To be able to have a decent amount of time with Adam, it was looking like we’d be leaving at 3 am, which we quickly decided was not an option.

Thank goodness for our friend, Jill! She lives in Raleigh, which is practically on the way to NJ, so we, again, made a last minute decision late Monday night to go to Raleigh the very next afternoon.

But what a decision! Jack napped the entire way to Raleigh! And the next morning, he slept the majority of the way from Raleigh to just north of Baltimore, where we met up with another of Wes’ friends for a long lunch. Jack was able to have his solids and get out of the car for a good amount of time.

Then it was just 4 more hours to NJ, and we were done for the day. We got to bed early, woke up suuuuuuper early to avoid NYC traffic, and Jack went *back* to sleep in the car! 4 hours later, we’re in Boston.

So what are my takeaways from the last 3 days?

  • 8 month olds really can do a long road trip without crying non-stop (I actually don’t think he had a crying fit once)
  • Making lists is essential—a baby is only happy if he has all of his necessities (and there are a lot of them)
  • Getting on the road early is better for everyone—you miss the traffic and your baby continues to sleep
  • Don’t be in a rush so you can take long breaks—if you let your baby get a good stretch in, you’ll both be really happy you took an hour or more for lunch
  • Traveling is awesome when you have friends everywhere that let you crash for a night (or more)
  • I have the best husband in the world—even though Wes can’t drive a single mile on our road tips, he takes care of both me and Jack however we need him—I’m a lucky gal, if I do say so myself!
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Our IHOP stop this morning so that Boston traffic could lighten up!

Stay tuned for more Boston fun!

I Like Concerts, Okay?

Here’s a list of all the concerts I have been to* and about what date they were. If I can remember opening acts, I’m adding them too.

  • American Idol Season 2 Tour 2003
    • CLAAAAAYYYY
  • Maroon 5 “Honda Civic Tour” March 2005
    • Opener: The Donnas
  • Green Day “American Idiot Tour” April 20, 2005
    • Opener: My Chemical Romance
  • Kelly Clarkson “Breakaway Tour” Spring/Summer 2005
    • Opener: Graham Colton Band
  • Coldplay “Twisted Logic Tour” September 9, 2005 (X&Y)
    • Opener: Rilo Kiley
  • Rascal Flatts “Me and My Gang Tour” February 24, 2006
    • Opener: Blake Shelton (?!)
      • I actually didn’t remember this, but what I’m reading is that he was the opener! Too funny.
  • Counting Crows 2006
    • Opener: Goo Goo Dolls
  • The Fray 2006
    • Opener: Mutemath
  • Fall Out Boy “Honda Civic Tour” 2007
    • Openers: +44, Cobra Starship, The Academy Is…, and Paul Wall
  • Maroon 5 “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long Tour” 2007
    • Opener: The Hives
  • My Chemical Romance “Welcome to the Black Parade Tour” 2007
    • Opener: Muse, which who are we kidding, I was really there for, although I loved WTTBP
  • American Idols Live 2008
    • David Cook!! Jason Castro!!
  • Warped Tour 2009
    • Highlights include 3OH!3, Saosin, and A Day to Remember
  • Brand New 2009
    • Opener: Thrice
  • Brad Paisley 2010
    • Opener: Miranda Lambert
  • John Mayer “Battle Studies Tour” 2010
    • Opener: Train
  • Tim McGraw “Southern Voice Tour” 2010
    • Opener: Love and Theft
  • Goo Goo Dolls “Something for the Rest of Us Tour” August 10, 2010
  • Arcade Fire 2010
    • Opener: Spoon
  • Kings of Leon 2010
    • Opener: The Black Keys
  • Lady Gaga 2010
    • Semi Precious Weapons
  • MGMT 2010
  • Mumford and Sons 2011
    • Opener: Can’t remember their name, but I loved them! Hate that.
  • Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson Honda Civic Tour 2013
  • John Mayer “Born and Raised Tour” 2013
  • Foster the People May 5, 2014
    • Opener: St. Lucia
  • Say Anything Summer 2014
    • Wes and I’s first concert ❤
  • Goo Goo Dolls July 9, 2014
    • Opener: Phillip Phillips
  • Arcade Fire “Reflektor Tour” August 22, 2014
  • Kings of Leon September 16, 2014
    • Opener: Young the Giant
  • Outkast “Homecoming Tour” September 27, 2014
    • Openers: Childish Gambino and Kid Cudi
  • Shania Twain July 19, 2015
  • Sufjan Stevens November 2015
    • Opener: Gallant
  • Carly Rae Jepsen February 13, 2016
  • Mumford and Sons “Wilder Mind Tour”
  • M83 (aka Best Concert of ALL TIME) June 14, 2016
  • Death Cab for Cutie June 16, 2016
    • Opener: CHVRCHES
  • Gwen Stefani “This Is What the Truth Feels Like Tour” July 24, 2016
    • Opener: Eve
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers April 20, 2017
  • The Weeknd “Starboy Tour” May 2017
    • Opener: Rae Stremmurd
  • Paul Simon June 7, 2017
  • Muse June 15, 2017
    • Opener: Thirty Seconds to Mars

Upcoming:

  • Bruno Mars September 14th
  • Kesha September 30th
  • Foster the People October 2nd
  • The Shins November 16th

And those are just the ones I have tickets for… 😉

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some and will have to go back and add later, but I thought you might like seeing how eclectic my music tastes are. Hope to keep adding to this list every year and one day bring Jack along as my concert buddy!

 

*Doesn’t include Christian concerts

Cursing. Swearing. Cussing. Just words? Or more?

EDIT: I want to clarify that I do not ever condone taking the Lord’s name in vain! That, to me, doesn’t even fall into this category as it’s a completely different level of word. Thanks!

Writer’s note: While this article is about cursing, I had written that I would never curse on my blog. I will be using censored versions of words, but completely understand if those are even too much for you and you don’t want to read this. I know that this is a controversial topic, but I appreciate you taking the time to hear where I am coming from, even if you disagree. I hope you can still appreciate me for who I am after reading this. Thank you!

In high school, one of my Bible teachers told my class that he thought cussing was not a sin in and of itself. It’s when you used it in a way that made someone else stumble that it was a problem.

I liked this idea. For example, I knew I loved Jesus. I knew he died on the cross and rose again three days later. Saying the word f*** wasn’t about to change that fact for me. I’m not talking in the sexual sense – I’m talking about when you back into someone’s car after the high school basketball game, and you know your dad is going to be really mad at you, so you can’t help but let “F***!” slip out.

Now, if I were to walk up to, say, a guy who broke up with me or something, and say “F*** you!” then that would not be very nice. That’s out of anger and wrong. It’s a different context.

To give you a better perspective, here are some examples in which I would feel comfortable swearing:

  • When I dominate Wes in a game of Madden and exclaim, “H*** Yeah!” (PS this doesn’t happen, but basically any type of jovial setting with close family & friends—a celebratory swear-word, if you will)
  • When I stub my toe on the corner of a bed frame or side of a doorway—”F***!!!!!”
  • When I’m singing along to a jam and they use a curse word, example: “This S*** is BANANAS—B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
  • When someone is driving under the speed limit in the passing lane and won’t get over, there may be an aside to myself: “I wish they would get the f*** over!” I’m a bit impatient in the car…

Here are some areas where I would not feel comfortable swearing:

  •  In front of Jack
    • Look – when Jack is 16, I honestly wouldn’t care if he was using certain language in *certain* settings. When he’s around his guy friends, whatever. When he’s speaking to his mother, grandmother, or any other lady, he needs to be respectful and not use that kind of language or any language that isn’t appropriate. Not because women can’t handle cursing (uh, I’m living proof that this is not the case), but because I think if we allow men to “slide” in certain areas, it can be a slippery slope to them being disrespectful in other ways. I could be wrong on this, but this is how I feel currently.
  • Around my in-laws
    • Never cool to do that!
  • Around grandparents, or anyone over the age of 60 that’s not my dad
    • He’s chill
  • In front of children
    • It’s not my place to expose your kids to language you may have chosen from them not to hear!
  • In the workplace
    • Look, if my co-worker, boss, etc. wants to use the f-word or any other swear-word in the office, that’s totally their right. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so.
  • At church
    • That’s just disrespectful
  • In public
    • You just never know who is around you, and I really do think that the best way to be a witness for Christ is to not curse in front of people I don’t know very well. Most non-Christians assume that cursing is a no-no, so to do so in front of them would be doing them a disservice.

The point is—if you’ve never heard me curse, there’s a reason. I want to be respectful of everyone. Lots of people are offended by that kind of language, and I completely understand that. I, however, do think that in certain situations, they have a place. Sometimes, stories are much more powerful, either dramatically or comically, with certain language, which includes curse words. Example: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a d***.”

I can have the mouth of a sailor. The key is that I control it when I need to. And honestly, if you lose your faith in Jesus because you hear me say “s***,” there is probably a bigger problem there anyway.

Let me be clear: I don’t want to ever hear/use disrespectful language, meaning language that tears others down or is perverted. But if you stub your toe while walking down the street and a “bad word” flies out—don’t expect any judgement from me!

PS Some of you are probably reading this and thinking, “You totally use it in the “bad” way you are talking about!” You’re right, I do sometimes, and I actually pray often for the Lord to help me with that, and I think I’ve gotten a little better? Wes says I have at least in the car! I don’t like using strong language in a negative way, so I am genuinely working on it! I hate admitting it, but I’m being honest on here, right?!

What I Didn’t Know (or thought I knew, but didn’t) About Pregnancy/Labor

Writer’s Note: I honestly have been wanting to write on this topic for a long time, but I was scared of how graphic I think I’ll be, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t want to read that. But at the same time, giving birth is graphic!! Like super, super graphic.

So yeah – if you are uncomfortable with reading about my personal experience/about the female anatomy, stop now!! Cause I am pretty blunt.

 

For those who are unaware, we were not planning on having Jack. That does not make him any less loved; on the contrary, I have learned more about love and how to love while being his mom than I ever could have imagined prior to getting pregnant.

Another thing to note for those who don’t know – my mom died when I was 12 years old. I literally got my period for the first time A MONTH after her death. #stressed. Fun awkward fact: I thought you only bled when you peed. That was not the case. I had some embarrassing moments.

I didn’t know I was pregnant yet, but I remember vividly feeling “off” the night before I took the test. It felt like a mixture of nausea and menstrual cramps. I figured either I was about to start my period, or I was pregnant. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. The next day, I took the test, and there it was, that + sign. “Oh my gosh,” I said. “YES!” Wes proclaimed! He started jumping up and down with joy. He wasn’t about to go through 9 (more like 10) months of extreme physical and emotional change.

I was lucky. I didn’t have extreme morning sickness like some do. But I did have a lot of other-end sickness, if you know what I mean – and that sucked when I was at work. How embarrassed I felt! I didn’t want anyone to know!

Here’s another tidbit about me – there is not a single person in the world, well besides Jack who is a baby, that I feel comfortable passing gas in front of. So do you think I was super crazy about the idea of needing to use the facilities for that kind of need in a public place?! This is just the beginning of things you deal with when pregnant.

Skip ahead to the second trimester. I started getting horrible headaches. Every. Single. Day. I mean, debilitating. Apparently, it was a posture thing that can happen when pregnant. Cause yeah – bowling ball starting to form on my abdomen.

OH! Another super awkward thing. So you have a lot of exams. The first ultrasound is actually done with a wand they stick right up on in there. I was not prepared for that. That was not my favorite thing.

Another thing that I wasn’t prepared for: how upset I was at the fact that I wasn’t allowed to lose weight, in fact, I was supposed to gain it. At the time of getting pregnant, I was actually trying to lose weight. I was so mad, for literally the entire first trimester, about the fact that I was having to gain weight. I don’t think I started “enjoying” the fact that I was pregnant until about week 16 or 17 when I could feel those special first flutters of movement. When I think about that, it makes me excited to be pregnant again… But not yet!!

The second trimester really is pretty great. You’re feeling better, you can feel the baby moving, you get to learn gender, you’re showing but not super huge – pregnant life is (mostly) grand.

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Second Trimester – Feeling Good, Feeling Great

And then the third trimester hits…

“This is happening! I’m going to have a baby! I’m not ready! Why can’t I sleep at night? Why do I have heartburn every. single. night?! Give me all of the foods, I’m huge anyway!! Do I really have to do this?!”

The third trimester is when it gets really real. It’s a mixture of wanting it to be over and not wanting the birth to ever happen. Life will literally change forever in an instant. It’s a great change in so many ways, but for me, it was very, very difficult. More on that later.

I have never been one to sleep with anything in bed with me. I like a single pillow under my head. I never had stuffed animals or blankets that I slept with as a kid. That changed while I was pregnant.

I decided not to spend $$ on one of those specially designed pregnancy pillows. Instead, I used a long pillow from Target between my legs and a normal pillow behind my back every night. I kept a tub of Tums next to my bed and ate about 3-6 throughout each night. Probably for a good 8-10 weeks. Maybe more.

Just a quick reminder that I literally didn’t know about any of this until I was pregnant. Like, you see in movies that people are uncomfortable, but they really don’t show you how “un-glamorous” the whole shebang really is.

Let’s skip ahead to December 24, 2016 at 2:00am. Oh, and this is probably a good time to tell you that Jack’s due date was January 1, 2017, and all I wanted for Christmas was for him to not be born on Christmas. LOLOLOLOLOL.

So yes, it’s the wee hours of Christmas Eve. I have woken up at literally 2:00am (I looked at my phone) and needed to pee—that’s the one thing I *did* know going in to this whole thing – I was going to pee a lot. I go to the bathroom, and as I am about to crawl back in bed, my water breaks. I know it must be that because I had just peed, and although it’s very common to tinkle just a little more after using the bathroom (so many underwear changes), this was like a whole new level of liquid.

I couldn’t believe it. I was in the 15% of women whose water actually breaks on its own! Oh crap! I’m going to have a baby! And it’s Christmas Eve! Better wake up Wes.

I started pounding on the bed and yelling at Wes that it was time. I looked like a crazy person. Here’s where I really didn’t know what to expect.

Apparently, when your water breaks, you keep leaking. Like, it’s a constant flow. I didn’t realize that. I immediately grabbed a huge maxi pad that I was told I needed to buy for after having a baby, and proceeded to soak it through. I went through about 3 or 4 before we left the house.

Also, there was blood on the pad. That can’t be right?! I called the nurse. It was fine, that’s normal. Phew!

An hour after my water breaking, we are on the way to the hospital thanks to my dad. I’m still leaking and hating every second of it. But I wasn’t in any pain. Like, no contractions as far as I could tell. But because my water broke, we had to go in.

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About to leave for the hospital. Is this actually happening??

Here’s another tidbit about me. I’m a very modest person. Well, I used to be more so, but there are still a lot of areas where I’m pretty modest. For instance, I didn’t see a male doctor my entire pregnancy. I had a good feeling I’d get a male doctor for the delivery, because that’s my life, I never get what I want usually (like, ya know, a son not being born on Christmas!), but I knew my female doctor that I had been seeing was on call the 23rd. Lo and behold, at 3:30am she was still there!

So here’s another thing I didn’t know: when you arrive to the hospital, it takes forever for you to get “checked in.” I was in this room getting asked all of these questions and having things poked into me and my temperature taken… it felt like forever. And I still wasn’t in pain.

My doctor came by and let me know she’d be off duty at 7am, and that Dr. Thor Svendsen would be taking over. I’m sorry, what? An Avenger will be delivering my baby? Before Dr. Graham left that morning, she got me started on pitocin at 6:30am. Soon I understood what contractions were.

Oh. My. Gosh. Contractions suck. They are like the worst period cramps you will ever have. You can’t even think sometimes when they are happening. I tried to be really tough, but four hours later, at 10:30am, I asked for the epidural. But you have to wait until the one anesthesiologist can fit you in with the many other women who were smarter than you and asked for it right away.

Finally, at about 12:30pm, I had an epidural and life was so, so good again. The thing about epidurals are, you can’t feel below your waist. So you can’t get up and go anywhere, which means you need a catheter. Again, another thing that I wasn’t too thrilled about – my urine was just flowing through a tube for any visitors to see. Sure, they tried to make it discreet, but I know the tube was visible hanging out of my sheets!

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I guess I felt good enough to take a selfie…

I met Dr. Thor. He was nice, but kinda… different. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He’d pop in every couple of hours to check and see how dilated I was. I was moving a little slower than he’d have liked.

See, once your water breaks, you have 24 hours to deliver, or you need a c-section. I was trying to avoid that at all costs, so I was really worried. Finally, at about 10:00pm, I was at 10cm and was ready to push. Oddly enough, that day flew. And so did pushing until the last 30 minutes.

So when you’re in labor, you can only have clear liquids like chicken broth and Sprite. Jello is an option too. I made the mistake of having red Jello right before starting to push. Yeah I threw that ish up.

When you are told to push, they say to imagine you are pushing out a big poop. Not even kidding. And that is exactly what it feels like. It is horrible. Many women do, in fact, have a bowel movement while pushing. This was my biggest nightmare before I went into labor. Remember when I talked about not letting anyone in on that part of my life?! Well, I must say, I was quite lucky. I might have had a tiny little bit, but I don’t think Wes could even see it before the nurse had covered it up. #stayclassy

I pushed for 2 hours before Jack’s head crowned. At that point, Dr. Thor came in to deliver Jack. Now, it’s important to note that I had a slight fever. So there was some concern that the baby would have a fever too. Because of this, an entire team of nurses was needed to be in the room, and I wasn’t going to be able to have a lot of time with Jack when they first put him on my chest.

I’m the kind of person who worries about everything. I believe that information is the key to getting over fear. I wanted to know what problems could arise, but all I was told was that he wanted to be prepared “just in case.” Just in case, what?! No answer.

Which is why when Jack was finally delivered and put on my chest, I asked, “What’s wrong with him?!” You see, I didn’t realize that he would be as purple as he was, and I also didn’t remember (or maybe never knew) that his head would be cone shaped since he, ya know, just traveled through the birth canal.

Speaking of, I wasn’t done giving birth yet. I still had the placenta to deliver. Let me tell you, after popping out a 7 lb 6 oz baby, the placenta was a freaking breeze. That thing looks like an alien though. It was on a metal tray, and I swear, if I hadn’t literally just pushed it out, I would have thought that it had once been alive. Like a thing out of Stranger Things or something. Oh, and uh, yeah no, I did not eat it.

Finally, I think, I can have my baby and be done with all of this and life will be grand again!

HA! Wrongo! I stayed in the bed for what felt like 45 minutes (I genuinely have no idea how long it really was) getting stitched up because I had a 2.5 out of 4 degree tear. Yeah, that whole being modest thing. That went out the door. Here’s Dr. Thor all up in my business, literally sewing me from pee-hole to b-hole. So. Embarrassing.

I do want to say really quickly: Dr. Thor Svendsen was absolutely the best doctor for me that Christmas. He pushed me to the point of being able to literally push Jack as opposed to having a c-section, and he gave me the encouragement that I needed when I felt really overwhelmed. It was probably for the best that he didn’t tell me all of the wrong that could have happened with Jack (he was fine BTW), and he told me I should definitely have more kids because I did a good job. That made me really happy.

I didn’t see Jack for hours. They took him away to make sure he was good (cause of the whole fever thing), and I still couldn’t move my legs. Again, after being stitched up, I thought, “Finally! I’m done!” Nope. They had to move me to the post-delivery room where we’d be for 2 more nights. I would be spending Christmas in the hospital.

The next 48+ hours are a bit of a blur. Highlights:

  • being in a huge amount of pain from ripping open while giving birth
  • leaking lots and lots of blood
  • getting examined very, very often at all of those places you usually cover up
  • not being able to poop for fear of ripping stitches back open (you can’t do that)/being in a ton of pain (yeah, that’s a thing). I literally didn’t poop once at the hospital. That was horrible.
  • trying to breastfeed and allowing strangers to watch me stick my nipple in my son’s mouth and letting them help me
  • having cracked and sore nipples from trying to breastfeed
  • already not being an adequate enough mom (or so I felt) because I needed a nipple shield to get Jack to latch
  • not knowing how to console my crying son
  • feeling really guilty about not feeling as maternal as I thought I would have

Ouch – that last one was really hard to write. But it’s true. I remember thinking I was going to have this immediate unconditional love. And I did love him. But it wasn’t as passionate as I thought it would be. I certainly didn’t want any harm to come to him. But I also wasn’t necessarily trying to hold him all the time. I still felt very selfish. I didn’t feel like a mom yet. That feeling probably didn’t come for awhile, actually.

I really had no idea that for the next 4-6 weeks, I’d be in pain down there and bleeding continuously. No tampons allowed, so I had to sit in nasty maxi pads for a really long time. I had ice on my lady parts. I couldn’t walk well. Pooping was agonizing. And I was supposed to be taking care of an infant now??

Breastfeeding is exhausting. Pumping hurts, at least it did for me. Jack was jaundice, so we had to start supplementing formula. We never stopped. My milk took forever to come in. It wasn’t easy!! Jack slept horribly during the night. I was really, really unhappy.

I felt guilty for being so selfish. I wanted my mom. Gosh, more than anything I wanted my mom! Who else could I talk to about my leaking vagina?! Or my sore nipples?! Or the fact that this crying child is driving me insane! Sure, Wes could hear me, but he couldn’t understand. It was a really hard time.

I tried to remind myself that I needed to be grateful that there were no complications. The entire pregnancy, there were no problems! What an answer to prayer! And yet, I had spent the majority of the time complaining because I hadn’t wanted to get pregnant then. And once I had my baby, I spent the next many months complaining about how hard it was. But more on that for another post.

There you have it—that was my experience of being pregnant and giving birth. I left so much out; there’s no way I could have included it all. But it’s my story, and if you were able to learn one thing that will help you one day when you give birth or help you understand what someone who is close to you is going through when they are pregnant or giving birth, that will make me happy 🙂

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A Musical Lament

 

A Musical Lament by Kiersten Hogan, August 7, 2017

Take me back to those glory days in The Suburbs. To those days when I’d play music in my Neighborhood that had meaning, that made me feel. That kind of music where Soul Meets Body, and no matter what time the Clocks would say, all I’d want to do is Just Dance. Those days are over now. This Love I once had for my favorite artists, bands, etc., may not be the same, but it is still there. I Will Wait for them to return to what made them special to me, and even if they never do, I’ll still stand by them Til Kingdom Come.

This lamentation has been a long time coming. Many of my favorite bands and musical artists have so completely changed their sounds that they aren’t even the same group that I originally fell in love with. You may not like the same artists as me, and you might even like the new stuff by these particular ones, but I think we’ve all had at least one experience of loving an artist’s music the first time we listened to them, but then didn’t enjoy some of the albums that followed.

Like I mentioned above, I stand by my favorite artists, even when they create something that I don’t enjoy. What sparked this post is the release of Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now,” which is literally one of the worst things I have ever heard from them. Like – I just can’t even believe it’s Arcade Fire. And it’s SO sad to me!! They are a band that has meant so much to me, and I’m almost hurt by the fact that they created this album that I think is just horrible. But guess what? When they release another album in a few years, you better believe I’ll be giving it a shot. Just because their last two albums haven’t been as great doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon them completely.

The other artists that I linked above fall into the same category. Here’s a breakdown:

-Arcade Fire: The Suburbs is my last favorite album by them. Reflektor was okay, but Everything Now is not good.

-Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs was my last favorite album. Codes and Keys and Kintsugi have like one or two songs that I like, which isn’t enough.

-Coldplay: They completely changed their sound with Mylo Xyloto and haven’t gone back to their original sound since. This has been the most devastating to me. There are many songs that I’ve liked on their albums since then, but I used to LOVE Coldplay. Now, they’re incredibly mediocre, which kills me to say.

-Lady Gaga: Here’s an artist who changed her sound completely with Joanne, but at least I can respect her change. It is an incredibly well-done album and has some great songs, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t my favorite from her. Hoping there’s another dance album to come now that filming has wrapped on A Star is Born (CANNOT WAIT!!).

-Maroon 5: They used to be one of my all-time favorites. And then they released “Moves Like Jagger,” and I have maybe loved one song since. So disappointing. I mean, I’ve seen them in concert more than any other artist I think!

-Mumford and Songs: They abandoned their bluegrass style for pure “rock” on Wilder Mind, and I was not a fan. Why can’t you stick to what made people love you?! Also, the featured image on this post is from their concert in 2016. Even though their latest album wasn’t great, I went to their show, and it was AMAZING!

Basically, I’m sad so many of my favorite musical artists have changed their sound since when I first loved them, but I will always have a special place for them in my hearts. I’ll continue to play their old stuff like a hipster until their new stuff come back around full circle.